Last Pure Human | Rape

By: Twisted Hilarity Work in Progress – Free Read M/M Romance Kasan snarled to himself, prowling through the small confines

of his cell on long muscular legs that trembled with the need to run. If he had to stay inside this windowless cage for another day- which he did- he thought he might go crazy. And he was fucking going to take everyone else along with him when he went, starting with his asshole brother. He snarled again, remembering what Nolluz had said. ‘We should preserve the dungeons. They’re a historical landmark and an important part of Kyashin history.’ As someone who was now living inside the historical landmark, the same one he’d been imprisoned in for two stinking weeks, he desperately wanted to see Nolluz again so he could tell him to take his history and shove it up his ass. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, intrinsically valuable about keeping a working dungeon in this day and age. The entire damn thing was carved out of the mountain, for the love of God! Huge wooden doors, bolts with chains that were inches thick, and dammit, the stone might look golden and warm, but it was fucking freezing! He had a pile of hay between his ass and the stone floor, and considering his ass had nothing over it except his own waist length hair, that wasn’t even close to enough covering. He really needed to lobby his father for uniforms for any prisoners, because nudity and old dungeons were a shitty combination. He turned abruptly as he reached one wall, his black hair flying out behind him and clouding his eyes before he shoved it out of the way. If only the ridiculously archaic dungeons weren’t so damn impenetrable, the guards loyal to him might have been able to help. As it stood, the mercenaries Shovak had hired to guard him until his father returned had taunted him every time his guards rescue attempts had failed. They laughed, discussing the harsh punishments that Shovak had meted out while all Kasan could do was rage and grind his teeth at what his men were being subjected to. He was proud of his men’s loyalty in trying to smuggle someone in for him, but he had to admit that the continued reports of failure were taking their toll. He didn’t wish to die, which he would if he stayed here alone much longer. Every failure was one more person who suffered because of him, one day less that he had to find some solution. Still, he’d managed to hold on to a sliver of hope until Esgard had infiltrated the mercenary troop and pulled guard duty. Esgard had come in to give Kasan his morning rations and offered himself to the prince as a potential consort during his Lord’s heat. When Kasan realized that his friends were desperate enough to start trying to smuggle in men to him, he’d essentially given up hope. His inability to couple with other males was a running source of amusement for most of his friends and family. The few times he’d tried, especially on the battlefield when women were scarcer than snowfall in the low valley, were practically legendary for their abysmal results. He simply couldn’t keep his body aroused when sex and other men were both involved. He honestly didn’t know why he had to be handicapped that way. The rest of his brothers were fine enjoying themselves with either sex, like almost everyone he knew. Hell, Jolan and Tisu even had male consorts! But for him, it looked

like whatever throwback genes affected everything else in his body also kept him from enjoying his own gender. No matter how hard he tried, he found nothing but bland indifference or outright distaste at the thought of sexual relations with other beings as big as, or bigger than, himself. Warriors just couldn’t turn him on, and even knowing that… everyone was so certain of failure that a rather effeminate, beautiful man was their last resort. They all knew there was nothing left: he needed sex, and he needed it now. So even knowing it was useless, he’d damn well tried to stay aroused long enough to take Esgard. It would have been a lot easier if his race weren’t so damn resistant to drugs. Hell, one good neural aphrodisiac could have had him up for days if he was from a different species. But no, Kyashin didn’t work that way. Damn stupid genetics. So, he’d blocked the sight of Esgard’s manhood from his eyes, pretending it was a woman he was entering, and he hadn’t even been able to last for 5 seconds before his member went completely limp. Trying desperately, neither of them had managed to make it rise again and they’d had to give up as Esgard’s shift ended. Esgard had been discovered the next day and they hadn’t been allowed a second chance. Kasan hoped that the young man still lived. He felt the need inside him buzzing so hard his skin burned with it and he kicked at the creamy stone that made up his prison. Dammit. Dammit, dammit, dammit. His heat’s end was so close that he could practically feel his remaining time dripping out. It was almost too late. He had today, maybe not even that, before his mating heat passed and he was well and truly fucked. His body would simply stop working, slowly killing him over the next few weeks until he died a withered dried up husk. Still stuck in the damn dungeon, the last moments of his only opportunity to find someone to bond with ticking away, he growled and cursed to himself. This type of situation was exactly the reason that Kasan had spoken out against accepting mercenaries into the section of the military that guarded the palace and royal family. They were too easily controlled when someone with a sufficiently large sum of credits backed them. Of course, because he was well known for that opinion, every mercenary had been rather uncooperative to switching sides to Kasan's payroll. Closing his eyes as he almost ran into the far wall, Kasan leaned his heated face against the cool stone. If only he hadn’t been such a sensitive little idiot, Shovak wouldn’t have had the opportunity to set him up. As usual, he’d gone to a dive of a brothel just because he hated how the more affluent courtesans treated him- like some kind of animalistic pre-cursor. Once his heat had arrived, preventing him from leaving for his family’s annual spring hunt, he’d presented Shovak with the perfect opportunity to end him. Shovak had simply waited until his father was a few days gone, well into the mountains and practically impossible to find, and then he’d persuaded one of Kasan’s whores to cry rape. Kasan had been irritated, but not expecting anything other than a typical attempt at extortion from the woman. After she’d been murdered, however, Shovak was able to use a rather archaic law to have Kasan imprisoned until his father returned.

During the Second Wave of Occupation, there’d been so many rape victims killed to prevent their accusations that the Lord King had finally had to make legal changes. If a rape victim was killed, the accused rapist was confined until the King’s men could conduct a formal inquiry into the affair….however long that took, which could be years if the Lord King was pissed off enough. Murders had dropped rather rapidly at that point. For Kasan, however, this meant that he was imprisoned until his father returned, which should be within a day or two, but too late to make any difference. If he didn’t take a consort during his heat, it was a death sentence. He hissed to himself and started moving again, his black ears twitching on top of his head as he prowled back and forth, his claws flicking in and out of his fingertips and his tail a black blur that twitched in agitation. He wanted blood, and he wanted the blood to be Shovak’s. His father would likely let him have it, too, once it was discovered that the bastard had violated one of their most sacred rules: no one was denied an adult partner during heat unless he was already condemned to death. Yet here Kasan was, completely alone in his cell with only hours remaining until his own death would be absolutely assured. Shovak, he was sure, would find some way to shift the blame. He’d accuse one of his own followers of being at fault for the ‘oversight’, most likely. Although Kasan could admit to himself that he was a bit surprised that Shovak was willing to risk it. His uncle was usually so meticulous, with every detail worked out to leave him blameless and innocent. So what was he going to come up with to explain such a gross lapse in adherence to their laws? What was he doing? It would do him no good to achieve Kasan’s death in the only way that was considered ‘natural causes’ if he did it in such a way that he was accused of a violation that could get him banished. What was that little weasel planning? Kasan was startled by the sound of the door creaking open. The stupid thing was so thick he couldn't hear a damn thing unless they opened the door or the small viewing portal near the top. Fucking made him jumpy as hell. He backed up to the far wall, a habit he’d quickly learned to avoid being beaten away from it as the guards entered. His first attempt to defy them had ended with laying unconscious on the floor for half a day and he still had faint bruises remaining from the encounter. Not that it would have done him much good to escape his cell, anyway. There was no way out from the inside without help on the outside. And he had no way of contacting anyone. Shovak’s annoying flunky Liosh walked in, carrying someone wrapped in a thick blanket over his shoulder. The man's tawny ears were held erect, his matching hair perfectly confined in a tight braid that swept against his loincloth as he sauntered in. Little Bastard. Kasan couldn’t imagine what the man thought he was doing; was Shovak actually giving him a consort? It didn’t make any sense. The person over his shoulder was obviously a woman, by the size. On the small side for one, actually, so what was wrong with her? Was she disease ridden? So old and ugly she was almost guaranteed to repulse him and render him incapable of taking her? Not that he would want to, in that case. But Shovak would never grant him the opportunity to take his place as the third heir,

would he? Unless he was planting a spy? Was the female someone loyal to him and he thought Kasan would be so desperate that he wouldn’t question the gift? He eyed the bundle with distrust. Liosh remained oblivious and smiled at him toothily. Responding to the smile, Kasan sneered at him. “What a surprise to see you.. And here I thought for sure Shovak had managed to forget all about Hinta law. Especially considering his actions over the last week.” “Shovak is a law abiding citizen of the kingdom.” Liosh said, still smiling as his eyes glinted. “You’re still in heat, and you now have access to a viable mating candidate.” He hefted the female over his shoulder a bit, readjusting her position, and she let out a low grunt of discomfort. “In fact, Shovak found a very special consort, in honor of the prince’s position. An off planet find, no less." "You know very well we can't breed with non-Kyashin, you bastard." This was sloppy, even for Shovak: giving him some other species wasn’t in compliance with the law. "On the contrary, there is one species that is still listed as compatible in the records. Shovak currently has papers proving that this particular creature does, indeed, meet your genetic requirements. Personally, I think the choice is perfect for you, throw-back." Liosh tossed the bundle to the floor and stepped outside quickly, figuring rightly that Kasan might attack him out of sheer annoyance if he didn’t retreat immediately. Kasan wasn't exactly known for keeping his temper. Yeah, don't let the door hit you on your tail-less ass on the way out, twit. The little slimy bastard called back through the small window of the door after it closed. "Shovak sends his best wishes to you on enjoying your consort-to-be." He let out a highpitched giggle before slamming the small portal shut and leaving Kasan alone with the candidate. Kasan stared at the pile of fabric, not bothering to move towards it. One species still listed? There weren't any other species they were compatible with, there hadn't been for hundreds of years, not since… "You fucking son of a bitch," he breathed slowly. He was trying to play off another throwback as some sort of human. That had to be it. He'd paid someone to fake the genetic tests and claim that he'd somehow found a 'pure' human. Now he knew why Shovak wasn’t worried about the fall out. His weasel of an uncle had followed the exact, letter of the law: humans were still listed in the ancient texts as compatible with Kyashin, as the race itself had a little bit of Terran mixed in somewhere in the past. But to his knowledge, there hadn’t been a pure human seen anywhere in the galaxy in hundreds of years. They had interbred so much that their genes were mingled with innumerable other races. Those cross-breeds had proved to be incompatible to his own, so far, but if that bastard had managed to get a throwback like himself, only one who looked more like her human parentage, then as long as he had paperwork to back it up, Shovak was free and clear. He’d found him a legitimate candidate, legally speaking, even if it was all a bunch of shit.

Kasan sighed, looked down at the bundle that still squirmed, unseen, underneath the large cloak, and he stepped forward to have a look. Crouching down, he pulled back the cloak rather ungently, and stared in surprise. His first impression was pink skin. Lots of pale, cream and pink skin. What a rather pretty color, he thought, feeling his overheated body respond slightly to the sight of all that naked flesh. His second surprise came as he saw that the small person was actually male, rather than female. Looking at the male member resting on pale golden brown, curling hair, he was more surprised than he wanted to admit that he wasn’t losing his arousal. He didn’t believe that had ever happened before when he looked at the male body. It was just, this male’s body was so unlike any he’d ever seen before. It wasn’t that he wasn’t fit. He could see the taut muscles of the man’s arms and legs, the flat ripples of his stomach, the rounded strength of his chest. He was fit, but he wasn’t anywhere close to having the large muscles of Kasan’s fellow Kyashin. Even most of the females Kasan knew had more muscle mass than the male in front of him. He was staring at his body so long that he was almost reluctant to look at the man’s face. Sighing, expecting to be disappointed, he moved his eyes up and saw pale brown hair, wavy and short, only to his shoulders. And the man’s eyes…were they blue? He’d heard of some races that had that color in their people, but he’d never seen it himself. It was really lovely. And ears…he had two pinkish pale round ears, small and cute as hell, one on either side of his head. They were absolutely adorable. So tiny. He looked at the face, trying to decide if it was attractive or not, aside from the coloring. It most definitely was. His bones were good, with straight clean lines, a well-made jaw. A broader face than he was used to, but still appealing. The lips were rather full as well, the lashes around his eyes long and dark, and his cheeks were flushed. He looked like he'd just made love rather than come from the shoulder of a little weasel. Had he? Had Shovak tried him out first? He scowled at the thought, his eyes darkening almost to black as his tail slashed behind him. He leaned forward, baring his fangs aggressively as he inhaled the man's scent, testing. It would be the final slap in the face, to not only give him a useless candidate, but take him first, too. Rather than the musky smell of recent sexual release, however, he was bombarded with the bitter smell of Argenta. It was most often used to keep more valuable slaves docile for short periods of time in some of the illegal markets, he'd heard, so what was it doing on this small man? Perhaps Liosh hadn't lied and he'd truly been a purchase from off world rather than being another throwback from here at home. Or they'd drugged the man just for realism. Either one was within the bounds of possibility. However, the fact that he was a male almost completely negated his being a spy. Shovak wouldn't expect him to take him; he knew his difficulties with men as well as anyone else. Shovak could have just sent in a man and been done with it. It showed just how serious he must be to add on this extra layer of insurance against the consort actually being suitable. Poor little one, he thought, watching the man stare at him with wide, surprised eyes. The fake human tried to sit up, failing, flopping bonelessly backwards on to the blanket underneath him, and Kasan took pity on him. He reached down and put his arm around the man's back, holding him up. Those attractive blue eyes stared back at him and a

curious hand came up to rub at across Kasan’s face and up to his ears. Kasan could feel himself arching his head slightly into the touch. He always was a sucker for a good ear stroking. But not from a male before, he thought. And right now, a male was touching him, and he liked it. How amazing. If only the man really was a human, it might have given him a chance to get out from this. But if he was human, if he was a viable candidate, his scent would be clear to anyone in heat. He would smell like something edible and sweet, something delicious and crisp that was made to slide down his throat and make him moan in pleasure at the taste. Rather like he was doing right now. He swallowed heavily. Why was he thinking of food so strongly right now? He sniffed again, and caught it. Underneath the bitterness of the drugs was the sweet, bright scent of something tasty. Like tarts and berries, but colder in a delicious kind of way. Shovak wouldn't have known the scent was there, not unless he'd found someone in heat to come in and smell the little man. And if he had obtained him off world, the xenophobic bastard would never believe an outsider’s word that the pale-eyed male was genetically human. After all, everyone knew there were no pure human's left. Which meant Shovak didn't know. He didn't know that this man actually was, amazing and impossible as it seemed, a pure human. Kasan smiled, he teeth bared again, and his consort-to-be tried to lean away from Kasan rather drunkenly as his eyes widened. “Shhhh, little one, I won’t hurt you.” Kasan said, holding his hands palm down, fingertips tucked under, trying to seem non-threatening to the startled man. "I feel soooo out of it, you have no idea," the man said, blinking at him. "Didja know, I'm even seeing cat ears on your head? I musta drunk something really, really good last night." Well, that might be a problem, Kasan thought. What WAS that language was he speaking? "Do you speak Hinta?" Kasan asked slowly. "Woah, I can't even understand what you're saying. Pretty. Is that Portuguese? I thought I knew how to speak Portuguese. Do I? Wait, has the colony landed already? I'm supposed to be doing--something--with them. I think. Aren't I? Oh my. I think I'm going to be sick." Kasan watched him talk, amused at the incomprehensible rambling even as he wished he could understand it, at least until the man started to look alarmed. He finally figured out what was about to happen and picked him up just in time get him face first over a

free piss pot. If the poor man hadn't been about to lose the contents of his stomach, he likely would just from the smell in there, Kasan thought sympathetically as he heard the man retching. Another wonderful 'historic' touch from his brother. He really needed to beat Nolluz after he was done with Shovak. After the man slumped against him, Kasan wrinkled his nose and moved them both to the opposite side of the room. Feeling the man's sleek skin against his chest as he carried him, and looking down at his still flushed face, he still felt aroused and interested. He had the first ray of light since this whole miserable business began. He had someone with him who he could take before his heat ended, and he actually found the man attractive. Shovak could kiss his ass. After settling him down on the little one's blanket again, he put an arm around him to support his back, holding up a small cup of water for the man to rinse out his mouth. He handed him a small bit of mint root to clean off his breath, as well. Thank God for the last bit from Esgard, he thought. He was about to try and communicate to the man again when he felt a painful spike in his arousal. Dammit. He wouldn't have long then before the end, then. He didn't have time to woo the little man, or do much more than relax him and try to make things as good as possible. Even if he hadn't had the necessity of his duty to the kingdom on his shoulders, his body wouldn't allow him to ignore the opportunity in front of him. He was going to take this young man, no matter what either of them might want. Although he could admit it, he and his body pretty much agreed on this one: the man was just so damn cute. Kasan looked over the body next to him, admiring as he turned him slightly. He was sleek and strong, if rather slight and delicate to be considered male, in Kasan's opinion. He was also significantly smaller than Kasan himself; a small miracle, considering that Kasan had, to date, only met one other adult male smaller than himself, ever. And that had been his grandfather after he'd been bent with age. His skin looked creamy and appealing, his smell was right, and looking at his manhood, Kasan still found him attractive. Well, what a surprise. It was actually the large size and muscles of males that turned him off, not the actual maleness itself. Meet Kasan’s new consort: an alien, and a male. His brothers were going to laugh themselves silly over the irony. He took in a deep breath and reached his hand around from the man's back to curl around his face and cup his cheek. It had just the slightest rasp of stubbly hair on it, rather downy really. What a curious thing.

"Uh. What're you doing?" The man asked, his head resting completely against Kasan's arm. Kasan was fairly sure that if it weren't for the support, that head would have flopped all the way over until he hit the floor. "You're really pretty, for a giant kitty man. Did you know I have a cat? Had a cat. Couldn't take it with me. Poor kitty." Kasan held the finger from his other hand against the soft lips that still spouted the man's native language. "Shhhhh. No more talking," he said. Looking down into the curious, almost innocent blue eyes, he smiled. Such a pretty man. "I'll try to make this good for you. Don't worry, I won't simply take you." Kasan murmured, bringing his face close to his consort's until he felt lips underneath his own, soft and surprised and so easy to penetrate with his tongue that he slid in, tasting. Ice and fruit. He smelled so of fruit that he even tasted that way. The man's hands went up to press weakly against Kasan's chest as he tried to jerk back. He was completely startled, his eyes wide as they stared in utter surprise at Kasan. And then they slowly hazed over as Kasan continued to taste his mouth. Feeling his tongue, his mouth, his slick teeth and the soft plumpness of his lips, Kasan moaned softly against him. God, the man tasted damn good. Kasan held the little man's head still, or rather kept it from falling backwards again at this point, as he continued tasting him, running his lips over the smaller man's and finally sucking slightly on the lower lip before drawing away. He looked down into dazed eyes, the soft hands still resting against his chest but no longer pushing him away, and he grinned. He'd always been told he was a good lover. He was glad to know that it would make things easier this time around. He pulled on the head within his hand again, kissing him deeply as he let his other hand trail down the man's chest to his aroused member. Baby soft skin over a hard column that fit in his hand like a small, hot, ice pop. It was oddly erotic. He'd held himself in his hand before, but he was quite a bit bigger than the male in his arms. Feeling same shape in smaller dimensions, touching it while he continued to feel aroused and wanting, was a positively wicked feeling. He experimented, kissing greedily with his mouth as he started to play with the firm erection in his hands. Gripping it tightly as he tried to recreate the feelings he was able to elicit in his own body, he smiled triumphantly as the beautiful young man moaned. "That's it, precious," he murmured against his mouth, moving his hand down to his back again. He could feel the man's muscles flexing against his fingers as his hand moved lower to the beginning swells of his bottom. "Woah, careful!" His hand whipped back up as the human started to topple backwards. He chuckled. "I think we'd better get you all the way on the ground before you hurt yourself, beautiful." He let the man lay back in a controlled fall and ended up kneeling over him. He pulled his one hand from behind his consort’s back, the other never leaving the man's firm erection. He smiled, seeing the dazed eyes and aroused flush to the man's face. "Are you really a kitty woman? I'm not into guys. Nope. So you gotta be a woman if I let you touch Mr. Happy. Definitely you do. Um, how'd you get so big?"

Kasan really wished he could understand what words were coming out of his consort's mouth. He had the feeling they would give him a good laugh, considering the rather disgruntled look on the little one’s face. He felt the man's prick standing upright and ready within his hand and squeezed encouragingly, happy to see it respond. He looked down at the smooth planes of his chest and licked his lips. Again, the differences between the male chest and the women he was used to was odd, but still beautiful. The nipples made small, dark circles as they lay across the flattened, rounded muscles that clenched a moment as Kasan pulled again on the man's member. The man moaned, thrusting upwards even as his eyes watched Kasan with an unfocused stare that merely made him seem completely aroused and at Kasan's mercy. "Th--that feels really good. Think you should win an award. Do they make hand job awards? Do…ooooooh, yes. God, that's so--" he moaned again as Kasan let his fingers play over the silky skin of his chest and leaned down to let his tongue flick out to taste the small nipples in front of him. He played with the slit at the tip of the man's penis with his other hand. "Aaaah, what-- It's, um, oh God." Kasan purred against the smooth skin as he heard the young man babbling. Even in another language, incoherence was rather obvious, he thought smugly. Feeling his own member in need of attention, he was contemplating just how to press against his consort-to-be when he felt his arousal spike again. Shit, he had less time than he'd thought. If he was spiking that close together, he had almost no time at all, barely enough to prepare the man and take him. Shit. He kissed the man once more across the chest and sat up a little straighter before pushing himself off of his legs. "I'm sorry, little one, this is going to be a bit fast for our first time," he murmured, releasing his hold on the member in his hand. "It probably won't be as deep this way," he mumbled to himself as he pulled his lover by the waist and turned him over onto his stomach. The little man was still for a moment, as though unsure exactly what had happened, before he tried to push himself up onto his hands and knees. Kasan leaned over him, his arm around the man's waist the only thing that saved the poor, drugged youth from nose-diving into the floor. As it was, his face fell and almost hit the ground while Kasan's grip kept his hips in the air. Kasan lowered him a few inches until his cheek rested against the blanket and he chuckled, enjoying the position immensel "That eager, eh?" he teased, wishing the man could understand him. His voice softened as the man moaned softly underneath him. "I'm sorry, precious. I would take my time with you if I could. We just don't have enough

time left." Kasan held him close, feeling the strong length of his consort’s back along his stomach as his other hand milked his own prick for its lubricating fluids. He could at least take a moment to try and widen the little one up. Even if the man was experienced, it was likely going to be tight fit just due to the size difference. Taking a deep breath, he pressed a finger into the small opening exposed below him, holding tightly as the man bucked against the sensation, grunting. Kasan bit his lip at how tightly his finger was being gripped. If anything, his imagination had failed him on this one. His consort was even tighter than he'd expected. He needed to get the little one used to him or the poor thing was going to feel split in two. He angled his wrist on the arm around his consort’s waist so that he could hold onto the attention-seeking member again, noting with a grin that it was still hard and firm. He started caressing, moving his finger in and out of the youthful body in time to his grip around his member. When he and his consort were both moaning faintly, he withdrew his hand and milked himself again for fluids. It was odd. He'd thought to use the man's own secretions, but he didn't seem to be making any. Was something wrong with him, or were all humans lacking in lubrication? It seemed a rather painful way to make love, honestly. He inserted two fingers together this time, getting a whine of discomfort in response. He bent his neck down so he could reach the small, already irresistible ears as his fingers slid slowly back and forth into the man’s body. He licked across the rounded edge of the man's ear, marveling at the lack of fur, and took a chance based on the plaintive vocalizations and introduced another finger. It slid in a little smoother than the first two, the man's body still slick with Kasan's fluids, and he could hear small, insistent moans coming from his throat. He groaned to himself, feeling close to peaking, and withdrew his hand. He had to be sheathed inside before he came or everything was ruined. Gritting his teeth, he guided himself to the little man's entrance and pushed in, carefully. The man started bucking again, trying to move away, and he flinched. He knew it had to be hurting, but he had to! He had no choice. He tried to ignore the little man's distress, flattening his ears against the top of his head as he slowly pushed in. He didn't have time to do it too slowly. He'd done as much as he could, but he had to reach completion or the bonding wouldn't be finished in time. He had to, dammit! "Sssshhhhhh. Relax, precious. Just relax and it won't hurt so," he murmured, to no avail. Kasan finally embedded himself completely and stayed still. He thought he had a few moments, just a few, that he could give to get used to him before going farther. He listened, surprised when the man whimpered and moved against him slightly. That hadn't seemed like a bad sound. Kasan was relieved; he wouldn't have felt good if his consort had such a hard first time, especially as being surrounded by the grip of the small body underneath him kept him hard as a rock. He didn't want to hurt him. Frankly, he would have preferred to wait and woo the young man in a regular fashion, but he didn't have a choice. The heat drove him now. He had to take this body. He wanted it desperately; wanted to own it completely. He started to move, pulling out and thrusting back in with slow even strokes, struggling to keep from pounding into him without restraint. At least the man under him was still

aroused, in spite of his obvious dislike of the pain, and Kasan tried to keep touching his body, kissing along the back of his neck, his ears, running his hands over his back and giving the man's own member something to thrust against. He almost cried out himself as he felt the other man's body start to respond more noticeably, thrusting against his hand. It made him pound into him more fiercely, his need for release growing tight and hard within his body. Please, let the little one find pleasure with this, he prayed silently. Don't let this be just a terrible memory for him. He pushed his hips harder, hearing the other man gasp in time to his thrusts and Kasan leaned back, both hands grasping his hips as he pounded into him in the last stages. He felt like he was racing his heat, trying to finish in the last few seconds before he lost the chance. His consort writhed under him now, little cries escaping every time Kasan thrust in, and Kasan couldn't tell if it was from pain or pleasure. He couldn't stop himself in any case. He couldn't even control his body's need for this young man, taking him fiercely, finally feeling his body come into him as he shuddered in reaction. He pressed hard as his seed pulsed out of him, holding the man's hips against his groin to get the last moments of sensation, and he felt the bond take in that final pulse as he slumped over him. He reached around, wanting to hold tight as golden light flashed around him, and as he gripped the man's member, the little one came, white fluid spilling out over Kasan's hand as he smiled in relief. He'd come. The little erotic cries hadn't been pain, or at least not entirely. He wouldn't have a memory of only pain for their first time. Kasan sighed in relief. It wasn't that it would have been an insurmountable problem, but he was glad that necessity hadn't caused him to harm his consort beyond repair. The man went boneless underneath him as the amber light faded and Kasan gently laid him down, withdrawing from his body as he did so. He'd heard that consorts were often overwhelmed by the bonding, sleeping for hours afterwards. It looked like it was more than rumor. Gathering the edges of the cloak around him, Kasan turned him over and scooped him up until he held him in his lap like a child. A large, flushed, and sweaty child, but the position reminded him of the role anyway. Glancing at the door, he tried to decide what to do. He would never mock his idiot brother again for ordering the thick doors, at least. The rest of the stupid prison he could do without, but if he couldn't hear the guards, it was guaranteed that they couldn't have heard him, either. They would have no idea that he'd actually managed the passage to adulthood, if he was careful. With a sigh, he carried his consort over to a corner and laid him down on his side. He couldn't be caught showing interest in the little man, so he couldn't keep him on his lap any longer. "I really need to come up with a name for you until you can tell me what yours really is," he said, brushing back a damp lock of dark golden hair from the man's sleeping face. "How about Gisho?" A pretty little flower with dark golden petals the same color as his hair. It was strong enough to grow in the mountains while the snow was still on the ground. A good name for his consort. He went to one of the messier corners of the cell, rubbing his fingers in the disgusting

muck along a crack in the wall, and rubbed it on his chest, right over the small golden crown that had already started to take shape. His family's symbol, it very clearly told that he was now able to take the crown should the heirs before him fall. Gisho's mark was hidden by the cloak, and Kasan was within his rights to ask that no others touch him. And if Shovak thought he was trying to fake the bond, so much the better. He’d leave them alone for longer, and the bastard would be setting fire to his own home if he actually tried to disprove it. It would only help Kasan's case to have Shovak suggest that the bonding hadn’t been possible. All he had to do right now was wait. His father should be home within a day or two, and once he was free of this unpleasant cell, with Gisho, he would be in a tenable position once again. He would have the support of his family, and he had Gisho to get to know better. He just needed to wait. The dull click of the door to his cell opening woke Kasan instantly. He’d been waiting all night for the sound and he was crouched on the balls of his feet before the thick slab of wood had moved more than a sliver’s worth. Gisho hadn’t woken yet, thank God, so Kasan simply had to keep the bastards away. If he had them thinking he was going to ‘fake’ a successful bond in order challenge Shovak, they’d probably leave him alone. Why would they need to do anything, after all? He’d die within a week or two if he hadn’t found a consort, and they could easily disprove the bond if he was released before his own death. If he had been as unsuccessful as they thought, that is. He didn’t have to force the growl that came from his throat, his claws emerging involuntarily as he readied himself, until he realized who was walking through the door. Leero, his first in command of the palace guard, burst in, flanked by Esgard of the pretty face and…was that his cousin Shira? Leero took one look at Kasan’s eyes, no longer the neon green of Kyashin heat, and he swore, turning to slam his fist into the wall behind him until his knuckles bled. “Fuck!” Leero turned back to Kasan as Esgard and Shira hovered behind with flattened ears. “Dammit Kasan…I’m so fucking sorry. I swear to you, Shovak won’t get away with this, I’ll…” “Leero, stay calm.” Kasan wasn’t sure how they’d managed to get by the guards to him, but he doubted they had time for unnecessary self-recriminations. “There’s nothing to be sorry for, understand?” “No! I failed in my duty. Dammit, we all failed! I should have found a way to get to you in time instead of allowing that bastard to try and foist off some mutant as a human and…” “Leero! Enough.” How had he found out about Shovak’s plans? “All I care about right now is leaving. How long do we have to escape?” Leero growled in agitation. “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of time. The guards are gone. They’ve all fled the city. You’re free now, as far as we’re concerned.”

Tension rushed from Kasan’s shoulders in a torrent. Gisho and he were safe. He didn’t have to worry about protecting him. But he still didn’t know how Leero had found out about Shovak’s ploy. “Did my father return then? Is Shovak in custody?” “Your father was sighted on the Main North Road. He’ll be here by nightfall.” Leero took a deep breath and released a frustrated snarl, his fingers twitching spasmodically in what Kasan knew was a remnant from the days when all Kyashin, not just throwbacks like himself, still had claws. “Shovak is still missing; we can’t find him anywhere in the citadel.” Kasan growled. Damn. He’d really wanted to sink his claws into his uncle as soon as he got out of his cell. “You have men out looking.” It was a statement more than a question. “Of course.” Behind Leero, Esgard reached for Shira’s hand nervously, rubbing his fingers over the smaller female’s palm in a soothing manner. So, that’s the way the wind blew. And still, Esgard, and now his cousin if he wasn’t mistaken, had both come to offer themselves to Kasan if he’d still been in heat. That type of loyalty was precious enough that he wouldn’t forget it. Leero cleared his throat and Kasan looked back at him. “He can’t be far. We started searching the moment your father was sighted.” “I’m sure you did. I’m not faulting you. Although I’ll admit I’m curious how Shovak could be smart enough to escape and yet still leave enough evidence behind to reveal what he’d done.” Leero smiled viciously. “Liosh wasn’t quite as quick to bolt as his master, and he can be quite talkative…with the right persuasion. He spilled everything just before the mercenaries jumped ship.” Kasan winced a little. “He’s still in one piece?” “Just.” “Well…at least you can only be tried for assault, then. A month’s sentence right now, isn’t it?” Kasan tried to keep his voice casual to avoid thinking about how much he wanted to wrap his claws around Shovak’s throat and squeeze the life out of him. “Well worth it to be able to finally beat that little rodent. Although I don’t think he’ll be filing any charges. I doubt I could prove he broke any laws, so I had him sign a confession and then released him. I doubt he’s even in the city.” Kasan nodded. “Probably for the best.” Although he would really miss the chance to pound on Liosh a bit. “Still… Father’s return isn’t exactly unexpected. Shovak should have planned for this. Why the hell would he run?”

Liosh snorted. “Probably because, for the first time since I can remember, Shovak’s little plotting all fell apart. Since you were in heat, Shovak managed to persuade your family to stay an extra three weeks to give you and your new consort some time to get used to each other before the new ‘unknown’ female had to deal with them. According to Liosh, Shovak planned to present your dead body to the Lord King and claim that you were one of the few throwbacks whose mating heat rages out of control. None of the guard were able to see you except for Esgard, and he could only vouch for what he saw in the hour he was here, so we wouldn’t have been able to honestly claim he was lying.” “That explains his running like a squickling, then.” Kasan murmured. “But why is father back early? No one’s hurt, are they?” Leero smiled. “No. Ever since that last disaster when Aosh nearly died, we’ve been working on a system to keep in touch with the hunting party, no matter how far into the mountains they go. It took a while with the fog coming down from the heights, but we managed, and the Lord King started for home as soon as they got the message. So now, with you living, and the Lord King returning, Shovak’s entire plot isn’t worth a load of shit. And thank God the damn mercenaries he hired figured out which way the wind was blowing and fled on their own. It would have been a stone bitch trying to root them out from here. We were worried we’d have to ransom you back from them” “Can’t say I would have enjoyed that.” Kasan grumbled. So, that’s what had been going on since he taken Gisho. Too bad his uncle had managed to get away, especially since they had Liosh’s confession. “Damn,” he muttered. “I was really looking forward to challenging Shovak as soon as I got out.” “I’m…sorry.” Leero lost his smile and his eyes grew shadowed. “I will challenge him in your stead if we cannot find him before your…passing. You will not be denied your revenge.” Kasan nodded. That’s right, they didn’t know he had a true consort. “There’s no need for that. I’ll be challenging that bastard as soon as they find him.” “Kasan…I don’t think we’ll have him that quickly.” Shira stifled a small sob at Leero’s words and Esgard wrapped his arm around her soothingly. “It doesn’t have to be quick, Leero. I have a consort.” They looked at him blankly and he flashed them a grin. This was rather fun. “I’m not dying, you idiot.” Three sets of ears started to twitch in confusion. “Not…dying? But how? No one got to you in time, just Shovak’s little fake human…” “Actually, the little human, it turns out, wasn’t quite as false as Shovak thought.” Kasan grinned more broadly. “He screwed up, Leero. He didn’t give me a human looking offworlder. He gave me a human—a pure human. I HAVE a consort now, Leero. I bear the mark.” Kasan licked his finger and rubbed at the blackened muck on his chest until the small gold crown could be seen. Shira gasped while Leero and Esgard looked at it in shock.

Still staring, Leero started to shake his head. “A human. He bought some little alien off planet and it turns out to actually be an honest to God human. You have to be the luckiest bastard in the world, Kasan, just like the troops have always said.” Leero started to smile back at Kasan’s engaging grin. “There’s actually a pure human woman still in existence in the universe, and you got her. I can’t even imagine the odds…” Kasan felt his skin flush slightly. “Well, that’s not quite true.” At their looks, he sighed and finally stepped aside so that they could see the blanketed Gisho. “Uh, you see, the last pure human is…a man.” “A man.” Leero’s smile faded. “Shovak picked a man for you.” At Kasan’s nod, Leero swore. “That fucking cocksucker. Not enough that he tries to give you a non-Kyashin, he has to make it a male as well? When everyone knows you find them unappealing?” Leero reached over and patted Kasan’s shoulder sympathetically. “I’m still sorry, then. I am more glad than I can tell you that we won’t be losing you, but I am truly sorry for your loss.” “There is no loss.” Kasan huffed, shifting his shoulder. “Kasan, don’t try to soften this. We know you dislike-“ “I don’t dislike him.” “Kasan, you can’t pretend to-” “I’m not. I find the little male attractive.” Leero raised one eyebrow before he shook his head. “You can’t expect us to actually believe that after we’ve known you for all these years?” Kasan shrugged. “I didn’t say I could explain it. The little one turns me on. He really does. I—well, look for yourself.” Kasan said wryly, gesturing to his naked groin. Leero looked down to see Kasan’s burgeoning arousal from just the brief look he’d given Gisho, and Kasan’s first in command quirked an amazed smile. “That’s for him?” “Yeah. Trust me, having him as a consort is NOT a bad thing.” His shoulders relaxing, Leero continued to look at Gisho. “I’ll be damned. You took a human male for a consort.” “Yeah.” Leero smiled slowly as he glanced back at Kasan. “I don’t suppose I can watch when you tell your brothers?” “Hell, no. And right now, you can get me some damn clothes. It’s fucking freezing in here.” Shira giggled and Kasan looked over to her.

“I want you to know, I appreciate both of your offers to sacrifice yourself for me more than I can say,” he said quietly before he grinned a bit. “But for now…maybe you two should be thinking about spending some time with each other, instead of worrying so much about me.” Esgard started blushing as Shira smiled again. “And…Leero, how many people know what Liosh said?” “A few of the guards only. We’re all keeping it to ourselves.” “Make sure they continue to do so. We need to carry Gisho to my room without his ears and face being seen for now, and I can reveal my mark to everyone before letting them know the unusual nature of my other half. The people had a hard enough time accepting someone as much of a throwback as me in the first place. I can’t let there be any doubt as to the legitimacy of my consort.” “Of course. No one will say a word.” “Good.” Kasan went over and scooped up Gisho in his arms, Leero helping him cover the man’s head and face with the blanket. Kasan thought a moment and sighed. It grated on him to let anyone see his little Gisho’s body, but it could help him quell any rumors that might come up later. “Leero? Can you…pull the blanket up a bit and bare his bottom? We can walk through the courtyard on the way.” Leero nodded. “…and everyone will see the mark. Nice touch.” Leero peeled back the ratty cloth, tucking it in odd places in Kasan’s arms to make it seem accidental, and looked down at the side of one exposed cheek of the smaller man’s rosy ass. A small silver crown glittered there, the delicate scrollwork on it an exact match to the golden symbol on Kasan’s chest. “A real live human. I will be damned.” “Probably.” Leero rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe he’s so damn small. I always imagined them to be a bit more…intimidating. The stories always painted them as such an aggressive species.” “Yeah.” Esgard and Shira walked out the door as Kasan gestured to them with his head, and Leero continued to study Gisho’s ass in a way that had Kasan growling for a moment. The sound merely caused Leero to smirk at him. “Growling? Just for looking at his ass? He’ll have more bare skin in his clothes than he does now. What are you going to do then?” “I’ll think of something.” Kasan grumbled, wondering about it himself. He couldn’t say why, but the idea of anyone ogling Gisho made his hackles rise. And Leero’s knowing grin wasn’t helping. Maybe he should have let Leero think he was dying for just a while longer. The man had been almost respectful there for a while. It had been a refreshing change from his usual smart-ass self, he thought, and then he carefully followed his friend out of the cell, looking forward to being able to relax in his

own room again. He really, really needed a bath. ********** Max woke up slowly, feeling like his mouth was full of cotton wool and his head was being pounded on by evil little men with hammers. He didn't bother opening his eyes, just moaned quietly. They'd told him that coming out of cryo-sleep would be unpleasant, but this? This must be how his mother felt when the doctors told her labor would be 'uncomfortable.' The reality was far outstripping the prediction in actual suckiness. Why'd he even agree to do this? He didn't want to go to outer space. He'd been quite content to putter around discovering dying languages, or already dead ones, and recording them for posterity. If it weren't for the fact that he'd wanted his parents to be proud of him… He sighed. Not like it had mattered. At least they'd died proud of him. His application for linguist of Beta Colony, section two, hadn't even been fully processed before his father’s plane had crashed and ended both his mother and father’s lives, but they'd known he'd applied, at least. They'd been so excited for him. More so than he was himself, really. Most likely because he’d known what his real chances of making it into a colony had been. The programs looked for the best, the brightest, and the most experienced. He didn’t feel that he did too badly in the brains department. Hell, he was only 23, with his PhD. already obtained. However, without the slightest bit of official experience, whether he was ‘the best’ was most definitely debatable. Somehow, he didn’t think ‘tagging along with my folks all over the world’ added up to much in the resume department. Not that it hadn’t been fun going from country to country, discovering some new botanical wonder of the twenty-first century...it just wasn’t exactly his field. So he hadn't been surprised when someone older, and with more experience in diplomacy, had been chosen. He had been fairly surprised he'd made the list of alternates, however, even if he was at the very bottom. And he had been stunned when he'd gotten the call on Christmas Eve that they wanted him to go to the Beta Colony. The stupid idiot they'd originally picked had suffered a bizarre aneurism, 1 hour before the launch, and everyone else on the list lived so far away that they'd never make their launch time. Although he got the impression that that they’d tried to contact all of them, just in case. The irony of his presence on the ship still managed to make him sigh. He got one of the most coveted positions for a linguist, on a trip that was the most newsworthy thing to happen to earth since the founding of Alpha Colony, and how? Just how did he get it? By remaining unemployed so long that he was flat broke and forced to live in a shitty part of town next to the airport.

He was sure the entire colony would be just awed by their luck in acquiring him in such a competitive way. He just hoped they didn’t lynch him once they came out of cryo-sleep and discovered what had happened. So. This was the beginning of his new life. This was the beta colony. His head was killing him, he was freezing, and an odd, spicy smell was tickling his nose uncomfortably. Beta Colony was lookin’ pretty crappy right now. Why had he agreed to this again? He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. He could do this. Hell, he didn’t have a choice. The trip to Beta Colony was a one-way ride. Maybe in a few decades when the second wave came he could catch a ride back, if he lived that long, but for now, he was stuck. Stuck in a situation that wasn’t exactly making him jump up and down doing the happy dance. He hadn’t met anyone but the Captain and the few crew that had been awake for the launch. He hadn’t had time to read up on what languages were actually spoken once the final colonists had been chosen. Hell, he didn’t even know if he was going to have his own home or if he’d end up having to share with one of the families. It was a bit terrifying to contemplate… … but he could cope with this. He could. It was just like the traveling he’d done as a child: arriving in some completely unknown part of the world and finding their way around by the seat of their pants. Among people they couldn’t understand, trying to find new plants in places they didn’t really know the exact location of, they’d still managed. Well, he’d managed. His parents had wandered around like the absent minded professors that they were. Sometimes, he wondered if he’d gone into linguistics simply because he’d had to learn so many languages as a kid, just to keep himself and his parents from being mugged and killed everywhere they went. He took a deep breath. Okay, he could do this. Another deep breath. He could do this. It could be fun. And his fellow colonists couldn’t be too bad. After all, he was here, wasn’t he? He’d stepped in and bailed them out. Things could be a lot worse for them. Hell, they could have been stuck together with no translator between the different groups at all. That was what the military men who’d talked to him had implied, anyway. The guilt that thought had produced was probably what pushed him over the edge from stunned denial to tentative reluctant acceptance of their offer. Especially after they let him know that the first linguist's death hadn't been an accident; they were fairly certain it was the pro-earth terrorist faction. A chemical compound they commonly used had been found

in the linguist’s pre-launch cocktail, although at least the poor man had drunk his early and thus spared many of the others whose drinks had been spiked as well. Considering that the time and date of the actual launch had been secret, however, the military was frankly terrified that delaying their departure was what the terrorists were aiming for. As a result, they were willing to put up with Max’s less than stellar qualifications in exchange for sticking to the original time table. All of that should have been enough to persuade him to go, but if he were honest with himself, he’d had a cowardly little flinch when they’d reminded him of the contract he’d signed. If the linguists higher on the list were unable to perform their duties, he had agreed to take his place as Beta Colony’s linguist. The penalty for reneging on that sort of government contract was paying a portion of their lost revenue for an interrupted launch. In other words, he’d be in debt until his great-grandchildren had grandchildren. He sighed again, refusing to open his eyes. So. Again, here he was. Beta Colony. This should be interesting. He turned his head, pausing at the sensations it produced. He was face up, the right position for what he last remembered, but why did his capsule feel so oddly silky? He moved his head back and forth again, shifting his body as well and realizing that not only was his capsule's fabric no longer the cheap, scratchy synthetic he remembered, he was feeling it with his whole body. He was fucking naked. Great, someone was playing pranks on him already and he wasn't even fully awake yet. Just great. He grumbled to himself and rolled over, careful not to move too much and bang the sides he knew were there. If they were going to strip him, then he'd damn well go back to sleep and be mooning the assholes when the came back into the cryo center. And it didn't hurt that rolling over hid the fact that he was already blushing like crazy just thinking about unknown strangers looking at and commenting on his nude body. That was, honestly, disturbing. What did this say about the people he was going to be spending the rest of his life with? He lay quietly, absently squirming his hips to try and itch his stomach on the fabric beneath him. It slid with him, giving him no friction and absolutely no relief whatsoever. "Stupid cloth," he muttered, trying to slide his hand underneath his body to itch himself covertly. He groaned when he hit the spot. God, the only thing better than scratching a good itch was good sex. He humped forward slightly as he scratched furiously at his stomach, and felt a twinge of pain inside. What in the world was that from? He moved his hips again, felt the same pain, and was suddenly bombarded with memories of hands and lips and someone…

Dear God, he remembered someone taking him in the ass! Someone with a deep voice and soft hands and, he knew he was fucked up now, cat ears and glowing green eyes with slits for pupils. He had to be hallucinating, right? He had to be. There was no way that he was really remembering someone fucking him- just no way that some-some guy had sex with him. And no FUCKING way that he remembered enjoying it. No way. It was a side effect of the cryo-sleep, that was it. He clenched his buttocks in response to the very idea of someone actually getting into his body, and as his insides stung again he started to panic. That wasn't a hallucination: it hurt! His body hurt in a place that he sure as hell hadn't been doing anything to! What the hell had happened? What had the bastards who piloted this ship done to him before he'd woken up all the way? He fought the urge to panic, trying to focus on his anger instead. He’d been raped in his sleep. Some bastards thought they could get away with raping him. And it had to be more than one person, because there was no way you could do this without being monitored from the deck. The fuckers. Did they think he wouldn’t notice, or did they simply think he was too much of a wimp to say anything about it? It wouldn‘t be the first time someone had thought he wasn’t much of a threat, although he didn’t have a fucking clue as to why. Dammit, he was six foot one! And he worked out! He didn’t look like a wimp, as far as he knew. But the moment people found out he was a linguist it was like their estimation of his masculinity went down the toilet. Well, these bastards were going to learn pretty damn fast that they couldn’t just molest him and get away with it. They were going to pay. He opened his eyes and pushed himself up suddenly, reaching out for the side of the capsule and flopping forward with a soft ‘fwump’ as his hand met empty air. He shook his head, and pushed himself up again, his vision processing the room around him. He froze as his brain caught up to the images his eyes were sending it. "Where the hell is this?" he blurted. He was on some weird kind of bed half sunken into the floor. At least, it was a bed only if a bed could be made out of one enormous silk pillow. Although it had enough small pillows littered over it to make another bed entirely, he thought. The creamy walls around him had recesses filled with oversized tables and benches, jewel-toned jars and oils topping them, a few mirrors showing his naked body staring back at him, flushed and wide eyed. The weirdest thing of all was some odd, roughly hewn pole that angled sharply from one side of the room to end at the top of the other, exiting into some hole in the side of the wall. What the hell was this place? The colony didn't even have fully constructed buildings yet, if he hadn't been lied to. Yet, this room looked not only modern, in a rather sybaritic way, but old. It had too many small imperfections to be newly made. "What the hell is happening? Where am I?" he yelled, and heard a brief scuffling of movement to his right. He looked over quickly, seeing only the wall at first, and then

realized that some of the decorative beige streaks across it might actually denote a doorway, if he was lucky. He looked around, hoping for some sort of covering, and finally settled for holding a black velvety pillow against his privates as he approached the possible exit. He couldn't figure out what was going on. Had something gone wrong? Were they at the first colony, possibly? It was over three decades old, right? It could possibly have something like this set up, he told himself, trying to believe it. Reaching the door, he looked at it closely. One small oval on the side was inset, and he carefully stuck his finger in, pressing sideways. A panel almost twice his height slid back silently and he stared, mouth agape in shock. Two of the fucking biggest men he'd ever seen in his whole damn life turned smoothly to face him. Fuck, they were like basketball players crossed with Conan, he thought in disbelief. They're even wearing loincloths! As he stared up at them, he felt himself start to shake. While their skin was human and a light golden brown, their faces were oddly thin and harsh, their eyes had slit pupils and on top of their heads… cat ears! They each had a set of small cat ears matching their dark mahogany hair. His first thought, that they must be costumes, died a swift death as the furry things swiveled back and forth. They stared down at him expressionlessly. "Shit!" He managed to squeak. They weren't human! He was looking at--at fucking aliens! Were these here when the ship had already landed? Was he a prisoner then? Was the entire colony a prisoner? Or had they been boarded by these people while they were still in flight? Hell, nobody had even fucking seen an alien before! He didn't know what the hell to expect. The only thing he knew was that he really, really didn't want to piss something that lethal looking off. He backed away a few steps carefully, relieved that they didn't follow. Glancing back at the bed a moment to make sure some freaky thing hadn't snuck up behind him while he was distracted, he was reminded of his hazy memories of sex and he looked back to the cat men in horror. Has one of them actually--fucked me? He'd been so sure it had been at least partially some wacked out dream. He didn't doubt he'd been taken that way, but the man he remembered had fucking cat ears, for God's sake! But now, now he was looking at men with--with fucking cat ears! What had been done to him? If they'd raped him while he was still loopy from cryo-crap, were they done with him? Or were they planning on doing it again? He backed away a few more steps, blushing and, he admitted, really damn scared. He could defend himself, sure, but not against some kind of super giant barbarian cat thing! Shit, he was so fucked. Shit, he really wished he hadn't thought those exact words, he thought, cringing. "What do you want?" he finally choked out as they continued to stare at him. He clutched the pillow to himself tightly, wishing it was at least three times as big so it could cover his whole damn body rather than just his groin. "Where am I? Wh-what did you do with everyone else?" he stuttered, feeling rather hysterical, and he clamped his lips together as one of them finally moved. Oh God, he'd pissed one off. Shit, he was a fucking idiot! He backed away more, watching them

closely as one reached for something beyond the edge of the door where Max could see. Crap, what was he doing? He stood perfectly still, staring at them. Wait, were you supposed to stare at cats or was that considered aggressive behavior? He couldn't remember! Did that even apply when it was cat aliens instead of actual cats? This was crazy! He heard the sound of someone coming near, outside the door, and the two guards, he assumed they were guards, swiveled swiftly and closed the door with the same motion. Great, he was locked back in. Without the cat guys, as least. He sighed shakily. He was being kept in a room by huge, alien cat dudes. What the hell was he going to do? Kasan fidgeted on his cushion, annoyed at having to listen to Nolluz droning on about the cleverness of the new visual communication system. Frankly, he didn’t know how the damn things worked yet, but he wasn’t going to reveal his ignorance to his idiot of a brother so he had to just shut up and nod his agreement as the little suck up monologued the subject to death. Damn but he wanted to just finish their discussion and get back to his little Gisho. Aside from a dazed waking when Kasan had helped him pee, the human male had slept like the dead until Kasan had to greet father and the rest of the horde as they arrived back home. As far as Kasan knew, he was still sleeping. It wasn’t unheard of for a new consort to sleep for over three days after the bond was cemented. Kasan sighed to himself. He didn’t care: he’d be happy to simply look at him for right now. He wanted to look at that sweet, luscious ass and beautiful face and just fucking fantasize. And maybe live out a fantasy or two while he was at it. God, he had been so tight… Kasan swallowed and glanced at his father. He hadn’t told anyone in the family about his consort yet. Not that they’d asked. He was sure they’d been curious on the way back from the hunt, but when they’d arrived and found out just what had been going on in their absence, every male in the family had started raging. It had been a very loud afternoon. Now that they had finally calmed down and he and his brothers had retreated to talk and finish up their evening drinks, Kasan figured he’d soon be interrogated over the new member of the family. Thank God the consorts and the children had gone back to their quarters already. He could just imagine what the entire herd would be like when they found out he’d mated with a male. His brothers were going to be hard enough to handle as it was. Kasan, taking a male for a mate, after years of saying how he wasn’t attracted to them? They were going to tease the ever-loving shit out of him. Fortunately, at the moment all his family knew was that his heat had completed, he'd found a consort, and said consort was healthy but taking a much needed rest. He’d only assured them of those necessities before Leero interrupted to inform them of Shovak’s

actions. Everything else consort related had been lost in the maelstrom. For a while, that is. So here he was after dinner, listening to every tedious detail about the hunting trip as he tried to calculate how long he could politely wait before heading back to his own chambers while avoiding any further discussion of the subject until morning. He smiled a moment, thinking about Gisho, and flinched as Jolan punched him in the arm. "Hey, no fantasizing in the conference room," the crown prince mocked, grinning at Kasan. Kasan thought Jolan was just happy he finally had a chance to say the phrase Kasan had tormented him with for years now. He grinned back. "You're just jealous," he said, spouting Jolan's traditional response, and the two of them chuckled as the other four brothers groaned. "Lovely, that's all we need, another wise-ass." Nolluz said. "Better that than a dumb ass." Zonta retorted, and nodded his support to his older brother with a wink. "I'd rather have a piece of ass," Aosh said, leering. "That's because you ARE an ass." Tisu responded, earning himself a swipe and a growl. "Enough." The six men turned to look at their father, Kyoru. He glared a moment but couldn't hold the expression before breaking down and smiling ruefully. "Six full grown men and you act like a room full of pre-pubescent boys. I shudder for the fate of the kingdom, sometimes. Truly." Nolluz was the only one who looked even remotely chastised, and he started to speak again in subdued tones. Kasan was silently thanking his family’s typical banter for making them forget about his consort, again, when there was a knock at the door. Everyone frowned. The guards did a good job of keeping frivolous interruptions at bay, so if someone had made it to the door, it was likely to be serious. Gisho! Had something happened to Gisho? "Come in." Kyoru called out, his sons watching intently to see who came through the doors. Leero walked in with no expression on his face, and Kasan’s heart starting beating wildly in his chest. God, something had happened to Gisho! "What's wrong?" he asked, his voice already rough with stress. Leero stared at him a moment before answering. "Prince Kasan, your--" he paused as though considering, and went on with a bit of a smirk, "your consort has woken up and, I believe, may be in need of some reassurance."

Oh thank God, he had woken up. "That's all?" Jolan asked, surprised. The other brothers all watched Leero curiously, and he was surprised they didn’t start questioning him immediately. Now that they’d been reminded, he was sure they were rabid with curiosity over his new consort. "Don't be an ass, Jolan. I asked him to fetch me as soon as it happened. There are some--special circumstances involved. I'm sorry, but we'll have to finish this later." Kasan was already heading for the door. "This, yes. But if your consort is awake and feeling well enough, bring her down," Kyoru ordered. "It’s much easier to welcome her to the family for the first time in a less formal setting like this. We'll arrange for the consorts to meet her tomorrow, as well. Perhaps at firstmeal" Kasan swallowed and nodded. Well, everyone would definitely be in for a surprising night. He contemplated telling them about Gisho beforehand and dismissed it. It was usually best to try and keep the upper hand when dealing with his mob of a family, and anything that could throw them off balance was usually a good thing. He’d surprise them when they came down. "Of course. I'll bring--my consort down in a moment." He bowed briefly and turned, heading out the door and over to his suite of rooms as quickly as he could without actually running. Leero followed, smiling at him as they walked. “You didn’t tell me he had such pretty eyes,” he commented lightly. Kasan spared him a glance. “Did he try to come out or did you go in?” “He opened the door. He was gaping like a country bumpkin and covering his privates with one of the black velvet pillows Tisu gave you last Naming Day. Funniest damn thing I’ve seen in years. I think I’m gonna like this one.” Kasan bit his lip, imagining it. “The black velvet ones, huh?” Leero smirked. “Uh huh. Little tassels brushing over his skin and everything. Very sexy.” “You look too long at him with that kind of thinking and I’ll poke out your eyes, Leero.” Kasan was a bit horrified to realize that he was half serious. Leero laughed at him. “And now we discover that buried deep inside, Kasan is actually a jealous lover. I can hardly wait to watch the little one make you squirm.” “Shut up, you ass.” “And now you’re starting to spout sweet words of love, too.” “Fuck off.” “Oh, please, stop. You’ll make me blush.”

Kasan gave up and punched him in the shoulder hard enough to make him stumble, and still Leero kept laughing. “I liked you better when you thought I was dying,” Kasan grumbled. “Oh now that hurts. Truly. I think I might cry.” Leero wiped a false tear from his eye before turning his head to watch Kasan. “Think your little one is any good at comforting a poor, wounded guard?” “You really need to shut it. Right now.” Leero did, taking the opportunity to smile suggestively at a maid as they passed, and Kasan shook his head. He was incorrigible. A few minutes passed in silence before Leero broke it. “I never did get a chance to ask: what’s your consort’s name?” “I really have no idea. He doesn't speak any language I can understand." Leero’s eyebrows shot up. “Well, that’s unusual.” “My consort’s unusual as well. Maybe we just suit each other.” “I hope so.” Kasan ignored Leero’s serious tone with an embarrassed look to the side as he watched the wall slide by as he walked. He didn’t want to admit how much he wanted his bond to work. It was simply a physical connection, after all. Some men had little to nothing in common with their consorts aside from the sex. Some barely even tolerated that much. But even though he hadn’t held even one actual conversation with Gisho, already Kasan felt more for him than was comfortable. Possibly because for the first time, Kasan had someone around who was even more different from the Kyashin than he was. It was a connection of sorts, even if it was fairly tenuous. But with something in common, perhaps one day there would be enough affection between them to allow them to become friends as well as lovers. He barely allowed himself to think of it becoming any more than that. It would be…almost too much to hope for. Finally reaching his doors after an uncomfortable silence, he was relieved to see Esgard stationed by it, and more relieved to notice his relaxed stance. "Is he all right?" he asked. Esgard inclined his head. “To my knowledge, my lord. He’s barely stirred since we closed the door.” Kasan nodded to himself and opened the door as Leero and Esgard turned to face the hallway. He found Gisho sitting, or rather hiding, in the middle of the bed, pillows piled around him like some sort of cocoon so that only his head and arms showed. His consort clutched the pillows and looked up at Kasan with wide blue eyes as the door was closed.

It was practically criminal how damn cute the man was. It made Kasan want to just pick him up and cuddle him on his lap. Kasan smiled at his own odd thoughts and walked forward slowly. He visually took inventory of his consort’s health. His eyes were clear and he didn’t sway drunkenly, so the Argenta had probably worked its way out of his system. However, he looked positively terrified the closer Kasan came. That wasn’t something Kasan had expected at all. He thought the little man might have been nervous about being in a strange place, or angry at the speed of their last encounter, or even frustrated by his inability to communicate, but terror? Why was he so frightened? Kasan knew Gisho had enjoyed being screwed. The little thing had come, hadn’t he? Kasan hadn’t hurt or abused him. He hadn’t even spoken a harsh word! He couldn’t think of what was so terrifying…unless it was a result of the drug? Argenta was said to have some affects on memory, so it was possible that the entire night before was rather hazy. What if the little one didn’t even remember him at all? If Shovak had bought him from slavers, so who knew what his life had been like, or what he remembered of it. For all Kasan knew, his last memories might be of the slavers themselves. If that was the case …no wonder he’s terrified. Poor thing wouldn’t even understand that he’s safe now. Kasan tried to look non-threatening, obviously failing as the man tensed with every step he took. He lowered himself onto the edge of the bed, kneeling on the floor next to it so he could rest his elbows on the soft surface, and stared at him. "It's all right, precious. I'm not going to harm you. You're safe." His voice was a low, soothing murmur. Gisho’s eyes grew positively huge and he scrambled back, scattering pillows wildly as he shoved himself across the bed until he perched, trembling, at the far edge. Kasan stayed still. It wouldn't do to startle him more. Poor thing probably didn't have a clue what was going on, and Kasan couldn't even tell him. He settled for making soothing noises and keeping perfectly still until the pulse point in Gisho’s throat slowed to a more normal rhythm. He shifted and Gisho stiffened again, poised to flee. “Hey. Hey, now. Shhhhh. I won’t hurt you, little one.” He laid his hands on the bed, palm up and non-threatening. “Look. I’m just sitting here. Nothing else. Just sitting right here and not moving the slightest bit. There, see? There’s no reason to be frightened. No one’s going to hurt you anymore.” Kasan felt a little like he was trying to tame some skittish animal as he continued speaking in soft murmurs. Every time he moved at all, he could see his consort’s body jump and flinch. Kasan really hoped that didn’t mean he had been abused. Even thinking about the dainty man being hurt was enough to make him slightly nauseous. He continued his soft chant of reassurance, concentrating on Gisho’s reactions until Kasan’s shifting ceased to alarm the little man so badly. Maybe he could finally make some introductions.

“Little one,” he changed his tone, tapping his nose so Gisho would pay attention. When he had blue eyes looking at his face, as opposed to staring at his bare chest, he pointed to himself. "Kasan." A blank look was all he got and he tried again, gesturing. “Kasan...” He saw a faint glimmer of understanding-he thought- and made his first real attempt at communication. “What’s your name?" He pointed towards Gisho, watching to see if he would figure it out. This should be interesting. # The door opening had Max instantly on edge. Was it them, the huge cat dudes? What did they want? Were they going to…? He stared at the open door way and tensed as one male walked in, closing the door as he entered. He was…well, he was freaking huge. So what if he wasn’t as tall as the previous two, he was still just as wide. Max looked at the rippling muscles covering the man’s-cat’s-body and he shivered in reaction. He was absolutely positive the man could break him in two like a twig. With his pinkies. Long, loose black hair hung down the man’s back to his waist, matched by silky black pointed ears on top of his head. Max couldn’t stop staring at them. It was so unreal. He was looking at a man with body parts he’d never seen on a human. Thinking of it, he looked at the man’s face. It was broader than the guards’, a little less alien with smooth skin, high cheekbones, and full lips that made Max think of male models. His gaze shifted to the man’s eyes and he flinched. The cat’s face might look more human, but the eyes gave him away. Long black lashes surrounded golden brown eyes that looked human until you noticed the slitted pupil instead of the rounded one he expected. It was so disturbing. More disturbing than some little grey space alien would have been, in all honesty. It reminded him of how he’d felt the first time he’d ever seen a musk deer. He’d been traveling with his folks, smiling as he’d caught a glimpse of the little deer, and then he’d screamed as it had turned to face them and revealed two giant fangs. It turned out that they were merely tusks, not an indicator of some bizarre carnivorous deer, but the sensation of wrongness hadn’t left him. Seeing something so unexpected and different attached to something so familiar was just wacked. Just like an eerily human looking alien. Something twitched and Max looked quickly to see a tail switching behind him. Wait, a tail? This one had a tail? The other ones hadn’t had a tail. So what did that mean? Were there merely variations, or were these different kinds of aliens entirely? This one’s hair coloring was so much darker, matched by the inky ears and furred tail…it could be more than one type of alien, he thought, biting his lip. He felt tense and on edge, trying to notice everything about the man for later. Whatever was going on, if he didn’t pay attention, he might not survive it. It’s just like traveling with the folks, he tried to tell himself as he struggled to stay calm.

Well, struggled not to completely and utterly panic, was more like it. But still, a new place, a new language, new customs, and trying not to get raped or killed. It’s nothing new. Just because it’s an alien place and an alien language and alien customs and trying not to get raped or killed by aliens…. Dammit, he couldn’t believe some cat guy had taken his body like that! And now there was a new cat man and he was coming over to Max. And the bed. And Max was on it. Max was sitting on the bed that seemed more suited for a bordello than a bedroom. Oh God…what if that’s what this is?! Fuck, what if this is a…a… a whorehouse? An alien whorehouse! He stared at the man, terrified that he was right. Hell, he was naked, he was on a silken bed covered only with pillows, and now guards were allowing someone to enter the room who was barely clothed. He couldn’t take his eyes away from him, thinking hysterically that he might be in a real, damn live “cat house!” God, what did they want with him!? And damn it, had none of these guys ever heard of a shirt?! The black haired man was dressed just like the two guards outside, in some odd kind of cream and blue loincloth with a flap hanging in front and covering up his…no, he really wasn’t going to go there. He was not going to think about that part at all, especially as large as that part looked to be under there. He gulped. But…darn it, the man had no shirt, no shoes, just a gold torque kind of thing that hugged his neck. He was an alien; wasn’t he supposed to be dressed all hi-tech or something? Dressed and completely covered and totally uninterested in low-tech aliens like Max in any way except helping him get back to the colony. If Max wasn’t already there, and if that was the case, God help him. Unless he was merely captured and not in any type of place where any type of person wanted any part of his body whatsoever. Then God would get a big thank you note as soon as Max could write it. As the man glided forward, Max tensed even more. What was he going to do? What was the alien planning to do to him? Why couldn’t he put on some fucking clothes and cover up all that bronze flesh so Max wouldn’t have to think about the fact that it might possibly be touching him soon!! The man knelt fluidly by the bed, and Max was profoundly grateful that he wasn’t crawling onto it, until he spoke. Max froze for just a moment and then he found himself at the far edge of the bed before he completely registered that he’d moved. Because he knew that voice. That was the same deep, silky, resonant voice that he remembered hearing as someone caressed him body, as someone thrust into him. This was the man who had used his body. The eyes were different, but there was no way he could mistake that voice. God. Oh God.

Oh Dear Fucking God Almighty What The Hell Do I Do!?? The man moved and Max got ready to run. If he damn well came anywhere near him, Max was going to get the hell away and…God, he really hoped he could get away from him! When the cat dude simply sat and started talking, Max tried to calm down. He wasn’t jumping him. Thank God. He wasn’t jumping on him. He was merely talking and murmuring and, well, the tones in his voice made Max feel a bit stupid, actually. It sounded just like Max when he’d first been talking to the cat he’d rescued as a stray. He’d try to sooth it, spouting words as though the cat had a clue what he was saying, keeping his voice low and his rhythm even. Just like the cat guy was doing. The man shifted again and Max couldn’t help himself: he froze. He just didn’t know what the man was going to do, and considering what the man HAD done, he was too nervous about the possibilities to calm down. More soothing sounds flowed from the alien’s mouth and Max stared at him cautiously. Was he treating him like a pet? Was that what he was now, some alien’s pet? Better than some kind of novelty Terran whore…unless cat guys fucked their pets, too? Because this one most definitely had. And any man who had taken his body made him really, really nervous, no matter how good they might have made him feel. When all the man did was talk constantly and move hardly at all, however, Max started to relax. He’d only been up for a while…was it even an hour? Already he was exhausted. His muscles felt shaky and too tense and he could feel a headache starting behind his eyes. If this man wasn’t going to do anything to him right now, he could relax a little, couldn’t he? Just a little bit. He didn’t take his eyes from him, but Max let his muscles soften just slightly. His brow furrowed when the man tapped his nose, his voice changing. Was that an order? Did he actually expect Max to have a clue what he was saying? Because he was pretty dumb for an alien if that was the case. The man said a different word, pointing to himself, and Max stared. He was introducing himself? The man who’d taken his body when he was obviously too messed up to deny him was freaking telling him his name?? How could he even think Max would want anything to do with him when he’d, well, he’d done things to him? Lots of things to him. Max had remembered quite a bit as he’d huddled under the pillows on the bed. He could remember calloused hands touching his penis, massaging it until it was hard and aching. He could remember lips and warmth caressing his chest and back. Worst of all, he could remember the feeling of being on his knees, exposing his ass as someone slid something slick and smooth into him. He could still practically feel it; the odd sensation as something larger entered, as his body felt tight and stretched when the man had impaled him. And what made him want to just run and hide was the one memory he wished he could wipe from his mind: he remembered liking it. More than liking. He remember the feeling of something inside his body, rubbing against him, making him feel like he was about to die if it didn’t continue. This man in front of him had taken his body, and his body had loved it. He could barely stand to think about it. How could he have liked it? How could he have not only let someone do this to him, but actually enjoyed it? It was honestly more terrifying than waking up and finding himself in a room guarded by aliens. And now his seducer wanted to exchange names? Max’s first thought was to tell him to

go to hell. As that would be pointless and he’d feel really stupid if the dude couldn’t understand him, he’d settle for ignoring him. Like he’d want anything to do with someone who had molested him. Jeez. He stared at him silently as the man repeated the same word again, like Max was too stupid to figure it out the first time. No, dude, I’m not stupid, I’m ignoring you. His eyes went to the ears again as they twitched, and he was suddenly reminded of the guards outside. He bit his lip as the possibilities for the future suddenly ran through this head. This was the man who had…damn it, who’d had sex with him. BIG point against ever even talking to him again. On the other hand, he was a lot less scary than the two guards. He talked more than the two guards. He was more human looking than the two guards. And most importantly, he, and therefore his dick, was smaller than the other guards. If Max was going to be some kind of human sex toy before he managed to get out of here, who would he rather have to deal with: the giant scary cats or the smaller friendlier cat? Not even a contest, was it? Except, was future sex even going to be an issue? What if it was a one-time thing? What if all he had to do was say stop and the alien would leave him alone? But…what if he said stop and this alien left him alone and another bigger one came to take his place? Or they hurt him? Did he have the option to refuse to have anything to do with this cat, or would he be forced if he didn't do what they wanted? The fact that he had no way of finding out before anything happened was absolutely terrifying. He started to hyperventilate and concentrated on his breathing. First rule: don't panic. He needed to remember that. For the moment, the man wasn't bothering him, right? He HAD bothered him, but he wasn’t right now. He was just talking. Max hadn’t ever had to face someone who’d forced him to have sex before, but he’d dealt with plenty of people whose intentions he wasn’t sure of. So, he’d do what he always did in those situations: watch every thing around him like a hawk until he figured out what the hell was going on, and run like hell if he needed to. He started breathing in and out in slow even breaths. Okay, so what had the man said? He looked at him, pointing and trying to repeat it. "Kah-sahn," he said slowly, and the man smiled and made encouraging little sounds. Max scowled. The man’s tone of voice made him feel like a trained poodle being rewarded. He did NOT want to be a pet. He was a person. He had a name. “Max.” He pointed to himself. There, trained poodles, or pets, couldn’t name themselves, now could they? "Mah-ks" Kasan said, and smiled again as Max nodded. Max watched as the man frowned, muttering to himself. Kasan finally held up one finger. "Mah-ks," he said, wiggling the finger. He held up and wiggled another. "Kasan." Then he put the two fingers close together and twined them around each other while speaking in completely incomprehensible syllables and Max felt like he was going to hyperventilate all over again. What did that mean? It looked sexual; it looked so sexual Max wanted to leap away instead of sitting there and smiling cluelessly like he was doing. Or maybe he wasn’t. Kasan was looking at him, a worried expression on his face. Could he tell what Max was thinking? What was he going to do? Kasan moved forward just slightly and Max pushed

himself right onto the floor, holding one of the pillows in front of himself. Kasan looked at him, muttered to himself some more, and slid back before rising to his feet gracefully and gliding to the wall. Man, the guy could really move, and in that teeny little loincloth, you could see every muscle, showing that he glided ALL over. Max couldn’t help envy him. He just knew that no one would dismiss his masculinity ever again if he moved like that. Kasan pressed on the wall with his palm and Max's eyes widened as a panel slid back to reveal a set of shelves with cloth on them. Looking back and forth between the cloth and Max, Kasan finally pulled something out and brought it towards him. It was a very long, thin rectangle of fabric and Max stood up from his heap on the floor and backed away nervously as he looked at it. It looked an awful lot like something that might be used to tie someone up. And as he was the only other person in the room, Max was afraid it might be aimed at him. Was this Kasan guy planning to tie him up? Was this because he’d backed away? Max’s breathing sped up and he got ready to run again. He wasn’t going to let him tie him up, dammit! Kasan stopped at seeing Max’s reaction. He held up the cloth with one hand and proceeded to point to his loincloth and then the cloth. He repeated the gesture and the word as Max looked at him, and Max finally noticed the similarity in width between the tie and the front flap of Kasan’s loincloth. Air escaped in a whoosh as he let out the breath he’d been holding. Clothing. Kasan was just getting him clothing. Max had backed away from him, and his response was to get him something to wear. That was…so much better than he’d been thinking that he felt a bit giddy. He laughed out loud from of sheer relief. Just clothes. Kasan was just going to dress him. Thank God. His laughter subsided to a few relieved huffs and he took one, deep breath to try and calm himself. Clothing. Crap, he needed to get a grip on himself. As Kasan approached again, however, Max got a grip on the black pillow instead. He was, at this point, very fond of that pillow. Extremely fond. So fond that he had no intention of releasing it any time soon, he thought, shifting nervously from one foot to the other. He looked at the cloth in Kasan’s hand and bit his lip. How exactly was he going to figure this thing out? Kasan was wearing a fully made loincloth, flap in front and twisted strip over each hip. How did he get from a long cloth to a loincloth? Max supposed he’d just have to ask for help by looking as stupid as possible. That usually seemed to work when he couldn’t communicate with someone. Look helpless and you tended to get help. Or attacked, so it was rather important to use caution with the method. And it was really, really damaging to the whole ego thing, honestly. He’d stopped trying to look helpless as he got older for a reason. But right now? It was an easy, familiar thing to drop back on, and he could really use something familiar at the moment. He stared at Kasan who was standing…a lot closer than he should be, actually. Max swallowed a moment as he had to lean back to little to look up at him. His eyes were like honey and dark, warm coffee. Max swallowed again with more difficulty and tried to smile. “Uh...I could really use whatever help you could give me with this loincloth thing. And I’d really like you to stay the hell away from my body and most especially my ass.” So, the cat dude couldn’t understand him. So Max’s voice was mild and not in the slightest bit angry or threatening because it just might piss off the huge alien in front of him. He’d still

told him to stay away, hadn’t he? That had to count for something. Hopefully. With Kasan looking down at him, Max felt rather stupid. All right, so Max had told him to stay away from him, because he wasn’t going to become some alien play toy if he could help it, but who was he trying to fool? Was the alien going to do what he asked? It wasn’t as though the cat man had asked permission the first time, now was it? So the odds that Max’s permission would be sought for any future activities was highly unlikely, even if the big alien had a clue what Max was saying, which he didn’t. Of course he didn’t. Otherwise, he wouldn’t still be standing so close and looming over Max like some barbarian. A calm, focused, huge, half-naked barbarian who was staring at him so intently that Max would have felt naked even if he actually HAD clothing on. Max returned his stare, but as Kasan continued looking into his eyes without saying a word, Max’s nerves slowly frayed, one thread at a time. Why was he just…standing there? Why was he looking at him? It was disturbing, both the worry over what he was planning, and the larger worry over how his body was reacting to having the big man this close. It was frightening and intimidating, like waiting at the top of a roller coaster just before the big plunge. He just didn’t know if the big plunge was going to be good, or bad. And his body seemed a little interested in finding out, which was highly unsettling. This was the man who had used his body. Max should be keeping as far away from him as possible. He should WANT to stay as far away from him as possible. He DID want to stay as far away as possible. It was just…Kasan was so close. And he was watching him. What did he want with him? Kasan smiled suddenly, and for a moment the only thing Max’s mind could manage was, “Wow.” Who cared about the cat’s pupils, the alien had the sexiest smile he’d ever seen. Ever. And while the crowd Max had hung out with in college had tended more towards the ivory tower than the runway, he’d seen enough T.V. to recognize ‘sexy.’ He’d just never thought there would come a time where he would recognize it in a man and find his breathing affected at the same time. Who could have guessed it: big cat men had facial expressions so erotic that they crossed the sex barrier. And their eyes did a pretty good number on the senses too, he thought as he looked up into golden brown at close range. The huge half-naked man was standing so close to him that he’d be able to see the individual hairs on his chest if he could manage to drag his eyes from the other man’s gaze. Not that he seemed capable of that for the moment. Everything felt slow and thick, and Max felt his cheeks flush at Kasan’s silent, focused attention. He licked dry lips. This was too weird, and too scary, and too strange: the bed, the giant men, the ears and tails, and now the man was looking him over like he was something to eat, but not in a ‘devour him as an alien delicacy’ kind of way. Besides that, the look was making him feel kind of… hot. That was probably normal though. If someone, boy or girl, human or alien, looked at you as though you were the tastiest thing since chocolate, it was bound to turn you on a little, even if it was scary and intimidating and confusing at the same time. At least, he thought it probably would. It wasn’t as though anyone had ever looked at him that way before, so he didn’t really have a baseline to compare it with. He didn’t know that he’d ever seen anyone looked at that way except in a movie, and faced with someone looking at HIM so covetously, inches away, he thought that a movie couldn’t possibly convey the full

impact of that stare. His skin felt all tingly and hot, and he started to breathe a bit quicker, noticing the man’s rich, rather musky scent hit his nose. He started breathing even faster. Crap, he was going to hyperventilate again. Max held his breath on each inhalation as he tried to calm down. As holding his breath seemed to simply concentrate Kasan’s scent in his head, and his dick twitched in response, Max wondered in a panicked way if he should just hyperventilate and let himself pass out. Maybe that would be better. It wouldn’t be so confusing. He wouldn’t be standing so close to Kasan and finding him too scary and too sexy and too big and he could just stop worrying about every stupid, terrifying thought that was crossing his mind at the moment. Max tensed to take a step away and stopped as he saw Kasan’s mouth above his head. That mouth…it was… Wow. He wondered if it tasted as pretty as it looked. Max blinked at the thought and took a quick step away from Kasan, staring at him in horrified negation of the question that refused to leave even now that he was aware of just how wrong it was. He didn’t want to know what Kasan’s mouth tasted like! He didn’t want to know what his lips or his jaw or his cheeks or his…chest…or stomach…or… Max found himself looking at Kasan’s loincloth and he choked. His eyes whipped back up to safer places and he found himself looking at the oddly seductive mouth again. Kasan’s lips quirked slightly at the corner and he chuckled, which really made Max start to have worries about mind reading or other talents. Could alien cat barbarians read minds?? Was Kasan only chuckling because he thought Max made a quirky looking little pet, or because he knew Max had thought of his body in ways that were just wrong? Wrong, wrong, wrong. He stared at the lips again, wondering suddenly what they had done to him. Had that mouth kissed him? Licked him? A sudden clear image of Kasan’s mouth sliding over his penis hit him and he stared. W-was that a memory? It had to be, didn’t it? He would never think of something like that on his own. Uh uh. No way. But then that meant that his dick had been between those lips, moving in and out as it grew harder and wetter and…oh darn it, and harder. Max pulled his pillow in close to his body, hoping to God that he didn’t lose it and expose his aroused state. He didn’t want to give the man any ideas, and he couldn’t help it! The man had given him oral sex, right? He had to have, that was the only reason Max would think of something like that, and there was no way sex would fail to turn him on. It would turn on any guy; that was part of BEING a guy. Sex was sexy, and oral sex was…really sexy. It was. Those lips… Max flushed even brighter, watching them continue to smile at him. It didn’t seem right that lips could do something so intimate to him and then smile so nonchalantly. This Kasan had no shame, having a mouth that could look like that at a person.

Kasan’s lips twitched again and he reached up with his free hand, running the back of his knuckles against Max’s cheek as Max stared up at him. Swallowing, the thought crossed Max’s mind that he should really run away screaming now. The man had been inside his body, and Max had been inside the man’s mouth- he had, hadn’t he? –and now he was standing next to him and he’d touched him again and only an idiot stood naked in front of someone who had already made love to him unless they wanted it to happen again. And he didn’t. So what if it felt really good. Fantastic or not, it had been sex with a GUY. Amazing, stunning orgasms made no difference whatsoever in deciding who to make love to. Sex was only something to have with someone who… Well, who… Dammit, someone who didn’t have to penetrate his body as part of the process! Having someone do that was just…kind of embarrassing, and he thought it might have hurt a bit too, and it was with a GUY. And Max hadn’t been the GUY guy, he’d been the GIRL guy and that was just wrong. If he was going to have sex with some sexy, gorgeous cat guy, Max wanted to be the GUY guy. He flushed as he realized what he’d just thought and his eyes widened while he stared up at Kasan. Please oh please let him not be a mind-reading alien or I think I’m gonna be in big trouble, Max thought, feeling slightly panicked. He didn’t really want sex, of any kind, with Kasan. None. He really didn’t, because he just wasn’t interested in that type of thing. Especially when he still wasn’t sure exactly what he was doing here and it might just be something tawdry and cheap like ‘to be a little human whore for huge, feline males.’ He felt a little cold in the gut until Kasan rubbed his hand across Max’s cheek again and slid it towards his ear, moving it across his hair until it cupped the back of his head. Max looked up and gulped as Kasan’s face leaned towards his. Kasan was going to kiss him! Kasan was going to use those soft lips and kiss him and he should move away now, really quickly, except there was a hand embedded in his hair and honeyed eyes were staring at him and those lips… Those lips were hot and sweet and they were sliding against his own as a slick tongue ran across his mouth. He pushed away with his head, groaning as his small jerk failed to move the palm cradling his skull. Max groaned again as Kasan gently forced his tongue inside Max’s mouth and Max tasted …honey and coffee. He would swear that the man tasted exactly as his eyes looked: warm and bitter and sweet. The heat of it flowed down his throat as Kasan continued to move his tongue across Max’s, rubbing along the curves of the inside of his mouth. He felt the heat pooling in his belly and up to the palms of his hands. Warm, smooth silky heat that flexed within his groping hands. Um. Max pushed, his hands shoving against the chest that he’d just been rubbing like a sexdrugged idiot, and he stumbled back as Kasan released his head. He’d touched him. Max had touched him. His palms could still feel the heat from the man’s really smooth, slightly furred chest and…he’d touched him! Kasan looked down a moment and smiled

rather wickedly as his eyes went back to Max. Max couldn’t help it; he looked down as well. Laying at Kasan’s feet was a tassled, black velvet pillow. There hadn’t been a pillow there a minute ago. Max’s palms itched again. His hands twitched. But they shouldn’t be twitching, should they? They should be clutching the damn pillow that was currently lying at Kasan’s feet. When in the world has Max gone from clutching his pillow to clutching Kasan’s chest? Why had he been touching the cat man in the first place? And why was he standing still like an idiot while his erection was sticking out for the whole world to see, especially the big honkin’ pervert who was currently staring at it like he was going to lick it all over and swallow it whole. And why, why didn’t that sound as bad as it should? Max covered himself with his hands, blushing again as Kasan chuckled at him. He really wished the big cat would stop that. Looking down to make sure he’d covered himself completely, he yelped as he looked up and Kasan was standing immediately in front of him again. “Don’t DO that!” Kasan smiled crookedly and made a soft shushing sound before he knelt gracefully in front of Max. The only reason Max could think of for the man to be kneeling with his sensual, flexible mouth near Max’s gripping hands was enough to send his pulse soaring. Kasan brought his eyes back up to Max's and Max felt like squirming. Why was he looking at him like that? What was he doing? Was he just playing with him? Was he going to touch him or wasn’t he?! Max frowned at him as he tried to figure it out and Kasan chuckled deeply again. "Jerk," he muttered, and then froze as Kasan gently took Max’s hand and moved it to the side. As he did the same with Max’s other hand and then stopped to stare at the firm member in front of him, Max panted. He should really move, or kick him or hit him or yell at him. Slap him at the very least. Staring at the avid rather hungry look on the man’s face as he stared at Max’s nude, aroused body part, though, Max couldn’t move. He was horny, and aching, and the man’s mouth was so close to him and he wondered what it would feel like. He wondered if those lips would feel like the vivid picture in his head, if they’d be warm and strong and sucking him hard. Thinking of the possibilities, he quivered, unable to make himself move. He’d move…soon. Any minute now. As soon as he found out what Kasan was going to do. Kasan’s hand returned to his groin and cupped his penis, pressing it firmly against his body. Max closed his eyes and gasped softly at the feel of something hard and hot touching him, biting his lip harshly as soon as he heard himself. He knew Kasan was a guy, but…darn it, it had been a long time since someone had played with him this way! And it wasn’t like he was having sex, he was just being touched. And it felt gooood. Moaning inside his mouth, his body’s focus shrank to the size of his groin as Kasan’s fingers curled and enveloped his entire member, squeezing lightly. His eyes popped open as he thought he felt something wet slide over the tip of him, and he looked down. Kasan was bending forward on his knees, staring at Max’s member and smiling up at him wickedly. Max stared stupidly, unable to move as he watched Kasan’s

mouth edge towards him. The man was going to give him a blow job. He was going to take him in his mouth andMax swallowed convulsively, his hands clenching in tight fists at his sides as he watched the sexiest lips in the entire damn world come closer to him. Close enough to feel breath blowing across his body. He was almost there… Max jumped a foot as someone laughed. He looked wildly around for a second before realizing it had come from outside the door. Oh God, for a moment there he’d thought someone was watching him while Kasan… Wait, while Kasan…sucked on his penis? No, he wasn’t letting this happen, was he? This wasn’t right. He shouldn’t be letting Kasan do this. Kasan was trying to touch him again and… and… it felt really good… but that was beside the point! It was wrong. Letting the cat man touch him was wrong. Because… because… Because it just was. Before he could change his mind, Max shoved Kasan’s hand away and he clutched at himself . “N-no touching… the… merchandise,” Max’s voice trailed off as Kasan looked at him quizzically. The man had no clue what he was saying, did he? Kasan made soothing little rumbles in his throat and reached for him again, and Max smacked at his hands. “N-no! I mean it. Dammit, stop!” Kasan paused, staring up at him. When Kasan grabbed both of Max’s wrists with one hands and pulled them away, uncovering Max’s groin, Max whimpered slightly. He was still aroused, his body still wanting, but his erection was fading as he worried about what was about to happen. Kasan was touching him. And touching led to kissing and kissing led to caressing and that led to things that were making him really nervous and a little frightened to think about now that there weren’t any distracting, skillful hands on Mr. Happy. With one last look up at his face, Kasan grumbled a moment and huffed out a sigh before he started making soothing murmurs again as his other hand reached for Max’s groin. “No! I said I don’t…want to?” Something silky rubbed over his member, and Max blinked in surprise as Kasan pressed Max’s hands to his own chest, forcing him to grip something. Huh? Wasn’t he just about to… Looking down, Max realized that Kasan had handed him one end of the cloth that the cat man had pulled from the wall. After giving a reassuring smile to Max’s perplexed, nervous look, Kasan leaned against the front of Max’s body and reached around behind him to grasp the edge he’d just slid between Max’s thighs. Max thought it was going to be a tie whether he was going to die from embarrassment, or faint from relief. He’d thought Kasan was going to give him head. It had really seemed like the big man was about to give him a blow job, and maybe a lot more than that, considering what had happened before, and instead, he was just helping him dress. Max closed his eyes. God, he was an idiot. A stupid, ridiculously paranoid, perverted idiot. Why did Max keep doing this to himself? He had the dirtiest thoughts about the

man, and every time, he was embarrassingly off. Well, except for the first time, when he hadn’t really had any dirty thoughts at all, just dirty memories, but so far, Kasan hadn’t done anything to him in the last few minutes. Except for the kiss. Kasan HAD kissed him. He hadn’t imagined that. So…maybe he’d done THAT to him. And…woah! Kasan palmed his ass. Max jerked and would have yanked away but the man had him completely immobilized as he essentially hugged him around the legs, his shoulders braced against Max’s groin as his hands played with his ass. And now he was… “Hey! Cut it out!” Max wriggled, dropping the bit of fabric Kasan had placed into his hands. He pushed and punched down with his fists on Kasan’s shoulders as the man pulled at his bottom, prying the cheeks apart. What was he doing?! A twisted bit of fabric pressed into the middle of his ass and his bottom was released. Kasan stayed still until Max stopped hitting him. When Kasan continued to kneel, unmoving, Max slowly calmed down and adjusted to the feeling of the cloth. Felt like a loose wedgie. Well….darn it. Clothes again. Max felt a humiliated flush scour his cheeks for the umpteenth time that day. He was just helping him with the stupid loincloth. It was just the loincloth. Dummy. He was a complete and total idiot. Did it again. It was like he was wearing beer goggles, but they made everything dirty instead of pretty. “Sorry,” he muttered and pushed his hand down between their bodies to grab the cloth that had been wedged there by Kasan’s shoulder. He stayed still as he felt the fabric shifting between his ass cheeks, trying to ignore the strange, intimate feel of it. Which he couldn’t quite manage; it was so tight it was touching his anus, for goodness sake. A little hard to ignore something like that. Kasan placed one hand against the small of Max’s back, anchoring the fabric that was now twisted into a small rope, and then drew the rest of it around one side of Max’s hip, across the fabric he still held over his stomach and chest, and back around his other hip until it reached the small of his back again. After a few more embarrassing pulls at the cloth, Kasan had the end twisted around and anchored and he sat back on his heels, staring at Max still clutching the little flap to his chest. He smiled and reached forward, carefully cupping Max’s balls in his hand as he adjusted the fabric over it, ensuring that all of his privates were covered. Max squirmed as fingertips and palms brushed against the inside of his thighs, his balls, and oh God, his dick. His skin shivered as each spot anticipated the small near- caresses, and he wished his stupid body would just stop noticing stupid things like that so he wouldn’t feel anything at all. But there was no way to ignore it. He was getting more aroused, and the stupid cat alien could see how his touch was affecting Max. There was no way to hide how he was feeling when the man’s eyes were staring right at him. Right at IT. Max wasn’t sure he’d ever been quite so embarrassed in his life. The man was just helping him with his clothing, and he was acting like it was a prelude to sex. Not only that, his body was reacting as though it expected normal sex, instead of sex where he ended up with a man coming inside his body. It was…mortifying. Kasan reached up and started to pry Max’s hands from the flap he was holding until Max

realized what he was doing and dropped the cloth like a hot rock. The loose bit of cloth fell over the twisty rope around his waist and covered his front with a little hanging flap. Which was good…but nothing was covering his ass. He had the stupid fabric that started twisting right behind his balls and ran in thin, ropy splendor right up the middle of his ass like a thong, and…was Kasan expecting him to just wear THIS? He stepped back a few steps warily, and glanced back at his ass. Bare. His bare ass. Ass rope did NOT count as clothing. “Don’t you have anything…more…I could wear?” he asked plaintively as he looked back at Kasan, gesturing to his butt and covering it with his hands. Kasan stared at him, his eyebrows lowering until he looked really rather frightening before he stood abruptly and went back to the wall where he’d first retrieved the loincloth in the first place. Opening the wall panel again, he pulled out another blue edged piece of cream fabric, a much wider, shorter rectangle this time, with some elaborate embroidery edged in around the middle. Gliding back to Max, Kasan dropped the cloth over his head before Max could say a word. Max hadn't even a chance to protest before there was a yank on the cloth and his head was pulled through what turned out to be a hole in the middle. He blinked as he looked at Kasan’s face, inches from his own as the man leaned down towards him and fiddled with the odd poncho he’d just shoved onto Max. Swallowing, Max looked down and tried to ignore the hands that were once again touching his body as they dressed him. Kasan was overlapping the sides of the poncho around Max’s chest and waist, wrapping a blue, silky rope around his body several times to tie at his waist and keep the cloth in place. Max relaxed slightly once Kasan’s hands stopped their soft meanderings around his waist and the cat man stepped back to look him up and down. Max looked back at his ass again and was relieved to find it covered. The odd little tunic thing hung all the way to his knees. It would flap open a heck of a lot whenever he walked, but at least he wouldn’t feel so much like he was constantly exposed. “Thanks,” he sighed, and looked at Kasan warily as the man stared a moment before he started to laugh in a light, liquid voice. He felt like he was being laughed at somehow… Now that he was dressed, Max stared at Kasan, wondering what was next. If the cat man had gone through all the trouble of dressing him, he wouldn’t be about to take his body again. He hoped. So what was going to happen? Was he going to leave the room? The thought wasn’t as terrifying as it had been before when Max thought he was all alone. Actually, he was still all alone, but…he didn’t feel quite so isolated. He was trying very hard not to think too closely about what had happened between this man and him, because aside from that, and the sexy lips, oh, and the kiss, and the fact that his hands felt really good… Well, if he ignored all that, Kasan made things feel a lot less terrifying. All the man had done was help him put on some clothes, but at the moment, that was the only help he’d received since he’d woken up, and it was much better than being hurt or raped or killed, so…Kasan still made things seem less scary. Max’s hand nervously tucked his hair behind his ear as he thought about it. He’d adjusted to new situations before, sure, but did anything compare to waking up to an alien place where aliens had used your body and might do so again if you didn’t figure out what was going on really darn soon? He

gulped as Kasan focused his eyes on Max again and came closer. What part of his clothing needed to be adjusted now? He was still worrying the thought as Kasan wrapped one arm around the back of his head and dragged him close as his other hand glomped onto his ass. The man leaned down low and those amazing lips covered Max’s again. This wasn’t clothing. This wasn’t clothing, he wasn’t adjusting clothing, he was doing the kissing again! Max tried to wriggle free with absolutely no effect. He didn’t want to hurt him, because he didn’t want to be hurt back, and he didn’t want to lose the one person who’d interacted with him at all, but he didn’t want to have sex and… “Nnnnnn.” Good kisser. Felt really, really good. Really great. Max relaxed slightly, leaning into Kasan’s body and barely registering the hand on his backside moving until it was underneath the poncho and fingers were sliding over his ass. Hands were on his bare butt, and they were squeezing and kneading and one finger wormed its way underneath the little thong rope and was pushing, pressing along his crack as it started gliding down. “MMMMMMPH!” Max started struggling again. Kasan was going to touch him THERE, and he couldn’t. No matter what, heThey both stopped moving at a knock from the door. Kasan called out in a hoarse voice and stiffened at whatever answer he receieved. He released Max, panting. Examining Max’s face, Kasan grinned and patted his cheek, laughing again as Max shoved his hand away and stepped back. “Mah-ks. Kasan.” Kasan did his little wriggly finger thing again, then snuck in and kissed Max so quickly that he wasn’t able to push away before the cat man was already halfway to the door. He turned and looked at Max standing like an idiot watching him, and left, closing the door behind him. Max rubbed at his lips before biting them. The man had kissed him again. He’d helped him find clothing, but he’d kissed him. He hadn’t forced him to have sex, but he’d touched him and his hand had been about to touch the opening to his ass. His eyes widened and his buttocks clenched as he stared at the closed door. Putting him in a room with silk and velvet pillows, dressing him up, kissing him, and now touching him again… Max gulped. Kasan still wanted Max to be the GIRL guy. Max waited tensely after Kasan left, his eyes glued to the door like flypaper. In other words, he was sure he could tear his gaze away, eventually, but it was going to hurt like hell. So, he simply stared at the wall where the door would open and let his mind wander a bit as he tried to stay alert. He was sure his body and his ass and his pride would really appreciate a heads up if someone decided to enter the room again, so he needed to stay aware of his surroundings. He couldn’t let his guard down again and let Kasan start touching him. Maybe the man would just help him with something again, but considering the kiss, Max thought that Kasan’s motives were too potentially sexual to trust him. Although what was he supposed to do about that? Everything was so strange, and he knew no one. Even if the colonists were nearby, he didn’t know them. He’d exchanged,

what, 10 words total with the captain? There probably wasn’t a single person on the entire planet that he knew. The thought sunk in and he shivered. An entire freaking planet of people, and not one of them cared if he lived or died. He’d never felt so alone and insignificant in his life, not even when he’d first told his parents that he was going to study languages. That had been the first time he’d actively done something against their wishes, and they’d turned their backs on him and walked away. Studying a subject that most considered obsolete was not what they considered a good use of his mind. It wasn’t until they’d applied to be the botanists for beta colony that they’d started talking to him again. After all, the colony needed people to help it function in the expected low-tech that was all that would be available after a few decades on their own. The traditional translating computers didn’t qualify, so they were looking for human linguists. And as quickly as that, his folks were excited and talking to him again and urging him to apply for the position. Which was, honestly, the catalyst that led him here, completely alone and getting kissed by aliens. He licked his lips and his eyes popped open as he realized that he was seeing images of Kasan’s face behind his eyelids. He needed to stop freaking out and pay attention. Total, complete, focused attention so he could figure out what Kasan’s intentions were and what was going to happen to him. The sooner he figured that out, the sooner he could decide what to do. He stared at the door again, his eyes burning until he realized he was forgetting to blink. Periodic low murmurs from the guards flowed in from outside the door, distracting him, and his mind wandered off again. When he remembered Kasan’s hand gripping his ass as he flossed between his cheeks, Max smacked himself in the face. THAT wasn’t what he needed to focus on! He needed to keep physically aware of his surroundings. … … … …What the hell did Kasan want with him? He chewed on his bottom lip nervously. Was Kasan the only one who DID want something with him? Were there going to be other men coming in to…to touch him? He didn’t want to think about the possibility that they might want more. Or what if it was just going to be Kasan? And was the cat man even going to try anything ever again, or was he just going to kiss him? And what should he do if Kasan did? He didn’t want to encourage him. Max thought about the word and snorted. Great, now he sounded like some Victorian heroine discussing her marriage prospects. ‘Encourage’ him, what a stupid thought. What the hell was wrong with him? He didn’t want to make Kasan think that he was okay having sex again, that’s what he should be thinking. He didn’t want Kasan to think that Max in any way wanted to be touched or kissed or caressed or penetrated. Max bit his lip so hard it almost bled as his mind supplied visual aids for every scenario that he’d just recited to himself and he scowled. This was insane…and lame. Insanely lame. Why was he thinking of the stupid cat man like this? Maybe…maybe it was that…what was it called…Stockholm thing, where people fell in love with the people holding them captive. Did that cover starting to feel sexually attracted to his captor? If he was a captor, and if Max really was sexually attracted to him. He might not be. He could just be really horny today.

Because waking up to meet aliens for the first time tended to do that to a person’s libido? He snorted. He was such a dork sometimes. Sighing, he continued to watch the door, his eyes starting to wander the room randomly as more time passed without Kasan returning. When Max ran out of things to look at without being able to touch them, boredom finally overtook his nervous desire to keep watch and he started investigating the room. While the room was cathedral-like in its massive size, there really wasn’t much to see. Frankly, everything he DID see matched the rest of the room in its design scheme. Alien chic meets brothel sensualism. Why did everything he saw have to reinforce his belief that he might be in some sort of whorehouse? It was scaring him every time he thought of anyone coming through the door except Kasan, which made him feel so stupid and weak he smacked himself again. What, was he going to be like some prisoner’s bitch, giving himself to some stronger guy to keep all he other guys away? He glanced at the door, thinking of the guards outside it, and swallowed. He was kind of disgusted with himself that he didn’t instantly reject the thought. Those damn giants were freaking scary as hell. But…no, he wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t. Although, again, did he have a choice? He stared blankly into a huge mirror on the wall, suddenly realizing he was seeing the bed. He turned and looked around the walls. Every mirror along the wall was set up to reflect the bed’s occupants back at themselves, from every angle but the floor and ceiling. Again…whore house. Or 1970’s cheesy, gigolo-style decorating. With wank-worthy 70’s music popping into his head, Max fervently wished he hadn’t seen so many porn movies. He had too many images of things that could be done in front of those mirrors. Although all the images were girls and boys together. Except for a couple of threesomes in that one really hot video, but… that wasn’t the point. The point was, he knew enough about sex, well sex in general, or rather sexual intercourse in front of mirror…hell, he knew enough to get flushed over the sight of all that reflective potential. Taking a deep breath, he wandered over to the wall with the only furniture aside from the bed: small alcoves with embedded shelves and numerous bottles and jars. Lifting the stoppers randomly, he found what he assumed were oils and perfumes. They smelled like perfume, anyway. And when he poured a bit onto his fingertips, the substance was oily and slick. Rubbing it off on his leg, the slippery feel of skin on skin brought to mind exactly what it might be used for: lubrication. He flinched and stepped away from the tables. He needed more clothes. And he was fairly certain he knew the spot where Kasan had opened the wall for both his loincloth and little tunic, so he was going to get them immediately. After fruitless

minutes of pressing and pushing, however, Max gave up trying to open the wall. For all he knew, the darn thing was thumbprint coded, or genetically coded, or he was just an idiot and had the wrong spot entirely. He looked around for something to take his mind off the fact that he was starting to feel a little chilled, and wished he hadn’t. There wasn’t much else to see. The few alcoves and mirrors, the bed and pillows, and the only other thing in the room was a log. Why in the world was there a big, rough cut, barky log in a room where everything else seemed geared for sensual indulgence? Because ‘scratching post’ was popping into his mind, but that seemed too…cliché. The huge thing was odd enough that Max had a brief hope that maybe it spelled a way out. If he could leave, maybe he could find the other colonists. There were no windows in the room and nothing whatsoever to tell him whether he was anywhere near them, but he should try to find them. He didn’t know them, but they WERE human. Maybe that would be enough to stop feeling so alone… Envisioning Kasan’s smile turning into an angry snarl, Max paused. He didn’t want to do something that pissed off the cat guys until he was sure they weren’t going to kill him for it. Kasan had seemed nice, sexual but nice. Actually really thoughtful, if he ignored the sexual, which he wasn’t sure he could do, but… What would he do if Max tried to get away? Again, why the hell was Max being kept in this room? Had Kasan rescued him from somewhere? Was he merely taking care of him until Max could be returned to the colonists and the man had merely gotten a bit too friendly? Hey, a little alcohol had made colleagues of his do a lot stupider things than one night stands. It was possible. Or… Or had they brought him here to be a little sex slave. He snorted at himself. He kept worrying about that, but… “Sex slave.” That sounded so stupid when he said it out loud. Who would ever want someone like him as a sex slave? Honestly, did anyone even HAVE sex slaves? It wasn’t as if he was in some cheesy sci-fi B movie where everyone wore togas and clear plastic clothes and had orgies at the drop of a hat. Although if you squinted when you looked at his tunic, it DID kinda resemble a toga… “UGH!” He kicked out at the bed. Why did he think of stupid crap like this? His brain was just warped. Linguistics and fifteen languages worth of dirty words had warped his brain, that was it. Trying to shake himself out of that line of thought, he walked over and examined the log. It was absolutely huge, at least five feet wide, and it went up at a steep enough angle that he was going to need some type of physical help if he ever wanted to climb it. Looking at it, he decided that he most definitely did, because the log left the room. The top of it disappeared into a rounded hole high in the wall with enough clearance that he could easily slip through opening with room to spare. Could he get out that way if he needed to? He bit his lip as he looked at it. Could something get IN that way? What if there was more than one way in? Ears straining, he listened carefully, still only catching the vague

murmur of sound out in the…hallway? Wherever the guards were, anyway. Nothing that sounded like it was coming from up there, but he’d rather not turn his back on it, just in case. He wandered around a bit more, keeping an eye on the log and the door both, touching and poking at odd spots on the walls in case something else opened up. It never did. After he’d run out of blotches and blurs of color to try out, Kasan still hadn’t returned and Max was running out of things to do. If he knew how to rewrap the darn loincloth, he’d unwrap the thing and see if he could use it to climb the tree. He’d seen lumberjack competitions before; he knew you could do something with a rope and wrap it around the trunk to help you get up. He could figure it out. As long as he had enough time to try it without getting caught, and as long as knew he’d have clothes at the end of it. That way he could come back down if it didn’t work and no one would be the wiser. Should he just take a chance and go for it? He could probably wrap the stupid thing around him SOME way so at least he wasn’t naked and then escape. Except what if he couldn’t find any more people? What if it was just a whole bunch of huge cat dudes walking around looking for little men to molest…or something like that? And he couldn’t believe he was thinking of himself as a ‘little’ man. He needed to find the colony soon or he was going to have a complex about the whole size thing. And not THAT kind of size thing, he thought, feeling his penis rubbing against the loincloth like it was asking for something, Or someone. Stupid dick. Talk to my ass and see what HE thinks about all of this. Looking at the log again, the idea of escaping tumbled around in his head like a little pebble. He might be able to get out, but he had no idea what he’d be getting into as a result. So far, he’d seen two humongous cat guys, one small cat guy, and no people. He was really in trouble if that ratio was repeated once he got out of the room. But if he stayed, Kasan might come back and start kissing him again and…doing other things… and… Oh shut up, dick. He closed his eyes and took some deep breaths as his prick tried to stand up at attention in the loincloth. This was really not good. Not good at all when he was thinking about Kasan and his dick liked it. Worse when he was thinking of Kasan maybe doing something sexual to him and it liked it. Had Kasan drugged him or something? Max licked the inside of his mouth, testing for weird tastes before biting his tongue to stop himself. Like he could still taste it if they had? He hadn’t seen anyone in what had to be hours. And what if they did? If it made him like sex that they were going to force on him anyway…wouldn’t that be better than not being drugged? Not if it made him loopy and kept him from getting away if he needed to, but if it kept things from hurting? It would be like a- a medical drug or something, right? Like a pain reliever, but just for sex.

Yeah right. If they had given him something to make him horny, he was going to kick someone’s ass. Or at least their knees, because he wasn’t sure he could get his foot high enough to reach their damn butts. Stupid freaking giants. Max shivered and he winced as his stomach growled. Great, now he was cold and scared and horny AND hungry. He bet he’d have to pee soon, too, and he had no idea where the hell he could go. Looking at the log one last time he sighed and headed to the bed. He just couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to be here, but it was a lot less scary then the idea of leaving when he hadn’t been hurt yet. And he felt so stupid and pathetic even thinking that way that it made him cringe. No matter how it felt, how could he view having sex with an alien as ‘not’ harmful? Maybe because it might feel a lot worse if someone a lot bigger tried it, he reminded himself. He hated feeling on the edge like this, though, unable to tell if staying or running away would be worse. He’d hate himself if he left and got seriously hurt. He’d hate himself more if fear about something new kept him in the room and the next time it wasn’t Kasan who came in but someone else who wanted the same thing. Max climbed onto the bed and started to pile the pillows on top of him. It made him feel oddly homesick. When his crappy college apartment heater would go on the fritz, sometimes he’d wait to dry his laundry until just before bed so he could pile the warm clothing on top of his blankets to help warm up quickly. The shifting tumble of pillows had the same heavy feel to them. Not quite as warm, but enough that he burrowed underneath them all, plopping one on top of his head in a childish effort to ignore the room around him. He’d be okay. It would be all right. He’d find a way to get through this. He’d managed before on his own, he could do it again, he told himself, slowly falling into a half doze. As long as he avoided those B-movie orgies… Max woke with a start, sitting up with a half strangled exclamation as he looked around in confused fright for what had woken him. He froze as he saw five men standing by the log, staring at him. Five huge, loincloth wearing, angry looking cat men were in the room with him. He looked from one to the other in rapid succession, terror creeping up on him when there was no familiar face. Kasan wasn’t there. Kasan wasn’t with them. Max was stuck all alone with a small herd of massive alien men, and he didn’t like them. They had long hair and cat ears and bronzed skin and obviously whatever drug they’d given him had worn off, because he didn’t find them sexy at all. They were freaking huge and scary as hell. And they were coming over to the bed! He tried to make his body move and couldn’t. He huddled in the middle of the bed as though he was glued there until the damn things were surrounding the entire bed and it was too late to get away. And now they were looking down at him and oh God, what did they want? He couldn’t understand a word they said and he worried when they talked back and forth at each other as they watched him, their thin faces tense. What were they saying? Why were they here? What did that want with…. oh shit, one of them was

leering at him. That was so definitely a leer. Oh God, what were they here for?! Please oh please oh please let this not be a B movie. The leering one reached out his hand towards him and Max had to back away to avoid him only to almost bump into the one on the opposite side of the bed. He thought he couldn’t be any more frightened than he already was when a couple of them laughed at his reaction and he found out just how much more terror his body could actually hold. Gang rape. That’s all he could think. Trying to watch them all at the same time, hoping to see some way out, Max couldn’t stop himself from trembling inside. They were all so damn huge and they were trying to touch him and laughing at him and they didn’t seem to care at all how awful this felt to be surrounded like this and he thought they might be going to rape him. They were nothing like Kasan and his soft voice and beautiful face and gentle hands and it was fucking scaring the shit out of him! Where the hell was Kasan? He wasn’t supposed to kiss him and then leave him so these huge men could come in and… Dammit, he wanted Kasan back! # “We shouldn’t do this.” The inebriated voice echoed down the corridor and was followed by a heavy thud. “Shut up, Nolluz! You know Kasan can hear better than us!” Another thud. “Don’t hit Nolluz. He needs his brain more than you do, Aosh.” Tisu glared a little drunkenly at his little brother crouched next to him. “Not his little one. If the idiot has any more children, we’re going to need to start taking over other countries just to feed them.” Aosh looked at his brother’s groin as though contemplating where to hit next. “You should be thankful, Aosh.” Zonta’s soft voice cut through his twin’s thoughts and had everyone looking at him. “His little ones are the only heirs we have so far. So unless you prefer to limit yourself to females when your heat comes, I’d celebrate your nieces and nephews rather than mocking them.” Aosh deflated slightly. “Zonta, you know I didn’t mean…” “Shut up. All of you. ” Jolan gestured with his hand and everyone went quiet as they rose and followed the crown prince around the corner, padding silently towards the two guards in the middle of the hallway. Winking at the two males, Jolan was about to open the door behind them when two spears blocked his way.

“I can’t let you pass, Prince Jolan.” “Shhhh, he’ll hear you!” Jolan shushed frantically before whispering. “Esgard, you can’t really mean to stop us? You know he zinged every single one of us on our First Nights.” Esgard nodded. “I know.” He lowered his voice, but his weapon remained in the way of the males that all wove slightly as they tried to keep their balance. His nose wrinkled at the rather strong smell of alcohol coming from Nolluz and Tisu. “So move aside.” “I’m sorry to say that I can’t do that.” “Esgard…” Jolan sighed. “Care to tell me why not?” Esgard smiled. “Because Kasan is responsible for the guard. Out of all of you, he’s the one who has the right to punish me if I fail in my duties. It’s not worth a beating simply to let the five of you play some ridiculous First Night prank.” Nolluz glared, his earlier reluctance taking a back seat to being insulted. “Thish is not just a prank.” With an approving pat on Nolluz’s back that almost knocked him to the floor, Jolan nodded. “Esgard, payback is practically a family creed. Getting Kasan tonight is an imperative. It’s a matter of honor.” The guard next to Esgard snorted as he choked back a laugh. “Honor. Surprising Kasan and interrupting his First Night with his consort is all for the sake of the family’s bruised honor, is that it?” Esgard’s small smile didn’t grow, but to Jolan’s satisfaction it didn’t disappear either. “Of course.” Jolan’s lip twitched as he turned to his brother. “Nolluz, isn’t there a law that guards may not interfere if one of the royal family is attempting to regain their lost honor?” “Uh…well, I think there’s still one law in the First Book of Gorin, but the words aren’t quite…” “Good enough!” Jolan looked to Esgard. “Wouldn’t you agree?” Esgard and his fellow guard exchanged looks, sighed, and moved their weapons from the brothers’ path. “At least it’s a better excuse than having Aosh seduce one of us while the other was relieving himself.” Aosh shrugged. “It’s a gift. Tisu’s First Night needed the excitement, anyway.” Tisu growled. “You little –“ Clearing his throat, Esgard chided Aosh “You have no idea how much trouble that guard was in for leaving his post. If you recall, the punishment for dereliction of duty is quite

severe, even if it’s for the purpose of sexual intimacy with the prince.” “Might be worth it,” the other guard muttered as he eyed Aosh, and the younger prince looked back and mouthed the word, ‘later.’ The guard blushed and Jolan rolled his eyes. “Don’t unwrap your cloth just yet, idiot.” Jolan pinched the tip of Aosh’s ear and looked at him sternly as the teen yelped. After a pause to make sure he was behaving, Jolan turned and put his hands on the door. Esgard interrupted. “You may want to wait until later. He’s not here. Leero had to discuss something with him.” Jolan laughed quietly. “Nice try, Esgard.” Esgard shook his head, smiling back. “I’m serious, Prince Jolan. He isn’t in there.” “Like we’d believe that.” Aosh retorted. “It’s been so long since he was supposed to come down with his consort that father’s already given up and gone to sleep. Even HE knows what Kasan is doing right now. And it’s not talking.” “He’s talking.” “Well then there’s no harm in us going in, now is there?” Jolan smiled again and Esgard shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. And besides, Kasan’s consort -“ Jolan waved him down. “Don’t worry. We’ll be good.” “That wasn’t my concern, I was simply going to say-“ “You’re not going to stop us from doing this, Esgard,” Jolan said. “So no more talking.” After a pause, Esgard finally nodded. “As you wish.” Their torsos wrapped with short ropes and small bundles, five men eased open the door, slipping inside and closing it quietly behind them. The guards just shook their heads. There were going to be some disappointed princes in a few moments. The brothers stared at the pile of pillows on the bed, dismissing it almost immediately. There would be no way to miss Kasan and his consort if they’d been occupied on the silken thing. With a rather lackluster attempt at military precision, they made their way over to the odd, roughly hewn pole that ran from the floor up through a hole high up in the wall, untying their ropes and bundles as they went. Tisu put his fingers to his lips to signal quiet and faced the pole. He tried to wrap the rope around it and failed as he dropped one end. Hitting his head on the pole as he reached over to get it, Tisu cursed. “Here, let me.” Jolan grabbed the rope from his hands.“ “I’m fine.” Tisu insisted, grabbing for the rope and missing entirely.

“Yes, I can see that. Still, I’m the oldest, so I’m claiming my rights. I’ll go first.” Jolan wrapped the rope around the pole and grasped an end in both hands. Using it to help him slowly climb, he held the steeply sloping log between his legs every time he shifted the looped rope up, and then shimmied forward to until he and the rope were even. After a few minutes he disappeared through the opening and the others waited impatiently for him to signal. They were surprised when he peered through the hole almost immediately, sitting himself on the pole and jumping down with an angry thud. “He actually did it. Esgard wasn’t lying. He’s not up there.” Jolan whispered the words, looking around the room as though trying to find some hidden place inside that he simply hadn’t explored yet. “What? After all the crap he did to the rest of us, he thinks he can just go off to hide on his First Night and avoid this?” Tisu looked outraged, but took his cue from Jolan and kept his voice quiet. Nolluz and Jolan growled. When Aosh and Zonta just looked at each other, their three older brothers glared at them. “He WILL get you two. When you get consorts of your own, he will get you both just as good as he got the rest of us. Trust me, you will regret it the rest of your life if you miss this opportunity.” Jolan finally gave up on finding anything in the room and sighed. Tisu snarled. “DAMMIT!” He punched the pole as he yelled, swearing at the pain as soon as he did so, and then froze along with the rest of his brothers when he heard a surprised squeak from the bed. Five heads turned as one entity and they all stared at the small being that had dislodged most of the pillows it had obviously been laying under. “What the hell is THAT?” Tisu growled, still angry. “What, Kasan hides on First Night and leaves us a consolation gift??” “I’ll take it if you don’t want it.” Aosh said, staring at the small creature as they all walked over to take a closer look. Surrounding the bed, they peered curiously at the pale colored little alien that shivered among the pillows as it looked up at them. “What IS it? I’ve never seen something like it before.” Jolan said quietly, his head tilted as he examined it. “Well it’s obviously a… It must be a…” Nolluz’s voice faltered and he swayed in place as he tried to stay standing. “Admit it, you have no idea.” Aosh gloated, pointing a mocking finger at him. “And who the hell cares what it is? It’s male and-“ “And how would you know that?” Nolluz interrupted in a muddled grumble. “Because Kasan dressed him in his own clothing, idiot. And it’s huge on him. Look at the shirt…it’s hanging all the way past his ass. He looks like some kid playing dress-up.” Aosh reached out and the small male scooted away from him frantically only to freeze as the movement forced him closer to Jolan. Aosh laughed. “Ha, he’s shy. Hey sweetie,

don’t worry. I don’t bite.” “Don’t listen to him. I’ve heard stories…” Jolan trailed off, laughing a little as the small male moved back from him as well. “I admit it. You’re a great distraction, Little One. Those naked little ears are just so…” “Naughty.” Aosh supplied. “…for lack of a better word.” Jolan conceded, shaking his head at the fascinated looks Aosh was giving the small male. “So what’s your name?” Blue eyes stared at him without saying a word and Jolan’s voice softened. “Hey, we didn’t scare you, did we? Don’t worry. It’s not you we’re mad at. You’re not in any trouble.” He reached out a hand as well and the man scrambled away from him, bumping into Tisu and yelping as he careened away from him as well to huddle in the center of the bed. His eyes jumped from one to the other as he turned and tried to keep them all in sight. “I don’t think he understands us.” Zonta said quietly, frowning as he watched. “And he’s frightened. Would Kasan really leave this man…” “Where is he?” Tisu growled angrily at the stranger and the little alien started breathing in panicky bursts as the largest brother scowled at him. “I doubt Kasan has told him anything.” Jolan said dryly. “It’s not as though we can’t intimidate the poor thing. Do you really think Kasan would leave that kind of information in the hands of something this helpless? Use your head, Tisu.” Tisu scowled. “Well how the hell do we find him, then? That little brat…” “Kasan’s older than you are, Tisu.” Jolan pointed out. “He’s a throwback. They mature slower, and considering that I’ve already had a mate for three years now, I THINK I can get away with calling him a brat!” Jolan’s eyes twinkled as he conceded the point. “All right, so he’s a brat.” “Little shit’s more like it.” Nolluz muttered. “Just because he got you both…” “He put a swarm of keerac under my bed, Jolan. Do you know how long it took me to calm Roto down after something like that? He was scared to death!” Tisu’s hands clenched into fists at the thought and Nolluz nodded in rare sympathy with his brother. Aosh smirked. “Oh, and you didn’t enjoy comforting him? We could hear you all the way over in the training grounds. You scream like a girl when you come.” He had to duck the fist that came flying at his head. Snarling at the miss, Tisu jumped at Aosh and the two of them went tumbling to the floor. Their brothers ignored them and continued to watch the bed.

“Do you understand us?” Jolan asked. Blue eyes looked up at him before moving back towards the small battle taking place behind him. “Little one, over here, eh? Wave if you understand what I’m saying.” Jolan got another glance, but no wave, and he sighed. “I think you’re right, Zonta. I don’t believe he understands a word. Or he’s a simpleton of some sort.” Zonta paused in answering as his twin limped back to the bed sporting a few new bruises and a lovely case of floor burn along his side. Aosh deliberately stood on the other side of Zonta, away from the still angry Tisu. “Tisu wasn’t going to hurt the little thing. You didn’t have to divert his attention that way, you know.” Zonta whispered to him. Aosh merely shrugged and watched the bed. They all watched silently, thinking, as the alien started fidgeting nervously. “Why in the hell would Kasan leave a little male here for us who doesn’t even speak Kyashin?” Jolan wondered, examining. “Is it just a slap in the face for us? He must have known we’d be coming…” “ Who cares,” Tisu snarled. “We need to find Kasan NOW!” He slammed his fists on the bed and the little man jumped with a startled cry and finally broke. He scrambled towards Aosh and Zonta, darting off the bed in between them. Putting out a hand to stop him, Zonta fell back as the alien stomped on his toes. They turned to watch as the man ran towards the middle of the room, panting hard as he faced them. “Are you all right?” Aosh asked. “Oh, I’m fine.” “What did he do to you?” “I think he was trying to break my toes,” Zonta murmured, looking down at his foot. “You’re hurt?” Jolan asked, growing concerned as Zonta continued to look at his toes. “No. Maybe a little bruised.” He looked up and smiled slightly. “Little guy’s not all that strong. I’ve had worse bruises running into a wall.” Tisu, Nolluz, and Jolan came around from the far side of the bed to join the other two and they all stared at the trembling male facing them. “I didn’t mean to scare him,” Tisu muttered. “You probably should have held onto your temper, then,” Jolan said lightly. “Or covered your ugly face with a bag,” Aosh added, and dodged another swipe. “His stance is pretty good.” Tisu noted after a few moments of silence. “I noticed that.” Jolan chuckled. “Although I think he needs to grow a bit before it’s going to impress anyone. He reminds me of you when you were five, Tisu, trying to convince

father that you were fully capable to joining the military.” Smiling finally, Tisu nodded. “I wonder if he’s fully grown. If he’s still a kid, with a stance like that we might be able to make something out of him once he puts a little height on himself.” “Thinking of adopting, now, Tisu?” Jolan teased. When Tisu didn’t answer right away, everyone turned to look at him and he flushed. “Root’s been talking about it,” he muttered. Words of congratulations were merely forming in his brothers’ mouths when Aosh spoke. “Well you can’t take this one. He’s too old for you.” “There is no possible way you can determine the age of a completely unfamiliar species simply by looking at him.” Nolluz said. Aosh snorted. “How the hell can you be drunk and STILL be this much of a pedantic ass? Do you think I can’t actually used my brain and figure out if the little one’s an adult?” Nolluz sputtered as Aosh gestured towards the still trembling man. “Look at his frame. His shoulders are too wide for him to still be a child.” “Maybe his people start out that way,” Zonta said quietly. “His muscles are very small, after all. They have that same wiry slimness that someone who’s young would.” “And maybe that’s how his people are built, too.” Nolluz concluded with an over exaggerated nod. “We just don’t know! There’s no way to know until we find out what in the world this…creature…is. We should leave Kasan’s room and leave IT and go back to bed. We can talk to Kasan about it in the morning.” “We are not giving up on finding Kasan.” Jolan said, Tisu echoing his words within moments. “And we’re not leaving this little thing here all alone. He might get lonely.” Aosh took a step closer, his eyes traveling over the alien’s body in appreciation. “Yeah, he’s tiny…but it’s absolutely adorable. Can you imagine how tight his…” “Aosh!” Zonta glared at him. “What? It’s not like he can understand what I’m saying.” Aosh murmured. “It’s the principle of the thing! You shouldn’t say something like that in front of the poor thing! Especially when he might be…” “Might be what?” Aosh asked absently, still staring at pale skin and furless ears. “It’s nothing. Just leave the little thing alone and go play with the guard you were flirting with.” Aosh and the others looked to Zonta. “You’ve thought of something, haven’t you?”

“It’s just an idea, and a stupid one at that.” “Most of your stupid ideas have a great deal of validity.” Jolan said quietly. “Tell us.” Breathing deeply, Zonta looked at his oldest brother. “I was just wondering. What if Kasan really is talking with Leero right now? If Esgard was telling the truth and Kasan is busy, then the person he left in his room would have to be…well.” “His consort?” Aosh blurted out. “You think this little alien male is Kasan’s consort? You know I think you’re the smartest person I’ve ever met, but no way. There’s no way.” “I know that!” Zonta snapped. “But there’s the possibility...” “If we all didn’t know that he can’t stand to take another man.” Jolan concluded, patting Zonta’s back. “Truly, if Kasan found a way to bond with some little alien male, he would have told us. That’s not the sort of thing to keep to yourself. And that’s disregarding the fact that we CAN’T bond with any aliens, male or not.” “There- there’s humans,” Zonta replied, not quite defending his idea. “We can bond with them.” "There’sh no humans left.” Nolluz interrupted. “I know. B-but if there were…they’re supposed to have small ears. The old texts mention their ears.” Zonta and the others looked at the man still standing defensively in front of them. Jolan finally shook his head. “I just can’t see it. Kasan wouldn’t keep something like that from us, and Nolluz is right. There aren’t any humans left, and if there were…what are the odds that something like that would show up here on Kyashin just at the right time for Kasan to mate with? It’s too far fetched. Creative, though.” “Yeah. For an insane person,” Aosh teased. “Are you sure you didn’t drink as much as Nolluz?” Zonta threw him an obscene gesture and Aosh laughed. “Think about it. Even if it were true, there’d be an easy way to tell, right? All you’d have to do is grab him and check.” Aosh startled them all as he ran quickly at the small man and had him over his shoulder in seconds. The man yelled out in surprise. Aosh’s ears flattened a little as legs kicked and small, blunt claws tried to rake across the skin of his back. He patted the man’s bottom a moment and smiled at his brothers as small fists punched up at his head ineffectively. “Aosh.” Zonta said warningly. “What the heck are you doing? Put him down. You’re scaring him!” “He’s fine. I’m not hurting him, and this is the quickest way to prove my point. And it’s going to be a lot of fun, too.” Aosh’s hand breezed up the back of the man’s thighs and over his ass, moving cloth out of the way as he did so until pale creamy skin was revealed. “See, if he was really Kasan’s consort, there’d be a mark right…here.” They all stared at the small silver crown that shone metallically on the round cheek where Aosh’s finger rested.

“Son of a bitch.” Aosh breathed. “I don’t believe it.” Jolan murmured, walking over to cautiously touch the mark. The man over Aosh’s shoulder yelled out and continued fighting as Tisu and Nolluz came over to examine the silver marking as well. “He’s frightened! You need to leave him alone,” Zonta ordered, trying to push through his brothers. “This can’t be. He’s not Kyashin, and there’s no humans. There’s no humans left. It’s impossible.” Nolluz’s voice was faint and confused. “He’s not Kyashin.” “So how the hell did he get a mark then?” Aosh demanded, and yelled out as Kasan’s consort managed to rear up enough to grab Aosh’s ear and yank on it, hard. “OW! Let go, you little hellion!” Aosh reached up with his other hand and pulled his ear free, Tisu’s surprised laughter ringing in his uninjured ear. Aosh just managed to move his head to the side as the petite male over his shoulder tried to get his ear again. “Hey, stop it!” When hands grasped handfuls of hair instead, pulling in small, stinging yanks, Aosh raised his hand to slap the bare ass over his shoulder. “I said STOP!” Before he could bring his hand down, there was a bellow from the doorway. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING TO MY CONSORT?!!” Everyone froze except for the man over Aosh’s shoulder who yanked and kicked even more vigorously. Kasan snarled and stormed over. “Kasan, I’m sorry, we didn’t realize-” Zonta’s mouth choked as Kasan pointed one finger at him that trembled with rage. “Get. Out.” Zonta gulped and stepped back, hurrying around him as he scrambled for the door. Tisu tried to bluster. “You did it to us first, Kasan. You know you did! We were just here for First Night and-“ “Shut the fuck up! And put my consort down before I fucking break your arms, Aosh! You stupid assholes, you-“ “You deserve it, Ka-“ Tisu’s words cut off as Kasan charged him and he clumsily tried to fend off his shorter brother’s flurry of punches. He was on his knees, gagging, in moments. Jolan and Nolluz took a step back as Kasan turned on them, snarling. “You-you’re being unreasonable.” Nolluz stuttered, and yelped as Kasan simply punched him in the face and knocked him over. Kasan growled ferally at Jolan who was backing up as he tried to keep a smile on his face. He stopped as his consort finally regained his feet and Aosh backed quickly away from the little man. Kasan took the few steps up to Max and held him by the shoulders, looking into his eyes carefully before dragging him against his chest.

“Shhhhh. You’re safe now. The assholes aren’t going to do anything to you. It’s all right. I’ll kick their asses for you, don’t worry.” He scooped up Max, scowling as the smaller man trembled slightly in his arms. He carried him over to the bed, putting him down gently and brushing the soft brown hair out of his eyes before he turned back to his remaining brothers. Jolan walked towards him carefully. “We didn’t mean anything by this, Kasan. You know we didn’t. It’s a tradition now to prank one of us on First Night.” “You fucking scared him, Jolan.” Kasan snarled, gesturing back to his consort on the bed. “He’s fucking terrified! Can’t you damn well smell it, you ass??” Jolan paused. “You know we can’t smell at your level, Kasan. We weren’t trying to…” Kasan didn’t bother to respond and whipped his leg around, kicking Jolan in the chest and knocking him over. He walked over to his brother as he sat up, looking at him. “You were letting Aosh damn well molest my consort!!” Kasan’s hands clenched as he hissed through his teeth. “Get the fuck out of my room, Jolan. You’re still here after I’m done with Aosh and I will REALLY kick your ass.” Jolan took the better part of valor and helped Tisu and Nolluz to their feet, retreating towards the door as Kasan stalked Aosh. “N-now, Kasan, I didn’t do anything…” Aosh stuttered. “You touched him. You were fucking going to SLAP his ASS, Aosh! MY consort’s ass! I should fucking rip of your hand!” “Well how the hell was I supposed to know it was your consort!” “He was in my room! I don’t fucking care whether you knew it was my consort or not, he was in my room! MY room, MY possessions! You will damn well learn to stay the hell away from what’s mine, Aosh!” Kasan swung out a fist and Aosh flinched as he tried to dodge. “Aw shit…” Ten minutes later, Esgard and his fellow guardsman turned as the door to Kasan’s room opened and the prince shoved a bruised and slightly bloody Aosh at them. “Get that idiot back to his room.” “Healer?” Esgard asked. “I didn’t hurt him that badly. He just tripped like a dumbass and hit his head on the floor. He’ll be fine.” Kasan glared at both of them as they took his younger brother. “However… tomorrow you and I are going to be having a little conversation. Understand?” The two guards winced and nodded. “And ask the kitchens to send up something. My consort’s probably starving.” Kasan saw Esgard nod and start to reach

over for the summoning box to fetch help as he closed the door and turned back to his consort. He worked on calming his breathing as he looked at the wide blue eyes watching him from the bed. His poor little Gisho; he couldn’t believe his moronic brothers had done something this stupid. His little consort was so frightened. Max was kneeling on the bed, his hands clenched tightly to each other on his lap as he trembled slightly. Kasan stared at him, the mere sight of his consort starting to turn him on in spite of his anger. Especially as the oversized clothing hanging off of Max and pooling on the bed around his bent legs was incredibly cute. And his face looked incredibly sexy. And he was also still incredibly upset, and would probably need a LOT of comforting. Kasan finally smiled. Maybe the night wasn’t a complete disaster. Max couldn’t get his body to stop shaking. They were gone. He knew that. Kasan had come in like some hero in a ninja movie, punching and kicking, and the larger men had retreated with their figurative tails between their legs. Watching Kasan snarling furiously as he’d lashed out so fast Max could hardly keep up, though, had been pretty damn scary. He’d never seen anything move that fast and he was sure he never wanted to be so close to that level of lethal looking violence any time in his future. He’d been happy to see him, but still… Kasan was, quite honestly, the deadliest looking thing he’d ever seen in his life. When he’d been stuck over some alien’s shoulder and he’d heard Kasan’s yelling, he’d tried to yell back. Desperately hoping that the furious sounding voice meant that he was about to get some help, he’d been stunned at how quickly he was dumped on his feet. But seeing the end of Kasan’s attack on the largest cat man there, he’d been afraid to even breathe wrong when he turned towards him. With Kasan’s eyes cold and hard as they glared in his direction, Max had been certain for a moment that he was about to be beaten. Instead, he’d been embraced and carried off like some damsel in distress and gently dumped on the bed. And treated to the sight of Kasan proceeding to kick some more feline ass. Now, everyone else was gone and Kasan was the only one here and the big cat was smiling at him and Max felt like a complete idiot but he STILL couldn’t stop shaking. He didn’t understand what was gong on. He’d woken up to those men in the room and started having his brothel worries, and then they’d yelled at him and that leering one had charged him so quickly he’d barely been able to see him move. Bastard had picked him up like he was a damn toy and he’d never felt so helpless in his entire life. Even in situations where the people around him were a hell of a lot tougher than he was, they’d never been so damn BIG. It had been like trying to fight off a troll. Hell, his attempts to break free had been so laughably ineffective that the cat had completely ignored them until Max had managed to reach his head. Even then, yanking on sensitive ears and hair, Max hadn’t managed to get free. He thought he might have just pissed the stupid thing off. Considering how quickly and viciously he’d just realized the cats could fight, the fact that he’d annoyed one and lived amazed him. It also reinforced his conviction that he did NOT want to make Kasan mad, ever. He’d never survive it. He’d thought the bigger ones were terrifying, but if Kasan had chased

them all off; that said something about him, didn’t it? Whether it meant he was a better fighter or stronger or nastier, Max wasn’t sure, but he didn’t want to experience that part of him. Unless…could Kasan teach Max how to be just as lethal? That would be good. If he could learn to actually fight off cats on his own, that would be really, really good. Staring at Kasan slowly approaching the bed, he wished he knew exactly what was expected of him right now. The men who’d come in had said Kasan’s name more than once, so he knew they were at least familiar with him. But Kasan had obviously been pissed that they were in the room, so Max’s first fear, that he’d been expected to ‘entertain’ them, was obviously wrong. The fact that Kasan had come in again, and looked like he was going to stay for a while, gave him hope that he wasn’t in a brothel, as well. Whorehouses didn’t work that way, did they? Wouldn’t people usually, well, screw the whore and then leave? Not screw, leave, come in and dress him, leave, and come back and kick people’s asses. Right? Maybe…? Except what did that mean for him? He still didn’t know where the rest of the colony was, or how he’d been transplanted from his cryo-tube to this room, or even WHY he’d been taken, or moved, or rescued, or whatever the hell had happened to him. Kasan had done things that made him squirm uncomfortably thinking about, but he hadn’t hurt him. If it weren’t for the fact that Max had been naked, and molested, and then almost gang raped…he might think he was rescued. He just couldn’t quite make that stretch. Wouldn’t they be making some effort to keep him with the others, if that were the case? Or trying to communicate with him to find out where he and the ship were from, or… something. So far, the only thing Kasan had tried to do was wiggle his fingers in an attempt to imply that he and Max had a sexual relationship. Not exactly rescue behavior. To top it off, Max had noticed that as furious and lethal as Kasan had been, he hadn’t seriously injured any of the men who’d attacked Max. It wasn’t that Max wanted other people to be hurt, but the fact that attacking Max didn’t merit serious pain was frightening. What was he to Kasan, exactly? Had Kasan been more angry that the men had invaded what might be his ‘space,’ or was he angry that they’d touched his ‘property?’ If Max was property, that is. He didn’t think Kasan was going the route of ‘upset because they’d insulted a guest.’ He’d have to be a pretty big hypocrite for that to work. And Max was desperately hoping that he wasn’t upset because they’d touched his ‘whore’ before he was done with him yet. Because that would mean that at some point in time, Max WOULD be done with him, and then he’d go away and other men would come in and…do things to Max and hurt him because they were really, really big and he’d just been shown pretty thoroughly that he couldn’t fight them worth a damn, and… and… “I don’t wanna be a whore!” Max wailed, and then slapped a hand over his mouth as soon as he said it. God, he was such a stupid dink! Kasan stopped and tilted his head curiously before smiling with a slow, sensuous uptilt that had Max blushing vividly. The smile felt like liquid heat being poured over his skin. He shifted on the bed, trying to ignore the slight thickening of his dick as Kasan continued smiling. How could he smile like that?

And why did it make him feel this way?? It shouldn’t feel so nice to be smiled at by another man, especially when the same man might be thinking sexual thoughts about him! Watching nervously, Max gulped as Kasan started walking towards him again. Kasan’s smile deepened as his eyes roamed over Max’s face. Max had to swallow noisily again as saliva pooled in his mouth. Kasan was just so beautiful. Max had thought he was sexy the first time he’d seen him, but he really was just…beautiful. In its own way, the fact that the thought entered his head at all was scarier than anything the other men had done. His mind was finding another man attractive, and his body was starting to feel flushed and aroused as well. He didn’t understand this. He shouldn’t be feeling this way! Kasan was a guy. It didn’t mater how pretty or exotic he was, he was male! Max had NEVER felt this way about another man. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever. Not even at the last Christmas party, because he’d been too drunk for that one time to count. Feeling his body respond again as his eyes unconsciously focused on Kasan’s chest, Max clenched them shut. He’d been ogling! He’d been looking at Kasan and ogling! “I really, really wish you were a butt ugly ogre,” he muttered. He didn’t last for more than a few moments before he opened his eyes. It was too nerve wracking to know Kasan was coming near but not know where he was. And he was…almost to the bed. Max gulped again as Kasan glided the last few feet towards him. The man’s body was flowing smoothly, his feet treading soundlessly along the floor, and Max tried to console himself with the thought that at least he wasn’t angry any more. Max wasn’t going to be attacked. Looking at Kasan’s loincloth and what looked like a growing erection inside of it, he changed his mind. It looked like he WAS going to be attacked; he just wasn’t going to be killed. Max scooted backwards on the bed. He didn’t want this, he didn’t care what his body was telling him. His penis was stupid, and his skin was stupid, and the lips that he needed to stop chewing nervously were stupid too. He knew he couldn’t want anything to do with some big huge cat who looked like he was going to jump his ass any second now. He really couldn’t. Except if he refused, what would Kasan do? Would he call the others back in? Would he hurt him? And how the hell was Max supposed to tell ahead of time? What was he supposed to do? Maybe he could…distract him? “Uh…thanks for the rescue, and everything.” Max smiled rather weakly and blinked as Kasan paused in his last few steps before the man started laughing. Shaking his head and still laughing, Kasan came over sat down far too close for comfort as he continued chuckling. Max started chewing on his lips again. What in the world was so funny? #

Kasan tried to stop chuckling as he sat on the bed, but it was all he could do not to start laughing harder. God, Max had said it again. He didn’t know what it was his consort was actually trying to say now, or what he’d been saying before Kasan had left with Leero, but that one sound in there was so close to a Hinta word that Max couldn’t help but hear it as such. And what a word! ‘My delicate ass.’ It sounded exactly like ‘my delicate ass’ and Kasan just knew that if he heard his ‘delicate’ consort say it again he might start laughing so hard it would be difficult to breath. His little Gisho was a complete and utter cutie. Kasan leaned towards Max and frowned as his consort tensed. Sitting back, he castigated himself. Of course the poor thing was going to be tense. He still didn’t have the slightest idea what was going on, in all likelihood. And then Kasan’s brothers had to come in like a rampaging horde at the end of a battle. Kasan couldn’t believe they had touched his consort on First Night. Touched him! It was so far beyond acceptable pranking that Kasan would still be pounding on them if it weren’t for the fact that it would have likely frightened his consort. Max probably thought he was about to be raped by the idiots. Thinking of the scene he’d walked in on, with Max’s ass essentially bare over Aosh’s shoulder as all his brothers examined it, he scowled. He really had let them off too easy. His consort should never have had to suffer through that, and he wanted to beat Aosh all over again as the image ran though his head. His young brother had been about to slap Max in the ass. Aosh was really, really lucky that his hand hadn’t connected or the young lech wouldn’t have been able to walk for a week himself. Kasan looked up as Max shifted, and when the little one’s eyes widened he realized he was still scowling and probably doing nothing to help calm Max. “Sorry, little one. It’s been a hard night for both of us, I think.” Kasan debated for a moment and then decided that he was going to have to be a little aggressive. If he were simply seducing Max outside the bond, he’d have the ability to give him some space for a few days and take things slowly. He truly wished he had that option, but he didn’t. The way his heat was building, they would need to make love again before the night ended. Already, he could feel the characteristic almost painful increase in his own arousal that told him he should have had this done hours before. Drinking in the flushed skin and lithe body of his consort, Kasan tried to comfort himself. Yes, it was going to be rushed again. There wasn’t any help for it; but it wasn’t any hardship to take Max’s body. In fact, the thought of being able to play with it, to give Max pleasure and make him practically incoherent with need, was enough to turn him on without the bond’s interference. It could have been so much worse. His cousin Waran’s bond came to mind almost immediately. Lost during a hunting trip, Waran had gone into heat and been forced to bond with the first ripe person he came across, who happened to be one of the ugliest, nastiest beings it had ever been Kasan’s displeasure to meet. And even though the very

thought of touching the other man had made his stomach churn, Waran and his consort still had to have sex every few days if they cared to live, at least until they were old enough that the Kouloc was no longer active. The soonest Kasan had heard of that happening was 16 years, and that extreme case was at least five years less than the norm. Kasan had asked Waran once what it was like. He’d had a hard time understanding how a couple COULD copulate when they found the other so unattractive. How could they stand it? Kasan wouldn’t have had to ask anymore. This was the second time he’d been a victim of the heat, and it felt distinctly different than his normal arousal. Without it, he found Max adorably attractive, and as he knew from the time he’d spent away from him, Kasan quite enjoyed fantasizing about the things he could do with the little one. The heat, on the other hand, only affected his body’s need for sex, which was growing steadily by the minute. It didn’t affect his mind, his heart, or even his body’s attraction to his consort. It simply made him HAVE to have sex with him. The need would become a painful burn the longer he waited, and it would ensure that he stayed up and potentially even forced himself on Max if he didn’t follow the dictates of it. At least Max’s body would be feeling the same affects, although to a much lesser degree. And Kasan was fairly certain that he’d seen Max eyeing his body, which gave him some hope for the future. The bond would never affect how the man thought of him, after all. Until Max’s heat arrived, the man’s nanites would simply respond to the pheromones Kasan’s body was producing and create a corresponding need for sex in Max’s system. Truly, the scientists had done a very thorough job when they’d created the heat. The only problem was that they’d been more concerned with saving lives than with creating stable relationships. So now, Kasan was going to have to make love with Max far sooner than he thought the man was ready for. Not that he didn’t want to take Max’s pretty little body in any case, but courting would have made it so much gentler for his consort. His lover’s mind would have had time to settle after all that had been happening, and perhaps Kasan would have managed to find a better way to communicate. His body, however, didn’t look as though it was going to give him that luxury. Sighing softly as he thought about the upcoming night, Kasan wondered if the throwback genes that made his heat delayed by a few years also increased his need for sex. Perhaps it was the fact that Max was human? He wouldn’t have left Max for so long if he’d thought the heat would hit him this early; he would have wooed him as aggressively as possible with every minute he’d had. This quick build up wasn’t what he had been expecting at all. After all, if his family’s example was anything to go by, he shouldn’t have been feeling this pressed for at least another few days. If he was going to need the genetic exchange this frequently…he would be spending a large amount of time in the bedroom for the next few years. Glancing at Max next to him, the little man fidgeting with his top, he had to grin at his own whining. Oh, the agony, having an excuse to make love to his consort at all hours of the day, every day. Jolan and the others were going to be terribly jealous. And he’d run out of time. He had to at least touch the man in some way or he wasn’t going to last, and considering how nervous Max looked, it would likely be best if he did this as quickly as possible.

Kasan leapt softly at Max, flicking out his claws as he did so. Max had time to squeak in startled surprised before Kasan sliced through the shoulder and ties of the top, tossing the remnants aside. The loincloth was cut open and tossed with the same speed and Kasan enjoyed Max’s wide-eyed expression of shock before he knocked him down sideways onto the bed. It only took another moment before Kasan was gripping him around the waist, lying behind him with Max’s ass cradled against Kasan’s still clothed erection. He sighed in relief even as Max finally started struggling and yelling. The feel of Max’s skin against his chest and underneath his arm was giving him the respite he needed from the strong desire to bury himself in Max’s body. Admittedly, the wild squirming was making Kasan’s erection even harder, but that was a natural reaction, not a heat induced response. Even as sexually arousing as he personally found Max, he could hold out against the heat for a while, as long as he was holding Max. Hopefully, the extra time would be long enough for Max to calm down as well so that they could both enjoy this rather than have the need hit the little man out of no where. If he was lucky, he might even have enough time to seduce Max completely before he even noticed the strange sensations of the bond. Kasan would prefer that to having sudden, uncontrollable need frighten Max unduly. And no matter what happened tonight, tomorrow night he was going to seduce Max on his own terms rather than waiting for the push from his body. He WAS going to manage a slow lovemaking session soon, even if it killed him. For right now, however, he was in for an uncomfortable time of it until Max calmed down. “Shhhhhh, calm down, Gisho.” Kasan spoke in a soft, almost singsong voice. It seemed to be a good choice of tones as Max’s movements slowed when he heard it. “That’s right. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just going to make you come until you scream with it, sweetheart. Nothing to be afraid of. You’ll have a wonderful time. All you need to do is calm down a little.” Max finally gave up struggling and lay stiffly within Kasan’s arms. Kasan could feel his heart pounding heavily, however, and he resigned himself to a painful hard-on for a while until Max was relaxed. His little consort was so skittish. He hoped it didn’t take too long. Moving his hand in small, brushing movements over the waist he was still holding rather tightly, Kasan wished again that Leero hadn’t interrupted him earlier. He’d been so close to having a taste of the little thing. Kasan smiled to himself as he continued to hold Max’s tense body. Although Max had been terribly frightened when he’d first seen the cloth to restrain his privates, he’d calmed down rather quickly once he’d understood its purpose. Kasan still wasn’t sure what the poor thing had imagined at first, although from his reaction it must have been rather terrifying. After they were past that, however, Kasan had seen how Max was reacting to him. Max’s pupils had been completely dilated, his breathing heavy, and his eyes had followed the planes of Kasan’s body so closely Kasan felt them as if the little man had touched him. He’d responded so well to the kiss, too, his little sigh as he started to enjoy it Kasan’s lips had been so breathy and soft. The flustered surprise when he’d grown too shy to continue and pushed away, only to leave that small little pillow lying in the dust? It had been so sweet. Kasan had been truly looking forward to exploring his body before they’d

gone down to meet his family. There was just no way he’d been able to resist, after seeing that face. He’d been so close, too. As important as Leero’s news had been, it was still quite a pity that Leero had been as diligent as he had in bringing it to his attention. Max’s bottom gave another little push against him as he squirmed, and Kasan blew out his breath slowly. That felt positively sinful, it was so good. And wasn’t that just about the damnedest thing that he was thinking something like that about another male. Aside from the fact that his attraction made the bond so much more palatable, there was a part of him that felt…complete for the first time. Suddenly, a part of his personality that had always been relegated to the status of ‘another throwback oddity’ was gone. He wasn’t only attracted to just one sex anymore, and it was wonderful. He couldn’t believe how much he was enjoying the feeling. Max’s small body in front of him, his muscles flexing underneath Kasan’s arm, his softly curving head around the level of Kasan’s chin, Kasan enjoyed it all. His little Gisho seemed so strong and delicate at the same time. He truly was like the little mountain flower. At least, that was his impression of him. It was amazing how much one could discover about a person without even the benefit of understood speech, but if he were honest with himself, he really didn’t know anything about his consort at all. To date, most of his knowledge of the man had been gained when Max had been drugged or terrorized. The only trait of his consort that might still exist in every day life was that Max seemed rather prone to panicking, in a rather cute, startled kind of way. If it happened as often as it seemed to, Kasan looked forward to being able to comfort him once they could speak to one another and grow closer. Thinking about the language barrier, Kasan had to wonder a bit about how long that might be. How long until he could accurately inform his consort of their connection? It was a little bit…complicated, after all. Complicated enough to be universally known, literally in this case, although Max didn’t seem to recognize them as Kyashin. He would have surely said something if he had, wouldn’t he? If Kasan was lucky, Max had never seen any Kyashin images, but would recognize the name once he’d heard it. Kasan had a feeling that might not be the case, however. Any humans that were isolated enough not to be discovered for this long might be isolated enough to be out of the normal news loops. If that was the case, how exactly was he going to inform Max that they HAD to mate, and not have him think it was a lie designed solely to obtain sex? How, exactly, did one help someone understand Kyashin history if they couldn’t speak the language? Terms like “genetically engineered plague” and “nanites” weren’t exactly easy terms to define with hand gestures. He supposed he could show him how Kasan’s mark disappeared when he grew aroused, as the dormant nanites that made it up entered the appropriate parts to collect genetic samples from Gisho. Would that ever happen to Max? He frowned, pulling the man a little closer to his body as he thought of it. It might not. Consorts were always mature enough to mate, but their hormone levels hadn’t yet reached the proper combination to trigger a mating heat. Their own nanites would engage as soon as they completely matured and their bodies required the genetic exchange to heal themselves. But since Gisho wasn’t Kyashin… would he ever need the nanites? He hadn’t thought about it before, but if Max wasn’t born with the Kouloc, his maturation would never trigger the disease and he’d never need the salvation that the nanites offered.

He’d never even experience a mating heat, either, would he? Which meant that the human male could have survived without needing a consort of his own when he had fully matured. Looking at him, Kasan realized that Max might actually be old enough that he would have had his own mating heat, had he been Kyashin. Max might even be older than Kasan, which was a bit odd to think of. Consorts were almost never older than their mates. It was practically impossible with two Kyashin. Besides, Max was so small and slim, he looked far younger than a mature adult. Thinking further about the implications of his human consort, Kasan was struck by the realization that if Max didn’t have the disease, he would probably be able to survive the death of his mate. The thought had Kasan scowling, his body tensing until he managed to relax it, muscle by muscle. He should view this as a good thing. He had no intention of dying any time in the near future, but based on what Leero had just showed him in Shovak’s abandoned quarters, his uncle and he had quite different views on what his life expectancy should be. It was oddly reassuring to think that unlike a traditional Kyashin couple, his consort would live past his mate’s death if it happened when the bond was still needed. If, for some ungodly reason, that bastard Shovak actually managed to have Kasan killed, or whatever the hell else he was planning, Max would be safe. Kasan’s family would look out for him, and his body would just continue as it was, without the need for sex that Kasan’s own nanite-induced pheromones were screaming for Although, if Max’s body never needed the nanites, would that cause problems later on? If the nanites never fully engaged to fight off the Koulac, would it break the bond?? He tensed at the thought, his hand automatically rubbing over Max’s stomach to reassure himself until his brain thought it over. He was letting his fear and his lust cloud his thinking, he decided. Nothing would happen. After all, according to the stories, once the Terrans had aided in stopping the plague and their genetic material had been used as part of the cure, many Kyashin had taken human consorts. And from what he remembered, the humans had been immune to the disease, so they wouldn’t have had their mark disappear either. It had worked for them, or at least he’d never heard anyone talk of it not working in the histories. So it should work for Max and himself as well, wouldn’t it? He thought about it another moment. This might be something he should take up with Nolluz when he talked to him next. He wouldn’t lose his little Gisho, though. That was what was important. Kasan bent his lips to the soft hair in front of him, kissing it gently, and he recognized the soft, even breathing of sleep. Poor little dear. He was probably still exhausted from the bonding itself, especially with no initial nanites of his own. His body would be using up a lot of extra resources for a few days as the nanites tried to replicate themselves from those Max had received during the bonding. They would be attempting to reach high enough levels to be ready for Max’s eventual, if non-existent, heat. Perhaps that was the actual reason the two of them needed intercourse so soon. Maybe it was Max’s body initiating it rather than his own. Not that it mattered: they would have to heed their body’s needs, unlike earlier. Kasan sighed at the recurrent thought. While Leero had been the one to stop the kiss that Kasan could still taste in his mind, the man’s laughter beforehand had really done the most damage. If it hadn’t been for that, Kasan was fairly sure that Max would have given in with enough time to consummate the relationship before being interrupted. After all, Kasan had just about had his consort in his mouth when the damn laugh had startled him and Max had been so upset he’d practically fled. Kasan hadn’t wanted to force

anything on him when he was so frightened, of course. So he’d stopped. As painful as that was. He couldn’t resist one last kiss before he’d left, but he HAD left him alone. And dressed him, which was pretty damn fun, considering how aroused it had Max. He was so sexy when his cheeks turned rosy and red. And now…Kasan was going to have to try again. Third times the charm, wasn’t that what they always said? Max was asleep, and Kasan really, really needed to be inside him. Kasan would rather have seduced him, but perhaps it would be better this way. He could have Max’s body aroused before he even woke up. Hopefully, Max would be a bit sleepy and disoriented as well, so the pleasure should hit him before the fear could. It would be less upsetting for him this way. Not as enjoyable as mutually pleasuring each other, but mentally, this might be the best he could hope for tonight. Especially as both his libido and his heat were growing hard at the very thought of being inside his consort. He groaned low as his member pressed against the lovely, firm bottom in front of it, but smiled as something hard and insistent started pushing against his arm around Max’s waist. He leaned up on his elbow and looked over, smiling as he saw Max’s hot little prick growing firmer as well. Sleeping he might be, but his body seemed happy to be there. Good. Kasan would cover Max in his scent and his touch, and with any luck Max would be too overwhelmed NOT to enjoy it. The bond might ensure that he came, but it wouldn’t have the same impact as a climax with actual desire involved. Kasan wanted Max to be happy that they were making love, and he knew that the small man was not happy with things right now. When awake, he was obviously nervous and unsure, with fear rearing its head far too often. Kasan would do everything he could to make that fear go away; it was just difficult to figure out how when he wasn’t sure exactly what was scaring his little Gisho. Other than large, idiotic brothers assaulting him, of course. He hoped that this brief physical seduction would be enough for now to keep him content, or at least not wildly frightened. He thought it might work best if he simply made Max incoherent with sensation and took him until he was completely limp. What a hardship THAT would be, he grinned to himself. Even if it were, he’d do it. At least that way Max would be too involved to be frightened, even if it wasn’t the ideal way to do things. And if Kasan were honest, the idea of seducing Max in his sleep gave him an erotic little kick, as much as it shamed him to admit it to himself. His consort’s face was expressive enough when he was awake and trying to control his reactions. What would it look like when it was sleepy and befuddled, when he woke in the midst of arousal rather than easing his way into it? Grinning rather ferally as he anticipated, Kasan eased his hand from around Max’s hip and slid it across the small hollow near his hip bone. The skin there was so soft it was almost silky, pale as though it had never seen daylight. Kasan brushed his thumb across the small valley, following it as it led down to crisp curling hair. He rubbed the pads of his fingers across the oddly textured fur and then moved to the prize: the soft, hot skin of Max’s member. He cursed under his breath as his body was hit with another jolt of lust that made him grip Max’s body tightly. Dammit, he had really wanted savor the next time with Max. This ‘quick fuck’ lovemaking was not what he wanted. Well, not enough of it. He’d had plenty of experiences that were simple screws when he’d used prostitutes for release. With his consort, he had really been looking forward to taking his time and enjoying himself, and

helping Max do the same. It felt like this time and the last, he’d had no chance to get to know Max’s body at all. No playing with his body, or kissing him all over, or rubbing oil into his skin. Instead, Kasan had to go right for the end. Admittedly effective, and so tight that it still got him hotter than hell, but he had wanted a chance to play with Gisho for a while, and he was damn well going to make sure they got to do that soon. In the meanwhile…he’d do his best to enjoy this as well. Feeling Gisho’s small form against his own, he didn’t think he’d have to try too hard for that to happen. Pushing against the sleek body in front of him, he grasped Max’s member in his hand, enclosing it carefully. It was partially hard already. Max moaned in his sleep, squirming a little, and Kasan sucked in his breath as the little bottom in front of him rubbed against his groin again. He pressed his hips forward and scowled as his loincloth impeded the sensation. Releasing Max for a moment, he sat up and clawed off his only covering, throwing it almost violently behind him as he resettled himself. He felt like purring as his freed member managed to press intimately between pale cheeks. Max’s body might be small, but he was…perfect. Kasan’s hand gripped Max’s hip, palming the side of it and pulling back to wedge himself more firmly against his consort, and Max was the one to groan this time. He still didn’t wake, however, and Kasan had to smile at his determined sleeping. Moving his hand back to the prize between his consort’s legs, a few brief strokes was all it took to get Max’s smaller member completely upright and eager. Max’s foreskin moved smoothly in Kasan’s hand as he played with the tip, caressed the sides, tightened his hand around the column of flesh and pulled back towards Max’s body with a strong, steady motion. His consort started pushing against him in his sleep, murmuring in alien words. Kasan hoped it was a VERY good dream right now. Kasan nudged against Max’s body from behind again as he continued to play with his front. The yielding feel of the valley in the center of the smaller man’s rather lush bottom made Kasan’s palms sweat with the desire to take him just as quickly as he had the first time, if not quicker. He groaned to himself, trying to fight it. The heat was pushing so hard, he couldn’t hold out for much longer. Even with the physical touch, it wouldn’t be denied. With almost all of Max’s body soft with sleep in front of him, he forced himself to release his penis and reached up to play with the man’s chest. Gently stroking his fingers across responsive little nubs, he caressed along the hard curves of Max’s chest. He stroked the lines of muscles, letting his fingertips feel the sleek skin, flicking lightly whenever the curves led him back to increasingly hard, pink nipples. When the heat spiked another notch, he started to pant and ran his hand down over the tight muscles of Max’s stomach to play with the fully erect penis that still felt a bit small and fragile in his hand. He just wasn’t used to holding a dick in his hand that didn’t belong to himself. He played with the staff of it, gripping and squeezing, pulling and pushing firmly as he started to buck against Max from behind. When Max started pushing back against him with more sleepy, hoarse moans, Kasan almost swallowed his tongue. It hadn’t been more than a few minutes, and Max was already aroused. It took so little time to ready him, and Kasan was so grateful, because he’d reached his limit. He had to have him now. Still stroking his consort’s erection, he used his other hand to gently press against Max’s bottom, nudging the cheeks apart until his own erection was settled in between, ready to penetrate his partner. His own cock was leaking the necessary fluids in preparation and he rubbed against Max’s opening, spreading the slippery liquid over it before he began to push with his hips.

Max moaned louder, shuddering as Kasan played with his dick more strenuously to distract him. He had to laugh a bit at just how long his consort had managed to sleep, but he had to admit that it was going to benefit both of them. It was giving him the time he needed to make this as pleasurable as possible before Max woke up. Although he wondered a little if Max was going to wake up at all, sleeping this deeply. It might be the easiest solution to Max’s fear, but Kasan didn’t really want to finish coupling all by himself. He wanted the little one to wake up and enjoy this. Continuing to play with Max’s cock as his own inched in, Kasan slid into such tight heat that he had to grit his teeth at the feel of it. Making love to Gisho was the most wonderful feeling he’d experienced in his life. He never wanted it to end. Partially encased in his consort’s body, still trying to carefully enter, Kasan moaned deeply when Max finally woke and the man’s insides clenched around him. “Wha- “ Max mumbled sleepily, shifting his hips a little before his entire body stiffened. “What are you… Aaaaaah! What are you doing?! You can’t be…nnnnnnng, Oh god, that feels…shit!” Kasan thrust in so that he was embedded fully and he stayed there despite Max’s struggles, holding him close by clasping his erection, squeezing carefully as Max pushed against his hand. Max continued squirming in small jerks, his muscles clamping down on Kasan’s member, and Kasan groaned. “Gisho, you’re going to make me embarrass myself and come too soon unless you stop that,” he groaned against his consort’s hair. Feeling the tight muscles massaging him with every movement was making it very, very difficult. “Please, you’ve got to stop moving, little one.” His hips twitched and he pressed forward in a quick, involuntary jerk that had Max freezing. Kasan sighed in relief. His self-control could only last for so long. “Thank you, precious. Now hold on just a little longer. We can make this better for you, love.” Kasan shifted position slightly and did a small out and in thrust that he knew would rub against the pleasure point inside Max’s body. He wasn’t disappointed as Max gasped immediately. Struggling desperately for control, Kasan continued the small thrusts against the same spot, gritting his teeth at the desire to pound into Max, until his movements had the little one quivering wildly with small, incoherent exclamations. “Ah, ah, ah…what are you d-doing to meeeee?!!” Max was almost wailing. “It shouldn’t feel… Fuck! Ah, ah, aaaaaaaah. FUCK!” Kasan smiled and started to thrust faster. His Gisho was so easy to seduce this way; it was wonderful. He released Max’s erection to hold onto his hip to keep him still as he entered him. He couldn’t get enough angle to properly fuck him into the ground, but he could at least give them both an orgasm that made them scream rather than whimper. As though he’d heard Kasan’s thoughts, Max came with a plaintive yell, fluids pulsing out of his body onto the bed while his convulsions milked Kasan’s cock. Kasan came before Max’s climax even ended.

“Hell!” He kept his arm over Max’s hip as his breathing slowed, refusing to let Max pull away as his wits returned. Kasan kissed the top of his head. “You are absolutely adorable, Gisho. Just wonderful.” He snuggled close, enjoying the feel of his cock growing slowly more limp until it slid slickly out of his consort’s body. He reveled in the small, sleek warmth of him, resting against his heat, purring low as he nuzzled the top of his head. “You suck, Kasan. I can’t believe you did this to me again. Prick.” That did not sound like loving words from his consort, but he didn’t sound frightened at least. He seemed frustrated and upset more than anything else. Honestly, Kasan was a little saddened that Max wasn’t happy now that they'd made love again, but he wasn’t surprised. And besides, his reaction was rather cute, like an angry baby bird. “Sleep, little one. We don’t need to do anything further tonight.” Max struggled another moment or two before going limp in Kasan’s arms with a deep, exhausted sigh. “A freaking sex-fiend. Stupid, nicest cat here and you’re a freaking sex-fiend.” Their quiet breathing was the only sound for a long time, and Kasan finally let himself start to drift off, holding onto to Max as the small man’s heart rate slowed. Max’s small voice stopped Kasan at the edge of sleep. “I don’t want to be a whore.” Kasan hugged him tighter at the rather plaintive tone and rubbed his hand across his stomach as he nuzzled his head again. Poor confused little thing. He wished he could tell him what was going on. “We’ll figure this out, little one. Don’t worry, we’ll figure it all out,” he murmured quietly. He rubbed his hand softly over Gisho’s hip until his consort’s soft body went limp. “That’s right, just sleep it off, precious. Things will look better in the morning and we’ll see what we can find out about each other, hmmm?” Kasan kissed Gisho on the top of his head again and finally let himself drift back to sleep. Kasan woke to a soft knocking at the door. He eased himself from Max as gently as he could, yawning hugely. It felt as though he’d hardly slept at all. Feeling the sudden cold on his cock as he walked, he looked down and realized that his own fluids were still wet and drying on his skin. Hell, obviously he HAD hardly slept at all. What did they need him for at this time of night? Kasan opened the door to two new faces. Well, at least he’d slept long enough for the guards to change shift. As he saw the third man there, he wanted to hit himself in the head. The food. Someone in the kitchens had brought him food for Max, just as he’d asked. His lack of sleep was going to be his own damn fault. Closing the door to ensure Max couldn’t be seen, he nodded his head at the guards and took the food from the kitchen servant with a muttered ‘thank you.’ He waited for the servant to depart before speaking.

“Everything goes well?” The tallest guard nodded. “It’s been a quiet night so far.” Suddenly the guard smiled and glanced at Kasan. “Well, it’s been a quiet night out here. It sounds as though other rooms might have been more interesting.” Kasan smiled back. “Mine certainly was.” Chuckling along with the two men, Kasan was interrupted as his body decided to start yawning again. “If anyone come before it’s time for first meal, tell them I’ll see them at the formal greeting, unless it’s an emergency.” “Of course.” “And if you could pass the word for Leero to meet me beforehand. I’ll want him to be taking my consort in personally.” “As you wish.” Kasan brought the bundle inside and closed the door behind him. The younger guard looked at his companion. “You didn’t mention Jolan.” “I don’t believe there was need. We kept him from intruding on Kasan’s first night, after all.” “I suppose. I really wonder why the others weren’t involved, though. They’re usually united on that type of endeavor.” “I’m assuming they had an actual moment of thought. You know Jolan gets away with far more than any of the others when it comes to Kasan, anyway.” “That’s true.” The two guards were quiet as they watched the hallway carefully. The younger guard spoke again on a sigh. “I wonder what it’s like.” “Hmmm?” “Having a consort. I wonder what it’s like.” His elder smiled at him. “As long as you get along, it can be absolutely amazing.” “I know they say that, I just…wonder.” “Maybe you’ll be in luck and someone will take YOU as a consort so you can find out earlier.” The older guard smiled as the younger one blushed slightly. “If the sex is as good as they say, I might not mind. It’s not as though it’s forever. What about you? Would you have been willing to be a consort?” “With a female, maybe, but I wouldn’t have done well as a male consort, I don’t think. As it stands, I’m happy to be a mate.” “Hmmm.”

“Don’t worry about it so much. It’ll happen soon either way, won’t it? You’re already 19, right?” “18 still. I’ll be 19 next month.” “So barely a year until your mating heat arrives. You could probably be a consort right now if you wished. If it’s something you want so much, you could always let it be known you’re willing.” The younger guard shifted his feet as his eyes still looked along the hall. “I’m not entirely sure I AM willing. I don’t want children, so it would have to be with a male.” He avoided his superior’s eyes. “I’ve never bottomed before. I might not like it.” The older guard looked at him and smiled more broadly. “I have some friends who could help you decide.” “I’ll pass, thank you.” The youth’s ears flicked back and forth. “I don’t want to practice with a bound couple. And I know you rarely associate with my age group outside of the guard room.” Nodding his acknowledgement, the other male dropped the subject with one last comment. “If you change your mind…” “Yes, I’ll let you know.” Their sensitive ears caught the muffled sound of Kasan moving inside the room and soft murmurs as he obviously rejoined his consort on the bed. They were a little disappointed that no sounds of sexual activities followed. The younger one sighed again after a few minutes. “I wonder what it’s like…” # After cursing Kasan for his weird desire to cuddle, while sighing in relief that the alien didn’t want anything else, Max had been thankful to finally fall asleep. He’d drifted off with the thought that this might not be as bad as he’d been thinking. Kasan wasn’t trying to have sex with him again; he was just snuggling. It was weird, and really darn annoying to be so much smaller that he couldn’t kick the big cat out of bed, but it wasn’t awful. His first coherent thought after waking was to call himself an idiot of titanic proportions. Because his first incoherent thought on waking involved confusion and nearly mindless arousal as the other man slid into his ass. That was NOT the way he wanted to come to awareness, and he was really unhappy that the psycho perverted cat had tricked him into letting his guard down so completely that it had been possible. And the jerk still managed to make him climax so hard he could barely think! He had to let him know that he wasn’t going to put up with that sort of shit…in a way that wasn’t going to get him killed, that is. He knew he had to, but the deep, satisfied

lassitude from coming so completely had hit him like a freight train and all he’d wanted to do was fall asleep. He would tell him off later. He was safe now, after all. Stupid man had taken his body again; he’d be safe for a little while. Besides, Kasan wouldn’t damn well let go and didn’t seem affected by much of anything Max was doing to force him to. So, Max postponed working on his release from Kasan’s embrace and fell asleep again. The dream started sometime after he’d lost consciousness. Max sat naked on the edge of a bed covered in aqua silk that stretched out behind him for miles. A petite red head’s lips were around his dick as she gave him a very nice blowjob when Kasan was suddenly there and shoving her out of the way. He pushed Max back onto the bed and loomed over him. Max’s dream self did nothing more than watch as Kasan pushed in between his legs and brought his mouth down to Max’s chest, licking lightly. The small, slick touch made his skin tingle as soon as it connected and he moaned. One arm leaned on the bed next to him as Kasan pushed up, a large hand stroking through Max’s hair. Kasan stared down into Max’s eyes, smiling gently before he brought his face down and plunged his tongue into Max’s mouth. Fisting his own hands in Kasan’s hair, Max thrust back with his own tongue and groaned as the big cat growled against him. The man’s taste was unreal; some combination of spices that he had no words for but which filled his mind with heat and sex. Kasan licked in between his lips, sliding into the recesses of Max’s mouth until Max felt limp and faint. Drawing back, Kasan gave him no time to recover before he started licking Max’s chest again. Max felt small shocks of pleasure shoot down into his groin with each movement of his lover’s tongue. It had his cock erect and begging like a dog against Kasan’s stomach. Ignoring that needy part of him, Kasan’s hand moved from his hair to caress along Max’s skin in feathery strokes until it slid under his body and cupped his ass. A hot, skilled mouth sucked and laved his nipples into small peaks while the cat man’s hand gripped Max’s bottom firmly and began to knead. Max’s hands were tangled in the yards of hair that spread out behind Kasan’s head, and he yanked spasmodically as Kasan left his nipples and started working on his stomach. As Kasan moved even lower, Max suddenly lost the ability to breathe properly, reduced to small, desperate gasps of air. His eyes hunting for something to focus on, he saw Kasan’s ears standing upright. His vision blurred as the silky triangles descended while Max’s cock was taken into Kasan’s mouth. “Nnnnnnnn, oh my God!” Kasan’s lips were down to the skin of his groin as his dick was completely enveloped. Kasan started moving his lips to the head of Max’s dick and back down slickly, and Max couldn’t think of anything he wanted more than for Kasan to continue doing this until Max went blind from it. His legs splayed wide around Kasan’s chest, his feet just touching the floor, he tried desperately to thrust, groaning with need and frustration as his muscles refused to work in their awkward position. Max was so aroused he was shaking with it, his body jerking desperately as the tension wound tighter inside his skin. He cried out when Kasan drew back, his mouth leaving Max just on the verge of coming. “No! No, please!” With soft murmurs, Kasan move the both of them further onto the bed and turned Max’s squirming body onto its side. Something slick and hard pressed

against Max’s ass and he arched against it as it started to push into him. Still shaking, frantic to have his climax, Max keened as the hard length pushed in and rubbed inside him. His body started getting tighter, his hips twitching as he tried to thrust and arch back at the same time whenever Kasan penetrated him. Something fantastically soft and silky stroked his thigh and Kasan’s hand clamped onto his hip to hold him completely still as the man continued to enter him, slowing his pace until Max writhed with the need for movement. “Please! Please, let me just move!” Kasan didn’t answer, but his pace did pick up and Max gasped at how deeply Kasan was inside of him. His body sang in rhythmic shocks every time he was entered. His skin felt on fire, his blood pulsed and he wanted to come so badly he could scream. Just when he finally reached the peak, when he was, thank God, about to come… …he woke up. He woke up still craving climax, still hearing his own voice moaning and crying out, because Kasan was plunging into his body in the exact same rhythm as his dream. Panting for breath, Max struggled to understand what was happening as his hips were pushed forward, Kasan’s groin slapping against his ass. No. A dream. It was just a dream. He wasn’t … Max couldn’t think anymore as he finally came, only moments before Kasan shouted hoarsely into Max’s ear and pulled on his hips tightly before his body went limp against Max’s back and bottom. Minutes passed with only the sounds of heavy panting and his own pounding heartbeat echoing in Max’s head. He’d just… Kasan had taken him , and he’d fallen asleep, and he’d dreamt, and now… God, it wasn’t just a dream! He had really come again! Kasan had really taken him again! He couldn’t catch his breath as he tried to use climaxweakened muscles to push away from the man whose body was still embedded inside of him. Kasan’s forearm draped heavily over Max’s hip, practically unmoved by his struggling. His hand pet Max’s penis absently in soft strokes. Feeling something else stroking up and down his thigh as well, Max looked down in confusion to find the man’s tail moving back and forth on his skin. Son of a bitch, the man was even molesting him with his darn tail! Max drew in one shuddering breath and closed his eyes, doing his best to ignore his body’s usual request for post-orgasm sleep. This was no time to be vulnerable again. “I’m never going to fall asleep next to you again, you perverted cat,” Max muttered angrily. He felt the oddly helpless sensation he was starting to get used to around the stupid big cats as Kasan held onto him with no effort whatsoever. Max didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t get away. He couldn’t even turn to hit the man. Max was lying on his side, impaled on the other man’s cock, and it made it impossible to move until Kasan let him go. But he didn’t want to just lay here! If he didn’t move, Kasan might get the idea that he actually enjoyed being used this way.

And that was not what he wanted at all. He really didn’t! He felt flushed and his skin still tingled along his ass where Kasan was plastered against him and he was a little worried that his dick was thinking of coming to attention again if he couldn’t get Kasan to stop touching him with his hand and that really soft tail, but…but so what? J-just because the stupid man had amazing hands and did things to him that felt so good his toes curled didn’t mean anything at all. He wasn’t a playboy. He wasn’t! He was… The broad hand stopped stroking and wrapped itself around his dick completely. His thoughts derailed at the tight, hot sensation and he tried to push forward before he could stop himself. He didn’t get far, still filled with Kasan, although the movement rubbed something inside him and had him moving just to feel it again. Kasan’s tail slipped up higher, the tip flicking back and forth as it brushed against his stomach. He moaned out loud and hearing his own voice jolted him back to awareness. What the hell was he doing?! He was letting him do it again! Dammit…no! Kasan couldn’t do this again! He reached down and slapped at the tail before trying to pull at Kasan’s hand. After a few more smacks and a lot of yanking, he finally succeeding in rescuing his penis from the man’s damn marauding appendages. He wasn’t going to think about whether or not Kasan had moved on his own, or been forced to. He needed whatever victory he could get right now. Especially when the hand merely retreated to Max’s hip and the tail snaked back around his thigh. “Don’t you even think about touching my dick, Kasan! Enough is enough!” He covered the body part in question with his hand, and shivered violently as Kasan laughed at him. He could feel the deep vibrations of it spread through his body as even the cock inside him moved. The hard length twitched once and he yelped Did the man NEVER get soft? He squirmed. Why was Kasan doing this? Why was he screwing him and touching him and…cuddling? It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t like Max was that good of a screw….was he? Or maybe cats just got off on having sex with humans. Was this happening to everyone else in the colony? Were they all little…little cat toys?! “And how the hell do you make it feel good?!” Bad enough that he had this huge man after his body; his body didn’t have to enjoy it, too. He couldn’t understand how that could be. He could appreciate that Kasan was sexy, but that didn’t explain why his hands made Max’s skin burn, or why his lips made him completely lose touch with reality. It didn’t explain why seeing the man made him feel rather breathless and flushed, and it sure as hell didn’t explain why he seemed to get hard as a rock when Kasan started manhandling him. And there was still the sex. How could his body betray him like this? Dammit, he was still having little aftershock shivers and it had already been a few minutes since he’d come! He shifted, feeling the huge still-hard length inside of himself, and he moaned as it rubbed against something good again. But it was so wrong. He was feeling another man’s cock INSIDE of him. INSIDE! He couldn’t stop his muscles from tightening every time he thought of it, but they couldn’t do anything. They were held open, stretched wide and impotent as Kasan’s dick rested within a part of himself that Max had ignored for most of his life, frankly. It was just…it made him feel really damn helpless. The man was so big Max felt like he was being completely overwhelmed, inside and out. And the man

was still hard! What the hell did he do, take Super Cat Viagra?! Max couldn’t move until Kasan either pulled out or grew soft, and he was just lying there stroking Max’s hip and thigh, the jerk. Kasan shifted again, pulling out slowly, and Max sighed in relief. Thank God, he was done. Max could get away and his skin would finally stop tingling like this. Max squeaked as Kasan moved back in, rubbing against Max’s prostate so wonderfully that Max’s eyes almost crossed. “N-no! You just did this! I- I- I don’t want…aaaah, ah ah ah ah YES…I mean no! No, I don’t want you to! It’s not—eeeeee, God! Oh God. Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God oh my FUCKING GOD!” Kasan finished his sudden burst of energetic thrusting and squeezed Max’s prick as Max came violently. Again. Max lay spooned up with Kasan behind him, panting at his second orgasm of the morning. “Kasan…bastard. Can’t touch…no fair. Fucking made me come! Twice… How??” Max tried to catch his breath enough to use full sentences and couldn’t quite manage. He could finally feel Kasan’s member start to grow smaller inside of him and slip out as Kasan pulled away slightly. Max didn’t like the empty feeling left behind and flinched as he realized what he was thinking. He was getting used to this. He’d only been in this place a day, maybe two, and his body was getting used to being used by this man. And now Kasan had finally done what Max wanted and removed himself from his body, and Max couldn’t even get away. He was too damn tired! What was wrong with him? What had warped inside him that made him enjoy having some man he didn’t even know screw him like this? Why wasn’t he fighting it tooth and claw when Kasan was touching him? Instead, even if he could have stopped him, Max wasn’t certain that he really would have. It had felt so good a part of him was actually unhappy that it was over. “What is WRONG with me?” he asked, closing his eyes so he didn’t have to look at his own flushed, dopey face in the mirror across from him. “I don’t want to be a whore…do I? Do I have some sort of complex or something?” Kasan chose that moment to finally pull completely away from Max, kissing him on the back of the head as he moved off the bed. “Kissing does NOT make this better.” Max muttered. He refused to turn over and see what Kasan was doing, sure the man was standing there staring at him. A few moments of silence had him starting to tense. Was Kasan still watching him? Was he standing there, looking down at him and thinking of what sexual things he was going to do next? Because if he was…shit, he’d be looking at Max’s ass! Max turned over quickly and had to readjust the path of his eyes as he found Kasan halfway to the wall already. Damn, he hadn’t even heard the man move!. Max watched Kasan’s muscles as the cat man glided away from him and he wanted to scream in frustration. He should have kept his stupid eyes closed. Completely shut. He

should darn well blind himself if this was the way his body was going to react, he thought. And still, he couldn’t help but watch Kasan’s naked buttocks flex as he walked. The sight of them turned him on. He stared at the small furring of dark hair that started at the man’s lower spine and grew heavier until it flowed into an ebony furred tail. The fact that Kasan’s spine seemed to so naturally change to that sinuous length of fur surprised him. The man’s body was human, the tail shouldn’t fit like that. It should seem completely weird and wrong, just like it had the first time he’d seen it, but it didn’t anymore. It just seemed like a normal part of Kasan now. Kasan, the perverted cat-eared giant man with the tail. With possibly the best looking butt Max had ever seen in his whole damn life. What the heck did the man do to get buns like that? They looked so round and firm he could just imagine holding on and biting a little at that golden flesh… Eyes wide at his own thoughts, he groaned under his breath and brought his hands up to hide his face. He proceeded to mumble into his palms. “It IS a complex. I’ve got a huge, freakin’ complex. I’m a nympho. A big, male nympho who loves anal sex.” He peeked through his fingers, caught sight of Kasan’s naked back and phallic tail and edible ass, and his lip quivered while his penis did the same thing. He tried to divert his thoughts and stared at Kasan’s massive arms. Flexing as Kasan reached the wall and started fiddling with something in the alcove, his arms were impressive. Pretty darn amazing. Very…dammit, they were sexy too! “Big arms are not sexy! They’re scary and intimidating and they just mean that you can do things to me and I can’t stop you!” He gulped as he thought of what Kasan actually HAD just done to him. It was completely insane that the very thought of it made him flush and had heat pooling in his groin again. Realizing that Kasan had turned around to look at him curiously, Max fought and lost the battle to keep his eyes above the man’s waist. Holy crap, even THAT part looked sexy. “Oh God, I’m a submissive, cock-worshiping, anal-loving nympho!” Kasan turned back to whatever he was doing, chuckling as he did so. Max bit his lip and covered up his face again. He wanted to just curl up and die, he really did. He didn’t want to know this about himself, and it was all Kasan’s fault that he did! If the bastard hadn’t done all these things to him, he never would have known that he was this way! He didn’t WANT to be this way! It didn’t matter how…intense…it felt. He didn’t want to be the GIRL guy! Although…he looked at Kasan’s ass again. It was so tight, Max didn’t think his dick had the strength to even get in there… “AAAGH, now I’m thinking about anal sex again! This is your fault, Kasan! ALL YOUR FAULT!” Kasan turned as Max finished yelling and walked back holding some odd little scrap of cloth and an emerald bottle of something that looked oily and thick. Max shut up and watched him carefully. Oil? What the hell did Kasan think he was going to do with oil?

There was nothing that they should be doing with lubrication that they hadn’t already done. Nothing at all. So Kasan had better not be thinking of doing it a third time this morning, because it just wasn’t going to happen. Max wasn’t going to let it happen. No way. He was not going to feed this weird sex obsession of Kasan’s, or the even weirder one that his own body seemed to be experiencing. Besides, his bottom hurt right now. Max pushed himself to a wobbling kneel and yanked a pillow off the bed, a blue silky one this time, to cover his groin. Too damn bad if it got dirty. Kasan shouldn’t have been touching him in the first place, right? He watched as Kasan poured a little of the liquid onto the cloth and rubbed it over his own skin, commenting to Max as he did so. It looked like he was cleaning himself. Which was good, right? He wouldn’t be cleaning himself if he was going after Max’s ass again, Max didn’t think. Which meant the weird stuff was hygienic, not sexual. Thank God. Although when Kasan started to rub the cloth over his prick, leaving behind slick, clean skin after each stroke, Max started to sweat. He couldn’t move his eyes away, focusing on Kasan’s hand as it moved along his shaft, up and down in even, gripping strokes. Kasan started to grow hard and Max stared. The man was huge! And he just kept getting bigger, his member sleek and golden. The skin looked so smooth Max wondered what it might feel like to touch. He blinked, shaking the thought away. Stupid. He was freaking stupid as all hell. Why was he watching Kasan clean himself? And just how long did it take to wash your own prick? It shouldn’t take this long, should it? Kasan had been finished with all the other parts in just a few seconds! What was he doing? Max looked up at Kasan’s face to see him watching Max through half closed lids as he continued to stroke and Max pushed himself backwards on the bed, clutching at his pillow. “Oh no you don’t! No way! You can just…just keep on stroking, buddy, because the ass is closed right now!” Kasan laughed at Max’s reaction, moving his hand away-finally- and pouring more green junk onto the cloth, completely unconcerned with the raging hard on he still had. Max had a difficult time taking his eyes from the loaded weapon pointing at him until Kasan got onto the bed. Tensing as the big cat reached out with the cloth towards Max’s body, Max yanked it out of his hands and backed away. “I can wash myself just fine,” he said quickly. He knelt on the bed, pillow still covering the important bits. Wary eyes watched Kasan as he rubbed the cloth over his skin furiously. The dampened cloth flowed over him like silk, leaving behind a shiny, soft feel to his skin and the spicy scent that Max had first noticed when he’d found himself in the room. Max’s movements slowed as the odd liquid made the experience a little bit more sensual than he’d expected. But after each pass, the dirt and grime and….dried stuff he didn’t really want to think about…just washed off. “This stuff is awesome,” he said softly, still rubbing. He shifted as his hand got close to the pillow over his groin and stopped. His face felt awfully warm, and it felt like—

He looked up to see Kasan watching him. He KNEW it! “Turn around, you perv,” Max ordered. Kasan quirked one eyebrow at him and did a rather human looking shrug as he stared. “Turn around.” Max made a twirling motion with his fingers and sighed huffily as Kasan continued staring. He really hoped that this was just a communication thing. Cultural voyeurism was not something he wanted any more than he wanted to be a darn sex toy. Max took a deep breath. He was still feeling sticky and a little sore and embarrassed and angry and frustrated and so many other emotions that he didn’t even have a name for them all. But he was also stuck in this room with this alien man, and he didn’t know where he was or what he was doing here other than being used for sex. Often. He closed his eyes and took another deep breath. Okay, no more acting like an idiot. No one had spoken to him in English, so it looked like if he had a chance in hell of talking to them, he was going to have figure out how to communicate. Stupid cat probably wouldn’t care if his little sex toy never learned how to say ‘no’ properly, but MAX certainly did. Besides, if he learned how to talk to these aliens, he could ask them what was happening, and where everyone else was, and what they wanted out of him. He wasn’t sure he would be happy with the answers, but at least it would be something! And the first thing he was going to do was learn how to tell Kasan to turn around, because he was not going to wash his privates and his ass in front of him! Taking his cushion with him, he slid off the bed and stared at Kasan, thinking. Finally he turned his body around once and when he faced Kasan again, he pointed at him. “Now you do it. Turn around.” Kasan’s head tilted. He smiled and turned around completely to face Max. Max growled. “No! Not…Rrrrrr. Here.” Max took a deep breath and rounded the bed. He could do this. He really could. The man wasn’t going to jump him every time he came near, right? That would be way too obsessed with sex for any normal person and… What if it wasn’t too obsessed for alien cats? Max bit his lip hard and worked on breathing some more. He didn’t want Kasan to do stuff to him again, but as much as he hated even thinking this way, after being screwed almost three times in a damn row it wasn’t quite so scary, at least not when he wasn’t being touched at the moment. It made him frightened that his body could enjoy something like this as much as it did. It was frightening thinking that he was a sex toy, too, which it really looked like he was considering how many times Kasan had fucked him in the last day. But Kasan had seemed to have some minor bit of concern for Max while he did it. At least the big cat guy had tried to make it feel good rather than just worrying about himself and hurting Max. And considering how big the jerk was, he could have really messed Max up if he’d wanted to, or even if he’d just been a little less careful. Max looked at Kasan again. He really could have, couldn’t he? Kasan could have really, really hurt him, and instead he’d done just the opposite. He hadn’t really given Max a choice in the matter, but Max felt the smallest bit of the tension knotting his insides ease slightly. Max had no intention of staying here and

letting himself be used for sex everyday. No way. But if he couldn’t get away for a while, or make Kasan stop, it was a relief, a HUGE relief, to think that he wasn’t going to be hurt while he was stuck here. God, such a relief. The man hadn’t let those other cats have him, and he hadn’t hurt him. Those were pretty big issues, right? Not being traded like a sexual baseball card, and not injured or in agony. If he could just get some damn food soon, he could cope with this. As long as he got Kasan to turn around. He dithered a moment and finally took the last few steps, closing the distance between them. He grabbed Kasan’s arm, pulling. If he got jumped, he’d just…he’d try to get away and probably end up screwed anyway, but…at least it would feel good, wouldn’t it? Max was not disappointed, not at all, when Kasan let himself be turned away from the bed at Max’s urging. Max watched carefully as he drew his hands away, but aside from Kasan’s tail starting to sway back and forth, and his ears quivering slightly, Kasan stayed where he was. Thank God this was working. His first successful attempt at trying to communicate something. It was always a huge rush. And in this case it was a hell of a lot less embarrassing, too. Max went back to his safe haven across the bed, tossing the pillow to the side. Sighing in pleasure at finally being able to clean himself off, he drew the cloth along the inside of his thighs and up higher where fluids had leaked out of his bottom. It still felt a little tender and he moved the cloth very, very carefully. The soft stroking of the silky liquid felt lovely against his skin and he hummed in pleasure. In just a few moments, he moved onto his penis and started cleaning it slowly, wrapping his hand around in a way reminiscent of what Kasan had been doing only minutes before. To his embarrassment, it started to harden before he finished, but at least he was clean. So what the heck did he do with the cloth now? Did Kasan want it back? He looked up and froze, his hand holding the cloth to his penis as he met Kasan’s eyes in a mirror. He looked around frantically. He could see Kasan’s face in at least half of them. Which meant that Kasan could see HIM in that many. “You perverted bastard, Kasan.” Max glared at him, blushing as Kasan smiled wickedly. The big cat turned around to face Max and held out his hand for the cloth. Hearing Kasan laugh as Max covered his privates with another pillow, Max lost his temper. He’d put up with enough crap in the last few days. He really had! He didn’t need some big cat jerk peeping at him and laughing at him on top of everything! Max’s fist tightened over the cloth in his hand and he threw the soiled, heavy piece of fabric straight at Kasan. Kasan’s hand whipped up to catch it just before it hit his face. “Oh God.” Max looked at Kasan, his stomach falling to his toes as his anger drained out so quickly he was dizzy. Had he just pissed him off?? He’d been so happy to find out he wasn’t going to be hurt during sex, he hadn’t thought. There were a hell of a lot of ways he could be hurt other than sex.

What was Kasan going to do to him? # Kasan grabbed the cloth out of the air and stared at it absently a moment before he tossed it behind him at the cleaning alcove. His little Gisho was so quirky. He’d done his cleansing striptease that he’d wanted Kasan to watch through the mirrors, and then acted as though he was angry at Kasan and done his funny body hiding again. It had been so adorable Kasan had to laugh. Which had prompted what looked like a little temper fit and now Max was looking nervous and worried again. Gisho was cute, but Kasan really had no idea what motivated the little thing. Kasan looked at his consort’s exposed skin and smiled to himself as he recalled the past few hours. Hmmm. If Max grew too upset, Kasan should really try to comfort him a bit. He smiled as a few ways to do so sprang to mind. He could sit down and put Max on his lap…naked. Or he could help him lie down on the bed and hold onto his thighs before Kasan sucked him into a mindless frenzy so that he forgot all his worries. Or he could bend him over the bed and massage his back before he took him from behind. Kasan groaned as he was once again as hard as stone. He really needed to stop thinking this way. He’d already made his consort come three times in the last eight hours; he wasn’t sure it was healthy to make him come again. If it was even physically possible; how often could humans orgasm without damaging themselves? The little one seemed exhausted already and they’d barely started the day. Although if the heat was pushing at him, maybe the nanites would compensate… They wouldn’t have any choice in that case, after all. Kasan paused to take stock and sighed as he found no evidence of peaking heat. Damn. Groaning as he tried to keep his hands to himself, Kasan let his eyes admire Max’s face. It was so precious. Everything about it, from the lips that Max was constantly nibbling on to the red that bloomed across his cheeks at the oddest times, turned Kasan on. Kasan’s eyes dropped to the pillow blocking his view of Max’s privates and he cursed under his breath as he felt himself firm up again. Leero had better get here soon before Kasan forgot all about his family, and most especially his father, expecting him. Kasan really needed to get ready for the Greeting so he could get it over with. Ignoring his dick’s opinion of what the following hours should involve, Kasan tried to remind himself of what he needed to accomplish. It wasn’t much, in reality. He just needed to show up and have his mark seen by everyone, and have Max’s recognized as well. At least he didn’t have to worry about proving his mark was real rather than wait the three weeks until his continued existence proved that he’d mated. One look, one damn thought about Max was enough to get him hard, and that’s all it took for the nanites to bleed into his system and cause the mark to disappear. Kasan was a bit more nervous about having the mark seen in the first place, as he couldn’t seem to get erotic pictures of his consort out of his head. Hell, he doubted the nanites had been inactive long enough to form the mark all morning long. He had to take

care of that before he entered the Greeting Room. Actually, he should probably part from his consort as soon as possible to ensure that he could tone down the lust a little. At least long enough for everyone to see the mark. After that, he was planning to indulge his and Max’s bodies until neither of them could walk, hopefully. Taking a fortifying breath, Kasan returned the cleanser to its proper place and rummaged through his clothing for something suitable. A formal ceremony was one of the few times where he’d put up with the highly embroidered cloths that Aosh always favored, so the damn things were practically new when he brought them out. Grabbing a pretty blue tunic as well, he turned back to his consort. He smiled at the sight of him, his eyes gliding over his consort’s skin, and knew he was making the right choice in picking something that would hide all that flesh. Not that he wasn’t going to catch hell for it. Tradition had the consort dressed in the sexiest, sheerest fabrics possible for the Greeting, to ensure the mate’s libido responded appropriately. The fact that Kasan planned to cover up as much of Max as he could get away with was going to be talked about. At length. For years, knowing his brothers. But better that than Kasan attack someone for looking overly long at his consort. At the moment, even the thought of everyone looking at the little man’s bottom as they verified the mark had Kasan’s hackles up and his ears flat. Kasan had to swallow a growl to keep himself from scaring Max. Looking at Max’s nervous little face, he wasn’t sure if he’d succeeded. “Why so nervous, little one? You’ve done this before, remember? Clothing. It’s clothing.” Kasan placed Max’s loincloth, tunic, and cording on the bed and stepped back to wrap his own cloth. He smiled as Max edged forward to grab the loincloth before retreating to the other side of the bed. Max looked from the cloth to the pillow he clutched to his member and his entire body flushed as he dropped the pillow and covered his penis with his hand. Why did he keep doing that? Did humans feel the cold there more keenly? Kasan hadn’t even thought of that as an issue. He’d have to keep an eye on him. If his consort’s groin seemed to need a different sort of covering, perhaps he could arrange to have something in thicker fabrics made for him. As Kasan started to arrange the long cloth, he noticed Max copying his movements and smiled at him again. “Trying to do it yourself this time, hmm? All right then, I’ll slow down for you.” Kasan moved slowly, watching Max bite his lower lip as the little one worked on mimicking his creation. Kasan made no move to correct the one error he saw developing along the way, although the mistake itself made it clear that Max was unaccustomed to wrapping his own loincloth. Everyone always made the same mistake when they first started dressing themselves, after all. They had to experience its results at least once before they really learned to tie it properly. And the effects were always enjoyable. Max smiled at him triumphantly as he finished, letting out a happy little shout just before his cloth untwisted and slid down to his knees. He yelled and grabbed at it unsuccessfully, toppling over as it tangled around his ankles. Seeing Max naked on the floor as he walked over to him, his legs practically tied together, started Kasan’s mind down a path he hadn’t explored yet. Not that the little thing was strong enough to fight

him off under normal circumstances, but a little bondage was always rather fun. Once Max trusted him a bit more, of course. Kasan cleared his throat as his erection once again grew rather prominent, and Max’s eyes latched onto its obvious presence immediately. His consort started yelling as he scooted away on the floor, his legs still bound up by the loincloth. "Oh no you don’t! Don’t you come near me, you damn sex-fiend!” Kasan stopped. He didn’t want to scare the little one too badly just before the Greeting. It was stressful enough for a couple who could actually talk to each other. It might be cutting it close, time-wise, but he could give Max a few more attempts before he interfered. There was a knock at the door in a familiar pattern and Kasan cursed. There went the extra time. He’d have to do it himself. “We’ll need a few minutes, Leero.” Kasan was walking towards his consort before Leero’s voice even muttered his acknowledgement. “I’m sorry, Gisho, but we’re going to have to do this damn fast. You’ll have to practice later.” He reached down and scooped Max into his arms, pulling the tangled loincloth from his ankles as he did so. Max yelled out before he grabbed at the loincloth. “Give that back! I can do it on my own!” Kasan tried to stand Max on the bed and clothe him as quickly as he could, but the little thing dodged away from him as soon as his feet touched down. “I can put it on myself! Just stay away and give me the darn loincloth!” Max pointed at the cloth in Kasan’s hands before tripping over a pillow and sprawling onto his back. Kasan had to laugh at the stunned expression on his face, and he reached over and quickly scooped Max into his arms again. He’d rather not upset his consort too much, but they were out of time. “Put me down, you huge honkin’ cat!!” Sitting on the edge of the bed, Kasan put Max on his lap and started arranging the loincloth. His erection was pushed at provocatively as Max squirmed and fought while Kasan worked on getting hold of the little one’s member to arrange it for wrapping. He finally managed to grasp it and he held on firmly as he shifted to reach the cloth. “NO! Bad touching! Leave that alone! Pervert! Lecher! Freaking cat nymphomaniac! Stop touching me, dammit, and let me do it myself!!” Max’s small hands pulled and clawed at him, but Kasan felt the man’s cock swell within his hand. As the increase in size grew even more noticeable, Max started to blush and Kasan grinned. Using his consort’s momentary discomfort as a distraction, Kasan lifted him up by the waist long enough to slip the cloth underneath him, sliding it up the middle of his bottom and twisting everything together while Max was still squeaking in outraged surprise. With the

loincloth on, Kasan let Max crawl off of him and onto the bed. Kasan had one foot on the floor and was about to call out to Leero when he heard Max’s stomach growl loudly. Ah damn, that’s right, he still hadn’t eaten! “You poor thing, you’re probably starving, aren’t you? Here, precious, I should have brought this out earlier.” He trotted over to the alcove where he had tossed the food earlier and grabbed it. He didn’t want to starve him, but they didn’t have much time. By the time he’d turned around, Max had taken the tunic from the bed and pulled it over his head, wrapping the cord around it in a sloppy but still serviceable series of loops. “Good enough, sweetheart. The others don’t like it, they can keep it to themselves.” Plopping the bundle onto the pillows, Kasan opened it quickly under Max’s wary eyes and groaned as he saw the contents. First night. Of course. How could he have forgotten. Damn cooks had put just about every sexual food in the whole damn world in there. Looking carefully, Kasan couldn’t see one single thing that wasn’t either phallic, hollow, or an aphrodisiac. He only hoped that Max wouldn’t notice. Glancing at him, Kasan was fairly certain he wouldn’t. The little man was hovering at the far edge of the bed, staring at the entire assortment as though it might jump out and bite him at any moment. Blue eyes looked up at him with a clear question, and Kasan picked up a seeded bun reputed to increase stamina and tore off a small piece. “See, it’s food.” He popped it into his mouth and chewed. Max’s face lit up and he scrambled forward to pick up the bread. “Zee, iz food,” he said haltingly, pointing at it with his other hand. He was trying to talk to him? Kasan smiled slowly. Leero could damn well wait a few more minutes. “Food. It’s food.” “Food.” Max took a tentative bite and groaned in pleasure before stuffing the rest of it in his mouth. He reached for a piece of canto fruit and paused as he looked at it. “Food?” Kasan nodded and watched him pick up the cream colored, phallic fruit. Max moaned in pleasure again, licking the sticky juices from his chin as they splashed out, and Kasan cleared his throat uncomfortably. Not that he wasn’t enjoying the sight of pale white fluids dripping down his consort’s face. And he sure as hell didn’t mind watching Max sucking the elongated thing into his pink lips before he bit off an end. But he was supposed to be avoiding arousal right now and it was entirely too erotic to see him eat the damn thing. Not to mention that Leero was probably prowling with impatience by now. Kasan raised his voice. “You can come in now, Leero.” Leero entered and stopped dead, staring at Max. “That’s just cold, Kasan. Making me wait and now throwing your recent activities in my face? Although if you were trying to turn me on, you’ve done a superb job of it.” Leero smirked at him and Kasan looked at his consort, seeing him kneeling on the bed chewing on the end of the fruit. Gisho stiffened as he continued to eat, watching Leero warily. The entire pose was so blatantly

sexual that Kasan cursed. He punched Leero in the head and then took the fruit from Gisho’s hand. He almost gave it back at the look of loss that crossed his consort’s face Leero tsked at him as he rubbed his jaw, sitting on the floor. “Crueler and crueler today. Poor little human looks like he’s about to cry. How your father raised you to be such an unkind mate, I have no idea.” “Shut up, you dumbass,” Kasan muttered. He tried to avoid watching Max’s forlorn expression as he bundled the rest of the food away. Leero stood and looked more closely at Max. The human was sitting on the bed and somehow managing to stare after the food being carried away without taking his eyes from Leero. “Seriously, IS he going to cry? His eyes are positively glistening.” “They’re always like that,” Kasan said absently as he concentrated on shoving things into the alcove. “He’s just got pretty eyes.” Another look by Leero had him shaking his head. “I still say he looks like he’s about to start weeping any second. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone look that covetously at phallic food in my life.” “He doesn’t understand why he can’t eat and he probably thinks I’m simply taking it all away. I can’t exactly tell him that he’ll have some at firstmeal in a little while, now can I? And this is the first thing that’s gone into his stomach since we’ve bonded. He’s starving.” Kasan looked up and finally saw Max’s face. “Oh sweetheart, don’t look like that. I’m not taking it away forever, we just need to get down to the meal…” Max bit his lip. “Food?” “Fuck.” The longing in those blue eyes was completely irresistible. “They’ll just have to wait for you,” Kasan muttered and pulled out the least juicy, least phallic looking thing he could find. He handed it to Max, his entire chest warming at Gisho’s grateful look. “Give him enough time to eat before you bring him, Leero. I’ll take my time getting down there, so you should be fine.” Leero nodded, and then gestured towards Max’s tunic. “You have thought about what to do for people to see the mark, right? It’s pretty much covered up right now.” “Yeah.” Kasan sighed again. He pulled Max to his feet. As his consort stared at him nervously, he reached behind Max and pulled on the back of the tunic, tucking the end on one side up under the ties until one cheek of his consort’s bottom showed with its pertinent silver crown. Max glared at him, his cheeks bulged out with the food he was practically inhaling, and yanked the tunic out until it covered his ass again. Holding his lips together to keep from smiling, Kasan shook his head and put one hand on Max’s shoulder to hold him still. Trying to look stern, he rearranged his clothes again. A glare and a yank later, Max’s bottom was shielded from view. Kasan heard suspicious snorting from Leero and growled at him. “Shut up, you idiot. You’re the one who reminded me that he should stay exposed and you know it.” Max was craning his neck to glare up at him and Kasan smothered another

smile. Rearranging his clothing one last time, Kasan took a deep breath and forced himself to scowl back. It made Max’s eyes widen in fright and he took a step back, his hands coming up defensively. “Ah no. Gisho, no, I’m not going hurt you. Dammit…” Kasan’s hand hovered and Leero snorted again. “What?!” Kasan’s voice snapped harshly as he looked at his friend. “I just never thought I’d see the day that a pair of eyes would be enough to drop you to your knees.” Leero gestured with his head to Kasan’s hand, still hovering as though he might relent and let Max pull the tunic down over his bottom. “You can’t tell me you weren’t about to let him cover up in spite of the trouble it would cause.” The scowl came naturally this time as Kasan turned it on Leero. “Fuck. You. The little thing’s frightened, he doesn’t understand what’s going on, and so far his only two words are ‘Kasan’ and ‘food.’ It wouldn’t kill us to be a little compassionate towards him until he adjusts.” Leero’s smirk only widened. “Uh huh. Compassionate. That’s one word for it. I think I prefer ‘completely wrapped around his tiny fingers.’ It has a nicer ring.” Kasan took a deep sigh and his hand dropped. He looked silently at Max, worrying at the lingering fright on his consort’s face. “Did you bring the cloak?” he finally asked. Leero nodded. “Don’t worry, no one will see him before he enters the room. And before you ask, I have extra guards posted in case Shovak has more spies in the palace than we know of and tries anything. I didn’t see any evidence of interest in your little one among the papers we discussed, but …” “I know. Once he finds out Max is a true consort, they may try for him.” Kasan reached out and stroked his fingers down Gisho’s hair before taking his hand. Patting it gently, Kasan led him over to Leero. He held out his hand to Leero for the cloak, taking the heavy fabric and arranging it over Max’s shoulders before pulling the hood up. The bottom trailed in a heavy pool behind his consort’s feet. Kasan leaned down to look into confused blue eyes and gestured towards his friend. “Leero. This is Leero,” Max had to lean back so far to look up into Leero’s face that the large Kyashin finally crouched down to stare back. “Leero, let me formally introduce you to my consort, Max,” Kasan said softly. “Max.” Leero nodded at him and the little man nodded back hesitantly, looking between the two of them. “Leeero.” The voice wasn’t the high pitched voice of a child that Leero half expected, but the deep tones lacked the typical low grumble that came with age. “Stay with Leero, Max. He’ll protect you until you see me.” Kasan pushed Max next to

Leero and stepped away from them before he turned stiffly and headed for the door. “I’ll guard him with my life, Kasan.” “I know.” Kasan blew out his breath. “Wish me luck.” “With YOUR family? Take it as a given. And don’t forget to braid your hair. You look like a barbarian with it down like that!” Kasan left with a chuckle. Leero turned back to find Kasan’s consort staring at the closed door with horrified eyes before staring back at him. When Leero reached out, Max backed away, his food falling to the floor as he gesticulated and talked rapidly in incomprehensible gibberish. “Hey, squirt. There’s no need to get all excited now. Just a few minutes and you can get back to leading Kasan around by the balls so that the rest of us can enjoy it, eh? No one’s going to hurt you.” Max continued to babble and Leero shook his head as he couldn’t understand a word of it. “Well, this looks like it’ll be interesting, now doesn’t it?” Looking down at the food on the floor, Leero sighed. “Not interested in eating anymore, eh? Well then, why don’t we go down and get this over with? Looks like you’d much rather be with Kasan.” Reaching out, he grasped Max’s hand and started to pull him gently towards the door. His grip tightened as Max started to fight him, kicking out at his legs violently. “Shush now, it’s all right. I’m not going to hurt you, Max.” Max continued kicking for a moment, and when that proved ineffective he started clawing and pulling at Leero’s hand. “I’m sure you’re trying, but trust me, there’s nothing you can do that’s going to make me let go--Ow!” Leero looked from his bleeding hand to Kasan’s consort who was already on the far side of the room. “You bit me.” Leero looked at the small round set of indentations on his hand in admiration. “I didn’t know you had that much fire hiding in there, little one.” Looking at him, Leero grinned. “That’s much better than just a cute face and a pretty little body. You are going to bring Kasan past being on his knees and all the way onto his back.” Max was shaking his head at him as Leero approached again. He started pointing to the door and back at himself, saying “Kasan” over and over. Leero stopped, the frantic, fearful gestures and wide azure eyes putting a little hitch in his chest. “Hell, I see why you get to him. His protective streak must be going absolutely crazy when you throw that look at him, sweetie,” he muttered before nodding slowly and pointing to the door. “Kasan, yes. That’s where we’re going now, to see Kasan. He’s waiting for us. You just need to come with me, little one, and you’ll be with Kasan in no time.” Leero tried to get close to the little man at a slow walk, but Max refused to let him near. Every step he took had Kasan’s consort scrambling backwards or scooting along the wall.

“Now don’t be that way. I’m taking you to Kasan. Kasan. You like Kasan, don’t you? I can bring you to him. To Kasan.” As Max’s eyes followed his finger and glanced to the door, Leero leaped, trying to grab hold of him. He cursed as Max ducked under his arms with a yelp of fright and ran to the other side of the room again. After quite a few minutes playing a frantic, disjointed game of hunt ’n’ chase, Kasan’s consort went so far as to run for the door, rearing back as the two guards still stationed there turned to see who was coming out. No matter how many times Leero said Kasan’s name and pointed to the doorway, Max wouldn’t let him near enough to touch him. Leero cursed again as he realized just how much time he’d wasted trying to simply get Kasan’s consort out the door. If the guards had been listening at all, which they likely were, he’d be hearing about this for years. He took a deep breath to prepare himself for one last attempt before he had to give up and ask for help from the guards. “Kasan is damn well going to kill me for taking you down for the Greeting like this, but it’s for your own good. So, let’s get this over with, shall we?” He charged Kasan’s consort, leaping over the bed as Max tried to run, and just managing to snag him by the end of his cloak. As Max yelled out, Leero wrapped the cloak so tightly around his body that it bound up his arms, and tossed him over his shoulder. “Thank God! You are harder to get hold of than money from a miser’s purse!” Foreign sounding yells and muffled curses came flying from Max’s mouth as Leero hurried him out of the room and into the hallway. The two guards stared at him with identical mocking smiles. “Sir…” “Not a word if you don’t want to be cleaning the dung heap for the next month.” “Ah, no sir.” Leero nodded and practically sprinted down the hallway as he tried to make it to the Greeting on time. The two guards could hear the yelling bundle of cloth over his shoulder long after he disappeared around a corner. They looked at each other and shrugged. “I’m sure we’ll find out about it later.” “I don’t believe that I even want to know.” A piece of dark blond hair had fallen out of his braid and into Leero’s eyes, again, and he sighed as he blew it out of the way. It flopped back down, tickling his nose, and Leero looked pleadingly at Niku. The older guard was standing where the hallway began its turn for the Consort’s Entrance. He’d been laughing silently at Leero since Leero had shown up with Max over his shoulder. If Leero was lucky, his mentor would actually come over, even though he was on duty. Considering that Leero was currently kneeling behind Kasan’s consort, both hands occupied with holding slim shoulders through the

cloak, he really hoped Niku was feeling compassionate at the moment. Obviously in a merciful mood, Niku stepped close and tucked Leero’s hair back into his braid, chuckling. “It looks like Prince Kasan is going to have his hands full with this one.” “I certainly hope so.” Niku’s laugh was deep and rich. “Oh, so do I. That boy needs someone to take his mind off his troubles.” He turned his face to Max’s shadowed face inside the cloak. “Don’t worry, little one, you just let us know if Kasan gets out of hand and we’ll make sure to help keep him in line.” Niku waited for a response until Leero shook his head at him. “The squirt doesn’t speak Hinta.” Making sure to raise his voice so the other guard who stood next to the actual door to the Greeting room could hear him, he went on. “Poor thing can’t understand a word we say, so the entire thing’s been a bit of a shock.” “Aaaah.” Niku looked down at Max and patted the top of his head, chuckling again as Max jerked his head away from the touch. “Did Shovak kidnap some poor girl from the borderlands, then? It seems like something the bastard would do.” “Something like that,” Leero muttered. He didn’t feel right lying to someone who probably remembered him still learning to run, but he could completely understand Kasan’s desire to keep things private until after the Greeting. At least that way, the Greeting itself would be seen before any rumors started flying. “That’s a hard way to become a consort,” Niku murmured. “Although if it had to happen, Kasan’s as good a man as any to have as a mate. He might be grumpy as hell, but he’s fair, and he’s usually kind to the littles. I’m sure they’ll come to terms.” “Most likely,” Leero said. He looked up to see the guard by the door carefully shutting the small window into the Greeting room and gesturing briefly. Kasan had come into the room, then. Leero had hardly been able to believe it when he’d come down and found out that Kasan was still waiting at his own entrance, but at least it gave him time for his friend’s consort to calm himself a bit. In theory, anyway. He honestly wondered if Max might be wriggling more now than when they’d first arrived. Not that it mattered so long as Max didn’t try to run away once the door was open. Trying to traverse the path to the Knot while holding onto a struggling little man was not something he wanted to do in front of Kasan. He didn’t honestly think that he’d make it through the entire Greeting without having to restrain the little thing. So far, every attempt to let Max down while keeping him in place had resulted in more biting or the near loss of the cloak. Holding him from behind, and in a spot where his teeth couldn’t reach, seemed to be the only way Leero could watch out for his own hide and still keep Kasan’s consort safe. It was a shame he had to be the one doing this, in a way. If he’d had to watch Kasan dealing with his frantic little consort, he knew he would have laughed until his teeth ached. As it was, he could hardly wait to pass the little one off to his rightful mate. Niku cleared his throat and Leero looked back at him. “Not to interfere in your duties, Leero, but you may want to ask Prince Kasan’s consort if

she needs to relieve herself.” Leero looked at him blankly. “Excuse me?” “I’ve simply noticed that she seems to be squirming an awful lot under there, and I know that my granddaughter moves just that way when she’s about to pee herself.” “Oh hell.” Was he right? Did Max need to pee, or was he just trying to get away? “Damn.” There was an alcove right off the hallway for just this purpose, but they hardly had the time…. Max squirmed again and Leero stood up, moving quickly towards the facilities while still holding onto Max’s shoulders. If he were lucky, they’d be quick enough that they wouldn’t hold up the ceremony. Sliding the door to the side, Leero pushed Max in and closed it behind them. The small depression with water flowing through it took up half the small room, and Leero looked at it skeptically. It was made so that an adult could stand over it easily, the wastes falling into the water, but it was going to be a bit of a straddle for Max. He’d probably do better with the child’s size, but this room wasn’t equipped with that. It was solely intended for consorts, and who’d ever seen a consort this size before? Leero looked at Max, who had plastered himself against the far wall since Leero had released him, and he sighed. “You have no idea what this is, do you? Of course not. How lovely. Not only do I get to chase Kasan’s consort around his bedroom, I get to teach you how to pee, too.” He pointed to the water. “You pee here.” Uncomprehending eyes stared at him. Leero sighed again and pointed to Max’s groin and back to the water. “You use your dick here, got it?” Another blank stare. “Obviously not.” He rubbed the back of his head as he contemplated what to do, his golden hair starting to frizz in reaction. He finally loosened his loincloth. “I cannot believe I’m doing this. Honestly. A pissing demonstration was not what I signed up for. Kasan is going to owe me so much for this, little one.” Looking up, he saw Kasan’s consort trembling, his face white as he watched Leero’s hands. “Hey now, what’s… What do you think I’m going to do?! I’m just going to pee, for the love of… Here. Here, this is what I’m doing!” Leero tried to relieve himself and nothing came out. “Now is not the time to be contrary!” he snarled at his dick, trying to relax as his head worried about the time this was taking and the fact that he was actually taking a piss in front of someone. “Hell, this is practically obscene,” he muttered to himself. With a little more effort, and a lot of visualizing himself in a nice quiet patch of forest, Leero finally managed to a pathetic little dribble. He stepped back and gestured to Max. “There, now do you understand what this is for? I’ll leave you alone and you can…or maybe not.” The little man had already dropped his loincloth completely to the ground and was currently holding up his top and cloak and using the elongated basin with a look of bliss on his face. “Really had to go, I guess.” About to tighten his loincloth back up, Leero grimaced as he saw Max’s cloak about to drop into the water. “Woah, don’t drop it in there!” Leero snagged the cloth just before it fell from Max’s hands. Max startled violently and shied away, stepping back frantically.

“It’s all right! God you’re a jumpy little…aw shit!” Leero jumped back, tripping slightly as his unsecured loincloth started to slip down, and looked at his wet shins and feet. Max had stumbled away from him, but he hadn’t stopped peeing… “You peed on me! I can’t believe…shit. Now I’m going to have to… Hey, wait a second!” While Leero had looked at his legs in disgust, Max had started to edge towards the door. The pale skinned man slid it open frantically, his eyes huge and frightened, and ran out. Leero started to follow and stumbled as his loincloth slipped again. “Dammit! Niku, stop him!” He twisted his clothing together as he heard the guard’s startled exclamation, and sprinted out the door after him while still trying to tighten it. Leero saw Max skid to a halt as Niku stepped out to block him from running down the open hallway. The little man whipped around and sped past Leero to the Consort’s door. The other guard assigned there froze as the cloak’s hood fell from the little one’s head and exposed his human features. “What the hell is THAT?!” The guard growled. With one aggressive snarl, the man leapt at Max while Leero yelled desperately. “No! Don’t hurt him!” He needn’t have bothered. Max slid under the guard’s charge, slipping on the floor while the guard slammed into the wall. He yanked the door wide, darting inside and ramming it shut behind him. Leero cursed to himself as he tried to catch up. Kasan’s consort was terrified and running free in the Greeting Room, his loincloth still laying in a tangle on the floor in the piss room. Damn. Kasan was going to use Leero’s dick for sausage. # Kasan cursed under his breath as he braided his hair into one long plait. Working on it as he walked quickly down the hallway, he was already on his third attempt and he had a feeling that he was still going to need a fourth before he got it right. He absolutely hated braiding his own damn hair. By the time he was done, it usually looked like he’d had a drunk with two twigs and a rake do it for him. Which is why Zonta should have snuck away and damn well helped him. What were younger brothers for if you couldn’t use them to do your hair for you? He’d even have put up with a night of smirking from Aosh if the brattish lecher would have bailed him out. Growling, he yanked out the messy, knotted braid as he turned the last corner before the Mate’s entrance. About ready to simply cut the annoying stuff off his head rather than try braiding it even one more time, he almost yelled in relief as he saw who was waiting for him. “Thank God! Zonta, you are forgiven for everything!” Kasan walked over and embraced

his brother enthusiastically. “I’m glad to see you too,” Zonta said with a relieved smile. “I thought you might not make it to your own Greeting.” “If I remembered I had to braid my hair for it, I might not have,” Kasan muttered as he released his sibling and automatically turned to let his youngest brother run gentle fingers through his hair. “How is it that I could beat any one of you in a fight but my own hair does me in?” “I take it as a sign that the universe has a sense of fairness,” Zonta teased, trying not to pull as he worked the tangles out. After a brief pause, he cleared his throat nervously. “I’m sorry about last night with your consort.” Kasan grunted. “I know you probably tried to stop them.” “Not hard enough.” Zonta protested quietly. He smoothed a hand over Kasan’s hair and started braiding it with light, efficient twists. “Were you able to calm the little one down after everyone took their leave?” “You know very well it was more a case of being thrown out rather than leaving.” Kasan chuckled. “Or did the guards dump Aosh in a separate room for once?” “I don’t think he’s grown up enough to have his own room yet,” Zonta commented with a smile in his voice as he tied off the braid with a slim gold chain. “Maybe in a couple years when we take our own consorts.” “God help the poor things.” Kasan laughed as he turned and looked up. He touched Zonta’s lips in thanks. “You’d better get in before father sends the guards after you. You can apologize to Max after the Greeting. I’m sure he would appreciate one face that wasn’t leering at his ears.” “I’ll see what I can manage. I don’t promise anything about not leering, though. The little things are awfully cute.” Kasan smacked him lightly on the shoulder. “Go, you faker. The day you have a truly lecherous thought, I’ll eat my own tail.” Zonta smiled cheekily and hurried down the hall to the main entrance of the Greeting Room while Kasan took deep breaths and tried to calm himself. He’d need to wait a few minutes to give Zonta time to get back. Feeling his mind shifting to thoughts of Max’s ears, he tried to take even deeper breaths. He HAD to keep his mark showing until he’d walked the entire room. No lustful thoughts. None. His mind needed to be a pure as new snow, or still water, or Max’s skin…shit. He heard a low rumble through the door and mentally latched onto it. How many people had to be inside for it to be heard through the thick door? Brothers and cousins, at the very least, and most likely aunts and uncles and anyone else his father had guilted into attending. A huge, crazy, noisy, wild mob, in other words. And he was about to go in and let himself be seen by the whole rampaging horde, and he had to let them all gape at his consort’s ass. There, that took care of the lust, he thought angrily. So far, his Gisho had

only had to deal with himself and his idiot brothers, and that had been difficult enough. Having to cope with an entire roomful of people when he didn’t know what was going on was going to very hard on the little one. Everyone had better get a damn good look when he walked to meet Kasan, frankly, because he wasn’t going to let them look for more than a few moments before he was taking Max away to Firstmeal. Although even that was going to be a challenge. After all, Kasan would still have to face his father. Considering that Kasan hadn’t yet informed him of the rather unique characteristics of his consort, the meeting would be memorable, to the say the least. Not to mention disturbing, once Kasan revealed what Leero had discovered about Shovak’s recent activities. Finding out how the Lord King’s younger brother had betrayed the family was going to rend a hole right through his father’s heart. Kasan only hoped that everyone dealt with the revelation without completely losing control, otherwise Max’s first few hours after the Greeting were going to be an absolute nightmare, for both of them. Maybe Kasan would be blessed and the heat would hit him again right after the Greeting. He could pull Max away for some quiet time with just the two of them. Otherwise, the way things were likely to progress today, the poor thing would be plastered against Kasan for the entire Firstmeal. Although that wouldn’t exactly be a bad thing. Kasan breathed out sharply, hoping Zonta was in place because if Kasan waited any longer, his damn mark was going to disappear again. With a nod, he signaled the guard to open the door for him and he walked through the entrance. The tiled floor underneath his feet was patterned in different shades of gold, forming a path that wound through the room in a sinuous line that would eventually allow everyone the chance to see his mark up close. He smiled and nodded at familiar and friendly faces, winking at the littles who peeked in between their parents legs and even receiving a brief hug from one the smaller ones as she ran out and grabbed onto his calf for a few minutes before he sent her back to her mother. Every time the path crossed tiles in shades of gray and silver, Kasan had to think boring, un-sexy thoughts just to keep his mark in place. Jolan coating his tail with glue and feathers. Aosh borrowing his bed for his own private orgy. Nolluz talking…at all. When thoughts of his brothers stopped working, he reminded himself that the path was a symbol of just how far Max would have to walk with his little ass cheek showing to everyone. That thought worked to keep him limp and irritated for the rest of the path. As he continued to walk, Kasan couldn’t help but notice how much of the room was covered in tense silence. The silence only lasted until he came close, then dissipated into relieved and congratulatory smiles as soon as his mark was noted. Kasan found himself touched more than he’d imagined himself capable of. Everyone here was worried, for him. It was common knowledge that of the few throwbacks born, some never made it through their mating heat without it raging out of control. He hadn’t realized that so many of his own relatives had feared that the same fate might be in his future, as well. On the last segment of the path, walking the inner circle, Kasan passed his close family and beamed as he saw his brothers. The only unbruised face among them was Zonta’s.

Which was probably for the best, considering that Aosh was the most beaten one among them. The lecher would need his healthy twin to nurse his sorry ass back to health over the next few days. Still smiling, Kasan met his father’s eyes. He silently acknowledged the question in them, debating how much to tell the Lord King about the previous night. He’d have to decide how much to share based on how well his brothers behaved during the Greeting and Firstmeal. His beating was nothing compared to what their father would do if he heard they’d touched his consort on Firstnight. A few more steps, and Kasan was finally in the center of the room, standing on an elaborate knot made up of silver and gold tiles. He faced the Consort’s Entrance and tried not to let his tail switch too obviously. Everyone was already arranging themselves to clear the silver path for Max, and Kasan restrained the growl in his chest as they settled themselves so that they’d be watching the back of Max once he started walking. The only ones completely facing Kasan were those closest enough to see the mark; they would vouch for its disappearance when Max entered. The thought of how many would be staring at Max’s bottom made it very hard to hold onto his calm. At least it wouldn’t be long. Leero would walk Max down the path; not the most common arrangement, but not unheard of for those unfamiliar with the castle’s rather elaborate Greeting room. Hopefully Leero would hurry Max through the entire thing and Kasan could cover his little one up before his desire to hide Max away became too much to handle. A few minutes wait had many members of his family shifting impatiently. They’d just have to wait. Max had probably taken a little while to finish his food. Everyone could live with the brief time spent standing so that his Gisho wasn’t starving before the ceremony. Concentrating on controlling his rebellious tail again, Kasan’s ears swiveled as he heard a loud exclamation from behind the door. Leero’s voice yelled out, followed by a muffled thud, and then the door was slammed open and a small, cloaked figure ran in, closing it behind him. Kasan watched, stunned, as Max faced the door only a moment before whipping around. The little one’s hood was off and Kasan had a clear look at Max’s terror stricken face as he froze and stared open mouthed at the crowd in front of him. Feeling his ears flatten as he saw his consort completely alone and frightened, and without Leero, Kasan scowled. Where the hell was Leero?! He was supposed to have brought Max down and looked after him, dammit! A low rumbling ran through the crowd from those who happened to be facing the right door, and Max flattened himself against the wall as more and more eyes turned his way. Screw the damn ceremony, he thought. Max needed him. Kasan opened his mouth to call to his consort, but was drowned out by one of his nieces who happened to notice the heads turning around her. “Mama, what’s that?” Like the rest of his family, Nolluz’s consort was facing Kasan and the center of the room. She smiled as she murmured a response, glancing back to see what had prompted her daughter’s outburst, and her jaw dropped. “My Goodness…” Her stunned exclamation got the attention of everyone within hearing, and before Kasan could try to call out again, every last person in the room had turned to see what was going on at the Consort’s door. His poor little one was plastered back against the wall, completely panicked, when the door slid to the side and Leero loomed

in the open doorway. “Ha, caught you!” Leero’s hand reached down, catching hold of the cloak. Max dropped to the ground, yelling, and the overlarge cloak slipped over his head as he freed himself. Bolting as Leero tossed the cloak to the side, Max sprinted into the crowd. “Son of a- Come back here, you little squirt! No one’s going to hurt you!” Having caught sight of more bare skin than he should be able to see as Max’s tunic flapped open, Kasan snarled and finally managed to find his voice. “LEERO! What the hell happened to Max’s clothes?” Running after Max, Leero yelled back, “Later! Let me catch him first!” Max ran desperately, dodging through men and women as Leero chased after him. The little man hit a clump standing too close together for him to weave through and halted, staring. Looking behind, he caught sight of Leero closing in and he dove to the floor, crawling through the group’s legs. “Leero, leave him be! You’re scaring him, dammit!” Kasan cursed, trying to locate his consort in the mob. Catching a brief glimpse of pale limbs and golden hair sliding frantically around two of his aunts, Kasan left his assigned place to run after his consort. If he didn’t get to him before one of his relatives, who knew how traumatized the poor thing was going to be. Leero had better have a damn good explanation for all of this. “Kasan…” The Lord King’s voice trailed off as his newly mated son ran after the small being that could be seen weaving in and out, and under, half the crowd. Jolan started laughing and Kasan’s father turned, looking at him. His eldest son seemed awfully unconcerned that there was some unknown, odd creature currently scampering through the room. “Jolan, what is going …” Jolan was running out into the crowd before his father finished. “Sorry, father, I need to help Kasan for a moment!” Turning to address Nolluz instead, Kyoru was somehow unsurprised to see him close on Jolan’s heels, followed by Tisu, Aosh, and finally Zonta in quick succession. Left with a small number of surprised consorts and a large space, he shook his head and settled himself to watch. Whatever was happening, he was sure it would be entertaining. Events surrounding his children usually were. Infuriating and unbelievable, but entertaining as long as he could cultivate the right frame of mind, and he’d had a number of years to do just that. Seeing the small, pale skinned little thing burst out from behind his eldest cousin and dive into a group of females, Kyoru squinted, trying to figure out what he was looking at. Nolluz’s consort stared with him. “What IS that?” He heard his own fascinated interest in her voice.

Catching another glimpse as a male he couldn’t even identify reached for the creature, Kyoru’s mouth fell open as the small body jumped over outstretched arms and its tunic flared out behind it. Something small and silver glittered a moment on a pale cheek before the tunic covered it back up. “Hmm. I believe that may be the newest member of the family,” he answered slowly, ignoring the surprised murmurs around him. Another leap, this time backwards as someone stepped in front of the little consort, and Kyoru blinked. The tunic had flapped up again. Kasan’s consort was quite definitely of the male persuasion. “It looks like Kasan has quite a bit to tell me once this Greeting ends.” The quick footed boy ran in front of him and Kyoru chuckled as two of his brothers collided with each other trying to catch it. Looking around as over half the family ran, hid, or sprawled in heaps on the floor, he smiled broadly. He had a feeling he was going to enjoy getting to know this one. # Kasan snarled as yet another interfering member of his family got in between him and his consort and prevented him from catching up to Gisho. At this point, everyone was either chasing his little one or calling out advice to those who were. “It’s over here! Hurry, you can get it when it comes by you!” “No, it’s on the path. Not there…by the Mate’s Entrance!” “It’s behind you, on your left! No, your other left, you idiot!” “Ieeee, it went between my legs!” “I’ve got it! I’ve got it! OW! It bit me!” “All right, that is IT! EVERYONE STAND STILL! NOW, DAMMIT! ” Kasan bellowed over everyone and his various relatives stilled and looked at him. Looking around the frozen room, he was finally able to spot Max sliding along the wall near the mating banner. Max’s lungs were heaving and his eyes were wild. “I need everyone to stay where you are and I’ll take care of this!” Kasan paused to make sure he didn’t have to intimidate anyone before he started towards his panicked consort. ”Max!” Kasan called out and the little one looked over at the sound of his voice and froze. Kasan kept talking as he made his way through the crowd. “Gisho…Max, little one, it’s all right. No one’s going to hurt you. Shhhh, it’s all right.” Max looked at him and Kasan smiled as the man noticeably relaxed. Then Gisho’s eyes drifted over Kasan’s shoulders and he suddenly backed up against the wall. Kasan looked back to see Leero, Tisu, and Nolluz approaching behind him and he snarled at them. “You dumb ass morons! I said for you to stay where you were! He’s terrified of you still! Why the hell are you coming anywhere near him?” “We’re merely trying to help.” Nolluz said in an offended tone.

“Then keep your nosy asses out of my way and out of his sight!!” Kasan turned just in time to see Jolan and Aosh moving up on either side of Max and he snarled again. “Aosh, don’t you fucking…” Aosh leaped for Max before Kasan finished speaking, his red braid slapping the wall as grabbed him by the arm “Got ya, you little…urrrrrgggg.” Aosh’s eyes bulged, his hands releasing Max’s arm to clutch at his privates as he fell to the floor. Max drew his fist back and stepped away frantically, looking to his other side to see Jolan approaching. The crowd had edged forward and surrounded him in a tight semi-circle with Kasan and his brothers on the inside. Kasan could see Max looking for somewhere to run and he could practically feel the panic rising when he couldn’t find any openings. “Max, sweetheart, calm down. I know he’s an asshole, but I won’t let him touch you again. You’re all right now; you’re safe. Just come over here.” Kasan slowly walked towards him, keeping his voice low and soothing. He knew he was in trouble when Max’s eyes looked over Kasan’s shoulder again at Leero and the stupid mob that was somehow related to him. Looking at Aosh on one side trying to get to his feet, Jolan on the other, and back out at Kasan, he turned and started climbing the banner behind him. “No! Gisho…Dammit!” Zonta darted out of the crowd and Kasan ran forward, both leaping up to try and catch him. By the time they reached the wall, Max was already higher than they could reach. Kasan snarled, looking up to see Max’s pale bottom in full view as his consort scrambled upwards. “You all better take a good look at his mark right now, because I am not staying here for another damn minute once I get him down!” Kasan yelled angrily. Silence followed his pronouncement before the rush of murmuring as everyone looked up and finally noticed the small silver mark glittering on Max’s slim ass. The fact that they could see everything from this angle, including Max’s balls pulled up tight in terror, made Kasan want to tear someone apart. And he knew just who to start with. “Aosh, get your pathetic ass up off the floor and get me something to climb so I can fetch Max!” Without taking his eyes from Max, who was almost shivering with fright as he clung near the top of the banner, Kasan growled to the man behind him. “Leero, can you tell me why the hell I just had to chase my consort around the greeting room? What the hell were you doing?” He could hear Leero coming up close and saw his friend bowing formally out of the corner of his eye. “I- Dammit, I apologize, Kasan. I should have kept a tighter grip on him when he was..” “A tighter grip?! Why would you need a tighter grip? You were just supposed to be taking him into the room, not marching him off to the dungeon!” Leero grit his teeth. “I don’t think he’s made the distinction yet. He completely panicked as soon as you left. I had to carry him just to get him out of your room!”

Swearing, Kasan looked away from Max for a moment to stare at Leero. “What did you do to frighten him, Leero?“ “Nothing!!” Kasan’s claws slipped out from his fingertips a moment and Leero’s eyes widened as he backed up a step. “Kasan! I swear by my mother, the moment you walked out the door the little thing just panicked. I didn’t even have a chance to say a word before he was across the room and spouting words like a monsoon! He’s been acting like I’m about to attack him ever since you left!” Kasan stared back up at Max’s pale face looking down at them and he swallowed a bit of his anger. It was true that his little one did seem prone to bouts of frantic fear. Besides, there was a reason Leero was his first in command, and it wasn’t because he liked to hurt the weak and helpless. “So what happened then,” he asked, trying to keep himself calm. Leero cleared his throat and his ears flattened just slightly against his blond hair. All of Kasan’s attention, as well as that of his brothers, was instantly focused on him. Ignoring the continued murmurs and exclamations of his relatives as they stared at Max, Kasan glared suspiciously at Leero. “What happened, Leero?” “He had to take a piss,” Leero muttered. “He had to piss? That doesn’t explain why he ran in all alone and…and what the hell is that damn smell?” Leero’s golden ears flattened to his skull and his cheeks flushed. “The little brat peed on me and ran away.” Kasan choked and he heard his brothers’ startled laughter. “He peed on you?” “Can’t you tell? It’s all over my legs!” Kasan gave him a glare. “My consort took a piss on your leg, so you let him go?” Leero didn’t answer, but Kasan’s brothers laughed harder, Jolan holding his stomach as he collapsed against the wall. “Nothing to say?” “It wasn’t like that, I just wasn’t expecting him to— Hell, he’s a quick little thing when he wants to be, and I had to-- Aw dammit, I screwed up, and I’m sorry.” Kasan’s arm swung up and he caught Leero’s jaw with his fist, knocking him back onto his ass. “Apology accepted.” Tisu was practically hooting as he started to guffaw, and Jolan finally managed to find the breath to speak.

“Maybe we could use this to our advantage,” he huffed, still gasping slightly for air. “If piss is enough to defeat Leero, then we should definitely be teaching the technique to our men.” “Or we could form it into some type of weapon.” Tisu added, nudging Leero’s leg with his toe. “The pissing gun.” “Every man would be able to carry his own ammunition.” Zonta added, smiling as he gave Leero a hand up. “Well, an enemy wouldn’t be able to hide after they’d been hit, because I can tell you now, the smell alone would give them away.” Jolan waved a hand in front of his nose and Leero’s face flushed again as he glared at him. Now that he’d been able to let out his temper with that momentary swing, Kasan ignored them as he looked up at Max. His consort had a death grip on the cloth and didn’t look like he was coming down any time soon. Poor dear. Zonta came near just as he was wondering if he should urge the little one to jump. Aosh was taking too damn long with the ladder. “You’re very calm about him being up there,” Zonta said in an undertone that no one other than Kasan could possibly hear over the teasing Leero was still receiving. “Trust me, I’m pissed as hell. Damn family couldn’t just back the hell off and let us deal with it and now Max is even more terrified than ever.” “You’re not…worried?” “Worried? No, I can calm him back down.” “I wasn’t referring to his emotions. You’re not worried he’s up there? What if he falls?” Kasan smiled and patted Zonta’s shoulder. “It’s not as though he’d get hurt, Zo. I’m not that overprotective.” Zonta looked even more worried and Kasan started to get nervous. What did his brother know that he didn’t? “I thought you would have had a chance to do a little research on your consort by now, Kasan, or I would have said something. I looked up a few things in Books of Rebirth; humans don’t do well if they fall from that type of height.” “What?” Kasan stared at Zonta. “There were a lot of warnings about how to be careful of human consorts in the early days. It sounds like they don’t land well at all. I think…I think he could die if he falls from up there.” Zonta finished quietly. “What!” Kasan looked up at Max, seeing again the white-knuckled grip he had on the fabric, and realized for the first time that it might not be fear of the Kyashin beneath him

that had him clutching the banner so tightly. “Fuck!” Kasan snarled to himself as he realized that Aosh still hadn’t turned up with a ladder yet and struggled inside for just a moment before he turned to his brothers and Leero. “Zonta says humans can die if they fall from up there,” he said loudly, instantly stopping the laughter and jokes. “I’ll go up and get him, but you have to be ready to catch him if he falls.” Leero and the others nodded, understanding more than he said. Kasan turned to the wall and let his claws come out fully. He slowly started climbing, using the tips of his nails to anchor himself with the small ripples and crevices in the rock. He focused completely on the wall, moving upwards as quickly as his muscles could move. A sharp rip brought him a rush of adrenaline and he looked up, certain the banner had torn until he realized that it was someone ripping down the banner on the opposite wall. He could hear them rush it over and set it up underneath Max to help them catch him if the little one fell. Would that be enough to keep him from getting injured? Kasan blocked out the sounds of his brother’s soft voices as they commented on how amazing it was to watch him climb. He usually hated to hear them talk about it. Outside of the family, exposing his claws and tail, not to mention his slightly enhanced senses, always resulted in stares. Too often that led to leery avoidance or angry confrontations. As a son of one of the ruling families in the Kyashin Alliance, he was the most well known throwback on the planet. People were always watching to see if he developed any of the genetic defects that seemed to plague his particular anomaly. Considering that the Greeting was surely recorded and broadcast for the daily records, he knew that the majority of the planet would see everything, including the reminder of his abnormal features while he climbed the wall. For once, he didn’t give a shit. If he could get to Max on time, he would fucking go down to the temple and thank God for making him the way he was. As long as he could make it before anything happened. He looked up from his grip on the stone wall, more than halfway to Max and started trying to get his attention without startling him. “Max, sweetheart. I’m coming to help you down, love, just hold on. Hold on tight and I’ll be there in just a minute.” Max’s head swiveled down over to him and his consort almost lost his grip as he startled. Watching Kasan with huge eyes, Max looked from him back down to everyone watching from below and clutched the banner more tightly. He hung there a moment and Kasan was close enough to see his jaw tighten before he released the banner with one hand to start climbing again. Kasan tried to hurry himself, feeling the tension in his fingertips as they struggled with keeping him from falling off the wall himself. Everyone froze when a sharp crack sounded above them both. Kasan saw the bar holding the banner start to give way, saw Max scramble frantically to try and get to the bar itself, and everything froze in his head as Max lost his grip and start to fall with a scream. Kasan pushed off from the wall, leaping out over everyone as he reached Max in mid-air and pulled him in close. His thoughts raced as he tucked in his knees and somersaulted

to get in the right position to land. What made humans so fragile? Would Max even be able to survive landing with Kasan holding him? Would his body be that delicate? Kasan tried to hold onto anything he thought might jar, tightening his grip over Max’s head and neck, hugging his torso as close as he could manage. Max’s yelling was muffled as Kasan kept his face pressed against his chest. He could feel the sounds vibrating against his nipple until the moment he landed, and then the sound stopped. All Kasan could do was breathe heavily as he slowly stood and clutched Max to him. Max wasn’t making any noise; he never did that. Kasan couldn’t understand what he said, but his consort was constantly talking and yelling and muttering under his breath. God, had he been injured in the fall? His brothers were surrounding him, his father in front of him, and his family surrounding them all before he finally managed to loosen his grip and look down at Max. Beautiful, adorable blue eyes looked back up at him from a face that was pale and shocked. But he was conscious. However fragile humans were, his consort was conscious. Kasan let himself smile and he hugged Max tightly. Within a few moments, small shivers crawled across Max’s skin and Kasan put him down to look him over, just in case. Max turned to look behind him up at the banner that was now hanging from the damaged bar and then back down to where they both stood. Kasan began to grin as Max started talking in amazed tones, gesturing back at the banner and making swooping motions with his hands as he looked up and back down to Kasan as though confirming the distance. Kasan finally let himself relax. The one sign he took as proof of Max’s health: constant chatter. Kasan put his arm over Max’s shoulder, turning him towards his father, and flinched as Max’s chattering ceased in a high-pitched yell. Max started pointing and shaking his head back and forth as he looked at Leero standing a few paces to the Lord King’s right. “Shhh, shhhh, Leero won’t hurt you. He’s harmless, little one. Leero, get over here and look harmless, dammit.” Leero stared at him a moment. “And how the hell am I supposed to do that? I’ve worked my whole damn life to look as far from harmless as I can!” “How should I know?! Just…smile and move slowly.” Leero looked around to find everyone smothering their grins and he sighed. Smiling tentatively, he walked towards Kasan, muttering under his breath at the same time. He was just as surprised as everyone else when Max started yelling and shaking his head even more violently, pushing himself back. Leero stopped moving before Kasan said a word. “He’s terrified.” Leero said, appalled. “He’s actually terrified of me.” “What did you DO to him?” Kasan growled, wrapping his arms around Max and pulling him tightly against himself. “I told you, nothing! I don’t know why the little thing’s so frightened of me…”

“It could it be your size,” Zonta speculated. “Kasan’s the smallest of us all; perhaps Max feels safer with someone closer to his own height?” “It could be your face,” Jolan said. “I know it sure as hell scares me when I see all that ugliness in one place.” “Shut up, Jolan.” Kasan said, rubbing his hand up and down Max’s arm. “This isn’t funny. I need to figure out what’s wrong.” He looked around at everyone. “I’m sorry, but I need to have some time with my consort. I’m afraid we’ll have to just wait the three weeks to finish celebrating” “Why in the world would we do that?” Tisu blurted out. “Trust me, we ALL saw your consort’s buns, Kasan. Everyone knows he’s your consort.” “My mark hasn’t faded, Tisu, you idiot. You know…” “I beg to differ,” Jolan said with a rather mocking grin on his face. He looked around at the crowd where a number of matching grins were sprouting. “How many saw Kasan’s chest after he looked up at his consort’s naked ass?” Dozens of hands went up, and Kasan groaned. “Oh don’t tell me…” “Your nanites bled into your skin so fast they were practically breaking the sound barrier.” Jolan smirked as Kasan’s cheeks prickled with heat. “And the little one’s even wearing a full tunic! I never knew you had an enhanced libido along with everything else…” “Jolan, you ass.” Kasan tried not to smile and failed miserably. Jolan looked to his father and went on at his nod. “Then the Greeting’s completed! Welcome the newest adults in the family: Kasan and Max!” A thundering boom of voices yelling out their welcome made Max practically jump out of his skin and Kasan picked him up to cradle in his arms. He couldn’t hear over the crowd’s roaring as they walked out, but from the open mouth, he thought Max was yelling at him again. Max sat on Kasan’s lap, still shivering in reaction as Kasan ran fingers in smoothing strokes over his head, or maybe the shivers were from Kasan’s fingers. He wasn’t sure, but he sure as hell wasn’t giving Kasan credit for it. Jerk. How could he…? Max shivered again as the man’s other fingers brushed against his thigh before draping themselves possessively over his knee. On the verge of hyperventilating, Max felt like his body was a suicide jumper he was talking down from the ledge. Good body. Nice body. Just calm the heck down so you don’t leave yourself unconscious and vulnerable to the Grand Molester, you stupid body. C’mon, it was over now! He wasn’t surrounded by the seething horde of intimidating cats anymore, so there was no need to still be freaking out. Freak out time was over. Done. No more complete and utter terror because there were no more crazy, scary-ass cats running after him.

Just Kasan. Asshole. Taking a deep breath and holding it, Max looked around him as he tried the no-freakingpaper-bags-in-cat-land method of NOT hyperventilating. The room he and Kasan were sitting in was almost as large as the one they’d left. A point against it, because that might mean that more cats could actually come into it, just like the last one. The less cats there were, the better off he was, as far as he was concerned. He took another deep breath, held it, and continued to look around. It was like being in an opium den. Of course, his experience of opium dens was 70’s kung fu movies, but still, they couldn’t be that far off, right? They did real kung fu; wouldn’t they do real opium dens? And why the heck did he even care if it was right or not? What, he thought Kasan was going to get him drugged up and… He wasn’t, was he? Max let out his breath as he searched quickly for drug paraphernalia – um, what exactly would that look like? – but he didn’t think he found any. No smoking looking things, no pokey-needle looking things, and no cooking-up-meth looking things; just the furniture and the room. Empty tables, low to the ground, filled the center of the room, with tables almost as high as Max’s head lining the sides. Every wall was draped with bright, jewel-toned fabrics. Matching pillows surrounded the lower tables in piles and artistically messy jumbles. “What is it with all the pillows? Jeesh, cats have a total pillow fetish or something.” Max muttered. Kasan shifted underneath him and Max swallowed uncomfortably at the intimate feeling of someone’s muscles flexing and softening against his ass. If he had his way, he would just turn and punch Kasan in the nose and stand up and walk out of here and…into a mob of alien cats, probably. Which was why he was going to stay right where he was: seated near one of the tables with some pillows under Kasan’s butt and the man’s hand on Max’s head and thigh. Max wasn’t even going to push his hands away, as much of a wuss as that made him. Kasan wasn’t trying to touch ‘private places,’ and right now, Max was really freaking scared that Kasan would ditch him again, so he didn’t want to make any wrong moves. Swallowing at the thought, and the memory, he looked around some more. He didn’t want to think about this. Really, really didn’t want to think about what had just happened. Really. Freaking never, ever, EVER think about it. Which of course meant that his brain tried to recall everything almost immediately: running and dodging and climbing and falling. Max shuddered and tried to find something new to look at. There had to be something he could distract his mind with! His eyes followed the drape of the fabrics on the walls; it was a nice pattern, right? Flat, hanging fabric for most of the wall, with just the color for the design. Along the top and sides the silky cloths were more bunched up, hanging in upside down arches along the top and falling in straight drops to the floor in the corners. It was kind of like being in a giant four-poster bed, come to think of it. There were even pillows. His brain stuck on the bed thought before he could stop it. Big beds.

Big bed meant big cats. And big cats had sex with you in big beds and then fucking handed you over to other, bigger cats like you were nothing but garbage and you had to freaking run the hell away or they were going to… Max caught himself starting to panic again and wrapped his arms around his chest as he breathed slow and deep and not freaking like he was hyperventilating! He was okay now. No more cats, or running, or being sold, or anything else. He was not scared. Dammit, he didn’t want to be scared! It was so stupid, but how could he stay calm? Because he’d been so right: it WAS a whorehouse. Or a slave house, or some screwed up thing that was close enough not to matter. And he knew it. He knew it because that stupid, dumb, lying, backstabbing Kasan had given him away! Why? Why had he done it? Max couldn’t figure that out. Hell, even as afraid as he’d been since he woke up, that one moment was still such a shock that he almost couldn’t believe it. How could Kasan do that to him? The way the alien had been acting, he’d thought…well at the very least he’d thought that Kasan was possessive of him. Whatever he was to Kasan, it had seemed as though Kasan was going to keep him, and keep him away from the others, too. He might force orgasms on Max whenever he tried to sleep, but at least Kasan had been protecting him from those honkin’ big cats. He’d seemed…nice. A huge, scary, perverted alien kind of nice, but nice. Not hurting him or scaring him on purpose or throwing him to the wolves or whatever their cat equivalent was. Nice. And kind of sexy and beautiful, too. With a really amazing…Max shook his head at his runaway brain. Stupid dork. He wasn’t thinking that type of thing about Kasan. Was. Not. Because Kasan wasn’t nice; he was a jerk. A deceptive, mean, nasty, cruel bastard. One moment he’s letting Max have some food, which was freaking amazingly good, and then the next moment that dirty blond cat had come in and Kasan just walked away! He’d left him! He’d gone from being all molesty with the loincloth and thoughtful with the food and then suddenly he’d just ‘given’ Max to that other damn cat, Leero. Kasan had punched the man once and Max had thought he was going to fight him off like he’d done to the others. Instead, he’d simply walked Max up to Leero and sauntered out the door, done with him. WHY had he done that? He hadn’t seemed angry with Max, or even upset! But maybe… Max wondered if maybe he’d done something wrong. Kasan hadn’t reacted badly when Max had tried to make him go away and leave him alone, but maybe he just wasn’t the type. Maybe he just had his way with Max and then handed him over to someone else so easily because he didn’t care anymore for a whore who wasn’t doing everything he wanted them to. It was just…how was Max supposed to know what was going to make Kasan do that if he couldn’t talk to him yet? The fact that he’d been discarded was scary and awful and it made him feel completely rejected, which was so stupid he thought he should be hitting himself for it. He shouldn’t be feeling rejected by someone he didn’t even want to embrace him! He was a moron. He’d made such an idiot of himself, and the worst part was, he’d probably do it again if it had any chance of success. When Kasan had left, Max had been so desperate for him to come back that he’d tried calling for him, hoping there was someone outside the doors who could actually understand him and tell Kasan what he

was saying. He was such a pathetic weenie that he’d practically screamed for him until his voice started to hurt, trying to dodge the bastard chasing after him the entire time. He’d been a complete and utter wuss, yelling to Kasan that he wouldn’t fight him any more, that he’d do whatever the hell Kasan wanted if he’d just come back and take him away from the blond cat. Hell, he’d even tried to run after him, only to be stopped by the big guards at the door. Maybe he could have run by them, but he hadn’t wanted to take any chances. Because Leero was terrifying. Along with the more elongated, feline face, Leero was so large that if he put Max to the same use as Kasan had, Max really thought he might bleed to death. His penis had to be huge! And so were his freaking arms and his freaking legs so he could vault over the huge bed like it was nothing and finally grab Max and bind him all up in that hot, itchy cloak. Even then, Max had been hoping maybe someone would help him, or Kasan would be near enough to hear and might change his mind. Kasan would realize he’d made a mistake and he’d come back for him and kick Leero’s ass and… and… well, then he’d probably take Max back to the bedroom and screw him silly again, but that was okay! Compared to the Leero jerk, that would have been okay, except he’d never come. Leero had carried him down the hall while he tried to yell at the top of his lungs and looked around desperately for Kasan or other humans or anyone who might be able to help. Kasan had never come. There were no humans. And the others who saw them had laughed at him instead of helping. If seeing some human carried off against his will was no issue in this culture, he knew he’d get no help from anyone in escaping. No one would empathize with him. No one would try to free him. No one would help him while this stupid, terrifying cat molested him to death. Why had Kasan given him away?! Why hadn’t he just…let Max know that he was pissed, or unhappy, or whatever the hell he was that made him do it? Whatever he wanted might have been scary, or upsetting, or downright humiliating, but Max would have sucked it up as long as he knew Kasan was going to give him away unless he did! Well, at least until he figured out how to escape. Kasan had to have known what Leero had planned for him, though, right? He couldn’t have just thought he was handing him over to someone who was going to keep him to himself…could he? Besides, Max was pretty sure that Leero was, well, much kinkier than Kasan was. He’d made Max stand there in the stupid hallway until his bladder was about to explode before Leero had taken him to a room to pee in; that had to be deliberate. A person didn’t just ‘suddenly’ realize another adult had to pee. Well, maybe not. But considering that Leero had made such a production out of forcing Max to watch him pee, and then practically jumped Max when he peed himself, Max thought he knew what had been going on. The man had a pee fetish. People had them, so alien cats could have them too, right? Considering that the man hadn’t touched him sexually the entire time, it made it even more likely. Kasan hadn’t gone that long without touching him, so if Leero had, it was obviously for a reason. The lack of sex had obviously pissed him off, too, because Leero had been snarly and snappish and if Max hadn’t had to pee so badly, he would

have stayed away from him even after he found out what the little basin with running water was. Instead, he’d peed, Leero had attacked him, and Max had peed on Leero. The big cat looked so angry that Max had run for it. A huge alien with a peeing fetish was bad enough; a huge, furious alien with a peeing fetish who was likely going to fuck him now that Max was done peeing was…utterly terrifying. He hadn’t cared if he still hadn’t seen any humans, or if he was still scared to death of how badly the aliens could hurt him; he’d been more frightened of Leero. He’d still been running under full-scale terror when he’d been forced back towards Leero by some guard. After successfully dodging Leero and yet another guard, he’d had a moment of hope. He’d thought he might actually be able to get away. He’d actually been almost nauseous with relief as he escaped through a door. Until he’d turned around and realized that the new room was so, so much worse than where he’d been. He’d tried to see a way through, panicking even as he worked on figuring out what it was. No one had any food or liquids. Not a banquet. Children present. Not an orgy. Thank God. No stage or music. Not a concert. A number of people had small pouches tucked under the sides of their loincloths, and before long, all of them were looking his way. Staring his way, actually. Staring and talking and pointing and goggling. Shit. As he’d become the focus of everyone’s attention, a thought had bubbled up through the terror and he’d sucked in his breath. Had Leero been heading this way? They’d been standing right outside the door for quite some time before he’d been allowed to pee; was this where Leero would have taken him when he was done? This place where everyone seemed to be free enough to stand around and gape at him – what kind of place was it? What kind of place was it where everyone was lined up almost as though they were waiting for him. If they were waiting for him, why were they… What if it was a…slave auction? They had pouches; it could be money of some kind. It could! Slave auction? They could be waiting around because they were planning on buying something that was coming through the door. Like a shrimpy, easy to beat up, alien. Was it a whore house showing him off, or a slave auction or…

Max had been absolutely frozen, unable to even move, when Leero had come through the door, mad as hell, and Max’s paralysis broke. Fleeing as quickly as he could, he’d searched desperately for another door, hoping he might still have a chance to get away. Only everyone had freaking tried to grab him!! It had been like reliving the nightmare where he was naked and running and monsters jumped him from every corner so all he could do was keeping running if he didn’t want to die. It had been so awful, and he’d been so relieved to see Kasan that for a moment he’d forgotten that the cat didn’t care about him at all. Max had been forcefully reminded, though, when Leero and the cats who’d first attacked him followed behind Kasan, and Kasan didn’t do a thing to them. He hadn’t fought them off, and so Max had started backing up. When his back had hit the wall, Max had looked to his sides to see two more cats who’d attacked him earlier. Kasan hadn’t done a thing to the two of them, either, and Max had lost hope. Kasan obviously hadn’t been trying to rescue Max from the others anymore. He hadn’t cared. It made Max’s stomach clench just thinking of it again and Max clutched his chest more tightly. Kasan made low, rumbling sounds in the back of his throat and he started moving his hand on Max’s thigh, rubbing his thumb in small circles along Max’s skin until he relaxed slightly. Max clenched his teeth, still lost in thought. At least he’d managed to rack the one red headed cat, stupid leering bastard. Although he’d lost it then, because before he knew it, he’d been up a giant banner and hanging at least 20 feet in the air. Another great idea from Max’s brain, because the cats would never find him clinging on the wall that they just watched him climb up! What an idiot. Why had he even bothered trying to escape if he was too stupid to do it and use his brain at the same time? Especially as he wasn’t especially good at climbing down the stupid banner, even if he wanted to give himself to the cats again. There was a reason he never climbed trees as a kid; it was too freaking scary trying to get back down. So he’d decided he’d just have to hang there until he starved to death or something. At least until he couldn’t hold on anymore and so wouldn’t feel like he was just giving in. It was better than being raped to death by a giant cat, even if that was what he’d been expecting as soon as he climbed down.. And then of course Kasan’s voice from close by had shocked the hell out of him. He’d looked over and almost fallen right then. He still felt a little faint over it. Kasan, alien cat man, was also a freaking superhuman fly who could stick to walls. Crap, if it wasn’t so scary it would have been beyond cool. Although if Kasan, who didn’t want him, was coming for Max… …if Max had screwed up his auction or whatever this was… …Kasan would probably be a pretty pissed superhuman fly, wouldn’t he? Max had started climbing higher, trying to put off whatever bad stuff was going to happen until later, when the banner jerked down slightly, He’d looked up to see the bar about to go, scrambled to try and reach it, and missed.

And was caught in mid-air by, again, a- a super alien. He still couldn’t believe that part. He’d looked back up and seen just how far they’d fallen and he’d had a geek moment in spite of it all. The man had jumped from the wall and freaking snatched Max out of the midair like it was nothing! Kasan had moves like a damn superhero! Max had been screwed by a superhero and he hadn’t even known it! Leero had taken that moment to show up in front of him and remind Max that Kasan might have some cool moves, but he wasn’t a very good superhero. Maybe a Super Villain; Super Enslaving Catman. Or Freaking Horny Bastard. Or…whatever the hell he was that Max hadn’t been able to think about anymore because he’d had to back away from Leero, and then Kasan had started yelling…at Leero? Max didn’t get that. Rather than hand him right back over like he’d expected, Kasan had grabbed him for himself and left. He’d carried him down a short series of hallways to this room, pausing to speak to what looked like another guard at the door before he’d brought them both inside. And if Max could only figure out what had changed Kasan’s mind about giving him away, maybe he could actually calm down. Was it something Max had done? Something he’d said? Something from the others? Max couldn’t see anything different except that he’d climbed up something, so what had it been? And what had that look on the guard’s face been? Kasan had been carrying Max into their current room and the big cat guard had looked at Max like he was an alien from another planet. Which, technically, he probably was, but if the guard made a face like that, how likely was it that there were other humans around here? Where the hell were they all? And if Kasan wasn’t handing him back over right now, what was he doing? Why wasn’t he giving him back to Leero? Max jumped as someone knocked on the door to the room and Kasan called out to them. He recognized the voice as the guard’s and wondered what the heck was going on now. Couldn’t everyone just leave him alone for a while so he could catch his breath for a moment? That wasn’t too much to ask, was it? A few minutes to not have to worry about being molested or chased or sold? Watching, muttering unhappily, Max saw the door slide open and yet another strange cat came in. Another blond cat like that Leero bastard, he thought, watching him as fright started to grip him by the throat. Had he been wrong? Was Kasan actually still planning to get rid of him? Was Kasan going to try and give him away again?! Max couldn’t take his eyes away from the stranger, watching while Kasan and the alien exchanged words, and then the big, stupid cat was kneeling in front of him. As the cat stared at him, Kasan felt the fright creeping into the range of full out terror. The cat was obviously looking over his body. Max was being ‘inspected.’ The new man wasn’t even glancing at Kasan now that he was in front of them. God, Kasan was going to give him away again!! The new cat finally moved, reaching out to touch his leg. “Get the hell away from me!” He kicked at him. He wasn’t going to let anyone touch him

anymore. Not ever. He’d been nice and sat on Kasan’s lap and not tried to punch him like he wanted to and the man was STILL going to give him away? They could both just piss off! Nobody, especially not Kasan, was going to touch him. Max ignored the fact that he was currently plastered against Kasan, with the man’s arm around his waist now instead of his thigh. He could only be expected to deal with one threat at a time, right? He’d keep away the new cat – maybe - and then he’d try to keep away Kasan. One thing at a time. The other man pursed his lips and reached for Max’s other leg, getting another kick for it and laughing slightly. “Well, at least we know his legs are in working order.” Max stared at him hard, listening. He was going to fight this as hard as he could. He was. He didn’t want to get hurt, or killed, but he couldn’t think of anything hurting more than being taken in the ass by one of these damn giants. His butt was still sore from freakin’ Kasan! Two hands reached for his arms and he raised his fists, desperately pressing against Kasan’s chest in some futile hope that the man would continue to hold onto him and keep this new cat away from him. Kasan didn’t let go and continued petting his head, and the other man backed off. Thank God. “And the arms look fine as well. Otherwise, I’m afraid I can only say that I think he’s healthy. I don’t know anything about this… this…” “Human.” “Really? A pure human? I will be damned. I’d love to be able to look at him a little more closely sometime…” “Later. If he wants to. I need to know if he was injured when we landed. You can’t tell me anything?” “I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” The man’s voice was soothing and Max wondered what the hell he was saying. “His pupils are staying round even with the brighter light here, but…” “They’ve been that way since I took him as my consort.” “Well, then, that’s probably normal for him. He seems to be aware and noticing the world around him. He’s not favoring any body part that I can see, either, so I think…my best guess is that he’s fine. Aren’t you, little one?” The stranger’s hand reached out suddenly and started fuzzing Max’s head next to Kasan’s hand. Max jerked away. First that guard in the hallway patting his head, then Kasan petting him, and now this man…what was it with these cats and his head?? It didn’t fill him with confidence when the man who’d touched him laughed.

“He’s adorable.” Kasan smiled broadly and Max wondered, again, what the hell they’d just said. “I don’t think he agrees. He looks like he wants to bite off your hand.” “Well, from what I saw in the Greeting Room, I’d believe it. Sounds like you’ve got a real little spitfire to deal with.” “He's definitely got a lot of energy. I think he may calm down once he can understand what’s going on, however.” “Maybe.” There was a pause in the conversation and Max looked between the both of them, listening for all he was worth for the next words. He couldn’t understand yet, but he was damn well going to as quickly as he could. At least he could listen to the for the cadence and sounds and some repeated phrases. He watched everything: he wasn’t going to be taken by surprise again. Taken, maybe, but not by surprise! “Shall I go and tell Kyoru and the rest that they can come in now?” “ I don’t suppose you could use your powers of persuasion, uncle, and get him to just let my consort and I go back to my room?” “Every mate and consort’s wish, but no, I’m not stupid enough to go up against Kyoru merely so you two can have some time alone.” The other cat was smiling and Kasan snorted. What did that mean? Were they talking about him? “Coward.” Well, that was said with some definite affection there. Was that a term of endearment? “Never mind then. Would you stay for the firstmeal? I worry that we might need a physician if there’s something we’ve missed. You’ve already seen him, and you ARE family.” The other cat did a curious kneeling bow and Max worried they’d reached some sort of agreement. What if it was an agreement over when the man was going to take Max away with him? “I’d be honored. I’ll go and let the others know you’re ready and then I’d be very happy to join you.” “Thank you, uncle. I appreciate it greatly.” “Truly, my pleasure. I look forward to seeing what the little one does.” “You and everyone else.” Max breathed a heart-felt sigh of relief as the door closed behind the cat with the roaming eyes. Tension flowed in droplets from his skin and he licked his lips as he finally felt like he could relax. If only he could get something to drink. He was so damn thirsty. “Poor little thing, still trying to figure it all out, aren’t you?” Kasan’s voice was warm and actually a little soothing as he tightened his arm around Max’s waist. With another sigh, Max let himself be pulled against the stomach behind him. Heat slowly melted through the back of his tunic and seemed to slide along his skin until his entire body felt flushed.

He shifted a bit, felt his tunic move underneath him, and stopped. He only had one light piece of fabric between his behind and Kasan’s lap, and he wanted to keep it there. He did NOT want to feel sleek muscles moving underneath him without some sort of barrier. If he wasn’t careful, first it would be bare skin against his ass and then it would be bare skin inside his ass. That was just not going to happen if he had anything to say about it. He wasn’t sure he did, but he could hope a little. A person could always have hope, right? Of course, hoping wasn’t getting him anywhere at the moment. Hoping hadn’t found him the colony, or another human, or a way out of this place. Hoping wasn’t even getting him away from Kasan. Away and off of Kasan’s really comfortable and…sleek and… hot… lap. Max scowled at his own thoughts, jerking his hand off of Kasan’s embracing arm as he realized he was running his fingers over the smooth skin there. Stupid damn cat. Thought he could freaking be nice to Max a little and Max would forgive and forget? Was that what Kasan was doing? Max bit his lip. Did Kasan even care? Well- well, it didn’t matter, because if he was, it wasn’t going to work. Max was still really, really pissed. And, he admitted, pretty damn scared. It wasn’t like being held right now took away anything that Kasan had just done to him. Max wasn’t going to be placated by some comforting gesture by some stupid giant cat who smelled really good… Max shook his head, wrinkling his nose. “Can’t you stop smelling like this, you jerk?” Why was his body acting like this? Everything about Kasan was announcing itself like a neon sign against his senses and it was just wrong! Kasan had been a total asshole! He was NOT someone who Max’s body should be thinking of like this. And he was a guy, dammit! A guy who’d given him away, besides! Although he’d taken him back, too. Maybe he’d changed his mind? Or felt kind of bad that he’d just tossed Max to Leero like a leftover cookie? Dammit, Kasan should feel bad. Because Max was not a cookie that should be thrown away; he should be saved so Kasan could be the only one to eat him and… Max blinked. “What the hell am I thinking? I’m not a cookie, Kasan! So d-don’t even think about eating me, got it?” Max’s lips clamped together as he heard, and felt, Kasan laughing behind him. Bastard was always doing that. What the hell was so funny? The muscles underneath Max flexed a moment as Kasan shifted to a more comfortable position and Max swallowed hard. This shouldn’t be happening. It was wrong, and stupid, and it should NOT be happening. He was still mad. He really was, but surrounded by heavy thighs and a broad chest and strong arms, Max felt a bit like he was covered in golden skin. It set his nerves tingling, and it wasn’t fair. Why was he feeling like this about the stupid jerk who’d put him through all the shit that Kasan had? It shouldn’t be possible. Kasan was pushy, he treated Max like a pet, and he wouldn’t keep his hands to himself. And that wasn’t even mentioning that he’d screwed him in the ass! And given him away! And screwed him in the ASS! Max felt his cock respond to the salacious memory and he flushed. Why did his body

find the jerk so sexy? GUY! He’s a GUY! G-U-Y! And he was a guy who’d dumped him! In an alien, you’re-just-a-slave kind of way, but wasn’t that even worse? Max had ended up pursued by cats, he’d just been inspected by yet another cat, and now he didn’t even know what was coming next. He was tired of being scared all time. It made him feel like a total weenie; wouldn’t a real man stand up for himself more? Except, how much could you really do against a race of perverted giants? Would that just get you killed? Max leaned his elbow on the large arm around him, his head dropping into the palm of his hand wearily. All he wanted was just a few minutes of peace, for God’s sake. Just a few minutes where he wasn’t being chased or molested or screwed with. Max rubbed his temples with his fingertips and sighed as Kasan started to pet his head again, the heavy stroking smoothing the jagged edges of his mind. He couldn’t keep this up, he thought, his body softening as the broad hand continued to caress his hair. Everything was just so messed up and weird…he didn’t know what to do. What was the right thing to do? Dammit, he was so tired of all this shit! Freaking scary cats and their freaking rooms and their freaking slave auction…thingies. Kasan’s hand rubbed the back of his neck, gently pressing in against the tense muscles there, and Max leaned his head back against the firm warmth. He arms lay limply on top of Kasan’s embracing limb as he let himself be massaged. It was so nice. His head bobbed a little back and forth as Kasan kneaded his neck; it was like floating in a pool and letting the water move his whole body. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. He drifted, his eyes half-closed, as Kasan’s hand continued to slide across his skin. It felt wonderful. It wasn’t so bad being here with Kasan when he did things like this. He could live with this… Maybe he could compromise or something, Max thought fuzzily, arching a little as Kasan changed tactics and slid his hand in between Max’s shoulder blades to caress stiff muscles into warm putty. If Kasan wouldn’t give him away, maybe Max could stay. For a little while. Kasan would keep him, and Max would keep himself from trying to get away. Until he had somewhere to get away to, at least. He moaned under his breath as the arm around his waist loosened, shifting until Kasan’s hand was cupping Max’s hip. One soft finger lay on the sliver of skin exposed between the cloth of his tunic, rubbing gently. Max shivered. It would be so much easier if he wasn’t trying to figure out how to run away all the time, if he just went with the flow for a little while. Kasan wouldn’t be a dick, and Max wouldn’t try to get away. Max’s brows furrowed. There was something wrong with that, though. Something important that he should remember. Something he’d have to do if he stayed and… Max’s eyes closed as Kasan’s finger slipped underneath his tunic and led the way over the top of his thigh, caressing it carefully. “Mmmmmmm, nice,” Max murmured. His skin felt hot and tingling, everything in his body completely focused on the pressure across his flesh. His hips arched a little and then he froze. Something large and hard was pushing noticeably against the rear of his bottom and his lower back. Kasan’s erection was pressing against him! Sex! He wanted sex! Kasan was going to want sex all the time if he stayed!

“Shit!” he squeaked, starting to squirm. Max was stunned to feel his body tighten with anticipation even as his mind yelled at him that he should be up and running away already. Was he crazy? He couldn’t stay here! His body ignored him, his hips twisting slightly so that Kasan’s dick pushed at his ass provocatively. No! This was sex with a guy here! Sex! Screwing! Fucking! Sodomy…bestiality? It was sex and HE was going to be the one getting it in the rear! That wasn’t compromise, that was… it was… His body jumped as Kasan’s hand found his cock underneath his tunic and grasped it carefully. “Stop it! I’m not done thinking about this yet! You freaking cut it out! I can’t…I have to… ohhhhhhh.” Kasan’s hand closed completely around his cock and squeezed. “I think we both need something to get our minds off of everything, Gisho. If we’re lucky, we might even have time to finish.” Kasan’s other arm moved from behind Max’s back and cupped Max’s jaw, easing his head to the side as Kasan leaned forward and began to kiss along his jaw and down his neck. “K-Kasan! Oh God, I can’t believe –“ Max arched back as Kasan’s mouth slid across his skin. The man’s lips felt so damn good; how the hell could Kasan sucking on his neck do this?? And his hand was so big it completely covered Max’s cock; it felt more like Max was being taken into someone’s body than a hand job! Kasan’s hand squeezed as he drew his fingers up from the base of Max’s penis to its head and Max’s hips pushed up at the tight vise around him, his eyes closing. Kasan’s hips pushed against him from underneath and Max couldn’t stop his body from arching even more. He knew what must be coming. His body knew what must be coming; Kasan the sex fiend was planning on screwing him silly again. Instead of tightening up in utter terror, Max was writhing, panting at the pulling heat scorching his lower belly. This was crazy! His body was rubbing against the long length that was prodding him from behind, and he was anticipating feeling it inside him with an almost desperate need that scared the shit out of him. He was aroused, and rather than looking for something to pound into – God, except Kasan’s hand; it was fucking amazing – he wanted something to pound into him! He really did! He could practically feel Kasan’ inside him already; that huge cock stretching and burning in his ass as it rubbed over the spot that made Max see stars. He couldn’t get the feeling out of his head, and the more Kasan touched him, the more he wanted it. He wanted something inside of him. He wanted to feel…taken. This was wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! He gasped, his body squirming desperately. God, he was a freaking cock whore! Max tried not to moan as Kasan’s hips pushed up at him again. He did moan rather pathetically when Kasan’s hand left his cock unattended and moved around his waist to pull him back and down against Kasan’s body. The man’s lips left his neck as his fingers tilted Max’s head up and back until Max was arched and straining. Then the cat curled over his body and kissed him. Max didn’t have more than a moment to notice the odd

angle before he was totally consumed by the man’s mouth. Tongue and lips and teeth played with Max until he was reaching up over his shoulders without thought, grabbing at Kasan’s hair to pull at him. The man was the best damn kisser Max had ever had; it was like he knew every little spot inside Max’s mouth that would tingle and spark and zing across his skin and into his brain. Max couldn’t think of anything but that amazing mouth and trying to keep it there as long as possible. He began to whine as he felt Kasan try to move away and he tightened his grip on the cat’s head. # Kasan sighed into Max’s mouth, trying to draw away and chuckling under his breath as his consort’s fingers fisted in his hair. He was fairly sure his braid was already completely ruined from the little one’s grasping hands, and he knew he’d have a ridiculous grin on his face whenever he thought about it. Gisho wanted him. His consort had enjoyed their sexual release before, but he’d never really participated. This time, his hands were making it very obvious that he wanted to be a part of this as well, and Kasan was immensely pleased, not to mention as aroused as hell. Even so, they needed to stop. He didn’t mind touching his consort’s body in public to a certain extent, but much more of this and he might forget where he was – and who was watching him. Everyone, at this point. Kasan reached back and pulled Max’s hands from his head. He smiled as Max whimpered like a little child and tried to pull him back down. “I would like nothing better, Gisho, but it’s no longer the right time. It’s time for Firstmeal, sweetheart, everyone’s here already.” Kasan reluctantly put his arm back around Max’s waist to try and keep it from straying somewhere more interesting. He looked over at his brother Zonta, the only sibling brave enough to join him at the table so far, and nodded at him. “I don’t believe he wants to stop,” Zonta said with a laugh in his voice, fiddling with his flame colored braid. Max’s eyes popped open at the sound of his voice, the little one’s head dropping down as he looked around. He yelled in fright and Zonta jumped, his ears vibrating. Max slammed back into Kasan’s stomach, his eyes darting around the room that had filled up with relatives while Kasan had distracted him, and he grabbed onto the arm around his waist with panicked hands. A bright blush slowly covered Max’s face as he continued to look around at the various tables and met smiling eyes and good natured smirks. The bright cheeks were as cute as everything else about the little man, but Kasan wished he wasn’t so frightened again. “I was hoping it might relax him,” Kasan murmured. “He’s just so frightened of everyone.” “It’s not that surprising, is it?” Zonta asked quietly. Kasan answered with a sigh. “Not really. I thought if he saw that he wasn’t going to be harmed, he might start to adjust, but it doesn’t seem to be working. There’s just too much he doesn’t understand.” Zonta muttered vaguely in sympathy.

“I know your studies have been fairly intense lately, but I would appreciate you talking with the archivists about him,” Kasan said. “You know they don’t get along with me too well…” Smiling at him, Zonta nodded. “You don’t think that’s because you lose your temper every time you try to research something and end up practically destroying whatever document you happen to have?” “Possibly.” Kasan’s mouth curled into a smile, his hand once again stroking over Max’s head as the man sat stiffly in his lap. “I’ve noticed that the more fragile records are somehow impossible to find when I wish to see them.” Zo smiled back. “Don’t worry. We’ll find out about your little one. You don’t even have to ask.” “I appreciate the support.” Kasan’s voice was warm. He could always count on Zonta when things were emotionally iffy. “So, when…” “Kasan, I mean it. You don’t have to ask. It’s already done.” Kasan looked at him, head tilted. “I told you I did some research last night, remember? I already asked them to dig up whatever they could find about humans and especially human consorts. They’ve been working all night to find them and make a copy for us.” “All night? Damn, Zo…” Kasan shook his head. It was a very good thing that his ego wasn’t more fragile or he’d feel positively incompetent next to Zo sometimes. “Did they give you any idea of what they have?” Zonta smiled again, his eyes bright with the excitement. “They have some of the original writings from the Reconstruction! There’s a lot of information on human physical needs, but I think the one that might help you for now is a series of lists with Hinta phrases and human writing. No one can read the human anymore, but it looks like it might actually be a translation of some of the language.” “And we’ll get copies, you said?” Translations? Would Max be able to understand him then? Kasan gripped Max so tightly that the man squeaked in surprise and he loosened up with a flush. Zo laughed softly at the chagrin on his brother’s face. “They should have them soon. I was hoping maybe before the Greeting, but it’s taken a little longer than they were anticipating. Soon, though.” Zonta looked down into the blue eyes of his brother’s consort and smiled carefully. Kasan made a mental note to have Zonta give some lessons to Leero later. His brother was very good at looking ‘harmless.’ “So, may I be introduced?” Kasan moved his hand from Max’s head to point to Zonta. “Max?” He waited as Max stilled. “This is Zonta. Zo-n-ta. My youngest brother, Zonta.” Zonta cleared his throat and Kasan snorted. “Youngest by a few moments is still youngest, and you know it. So… Zonta, let me introduce you to my consort, Max.”

Max stared at Zonta and bowed his head just a hair before Zonta did his own seated bow. Kasan grinned. The little one paid attention; there might be a little competition for Zonta there. Finally. “I am very pleased to meet you, Max.” Zonta said in a soft voice. His auburn ears flicked back and forth excitedly. Kasan could just imagine Max biting his lip before he answered. “Zon-ta.” Eyebrows went up and Zonta’s ears paused before perking forward. “He does that very well.” “I certainly think so.” “I wonder if all humans are such good mimics?” Zonta wondered out loud. “Maybe…” Jolan’s voice interrupted him. “Zonta gets the first introduction? That hardly seems fair. I’m the oldest after all.” Kasan looked up to see Jolan holding hands with his pale-haired consort Ko. The two stood shoulder to shoulder as they both looked curiously at Max. Kasan felt a growl welling up and he let it out slowly, his ears flat and his tail swinging wildly behind him. He didn’t care for Jolan’s unease enough to control either reaction. “Be glad I’m introducing him to any of you, asshole. After the crap you did last night…” Jolan paled as his ears flattened. Kasan smiled in grim satisfaction. Obviously, Ko hadn’t known what his mate was up to. Jolan grunted as Ko punched him in the side. “Ow! Ko! That hurt!” “Really? I had no idea.” Ko smiled sharply. “So, you were having a little drink with your brothers last night, were you? Just celebrating your brother’s mating? You lied to me.” Jolan smiled weakly. “I didn’t lie...exactly. You have to admit that I said nothing about what we did after we were done drinking.” Ko glared at him, not breaking eye contact as he commented to Kasan. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he regrets whatever crap he did.” Ko stepped closer and stood nose to nose with his mate before he leaned up and whispered into his ear. “Don’t make any plans for tonight, Jolan. You’re going to be punished.” Jolan’s pupils dilated slightly and his breathing sped up. Kasan felt like rolling his eyes. Sometimes, having better hearing than everyone else let him know far more than he wanted to about his brothers and their private lives. Although it was nice to be reminded that the crown prince had at least one person on the planet who could keep his obnoxious ass in line. They all appreciated someone who could take him down a peg when his head grew too big for his ears.

Ko kissed Jolan on the cheek and knelt down on the other side of the table. Jolan hesitated before joining him. Struck a moment by how alike they were, Kasan stared. Ko was quite a bit fairer than Kasan’s chocolate haired brother, with sharper features, but body-wise, the two males could have been twins as they knelt by each other. It was an odd reminder of just how much size turned him off. He would have hated having a consort the same size, let alone one who was so dominant in their relationship. The idea of making love to someone his own size seemed odd, already. The only images that filled his head when he tried to think of sex were Max’s small limbs, his sweetly rounded head, his adorable nude ears…his amazing, tight, hot sheath. Kasan cleared his throat as he envisioned what he was next going to do with Max’s body and startled as a cousin with serving duty reached in front of him to place the first of their food onto the table. He tightened his arm around Max automatically as the little man suddenly tried to lunge forward – he was not going to chase him around the room again – and he tried to figure out what had his consort so upset. No one had approached the table but the servers, and all they’d down was lay small dishes of food across the table along with the water… Well son of a bitch. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart, I didn’t even think!” Kasan let go of Max’s head and reached for the nearest glass, dumping water in and handing it over to Max. His consort grabbed the large ceramic cup in both hands and gulped it down frantically as everyone stared. He held it out for more before Kasan could do more than blink. “One more, Gisho, and then you’ll need to wait. You’ll make yourself sick. And if you’re starting the meal already, we’d better get you settled, eh?” Kasan took the cup and set it on the table. He grasped Max by the waist, enjoying the firm muscles underneath Max’s tunic, and physically set his consort next to him on the nearest cushion. They should eat next to each other; he’d enjoy the physical closeness of having him on his lap again once the meal was over.. Refilling the glass, Kasan watched Max gulp it down just as quickly before setting it to the side. It looked as though he knew enough to stop himself without Kasan having said anything. Smiling his approval, Kasan turned to Jolan to make the introductions. He paused when the outer doors opened two of the archivists’ apprentices came in carrying a few sheets of paper. “Here they are.” Zonta stated the obvious with such a happy grin on his face that Kasan didn’t bother mocking him for it. He was just as anxious to see the papers as his brother. Would he finally be able to talk to Max now? # Max watched everyone with heated cheeks. He could not believe he’d been so caught up in kissing Kasan that the entire room had filled up, and he’d never even noticed! No, no, that wasn’t right. He’d been caught up in Kasan kissing him; he hadn’t kissed him back. Yanking on the man’s hair to pull him down so he would suck on Max until he thought he’d collapse was not kissing back. It was…being curious. He’d just been curious about what it might be like to participate in a kiss from a guy and.. Hell.

Stupid, stupid, stupid Kasan and his hot, really damn sexy mouth. Where in the hell had the man learned to kiss like that? It had been so….amazing. Max was certain his lips were still shiny and wet from it and he couldn’t bring himself to so much as touch his mouth to check. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to stop. Lips tingling and raw, it felt like they were waiting for Kasan to start back up again. Max’s blush flared up again and he mumbled to himself. He needed to either melt into the floor, or beat up Kasan. Not that he’d be able to accomplish the latter feat, but he could darn well try. How could the man have continued kissing him when everyone was watching? Thank God he hadn’t done more! But still, there were dozens of cats everywhere! One of the assholes from the night before was even sitting across from him with a much scarier looking blondie. And on top of that, the room was filled with strange cat men and cat women and even cat kids… kittens? There were more of the assholes he was worried about sprinkled among them, too. Why couldn’t they all have disappeared so he didn’t have to worry about when one of them might come up and Kasan would actually give him away again? It had been so nice not to worry there for a moment, darn it. At least it wasn’t as many as had been in the other room, but there were plenty enough to make him nervous as hell. Even that bastard Leero was there, standing and leaning against a far table, his legs and feet all shiny like he’d just used that cleansing oily stuff. Guess he hadn’t liked piss on his legs, Max thought. Well…he’d better just watch out, because if Leero came near him again, Max was going to… he was going to… Well, he could pee on him again! It had worked once, after all. And now he finally had enough liquid in him to do so again. Thank God they’d finally brought something to drink. He’d thought his tongue was going to turn to dust before that happened. Licking his lips, Max looked around some more as he tried to figure out what had everyone at the table so interested. It wasn’t the food, although that was something he had noticed from the moment some younger cats had brought it through a small side door. This was something different. Someone new had come through the larger set of doors; they were headed right for his table. Two someone’s, actually, and the first males he’d seen who were actually wearing anything other than a loincloth. They had tunics very similar to his own, just a little less embroidered. They came up to the table, bowed to the rather nice cat, Zonta, and handed him a few papers as they exchanged words. Max didn’t even have time for his curiosity to grow as the cat pushed the few papers across the table until they settled in a messy pile in front of Max. Everyone at the table stared at him and he stared back. They wanted him to do something with these? He couldn’t speak their language, what made them think he could read it? Kasan reached over and rubbed over his head, ignoring his scowl over the touch. Well, he’d better see what the hell this was. Biting his lip, Max looked down. It took him a moment to understand the rather oddly formed letters, but when he did, he honestly thought he was going to cry. It was covered

with words! Words he could understand! Someone here actually knew words that he could understand! “Yes!” He ignored everyone’s growing smiles as he feverishly examined the papers. There were only five of them. On the first page, one side held words in what looked like a slightly odd dialect of Spanish, although the other side had letters he didn’t even recognize. Was it something to help communicate? To help translate? He looked at the next page and saw more Spanish combined with the unknown language. The next two held the same combination but with Mandarin, which he could read as well, and the last page had some Slavic language he didn’t recognize. He knew some Czech, which helped with quite a few from that region, but this one was just too different for him to understand. He pushed that paper to the side. Oblivious to the interested stares around him, he scanned the papers The Spanish pages were single words or phrases in rows all the way down the pale blue paper. It looked like someone had taken a few leaflets from a phrase book and given it to him. He read along the list: Yes, no, hello, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m tired, I’m hurt, I have to urinate, I need help….exactly the kinds of words someone might try to learn first with a new language. A few words had letters missing, a few more were too butchered to make any sense to him at all, but most of them were legible. Putting the first page aside, he started on the second. It was a little more puzzling, with many of the phrases obviously referring to something that had no direct translation. Those type of things were always the most challenging in any new language, but at least he’d have a start. He stared at them, his teeth worrying his lips constantly as he concentrated. They were truly odd. The ‘sexual need of maturity?’ What the heck was that? And then what about the whole slew of words regarding – well, he assumed it was marriage. The first night of the bond, the witnessing of the mark, the mark of bonding? And then the number of names for spouses was impressive. the bottom or silver husband, the top or golden husband, the top or golden wife, the bottom or silver wife. The constant references to spouses and ‘bonding’ made him squirm a bit, and frankly, having it side by side with the ‘sexual need’ phrase was rather disturbing in a page that was obviously full of beginner phrases. What kind of people discussed sex with you as a beginning phrase? What kind of people had sex with you as a beginning action, he reminded himself. The cat who had given him the papers cleared his throat and pointed to the side with the unknown lettering system. He said a short burst of syllables and then pointed to the Spanish side and then at Max, waiting. Max started to smile. “Hello,” he said, looking at what was chosen. He figured he might as well respond in English; it wasn’t as though the cats would know any different. The cat repeated his own phrase while Max listened carefully, and then Max tried his hand at the cat’s language. From Kasan’s approving murmur, he gathered that he hadn’t done too badly. “H-heello.” Max blinked as the red headed Zonta tried English as well. They both grinned at each other. They were talking! Kasan said a few phrases to the cat, then moved the paper over so that he could touch it more easily. He put his finger down on a short phrase, saying it slowly.

“Mate.” Max read the Spanish translation for the word: the top or golden husband. Great, the one word he was speaking and Max had no clue what he was saying. He looked over at Kasan and shrugged a little. “Mate.” This time the man pointed to himself, and Max’s face crinkled in confusion. He was saying…he was married? Maybe? Did they have more than one type of ceremony or something? Was that the reason for the different terms? “Whoopee for you, you’re married.” Max squirmed as his gut rolled unpleasantly. So, Kasan was married. Obviously Max wasn’t anything more than a fuck toy or a concubine or s-something. His enjoyment of the entire endeavor plummeted. Kasan waited expectantly, the tip of his black tail twitching slightly, and Max tried the word as his shoulders slumped. Kasan smiled broadly at the attempt and pointed to the word underneath. “Consort.” His belly still churning, Max read dully. “The bottom or silver husband.” Great, now Kasan was going to show him more married cats. Like Max cared. Biting sullenly at his top lip, he looked up and his eyes crossed as he focused on the finger pointing at his nose. Kasan spoke again and began to point back and forth between the two of them, repeating the two phrases. Top husband and bottom husband. Top husband and bottom husband, Top…. Max’s eyes opened wide, his entire body flushed and he started shaking. He couldn’t mean… “Are you trying to tell me we’re m-m-married???” The small touches the two large men across from them kept doing took on an entirely new meaning. This culture had…gay marriage? Was that it? It couldn’t be, could it? Max tried out the phrases, pointing to the couple as he did so. Kasan was smiling and nodding, looking extremely pleased. He pointed between Max and himself again and repeated it. Max’s face felt unbearably hot. “Oh. My. God!” His breathing sped up as he thought about what that meant. “I can’t be married to a guy!!” He was supposed to be married? Like ‘til death do us part- sickness and health- sex all the time- married? That was crazy! He didn’t want to be married! And what the hell did a ‘bottom’ husband do, anyway? Was it like…like a housewife or something? Was he supposed to cook and clean and shit like that?? “I HATE cleaning! I don’t wanna be married; I wanna go back to being a whore!!!!” Kasan looked at him with a bemused smile, reaching out to gently cup his cheek. Max just stared at him. It was… How the hell… When… “How can we be married!? I never agreed to this, dammit!” How could he be married??

A laugh from across the room brought his attention to Leero and Max scowled as he saw the man grinning at him. He turned his glare to Kasan. He wasn’t a slave? He wasn’t a whore?? “So what the hell was that thing with stupid Leero?! You left me with him and he chased me around the whole damn bedroom! Everyone in that whole stupid ROOM was after me! If you’re the – the top husband, you’re supposed to do something about it! You should be beating them up or something!!” Kasan didn’t even flinch as Max poked his arm hard with a finger. He just looked down at him and chuckled, his thumb rubbing across Max’s cheek. “You’re very excited, little one. I hope that’s a good thing.” Kasan leaned over, but his lips had just brushed Max’s own when Max leaned back and pushed out at him. Kasan didn’t move. “We are not married, cat boy! Got it! No way.” Kasan moved his hand behind Max’s head and started to pull him back in for another kiss as a few cats around them called out. Max punched him in the eye, and Kasan finally stopped. The big cat released Max’s head and sat back, feeling his eye and looking rather shocked as at least half the room laughed out loud. Max looked at everyone, seeing their eyes on him, and he suddenly realized what other activity there was that gathered people together to watch just one person. Or rather, that gathered people together to watch a couple: a wedding. “I’m too young to be married!” Max wailed, and threw himself forward over his bent arms, burying his face into the table. “This is so messed up…” Kasan looked at Max face down on the table and reached out, running his hand over the back of his hair. “I can’t believe that didn’t work,” Zonta muttered, distressed enough that his ears were laying flat again. Kasan was sure they matched his own; he’d been excited about the new papers as well. Now, after a few minutes of happy excitement, Max was back to being upset. Kasan was very afraid it was related to Max being his consort. He’d thought Max’s status as a consort might be a surprise, but considering how frightened Max had been, surely it would have been a good one? Max knew now that he had a legitimate status on this world, even if he didn’t know much about where he was. For someone who’d been in the hands of slavers, that should have been a huge relief. And Kasan knew that his little one had been enslaved. Max’s unique genetic heritage, combined with the argenta he’d been drugged with for their first meeting, had already made Kasan fairly certain that Max had been acquired illegally. The notes Leero’s men had found in Shovak’s room, the ones that had interrupted his night, had confirmed that he’d been sold to Shovak by the Niandrin. Considering Shovak’s complete lack of interplanetary resources, Kasan needed to know how he’d even made contact with the grotesque birds. He needed to know what had been done to Max. If Max was always so frightened, had they hurt him? Abused him? Kasan held back the growl that always rose up when he thought about it. He concentrated on the fact that Max had at least survived it physically intact. Niandrin were known to alter their ‘property’ to try and increase the visual appeal, even when it might decrease the poor bastard’s value. It had never made sense to him. He had no idea how a race that cruel AND stupid hadn’t killed itself off by now.

And where the hell had they found Max? Shovak’s notes made no mention of it, and until Max could tell them, they had no way of contacting his people or his family. Kasan’s hand stopped caressing Max’s head as he took a deep breath. Could Max have someone else back on his home world? Could that be why he was so upset? He shook his head. Couldn’t be. Every time Max had cum for him, it was as though Max was startled by his own reactions. He didn’t seem aware of what really pleased his body, like one who was only beginning his foray into sexual pleasure. An experienced man, a man with a mate or consort of some kind, would know his body better. Max was his. But if there was no one else, and Max knew he wasn’t a slave, did Max’s reaction mean that he simply didn’t want to be with him? Max…disliked being with him? “Guess he doesn’t like being a consort.” Jolan’s voice was just a touch smug until his consort Ko smacked him in the side of the head. Max’s face popped up at the first ‘ow’ and he watched with large eyes as Ko smacked Jolan again. Max’s body went very still. He turned to look up at Kasan and the miniscule bruise forming around Kasan’s eye, and his shoulders hunched defensively. He slowly pointed a finger at the abused Jolan. “Consort?” Jolan stared at him, smiling. “Ha, he thinks you’re going to beat on him! Ow! Dammit, Ko!” After one snarling glare at Jolan, Kasan shook his head in response to Max’s soft voiced question. “No, Gisho. The asshole here is the mate; Ko is the consort. See, asshole, Mate, but Ko, Consort.” Max watched as Kasan’s pointing went from one to the other and he finally repeated it while gesturing to Jolan. “Asshole, mate.” Ko started laughing. “Oh, I like him.” Jolan rolled his eyes, about to correct things when Max started gesturing very carefully. He was obviously trying to say something, but it wasn’t until he smacked his own hand that Kasan understood. “Can consorts hit their mates?? Aw sweetie, is that what’s worrying you?” “The answer is no. A consort should never hit their mate. That would be the worst thing a consort could ever – ow!” Jolan rubbed the back of his head from Ko’s newest assault. “Dammit, will you stop!” Ko shook the sting out of his hand, poked Jolan one more time in warning, and smiled at Max. “Yes. You should hit Kasan as often as possible. He needs somebody to keep him from turning into a grumpy old man.” Max looked confused until Ko leaned over the table. “Yes. Max hit Kasan,” Ko said. Quickly grabbing Max’s hand, Ko brought it up and made Max slap Kasan in the face. Kasan grunted while Max jerked his hand back with a start, staring at them both.

“Ko, you sadistic son of a bitch – that actually hurt!” Kasan fingered his stinging cheek, growling under his breath. He stopped as Max scooted back from him. “Little One, it’s not you. Don’t worry. I’m not mad at you. I’m…” Kasan looked down at the paper and found what he was looking for. He pointed to it, smiling quickly. “I’m happy.” Max looked down at it, mumbled under his breath, and took a deep breath. “Ah’m happy,” he repeated. “Yes. Happy, not angry. It’s all right…” “There, see?” Ko leaned up against Jolan and smirked at Kasan. “Now he knows he can hit you and you’re not going to hurt him. I think, anyway. He still looks a little worried about it. What have you been doing with him?” Looking down at his consort, Kasan could see that Max was eyeing him warily. Was he expecting to be attacked? Poor little thing, he was so nervous of everything. Kasan had the feeling he was going to have to treat him very gently for quite a while if he wanted him to adjust. Hopefully it wasn’t simply a part of being human. Wondering if he could project ‘harmless’ as well as Zonta, Kasan smiled and brought his hand up to rub at Max’s shoulder. Max didn’t pull away and Kasan relaxed a little. “It’s all right, precious. I’m not going to hurt you over something as ridiculous as a slap. It’s all right.” Jolan sniggered. “You wouldn’t hurt him, period. Look at you, you’re so wrapped up in him, you’re…OW!” Jolan glared furiously at Ko, and Kasan was positive he did not want to know what Ko had just done to him under the table. “Ignore him, Kasan. It’s nice to see you found someone who’s more to you than just the Need,” Ko said, running right over Jolan’s muttered cursing beside him. “So, before my idiot says anything else, could we be introduced?” “Max, this is Jolan. This is his consort, Ko. Jolan, Ko – this is Max.” His brother tried to reclaim a little of his lost dignity. “I’m pleased to met you, Max.” Ko rolled his eyes at Jolan’s uncharacteristic formality, but repeated it anyway. “I’m pleased to meet you, Max.” Watching them, Max responded with a bow like he’d given Zonta. “Ah’m pleeeased to meeet you, Jolan. Ah’m pleeeased to meeet you, Ko.” Kasan beamed at the two’s surprised looks. “Picks it up quick, doesn’t he?” Jolan and Ko stared for a moment, and then Jolan started to snigger. Kasan scowled at him. “What the hell are you laughing at him for? He’s just learning, it’s not going to be perfect, so don’t…”

Jolan was shaking his head and chuckling louder. “Not him, you! Someone this quick to pick up the words has got to be smart as hell. Which means you mated an intellectual! You! You and Nolluz fight like wild shokan, and here you married someone just like him!” “Don’t be an idiot. I don’t fight with Nolluz because he’s smart, I fight with him because he’s a prissy little know-everything snot.” Jolan shook his head. “And because he knows more than you do, admit it. And now, your consort is probably a little bookster, too and – “ Ko sighed and stood, yanking on Jolan’s ear until the man rose with a yelp. “Come on, let’s leave them alone.” “Oh you can’t tell me you don’t see the humor in this?” Jolan asked, stepping up to Ko’s side as they walked away. “That’s not the point.” “You know you’re dying to giggle about it too, Ko.” Jolan’s voice fell to a murmur, his hand moving to Ko’s back before falling to cup one side of his ass as they walked away. Ko’s response was low enough that Kasan was sure no one else could hear, but the man’s hand crept over to Jolan’s ass as well and they walked that way over to visit with Leero. Kasan looked down at Max and saw him staring at them, his mouth agape. “What has you so surprised, precious?” he murmured, smiling carefully as Max’s head swung around and he found himself looking into darkly lashed blue eyes. The man chewed on his lip and Kasan focused on it. Rosy and soft, his lips looked extremely edible. Kasan swallowed and leaned down. “Damn. You are so…” Max’s eyes widened and he suddenly grabbed a paper from the table, leaning away from Kasan as he looked at it. He pushed it up between them and pointed to a word frantically, his finger tapping at it so hard that Kasan was worried he’d rip the thing. “Here, little one. Calm down, I’m paying attention. Put it on the table.” Kasan pushed at his hand until the paper lay flat and then looked closely at the small, stabbing finger that was poking at it. His ears went down. “Oh. I see.” “What? What is he trying to say?” Zonta looked over curiously. Still touching the paper, Max waited for Kasan to tell him what the word was in Hinta. With drooping ears, Kasan touched the same word. “No. That’s how you say it, precious. That word is no. No.” “No!” Max’s voice rang out loud enough that the entire room quieted and he looked around nervously. When Kasan sat back up and didn’t attempt to kiss him again, he visibly relaxed. “I wouldn’t have thought he disliked it that much,” Kasan said quietly. “That’s not necessarily it.” Zonta reached across and behind Max and rubbed Kasan’s

shoulder. “It might be any number of things. Considering how, eh, occupied you both were when we came in, I can’t imagine he dislikes it very much at all.” Kasan smiled slowly at the reminder before looking back at Max’s wary face. “True. I just wish I knew what it was.” He reached out and stroked a hand over Max’s hair while Max watched but didn’t say anything. “Maybe my poor little one just wants some control right now. I can give him that.” “Or maybe he’s upset about kissing in public,” Zonta ventured. “Upset about…. I never would have considered that. Don’t the Dograthra consider that obscene?” “ Highly. It wouldn’t be unusual that he might have some cultural taboos we’re unaware of.” They both stopped talking as one of their uncles stopped by the table to wish Kasan and Max a brief congratulations, and before they could start after he left, Tisu and his consort came over, along with another cousin bringing a few more dishes of food. Watching Tisu help seat his little consort Roto on a cushion, Kasan was struck by how gentle the man was with him. It was something that was easy to forget when they were alone, without their consorts - when Tisu was a bit of a bully. It had always been a little irritating that Kasan’s younger brother was the biggest one in the family. He was even taller than their father: an intimidating mountain of a man on his own. Roto, on the other hand, was only slightly taller than Kasan himself, and was one of the sweetest people Kasan had ever met. In all the chaos of the last few days, Kasan hadn’t even thought about the fact that Tisu and he had something similar in their lives right now. Closest in age, they now had another common bond: delicate consorts. Tisu’s size difference, when compared to Roto, was almost as great as the difference between Kasan and Max. And just like Max, Roto tended to be more…emotionally prone to upset, not that everyone didn’t understand why. Roto had been so terribly abused when Tisu had found him; Kasan didn’t think any of them would ever forget it. Tisu had been on his first tour of guard duty for only a few days when he’d come across Roto’s father, beating Roto almost to death, the still-warm corpse of the man’s own consort lying on the ground next to them. After hitting the man so hard his neck had snapped, Tisu had personally carried Roto all the way to the citadel to care for himself. The Lord King had turned a blind eye when Tisu insisted on installing Roto in the room with him after that point; it had been obvious Roto had wanted to be there just as much as Tisu had wanted his presence. Frankly, Kasan thought that Tisu’s body had even done its part to keep them together. Roto had ripened a bit younger than was normal, most likely due to the stress. Tisu had already been legally ripened for 6 months at that point, but as soon as Roto’s body changed, Tisu had gone into heat, almost a year earlier than he should have. Irritating for Kasan, when his younger brother went into heat so many years before him. Still, he was happy for them. He didn’t think that being mated to a different couple would have kept either of them apart, but it would have been… awkward. Tisu was most definitely the jealous sort.

With his experiences, though, he might finally be able to help Kasan out with something as opposed to being a pain in the ass. He had to have a few good ideas on things to be careful of in a small consort. What they were afraid of, what they worried about, what body parts might be more delicate. Kasan should probably have a talk with him. Soon. With plenty of room for whatever violence was needed when Tisu tried to give him too much shit about needing his help. It was damn odd to be feeling, in any way, sympathetic towards the big ass, but there it was. Right now, he could completely understand feeling highly protective of one’s consort. Max was so precious and tiny; he looked like he could break at any moment. All Tisu’s slow movements around his consort, his constant touching and checking on Roto’s comfort and safety - it all struck a cord. Tisu, out of everyone, was actually probably most likely to understand what Kasan was feeling about Gisho. A sure sign the world had gone mad. Movement from Max brought Kasan back to watching him. Slender arms were reaching out, and Kasan saw Max heave up the pitcher of water not far from his seat. The rounded sides looked enormous in Max’s little hands and it wobbled dangerously before he got a good grip on it. “Here, precious, that’s too heavy for you. Why don’t you let me –“ “No!” Max pulled the pitcher closer to himself and out of the reach of Kasan’s hands as he tried to grab for it. With a suspicious gaze fixed on him, Kasan put his hands back into his lap and tried not to laugh. Somehow, having the little one angrily defend his right to pour his own water made him seem utterly precious. And it helped a little over the kiss as well; it wasn’t just Kasan, obviously. It was likely he was just happy to be exercising some form of control over the world around him. He hoped. He had to admit that Max didn’t spill a drop as he poured it out. When Max had put the pitcher back down, he carefully lifted the cup with both hands again, drinking heavily. Kasan was glad the little one had the cup back down before Roto squealed happily; the high-pitched sound was loud enough to startle everyone at the table. Tisu’s consort was smiling and almost bouncing on his cushion as his soft brown braid bounced with him. “He is sooo adorable! Oh, I want to just pick him up and squeeze him!” Kasan smiled. “Please, don’t squeeze him ‘til we know how strong his kind are. I don’t know if he could survive it. Besides the fact that he might object to being treated like a toy.” Blinking, Roto’s golden eyes looked at Max carefully. “Oh, are they fragile? Tisu said he was human, but I didn’t realize…” Tisu put his arm around him and leaned down to rub his chin across Roto’s ears. “Don’t worry about it, sweetie. I’m sure he’d be happy to have you give him a hug when he can understand what you’re asking for.”

“Really? I wouldn’t want to hurt him.” Roto’s ears twitched as he smiled rather earnestly at Max. “If he was strong enough to get thoroughly screwed by Kasan, he can deal with a little hugging.” Kasan casually held his hand up, palm in, and flicked his claws out a moment, a tacit signal between them that he was going to be kicking Tisu’s ass later. Tisu merely smiled and nodded. He wasn’t drunk this time; it wouldn’t be nearly as easy. Neither of them would say it aloud, though, not in front of Roto. “Oooooh! Look! He’s picking the Kalla! He’s eating the Kalla first!” Roto started giggling while Zonta and Tisu smirked at Kasan. A few other chuckles could be heard around the room as Roto’s voice carried, and Kasan had a feeling his cheeks might be a bit ruddy. He hadn’t even thought about what food Max was going to choose first; there’d been too much going on to even wonder. But the damn firstmeal after the Greeting was always filled with even more sexually explicit foods than they’d given him last night. And now, Max had picked the Kalla: long rather thick rolls, filled with white icing that spurted from the end when you bit into them. Max startled as it did so, obviously caught off guard by the white goop covering his hands, and then he started to lick it clean. He paused as there were more chuckles around the room from others who were watching, unabashedly curious. “He doesn’t know that there’s a meaning to the food.” Kasan muttered as Tisu continued to laugh at him. “Obviously, otherwise he never would have told us that you two were at it all night – and he got such a full roll, too. You must have been really good.” Kasan flicked his claws again, held them out a little longer, and Tisu just smiled. Zonta snorted, and looked away when Kasan glanced at him. “Ah, nose tickled. It was nothing.” He looked back at Max, his eyes glinting with suppressed laughter. “I do wish we’d thought of a way to tell him about the food, though. Then he really could tell us what he thought of his First Night.” “I don’t think it matters. We all know what he would have chosen.” Tisu picked up a tiny sausage link from a small plate of them and popped it into his mouth. “If he was choosing sausage, it would be this one.” Kasan plucked out an enormous column of meat, lying in solitary splendor on its own platter, and took a large bite. “Oh, you wish your dick was that big, midget!” Tisu laughed. Kasan growled, then smiled. He swallowed carefully and picked up a brilliantly crimson flower from an azure glazed plate. Still smiling, he made a production of eating it one petal at a time. It was Tisu’s turn to squirm; Roto had chosen that for their first food. Having Roto’s choice informing the world that Tisu had been as ‘gentle as a delicate flower’ had been enough for his brothers to howl with laughter at the time.

“I think it’s sweet,” Roto sighed. “Even if it isn’t true. How many times did you make him come?” he asked curiously. “Roto, that’s not something to ask during firstmeal, sweetheart,” Tisu said gently. “That’s something you can talk to him about afterwards, all right?” “I don’t think Kasan minds, do you?” Kasan squirmed under Roto’s look. He didn’t know how the man did it, but not giving in to Roto was like trying to lie to his father: impossible. “No, I don’t mind,” he said, clearing his throat. “Goodie! So how many times?” Kasan cleared his throat again. “Three.” Tisu finished chewing on his sausage, nodding while Roto bounced with another little squeal of glee. A few cousins drifted closer to try and listen to what was going on. “All right, so that could have taken most of the night. At least he’s not too far off.” “I would have done more, but…I’m not sure if it would be good for him. He came so quickly…” “Get over yourself,” Tisu snorted and Kasan glared at him briefly before looking down at Max. He swallowed, watching a thin dribble of white icing dripping slowly down Max’s chin from the corner of his mouth. His voice was soft as he went on. “I’m wondering if it might be a racial trait. If he’s built to orgasm that easily, maybe he shouldn’t have too many.” Kasan looked to Zonta and his brother shrugged. “I haven’t read anything about it. I’ll see if the archivists know of any restrictions, but nothing came up when I was looking for health differences.” “If the writing survived all these years,” Kasan added. All of them looked at Max, speculating as he continued eating. His chewing slowed as he noticed. When he started shifting nervously, Kasan patted his head softly and he jerked it away. “No.” He pointed one frosting covered finger at Kasan and frowned as he saw it. He popped it into his mouth and sucked it clean before pointing it back at Kasan. Kasan’s cock stirred and he groaned under his breath. “How can you possibly be any more sexy, Gisho.” ### Kasan stayed away, just staring at him with his eyes warming the air between them, and Max went back to the éclair thing. Cat boy was watching him, but he wasn’t doing anything, so it was safe. Kasan wouldn’t try to touch him. He’d actually listened to him;

Max had told him to back off, and he’d understood and actually done it! Max was… talking with aliens, and they were listening. He was like that horse whisperer guy, but with aliens. He’d made a humongously big alien cat do what he’d asked. He was the alien whisperer. Except that sounded lame, so…he was something. He’d think of it eventually. He took another bite of the éclair, and satisfaction floated to the top of his mind as heavy sweetness filled his mouth. The taste of both lingered after he swallowed. He brushed the corner of his mouth and absently licked the frosting his fingers found there, enjoying the sugary white caramel of it. So…would that do it? Would being able to refuse sex be enough to keep him from getting screwed? Max licked his lips, thinking of the last kiss, and quickly popped the last bit of éclair into his mouth. Chewing, he looked down at the table, ignoring everyone as he tried to think. It was a little warm in here. And the married thing. He was married. To an alien. To a man. To a huge, honkin’ sex fiend alien man. Was ‘no’ going to keep him away forever, or would he be willing to… divorce him or something? And he couldn’t believe he was feeling a little weird about that idea. Stupid. Just because his mother and father used to go on and on about the sacred institution of marriage did NOT mean that they would have expected him to stay married in a situation like this! Him, married to a guy? There had to be some kind of… of legal precedent for this, right? Annulment for reasons of – a really huge cock. Max grabbed a small sausage, barely hearing the deep laugh from across the table as he chewed on it, staring to the side at Kasan’s crotch. It really had been huge: sleek and richly golden. Hard. Taking him… He began to cough as he realized what he’d been thinking. “Dammit, Kasan! Stop having such a big dick!” Kasan’s ears perked up as he looked at him, and Max groaned. Yeah, that had helped. His entire body felt hot and flushed, his own dick already hard. He was actually hard! He began to mutter under his breath. “Idiot. Staring at his dick like it’s a naked woman or something. You just think what the other colonists are going to think about this when you find them! They’ll…” What the hell would they think about it? Their linguist, acting like a slut over some huge alien cat. What was he going to TELL them? It was a form of interplanetary diplomacy? “Ass screwing as a political statement. Yeah.” Max grabbed a handful of sausages, eating them quickly. “Stupid dink,” he mumbled, his mouth full. Swallowing, he tried to distract himself and looked around the room. It was a lot more informal than he would have expected for a wedding. People were sitting at the shorter tables, or standing at the taller ones, or gathered in groups in open spaces. They shifted around as he watched, children going from table to table, adults visiting and chatting on their way to other tables. Couples’ hands brushed over shoulders and waists, and touching one another’s lips was so common he wondered if it had some type of meaning. He looked at Kasan again. It was weird; he was starting to get used to all the skin. Bare or barely covered chests, thighs and buns, and a lot of the youngest little kids weren’t wearing anything at all. It was like being in an alien nudist camp.

He’d always thought that would be kind of neat, well, just a normal nudist camp. Okay, maybe a Captain Kirk worthy alien nudist camp with lots of hot alien women might have crossed his mind when he was a stupid teenager, but he’d never expected something like this. Naked flesh everywhere just made him feel rather hot and flushed and really, really aware of Kasan sitting next to him with hardly anything on. Nothing covering Kasan’s legs but skin. Practically nothing covering his prick but a little piece of cloth, and utterly nothing blocking his view of Kasan’s huge, broad chest. Max started to sweat as he stared at it. It was right in his face. Literally. He licked his lips. What did the cat do with his days to get his chest that perfect? And his nipples were…pretty. Flat and dark like burnt caramel, they were staring at him, and they were even a little hard. Kasan couldn’t be cold – it was so damn hot in here he couldn’t possibly be cold. Did that mean he was…? Max looked down at Kasan’s crotch again and noticed the bulge there, larger than it had been a minute ago. He giggled and grabbed a few of the flowers Kasan had eaten earlier, tossing the whole lot in. They were like sweet citrus. Would Kasan’s mouth taste like that, since he’d eaten them too? What would his nipples taste like? Max leaned forward before he caught himself and he blinked as he found himself inches from Kasan’s chest. He sat back so quickly he almost fell off his cushion. What the hell was wrong with him, thinking about something like that? Kasan’s damn nipples could taste like rum and coke, that didn’t mean Max was ever going to find out! Like his lips. Should Max ever have found out what his lips tasted like? No! He shouldn’t know that they tasted hot and sweet, with that bitter aftertaste that he wanted to feel on his tongue again just like he wanted coffee in the morning. And life was not worth living without coffee. He looked at them, rosy beige and sensual, and he leaned forward again, staring. Kasan would let him taste them. He knew that he would. He would…. He would fuck him in the ass if Max started going shit like that! What. The. Hell! “You! You’re doing something to me…” Kasan’s head tilted to the side as he watched him, the pupils in his eyes so dilated they were almost as round as Max’s. “Just…control your lips!” Kasan’s body felt far too close. His legs next to Max felt so hot it was as though Kasan’s skin was melting the air. Max squirmed. Damn tunic was itchy as hell, all of a sudden. So was the stupid cushion. He’d much rather be touching something smooth and yielding. Something warm he could grip and pet. Yeah. Like that. Uh, wait a second here… Max looked down and blinked at seeing his hand running over Kasan’s thigh. What was he doing? He was…touching Kasan, on purpose, like a lover. He was fucking touching Kasan!

And he hadn’t taking his hand off yet, crap. Max yanked his hand back and pointed it up at Kasan. “What the hell did you do to yourself? You are not this sexy!” Kasan reached out and wrapped his hand around Max’s wrist, staring into his eyes. Max opened his mouth to tell him ‘no’ again, and got stuck as Kasan’s eyes continued staring at his. Max’s balls drew up tautly against his body, his dick hardened completely, and his skin was on fire as licked his lips. Sweet flavor hit his tongue as he caught some forgotten bit of frosting. Oh man. Kasan leaned forward with a teasing look and carefully sucked Max’s finger into his mouth. Max whimpered as the heated swirl of Kasan’s tongue. The deep pull of Kasan’s mouth had his mind completely befuddled. It was fantastic. Just that one touch had his erection pressing up so rigidly it hurt. He whimpered again as Kasan released the finger from his mouth and let go of Max’s hand. He wanted it back in there. It was hot and warm and wet….would Kasan do that to his dick? He would, wouldn’t he? They were married, right? They could do sex things any time they wanted. They could do it right now if he wanted, and Kasan would do it for him. Max could get him to do that; he’d get that silk and heated, polished stone feel around his dick. Except Kasan wasn’t doing anything. He was just sitting there looking, gripping the table in front of him. What the hell was wrong with him? You didn’t suck someone’s finger in that way and just leave him hanging. You always followed finger sucking with… smooth, barely furred chests and lush, smiling mouths and… and why the hell did the tunic feel so freaking nasty? He hated that damn thing. Didn’t know why he was wearing it anyway. Nobody ELSE was wearing a tunic right now, not except for those little paper holding guys, and they’d left. Why should he wear a tunic when no one else was? Pushing up onto his knees, Max began pulling at the ties. Kasan put his hand out and Max smiled until it stopped him from touching his ties. He slapped at it. “Fuck off! I can take it off it I want to, Kasan!” Kasan interfered again, taking Max’s hand in his and pushing down until Max was kneeling again with Kasan’s hand in his lap. Feeling the closed fist heating the top of his thigh, Max pushed up a little. If he moved just the slightest bit, Kasan’s hand would be over his dick. If he could just get the damn thing off, Kasan’s hand might even go around his dick. Max could have something hot and tight around him. He looked down at Kasan’s absolutely bulging loincloth. The man was going to strain something if he didn’t take that off soon. He should really take care of it. What would it taste like? Would it be citrus too? Or would it be musky and spiced, like Kasan’s skin smelled? Or something else… It was hot, he knew that much. And hard, and it burned a little when it went inside your body, and the painful body-thrumming punch every time it slid home was….God. Kasan sat still, looking at him another moment before releasing his hands, and Max’s eyes roamed over his skin. He wanted to lick it up. He wanted to feel it, so why the hell was Kasan staying so far over there? Couldn’t he tell what Max needed? They hadn’t had ‘I want sex’ in the translating pages, but they shouldn’t need to! Wasn’t it obvious?

If he could just get the damn tunic off, Kasan would know what he wanted. He just had to get it off, and Kasan would touch him some more. Suck on his skin. Press into him and make him quiver and scream and…dammit, he wanted to be fucked! Max’s hands shook as he still tried to work the ties on his tunic and he grew desperate. He had to get the damn thing off! Kasan’s hands were there again, laid across his torso, and he looked up. Had he understood? No…no, Kasan looked worried. He put a hand up to Max’s forehead and Max leaned into it; it burned him all the way down to his toes. He could tell it had jolted Kasan as well: he was almost purring under his breath, his hand moving down Max’s cheek and over his jaw. And then he started cursing and stood up, scooping up Max as he went. ## “Fuck!” Kasan turned from the table, cradling Max who had started to rub against his body. He took two steps away from the table before Tisu was up and his hand was on Kasan’s arm. “No way, you horny bastard. You have to suffer through this just like the rest of us did.” Tisu smirked at him and Kasan had to reach deep to find the willpower not to claw him. “It’s not the same.” Tisu snorted and Kasan pulled, yanking his arm away. “Look at him, dammit! It’s not the same!” Max was squirming wildly in his arms, and Kasan clutched him tighter as his consort ran his hands over Kasan’s bare chest and began to suck at one of his nipples. Dear God. “Woah, he’s…eager.” “He’s fucked up! WE fucked up. The damn Chera root –“ “What of it? So you’ve got a nice horny buzz going: everyone else had to wait until after his post-greeting meal to take care of it. No way we’re going to let you get special privileges. Uh uh.” Growling, Kasan shivered. “Think about it, dammit! It’s intended for us! What would that much root do to someone Max’s size? You know the nanites don’t neutralize Chera!” Tisu’s eyes widened as he watched Max whimpering in Kasan’s arms. He let out a low growl. “Son of a bitch. No wonder he’s writhing like that.” Kasan’s legs shook as Max bit him and plastered his small body against his chest. “Shit. Just…fucking talk to the cooks and get them to make something without any root! I have to help him with this or it’ll be bad.“ Tisu nodded quickly and turned away. Pausing, he looked back and smirked once.

“Have fun.” Kasan snarled out an unintelligible reply and walked for the door while Max began to reach up and pull at his hair. He could hear people calling out behind him, teasing or asking what was going on, and he ignored them, getting out into the hallway as quickly as he could. He could feel the buzz of his own lust going already – thank God he hadn’t eaten more than a bite. He’d been too preoccupied with watching Max. It was hard enough right now with the little one going crazy within his arms. Max had to feel on fire by now, from the way he was acting. If he came, though, he’d be okay. The little endorphin rush combined with the orgasm would make the drug dissipate quickly, but he had to do it fast. Kasan looked around, trying to find somewhere private he could get to, almost running down the hallway, and he slapped open the door to the greeting room as he came to it, hugging Max’s waist to his body with one arm. Max’s legs wrapped around him before he finished closing the door. It was empty: everyone was on his way home or at firstmeal. He was going to have to make Max come fast. He’d just bring him to orgasm, it would be faster than taking him, and then they’d get back. Max’s tongue and lips were moving along his collar bone, nipping at the skin fitfully while his hands slipped on Kasan’s shoulders. Kasan took them straight to the nearest wall. He pushed Max back against the brilliantly red hanging, pulling his legs off of Kasan’s body and sliding him up along the fabric until he was raised high. Kasan’s arms were practically parallel to the ground as he hooked them under Max’s knees. He planted his palms against the wall and spread his arms apart, supporting his consort’s spread legs on his biceps as Max curled in on himself a little against the wall. The little one’s tunic was hanging down behind him, and Kasan looked at the covering in the front a moment before grabbing it with his teeth and pulling it to the side. He grinned as it put his face close enough to Max’s penis to be tickled by small, crisp golden hairs. Max was practically incoherent, reaching for him until Kasan bent his head and took the small, erect cock into his mouth. Then hands fisted in his hair and Max moaned low in his throat, the muscles in his thighs straining as he tried to push his hips. Kasan kept him there and tongued the underside of his cock, sucking softly as he drew back on it. He tightened his lips around Max’s shaft, curling them around his teeth to protect the soft skin as he drew it back into his mouth. Crying out, Max moaned with incoherent whimpers from his own language. Kasan drew back again and then took Max into his mouth until his lips touched the flesh at its base. He didn’t have time to play, really. He should just do it quickly. A few more bobs of his head, and Max was already close to the edge. He knew it. He should do it. Instead, Kasan drew him out, one last time, and paused. It was be a moment or two more before Max orgasmed if he didn’t continue, but…there was something he hadn’t done with Max yet. And Max would probably really, really like it. Pulling his mouth free, he leaned in and up with his arms, curling in Max’s body just enough that Kasan had his bottom completely open and exposed in mid-air. He salivated as he looked at it. Pink. His consort’s entrance was as pink as his lips, and he couldn’t wait to see how Max reacted when he tongued him there.

“Hold on, precious, almost there now.” His head dipped forward, his tongue slipped out, and he licked the soft, wrinkled skin carefully. The spicy musk of cleansing oil invaded his senses at the same time Max squeaked adorably. Max twisted, his legs pushing out as Kasan tasted him again, licking him in small circles as his consort yelped and pleaded for only a few moments before he came. His legs stiffened like marble before his entire body went boneless, and Kasan chuckled against his skin. And resigned himself to an uncomfortable few more hours. Max would recover now from the Chera root, and they should go back, no matter how enticing his body looked as he was draped over Kasan’s arms and pinned against the crimson banner behind him. Completely luscious. Like creamy ice and berries. Kasan closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he tried to keep himself from lowering Max down onto himself. He should be good. He should be controlled. He should…be noticing that Max was beginning to moan again rather than coming back to himself. Kasan’s eyes widened as he looked at Max’s body and saw his erection standing proudly again in front of his face. God, how much of an overdose had Max gotten? Max moaned rather pitifully, trying to move, and Kasan swallowed. Max needed to come more than once. As much as Kasan was appalled at how much his consort’s body seemed affected by the damn stuff, the fact that he was going to be able to take him now, the fact that Max needed him to take him… Ohhh, he was really going to enjoy this. Max’s soft blue eyes were desperate as he tried to talk to Kasan, eventually just reaching for his own erection to thrust against his own hands, and Kasan barely paused as he slid his hands along the wall until they had wormed their way behind Max’s back. With a quick twist, he flipped their positions. He had himself leaning with his back against the wall, holding Max by the waist. The little one leaned onto him, wrapping his arms around his neck as he tried to drag Kasan’s head down to his level. Kasan pulled him up higher instead, biting feverishly at his lips, sucking on the pink softness until it was swollen. He pulled at his loincloth while Max shimmied and squirmed and tried to devour Kasan’s mouth. It only took a few minute to disrobe, but it was as twice as long as it should have, and that was too long by half. When he was finally naked, he pulled Max closer, his mouth moving along Max’s jaw until he reached his ears. He began to lick along their edge while reached down between them and snagged the front of Max’s tunic, pulling it out of the way. While Max wrapped his legs around him, Kasan’s hand slipped down and cupped his bottom. He could feel the man’s skin against his groin, the hard little erection thrusting frantically as Max keened and arched against him. Max’s head shifted and his lips pressed against Kasan’s again. Small hands gripped at Kasan’s hair until it pulled against his ears. A slim, pink tongue shoved into Kasan’s mouth as Max growled like a little kitten. Aggressive, Max was even more fucking adorable and sexy than he’d been before, and Kasan hadn’t dreamed that was possible. Feeling Max’s hips jerking against him, Kasan spread the fingers of his hand where it supported Max’s bottom. He could just see what it looked like in his head. Pale cheeks opening as Kasan lowered the little body, his own dark erection threatening that pale, rosy entrance. He could feel it, a soft pressure as he nudged Max’s tight, sensitive little hole. He was so hot for Max, his erection had probably been leaking lubricating fluids since he’d seen Max earlier in the same room. God, he wanted him right fucking now!

Pressing his back against the wall, Kasan pushed his hips forward. Max’s legs were up high and twined around Kasan’s torso, his lips were still trying their best to attack Kasan’s mouth, and he looked and smelled of lust and sex. But could he take this? If they did it this way, it was going to be deep, and Max was so small. Had they been mated long enough for the nanites to make the proper adjustments? The microscopic machines usually worked quickly, from what he’d heard, so his consort’s little bottom might be flexible enough to take him more easily now. Max hadn’t seemed to have too much discomfort from this morning. That should be a good sign. He hoped. God, Kasan wanted him, but if it hurt him too much, he was going to have to stop…if he could. With another groan blending with Max’s frantic whimpers, Kasan began to push himself in. Max’s lips never left his; he just began whining until Kasan shoved his tongue into his greedy mouth. The little one began sucking on it as his legs curled up higher around Kasan’s hips. His body dropped even further, giving a better angle for Kasan to thrust upwards, and he embedded himself completely with one smooth stroke. Max took him in with a delicious, gripping shudder, but his body seemed to be enjoying it rather than trying to push him away and he held onto him tightly with his thighs. Kasan groaned into his mouth. The fact that Max was so hot for him…Kasan wanted to ravish him. His legs were shaking from need. He was gripping Max’s ass so tightly he might be leaving marks, and his arm had moved from around Max’s waist to his back as he kept him still. And Max obviously loved it. He was pushing his hips down onto Kasan’s shaft and crying out into Kasan’s mouth…and then doing it again. Max wanted him. The Chera root was making Max’s need to come desperate, but Kasan had seen others who had taken too much Chera before. They would refuse people they didn’t like in favor of their own hand, if it came down to it. Which meant that Max wanted HIM. Kasan pulled up on Max’s bottom until he could feel the tightness of the small outer muscles gripping the head of him and then let Max slide back down. His consort’s erection rasped along his stomach as he did it again. And again. And again. He wrapped his other arm around Max’s waist again, drawing him up with his bottom and pulling down at his waist until Kasan was seated fully within Max’s heated body. He needed to push in; he couldn’t wait. His legs quivering on the floor as he thrust up, bracing himself against the wall. His lust-fogged mind tried to keep the rhythm with his hands and his hips. Max was whimpering and shifting to force him deeper, and faster, and Kasan found himself doing exactly that. His arms began to tire as he completely supported the little man’s weight before each thrust, slamming his hips home as Max yelled hoarsely into his mouth. Max’s tunic was dark with sweat, coarse as it rasped against the skin of Kasan’s chest and arms: erotically painful. Both of them clutched at each other, their hips jerking wildly, and Kasan pulled his head free, screaming as he slammed Max down one last time and came into him. His legs stayed stiff, cramping, before he realized he hadn’t heard Max release.

Except Max was leaning against Kasan’s chest right now, breathing hard, his body quivering and shaking. Kasan shifted, and felt Max’s erection begin to fade, slipping between their bodies along fluid that hadn’t been there when they’d begun. Kasan hadn’t even noticed when it had happened. Thank God Max had come. And Kasan hoped to hell it was enough, because too much longer and his legs were going to give out. He needed a bed. Or at least a cushion. He shot away from the wall as the door to the room opened with a bang, Ash charging in with…the ladder. He was yelling as he ran in. “Out of the way! God dammit, everybody get out of the way, I’ve got…it.” Aosh stopped inside the doorway and stared at Kasan and Max, and the empty room, for a long, silent moment. His eyes traveled down to where Kasan was still embedded in Max’s body, their connection hidden by the back of Max’s tunic hanging down, and his entire body relaxed. He smirked, leaning the ladder against the wall, and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned next to it. “Tsk, tsk. Cavorting in the greeting room? While everyone else is…at firstmeal, I’m assuming? What would father say?” Kasan glared at him and carefully withdrew his cock from Max. From the man’s murmurs against his chest, he wasn’t certain Max was entirely conscious. He settled him sideways in his arms, carefully making sure to hide his bottom from Aosh. Stupid lecherous idiot was staring at Max with much hotter eyes than he liked. “He’d say to mind your own business. And if you don’t stop staring at my consort like that, he’s not going to say anything at all to you, because you’ll no longer be among the living.” Aosh smirked even more. “After the noises I just heard as I was coming down the hall, you’ll have to forgive a little staring. Here I thought something must have happened and instead…. Hmmm, I’d never heard that you were a screamer. Or was that the little one?” Kasan sighed. He leaned back against the wall with Max curled up in his arms, murmuring against him with his eyes closed. He wasn’t sure if he could walk just yet. “Shut up, Aosh.” “No, really, I’m curious. You know how running all over the citadel looking for some huge, heavy piece of shit that was obviously unnecessary tends to spark my curiosity. So I’d really like to know: what the hell are you doing here? And WHY the HELL didn’t anyone send someone to tell me you didn’t fucking need the ladder anymore!” Aosh’s smirk disappeared as he glared at Kasan. Kasan glared back. “A little exercise won’t kill you.” “Oh, is that why you and your consort are here? How foolish of me to interrupt your training. I can see how that is so much more important than anything to do with me.”

“Oh for…Look, brat, things happened –“ “I can see that.” Kasan snorted. “You’re a regular little snot when you’re pissy.” “I’m not pissy, I’m pissed. Huge difference,” Aosh replied. Kasan shook his head and stood away from the wall again. Shaky legs or no, he should get back. “Just shut up and let’s get back to firstmeal. You can bitch all you like to Zonta when we get there. And then you need to get this ladder put away. And stay away from Max.” He walked passed Aosh, watching him carefully, his tail smacking his brother’s legs as he went by. Aosh didn’t bother to disguise his small laugh as he followed. Kasan could feel him staring the entire walk down the hallway, and he couldn’t stop re-checking Max’s tunic to make sure he was covered. “His tunic looks like it’s making you nervous. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather take it off of him?” “Not with a lecher like you around.” “I’m sure the view would be…interesting,” Aosh murmured. “Stop it, Aosh. Don’t push me right now. I’m not in the fucking mood.” “Really? You looked like you were ‘in the mood’ just a minute ago.” Kasan glared at the second set of chuckles that joined Aosh: the guard by the door to the dining area. “Don’t you have anything better to do?” The guard smiled lazily. “Nope. Just standing here guarding. Sounds like it would have been more fun to be guarding another part of the citadel this morning.” “It was definitely louder,” Aosh said with a grin, and he and the guard laughed again. Kasan gave up and walked past him. He entered the firstmeal and ignored everyone’s stares as he went back to the table he’d settled on before. He wanted Max to be near Zonta, and it looked like his brother had planted himself there, guarding their papers. Kneeling, he lowered Max onto a large cushion next to him. Max muttered and curled up, sleeping, while Kasan ran his hand over his back. He looked up at the snorting laugh from across the table. Tisu and Roto had left, and now his brother Nolluz was there with his consort. Just what he needed. Neera was a lovely woman, which was why he had no idea how she tolerated Nolluz. Whom he stilled owed a good beating for preserving the damn dungeons. That last punch had been solely for Max’s sake. The man was pompous and rude, and while he was highly intelligent, the fact that he knew it and waved it in their faces had most of his

brothers gritting their teeth around him. Daily. Right now, he was snickering as loudly as Aosh, who sat down on the other side of Zonta. Neera smiled brightly, her eyes sparkled, and she gestured with cheerful little wave. “Well, I have to say that I am honestly surprised. I hadn’t realized you were so traditional.” Traditional? What in the world was she talking about? He never… Kasan’s cheeks flushed as Aosh finally started to guffaw. “Didn’t even realize, did you?” Aosh chortled. “I was hoping for maybe for half the hallway, but you made it all the way here!” Kasan threw a cup at him and Aosh just caught it before it hit him in the head. “Zonta, don’t let the lecher here lay a finger on Max. I’ll be right back.” He glanced at Max, who was sleeping through the entire thing. At least it wasn’t just sex that didn’t seem to wake him up, he thought, grinning in spite of his own discomfort. He got up and tried to keep his dignity as he headed back to the door. “Oh, by the way, no hard feelings over the ladder, Kasan. I’m feeling much better about it now.” Kasan ignored him, and everyone else who was watching with broad smiles. Somehow, he had a feeling he was going to be seeing looks like that all day long; the entire morning had all the makings of a true disaster. And dammit, it wasn’t as though he minded going ‘traditional,’ but he really would have rather done it on purpose than be caught totally unaware. With a light shove, he closed the door behind him, and slapped his cousin guarding the door in the stomach. “You could have told me,” he muttered, walking past. “What, and miss the sight of you going back to the greeting room? I wouldn’t dare.” Kasan gestured obscenely with his claws as he proceeded down the hall, his tail swishing over his naked ass while he went to retrieve his loincloth. Max sighed sleepily, rubbing his face on the soft cloth underneath him. He hadn’t felt so rested and boneless in ages. Man, he loved sleeping in. Just letting your body rest while your mind zoned out, warm and soft and petted. Why was he being petted? He opened one eye and stared at the browned skin a few inches from his face. Huh? He sat up, peering around blearily in the bright light, and the cats and voices crashed over him like a wave. Kasan was next to him, smiling, and he had… “Oh my GOD! Did we just- ? You just -? What did you do to me?!” Max jumped to his feet, slipped on his cushion, and fell sideways into Zonta. His legs smacked into the table on his way down, and the water and plate of flowers went flying. Kasan caught the water pitcher before it landed on the floor, and ended up with a pile of red flowers decorating his hair and ears. Max stared at him as Zonta’s hands helped him to his feet.

For the love of God, they’d just fucked against a wall! A WALL! And Max had been the one to come onto KASAN!! He’d gotten so horny just looking at Kasan that he’d actually wanted it! He’d practically attacked him! It was worse than being a cock whore! At least if he was a whore, he just lay there and enjoyed things. Now he was attacking other men for sex! He was a… a… an ass commando or something! How could he have done that? He let out a pitiful moan and whimpered as his throat hurt. Why would his throat hurt? It wasn’t… A shiver ran through his body as he remembered screaming Kasan’s name. He had actually screamed himself hoarse. From sex. And he was suddenly aware of stinging and aches in very freaking intimate places. Every detail about how he’d gotten them slammed into him. It made him a little hard again. “Noooooo! It’s not fair! How can you make guy-sex that good?!” Max clamped his lips shut. He didn’t want to like this, but it was like he was getting worse! He was getting addicted to Kasan. Was that possible? He looked at Kasan and the slight sheen on bronze skin made him pant suddenly. Fuck! It was! He was an anal-sex-with-aliens addict! “Why is this happening to me? I was a good kid! I went to church, dammit! I- “ Kasan stood and Max shut up as he looked high into Kasan’s face. He gulped. He was just never going to get used to having to look up so high at everyone. It was too nerve wracking. “You’re way the hell too tall, Kasan.” A flower fell off of Kasan’s hair and he shook his head irritably until petals rained down onto Max. Waving his arms, Max brushed them away. “Hey! I don’t need a flower shower, okay!” Kasan ran his hand over his own head, picking out a few remaining petals and unraveling the remains of a long braid in the process. He reached down, picked up the papers that were still on the table, and held them out to Max. Kasan screwed him until he passed out, and now he wanted to act like nothing had happened? That was just… just… “Just like the first time.” Max grumbled. Crap. Why did no one think this was a problem but him?! Kasan wasn’t upset about it at all; Max could tell. Those ears of his were all perky and happy looking. Didn’t Kasan realize what a big deal this was? It was huge! Hot sex, WALL, multiple orgasms in the middle of a party… …kinda like a spy film, if you thought about it just right. He sighed and rubbed his face. “Yeah, if the big, badass spy was the one getting screwed.” He suddenly felt a lot of sympathy for all the women in those action movies. “What would a movie chick do if she just got screwed against a wall?”

Like he even needed to ask. They’d go back to the party like nothing happened. And then they’d turn out to be the double agent and try to kill the spy later. Stupid randy spies. If he ever got to name a spy film, he was going to call it: Badass Spy Gets Exactly What He Deserves for Being Such a Horny Bastard. Damn. He looked up at Kasan. There was a bright petal still stuck next to one black ear. Fine, Kasan was acting like nothing had happened? Max could do the same thing. He’d just pretend and make sure he never did something like this again. Sort of like his first blind date. Except it had been so good. He shook his head. No more! Kasan was smiling at him, still holding onto the papers, and Max concentrated on that instead. He was not going to think of the darn sex, he’d think of what was happening, that’s all. Think of right now, when Kasan was being nice and helpful. He looked rather sexy when he smiled like that. Max ground his teeth and tried again. Think of something else. Anything else! Kasan wasn’t going to give him away. Thank God, because if someone else screwed him up against a wall he’d… Crud. Kasan was… He was… Oh yeah…married to him. How often did married couples HAVE sex here, anyway? Aaaaaagh! No more stupid sex thoughts! Max wanted to pound at his head. He was NOT going to think about Kasan and how gigantic he was or how smooth his skin was or how sexy his smile was or… Moaning under his breath, Max grabbed at his hair with both hands. He had more selfcontrol than this! Dammit, if he could learn over a dozen languages, he could go five minutes without thinking about some pushy alien and how fantastic the sex with him was! Think. He had to think of something that wasn’t sexy at all. Putting his hands down, he stared at Kasan. Kasan stood there, waiting, holding out the papers. He rustled them at Max as though he didn’t know if Max had seen them, and Max suddenly had an image of his fourth grade homeroom teacher. She’d always rustled the homework papers she was returning if she thought a student wasn’t paying attention. He pictured Kasan dressed in the baby blue sweater, tweed skirt, and granny glasses she’d always worn. Muscles would be bulging out and Kasan would look at the clothes in confused disgust and accidentally smash the glasses as he looked at them. Max laughed once.

Not sexy in the least, just funny. Finally. Max reached up to take the papers from Kasan, and the big cat smiled. He looked relieved. It was like he’d been expecting Max to completely freak out or something. Hmph. If he was flipping out, it was all Kasan’s fault anyway. Stupid, sexy jerk. Still smiling, Kasan handed the translations over and leaned down at the same time to kiss him. His hand full of paper, Max stared into Kasan’s eyes as their lips touched. Soft and warm, it only lasted a few moments. Just long enough for Max’s entire body respond before Kasan pulled back. There were a few laughing comments yelled out around the room and Max flushed, shaking himself free from whatever haze Kasan seemed to have poured over his brain. “Kasan! How can you- We just screwed, you stupid sex fiend! You- You-“ Max’s fists clenched, crushing his papers, and he felt like throwing them at the big pervert. “Fine! You’re so happy I didn’t lose it that you go and kiss me? I’m gonna freak out for the rest of the night! How do you like that!?” A deep voice spoke from just behind him and he jumped. He turned quickly. These stupid cats and their stupid quiet walking and… “Shit!” His throat closed up; all he could get out was a ragged squeak. He started backpedaling frantically. The perverted cat! The big, red headed pervert who’d grabbed him last night! Max backed right into Kasan and he didn’t say a peep as the man wrapped an arm around his chest to anchor him there. Kasan groping him? Perfectly fine! Kasan taking him away to screw against a different wall? Freaking fine! Anything that kept the other pervert away was perfectly, wonderfully fine!! “I’ve got people to seduce before all the good ones are spoken for, Kasan. Can you get it going with the introductions to your little cutie pie here?” “Max, Aosh. Aosh, Max,” Kasan said in a irritable tone, pointing between the two of them. Aosh bowed quickly and said their little greeting. Max got out a ‘pleased to meet you’ so fast it was probably incomprehensible, but he didn’t care. Almost everyone seemed to leave after they said it, so he was hoping the perverted bastard would follow the same pattern. Kasan relaxed his hold on Max as Aosh turned to walk away, and everything in Max calmed. Crud. The ass-molesting jerk had been close enough he could have picked him up again! He shivered. Bad enough that the entire race towered over him, they had to have giant perverts, too. If he ever got back to earth, he was making them list that as one of the dangers of outer space exploration, dammit. Watch out for big damn space perverts, all you earth midgets. That was still so frustrating. He wasn’t short, yet he felt like such a Lilliputian with all these cats around. Especially as everyone was even more humongous than Kasan. Bastards. Max glared at the back of Aosh’s head as Kasan sat back down at the table. About to join him, he saw Aosh turn back a moment. The big cat looked at Kasan, already distracted by Zonta, and smiled slowly before he blew Max a kiss. He laughed at Max’s gaping mouth before he turned away again.

That damn pervert! Thought he was hot shit, didn’t he? Thought he could do anything he wanted ‘cause the little human couldn’t do a damn thing about it, huh? Stupid jerk! Well, Max had just fucking had enough of that! Just…enough! With a frustrated growl, he ran the few steps separating them and kicked high and hard into stupid Aosh’s leg. It hit the cat in the back of the knee. Aosh grunted in surprise and stumbled forward, catching himself in a kneel. “Take that, asshole! Thought I couldn’t do anything to you and now you’re on your knees, aren’t you?! So much for being a super barbarian; Max Renwood takes you down!” Max hooted and made obscene gestures as he danced from foot to foot, euphoria and adrenaline singing in his veins until Aosh shifted. The cat’s back rippled with muscle as it braced itself to push back to its feet, and he suddenly realized that he was looking at the back of Aosh’s head. The cat was still on his knees, and he was a little taller than Max. And Max was standing on his feet. Oh shit. He gulped and took a step back. What the fuck was wrong with him!? Aosh COULD darn well do whatever he wanted because he was A FREAKING GIANT! Crap, the cat would kill him! With more speed than he’d ever used in his life, Max sprinted back to Kasan and crouched down on the other side of him. Hiding. Kasan was big. Kasan had beat up this Aosh guy before. Please oh please let Kasan be willing to not give him away right now! Or better yet, let him beat up Aosh. Oh God, Max was going to freaking die! He peeked up and saw Kasan staring down at him. The cat looked confused and amused as Max shooed at him with his hands. “Crap, don’t look or he’ll know where I am!” Max whispered frantically. Dammit, did Kasan WANT his consort to get killed?! Aosh muttered something that sounded nearer than it should be and Kasan turned away as Max made himself as small as possible. He stayed that way until Kasan looked at him again. The man’s eyes were round and he was smiling broadly. Maybe he didn’t mind that Aosh character getting a good kick in the knee? As long as he kept Aosh from doing the same thing to him… “One little blown kiss, that’s all I did, Kasan.” Aosh chuckled and Kasan turned back to him again. Max hoped Aosh wasn’t about to do something to him. Kasan would stop him then, wouldn’t he? Maybe? “What a funny little brat. I guess if you come downstairs limping tomorrow we’ll all know what happened.” “Very funny. You’re lucky that’s all it was or I’d be the one kicking your sorry ass.” “Oh don’t worry. I’m well aware that he’s your consort now. I’d never touch the little thing.” There was a long silence, but Max didn’t hear anyone leave. Of course, he’d never heard Aosh walk up behind him in the first place. What if the cat was creeping up on him? Right now? Kasan would probably help him out, but could he really be sure of

that? He might need to run again. Max bit his lip. Putting his hands on Kasan’s side, he risked a look around the cat’s torso, peeking behind his back. He gulped as he stared into Aosh’s face just a few feet away. There was a snort, and then Aosh was shaking his head and laughing “Damn but he is the funniest thing. Promise me you’ll find out where he came from? I think I might like one of my own. Those ears are beyond adorable…” Aosh laughed again and turned away. Max took a deep breath and let it out slowly, yelping when Kasan turned, picked him up, and plunked him onto his lap. “Hey! Cut it out! It’s – there’s people here!” Kasan purred and chuckled into his hair. “I’m happy. Kasan happy. Max happy.” “No I am not ‘happy!’ Let me down!” “Kasan happy.” He picked up a soft neon pink fruit and handed it to him. “Food.” “Yeah, I know it’s food, lecher cat,” Max muttered. But damn, he was still hungry. He took it out of Kasan’s hand and tried to ignore the fact that his tunic had shifted and his naked ass was resting on Kasan’s legs. But Aosh was gone. He let that sink in. He’d kicked the jerk, and nothing had happened to him. Ha! Take that, stupid cat! You got taken down by a member of the kick-ass human race! Eat dirt! Grinning, he took a big bite of the fruit and lay the papers that were completely crumpled in his fist onto the table. He tried to focus on the language as he flattened them out. He hadn’t been hit, he had been fed, and he’d been given a way to begin talking to the cats. And he’d kicked that big pervert and taken him down! Double ha! It could be worse, right? A whole lot worse. If he could just figure out this new language and see if he could keep from getting screwed again… His face heated and he squirmed, feeling Kasan’s skin heating up his backside. “Um, yeah. Language. Learn the language, and then…other stuff. Words, words, words. Just do the words right now.” There weren’t that many phrases; not much more than 100, and almost half of them were just different words for family members. With that many, family must be a really big deal in this culture. It made learning it all a heck of a lot easier, though; there’d probably be a lot of repetition in there. So he could do this. He’d had to learn more phrases than this in one of his cram sessions; this should be no sweat. Especially not for someone who’d stood up to a giant cat pervert. He grinned to himself. If that nice cat, Zonta, helped him a little, he could figure it out before they finished eating, maybe. If Kasan and he didn’t leave again and get all sweaty together. His smile faded and he

felt a little flushed at the reminder. If he could get his penis to stop thinking about Kasan’s leg underneath his naked butt. He took another bite of fruit a little desperately and turned to Zonta. Words, not legs. Words, not legs. He swallowed heavily as he felt Kasan’s muscles flex underneath him. Kasan had really nice skin. “Gaaah. Stop moving, Kasan! I’m trying to work here!” He looked up backwards at Kasan’s face and glared at the total lack of comprehension there. “Max NO happy!”

Kasan grinned. “Max isn’t happy,” he corrected, and kept grinning as Max nodded and repeated the phrase back to him. He couldn’t believe the little thing had kicked Aosh! Damn, he wished he could have seen more than the aftermath; he’d probably still be laughing. “My little warrior, huh?” He fuzzed Max’s hair fondly and Max jerked his head away with an annoyed humph. Max cast him one last glare and then looked over at Zonta, belligerently pointing to the paper and talking to his brother as though trying to prove Kasan didn’t exist. Kasan grinned again. Let the little scholars enjoy each other; he was going to enjoy Max’s pert little bottom against his thighs. Damn, he could take him again already. His brother Nolluz cleared his throat from across the way. “While that was undeniably entertaining, in a rather crude sort of way, there are things that you need to finish, Kasan. You haven’t introduced us yet.” “You’ll have to wait. Max is busy.” Not that a little research would have stopped him with any other brother, even Aosh, but Nolluz was such an… “That is insufficient reason to delay an introduction, Kasan. I shouldn’t even need to remind you of your duty. You are not some ignorant, pre-ripened child.” …uptight, condescending prig. “Reason enough for me.” Kasan smiled and crossed his arms. “By the way, I didn’t get to thank you for the dungeons yet.” Nolluz’s ears were tense and down. “I don’t see what the dungeons have to do with this conversation, brother.” “Nothing whatsoever. I’m just pissed about them.” “You shouldn’t let your personal feelings interfere with – aaaaaaaah!” Nolluz’s voice rose an octave as he yelled. Max pushed himself back into Kasan with a frightened squeak as Nolluz reared up to his

knees, grabbing at his backside. With an outraged glare, Nolluz turned to his consort so quickly that his dark brown braid swung out and hit the table. Neera smiled sweetly at him. “Don’t mind me. Go right ahead with what you were saying.” “You- you-“ Nolluz seemed unable to finish his sentence and Kasan waited to find out what had just happened. It was bound to be good; there was a reason he really like Neera. “I was just checking. Sorry to have interrupted. You can continue talking.” “You were checking for what!!?” “Oh, it seemed like that stick must have snuck back into your bottom. I was going to take it out for you.” Kasan laughed at Nolluz’s shocked look. When Neera merely raised an inquiring eyebrow at her mate, her honeyed ears innocently curious, Nolluz finally snorted once and sat back down. A reluctant smile twisted his lips for just a moment. “Brat.” Nolluz’s voice was soft. Neera smiled back and leaned against his shoulder. “You need a brat. Be happy you got one or you’d be so insufferable no one would have anything to do with you anymore.” Kasan smiled. “Completely true. Neera, you have done a wonderful job keeping him from being the man he could have been today. My brothers and I are eternally thankful.” He looked down at Max, who was beginning to relax again now that no one was yelling. “And now that Max is no longer busy… Max, this is Neera and Nolluz. Neera, Nolluz, this is my consort, Max.” Max was already bowing and repeating the phrases, still a little nervous until Kasan pointed to Nolluz. “Max? Nolluz is happy. Happy.” Nolluz looked at him. “What in the world are you talking about? I’m not happy.” Zonta spoke quietly and drew Max’s attention back to the papers while Kasan answered Nolluz. “You saw the archivists; they brought in a few pages of text that are helping us communicate. I don’t have a lot of choices in vocabulary.” “And the best you could do was ‘I’m happy?’ Why would you…” Neera poked Nolluz in the side. “Obviously, he doesn’t have the words yet to say ‘my brother here is having a small conniption and isn’t really about to leap over the table to try to eat you.’ Would that be about it, Kasan?” “Pretty close.” He didn’t get a chance to say more before there was a high pitched crying from the corner of the room. Neera laughed lightly. “That would be my signal to leave. We’d better go see to the little ones.” “I was wondering about that. Why didn’t you simply bring them to the table?” It was a

rare thing for parents to be away from their children at a gathering like this. He was actually surprised they’d managed to get this much time to themselves, now that he thought about it. Neera looked at Max. “I didn’t want to do anything to upset your little one there. If he’s as fragile as he seems, we’ll need to have quite a bit of ‘being gentle’ practice before the children are going to be allowed near him.” She looked at Kasan seriously. “You may want to take that into consideration if anyone else comes by with their littles.” He leaned over and touched her lips briefly. “Thank you. I’ll make sure to take care.” She nodded, smiling, and she and Nolluz left with their hands entwined only to be mobbed by a small pile of children when they made it across the room. Kasan took a deep breath and looked down at Max’s head. That was the last of his brothers. His father Kyoru would be coming over now. Not every family operated that way, but his father usually assumed that their new consorts might be a little nervous meeting the Lord King of the Hinta and he tried to let them enjoy the other siblings first before he showed. Kasan had to smile to himself; somehow, he didn’t think his father’s position would worry Max any more than every other person he’d met. One Kyashin probably looked just as intimidating as another to Max. He hoped so, because his father was already on his way over. Kasan moved his tail forward and wrapped it around Max’s waist to keep the tip from twitching. Max squirmed and petted it absently as he continued to talk with Zonta and Kasan almost jumped. His cock hardened underneath Max and his belly clenched with shocked arousal. Max was touching his tail! Dear God above, he’d not even thought of it. No one touched his tail. He might smack someone with it occasionally, but there had been too many pranks and yanks in his childhood for him to tolerate any other contact. He kicked anyone’s ass who touched his tail now, and they all knew it. Except for Max, and Kasan’s breath hitched as dexterous fingers ran through the short fur. Ohhhh that felt nice. A purr started low in his throat and his felt his body start to arch before he shivered and stopped himself. He didn’t have time to continue this. He was so very happy Max seemed comfortable with Kasan’s embrace, and…oooooh damn, they were going to have to do this again when they had privacy…but now wasn’t the time! He needed to be able to concentrate. With a rather jerky push, Kasan reached his arm forward and insinuated it between Max’s hands and his tail. Max continued talking and his hands quieted against Kasan’s skin. Good. Kasan glanced at Zonta’s animated face as he spoke with Max and smiled, trying his best to control his arousal in the last moments he had before his father arrived. Max seemed very comfortable with his little brother. That should help if the Lord King made Max nervous. Kasan admitted that he was a bit uncertain about how this particular meeting was going to go himself. His father tended to be a bit unpredictable. It wasn’t helping his nerves that his body was still focusing on Max and his hands. He shakily inclined his head as his father sat down across from him. After all the couples who’d been funneling through, his father’s solitude touched a small ache in Kasan’s chest that finally cleared the lust from his head. He hadn’t seen his father sit down with his consort since Kasan was a small child. Their mother had died of a fever soon after

the birth of Aosh and Zonta, a few months after father’s heat had ended. Memories of her teasing his father into laughter always hit him the hardest at family gatherings like this. “How is your consort adjusting?” his father asked softly. His deep brown eyes were watching Max curiously. Max was so engrossed in his conversation with Zonta he didn’t even notice the man’s presence. “I think having a little of the language is helping him quite a bit.” The Lord King nodded. “I am correct in thinking the little creature is male?” Kasan flushed and nodded. He wasn’t quite sure how to interpret his father’s expression until Kyoru spoke again. “And this isn’t a problem for you? The elders have been worried about the effects on both of you if you haven’t any desire for one another. We don’t need another tragedy like that in the family. So tell me the truth: do you need to wait until the heat hits before you can perform with your consort?” Kasan chuckled. Maybe he shouldn’t have bothered to control himself. Then everyone would have known exactly how little they had to be concerned about. “Honestly? I think he’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. There is NO problem at all in that arena.” His father smiled broadly. “I was hoping that was the case.” Kasan’s hand rubbed over Max’s stomach and his consort’s body relaxed slightly. “My preferences seem to have aligned themselves nicely with Max’s looks, I’m happy to say. I’m more worried about wearing him out than anything else.” Kasan exchanged another smile with his father over Max’s head. Kyoru quieted, watching Max attempting to copy Zonta’s pronunciation of ‘I’m thirsty.’ His ears twitched with interest. “Jolan tells me he’s human.” Kasan nodded. “I’m curious as to why I had to hear it from him rather than you.” Kasan flinched. He should have known father would get right to the point. Kasan had already called himself five kinds of idiot for not letting everyone know that Max was human. He could have gotten him killed, and all because he wanted to come out ahead in he and his brothers’ constant games of one-upmanship. He knew he’d made a huge mistake. Knowing he’d screwed up didn’t mean that he wasn’t going to pay dearly, but acknowledging it might mitigate his punishment slightly. “My apologies, father. It was foolish of me and I’m well aware the results could have been fatal.” He shuddered as he imagined Max seriously injured. If something he’d done had caused Max to be hurt, he didn’t know what he would have done. Kyoru’s voice was still soft when he spoke again. “I’m sure you are. You’re far from an

idiot. And to tell you the truth, watching that little chase of yours around the Greeting room was quite entertaining.” He smiled briefly before looking serious again. “I’m sorry to say that the elders didn’t find the spectacle as enjoyable.” Kasan winced. His father’s two aunts were the eldest in the family at the moment, and if his father was mentioning them, it could only mean they’d given him a message to relate. He glanced around, trying to get a feel for the mood of the room. Jolan was smirking. Tisu was positively gloating at him every time Roto wasn’t looking. Nolluz was busy pontificating to some young cousin and Aosh was off in a corner kissing the face off of a visiting dignitary that he must have smuggled into Firstmeal. The smirking and gloating had him worried. What had the elders decided on? “You withheld information from the family that we needed to know, Kasan. As a result, your consort was frightened half out of his mind and put into a situation where he could have been seriously injured.” His father stared at him and Kasan’s ears flattened. He swore he could hear Tisu enjoying this. “A Recompense has been decided on for your actions.” “I understand.” Dammit. He really didn’t need this right now! “What exactly is required of me?” It could be practically anything. The two women were nothing if not creative when it came to dealing with problems within the family. Sometimes he hated the old biddies almost as much as he loved them. The Lord King smiled and held out a long, heavy red ribbon tied into a decorative loop at one end with a gold clasp. Kasan heard Jolan and Tisu make quiet, celebratory whoops and his tail tightened up on Max’s waist before he could stop himself. Max started petting his arm. “Service?! But…” “Your little one is too small to treat endangering his health lightly. One top of that, it has some concrete significance so that it can be understood by your consort.” His father grinned at him with a little sympathy. “Be glad they were in a good mood and they want your consort to feel he has had justice more than they want you to learn a lesson.” Kasan took a deep breath. He didn’t entirely agree, but he was a part of the family. Father was right. It could have been worse. “For how long?” “I managed to talk them down to one day. You’ll need to introduce your consort to them at the end of your service.” “I’m sure Jolan will love to hear it.” And he was sure the bastard and all his brothers would taunt him over it as well. All day long, as often as they could. Why did it have to be Service?! Damn. The Lord King chuckled at the expression on his face. “You start tomorrow morning at Firstmeal. Since the little one may not understand what is involved, I’m trusting you with

the collar. I’m sure you can find a way to explain to him what your duties will be.” Kasan took the ribbon and placed it in front of him, trying not to look at it. He was going to get so much shit tomorrow! He couldn’t keep his ears off his skull right now if he tried. “Yes, father.” Taking a deep breath, his father smiled broadly and turned his focus back to Max. “So, now that we’re done with that unpleasantness, tell me about your consort. Where does he come from?” “I don’t know.” He wished he did. Kyoru frowned. “Do you not know where his family is, then?” “We don’t even know if he has a family at this point. I’m hoping I can talk to him about it later today if he’s learned enough Hinta.” He hated what he was going to have to say next. “He was drugged with Argenta when Shovak had him given to me.” Kyoru was very still. Kasan could see the effort it was taking him not to react. His father knew the drug’s prevalence among slavers. The thought that his own brother had dealings with slavers, after all those bastards had done to the Kyashin before they’d been stopped, must be utterly devastating. Almost worse than the knowledge of how badly Shovak had betrayed the family was going to be. Kasan really wished he wasn’t the one who was going to have to tell his father all about this. “Father?” He kept his voice soft. “The family needs to gather today. Leero has found some things that we shouldn’t wait much longer to discuss.” Kyoru sighed deeply, his eyes losing some of their shine. “Involving Shovak, I assume?” Kasan nodded. He hated seeing the pained look on his father’s face. Kyoru didn’t deserve to have a brother like Shovak. No one did. If one of Kasan’s siblings had acted so dishonorably… It was impossible to even consider. “Do you wish your consort to be included?” his father asked, looking at Max. “I’d prefer he have some time to himself. I think he’s had enough for the day.” “He may be excused then. We can use the Great Room after Firstmeal.” His father was silent, and they both watched Max and Zonta for a few more minutes. Kyoru cleared his throat. “So, are you going to introduce me to the little one?” Kasan rubbed Max’s shoulders until his consort looked up at him and he pointed. “Max, this is my father, the Lord King of the Hinta. Father, this…is Max.” His father smiled slowly and bowed with careful precision. “I’m very, very pleased to meet you, sweetheart. Welcome to the family.” Max looked at him seriously, his brow furrowed at the slight change in structure and he worried his lip before he spoke. “Ah’m pleased to meet you, the-Lord-King-of-Heenta.” Even Zonta chuckled a little. “You may call me father, if you wish, little one.” At Max’s blank look, Kasan’s father

adapted and simply pointed to himself. “Father.” “Father.” Max’s eyes brightened and he tilted his head to look back to Kasan. “Kasan father?” “Yes, Kasan’s father.” Kyoru reached across the table and laid one large hand over Max’s. “No one should be without a family, little one. We may not be able to find yours right away, but until then, we will do all we can to make up for such a great loss.” He took Max’s hand and pulled it up until Max was reaching across the table, touching the Lord King’s chest. “Max’s father.” Kasan took a deep breath, touched. His father had made the same offer to Roto, and the poor thing had been nearly incoherent with the honor. To be taken into another family was not something his father could simply offer. The elders must have discussed this along with his Service. He wouldn’t forget their generosity. Max’s body was tense on his lap, and his voice was a little confused when he answered. “M-Max’s father.” Kasan took Max’s hand and pressed one finger against his father’s lips. “Thank you,” he prompted in Max’s ear. “Thank you, Max’s Father.” His father smiled and took a moment to give in to temptation and fuzz the earless top of Max’s head. Kasan laughed as Max pulled away. He could just imagine that familiar disgruntled look on Max’s face. Kyoru smiled at them both. “Best wishes on your mating, Kasan. I’m happy it has worked so well for you. We’ll talk after the meal.” Kasan bowed his head as his father stood. He’d barely raised it before more relatives were coming by. His eyes strayed to the red ribbon lying on the table. Everyone would know what was coming as soon as they set eyes on it. What a huge pain in the ass. Trying to smile and look threatening enough to keep anyone from making a snide comment, Kasan sat through the introduction of countless cousins and aunts and uncles. Everyone was making sure they dropped by so they could at least get a glimpse of Max. He took Neera’s advice and asked the few with children to keep them across the table from Max until they could be sure he’d be safe. He’d thought the entire thing might be overwhelming for his consort, but the man hardly seemed to notice. Every spare moment he was questioning and repeating words and phrases with Zonta; he only paused to repeat an introduction before he’d be back to Zonta and the pages on the table. Kasan had to explain that the little one couldn’t speak Hinta, and was a male, and wasn’t Kyashin so many times he thought he should simply create a sign to set up at their table. He kept them both there until almost no food was left on the tables and his relatives started withdrawing from the room. When Leero gestured at him with his head, he finally

interrupted Zonta’s attempts at speaking human. “I need to take Max back to our room now, Zo. The rest of us are gathering in the Great Room right after the meal. Do you think you might have time afterwards to help finish teaching Max the rest of these pages?” He’d really rather just cuddle and caress Max for the rest of the day, but the language would be more important to him. “He’s done.” “Pardon?” That couldn’t be right. “He’s finished the pages. There’s one that doesn’t seem to be something he understands, but all the rest we’ve finished. He’s been teaching me his language for the past few minutes.” “All of them?” ‘He’s very good with words. I’d be happy to keep working with him on the language, however. His is fascinating. I can hardly wait until I can -” Zonta began to mutter, thinking to himself, and Kasan shook his head, impressed. “We’ll talk afterwards, then.” He nodded to Zonta’s head, snagged the ribbon in one hands, and scooped up Max as he stood. Heading for the door, cradling Max, he had to grin as his consort sputtered and gestured at him. Max quieted as they left the room. Crossing his arms over his chest, his face adorably flushed, he glared up at Kasan while they walked. Kasan felt his mood lift. Max was just too damn cute. He was glad his rooms weren’t too far, though. It would give him a little time to get Max settled before he’d have to head back. As soon as he was inside his room and let Max down, however, the little one started gesturing wildly again and pointing at him. “No! No, Kasan! Max, Kasan - no on top of bed! No THERE!” Kasan saw him pointing to the bed and shaking his head and he smiled. It was lovely to be able to hear Max trying to make himself clear. It also had some possibilities he hadn’t considered before. “Ahhhhh, I see. No sex?” Kasan reached down before Max could move away and he pulled him close. “Are you sure, Gisho?” “No sex! NO sex!” Kasan let him go and Max was halfway across the room before he finished speaking. He scowled as Kasan laughed a little. He took one step towards him and Max backed away again. “Shhhh. It’s all right. No sex. We wouldn’t have time anyway, as much as I might like to. No sex right now.” “No sex?” Max stopped retreating. “None. No sex. You’re cute behind is quite safe at the moment.” “Safe? No…danger?” “Yes.” He needed to take a look at the Zonta’s papers and see just what words were

there. He’d grab them on the way down. Right now… “Here, precious. I have something to show you.” He tossed the ribbon into a wall alcove and walked to the far wall. He gestured for Max to come over. Eyeing him suspiciously, Max sidled closer. Kasan had to wait until he was within reach before he could continue. Showing him the small green streak that designated the door, he pressed Max’s hand against the wall and purred reassuringly when Max jumped as the door opened. Max followed him out and his reaction to Kasan’s private garden was more than Kasan had hoped. He was glad Max liked it. He didn’t have a lot of entertainment for someone Max’s size who couldn’t read, but at least Kasan could let him spend some time here while he was gone. It was well within the walls of the citadel, and with the privacy enclosure around it, this was as private and safe as Kasan could get for Max without locking him in their room. “Max?” Max was staring up at the sky as though he’d never seen it before, and it startled Kasan to realize that it was an actual possibility. Had Max ever seen the Kyashin sky, or had he been too drugged when he’d arrived on the planet? Kasan personally loved the outdoors, being outside under the blue sky, or at night when either of the moons shown. Max looked fascinated, and he was so glad he’d shown him the gardens. He wished he’d thought to do it before. “Max.” Max finally looked at him, swallowing. “Max, you need to stay here.” “Here?” “Max here. Kasan…go. Kasan there.” He pointed towards the door into the room and Max nodded carefully. “Max, you’re safe here.” A smile finally. “Safe. Yes. Safe here.” Kasan sighed. Thank God, the little one learned quickly. It was such a relief not to see that frightened incomprehension on his face now. Crap….he needed to show him a few things. “Max, in here.” He gestured inside and left the door opened as he pointed to the alcove. “There’s food and drink. Understand?” Max looked at the food and nodded slowly, gesturing to his mouth. Then he bit his lip, his feet shifting. His voice was very soft when he spoke. “Kasan? Max…family?” Kasan nodded slowly. “Yes, we’re family now.” “No. No. Uh…” Max’s face screwed up as he obviously tried to think of the words he needed. “I need… my family. MAX family. Max family here?” The other humans, Kasan thought. “I don’t know where they are, Gisho. I’m so sorry. No Max’s family here.” Seeing the small shoulders slump, he wished like hell he could have told him differently. “We’ll find them, Max.” He stood awkwardly. He hated leaving Max unhappy like this, but there wasn’t anything he could think of that would compensate for what his consort was going through. It made his gut churn that he couldn’t make this better.

Max began to squirm and drew his attention. “Um. I…have to…urinate?” Kasan nodded and showed him the door on the opposite side of the room. A quick slide of Kasan’s hand against the wall taught Max where to put his hand in order to open it. Before Max could disappear inside, he stopped him. “I’ll be back soon, Max. Kasan go now.” Max’s big eyes stared up at him and he groaned. That sweet face was so delectable. He leaned down and kissed him quickly, just because he couldn’t think of anything else he could give Max to express how he was feeling right then. That, and he wanted one last taste of Max’s lips before he had to leave for a few hours. He ran a hand over Max’s head as he pulled back. Max glared at him, panting slightly. “No Sex,” he said, pointing at him. Kasan backed away with his hands up. “Keeping me honest, hmmm? All right. No sex. You’re right. I need to get going.” He went to the door out and turned back as it opened. “I’ll be back soon, Precious.” Max shifted his feet a little and did an odd wave with his hand. “Ah’ll be back soon preshus.” Kasan nodded, biting his tongue until the door closed behind him, and smacked Esgard as the man smiled. “ Don’t say it.” “I wasn’t going to speak.” “Good.” Son of a bitch. He wondered how many of his brother’s were going to be calling him Precious by this time tomorrow. ## Max watched to make sure Kasan was actually gone before he used the facilities. Looking around the room as he came back in, he headed straight for the door to the outside. He needed something to cheer him up. He’d really been hoping Kasan and the others knew where the colony was, but it didn’t look like Kasan had a clue. Where the hell WAS everyone? How the hell had he gotten here when no one else had? It made no sense! He sighed, rubbed his hands over his face as he walked out the door, and groaned as his lips tingled. Stupid cat, kissing him all the time. Was there ever going to be a time where Kasan wasn’t molesting him? Flushing, he glanced back inside at the bed and imagined what might be happening there when Kasan came back. Then he growled at his body’s response and leaned back to look at the sky. No more thinking of cats, or Kasan, or the colony, or anything other than the fact that he wasn’t stuck inside a building. He was actually outside. It felt like he’d been trapped inside forever. He hadn’t seen one single window since he’d first woken up with the cats. He should enjoy this while he could.

He blinked at the bright blue of the sky broken up with a few wispy white clouds. It was strange. Who knew how far it was from earth, but the sky was still blue. Just not quite the right blue. He kept blinking, trying to get the color to change to what he expected. The color was just so intense, like an azure sunset across the whole sky. Pretty, but disturbing. His gaze dropped and he looked at the plants instead. One brief glance and he was glaring at them nervously. This was definitely Kasan’s garden; all the freaking plants were damn giants. It was like a wall of vivid green. Surrounding him were bushy ferns and thin reeds and tall, straight trees that looked a bit like pines, with small thin paths of pale rock winding their way into the jungle. He could hear running water somewhere nearby, but there were too many plants to see into the greenery any great distance. He’d have to push leaves aside just to walk down a path, the growth was so thick. At least he could see glimpses of a wall a ways back behind some of the taller trees. A garden jungle was a hell of a lot less frightening than the real thing. It was supposed to be safe, he reminded himself. Kasan had said it was safe. He knew that word now. If this was safe, that meant there couldn’t be anything like man-eating pod plants or poisonous trees or blood sucking crickets. He knew there was something alive in the place; there were strange whistles and chirpings and rustles among the leaves. If it was safe, though, he could relax and just check it all out. He didn’t have to be afraid. He could just look around, without anyone watching him or screwing him against a damn wall. He could explore. He took a few steps onto the right-hand path, wincing a little as the pebbles dug into his feet. There were round, but they still hurt a little. Had to toughen up his feet if he couldn’t get any shoes. With a deep breath, he pushed his way through a fern on the path and started walking. It was cooler in the shade of the trees, without the sun beating down on his legs and keeping them warm. The smells were rich and pungent, with an odd waft of fruity sweetness every once in a while whenever he passed small, broad-leafed shrubs with colorful flowers. He followed the path as it led deeper under the trees, and started to relax as he made his way through without encountering anything but plant life. Whatever was rustling nearby was staying away. “This is actually really nice,” he murmured. He was congratulating himself when he pushed aside a broad leaf in front of his face and something pink caught his attention. Slime covered and bright, as large as a Galapagos tortoise, it sat on the path ahead of him and he wondered at first if it was some kind of mammoth fungus. “You are one butt ugly piece of plant life.” A giant gelatinized lump of Pepto-Bismol was all that he could think of, and he felt himself gag at the thought. Blech. Kasan had some weird tastes in plants. Walking on the edge of the path, he was about to skirt around it when it trembled and moved. Towards him. He scooted back, eyes wide. Was this freaking thing some kind of animal, or had he just imagined it moving? A ripple ran across its surface and it slid along the trail a few inches in his direction. He started walking backwards. Safe garden or not, that was the creepiest, grossest thing he had ever seen in his life. He was damn well going inside! He glanced behind him to make sure he wasn’t about to hit a tree and then continued walking backwards while he watched the jello critter to make sure it stayed the hell away

from him. He was almost out of sight of it when its surface shuddered and small spikes jutted out like a slimy hedgehog on steroids. He froze. “Oh crap!” The thing started sliding at him soundlessly. Really damn fast! “OH CRAP!” He backed up so quickly he went off the path and hit a tree. Ow! He spun around it with a jerk and ran. What the hell was it?! He could hear it crushing leaves and twigs behind him as he ran. Jumping over ferns and leaping to the side as he tried to dodge trees in his path, he ran until his legs were numb and the thing just wouldn’t stop! He had no idea where the hell the door was anymore; he just had to lose it! The slick rustling behind him seemed to get louder and he looked back in a panic. He grunted as he tripped over a fern. Rolling head over heels, he face planted into the dirt just in time to save himself from hitting the wall with his nose. Dirt in his eyes and mouth, he scrabbled desperately, trying to get to his feet as the thing closed on him. Panting with terror, he ended up splayed against the wall as the mound of spikes advanced. Moments away from being impaled, brown fur jumped down from the nearest tree. It stood, growling, in between him and the giant pink loogey. He had a glimpse of sun glinting off needle sharp claws as a large paw slipped under the charging jello blob and flipped it up onto its back. Gulps and gasps were all he could manage as he tried to get his shaking legs to bear his weight enough to run away from the new animal. The furry thing leapt onto a pink belly, plunging its head in with a snarl. Max couldn’t move as the slime covered head emerged from a gaping hole it had torn in the underside of the blob. It was chewing on something pale and slippery, and the pink stuff slowly started to deflate almost before the creature jumped off. “Ewwwww!” The creature shook itself like a dog and slime flew into Max’s legs and face. “Gross!” When it finally stopped, Max watched it, readying himself to defend against whatever the hell this new thing was, and then he gaped stupidly. He’d been saved from the gelatin blob by a puppy. It wasn’t exactly, but… aside from the slime it was currently cleaning from its brindled fur, it looked like an adorable, fluffy little puppy with floppy ears. The size of a small terrier, it was cute as a button, and with a long tail that seemed more like a monkey’s. A wet black nose on a blunt snout and large, orange eyes looked at him once and then went back to cleaning, obviously unconcerned with his presence. Maybe this was why Kasan had said it was safe? He had a guard dog? “Thank God! You are the best damn thing I’ve ever seen in my life!” The little thing stopped licking itself and stared at him, its tail swishing like a cat’s, and it bared its teeth just slightly. ‘I’m sorry, shhh. I didn’t mean to yell, little guy. Here, smell me. See, I’m okay.” He crouched down and held out his hand. The puppy crept forward and sniffed at him. “You are just gorgeous, aren’t you?” He really was a pretty thing. The slime was already licked almost completely clean, leaving behind thick and silky fur. Browns and creams blended together until it looked almost like it was made of velvet dirt. He stood very still as it rubbed it’s damp head against the palm of his hand.

“Do you like to be pet? Huh, boy?” He stroked carefully and smiled when it not only let him scratch it behind its ears, it began to rub over his arm and higher, it’s body undulating up to his own until the dog was squirming with small, odd little growls while Max petted its fur and fuzzed along its belly when it reared up to rub against his chest. He tried to push it away as it began to lick his face clean of the small bits of slime still there. Soft orange eyes stared up at him and he grumbled. “Hell, puppy dog eyes really do work.” With a sigh, he let it continue cleaning him until it seemed happy. The little thing had saved him, the least he could do was let it satisfy its urge to get the slime off. He smiled when it finally subsided and lay across his knees while he stroked it’s back. “Well, you’re not a cat, but then again, I think I’ve had enough cats for a while.” The little beast let out an odd humphing sigh that felt like agreement and he laughed. “Right. Don’t worry, I won’t tell your buddies a cat owns you. Wouldn’t want you to be embarrassed or anything.” He dug his fingers into the fur and scratched until the puppy started to whine. “Guess I get to name you until Kasan comes back and tells me what your name is, huh?” It should be something heroic. The little guy had saved him from spiky horror-show reject; he should have a name to reflect that. “How about Androcles? He saved the lion first instead of the lion saving him, but I can at least promise that I’ll help you out if I ever get the chance.” Androcles looked up at him, stretched his forelegs out while extending his claws, and rubbed his head against Max’s belly with a soothing trill. “Okay. Androcles then. I need to find one of the stupid paths. Don’t suppose you know where they are?” Androcles got off his knees and waited while he got up from his crouch before it walked away. He stared at him when the puppy stopped as they crossed one of the paths. “No way. You actually found one!” He followed Androcles along the path until he came out from under the cover of the plants and saw the door to Kasan’s bedroom. “You are freaking Lassie! Awesome!” He felt safe until he wondered if any more pink things were around, and whether any of them had slipped inside when he was wandering the garden, running for his life. When Androcles trotted into the room, the thing’s tail swishing happily behind it like a giant sideways pendulum, he was happy to follow. He stood at the entrance until he’d seen Androcles explore the entire room before it came over to rest its cool nose in Max’s palm. Androcles definitely deserved a hug, and he crouched down and gave it to him. “Thanks, boy. I’ll tell you, that pink thing was even scarier than the damn cats.” Androcles bumped up against his arms and then wriggled free. With an odd grunting sort of bark, it trotted over to the log that went from the floor to the high hole in the wall. It sprouted claws like a cat and climbed until it had gone through the opening at the top. He looked up to see orange eyes peer down a moment as it barked once more before it disappeared.

So that’s what the damn thing was for. It was a tree climbing, alien dog run. Nice to know what that was now, anyway. He turned from it with a sigh, noticed the still open door, and went over to close it with a quick, nervous look outside. Relieved as he got it closed without anything coming in after him, he looked at the room around him. How long was he supposed to stay here? His stomach growled, reminding him of how little he’d actually eaten at the meal, and he went over to the shelf on the wall with food wrapped up on it. He could start with eating something and worry about what to do to pass the time later. Maybe he could try leaving the room when he was done. With another sigh, he bit into a pastry that looked particularly tasty, and went over all the new words he’d been learning as he chewed. This looked like it was going to be a long, long day. Growling deep in his chest, Kasan stared at the guards who blocked his path. He only had a brief time for the mid-day meal, and then he’d have to go back to what had turned into a truly miserable gathering. All he wanted was to spend his few minutes of free time with Max, and now he ran into this shit! He could hear laughter from inside the room behind the two men. These useless doorstops had let people into his room, with his consort, after everything that had happened today. And they were keeping him OUT! Tail lashing wildly, his body rippled as he prepared to assault them both. They had one chance. He forced his voice out with a hoarse snarl. “Move.” “We can’t, Prince Kasan!” Rui was very new to the guards, barely ripened. An idiot who shouldn’t have been allowed guard duty if he was doing anything but getting the fuck out Kasan’s way! “Please, we can’t!” He looked to the other guard for aid, and Kasan hoped for the other man’s safety that he had more brains than this one. “MOVE!” “The consorts came, Prince Kasan.” Davi’s voice was gruff and matter-of-fact. His relaxed stance informed Kasan that while the man’s younger partner might be nervous about confronting their prince, he certainly wasn’t. The fear for Max’s health winked out of existence, and a new worry took its place. “The consorts? They’re Welcoming him now?” No wonder there had been so few consorts at the gathering. They must have talked to his father first. But why now? Dammit, he wanted to see Max! Shrugging, Davi flipped his dark braid over his shoulder. “I can only assume they wanted to take advantage of the mates’ presence at the gathering. You know how frustrating it is when this many consorts disappear at the same time. And you can understand why I will not open this door, I hope?” Kasan scowled, his tail calming as the twitching of his ears took its place. His glare took in both of them. “I could assign you to dawn picketing on the edge of the mountain, you know.” Rui’s golden eyes widened until his partner snorted. “I’ve known you too long to fall for false threats, Prince Kasan. Besides, the elders’ punishment for letting you in would be

far worse than anything you could dream up. We’re not moving.” Laughter echoed from the room again and Kasan’s claws worried at his fingertips. He didn’t hear Max’s laughter. He’d only heard it as that drugged little giggle during firstmeal, but the light sound had been fairly distinctive. It would stand out against the deep tones he was hearing right now. Why wasn’t Max laughing with everyone else? Was he all right? Rubbing at his face, he sighed under his breath. He didn’t need this. Ever since he’d left Max, things had only grown worse until all he wanted right now was to hold his little Gisho on his lap and forget about it all. He and Leero had just had to spend hours explaining to his father and the others how deeply Shovak had betrayed the family. The bastard’s attempted assassination of Kasan, his presence within the previously unknown purist group, and his dealings with slavers had been presented and dissected until every last detail had been wrung from them both. Watching his father’s and uncles’ faces as their brother’s intentions became clear had been heartbreaking. As best they could figure out from the few notes left behind, combined with what Leero had beaten out of Liosh, Kasan should be dead. The purist group had wanted him to be kept from any potential consorts, and then the bribed guards would attest later that his heat had simply raged out of control. Neither he nor Leero were certain why that was important, but his status as a high-profile throwback, and the claim that his heat had rejected taking a consort, had been vitally important to the group for some reason. Greed was the only reason Kasan was still alive, although they’d only just found that piece of the puzzle before today’s gathering. One of Leero’s guards who was still working through the notes had found the first message between the Niandrin and Shovak. To their complete surprise, the slavers had contacted Shovak rather than the other way around. Although no one could think of a reason to have done so, they had offered Max up after hearing about Kasan’s heat in the interplanetary gossip mill. They’d given his bastard uncle a huge sum of credits if he would give Max a chance as Kasan’s consort. From the way the note was worded, it was possible one of the slimy little birds had been outside Kasan’s cell when Max had been tossed in. They hadn’t wanted to pay without confirmation that the little human had truly been given away. Disbelieving the Niandrin’s claims about Max’s heritage, Kasan’s uncle had probably thought he had nothing to lose. He’d kill his nephew and still make a profit. When Leero had made the point that Kasan truly had been meant to die, without a doubt, the Lord King seemed to wilt. The elders had unanimously decided to strike Shovak’s name from the family record. The punishment was worse than death for most Kyashin; no family would take in an outcast. Old enough that he’d already parted from his consort, Shovak would never have another Kyashin to call his own for the rest of his life. It wasn’t surprising that most outcasts took their own lives within a few months. Who could live like that? After the pronouncement, everyone had taken a break for the mid-day meal, although he honestly thought the pause was more to allow them to reconnect. He and his brothers had simply embraced out in the hallway for minutes, immersing themselves in each others’ scent. Kyoru had been surrounded by his own siblings inside the gathering room

before the rest of them even made it outside the door. Poor Leero had been forced to stay inside with the Lord King. His beating of Liosh hadn’t been forgotten, and he’d been given one month of service to Kyoru as a Recompense, starting immediately. Considering that usually the punishment for an abuse of power of that type was sewage scrubbing or worse, Kasan thought the elders had made a strong statement about how little they truly disapproved. It was also a fairly good indication of how worried they were over the Lord King’s reaction to his brother’s perfidy. Leero would be staying in Kyoru’s rooms during his service; Kasan wouldn’t be surprised if the elders took him aside and gave him more detailed instructions on how he was supposed to watch out for their King. He did not envy his friend in the slightest. At least his own service would only last a day. He swallowed, trying to remove the unpleasant thoughts from his head. All Kasan wanted was a little time with Max right now. He wanted to feel Max’s skin under his fingertips, the light weight of him in his arms. He wanted to see that grumpy, suspicious little scowl when he reached for him. He needed to touch him or he didn’t think he could rid himself of this empty ache in his gut. Dammit, if he could simply have one moment to stroke pale, soft skin and reassure himself that his little one was all right, it would at least be something! Son of a bitch. Why did the consorts have to choose now, of all times? Because if the consorts were giving a Welcoming, the elders would be on Kasan’s ass again if he interrupted. Mates were not allowed at this sort of thing, but he needed to see Max. Besides, what if his consort was frightened? Would the others even notice? “Knock for me,” he ordered, keeping his voice from lashing out like his claws still wanted to. Davi stared at him. “Pardon?” “I’ll accept responsibility, but…I need to see that Max is well. Please.” He bowed his head stiffly. “Knock for me.” With a look at Rui, the elder guard finally shrugged and knocked loudly. The noise inside cut off almost instantly, and after a minute Ko opened the door. He raised an irritated brow at Kasan, and shook his head, his blond braid swinging. The guards stepped back immediately to leave Kasan solely responsible for the breach of tradition. “Unless there’s an emergency, I don’t see any reason not to have the elders string you up by your balls for trying to gain access right now, Kasan.” “I need to see him.” Ko snorted and started to turn away. “You need to go back to whatever you’re doing. He’s fine, worry-bird.” “Ko,” Kasan’s claws were out and he tried to keep his hands loose and non-threatening,

even though he failed at retracting his nails. “He’s been too stressed today. I just need to see that he’s well, Ko. I’m not trying to interrupt, but I need to know this.” Ko stared at him a moment with a light, mocking smile. “Worried about the little one? How sweet.” “Ko, dammit.” Kasan took a deep breath. “The gathering has been… Just please, let me see him.” Ko straightened, his face sobering. “Bad?” “Bad enough. I can tell you for certain that Jolan’s going to need you tonight.” Ko nodded, staring at him for a moment, and then closed the door. Kasan heard murmuring from inside and shuffling until the door slid open again. His consort stood looking up at him with a bright blush on his face, his toes curling nervously against the floor while he swayed slightly. Kasan could smell yakkin on his breath and wondered how much his precious had drunk. He was still upright, although not very steadily. He’d probably had quite a bit, not that the effects would last – the nanites would clear it out of his system fairly quickly. Anything that interfered with arousal wasn’t tolerated for long by the little bugs. He was awfully cute while he was still under its influence, though, with his huge eyes and wobbling pose. Kasan watched him without speaking, taking in the pale skin and sleek muscles with a stirring in his belly. He managed not to groan as Max licked his lips nervously, leaving them slick and shining. He even stood firm when Max twisted his hands in his tunic, lifting it up until it almost exposed his little cock. But focusing just over Gisho’s head in an attempt to control himself backfired. Golden brown hair curling over the smooth curve of his head was more temptation than Kasan could overcome and he reached out to run his hand over it gently. Silky strands tangled under his fingers, but for once, Max didn’t pull away. He simply watched him with a confused furrow in between his eyebrows. Kasan stroked over his head softly, petting him to keep himself from doing anything more invasive. “Max is happy?” Kasan asked, keeping his voice to a low near-whisper. The little one cleared his throat, not answering. His face flushed and bright, he glanced behind him at the swarm of consorts that covered Kasan’s floor briefly before looking back at his mate. Frowning, his head tilted before he slowly reached out and touched Kasan’s hand where it hung down. “Kasan…happy?" Something thumped in his chest as he felt small fingers brushing against his own. The little one was asking after him? He tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. Max actually wanted to know how his mate was doing. Earnest blue eyes looked up at him; was he worried for him? Kasan reached down and wrapped his arms around Max’s waist, picking him up off the ground and holding him tightly against his chest. The delicate feel of Gisho’s body in his arms calmed his nerves immediately. He smiled against the soft skin of his consort’s neck as Max squeaked in surprise. Moving his head to nuzzle up his throat, Kasan murmured against his skin. He rubbed his face over him until their cheeks brushed, and then he kissed him with a slow, invasive lick before pulling back to drink in his features.

The exotic cast of his face stirred Kasan’s body immediately. His cock was hard and straining against his loincloth, but he simply looked. He’d touched him, but he had enough control not to proceed any farther. He’d be content to watch him for just a moment, he thought, and then Max reached out and touched his face. The little one stared at his cheek curiously, as if he weren’t sure what he was feeling, and that small, confused look drew him in again until he kissed him softly, savoring the subtle warmth of delicate lips against his own before he sighed. This would have to do. If he didn’t step back now, he was going to run off with Max or something equally as stupid. He knelt and put the little one back on his feet. Max’s disheveled hair and flushed face had him smiling. “Kasan happy now,” he said, reaching out to brush the hair out of Max’s face. He touched Max’s lips with his finger and kissed him on the forehead. “Thank you, Max.” Ko cleared his throat from behind Max. “While that was admittedly hot and sweet at the same time, we need to get back to playing now. Don’t worry so much, Kasan. We’ll keep the little one safe. You can see him at Last Meal.” “Max and I are having Last Meal in my room. This gathering doesn’t seem likely to end before then, so it’s the only time we’ll have today.” “Be careful. You’ll wear the little thing out,” Ko laughed, shooing Max back into the room with little hand motions. “Why don’t you tell Jolan to order the same thing for us when you see him?” Kasan nodded, touching Ko’s lips briefly as well with his hand. The door closed and the two guards looked at him. “What, no thanks for us?” Davi teased. Kasan flicked them both in the mouth lightly and chuckled as Rui stared at him. “Why so surprised? I’m not completely lacking in manners.” With a flush, the younger guard nodded. “I- ah- yes. Of course not.” When Kasan had gone around the corner, the two guards looked at each other. “He wouldn’t have done that two weeks ago, would he?” Rui’s ears shifted uncertainly. “Possibly.” Davi looked over and smiled, stroking the soft, nervous ears with a touch. “He does seem quicker to smile. Usually he would have brooded for days once he got that look in his eyes. I think the human is good for him.” “He seems so happy. I just wish -” Youthful eyes looked wistfully at the closed door behind them. “It’ll come soon. Don’t be in such a hurry to mate.” A soft sigh and both guards went back to monitoring the hallway. When Rui sighed again, he felt a soft stroke across his ass and jumped. He looked over at Davi.

“My consort has been wanting to have a threesome,” the elder said softly. “He thought you had nice eyes.” The younger man swallowed loudly. “He did?” “Hmmm. And other features.” The same hand flitted across his bottom again. “Oh.” “Just think about it and let me know. No hurry. There’s plenty of time.” “Yes.” Rui’s voice cracked. “I-I’ll do that.” The hallway was quiet as they both stood at attention again, Rui’s thoughtful face the only change.

Max was aware that it was impossible to die from embarrassment. He had proof; if humiliation were deadly, the cats would already be burying his cold, dead corpse. He sat on the floor, leaning against Kasan’s bed with the object Ko had just handed him, and stared at it with stunned eyes. Smiling weakly with crimson cheeks, he accepted another glass of orange punch from the cat next to him and gulped it down. The too-sweet flavor burned down his throat strangely, but he didn’t care. At this point, anything that distracted him from the cats around him was a good thing. For the first time, he was very glad Kasan wasn’t with him while other cats were. He didn’t know where the big, hot, sexy… No, that wasn’t right. Pervy, that was it, the really pervy, not-sexy-at-all cat. He didn’t know where he was right now. He hadn’t come back since he’d left that morning. But it was good he wasn’t here, because Max would have disproved his own theory and died. Mortification would have killed him off. Kasan and what was going on right now were too deadly for a poor human to survive. The knock had started it, a stupid little knock that he should have ignored. Remembering it, he just wished he’d stayed on the bed. Stupid cats and their stupid knocking and their stupid presents…

Bored to tears, he was trying to coax Androcles to come down and play when he heard it. Soft and tentative, the sound barely registered. It took a few moments to penetrate that it was coming from outside the room. The growl from above him followed as he walked across the room. “Calm down, Androcles. It’s…it’s probably nothing, right?” It was, wasn’t it? Consoling himself with the knowledge that he had a dog capable of ripping something pink and spiky to death, he kept gong. As long as he had a guard dog, he’d be fine. Super AlienKicker Max and his dog, the Blob Assassinator. Shaking his head at his own stupidity,

Max slid open the door and looked up. Beaming cats filled the hallway. He stared, blinking in shock, as a few them yelled out something, laughing with each other and continuing to smile. The entire group seemed odd for some reason until he realized that there were quite a few more women in the group than he’d seen before. He’d had Kasan and other men around so much he was barely used to seeing breasts. Not that he got to see actual breast, he thought, looking up at the nearest woman and noting her large musculature with a nervous little tic. They used what looked like the loincloths to wrap around their tops, winding it around in a straight band or criss-crossing it over boobs and the back of the neck. He stared at one of the women, wondering just how damn BIG their boobs must actually be. You could shoot those things out of cannons! He was nearly hypnotized by the sights above his head when a familiar voice spoke and drew his eyes again. “Welcome to the family!” It was…Roto, wasn’t it? He’d been with that absolutely huge cat…Tisu, that’s right. Among the rest of them, even the women, he looked a little small, but still big enough to be intimidating. Max would love to find out what these stupid cats ate to grow this big. Super veggies? Gigantor Wheaties? “Uh. Thank you.” There was a happy squeal and Roto reached out as though he were going to hug him. Max backpedaled to keep away and the cat brigade invaded. All the cats poured in so quickly he couldn’t keep track of them all. Backing up rapidly, he’d managed to hit the bed like an idiot and his knees buckled, knocking him back. Why did he always do that?! Stupid pillow-strewn monster was like a freaking leg magnet. As he struggled to get enough traction on the silky fabric to push himself up, the cats closed the door and spread out across the floor. Did cats form herds? Because this was definitely a herd, he thought as he sat on the edge and watched them, nerves tight. Or maybe a swarm. A cat bumped against him as it walked past and he nearly toppled off the bed. The apology and pat on the shoulder afterwards almost knocked him over again. A stampede, that’s what they were, he decided, rubbing his arm. A huge, dangerous, crush- everyone- underfoot, stampede of giant cats. Although at least they’d brought food. He’d been getting hungry, and he’d eaten everything Kasan had left him. Actually, they’d brought a lot of things. Brightly colored rugs covered almost every inch of Kasan’s floor. Trays held pitchers of a drink that looked like liquid pumpkin. Small, bready rolls and buns lay next to them, and leafy bundles were piled near the bed. He breathed a small sigh of relief as the women and men arranged themselves on the floor rather than accosting him like the men had done before. Did he have a different status now? Was that why, for the first time, people weren’t trying to jump him? Maybe it had been the meal, he thought, chewing nervously on his lower lip. “Max!” Kneeling on the floor next to him, Roto gestured until he finally understood what was being asked. “Sit.” It was next to, but not ON, the bed, and with a quick glance up to reassure himself that

Androcles was still watching, he allowed himself to be coaxed onto a pillow. His entire body stayed tense as he tried to keep an eye on everyone. A few nice gestures didn’t mean they weren’t going to do something to him. He knew that well enough from Kasan. The cat would be nice and sweet and then –wham – he was screwing him against a wall. Squirming on the pillow as he worked really, really hard to ignore the fact that his bottom still felt a little tender from that encounter, Max tried to distract himself. The women. The cat women were new. He’d concentrate on them! Looking around at the large females and their muscles, he realized a number of them could break him in two just as quickly as any of the men. Wonderful. He was the biggest, weakest wuss on the whole planet! Next the cat kids were going to be smacking him around! And those breasts! Crap, the things were huge! He realized he was making cupping shapes with his hands in his lap as he tried to figure out just how big they were and he stopped with a flush, dropping his eyes. Bare thighs and cloth-covered loins surrounded him and he just managed to stop himself from making gestures again as he wondered about cock size. Was everyone as big as Kasan? He’d felt the big cat’s penis inside his body more times than he’d seen it, but it had beenHis buttocks clenched as he remembered what it felt like, and even the tightening of his muscles reminded what it had been like to clench them around something. He took in a deep breath and stared straight ahead, flushing as his body shivered. He just needed to stop thinking about… about that right now. It wasn’t happening at the moment, right? And he’d just stare at something else. Stomachs weren’t dangerous, he told himself. He’d look at stomachs. Taut abdomens took up his field of vision and he swallowed. One cat a few feet away fanned his face, a bead of sweat rolling down his chest to slide into his loincloth. Max couldn’t breathe as he watched, although his blood seemed to be pumping just fine – it was all going to his dick! When a familiar voice on his left asked him a question, he latched onto it desperately. The blond cat from before, the one who’d said hello at the meal. He didn’t really care who it was, as long as it wasn’t the pervert. “H-hello, Ko.” Ko’s sharp features relaxed into a grin and he nodded back, holding out a smooth, leafy bundle to him. “Max.” Reaching out for it, plopping it on his lap to hide his growing erection, Max stared at what he had in his hands. It was almost as long as his forearm, the dark green leaf folded intricately to provide a smooth, rounded finish to the oblong shape. The leaf had to be huge to be folded this well. Great, yet more gigantic stuff. Was everything bigger here than on earth? His eyes fell to Ko’s groin and he yanked them back to the leaf. He was not thinking about that! Stupid brain, look at the leaf. A leaf was much more interesting that anything related to big cats and body parts and... Leaves were fascinating. He could watch a special on the various colors of leaves and he’d never be bored. Loved the leaves. He peeked at Ko’s loincloth once more before going back to the heavy thing in his hands. What was this supposed be? Was it edible?

“Um, food?” Ko and a few of the others laughed in a rather friendly way. “No. No food. You open it, Max. Open, like this.” Ko reached out and worked at one of the folds until it peeled apart and then moved Max’s hands to do the same to the others. “It’s a gift, Max, to welcome the family’s newest consort, little one. Open, like this.” Watching carefully to see if he was guessing correctly, he slipped his fingers underneath a fold and worked the edge free. “Open… like…this?” Ko nodded back and watched as Max continued to peel apart the leaves. “Max open.” Ko reiterated, obviously for his benefit, and he repeated the phrase gratefully. When the leaf lay in bent glory on his lap, he could only stare at what had been wrapped inside. Dear. Fucking. God. It was a pretty color at least, he thought a little hysterically, picking it up at the urging of the people around him who smiled and giggled on seeing it. And smooth. A little cool in his hands. But he would give up his first born for it to not be what it looked like. Because it looked like a freaking dildo almost as long as his forearm. Please oh please let this not be a giant crystal cock, he prayed to himself. Roto poured something out for him into a cup and he put the…penis…down and drank it without even looking, still staring at the thing in his lap.

And now here he sat, on the verge of death by humiliation, and he couldn’t even move it off of himself. It was just….it was HUGE. The God of all Phalluses. Penis-zilla. What the hell was wrong with these perverted cats?! Ko chuckled and picked it up, moving it over to his side. “For Kasan,” he whispered with a salacious grin. Max finally ripped his eyes away from it and stared at him, horrified. “No!” he blurted. There was no way he was giving Kasan that thing! What the hell were they thinking? If Kasan used that on him… He stared at it again, breathing hard. Crap, he’d never walk again! After a surprised look while Max cringed and leaned away from the goliath of the dildo world, Ko started laughing. He laughed harder when Max ignored him and poked the monstrosity away from him with stiff fingers.

“No. No, Max.” Ko still chuckled as he picked it back up, commenting to the others until they were grinning as well. Ko forced Max’s fingers around the base of the thing while Max flushed bright red, and then gestured. “For Kasan,” he said again, and moved Max’s hand in a thrusting movement. “Max’s. For Kasan.” Ko laughed again as Max dropped it as soon as his hand was released. They wanted him to…to stick this into Kasan? Were they insane?! He’d have to want sex with Kasan first which…well, it was…maybe not as bad as he’d thought it would be, but it was still sex with a giant. They couldn’t possibly think he’d even want to do something like that, let alone that Kasan would let him. Really, why the hell would a huge guy let someone penetrate that luscious, golden backside with…he swallowed. That was not a thought that had any business being in his head. Stupid Kasan. “Get out of my head,” he muttered, and gulped as a smiling Roto passed him another gift. Looking at the pile of them, probably one from every cat in the room, he prayed fervently that they weren’t all the same caliber. That’s all he needed, a mountainous pile of dildos. Maybe he could let Androcles use them as chew toys, he thought grimly. Taking another quick sip of punch, he took one deep breath and started to unwrap the next one.

A half hour and six glasses of punch later, he was feeling a bit more relaxed about the whole thing. They weren’t so bad, he thought, squinting at the newest gift. He wasn’t sure if it was one or two pairs of velvety handcuffs. They kept blurring in front of his eyes. They were soft, though. Petting them with his fingers, he laid them on the pile next to him. Feathers, ribbons, and chains lay underneath, along with two illustrated books. He kind of liked the books. He snorted into his hands as he thought of them, glancing over at Roto who giggled along with him. They saw each other, stared with matching, glazed eyes, and started laughing. Max lost his balance and leaned into Roto, still laughing. He thought of the drawing in the book, with a small cat Roto’s size being bent over a bench and taken, and guffawed. “It looked just like you!” The black haired cat taking another one against a wall popped into his mind and he giggled so hard he almost slid off of Roto’s side. “And Kasan! We did that wall thing! I bet you didn’t even know, did you! We screwed against a wall! We’re just like an alien sex book!” Max laughed so hard he started to hiccup and he reached for more punch. Ko plucked the cup out of his hands just before he dropped it. “Hey! I’m thirsty!” With a little shake of his head, Ko handed him a glass of water instead. “Not as good as the punch,” Max muttered, gulping it down anyway. He choked, dropping the water over himself as he coughed. Looking down at his wet chest, wondering how to wipe it off, he licked his lips clean. It was a little cold. Staring, he watching the water droplets running down his chest, making trails around his nipples and down his stomach. A number pooled in his belly button and he giggled a little. “Look, it’s a water drop party.” Ko’s hand ruffled his hair and he stared up at him. Ko said something, waiting for an answer. With a lopsided shrug, Max shook his head.

“I have no freaking idea what you’re saying. You could be telling me that you’re all hoping I’ll have sex with you, and I’d have no clue. Uh uh. Wait. How do you say ‘we all want to have sex with you’? I should really learn how to say that so I can say no.” Nodding sagely, he pointed at Ko carefully, just avoiding poking him in the stomach. He didn’t want to have sex with them, anyway. They were all too big. Needed someone smaller. Like Kasan. Another cat asked Ko a question and he turned away. Max reached over and grabbed a glass of punch sitting near Roto, gulping it down quickly. The little cat smiled at him, almost toppling backwards, and took a glass of punch for himself as well. Ha, so there, stupid, punch-thieving Ko. Roto and he were doing just fine. He was staring at the nearly empty glass in his hands when Ko turned around and grumbled, pulling it out of his hands. Max slapped at him. “Quit taking my punch. I’ll drink it if I want to.” Feeling a bit light headed as he glared up at him, he tried to get another glass. Someone had moved the tray holding the punch and replaced it with water. “That’s not cool, switching it when I wasn’t looking. You know that.” Didn’t they, he wondered muzzily, sipping some water. Maybe it was normal for cats to move stuff around like that. They weren’t humans; they wouldn’t think like people did. His mind floated hazily while he thought about it. He missed people. Being smaller than everyone was so frustrating….especially when they stole your punch. He scowled up at Ko and figured out how to move his head away a minute after it was already fuzzed by the man’s hand. Why did everyone keep doing that? And why couldn’t they find any more people like him? Kasan hadn’t known where any humans were. What if he never found any? What if he were the only person out here? After a brief search of the room, where everyone was bigger than him, with pointed ears and slitted eyes, he sniffled. Roto looked at him and patted his head clumsily, leaning over him with a delicate little belch. At least they seemed nice now. If he couldn’t leave, and he stayed as some kind of husband/wife thing to Kasan….it was a life, wasn’t it? The food was nice, he reminded himself, picking up a small dumpling from a plate next to him and tossing it at his mouth. He missed and had to grab it off his lap before he could pop it in. Chewing, he leaned into Roto. Maybe he could stay with him, if Kasan was being a pain. He was nice. And he didn’t steal a person’s drinks. He stared at Ko and pointed at him. “Drink thief. Don’t think I’ll let you do that again! I’m watching you now.” Ko raised one eyebrow in his direction and shook his head, turning away to talk to the others. Max hiccupped and slipped back from Roto’s side to lean against the bed. Staring around the room again, he realized that he wasn’t scared at all. The cats were huge and unfamiliar, and more than one had chased him around and scared the shit out of him earlier, but they hadn’t hurt him. He couldn’t say that about a lot of places he’d been. Beatings and muggings hurt him worse than anything that had happened here.

It was actually kind of nice. And he was married. That was so weird. He was married to Kasan. His head flopped to the side as he laid it on the bed and watched everyone. Men and women were touching each other constantly. Not sexually, just small, light touches across shoulders and lips and legs. It was comforting and a little erotic at the same time. He noticed they didn’t do the same to him and for a split second he felt rather left out. It was hard to be amongst all this bared skin and constant physical closeness and not be affected, he told himself. Anyone would want a little of it. He patted Roto’s leg and felt a little better when he got a little brush against his arm in return. There, that was nice. Now he was just like a cat, right? Just a part of the herd. Or had that been a stampede? Had he decided? He murmured to himself, blinking with dark eyes as he looked over the room. He bit his lip as he saw a dark haired cat brush his hand over another’s lips as he fed him with a laugh. Imagining Kasan doing the same to him, he flushed. It wouldn’t be so bad with Kasan. His skin tingled thinking of what Kasan and he had already done together and he moaned softly. It felt good, right? Would that be so awful? Kasan’s body was…it was really hot. So were a lot of these cats, now that they were sitting around and not trying to touch him, but they were still so huge they didn’t quite feel real. Like he was expecting someone to pull off a head and show a smaller man inside a costume. Kasan felt more like a real person, he decided. If Max had been a woman, he would have totally gone for Kasan. Totally. But since he wasn’t, it was different. Wasn’t it? His hand rested on his thigh and he moved it up his leg as he thought about it. Kasan’s fingers had been hot and amazing when he’d touched him there before. And his tongue. They’d been against the wall and he’d touched him there with his tongue! And God, that had been… His hand had just crept under his tunic when a knock quieted everyone. Ko got up looking worried and pissed at the same time. Max heard him talking through a warm fuzzy haze, and then stared at him, surprised, when he came back and helped him up. “Kasan is here,” Ko said softly, helping him walk over. When he got to the door, he stared up at Kasan and the first thing to pop into his head was the huge dildo waiting for him back by the bed. His cheeks flushed so brightly they burned. Stupid dildo gift. Swaying, he tried to grab the ground with his toes. That would keep him up. Kasan looked down at him, and something about his face made him feel even more flushed. The feel of Kasan’s fingers over his hair feathered across his scalp and seemed to flow down his back while he stared, mesmerized. Kasan was really, really pretty. That skin was so silky it was unreal. Did they make skin out of silk? His hair was flowing down is back again; he’d taken out his braid. Light shone off it in blue highlights and he blinked at the effect. It was making it hard to focus. Looking back up at him, he frowned at his eyes. What was wrong with his eyes? They looked so sad. Was he all right? He was asking about Max, but he looked so unhappy. And he was asking if Max was happy. How sweet. Of course he was happy. He felt just fine right now. He looked back to check on the room. Was there punch anywhere near them?

Kasan shifted slightly and he looked back up into Kasan’s face. Such sad, sad eyes. He tried to pat his hand, misjudged the distance, and just barely touched it. “…Kasan…happy?” Max wobbled, trying to figure out what that new look was on Kasan’s face. He wasn’t expecting the sudden glomp and he yelped when he was picked up like a toy. His body swayed dizzily, Kasan burrowing against his neck. Soft, wet heat slid up his throat and he gasped, panting until lips covered his own and a tongue delved in deep. Insides quivering, his lips burned from the small touch. He stared at Kasan’s face in front of his. Kasan was always kissing him. All the time. He had really nice skin. It was unreal how gorgeous the cat was. His skin couldn’t be as smooth as he remembered, could it? He reached up to touch his cheek and check. It was like golden cream, he thought. How could he be this pretty? His body was rocked by another kiss before Kasan put him back down on the floor while his head spun again. Befuddled, he could only stare as Kasan messed with his hair. One broad finger touched his lips gently and lips brushed his forehead before Ko was shuffling him away. Pressing against the spot with his own fingers, Max stumbled back to the bed, sitting on the edge with a dazed thump. Kasan kept doing that to him. How did he do that? Did they have kissing classes on this planet or something? Had to be something. He’d never had a clue kissing was so nice before he came here, but his lips were still tingling. Actually, all of him was tingling, he realized. He held up his hands and looked at them, moving his fingers. He couldn’t feel them very well. He lay down as things started to feel a little too fuzzy for comfort. After a minute, Ko and Roto leaned over him and said something, but he pushed at their hands until they stopped. Hearing them argue with each other, he started giggling. “It’s a cat fight,” he muttered, still giggling. Roto flopped onto the bed next to him and Ko dragged the other cat back up with an irritated grumble. Max wasn’t sure how much longer it was before people started leaving, but when Ko pulled him up and forced him to drink some water, nearly everyone was gone. He spluttered, swallowing, and Ko stroked his head once before helping him lay down again. There was the sound of the door opening and closing one last time, and then quiet. He lay there, watching the ceiling twisting above him. He closed his eyes as Androcles jumped down and licked his face, settling in on the pillows. “I’m just going to lay here a little while until the room stops spinning,” he slurred to Androcles. “I’ll get up soon. Will.” Closing his eyes, he enjoyed the curious feel of the whirling bed underneath him. He wondered when Kasan was coming. His lips were still tingling.

In the third hour after he’d seen Max, Kasan was in the middle of asking for help in finding the other humans when the pain hit. He sucked in his breath, staring, as he rode out the spike. A smile lighting up his face, he turned to Leero and asked him to finish. Leero stared at him until he turned and bowed to the family. “The Need calls. I must return to Max.” “So soon?” His father’s words were immediately followed by his aunt’s. “His grandfather was the same – that old throwback mated almost every night for the first year.” The elder’s sly smile might have embarrassed him but for the dimple in her cheeks. “Go. Enjoy your consort. We will do what is needed for him; you needn’t worry.” He bowed again. “Thank you. Very much. I will see you at First meal, then.” Hurrying from the room, he walked rapidly towards his room. He would have rather caught this earlier – he still had to go quickly with the little one when the heat was pushing him. It was so frustrating. He wanted them to be able to take their time! Hopefully Max wouldn’t be too frightened by whatever he was feeling. He’d looked like he’d consumed a fair amount of yakkin when Kasan had last seen him. That would help considerably, if he was still drinking and keeping it in his system. Kasan could just see Max, soft and relaxed from the drink, reclined against the bed, reaching for him. He walked a little faster. He could hardly wait to get back to his room. Leero watched Kasan leave the room, hoping his eyes didn’t betray how desperately he would love to join him in departing from the inquisition. He tried to take a deep breath to calm himself and could have cursed as it only succeeded in making things worse. Every movement caused the heavy velvet collar around his neck to shift just enough to remind him it was there, and his ears flattened before he could stop them. At least the leash wouldn’t be attached until it was time to follow Kyoru out of the room, but having to stand as the center of attention with this around his neck was excruciatingly humiliating. The servility of the situation dug under his skin like hot needles. He hated service. There was a quiet clearing of the throat by Kyoru and Leero looked over at him curiously until he realized he’d been standing silently in front of everyone. Cheeks flaming, he quickly resumed speaking. His eyes ran over the flowing text on his hand-comp with an unsteady stare and he continued breathing in deep pants, nearly floundering again. The soft rub of velvet around his throat was creating a disturbing, sensual counterpoint to the scent of ripe Kyashin. He hoped his discomfort went unnoticed, but if that failed, at least most would assume it was due to the service. Answering questions as fully as he could manage with his mind wandering away from him every few sentences, he inhaled carefully, mouth open. And then he did his absolute best not to look at any of the unmated Kyashin around him for more than a few seconds. Taunting him, his mind provided him with images of what Kasan was most likely already doing with his dainty little consort. He kept himself from moaning out loud by the skin of his teeth, and read faster. The follow-up fantasy, involving a number of mated Kyashin in the room doing wild, wonderful things with their own consorts, broadsided him and he

felt his cock straining against his clothing. He had to pause and bite his lip to keep from making another sound. Composing himself after a few seconds, he began to speak again. As the words flowed mindlessly, Leero wondered what he had done to merit a day like today. A few days before had been one of the happier ones in his life. Kasan had lived, Shovak and fled, and they finally had the evidence to prove that the traitorous keerac had betrayed them all. He’d been so pleased by the end of it; everything had felt as though it were coming together perfectly. After all, even with the shock of Shovak’s treasonous behavior, Kasan’s family would survive. They were always rock-solid in their love and faith in one another. Before he’d met them, he’d never even realized there could be a family with so much mutual affection. Loyalty and commitment were a given, but love? That was something precious. He was always deeply honored that he’d been allowed to become such an integral part of their family. The elders gave him punishments as frequently as they did their own, after all. It was a sign of how close to their hearts they held him, even if he’d never been officially adopted. And so today’s events, the utter and complete catastrophe of them all, were still a surprise. Chasing Max around the bedroom had been exhausting and more stressful than tracking down a family traitor could ever be, but he could laugh about it later. Being pissed on had been more unpleasant. It had taken two scrubbings of cleanser before he felt like he could come to Firstmeal. Still, he could laugh about that as well, even if it would be a lot later. But Service wasn’t something he could smile over for a long damn time. And to finish the day, to make everything else shine in comparison, there was… This. He twitched his nose as his nostrils flared, catching Aosh’s and Zonta’s scent, and he shuddered as he looked at them. Leaning against each other for unconscious support, the stressed young men stroked the soft ends of their braids, rubbing at the fluffy hair with uneasy fingers. It drew the eye, making him think of those same fingers rubbing over his skin, and he dragged his mind out of the piss room and back to the hand-comp. He shouldn’t be near them. Hell, their presence was the reason he’d stayed away from Kasan during Firstmeal. It was also the reason he was cursing himself every moment and trying to keep his eyes down and his breathing shallow. Because his body had rebelled and decided that now was the best time to go into heat. Hunting Shovak and searching for a hidden cache of humans and surviving a month’s service weren’t enough for it, obviously. He had to go into heat as well and make the entire day just fucking perfect. And now Kasan’s youngest brothers were heading his body’s list of ‘persons of interest,’ simply because he was most familiar with their scents in the first place. God’s ears are vibrating with laughter by now, he thought morosely.

He’d started to feel it in the beginning of Firstmeal – an all over bodily tingle that would build to a heated burn over the next couple of weeks. His sense of smell was already overly sensitive, and every Kyashin who was ripe and unclaimed, and near, was driving him out of his mind. He could keep himself from taking them, that wasn’t the issue. But he didn’t want simply anyone. A quick, satisfying fuck was far different from choosing someone he’d be with for over a decade. He wanted… He wanted what Kasan and his family had. Every one of them had found a Joining consort as well as one solely for the mating heat. They’d all made permanent vows before their heats had ended. Every last one of them who’d been together for over a year – it was practically unheard of to have that many love matches within one family, but seeing them all, he couldn’t help but want that for himself. And he had no damn idea how to do it. He should have had a few months, where he could tease and flirt a little, get to know all the potential consorts out there. It’s what he’d been planning to do, before he had to help prepare for the annual hunt. And before he’d had weeks of scheming and plotting to try and rescue Kasan. And before he’d had to head up the investigation and pursuit of Shovak. Right now was about the worst possible time he could go into heat; he couldn’t have planned it more poorly if he’d tried. The only consolation was that no one knew. His irises might be a little greener, if anyone cared to look, but like other green-eyed Kyashin, his eyes weren’t changing much during his mating heat. A fact for which he should be thanking God hourly. He had no desire to be distracted by an inundation of interested men and women. He wanted a little space to make his choice before everyone knew. He wanted to find someone special. And he wanted to complete a little of his service before he had to inform Kyoru and the elders of the situation. He wanted as little of it left as possible to distract him from a new consort. He damn well wanted to go back in time and look at the Kyashin around him without the heat clouding his mind. He snorted as Aosh and Zonta’s scents tripped back into his awareness. Not. Them. Aosh would make him crazy within days, and Zonta was far too sweet. If only his body didn’t find them as appealing as everyone else who was unmated. The scent of everyone in the family swirled in his head as though trying to help disguise the twins, and he almost moaned out of sheer frustration as he realized that he was even finding mated Kyashin a bit arousing. He should ask someone to simply pee on him again - at least then he’d have one problem that he could deal with easily. ******

Max sat on the silky pillows on Kasan’s bed and reflected on pets. His pet, specifically. Androcles was the best dog in the world. It didn’t matter how many dogs existed on this planet, or what tricks they could do, because Androcles was the best. Androcles did housework. And he really seemed to like velvet and feathers. Watching as the dog dragged the last kinky feather up the log and through the little door atop it, Max would have sighed in relief if he weren’t still so impressed. He’d only been awake for a little while now, feeling a bit jittery and horny but a hell of a lot better than he’d ever felt after drinking as much as he had. It would have been one of his first peaceful moments in a bed since he’d gotten here, if the cats hadn’t booby trapped the stupid thing before they’d left, the bastards. He was betting on Ko setting him up. Because when he’d roused himself, the sex book was opened, propped up right in front of his face. The first thing he saw on waking was an illustration of a male cat being screwed by two others. So he did what any red-blooded, sleep-muddled male would do when confronted by an alien-gay-threesome as soon as he opened his eyes. He screamed like a little girl and tried to shove himself away from it. It had looked freakin’ real when it was only an inch from his nose, dammit! But then he’d hit the booby traps. His hand had tangled in a pile of feathery sex-toys, his foot had caught on a length of chain as he tried to free his hand, and he’d fallen off the bed when his knee slipped on the pair of fuzzy handcuffs. The stupid things ended flipping into the air and hit him right on the head as his ass hit the floor with a bruising thud. Just in time to give a wonderful impression to the two guards from the hallway who rushed in to check on the noise. He tried not to think about how he must have looked, splayed out on the floor and covered with sex paraphernalia. Like a one-man-band orgy or something. It was enough to know that they’d helped him to his feet, grinning, and then fuzzed his head and left chuckling to themselves. Dammit. As soon as they’d gone, though, Androcles had come down. The first thing he’d done was to glare at a large feather and take it in his mouth before scrabbling up the log with it. When he’d come down and treated a velvet whip the same way, Max had sat down to watch. He’d been sitting on the bed ever since, awed by his dog’s dedication to rid Max of every embarrassing, indecent, warped gift he’d received. He hoped Androcles chewed them all to bits. Actually, he hoped he hurried up and came back down, because there were still the two books and the thing left. Crouched obscenely on the silky fabric of the bed, they looked like they were taunting him. He waited another minute, curling his bare toes against a green, fuzzy pillow while he sat there.

“Androcles? Androcles!” A furred head peeked over the edge, looked at him, and disappeared again. Max poked at the three objects left, thought of Kasan seeing them, and the room suddenly heated. He tried to cajole the animal down “Are you sure you don’t want a- a nice bone?” He picked up the crystal phallus and waved it in the air. It was heavy and almost slickly cool. Like a honkin’ big, erotic, stone cucumber. That Ko had suggested he insert in Kasan’s“Fetch, boy! Fetch? Do you play fetch here?” he said quickly, his voice squeaking. He cleared his throat and tried again “And then you can just take it and bury it just like a boner – crap, bone.” He flushed, staring at the stupid thing in his hand. Androcles peered down at him again, his mouth open and panting. Laughing. “I know a dog laugh when I see it,” he muttered, turning away as Androcles disappeared again. What the hell was he supposed to do with this stuff now? He couldn’t let Kasan see it – God forbid the big cat got any more ideas! He had far too many of his own without inspiration! No need to bolster a perverted imagination with new material. Looking around for a suitable hiding place, he tensed at murmuring out in the hallway. Everything happened in a frenzy of movement as he heard something scrape against the door. He shoved the books onto the floor, tossed the dildo on, and kicked off a small pile of pillows on top of that before jumping in front of the bed. His body was awkwardly posed, one leg still on the bed, when Kasan open the door and stepped in. Stumbling to get both feet under him, Max stood stiffly, a weak smile on his face while he tried to figure out what the hell he was going to do now. How could he move the stupid things without Kasan seeing? When Kasan went to pee or something? Or maybe he’d want to go out in the garden. Actually, what did Kasan want right now? Last time, he’d… Max blushed brightly and shifted, his body feeling awkward and exposed. He was uncomfortably aware of his naked ass underneath the flimsy-feeling tunic. Did he even have to ask about the cat’s motives? What did the cat always want to do? Kiss, and touch, and stroke, and lick, and bite Different train of thought needed, his mind yelled, and Kasan provided it. The cat smiled, his teeth shiny and sharp and white before his lips covered them and he came closer. “Max better now?” “Uh…better? Ye-es. Better.” Max would have taken a step back but he was right next to the bed. He wasn’t getting any closer to that than he had to. Uh uh. “Good.” Kasan winced, his hands clenching, and started coming forward. “Sorry. Will be fast again.” “Uh, what? I don’t…uh…understand. Wha- aaaah!” Kasan scooped him up, taking him

right to the bed, and Max flailed as he was pressed into the mounds of pillows. Kasan was on him instantly, hard thighs pushing his legs apart. His tunic flapped upward, exposing him, and it gave Kasan the opportunity to rub his own cloth-covered erection against Max’s uncovered groin. He felt his body twitch, his dick growing hard at the sensation with a suddenness that was actually frightening. “No! No sex! No sex, Kasan!” He pushed out at Kasan’s chest as it was coming down towards him and began to pant in relief as the big cat pulled back. Kasan didn’t go far enough, though. Max still couldn’t bring his legs together and they spread wide, supported on pillows and sleek, muscled cat. He struggled with his hands. They were sweating from the heat of Kasan’s body, slipping a little, and he wondered suddenly what it would taste like. Such smooth skin would be just like licking coffee flavored cream, wouldn’t it? His eyes widened. His stupid body was going rogue! “NO SEX, Kasan!” Staring down at him, Kasan looked, for the first time since Max had met him, frustrated. With an uneasy shift, Max finally scooted away from him a little, his head slipping down as it hit the space where he’d scooped out pillows to conceal the Super Pseudo-Dick. He froze as he noticed his new situation, with his hips propped on top of the pile still on the bed. It made Kasan’s groin push against him at a different angle, closer to his ass than his cock. This was not the position he was trying to get to, he thought wildly, feeling aroused and keenly nervous at the same time. “Max…. must have sex,” Kasan said quietly, his eyes very dark and serious and he put one hand around the side of Max’s hips. Max swallowed. He didn’t think he was going to like where this was going. Kasan wasn’t smiling at all, not even that little bit with his eyes that Max hadn’t even realized he was used to seeing. Max wanted the smiling back. It made the fact that he was staring at a bead of sweat sliding down Kasan’s chest less nerve wracking if it was the sweat of someone smiling. Which was retarded and stupid, but it was in his own head so it didn’t have to make sense, dammit. “N-no sex, Kasan.” His voice felt a little wobbly and he moved his eyes away from Kasan’s chest. It was too toned. The muscles were almost as rounded and big as a normal person’s ass, for God’s sake. It was so fucking hot…obscene! It was obscene! Muscles that big were wrong! Not…really, really arousing. Kasan released his hip and reached out to stroke Max’s hair with his hand. He leaned forward, his hips settling against Max’s pelvis and his face only inches away. His voice was a rich murmur. “Max. Max, no sex with Kasan, Kasan die.” Max stared at him for a moment. The cat was trying to tell him that…what? He’d die if he didn’t make love to him? He blinked, running over the words in his head to make sure he

hadn’t misremembered any of the new language, and then he shoved hard at Kasan’s chest. Kasan leaned back again. “Kasan, that is the cheesiest line I have ever heard,” he said in English, scowling up at him. “What, you think I was born yesterday? No one ever died for not having sex, you big pervert!” “Eh…I not understand.” Kasan stumbled over the words, obviously trying not to use any Max wouldn’t know. Max had a brief moment of thanks for the consideration, but it was quickly buried under the annoyance of getting hit on, badly, by his own…husband. Crap, that’s right, he was married. “No sex with Max, Kasan die?” he finally said in Hinta. Kasan nodded, his face coming down towards Max’s again. Feeling Max’s body lean into him, Kasan started to get the sexy smile back on his face. Max realized what he was doing as soon as he saw it and stopped himself in shock. He quickly pushed the flat of his palm into Kasan’s nose to keep him away. “Hold up, Romeo!” He panicked, unable to think of anything but English for a moment. Kasan peeled away Max’s hand as Max tried frantically to make his cat-obsessed brain think. “N-no funny! Kasan safe! Kasan no die! No sex, Kasan! Bad Kasan!” Crap, what else, what else, what else?! Oh! “Max tired! No sex, Max tired.” There. That should do it, shouldn’t it? Max stiffened as he saw Kasan’s fists slowly clench on the bed near his head. Enormous biceps flexed so close to his face that he could see the tendons shift with the movement. What was Kasan going to do? Max was still under him, with the big man’s body pressing him down into the cushions and making him feel like he could be crushed at any moment. Was Kasan angry? He’d seen what he did to the other cats when he’d been royally pissed. He barely had time to shiver with the briefest beginning of fear when Kasan kissed him on the forehead with soft lips. The big cat pushed himself up from the bed so quickly Max squeaked, cringing in embarrassment when Kasan looked surprised. Everything but Kasan faded from Max’s view for a tense moment, and then Kasan took a few deep breaths and turned around. He wanted to be happy. He’d stopped him. Kasan had stopped, even though it looked like he’d really been ready for sex. And it was a little flattering, he realized, his belly and groin still taut and missing the contact of another body. Really, how often did a guy have someone want their body so much that they had a hard time stopping? Unless you were a perverted prison warden handing out pardons, it never happened. But he’d stopped, Max thought, slowly sitting upright on the bed as Kasan began to walk away. His eyes drawn by the tail, and the ass it connected to, he suddenly thought of the Great Dong of Doom behind the bed. Sweating, he couldn’t help watching the globes of Kasan’s backside flex with every step, the soft fur of the tail brushing across golden skin as it

swished back and forth. Harder than he’d been before, he refused to look down at his own body. If he didn’t look, his erection wasn’t there. If he couldn’t see the small tent in his tunic, then it hadn’t been pitched and was really packed away somewhere in another room. Tent pole? What tent pole? He didn’t see a tent pole. There was no pole at all, he thought, feeling his confidence slipping away as his cock firmed even more. He couldn’t understand this. The slightest glimpse of another man’s backside and he was feeling like this? He really was some kind of nympho. Except, wouldn’t he have known? Unless…could he just be a cat nympho? Or… Kasan bent forward to pull something from a shelf and Max found himself watching the tail as it swished, wondering if it would move all the way to the side so he could see the tight rope of the loincloth between Kasan’s legs. He choked when he realized what he was doing. “Why do you have to be so fucking sexy?” he whimpered softly, and his face bloomed with color as Kasan turned to look at him. When the cat started back towards the bed Max scooted away. Why was he coming back? He relaxed as Kasan sat down and held up a small, square, computer-like screen that looked a bit like a tablet. There was no way that could be sexual. A game maybe, or…or the alien internet? Something totally non-sexual. Unless it was porn. Biting his lip, he tried to see what was happening on the screen without actually getting any closer. But when Kasan began to flick at the screen with his fingers in odd little gestures, Max’s curiosity finally got the better of him and he crawled back across the bed to see what he was doing. You couldn’t have sex when you were fiddling with a computer, right? And if it was porn, there was that whole hand-and-dick pose that gave it away, wasn’t there? Kasan finished just before Max got within sight of the thing and the alien angled it towards him. With a valiant attempt at self-control, Max tried to focus on it and ignore the huge bulge behind Kasan’s loincloth that was a lot more interesting. He pursed his lips as he quickly picked out the outlines of four people drawn on the screen. Kasan was drawing? He was sketching little people. Max looked at them hard, wondering at first if he was imagining the utter, well, crappiness of them. “I’ve seen five year olds who draw better than that,” he finally said, looking way up into Kasan’s slitted eyes. “You have to be the suckiest artist alive.” It almost felt good to know that there was at least something he could do better than the Kasan. He wasn’t stronger than him, and he was pretty positive he lacked his amazing skill at kissing, but he could sure as hell draw better than him! Kasan carefully took Max’s chin in his hand and directed his face back to the screen. He pointed at the first figure while Max pulled his face free of the constraining fingers. It was an effort to ignore the heated tingle those callused digits left behind, but he did his best to concentrate on the pictures.

“Kasan.” The cat was pointing to a small outline of someone with pointy ears and a bunch of colored dots inside him. “Max.” The dotless, human outline was ridiculously small compared to the other. “I’m not that short, darn it,” Max muttered. Kasan gestured to the two figures more forcefully and Max nodded. “I know! Max, Kasan. I know. I understand.” “No sex,” Kasan said, pointing to the two again. “Kasan and Max have sex.” He pointed to two new figures, each with colored dots in them now. “If no sex, Kasan die,” Kasan said, and began to draw more and more and more dots in the pointy-eared body, finally ending in a large X that covered Kasan and Max both. “Kasan die if no sex,” he said again, and then he waited, giving the board to Max to look at. Max stared at them, his mind racing. No sex, no dots. Sex, and suddenly he had dots. And then no sex again, and even more dots. What the heck was that supposed to mean? Sex gave him dots, and then sex kept the dots under control after that? What the heck wasOh no. Oh… that just wasn’t possible! Was it? “You…you gave me an STD?” Kasan stared at him uncomprehending as he started to gesture. “Sex and…Kasan and Max sex…uh…bad…uh…need s-sex..” he managed to sputter, trying to breathe and not hyperventilate. There was a huge smile as Kasan relaxed, nodding, and Max dropped the screen as if it had bitten him. He stumbled off the bed, teetering on his feet and fighting the urge to scrub at his privates as though he could get those invisible dots off of him. “Oh my god, oh my GOD. You gave me…you freaking gave me alien herpes? I have alien sex herpes! And now we have to have sex? I can’t… You have to be kidding me!!” Kasan stared at him and shrugged and he realized he was speaking in English again. “Kasan…need consort? Kasan no die?” he finally got out. Kasan nodded carefully, studying him with eyes that stared a little too intently. Max choked, turning around and walking in a jerky pacing around the room. What the hell type of planet had sex diseases where afterwards you had to have sex? Sex diseases were supposed to make you stop having sex!” “You have the fucking pervert planet of all time, Kasan! The fucking planet of perverted cats and perverted diseases and… and… perverted, damn sex toys! What the hell…. I don’t want to do this, dammit!” He whirled around to scowl at Kasan only to find him standing right behind him. Naked. The huge cat reached out and pulled him close, running a large hand over his head as he rumbled in his chest. Max struggled to pull back. This wasn’t happening! Just

because he had the Pervert Disease of Constant Fucking did not mean that he was going to… He wasn’t just going to let himself… Kasan’s hand crept down and cupped his ass, pulling it close so that his erection pressed between the cat’s thighs and he lost his train of thought. Ohhhh, that was nice. He moaned once, and then his brain twitched just enough to remind him what was going on. Big cat, big hands, and big dick were about to screw him silly. And he…. Was he going to have to let him? Closing his eyes, Max stood there, shaking, as his face rested against Kasan’s chest. He felt a hand stroking slowly over his head and down his back, over and over again. It calmed his body a little, his breathing slowly altering to match the pace of the slow caresses, but his mind was still trembling. When was this stupid crap going to end? Every time he thought it wasn’t going to get any weirder, any worse, that’s when it did! He wasn’t just a fuck toy, he wasn’t just a husband, he was…he was contagious. And that meant he was stuck. Even if he got out of here now, he might never be able to have sex with another human again, would he? If he got it, that meant he could infect other people, and he could just imagine how well that would go over with the colony. Yeah, sorry about inspiring the colony-wide orgy, everyone. At least the climaxes were good, though, right? He was stuck with the cats forever, unless he did the whole monk-celibacy thing. Feeling the body against his, still rumbling and stroking him a little more firmly now, he didn’t think he was cut out for that. But could he deal with this? The cats were so… They were so… Actually, they were obsessed with sex all the time, as far as he’d seen. Was this disease why everyone here was so touchy? They all had to have sex or they’d die? That was really kind of sad. Well, for him it was. He supposed if he was on top it wouldn’t be quite as bad. Most guys would think it was pretty cool, actually, if you really could come up to some chick and say, I need to screw you or I’ll die, and be telling the truth. Except he was the guy someone was saying that to, and it was a totally different thing then! Wasn’t it? Taking a huge shuddering breath, he kept his eyes closed and leaned against Kasan. He couldn’t let Kasan die, could he? And he didn’t want to die, and that big X had been over his body as well. Which probably meant he had to have sex too, didn’t it? He swallowed, unsure of where to focus. Hands over his back and softly kneading his ass, bare chest and abs against his own, soft murmuring against his ears, and that was just from Kasan. He own body ached almost unpleasantly near his groin, his brain skated around life and embarrassment and desire and death. He had to do this, didn’t he?

He wished he were still drunk, he thought, as a small whimper of arousal escaped his throat when Kasan pulled his body in tightly. Drunk, or so frenzied that he didn’t know what he was doing, like earlier in the day. Then he could just say it happened. He didn’t have to watch and participate, fully aware when it actually WAS happening. Standing really close to musky, silky skin right now, a large erection pressing against his stomach, the thought of sex was more frightening than it had been when he’d woken to it. He was going to have sex with Kasan, he thought, swallowing painfully. He really was. He was really going to do this. He finally opened his eyes and leaned his head back to look up, way the hell up, into Kasan’s face. A large hand squeezed his buns as Kasan smiled down at him. “Kasan and Max…no sex?” he asked tentatively, still hoping that maybe he wasn’t understanding this right and Kasan would laugh and he’d find out it was all some stupid alien joke. The hand behind his head grazed gently over his ear until it cupped his chin. Kasan leaned down close. “Kasan and Max have sex. Now,” he said softly, and he kissed Max with a lingering press of lips before Max could pull away. Standing very still, Max let the now-familiar taste of honey and coffee enter his mouth with Kasan’s tongue. Maybe he could view it as being seduced, he thought faintly. He was being seduced by a cat lecher; he wasn’t actively getting himself taken in the ass. He closed his eyes as Kasan’s tongue ran over the edges of his lips. The hand on his backside shifted, sliding underneath his tunic to cup one of his bare cheeks. He lost his breath at the heat of it. The man was too good at this. His thoughts were just coherent enough to groan about that excess of skill as the fingers caressing between the cheeks of his ass moved in concert with the tongue invading his mouth again. Sliding, prodding, flicking with teasing little bursts, the man’s body was making it impossible to do anything more than keep on his feet. Lips came off abruptly, leaving him gasping and panting. He stood, shocked when Kasan’s hands moved off his ass so quickly it felt violent after their soft stroking. The ties to Max’s tunic fell apart and it was pulled over his head with one quick shove. Completely naked, he couldn’t move as Kasan stared down at him, the cat breathing heavily and clenching his fists again. He felt devoured without Kasan even touching him. Those alien eyes, warm and soft for so much of the afternoon, were dark, the pupils almost round as he ran his eyes over Max’s body. Max restrained the urge to cover himself for a moment, and then gave in and did it anyway. “N-no look, Kasan.” They could have sex without looking, couldn’t they? Maybe they could just close their eyes totally and he wouldn’t feel this visual molestation that was so deep he felt penetrated already.

Kasan smiled slowly. “Kasan and Max have sex. Max beautiful. Kasan look.” “Beautiful? I not understand…” It was familiar, but he couldn’t remember what the word meant and he didn’t have time to try and puzzle it out before Kasan suddenly turned him around to face one of the mirrors on the wall. He stared at himself, his skin rosy and flushed. His body looked like a midget compared to the huge cat behind him. And he didn’t understand why his skin seemed almost delicate with the caramel flesh that was hovering behind, coming around to spread its fingers over his stomach. His cheeks bloomed with color. He panted as Kasan moved that large hand down to wrap around his cock while a black tail wrapped around his thigh. “Max beautiful,” Kasan whispered in his ear, leaning down. Max had no idea what he meant, but he couldn’t move his eyes away from the image of the two of them in the mirror. He watched as the large hand gripped him tight and began to move. Hips jerked even when he tried to keep them still, and he closed his eyes and moaned as Kasan licked his shoulder. Unable to keep silent as another moan welled up, Max moved against the hand around him. The hard erection against him from behind was hot and it slipped against his skin. Musk surrounded him as much as Kasan did. He couldn’t get away from it; it was like it was settling against his damn skin. It shouldn’t feel this good, not this fast. But his body was already arching. His ass clenched and throbbed as though it was asking for something to come inside of him. He hadn’t even been there for more than a few seconds, how could he be this aroused? How could he want this? He opened his eyes just in time to see himself gasp as Kasan pulled back on his foreskin and brushed his thumb delicately over the tip of him. He looked…sexy. Is that what that word had meant? There was a slow build up of erotically charged pressure against his neck as Kasan sucked the flesh there into his mouth, leaving a brilliantly red mark as he released. Max stared at it. It throbbed with a sweet kind of pain and drew his eyes so completely that he barely noticed Kasan moving behind him. Kneeling, the cat’s free hand moved up, fingers teasing across Max’s nipples and finally settling his full palm across the middle of it. He released Max’s erection. “Kasan? Uh, what- Aaaahhh.” Broad fingers pushed apart the cheeks of his bottom and his knees buckled as Kasan licked him right in the middle with a broad swipe of his tongue. He would have fallen except for the supporting hand around his chest, although that still let him sag until he was bent forward. His head fell at another slick caress. “Oh dear God.” He tried to push back up – Kasan wasn’t forcing him there, he was just keeping him from falling – but when that wicked tongue did it again his legs went completely limp. Looking up, his eyes were glazed as he stared at the figures in the mirror, the small man being held like a toy and thoroughly molested by the alien behind him. Their bodies were already slick with sweat, their faces flushed, and there was a steady moaning from somewhere that happened in time with every movement of the cat’s head. He couldn’t support his neck and let himself fall completely against Kasan’s arm again.

The man’s muscles were quivering as he held Max there, tight and hard against his ribs. He’s so fucking strong, Max marveled, just before Kasan’s face pressed in closer and made burning heat spread deep inside his body. It drove everything from his mind but the desperate need to tend to his cock and the burning heat in his belly. His weak legs tried to push back against Kasan, but the cat merely tightened his grip over Max’s ass and continued to lick him so slowly it wasn’t sex anymore, it was fucking torture. “Kasaaan! Please!” Kasan chuckled against his skin and finally kneeled back, his ass settling over his heels. His arm around Max’s chest tightened and pulled. Without the energy to even protest, Max let himself be dragged back to sit on the cat’s bent legs. His own legs splayed out over heavy thighs. He could see the cat’s cock as it was pressed down from the weight of his body, thrusting out underneath his own. It rubbed against his seam and made him feel like a little kid seeing his father’s dick for the first time. That cock was the most impressive thing he’d ever seen. And it was…shiny. Slick. He could feel it sliding against his body with slippery, shining fluids already. When had Kasan had time to oil his cock? He’d never even seen him do it. Kasan moved his head down behind and nibbled at Max’s shoulder near the small bruise he’d made earlier. Max arched into it, and then squeaked as he felt himself lifted. Kasan had one thigh in each hand, spreading his legs up and out, and he was meeting Max’s shocked eyes in the mirror. Swallowing, Max saw the sleek cock underneath him move as the weight came off of it, rising until it was high and…aimed at him. “Max beautiful,” Kasan said again, nuzzling his ear, and he began to lower Max onto his cock. “Wait!” Max squirmed, a little frightened. He couldn’t move, and they were about to… and he shouldn’t want this, but his body was twitchy and tense, waiting for it. Kasan’s cock looked so large, though! And Max was aware of what was happening and he didn’t know if he was ready and… “Shhhh, Gisho. Max Beautiful.” Kasan’s eyes held his through their reflection, that sensual smile in them still, and his fingers ripples against the thighs they held. “I don’t c-care! We should wait. We can do this t-tomorrow, or n-next week, or…” “Shhhh. No hurt. Max safe. No danger.” Kasan nibbled at his shoulder again, still lowering, and Max felt something large and firm against the cheeks of his backside. He could see himself in the mirror, eyes shocked and wide as his body was about to be taken. He wriggled again, embarrassment and nerves churning in his gut. He didn’t want someone to see him this way, even himself. It was too personal. Too private. Really kind of hot and that was not what he wanted to see! “I still think w-we should…ohhhhhhhhhh.” Kasan began to enter his body. He could feel him pushing in, stretching him, opening him up, but there was no pain. All that hit his senses were pressure, heat, slick sweat and bitter musk and the bare rasp of hair against his palms as he gripped Kasan’s hands and pushed to try and keep himself cock free.

He saw it go into him, though. He couldn’t stop it. That huge, sleek column was disappearing into his body, inch by inch, and he could feel it as it slid inside. He could feel the tip of it as it finally passed his prostate and the rest of it followed, rubbing within his body, making him writhe. He was finding it hard to think, but he couldn’t stop looking. It looked so good. It didn’t seem like he was watching himself. He was looking at someone else, some pale, tiny person who was being completely breached by a huge, fantastically beautiful, cat-eared man. And it was so erotically sexy. He loved seeing cocks enter someone. He always had. He just hadn’t known that watching them go inside a man would be so …amazing. The swells of his ass were smooth, Kasan’s cock and his thighs were smooth – everything was curved and sleek and glistening. His balls clenched as Kasan was finally all the way inside of him, their bodies pressed tightly to each other. “Max is so, so beautiful,” Kasan purred against him, the rumble against his back causing a chain reaction that trembled all the way down to his ass as his muscles clenched tightly. He could barely see, but he wanted to. He wanted to feel Kasan moving in him, he wanted to see that enormous cock sliding out and thrusting into something, and he had only enough time to register the desire before it came true. Kasan lifted his body up, the cat’s erection sliding free of his body reluctantly and then sliding back home as he pushed him down. Max gasped hoarsely. Oh crap! “A-again,” he whispered hoarsely, trying not to look, wanting to see it anyway. Kasan moved him again, and he felt completely helpless. Would he ever stop feeling helpless with these giants, he thought frantically, gasping again as his head fell back against Kasan’s chest. He flailed at another thrust into him that pressed against his prostate. The man nipped at his neck again, the tiny pains timed to meet each withdrawal so Max’s muscles contracted at just the right point to feel the tip of Kasan’s cock slip against the sensitive opening. He was penetrated again as he tried to think of what to do. It was so hard to think. His brain felt sluggish and dazed, his body desperate, and he could only watch as he was taken, watch as the thrusts grew stronger, as the heavy flesh entered him more quickly. His voice grew hoarse and needy and thin the faster Kasan went. Sliding against Kasan’s chest, he saw himself pulled down hard onto the man’s heavy erection, over and over. Strong arms were the only things his hands could reach and he clung to them, nearly sobbing at the building pleasure every time his body was entered. “Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.” The sound of his ass hitting Kasan’s thighs matched his voice and it seemed almost too soon when he finally cried out as his climax rocked him. Seed poured from his body to spill over the floor and Kasan’s legs while his ass gripped and pulled the semen from Kasan’s body on one last, stunningly deep thrust. His legs more weak and useless than before, Max leaned back against Kasan as his bleary eyes watched the reflection of their glistening bodies. He looked like a limp rag, he thought, noticing his hair flat against his head from the sweat coating him.

And fucked. He looked thoroughly fucked. Staring, his breathing slowed along with his pulse. Kasan’s hands moved up, stroking his chest again with soft hands as the man murmured incomprehensible, soothing, arousing words. He’d just been fucked. The realization settled into his mind. He’d just watched himself get fucked, and it had been better than the best porno video he’d ever seen. Holy crap. He knew he was going to blush. He knew it. Max wanted to close his eyes and avoid seeing it, but he couldn’t. It wasn’t hot or erotic, it was just…like a train wreck. He didn’t want to watch, but he couldn’t look away. His eyes saw the bright red start at his forehead, traveling across his face and down his torso with a tingling rush he could physically feel. The sensation didn’t stop until his entire body was pink and prickling. He looked ridiculous. Kasan smiled slowly as he noticed it, playing with Max’s nipples for a second before Max smacked his hands away. “I-“ He couldn’t believe he’d just done that. “How could you-“ And he couldn’t blame Kasan for screwing him, because they had to, right? “The mirrors-“ Watching himself…that was Kasan’s fault. This horrible, frantically embarrassed feeling in his chest, that was Kasan’s fault. Max pushed, trying not to notice how useless his movement was until Kasan helped him stand and he came free of the man’s cock with an ass-clenching slide. He stumbled and would have fallen if Kasan hadn’t caught him by the waist, steadying him. Turning around within the clasp of Kasan’s hands, he took a deep breath and stared at him. He saw the interested, carnal look to the cat’s eyes and he was sure his damn blush got darker. If he had to… to have sex to live, there had to be, what was the word? Ground rules. He pointed to Kasan. “Kasan.” And himself. “Max.” And the bed. “Bed.” And then the mirror. He waited, looking at Kasan to see if he figured out what he was asking. The cat smiled, kneeling on the floor casually as though they were at a naked garden party. His hands slid up from Max’s waist in a slow glide until they curled around his back. “Kasan, Max, Bed,” Kasan inclined his head towards the mirror. “Mirror.”

Max nodded, repeating the word to himself. He pointed firmly to Kasan when he felt he had the pronunciation right. “Kasan? Kasan, NO sex mirror!” Kasan’s eyes opened wide and then he burst out laughing, the deep sound vibrating Max’s entire body as he was pulled into a tight hug. He squirmed, yelping as his legs were scooped out from under him and he ended up sitting in the cat’s lap. He scowled up at him, trying to ignore the slippery feel in between his ass cheeks as he sat on the smooth thighs. He jabbed him in the chest. “Kasan! No funny! No sex mirror!” Kasan just kept laughing until Max finally gave up. He punched him and grumbled under his breath. “Stupid pervert cat.” Kasan ignored him and continued to laugh. Chuckles still rumbled in his chest when Kasan stood up, carrying Max towards the bed. He almost started laughing all over again at the renewed muttering it produced. He was growing to love this quirky grumpiness of Max’s. It happened so often now, it felt as though it were a normal phase of their lovemaking. Part of the man’s pattern. The nervous, frantic panic before they touched. Then the passion, loud and hot enough to singe the fur from his ears. And at the end, Max either passed out or he was…cranky. Kasan wasn’t certain why he always ended this way. Why so crabby when he’d enjoyed himself just moments before? Maybe he needed a nap, like the littles did after they ran around a lot? He wasn’t that much larger than an older child. It could be. Worth looking into. Or it could be the speed of it all. Aside from the few times when Max was half-asleep or drugged, they’d only had heat-driven couplings. Those were always rushed and raw – he’d heard others describe them that way before his own heat hit, and now that he’d experienced it himself, he had to agree. An orgasm during a heat spike was still gut clenching, but there was something missing. There was no time to savor his consort. He wanted that, a chance for them to explore one another with a little more finesse. Could the little one want the same thing? Was that why he seemed so upset? Glancing down at Max’s folded arms and pouting face, he grinned and nuzzled the top of his head. Max growled, hunching his shoulders. With a frustrated grunt, he pointed to his own head as he glared up at Kasan. Hmmm. More words, or something else? “Head?” “NO head,” Max said emphatically. Kasan choked on another laugh. “I can’t agree to that one, precious. There’ll be quite a lot of ‘giving head’ in the near future.” Max looked at him suspiciously. “I not understand.”

“Don’t fret over it, little one. You will soon enough.” Kasan kissed the tip of his nose – it was so damn cute, all small and snub – and he got another long grumble. If he had to guess, he’d say it was a long stream of cursing. It had him wishing again that he could understand the little one. He’d give quite a bit of money to know what the hell went on in that clever mind of his. Although whatever was going on in Max’s ‘head,’ Kasan would find out soon enough. As quick as his consort was picking up the language, he’d be chattering away in Hinta in no time. Good thing, too, because there was no way Kasan was going to learn human. He’d barely been able to learn galactic; it had taken him years longer than it should have. He and Max would still be trying to say hello if they had to rely on Kasan’s language skills. Thank God he had the talent Kasan lacked. Staring at him, Kasan wondered how it worked out that way. What were the odds that Kasan would get a consort who meshed so well with his own skills and personality? A million to one? A billion? But Max made Kasan feel…whole, like all his jagged edges had been filled in, smoothed, so they finally fit together in a way that made sense. Even Kasan’s lack of height suddenly had a purpose – who else in the family could have mated Max that first time without tearing him open? Looking at Max’s face, rosy as the man began to blush at the concentrated attention, Kasan swallowed heavily. Leero had been right; he was the luckiest bastard in the world. Feeling Max’s nude body sliding against his chest as his consort moved in his arms, he swallowed again. He clutched him so tightly Max started to protest, cussing Kasan out in his incomprehensible human until he relaxed his grip. Kasan really wasn’t sure why Max seemed to fit him so well, so quickly. They hadn’t even had a conversation that lasted more than a handful of sentences yet. Still, he could so easily see their future. Feeding the little man, laughing with him, celebrating his brothers’ matings when they came, and his niece’s and nephews after that. He could see himself growing old with him. He tried to force down the lump that was growing in his throat. That wasn’t a mating; that was a joining. He was actually thinking about joining. That was insane. A life-long commitment, based on a few days knowledge? Insane… His fingers rubbed against Max’s skin as his steps slowed. Insane. Besides, he wasn’t sure if Max wanted that level of commitment yet. His consort wouldn’t even know what it was. And even if the idea of being with Max for the rest of his life felt so damn right it was making it difficult to think of any other way, it didn’t matter. There’d been enough decisions made on the fly lately. This one needed serious thought. Kasan had should wait a little.

Think about it for a while. Another step and he found the one flaw in his decision to wait. Every time he got close to Max, his brain was only focused on one thing: getting inside of him. So far, that’s what he thought about away from him, too. How the hell was he supposed to contemplate something as important as a joining if he couldn’t get his brain off the image of Max’s tight ass? Damn. Maybe Jolan would have some idea. He’d been mated the longest. His body began to burn again, just lust and impatience rather than the heat, but riding him just as strongly. Groaning under his breath, he tried to ignore the man’s compact little body pressed against his nipples like a brand, sliding over his skin with every step he took. His cock swelled slightly. Max squirmed and Kasan’s cock hardened so fast it ached. From the corner of his eye, he saw the faint golden outline of his mark, just coalescing now on his chest, fade away as the nanites flooded back into his system. He couldn’t stop the stray thought that the little things were just as eager for him to take Max as he was. Stupid, really. They were just responding to his own lust, like they’d been built to. Dammit, how the hell was he supposed to think clearly when Max was so damnably cute that Kasan’s own mark couldn’t even form properly? The man was too sexy for his own good, But it was too soon, for sex, for joinings, for anything but going to bed. Waking up the night before had taken its toll; Kasan was looking forward to getting to bed early. He would ignore how Max’ hair was curling around his pink ears, or how his lower lip stuck out just enough to seem like an invitation, or how good his bottom felt when Kasan squeezed the firm cheeks in his hands, or how being able to see and feel all of that for the next couple of hundred years made his heart stutter. Shit. Although… There was his grandfather. Another throwback, he’d joined with his consort within the first week, and the two of them had been deliriously happy together. It had been a huge scandal, making such an important decision so quickly, when the body had barely recovered from the first mating heat. Maybe the family was due for another scandal, Kasan thought. He purred deep in his chest, inhaling Max’s scent and rubbing his chin over the top of his little head as he carried him the last few steps to the bed. He got a dainty grunt and a slap to the chest in response. At least the little one wasn’t afraid any more. He didn’t think Max would have dared hit back at him so casually even earlier in the day – he’d reacted as though he was going to be attacked every time he lost his temper. He seemed much more relaxed now. Was he as relaxed as Kasan? Kasan’s body was loose, soft and fluid after his orgasm and the lack of heat’s edge. Even getting hard again, he still felt better than he had in

weeks. Kasan laid Max on the bed, admiring the attractive flush that covered his skin, and wondered if they were both feeling the same way right now. Max could be getting aroused again. His rosy cock was still half-hard, and when they made love, he seemed to flush just like he was doing now. He could be just as aroused as Kasan. Crawling up next to him, Kasan felt like purring again. This time, they could take it slowly. He could run his hands over Max’s skin as long as he wanted. He could kiss him until Max’s lips were swollen in a permanent pout, lick down his stomach and make Max come with his mouth at least twice before they did anything else. They could“No sex mirror, Kasan.” Max said sleepily, pointing his direction with an emphatic finger before he rolled over on the pile of pillows and presented Kasan with his back. Well damn. No sex. Although the little thing was either very trusting tonight, or very cruel, he thought, watching Max’s backside jiggle slightly as his consort tried to get comfortable. Telling Kasan no, and then presenting such a tempting target? Kasan swallowed, trying to relax and keep to his section of the bed. After all Max had been through today, if the little one didn’t want to do anything else tonight, the least Kasan could do was try and respect his wishes. Especially when they’d just finished making love. Maybe Max’s little bottom was simply sore; Kasan had been in deep this time. He shook his head. Stupid idea. The nanites would have taken care of that by now. The sex-obsessed metal beasts should have altered Max’s body enough to accommodate Kasan before the little one had even woken up after their first mating. That’s what he’d been taught, anyway. And now that he thought about it, he could remember Tisu talking to him about his First night. The big lummox had been shaking over how difficult Roto’s first mating was, no matter how gentle he’d tried to be. But the next time they made love, after Tisu's nanites had activated Roto’s, everyone in the citadel had been able to hear that there were no more problems. Roto wasn’t exactly quiet when he was enjoying himself. Talking it over later with Tisu, his brother had said it was like someone had cast a magic spell. Their bodies had fit perfectly. Like they were made for each other, Kasan thought, watching Max and thinking about how their lovemaking had been so far. A little rushed, and Max had definitely been upset a few times, but Kasan couldn’t think of any time other than that first night where Max seemed in pain. He just took Kasan smoothly into his body now, small and tight. And so hot. Kasan groaned under his breath, clenching his fists. Remembering the feel of that gorgeous ass around his cock and the shocked, aroused look on Max’s face in the mirror, Kasan’s skin suddenly tingled from the tip of his toes to the top of his head. He blinked, surprised. His skin buzzed in the wake of his reaction. It was…like music. That physical reaction to a moment of true beauty when he heard something pure that gripped his heart. Something that was as close to perfect as the world made. He focused on him again, noting the sleek skin of his consort’s back as Max turned away from him, the sweet backside, the strong legs. His skin tingled deeply all over again.

Even his body thought Max was perfect. He smiled despite his discomfort. They were going to be all right. It felt stupid thinking it again – how many times was he going to need to reassure himself like this? – but it was true. Max would have to learn a little, and Kasan needed to think a little, but this was going to work out. So what if it was too early to feel this way. It wasn’t like any other part of his mating was normal, was it? A late heat, a mating at the last possible moment, and an alien for a consort. An early joining was hardly worth mentioning, after all they’d been through. Maybe it wouldn’t happen, but if this feeling didn’t go away, and he could get Max to understand… He’d have to get Zonta to help him decide on what words they should teach Max next. Just in case. ‘Joining consort’ was definitely going to be one of them. Zonta wouldn’t give him any shit over including the word. And he would be able to come up with some of the more crucial terms they might need, especially for finding Max’s family. If they could find out more about them, it might help them locate any other humans. Max would have his family again, and that couldn’t help but make him happy. Watching Max as he began to shift on the bed, he smiled at the man’s sluggish movements. Max was already beginning to fall asleep. He must be completely worn out. After the day he’d had, was it any surprise? Carried about the greeting room, treed up a wall hanging, overdosed on Chera, and then he’d had to meet the family – it had been a damn full day. Who wouldn’t be exhausted? “Poor thing,” he whispered. He ran his fingers over Max’s hair while his consort continued to grumble, arranging himself among the pillows again. The little one finally flopped face down in an ungainly sprawl after one last glare and another pointed, rather slurred, ‘no sex.’ Rubbing Max’s back softly while his eyes traced the enticing curve of his calves up to his thighs, Kasan purred quietly to himself as the little one finally fell asleep. He reached behind him and over the edge of the bed, finding the hard button embedded in the side that dimmed the lights. “You always fall asleep so quickly, Gisho love.” He wondered if that was another trait of the species. Did humans usually sleep this much? Or was it a sign that Max was doing more than he should? He frowned, running his hand in soft strokes over Max’s spine. He needed to find this sort of thing out if he didn’t want Max to be hurt. A mistake like the Chera at First meal could have been fatal. Kasan’s chest felt a tight as he stared down at the soft slope of Max’s shoulders and back. He shifted, turning further onto his side to slide his hand down Max’s bottom. “I won’t be so negligent from now on, precious. No more mistakes.” Max grumbled in his sleep at the words, squirming until Kasan palmed his pale backside fully and he settled back down. It was nice to see that his touch made the little one feel better. “I’ll take care of you. When you wake up tomorrow, I can-“ Well, actually, he could do whatever Max wanted him to, he realized. Because Service started as soon as First Meal did.

“Shit.” The teasing that went along with it would be a huge pain in the ass, but he could put up with it. Annoying as hell that he wasn’t allowed to retaliate to anything his family said, too, even after his Service ended – something he knew his brothers would take full advantage of – but still survivable. But being at the complete beck and call of his temporary ‘Master,’ or anyone else if Max wasn’t around, was usually enough to raise anyone’s hackles. Watching Max’s sweet body, his back rising evenly as he slept, Kasan realized he wasn’t dreading it like he usually did. He’d only earned Service a few times in his life and he’d hated every moment of it. But being in service to Max didn’t seem that bad. Max barely understood what was going on. And he didn’t seem like the type to lord it over someone, not like Jolan or Tisu. Or, god forbid, Aosh. And Max wouldn’t know that requesting something sexual wasn’t allowed. Maybe being fully in charge might finally give him enough security that he’d feel able to approach Kasan, wide awake, instead of the other way around. It made Kasan salivate, thinking of it. Kasan had a brief image of Max wearing the collar instead, the deep red velvet vivid against his pale skin, and he began to pant. If Max ever did anything to earn Service to him, Kasan wasn’t letting him out of the room. He wasn’t letting him even leave the bed. He couldn’t order him to have sex, but he could sure as hell make it difficult for his body to ignore the idea. He could only hope that Max might choose to do the same. He’d much rather spend most of the day closeted with Max than go out among his family and face the constant crap they’d dish out. But he supposed he’d find out what would happen in the morning. “Goodnight, little one.” He let his head rest back on the pillows, moving his hand off the tempting curve of Max’s ass to the familiar smoothness of his back. The warm, steady breathing helped keep his mind calm and edge closer to sleep. They’d solve this. His sangfroid disappeared moments later when Max grunted in his sleep and rolled over, his arm slapping Kasan in the chest. Kasan shifted his hold, splaying his palm over Max’s stomach. Almost immediately, he had to move his arm out of the way as Max shifted again, rolling all the way over until he faced Kasan. Kasan could see him frowning in his sleep, wrinkles forming between his eyebrows as he felt blindly with his other hand until it found Kasan’s body again. His forehead smoothed as soon as he found it, his body scooting forward until his face nuzzled Kasan’s chest. Kasan froze as Max muttered in his sleep and started sucking at a small patch of skin next to Kasan’s nipple. His fingers kneaded at the muscles of Kasan’s chest, stroking and gripping in tiny, convulsive grabs. Well, damn, he was doing it again. He’d done the same thing the night before, the little lirling. Kasan cupped Max’s head and tried to ease him away. “Sweetheart, you need to stop.” Max growled and gripped tighter, licking at the skin he’d had in his mouth. He arched

towards Kasan, his cock a hard heat next to Kasan’s. Whimpering when Kasan didn’t thrust back at him, his small body began to pulse forward until Kasan reached around and held his bottom close, trying to keep him still. “Max, no sex, remember?” Max whined and squirmed against Kasan’s body, his hips trying to move while Kasan tried to hold onto his own decision to leave the little one alone tonight. If Max had fallen asleep, then he needed to sleep. Kasan shouldn’t wake him up. Kasan should leave him the hell alone so his little body could recover from the day, but this was just like last night. They’d gone to bed, Max had passed out, and then he’d damn well seduced Kasan in his sleep. Kasan slipped his hand between their two bodies and managed to push Max away from him. “No sex, Max.” Max rolled over. Kasan let out a sigh of relief only to choke as Max scoot backwards. The moment his body hit Kasan’s, Max sighed softly and his body went limp again. Kasan’s…didn’t. Max had pressed his backside against Kasan, the cleft still slick their previous play, and it was pillowing Kasan’s cock. Actually, that was just like the night before as well. Obviously, Kasan needed to put up a damn barrier between them next time. Kasan swallowed and closed his eyes, moving his hands to gently grip Max’s shoulders. He needed to push him away so the little one could get the rest he needed. His own cock was throbbing, slick again with lubrication that was leaking onto Max’s skin like pearls of oil. He could just imagine the sounds Max would make when he came again. But he was going to leave it at that, because he was going to move his consort over and let him sleep. Kasan kissed the top of his head, his hands shaking, and in the end, he scooted away. He didn’t think his self-control was up for touching Max now or else he wasn’t going to make it. Max started keening softly, something Kasan couldn’t understand, as soon as Kasan moved, “Please please please…” The man arched back, his legs stiff, and one of his heels hit Kasan’s shin. He backed up as soon as he touched it, plastering his back and bottom against Kasan again. Kasan could see his smaller cock in the shadow of his body, erect and trembling. He wanted to taste it so badly it made him shake. “Max,” he whispered, trying to scoot back again and cool off. He just needed a little distance. Maybe he should get off the bed. “Gisho. Scoot over, sweetheart. If you’re this close, I don’t think I can stop-“ Max squirmed around uncomfortably until he was facing Kasan again, his palms splayed over Kasan’s chest. One leg bent up until it flopped over Kasan’s waist. The poor little thing had to be wildly uncomfortable – his legs were spread wide just to get one of them over the thick muscles along Kasan’s side. But he still wasn’t opening his eyes. How the hell could he sleep through this?!

Max’s hips started to move, pushing his cock along Kasan’s body. The open v of his legs made the little hole of his ass slide along Kasan’s length as he ground against Kasan’s stomach. He moaned in a higher counterpoint to Kasan’s involuntary thrumming. “Oh fuck.” Kasan’s cock slid slickly between the cheeks of Max’s bottom again, feeling the slight give in the middle that felt like it was begging to be taken. He lasted one more sliding grind and then he cursed and grabbed Max’s hips. “All right, dammit! You win. We’ll have sex again.” He began to thrust slowly, letting his cock slide along his consort’s body. The happy little humming Max was making had him shivering. Leero was right; Kasan was wrapped around this little thing’s fingers.

Rui’s body flinched noticeably at the muffled keening from the room behind him. “How many times are they going to do this in one night?!” he asked. His golden ears flattened at a string of loud, incomprehensible babble. The high-pitched, desperate voice was quite obviously not Kasan. “This is only the second time,” Davi said, lips quirked. “It’s too much already.” “Don’t be such a worry bird. Just relax and enjoy it. This has got to be good for at least a few fantasies.” Rui flushed and shifted uncomfortably. Kasan’s voice took on a rhythmic type of grunting that seeped from the room, surrounding them both, and Rui’s voice cracked when he tried to speak, his eyes as strained as the material of his loincloth. “What time is it?” “Hmmm. A couple tics ‘til Late Fifth.” “Thank God.” Davi chuckled again, and his arm stopped in the middle of brushing over Rui’s in sympathy as they both heard foot steps and muted voices from around the corner. Davi brought his hand back down to his spear. His ears started twitching wildly as he suddenly stood straighter, blinking in surprise. “Korosh?” A bright red pair of ears popped around the corner followed by a broadly smiling face. “Surprise!” The man sprinted down the corridor and flung himself at Davi. “Korosh!” Davi sputtered, trying to juggle cat and spear at the same time. “Damn, man,

you almost gutted yourself!” “Never happen,” the red head said cheerfully, planting a kiss on the other guard that quickly moved to a full-body molestation. Rui cleared his throat, his ears so flat they disappeared into his hair as moaning from the room meshed with the groping in the hallway. His cheeks darkened until they matched the new cat’s hair. Eyes wild, he began looking anywhere but behind him and his grip tightened as he looked back down the hall. The redhead hadn’t been alone. Another young man was following behind hesitantly, spear in hand. Dark brown hair hung down in a sleek braid to a waist that was young and a bit too thin. His eyes were a nervous gold. It matched the trembling of his ears. The cat nodded to Rui as he drew near. His teeth nibbled at his lip. They both pretended not to notice the strenuous near-humping going on behind Rui. “Was there a change in the shifts?” Rui finally asked. The boy’s ears flattened slightly. “Oh! Sorry. I’m not…” he flushed. “First time I got called on my ready period. I’m replacing Esgard for the next shift.” “Why is Esgard-“ Rui squeaked as a hand pinched his ass. Whipping around, he stared as Korosh’s golden eyes sparkled at him. The man was leaning against his mate as he waved at Rui with a happy little flutter. “He’s in heat, pretty boy. Along with about a dozen others.” Davi groaned as he hugged Korosh to him. “Don’t tell me Kasan set off a frenzy.” The redhead looked back over his shoulder and patted Davi’s hands. “Looks like it. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the ripened in the citadel end up mating before the month is out.” “That’s going to play hell with the schedule,” Davi muttered. Korosh rolled his eyes and leaned back against him. “Believe me, I know. Which is why I’m not actually here to drive you mad with lust, love. I’m replacing Leero until his Service is up. The newbie is Esgard’s replacement.” Davi cursed. Korosh rolled his hips slightly, grinding his ass against his mate’s groin, and Davi cursed again. “Not fair, Korosh.” “Just making sure you’ll appreciate me when I get home.” He turned and gave Davi one quick kiss before shoving him away. “Now, go and get yourself something to eat. You know you’re a real shokan when you don’t eat enough.” “Korosh-“ “Shoo. You’re shift’s over and we’re fine.” The redhead looked to Rui and smiled slowly at him. “We have enough food at home for three, you know.”

Rui flushed while the new boy looked at all three of them as though trying to figure out what fairy tale he’d walked into. “I – ah – I’m not sure- ah-“ “Leave him be, Korosh. He hasn’t decided yet.” “No? Too bad. I’m really in the mood tonight,” Korosh pouted slightly. “There’s always tomorrow, though.” Davi sighed, shaking his head, and turned to go. He paused before he took his first step. “Did you get Leero’s instructions if Jolan-“ “Yes, yes. I know all about that. Now go feed your self. I think you’re gonna need the energy tonight.” Davi walked away, Rui following behind and glancing back a few times before they turned the corner. Korosh and the new guard arranged themselves in front of Kasan’s door in silence. “S-so…you’re a consort?” the younger guard finally asked, his voice cracking slightly. “Mmm hmmm.” The redhead glanced at him, but his mind seemed elsewhere. “Do you - uh - like it?” “What? Being a consort?” “Y-yeah. B-bottoming as a consort…does it hurt?” Korosh snorted. “Never after the first time, and that time hurts only if your mate is a complete idiot. And if he’s too stupid to treat you nicely, beat him until he learns better.” He looked at the ducked head next to him curiously. “Why don’t you find out for yourself, if you’re wondering about it?” “That’s what my partner said this morning too, but I don’t think I could. Not just to know what it felt like. It seems too cold.” “It’s practical, not cold. How’re you gonna know what you like if you don’t try it? Doesn’t do you any good to wait until the mating heat hits or you get taken, ‘cause then you’re stuck with whoever you screw. My advice? Go have some fun now and find out what you like best. And if you like to top, find out how to do it well, so your consort doesn’t have the need to beat you for poor performance, eh?” The young guard flushed and didn’t answer. There was a small cry from inside the room, high pitched and climactic, and then silence. The dark haired man swallowed nervously and glanced at the door. “H-have you seen Kasan’s consort yet?” Korosh nodded. “Yup. Strange looking thing. I can’t imagine mating with something that tiny.”

“Really? So he’s really…” “A human? Yeah.” “Where’d you see him?” “I had my regular shift at the Consort’s entrance today.” Korosh grinned, his red ears shifting fluidly along with his smile. “The little guy is faster than greased ice on a skillet, thank God, or I would have hurt him. Thought some alien had gotten into the citadel for a few moments.” “Shit.” Korosh nodded. “Wish Leero would have let us know ahead of time, but you know how he and Kasan are. Secretive little brats.” The boy nodded as though he understood, his eyes uncomprehending. They stood in silence again, breathing evenly as they both kept watch, until Korosh gave him a sly grin. “Sooooo, what do you think of Rui?”

Soft knocking woke Kasan in the early morning and he untangled himself from Max carefully, stroking Max’s fingers as he got up. Damn but he loved touching him. Looking down before walking to the door, he frowned slightly at the nude body splayed bonelessly across the bed. A quick glance at the door and then he put a number of pillows over Max’s body. Strategically, until there wasn’t the slightest hint of skin showing except for the man’s head. Kasan looked at the small mountain he’d made over his consort and felt an embarrassed flush as he turned back to the door. There was no reason to hide the man’s body – everyone was going to be seeing it every day of their lives – but it made him want to growl when he thought about it. He wanted to keep Max all to himself right now. Shaking his head at his own stupidity, Kasan opened the door to a guard’s apologetic face. The man whispered softly to him after glancing beyond to see Max still fast asleep. Kasan was glad he’d covered Gisho up. “Zonta just sent a message. There’s been some news on the galactic channels about your consort. He said he can tell you later or you can –“ “Where is he now?” “The main vid room.” “Tell him I’ll be right there.” Kasan closed the door behind him and grabbed his wrinkled loincloth off the floor, wrapping it quickly. Leaning over Max, he ran his fingers over the edge of his round ears before he left. He was out the door in moments and talking to the guard.

“If Max wakes up and comes looking for me, let him know I’ll be back soon. He can understand a few words of Hinta – enough that you should be able to get the point across.” Kasan turned to go and then turned back. He pointed at the more experienced guard. “Don’t let him leave. He doesn’t know his way around yet.” A pause. “And page me so I know he’s up.” Another pause. “Don’t talk too loudly. Or look threatening. He’s fragile. And he gets frightened easily.” The guard pressed his lips together, his eyes sparkling. “Anything else, mother?” “Don’t crack any jokes,” Kasan said immediately, getting a snort in response. Kasan sighed, his ears flicking. “He’s so damn vulnerable; you have no idea. It was bad yesterday…” “I heard.” “Then you can understand why I want today to be a lot calmer.” The guard’s voice softened. “Of course. We’ll be very careful with the little one.” Kasan nodded, leaving, while the guards watched after him. He heard them whispering behind him as he left. Someday, he really should make it clear just how well he could hear. “Calling him ‘mother?’ I didn’t know you were so close to Prince Kasan.” “I was one of his tent mates in last year’s Battle. He doesn’t stand on ceremony much, anyway.” Kasan reached the corner and was just about to turn when he heard the last comment. “Ah.” Silence. “Is it true what he can do with his tail?” Kasan chuckled as he turned and lost the rest of their conversation, and then realized what he was doing. The hair on his tail stood on end, he was so shocked. The two men were talking about his tail, and not only didn’t it bother him, he found it rather amusing. He hunted through his mind as he walked, looking for the usual irritation that came with hearing people discuss his throwback characteristics. It wasn’t there. All he could find was a keen interest in seeing what it would feel like to have Max’s hands over his tail’s fur, and now… Now, he was very curious to discover what the rumor about his tail was. He didn’t do anything special with it, but the tone of the question had been decidedly sexual. What if

he could do something with it? Something sexual? Something sexual with Max. He distracted himself with potential new sexual fantasies until he finally reached the right room. His heart thudded painfully he looked at the door, barely seeing the guards on either side, all his concerns from before rushing in. Now maybe they’d find out something about Max and where he came from. If Zonta had found something worth waking him up over, this must be important. He just didn’t know if it was good, or bad. But he needed to find out. The two guards pushed open the door before he could lift a hand, nodding to him as he walked past. He hardly noticed his surroundings, closing his eyes as he took a fortifying breath and wondered what he was going to find. And then the door closed behind him, his eyes opened, and he found himself in the dark. Son of a bitch! He should have fucking paid attention. What the hell was going on? His hackles rose as he realized that not only was it dark, no one was there. The walls were covered with blank screens that should be full of news and gossip from the stations they monitored. The rows of desks were empty of people. The handcomps were all tucked away in their alcoves underneath the screens instead of being used by the people who were supposed to be working here already. He didn’t hear anyone breathing inside with him, and the guards hadn’t seemed concerned at all, but this was really…wrong. He started to back towards the door when the main screen glowed to life. The rectangle showed him a vividly colored version of the greeting room from the day before, brightly lit, with full sound blaring loudly into his ears. But the scene wasn’t from the greeting. Kasan’s jaw dropped as the video panned closer to the only movement that had been in the room, Kasan holding Max against the wall while he took him into his mouth and his consort writhed in his arms. “What the fuck!” Kasan’s entire body reacted as he saw himself curling Max’s knees towards his stomach to lick the middle of his ass. His cock filled with blood. His mind went blank and he fought to catch his breath as Max came and then started crying for release again. And all he could think, as his video double turned and pulled Max’s body down onto his cock, was that he wished the camera had another angle because he couldn’t see enough with Max’s tunic hanging down over his backside. “Dear God…” Staring, it was all he could do not to reach around and cup himself. This was better than the damn mirrors. He jumped and spun as he heard Nolluz’s voice at the opposite end of the room, the door to a side alcove open behind him. “It’s amazing how smoothly he opens when you enter him. I’ve never seen such a good example of how quickly the nanites can adjust the body before.“ Kasan could only stare at his brother, gaping as he realized that Jolan, Tisu, and Aosh were standing next to Nolluz in the dark. Their eyes went from the screen to Kasan and back again.

“You can’t see it as well with that stupid tunic, but I have to hand it to you, your consort has a damn fine ass,” Tisu added. “I never realized just how easy it is to pick him up and fuck him like crazy,” Aosh commented. “And we can’t thank you enough for doing it in a public place when the recorders were still on.” Jolan finished, turning to look at him with a huge, smug grin. “I was just trying to get an audio of the two of to play at first meal, but damn if you didn’t set up one better! When Aosh told us when you’d gone in there, before the scheduled recording had finished? You made my whole damn year.” The four of them turned then, grinning like they’d just outwitted the Great Trickster. Jolan took two steps forward in time to Max’s aroused gasping that filled the room. His voice was smooth and unbearably smug. “You are my fucking hero. The only one of us to avoid the First Night Prank, and the only one to as good as arrange his own pranking the next day. This is gonna make great entertainment at first meal, Kasan.” Kasan felt his claws come out. Lust had already started to fade as soon as Nolluz had started talking, and now rage was quickly taking over. “I don’t fucking think so. You should have just fucking done it without this stupid-ass gloating, ‘cause there’s no damn way you’re getting this shit out of here.” Jolan smirked, the others grinning behind him. “Ha, you can’t do a damn thing. You think we’re stupid? You just head on back to Max now. We’re gonna enjoy knowing all you can do is wallow in anticipation of your upcoming humiliation, little brother. After everything you’ve done to us, you SO deserve this.” He bared his fangs. “Payback’s a bitch, ain’t it?” Kasan could still hear Max on the screen and he stalked towards Jolan with his claws noticeably bared. “Turn this the fuck off, and give me the damn recording.” Jolan took one surprised step back. “Uh, Kasan. Didn’t you hear me? Go back to Max now. That’s an order.” “Turn the fucking video off!” Kasan readied himself to leap. “What the hell are you doing, Kasan! You can’t attack me! You’re in Service today!” Kasan grinned ferally. “Do you see a fucking collar on?” Jolan’s face paled, highlighting the faint bruises from the beating the night before, and his eyes veered down to see Kasan’s neck, bare of even his torque this morning. Kasan bared his fangs back at them. “Service doesn’t start until First meal, you moron. You are SO fucking dead.” “Oh shit…” Kasan pounced.

The guards outside the vid room both jumped as something slammed into the door behind them. The larger one put a hand on his partner’s shoulder before he could burst in. “Don’t.” There was a loud snarl followed by a shattering crash. “Holy shit.“ “It doesn’t matter.” Their ears both flattened at furious cursing and another door rattling thud. The guard tightened his grip on the other man. “It’s the princes. Trust me; you don’t want any part of this. Just turn around and look down the hallway.” They heard a concussive thump combined with a snarling scream. “Really. I guard Prince Jolan’s door periodically. There are just some things you can never un-see. Turn around and let them work out their personal tiffs without us.” The other guard finally nodded and they both stood stiffly outside the door, trying not to cringe too often at the minor apocalypse going on just beyond their sight. “I really hope you’re right about this,” the small guard muttered, glancing at the door after spine-tingling shriek. “I am.” Someone yelled again, his voice ending on a high-pitched yelp of pain followed by what sounded like a small explosion. “With the Lord King’s family, discretion is ALWAYS the better part of valor.” “You know, this didn’t go quite as I’d planned,” Jolan slurred, his lips swollen and bleeding. Aosh snorted, wiping at a cut on his forehead with a ripped piece of loincloth. “No shit.” Glaring at his younger brother while he crouched to gather up assorted pieces of glass, Tisu grumbled under his breath. “It would have been fine if you’d mentioned Service didn’t start until later.” “You need me to do everything for you? I found the recording, I faked the call from Zonta, and I found out there was going to be service. If you can’t be bothered to double check the actual time, don’t blame me!” Tisu stood up and smacked Aosh in the back of the head and got a snarling swipe in return. “Shut the hell up,” Kasan barked, pushing a tumbled desk upright again. He winced as one slender leg collapsed and dumped it back onto its side. Looking around at the room, Kasan cursed quietly under his breath. The others gave similarly discouraged looks and continued with their own clean-up efforts.

There were only two intact screens on the wall, plus one hanging slantwise with a smoking hole taking up most of its center. The rest were shattered in pieces on the floor. Hand comps were scattered over the rugs like leaves. Most of the desks would have a better chance at walking out the door under their own power than being returned to a shape even vaguely resembling a piece of furniture. “Fuck,” Kasan muttered, throwing his desk onto the pile of broken ones in the corner. “Father is going to kill us.” “Of course he is,” Nolluz said. He wiped a hand over his limp bangs, brushing them out of his face. “You destroyed the vid room! The main vid room!” Kasan’s ears quivered before lying flat against his head. “I destroyed the room?!” “We certainly weren’t the ones foolish enough to start this altercation in the midst of extremely expensive, and fragile, equipment.” Nolluz said calmly as he looked down his bloody nose as Kasan. “You damn well were! You all fucking started this!” “You can’t blame us for not having a proper hold on your temper. Honestly, Kasan! I’m amazed your human consort hasn’t tried to run from you, if you’ve this little control.” With a furious snarl, Kasan started for his brother. Jolan and Tisu jumped between them. “Kasan, calm down.” Jolan said, bracing his palms against Kasan’s chest and getting hit for it in return. He looked back over his shoulder. “And quit being such an ass, Nolluz!” Tisu shoved Nolluz away to a safer location – ignoring him after he fell sprawling on the other side of another broken desk – and then glared at Kasan. “I don’t know what you’re so fucking pissed about still. You got the damn recording.” “There shouldn’t have been a recording in the first place.” Kasan glared back. Tisu continued to talk as though Kasan hadn’t said a word. He spared a glance at the youngest brother in the room. “Of course, if someone could have kept his big mouth shut, maybe you’d still have a reason to be such a shokan.” Aosh raised his fingers to flick them an obscene gesture. “Don’t even give me shit over that,” he said, pausing with a hand full of shards. “You heard him; he was going to tell Zonta what we’ve been doing unless he got the video. A beating is one thing, a furious Zonta is something else entirely. I did not agree to pay for this with the next few weeks of my life!” Tisu and Jolan raised their eyebrows, Jolan snorting dismissively. “Yeah. Baby brother is terrifying. I’m shaking.” Aosh glared. “I’d rather be up before a meeting of the clan’s elders than have Zonta well and truly angry with me. He’s evil when he’s pissed off!” Tisu laughed at him. “He sure as hell makes you flatten your ears like a little, you

squickling.” “Go ahead and laugh, Tisu. See how funny you find it when you wake up with your hair shaved off and your hand glued to your cock!” Tisu started laughing again. “That was him? I thought it was Kasan! Ha, how drunk do you have to be for Zonta to actually get one up on you?” Fists clenching, Aosh got ready to leap at him when they heard the door open. Turning in unison, ears flattening at the same moment, they all stared guiltily at the group of men and women who usually manned the communications room. Choked gasping escaped the oldest tech as he stared around the room with huge eyes. “What the hell did you do!? You said you just needed it for an hour, Aosh!!” Aosh swallowed before pasting a sensual smile on his face. With a roll of his hips, he walked towards the sputtering male who was quickly turning an unhealthy shade of puce. The other techs alternated between staring at the smooth saunter of his body and the destruction of the room. Aosh reached over and ran his hand over his victim’s shoulder. “Ah, as to that… things might have gotten a bit out of hand, but-” “Out of hand! You destroyed the entire room! Shit, everyone was right – I never should have listened to your damn pillow talk. I’m going to be in Service for a decade for this!” Aosh shushed him with a finger on his lips. “It’s not that bad, is it? We’ve already cleaned up most of the mess-“ The pale haired man snarled and yanked his head back. “This is cleaned up!?” He wavered where he stood, his ears getting flatter with every new thing he discovered in the room. A strangled growling was coming from his throat. “We’ll take responsibility,” Kasan and Jolan said at the same time. They glanced at each other, frowned, and nodded once. “We’ll pay for repairs.” Kasan said quickly. “And clean it up,” Jolan added. “What am I going to tell the next shift?! We’ll miss the rest of the news packet for the entire fifth! And there’s not even enough equipment left for everyone on shift to use!” Kasan came forward and patted the shoulder Aosh wasn’t clinging to. His brothers sped up their cleaning efforts. “We have a few extras in the military’s surplus. I’ll get them out for you. We’ll have you back up before First Meal, don’t worry. And you can get the first half of the packet from another group later tonight, can’t you?” The man looked around and finally sagged against the nearest wall. “There’s no way. The Elders are going to skin me alive. It’s completely destroyed.”

Aosh lightly shoved Kasan out of the way. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t leave you in the lurch like that, not after you helped me out.” He reached out and lightly touched the man’s ear, stroking it between his fingertips. Kasan shook his head as the man shivered, his eyes suddenly hazy as he leaned into it. The tech’s body sagged forward and Aosh pressed against him. “We’ll fix it for you. I promise. Just relax,” he whispered. Kasan sighed. His baby brother, the universal seducer. He nodded once to the others huddling in the doorway, inviting them in, and went back to cleaning. A few of the techs pitched in, although most just stood at the edges of the room, watching and shaking their heads. Kasan did his best to keep his temper in check. Every time he looked up at the screens still on the wall, he saw Max’s body in his head. It made him want to leap on his brothers for seeing Max at all. “Come on,” Jolan finally said. “We better get this cleaned up damn quick.” He smiled at Kasan, licking at the blood that beaded up as his split lip opened again. “We wouldn’t want you to miss your Service, now would we?” Kasan snarled at him and went back to cleaning. It was a shame, but the headman was right. Even with everything fixed up, the Elders were still going to skin them alive. If they found out, of course. Kasan hoped he was remembering right about what was in storage, or they were in for it. _____________________ The nearly silent thump as a large animal leapt to the floor didn’t register in Max’s sleeping ears. Nor did the pad of paws across the floor, or the huffing grunt near his ear that blew his hair against his scalp. He merely huffed in return and turned over onto his back, dislodging pillows and scattering them across the bed to expose himself. He didn’t make as sound as a large, furry head bumped against his side and rolled him onto his stomach. He grunted once without opening his eyes as another thump against his body rolled him again. And he was silent for one last moment as a shove pushed him the last inches off the bed and onto the floor. He woke up with a garbled yelp as his head thumped painfully on hard stone and his legs fell with a jarring thud immediately afterwards. “Ow!” Max lay on the floor, rubbing at his head and blinking as he looked up at the ceiling. “Wha--?” His head ached, his legs were vibrating painfully, and there was something poking into his butt underneath the pile of pillows that was arching his back up off the floor. He grumbled, eyes and mind glazed with sleep, and rooted around under the pillows until his hand grabbed something hard. Pulling it out with a fumbling yank, he lay on his back and stared at it. It was familiar, but he couldn’t quite figure out what the hell it was. “Too early,” he mumbled, squinting as he brought it closer to his face. Long, thick, crystalline….phallic.

“Crap, it’s the cock!” The Dong of Doom was stalking him now! With a convulsive jerk, Max flung it across the room. He didn’t realize what he’d done until glassy clattering rang in his ears. Oh shit, Kasan! His stomach squirming and tight, he rolled to face the bed. He closed his eyes just before he would have looked up. Please don’t wake up, he thought desperately. Sleep like the dead! Don’t notice the dildo! Cringing a little, his arms fisted defensively over his chest as he lay on the floor, Max opened one eye, expecting to see Kasan’s face staring down at him. Relief slithered through his belly when he saw Androcles peering over the edge, instead. And laughing at him, like always. Something was off about the head, but it was definitely a dog. Not a cat, thank God. Although if Androcles was there, then that meant that he’d been the one who’d moved Max down to the floor. “You’re a menace,” he muttered, and froze as he realized how loud his voice was. The damn room echoed like a freaking stage. When Kasan didn’t instantly pop up behind Androcles, Max got his priorities in order and rolled onto his hands and knees. This might be his only chance. He crawled quickly over to the phallus. He wanted to peek and see if Kasan was watching, especially when his naked ass was hanging out all over the place, but his memory was waking up along with his body and he didn’t think he could face Kasan at all right then. Maybe not for a couple of years. Max flinched, his skin prickling from the blush that started from the top of his head and quickly spread down to his toenails. He hadn’t even known toenails could blush! Swallowing, he tried desperately not to think about what they’d done during the night as he crawled back with his prize. His hands gathered up pillows to pile on top of the Damn Penis and the two books he could see peeking out underneath. And then he slumped against the bed. How could they have had sex like that? Not just in front of the mirrors, but again in the bed! Stupid cat had molested him in his sleep – for the second night in a row! - and been half-way inside his ass before Max even woke up. Made him too aroused to fight him off that way, the jerk. And Max had been so nice and let the both of them not die and let Kasan do all those things to him and… He swallowed again, the prickle growing fiercer over his cheeks. He sat on the floor next to the pillows and put his face in his hands. He couldn’t believe the things that they’d done. Or how unbelievably hot the damn sex had been. Pressing his palms against his eyes, he sat and tried not to remember the feel of Kasan’s skin and his hands on Max’s thighs. Or the sight of his cock disappearing inside of him. Or the feel of slickness and jolting pleasure with every thrust while Kasan’s bitter-sweet scent wrapped around him. He didn’t want to be this way! It was crazy that remembering the night before already had him hard and swollen. He could almost feel the cat taking him right now, in a way that made his body feel empty and small. In a way that missed being full, he realized with an unwilling shiver.

Dammit, he hadn’t asked for this! He hadn’t asked to get the damn alien STD’s, had he? He hadn’t wanted to be screwed by some big, honkin’ alien and… come multiple times… and… and… He whimpered, pulling his hands away from his face to look around the room. Everything was alien: the size of the doorway into the bathroom, the log slanting up to the wall, the cleaning oil against the wall, the bed he was leaning against. Max couldn’t keep from thinking about what Kasan had told him last night as he saw at it all. He was all alone. Kasan didn’t know where any other humans were; it was just Max. And that meant he had no way home. He didn’t know any star charts, or whatever the hell he’d need to find Earth, or the colony, or anything! Even without the stupid STD thing, he was stuck here with Kasan. “And who knows how long that’s gonna be for,” he whispered to himself, reaching out to stroke the comforting softness of the nearest pillow. The thought creeping up into his brain was freaking scaring the crap out of him, but it wouldn’t go away. He was all alone, he didn’t know where the hell he was, and he had an alien who claimed they were married and was willing to…help him. As long as they had sex. A hell of a lot of sex. He flushed and covered his face again. He wanted to hate it. If the sex was hurting him, if Kasan was a real bastard who beat him or something, then he could hate everything about this. But the sex wasn’t horrible. God, it felt so amazing he was almost wishing Kasan was sneaking up behind him just to do it again. It made him feel like a man slut, but crap. Kasan was really good at it! How was Max supposed to hate it like he should if it felt that good? And besides, Kasan was… well, he was a horny bastard, but he wasn’t a bastard bastard. Breathing into his hands to stave off the umpteenth hyperventilating fit since he’d woken up in Giant Land, Max rocked a little against the bed. It would be okay. He could do this. It was only… marriage. He could do marriage, right? He’d watched his parents do it for years. No problem. His breathing began to slow. Just marriage… to an alien cat who was hung like a whale and lived a bazillion miles from other humans on a planet where everyone could pick Max up and smack him around like a piñata. He started to breathe in gasping pants again and clamped his hands down tight over his face. It wasn’t helping. His hands began to tingle almost immediately. His head swam. He had to calm down or he was going to pass out! It’s not bad, he repeated frantically, it’s not bad. Kasan wouldn’t hurt him. He’d been really nice. He was a good guy. A good, big, freaking hornier than hell guy. He screwed me blind in front of a mirror. Max’s breathing got even faster and everything faded to gray. ______________________

He woke up to slime lapping against his face. “Bleh,” he slurred, pushing at the furry thing attacking him with its tongue. What had just…? Oh, yeah. Just great. He’d hyperventilated himself unconscious. Opening his eyes, the edge of the bed was the first thing he saw. Kasan was sure taking a hell of a long time waking up. How long had Max been out? A few minutes? A half hour? And his hhusband still wasn’t looking for him? What type of callous sleeping was that! And dammit, Max’s head hurt now, both from the knock on the ground when he’d fallen out of bed, and now from fainting like a sex-triggered narcoleptic. “Ow.” Did the cats have pain pills on their planet? Shaking his aching head, hearing Androcles panting next to him, he turned to pet him once before he confronted Kasan. He froze with his hand outstretched. Holy shit! He stared at the dog sitting next to him. It was the same color as Androcles. Same eyes, same shape of the head, same pose Androcles seemed to take when he was sitting and watching Max make a fool of himself. But now Max finally realized why his head had looked so odd on the bed. The dog was huge! Max tried to call for Kasan, terrified at the size of the animal that was sitting so close its fur brushed against his legs. All that emerged was a terrified whimper of sound, and the dog’s mouth opened up just like when Androcles laughed at him. His head was right at the level of Max’s, so near that Max got a good, close look. Shit, the thing’s teeth were as big as his little finger! Why did everything here have to be so damn big! He wanted Androcles! Or Kasan! Max tried to catch his breath. He didn’t want to faint again, not when this thing was sitting right next to him, ready to… Ready to lick him again? “Dumbass. If it was going to eat you, it would have done it already, you idiot.” It had had all the time he’d been out, hadn’t it? It could have chewed his face off! But it hadn’t. He felt his heart slowly calming back down to normal. “Just because it’s not small like Androcles-“ It yipped at him softly as soon as he finished speaking and scooted closer, leaning in to rest its chin on top of his head. “Oh not you, too,” he grumbled, shoving it off. “I don’t need something else that’s messing with my hair. I just want Androcles.” It yipped again. Max stared at it. Why was it doing that? It stared at him, the orange eyes strangely intense as they watched him.

“What? I don’t even speak cat-language, dude. There’s no way I’m speaking dog.” After another minute of staring, it suddenly leapt away, startling him into slamming back against the bed. He watched as it scampered up the log. His jaw dropped as it came back down with one of the feathers that Androcles had hidden up there. “No! What are you doing?” he hissed, waving at it. “Androcles already–“ Another yip as it stomped on the feather dropping from its mouth. Staring at it as the dog began laughing at him with that wide open, panting mouth, Max bit his lip. There was still no sound from Kasan, and there was something about this stupid dog. It just…acted exactly like Androcles. Except it was over twice as big as he’d been the night before, but it acted just like him. Maybe they were…from the same litter? Or something? Because they couldn’t be the same dog. “Dogs are not blow up toys. You can’t grow that much in one night,” he whispered nervously. The dog sat and stared at him calmly. Max shook his head. “Look, that’s just crazy.” It panted in his direction and he scowled. “Your breath stinks, you know. And I’m not calling you Androcles.” It yipped again and he shushed at it. “Shut up! I’m not calling you Androcles, you dumb dog.” It yipped louder and he just knew it was going to wake up Kasan. “Fine! Fine already! Look, you take that stupid feather, and this stupid crap the real Androcles left here, up into that room at the top of the log. You do that, I’ll call you whatever the hell you want, you stupid…” He gaped as the dog leapt back up the log before he finished speaking, the feather disappearing with him. When the big animal came back down and started pawing through the pillows, it grabbed both books in his mouth and finally the stupid dildo and took them all away. Max could only swallow nervously when the dog came back and sat down in front of him again. Shit, how smart were these dogs?! “A-all right, then. I’ll call you A-Androcles.” Waiting for another noise, he sighed in relief as the dog finally settled down, resting its head on its front paws. It was a LOT less disturbing when it wasn’t so big looking. Except now that he wasn’t making any more noise, and the stupid crap from the pervert cats was tucked away…there was no reason not to wake up Kasan. Max glanced up at the corner of the bed again and took a deep breath. Then another. Married, he reminded himself. And stunning, mind-melting sex. And Kasan. What would Kasan look like when he slept? He sucked in his breath, seeing all that golden skin in his head. Kasan hadn’t looked

over yet, so that meant he had to be asleep. So Max could look at him for a little bit and get over all his embarrassment before he had to talk to him. He could do this. As quietly as he could, he got to his hands and knees and crouched behind the bed. He reached up the couple of feet to the top and inched his head up to see. There was nothing up there but pillows. “Oh thank God.” He slumped down and leaned his head against the bed, studiously ignoring the way his cock started to soften at the lack of big, naked Kasan. Kasan was gone again. Maybe he went to work in the mornings or something. So where did that leave Max? “What am I supposed to do now?” He looked down at himself and grimaced at the mess he finally noticed covering his stomach from the night before. He wasn’t really sure which of the pretty bottles of liquid Kasan owned was the oily cleansing stuff, but he sure as hell hadn’t seen anything that looked like a bath. No way he was getting dressed when he was this gross. And really no way he was walking around naked all morning. Not when Kasan or anybody else could just walk right in. Finally taking a chance on the oils, he figured out which was which from the smell. It felt as good as it had the first time, and he was a bit embarrassed that he already had a hard-on as he picked out a new loincloth and top. He was pretty damn proud that he actually got them both on without any help, though. It didn’t last long enough to keep him from getting bored, sadly. Androcles wanted out into the garden after only a few minutes of boredom, and when he disappeared into the greenery, Max closed the door behind him. There might be more pink porcupine blobs around, and he sure as hell wasn’t letting them invade the room. Androcles the small had taken one out; Androcles the Great-freaking-Dane would have NO trouble defending himself. Another few minutes and Max was eyeing the door that led to the hallway. What was taking Kasan so long? Unless maybe they were just waiting for him to come out? Kasan had come back that first time after Max had stepped out, hadn’t he? Maybe they needed to page him for Max or something? He’d feel pretty stupid if that were the case, but…he gulped. He could do it. It wouldn’t hurt to try, right? Probably? They hadn’t messed with him yet, they were just so… so freaking big. “Suck it up, Max. If you’re not going to leave for a while, then you need to…” he closed his eyes as he remembered the guards from before, towering over him. “Y-you n-need to face these guys.” He swallowed heavily, dragging his feet as he went towards the door. His heart was beating painfully loud in his ears, thumping in his chest so hard that he felt like he should be able to see it move the cloth of the little shirt covering it. He heard his breath coming in harsh, quick pants and started holding his breath for a few seconds each time he inhaled, trying to keep from hyperventilating yet again. God, he didn’t want to do this. He

wanted to be home! Just home and in bed and listening to airplanes flying overhead and making enough noise to rattle the windows. And even so, slithering in between the fear and the freaking out was a tiny bit of pleasure, because maybe these guards would go get Kasan for him. And if Kasan came, maybe they would…do things. “You’re such a damn nympho you should wear a sign,” he growled at his cock, feeling it rising up. “You’re a… a sex fast-food chain.” With one last sigh, he carefully opened the door and stared as the two large cats standing there swiveled to look at him. He tried not to whimper in fear. His brain couldn’t keep that size in his head! How could they be that damn huge!? He couldn’t speak, staring at them, and it was oddly surreal when he finally realized that they were staring at him as curiously as he was watching them. Not as scared, that was for damned sure, but…they looked at him like they’d never seen anything like him. He cleared his throat, flushing as the bigger one of the pair smiled at him. “Uh. Wh-where K-Kasan?” They both smiled now. One of them crouched down to talk to him, a bit humiliating, really. He felt like the man was treating him like a toddler. “He’s in the main vid room, little one. We’ll get him for you.” Well. That was a hell of a lot more words than he knew. He recognized one phrase, especially one that Kasan seemed to say to him, ‘little one,’ but that didn’t help a whole hell of a lot. “I…” Hell, how did he say it again? “…d-don’t understand.” The big one crouching next to him talked way too fast for him to follow even if he’d understood, and the smaller one went over to a box embedded into the wall. When he pressed a button and talked into it, Max was wondering if he was reading too much into it, thinking it looked like an intercom. But when a voice spoke back out of the speaker looking part, he gaped. It made no sense. The guards wore freaking loincloths and carried spears, for god’s sake. How the hell could they have an intercom thingie and still have spears?? He wished something about this stupid planet made any sense at all, dammit! “Kasan come here soon, little one.” Max watched as the man pointed to where they were, and hope to god it meant what he thought it did. Kasan was going to be here? He was coming? “Kasan come ‘ere soon?” he repeated. They both nodded, smiling, and the one in front of him stood up, reaching over to fuzz

his head as he did. Max scowled and stepped back. He would give a hell of a lot if they would stop freaking patting his head like a dog. He jumped as the door he’d come through suddenly closed with a soft click. He hadn’t heard it sliding shut! Staring at it, panic started to creep up on him. He was out in the hallway with just these two big cats, and no Kasan, no Androcles, no room. He backed away, staring up at them both as he moved until he could feel the door against his back. It wasn’t opening. And a look around him made him feel even more nervous. The freaking hallway was ginormous. Maybe it felt good for freakishly large cats, but now he felt even more like a midget! All he could think of was the last time he’d been in a hallway, running away from the blond cat who’d tried to molest him in the bathroom. “Shhhhh. We won’t hurt you. You don’t have to be so nervous, little one.” He tried to stay calm. They weren’t making him go back in the room, weren’t pointing him to go somewhere else. Weren’t trying to molest the crap out of him. Should he wait here, then? They seemed to expect it. Watching him, their bodies relaxed when he didn’t move past huddling near the closed door. Maybe they didn’t know what to make of him, either? He leaned back against the wall and tried to pretend he was just waiting, simply a… a tourist interested in looking around the hallway. Listening, he worked hard to recognize anything familiar as they began to talk to each other. “He’s so small,” the smaller one said quietly, looking at him. Talking about me, he thought. What the hell’s he saying? “Yeah. You couldn’t quite see it as much when Leero had him all wrapped in that cloak.” They both stared at him again and Max tried to look like he didn’t care. He would have given anything to know what they were actually saying, because the look in their eyes was making him blush a little. The smaller one spoke again. “I think I’m going to put some money in the pool.” “For or against?” “For. I bet Kasan’s tail can do something to a little thing as small as this. Isn’t like a tail would have to be that strong to penetrate an ass this tiny, is it? How about you?” “Ten against penetration, fifteen for something sexual. I could see caresses, but penetration? I don’t think a tail would be that stiff.” The big one looked at Max and smiled in a way that made him squirm. “He must be absolutely adorable when he comes, don’t you think? I can see why Kasan is so protective of him. What a cutie.” The other one’s head tilted and stared at Max for a moment with those slanted, alien eyes and this time he did squirm. “Well, he’s cute, but he’s so skinny. He doesn’t have any muscles, and he seems rather nervous, doesn’t he?” “I think that’s even cuter that way.”

“Eh, not me. Not my type at all. I’d rather have something fully grown that you can really hold onto, not someone I’d have to worry about breaking all the time. Something you can get a good grip on.” “Good thing you’ve already got a nice, big mate then, eh?” They both smiled and chuckled a bit and Max smiled too, automatically, wondering if it was a joke at his expense. Not that he minded, as long as it was something he was being included in. He just felt so…alone. He didn’t know these two, didn’t know anyone here. Not really. He didn’t know anyone. Feeling his eyes start to sting, he bit his lips to stop it. He wanted Kasan so badly his entire body ached like an open wound. He waited so long, listening to them talk back and forth, that his back grew frigid. The stone behind him was seeping cold into his skin, and he knew he’d start shivering soon if he didn’t move away. But he didn’t want to get any closer to the guards. He was getting ready to try and talk to them again, see if he could find out more about Kasan, when the big cat finally came around the nearest corner. Max blurted out his name the second he saw him, and Kasan grinned at him so hugely he couldn’t stop himself from smiling back. The cat opened his arms like he was expecting a hug and Max took a few steps towards him before he caught himself. He froze, his face burning, as the cats next to him chuckled again, obviously commenting on his reaction. He bit his lip again. What, a couple days of constant sex and he was ready to run into the alien’s arms? What the hell was wrong with him? He looked as Kasan came towards him anyway, still smiling, if not as widely, and the same melting sensation hit his middle that had snuck in the moment he saw him. He was just so…relieved. He knew Kasan. As well as he knew anyone here, but he felt safe from everything but sex with him, and even that didn’t hurt. It was just embarrassing as hell, and Kasan had stopped periodically, hadn’t he? Except when he seemed to think they had get it on or die. And when Max was asleep, the molesting bastard. But… Kasan reached him and scooped Max up in a hug as he struggled. “Hey! Put me down! There’s…people are watching, Kasan! Jee-mmmmm” He lost his train of thought as Kasan kissed him. By the time he came back to himself, his legs were wrapped around Kasan’s waist and he was holding onto the cat’s hair. And the guards behind him were sniggering again. He thought he was going to die of embarrassment. Pushing frantically at Kasan’s chest, he sighed in relief as the cat let him down. The caress over the edges of his ears that followed shouldn’t have surprised him as much as it did. It was kind of erotic. Gave him a shiver, at least. He tried to ignore it,

flushing anyway as Kasan looked him up and down. Kasan tilted his head and then crouched down, fingering the cloth of his tunic. “Max do?” He pointed to the loincloth and mimicked wrapping it. “Max do?” “This?” Kasan nodded. “Y-yes. I do.” Kasan smiled, hugged him again and made him feel like a freaking plushie, and put him down to take his hand. “Food, Max.” “Oh thank god. I’m…” Crap, what was the word? “hungry!” They took two steps, or rather Kasan took two steps and Max took four, when one of the guards called out. Kasan stopped, his ears going flat, and Max started worrying. What the hell would make the big cat do that with his ears? That seemed like an ‘I’m pissed’ kind of thing, and he didn’t want to be the cause of anything like that. “Kasan? Not happy? Angry?” “Shhhh, Gisho. I’m not angry.” Kasan fuzzed his head and went back to the room. “Stay here, Max. I’ll be right back.” Max stood where he pointed, watching the guards nervously, a bit relieved when they didn’t do anything but watch him back. He stared at what Kasan brought back. Something wound up in his hand, red and velvety looking. The guards smiled at Kasan, almost like they were teasing him, and he wondered exactly what it was by the way Kasan growled back at them. What the hell? “Come, Max. It’s time for Firstmeal.” Firstmeal, he knew that one. Like breakfast. He could do that. As long as they didn’t chase him around again. Trotting along side Kasan even though the cat was obviously walking slowly, he watched the halls around him, trying not to feel intimidated. Clasping Max’s smaller hand in his own, Kasan eyed his consort as they walked. He could see pale thighs flashing from the sides of the tunic as Max tried to keep up, and it was more than enough to catch Kasan’s interest, especially when a few beads of sweat began to decorate Max’s skin. Kasan swallowed and glanced away. He couldn’t stop and lick Max clean at the moment, as much as he would love to. And dear God but he would love to. With no more than a moment’s thought, he could envision Max raving incoherently while Kasan laved the soft flesh between his thighs. It was far too easy to imagine the salty taste of Max’s cock on his tongue, the swells of his bottom when Kasan held them in his palms and pulled him close, the sound of Max’s alien babbling when he was tics away from coming – Kasan turned a corner of the hall and stopped, panting.

He felt Max’s eyes drop down to where Kasan’s erection strained the fabric of his loincloth. It was rather sweet how quickly the little one turned his face away, looking frantically around the hallway as though trying to pretend Kasan’s groin didn’t exist. Not that he would have fooled anyone, not with his face as going as red as a berry. Kasan crushed the collar in his hand to keep from reaching out for his consort – nearly impossible, these days. Dammit, he had to stop thinking like this, even if Max’s lithe body did invade his senses every few minutes. They had to get to Firstmeal. Kasan closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When that didn’t help, he relaxed his hand and rubbed his fingers together over the velvet collar and leash. The strange fuzz combined with the cold metal clasp brought his body to heel enough to start moving again. It was only for one day, he reminded himself. Leero was going to be stuck in Service for an entire month. One day really wasn’t all that bad. Although Leero didn’t have five brothers waiting to pack in as much humiliation during his Service as they possibly could. Not that Leero would escape them, either, of course. They’d happily torment the both of them. So, again, one day wasn’t too bad, all things considered. He glanced down at Max to see how he was doing. The color still filled his cheeks, and Max’s hair fluttered in front of his face. The little man glared at it as he walked, shoving it out of the way with his free hand. He looked so disgruntled that Kasan smothered a smile. That expression was becoming almost as familiar as Max’s scent. When Max growled under his breath as his bangs fell in his eyes again, Kasan reached out to help. He paused when a murmur rumbled down the corridor: the guards outside the dining room’s doors. He'd mooned over Max so much that they’d arrived before he’d even realized. His ears lowered just enough to be noticeable, his hand dropped, and the murmur grew louder. He saw Shoru, his cousin Waran’s consort, griping to the other guard; Kasan grimaced. The man’s sour frown was the only expression a person saw when they met Shoru for the first time, and it didn’t improve any on subsequent meetings. Everyone would be glad when the heat no longer bound Waran and Shoru, and the unpleasant bastard left and went back to his own people. About to walk by the two guards, Kasan caught the disgusted look Shoru aimed at Max. He growled low in his throat. If Shoru said one thing to upset Max, Kasan was going to let out his claws until the man bled. He kept an eye on him, but other than a sneering grunt, the man held his tongue. The other guard smiled at Max broadly as though trying to offset Shoru’s rudeness. It seemed to work; Max was smiling back, at least. Although with Shoru guarding the Firstmeal doors today, Kasan didn’t want to stay outside the doors and chat, even if it might have won him a few more minutes of freedom before the meal. With a heavy sigh, Kasan urged Max into the room, hoping they were early so he could be done as quickly as possible – and pick some obscure corner where he could at least hope that not all his brothers could get to him at once.

He saw an appropriate table as soon as he walked in, just big enough for three. He had one moment to enjoy the sight before he realized it was too late. Jolan and Aosh were already waiting to ambush him on either side of the door. As soon as he saw them, they smiled broadly, the bruises on their faces twisting to make the expressions as much a brotherly promise of humiliation as a greeting. “How lovely to see you here at Firstmeal, Kasan.” Jolan put his hand on Kasan’s arm as he spoke. “And your shiny, new consort as well.” Aosh’s attempt to put his hand on Kasan’s consort ended as Max shifted to the side. Max stumbled slightly, his body bumping up against Kasan, and the little one clutched at him to keep from falling. Kasan used the opportunity to wrap his arm around Max’s shoulders. His claws flickered out in warning and Aosh took a quick step back. “I’m sure you don’t want to keep us waiting. We saved you a place,” Jolan said, tugging at his arm. Kasan’s ears went flat as he saw the rest of his siblings and their consorts at the nearest, and largest, table. He would have yanked free, except he noticed Tisu watching from his cushion at the table. His brothers would have no scruples about forcing him to join them. Glancing at Max, whose body was tense as he watched them all carefully, Kasan didn’t protest. Max had been through enough the past day; he and his high-strung nerves didn’t need to witness another brawl. Kasan wasn’t letting anything upset Max today. Kasan smiled, willing it to look normal and hoping his ears wouldn’t give him away. Max wasn’t completely fooled; he still leaned against Kasan as though he were seeking comfort. “Come along now, Kasan,” Jolan said. “I would hate for you to have to go through your Service alone, after all.” “I would rather slide down the mountain on my face than have breakfast with you this morning, Jolan,” Kasan said in a friendly sounding drawl. “I bet you would. How disappointing that you’ll have to avoid such an improvement to your looks and spend the rest of the day with us, instead.” “Only if Max wants to. I’m in Service to him today, not to the rest of you.” Jolan and Aosh both stared at Max – Kasan thought that if the man had furred ears, they would have instantly wilted with nerves – and then they glanced at each other with another smile. “I bet we can persuade him to give you to us for a little while,” Aosh said. He licked his lips. “I can be very persuasive.” “If you try and persuade Max with anything other than a polite question, I will tie a knot in your cock,” Kasan said softly. He tried to keep it light, but Max tensed anyway. It might

be due to the fact that Kasan’s tail accidentally hit the little one in the back as it twitched violently. “Kasan, I wouldn’t-“ “Aosh, stop bothering Kasan,” Zonta called out. Aosh grumbled under his breath but left them both to return to the table. It would have been nice if Jolan did the same, but he refused to relinquish his grip until Kasan was standing at the table. Kasan made sure he sat down with Max kneeling between himself and Zonta; his youngest brother would help him relax, if he could protect the little one’s other side. And it didn’t hurt that Kasan had taken Jolan’s seat before his brother sat down, so Jolan had to move to another side of the table with Ko. Kasan took what pleasure he could in the small irritation. He’d better; he didn’t have much time before he wouldn’t be able to do a damn thing to them. Not that it would distract him from what was really important. With a smile, Kasan looked down at Max. “Max, are you good?” Max nodded just as Kasan patted Max’s thigh below the tunic. The soft, curling hairs on his consort’s leg brushed against his fingertips. Nice, but not as attractive as the suddenly straining loincloth or Max’s pink face. Kasan couldn’t stop a grin. He would never get tired of how quickly the man reacted. “Mmmm, Max not good, Max happy.” “Max is not happy. Max is hungry.” Max’s attempts at looking offended failed miserably as Kasan slipped his hand up higher and the tips of his fingers brushed over the cloth covering Max’s groin. His consort’s hips jerked and Max inhaled so quickly that he started to choke. He was the focus of every eye at the table by the time he recovered. Max sunk low into the cushions when he realized how many people were watching, his face scarlet. With a soothing purr, Kasan curled his tail around Max’s waist, smoothing the fabric of his tunic with delicate strokes. Poor little thing. Max’s flush spread, disappearing into his neckline as the tip of Kasan’s tail brushed over his stomach. His scent grew just aroused enough to detect. Kasan’s tail paused and then the tip began twirling lower. If Max were interested enough, he might be willing to ‘order’ Kasan back to the bedroom. And after that”Kasan,” Jolan said from across the table. Kasan deliberately stiffened his ears as he looked up at him, his tail clamping tight around Max. If he were lucky, Jolan would be worried enough about what that meant that he might leave entirely. “The dishes are arriving.” “Hmm.” He pretended not to look; Max was far more interesting to watch than bright bits of pottery placed on the table. And Kasan would much rather focus on his consort than on what the newly arrived food represented.

Tisu leaned over the table, grinning widely. “Firstmeal has officially started. Time to Serve, big brother.” To add to the humiliation of the moment, Kasan’s face heated – visibly, he was sure, based on his brothers’ reactions. He gained a few seconds as he looked around as though to make sure they weren’t making it up. It was a small insult, but anything he could use today without actively going against his Service was something he was grabbing with both hands. A few of the farther tables had dishes covering them with color and steam; his cousins working in the kitchens today had already gone back for more. Jolan cleared his throat loudly and Kasan spared him a glare before he looked at the red collar and leash he’d piled on the table in a pyramid of velvet. He reached out and nudged it with his fingers, then nearly jumped when a small hand reached out and did the same. “What on top?” Max stared at the bright velvety ribbon with a fascination that was entirely different from Kasan’s. “What’s on the table? That’s a Service collar, Gisho.” Max glanced up and then back at it. “Service collar.” “Or a Fuck-me collar,” Tisu said. Aosh wasn’t the only one to laugh as Max tried to repeat Tisu’s words as well. “Why do they call it a fuck-me collar, anyway?” Roto asked. “It’s not as though you can force someone to actually have sex when they’re in Service.” Tisu flushed a little and cleared his throat. It was gratifying that the man was paying for being an ass. “It’s because Kasan has to bend over whenever we ask him-” Aosh grunted midsentence. Kasan looked over in time to see a narrow-eyed Zonta move his elbow away from his brother’s stomach. “Don’t even start in on him, Aosh,” Zonta said with a sharper tone than Kasan usually heard. “I know you were up to something this morning.” Aosh stiffened as Zonta stared at him. His brother was practically sweating at the look in Zonta’s eyes. It was too bad that Jolan interrupted; seeing Aosh intimidated by his twin was always enjoyable. “Oh, Kasan? Collar, still on the table. The elders will make you wish you could crawl back into mother’s womb if you don’t get it taken care of.” Zonta’s eyes let go of Aosh and glanced over. Kasan didn’t want to acknowledge either the worried look or the obnoxious comment, but Jolan was right. Not putting on his Service collar at the proper time would be cutting his own throat. He didn’t need to find himself in worse trouble than he already was. That was even more of a concern after this morning’s battle in the communications

room, if anyone found out about it. Kasan grimaced and picked up the collar, the soft fabric tangling on Max’s fingers. Zonta smiled at Max as the man mumbled to himself while he tried to unwrap them. Yanking every time there was the smallest bit of slack, Max ended up with a bigger tangle than ever before Kasan managed to free him. Kasan wondered if the poor man was going to ever get rid of that flush this morning. He lifted the thick ribbon off the table and paused. Breathing deeply, Kasan rubbed a hand over the smooth skin of his throat. He was glad he’d been in such a hurry this morning to get to the vid room that he’d never put on his torque. With a low growl he couldn’t stop, he fastened the heavy velvet collar around his neck with a small click as the clasp hooked onto the other side. The thinner band of velvet that made up the leash hung down, tickling his chest. It was an unpleasant sensation that he’d managed to avoid aside from a few rare occasions, but the merest brush of it against his skin had his ears down flat enough to disappear into his hair. God, he hated Service. Jolan started chatting with his consort as though nothing momentous had just happened, a deliberate pause, Kasan knew, because the man lived to be a pain in the ass at times like this. Kasan growled again, repressing it as he wasn’t allowed to lash out at anyone for the rest of the day, now, and he looked down to avoid seeing at any of his brothers. His gaze collided with Max’s. Max stared up at him, his eyes nervous while he chewed on his lower lip in that endearing way he had. His eyes flipped from the collar to Kasan’s face and the furrow between his brows deepened. Kasan could nearly see the wheels in his consort’s mind turning as he tried to figure out what was going on. The little one’s eyes went rapidly through all the people at the table, trying to gauge their reactions, and came back to his looking just as confused. Kasan didn’t think that handing the end of the leash to Max would calm him any, but Kasan had an obligation. Taking Max’s hand in his own, Kasan placed the leash in it, the stark red reminding him of the bloody wounds he’d want to make on Jolan and Tisu – probably Aosh too – by the end of the day. He closed Max’s fingers over the lead and then released his hands. Max looked down at the leash in his hand and dropped it back onto the table like a live wire. “I don’t even want to know what game this is, Kasan, but you can count me out. I’m not playing some cat S & M thing! Or… pet kitty. Or…” Max’s eyes stared at the collar and ran down Kasan’s chest, following the lead. “Damn. You look like you should be on Playgirl or something,” Max muttered, and Kasan could see his throat work as he swallowed heavily. His pupils widened and the scent of arousal jumped up a notch. Kasan picked up the end of the leash again and put it back into Max’s hand. “Max, hold this. Please.”

Max look at him and would have dropped it again if Kasan hadn’t kept his fingers wrapped around Max’s to keep them closed. The little man started babbling again and Kasan couldn’t think of a damn thing to help him. “Why is he so upset holding the leash?” Kasan wondered out loud. “Why else? Because everything upsets him,” Aosh remarked off-handedly, popping a bit of fruit into his mouth. “That’s unfair, Aosh,” Zonta said, defending Max where Kasan couldn’t. “Just think how you’d feel if you were the only one of your kind in an entire planet.” “I doubt I’d flatten my ears as often as he does.” Aosh looked at Max, tilting his head before he shook it and smiled. “Although I don’t think I’d look as cute doing it as he does, either. Maybe I’d do it more often if I could pull off ‘frantic and sexy’ half so well.” “You are impossible when you get like this, you know that? You act as though Max is doing it on purpose.” Zonta’s face was becoming flushed as he glared at his brother. “He’s scared. How else is he going to act? And besides, for all we know, leashes could have some negative connotation where he’s from.” Aosh nodded, placating. “You could be right. I imagine Max has probably worn a lot of collars in his time – plays off that delicacy of his nicely, I would think.” Aosh grinned teasingly in response to Zonta’s renewed glare. Jolan spoke before he could say anything, however. “Actually, I can see what you mean. He would look sexy with a little collar and a leash. Kasan’s pet human, ready to service him whenever he needed.” Jolan and a few of the others grinned. Kasan wanted to growl at them, but he was too focused on the image Max kneeling naked on the bed with only a red velvet band around his throat, the leash of it resting in Kasan’s hand. God. He had never so desperately wanted his heat to spike so that he could head back to their room. Jolan’s consort, Ko, interrupted the fantasy. “I don’t think Max is the only one who’d look sexy in a collar.” Ko stared straight at Jolan. Jolan’s eyes widened and color crept up his neck. “Yes, well…that’s not…” Licking his lips nervously, Jolan looked around a bit desperately. Kasan thought Ko might very well be looking for some velvet ribbons later today, knowing him. It almost made Service worthwhile, just to know his oldest brother was going to be paying for it. Although the fact that Jolan would climax at the end of his play took some of the fun out of it, but not much. There was a moment of quiet as Ko smiled wickedly at his mate. “Maybe Max simply doesn’t know what to do with the leash,” Zonta said slowly. Kasan wondered if his youngest brother had even really heard what Jolan and Ko had been saying or if he’d been thinking about Max since he’d reprimanded Aosh.

Aosh’s ears perked up as soon as he heard Zonta. Kasan wished terribly that he could respond to whatever was coming. “Max?” Max turned his head to look at Aosh suspiciously while his hand clamped down on the lead of its own volition. His body leaned back into Kasan’s until their legs touched. Aosh smiled. “Are you wondering about the collar and leash, little one? I can tell you all about it. Kasan has been a bad, bad boy, and he needs to be punished for it.” “A spanking would be good,” Ko said with a smirk, and Aosh snickered. Kasan took back any good thoughts he’d had on Ko’s perverted behavior. Max looked at them both with that strange combination of blank staring and focused attention that Kasan was beginning to figure out meant he was listening, but really didn’t have much idea what they were saying. Ko directed his next words to Zonta. “We should really put ‘Kasan needs a good spanking’ on the short list of words Max needs to learn right away.” “Ko!” Zonta’s cheeks flared. Kasan heard Aosh mumble to Zonta under the volume of Ko’s laughter, “How someone who masturbates as much as you do can still blush…” Zonta must have heard as well because he glared at him again and his older twin turned a bit frantically to talk to Max as though he hadn’t said a word. “Instead of a spanking, you could make Kasan carry you around all day like a little.” Actually, it might be fun to carry his consort around, feel the supple strength of his body within Kasan’s hands. Maybe… Nolluz spoke up in a peevish voice. “My research quarters need a thorough cleaning. If you let me borrow Kasan for a few hours, he could do that.” “Or you could make him clean the piss rooms of the entire wing," Tisu said. "That always does a good job making Service hit home.” Kasan clenched his jaw, not allowed to say a word as the suggestions for his Service grew filthier and more disgusting as they ran around the table. Roto was the only exception, wondering how well Kasan might be able to plant some flowers, but that was met with such laughter that Roto gave up. Kasan tried to remain unmoved, especially as Max glanced at him after each comment by one of his brothers or their consorts. As hard as he tried, though, Kasan’s ears wouldn’t do anything but flatten, and the fur on his tail bristled where it encircled Max’s waist. Max pressed closer, the entire side of his body flush against Kasan, his hands clutching the leash tightly. When even that didn’t seem to help and Max’s scent began to change, Kasan got set to blast them all for making his consort frightened, whether or not it would extend his Service.

Zonta beat him to it. “Max seems really upset, Jolan. We should stop.” Jolan took a look at Max and sighed as he saw how Max huddled against Kasan. “We can wait until Max is a little bit more acclimated to Kasan in a collar.” He grinned at a silent Kasan with sharp teeth. “Like maybe at an hour. We wouldn’t want you to be too bored today.” Kasan glared at him. Quivering, Max watched everyone’s reactions nervously. Kasan reached up a hand to brush gently over his hair. He smiled when it wasn’t moved away. A small issue, maybe, but even those were important. The steps that mattered toward a joining were often the smallest – that’s what they always said, anyway. His brothers began talking amongst themselves normally again while Kasan continued to stroke Max’s hair. Ko dragged Jolan over to go try a new dish two tables over. When Max finally began to relax, rubbing the velvet leash between his fingers rather than crushing it, Zonta started talking to Kasan again. “He’s much calmer today, isn’t he?” Zonta asked quietly. “Yeah.” Kasan wondered how quickly he could make the little one lose that calm if he started licking him again. “Wore him out last night, eh?” Aosh asked Kasan winced. It figured Aosh would have caught that. It was nice that Max was feeling safe enough for the moment that he didn’t tense as Aosh spoke, however. The little one’s eyes went to the food as the servers added more dishes to the table. Zonta chewed on bundle of steamed leaves. “I know Aosh is teasing, but you might want to be careful about that. I couldn’t find any records on human sexual habits, and none of the archivists knew of any. I’m not certain how much his body can take. If he’s so exhausted that he isn’t reacting normally any more...” “It’s not fatigue. At least, I don’t believe so. We came to an understanding. I managed to explain a few things last night that helped.” “Do tell.” Aosh smiled broadly when Kasan glanced at him across the table. “And I mean that literally. Do tell.” It wasn’t personal enough for Kasan to have the right to refuse, although it was definitely skirting the edges. Aosh was too slick to screw up in that regard. Kasan repressed an irritated snarl – something he knew he’d be doing most of the day. “Max knows about the nanites now. It made it easier for him when the heat spiked last night.” Nolluz cleared his throat next to Aosh, shaking his head sadly as though Kasan were the most deluded fool he’d ever met. “You managed to inform your consort of the existence of our nanites and the Kouloc, where neither Zonta nor I would know the proper terms? I

highly doubt it.” Kasan grit his teeth. No snapping, no angry words, he reminded himself…and his claws. He swallowed down the anger and coiled it in a hard ball in his belly. He could hold back now. As long as he used his anger and funneled it into thinking of what he was going to do to Nolluz after Service had ended. After all, retaliatory pranks were acceptable…as long as he didn’t get caught. “I used one of the hand comps and drew him a picture. It wasn’t that difficult to get my point across.” Kasan was proud there was only a hint of irritation in his voice. Aosh choked on his water, spewing it over the table. Nolluz started coughing on his own food while Neera and Zonta bit their lips. Tisu started laughing heavily. Roto tried to smile but it ended in a nervous little giggle. Aosh was the first to start speaking. “You drew him a picture? I’m not surprised he’s calmer today, then. He probably thinks no one else is here, now that he’s been blinded by your artistic talent.” “What talent? Kasan doesn’t have any artistic talents. He’s got an artistic curse.” Jolan said, stepping back up to the table with Ko. Kasan should have know he couldn’t stay away too long. Kasan reached for his food and tried to ignore them. It was the only thing he could do, after all. “That’s not fair,” Zonta said quietly, his lips twitching. “Kasan’s art isn’t that…bad.” He choked on the last word and Aosh pointed at him triumphantly. “Ha! Even you can’t say that with a straight face! The last time he drew a picture of father it looked like a bilious lizard attempting to molest himself with a plate of sausages.” “That was a long time ago,” Zonta countered. “It was last year.” “I’ll admit, I’m still scarred from the memory,” Jolan added, seating himself near Kasan again. “I can’t see sausages without shuddering.” He looked at the plate near him and pushed it away with an ostentatious grimace. Kasan rolled his eyes; his art wasn’t that bad. It simply wasn’t all that good. That didn’t mean he couldn’t inform with his drawing, if the need arose. Irritated, he tried to change the subject. Even in Service, he still had some things he needed to get done. “Zonta? Do you think you could help teach Max some more Hinta today? “ Zonta’s ears popped up as his eyes brightened. “Of course. I don’t think there would be any trouble with pausing on my studies for a day to help out the little one.”

Nolluz straightened in his seat, his lips pursing. “You haven’t even asked. You shouldn’t presume that simply because you think it will be fine that I will allow you to skip your studi– ow!” His consort, Neera, smiled at him and pulled back her elbow. “You go ahead and help Max. Nolluz can work on his own today. Kasan’s consort seems to trust you, so I think that would be a fine idea. Don’t you, dear?” Nolluz stared once into the bright smile and hard eyes of his consort and nodded after only a moment’s pause. “Of course. That would be lovely.” The topic changed to more serious items after a few more small comments: Shovak’s crimes, how the family was taking it, whether the news packets had contained anything of interest. Kasan and most of his brothers went silent on the latter when one of their uncles at another table wondered about the technical difficulty that had delayed the news. And then Kasan lost track of the conversation as he realized Max wasn’t eating. After taking a few nibbles himself to show it was good to eat, he handed Max a small violet petal in oil. The man pushed it away, and then refused the small sausage he was offered next, and even a leaf and berry dish. Max finally glared at Kasan and mumbled under his breath, “NO sex food, Kasan!” Kasan was glad he’d swallowed his own leaves or he would have choked as he realized what Max was worried about. “No, no sex food, Max. Good food.” Max took a bit of coaxing, including Kasan popping a small fried blossom into his mouth, before he started going after the dishes voluntarily. When nothing happened to his body after a few bites, Max began eating steadily with his small hands flitting from dish to dish. As amusing as watching him was, though, Kasan felt like he was waiting for the next hailstone to fall. There was a subtle tension building at the table. Combine that with the fact that his brothers weren’t done teasing him and it didn’t bode well for his peace of mind. He knew he wouldn’t have been done teasing them if they’d been in Service. They weren’t going to be any easier on him, that was for sure. Especially not Aosh. It wasn’t often that his younger brother was able to tease him without fear of retaliation. And something about Aosh’s tone of voice, or maybe the quivering of his ears, drew Kasan’s attention. He was only talking about Roto’s last visit to family in one of the outlying areas, but still. This was Aosh. One should usually be ready for about anything, with Jolan and Aosh involved. “Tisu mentioned you saw Akam this time,” Aosh said around a mouth of food. There. Wasn’t Aosh’s voice a little louder than normal? Roto nodded absently, taking a drink before he answered. “When he was visiting Uncle

Rilan before the hunt.” Aosh smiled slyly; it was enough to send tension slithering over Kasan’s skin. “Did I hear right that you saw all of him.” Roto giggled once before covering his mouth and nodding. “He spiked while we were there, and they forgot to lock the patio door.” Roto flushed and giggled again. “Akam’s a lot more flexible than I thought.” Aosh’s eyes slid to Kasan for the briefest moment before he continued talking. “So…is it true, then?” Roto looked at him blankly, taking another sip of his water. “Is what true?” “You know what.” Aosh’s voice was leading. Tisu pulled Roto against his side. “Aosh, don’t mess with Roto.” “I’m not. I’m just curious if Roto noticed Akam’s size, that’s all.” Roto perked up, his face brightening. He leaned forward, barely noticing as Tisu sighed in resignation and let go of his shoulders. “Yes! Oh my God, you should have seen! He’s almost twice as big as he was when he used to live here!” Zonta’s ears quivered. “He didn’t look like he’d gained weight the last time I saw him.” Roto giggled again and Aosh snerked. “Not weight, brother,” Aosh said softly. “Length. Maybe girth, too, although you’d have to ask Roto.” Zonta looked at him blankly and Roto blushed. Jolan laughed softly as he met Aosh’s eyes. “He means his dick size, Zonta,” Jolan said. “His member grew?” “Why so surprised?” Aosh smiled at Zonta, taking his moment of superiority while he still could. Zonta spluttered before he glared t his twin. “We’re talking about a man’s penis – they don’t simply increase in size!” Aosh shifted, and Kasan realized he’d found a way to strut without leaving his seat. “Can it be that there is something my beloved genius twin doesn’t know?” Zonta’s ears lowered and his eyes narrowed. “Of course there is. I’m not omniscient.” “But surely you’ve heard the rumors? Choosing your consort wisely and all that?” Zonta glanced between him and Roto, his ears twitching thoughtfully, before he finally

shrugged. Aosh sniggered again. “Nanites, dear. You’ve seen the size of Akam’s consort haven’t you? The man is almost as big as Tisu, and Akam barely Roto’s size. Poor cousin probably didn’t have the surface area on his dick for enough nanites to get across the skin to his consort when he was pounding away,” Aosh leaned closer, his tongue curling around the words like a sweet candy, ”so his cock grew to compensate for the size difference.” Zonta stared at him, his cheeks flushed even while he swallowed. “I-I suppose it’s ppossible, but that type of size change seems a bit…extreme, compared to some of other changes nanites have made that we’re aware of.” Roto gestured excitedly across the table. “No, I saw it! Akam is HUGE now! I had a really good…” Roto paused and giggled one last time. “A really good angle, if you know what I mean? Akam’s dick is amazing!” Aosh nodded smugly. “You’re always going on about how much the nanites do to make the bond work, Zonta. Stretching the muscles, dealing with infertility issues, correcting erectile dysfunction…it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Although it does beg the question, doesn’t it?” Aosh smiled and turned to Kasan. Aw shit, Kasan thought, here it comes. He knew it was going to be something. “Since we know nanites adjust mates to match their consorts - just how small is your dick now, Kasan?” Kasan growled in place of putting his head in his hands, and he closed his eyes as Aosh’s teasing set off another round by his brothers. Max didn’t seem to be paying as much attention now that he was eating, at least. This time, though, Zonta didn’t have a prayer of stopping it. They were all on a roll. Kasan wrapped his tail tighter around Max’s waist, flattened his ears to block as much of the sound as he could, and concentrated on eating. It went on long enough that Kasan wondered if they might make it through the meal with nothing more than teasing – a good thing considering the beginning of the day – when there was an irritated clearing of a throat. Leero stood behind him, the man’s cheeks as flushed as Kasan’s as he stood with his collar on and the leash looped intricately down his chest before weaving back into the clasp. Leero had such dark shadows under his eyes that they seemed to glow in contrast – the man looked like he hadn’t slept in days. “The Lord King asked me to come fetch you, Kasan,” he murmured quietly. Leero might as well have shouted; everyone was sitting in silence as they watched the both of them with rabid curiosity. Leero lowered his voice even further. His ears were stiff as he stared over their heads rather than meet anyone’s eyes. “You need to introduce Max to the elders now.”

Kasan stood before his brothers could interrupt and scooped Max as he rose. Max yelled out, dropping the handful of roasted vegetables he’d been holding. It was unfortunate, and a bit rude to leave the mess for those who had kitchen duty today, but the faster Kasan got away from his brothers, the better off he’d be. He’d have to make it up to the servers later. He turned while Max jabbered at him irritably, shoving at his arm and his chest. “I’ll let you down soon, Gisho.” Kasan kept his voice down as he took a step away from the table. He winced in sympathy as he heard Jolan speaking to Leero behind him. “I’m surprised you and father showed up today.” Jolan’s voice wasn’t raised exceptionally high, but it was still clear enough to hear from a table or two away. “It’s Firstmeal.” Kasan could practically hear Leero rolling his eyes as he readied himself for whatever Jolan had planned. “That doesn’t mean anything. There’s been plenty of times father missed Firstmeal, or sent someone to grab him a bite or two. And I would have thought you’d still be attending to your duties. In the bedroom. Or didn’t father have any Services for you to perform last night?” Kasan stopped dead and had to turn back to look. Smiling wickedly, Jolan had leaned forward into Leero’s space, and Kasan could see his friend’s profile as the man flushed as red as the velvet collar around his neck. He knew nothing had happened – he couldn’t imagine his father demanding anything even if it were allowed – but that didn’t mean there weren’t decade’s worth of jokes about sex and Service. Kasan was surprised that Leero reacted so strongly to it. “You’re awfully red,” Ko said, pressed against Jolan. They both leaned forward a little more. “Anything interesting happen that you should be telling us about?” “Nothing happened,” Leero ground out. “Oh?” Jolan looked him over and finally leaned back out of Leero’s space. Kasan saw Ko’s hand trail over his mate’s chest and they exchanged a glance. Kasan had to turn away. He couldn’t help feeling relieved that the man about to be ribbed so thoroughly was Leero instead of himself. “You’re very brave to fess up,” Ko said, just loud enough that Kasan could still hear. “Most men don’t like to admit when nothing happens. Have you had this problem for very long?” Jolan took up the gauntlet before Leero could respond at all. “It would explain a lot, wouldn’t it?” Kasan could just imagine them nodding sagely at each other. “Grumpy all the time, shoving all that energy into training rather than other pursuits. All this time, and we never knew. How brave, to suffer in silence for so long. You must be looking forward to when the heat hits and your nanites will correct that little problem.” “Are you done?” Leero’s voice was strained. Kasan knew the feeling.

“Not by a long shot,” Jolan said happily, his voice nearly bubbling. “I am going to enjoy your Service to the fullest, just possibly not as much as father will. But for now…I’d really like to have some Chera root added to my drink, Leero. Why don’t you go and fetch some for me in the kitchens?” Kasan could imagine Jolan’s wide grin as easily as Leero’s flattened ears. Unless his father had told him to return immediately, Leero was stuck catering to whatever shit those idiots came up with until he was called back. And it looked like they were in a mood to play, now that they’d been denied Kasan. “Poor bastard,” he murmured. Max was quiet now, staring up at him. He pulled on the leash, soft as a butterfly testing a web’s thread. His eyebrows were drawn together in the middle as he searched Kasan’s face, and Kasan smiled slowly and hugged him closer. “It’s all right. Max and Kasan safe. Meet family.” As positive as he made it sound to Max, it was still a trial to make it across the room. It felt as though everyone in the family made a comment as he passed. Kasan was grateful he’d been summoned and had a reason to deny their thinly veiled commands to join them at the cushions and pillows. Although maybe that would have been better, he thought, looking into the eyes of the elders as he neared their table. The two matriarchs were seated side-by-side and staring at him with cold glares that made an icy sweat break out over his skin. Father’s three uncles, and Father himself, were seated by them. While they looked a bit more amused, they were not amused enough to make Kasan feel the least bit comfortable. “You wished to meet my consort?” he asked as he approached them. He knelt on a free cushion, settling Max on his lap, a comforting armor against their attentions. Not that it could keep him safe if they’d heard about the main-vid room. Aunt Nerin raised one eyebrow and glanced at her sister before growling faintly. It was enough to have Kasan wishing he was stuck doing work on the dung heaps. It would be less painful to his senses than if the elders decided to have it out with him. Nerin’s sister placed a parchment-skinned hand on her older sibling’s arm and nodded to Max, who was frozen in Kasan’s lap as he stared at them. “The little one will not understand our irritation.” She smiled at his consort. “Max, I am Asha. I am pleased to meet you, consort of my nephew’s most difficult son.” Max relaxed by a hair at the familiar words. “Pleased to meet you, Asha,” he said softly, testing his memory of the words. “And this is Nerin.” “Pleased to meet you,” Nerin said, her voice barely making it past a growl. “Pleased to meet you, Nerin,” Max said faintly. He gripped Kasan’s leash with white

knuckles, rubbing the ribbon between his fingers and coincidentally moving upward, drawing Kasan’s head down if he cared to let it move. Kasan had to smile as he let himself be drawn down until he was curled almost entirely over Max. His consort blinked in surprise as Kasan blocked his sight of the rest of the table, and Kasan couldn’t help kissing him once on the tip of his blunt little nose. Max squirmed, staring at the upside down face of Kasan, and then he kissed Kasan’s forehead bird-quick as his eyes slid to the side as though he couldn’t quite look at what he was kissing. Then he flushed and released the ribbon. His hands fidgeted in his lap. Seeing Aunt Asha soften as she watched Max, Kasan knew he was going to be spared the worst of it. Aunt Nerin would probably find Max irritating – anything soft tended to offend her sense of how the world should be. But Aunt Asha would put a damper on any fury that got out of hand, as long as she wasn’t too irritated herself. Which meant his consort was even saving him from getting his tailed chewed by the elders. Kasan would have to reward him tonight with something special. “Max hungry. Food?” Max looked up at him to get a positive nod. Kasan wished he could figure out what was going on in the little one’s head, he thought, handing him some marinated leaves he thought Max might enjoy. Kyoru stayed Kasan’s hand before he could get some for himself. “If Max agrees – and I’m sure he will – we’ll need to talk after the meal, Kasan. About this morning and our curious lack of a news packet.” The fur on Kasan’s tail stood on end. Oh damn. Kyoru nodded to Max. “I’m sure that you don’t want your little one worried with this. Why don’t you start off his day with Zonta right after first meal. You can find a way to explain the situation properly so that he’ll agree to loan your Service to us, can’t you? There’s a lot for you to do today. A lot. “ Kasan flinched as the elders smiled at him almost cruelly. They knew. He should have known they’d find out. “I believe you should start with doing a complete inventory of the citadel’s military supply warehouse that holds our computer equipment,” Aunt Nerin said. Kasan swallowed heavily. That would take him days, not simply today’s Service, and he couldn’t say a damn word about it. Aunt Nerin smiled at him with the sweetness of a sour grape as she saw him nearly biting his tongue not to say anything. Then her eyes slid over to the table where his brothers sat laughing over Leero, blissfully ignorant. “I believe you’ll have four young men joining in to help you, along with the entire morning staff of the main-vid room, so it shouldn’t take more than a day.” She turned her glare back to him. “It will not take more than a day. Understand?” “Yes, Aunt Nerin.” Max’s bottom shifted on Kasan’s lap and reminded Kasan that once

again, he was unlikely to get to touch his consort without the heat driving him. It was becoming ridiculous. How much was it going to take for him to simply make love to Max without something forcing it on both of them? Aunt Nerin stared at him as though trying to find some fault with his answer. She grunted when he kept his eyes on Max and didn’t say another word. Aunt Asha continued the speech. “Zonta will do well enough with your consort, Kasan. He’s always been a responsible young man and he’s gentle enough that he won’t scare the little one.” “Like that’s an issue? The human needs to toughen up or he’ll be jumping at shadows for the rest of his life,” Aunt Nerin growled. Asha tsked at her. “Give him time, Nerin.” She turned back to Kasan. “You’ll walk Max to Zonta’s room, settle him in, and then report to the computer warehouse as quickly as possible after Firstmeal. And then we’ll see what else we think may need to be done, once we get the second packet tonight and determine the importance of what was missed.” Her smile was soft, but it carried more threat than Aunt Nerin’s Kasan’s shoulders hunched along with his ears. “Yes, Aunt Asha.” Max looked nervous again, nibbling on the leaves and pouring himself a large cup of water from one of the bundle of clean cups in the middle. He glanced up at Kasan and whispered as Kyoru spoke to his aunts about his brothers. “Kasan safe?” The warmth that spread across Kasan’s gut surprised him in its intensity. “Kasan and Max safe,” he murmured back, running his hand over Max’s head and down his bare arm. Popping another blossom into Max’s mouth, he enjoyed the way the man grumbled over it. Officially, he could have been reprimanded for doing something like that, unasked, while in Service, but Max didn’t know any better. And he was the one who would have to take him to task. Leero finally showed up, his hair dampened against his forehead from the heat of the kitchens, and Kasan shared a sympathetic glance with him. The Lord King detached the leash’s end from the clasp and put it back in his hand absently as Leero knelt next to him. Kasan wasn’t surprised to see Leero flushing from the gesture. More color spread down his neck as Kyoru ordered him to eat something. “Even the elders have noticed how often you and Kasan miss Firstmeal when you start to work on a project. It’s not healthy. Eat.” Kyoru pointed to a dark, sweet smelling sausage again as Leero hesitated. Kasan wondered how many of the guards would have paid to see their superior’s ears droop like that. Leero picked it up and chewed it with painful slowness. He never had liked eating his meat. Thank god Max didn’t – “Kasan eat…that,” Max suddenly said. Kasan looked down at him, staring as he saw Max looking from him to Kyoru and Leero. Max looked up at him again, his hand tight on

the leash, his voice a little more hesitant as he pointed to a floral dish that Kasan wasn’t all that fond of during the normal course of things. “Kasan…eat?” The elders beamed in approval. Kyoru chuckled. “Learns fast, just like you said. You’d better get to it, son. He’s in charge today.” Kasan reached over and popped the unappetizing food into his mouth, trying to swallow before his tongue could taste it. Max was watching him intently. This might be a very long meal.

Firstmeal had ended, the hallways finally cleared of people, when the guard Shoru turned to the man watching the door with him. “My heat’s spiking. I’ve gotta go.” The other guard’s brown eyes narrowed, his ears flicking irritably. “You said that yesterday. And the day before that, too.” “So I’m as virile as a damn throwback. What the fuck do you care?” “I care because you always seem to ‘go into heat’ half-way through shift. This is bullshit.” “You saying I’m a liar?” The other guard stared at him and gripped his spear tightly as he turned to face him completely. “I’m saying that if this happens again tomorrow, I’m reporting it.” “Yeah, go ahead and do that. See if I give a fuck.” Shoru turned and left, stomping down the hallway as the man behind him started a request through the summoning box for someone to replace Shoru. Stopping at his quarters, Shoru sneered at his mate as the man opened the door. “You left it long enough.” The other man’s voice was tight. “Fuck you. I’m here, aren’t I?” Neither of them said another word as they headed to the bed, disrobing as they went. The sex was silent, perfunctory, and quick. Shoru didn’t move as his mate pushed off the bed the moment they were done and began cleaning his skin as though he’d been contaminated. Lying on his back with flattened ears, sweat drying on his thighs, Shoru pretended to be asleep as he watched his mate pull out new clothes. The man dressed down in a pair of breeks and a collarless shirt with short sleeves. He tied a small bundle that jingled with coins to the inside of his shirt and left the room with almost as much speed as they’d had sex.

Shoru was up off the bed and dressing as quickly as he could the moment the door close. “Think you’re so damn smart, you smarmy bastard,” he growled to himself. “See what you’ve been up to and then we’ll see who everyone thinks is an asshole.” Shoru slipped silently out the door and sprinted down the hallway. He peered around the corner in time to see his mate disappearing down another corridor. Keeping pace, Shoru followed his mate out of the citadel and into the city surrounding it, through the residences, then all the way past the merchant sector. When the man started looking at bars in the pleasure quarter, Shoru smiled nastily as he whispered to himself. “Knew you were a freaking deviant. See what that high-and-mighty family of yours thinks when they find out what you’re doing, huh?” Shoru’s mate finally walked into a small bar, the building squashed between two inns instead of the alley that should have been there. Shoru stepped in a minute after him, just in time to see him heading to the back of the building, through a hallway labeled ‘privacy.’ “Pervert. What the hell are you doing?” Shoru muttered. He walked through the bar, ignoring the bartender’s eyes following him, and crept quietly into the small hallway. There was a row of three rooms, each just big enough for a stool and a small screen, separated from the hall by privacy curtains. Only one of them had the curtain pulled closed. Glancing around, Shoru let his claws come out – his one throwback trait - and pried the edge of the seal away from the wall. He pressed his ear to the break in the privacy field. His mate was grumbling to himself, cursing as he rifled through something that sounded papery and thin, and then Shoru could hear the clicking of buttons, and finally his mate started talking. “You wanted to talk to me?” The voice replying was too low to be heard outside the stall. “I thought we didn’t want him. No, we didn’t get the news this morning. Some kind of glitch.” A pause as he listened, and then Shoru’s mate laughed shortly. “Well shit, no wonder then. Tonight’s damn soon, though. I don’t know if I can arrange it.” The sounds of the bar trickled down the hallway and Shoru cupped his hands around his ear, trying to keep any sound from getting into the booth and giving him away. “Yes, it’s large enough to fit through, but they’re fucking each other constantly. I don’t know when the hell we’re going to get him alone. I know it’s time sensitive, dammit! Don’t blame me for this shit! If Shovak had used his damn brain, we’d already have him.” Shoru’s free hand rubbed nervously at the pommel of a dagger tucked into the waistband of his pants. His other ear flicked wildly as he continued to listen. “Now…you don’t have to do that.” His mate’s voice wavered nervously. “I didn’t say I

couldn’t get him in. You know you can count on me; it’s just going to be tricky.” With a loud swallow, he whispered. “The main tunnel, then, yeah. We’ll vid you when we’ve got him.” The soft humming of the screen went dead, and Shoru heard his mate cursing up a blue streak. That was all he needed. Shoru ripped open the privacy curtain with a vicious grin, his dagger out. “You fucker, you are so fucking dead, now. I don’t know what the hell you’re doing, but I bet the elders will kick your bitchy, pathetic ass if you’ve got anything to do with Shovak, you-“ Shoru’s eyes went wide as his mate pulled a small laser pistol and aimed it at him with cold eyes. “I may not be able to kill you, Shoru, but all I need is a hole to fuck for the next few years until the heat’s done. That leaves me with a hell of a lot of body parts that aren’t really all that necessary. Including your tongue.” Shoru didn’t move. “Drop it.” There was a muffled clatter as Shoru’s dagger hit the ground. “You are such a fucking bastard. Someday they’re all going to see it, too, you piece of shit.” “I doubt you’ll be able to enjoy it,” his mate sneered, and gestured him out into the hallway. Shoru went with a snarl. The bartender watched them leave as silently as he’d watched them enter, and then went back to pouring drinks. Kasan hovered inside the door to Zonta’s room. “…If he’s upset, keep your voice low; loud voices startle him. And if he asks for me, I’ll be in-“ “-the military supply warehouse.” Zonta smiled, his eyes twinkling as he watched Max clinging to Kasan’s leash. “I believe I remember that from the first two times you mentioned it.” Kasan felt himself flush. The pressure of the collar against his throat was negligible, but at times like this, he would swear that it made it harder to swallow. Slowly blowing out his breath, he tried to ignore the murmur of the guards’ voices outside in the hallway as he composed himself. No matter what he did today, he damn well knew he was going to be in a constant state of embarrassment or humiliation, and it was, quite simply, going to take a bite out of his ass. Zonta waited, trying to make eye contact with Max while Kasan’s face lost its heat. “Max asked about his own people last night,” Kasan finally said, smiling in spite of himself as Max looked up at the sound of his name. “I had to tell him that we don’t know where any other humans are.” Zonta murmured sympathetically. “He’s holding up well.” Kasan’s ears flattened. “I’m worried it’s one of the other reasons he’s calmer today. I

don’t… ” Kasan dropped his gaze to watch Max, reaching out to caress the round curve of his ear. “I don’t want lost hope to be what takes the fear from him.” “I see.” Zonta looked down as well – he seemed fascinated by Max’s wide-eyed stare as it darted along the perimeter the room. The little one had already examined everything down to the dust motes, all without leaving Kasan. He had a white knuckled grip over Kasan’s red leash as though it were the only thing keeping him alive. Zonta spoke softly, still watching Max. “If he’s been thinking that someday he could see his own family, to have that taken away…” “Exactly. I can’t let him fall into a despair. I need him to feel like a part of our family.” Kasan had seen inclusion work before on a man whose family had been killed in a giant mudslide. With luck, the same sense of belonging would help Max, too. “I’m going to have a talk with the others-“ “Kasan, Father will crucify you if you have another fight so soon.” Zonta looked far sterner than a baby brother had a right to, and Kasan flicked his ear for it. “Not that type of discussion.” Kasan rubbed a hand over Max’s head again, more for himself than his consort. “But I need them to pull back a little so Max can adjust.” “Like you did for their consorts?” The wry twist to Zonta’s ears was enough to make Kasan feel like squirming. Sometimes, Zonta had a streak that was pure Father. Worse, he was right as often as the Lord King was, too. Kasan hadn’t endeared himself to his brothers when it came to their new consorts. Kasan could admit - to himself- that rearranging Nolluz’s entire bedroom just before his brother’s First Night hadn’t been very kind. He’d known Nolluz was too anal to make love before he’d put it all back to rights. And he’d laughed himself silly when he’d heard that Neera had been more than a little irate over waiting to take care of the heat while Nolluz obsessed over his furniture. And releasing a horde of Keerac into Tisu’s room just before Roto had arrived hadn’t qualified as considerate. Funny as hell, but considerate of Roto and what the little one would think when he saw what seemed like a pack of fluffballs scamper across the floor? Not in the slightest. Kasan cringed as he thought of how Max would have reacted, especially if he’d had Roto’s knowledge – Keerac didn’t travel in groups, only their more vicious cousins, the shokan, did. “They’re going to give me hell,” he muttered. “I imagine so. I probably would, too…if I’d mated yet.” Zonta smiled again. “I imagine Aosh and I will reap the benefits of Max’s influence.” Kasan nodded, but didn’t reply how unlikely Aosh was to escape a good First Night prank. He’d touched Max, and that meant Aosh’s ass had a debt to repay that Kasan wouldn’t forget. Just like his brother’s wouldn’t forget his own damn debts. “They won’t do anything to upset Max, Kasan. Just let them know about his family. You

know they’ll move their teasing to you alone.” Zonta put a hand on his shoulder as Kasan nodded again. With a small sigh, Kasan hugged him briefly, ending with a thankful finger against his lips. They both smiled as Max watched them. The little one frowned and gave a tug on the leash. Kasan let it pull him away from Zonta. “I think he may be jealous,” Zonta whispered. He looked on the verge of a childish giggle. Max’s hand softly reaching for Kasan’s hand added to the impression. Kasan caressed Max’s fingers against his palm, trying to get back to the topic at hand before he did something insane like take Max back to his room and suck on his pretty little cock until the man passed out. Today was going to be a long damn day. He had to stay focused on what Max needed right now, not what he might enjoy. Even if Kasan was sure that he’d really enjoy it. “Zonta, can you teach him about our people as well as our language today? I thought it might give him more of a connection if he knows more about the Kyashin.” Zonta nodded. “Drawing a few images got the point across last night; if you drew a few of the finer points of our history -” Zonta started chuckling. “Or I could put on one of the vids that we use to teach the littles about the heat. It’s made to teach, after all. And as most of the small ones don’t understand ‘nanite’ anymore than your new consort does, I imagine it should be basic enough.” Kasan grumbled as he realized how much effort he could have saved himself the night before. But still, he’d put across the most important point. “I taught him about the nanites last night just fine, remember?’ “Mm hm.” Zonta’s lips were pressed together seriously, but his ears had a playful angle to them. “You don’t believe I did it any more than the others do.” Zonta laid his hand on Kasan’s arm with a smile. “Let’s just say that I’m sure you found something to calm him, but I’m not certain exactly what Max got out of the conversation.” “You’re only saying that because I didn’t think of using a video instead of a line drawing.” Kasan tried not to smile and failed. “I probably would have thought of it if my blood hadn’t been pooling in the wrong head.” Zonta laughed, flushing slightly, and they both glanced at Max again. The sound of the little man’s muttering was soft, but clear. It was better than the bells some parents attached to their little’s clothes – Kasan didn’t think he’d ever have a hard time tracking Max, as long as the man talked to himself as often as he did. “Zonta?” Kasan waited until his brother took his eyes off Max. “Can you teach him about joining?”

Zonta stared at him for a few moments before answering. “You think he’ll need to know?” “I hope he will, yes.” “Then it shouldn’t be a problem.” Kasan was certain Aosh wouldn’t have passed up the opportunity for a round of sexually charged teasing. Dealing with Zonta was, in so many ways, a relief. He hadn’t been certain even Zonta would react so calmly to his request: thank God it had been so easy. The hard part was going to be saying goodbye to Max for the day. He didn’t want to have a repeat of Leero’s free-for-all chaos again. Hopefully, if Kasan found the right words, he could avoid it. With that in mind, he chose his words carefully as he began to pry Max’s delicate hands from the leash. XXXXXXX Max sat on Zonta’s bed and watched as the big cat rooted through the shelves on the far wall. Unlike Kasan’s space, Zonta’s had two rooms, and Max would have been happier if Zonta had been all the way in the next one. Because Zonta’s rooms were both bedrooms: little, tiny bedrooms with big, damn hedonistic beds. Through a wide, doorless space, Max could see the other sex-trap of a mattress, lurking within walls covered in velvety swaths of emerald, crimson, and azure. He wished the damn place were as dull as a banker’s tidy whities. Then he could ignore it – and Zonta – and assume that everything was going to be fine. But no, it had to be like everything else on this damn planet: suggestive and aggressively sexual. He wasn’t in that room, though, he reminded himself. He’d been encouraged to sit on the bed closest to the door, in the room filled with shelves and small tables trapped under coatings of books and plastic tablets. Still, Zonta had wanted him on a bed. And while this room might be more functional than alluring, the bed was covered with blankets, velvets and furs piled so thickly Max’s lower half disappeared where he sat. Like it was trying to keep him from escaping. His lungs burned as he began to gulp his air. Calm down. He had to calm down. It was okay. Kasan wasn’t giving him away. He freaking wasn’t making a gift of Max to the nice, bigger than Godzilla, Zonta. Kasan had said he would be coming back for Max when he’d dropped him off here, hadn’t he? Max might not know a hell of a lot of this language yet, but he knew enough to figure out Kasan was trying to say, in essence, ‘I’m not giving you away as a plaything to Zonta.’ He’d understood enough to stop him from panicking. Max watched Zonta bend over, the bulge in the front of his loincloth hanging down low enough to be seen from between his legs. With a ragged choke, Max cupped his hands around his mouth and nose as his lungs seized and then began to rev up to ‘hyperventilate and pass out’ mode again.

He caught Zonta’s smile as the man looked back at him for a moment and he tried to smile back. When that proved impossible without moving his hands away, Max gave up nodded as he kept his hands in place so he didn’t pass out. Okay, so maybe he’d panicked a little, before Kasan had said anything. And maybe he was still panicking…a little. He gulped the stale air inside his palms as he tried to calm down. A teeny, tiny bit of panic. That’s all. But the last time Kasan had left him with someone had been pretty damn bad. Who would blame him for some well-earned terror? That other bastard cat had chased him around like some mustachioed, melodrama bad guy after a pretty virgin, and that had been in the safety of Kasan’s room. Now Max was being left in someone else’s room with another cat, and even if Zonta seemed very nice, he was also very God-awfulginormous. And what did Max know about this whole marriage thing, anyway? He was all set to be monogamous, but that didn’t mean Kasan was. Had the big guy said anything about monogamy? No. So what if Kasan was already married, say, to Zonta? Because that fucking hug hadn’t seemed very platonic at all. But what if? What if Kasan was already married, and… what if Zonta and he thought they were going to share Max? Max didn’t fucking want to be shared, and the fact that Zonta’s first move was to park Max on his bed didn’t help him feel safe one damn bit. Max had absolutely no interest in polygamy, and neither did his ass. He was absolutely positive that he had a religiously monogamous ass. And even his kindergarten teacher had pointed out that Max was terrible at sharing. “I’m going to run like hell if you come anywhere near me with anything even resembling a dildo, Zonta,” Max said, trying to look stern as Zonta glanced his way again. The moment Zonta’s eyes hit his, the look disappeared and Max smiled weakly. He couldn’t help himself. It was becoming an automatic response, like chanting ‘nice doggy’ at a growling Rottweiler, just before you ran the hell away. And wasn’t that pathetic? This was one of the cats he liked, and he couldn’t relax with him. Not like he could with Kasan. Max bit his lip he wished his husband were with him. He shouldn’t want Kasan around that badly; the man had sex on the brain every moment of the day. Except right now, Max might have been…okay with getting off. Hard. And he would be okay with Kasan taking care of the erection that had snuck up on him and was right now invading his loin cloth like a pushy relative that wouldn’t leave. And why the hell did this always happen now? Why were thoughts of Kasan almost instantly followed by an erection now? Wait.

Max ran every encounter through his head. He’d thought Kasan was sexy from the first moment he’d seen him, even when he’d been scared shitless. That couldn’t be normal. It had to be something else. Had to be, and the only thing that was involved that that might affect it was… That damn STD. Holy crap. Max wasn’t some kind of sex addict with a fetish for hot asses and body builders, he was afflicted with an- an ass-craving STD! He watched Zonta dig through the towers of junk as he flushed and wished like hell he’d never even heard of this planet. A disease that made him crave sex like a drug – that had to be it, didn’t it? And now- now Max might even want sex with anyone – he was noticing Zonta’s package, wasn’t he? Max was diseased, and addicted to sex. Max was…oh dear God. Max was literally a freakin’ poxy whore. Max flumped back onto the bed, pressing a hand against his eyes to push against the headache starting behind them. This was insane - comic book worthy insane. He stared up at the ceiling and told himself it didn’t matter. So what if he wanted sex all the time? So what if Kasan walking around with butt-floss and a smile got Max hard? That should be good, right? Because he could keep up with Kasan when the cat wanted to screw his brains out. Except, what if the disease was the reason Kasan wanted Max, as well? Max swallowed as the thought settled in the pit of his stomach, an unpleasant lump. Kasan might not really want Max at all. Max sat back up and punched down at the bed a few times. He tried not to growl to loudly. It didn’t freaking matter. He did not care if Kasan wanted him because he thought Max was fuckable, or because the honkin’ cat had nympho-pox. It didn’t matter. Right? Max’s dick didn’t care why it liked Kasan, his ass didn’t care why Kasan liked him, and the rest of Max…needed to shut up. Max wanted to hit himself in the chest. Maybe then the ache that was building there would just go the hell away. And he felt the same way about his stupid, trigger-happy dick. It hadn’t behaved all day long, especially with that stupid leash that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a bondage club on Valentine’s Day. The ache in his chest faded as Max’s skin warmed. His cock thickened instantly, and he had to punch the bed again to keep from touching himself. What the hell was up with that collar? There hadn’t been anything like that before, and then both Kasan and that Leero had shown up with them on today. He’d never seen anything so erotic in his life – it was better than the damn mirror sex. His cock twitched and he hunched his shoulders. Okay, so it might take an orgy to beat the mirror sex, but the collar was still…stunning. A bright slash across Kasan’s throat, dripping red down his chest and bringing out the bulges of his pecs. It should have been

gory, like a slashed throat, but Max had been terrified he’d come if he thought too much about Kasan in that bondage gear. Especially when he’d seen freaking Ko and the Crystal Dildo of Olympus sprang into mind. The erection had only faded when Max had figured out what the collar really meant: anyone could order you around if you wore a collar. Master and slave were universal concepts, it turned out. Although Max didn’t know why Kasan was on the slave end of this. Yeah, it had been nice for a few minutes to mess with Kasan and be on the ‘master’ side for once. But that had ended as soon as Max watched one of the old women at his table order Leero to do something. And the big ass cat did it. His eyes had narrowed as he’d caught Max watching, but Leero had obeyed. The implications still had Max’s ass puckered. The old cats weren’t the ones who were holding the leash, but Leero still had to do what they said. So what did that say about Max and Kasan? Could just anyone come up and order Kasan around? Could anyone make him leave Max all alone at the damn table? Could they order him to give Max to someone else? Max had stopped giving any orders at all the moment he’d thought of that, and pressed as close to Kasan as he could. He’d hoped that if he were quiet enough, no one would remember he was there to make orders about in the first place. It should be better now, away from all those people. It should be better with just one cat. But it wasn’t. It felt exactly like what Max had been afraid of: Kasan had left him alone. It was with Zonta, and Zonta was simply gathering up supplies, but… Max missed Kasan. Right now, no matter what reason Kasan wanted Max, being without Kasan made Max feel naked in a room filled with barbed wire. If he held very still, he might be all right, but he wasn’t going to relax until he either got some clothes or left the damn room. He wanted Kasan back, collar and all. “Max?” He looked up and jumped a foot as Zonta’s face peered at him from less than an arm’s length away. He scrambled back on the bed before he could stop himself, and then he wasn’t sure he wanted to stop himself anyway. Not until Zonta’s ears flattened slightly and the man knelt on the floor next to him. Clothes intact, no erection in sight, and not invading Max’s ‘no cat’ personal space, thank God. “Max safe. No danger, Max. Here.” Zonta held out a dark, plasticky tablet. Max swallowed, trying to control his breathing as he reached for it. Language. This had to

be language. Hopefully. The alien was going out of his way to make himself seem nonthreatening, and that was completely different than when Kasan had left him alone before. It was hopefully a step in the right – monogamous – direction. The screen was blank until Zonta reached up and pressed a few indentations on the side. And then it was like watching a movie. Zonta turned down the volume a bit – a good thing, because Max couldn’t understand much of what the thing was saying, anyway – and tapped the screen. “We’ll start with this, Max. History first, words second. You need to know where you fit in, I think. And this should take your mind off of whatever’s got you worked up.” Max smiled at him and felt proud how little he flinched when Zonta slowly rose to his feet and then settled himself on the bed. As long as the tablet wasn’t going to follow Kasan’s pattern and imply that Max had to have sex with Zonta, too, then Max would be okay. Crap, he really wished he hadn’t thought of that. Max took a deep breath and tried to focus on the screen. Just keep his attention on the screen and he could ignore Zonta. That was all he needed to do. It wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be. Pictures of Kasan flashed on, lasting only a moment before flickering to another. After a few shots, with Kasan looking as freaking sexy as he always did, Max realized he was starting to look kinda cute as well. It was weird, almost like… “Wait, are these Kasan’s baby pictures?” Kasan was getting younger and younger in the still shots, and Max had to admit, he was adorable as a kid. His ears looked too big for his head, just like a damn kitten. His hair was a short, silky black, and solemn, sad eyes stared at whoever was taking the picture. There were shots of him holding his father’s hands, shots of him with a smile on his face as a toddler and held in a woman’s arms, and then it started to go faster. The images flickered too fast for him to see, just hints of cats getting younger, the background changing, until Max finally figured out what Zonta was trying to do. He looked away before the images gave him a worse headache, putting his hand over the screen. “Enough. I get it already. You’re showing me something in the past, right?” Zonta pressed a button and stared at him. “I understand,” Max said again, and sighed in relief when Zonta finally smiled and fiddled with the damn thing again, taking away the seizure-inducing slide show. Obviously, epilepsy wasn’t an issue for cats. The screen ran a computer animation of more cats instead of the stills. The images reminded him of a costume drama – all bright colors and elaborate setting.

Then the screen stopped and words in odd characters flashed along the bottom of the screen in bright, bouncy letters. Okay, costume drama, or Kitten TV. Planet of the Cats, for Kids? Cat Planet, anime style? He really, really needed to get a grip, he realized, and made sure to grip the covers rather than anyone nearby. As it began to tell a story, Max forgot about Zonta sitting next to him. The video was fascinating, not to mention sad, frightening, and sometimes as confusing as a concert of alien frogs. And he could sum it up in three words: Max was screwed. Because while he couldn’t understand some of the story, he got enough to realize that he was so far from Kansas that not even ruby slippers were ever going to get him back home. And in Max’s Oz, the only Toto with a tail and ears wanted to screw Max into oblivion. Although at least he knew a little bit about where he was right now. And he’d always loved history. Not as much as languages, but enough that he could focus on the story and lose himself in it a little. He thought he probably would have guessed this was a history, or at least a fictional story, just by the differences that stood out. Like clothes – all the cats in the story wore clothes that actually covered their asses, the lucky bastards. Every cat was also covered in a full-body coating of short, silky fur, and like Kasan, they all had tails. Not to mention that they had technology – better technology than Earth, even - couldn’t miss the flying cars all over the place. But with the extra body hair, Max couldn’t escape the feeling of watching Neanderthal cats with higher tech. Weird, but the story had a simple beginning, thank God. Mahogany cats had a society. Tawny and ebony cats had a society. Neither society was terribly fond of the other and they had a smack-down, drag-out brawl in the form of a nasty world war. Sci-fi proponents of the ‘humans are the most violent race in the galaxy’ theory were going to be sorely disappointed, if this was the history that he was assuming. Although he really wished they hadn’t tried to recreate things so graphically. He hated horror movies in general, and seeing a war and realizing he was seeing a retelling of something that had actually happened was so awful he felt sick to his stomach. Especially when it was clear that part of the war had been biological. Neon purple clouds drifting over a city had been followed by hundreds of cats dropping like flies in the streets. And then hospitals full of cats with silent, wasted bodies, or screaming and tearing at their mummified skin. It looked like even some of the animals were affected. Big felines the size of horses lay dead in the forests, little ones the size of rats scrabbled in death agonies on the floors of the hospitals as the cats screamed along with them. “You poor fucking bastards.” He heard a deep murmur and glanced over to Zonta to find the cat’s ears flat as his eyes focused on the screen. Turning back, Max tried to swallow

the lump in his throat as the images kept coming. The damn scene just went on and on, like a bad movie that couldn’t realize it had already made its point. When it finally ended, the view pulled back with a less depressing but somehow creepier global image. The deep purple color oozed across one continent after another until every landmass was completely covered. Max thought it was over when the shots of empty cities and countryside came on, until he noticed the small bands of ragged, starved little cats. City after deserted city, children crept through the wreckage in every one. But not one damn adult. What the-? “It just killed the adults?” He looked up at Zonta and tried to ask the question. “No Big…?” He pointed to Zonta for lack of a word. “Kyashin?” Max nodded, looking back at the screen. It hurt to look. That was one thing that had landed him in trouble everywhere he’d gone on earth – the street kids. Made his whole chest ache like his lungs were full of sand. “No, no big Kyashin, Max. The Kouloc killed everyone past puberty.” Zonta looked at the screen and made a strange gesture with his hand, touching his chest and then his lips. It reminded Max of people making the sign of the cross when they mentioned someone who’d passed away. Max swallowed and went back to watching. It had skipped ahead to show small communities of kids, the teens obviously taking care of the smaller ones, but it was clear that they were barely hanging on. And when the older teens started sickening, and dying, just like the adults before had, it was damn obvious that no Kyashin were getting ‘big.’ They were dying as soon as they started looking like an adult. Puberty, maybe? Crap. Even Earth had never fucked up quite that badly. Close, sometimes. World War III had been a horror, from what he’d read, but it had never taken out as much of the population as the cats’ war had. As he watched the screen, though, Max couldn’t understand what came next. It made no sense. Not like he’d finally lost his mind from too much sex, but ‘against the laws of physics’ no-sense. Because huge space ships that made Max’s colony ship look like a rusted out hulk landed on the planet, and the aliens coming out of them were all shapes and sizes, but some of them were most definitely Max’s shape and size. Some of them were human. “What the hell! How can those be…” “Humans, Max. We call your kind ‘humans’.” That just wasn’t possible. Humans didn’t have ships that looked like that, and they sure as hell didn’t know any aliens, let alone fly around space with them, landing on alien planets like some Lewis and Clark of the freaking stars. So how could humans have

come here, to this planet, with other aliens? In this planet’s damn past, when no human except for Max had even screwed an alien yet, let alone met one?! Or…the other way around. Crap. Watching while his brain sputtered, Max saw people from the ships find pockets of little kids, giving them food, coaxing them out, treating them… and then studying them in a lab. Looking for a cure? “At least we get to be the good guys,” Max muttered, rubbing a shaking hand over his face. Why did things keep getting more confusing, every freaking minute he was here? Life should not resemble a Twilight Zone episode! With slow, even – not panicked, dammit! – breathing, he watched the human/alien contingent trying to save the kids, and just as obviously failing. The little cats died just as horribly as ever when they grew up. He couldn’t watch once the screen showed the humans fail. He had to close his eyes until the screams stopped. When he opened them back up, there were some of the animals that had been dying, now in the labs with the aliens and humans studying them. And in one was“That’s Androcles!” A little one rather than the incredible anti-shrinking dog that Max knew, but it was still the same kind of animal. Zonta patted his hand. “It’s a Shokan.” He didn’t want to watch as the dogs died as well – it was too close to seeing Androcles die, and that stupid laughing hyena was one of the only two things on this whole damn planet that Max felt close to. “S-so.” He looked up at Zonta and tried not to hear the death throws of the poor animals. “What does Kasan call his shokan?” Zonta shook his head, confused. “Kasan’s Shokan’s name…” He couldn’t think of the words. The sounds on the screen were too awful. Zonta smiled shook his head. “Don’t worry, Max. Kasan won’t let a shokan near you, little one. Max safe.” Max couldn’t even get frustrated over the obvious miscommunication; he hadn’t meant to sound scared of Androcles, as though he needed reassurance. But the horrible cries on the screen finally stopped and he dropped it. It wasn’t worth the effort, at the moment. He’d ask Kasan later. They weren’t done with the animals, though. On the screen, the humans injected something into the dog, with a camera close up of the syringe. It reminded him of the way all the old medical dramas would enter the human body and show you the blood inside to show you the problem. And as the screen magnified the syringe, inside it

were…holy shit, machines? “Are those robots? It’s teeny little robots, isn’t it?” Humans, with freaking nano-tech, which they didn’t even have yet! What the hell was going on? “Nanites, Max.” Zonta paused the screen and pointed to one of the miniscule robots as he repeated it. And things just got more complicated after that. Dogs living, cats dying, more tests and more aliens and finally a picture of a couple dozen human men and women. It was a real picture, not a cartoon, and each person was paired with a cat. Seeing them together, Max realized the cats were all a hell of a lot shorter than he’d thought. Nowhere near as big as they were now. The shortest was barely a head taller than the humans next to it. Each human was highlighted while the screen read off names, some of which he would have been comfortable hearing on Earth. Which put paid to any idea that these weren’t really humans. What were the odds that there would be another planet of human-like people with names like Pauline, Mick, Jaime, and… “Wait, did it just say Kasan?” Zonta nodded and paused the screen to point to the smallest human in the group, a young Asian man standing in the front row. “Kasan Yoon. Your mate was named after one of the Saviors, little one. It’s good luck.” Well holy shit. That was just…weird. And it made him feel the oddest connection to Kasan. The connection felt a bit more like history repeating itself when he saw what the humans and the Kyashin were doing together in the story. Each one was injected with what he assumed was the nanites, and then he knew they were getting it on. It was sobering to see the next picture, though. It was another photograph – or whatever they had here – and had only half the number of original volunteers, with their partners beside them. And then it showed a small funeral service for all the other humans, mostly woman, and the Kyashin they’d been partnered with. Max felt so incredibly stupid, but it made his throat close up. In that second picture, the people looked devastated at the loss even while they were smiling over the success. They were long dead, but the looks on their faces was too raw to ignore. He felt like a bastard, whining about Kasan and sex, when these people had gone through what he had, had died for it, all to save another species. Except he hadn’t volunteered, he reminded himself, and they must have. That didn’t make him feel a whole lot better. He couldn’t separate the guilt from going through this and not being brave about it, and his bright new spark of panic as he realized he might have little, teeny nanites inside of him now too. It was too much. He glanced at Zonta, trying to avoid the screen again, and it only made it worse to catch the big cat sniffle as he watched the screen, clearing his throat to try and hide it from Max.

Max reached out and patted him on the back lightly before trying to finish the story. He wished it would just damn well end so he could stop thinking about it. The next scene finally had something happy in it: hundreds of thousands of humans – possibly millions – arrived in their bad-ass-shouldn’t-even-exist ships. All male and all getting hooked up with Kyashin men and women. And then the ships left and a butt load of humans stayed behind with cats that were holding onto their waists and arms. Zonta turned it off. He sat quietly as Max tried to figure it out. Humans had been here before. Humans had saved these guys. But Earth didn’t make space ships like those on the screen, and they sure as hell didn’t know any aliens. So what the hell was going on? Max swallowed, wracking his brain, and all he could come up with was the cryo-sleep. “How long was I freaking asleep for?” Just how long had it taken him to get to this planet? Did he even want to know, if Kasan didn’t know where any humans were anymore? If he’d been separated, or his tube had been broken and left in a garbage heap for years and years, or his tube had pulled a Buck Rogers and headed out to the middle of nowhere for freaking forever… Were there any humans left anywhere? Max felt the bed move as Zonta shifted. He looked over at him. If all those Kyashin had little half-human babies, then… there were a lot of part-human descendants right here. Right? He studied Zonta as he tried to see it. Zonta’s skin could be human – the coloring was right. He hadn’t seen any cats who had blue or green or purple skin or anything – it was all human colors. So no matter what, Max wasn’t the very last human, just…the last human without cat ears and gigantism. He wished that were more comforting, because Zonta’s face made it harder to feel welcome in the bosom of semi-humanity; it was too thin and alien to be human. Scanning down his body, Max paused. Zonta’s ass was sure human. Max swallowed and dragged his eyes away as his mind thought of Kasan and what parts of him were human too. Then again, he thought most of Kasan might be too freaking sexy to qualify as really human. Zonta tapped his nose suddenly with a gentle little flick and interrupted his train of thought. “Are you good, Max?” Max shrugged uncomfortably. “Yes.” Good enough, anyway. It seemed to be the right answer. Zonta started pointing to various objects, naming then, and Max was thankful he could immerse himself in something that actually made sense for the first time that day. Something concrete was a welcome relief.

And maybe he could finally learn something useful for keeping people away, like ‘kiss my ass, you stupid cat.’ Or… He thought of screaming ‘More!’ as Kasan took him. Um….maybe he’d just learn how to say blanket, instead. XXXXXXX Leero stood next to the Lord King and tried to stare into the wall rather than at the people around them. It was the only way he could avoid seeing the leash trailing down his chest and ending in Kyoru’s hand. The sight frayed the ends of his nerves every time he noticed it. Leero took a deep, silent breath; he had to deal with this, and he had to deal with it now. But dammit, he’d thought that he was prepared for this. His finding out he’d been mistaken was like a hot poker up the ass. After Kasan had been imprisoned, making the decision to beat answers out of Shovak’s little pet had been easy. He’d known this would follow – it was the most commonly chosen punishment for that type of abuse of power. But the Lord King was so casual about ordering Leero around, while Leero had to stand or kneel nearby all day and… …and inhale that damn smell that was driving him slowly mad. If Leero had gone more than a few tics in the last day without an erection, he couldn’t think of it. Swallowing heavily, Leero could feel the scent dragging his eyes over to look at Kyoru. They met the Lord King’s as the man glanced at him at him at the same moment, one side of his mouth quirking up. Leero stiffened and stared straight ahead again. When had the Lord King started smiling like that? Leero couldn’t remember. He could remember Kasan’s father chuckling over his sons’ foibles, laughing outright when they got into some ridiculous scrape and dragged Leero along with them. But this knowing half-smile? That was new and, quite frankly, disturbing. It was one of the reasons that Jolan’s and the others’ teasing had Leero reacting like a barely ripened idiot with his first sight of a mate in heat. Every salacious joke had him envision Kyoru with a taunting, sexual smile on his face. And then Leero would flush fit to burn the citadel down around them. A man old enough to be in heat was too old to react this childishly. And the Lord King wasn’t flirting, he reminded himself. Kyoru was exacting in his propriety. He was calm, as Leash Holder should be. Polite, firm, in control – he acted no different than he ever did with his other subjects. No different at all, if it weren’t for that odd smile.

Not that Leero’s body cared. Kyoru was the only one in the room under the age of 120. His scent wasn’t as strong as the twins, or anyone younger and ripe, but right now, it was enough to make Leero sweat. And after having slept next to him all night, Leero couldn’t get him out of his head. His ears flattened. That damnable bed had shocked the hell out of him. He’d been prepared to spend the next month on a few cushions on the floor of Kyoru’s rooms, or a small cot somewhere. Instead the Lord King had made a disgusted sound his first night of Service and told him to stop acting like a martyr and get into bed. Kyoru did have a huge mattress – fit for a king might be cliché, but it was the only term that really fit a bed that could have taken up an entire room. And there was nothing sexual about it, of course. They had slept on it nearly a man’s length apart. Or they’d tried. Leero hadn’t had much luck finding any sleep at all while the nanites raged through his body and fired his blood in preparation for taking a consort. Most especially when he was so close to one who smelled like berries that had been on the vine long enough to be rich and musky-sweet on the tongue. Leero swayed and startled as he realized he’d nearly fallen asleep standing up. He was worse than a new recruit, acting like this. Hiding his heat, nearly falling asleep and neglecting his duties. He had to get control of himself. Kyoru’s scent hit him again and he bit back a groan. This was simply not going to work; the heat was more encompassing than he’d understood. It was going to be too difficult to ignore. He needed to let the elders know about his heat. It would get him out of Service until he’d dealt with it. He would simply find a consort that appealed to him and get through the next few years without incident. He didn’t have to have as close a relationship as Kasan’s family, no matter how it clenched his gut unpleasantly to think about it. He’d take what he could find and be grateful that he was no longer stuck writhing silently on someone else’s mattress while he wished desperately for some privacy to ejaculate in peace. And then he could ignore his imagination, which couldn’t stop thinking of stroking himself in the dark and having Kyoru lean over, offering to help finish him off. When he was starting to think like that, it was time to admit defeat and cry mercy. Kyoru might still be in the prime of his life. He might still be more fit that was good for Leero’s mental health, especially when he turned to talk to his oldest brother and flashed the side of his buttocks at the edge of Leero’s vision, but he was Kasan’s father. He was the Lord King. He was not a cute piece of ass that Leero could take as a consort and fuck for the next few decades, and that was the only person Leero should be wasting his time with. If he could just get off the damn leash and start looking.

He grunted softly, shifting and doing his best to ignore his erection. Staring straight ahead again was the only way he could pretend the people around him hadn’t noticed it. At least they were all mature enough not to comment. He hadn’t thought it would be so much of a problem. How the hell could he know that he’d be spending all his service trapped in a room with smirking elders and their peers? He needed to get out and see some young blood, even if the elders berated him for not telling them the instant the heat had hit. It was pathetic. He hadn’t even lasted a day before he gave in and avoided Service. Not that he was using his heat to do so, but he was sure Jolan and Tisu would accuse him of it, in that obnoxious way of theirs. Too damn bad. He simply didn’t care anymore. He had to find a consort. “Lord King,” he said softly, hoping the elders would continue their conversation and not pause to listen in. They were all involved in discussing what more should be done about the purists that Shovak had been associated with, now that there had been some communication with a few of the other clans. “In a moment, Leero.” He bit his tongue, waiting. He couldn’t leave service until they released him. And he couldn’t honestly claim that he had to be released this moment to take care of his heat. Leero continued to stare at the wall as he waited for Kyoru to finish his conversation. Before he had his chance, there was a brief scratching at the door and a tec came in. Her scent followed her, but it barely tightened Leero’s groin. She probably already had a consort or a mate of her own. “The Kota’s head tec sent me their morning news packet, Elder Asha.” Leero noticed the woman stared resolutely only at Elder Asha. He could appreciate that. Most people preferred to deal with her than her sister. With his training to oversee the military in case anything happened to Kasan, he’d been around them enough to know how foolish that was. They were both terrifying in their own way, but in a pinch, he’d prefer to piss off Nerin rather than Asha. Asha was usually milder, but when she was angry, she tended to get creative in ways that made you remember never to disappoint her again. “I’m assuming there was something worth seeing, then, if you bothered to bring it to our attention?” The tec nodded, her ears moving with a nervous flutter. “There’s been news of Prince Kasan’s new consort. It involves the Niandrin.” Her ears flattened entirely and her lip curled up for a moment to expose one white fang as she spit the last word. Leero was only just able to control his own urge to do the same. “Thank you for bringing it up so quickly.” The Lord King held out his hand for the small

square of data and handed it to Leero as the tec took her leave. “Code it up for us. We’ll need to look at this ourselves.” Kyoru’s voice slipped underneath Leero’s loincloth to give his cock a pet. Dammit it to hell; he needed to get out of Service now and get some ass before he went utterly insane. He kept himself from ripping the leash out of Kyoru’s hand with an effort as he waited for the man to release him. Hoping his erection wasn’t as visible as he knew it was, Leero hooked up the hand comp to the main screen. He stepped back to Kyoru’s side as one of the major gossip news shows lit up the screen. A petite, silvery-blue commentator was in mid-speech, making an obscure joke in galactic standard. As he talked, the screen showed images of the greeting room with Max running through the crowd. The male alien made some irritating comments on the willingness of the Hinta’s newest royal consort, some speculation over whether or not Kasan’s status as a throwback might have something to do with Max’s behavior, and then Leero’s ears perked up along with the rest of the room as the man continued. “…rumor has it that Prince Kasan’s consort is actually a human, although the Kyashin liaisons have yet to confirm or deny the rumors. But considering that this is the first successful alien mating with a Kyashin in centuries, the gossips may be on to something.” The alien smiled hugely, his canine’s showing prominently against purpling lips. “For those of you who don’t recall, the Kyashin were the last race to benefit from the Infinitum Coalition before the group was eliminated by the Triad. The humans within that community were the last ones to mate with Kyashin, the lucky devils. And not only-“ Leero stared at the screen. “How did they-“ “Be quiet, ‘Ro. We need to hear this.” Leero’s cheeks heated painfully at Kyoru’s tone, and the name. He’d been eight the last time someone had called him by that name. He kept his eyes on the screen and tried to act as though he’d never said a word. “…is taken as further corroboration of human sales on Kien’sa in the past two months.” Leero could feel the tension in the room jump. “As usual, Kien’sa‘s regent has been impossible to pin down, but our sources in various markets there say that the Niandrin were attempting to pass off some of their newest slave stock as genetically pure humans. After a number of failed attempts at convincing buyers that they weren’t falsifying the genetic results – again - they pulled them off the market with the news that they would soon have proof to offer for their claims. “Could Prince Kasan’s new mating be the confirmation they were waiting for? And if it is, what does this say about the Kyashin and their previously violent anti-slavery stance? What will this do to the usually united cat men when every detail has come to light? We’ll keep you posted on this, and, as always, on the sexy men and women of Kyashin…”

The silence lasted just long enough for Kyoru to turn and face Leero. His half-smile was gone. “Go fetch Kasan and his brothers – leave Zonta with the little one. Come directly back. We’ll need you here when Kasan hears the news.” Leero merely nodded and headed for the door. The heat could wait another few minutes. XXXXXXXX Amber eyes watched coldly as a shadow emerged from behind the deeper black of a large tree. Slipping to the side, the shadow tightened to the shape of a large cat, checking a heavy blade strapped behind his back. His body was nearly invisible as it slipped from tree to tree. The eyes followed as silently as oil as the cat worked his way to the garden door set against the citadel wall. Pulling out a box that glinted in the moons’ light, the cat clicked his fingers over it, pushing it up against the door’s lock after a few moments’ calibration. There was no sound as heavy paws crept up behind him. There was only the wind against the leaves of the trees as a large body crouched. And there was no time to scream before sharp teeth clamped down on the cat’s windpipe and dragged the still-struggling body back into the heavy brush and disappeared. Standing in the room with his family around him, Kasan could barely breathe as his mind processed the news from the screen. His brothers and their consorts were almost as upset as he was; at the edge of his awareness, he could see ears flicking downwards, hear their angry murmurs even while they tried to offer comfort. There was the brief touch of Aosh’s hand brushing against Kasan’s shoulder, considerately avoiding the leash hanging over his chest. Roto’s fingers rubbed at his ears. Even Ko and Jolan were patting his arms gently, but it wasn’t enough to take the shock away. Did the Niandrin really have Max’s people? From the large, paternal hand petting the top of his head, it was clear his father believed they did. The elders must believe it as well or they wouldn’t have put their punishment on hold to call him in. Kasan didn’t want to believe it. It made Kasan and Max into a damned test case for the Niandrin, and one that might help sell the rest of Max’s people. Kasan thought he might vomit, knowing what the humans would end up as: whores, concubines, pets to be kept in a collector’s zoo, or worse, specimens to be experimented on. At least they were too small and frail to make good competitors in blood sports. Hopefully, that meant they would live long enough to be rescued. And then Kasan would like to see the slaving sons of bitches try to get them through the Guardian Satellites of Kyashin. Bastards like these were exactly why the grid of satellites had been installed in the first place. Now some of the Saviors’ technology that still remained would help protect some

of the very species that had built it. If they could get to humans in time. Kasan’s growl grew as he stared blindly at the screen while his family huddled close and touched him soothingly until he got a sliver of control again. He wanted to believe it would take the Niandrin a long time to off-load their human cargo. Everyone knew that they’d successfully faked genetic tests in the past; it would hamper their attempts to claim that Max’s people were really humans. They would never get what the humans were worth. Or they never would have, if it weren’t for Max. Because everyone, especially the filth in the slave trade, also knew that Kyashin couldn’t survive puberty without another Kyashin, or without a genetically pure human. They didn’t know the details, but they knew enough to always try to capture Kyashin in pairs. So they’d used he and Max to get the best fucking price for Max’s family. Kasan shuddered, choking back the rage before he lost control. Stupid, damned gossipmongering idiots had helped them do it, too; his own mating would have been all over the social news hours after it happened. Max had people of his own, people he probably loved, and right now they were being sold as slaves. Kasan vibrated with growls so deep his collar shivered against his throat. He partially crushed the screen control in his hand before his father took it from him with a gentle touch. With a throat that felt raw from unuttered screams of rage, Kasan finally managed to speak. “We’re getting Max’s family back.” Every last one of them. Jolan pinched his ear. “Don’t be stupid. Of course we are. They’re part of our family.” The elders and his father nodded sharply, not that Kasan needed the reassurance. He’d simply had to say the words. He needed to know that they were true. He needed Max. The screen was paused on an image of Max’s pale face, frozen in a moment of terror during their greeting. Kasan’s whole body ached, remembering the little one’s fear, imagining what it could have been. What were the odds that the Niandrin had picked Max out of all the humans they had? It could have been anyone in Kasan’s cell with him that day, and Max would have been sold to someone else. The terror on his face, blown up to enormous size on the screen, would have been just as real. But no one would have cared. Red clouded Kasan’s eyes. His beautiful, amazing, helpless little Max, with some lowlife, slave-buying bastard who wouldn’t give a damn how frightened Max was. Kasan’s claws emerged entirely. His body shook with the need to attack the Niandrin and rip them apart so savagely he would feel blood spray across his face. “I will fucking kill them.” “You will stay here and take care of your consort.” Kyoru looked at him with eyes like

sharp stones. Everyone else took a few steps back. “And Shovak still needs to be dealt with.” Ears flat, Kasan refused to look away. These were his consort’s people. He wanted blood. “They have the other humans!” Kyoru looked at him without speaking. Even with the collar on, Kasan’s fingertips tingled as he flexed his claws. He didn’t know what might have happened had Aosh not interrupted the unspoken challenge. His baby brother stepped between them. “I’ll go get them.” Kasan, the Lord King, and everyone else stared at him until Aosh’s ears wilted. Aunt Asha yanked at one of Aosh’s braids. “You so much as think about it and I will strip the fur from your ears.” Aosh stood straight and met her glare, even as his ears flattened protectively. “You know it’s feasible. Zonta and I are known to be brothers to Kasan and we don’t have consorts. If we don’t deny the slave purchase outside of Kyashin, then they might believe that we’d want a human for ourselves. Aosh and I could get into the auctions. Besides, Zonta is fluent in practically every damn language he comes across, including the human’s, if he can study it a little. We can-“ “You can stay here where you won’t be picked up and sold.” Aunt Asha’s biting voice was lethal and she yanked at his braid again so hard that he was forced to lean down until they were face to face. “You think we’re going to let two barely ripened Kyashin offplanet? And identical twins, at that?” She glowered at him scathingly. “You’d be snapped up by a whore house in seconds. Even if they only had a year before you both died during your heat, they’d make enough profit to make it worth their while.” The very harshness in her voice made Kasan stare at her hard before he looked away. His claws sank bank into their sheaths as he was reminded of an old rumor he’d heard and discounted, that Asha had managed to sneak off planet when she was very young. According to the story, she’d been found in a child brothel on Tien’sa. Aosh stood as the Elder released his hair. “We wouldn’t be alone! People expect guards and servants with royalty. We could have an entire ship of trained-“ “You’re also needed here,” Aunt Nerin said. Aosh turned to confront at her with a frustrated scowl. “You have dozens who can do what I-“ “Don’t argue about this. You’re too young,” the Lord King said. Kasan completely agreed. His youngest two brothers weren’t ready to leave the planet yet, even if Aosh’s gesture helped Kasan keep his claws in. His father wasn’t done talking. “…and you’re definitely too fond of making people squirm

to be let out on your own, yet.” Aosh’s jaw tightened. “I am not a child. Zonta and I-” “We have diplomats, leaders, and warriors who would all make better choices, and that’s only in our own family. If we ask for the aid from some of the others clans, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people I would choose before I’d let you and Zonta endanger yourselves that way.” Kyoru paused before a small smile softened his features as he reached out and flicked the tip of Aosh’s nose. “Besides, I have a feeling you’re almost as interested in finding a human for yourself as in a rescue attempt.” Aosh didn’t look amused. Kasan felt about the same, but for entirely different reasons. Father was going to ask for help from the other clans? “I agree that Aosh and Zonta are too young.” He touched his finger to Aosh’s lips when his brother began to growl. “Not that I don’t appreciate the offer, Aosh, but you are. You don’t even have a consort yet. But-” “You’ve only had yours for a few days!” Aosh’s snapping reply stopped Kasan’s next words in his throat. He didn’t care about jibe; it didn’t matter that Kasan’s mating was so recent. It did matter that he had a consort now. He deserved a punch in the head, reacting like this, like someone still ripe. Kasan might ache for the Niandrin’s death with a stomach-gouging need, but painful as it was, it wasn’t nearly as consuming as his need for Max. The little one was far more important. And if he followed through on what he wanted and went after the Niandrin himself, where would Max be? With Kasan, close enough that they could mate nightly as they needed to? Vulnerable to any group who wanted a human of their own? Kasan would never put the Max at risk like that. He couldn’t leave the planet. Kasan swallowed the words Aosh had halted, and thought before he spoke. It felt like the first time since he’d watched the news that his mind had started working beyond the lust for Niandrin blood. “Father, we can’t waste too much time contacting the other clans. We need to get someone out there now.” It would take over a week to get to Tien’sa. Whether Kasan went or not, they didn’t have time to spare for interviewing too many candidates for a rescue mission. Kasan thought he could ask for volunteers and have enough men from their own forces before the end of the next fifth. That was as much time as he wanted to spare. His father raised an eyebrow and Kasan added, “No, it will not include myself. I’ll keep Max safe.” The acknowledgement of what was needed for his consort’s health seemed to ameliorate some of the tension among the older members of the family, especially his father. “I’m glad you finally calmed enough to think of his safety.”

Kasan’s ears flattened. He knew a backhanded reprimand when he heard one. Aunt Nerin shifted close enough to touch his hand. “I know you’re worried, but impatience and an ill-planned attempt will help no one.” “There’ll be no one to help if we take too long. They’ll all be sold.” He couldn’t believe the Niandrin wouldn’t be prepared to put the humans on the market immediately. The elders had to be as aware of that as he was. “If they’ve been sold, then we will track them down,” Kyoru said, his tone soft. He passed by Leero to stand closer to Kasan. “We will not let your consort’s people be harmed, if we can help it. But we will not dive into this and endanger our own men foolishly. We must check with our allies, find out if the humans are already for sale, and by then we will have enough people to make the journey. With luck, it will require nothing more than funds to pretend we wish to purchase them ourselves.” The Elders snorted their contempt at the idea of dealing with the Niandrin, but they didn’t speak against it. “It is more likely we will need to help them escape from other owners.” Kyoru hugged Kasan tightly, rubbing his chin over Kasan’s head. “We will not forget them, Kasan. There are other problems this report causes, however. The other clans have already begun to ask questions. They want to know if we bought you a consort.” Jolan snarled. “As if any Kyashin would purchase a slave!” Ko touched his arm and gestured to their father. Kasan saw the moment that Jolan recalled Shovak, who had dealt with slavers, even if he hadn’t actually bought Max. “That is… Damn. This could be bad.” Kasan was very glad that he wasn’t the one who dealt with diplomatic issues; Nolluz was going to have a firestorm on his hands. All Kasan had on his plate was a list of who to send, and… his consort's feelings. What was Max going to think when he found out what was happening? “Max is going to be devastated.” His voice was muffled against his father’s arm. Kyoru slowly released him, stepping back before he spoke again. “Will you tell him, then?” “I don’t know.” Would the little one feel the same guilt Kasan did, knowing their mating had paved the way for this atrocity? “Maybe I should wait.” Tisu spoke for the first time. “At least wait until the rescue team is gone. You don’t want him trying to get involved and get hurt. Little things like him are… fragile.” Roto flushed as Tisu wrapped his arm around him and the smaller Kyashin elbowed Tisu in the side. He added his opinion before poking Tisu again. “You should trust Max. Tell him.” “Let Kasan make his own decisions about his consort’s needs,” Kyoru said. “Kasan, don’t worry about who to send. Leero knows as much as you do about our men. He can

provide me with couples who are both capable of taking this on, or men and women beyond the heat who are willing to volunteer.” Kyoru tugged Leero forward with the leash and Leero flinched noticeably. Kasan had never realized how bright green his eyes were when his cheeks flushed like that. “You’ll need to do this before next meal, Leero. Any other request for your services by someone other than myself may be ignored until the task is complete.” Releasing the leash, Kyoru’s fingertips ran lightly down Leero’s spine as he pushed him forward. Kasan thought he saw Leero jump before the man nodded stiffly and left. Kyoru turned as soon as the door closed behind him. “Nolluz, you’ll need to let the other clans know about Shovak’s involvement. They are already aware that his name has been struck. Kasan, reporters from multiple races have been sending requests for interviews about your new consort. We need to discuss what you will say. You’ll need to-” “Stall them,” Aunt Nerin croaked out. Kasan had no idea what she meant. “So you don’t want me to speak to them?” “Of course I do. That’s not what I meant.” She tottered forward until she was staring down at him. Her hands teased at his leash. “Lie, boy. Give an interview, look sickly, put some gray on your face, say we’re not certain the mating is taking as we thought, perhaps because your consort isn’t what was claimed. They hardly know a damn thing about mating; they’ll believe it. It’ll delay any sales the Niandrin try to make, if others believe their goods are tainted. They’ve done it too often. Stalling might get us enough time to get to Tien’sa ourselves.” Kasan nodded slowly. Nerin looked at his other brothers and their consorts. “And the rest of you, go spend some time with each other. This needs something joyful to wash the taste of it from your mouths.” Roto bit his lip, looking up at Tisu as they all hesitated. “What about the inventory they were doing?” Aunt Nerin waved her hand. “They’ll still do it. Tomorrow. Go on now, before I change my mind.” The others made it out the door before Kasan had even turned, Neera giving Nolluz a quick pat on the backside before she left him standing next to Kasan. His father spoke to him as Nolluz began talking to the elders. “We’ll try to make this as quick as we can. Two or three of the more reputable reporters should do our job well enough.” Kasan followed them over to the screen to prepare for the talks. He wanted this over with so he could hold Max again. Whether he told him about the Niandrin or not, he wanted the feel of the little one in his arms for the rest of the damned night. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Kasan hadn’t realized how tense he was until the moment Zonta opened the door, and Kasan realized Max wasn’t with him. “Where is he?” A brief touch was the only thing that stopped him from charging out of the room to find him. “He’s simply out in the garden. My, you must really be getting a lot of teasing today if you’re so disturbed by a few seconds without him.” Zonta’s smile fell flat as Kasan failed to return it. Kasan hated to ruin his mood, but he needed to be told. “We’ve found out where Max’s humans are.” “That’s wonderful!” “They’re being held as slaves by the Niandrin.’ Zonta’s ears quivered. With a sympathetic murmur, he hugged Kasan around the shoulders. The leash was crushed between them. “I’m so sorry.” Kasan reached up to gently push him away and found himself holding onto his brother instead. He couldn’t let go until Zonta spoke against his hair. “I’ll get ready to help retrieve them.” As opposite as they were in personality, in some ways, Aosh and Zonta were so alike it was eerie. “No, you won’t. Not according to father. Aosh already tried to volunteer the both of you and it was discarded. You can’t do this, Zonta.” “But…I know more human right now than any of them!” The offended surprise on Zonta’s face was about what Kasan would have expected. Aosh wouldn’t have volunteered them both if he hadn’t been sure Zonta would want to come. The two of them had probably discussed something like this as soon as they all started trying to find out about Max’s origins. It was very touching. “Zonta, you haven’t even had your first heat and you have no experience off-world. Somehow, I don’t think that makes you and Aosh the most qualified for a mission like this.” Kasan tempered his words when his brother’s ears wilted. “But I appreciate more than I can say that the both of you are so willing to offer.” Zonta shrugged awkwardly. His mouth and shoulders were tight. “I hate not being able to help,” he murmured, looking out towards the door leading to the garden. “I know. But considering that you’ve been teaching my consort how to speak Hinta all afternoon, I can’t imagine why you don’t believe you’ve been doing just that.” “It doesn’t seem enough.”

“Trust me, it is one of the most important things you could be doing, as far as I’m concerned.” Anything that helped Max acclimate and took the fright from his eyes was vital. Until the little one felt safe, Kasan didn’t think he could give Max information that would upset him even more. Kasan scanned the area as Zonta led the way into the fading light of the garden. Sundown should be soon, but it was always dimmer inside the enclosed gardens. He looked around, not seeing Max immediately, but as the insects and birds quieted at their presence, Kasan’s ears caught the barest hint of human muttering farther back in the recesses of the garden. A tight knot inside his belly eased into a mere tangle at the evidence of Max’s well being. He could already imagine his consort’s unfocused stare as the little one talked to himself. Walking towards the sound, Kasan thought he recognized ‘Don’t touch that. My touch now.’ being repeated over and over in Max’s smooth voice. Kasan’s ears fluttered as he chuckled under his breath. Funny little thing. Thinking of how much he was looking forward to finding out what went on in Max’s head kept the smile on his face. Every step closer to him smoothed out the tension in Kasan’s shoulders. If he could touch Max, he could believe they had a chance to retrieve the other humans. As long as he had Max, he had the feeling he was capable of almost anything, these days. Zonta stepped around a large bush on the winding path and Kasan followed him impatiently. It was difficult not to push Zonta aside and hurry past him. He could still hear Max, but the foliage was so pungent Kasan could only catch a hint of Max’s scent. Unpleasant. He’d never understand why Zonta and Aosh let the caretakers take over the planting of their garden and put in crap like this. Thorn-ridden, head-high shrubs that needed little care – who wanted an entire garden of this? It masked people’s smell, it constantly stung the skin, and unlike Kasan’s garden, there was nothing he could climb and leap off of to speed things along. Cursing at another set of scratches as he brushed too close to a high shrub, Kasan wished he were already back in his own garden with Max. He’d love to take the little one up into one of the bowers he’d built in a few of the largest trees. They needed somewhere they could both forget about the rest of the world for a while. The vision was enticing: Max flushed and moaning softly underneath him, surrounded by velvety petals and shining leaves. Perhaps they could even manage it today, even though Kasan could feel the smallest prickle of the heat in his fingertips. It would still be at least a couple hours until he was in dire need. He shoved aside an overgrown bush from the path. “Zonta, has Max eaten anything for Lastmeal, yet?” It was a bit early, but Zonta tended to have meals in his room at least a few times a week, especially when he got caught up in his studies. Zonta turned his head, smiling. “You’re in luck. I thought you might be in a rush when you were done with the inventory, so I had food brought in. I wasn’t expecting you so early, but as it stands…as soon as you two wish, you could have some time alone.” Zonta’s flush ruined whatever teasing he might have intended. Opening his mouth to

reply, Kasan stopped as he realized he couldn’t hear Max any more. He waited a moment for the little one to speak again; a stray breeze eddied around them, rustling the leaves. Max still wasn’t making a sound. Kasan’s hackles rose at the relative silence. Stupid, to feel a moment’s quiet meant anything. Max didn’t have to talk constantly to be well. But Kasan’s tail began to twitch, and his ears strained to hear Max speaking yet again. “Kasan? Are you-“ Max screamed, high-pitched and terrified, and Kasan’s stomach dropped to his toes. He plunged into the brush, a small limb of thorns slapping viciously at his stomach. Max’s scream echoed in his head so loudly he wasn’t certain if he was hearing it again or if his mind was playing tricks on him. Max had to be all right – there was nothing here! So why did Kasan’s entire body crawl with superstitious dread that he was about to find Max bloody and gone. Because of the Niandrin? Because of the scream? Dammit, Max screamed all the time! But not like this. Kasan leapt over another bush as high as his head, tripping as it caught at his feet. An alarm from the top of the walls screeched and Kasan stopped thinking entirely. He sprinted towards Max, whose screaming kept Kasan focused – if the little one could scream, he was still alive. Kasan clawed through the brush in front of him, unwilling to weave around it. Blinded by the leaves in his face, he nearly knocked Max over when his consort sprinted around the next brush. Max’s blue eyes were so huge in his face that they looked warped. Kasan caught him, cutting off his scream as they both grunted from the impact. Stumbling back and nearly falling into another bush, Kasan put Max beside him and stepped in front. He couldn’t hear anything following behind. Max’s terrified panting was too loud in the air, even with the birds scared off by the alarm. “What’s wrong, Max?” He didn’t take his eyes off the brush in front of them as he spoke. Max pulled at his arm, back towards the door to Zonta’s room. “It’s the freaking pink blobs again! Come on!” “Max, I can’t understand you.” “Shit! Uh, uh…big, sharp animal! Chase Max! Kasan, run!” Kasan tried to figure out what the hell was in the garden with them, pushing Max a littler farther behind him as he scanned the trees quickly in case one of the larger raptors had gotten in. The guards had seen something, if they set off the alarm. Max reached from behind Kasan and tried to yank at his leash. “Kasan! Run!” Kasan barely heard him as an animal screamed in agony near the rear of the garden, so high pitched it made Kasan’s head ache. Zonta’s tosa – the only sounds they ever made

were so high they were almost inaudible. And very few things attacked a tosa. Of the animals that did, only one could climb well enough to get into the walled garden. Kasan turned, picked Max up in his arms, and sprinted back towards the door. “Zonta! Get back inside!” Max held onto the leash and collar as Kasan ran, nearly choking him until the little one let go and finally hunched himself into a small ball. Kasan leapt through the bushes again, curling around Max to keep the thorns from him. He would swear he could feel something gaining on him, breathing against the back of his neck. Not that he’d hear a damn thing if there were - he’d feel the claws before he heard a damned thing. And then they’d tear into Max. He ran faster. Bursting through the last shrub, seeing Zonta sprinting ahead of him, Kasan pushed himself so hard that he stumbled headlong into Zonta’s room, flipping over onto his back at the last moment as he hit the ground. Max and he went skidding along the floor and Zonta stared at him as he flew past. “Close the damn door! Close it!” Zonta’s hand snapped the lock and Kasan didn’t start breathing again until the door slid completely shut. He couldn’t talk in more than repeated curse words. His legs trembled in reaction. “God. Max. I almost lost Max.” Kasan held him tight to his chest, ignoring when his consort squirmed to get free. “I swear to God, I’m never letting him out there alone again. Shit.” Zonta swallowed and stared at them both. “What happened?” “Shokan. I heard your tosa die in the garden behind Max. It must have distracted the damn thing so it didn’t go after Max. God…” Kasan stared down at Max as the man started to shake. “Shhhh, you’re safe n-now.” He couldn’t keep his voice steady. Panting, he tried to calm Max for another tic when he realized the shivering was his own arms, shaking as they held his consort. He put Max down on his lap so he wasn’t jolting him so much, but he couldn’t make himself let go. “I can’t believe I could have just lost him.” Zonta came over and knelt down on the floor next to him, patting Max, who looked more terrified now than he had before when he’d been running. “Kasan? Animal outside? No danger here?” The little one’s voice shook. Kasan stared at him before he nodded. Absolutely right. Nothing was getting in here at Max.

“Kasan…hurt.” Kasan felt a small sting on his arm. Looking down at Max touching his bicep, Kasan saw thin rivulets of blood beading up and running down. The pain started as he looked at it, stinging stripes that covered his arms, legs, and chest, one hot line down the side of his face, and his entire back burned from where he’d skidded across the floor. “Kasan hurt big.” Max’s hands hovered over the small wounds covering Kasan’s skin. “No, Max, not big. They’re small. You’re the one who…” Kasan swallowed and hugged him tighter. “Max almost eaten.” A tremor rattled Kasan’s entire body. It wasn’t the loss of his own life that bothered him, if he lost his consort. It was losing Max. Max in pain and torn to pieces, poisoned from a shokan’s claws, paralyzed as the pack carried him away and ate him the moment he died. First the Niandrin, and now a shokan in the gardens. He wasn’t letting Max out on his own for a long damn time. Like the next five years. They were still on the floor, Zonta gathering a few bandaging supplies, when the guards burst through the door. “There was a shokan sighted on top of Zonta’s wall-” “We know.” Kasan got to his feet, taking Max with him. “We got inside safely, but it got his tosa.” He headed to the bed. There would be more guards coming, and he’d feel safer if Max wasn’t going to get stepped on by the crowd. The younger of Zonta’s guards gasped as he saw Kasan’s back. “Your wounds! Did-” “It’s from hitting the floor. I don’t need an antidote.” He made a note to keep that one out of the garden. If the man didn’t know enough to realize Kasan would already be paralyzed if he’d been clawed, he shouldn’t be getting anywhere near a shokan. “Have they surrounded the garden yet?” he asked over his shoulder. The older guard shook his head. “Not when they contacted us, but they had more men coming. If it’s not secured by now, it soon will be.” Kasan put Max on the bed, smoothing his hair from his eyes. Zonta joined them with an antiseptic that smelled like tea flowers. “I need to treat these.” Kasan shook his head as he stood. “I’m fine for now. You can help me with them once I come back in. Right now, the others will need me to help in the garden when they locate the pack.” Snagging the now-ragged ends of the leash, Max surprised them both. “Kasan, sit.” Kasan paused. Zonta smiled sharply. “Forgot you were still in Service?”

It was tempting to ignore it and take whatever punishment came his way, but Kasan couldn’t make himself do it. He flushed, sitting down next to Max, and let Zonta start cleaning the small cuts. He could hear the guards chuckling, wondering how much his consort ordered him around when they were in private. Or in bed. A quick glance at Max made it clear the little one wasn’t listening to them at all. He was watching Zonta’s hands as they smoothed the cream over Kasan’s skin. He was oddly focused on it, and after a few more strokes along one of Kasan’s arms, Max held out his hand. “I do it.” “Do what?” Zonta continued rubbing in the cream, leaving behind a pleasant coolness. Max gestured towards the bottle. “Make hurt better. I do it.” Kasan would swear he heard him mutter, “Kasan mine.” The guards chuckled louder as Max took the medicine and tried to use it himself. He ended up with a goopy mess that dripped off his hand as he spread it over Kasan’s other arm. Kasan shivered violently. The cream was cold enough when it was only a thin film. A full slathering of it was icy. “Max, not so much, little one. It’s cold.” “Maybe he can warm you up, then.” The older guard smiled at them both. Max froze, glancing at him and flushing before he poured out a much less generous portion. His fingers shook. Kasan watched Max’s eyes, alien and round, framed by those feathery, dark lashes. The little one was worrying his bottom lip, his white teeth forming a sharp indentation in the plump flesh. Kneeling to reach Kasan’s body, Max seemed completely focused. He ran his hands over each small scratch, lingering over the marks. Starting at his stomach, Max spread the slippery lotion over his body, working his way up an inch at a time. Kasan couldn’t stop his reaction. He was certain everyone noticed, too, except for his oblivious little consort. The guards had quieted, clearing their throats and watching so closely Kasan felt like he was in the middle of a peep show rather than receiving first aid. He cleared his own throat. “Max, I think that’s enough. You don’t need to do any more.” Not until they were in private. Then he could rub lotion, oils, and himself all over Kasan. Max poured out another dollop of antiseptic. “No. Kasan help Max. Kasan hurt. I help Kasan.” Starting on another scratch, both of their breaths hitched as he followed it over Kasan’s nipple. Max’s fingers stopped over the dark beige erotic point the moment it hardened. He flicked it once. As it hardened further, he massaged it curiously, rubbing small circles with his finger until Kasan groaned deeply. Max jumped, stared up at his face, and yanked his hand away as he flushed violently. “I- I-” Max dropped the bottle of medicine and it clanked loudly as it missed the bed and landed on the floor. They stared at each other and Max’s eyes went to the scratch that was now throbbing along his cheek. He swallowed heavily. “I help Kasan,” he said softly,

getting up higher on his knees. The little one lifted up his lotion-covered hand, still flushing like mad. Small fingers slid gently across Kasan’s skin, skimming over his cheek and up past his eye. Kasan didn’t think Max realized how close he was until they were both breathing into each other’s warmth. His consort’s hand didn’t move, heating Kasan’s skin, until Kasan couldn’t help himself and touched his lips to Max’s. His consort tasted of his last meal, sharply sweet with a little heat. Kasan let his tongue enter Max leisurely, savoring his taste, memorizing the velvety feel of his mouth. He couldn’t bring himself to smile as he pulled away. He felt too raw, thinking that he might have missed this. One moment too late, and Max would have been gone. “Thank you, Max.” Max’s tongue darted out to lick his lips. His nod was shaky as he sat back down on the bed and clasped his hands together over his groin. “I h-help Kasan.” “Yes, you did, Gisho.” “Are you sure you want to help with the pack, Prince Kasan?” Kasan glanced over at the guard who was smirking fondly at him. The older ones tended to do that, unfortunately. “Your consort looks as though he’d rather have some time alone with you. I’d say he could really use your…Services.” Zonta coughed as he started to laugh. Kasan thought the guards might have teased him more but the summoning box rang and interrupted. They weren’t laughing when they came back from getting the message. “They’ve secured the garden, but they can’t see a pack from up on the walls.” Kasan cursed. Zonta’s garden didn’t have enough coverage to hide an entire pack. Either they were dealing with one animal, a rogue or one separated from its pack, or the pack had escaped before they secured the perimeter. Or it was one animal and it had escaped. The work involved in searching the entire citadel if that happened would be immense, and risky. It was dangerous enough trying to clear shokan from an outlying farm, when they could use modern weapons. Having to keep to the more traditional weapons if they didn’t want to set off the citadel’s defenses made things potentially deadly. He revered the Saviors as much as anyone, but he would never stop wishing that plans for this citadel had survived the centuries so some of the defenses could be disarmed in a situation like this, at least temporarily. Kasan knew the Yanta were able to do that; they ribbed the Hinta all the time for losing their own schematics. As more guards finally started trickling in, including a couple with a few throwback traits like himself, he tossed aside the regret and they started discussing the best way to search Zonta’s garden. They wouldn’t worry about an escaped shokan unless they came up empty-handed. The planning didn’t take long; most of them had dealt with the animals before, on the battlefield or the outskirts of a town, if not in a situation like this. All Kasan needed before they started was a weapon.

Zonta stopped him as Kasan headed through the open door to Aosh’s room to find a spear – he didn’t have time to excavate Zonta’s for something useful. “Kasan, are you certain you wish to do this? We have enough guards.” “But not enough throwbacks to give us an edge.” Zonta let go with a soft sigh and nodded slowly. He knew as well as Kasan that against shokan, they needed whatever edge they could get. The deadly predators were nearly silent, had almost the same scent as a Kyashin, and were faster than lightening. Not to mention they outweighed even a giant like Tisu. When Kasan came back with a spear and a small collection of knives that he tucked into the sides of his loincloth, he paused by Max. He leaned down and hugged him quickly, smearing him with antiseptic as he kissed him hard. “Stay with Zonta, Max. I’ll be back soon.” Kasan joined the group guarding the door as they slid it open, and when nothing attempted to charge inside, they slid out the door as rapidly as possible. With the door was secured behind them, Kasan said a small thank you for Max’s safety, and then he and the others fanned out and got ready to hunt shokan. The dusty rustle of disturbed sand from a stray Kyashin foot rattled Kasan’s nerves. He was already too tense, what with the shadows now crouching over possible tracks, the sharp scents blinding his nose, and the nervous ears of his party flickering wildly in the corners of his eyes. Young Rui jumped as leaves fluttered around them. His dart gun jabbed up defensively. Kasan would have sighed if the noise wouldn’t have been audible. At least Rui reacted appropriately to a possible threat, although Kasan would have felt better if the guard could calm his ears. Kasan wasn’t even sure what was bothering Rui. The man was the youngest guard allowed on the hunt tonight, but he was supposed to be experienced at this; he shouldn’t be so tense. Living in the outlying villages, he would have been a part of their yearly efforts to relocate encroaching packs since before he was ripe. He might have been more used to modern weapons, living outside the citadel, but he’d handled his blowgun competently enough in training. So when his ears waved like moth wings on his head, it was impossible to write it off as youthful nerves. Kasan’s own ears ached with the need to swivel just as wildly; it made every step through the garden a test of will. He managed. After a minor eternity, they’d covered a quarter of the garden without finding any sign of a pack. Another nerve-wracking eon and Kasan’s small party had made it halfway with just as little to show for it. They were coming up on the spot where Max had first started screaming, however. And none of the other groups had called out a sighting, yet. Everyone’s eyes and ears quivered from moving constantly, the tension rising with the certainty that there would be a confrontation soon.

Rui was the one who discovered the tosa. Flipped over and already deflating, its fuchsia body had been gutted for the small organ inside. A clean slice marred the glistening surface, the only evidence that something had attacked the harmless herbivore. Kasan tried to scan the ground for tracks while keeping his eyes on the brush surrounding them: forgetting to keep an eye off the ground was a mistake he might not live to regret. “This isn’t right.” Rui hunched his shoulders as his mumble drew everyone’s attention. “What do you mean?” Kasan returned to scanning the brush and the trail as he waited for an answer. He couldn’t let down his guard until they’d found shokan. Even his speech was whispered so quietly he could hardly feel the breath leave his mouth. Rui softened his voice before he answered. “It’s whole.” Kasan felt as unenlightened as the others looked. Unlike Rui, he hadn’t lived near the animals. He hadn’t studied them more than he needed to hunt and tranq them. “And whole means...?” “Well… That is… A pack leaves tosa alone unless it’s the birthing season. But they always tear it apart. You never see one left like this if a pack’s gotten to it.” They were silent for a moment. Kasan quickly appraised the tracks on the ground, searching for variety. He couldn’t use the path of the tracks to help him: shokan were known for going over their own tracks dozens of times, to hide their numbers and make them more difficult to track. More than once, Kasan had wondered if the animals had always been so cunning, or if the nanites from the saviors had added something more than the ability to survive the Kouloc. After he’d looked over all the tracks in the vicinity, he could only come to one conclusion: it was one animal. The tracks were the same depth, same size – not fully grown - and if he was seeing it clearly in the growing dark, there was a ragged claw on one of the back feet. Just one shokan – but it was a young one. Davi and the others with him must have reached the same conclusion as he; one of them cursed softly. “A rogue?” Rui’s question hovered reluctantly in the air. No one answered. It might have been a pack member that had been separated, but with the half-sized track, it was much more likely that it was searching for a mate. Shokan always left their packs at the first signs of puberty, visiting other packs and choosing a mate just after they achieved full growth. But a rogue was always unpredictable, and usually vicious. If a rogue had escaped the garden, the next day or so were going to get ugly. The efforts needed to find a single animal hiding in an entire city… He’d rather inventory every storehouse in the citadel, first. Moving past the dead animal, Kasan’s ears flickered nearly twice as fact as the others, trying to catch a sound that wasn’t the other cats combing the foliage to either side of

them. His eyes brushed over the ground, noticing faint tracks leading onward, and he hoped they veered to the side soon. But by the time they all reached the far wall, the tracks stopped. There was nothing to be found by any of the teams who’d been searching. Whatever had killed the tosa had escaped the garden. One guard signaled to the guards on the wall the best he could in the dim light, while another ran back ahead of them to get to the summoning box and give them more detailed information. They’d need to clear all the gardens and the citadel walkways: everything would need searching now. The rest of them headed back to Zonta’s room with flattened ears, walking heavily. Kasan spoke with one of the older guards and arranged for his own garden to be searched immediately. Kasan had time to help with one more place before his heat hit; he was making sure Max had a safe place to go. And he was making sure that a throwback’s senses would ensure that it was absolutely safe. His garden was a nightmare of hiding places for a partially grown shokan. They were going to need spotlights to search the tops of his trees while the men searched below. He might have to climb some of the trees to make sure nothing was missed. Because the thought of making a mistake over this terrified him. A shokan, jumping down from the trees to take Max? Kasan shuddered. The man beside him cleared his throat and Kasan realized he’d stopped in the middle of a sentence. “Sorry. Ah, you’ll arrange for the next group to meet me in my rooms?” “Of course, Prince Kasan. I’ll get a few more to help search your garden. It’s a bit…” “Large. Yes, I know.” He’d never regretted it, before now. Kasan heard the young Rui speaking to someone behind him. “I’ve never seen a shokan come this far into the citadel before.” “Always a first time.” Ah, that was Davi. “Hopefully the last,” Kasan whispered to no one. He didn’t want to think of Max in danger like this; he’d had no time to teach his consort about their world yet! Max didn’t know what the alarm had been for, or even what to avoid or where to go for help. If Kasan hadn’t been there, even if Max had been given warning, he would have been killed. Kasan couldn’t think that there was a lot he could have done differently, but he was shaking in his chest, realizing how dangerous it really was for his consort to do something as simple as visit the garden. He’d have to ensure someone was with him at all times, now, until the little one learned more. They opened the door and found Zonta teaching Max again. The little one didn’t look like he was listening; he jumped up before the first guard’s foot was inside the room. The

way Max’s body loosened when he saw Kasan was obvious, even without the relieved smile that followed. Kasan smiled back as he made his way over. “I want to take him back to the room, Zonta.” “Of course.” Zonta urged Max off the bed. Kasan found it difficult to move, absorbing Max with his eyes to reassure himself that his consort was still whole and undamaged. The other guards left them alone and Max was standing in front of him before he could overcome his paralysis. All Kasan managed was dropping to his knees in front of his consort. Closing his eyes, Kasan clung to Max’s waist, breathing in the scent of him as Max stood stiffly in his arms. A tentative hand stroked his ear after a moment and Kasan halfchuckled against Max’s stomach. “I can’t believe he’s all right.” Zonta heard his words despite their being muffled by Max’s body. “But he is.” Kasan released Max, still kneeling by him, and looked into his eyes. They were so round; he looked like a perpetually surprised, open-faced child. The look was still too new not endear itself to him. “Let’s go back to our room, Max,” he said softly, swallowing, and he held up the end of the leash to Max’s hand. Max took it with a tight grip, glancing at Zonta as though his brother might steal it before he had a chance to hang on. He started to flush as Kasan stayed on his knees. Kasan couldn’t take his eyes off of him. His consort was so…perfect. Neither of them spoke, Max’s cheeks growing redder until Kasan finally hugged him one last time, kissing his belly softly as he wrapped his arms around him as gently as cupping a seed fluff in his hands. “K-Kasan?” “It’s nothing, little one. I’m…happy you’re all right.” Zonta tried to fill the silence as Kasan kissed Max’s chest and stood. “I’ll think of some new words to-“ The door slapped to the side, and Aosh stormed in. He passed by Kasan and Max, his eyes giving them the briefest of once-overs before he went to Zonta. “Are you all right?!” Zonta instantly switched gears. He smiled at his brother and waved his hand dismissively. “I’m fine.” “The guards said there was a shokan-“ “We didn’t even see it.”

“You were outside?” Kasan could see Aosh’s ears flatten and he tried to loom over Zonta – it didn’t work very well when they were the same size. “What were you thinking? You could have been killed! You have to use your brain for more than books, Zonta! What if-“ “Aosh, I’m fine.” Zonta reached out and touched Aosh’s lips with the tip of his finger and Aosh stopped. “It’s not as though we went looking for trouble; I’m perfectly aware that hunting is not one of my skills. We happened to be outside when the alarm sounded.” Aosh barely paused. “If there are shokan coming into the citadel now, you need a guard before you go outside. You can’t-“ Kasan turned to go, guiding Max as the man glanced back and forth between the twins. This was likely to take a while. Aosh never dealt well with thoughts of Zonta in serious danger; he’d likely have to vent for an hour or so. Zonta’s placating voice followed them out the door. “Aosh, don’t work yourself into a panic. I’m uninjured. Besides-“ The door closed behind him and Kasan could almost forget the leash in Max’s hand as he shared a look with the guards at the door. “Aosh playing the worry-bird?” The blond guard smiled down at Max as he spoke. “He’s trying to persuade Zonta to have a personal bodyguard. At all times.” The two men by the door shook their heads, smiling. “Don’t know why the boy even tries. Between the both of them, they’ve gotten into more trouble than the rest of you.” Kasan nodded and gently pushed at Max’s back so they could leave. It wasn’t usually the way Service was done, but Max wouldn’t know how to get back to their rooms, otherwise. “This way, Max.” Max held on to the leash and followed along, almost like an erotic pull toy, until Kasan took his other hand in his own and walked down hand in hand. Max’s face flushed again, but he didn’t draw his hand away. He seemed to need the comfort; he’d startle and clutch it tighter, his knuckles turning white, whenever someone said hello as they passed. A tec nodded as he crossed the hallway, and the pressure over Max’s family returned full force. Max jumped again as another tec turned the corner and nearly bumped into them; it made the decision easy. With so much happening, and all of it upsetting to Max, he didn’t need to know about one more thing that was only going to upset him. Not when neither of them could do much about it. The little thing was too emotional to put one more burden on his shoulders. When they knew more, or had the other humans in hand, then Kasan would tell Max about what was happening to them. He’d do everything he could to keep Max happy until then, just in case there was bad news. A large contingent of men and women were already in Kasan’s room by the time they arrived. They stared at the cuts covering Kasan’s body, and a few of the younger ones glanced at Max’s nails as though trying to compare the size of the cuts with them.

Always the newly mated ones who put a sexual context to everything. Of which he was one of, he admitted. As the grip on his hand grew nearly painful, Kasan rubbed a hand over Max’s head, ignoring how everyone watched the two of them. “There’s nothing here, little one. You’re safe.” Max’s hand relaxed, and he let go of the leash entirely. He still grumbled. “Say garden safe, too.” Kasan’s tail snapped to the side at the reminder. He had to protect his consort better than he had been. It was shameful that luck was the only thing that had kept Max alive. And Max needed a lot more than luck to protect him, Kasan admitted, watching the little one trip on his own feet. Max didn’t seem extremely capable at times like this. Maybe it was the situation he was in that showed his clumsy side, but Kasan wasn’t certain that was the case. Max needed a lot of care to keep him safe. And happy. Once they were done clearing his garden, Kasan thought they should have time to further their connection. It would be close to the heat again, but this time, he was hoping they could talk. What about, he didn’t know, but tonight had reminded him: every day was a gift. He was going to use as many of those gifts as they both had left to them, and he was going to do his damnedest to make sure he spent them all with Max. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Max was trying to relax on Kasan’s bed, but the more time that went by without Kasan returning, the less success he had. He mumbled under his breath. “Wait on the bed, Max. Yeah, like that’s going to help anything?” Like it was easy letting himself get vulnerable on the silken altar of sex, anyway. And now? How could anyone freaking relax when Kasan and an angry horde of cats were hunting for pink jellies of doom? Especially when no one would listen to him. Max had tried to tell them that Androcles had already killed one, and everyone had verbally patted his head and assured him he was ‘safe’ and that they’d take care of it all. Jerks. He knew he was safe! He didn’t need super cats telling him that all the time! Well. Kinda. It was nice that Kasan seemed to care enough to reassure him – now that Max could understand what the hell he was saying. But he’d already seen Kasan kicking ass on his behalf; he expected it at this point. When that damned pink blob in Zonta’s garden had come after him again, he knew that his first thought had been to run for Kasan. But right now, when Kasan was out there facing those things, Max was starting to worry. The horrid things had almost eaten Max twice now. It had to be some kind of spiky, blobby infestation, the way everyone had reacted. And now Kasan was out there with them and their spiky-blobbiness.

What if he got hurt? Max’s body tightened up again and he go to his feet, pacing. It was so easy to think of Kasan as some unbreakable superhero sex fiend, but even he had run from the blob when Max had told him what it was. Max jerked to a halt, his hands fisting. He’d never seen Kasan look afraid before. He’d never so much as thought about the big honkin’ juggernaut having something that scared him as badly as the cats freaked Max out. Not that he was stupid – everybody was afraid of something, right? – but to actually see it… He hadn’t realized how much he was already relying on Kasan to kick everything’s ass and keep it away from Max. The other cats, yeah, but alien monsters? God, he was a selfish, self-centered dork. What, was he expecting the cat to take care of him like a freaking little kid or something? Or a concubine. Harem…boy? His cock thickened a little. No! This wasn’t…it wasn’t fair! He hadn’t asked for this. He hadn’t asked to come here, to be screwed up the ass, to be married, none of it! He hadn’t asked for some stunning, god-like man to touch him for a half-second and turn his brain to goo like this. To go out and face pink blobs for him. Max cursed and punched the wall, then cursed again and popped his screaming knuckles into his mouth. Darn it, what was he supposed to do, charge out and kill the evil jello, too? He flushed and looked to the door again. What was taking them so damn long? They should be done by now, shouldn’t they? Unless something had gone wrong? What the hell could those neon lumps do that scared the cats so much? Could they throw those nasty spikes? Some kind of projectile freakozoid? Absorb people like an alien amoeba? Shit, what if they had, like, acid for blood or something? He’d seen that freaking movie; he didn’t need to live it! Max gnawed on his lip. Whatever freako powers the blobs had, if they were enough to scare Kasan, it could mean that Kasan could be…killed. A chill spiked down his spine and his ass clenched so tightly it made his shoulders jump. He reached for the door and then punched it with his closed fist instead. He’d be no help at all. He didn’t know how to kill those damn things, and he didn’t even have a damned weapon to do it with, anyway! Kasan and the others all had spears and dart guns and one even had what looked like a crossbow. But Max’s knowledge of martial arts had never involved fighting blobs. So what was he going to do, yell the thing to death? Unless he had some banshee blood, that wasn’t gonna do a lot of freakin’ good. And besides, what if he went out and Kasan heard him, what if it screwed everything up? Max turned and stomped away from the door, chewing his lip so hard he thought he tasted blood. Kasan might be hurt if he tried to rescue Max and got caught by something. And Max was kind of shocked to realize that he knew Kasan would do it,

too. He’d been so terrified for so long, but right now, he couldn’t imagine Kasan abandoning him. Not to something that would kill him. The sex issues were still up in the air – sexy and scary and too much to deal with right now - but Kasan would never let him get hurt. Max believed that utterly. And it scared him. Max grabbed one of the pillows on the bed and flung it against the wall. This was pathetic! Max was totally useless right now. And he was a freaking coward, because no matter what he wanted, the thought that he had to wait here for Kasan, rather than enter the garden with the blobs, made his stomach soften into relieved jelly. Except what if Kasan didn’t come back? His stomach curdled the jelly and froze solid again. Kasan didn’t deserve to be hurt just because he was protecting Max. And besides, Max didn’t want to lose his…shit, his husband. Kasan had to stay alive, and come back, and… and kiss Max’s stomach in that weird and really erotic way he’d just done. He had to. Max had only just gotten used to having a husband; he couldn’t lose one before he’d even figured it out! They’d never even had a freaking honeymoon, dammit! The door drew his eye again and he walked over to it. Maybe he could just open it? Peek out and see if he could hear Kasan? Both the pink things had been far away form the doors last time; they probably didn’t like coming close to the building. Maybe? Crap. His hand was actually touching the door itself when there was a soft scratching from the other side. “Holy crap!” Stumbling back, he fell onto his ass and didn’t even bother getting up. He’d almost opened the damn thing, and something was on the other side, just waiting for him to come out and get sucked into its jelly tentacles and impale him andAnother soft scratch made him crab-walk back a few more feet. He should go for the guards that were still outside the door, shouldn’t he? They were huge and ass-clenching scary, but they had weapons; they could take care of this and then Kasan wouldn’t be in danger, right? He turned to do just that and heard a whine and another soft scrabbling. The blobs hadn’t whined. They’d never made any noise at all, actually. So whatThe scratching started repeating, one scrape after the other in a high-powered scuffling, and it whined again. Just like a freaking dog. “Androcles?” Max kept his voice low, and he wasn’t even certain why. It wasn’t like the blob or Androcles was going to answer. There was a barely audible yip from outside the door and Max shoved it open so quickly it nearly bounced back onto itself. Androcles leapt inside. The dog was a little wild-eyed,

panting hard and quivering. And if the dog was terrified, what the hell was chasing him?! Max slammed the door shut; Androcles whipped his tail out of the way just in time. Max’s knees gave out and he knelt next to Androcles. The dog nuzzled his face with his cold nose “Poor boy. What happened to you? Did those big cats scare you?” Please let it be the cats and not something even worse than the blobs. God knew that mass of cats had scared Max jumpy. There’d been so many of them in their room Max thought he was going to be crushed until Kasan put him on the bed. And they all looked seriously unhappy. Even Kasan had looked furious when he’d come in with them from Zonta’s garden, the fur on his tail a little puffed, his ears lower and tense. Not at all like he’d looked when he’d let Max put that medicine on his body. Max looked down at his hands; the skin still buzzed from where the medicine had touched it. The orange and sage smell of his own palms teased his nose every time he paused enough to pay attention. And the feel of it, flowing across a fantastic washboard stomach and bulging pecsAndrocles licked him in the face and he turned his face away, gagging at its breath. He shoved his own hands over his nose to cover the smell. “Androcles! Jeez, something crawl into your mouth and die? Your breath is rank!” Max pushed himself to his feet and realized Androcles’ head seemed even higher than it had before. “You had better not tell me that you’re going to grow to be their size, or I’m disowning you.” With one last look at the door, listening vainly for the sound of Kasan returning, Max went back to stomping around the room. Androcles kept pace, following alongside and bumping against Max’s body as they neared the bed. Strands of silky fur stuck to his body where Kasan’s lotion had smeared over him at their last hug. “Careful, boy.” Androcles bumped him again; Max stumbled against the bed and caught himself with his hip. “Watch it. You’re gonna knock me on my ass if you’re not careful – crap!” Androcles jumped up and planted his paws on Max’s shoulders, tumbling him to the bed. One leap and it landed on top of him. “Androcles! Get off!” The big dog rested its front paws on his chest while he tried to shove it away. The damn thing weighed a freaking ton! And then it started to sniff him all over. “Androcles! What the heck are you doing?” The dog got nose-drool all over him: his bare chest, his face, his stomach. It was like Androcles was trying to memorize his body. He tried to shove the dog again when it scooted down and started nuzzling at his legs. And then“Don’t you dare go for the crotch, Androcles! Will you stop snorting me!” Androcles nuzzled at him again, snuffling and burying his face in the loincloth, and Max

thought he was going to have to start punching him in the head when the dog finally shifted off his legs and let him up. Max tried to give him a shove for good measure, but the dog was so massive now that he barely moved. With a grumpy sounding herrumph, Androcles settled himself on the floor, between Max and the exit to the garden. Max was still eyeing him when Androcles jumped to his feet and growled at the door. Max leapt back onto the bed before his brain had time to think. Demons growled like that, deep and thundering. Not dogs. No freaking dog growled like that! It was a frightening reminder that as much as he might resemble a canine, Androcles was still an alien animal. Max stayed very still. Androcles was just growling at the door, and he’d never hurt Max, right? He wasn’t growling at Max, it was only at the door andAndrocles looked over at Max. “N-Nice doggy. I’m not doing anything scary right now, right? Just-“ Max’s throat closed up in terror as the dog leapt at him, closing its mouth around his arm. He opened his mouth to scream. Androcles was going to eat his arm! He’d rip it off and swallow it whole! “Kasan!” He was going to be left with a bloody stump! He’d be dog food! Alien puppy chow! He was going to die! And Androcles had been his friend! Dammit why would he do this? Why would he attack him and bite him and… …start pulling him across the floor by the arm, which oddly enough wasn’t hurting even the slightest bit. Max’s heart rate dropped as he pulled back. There was no blood, no pain at all. What theHe took stock of his arm as he stumbled across the room. Oh thank God, Androcles was mouthing him. Not biting, not picking the flesh from his bones, not eating him. Mouthing. Max dug in his heels and got a yank hard enough to have him stumbling after Androcles again as it backed up towards the slanted beam on the floor. Dammit, what the heck was it doing? Yes, thank God it wasn’t eating him, but what the heck was it doing? “A-Androcles? What are you…” What the heck were you supposed to say to a giant dog that was supposed to be a friend but was now dragging you somewhere against your will like an evil Lassie? “L-let go, boy. I’m not a chew toy. Androcles, let go now. C’mon. Release. Stop. Cease. Bad dog. Nice dog?” Androcles stared at him – he would swear the dog looked annoyed – and pulled at him again. Max was already most of the way across the floor to the log-beam-thing, and he wondered suddenly if the dog was going to try and drag him up as well as over.

Because that would hurt like hell! And he was about to try poking the dog in the eye to stop it. Just a little poke, to get his attention. But the dog’s face turned at the last moment, and just before he growled Max heard faint voices coming from behind the door. He was reacting this way because of the cats? Was he trying to protect Max, maybe? That was so… “You aren’t an evil Lassie after all!” Max hugged him around his head with the one free arm, scrubbing at his muzzle and trying subtly to make Androcles release. The jaw was massive and heavy, the velvety fur covering it made it almost harder to try and get a grip. “Hey, now, I know they’re freaky big and as comforting as a football squad on a bender, but you don’t have to protect me from them. Honest.” As long as Kasan was around. Max pulled at Androcles lips, his fingers scraping up against truly massive teeth. Kasan had to be around. Swallowing, Max tried to listen for his voice as he was dragged along again. Androcles had his back paws on the log and Max pulled onto his tiptoes when he finally heard it “Kasan!” Oh God, he was okay! The blob hadn’t got him; Kasan was all right! Androcles stopped, his head cocking and nearly sweeping Max off his feet as it kinked his arm. Kasan’s voice was clear for a moment, answering someone’s question, and Androcles stared at the door hard before he suddenly released Max’s arm. Max promptly fell on his ass, rubbing at his arm with his hand. It ached oddly from being up at such an awkward angle. Androcles watched him, leaned down to lick his finger once, and then started climbing the wooden log up into his hidey-hole. “Androcles, stay, boy.” The dog ignored him and continued climbing. “Nothing ever listens to me here.” He watched Androcles climb and rubbed at his arm again, trying to get off the slobber. “Nothing is ever small here. Stupid giant planet.” With a sigh, he headed back to the bed. If he didn’t want to get trampled, he’d better get on higher ground. And then he could wait for Kasan. Who was not yelling, or screaming, or anything else that would mean he’d been hurt more than the scratches from before. And he was coming back to the room. And Max was on the bed. He stared down at his crotch as his cock decided to express its opinion on the whole thing. The moment Kasan saw Max kneeling on their bed, he wrapped his arms around him and picked him up. His consort groused at him, but the little one was safe and alive. Not the fate of whomever the shokan had dragged into his garden. None of them had found a body, but not only was his garden’s tosa dead – and dead over a day – there’d been blood as well. The guards said no one had entered his room or the garden while

they’d been on duty, but someone had been attacked there. With that amount of blood, there was no way the person had lived through it. They’d have to start checking to see who was missing from the citadel. It made him ill, thinking that someone had already died. Worse, he had a guilty relief that the blood didn’t belong to Max. For the second time that night, Kasan’s hands shook as he held onto Max. He buried his face in Max’s hair. Kasan didn’t know how far the shokan had roamed, but one thing had been clear from their search of his garden: it had been hiding out there. For days, long enough to have marked a number of the trees near the back wall and dragged off the poor bastard who’d likely been its dinner. Hints of paw prints were in the soft mosses and grasses and shed hair draped the lower branches near the markings. The scent might be nearly indistinguishable from his fellow Kyashin, but the signs had been there. There was no excuse for this. Kasan should have noticed something had invaded his private space. If Max hadn’t once again been luckier than anyone could have expected, he’d have been killed. And Kasan would have been responsible. He couldn’t stop shaking, thinking of the odds that Max had come outside during whatever brief time the shokan hadn’t been in the garden. Kasan put one hand underneath Max’s ass and brought him in closer, trying not to jostle the little one in his arms. The room smelled like stressed Kyashin and nervous Max – sweaty – but it didn’t feel safe. The damn carnivore had been out there with them tonight; they all knew it. Although no one had caught a glimpse of it, the signs near the door had been new – newer than when they went out the door. His garden still wasn’t fucking cleared. They needed more men to hunt the damn thing down. But he wasn’t going to be one of the hunters. The search had taken too long. “Sex soon, little one.” Kasan kissed Max’s forehead and pulled him flush to his groin. Their cocks sprung to attention almost as soon as they touched. Max’s head popped up nearly as fast at Kasan’s whisper and he stared at him with huge eyes. His face slowly flushed. Most of the guards had stayed in the garden to wait for reinforcements, but a few had followed him in. “My apologies for not joining you for the rest of the night. My heat is spiking.” They all nodded. Most of them had probably seen the signs already. “Give me a moment and we’ll clear the room. You’re welcome to use whatever you need during the search tonight.” Honeyed ears twitching, the highest ranked guard gestured towards the door. “You might want to try for the green rooms. Davi was complaining that the blue and red rooms were full.” Davi nodded sharply. “Good luck finding somewhere.” The other guard smiled. “It’s quite the frenzy you’ve set off; half the ripe in the citadel have gone into heat, from what I hear.”

Kasan cursed under his breath. He should have thought of that. With this many couples looking for rooms that weren’t occupied by roommates, privacy was going to be hard to find. “Kasan, what wrong?” Kasan loosened his hold on Max, smiling for his sake, and noticed shokan hair clinging to his arm. His smile froze and his stomach roiled unpleasantly. “Shit. I didn’t mean to get you covered in that damn thing’s hair, too.” The beast’s fur had been everywhere outside. Every time Kasan had brushed against so much as a leaf, the hair had clung to the medicine coating Kasan’s body. He couldn't stand that he’d brought anything from that thing back inside to contaminate Max with. Growling under his breath, Kasan let Max down and grabbed a small rag, wiping the hair off them both with angry swipes. It took him an extra minute to get it off of the velvet of the leash and collar. “Kasan?” “Shhh. Sorry, Gisho. It’s fine. We have to go to a new room for the night, though.” Kasan ran a hand over Max’s shoulder at the man’s confused look. “Another room, Max. Sleep in another room.” Did Max look disappointed? “Not with…Kasan?” Warmth blossomed in his middle at the forlorn note to Max’s voice. “Max and Kasan sleep in another room.” Blood filled Max’s cheeks again. Kasan wanted to touch him desperately, but his emotions were scattered even as the heat made his body burn. The Niandrin, the shokan, Max’s near death, even the poor soul who’d lost his life - he didn’t want to have them in his head when he was making love to Max. It was hard to put into practice what he’d been taught: to live with the heat meant to live in the moment. Everything from arguments to raging battles had to be put aside whenever one’s body required it. They all knew it. This was the first time Kasan had been so tested with it, though. Davi cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind some advice?” Kasan didn’t look at him as he nodded. He stroked the soft, naked curve of Max’s ears while he listened. “It helps if you can immerse yourself in your consort. Focus on Max – try something new if you need to – and deal with the rest of the world after you’re done.” Davi sighed quietly. “It does get easier, with practice.” Another guard snorted. “I think these two practice enough that it’s gotta be plenty easy

by now.” Kasan ignored him. If he could think of it as concentrating on Max rather than trying to forget the rest, he could do it. The little one was on his mind constantly. Kasan only needed to concentrate everything in his head on Max. Kasan tightened his awareness to the tips of his fingers, stroking around Max’s ears. He would likely never stop enjoying how lovely they were. He liked the way his fingers could glide over the furless skin. Smooth and curled, with finely made whorls decorating the inside. And the small, fleshy lobe underneath was far too tempting. He wanted to nibble on it and hear Max squeal. His cock thickened, but it felt natural, no longer an invasion to his state of mind. Images ran through his head and he closed his eyes to let them flow faster. He wanted to see Max spread underneath him, flushed and panting with need. He wanted to caress Max’s skin and hold him so tightly that they melted into each other. His cock wanted to embed itself in the little one’s warm body until Kasan could forget the sight of blood spattered ground and the rotting corpse of the dead tosa. Davi touched his shoulder. “Go on, we’ll take care of the garden. Remember, if things start to overwhelm you, just empty your mind-” He grinned. “- and fill your consort.” Kasan thought Max understood the last, because he started flushing again. A hand rubbed over the top of his head distracted him and Max grumbled. Kasan couldn’t quite let go. “Be careful. If someone else was killed while taking care of my garden-” “We’ll take every precaution. You needn’t worry.” Kasan nodded abruptly and hustled Max out the door. Velvet brushed against some of his scratches as he scooped Max up; he placed the hanging leash into Max’s hand. The extra pressure as Max held on tight should have felt restrictive. It didn’t. By the time he made it to the green rooms, his mind still hadn’t settled completely, but his erection was a permanent feature. He walked down the hallway, nodding to the guards, finding room after room with ‘busy, no company needed’ markings on them. One of the guards spoke up. “Cleaners just finished with the last one on the left, Prince Kasan.” Kasan thanked him gratefully. They might have a little while before Kasan had to be inside Max, but that didn’t mean they would have had time to find somewhere private, if the frenzy was this bad. Heat and Death waited for no one. Max didn’t understand what that meant yet, Kasan was sure. Privacy for their mating

wasn’t a given. But it wasn’t necessarily comfortable out in public, and he wanted Max to be happy. His consort had been dealt with more than enough already. And Kasan couldn’t help worrying that he was going to go through so much one day that he grew sick of them all. “We’ll get through this, little one,” Kasan murmured. He triggered the door with his shoulder and carried Max in. ~~~~~~~~ A trio of guards stood close to each other in the hallway, watching Kasan’s black tail flick once before the door closed and blocked their view. Two sets of golden ears slanted towards each other. “Was that the prince’s new consort?” “Looks like it.” “And it’s really a human.” “Looks like it.” “He’s small enough to tuck under your arm.” “Looks like it.” “How do they even-“ A third voice interrupted. “That’s none of our business.” The other two looked at him and back to each other. “Why didn’t he use his room?” “Who knows.” “Maybe his heat caught him by surprise. They always say throwbacks need it more often. Maybe it hits them faster, too.” “Could be.” The sounds of masculine and feminine moans drifted through the closed doors and the guards sighed, stoically trying to ignore their own responses. One with black hair had to adjust his loincloth to accommodate his erection and turned away. His ears flicked forward as he caught sight of a brown haired cat that resembled Waran passing by at the end of the hall. “Poor bastard,” he murmured. “Hmm?”

“Just thinking of Waran.” “Oh, yeah. Shoru’s a real asshole.” “Wait…you haven’t heard?” The other two stared at him blankly. “About Shoru?” “No, but I swear I’ll kiss you if you tell me someone finally called him on that ‘I’m in heat’ shit. Like he’s some kind of throwback or something, the ass.” “Someone beat him.” The taller guard grunted. “About damn time.” “No, I mean really beat him. He’s in a coma in his rooms right now.” Blond ears went flat. “Shit. What the hell happened?” “No one knows. From what I heard, the town guard heard him yelling, but Shoru was unconscious in an alley by the time they got there. Someone used a laser pistol on him.” The other two touched their chests and mouths reverently. “Is he going to live?” “Sounds like it. Nasty head wound, though, maybe some other injuries. I saw Korosh on the way here. He was up when they brought Shoru in. Said Waran’s pretty shaken up.” “I can imagine. Hate to be him, if he spikes before Shoru wakes up.” The black haired guard’s ears were flat against his head. “Happened to me once,” he whispered. The others stared at him. “Guadalupe had the flu last year. The nanites took care of it, of course, but she was still out of her head with fever when we spiked. It…it was like I was raping her.” His pupils dilated and his body shivered noticeably. The others left their posts and came over to stroke his hair and ears. “Hey, it’s not your fault. Happens to a lot of people.” “Yeah, the heat never leaves anyone unscathed, you know that.” They stayed close until the shivering stopped and he touched their lips gently. “Thank you.” His ears were upright again as the other two returned to their posts. ~~~~~~~ Even being held in another man’s arms, Max could admit that they were in a nice room. Blue and green silk on the walls, deep teal rugs all over the floor, and a bed that was a built á la orgy, because it would have fit at least five cats into it at a time. He wasn’t confused about why they were here – ‘sex soon’ was pretty clear, even without Kasan’s hands all over him on the way over.

But why not their room? Was there something wrong with it? Was this going to be their room now? What did it mean that all those cats were still in his room and the garden when they’d left? More of the pink blobs had invaded? At least Kasan wasn’t out there with them, this time. He was safe. Kasan’s hand under his legs drifted up towards Max’s ass and Max tried to grab it. “Why am I not surprised that even blob invaders don’t stop you from wanting sex, huh, Kasan?” Kasan looked at him politely, finally putting him down. Max’s feet hit the floor at the same time his stomach bumped against an erection already nearly bursting out of the loincloth. He stepped back with a small gulp. It was all right. He could deal with this. Besides, after everything Zonta had showed him, Max knew Kasan couldn’t help himself. The big cat had sex-fiend nanites, right? Although Max had a sneaking suspicion that Kasan was probably born horny anyway. Or, well…a horny infant didn’t sound right at all. Born with a lot of potential dick energy was more like it. Or should that be kinetic dick energy? There was movement involved at the end… Max looked over at him and shivered as he realized Kasan’s loincloth was already on the floor. The big man didn’t move towards Max, though. Just stood there, cock at attention, muscles taut, and so covered with lacerations that Max felt the strangest urge to try and comfort him. That one on his face had nearly cut across his eye. Max imagined kissing it better and cringed at his own stupidity. Yeah, like he could do that? What the heck did Kasan need coddling for? The man was a freaking pillar. He was hard, and bronzed, and tall, and Max turned around as he realized he was staring at Kasan’s cock. Hard, bronzed, and tall, yeah, that pretty much described it, too. He focused on the only thing in the room worth looking at – the bed – and rethought the decision almost immediately. It was taunting him. Like he needed a reminder about what they were there for? Max knew they had to have sex. Knew, knew, knew they had to have sex, but last time, they’d had some sort of super sex frenzy in front of the mirror that had wrung him out so much he was surprised he could even walk today. And Kasan was going to take him in the ass again today. And tomorrow, again. And again, and again, and there were so many ‘agains’ ahead of them that it was hard to even think about it clearly. Maybe if Max just thought about today. He could do this one more time, for one more day. But forever was still a little too much. What about if they found more humans? What the hell would he do then? Max couldn’t leave Kasan or he’d die, right? If the sex had to be with Max and only Max – he thought that’s what he’d seen on the video - that’s what it would mean. And as for going to live with another colony, if they found one? Max couldn’t even imagine Kasan walking among throngs of people, towering over them and flashing his backside in that thong of his. It broke his brain. But then that meant…what?

Could he live with Kasan like this? Forever? With Kasan risking his life for him, and wanting sex with him, and Max doing…something. “Max?” He looked back at Kasan again and was reminded that the cat wasn't completely nude; the deep red collar was still on. And the way Kasan looked in it? Max had never seen anyone look so much like a sex slave in his entire life, and considering he’d thought he was a sex slave, he figured he’d know. Kasan looked like some captured barbarian prince from the land of unending sexual pleasure. Kasan took a step towards him and Max nearly fell over as he backed up and bumped against the bed. Okay, maybe a captured barbarian prince that had already broken free and was looking for a little sexual payback, actually. “Kasan.” He didn’t flinch – much – when Kasan came in close and wrapped a hand around Max’s bicep. The cat’s fingers almost touched. Great. Max’s arms were so puny here he might as well be a twig. Just great. He could hire himself out as a scarecrow. Although maybe then he’d get more clothes to wear, so when Kasan looked at him like this he wouldn’t feel so completely and utterly naked and vulnerable and exhilaratingly terrified. “Need sex soon, Max.” “I know.” They didn’t move, staring at each other. Kasan sat on the bed and pulled Max down next to him. “Max…” “I know! Just…give me a minute, okay?” “Max?” Crap, he’d spoken in English. “Kasan wait.” “Can’t wait long, little one. Not if we want to do this right.” Kasan leaned down and nuzzled the top of Max’s head. Max grabbed his leash and yanked. “Wait!” He didn’t know what he was going to do, but Max felt like he should be thinking of something that would make everything easier. Things shouldn’t be this difficult; he and Kasan had sex every day now! It wasn’t like it was new! His fingers tightened over the leash and he looked at them in disgust. Like the leash was going to help him figure things out? It wasn’t going to do a damn thing for him. It

was as useful as the time he’d tried to walk a St. Bernard on a skateboard. The only thing he could do with it was close his eyes, hold on tight, and pray everything worked out okay. Actually, he’d ended up with a raw ass after that one, too. But Kasan wasn’t moving. He was smiling, his grin white and a little lusty, but he didn’t pull away. His head tilted and his ears kinked forward before he smiled broader. Holding onto Max’s hand, he stroked the end of the leash. And then sat there, running his eyes over Max. And Max’s stupid, stupid, body thought that was just the hottest thing it had ever seen and went boneless and shivery. And a little empty. “Dammit, what is going on with my ass!?” It was happening again. His entire body felt like a piece was missing, and it was just the same size as Kasan’s dick. “What did you do to me? My ass-” Kasan tilted his head again and Max couldn’t finish the statement. What the hell could he say? Not ‘what gay, porn star ghost just possessed my ass, and how do I make it go away?” It wasn’t like it was painful, but it made him feel needy. Like he couldn't do without Kasan, and he didn’t like it! He didn’t like worrying about him and watching him get hurt and scratched up and actually caring that he was hurt and scratched up. It wasn’t his fault that he was married to an alien and doomed to be fucked in the ass for eternity. Orgasmic eternity. He looked down at Kasan’s dick again and wondered if that was the bad kind of eternity or not. Probably the ‘going to hell for this’ eternity. Although he couldn’t go to hell if he was eternally being rimmed, anyway, could he? So… God, he really needed to stop going insane. Soon. Max dropped the leash, and Kasan handed it back, very slowly wrapping Max’s fingers around it. “Max, this is yours. Hold on.” “M-mine?” As in…he was going to be wearing it soon? Blood rushed to his face. “Kasan is yours. Tonight.” His ears flicked and he grinned again, leaning in so close that Max could see the flecks in his eyes, the pupils widening slowly into dark moons. “Max is in charge now.” Max’s brain couldn’t process that. It did some sort of internal dance, screaming ‘barbarian sex slave, I knew it!’ But he must have heard wrong. Except everyone told Kasan what to do today, and if he’d done everything they asked, did that mean…he’d do everything Max asked? A flush went from his ears to his groin. Max was horrifically embarrassed that without even trying, he could think of five different things he could do with Kasan. Graphic, penetrative things, with pre-arranged dialogue, that could not have possible come from his head unless he’d thought of them before, but he sure as hell didn’t remember thinking of them, but they were there so…

“No…no sex?” His voice came out as a bleating kind of whisper, but Kasan shook his head, his hand over Max’s bicep sliding down to hold onto his hand. The cat lifted Max’s palm to his mouth and kissed the tips of his fingers. “We need sex, Max. But Max can decide. Kasan is in Service to Max, to you, now. You are in charge, until tomorrow.” Max stared at his hand, wondering at the sharp darts of lightening that zipped all the way up his arm with each kiss. He felt so self-conscious over the feeling that he yanked his arm back, but he didn’t let go of the leash. Max was still trying to get used to having sex. He wasn’t really sure he would ever be completely comfortable with always having sex, but…if he had to…. Would Kasan really do what Max said? Anything he said? What if Max were the one on top? Maybe he didn’t have to be the girl-guy at all! Except his ass was feeling so empty, so freaking needy that he wasn’t really sure Dammit, he kind of didn’t want to be on top. He wanted… to feel something big and thick inside him, and he thought his face must be as red as the damn leash as he admitted it to himself. He looked at the leash itself, pulled at it a little, and Kasan’s body bent supplely from the waist until their eyelashes were close enough to kiss. Max didn’t look away. Did he want to look away? Maybe he should. He was in charge, wasn’t he? Shouldn’t he know what should he do? Dang it, shouldn’t he know whether looking into someone’s eyes like this was a good thing, so close that the smallest jeweled flecks in their eyes were as big as teardrops? Except he didn’t have a clue. He didn’t know what to do at all. How did he make a decision about which way to get screwed in the ass? He was still getting used to Kasan and marriage and even the idea of getting screwed in the ass. And now Kasan wanted him to be in charge of the sex, too? “Why didn’t you tell me I had to be in charge? I don’t know any gay sex positions! Crap. What if I choose wrong? It would be terrible! And you’d still do it, wouldn’t you? You’d go right along and let me pick something horrible and do everything I said and we’d end up like a bad movie and then you’ll think I suck at sex and you’ll never let me be in charge again! And I’d be damn good at it if you’d just tell me ahead of time so I can figure something out, dammit!” He didn’t understand why Kasan found that funny - because it wasn’t! - but the stupid cat chuckled and kissed Max on the nose. “My poor little Gisho. I think I’ve finally figured out something that you might like, and you still surprise me.” Kasan leaned down and kissed him softly on the lips. “You certainly make it easy to keep my focus on the two of us. Now, what’s wrong? Are you still frightened, little one? You needn’t be. You’re safe now. Nothing can hurt you in here. Or is something else upsetting you?”

Max caught some of it, but only enough to know Kasan was asking how he was. Probably. “I’m fine.” Kasan chuckled again. “I’m sure you are. Beautiful and delicate and fine and absolutely delicious.” Max flushed, his cock swelling. Kasan’s voice was hot syrup running down his stomach. “Not beautiful.” “Yes, you are, sweetheart. Now, you’re in charge. Come. Tell me what to do.” Kasan looked down at Max’s cock and the stupid thing took the initiative to bob up inside its clothing like the attention seeking whore it was. “Ah, I see. Max needs a little attention?” Kasan practically slithered off the bed to his knees, and Max yelped – such a freaking unmanly sound – when Kasan crept between his legs. Kneeling on the floor, Kasan looked at Max’s loincloth like someone waiting for a curtain to go up in a play. And Max’s curtain was rising so fast it was making him lightheaded from sudden blood loss. “Kasan?” Kasan put a hand on either side of Max’s hips, brought his face in close to Max’s loincloth, and looked up at him with slitted eyes. He licked his lips so close to Max’s clothing that Max thought he saw a damp spot appear on the cloth. Swallowing the cock-sized lump in this throat, Max froze. Kasan licked his lips again, then brushed the insides of his forearms against Max’s legs. His tail slid over the side of his naked ass and drifted down to Max’s leg. It was unreal how soft it was when it curled around his calf. The tip drifted up and down the back of his knee, like a tongue of velvet. What would it feel like around his cock? “Kasan…” His voice squeaked out before he could stop it. “Yes?” So innocent, like Kasan didn’t know exactly what he was doing! Max couldn't look at him. It wasn’t that he didn’t know what he wanted, but how could he ask for it? He couldn’t- there was no freaking way he could ask Kasan to do anything to him! It was…hell, it was embarrassing. Worse than his first time realizing he’d just being screwed, worse than agreeing to be screwed and asking for more. To ask for Kasan to wrap his tail around Max’s cock, or his mouth, or…or… To stick something inside of Max? His ass tightened, fluttering open and shut for a few seconds like he’d had a miniorgasm. Oh dear God, that’s what his freaking body wanted him to ask for, something inside of him. Soon. Kasan purred, bringing Max’s eyes down to Kasan’s cock, eager and ready over his heavy thighs, his balls thick and heavy underneath.

He tried to shift his eyes somewhere safer, and realized that nothing was. Even Kasan’s mouth was magnetic. Max couldn’t stop looking at it. Bronzed lips with a hint of rose to them, flexible and hotter than hell. He knew them so well he could feel them over his own mouth again, working their way down his body. He couldn’t ask Kasan to fuck him. It was just impossible. He freaking couldn’t! But those lips of his were so sexy and soft looking, maybe Max could ask that. Maybe that. “Kasan…” His voice cracked and he yanked at the leash on accident. Kasan let it drag him closer. “K-Kasan…touch…” Shit, he didn’t know the word! Zonta had never taught him the word! Dammit!” “Touch you where, little one?” Max swallowed and couldn’t say anything. “Ahhh, you don’t know how to name the body well yet? Well, we have enough time for a few lessons. And I need something to focus on today, little one. A game, that will help. So, would you like me to teach you some new words, Max?” Max nodded stupidly at Kasan’s face. He wasn’t sure what he was agreeing to, but with that look on Kasan’s face, and his eyes – they were so fierce, like Max was the only thing in the world that mattered. At that moment, Max thought could do whatever he had to, if it meant Kasan looked at him that way some more. Or smiled like he was doing now, too. “So where would you like me to touch you, sweetheart? Your feet?” Kasan’s fingers smoothed over the top of Max’s feet and moved up. “Or your calves, perhaps?” His huge body was completely at ease as he knelt at Max’s feet - even if his eyes didn’t quite match. And then Kasan slid his hands up the back of Max’s calves, massaging gently with small waves of his fingers. They eased their way up by inches. Max swallowed a small moan. It felt good! “Do you like my touching your calves, little one?” Kasan’s hands stilled. When they remained there for a minute without moving, Max tugged on the leash to try and get them to caress him again. “Calves.” Kasan rolled the world around in his mouth as he squeezed them gently. The small movement made Max’s toes curl into the carpet. “You have to say the word if you want the touch, sweetheart. Calves.” “C-calves.” Max’s hips squirmed against the bed as Kasan not only used his hands but twisted and leaned down to nip at the fleshy part of Max’s calves. “Kasan!”

“Mmmm. You taste so sweet, Max.” “Kasan…” “You like this?” Max gasped with barely a sound as Kasan’s teeth grazed the back of his calf again. “Or maybe you’d rather I play with your knees?” Kasan chuckled, kissing the skin. A moment later, Max’s legs were lifted just enough for Kasan to lick the soft crease behind the knee. He had to fight not to fall over backwards. Holy crap. Knees were almost as sensitive as freaking nipples! “You like that?” Max shivered and tried to nod. His entire body felt too aroused, like Kasan could lick his freaking chin stubble and it would feel good. Although…wait. Max hadn’t shaved the whole time he’d been here. His face should have been all stubble now. What the Kasan brought his hands around and rubbed his thumbs over the inside of Max’s knees and it ceased to matter. His brain couldn’t think past Kasan and his hands. Barely touching, the movement should have barely registered. It was on his freaking knees. How could it bring so much of Max’s attention to those two spots on his body? “Wh-what are you-“ Pushing gently with only his thumbs, Kasan pressed Max’s legs apart and insinuated himself between them until Max’s thighs were splayed wide. Feet barely touching the floor, almost falling off the edge of the bed, Max couldn’t bring himself to move. He didn’t want Kasan to stop touching him, and for some reason, Kasan was acting weird tonight. Like he might stop. “These are knees, Max.” “Huh? I don’t understand.” “The word, sweetheart. Can you remember the word? Knees.” Oh, the word thing! If he said it…what would Kasan do? Max had to take a deep breath before he spoke. “Knees.” Kasan smiled at him. With a small kiss on the side of Max’s knee, he slid his hands around and up Max’s legs. This time, he lifted until Max fell back on the bed, his feet in Kasan’s hands, and Kasan’s mouth…right back at the same spot. Oh God, he was going to do it again. Kasan dragged his tongue over the back of Max’s knee slower than dripping ice cream. Max squirmed, moaning softly, and his cock jumped as Kasan continued to lick at his skin. “That’s it. Let yourself enjoy it. Give me something else to think about.” Kasan dragged his tongue up. Max knew his stupid legs were quivering like a virgin’s,

but he didn’t freaking care. Lowering Max’s feet to his shoulders, Kasan wrapped his hands around Max’s thighs and pulled until Max’s ass slid off the bed. A little shocked, Max tried to squirm back onto the mattress. Kasan tightened his grip to prevent it, holding Max’s ass in mid-air with no apparent effort at all. He licked at Max’s thighs just as softly as he’d touched Max’s knees, and then looked at him. The corner of his mouth curved softly. “You are so beautiful, Gisho. And you have such pretty thighs.” Max stared at him, still holding onto the leash as though he could do anything with it. He tried to watch as Kasan leaned forward and nipped at the inner skin of his thigh, but his head fell back on the mattress the second he felt lips on him. “Thighs.” Kasan paused, licked the pinkened skin carefully, and looked back up at Max. “Thighs.” He nipped it again, higher and closer to Max’s groin. “Don’t forget to say it. Or do I need to make sure you know which body part I am teaching?” Kasan nibbled. His hair brushed against the line where Max’s loincloth ended and his thigh attached to his body. Max sighed the words in a long, drawn out treble “Thighs.” “Beautiful thighs.” More caresses and nips eroded any thoughts Max tried to form and he couldn’t speak until Kasan finally stopped. “B-Beautiful thighs.” Kasan shifted, his shoulders shifting closer to support more of Max’s legs. Max could feel Kasan’s breath on his calves. One broad finger drifted up and along the edge of the loincloth, not quite pushing underneath the fabric but making it clear that Kasan could if he’d wanted to. And Max really, really wanted him to. “Kasan?” Kasan’s fingers stopped at his waistline and Max bit his lip. He had to do this. Max wanted to do this. “Take off the…uh…this?” He pointed and Kasan smiled slowly. “Your loincloth? I’d be happy to.” Kasan’s eyes strayed to where Max’s body was shouting its little phallic hallelujas, and Max’s cock twitched. “It’s looking a little snug, sweetheart.” Kasan reached under him and after that, all Max was conscious of for a long while was Kasan’s fingers over his body. Every touch drifted along his skin, lifting his hips even higher, sliding along the edges of the loincloth and running down his groin and the depths of his ass as though taking off a loincloth was supposed to be another word for ‘having sex.’ Max came close to coming; his hips twisted wildly as Kasan seemed to take every opportunity to drag the cloth over his cock. And when Kasan peeled the last of the loincloth away, his breath tried to create a new one made of warm, sweet air. It curled around Max’s cock, under his ass, over his hipbones. And Max couldn’t even look at him

to see where the next puff of air would come from. He’d closed his eyes the second Kasan glanced down, his feline grin far too knowing. Max wanted to watch, but he didn’t want to watch, but he wanted to feel Kasan touching him and…why wasn't Kasan touching him anymore? Opening his eyes, Max saw Kasan with one hand inches from Max’s balls, set to cup him. Warmth and a soft, sensual pressure embraced his sac as soon as Kasan saw Max was looking. Max stopped breathing. “A little pair of balls.” Kasan said, and he squeezed softly with each word. “Oh my God.” “Balls, little one.” Kasan’s smile was wicked as he continued to roll Max’s sac in his palm. Then he stopped again. “Balls, Max.” “Kasan! Please!” “You can do it, sweetheart. B-a-ll-s. Balls.” One tiny, teasing squeeze. “Crap! B-balls!” “Gooood, Max. I knew you could do it.” And then he let go!! “Kasan, dammit-” Kasan canted forward and lifted Max’s hips up at the same time. His tongue lapped gently over the soft fuzz on one of Max’s balls. Yelping, Max kicked out in surprise, nearly clipping Kasan’s ear with his knee. Kasan moved his head away and Max couldn’t help flushing. Who kicked someone licking their balls? An idiot, that’s who! “S-sorry,” he muttered, his cock throbbing miserably. “Accident.” “Shhh, little one. No harm done. But I think we’ll have to arrange you a little differently.” Kasan grinned and slowly pulled Max up by his legs. Max’s body left the bed until he was barely supported by his shoulder blades and his head. He could feel Kasan’s face between his thighs, his legs dangling over the man’s heavy shoulders. “Kasan, you can’t! I- Ohhhhh” Kasan kissed his sac with the barest hint of suction, then licked over it carefully, leisurely tasting. His nose brushed the base of Max’s shaft. Max jerked desperately on the leash but Kasan ignored his rather feeble attempts at control. He took both balls into his mouth, sucking on them just enough to make Max whimper and try to move into him. The scent of the lotion covering Kasan’s body drifted around them, so strong the flavor of oranges and sage filled Max’s mouth. Max squirmed. As Kasan’s tongue moved over him, Max’s insides grew so hot his bones felt like they were melting and pooling in his groin, leaving him weak and aching. When Kasan took pity on him and released his balls, his lips slipped off with a soft pop.

He leaned over to look down at Max’s face, curling Max’s body in on itself a little. His smile was wicked. Max held on tight to the leash. “Kasan?” What was Kasan going to do? He had to be heading to Max’s cock, didn’t he? His lips were right freaking there. So close Max could flex his muscles and have his cock bump against those damp lips. Should he? What if Kasan“Ma-ax.” Kasan’s fingers tapped him on the nose. “What shall I do next, little one?” His breath was twirling around Max’s cock as his free hand held onto Max’s ass. Max stared up and tried to move his cock against his mouth, but Kasan shifted his head with a teasing grin. “Oh, you’d like me to worship your thighs again?” Kasan turned his head and kissed the inside of Max’s thigh. He tried to move lower and Max’s hand tightened over the leash frantically. He didn’t want him moving away from his cock! Kasan’s low, rather lecherous laugh made Max’s cheeks flush, but he still didn’t let go. So, Kasan knew what Max wanted. There was no reason that was embarrassing. Every man liked lips around his dick! Every man he’d ever met, anyway, and Kasan was so freaking close and he seemed to want this sort of thing all the time so why the heck was he just sitting there, letting his fingers make stroking lines down Max’s thighs while Kasan held him up to his lips like a buffet. “Not your thighs? You’ll have to tell me what to do, then, little one. You’re in charge, Max.” Max was in charge? He didn’t feel like he was freaking in charge! But Kasan didn’t look like he was going to do what Max wanted unless he said something, and asking for sex was nothing, no big deal. He could do this. Right. Max’s face burned with heat when he mumbled, “Touch me.” He felt like he was naked on a stage in front of his entire freaking highschool class Kasan’s smile didn’t change, but Max would swear it kind of…sparkled. Like Kasan had suddenly painted his lips with wicked lip balm so they twinkled salaciously and coated his words when they came out. “Touch you where, sweetheart? Here?” Something warm and soft slid up Max’s thigh and grazed the cheeks of his ass. “Kasan!” He should be embarrassed, but all he could think about was the look on Kasan’s face, so freaking happy that it made Max’s body wriggle in response, close to coming. There was that same teasing chuckle and Kasan palmed Max’s ass, bringing it flush with Kasan’s mouth. His tongue tickled the portal to Max’s body as Max began to whimper helplessly. God, it felt so good. His ass opened and closed, trying to draw it in, or make it go faster, or anything that would help him come. It ended with a teasing prod that didn’t quite enter.

“Not there, then? Perhaps here?” he purred, lowering Max and kissing up the length of Max’s cock. When he reached the tip of the erection, he kissed the rosy flesh there, too. It was moist where the foreskin had pulled back already, hypersensitive. Max could see it disappear into Kasan’s mouth and he watched, stunned, as Kasan licked a few pearly drops from it. Max stared up at Kasan’s lips, trembling violently. Kasan licked it again, then ran his tongue across his lips. “You taste good here, too, little one.” Max’s whole body quivered, but Kasan only licked him one more time, the barest touch that made Max cry out. Was that really him, all high and needy? “Kasan.” “Yes? You wanted something?” Kasan’s voice didn’t sound like him, either. It was so hoarse. “Kasan…” Kasan didn’t move, his hand kneading Max’s ass like a heavy, slow massage. And Max suddenly realized that Kasan wasn’t going to swallow him down until Max said something. He didn’t understand – Kasan didn’t act like this, but there was something different tonight. Dammit, Max wanted a cat blowjob! “Kasan…” Why the heck was it so hard to say? “Touch me…there.” Kasan raised an eyebrow. What did he want? “Uh...please?” “The word, Max, what’s the word. What is ‘there.’” Max stared at him and wanted to wail. Had Kasan said? Max couldn’t remember. He wouldn’t really keep Max’s cock lips free just because Max didn’t remember the word for cock, would he? Kasan wasn’t like that. Kasan ran his tongue over the slit on Max’s dick, humming, and pulled back. “The word?” “I don’t know. I don’t remember! I- Please-” Kasan stared at him in surprise, his eyes wide, and then he slowly flushed, laughing softly. “Poor little one. I never told you, did I? You make me forget everything, do you know that? Can’t even remember what I’ve said. Here, let me thank you and make it up to you.” Thank him? What- Max groaned deep as Kasan took him into his mouth, all the way to the hilt and beyond, a little of his balls getting enveloped by that slick, tight cavern of warmth. He thrust as soon as he could, and Kasan let him, taking Max’s abortive little movements as suggestions for him to pull all the way back and sheath Max’s cock in deep. Max couldn’t remember any woman, ever, feeling as good as the inside of the cat’s mouth.

Kasan’s tongue was doing something against the underside of Max’s cock, adding extra heat and pressure in places that it seemed impossible to hit all at once. The tip of his tongue rubbed against the ridge of Max’s glans. Max’s body tightened so much his toes nearly curled in on themselves. “God, what are you freaking doing to me?” Kasan’s hand shifted where it palmed Max’s backside, a few fingers holding up Max’s cheeks on either side, and one long finger pressing in the middle like some heavy phallic symbol reminding Max what was coming. Max’s brain responded with less thought and more blood to his cock. He closed his eyes, lost in the feel of Kasan over his erection, the muscles of the man’s shoulders playing underneath Max’s thighs while his feet hung over them. He even enjoyed the pressure against his own chest where the rest of his body pushed down on it as most of him was held off the bed. And then Kasan began to rub his finger back and forth over the crack of Max’s ass, brushing against the bundle of nerves right in the middle, moving in counterpoint to his mouth. Max’s hips slammed up into Kasan’s mouth and then tried to impale himself on the finger behind him. He bit his lips to keep from screaming as Kasan took him closer to the edge. Just when he was about to spill into Kasan’s lips, the bastard pulled off. Max tried to thrust back into his mouth and he wriggled wildly, desperate when Kasan wouldn’t let him. He couldn’t even speak; he was so close, it just needed another minute! “Cock.” “Wa-huh?” Max’s lips wouldn’t work right. Kasan licked the head of his cock, fully exposed now. “Cock. This is your cock.” Max couldn’t figure out what the heck he was saying. It was too hard to think right now. Was Kasan asking if he should finish? “Please?” Kasan laughed, shifting and lowering Max’s entire body to the bed, and then moved out from under his legs. He kissed strategically as Max’s body slid from him. “Balls.” A light licking. “Thighs.” He nibbled down the line of Max’s thighs. “Knees.” A small kiss. “Calves.” A warm squeeze. Then Kasan wrapped his hands around Max’s cock and Max thrust into it with a relieved moan. “Cock.” Kasan took his hand away when Max didn’t respond with anything else. “Max? Max, sweetheart, do you remember the word?” Max nearly cried. “Cock! I know, cock! Yes, touch the cock, for the love of- please!” Kasan smiled and pumped him a few times, then let go again. “H-hey! I said it! I did! Cock! See! Cock, cock, cock, cock, cock! See! I say it!” Max yanked at the leash with frantic jerks that didn’t do a damn thing to the big cat on top of

him. Kasan crawled up onto the bed, chuckling as he scooped Max up along with him until they were side by side in the middle of the giant thing. “I know, Max, shhh. You’re quite smart.” His hand rand down Max’s side, fingers lingering over his hipbone, and Max grabbed at him. Kasan wouldn't let him pull his hand to Max’s cock “Later, sweetheart. If you’re to climax when I’m inside you, you’ll have to wait. There’s not much time.” Kasan gently pulled the leash from Max’s hand. “Do you want me inside you soon, little one?” Max flushed, craving release like his next breath of air. And he knew some of those words. Inside – he knew that! That aching, empty feeling that crawled from behind his balls and up his spine? He could get something to fill it up and make him come so hard he saw stars… “Inside. Yes. Now.” Kasan smiled and Max found himself whirled in the air and suddenly sitting on top of a fantastically muscular chest. Max’s thighs splayed wide over Kasan’s stomach. With little kisses over his fingers, Kasan handed Max the leash again. Kasan lay back onto the bed and stared up at Max. “Max in charge.” What…Kasan was expecting Max to do something? With a nervous start, Max clenched his legs, feeling the muscled body between them. But he pushed himself backwards just enough to bump up against something hard and blunt. It nestled snugly against his ass as it pointed to the ceiling. Max didn’t even look back to it. But god he wanted it inside. He could feel his body yearning for it already, that deep sensation that drove the air from his lungs and sizzled low in his belly. Max rocked back against it with a small moan, but he couldn’t get as close as he wanted. His knees were barely touching the bed; he was more resting on his thighs over Kasan’s stomach than he was kneeling on the bed. And Kasan’s cock was jutting up like a skyscraper, inches higher than Max could reach. God, he wanted to be on that stupid cock, but how the heck was Max supposed to do this? Biting his lip, Max looked at Kasan, almost ready for the cat to be laughing at him again, but Kasan’s eyes were solemn, intent, staring at Max’s face with such concentration that Max couldn’t look away. If Kasan wasn’t going to do anything, if he was letting Max do something…Max could do this. They needed sex – he didn’t care if it was because of nanites, or STD’s, or leprechaun fairy rainbows, Max needed sex. Right now. His skin was going to burn off his bones and leave him an empty husk if he didn’t get Kasan inside of him.

And Kasan…he was flushed and sweating, too. His hands were clenched on the bed Pushing up, Max tried to kneel high enough to sit back on Kasan’s dick. Taunting him, it slid along the crack of his ass. He wasn’t high enough! “Dammit. You’re dick’s too tall, Kasan!” Max looked back at it. It really was…impressive. The erection engorged and thick, barely curved towards him, with that shine to it that Max was used to seeing all the time now. But he knew there hadn’t been any oil this time. There hadn’t been! Was Kasan’s dick…self-oiling? He wasn’t going to ask. Not right now. As long as it was slick and it wasn’t going to hurt, he just wanted it in. Maybe if he knelt on top of Kasan… He’d only just got his knees on Kasan’s stomach when the cat grunted painfully and grabbed his hips. “I’d rather not get your knees in my diaphragm, little one, even if they are particularly adorable.” Max’s legs slid to either side of Kasan again with a self-conscious slump. Just how the heck was he supposed to do this? He wanted sex, dammit! His cock was aching, and his head had no blood left in it at all. What was he supposed to do? Biting his lip as he looked around, he finally braced himself on Kasan’s chest with his hands. “Don’t move,” he ordered. Kasan gave him a small smile, but he did as he was told – must be because Max had hold of the leash, still. Trying to balance, Max raised his ass in the air by straightening his legs, straddling Kasan’s body. He nearly lost his balance and caught himself again on Kasan’s chest. But he’d done it! His ass was finally over Kasan’s cock! Although the angle… “Crap.” Could he squat? He wasn’t sure if he could keep his balance, and he’d have to grab behind him to put it in, anyway, and- “How the hell do gay men figure this out!?” Giving a soothing rumble from the back of his throat, Kasan’s hands latched onto Max’s hips again, one on either side, fingers wrapping around the sides and clutching his backside. “Someday you’re going to have to assume this position when I can see from the other end, Max,” Kasan murmured. “But it looks like you need a little help, for now.” “Help?” Kasan smiled broadly. “I’d be happy to. Here, hold onto my arms, little one.” He motioned to his forearms with his head, and Max tentatively reached for them, unable to

lower his ass since Kasan had taken control of it. And God but it felt good to have him hold him there. Embarrassing as hell, but good. Almost like it wouldn’t have been right without Kasan’s hands on him. Kasan sat up and shifted them back towards the edge of the bed, his feet on the floor. Max ended up kneeling over Kasan’s lap, his ass cupped in those enormous hands, and holding onto Kasan’s shoulders. Kasan’s dick was along the crevice of his ass, slippery and so close Max squirmed to get it inside. And then Kasan lifted up his hips and it was. Max’s arms gave out as Kasan’s cock pushed in; he face planted against Kasan’s chest with a deeply satisfied, relieved moan that didn’t stop until Kasan was fully embedded. One of Kasan’s arms released his hips and wrapped around his back, slippery with lotion as it pulled him in close. Max shivered, his ass clenching tight over Kasan, emphasizing his size. Kasan hugged him tighter. “Max…” his voice wasn’t the wickedly slow drawl from before; it was frantic and…possessive. Max looked up at him. Kasan’s head was thrown back, his eyes closed, and Max stared, gasping as Kasan lifted him up again before thrusting in hard. Harder than normal. Max had a fleeting thought for Kasan’s cuts – Max was plastered against them. They had to hurt! – but Kasan thrust in again and the thought burst apart like bubbles. He tried futilely to move himself. He was supposed to be in charge, wasn’t he? But he was so close his body wouldn’t stay obey him. His legs wobbled and twitched rather than helping him impale himself. The pressure in his balls and behind his belly button was growing stronger, a pressure that he thought might explode any second if Kasan didn’t go faster. “Kasan! H-hurry!” Kasan bent his head, taking Max’s earlobe in his teeth and biting lightly as he held him tighter and thrust deeper. His body curled around Max until it was everywhere. Inside him, over his skin, underneath his thighs. They slid together as the lotion smeared over them both when they moved, Kasan’s grip tightening to keep Max still to thrust into. Kasan growled low in his throat, the barest hint of claws scoring Max’s ribs where Kasan’s hand wrapped around from his back, and thrust in so deep it knocked the breath from Max. Kasan’s hips jerked convulsively as he held on, growls growing higher pitched for a moment before his body stilled. Max squirmed once, desperate to get Kasan to rub against his prostate. Not again! He was left on the edge again! “Kasan! Move!” Kasan tilted his head and stared down at him. Max realized the leash was still in his hands and he yanked at it sharply, pulling Kasan’s head down. “Please! Move!” He knew the man understood him as his eyes suddenly sharpened and he pulled Max

up and thrust again. Max whimpered in his throat. The tension was urgent. He had to finish before Kasan’s body went limp, because… It speared him again and he didn’t care. “Yessss. Yes, please, like tha-a-at” His voice wavered as Kasan’s thrust interrupted his air. He panted. His skin was slick with fluids and lotion and sweat and he just needed to come, oh please… “Yes!” Max’s vision went double as he came, the fluid slicking up his stomach even more, trapped between their bodies. His seed felt so hot it should have burned him. He wobbled, his grip on the leash falling away. Holding him close, Kasan reached up to push his head down against his chest. “Poor, tired little one.” Kasan kissed the top of his head, his hands rubbing down Max’s arms. “Thank you so much, sweetheart. I needed that. Thank you. Shhhh. Rest now, Max.” He laid back, his feet still on the floor. Still five yards up Max’s ass. Max struggled, rather embarrassed that the full, stretched feeling in his ass wasn’t disturbing, was almost fulfilling a need. “Kasan. Get out of…” Crap, he didn’t know the word. Kasan kissed him again, chuckling softly. His hand reached down, circling the tight, fragile skin where Kasan’s cock was still embedded. “Mmmmm, this? Get out of your wonderful, sweet little hole, Max? Or your pretty, pretty backside?” He clamped his fingers over a round handful of flesh and squeezed. Max’s ass clenched again and had him shivering as it pulled Kasan inside and put more pressure on his prostate. “Kasan!” “Yes?” “Kasan, get out of…my…” Dear God. This was not something he even wanted to know what to say! “Get out of my …hole.” The last word was a whisper that was not half as showy as his blush that accompanied it. Kasan grinned without an ounce of shame. “I’m sorry, little one, I shouldn’t tease. I can’t pull out yet. I don’t believe the nanites are done. I’m too engorged.” Max couldn’t figure out what he was saying and Kasan nuzzled the top of his hair like he always did. “Soon, sweetheart. I’ll withdraw soon.” Kasan didn’t let go of Max, or pull out, but he shifted until they were fully on the bed, his arm curled around Max. He nuzzled Max’s hair again, then tucked his chin over the tangle. “Sleep, little one. I’ll watch out for you. Just sleep.” Max wasn’t sure he had enough energy left in his brain to understand what Kasan was saying, but it didn’t really matter. He was sated, his body was exhausted, and Kasan was holding him like Max was something…precious and wanted, no matter how many problems they had, or what might happen in the next few minutes

His backside stretched and somehow comfortably, erotically full, Max closed his eyes and fell asleep to the sound of Kasan’s heartbeat in his ears. Passing the green rooms, Waran shifted his eyes to glance at the opposite wall. He didn’t acknowledge anyone standing guard. Head down, with a clutch-sack over his shoulder, he shuffled past another set of rooms, then the last of the North residences and into main storage. A few guards recognized him well enough to call out and he nodded, mournfully, without a pause. The closest Kyashin eyed the sack. Waran gave him a wan smile. “A few things to trade at family storage. They’ve got one of those teal lamps from down south and Shoru…. He’s been meaning to try and buy….” Waran’s voice petered out and his ears flattened jerkily. “I wanted to make sure Shoru had something nice to wake up to.” The others all nodded; a few of them patted his shoulder. Waran extricated himself with suitable reluctance. His shoulders were slumped as he turned away. Storage was empty of people but for one older man behind the old stone-slab of a desk. He grunted at Waran, standing up to take the sack and sliding over until he was standing at the door, facing the hallway. Neither said a word as Waran’s stride changed. Ears sharp and erect, feet slapping the ground angrily, he stomped into the cavernous maze of permanent shelving and headed to the far side. Dodging small items that had yet to be returned to their proper places, Waran started growling as he walked. He turned left at the fifteenth shelf in, then started counting under his breath each time he passed another opening. A turn to the right and then he swore, his shin bumping up against a small cabinet in the aisle. He kicked it so hard it tumbled down the space between the shelves, cracking audibly against stone. Swearing again, he stomped after it and shoved it out of the way, clearing a space against the back wall. This edge of the room was exactly the same as the other three walls, the ever-present creamy stone older and less polished than most places in the citadel. Waran glanced back at the shelves to his back, shifted one step to the right and verbally marked the stone blocks up from the bottom, counting under his breath again. His fingers tapped in seemingly random spots and then with one push on a rougher block, low on the left side, a small section of the wall slid aside. Waran walked into the shadows, waiting to continue until the door closed behind him. He stopped at a harsh whisper from the dark. “Where’s Antal?” “Dead, I think.” “Dead?” The shadow voice snarled a few times. “Did he give us away?” “I doubt it. I’m pretty sure a shokan got him.” There was a long pause. “A shokan. In the Hinta citadel?” “Right in Prince Kasan’s garden.”

“What happened?” “I gave the map and the guards’ schedule to Antal, waited for over an hour for him to meet me here, but he never showed. Then a shokan was spotted in the citadel and blood found in Prince Kasan’s gardens.” “Nasty way to die.” Another long silence. “There was nothing about an attempt on the human?” “Not a sound. I doubt Antal even got into the room.” Waran shrugged. “Still, it puts us in a difficult position. If any part of his body is left to be identified, it could expose us.” “I’m keeping an eye on the situation. So far, they have nothing.” “Yet. We need to get the human immediately, before they do find anything. You’re going to have to take care of this.” Waran’s ears flattened. “Me? That’s ridiculous. My training isn’t for-” “You’re here, you’re trusted, and you have access. And we don’t know how much time we have.” “Pay Antal’s family for another professional,” Waran snapped. “Negotiations take weeks. We were lucky last time that we’d already hired Antal when the news broke about the human’s authenticity.” Waran’s eyes were slits, his ears flat against his skull. “The human isn’t going anywhere, and the lab is well hidden. We have plenty of time to hire another from Antal’s family. But if I do it now, everyone will know exactly who took the human.” “Obviously.” “That’s not acceptable.” Waran growled low, a deep rumble in his chest. There was a matching rumble from the darkness. “It’s not negotiable.” “I might agree with the True Kyashin, but that doesn’t mean I’ll give up my name for it. And we agreed that having me in this position was better for us all! With Shovak gone, I’m fourth in command of the military. Without Kasan, I’ll be third, and with the sympathy from Shoru’s ‘permanent’ disability, I’ll make second or first. I’m not giving up everything I’ve worked for, dammit.” “That was before we knew about the human. Having access to him is more valuable than having you here. We won’t need you here, once we have him. And you knew what might be required of you when you joined. ‘Whatever it takes, to purify the race,’ even if that means being cut off from your most distant mother’s cousin.”

Waran growled again, his teeth grinding audibly. “That was never part of this. I will not do it.” There was a shift in the unseen Kyashin’s voice. “I’m surprised you let Shovak’s fate frighten you into running like a squickling.” Waran’s ears stayed low and flat. “Shovak has nothing to do with this. He’s always been an arrogant ass, and he paid the price. I have no intention of doing the same.” “Don’t be naïve.” The voice hardened. “And don’t be more of a fool than you already are. It’s too late to change your mind now. That human is our best chance to finally prove which genes have been corrupting our bodies all these centuries. You will get him.” “No! I can get the family to understand once Kasan is gone, but not if they know I was the one who took his consort.” “You don’t have a choice.” “I won’t.” Sweat dripped down the side of Waran’s face. “They’ll strike my name from the family record.” “It can be reinstated, when the Hinta realize what a service was done for them.” Waran shook his head. “Prince Kasan will be dead. They won’t forgive that.” “His father is the Lord King. He has greater concerns than the well-being of one tainted child out of many.” Waran didn’t speak for a moment, his ears still flat. “You…can’t really believe that? He’s family.” “A small sacrifice, paving the way for the cleansing of the race? It may take a while, but I fully believe the Lord King will understand in the end. Once the truth comes out, they will reward you for it. Have you forgotten the story of Ayame? She was reviled, too, her name stricken, until everyone realized what she’d done for the clans.” Waran’s ears shifted enough for the tips to be seen above his hair, but his voice snapped as he spoke. “That’s a fairytale, not history. I won’t sacrifice my place within the family on the slim chance that-” Hard, bare feet scraped rapidly against stone and a long spear darted out from the darkness to nearly touch Waran’s throat. “Would you prefer to make your sacrifice here and now?” Waran stumbled back and the spear followed. “What are you doing?” “You are either loyal to us, or you are not.” “Of course I’m loyal! I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me.” Waran’s hands twitched, clenching, but the rest of his body was still.

“Then continue to do so. Bring the human through the tunnel tomorrow.” “I told you-” The other man stepped out from the darker shadows of the tunnel. Dressed in a green tunic and pants, the small blond male stared at Waran with cold eyes. His ears were perfectly still, and the hand holding the long-handled blade never wavered, keeping it close to Waran’s throat. “Loyal or not, Waran. Decide here and now. You’ll be rewarded as greatly as the rest of us if you see this through, but only if you see this through.” Waran opened his mouth and the man smiled coldly. “I’d think very carefully before you answer.” Waran’s eyes darkened. He stared at the spear a long moment. “I’ll do it. But you’ll still have to wait. I need to get my consort. I can’t smuggle both he and the human out that quickly.” There was a long pause as they stared at each other, and then the man let the spear drop. “As you say. Another half-day, then. Shoru hasn’t awoken?” Waran’s eyes left the spear and stared at the other man hard. “Not yet. Not for another day, at least. The family thinks I’m sending him to a relative in the town proper. I need one of the cells for him.” The man stepped back into the shadows. “Pick one, then. Get him taken care of, and get the human. Don’t disappoint us on this, Waran. Actions speak louder than words, when it comes to loyalty.” The voice was retreating down the corridor. “And True Kyashin do not suffer disloyalty.” Waran glared coldly into the darkness, waiting. The sound of footsteps grew fainter, and then there was silence. Hitting the wall with his fist, he turned with a snarl and headed back to the storage room. ~*~*~*~*~*~ Leero woke up humping the Lord King’s leg. He should have realized who the limb belonged to, but the thick, muscled thigh, with its faint furring of crisp hair, felt so fucking good that Leero couldn’t think at all. He just kept humping, rubbing his cock against it so hard that he could feel his foreskin slipping off the weeping head as he tightened his buttocks and thrust. Something shifted and he tightened his legs to keep the friction in place. His arms wrapped around a broad waist, pulling the body closer so he could nuzzle it. The skin smelled so much like sex that he growled. He wanted to lick it all over and then he’d keep pumping his hips until he found something to slam into and then“Sorry to interrupt-”

The deep, amused voice stopped Leero’s body in mid-thrust. “-but I’m afraid I’ll be needing my leg back now.” Leero jerked away so fast he probably pulled out some of Kyoru’s leg hair. He blinked in speechless horror at the large man next to him in bed. This was worse than Kasan’s consort pissing on him. Worse than the time Kasan had glued his loincloth to his ass. Worse than Service. He’d been humping the Lord King’s leg! And he had to dig his hands into the mattress to keep from doing it again! Kyoru met his frantic stare with an amused smirk, shaking his head. “It’s a natural reaction. You needn’t act as though you’ve eaten my youngest child.” Leero closed his eyes and tried not to moan. His dick was still stone-hard and crying to keep rubbing up against Kyoru’s massive leg. The Lord King’s lack of outrage only made it that much harder to keep away. Leero’s body was clamoring for him to go back and finish what he’d started. Dammit, this never should have happened! He should be out of Service and searching for a consort, right this minute, but every damn time he tried to tell the Lord King that he was in heat, something interrupted him. One of the Princes, the Elders, or even a simple “Quiet, Leero,” from Kyoru. And now his heat was making him sexually assault the Lord King in the man’s own bed. Leero was taking this as a sign. He had to get the words out. Now. No matter what tried to interfere. He had to end this before he attacked someone. “Lord King?” Kyoru lay casually on top of the silken sheets, watching him with half-lidded eyes. “Yes?” “I’m…” Leero paused, almost surprised that nothing stepped in to cut him off. “I’m in heat.” He waited to be relieved, his emotions swaying with the realization that he would have to go search for a consort now. No more time with the Lord King; Service would be put on hold. He didn’t feel as relieved as he’d expected. “I thought as much.” “I know it’s a sur- What?” Kyoru chuckled. He sat up, stretching and getting out of bed as though Leero had told him that they were low on cinnamon for firstmeal. “You’re not the first person who’s gone into heat, Leero, nor the first to wish to keep it private for a time. The signs are fairly obvious.” His eyes twinkled as he smiled. “I think the Elders were about to take bets on how long you’d last before you told us.” Leero’s ears flattened. He should have known. The Lord King had seen four sons

through their heat and an untold number of siblings and cousins. He probably knew the signs inside and out. Why should Leero be exempt from his notice, especially trapped in close proximity with him nearly every hour, for days? Leero raised his hand to his collar and dropped it with a start as Kyoru’s voice stabbed out. “What are you doing?” He’d thought it was obvious. “Taking the collar off .” “You have to be given leave.” “But…I’m in heat.” Kyoru stared at him hard. “As I said, I’m aware of that. That doesn’t negate your Service unless you’re in the final stage. Are you?” Leero shook his head slowly. “But usually-” “There is ‘usually,’ and then there is the actual law. And according to the law, you need to be given leave. The collar stays on.” The Lord King turned his back and walked across the room to choose a loincloth, his nude body drawing Leero’s eyes along like a cord. His voice softened. “If this situation were ‘usual,’ I’d have taken your collar off the moment I knew about the heat, whether I was told or no, but your circumstances are… complicated.” Kyoru stared back at him after an odd pause, his eyes running over Leero’s face. Leero heard him, but it was difficult to focus on his voice when the man’s body was right there. All this time with the Lord King had finally made him realize why the older guards were always teasing the newly-ripe about older men. The idea that Kyashin didn’t reach their sexual peak until after heat was over, at forty, was a common boast. At fifty was even better, when the heavier muscles developed fully. The Lord King was an uncomfortably good example of that; his muscles were harder than his sons, somehow. More defined. And Leero shouldn’t be noticing, so he shifted his eyes to stare past Kyoru’s body at the far wall. He ran back the conversation in his head. Complicated circumstances, yeah. Leero nodded, slowly. That described his life, these days. Shovak’s betrayal, the discovery of other humans, the shokan still at large, and Leero’s heat following so closely on Kasan’s heels? ‘Complicated’ was an understatement. Because if Kasan and Leero were unable to fulfill their duties, Shovak should have stepped in. Now, it would be Davi, and with everything happening so quickly, Leero hadn’t even had a chance to speak to him yet about what was going on. If Leero mated now, it could be a disaster. He glanced at Kyoru’s body again and swallowed heavily, yanking his eyes back up. Complicated. Definitely complicated. Leero addressed the wall, just above the Lord King’s ears. “I- I can see what you mean. It, uh, it will be difficult for Davi to step in before he’s brought up to date.”

Kyoru’s ears stilled, and then quivered oddly, almost as though he were laughing. “Yes. Davi’s new role would definitely be part of the difficulty.” He stared at Leero’s face again for another moment. “Are you able to keep from going feral for another week? Or at least until we choose a contingent for Tien’sa? As you say, it would be excessively difficult to lose… two Kyashin of high position at the same time.” Leero made the mistake of looking back at Kyoru to answer and found it impossible to look away again. He nodded absently as his eyes drifted down. Months ago, he remembered seeing Tisu playing with Roto, down in the baths, and he’d been impressed by the man’s ‘size.’ Now he knew with absolute surety that Tisu had come by his assets naturally. Leero stared at the Lord King’s cock, thick and long between heavy thighs. “Leero?” “Hmmm?” “Can you last that long?” Leero’s cock twitched and sucked more blood from his brain. Could he ‘last?’ “Of course. I can last a long time. A really, really long time….” The Lord King’s impressive example of male endowments rose under Leero’s scrutiny. It disappeared as Kyoru turned away. “Leero, are you focused on the proper subject right now?” His voice was definitely amused. Leero swallowed as he stared at Kyoru’s ass. It was very round, so muscled he would never be able to span it with his hands. “Leero?” “Don’t worry,” he mumbled. “I’m…completely focused.” And damn, Kyoru still smelled fantastic. The smell was getting stronger as the man turned again and started coming towards Leero. He was- “Ow!” Leero’s head snapped back. He rubbed at the tip of his nose where Kyoru had flicked it. Hard. “Leero,” Kyoru’s eyes were very dark, all amusement gone. Leero attempted to push aside the hot blood taking over his body so that he could listen. “I’m truly sorry that I have to ask this of you, but I need to know if you can wait for a partner a few more days. Can you do this?” Closing his eyes, Leero made another attempt to regain control. He couldn’t imagine not doing what the Lord King asked, but it was hard to imagine what good Leero would be to anyone. Every part of him was focused on sex, and on top of that, his body was spending too much time with Kyoru. It was starting to attach itself to Kyoru, and that was a very, very bad idea.

Not that late-stage matings didn’t happen – usually before 150 years of age, of course – but not with the Lord King. “Sire, I’ll do what I can, but with the heat, I’m not sure….” His body didn’t feel like it was his own to command anymore. “If you feel as though the heat is taking over, you can let me know. I have no desire to see you act so precipitously that you choose an… unsuitable partner.” Kyoru’s ears twitched oddly again. “Thank you. I’ll make sure and keep you informed.” Leero would just have to look for consorts while he was finishing up his service and preparing Davi for his new role. “Do that.” Kyoru’s head tilted, and he smirked suddenly. “Would you like a little time to take care of that before we start our day?” Leero stared at him stupidly until Kyoru gestured. It took him a moment to remember he was still nude, and his erection was standing as tall as a pine. He flushed; only his collar kept him from growling at the joke. There would be no relief from ‘that’ until the moment he took a consort, no matter how much Leero needed the release. “I appreciate the concern,” he said, his ears flat. Kyoru laughed, already on his way out the door. “Come find me at firstmeal when you’re dressed. And no straying. As I said, I don’t need you getting out of control and taking a consort before everything is properly prepared.” The door closed on the sound of renewed chuckling, but Leero ignored it. He was already grabbing his cock, no matter how futile it was, and thinking of that round, bubble ass and the musky sweetness of adult Kyashin. ~*~*~*~*~*~ Lying in bed next to Kasan, Max wondered when a ‘morning after’ would feel normal. Not that he’d had many of them with his husband, considering Kasan loved sneaking away before Max even had a chance to wake up, but ‘normal’ had to happen some time, didn’t it? This was his life, now, right? Maybe it had only been days since he had been woken up with vague dream-like memories of Kasan making love to him, and maybe everything after had been like a rollercoaster of sex and giant aliens and sex and marriage and dogs and pink blobs. And more sex. But this was what his life was going to be like now. Max really wished his nerves didn’t feel like tassels at the whole concept. And not the pretty, silky, braided kind of tassels, but the ratty, half-chewed ones that his cat had mauled while Max slept. Everything was so strange and overwhelming, was it any surprised he felt at the edge of his rope? He’d get used to it eventually, though, right? Of course he would. Every cross-racial, uh, cross-species couple probably just needed some…

Kasan mumbled and pulled him in close, his cock pushing against Max’s ass, and Max bit his lip to keep from moaning. … needed some adjustment time. Purring in his sleep, Kasan cuddled Max closer. He started to thrust leisurely with his hips. “Oh crap.” That felt really, really good. “K-Kasan? Uh- Kasan? A-Are you awake – Aaaah, God!” “Mmmm, no,” Kasan said. He kissed the top of Max’s head and thrust again. “Kasan!” There was a chuckle against his hair. Kasan scooped Max up onto his chest. “You are too adorable, Gisho.” He pulled Max higher and looked at him, something bright in his eyes. Max licked his lips, bracing his hands on Kasan’s shoulders and stared. Something was different. Wait, the scratch across the face. Where the hell was the scratch. Max squinted, staring, and just caught the faintest line over Kasan’s face, as though the cut from the night before was weeks old. “You have freaking super-fast healing, don’t you?” Max sighed before Kasan said anything. “Why am I not surprised?” Couldn’t Kasan do anything like a normal, nonsuperhero person? Kasan blinked at him slowly and it completely derailed Max’s inner-gripe. Was Kasan’s face a little closer? It was, wasn’t it? Were they going to kiss? Or his hands, Kasan was moving his hands, definitely. Maybe not kissing. Maybe something else, something more…penetrative? Or was Kasan going to smile blindingly at him, squeeze him tight, and then roll them both off the bed to stand up and head over to their discarded loincloths, taking off his velvet collar as he walked. “No dawdling, sweetheart. Time for firstmeal; we slept in late, today.” No sex? Max frowned until he realized what he was frowning about, and he tried to focus finding where in the heck he’d tossed his clothes the night before. Okay, so Max was going to need a lot of adjustment time before he figured this all out. And it was for more than the whole marriage thing. There was the entire culture, and the barbarian cats, and the freakazoid animals, and the weird, incomprehensible blend of computers and freaking spears. And, again, the cats, who watched him constantly whenever he wasn’t alone with Kasan. He wondered if all barbarians were natural voyeurs. The thought hit him again the moment they left their room; he heard the guards whispering amongst themselves across the hall.

Kasan’s voice cut in. “Has the shokan been found?” “No, Prince Kasan.” “And…the person it injured?” “No body, and no one has been reported missing, although we haven’t heard any news since the last fifth.” Kasan nodded, his ears low against his head. Max wished he could figure out what was so upsetting, but no one said anything to him as Kasan led him away. Max couldn’t stop glancing back at the guards. No one was looking - for once - but three sets of ears swiveled in their direction. He thought that counted, when it came to catmen. Like…like peeking, rather than staring. Looking up at Kasan, he noticed the black ears flicking back once before they rounded a corner. So Kasan was peeking, too. What Max wouldn’t give to be able to understand a little more, though. Kasan’s hand reached down and took Max’s. His calluses were a little rough, in a comforting, my-husband-could-kick-your-ass kind of way. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? Are you upset we didn’t have time for some bed fun this morning? I’ll do my best to meet you earlier, today, so we can have time together, but I’ll need to finish the inventory first. And we have to take care of the shokan so you can be safe in the gardens. I’ll need you to stay inside until it’s found. I think you can…” Max let the words flow over him, not really trying to pay attention for once. It was rather nice just listening to Kasan’s deep voice, even if he was worried about what had Kasan so tense. The big man was looking like he had last night, before sex. On edge and tense. Max squeezed Kasan’s hand to try and let him know he was there. Not that Kasan necessarily cared, but what else could he do? And when Kasan squeezed it back, he figured it meant, well, something. Maybe not much, but something. They turned a corner and Max bumped against Kasan’s hip. The hairs on his arm stood on end where they’d touched, like his husband was made of static electricity. Dropping his head, Max tried to look at their feet instead of Kasan’s naked thigh. If they weren’t having sex, then he needed a distraction. A boring distraction. Nothing was more boring than dirty feet. Like Kasan’s. They were broad, the same caramel as the rest of his skin, with nice toes that looked odd at the same time – the toenails were claws. Max hadn’t really noticed that before. And it should have been really weird, or disgusting, or reminded Max of just how alien everything was, of how alien his husband was. Instead, like everything else with Kasan, it made Max’s insides quiver. Because it was actually a little hot.

“That is so completely unfair. You should at least have ugly feet.” Max’s feet were ugly. Skinny things with long toes. A girlfriend had once called them ‘elegant.’ He figured that was a classy way of saying ‘your feet look like they belong on an anemic, inbred Duke.’ Not that he cared. Who cared about feet, for God’s sake? That was just stupid. No one went around comparing their feet to their husband’s and giving themselves a complex just because their husband had sexier feet. “Besides, feet aren’t sexy. Good skin is hot and sexy. Asses are hot and sexy. Cocks are hot and sexy.” Max choked on his own words as he heard them out loud. “Uh, that is….” Glancing up, he realized Kasan had stopped talking and was watching him. Max’s entire body tingled as a flush started working its way down. “Oh God. I didn’t mean….” He couldn’t help it. He didn’t want to, but he’d just said it, and he couldn’t help looking at it. Covered by the loincloth, it didn’t matter. Max could imagine Kasan’s cock in his head… well, sort of. He hadn’t seen Kasan’s cock all that much, actually. He’d done a lot more feeling it. Inside. Huge and thick and… “Okay, fine! Your cock is hot, too, dammit.” Kasan smiled at him, rubbing his thumb over the palm of Max’s hand. “Gisho? You’re not speaking Hinta. What are you saying, little one?” Max was going to blush a hell of a lot worse if he met Kasan’s eyes so he looked at the ground again. And got hit with the attractive cat feet like a slap. “Even your freaking toes really are sexy. Everything about you is… Dammit, how can you be so sexy and hot and- and I’m just so…me?” A hand ruffled his hair, drawing Max in close and chuckling at the same time. “It’s not funny,” Max muttered. “You are such a quirky little thing.” “I have no idea what you just said, but I bet it would annoy me if I did. And don’t think that smiling-kissing-fabulous sex thing will make it better, either.” Even though it probably would. Max’s glare should have helped make himself understood, no matter what language he was speaking, but Kasan didn’t seem to clue in. He only pulled Max in closer, still chuckling. “I am so looking forward to understanding when you tell me off, little one.” They stared at each other until Max blurted out something just to break the tension. “I’m hungry.” “Ah, of course. My apologies, Max.” Kasan loosened his grip and his hand moved up

until it was resting gently on Max’s shoulder, guiding him into a right turn in the maze of golden hallways. Only a few turns later, and Max recognized the door to the dining room, although only one of the guards was familiar. “Davin, Loro.” Kasan frowned at the two guards. “You had a double shift, Davin?” The cat nodded. “The frenzy – there were too many new matings to compensate for immediately. I hear they’ll have the schedule set by tomorrow.” “I thought Shoru was supposed to be with you?” The other cats’ ears flattened. “You haven’t heard, then?” “Heard?” “He was attacked last night in the pleasure quarter.” Kasan sighed heavily. “By himself, I’m guessing.” Davin’s ears went low. “Yeah – not that anyone ever said he was a good consort, but I was still surprised that he went down there alone. He got hurt bad.” “How badly?” “I don’t know. Korosh spoke to Waran about it. Shoru was still in a coma this morning; Waran is going to take him to a cousin in town who can look after him until he regains consciousness.” Kasan frowned again and Max reached out for his tail. He wasn’t sure why he did it; his own cat would have kicked his ass for it. But Kasan’s ears were so flat, his body tense all over again, and the tip of his tail had started twitching. Max just grabbed without even thinking. The velvet-furred tail settled down in his hand, and Kasan’s body softened. The other two cats stopped speaking and both guards stared at Max’s hands with huge, rounded eyes. Kasan spoke as though he hadn’t even noticed. “Not that I’d wish Shoru more than a regular beating to get some of the attitude out of him, but…he would be the one to run into trouble. I only hope his stupidity doesn’t put Waran in danger.” “M-me either.” Davin’s eyes drifted down to Kasan’s tail again, where Max stroked the fur softly. “Have a good meal, Prince Kasan.” Kasan nodded to them as they passed through the door and his tail pulled itself from Max’s hand, slowly, like a happy little snake reluctantly sliding away. His loincloth was noticeably swollen in the front. Max glanced back at the tail. Had that…?

Max reached out behind Kasan to stroke it again and Kasan’s stride hitched. The big cat glanced down and deliberately pulled his tail away again. “Not now, Gisho,” he whispered. His hand stroked the edge of Max’s ear. “Later.” He ushered Max ahead of him, and this time, when Max reached back, the tail flicked out of the way. Kasan grunted at him. “Okay, fine. Later.” Max whispered back. It wasn’t like he wanted sex now. It was just… he’d never managed to touch something like that and see Kasan react, like that. He looked around, and was suddenly very, very glad that Kasan had stopped him. Because as usual, barbarian voyeurism was everywhere. The room was mostly full; hordes of cats, of all ages, stared at them both. Max avoided their eyes until he saw the table Kasan was aiming for. He could recognize most of the people. Zonta, and the Aosh jerk, Jolan and the pale haired Ko, too. Roto cast him a smile and waved his fingers like a little kid – the gesture was weird from such a large guy, but it matched his eyes. Sitting down, Max was thinking it would be easier this time. He knew these people, right? He’d gotten drunk with some of them; he was pretty sure that was male bonding no matter what planet you were on. But as they sat there, he couldn’t forget that every eye was on him, studying him silently. Hadn’t they seen him enough already? The largest one there, the one holding Roto’s hand, started talking. “How much did you tell your consort about the Niandrin?” Kasan shook his head quickly, glaring and pouring a drink for himself and Max without asking. Max could feel his shoulders hunching defensively the second Kasan looked irritated. He didn’t want to be around the cats when they were pissed off; the first time in Kasan’s room had been scary enough. Was the table big enough he could duck under if things got too rough? Everyone started talking at once, too fast for Max to follow, even if the tension at the table made it clear this was not a happy subject. He thought he saw one of the cats poke the big one who’d spoken first. Roto gestured widely and Max had to duck to avoid an elbow in the eye. Kasan dragged him against his side and growled. Everyone ignored it and kept right on arguing. Max found himself on Kasan’s lap – scooped up, plopped down, and wrapped up in Kasan’s arms like a present. He shivered as Kasan leaned over him. “Don’t worry, Max. They’re just upset. Not mad. I’ll keep you safe.” Kasan kissed the top of Max’s ear and Max shivered again, shifting to try and get out of Kasan’s lap. He was not coming in front of the whole room. Except…it felt so private. With Kasan’s hair draping over both of them, Max could barely

see anyone. The large arms made a warm cage around Max’s body. And his cock was long and getting harder under Max’s ass. With a swallow, Max reached up and put his hands on Kasan’s arms. They were hot – Kasan was always hot – but they weren’t doing anything. He wasn’t even paying attention to Max anymore. Kasan had lifted his head and was talking with everyone else, now. Quieter, yeah, but that just…sucked. He just tucked Max on top of his dick, made him think of sex, and then what did the big ass cat do? He talked. What the hell was up with that? If you were going to make your husband think of sex in public, then you should darn well have sex in public… Okay, maybe not - definitely not - sex, but, well…there had to be something Kasan was doing wrong, because now Max was really horny and he didn’t get to do anything about it. Last time he’d been horny, Kasan had taken him out and they’d screwed against a wall. What made today so different? And why did it even freaking matter? There was no wall-sex today. He should be glad. “I am still a nympho,” Max muttered, not feeling glad at all. No, he wasn’t going to let this get to him. He didn’t have to think about Kasan’s cock! He had plenty of stuff to think about. Things that would help everything seem ‘normal.’ Right. Normal, that was it. He could…he could eat the food. He was hungry anyway. It didn't take him long at all to get started, trying different dishes, picking out the words he knew from the conversation around him. All perfectly normal for breakfast with in-laws. His eyes drifted around as he listened, noting the little kids running all over the place, the adults following suit at a walk, and everyone talking a mile a minute. It really was kind of normal, wasn’t it? Just one big - really big - family. He looked at the bodies, trying to see them as ‘people’ rather than ‘scary-ass, half-naked aliens.’ The hair caught his eyes first, something that had more variety than the everpresent loincloths. Most of it was fairly simple. Kasan’s black mane was down his back in a long, flowing waterfall. Zonta had a simple braid down his back. Most of the women had braids that were wound back up against their scalps. And a lot of the men had a braid like Zonta’s, but Aosh’s was braided into small, intricate twists and pulled up high before falling over his shoulders. There was no makeup, no piercings, and only a few big pieces of gold or silver jewelry. Armbands and torques and a couple circlets here and there – he wondered if they were worn to highlight the tattoos, because almost everyone had those. Those were gorgeous. Brilliant silver and gold scrolls and curls in some small symbol, with very little variation that he could see, even for the placement. You either saw it on someone’s chest, or on their ass. There was so little variety, he wondered if they might be clan markings.

And if they were, was he going to have to get one? God, he hoped not. Needles made him queasy. He twisted his head behind him to look at Kasan; nothing on his chest. Max had stared at Kasan’s ass enough to know that the big cat didn’t have one there. Did they not have to get one, or was it something that happened later? Like, after marriage? “Kasan?” Kasan had been glaring at the big cat next to them – Tisu, that was it – but he looked down as soon as he heard Max. “Yes, little one?” “You get…” He sure as hell hadn’t learned the word for tattoo. “You get little body picture?” Kasan and the others stared at him blankly, and Max pointed to the large cat with Roto. “Like him? The color, on front. You get body picture like him? Or not like?” Kasan stared at the larger man and glanced down at his own chest. “Ah, the marks. Of course, It’s—Here, let me show you.” Max was scooped again – what was he, ice cream? – and put on the cushion next to Kasan. Sweeping his black hair behind his back, Kasan gestured to his bare chest and then slowly flushed. Chuckles spread across the table in a dark wave. “He hasn’t ever seen your mark?” Roto asked. Kasan shrugged, and Max yelped as he was grabbed up again and popped back onto Kasan’s lap. “I…don’t think he has,” Kasan muttered. Roto squealed. “Ever? That’s so romantic!” Tisu snorted. “Because my ‘big’ brother is so horny he can’t stop being aroused near his consort? I don’t know if romantic is the word I’d choose.” Max squirmed a little closer to Kasan’s stomach. That cat was just too damn big, even in giant cat land. “You’re only saying that because you’re not romantic, Tisu.” Zonta smiled. Roto was doing some sort of happy dance on his cushion, his ears flickering back and forth. “What about his? What does his look like? Is it different on a human? I didn’t pay attention last time.” Kasan blinked at them, and Max wondered what had been said. What was a mark? Were they talking about him? Everyone turned to look at Max and he gulped. Yeah, talking about him, definitely.

Max looked up at Kasan to gauge if he should be worried. The smile that broke out over Kasan’s face made heat pool low in Max’s belly. When Kasan turned that smile on him, with eyes just as bright as his smile, Max had a hard time catching his breath. “I haven’t seen it since the Greeting.” Kasan said the words as though they were a surprise to him as much as anyone, and when he reached out and drew his finger down Max’s nose, ending at his lips and pressing there gently, Max couldn’t say anything at all. Not that anyone would have heard him as Roto squealed. “The two of you are just adorable! Tisu, isn’t it so romantic?” Tisu grunted. “So they are both so horny for each other that their nanites hardly ever stay out of their private parts. Again, I don’t think-” “Well I think it’s romantic.” Roto glared up at Tisu and the big man wilted. Max was stunned to see him actually smile after a moment and kiss Roto’s forehead. “Then I suppose it has to be.” Max bit his lip. He didn’t think it would be a good idea to laugh at what was obviously an ‘I’m so whipped’ moment, although he heard a few others snorting into their hands. It seemed to break the tension, whatever it was. People’s voices fell in volume, their ears came up off their skulls, and Kasan’s arms around Max lost their tension. Which meant that Max’s brain could focus on sex all over again. And he didn’t want that. His whole life here was not going to be about sex. It couldn’t be. Could it? There had to be other things that he’d learn to do here. He had to think of something, like…activities. Non-horizontal activities. Maybe Max could go outside on a walk, see the sun, in some non-blob area? No one was running around anymore, so that had to mean good things about the blob-infestation, didn’t it? There had to be, like, blob-free zones or something. And right now, Max could really, really use some space where he wasn’t staring at the inside of a building. Max squirmed, feeling Kasan grow hard under his ass again. He lacked that empty feeling that he’d started to associate with Kasan’s ‘need sex’ times, but the heavy length against him was filling his head with images that were going to make it impossible to walk without limping. His voice hissed between his teeth. “I can think of things other then sex. I am not just a nympho, dammit.” Not sex. What the hell did he want aside from sex? Max’s mind blanked for a minute. Oh, yeah…he wanted to go outside. He didn’t want to have to go near the blobs. He wanted to spend time with Kasan. That made him pause. He really did. Max wanted to go on a walk with Kasan. He wanted it to be simple for once, with no one watching him, nothing attacking him. A plain old walk in a garden, like any stupid cat on this stupid planet would do with their stupid husband. Because he wanted to be just like any stupid person on this stupid planet, if he was going to live

here. Just…shorter. He wanted to fit in, the way he’d never quite fit in back home. Max swallowed, closing his eyes. Yeah, like that was going to happen? The only human on the planet; sure, he’d fit right in. Like a crab on a tricycle. Kasan shifted, pulling Max in close, and Max bit back an embarrassingly aroused sigh. It was so strange that he felt like he ‘fit’ with Kasan at moments like this, no matter how nervous it made him at the same time. But he was pretty sure that was…that it was just… the mind-blowing, amazing, gay sex. Which didn’t count. Knowing an alien in the biblical sense still didn’t mean thatWait…could you call anal sex ‘biblical?’ Maybe it was more ‘anti-biblical.’ Not that it mattered, because he just wanted to go outside, that’s all. His gay sex life with his giant husband wasn’t the problem. “I can’t believe I just thought that.” Except…was it? Or wasn’t it? The damn sex was so intense that it scared him, but at the same time“Max?” Kasan’s ears swiveled his way. “N-nothing.” Flushing, Max sopped up some sour lavender sauce off a plate using a spongy little piece of bread. Eating first, walk second, and sex… He looked up at Kasan and swallowed the food in his mouth with an audible gulp. Sex…as often as Kasan wanted it? “This is going to take a long, long time to feel normal,” he muttered, and grabbed another piece of bread. Max’s belly was taut with food by the time Kasan and most of the others finally decided it was time to leave breakfast. Feeling a bit like a kid, Max stood obediently when Kasan popped him on his feet. He squirmed, struck once again as Kasan held onto his hand and led him through the maze of tables towards the door. When had he last held someone’s hand before Kasan? The big cat did it so naturally, like holding hands with Max was nothing special. All of them did. Half the cats around him were clasping hands or arms or waists. Naked hands and arms and waists. His parents had never touched each other, or Max, this frequently. And Max had never even attempted it with the few women he’d dated. Holding hands was such a sappy, romantic thing to do that it seemed entirely too un-masculine.

Geeks don’t hold hands. Max was pretty sure he’d seen a t-shirt saying that once. But Kasan’s hand enveloping his own made him feel safe, and cared for, and that was pretty damn impressive for five fingers and a palm. So as always, Max didn’t try to pull away as they headed out the door and down the hall. Returning the smile aimed at him, he even got a little shiver when Kasan squeezed his hand reassuringly. And then the damn cat ruined it all when he yelled out right above Max’s head. Scared the crap out of him! “Zonta, wait!” Zonta stopped, looking back down the cream-colored hall. Kasan started talking as they headed over. “Can you watch Max today again?” Shifting his feet, Zonta smiled at Max before he answered. “I was hoping to use today for research. There are a few sources on humans that were a bit obscure; I thought perhaps now that we have Max, we might be able to figure out what they mean.” Kasan ran his hand over Max’s head and Max nearly lost track of the conversation. “Could you take him with you to the archives, then?” “You’re not going to spend the day with him?” Kasan’s ears flattened slightly. “No. I was going to participate in the hunt, but the Elders have brought in more people to search for the shokan, so I’m free to finish the inventory. Zonta chuckled. “How terrible for you. Forced to confront boxes instead of deadly beasts.” “Brat.” Kasan flicked at Zonta’s ear. “Truly I’m sorry to ask, but I think it would be better if he didn’t work on inventory with me. Max can’t really help yet, and you’ve seen how he is; he’ll fret himself into a frenzy if he doesn’t know what’s going on. Besides, I don’t think we’ll be done until after Lastmeal. That’s far too long to ask him to sit nearby, doing nothing.” Zonta’s ears twitched. “I suppose…” Kasan ran the hand down Max’s back, making small circles over the tunic. “Thank you. He’s usually so nervous left to his own devices, and with new people. But he trusts you.” Zonta smiled and offered his hands as he nodded. “Don’t worry, then. It shouldn’t be an inconvenience. But I was wondering-” The red-headed cat looked down at Max and smiled at him. Nice smile. Kind of sexy and innocent. Oh god, Max was analyzing men’s smiles now. Gay, gay, gay. “Kasan, what does Max want to do today? Have you asked him?” Kasan shook his head, ears a little flatter. His hand spread across Max’s shoulder,

enveloping the muscle there and wrapping around it. “He doesn’t know enough to make that decision.” Zonta’s eyebrow rose and Max seriously wondered what was going on. He knew they were discussing him, and something about boxes he’d managed to catch…maybe Zonta was going to go over more stuff with him again today? He’d been looking forward to it yesterday, but there was a surprising twinge of disappointment at the thought of not being with Kasan. Again. Didn’t spouses ever get time together? A honeymoon month? Even a honeymoon day or two? A honey hour? “Kasan, Max might be human, but don’t you think he has the right to make his own decisions? What if he’d rather come with you?” Kasan’s tail wrapped around Max’s waist and Max pet it while he watched them both. If Kasan looked unhappy, this was likely something that would make Max unhappy. “Another time. Zonta, he’s too delicate to take a chance right now. As soon as things settle down and Max knows how to get along, then it’ll be different, but right now, I need to keep him safe.” “Max is not going to take well to being babied. Anyone can see that, Kasan. You’d better be careful or you’re going to have a very angry little consort.” Zonta paused as Roto and Tisu passed through a cross hallway, Roto very obviously chastising Tisu. He smiled and gestured to them. “And you know how much trouble that will get you.” Kasan grinned sheepishly and looked down at Max. “I can imagine. I think you’ll be very good keeping me in line, hmmm, little one? Or do you think I will be far too difficult?” Max saw Zonta nodding and mouthing ‘yes’ with a small grin and he repeated it. Kasan laughed and fuzzed his hair. “Max, will you be all right going with Zonta today to study? My job is more unpleasant today. Kasan wants Max to be safe. You stay safe with Zonta today?” Max frowned. That’s what he’d been afraid all this was about – getting dumped off with Zonta and not Kasan. “Not stay with Kasan?” “Not this time.” “Never stay with Kasan,” he grumbled, annoyed, and Kasan sighed. To Max’s surprise he nodded. “I know. Not for long, though. Soon we’ll have some time together.” Max understood enough to relieve the odd pressure in his chest. “This not…normal?” “What?” “No Kasan and Max together. Apart all day. All night…uh…” Max looked at Zonta and cut himself off before he said any more. Zonta grinned into his hand. Max was aware that Zonta knew exactly what he was going to say, but as long as it stopped here, he was going to pretend that the man hadn’t a clue.

“No, Max. This isn’t normal. We’ll have more time together soon, I swear.” Smiling, Max nodded, feeling like a goof at the tension that disappeared. But he couldn’t deny that it had. With one last head fluffing, Kasan stepped away from him, and it was like some giant heater that had turned off; Max felt cooler almost immediately. “If you need me, I’ll be doing the inventory with the others, and then I’m visiting the elders to see what’s been done about Max’s…about the Niandrin.” Zonta nodded, almost turning away before he shook his head. “I still can’t believe you all destroyed an entire vid room. What were you thinking?” “How badly I wanted to pound on them.” “You all think about that far too much.” “You’re just lucky you’re the baby or you’d be wanting to pound them all too.” “I have patience, that’s all,” Zonta said lightly. Kasan snorted. Max swallowed as Kasan turned his attention back to Max. With a small smile, Kasan leaned over him. He tilted Max’s face up, and Max felt the briefest brush of lips against his own while Kasan stroked over the back of his head. They looked at each other briefly, and with an abrupt twist, Kasan turned to go. Max’s hand, caught in an abortive movement to reach for him, dropped back to his side. “Bye,” he whispered. Kasan looked back and smiled, waving quickly before he turned the corner. Something about it felt false. Or maybe that was the smile on Max’s face as he waved back. “Self-involved dork. You’re a grown man. Suck it up.” Max swallowed, staring at the last place he’d seen Kasan. He’d really wanted to stay with Kasan today. “Come on, Max. We’ll be going to the archives today.” Zonta’s hand touched Max’s elbow with a gentle dexterity that seemed out of place in a man as large as he was. “The day will be done and Kasan will be back before you know it.” Max swallowed, nodding as though he understood it all, and followed Zonta. As they walked, the floor under his bare feet changed until it was slicker, like amber glass worn smooth. The smell shifted to marble infused with dust and vaguely reminiscent of the small downtown library he’d liked to study at when he was in college. Looking around, Max thought even the walls were subtly different than they had been. Rougher, less polished, with the cream color deepening to a brown flecked golden. Light reflected poorly off the stone. Doors along the hallway appeared with less and less frequency, until Zonta turned a corner and the only exit was an enormous door at the very end. The thing was huge, feet above even the cats’ heads, and made of something that looked like enormous wooden planks, if wood were yellowed stone. A pair of very elderly guards stood in front of the

massive thing. Max was almost expecting some moldering tomb, but instead, once the doors opened and they hiked through the long doorway, he found a room that looked surprisingly like an enormous, slightly tidier version of Zonta’s room. Books, papers, scrolls and little mini hand computer screens were everywhere. Enormous shelves were built into the walls, some stretching from floor to ceiling in the middle of the room. Smaller bookcases had obviously been added later and they decorated the room at random intervals. A very, very old looking cat came over to greet them, his dark braid striped with shades of silver and gray. Staring down at Max with an expression he hadn’t seen yet on the cats: distaste. Did he have food on his face or something? Max reached up to check unobtrusively while the man spoke in a quavering voice to Zonta. “What is this?” Zonta smiled, but his hand tightened where it had curled over Max’s shoulder. “Kasan’s human. I was going to-” “This is the human?” The old cat's eyebrows came together in a furry car crash of dark fuzz. “That can’t be right. Humans are the same size as Kyashin.” Zonta tilted his head, eyes unnaturally wide and even more innocent than usual. “Is that so? How curious. Apparently, this one is smaller than normal.” The other cat stared at Max and muttered to himself for a moment. “Well, what is he doing here? Kasan’s consort should stay with him. They were just mated, weren’t they? Or was that Tisu?” “It’s Kasan, Minoru.” Zonta’s voice softened as he spoke. “Hmph. Well of course it was.” “Max? Let me introduce you to Minoru. Minoru, this is Max.” Max discovered that it was much harder to speak when a giant that was looking at you as though you were a strange looking bug. “P-Pleased to meet you, Minoru.” “Yes, yes, pleased to meet you, Max.” Minoru waved a hand at Max after a few moments. “So…we’re done here. Go on now. Back to your mate. Zonta has work to do.” Max stared at him, and Zonta choked back a laugh. “I need to keep him with me today, Minoru. Kasan is working elsewhere. I was hoping to finish up some of the uncompleted human research. Under the circumstances, I really should get to work on it as soon as possible.” Minoru scowled slightly, his ears back. He looked like an grumpy Cheshire cat. Max almost expected the shadows behind him to come out and leave nothing but a strange, glowing frown afterwards.

“I’m not certain I’m comfortable with him around some of the more fragile papers. He is Kasan’s consort. A consort is the shadow of his mate, you know.” Zonta’s hand tightened over Max’s shoulder again and Max knew there was probably something in the translation that he was missing. “I have every faith that Max will be perfectly safe among the more ancient of the papers. You can tell by his size; he is a scholar, not a warrior.” Minoru stared at him and finally grunted. “I suppose that’s true. I don’t see what help he could be, however.” “I was thinking of those papers from the Reconstruction. They are in human, aren’t they?” “Those are priceless! We can’t have someone in there who might damage them.” Minoru growled under his breath in an hoarse treble. Zonta looked around them ostentatiously and leaned in towards Minoru, whispering, “But what if he could translate them?” Minoru’s ears popped up. “The human can read the language; he already read through the papers that were sent up to teach him Hinta. With his help, we might have the first translation of these in over three hundred years.” Zonta glanced around again, making Max think of some pathetic spy just asking to be caught. “Just imagine. If it works, perhaps even the other clans would give us access to some of their Reconstruction texts so that Max could translate them.” Minoru glanced down at Max like someone finding a $100 bill in the middle of the street. It was almost worse than the scowl. His ears quivered. The man turned to go, gesturing them to follow with an irritated hand. “Well? If we’re going to get these translated, we don’t have all day! And I have just the piece. Julian you remember, Zonta, he’s that pompous windbag from the Yanta – he was looking at it just last month, claiming he had translated the first three paragraphs. As if that hack could figure it out? Preposterous. He’ll be chewing holes in his ears over this!” Max swallowed and looked to Zonta. The big cat smiled and pushed him along. He leaned down to whisper. “Don’t worry, Max. Minoru just needed the right motivation. It’s safe now.” They followed behind, working their way deeper into the stacks of books and records, until they were in front of another large door. Max recognized a controlled environment the moment they stepped in. There were scrolls and a few books, but no computer bits in this section. The lights were dimmer. The air was a bit cooler and he shivered, wishing his tunic was thicker. Or that he had anything covering his legs at all. When he sat down on an enormous chair – the first he’d seen – and it nearly froze his

butt to the chair, he amended his wishing for something to cover his ass as well. The older cat muttered to himself as he tottered around the room and eventually brought out three very fine, very old-looking papers. A slurry of words that Max couldn’t understand at all preceded his being allowed to so much as breath in their direction, but finally, Max got to take a look and see what they were doing here. Translating. The papers contained only two languages, English and Portugese. The first was an old list of supplies gathered for some type of journey. The second was a letter to someone’s husband, best he could tell, and the author was explicit enough in what he was going to indulge in when the husband returned that Max couldn’t stop blushing. He wondered if his body would even bend that way. The last was instructions on some sort of machine, if he understood correctly. After some verbal fumbling, Zonta finally got him to understand that they didn’t have the Kyashin version of these papers, unlike the ones they’d given him before. They wanted him to help them make one. Translating languages, just like he was supposed to do for the colony. Max swallowed, staring down at the papers. He had to blink when his eyes started to sting. “Dumbass.” So what if he had something to do now that wasn’t sex? That was no reason to“Max?” He cleared his throat and turned his head away. “I’m good. It’s nothing.” Taking one deep breath, he gave a wobbling smile to Zonta and looked back at the papers. His eyes wouldn’t focus at first, but he finally managed to get started. Reading the second paper helped him calm his pathetic ass down; it was good to remember where he was. Sex planet. He wasn’t sure if Zonta and Minoru would want the translation when they found out it was ‘ancient letter porn,’ but knowing the cats? Of course they would; it had to do with sex. Minoru started working with Max first, but it was clear almost immediately that Minoru and Max were like peanut butter and pickles. ‘Clashing’ was an understatement. After five minutes, a cat sucked into a vacuum would have been happier than Minoru was. Max knew so few words in Kyashin that he had to try and find out what a new word was through a combination of bad Kyashin and charades. And Max had always sucked at charades. He was panicked that they were going to give up on him altogether when Zonta put aside his own papers and scooted over to help. “Don’t worry, Minoru, I can help with this.”

“Thank god. I don’t know how humans were able to help us in the past, if they were all like this. Pardon my saying so, but Kasan’s consort must be some sort of genetic anomaly. Possibly a mental aberration. I need to go recover.” “Of course, Minoru. Shall I meet you here in the archive later today once Max is done?” “Certainly. Where else would I be?” Minoru left the room, and Zonta and Max got started. Zonta seemed to be about as good at guessing in charades as Max was in presenting them, so it was a long, slow process of Max learning Kyashin words just so he could tell Zonta what a ‘human’ term meant. No matter how long it took, though, every new word had Max and Zonta beaming like loons. Translating a word was better than discovering diamonds, damn. They had a quick break for food, but then it was back to the letters. Hours passed, and Max spent the early afternoon immersed in the language and words of someone long gone - some human long gone. He felt oddly less alone. Until they finished. When Max’s eyes started to see double, Zonta called a halt to it all. He called for someone to put the papers back in their containers, and they’d been heading out of the library when Minoru stopped them. He seemed very insistent that Zonta stay to finish something. Max wasn’t sure what it was, but in the end, Zonta had nodded and talked to the guards. One had spoken into one of those little intercom boxes they used, and they’d waited until yet another cat had come trotting down the hall. Which led to Max standing here as Zonta chattered faster than he could understand to the new cat. The big stranger was supposed to ‘escort’ Max back to his room, then stay with him until Kasan came back. From what Max could follow, Zonta didn’t even think Kasan would return before their next meal, so Max would be eating with the new one, as well. Max swallowed, frustrated. He’d been feeling so good about the day. Exhausted, but good. And now…now it was hard not to feel like a sex toy prisoner again. Max was going to be utterly sick of that damn room if he had to wait there until Kasan…well, until he had time for him. Biting his lip, he glanced at Zonta and caught a smile as Zonta looked down at the same time. Okay, so that wasn’t a ‘prison guard’ smile. But Kasan had better get back to the room soon. Max didn’t want to be stuck with a bunch of strangers, and he really didn’t want to eat with them. Looking up at the big male Zonta was talking to, Max quickly looked away. He still wasn’t fond of new cats, especially ones like this big bastard, where he couldn’t read his face. The two guards at the door would have been easier. They were smiling, at least. This one was as stiff as a tree trunk.

“Max?” Zonta was waving in front of his face and Max startled. Zonta patted his head. Max thought it was supposed to be calming, but Zonta was a bit clumsier than he’d been before. The soft thunking against Max’s skull just rattled his brains a bit. “Can I introduce you? This is my Mother cousin Waran.” Max swallowed. Mother cousin. He’d learned that word; cousin from my mother’s side. So they were related? Shouldn’t that have made him less frightening? Max looked up and tried to distract his ‘run away from giants’ reflex by looking for a resemblance. The alien was big, he was a cat, and he had ears. That was as much resemblance as Max could figure out. Not good enough. He tried to step back without making a production out of it, but he’d rather have backed to the wall. Up close to the new man, he had to crane his neck back so far that the cat’s size was intimidating as hell. “P-Pleased to meet you, Waran.” “Pleased to meet you, Max.” He didn’t sound pleased. He sounded annoyed. Max took another unobtrusive step back. “Waran is going to take you to Kasan’s room, Max, and stay with you. You wait with him until Kasan can join you.” Max swallowed again and watched Waran. He tried to smile. Why did he feel so creeped out? “Max? You understand?” “Yeah. I understand.” He just wanted Zonta to tell him that he’d changed his mind and was coming along too. Or that Waran had a sudden case of the runs and one of the other guards was coming. Zonta’s voice lowered. “It’s safe, Max. Waran won’t hurt you; he’s family.” He reached back, put a hand on Max’s back, and gently pushed him towards Waran. “Kasan will see you soon, Max. Do not worry.” Max nodded slowly, and when Waran started down the hallway he tried to keep up. And stay at least an arm’s length from Waran. He felt his breathing starting to speed up the second they left the hallway and the big library door was no longer in sight. No, he wasn’t this stupid! It was just like… just like… Just like whenever he’d traveled with his parents as a kid. Nothing to worry about. They’d walk unfamiliar streets and listen to unfamiliar languages, and he would so desperately wanted to know what the people around him said so he could ask where to find food since his folks hardly remembered to eat once they were immersed in their work and… Maybe not the best way to think about it. Just the walking part, though, he could do that.

When he’d been surrounded by color and smells and sounds that were completely different and new. And that could be good. Just like now. He was walking with someone new, through an enormous complex that he was still unfamiliar with. Exploring. But without poisonous snakes. Or pink blobs. Max glanced at Waran and looked away again. The man wasn’t talking, wasn’t even looking at Max more than the odd glance here and there. Max would rather do the same. He looked up on the walls, pretending interest, and finally realized there were small plaques attached at intervals, usually at the corners. Something like street signs? “Waran, what those?” The cat glanced down as Max gestured. He smiled, and Max nearly shuddered. Waran had one of the long cat faces that looked particularly alien right about now. Waran’s face looked more feline than most of the others Max had met, like a god out of a old Egyptian myth. The smile on his face seemed as wrong as seeing a real cat smile. Max jumped as the man finally grunted out an answer. “Directions.” Max tried to smile back while his insides shivered as though he were in an icy fog. But this was good, dammit! Here he was, no Kasan, no Zonta, all alone with a strange cat, and look! No running! He was doing this. He could do this. Max took a deep breath and hoped that the chant in his head would sink into his bones and feel like more than a line from a musical. They walked for a while in silence, although he could feel the other cat’s eyes on him like they’d been popped out and rubbed on his skin. Which was such a gross thought that he gagged once. He hated silence. “Uh, how are you doing, Waran? Good day now?” The cat looked at him with his ears popping up and then slamming back down a moment before they slowly shifted neutral as though the cat were forcing himself. “Yes. I am having a good day. Things are fine, human.” Waran started walking faster. Oookay. Max trotted after him, barely able to keep up without running. He was ready to cry uncle so he could catch his breath when they turned another corner, and there was Kasan’s door. He recognized the small symbol painted above it on the wall. Waran slowed down. Thank God. “Thank you for the walking.” Max was hoping if he said thank you soon enough, Waran would leave sooner.

Waran hardly glanced at him, continuing to the guards at Kasan’s door and Max remembered what he’d seen the other cats do, that lip touching thing. Maybe Waran was pissed that Max hadn’t remembered? It felt pretty stupid, but he trotted ahead and tried to reach up to touch Waran’s lips and say thanks. The cat took a quick, almost startled, step away from him. “You’re welcome,” Waran said quickly and walked towards the guards who were watching them both with a strange combination of expressions. They nodded to Max and one opened the door. The bigger guard smiled. “Stay inside, little one. I know Kasan doesn’t want you out in the garden until we find the shokan.” Max worked on that one. Inside, and Kasan not wanting something about a garden and a shokan. Not out in the garden without his shokan. Got it. “Yes. I understand.” Max turned to go inside. “Kasan wanted me inside with him,” Waran said. “I’ll be taking him to Lastmeal as well.” Max paused, foot on the threshold, and nearly flinched as Waran started his way. “No, no, I’m fine.” Waran frowned and took another step. “Kasan wants you to have company.” Max wasn’t sure exactly what he was saying, but Waran was still coming towards him. “No. Max good. No need Waran. All good. Max happy. Thank-you-good-bye!” He darted inside and closed the door, leaning back against it and listening hard for any sounds on the other side. He could hear talking, but no one was coming in. A guard laughed. “Kasan’s consort is still a little nervous, Waran. Don’t take it personally. He’ll be safe enough in the room alone.” “Kasan didn’t want him left alone.” “I’m sure he didn’t mean in his rooms. He’ll be fine. You can always come back to fetch him for Lastmeal.” There was a long pause. “Is his garden secure now?” Waran asked. “Not entirely, but they’ve checked it over thoroughly. Don’t worry. Truly, he’ll be safe enough.” “I suppose.” Waran was quiet another moment and Max strained his ears. “I heard that someone was killed. Did they find out who, yet?” “No, there’s nothing left but those few bloodstains. No one’s reported missing.” Waran made sympathetic noises. “I wonder who the poor soul was.” The other cat piped up, his voice still the higher-pitch of a teen. “The Elders are worried

it was someone visiting town.” Waran’s voice was a low grumble. Max could almost hear the frown in it. “But that would mean that the shokan has been all the way outside the city and chosen to come back. Would one actually do that?” “I don’t know, but the Elders seem to think it’s possible. That’s why we’re supposed to keep Kasan’s consort out of the garden. It might be safe for the moment, but we’re not certain how long that will be the case.” “I see. Yes, that is disturbing, thinking that a shokan might be in Kasan’s garden at any time.” Waran sounded annoyed again. Max pressed up hard against the door, wondering if he could do anything to keep the cat out if he tried to force his way in. He didn’t know why it bothered him so much, but Waran really gave him the bad-vibe heebie-jeebies. Maybe the cat just didn’t like humans? The younger voice spoke up. “Uh, Waran, did you need something else?” “Hmmm? Oh, sorry. My mind was wandering; Shoru…” There was another long pause before Waran started talking again. Max wished he could understand exactly what they were saying. “Difficulties all around, these days.” Waran took a deep breath that was half sigh. “Actually, since I’m here… I do have one problem you might be able to help me with. I have next shift, but I’m a bit worried the heat will hit early. It’s difficult to get out to Shoru now without a little more time to reach him.” “Ah. You need someone to cover for you?” “Only for the last two hours. I would have arranged it through official channels, but with the frenzy, scheduling is overwhelmed. I thought this might be easiest.” “It’s not a problem. Don’t worry. I’d be happy to help.” “I can’t let you do it without compensation, though. Please, let me take the last hours of your shift today?” “Waran, you don’t need to-” “It’s no bother. I wouldn’t feel right, asking this of you without giving something in return.” There was a long pause. “Please, it’s the least I can do.” “You feel that strongly about it?” Another long pause. “Well all right, then. Zerard, you don’t have a problem working with Waran for a few hours, do you?” “Of course not. I’d be honored, Waran. I’ve always admired how well you deal with your consor- Uh, that is. Oh god, I’m sorry!” Max thought he heard the youthful voice cracking and he was almost tempted to open

the door to see what was happening. But not tempted enough. Waran’s voice lowered into some semblance of soothing. “Don’t worry, Zerard, It’s not more than the truth. Shoru is…difficult.” The other guard spoke again. “I heard about what happened. I’m so sorry you have to go through this.” “Yes. Thank you. But I shouldn’t be surprised, I supposed. Shoru’s always been this way, ever since we mated.” “I know, but no one deserves to have their consort comatose with the heat. It’s…” “I know.” Waran cleared his throat. “Let me go and arrange a few things and then I’ll be back to take over the last few hours. Say, just before Munchies?” “That works.” There was silence for a long minute and then the two guards were speaking again in lower tones. “Do you think he’ll be all right?” “I don’t think he’s been all right since he mated Shoru. He’s never been the same since he came back from that trip. Just wish he’d had better luck than ending up with that asshole.” Max waited another minute, pressed against the door, but there was nothing else. If Waran was still there, he was talking to low for Max to hear. Shaking off a case of nerves, reminding himself that Waran wasn’t in the room with him, Max blew out his breath and peeled his body away from the door. He took two steps before he was half-tackled. Androcles head-butted him, nearly knocking him over, and latched onto to the flap of his loincloth to play tug of war. Max tried to yell and whisper at the same time; he didn’t want Waran to have an excuse to come in, if he was still outside! “Androcles! Stop it! Andro-eep!” The loincloth tightened with a strong tug and gave Max a groin-crushing wedgie. “Androcles!” Max could barely speak, holding onto the loincloth with both hands as he tried to keep it from pulling tighter. He was getting better at tying the stupid thing, but it wasn’t built to withstand Androcles yanking at it! He hissed at the dog. “Let go, dammit!” Androcles released him with a giant, obnoxious dog-grin. Max flailed and fell over onto his butt. He pulled his cloth from where it had lodged between his asscheeks and glared at Androcles, who was still bigger today. Great, the dog was now officially bigger than a great dane. He was like a small mutant pony. “What the hell do they feed you? Growth serum dog chow? Crap.”

Androcles let him get up without messing with him, but then he crowded into Max’s space. Trying to shove his way clear, Max ended up backed into a side wall. Androcles started licking him all over. “And again…stop with the crotch licking! And the LIPS…do you know how gross dog slobber is? It doesn’t matter if it’s alien dog slobber or not, Androcles, it’s still gross.” Max shoved the heavy muzzle away from him and made a face at the slimy mess left on his hands. There was a reason he’d always liked cats a little more, and dog slobber was definitely one of the reasons. Not that he hated dogs, it was simply that cats were better. Kasan came to mind and he flushed and shivered at the same time. “That was NOT the reason I liked cats,” he muttered. After another minute of struggling, Androcles finally stopped attempting to give him a bath and headed to the garden door. Max wondered if Kasan had forgotten to come over to let him out. And…wait, was he supposed to clean up after the dog? He hadn’t actually noticed any giant piles of dog poo out in the yard, but maybe Kasan usually cleaned up? Would he expect Max to do that? Somehow, that seemed like an awfully big chore. And getting bigger. “I think I’m going to pretend ignorance and just let you go out on your own. You’re okay now, right? They said I could go out with you, so I could if you need me to.” He slid open the door as he talked. Androcles scampered out like a gamboling t-rex, pausing to stare at Max once at the edge of the trees. Then he slipped into the shadows. It was amazing that something that big could disappear so completely. “Guess you don’t need me.” He waited a second to see if Androcles was coming right back and then started to get nervous and closed the door. The pink spiked blobs were still to much on his mind. They were freaky. As. Hell. He was more and more glad that Kasan had a dog. With a sigh, he drooped over to the bed, floomping the pillows into a good nest shape and curling up in them. He could have kicked them all off, but it was kind of fun to make a big mess of them to rattle around in. Must be the latent monkey in him. Or the cats were wearing off on him. Either one wouldn’t surprise him. Especially with how tired he was all the time; he thought he’d had a siesta every day since he’d woken up. Obviously, dealing with bigass cats took a lot out of a guy. Although right now it was his eyes that were giving him trouble. They were exhausted from reading all day; he’d just close them for a little while. Lying in the pile of fluffiness, he caught a familiar scent close by and started sniffing. It was the pillow next to his face, a little black velvet one, fuzzy, with tassels. And it

smelled exactly like Kasan. He pulled it close to his face and closed his eyes for a nap. ~*~*~*~*~*~ Wiping the sweat off his face with a damp towel, Kasan looked around him with a relieved groan. The men and women who’d been on duty in the Main vid room had been allowed to leave earlier, but his brothers were seated against the wall with him, panting in the sweltering warehouse room. The boxes were all neatly put away, the numbers tallied up on the hand comps they’d been using half the day. Kasan had been bitching at everyone the entire time, working double-time, hoping to finish early so he could get out to see Max. It was nearly five hours earlier than expected, but they were finally done. Kasan might even have enough time to go have Munchies with Max. He usually skipped the snack between meals, but he’d take what he could get today. Especially as he’d missed the little one at Midmeal. Kasan had thought he’d have a chance to see Max until Leero had shown up with food, courtesy of their father. A little smack that reminded them all that they weren’t being allowed to stop working until they’d finished. Leero had looked like hell, though. His body had jumped when Aosh spoke to him, backing up a step like a new recruit. Jumpy as Rui hunting the shokan. Kasan hadn’t been able to figure out what was wrong – this wasn’t like Leero at all – but Aosh had. The lecherous brat had started to laugh as soon as Leero left. “What?” Tisu took a bite of his meat roll while he looked at his brother. “You can’t tell? I finally figured it out.” Aosh grinned maniacally and wouldn’t say another word until Jolan threw a sausage at him. Aosh caught it in mid-air and took a large bite, but it did get him to talk, at least. “Fine, spoilsport. Leero’s in heat.” Nolluz snorted dismissively. “Ridiculous. Father would never allow him to remain in Service if he were going into heat.” Aosh’s eyes narrowed instantly. “Trust me, I can tell when someone’s reacting to me, and Leero never has. Just now, he was so hard when I spoke to him you’d think I was his long lost lover. I would bet my braids that he’s in the middle of heat.” Nolluz continued the argument, the small spat escalating until Aosh dumped his salad on his older brother’s head. Kasan ignored them with the ease of long practice and chewed his own food as he thought about it. There was a good chance Aosh was right. Little bugger was seldom wrong about sexual things, no matter what else he screwed up. And it wasn’t as though it was unexpected. Leero was the right age for heat, a couple years younger than Kasan. Add to that the fact that there was a frenzy currently going on? It made sense. But if that were the case, why was he still in service? Kasan would have to go talk to

father and make sure he knew what was going on. It was entirely possible that Leero wasn’t saying anything because of some strange sense of duty. He always took too much onto himself. And Kasan wanted to make sure Leero got a chance to be with someone who could make him happy. He could still remember when Tisu and Roto were mated. Kasan had been complaining about his little brother going into heat before him, and Leero had still been blurry from yakkin. Sighing drunkenly about how he was looking forward to his own heat, Leero had blathered for nearly an hour over how much he wanted a consort like the others in Kasan’s family. Someone he could Join with. Leero had denied it vehemently the next day, but Kasan had kept his eye out since then for a potential consort for his friend. He hadn’t found anyone yet who seemed just right. Kasan damn well hoped Leero had. Considering Leero’s high standards, there was a good possibility that if he hadn’t have some time to look, the heat might take over and he’d go feral. At least Kasan had avoided that with Max. The damage he could have done to Max if he’d lost himself in the heat like that– he could have nearly killed the little one. As mindless as some Kyashin were close to the end of their heat? He shuddered. His heat might have been hard to control, but not to the extent he’d heard about. Kasan had to think that the old wive’s tale was true: throwbacks weren’t hit as hard. Thank god. Kasan couldn’t have forgiven himself if he’d hurt Max like that. He doubted Leero would forgive himself either, if it were to happen to him. Tossing the towel to Nolluz, he stood up. Max was what he wanted, enough to make his guts ache right now, but Leero’s issues had to be addressed first. With that in mind, he said quick goodbyes to his brothers, glad that he’d finished the damn inventory before nightfall. After nearly an hour of searching and redirection by various family members, he found his father in consultation with the elders. He managed to wait a few sentences before interrupting. “Father, may I talk to you for a few minutes?” “Of course. I’ll meet you in the main room.” With a nod, Kasan left them to their discussion – it looked as though they were eliminating candidates from those who had volunteered to go to Tien’sa. It was gratifying to see how many people were on the list on the wall, and amazing that they’d managed to collect so many names already when nearly half the guards were still trying to hunt down the shokan. Done with the citadel and already into the city now, the last he’d heard. He should check to see if they had finished the city, yet. Another delay in seeing Max. Dammit. Perhaps they were lucky and it had left the area entirely. That would be the best he could hope for, but it still left an uneasy taste in his mouth. The thought that they might have missed the shokan lingered in his head.

He wasn’t leaving Max alone outside for a few weeks, if they didn’t find any sign of the animal. It was just too chancy. Perhaps he could teach the little one some moves to protect himself. With the spear, one of the shorter staffs that the littles trained with, or a sling. Something. Max could learn. He was frightened a lot, but he didn’t give up. Spirit was something you couldn't teach, and the little one had that in spades. Excitability too, but the spirit… Kasan grinned again, seeing Max in his head from the night before. So gorgeous, his face flushed as he tried to figure out what to do. Adorable, and sexy as hell, and….Kasan lost his train of thought as his father came in, but the Lord king could probably tell what he’d been thinking about. It was awfully hard to hide an erection AND a lack of tattoo on his chest at the same time. The knowing grin from Kyoru made Kasan get right to the point before his father started in on him. “Leero’s is in heat.” Kyoru’s ears quirked once before he smiled. “I know.” He hadn’t expected that. “But he’s still in service. Why hasn’t he been released yet?” “I have need of him; he’s agreed to stay in service until the heat’s end grows too close.” “But-” “Kasan, Leero and I have already spoken of it. It’s decided.” Kasan tried to speak again and Kyoru cut him off. “Don’t worry; he won’t be put in jeopardy. I care for him as much as you.” He suddenly grinned. “He doesn’t need much time to choose, in any case. There’s a candidate lined up already.” Kasan wondered what the hell was going on. There was something in his father’s eyes, like when he used to tease them as littles. He hadn’t seen this look on the Lord King’s face in a long, long time. Aosh and Zonta had almost never seen it at all – father had stopped playing for years after mother died – but he used to be even worse with pranks than many people accused Kasan of. Along with his genes, pranking was something Kasan came by naturally. Now he was wondering whether this grin was aimed at him, or whether he should be worried about something happening to Leero. “Are you feeling all right, father?” “I’m fine, Kasan.” “Are you sure? I know that it’s been difficult with everything that’s happening.” “I know.” Kyoru sighed, losing his smile. “It’s not an easy time right now, of course. But you are still alive. I have a new son in your consort, and Leero will be gaining a new partner as well. Despite the Niandrin and my brother, there is enough joy to focus on, Kasan. Don’t worry yourself into an early grave.”

“Father, I-” “Kasan.” Kyoru shook his head and flicked Kasan’s ear with his finger. “If you must do something, make sure you bring your little one to last meal this time so that I may see him again. He’s quite…entertaining.” “Of course.” He couldn’t argue that. Nodding carefully, he withdrew, pausing before he completely left the room. “The search for people to go to Tien’sa?” “It goes well. We will have people ready by tomorrow, and our allies have someone already there who confirmed that there are humans for sale. But Kasan…it does not sound like there are many. The rumor is that one has already sold, and they are only putting up three or four more for bidding. I don’t know if this is all they have, or if they are trying to get the best price and hiding the rest. We will need to find out.” Kasan nodded quietly, swallowing as he left. That few? That couldn’t be all of Max’s family. No one could survive on their own for this long with so few people, and for Max to be as unaware of their species as he was, they had to have been isolated. He should have asked before what size group Max was used to, but things had been so chaotic. Kasan would find out when he spoke to him next. Which would still have to wait a few more minutes. He needed to check and see if the citadel guard needed anything, check how the hunt for Shovak and the shokan went, what the other clans were saying about their own purist groups if they’d spoken to Nolluz about it already, and if anything else needed his attention, and then he could finally go see his little one. The day was far too short for everything he needed to do. He needed another pair of arms. The sudden image popped into his head of just what he could do with Max if that were the case and he ended up walking down the hall with a huge smile on his face. Pacing between the shelves in the public archives, Kasan lashed his tail irritably. Max was taking too long. Kasan’s tail lashed to the side again with a quick snap. He heard it topple a pile of scrolls right before he felt the rolled parchment ruffle his fur. Damn, not again. Within seconds, three archivists converged, making tching sounds in their throats as Kasan tried to stuff the paper irritants back on the shelf. They politely urged him to go stand ‘somewhere else.’ He’d heard that same phrase enough in the last few minutes to make him want to let out his claws and see if he could make the scholars scatter. “And Zonta wonders why I hate this place.” Kasan kept his voice low, but he didn’t really care if anyone heard him. He disliked the archives intensely. In his opinion, the reason their forefathers had kept rooms and corridors wide and open was because Kyashin originally had tails. All the shelves added to this room in the past 200 years made it so cramped that Kasan was in danger of knocking over something every time he forgot to keep his body reined in. And Zonta had kept him waiting for almost ten minutes now. What was taking him so long to bring Max over? Zonta had to know that the older archivists wouldn’t let Kasan

enter the sections containing the oldest papers. But waiting like this, when all Kasan wanted to do was see Max, was pure hell. For the first time since they were mated, Kasan could spend the entire evening with Max getting to know him instead of satisfying the heat or keeping him calm. They could make love slowly for once, just because they both enjoyed it. Considering how quickly Max was learning Hinta, Kasan thought they might be able to actually talk. Kasan could finally learn more about his husband. Like the actual size of his family that they should be looking for, or how Max got here. What he’d done before the slavers had acquired him, what he liked to eat, what he enjoyed doing…. What he really felt about Kasan. Kasan lashed his tail again, bumping against a stack of hand comps. He winced, the clacking, metallic slither echoing like a screeching yowl through the archives. He had to stop doing this. The archives were not hell, and he didn’t have to dwell on hellish, nerve wracking worries every time he came here. But he usually did, which was another reason why he avoided the place like it was infected with kouloc. The last time he’d been in the archives had been - before last year’s battle? Yes, that had been it. His first time as the Battle Leader, when he’d had Zonta look up a strategy that would work better in hill country. By the time he’d left, Kasan had been second guessing his choices already, wondering if he was ready to lead, or if he’d lose the Hinta their concessions for the year. Competitions in warfare might be a quick way to sort out political disputes, but they were still a pain in the ass. Kasan had managed to avoid thinking of it, but after waiting in the archives, the old concerns were creeping back in. He growled under his breath, dodging another low shelf. No matter how complicated his family’s situation was currently, there were only a few months left until this year’s battle. Preparations had to be made. And he had no idea what to do about Max. How was he going to keep the little one safe? Kasan had to participate, and that meant so did Max, but all the other consorts would be trained and able to defend themselves. And Max…wasn’t. Not that there’d been any deaths in years, but there were still some debilitating injuries. Any one of which could kill someone of Max’s small stature. Kasan shuddered, fighting against an image of Max lying on the ground, broken. That would not happen. Slavers and shokan and this year’s battle – it didn’t matter. Kasan wasn’t letting anything hurt Max. If he had to, he’d work with Zonta and Tisu on making sure of that. They could figure out a way to keep Max safe. Untested newbies had been forced into the battle before. It could be done. He’d simply never done it with someone he cared about so much. Kasan took a deep breath, wrapped his tail around his own thigh, and closed his eyes. God but he wanted Max. His fingers twisted in on his palms just thinking about running

them over that fluffy, golden brown hair. He wanted to see the soft blush over Max’s cheeks when Kasan flustered him into incoherency, that little smile that Kasan had only witnessed a handful of times now. It wasn’t right that the expression Kasan was most familiar with on Max was fear. Kasan growled under his breath, his tail jerking once against his leg. Dammit, he wanted to be able to look into Max’s face and tell him that everything was going to be all right. That Max’s family would be fine. That nothing was trying to hurt him anymore, not wild animals or rogue members of his family or fanatics. That Kasan hadn’t failed him. He wanted to Max to be happy. And he wanted Max to be his. Kasan’s ears flattened. He couldn’t explain it, but every time thoughts of Max entered his head, he knew he wanted something more than mating. Yes, right now, Kasan was Max’s, and Max was his. Most people would be content with that; they’d be mated for at least a couple decades. Plenty of time for feelings to deepen between them. If only his previously sane emotions would agree; right now, it didn’t seem to matter that they had time and that Kasan barely even knew Max. Even a moment alone with his consort reminded Kasan how viscerally attracted to Max he was. How Max looked, and spoke, and acted – it was permanently etched into Kasan’s bones. He didn't know how Max had invaded his mind so easily when Kasan didn’t even understand yet what went on in his consort’s head, but at the same time? The thought of life without Max felt flat and colorless. Kasan started pacing again. How would Max react to joining with Kasan for the rest of their lives? Zonta had taught him the word, hadn’t he? So Kasan could ask, but if he did, what would Max say? What if he didn’t want such a commitment? What if he didn’t feel the same way? “Of course he doesn’t feel the same yet.” Kasan’s sharp growl startled one of the younger archivists and she jumped before scurrying away. The little one had been through so much in such a short time. How could Max possibly feel as deeply as Kasan? Gisho might be enjoying their sex – thankfully – but he was separated from his family, newly mated, and on a strange world. How could there be any place left in his mind for an equally strong attachment to Kasan? But what was Kasan going to do if it never developed? Kasan lost control of his tail again and groaned as it toppled a small stack of books. Dammit, he wanted Max! What was taking Zonta so long? “Destroying the archives again?” Finally! Kasan turned, his ears rising off his head, but they stopped half-way as he faced

Zonta. His brother was clinging to a large sheaf of papers. Max wasn’t with him. Kasan peered around Zonta’s legs, just to be sure. “Where’s Max?” He couldn’t help the snap to his words. “Max?” Zonta’s own ears fluttered, then drooped. “Didn’t Waran get in touch with you? Max is already back in your rooms.” “No, he didn’t get in touch with me!” Max wasn’t here? “What the hell are you doing here if Max isn’t? I asked you to watch him, Zonta!” Zonta’s eyes narrowed. “I did. For most of the day.” “But he’s alone now!” What if he tried to go outside on his own and the shokan was there? Kasan whipped around to find him when Zonta’s voice cut him off. “Did I say he was alone?” Zonta’s voice was flat. “Waran’s with him. I thought you would feel more comfortable with family watching out for Max, so I asked him to stay until you were finished with your work.” Kasan stopped, his stomach still trembling from the adrenaline rush. He inhaled deeply to get back some control before he could turn to face his brother. “I asked you to watch him for a reason. Max doesn’t know Waran. What if Waran frightened him?” Zonta put aside the papers in his hand, laying them on the nearest table. His ears flickered in annoyance. “He’s cared for, Kasan. The poor thing was exhausted, and I was detained here. I was not going to make Max suffer because I cannot keep up with my own workload. Besides, he’s an adult. If he were worried over Waran, he would have found a way to make it clear.” “He’s fragile, and high-strung. And you’ve seen how he acts when he’s startled; he might hurt himself trying to get away. What if Waran couldn’t keep track of him?” Zonta snorted. “Do you really think that’s likely?” Kasan’s ears went back as he heard the tone in Zonta’s voice. His youngest brother used it primarily when he thought one of his older brothers were acting like an idiot. Kasan flicked his ear for it. “Don’t be a brat. It’s a legitimate worry.” “For a first time parent, perhaps. Don’t be so overprotective. Give Max a little room.” Zonta sighed, closing his eyes. He looked tired. Kasan caught himself before he spoke again. He wasn’t going to apologize – Max needed special care, and Zonta of all people was aware of that. But he could calm down. A little. As long as Max was safe… “Waran knows what he was supposed to do?” “He knows to stay with Max until you arrive. He was going to take him to Lastmeal, but obviously that’s not necessary now.” Zonta’s ears fluttered back to their normal position. “I’m sorry that you wasted the trip here. I should have thought to have one of the other guards get in touch. Waran has so much on his mind right now…”

Kasan nodded. Zonta looked exhausted. Had it been that difficult today? What about for Max? Reaching out to touch his finger to Zonta’s lips, Kasan softened his tone. “Forgiven. I’m sorry the day was so arduous.” Zonta shook his head, a smile creeping in. “Only the last hour or so. Max was an enormous help. Elder Minoru retrieved some of the documents from the Reconstruction, and Max was actually able to read them. The translation is still going to take some time, until Max learns more Hinta, but we made definite progress. With his knowledge…I can’t tell you what a benefit having Max in the family is going to be, Kasan. Even for other clans. There are so many records that we’ve never been able to understand, including some that might pre-date the citadel’s creation.” He paused and his ears lowered. “There has to be something in there that would help us reprogram the citadel’s defenses.” Kasan caught the stress in his voice and suddenly Zonta’s irritability made sense. He reached out again, rubbing Zonta’s ear. “Worrying about Aosh?” Zonta nodded jerkily. “You know how he feels about our tec constraints. It’s been wearing on him lately how little he can contribute, hamstrung like that. If something doesn’t change soon, I’m worried he’ll try and leave for another family.” Kasan nodded, adding that to the growing pile of concerns to be dealt with. He should mention this to father. “I’ll talk to him.” “No, please. Don’t. It’ll just put his back up. He wouldn’t like to know I mentioned it.” Zonta’s ears flattened and Kasan nodded slowly. He’d still try to figure out how to keep Aosh from making a serious mistake, however. “I wish he could- Never mind. Can Max come to the archives tomorrow to continue the translation?” “Not on his own.” “Don’t worry, I’ll work with him.” Kasan sighed. “Zonta, you have training tomorrow, remember? I know; I double checked the schedule to see when you were busy this week.” “Training can wait.” “No, it can’t. You postponed it last week and then ‘forgot’ to set a time to make it up. You need to keep up with this as much as with your studies.” Zonta frowned and Kasan flicked his ear. “How are you going to help us with planning for Battles after your mating if you can’t help us in Battle? Train tomorrow. You can study with Max the day after.” Zonta grumbled, disgruntled. Kasan kept his encouraging smile until he turned to leave. He frowned as soon as Zonta couldn’t see his ears anymore. Aosh, thinking about leaving. Yet another problem to deal with, but at least it was a familiar one.

It was hard to wrap his mind around Max working as an archivist, though. Kasan knew Max was smart, but thinking of him working was…strange. Did Gisho even want that? And if he did, why was the thought so disquieting? Max as a working member of society, earning a place in the family, interacting with people every day - without Kasan. Kasan pushed open the door exiting the archives and frowned again. He felt…. He felt left behind. Max was his consort. His. Kasan had barely had the time needed to exchange more than a few words with the little one ever since they’d mated. He didn’t want to damn well share his consort with everyone else, this soon, when they hadn’t even had enough time together yet. Kasan didn’t want to chance losing Max’s interest before he was sure he had it in the first place. Which was unfair and selfish on Kasan’s part, if that meant keeping Max from something he took pleasure in. But Kasan couldn’t help one last growl as he imagined it. He’d rather lock them both away for a week or two so they could make love, and talk, and Kasan could feed Max new foods just to see his eyes go wide in surprise over the tastes. While the rest of the world waited to continue until they got back, of course. Kasan’s ears slapped against his head and he blew out his breath. That was never going to happen. But at least for tonight, he could spend time alone with his consort. If he hurried. He jogged the rest of the way to his room. Waran and Quim were standing guard outside his room when he arrived; both their ears flattened for the briefest moment when they saw him. Max wasn’t with them. “Where’s Max?!” What the hell did Waran think he was doing out here without Max? And if he had guard duty, what had he been doing down in the archives fetching Max? It was still mid-shift. “He’s inside the room.” Waran smiled as though Kasan’s claws weren’t slipping out. “Don’t worry; you don’t need to take a break from your work just to check on him. Seamus will be taking over my shift early. I’m still able to take your consort to Lastmeal.” “I’m done,” Kasan growled, cutting himself off when Waran’s ears drooped. Control, he reminded himself. Max was safe; that’s what mattered. “You were supposed to stay in the room with him, Waran. Max needs looking after. If you had other commitments that kept you from doing your duty, you should have told Zonta.” Waran’s ears went down further. His eyes glinted. “Your consort didn’t wish for anyone to be in the room with him, and Seamus felt that we should adhere to his wishes.” He cleared his throat. “After that, I asked if I could change shifts so I could remain nearby. I

have not been neglecting my duties, Prince Kasan.” Kasan scowled. Waran only used the title when he was annoyed. But the man should have known better. “Tell Seamus to get off his ass and box me, next time there’s a conflict.” If Shoru’s ill health was affecting Waran’s judgment this way, maybe the man needed to take a few days off. “Of course.” Waran’s jaw was tense and angry. “You can take the end of this shift off, if Seamus is spelling you. I’ll go with Max to Lastmeal.” Both men’s ears quivered sharply. “You- You don’t have anything else to finish today?” Waran asked slowly. “Nothing that can’t wait. I’m going to spend the rest of the evening with Max.” Waran and Quim exchanged a look and Kasan wondered what it was supposed to mean. And then why Quim was there at all. “Wasn’t Zerard supposed to be on shift with Seamus today? Or did he get caught up in the frenzy, too?” Waran paused and then smiled, nodding. “You know how it goes; the young ones are so easily overwhelmed. Quim was able to take over after Zerard left. We have it covered. And truly, if you have things you need to do, I would be happy to take your consort to the meal for you. It would be no trouble at all. I-” Kasan opened the door and patted Waran’s shoulder as he passed. “Thank you, Waran, but the only thing I need to do is spend time with Max.” He shut the door on them, ignoring the determined look on Waran’s face. With a nasty consort like Shoru, Waran was unlikely to understand how happy Kasan was to simply be with Max. Who was fast asleep, as usual. Kasan smiled as he walked to the bed. Max was curled up in a small ball, taking a nap in a nest of pillows like some exotic baby bird. His head was partially buried under a black velvet pillow. He looked sweet. Vulnerable. Sexy. God but Kasan wanted him. “Max?” Max didn’t move and Kasan shook his shoulder gently. His little one slept on, stretching once and turning over onto his back. He started to snore softly. “You do sleep with a will, don’t you, Gisho?” Kasan gently shook his shoulder again. Max’s face scrunched into a grimace. He kicked out once with a grunt and settled, his legs splayed wide. Grinning, Kasan reached down and cupped the now-visible bulge of Max’s testicles through the fabric of his loincloth. Max stopped grimacing, but he still didn’t wake. Kasan leaned down and nipped at Max’s bottom lip. And then spoke more loudly. “Max! Wake up, little one! If you sleep too much now, you’ll never get to sleep tonight!” Max blinked his eyes once, seemed to register Kasan, and then let his lids drift shut again.

“Max!” Another slow blink and then Max’s sleepy face brightened with a sudden, sweet smile. “Kasan?” It was the expression Kasan felt like he’d been waiting all day just to see. “Hello, sweetheart.” Kasan brushed his fingers over Max’s small sac as he withdrew. Max’s smile faded and his face flushed. “Uh. I-” He glanced down at where Kasan’s hand was removing itself and clamped his thighs together. “H-hello.” They stared at each other until Max stumbled up out of the cushions with an awkward cast to his limbs, scooting them around self-consciously. Smiling again, Kasan stood back to let him up. Max shuffled about, trying unsuccessfully to scoot himself over the pillows and off the bed. He grumbled as he finally had to stand and walk. Kasan couldn’t stop smiling, his eyes taking in everything about Max, from his tousled hair to the rosy tint to his cheeks. Max’s eyes shied away as he soon as he noticed. He immediately tripped on a large teal pillow. Kasan caught him with a laugh. “Careful, Max. One day, you’re going to fall and I won’t be there to catch you.” Max flushed was brighter. “Yeah, been there, done that,” he mumbled. He squirmed until Kasan let his feet reach the floor. Looking down at the top of his head, Kasan was reminded – as though he needed a reminder –of how small Max really was. The little one would have to go on tiptoes just to lick Kasan’s nipple. And no matter how thoughtful Waran was, he wasn’t Zonta. He hadn’t studied humans so that he was aware of their fragility, and their issues. Even on something as safe as the bed, Max seemed determined to injure himself. The walk back with Waran could have been a complete disaster. Kasan frowned just as Max looked up at him. He had to keep him safe. “You should have stayed with Zonta.” “Huh?” Max tilted his head. “Why?” “Zonta knows you, Zonta knows what you need, and Zonta is the person I asked to watch you.” Max stared at him and Kasan wasn’t sure what he expression on his face meant. “Still feeling like a slave,” Max muttered. “I’m safe.” “No.” Kasan changed tactics when Max’s eyes widened. “All right, yes, you’re safe, but it was Zonta’s responsibility to make sure you were safe, Max. To protect you.” Max struggled with something, his face scrunching up in a particularly cute manner. “Kasan… That’s not- Ugh, this is so frustrating!” Max took a deep breath. “I like that Kasan think of Max.” He didn’t sound as though he liked it. “I just don’t want to be some

sex-toy alien-husband thing that has no life but to get passed around and get screwed, okay? I want to- I want to freaking do something.” “Max? I can’t understand you.” “Dammit.” Max began to pace, gesturing with his arms as he picked up speed. “Max want to take care of Max. Sort of. Not that I wouldn’t mind some help with the blobs and the big freaky cats, and the perverts, but I can at least pick what I want to do, and where I want to walk. Eventually. Right? I’m not a stupid kid, Kasan! I just- I take care of… me.” “Max, you’re too small.” Far too small. Max clenched his fists. “Maybe you’re too damn big. I might need help sometimes, yeah. Who doesn’t need help when you’re all big, lecherous mutants? But…I….” Max struggled with something and Kasan sat down on the bed. He pulled Max onto his lap. Max glared at him, squirming again. It was rather adorable. Max’s finger poked Kasan in the nose. “Max is not a toy.” “I didn’t think you were.” “Max is not weak.” Kasan hugged him around the back, reveling in the feel of his pert ass clenched on Kasan’s thighs. “I know. Not many could survive an entirely new culture so soon after the loss of their family. I have every respect for your strength, little one.” He rubbed Max’s back, trying to sooth him. “Max can look after himself.” Kasan’s hand paused as he really thought about that. Should he be honest? “I’m sorry, Max. I don’t agree.” Max growled. “Max is adult!” Kasan wished he could make Max understand. “I know that. But you’re so ignorant about the Hinta, yet, Gisho. There is so much here that could harm you, and you are not even close to knowing what all the dangers are. Even one of the littles could injure you if they happened to catch you alone. I know you want to have more independence.” Kasan thought that’s what Max wanted, if he was reading it right. “But you have a lot to learn, still. You need looking after. You…you need help, still.” You need me. Max’s eyes focused inwards, confused. Kasan sighed; the little one probably hadn’t caught all that. Simpler might be better. “Max, you can’t look after himself.” “That’s bullshit, Kasan.” Max stared up at him and bit at his lips while he half-glared. “Yeah, I don’t know what the hell’s going on, and maybe I trip over my own feet sometimes, but I’m not an imbecile! And I hate Waran. He’s a creepy freaking bastard. And if you think I need to be taken care of all the time, you can- you can just do it yourself and stop running off everywhere so I’m all alone in this stupid room all the time!

“Because I’m telling you, if you leave me alone here one more time, I’m going to get Androcles to slobber all over you. Maybe you’ll remember what a pet really is, then, huh? Androcles is a dog; I’m a person. Not a dog. Which you should know. Dog saliva is nothing like mine, you big, honking-” Max stopped, his voice cut off as Kasan gave into an urge and kissed him. Max’s tongue slid against his own, curling around it when Kasan sucked it into his mouth. Kasan could do this every moment for the rest of his life and never grow tired of it. They were both breathing heavily when Max pulled away. The little one grumbled under his breath, his fingers trembling. “Just have to be good at that, don’t you? I bet you do it on purpose, too. Just to drive me crazy. Because this is insane, you know that, right? I’m an insane nympho now.” Kasan rubbed his hand over Max’s back again, making soothing sounds. Max all hot and bothered was something he’d been waiting for all day, but he wished the little one wasn’t quite so upset. Dammit, he hated still not being able to understand him. “Soon, Max. You can tell me everything soon, when you have the words. Although I won’t compromise on your safety. You can hate me for it as much as you like. But it’s my duty to care for you, precious. And I enjoy doing it.” Kasan smiled as he looked Max over and rubbed a dusty smudge off Max’s nose. “Right now, that means I can help get you clean.” Kasan popped Max on the bed and walked over to the shelf with the cleaning oils. He picked out a new rag. Max sighed behind him. “What, you kiss me and then that’s it? I thought we were going to have sex? And why do we need the oils again? Not that you don’t look really hot when you put the oil on your cock and-” Max stuttered to a stop and then started grumbling again. “Why can’t you have non-perverted ways to clean people? Hasn’t anyone here ever heard of a shower? Or even a bath?” “What did you say?” Kasan walked back with the cloth, wondering as Max paused and looked at him with a struck expression. “Kasan? Kyashin have big water to clean in?” It was no effort to stop. Kasan barely registered that he had stopped. “Big pool of water? To wash in? You want to wash in water? To…take a bath?” The smile that lit up Max’s face had Kasan’s cock so hard it was awkward. Max wanted a bath? A bath? “Yes! A bath! You have these?” The oil dropped to the floor and Kasan had to pick it up quickly before it all poured out. Saliva pooled in his mouth. Max wanted to go to the baths. Max couldn’t know what that meant. Probably. Did humans even bathe the same way? But what if he did? Kasan hadn’t even dreamed they’d be taking a bath together for

weeks yet, if not months, not with the state of Max’s nerves. But he looked so excited right now, the frustration from earlier erased entirely. Max…Max seemed to really want it. Max was looking forward to it. “We…have baths. But Max, how human’s take baths?” He had to be sure there was no miscommunication here. “How do we-? Uh, we get clean? In water?” That sounded the same, for part of it. “Do you do…anything else?” “What the hell else is there? Uh, clean hair? Use liquid, like cleaning oil? That ‘anything else?’ Or more?” Kasan swallowed, envisioning Max covered in oil, hair damp and shining. “Yes,” he said hoarsely. “More.” He could lay Max down on the furs and stroke him until he was incoherent, babbling in his human language non-stop, then fill him so slowly they were both writhing with the need to come. And then they could do it again. Max shifted, staring into Kasan’s eyes. His pupils darkened, leaving only a thin circle of blue around them. His cheeks were pink when he spoke again. “Kasan mean sex.” Kasan smiled slowly. Max wasn’t trying to step away from him. “Yes.” Max’s hand gripped the fabric of his tunic. “Of course you do. Couldn’t have something non-perverted in cat land, could we? Dammit, why are you all so-” Kasan drew a finger down Max’s arm and the little one swallowed heavily. “W-Want to know, humans have sex in baths?” “Yes.” “I- Uh.” Max licked his lips. “Yes. We have sex and bath. Sometimes.” Kasan moved one step closer and the little one shifted his head to look up at him, still flushed. But Max stood his ground. “This time?” Kasan whispered. “Sex and bath this time?” Max chewed the lip between his teeth. His feet shifted again. He looked up at Kasan, down at his body, and then down at his own hands. Taking a deep breath, he straightened his shoulders. “I- I don’t know…” Those blue, beautiful eyes looked up through dark lashes. “Y- Yeah. Okay. This time.” Kasan grabbed Max’s hand before his consort changed his mind and tossed the oil back to the shelf. Max started sputtering before they even hit the door. “Kasan, woah! What are you-”

Max tripped and fell against Kasan as they both paused to open the door. Kasan turned back, wrapped his arm around Max’s waist, and kept going. Waran called out as Kasan raced through the door. “Kasan, wait. I needed to ask you-” “I’ll be back after Lastmeal. We’re going to the baths!” He grinned as he glanced back, ignored their odd looks, and pulled Max along. He hadn’t turned the corner before he realized that they weren’t going nearly fast enough, even if Max was scampering to keep up. Kasan picked up Max and chuckled when his consort smacked him in the chest. “Dammit, Kasan, what the hell?” “Shhh, Max. Don’t worry. We’ll get there soon. In fact, here, hold on to my neck, we’ll get there faster.” Max glared at him. “Where?” Kasan pulled him in close and nuzzled his hair as he moved. “The baths, Max. We’re going to the baths.” Max finally stopped squirming. “Oh. Bath not in Kasan’s room?” “No. Very big baths, not here. Now hold on!” Max did, a blush staining his cheeks as he wrapped his arms around Kasan’s neck. Kasan grinned and ran full out down the corridors. They’d have to get to the heart of the citadel, where the springs came up, warmed in the bathing chambers. If he didn’t want to waste their time together, he was going to get there as quickly as he could. A few cousins tried to hail him and he simply yelled out, “Baths!” as he passed. Most responded with a grin, some with yelled out suggestions. Aosh stared at him as he ran by, and did both. Max’s face was crimson by the time they arrived at the in front of the glided doors that separated the baths from the rest of the citadel. Putting him on his feet, Kasan watched Max carefully to make sure he hadn’t changed his mind. He couldn’t always understand his husband, but it was moments like this when he felt that somehow, he still knew Max. Max wasn’t having second thoughts. His face flushed so brightly he glowed, but his eyes were clear, he wasn’t chewing on his lip, and he looked at the door impatiently until Kasan finally opened it for both of them. Time to go take their first bath together. The enormous bathing chamber contained dozens of naturally formed pools in golden stone, ranging in size from single person tubs to miniature lakes that could hold an entire family, cousins included. Small passages led out of the main area to smaller, more secluded, sections. Kasan’s ancestors had chiseled out bathing seats, benches, and small alcoves that had since been filled with whatever comforts a couple might need.

Kasan preferred the smaller rooms to the side, stocked with furs and oils. He watched Max for his reaction, wondering what would catch his consort’s fancy. The little one hadn’t said a word yet. At least this time, Kasan knew that it wasn’t other Kyashin intimidating his little Gisho; the baths were completely empty. He hadn’t thought about what might happen if there were others enjoying a hot soak, but it was probably for the best they were alone. Max could completely relax this way, away from everyone but Kasan. The last thing they needed was for someone to walk by when they were enjoying themselves in one of the alcoves and scare Max in the midst of playing. Not to mention that Kasan still wasn’t too happy with the idea of anyone seeing all of Max. He could accept that it would happen some day – that it had already happened with his brothers, the rats. It was a rare couple that made it through their years of heat without a few public displays. But he didn’t really want it to happen today. He wanted to hold Max and play with him and revel in the little one when he was safe and happy and aroused. They could even talk. The shokan hunters didn’t need him until their shift ended, there was no volunteering for Tien’sa, and Shovak could wait. Now it was time for Kasan and Max to finally, finally have some time to themselves. “Holy crap.” Max stared around the baths with his mouth still hanging open. His eyes were rounder than normal. “Max like?” “Hell yes, Max like! Wow. This is like something out of a Greek fantasy house. Just… wow.” Max almost tumbled into the water, loincloth and all, as he stared up at the ceiling and took a few steps forward. “Watch where you walk, Max.” Since the little one didn’t seem attached to one bath more than another, Kasan steered him away from the edge of a deep pool and headed towards one that was a bit more shallow, with seats carved into the sides below the water level. It was the one his brothers usually preferred, big enough for the whole family, including the littles, to swim in while they soaked. The rough path there was slick enough to be a bit slippery, with steam wafting around them from the heated water. “This beautiful, Kasan.” Max’s eyes couldn't seem to stay still. He looked at everything, including the small hollowed rooms near their pool. The furs inside sparkled with droplets of condensed steam. “I’m glad you like it. We can come here at least once or twice a week.” Any more would dry out his skin far too much, even with help from various oils afterward. He’d had plenty of time to itch himself into a rash when he was too young to be persuaded that moderation was a virtue. He’d learned his lesson since then. “Do you want to bathe now?”

Max nodded after a moment’s thought. He gestured to the bath Kasan had led them to. “This one?” “It’s a little deep for you, but not too much, I think. And there’s plenty of places to rest on if you get tired of keeping your head out of the water.” With a smile, Kasan shucked his loincloth and stepped into the pool, groaning in pleasure once he was chest deep and sitting down. The heat pressed against his skin like a massage. Max didn’t join him. He looked hypnotized by Kasan’s loincloth on the ground, going so far as to toe it to the side. “No clothes?” His voice was a bit squeaky. “No. Not unless you want your clothes wet.” Max shifted uncomfortably, looking around the large, open room. He scrunched his eyes shut, took a deep breath, muttered something grumpy and soft, and burst into action. He stripped himself and stumbled into the water so quickly the water splashed around him in a fountain. Kasan wiped the water from his face before he found Max. The little one had to kneel on one of the benches just to keep his head out of the water, and he cheeks were more flushed than they should be. Was he going to be all right? “Max? Too hot for you? If it is, we can move to a-” “No. No, Max good. Just wasn’t expecting a naked bath room, is all.” “Max?” “Max good.” He leaned his head back against the back of the bench, ending the conversation, and Kasan waded through the water and sat next to him. He might have thought Max hadn’t even noticed except his entire body stiffened. There was movement underneath the wavy reflection of the water around his groin. Kasan almost reached down to check, but Max did seem relaxed right now. They’d have time for that in a few minutes. Right now was time for other things. Right now…it was enough to simply be, quiet and comfortable with Max, with nothing else they had to do. It was surprising how relaxing that actually was. Kasan didn’t tend to need to talk to fill the silence, but even so, he didn’t often feel this complete. They sat there, saying nothing. Max’s hand brushed against Kasan’s when the water eddied around them and encouraged the touch. The steam deepened every moment the door remained closed. Max’s hair dampened and started to curl at the edges, framing his face. Kasan must have been staring more than he realized, because Max turned to look at him, one soft eyebrow quirking up as his blue eyes stared up. He was so damned beautiful. Kasan swallowed and took an unsteady breath. Could he ask Max about joining? Was this the right time? They were alone, Max was at peace, and they were both…aroused. Perhaps he should…

“Max…” “Hmm?” Max smiled briefly. “Yes?” “I wanted to know if-” Kasan floundered, his throat refusing to let through air as Max blinked at him innocently. “-if, ah…” Max blinked again, condensation gathering in glistening drops over his bangs and kissing his eyelashes. He was so damned perfect. Would he even want-? “Ah…could you tell me about your family?” Kasan closed his eyes. Coward. But…he should wait. Wait until pleasure was foremost in Max’s mind, overshadowing the unpleasantness. Kasan had to remind him of what good there was between them, first. Then he’d ask if Max wanted to join with him, forever. That would be best. He opened his eyes when Max prodded him in the chest. “Max?” “You want know family?” Max’s voice was uncertain. “Other humans?” Kasan nodded, and Max shrugged uncomfortably. He hesitated, biting his lip in that sexy way he had that made Kasan want to forget talking altogether so he could nibble on it, too. “What want know?” Kasan thought of what he didn’t know: everything. Not even answers to some of the simplest questions. “Have you ever seen a Kyashin before me, Max?” “Kyashin? You and Zonta and family – all Kyashin?” “Yes, Kyashin like us.” Max shook his head. “You first I see.” “You know about us?” Another head shake. “The Infinitum Coalition? The Triad?” Max shook his head again, chewing on his lip. So he had been as isolated as Kasan had thought. Nearly everyone had heard of the Kyashin, and Kasan couldn’t even think of somewhere so backwoods as to not have at least heard of what had happened to the scientists of Infinitum. Their destruction had prompted the first galactic alliance to hunt down and destroy the damn Triad bastards. Everyone knew the story. It was the basis for most of the treaties that still existed today. It was the reason galactic standard had been created as a language in the first place. It was the reason so many species no longer ignored what their planetary neighbors were doing; it was far too easy for tyrants and conquerors to decide to move on to your planet once they were done with those closest to them. So how could Max not know this? “Max, what planet are you from?”

“Kasan not know?” Kasan shook his head and Max seemed to wilt a little. “Yeah, that’d be too easy, wouldn’t it. From Earth.” That wasn’t one Kasan was familiar with at all. He’d have to check with the archivists to see if any of them had heard of it. “Far away?” Max nodded slowly, sinking into the water and staring at it blankly. “Yes. I- Yes. Far away. I think.” “You know where far away? Know how to get back home?” Max shook his head mutely; he looked as forlorn as Kasan had ever seen him. There was no way Kasan could watch him, eyes bleak, without picking him up and putting him on his lap. Max startled, but when Kasan wrapped his arms around him and simply pulled him against his chest, the little one leaned against him and sighed heavily. “I’m sorry, Gisho.” If the archivists knew of this Earth, maybe they knew where it was, as well. Or maybe Max might know something that could help them trace his path back home. “How did you get to Kyashin, little one? Do you remember?” If he could remember, they could find out how Shovak contacted slavers. Max looked up at him, shifting, the warm water making his thighs slide against Kasan’s. Kasan could see awareness blush into life on Max’s face. His consort spoke as though his face weren’t practically on fire. “I…how I go here?” “Do you know?” Max shrugged oddly. “In ship to new planet. Sleep in ship. Wake here.” Kasan blinked. He hadn’t expected that. “Wait…you don’t know how you got here?” “Wake here.” “But…you don’t remember the Niandrin?” Max looked at him blankly. “The slavers… Niandrin. They are large, like Kyashin. But gaunt and beaked. Their speech is like birdsong.” Max shrugged again. “Sleep in ship, wake here. No…no Nee-ahn-drin. Just...” He flushed and shifted on Kasan’s lap again. “Just Kasan. Kasan not…not see Max’s ship?” It was Kasan’s turn to shake his head. “The Niandrin brought you to us, little one. I don’t know where your ship is.” Except he had a very good idea where it might be. If Max was in a ship, and the Niandrin were selling other humans, then they had to have the ship. Fucking slaving slime. “Were your family on the ship with you?” Max hesitated a long moment and finally nodded. “Humans on ship.” “A small ship, yes?” “No. Big ship.”

Oh no… “How many people, Max?” “Um…many tens.” Kasan clutched Max tighter before he could stop himself. That many? What had happened to them all? Were they already sold again? Hidden away? Or worse, dead? Max pressed his cheek against Kasan’s chest, seemingly content to stay there. His voice was a soft murmur. “I wish I knew where they were. Just to know what the hell happened.” Kasan blew out his breath, already feeling guilty. He didn’t know what Max had said, but he could guess by the wistful tone in his voice. The little one missed his family. Of course he did. Kasan couldn’t even imagine separation from every member of his family, all at once. Dammit. He wanted so badly to be able to produce the humans and bring them back for Max. The words to tell Max that they’d found them were on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn't say them. Raising the little one’s hopes only to dash them if something went wrong was worse than cruel. It could break him. But not telling him…was he hiding something from Max that his consort had a right to know? Kasan’s tail swished under the water, uncertain what to do. He finally chose to say nothing. At least until they had people on Tien’sa. A day wouldn’t hurt either of them, and it might help Max feel a little more connected to everyone before he got the news. He tried to ignore that a day might have Max agree to join with him already, too. If his consort didn’t know there were more humans nearby, he might be more willing to stay… “We’re looking for them.” Kasan blurted it out before his own selfish thought could finish. His ears went flat in shame. “For…for humans?” Nodding, noting how Max’s body grew stiff, wriggling now until Kasan let him go, Kasan frowned. “We think… we think the Niandrin found you and your family. Selling them. We’re going to get them back.” Max stared at him from the seat next to him on the bench, his head tilted, an unreadable expression on his face. “You- you find humans?” “We’ll bring them here, as soon as we find them. I promise, Max. We’ll find them. You don’t have to worry, we won’t--” Kasan was cut off as Max launched himself, hugging Kasan around the chest. He looked up from Kasan’s midsection and pushed up to kiss Kasan once, clumsy but enthusiastic. “Thank you.” Another kiss. “Thank you so much.” He wrapped his arms around Kasan’s neck and pressed his face there. “Fuck. Thank you so, so much.” “Max?” Did he understand? “We don’t have the humans now. Not now. We’re looking. I don’t know…I don’t know how many of your family we will find. Do you understand?”

“Understand.” Max paused and his finger went up to carefully press against the middle of Kasan’s lips in a lingering thanks. “You help Max, yes?” Kasan nodded and Max smiled. “Max happy.” Kasan nodded again and shook the water out of his face as Max pushed backward and flopped into the water, soaking him. And to his amazement, that was the last Max said about it. He didn’t ask more questions, he didn’t even seem angry that Kasan had attempted to withhold the information. The fact that they were attempting to retrieve his family was somehow enough for the little one. Kasan still didn't think he’d ever fully understand him. If the same had been done to him, Kasan would have torn apart the offender. Which made him feel even worse that he’d been contemplating doing this to Max. But it made him want Max even more. Such a loving, sweet… Max splashed him full in the face, chortling as Kasan sneezed. “Ha, now I know why you don’t take a lot of baths. You look like a drowned rat.” Kasan leaped for him and Max scrambled away, snorting a mouthful of water as he laughed. Kasan teased at catching him, grabbing his hips and legs and letting him slip away simply to feel that slick skin slide through his hands. And to watch him squirm, and laugh again. He’d never played with him before. Kasan didn’t want to push it; he was worried something might happen to frighten Max and ruin the moment. Letting Max make it to the edge of the bath and pull himself up onto the small seat embedded there near the top, Kasan stayed in the middle of the pool. Kasan held out his hands, weaponless. Peaceful. “Max win.” Max panted slightly, leaning back against the edge, grinning with a triumphant gleam in his eyes. Water sheeted off Max’s chest, following the lines of his torso. Kasan wanted to lick down the same path. Kasan’s cock thickened under the water. Max’s thighs were spread, his balls resting on warmed stone. The flaccid length of his cock lay half over his leg as though it were snuggling against his thigh. Kasan let him rest there, long enough to drink him in, and then he lunged. Snagging him by the waist, Kasan ignored Max’s startled yell and pulled him in tight. And then he dunked them both under the water. The second they surfaced, Max pushed his wet hair off his forehead, laughing. The look of him branded itself into Kasan’s brain. Max looked so at peace. That was what Kasan had been wanting to see, all this time. Max without the worry and fear that had dogged him since he’d been Kasan’s consort. Kasan would be willing to come to the baths every damn day, if it made Max look like

this. The dry skin would be worth it. “Let down, Kasan.” Max smiled as he said it. Kasan smiled back and slid one hand down to cup Max’s bottom. He pulled him in until Max couldn’t miss his erection. “Kiss first.” That quickly, Max sobered. He squirmed. “Uh…Kasan.” “Kiss first.” One long pause, and Max nodded and tilted his face up. Kasan pulled him up and rested his lips against Max’s. He licked the water from them, tracing the edge of Max’s lips and letting the soft warmth of them caress his tongue. He made little kisses along the edges of Max’s lips, dabbing away the water. But he didn’t penetrate his mouth, even when it opened on a small sigh. Max finally opened his eyes on the third round of small, teasing licks. He looked so disgruntled Kasan chuckled. “You don’t like my kiss, Max?” Kasan chuckled again at his flush, then lowered his voice. “Would you like to get out of the baths now?” Max licked his lips and glanced at the nearest alcove. His skin took on a rosier hue than the hot water left on it. “Bath and…sex?” Kasan nodded. Scooping Max up higher, he carried him out of the bath without another word. Max’s eyes dropped instantly as soon as the head of Kasan’s cock cleared the water, trapped between their bodies. “Kasan?” Water dripping down their legs, Kasan carried them both to the nearest alcove. “Yes?” “Have to have sex?” That gave him pause. Was Max having second thoughts? Kasan didn’t want to take away that look from his face. God, it would hurt, but if Max didn’t want to…. “There does not need to be sex, no. Not if Max does not want so.” Max nodded, but his cock stiffened against Kasan’s stomach. Kasan felt a smirk hit his lips. “Mmm, Max wants to.” Max wouldn’t meet his eyes. Kasan carried them all the way into the shadowy interior beside the baths, trying to be patient. Max finally nodded. “Yeah. Sex is…sex is good. But here? Very…open.” “No one is here, Max,” Kasan purred. Max shivered, staring up at him. Kasan slid him down his body until Max’s feet touched the thick, dark furs carpeting the stone floor. There was enough light from the common room to shine through the doorway and illuminate the flush still on Max’s cheeks.

Bottles of oil lined a small built in shelf along the wall. Just what he needed. Usually Kasan preferred a lover after the baths, but oils would be a necessity today. He didn’t think Max had the proper saliva to help Kasan’s skin. Hopefully, the after-bath ritual would help Max get in the right mood without losing the joy he’d found in the water. “Max, can you rub oils into my skin?” “Oils?” Max looked away from Kasan’s body to the bottle Kasan placed in his hand. His pupils dilated. “The water dries my skin too much. I need oil after a bath to keep it healthy. Better for me.” Max didn’t move except to shift his stare back to Kasan’s chest. He swallowed heavily. Kasan smiled, encouraging, and stepped away. Glancing once at Max, Kasan carefully lay face down on the furs and waited. He thought if he wasn’t looking at Max then his consort might be more comfortable. Kasan heard Max make his way over and kneel down next to his legs. “Uh – oil where?” Kasan smiled to himself, turning his head away so Max couldn't see. The little one was so sweet. “Everywhere but my hair and fur.” Max swallowed and Kasan could smell the earthy-flower scent of the oil as Max poured a bit out. “O-okay. H-here goes.” Max’s fingers slid tentatively over the balls of Kasan’s feet and paused as though the touch might be wrong. Kasan mmmm’d against the fur. “Feels nice, little one.” Max’s fingers grew a little more confident, the oil spreading across the sole of one foot, over the top, in between his toes, and then the smoothing over the other foot just as gently. After they were coated, Max’s thumbs pressed in along the length of his foot in a wave that made his toes curl. Kasan hadn’t even realized he was tense, but his feet were relaxing against the furs as the little one’s hands went from one to the other and spread the oil and his touch along Kasan’s skin in a sensual glide. More oil drizzled up Kasan’s calves and Max’s fingers went to work there as well, the fingers and thumb digging in, pressing out the knots in this muscle and leaving something soothing and hot behind. When Max got above the knees, he hesitated. Kasan opened his mouth to ask if it was too much and then Max’s hands were moving up Kasan’s thighs. Softly stroking the oil along the outside of his legs, running just the tips of his fingers over the backs of them and then a stuttering dab at the inner edge of his thighs. Kasan’s tail twitched and brushed up against Max’s naked body, stroking it back. This was more than a massage. He heard Max’s breathing hitch. The scent of his arousal was just strong enough to catch over the scent of the oil. Kasan had been prepared for the touching. They both had – almost no one left the baths without sex, not when couples usually did this with their tongues instead of the oils. But

Kasan hadn’t expected this. The feel of Max’s hands, caressing him with oiled hands while Kasan tried not to move, was…it was new. He was getting so hot, so quickly, he had to shift to keep his cock from hardening in a painful position against the fur. Max had never touched him like this before, not really. Not any time they’d had sex had Max’s hands been so focused on Kasan, with Kasan able to melt underneath them. He’d not really noticed; he was usually so hot to have Max that he didn’t even care. But Max’s hands were working their way up this thighs now. He could feel each finger gliding over every subtle bulge of his muscles, working their way closer to where his balls lay against the floor. Nervous fingertips grazed the back of his balls with small, fine strokes that shouldn’t have been strong enough to make his body react like this, but their very lack of assurance made him quiver. Max wasn’t a confident lover. Kasan knew that; he found it both endearing and erotic. Especially now. Gisho’s fingers made a slight foray to the front of Kasan’s sac as Kasan tried desperately not to move and simply let him explore. There was one small stroke of erotic intent, along Kasan’s seam, with fingers that shook. Soft and stuttering, they rubbed back and forth uncertainly. Kasan carefully spread his legs and felt Max move in closer. He knelt between Kasan’s legs and the outside of his thighs brushed against the oil and smeared it over them both. Kasan could barely keep himself still; he shifted his tail, wrapped it around Max’s back. Max ran one hand over it and Kasan buried his face in the fur and groaned. Max could arouse him like no one he’d ever met. Max stopped where Kasan’s thighs met his ass and Kasan groaned again when Max hesitated and then skipped it entirely. With a small stumble, Max climbed up until he straddled Kasan’s back. “Kasan? Hand?” Kasan was far too focused on the little one’s ass perched just above his own to understand what he’d asked for a moment. His hand? The little one was going to ignore the rest of him and oil his hand now? His consort was going to kill him slowly. Kasan moved his arms to lay them on the fur. With a nervous sigh, Max moved from the base of Kasan’s hand to the tip, circling his thumbs over Kasan’s palms in small outwards circles, then moving to his wrist and forearms and pushing along the length of his muscles. Up to his shoulders and neck, where Max spent a very long time pressing in with his hands. And every time he moved, he rubbed himself against Kasan’s back while he tried to dig in deep. Kasan could feel Max’s thighs clamped around his back, knees not quite on the ground as the little one tried to press against Kasan’s muscles. There was no need for it; the oil simply needed to be rubbed into the skin lightly. But the feel of Max on his back, the inside of his thighs clenching over Kasan, was too enjoyable for him to say anything.

Max finished with Kasan’s neck and started sliding down his back. Kasan could feel the press of his balls against his back if he concentrated, as well as the compact length of his cock. Then Max reached to push down on Kasan’s upper back and leaned forward enough that his erection was cradled in the indentation of Kasan’s spine. Kasan smiled into the furs as Max’s body started to rock in time with his hands. His hips worked his cock against the valley. Kasan tightened the muscles of his back to give the little one something better to thrust against. The rocking thrust stopped. “Kasan? Not good?” Why would he think that? “Very good, Max. You’re wonderful at this.” “Tight,” Max muttered, and Kasan realized he was taking the tightened muscles entirely the wrong way. He deliberately loosened his muscles with a chuckle. When Max began working on his lower back, oil slippery and palms pressing out in rhythmic waves, Kasan felt his cock sliding along his ass. The feeling was comforting. Arousing. And very new. This wasn’t a type of play he usually participated in, and definitely not one he would have found enjoyable, before now. But with Max… He wouldn’t mind the little one thrusting between the cheeks of his ass to come. Feeling Max pant against his back while he thrust, and hearing that lovely high-pitched cry as he came? That would be sexy as hell. But penetration…Kasan had no real desire to experience that. Wasn’t sure if the little thing could have done it – or even wanted it – although they could try it sometime if Max really wanted to. Kasan didn’t think he’d enjoy it half as much as taking Max, but he’d be willing. Kasan preferred to be on top, though. Even toys that penetrated didn’t excite him all that much. But with Max, anything might be possible. Max was simply…different. And he was touching his ass, now, and Kasan’s whole body burned hot. Max spread his hands open against the small of Kasan’s back, running them sensuously over the base of his tail and underneath. Kasan’s back arched against it, purring. Small hands kneaded his ass, sliding oil over them and slipping between his cheeks with an embarrassed shaking. Kasan hadn’t been this turned on in his life. He moaned into the bed and Max finally stopped. There was an awkward scramble as Max slipped off of Kasan’s body. Kasan turned his head and watched while Max stood up and shifted from foot to foot. The front of Max's body was smeared and glistening with oil, his cock so erect it was weeping at the tip. He looked ready for sex. “A-All done. Need turn around.” Kasan didn’t want to wait for Max to get his front. He wanted to touch Max now. “It’s all right. I can do this.” Max frowned but Kasan slipped the oil from Max’s unresisting fingers and then poured it on quickly, slathering it over his chest and abdomen to ensure that the water wouldn’t leave him uncomfortably dry and itchy.

Max’s breathing grew heavy as Kasan slicked the oil over his cock, and down his balls. The front of his thighs. Kasan would swear the little one almost swallowed his tongue. It was immensely gratifying. Being touched, being watched, being wanted this much– he hadn’t realized how it would affect him. He wanted to make Max come so hard the little one saw stars. “Max’s turn.” Max’s eyes popped and he swallowed. “I’m fine. N- No need-” he stared at Kasan’s cock and his voice whittled away. “Lie down, Max.” Kasan kept his voice low, staring down into Max’s eyes, not moving. Max stared at him, chewing rapidly at his bottom lip. He looked down at Kasan’s cock, and with a needy groan he finally lay down in the same spot in the furs that Kasan had. The sable color contrasted with his pale skin, making it shine. While Kasan drank in the sight, Max’s toes curled around the fur near his feet like they were trying to burrow their way in. He put his arms up by his head, folding them under his face and hiding it, but Kasan could see red creeping down the back of Max’s neck and over the tops of his shoulders to highlight his shoulder blades. Golden hair dusted his legs and arms. It shone under the lights like small filaments of dark honey. “Beautiful, beautiful Max,” Kasan murmured. “No, I’m not.” “Beautiful, sexy Max.” Kasan followed Max’s lead and started with his toes first. He gently lifted one foot, bending Max’s leg at the knee and examining it. It was so damned dainty. A nice arch to it, a little long for Max’s size, and the toes were long as well, with a soft curve. He licked the bottom of it, from the heel to the ball of his foot, and Max jumped, his body shivering. “Hey! That tickles!” Max squirmed wildly. “Why n-no oil?” “Mmm, licking is better.” How cute; Max was ticklish. He licked him again, drawing just the tip of his tongue over Max’s foot and smiling as the man writhed. Kasan licked his foot one more time – it still smelled of the bath’s minerals - and then sucked on one toe after another. Max convulsed, laughing, and Kasan gave up for a moment making it a sensual experience. He licked more carefully using the entire pad of his tongue. Both feet done, he started working his way over Max’s legs. He nipped his way up, tasting every part of his calf, from the fleshy back that deserved a small bite just to see Max react, to the strong line of bone in the front that he licked up in one stroke. Max’s hips finally reacted when Kasan kissed the backs of his knees And Kasan purred under his breath when he started on his thighs. Kasan barely put his palms on the inside of Max’s legs and the man opened them like he was hoping for something more. Kasan didn’t quite oblige him. He bathed every inch of the back of his thigh with his tongue, tasting the small glisten of oil. The man’s legs were so slim, strong without the bulkiness he disliked, and he savored the taste of his consort underneath his lips.

And worked his way higher. As he licked delicately at the soft inside of Max’s thigh, he nudged them open further until he could see the taut smoothness of his balls drawn up against his body, his buttocks tightening, even though the little one’s legs were soft and relaxed enough to allow Kasan to spread them even wider without effort. Kasan nuzzled up higher and pressed the fur down with his hand so he could get better access to Max’s sac. One lick down the dividing line in the middle of Max’s body, running his tongue down the back of it and back up towards Max’s ass. Max shivered violently, his hips slamming once against the floor. Kasan’s cock reacted with a needy bob of its own. He needed to touch that pretty, succulent little ass. Damn but he loved tonguing Max’s ass. His little Gisho reacted so beautifully, losing himself so fully that Kasan couldn’t wait. He straddled Max’s legs and leaned over to lick the curve of his ass. Kasan was certain his cock was leaking the slightest bit – he could catch the slightly bitter tang of it in the air. And even away from the direct heat of the baths, Max’s body was salty with sweat now. Kasan wanted to bite at the curving swells of his bottom, but settled for licking the salty moisture off his skin. With a satisfied hum, he tickled the bottom curve of his ass with the tip of his tongue. He caressed the soft flesh, gliding over the muscle as it tightened to thrust Max’s cock against the furs. When he’d laved every inch, he cupped Max’s cheeks and pressed them apart to expose him. Max didn’t make a sound other than a small moan. His head was still buried, almost like he was hiding from what his body was experiencing. A little shy, perhaps? Kasan dragged his tongue from the bottom and along the entire crevice that he’d exposed, but he didn’t like the angle. He wanted Max to feel more…vulnerable. To know that Kasan would keep him safe, no matter what. And he wanted better access, where he could hold onto Max’s adorable, rosy cock. Kasan shifted back and slid his hands under Max’s hips, dragging them up until he had Max on his knees. Max looked back at him, his face finally leaving the safety of his pillowed arms, and wiggled. Kasan didn’t let go of his hips. “Kasan, what are you…doing?” Max’s voice trailed off as Kasan smiled. The little one managed to get to his elbows, but Kasan laid a hand over the small of his back. “Relax, Max. You can still stay there. Besides…it puts your bottom right here for me.” Max flushed wildly as Kasan palmed both cheeks of his ass, his thumbs rubbing the soft inner flesh. His back arched where Kasan held it down. “Can you spread your legs for me, Max?” Max looked back and bit his lip, but his legs finally moved. Kasan had to restrain himself from helping them along. It meant a lot that Max was participating. Kasan wouldn’t take that from him. But seeing him on the deep fur, back arched, legs spread, his precious little ass wide open and his balls pulled in tight while his rigid cock swung beneath,

Kasan was so hard and so ready that he had to bite his tongue to remind himself that this one was for Max. He was going to make him come first, and then they could be together. With that in mind, he reached down and took Max’s cock in his hand while slipping in to tease the small portal with his tongue. Kasan licked it, wiggling his tongue against the opening, making circles over it while he dragged his hand over the length of Max’s cock. With every movement of Kasan’s tongue, Max jerked, thrusting against his hand and mouth. The only sound was Max’s high pitched whimpering moans. When Kasan moved his hand from Max’s back it didn’t even matter; his consort was arching into his mouth, now. He obviously liked the position. Kasan used his free hand to squeeze the cheek of Max’s bottom, licking at him with small, thrusting strokes that had Max thrusting his hips back at Kasan to meet them. Kasan could feel him getting closer, his consort’s body tensing. The muscles that had been so relaxed with his massage were rock hard as his body gyrated against Kasan’s mouth. Kasan buried his face, closing his eyes and feeling the soft skin of Max against his lips and cheeks. He could smell Max, musky and salty, and the promise of bitter seed already hitting the air. Max was so close, Kasan knew just a few more strokes of his tongue would do it. Max twisted slightly and froze for a moment. Kasan didn’t remove his mouth from his prize to return the look. Just a few more seconds. Max squirmed wildly. “K-Kasan!” Kasan slide his hand higher, clamping down on Max’s hip. A few more seconds and the little one would come. He just had to be patient. Kasan chuckled, the sound lost against Max’s skin, and then he stabbed in with his tongue, gripping Max’s cock tight, and felt the response of Max’s muscles against his mouth: the instant convulsive tightening of his small muscles, the heat from his release as it coated Kasan’s hand. But Max was squirming again the moment his release ended. That was unusual. Kasan kissed him gently on one cheek, patting the other. “Shh, Max. What’s wrong?” Aosh’s voice echoed from the open doorway. “Are you done with your consort now, or do I need to come back later?” Face still embedded between the cheeks of Maxʼs ass, Kasan growled under his breath. He gave Max one last comforting lick, then shifted to block Aoshʼs view. “Aosh…” Max scrambled to his knees and flipped to face them both. His body shook with fine tremors, fluid leaking from his cock with one final, dribbling spurt. Kasan reached out to catch the last bit of seed but Max clamped his hands down over himself. “Oh my GOD.” Ducking behind Kasanʼs body, Maxʼs skin took on an alarmingly red hue. “What a lovely color.” Aosh hummed appreciatively. “Is that how a human looks when heʼs sated?”

“Aosh!” Kasan spun around, still crouching low and blocking Aoshʼs view. “Unless this is an emergency, leave. Now.” He heard Maxʼs soft litany of ʽOh my God oh my GOD oh my dear freaking GODʼ and turned back at once. The little one needed his attention; Aosh could go dunk his damn head until he soaked up more brains than he seemed to have. “Emergency? No, no emergency. But I couldnʼt possibly leave. Very dirty business, hunting for a rogue shokan. I need a bath terribly.” Max was still flushed and red, eyes scrunched shut. He hunched down, hiding his cock, and buried his face in his hands. The little one was so shaken it made Kasanʼs chest ache. Aosh cleared his throat. “Besides-” Kasan flicked out his claws and yelled over his shoulder. “I said leave, Aosh!” Max shivered and Kasan leaned over him, purring gently against his skin. He stroked down his back with a careful, calm hand. The poor little thing seemed completely shocked. Poor thing. Max definitely wasnʼt ready yet to deal with a lot of other Kyashin, if a surprise like this was enough to upset him to such an extent. “I canʼt leave, Kasan. I havenʼt had my bath yet.” Kasan turned in time to see Aosh smiling wickedly. His baby brother craned his neck as though trying to peer around Kasanʼs body. “And the scenery is so pretty today.” “I told you to get out!” Kasan threw himself at Aosh. His brother dodged sideways but it wasnʼt enough to get out of Kasanʼs way. Kasan caught him in gut with his shoulder, tackling him to the ground. They both hit the furs with a bone-cracking thud. A pained, wheezing grunt blasted from Aoshʼs lungs as Kasan landed on him. “You never learn when to quit!” Kasan rolled off and slammed his fist into Aoshʼs face. His brother bucked up, growling back as his eye immediately started to swell, and elbowed Kasan in throat. “You never know how to take a joke!” Choking, Kasan hit him again in response, catching his jaw and knocking Aoshʼs head back onto the furs. He had his fist ready for another knuckle bruising smash, Aosh reaching out with his hard hands for Kasanʼs ears, when Max whimpered. They both froze. Kasan snapped out with his fist. “Son of a-” Kasan ignored his idiot of a brother, hopping off to get back to Max. The little one watched them both with huge eyes. Heʼd scooted away a few feet, up against the wall, curling his body over his knees defensively. He was obviously terrified, and Kasanʼs gut twinged. Damn it. “Precious, shhh. Did we frighten you? You donʼt have to be frightened. Itʼs over.” He left Aosh on the floor.

“Heʼs frightened? From what? Nothing happened.” “Get the hell out, Aosh.” Kasan focused on Max, ignoring the sounds of Aosh groaning and stumbling to his feet. “Youʼre overreacting, Kasan. A bit of kissing and your consort will be happy to-” Kasan slid to the side to block Aoshʼs view of his consort again and ran a hand over the little oneʼs hair. “Leave. Max and I want privacy.” Kasan could hear Aoshʼs braids flip against each other as he turned away from them. “All you had to do was ask.” “Get the hell out!” Aosh hmphed once, irritated. “Iʼm going, curmudgeon. But I think youʼd better fill up your consort soon. Those cries of his are going to have people thinking you arenʼt satisfying him nearly enough. And Iʼm sure there will be more than just my humble self wanting to bathe after their shift on the hunt.” Kasan growled again. Aosh and his damn perverse sense of humor - the quiet, sensual comfort that the baths had brought about was ruined now. Max would have to be reassured again, relaxed again. And if the latest shift was done, Aosh was right. Thereʼd be more people here soon. Max and he would have to be quick if they wanted to find completion. Joining would have to wait for another day. Kasan cursed under his breath, feeling Maxʼs hair under his fingers as he pet his head. It was probably for the best. Max was still rather desperately trying to find his way; how could he decide on his future when he barely understood his present? But still…Kasan knew what he wanted. He had no rational reason for it, but that didnʼt stop his absolute certainty that Max was exactly who he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. And having to wait to begin the next stage of his life made him twitchy with the need to embrace Max. He desperately wanted to tell him what they could have. Seeing Max slowly relax against the wall as Kasan purred softly and ran his hands over his head and shoulders, he thought that at the very least, he could give him another taste and remind Max of what they could give each other. Without the heat driving them both. Kasanʼs cock was still hard, Max was still as nude and alluring as ever, and they had privacy again. Kasan could show Max how he felt. Eventually, the little one would be ready to understand what that meant. Kasan leaned down and paused as Max peered up at Kasan through his fingers. The little one flushed, hunching against the wall. “I hate that stupid bastard.” Max stared at Kasanʼs mouth for a long moment and groaned. “I will never be able to look the pervert in the face again. Crap.” Kasanʼs ears flicked back. “Stay calm, Max. Iʼm here.”

Max shook his head, flushing. “Doesnʼt matter, does it? Aosh saw us. Oh God… Aosh SAW us.” Maxʼs hands started to wave in between them, jerking. “Aosh just walked in like he owned the damn place. And he saw me when I- When you had your tongue- And I was- And I SAW him right before I c-came. I came when Aosh was WATCHING US! Do you know what that means? I just…I just put on a freaking sex show for Aosh! A little head petting is not going to make that go away, okay? Just…god. I need to get out of here and go hide in your room for a year, okay? Two years. Maybe a whole decade. You can bring me food and Iʼll live under the freaking bed. Crap.” Max chewed at his bottom lip, cheeks still so bright they glowed. Kasan continued to run his hands over Maxʼs head and shoulders, making soothing grumbles in his throat. It didnʼt change the color of Maxʼs skin. Actually, it seemed to earn him more grumbles than anything else. “Not now, Kasan! There is no way Iʼm going to-” Kasan stroked over his ear and kissed the top of his head. Max was so upset… “No, Kasan!” Kasan leaned down and nibbled on Maxʼs earlobe. “I am not…uh…” Max moaned and leaned against him, tilting back his head so Kasan could lick down the line of his throat. As soon as Kasan pulled away, though, the little one was scowling at him again. Didnʼt he like that? Heʼd seemed to. “D-Dammit, Kasan! I told you not to do that! I canʼt think when you start kissing me, so just stop! I need my brain!” What was Kasan doing wrong? “Max, whatʼs wrong, precious?” Max shoved out with his hands, pushing Kasan back an inch or two, and got to his feet. With a frustrated yell, he started to wave his arms and stomped around the alcove, his gestures growing larger and wilder as he paced. “What wrong?! Are you freaking kidding? This whole freaking sex planet is whatʼs wrong! I think itʼs getting better for one damned second and then Iʼm in voyeurism 101! Why canʼt anything be normal here? And dammit, Aosh is such an asshole! Why didnʼt you beat him up like last time?!” Kasan frowned, looking at the empty door and back at Max. Aosh? That was what had upset him so greatly, yes? Kasan stood up and reached out to stroke down Maxʼs arm as his consort stomped by. Max stepped back, scowling. “Max? Aosh isnʼt coming back, precious. Youʼre safe now. Shhhh, calm down.” He reached out again and Max stepped into his space, yelling up at him. “Safe? Thatʼs not the point! He saw us! I saw him seeing us! And I still came and…and my body doesnʼt even care! I still want you inside me, like some kind of pavlovian sex slave! What the hell have you done to me, Kasan? I still want sex and I shouldnʼt even be hard and…and look at me!” Max gestured down to his groin, where his cock was already beginning to firm again. Kasan relaxed, a hard knot in his gut dissolving at the stiffening sign of Maxʼs arousal.

The little one couldnʼt be frightened and aroused at the same time. It suddenly made so much more sense: Max was upset at the interruption. Or at Aoshʼs ill-thought-out teasing that was going to earn him a more thorough pummeling once Kasan had a free moment. If Kasan were furious at Aosh, wouldnʼt it make sense that Max was as well? “Max, let it go. We can still-” “You guys are turning me into some freaking exhibitionist nympho now! It was so freaking nice and fun and no one was here and your body is so damned sexy itʼs not even fair and we were going to- And now… now itʼs all fucking ruined! You need to kick Aoshʼs ass, Kasan!” Max poked his finger into Kasanʼs chest with a hard shove. The relief had a chuckle bubble out from Kasanʼs chest. A grumpy Max was so damn cute to see, telling him off like this. Obviously, Kasan had better keep Max satisfied, and keep Aosh away, or he was never going to hear the end of it. “Iʼm very sorry, Max. Youʼre so right, itʼs very upsetting to be interrupted like this. Weʼd better get right back to it, hmmmm?” “Wait, what do you think youʼre doing, Kasan?” Max fell back onto the furs as Kasan gave him a gentle shove and knelt down in front of him. “Donʼt even think about- Oh God.” Kasan wrapped his lips around Maxʼs cock and hummed. Max stopped talking. Purring softly, Kasan took it in, feeling his way with his lips, until his nose touched the curling fur that framed the evidence of Maxʼs manhood. Max whimpered beautifully. His hands clenched in a spasm over Kasanʼs ears. With another deep moan, Max thrust his hips up once hard, banging against Kasanʼs lips. Kasan lingered over the erection, licking at it inside his mouth. He twirled his tongue over the blunt head, licked up the bottom curves. A little suction and he could taste the sweet bitterness leaking from the end. Max mewled softly and Kasan licked his way free. Stroking Maxʼs hip, he took a moment to simply watch him. Maxʼs eyes were dilated and dazed already as they tried to focus on Kasan. His hips thrust up again and his brow furrowed as though confused about why there was no longer a set of lips around his adorable little cock. Kasan chuckled again, licking at the rounded head and earning another whimper. “So eager. Don't worry, Iʼll-” “Bye, you two! Donʼt miss the Lastmeal!” Aoshʼs voice echoed from the main bath room just before they could both hear the great door thump shut behind him. Max froze. His eyes cleared. His erection flagged. And he pushed Kasan away from him with a frantic squawk. Kasan muttered angrily under his breath as he sat back. “Aosh, I am going to kill you.” Max sat on the fur, pulling his knees up to his chest while he stared at Kasan. “I canʼt believe I almost let you do that again. And when we just… Dammit, youʼre like some, some super seducing sex-cat, Kasan! How can you always do this to me?”

“I know, Aosh is an ass, little one. Ignore him, precious. We canʼt let him completely ruin the mood.” “Nice try, you big…seducer of humans. Iʼm not letting someone else look at my ass, got it?” Kasan rubbed his hand over Maxʼs head and grimaced as his consort glared at him. Max did not look amused. Kasan didnʼt feel too amused himself. It had been so lovely, and now Maxʼs mood was as tense and upset as it had ever been. The relaxed smiles and laughter, the near-flirting play, were wiped clean away. But he didnʼt want to let it go. Not yet, when theyʼd had it for such a short time. He stroked his finger down Maxʼs arm, barely touching the smooth skin, tracing the line of his bicep down to the soft skin on the inside of his elbow. “Kasan! Stop touching me! I canʼt think when you…” Kasan moved his hand off Maxʼs arm and moved to his thigh. Gisho always mellowed so much more when he knew touches were moving towards his groin, the little sensualist. Surely it would help relax him and get his mind off of Aoshʼs stupidity? “Ah, God thatʼs– No. No, stop it! You are not doing this to me again! Sex in public is not okay, Kasan, got it? Not OK. No sex!” Kasan paused. No sex? That couldnʼt be right. Max was upset because their sex was interrupted in the first place. “Max?” “You heard me! No sex! Not in the baths, not against walls in public rooms, only in private, totally locked rooms with…with no mirrors!” Max bit his lip, staring up at Kasanʼs nipples, and his cock swelled. He swallowed once and glanced away. “Okay, maybe a few mirrors, but locks! Got it? I need freaking locks!” “But Max,” Kasanʼs hand stilled, palming the outside of Maxʼs thigh. Maxʼs upset wasnʼt fading like it normally would. He hadnʼt been this upset for this long before, had he? Kasan could usually coax him out of it. Failing at that settled badly in Kasanʼs gut. “Precious, we have to have sex later tonight. Wouldnʼt it be nicer to do it now, when we can enjoy each other slowly?” He leaned down and kissed the dewy skin next to his fingertips. Max stared, gulping. “We can take it so wonderfully slow.” He kissed a little higher up Maxʼs thigh, staring at the underside of the little oneʼs fully erect member. “And I can take you slow. Wouldnʼt you like that?” He nuzzled in between Maxʼs legs, licking lightly at the root of him. Maxʼs breath came in heavy, broken pants. His legs made no resistance when Kasan opened his thighs. “Oh God youʼre good at this,” Max whispered. He licked his lips. His voice was a tentative squeak. “No sex?” Kasan could barely hear him, his nose nudging the little oneʼs balls as he licked underneath them. Max whimpered and arched against him. “Aosh wonʼt bother us anymore tonight, love. And he isnʼt allowed in our room for the next fifty years.” “No like Aosh,” Max panted. His hands crept down to cling to Kasanʼs hair. Kasan chuckled, lapping at his balls. “I donʼt like him either, right now.” Kasan considered stopping. He could take Max now, grab their loincloths, and leave the baths. But Max was so….sweet. Dazed with lust, telling him ʽnoʼ while he hung on to his

hair and slathered himself against Kasanʼs face with urgent little thrusts, his entire body flushed and luscious and open to him. Losing that fear and anger again. It made Kasanʼs heart ache in his chest at how badly he wanted him. Every wrong thing, every upset that made Max babble, cemented how much he desired Max. Not for his body, but…for everything. Kasan so desperately wanted to stay with him, even once the heat ended. To listen to him rant and rail and then fall into bed before the anger even left his eyes. To see him panic over the least little thing and have him look at Kasan with that grateful trust that was just beginning to show in his eyes. Kasan took his lips from Max and stared at him. He smiled, nuzzling his thigh as Max grunted anxiously and pulled at his hair again, and then gave him what he wanted. Maxʼs eyes glazed over the moment Kasanʼs fingers touched his cock. Kasan moved up higher, so he could look into his eyes, kiss up his neck. Maxʼs hands held onto Kasanʼs biceps and he moaned against Kasanʼs mouth. Savoring the feel of Maxʼs skin, Kasan slid his hand down Maxʼs back. He cupped one cheek of his bottom and lifted his hips off the ground, grinding their bodies together. Max melted against him, head lolling back after a minute of their tongues caressing against each other. The door slammed closed again. Voices carried through the baths, giggling and a deep masculine murmur. Maxʼs tongue stopped moving within Kasanʼs mouth. The little one sucked it back in and pulled his head away. Max stared at him in surprise, his eyes blinking rapidly. He seemed to pause to take stock: Kasanʼs hand over his ass, his rigid member between their bodies, his hips thrusting as though Kasan were already inside of him. Someone giggled. “N-No!” Max stared at the open doorway, horrified, and pushed hard. Kasan let him go. Kasan couldnʼt keep from reaching for him almost immediately. He didnʼt want to lose their connection so soon. Not again! “Shhh. No one will intrude, little one. We just need a little longer…” Max glared at him, gesturing to the sounds with one hand heʼd already freed. His voice was hoarse as he started and steadily grew in volume. “N-No! Dammit, when will you stop being so freaking good at this, you jerk? People can just walk in and SEE US! Doesnʼt that bother you?” Max wriggled underneath him, his bottom clenching within Kasanʼs hand. “Kasan, let go of my ass!” Kasan squeezed his bottom once, kissing him gently, trying to help him calm. He didnʼt have to be so upset. They had no Aosh to intrude, no fighting, no one else would glance into the room uninvited, and they were naked and aroused. Why wouldnʼt Max stop being so upset? “Wouldnʼt you like to continue, love? It would be very, very good.” Kasan tried to kiss him again and Max poked him in the nose. “Stop! Jeez, cut it out! God, Kasan, you donʼt freaking care about any of this at all, do you? We could just…just have a huge gay orgy in front of the world and thatʼs probably just fine with all you cats, isnʼt it?”

“Max, shhh. Iʼm only asking-” “I am not getting plowed where everyone can see me, Kasan! Not here! Max no want! No want bath here! No want sex here! No want Kasan here!” Kasan hands dropped. The only sound was Maxʼs heavy breathing and the muted whispers of the people in the baths who had stopped talking at the sound of Maxʼs yelling. After a moment of painful tension, Kasan stepped away. Max barely seemed to notice. “Iʼm not a sex display, Kasan! And you SAID no one would come in, but they did and Iʼve never been so freaking embarrassed in my whole damned life and itʼs with that freaking jerk whoʼll probably tell everyone that your tongue…that we… Dammit!” Max yanked at his hair and turned away from Kasan. Kasan forced his numbed lips to move. “Max, I canʼt understand your words. You donʼt like… sex now?” “Not like… Not like sex now? Not like sex now?!” Max gave a frustrated growl. “No, I not like sex now! No SEX, no no NO sex, no Kasan, no NOW. Max not like!” Max was breathing hard, his eyes wild, and the fierceness of the words had Kasanʼs body flinch. The rooms beyond them had gone totally silent now. Kasan looked into his eyes and saw he meant what he said. Max wasnʼt babbling; he was terribly upset, but very clear. Whatever was going on in his head, he absolutely meant what he said. There was no room for seducing him out of his temper, not now. Something inside Kasan shriveled. Heʼd thought he enjoyed seeing Max angry at him, yelling up at him with that frustrated irritation on his face, but this… Kasan didnʼt enjoy this. Not when Max said things like that. Not when Max meant things like that. Kasan took a deep breath. “Itʼs all right, Max.” He tried to keep his voice soft. Understanding. “No sex now.” Kasan swallowed and took another step away. He tried to smile and wasnʼt sure if he had or not; his face felt numb. He was never, ever going to make fun of his brothers again when they moped around because their consorts were truly angry with them. It fucking hurt. Heʼd been thinking of joining, and Max was so angry he didnʼt even want Kasan right now. With a mumbled excuse, Kasan trotted out to the baths to escape the anger on Maxʼs face, ignored the subdued looks from the few people whoʼd entered, and brought back their loincloths. Max took his from Kasan with a frown. “Donʼt worry, little one. Youʼre safe. I wonʼt bother you right now, yes?” It cut his stomach like knives to see the look of relief on Maxʼs face. “Iʼll take you back to our room.” Max didnʼt move as Kasan started to wrap his own loincloth. “Kasan…” “Yes?”

Max bit at his lip, frowning. He reached out a hand to touch Kasan and paused half-way. “I not mean-” Max actually looked worried. As though Kasan might yell at him. Kasan felt nauseous. “Donʼt worry, little one. Itʼs all right. When the heat doesnʼt call, you donʼt have to do anything you donʼt wish.” Max frowned, biting at his lip. “I not…” Kasan smiled again with stiff cheeks. “Itʼs all right. Iʼm sorry I…overstepped, little one. Iʼm not angry, understand?” He turned away and put the oil on the shelves. He heard Max wrapping up his own loincloth behind him. When Kasan felt the little one put an arm over his forearm, he took it and gently put it off. It didnʼt feel voluntary, more like Max did it because it was expected. And that hurt a bit too much at the moment. “Iʼll take you back now.” Max followed silently behind him as Kasan walked ahead. He didnʼt look at the guards at the entrance to the baths. Every corner Kasan paused, gesturing to Max which way they would go. If Kasan touched him, he might not be able to let go. And there was no way Max wanted that. So Kasan simply couldnʼt… Max walked next to him, looking up, his mouth opening and then closing just before he looked away. “Kasan, I not-” Kasan turned to face him and he saw Max jump, startled. Or…frightened. Was he frightened? Kasanʼs stomach writhed again. If the little one was frightened now, when Aosh wasnʼt around, it could mean that the earlier fear in the baths had nothing at all to do with Aosh. Kasan could have been the one to scare him all along. He stopped walking. “Max?” Max looked up, and Kasan could only glance at his set, unhappy face before he looked away. “Are you…afraid of me?” “What? No! No, I not…afraid.” Maxʼs face went blank as his words ended, the intonation ringing oddly. False. Kasan felt his claws come out, gouging into his palms. “Kasan would never, ever hurt Max.” Maxʼs expression didn't change. He barely seemed to hear him. Kasan crouched and held his shoulders until Max looked at him. “I fought with Aosh, yes, but I will never hurt you, Max. You will always be safe with me. Do you understand?” Maxʼs voice was soft and strange. “I know.” The ice that had crept over Kasanʼs skin faded away. That sounded more like Max, more like truth. Thank God. They stared at each other and then Kasan let him go and they kept walking silently until they reached his room.

Waran and Quim looked quite happy to see them both. Kasan had to clamp his hands into fists to keep from reaching out for Max one more time. If Max was this angry at him, he wouldnʼt want Kasan near. Kasan knew many a time when Jolan or Nolluz had to spend a night in one of their brotherʼs rooms because their consort was furious with them. Kasan wasnʼt going to impose on Max and stay when the little one couldn't even ask for that small boon. Heʼd get Zonta to stay with him instead. Max turned before he went into the room. “Kasan, I-” “Stay out of the garden, Max. Zonta will be with you soon. He can take you to Lastmeal later.” Max had his mouth open as Kasan closed the door on him. Waran stared at Kasan. “I thought you were staying with him for Lastmeal.” “No. I…have things to do. Iʼm going to get Zonta on the box and have him come down. Heʼll enjoy that.” “Weʼve got it,” Waran said, smiling, and waved him away. Whatever irritation there had been from before had faded while theyʼd been gone, obviously. “You go and do what you need to; we can call Zonta.” “Heʼd need to be able to come right away. I donʼt want Max alone in the room. He might try to go out in the garden and itʼs still not completely safe…” “Quim can keep watch while I stay in the room until Zonta comes. Would that suffice? Itʼs been quiet, now that everyone is hunting for the rogue shokan.” “That should be…fine.” Max had done fine with Waran before, hadnʼt he? Even though Waran had left him alone in the room, he looked like he was trying to make up for his lapse now. Heʼd always been conscientious that way. Quim smiled at Kasan, all teeth. “If thereʼs any worries, or he gets upset for any reason, weʼll call for you.” Kasan shook his head. “No. Zonta should be able to handle it. Unless he thinks Max needs me…” Kasan cleared his throat and sighed. “Thank you, Waran, Quim. I appreciate this.” “Hey, no one knows better than I do about the difficulties one can have with a consort.” Waranʼs smile radiated mockery at his own expense and Kasan felt a bit self-pitying to be as upset as he was. Shoru was an ass; Waran didnʼt even want a relationship with him. At least Kasan and Max had a chance. He could hold on to a chance. It was just going to take longer than heʼd first thought, and he had to get back in Maxʼs good graces again. It would take some time. He had t