Fiction~~The Last Pure Human~~Ch. 17

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The Last Pure Human
Chapter 17 - Service

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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 mid-sentence. 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 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 p-possible, 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.

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