Fiction~~The Last Pure Human~~Ch. 18
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Chapter 18 - The World According to Max
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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.
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-awful-ginormous.
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?
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.
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 non-threatening, 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.
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.’
He thought of screaming ‘More!’ as Kasan took him.
Um….maybe he’d just learn how to say blanket, instead.
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.
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.
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