Selyn Brothers


Ann Marie Olson

Story © 2000 Ann Marie Olson

      Avilan's head whipped around.
      "I present myself to you." The stranger gulped. "Um, Lord Azov."
      Lord Azov's green eyes were alight with amusement. "Yes?" He waved one tentacle for the young sharm lord to go on. "You were saying?"
      "Uh, yes," his green kador seemed to tremble for a bit. "I'm sharm Lord Arkay Valentinovich Sergei."
      "Are you really?" Lord Azov leaned forward. Avilan wanted to jump up there and tell him to quit teasing the lad. Couldn't he see Arkay was about to shake apart with nerves?
      "Oh, uh, yes, Arkay S... Valentinovich Azov nee Sergei." His stumbling over the words made Avilan grimace in sympathy.
      "As you wish," Lord Azov nodded. "Welcome to Azov, sharm lord Arkay Valentinovich." He leaned heavily on the patronymic, even more heavily than he'd leaned on the title.
      "At your will, Lord Azov." He scooted backwards and stumbled on the steps. Dzarkov snorted at Avilan's side.
      "Hush," he flicked at the lord with his nager.
      "At your will," Dzarkov mimicked the tremble in Arkay's voice. "Who does he think he is?"
      "I don't know." Avilan narrowed his eyes and thought. "But I'm going to find out."
      "Don't bother," he took another deep drink of his starka. "Come on. Lets go back to my rooms. I'm bored." His whine grated on Avilan's nerves. Dzarkov had been so very attractive, about a week ago, before transfer. Now Avilan was wondering what he'd ever seen in the lord.
      It was true Dzarkov was older than most of the lords who came to low court looking for partners. Now Avilan knew why. For all Dzarkov's good looks, he was a rather indifferent lover, caring far more for his own comforts than being able to share in giving or even receiving pleasure.
      "Good evening, sharm lord Olga," Avilan spied one of his rivals trying to sneak by.
      "And to you, lord Dzarkov," she nodded to Avilan's erstwhile partner. This looked like it was going to be even easier than he'd thought. Before long the two were chatting about the weather, a subject Avilan often thought overrated. But then he was far more interested in chances for a good wool crop this year.
      "If you'll excuse me." He bowed himself out. Olga ignored him. Much to his surprise, so did Dzarkov. Good enough, Avilan figured. Even though now he didn't have a place to go after court. Oops!
      Arkay found a quiet pillar to hide behind. Already, even so early in the evening, there were pairs and threesomes going to hide behind the heavy draperies lining the walls. He'd put off his presentation to Lord Azov as long as he could. But it seemed unnecessary now.
      The chatter assaulted his nerves with the sharpness of crushed glass. Arkay hated crowds. He'd spent most of his time at Sergei avoiding such situations as this.
      Someone was coming toward him. He debated hiding behind the nearest tapestry, but it was meters away. From what little he could tell, the person was intent on tracking him down. Arkay didn't want to spend hours chattering with a featherheaded sharm lord! He had to get away.
      Avilan cut off Arkay before he could escape. He himself well knew how traumatic someone's first presentation at court could be. "Would you like something to drink?" He waved down one of the servitors.
      "Please," he nodded, looking as if someone was pushing at him to do so. Well, if Arkay didn't want company, then he'd come to the wrong place.
      Trying to act mature and sophisticated, Avilan attempted to grasp two of the glasses in one hand. The renSime carrying the tray bobbled under the shifting weight. He reached for the tray, trying to right it. The renSime went the other way.
      One glass tried to slide up. The other began slipping down. Avilan's hands were now full.
      "Here," one of Arkay's arms came around him. The contact made his hands even slicker. With one final desperate lunge, he managed to right the tray and juggle both glasses. "I'll take this."
      "Thank ye," the renSime escaped. Avilan managed to overcome his own nerves to turn around. He tried to back up a step. This time he stepped on the renSime's heels. Tray, remaining drinks and renSime went flying.
      "Avilan!" Lord Azov shouted.
      "Yes, m'Lord?" He forgot all about trying to catch anything and flinched, waiting for the sound of shattering glass. But none came. Trying to act nonchalant, he looked back behind him. Thank the heavens for lords. Nothing had quite managed to truly spill, but only because of their connivance.
      "Be careful," he sighed, resting his chin on his tentacles.
      "Yes, m'Lord." Avilan breathed a sigh of relief for disaster so barely averted.
      Arkay's wary reluctance to be seen quickly dissolved under this young sharm lord's enthusiasm. Normally he didn't much care for such outrageous behavior. But there was a certain charm to be found in this other young lad's good cheer. "Thank you." He held his own glass carefully lest it leap out of his hand as well.
      "Um, yes, uh, you're welcome." He was so flustered even his heavy makeup and veil couldn't hide his blushes. "I'm sharm lord Avilan Turovich." He ducked his head too fast for Arkay to catch any more of what he'd said.
      "Excuse me?" He took a sip of the clear liquid and nearly spit it back out. Raw, liquid fire took root in his sinuses.
      "Oh, I'm so sorry." The young man looked as if he were ready to bolt at any sneeze, so Arkay tried not to. Instead he took a cautious breath. Then another. Finally his eyes stopped watering.
      "Let me," Avilan pulled a wonderfully embroidered handkerchief from his sleeve.
      "You don't have to." He didn't want his own makeup mussed. It had taken him hours to put it on before coming out here to present himself to Lord Azov.
      "Trust me," his eyes relaxed a bit and Arkay could see they were a deep, true blue the color of sapphires or the sky near midnight on midsummer. Noticing how well the other had done his own makeup, he figured he had little to lose.
      "OK," he closed his own eyes, praying Avilan wouldn't make more of a mess of his face than he'd done.
      Avilan dabbed a bit of alcohol on his handkerchief and repaired the worst of the damage he'd caused. Whoever'd put Arkay's makeup on in the first place had no taste. "Who did the facial?"
      Arkay sputtered and stammered something incoherent. His eyes weren't gray, as Avilan had thought at first, but rather a soft gray blue. From his wide eyed expression, Avilan'd stepped in the shit again.
      "Oh," he pursed his lips under his veil, realizing from Arkay's reaction it must have been Arkay himself. "Would you allow me to finish repairing the damage I've inadvertently inflicted on you?" The line from lord Tanya seemed quite appropriate at the moment. Besides, he wanted to see what was hiding beneath Arkay's veil.
      "I have to ..." Arkay straightened his shoulders suddenly. Then he looked back over his shoulder again.
      "Don't mind Lord Azov." Avilan reassured him. "He's bored silly by low court and only sits there because its the warmest spot in the room." And so he could be amused by the antics of some of his courtiers. Avilan often being one of the primary sources of amusement.
      "Don't I have to excuse myself?" He took another sip of his drink, without the choking this time.
      "Not at Azov," he shrugged, not sure what the problem was. At low court, people came and went as they pleased.
      "You're very informal." Arkay stumbled slightly as he nodded to a dowager lord in search of dalliance for the month.
      "He has four children, has had five partners, and can't remember to close the bathroom door." Avilan muttered behind his veil. Arkay snorted so hard Avilan had to check to make sure he hadn't tripped. Nope. Only about half the starka Avilan'd given him was gone.
      "Watch the floor," Avilan warned him. If he wasn't used to drinking like an Azovich, he'd be stumbling over the marble soon. Avilan's first time at low court he'd gotten so drunk he couldn't find the floor. It had been steadily improving since.
      "Does it bite?" More of the starka vanished behind his leaf green veil.
      "No, but what you're drinking does." Avilan finished off his own glass and deposited the empty on the tray of a passing servitor.
      "I noticed." His voice had relaxed tremendously. This was a good thing. Low court at Azov was fun. Avilan had no idea really what went on elsewhere, but this was home to him. He waved to lords Lyana and Yura across the hall.
      "Who are they?" Arkay's stage whisper carried halfway to Sergei.
      "Friends," Avilan shrugged. They'd both shared his bed a couple times. But they'd soon wandered off. About the time he'd discovered boys. He figured they'd probably pair up with each other for a while. Few lords did, but they did have such a look.
      "What kind of friends?"
      Avilan had to shush him before he attracted too much attention to them.
      "Warm ones," he winked, steering Arkay into one of what he called the recovery rooms. This early in the evening, most were open. But the time everyone called it a night, usually people were being dumped in the barns.
      After dropping his veil Arkay tried to turn towards a mirror. Avilan stopped him.
      "Oh blessed be all the saints beneath the firmament." He swore, looking at the mess either one or both of them had made of Arkay's warpaint. "Give me that," he swiped at what was left of the starka.
      "Hey!" Arkay won the tugging contest and drained the last bit.
      "You're going to feel it in the morning." Avilan warned.
      "But I don't feel it now." He handed over the glass.
      "Sit," Avilan gave him a gentle shove onto a chair. Arkay collapsed.
      "I feel so much better now!" He pushed back his hood and spread his hair around. Avilan gaped, realizing Arkay was no sharm lord.
      "So, what kind of friends were they?" Arkay smiled, wishing to know more about this young sharm lord, really. He'd certainly not be hard on the eyes, even though he was still veiled and Arkay was guessing wildly. But he really didn't care anymore, either.
      "Warm enough to leave me with some fond memories." Those deep blue eyes twinkled. "I get by." He shook his head with a tinkle of fringe.
      "I bet you do." He chuckled, wishing he knew how Avilan could be so relaxed around all these people. It had taken him a glass of starka to not be in danger of wetting himself. "How do you do it?"
      "Do what?" He dropped his veil at last. Arkay fought not to gape. The young man's eyes had not done justice to the rest of his face, or his nager.
      "All of this," he waved his hand toward the hall.
      "Its fun." He grinned as he wiped makeup from Arkay's face. "Don't use so much."
      "But I have to hide all these marks." He regretted his coarse Sergei skin yet again.
      "No you don't." Avilan sighed, finally grabbing a basin and ewer. After a great deal of scrubbing, he leaned back with his hands on his hips. "I wish I had a face like yours."
      "You have the face of an angel." Arkay couldn't help but stare.
      "You've never seen me before I put on my makeup." One corner of his mouth twitched upward.
      "Those cheekbones aren't makeup." Arkay pointed out. "Nor are those eyes."
      "I have them painted." He began fishing around in his pockets. Small pots of pigments and a few larger jars were soon lined up on the counter.
      "There's no such thing." Arkay chuckled at the jest. "Really."
      "I know." He sighed, straddling another chair. "But you don't require such paint."
      "Hardly," Arkay grimaced. "I'm as plain as a board, Avilan. Only my nager would ever attract a Sime, unless they were a renSime."
      "You are attractive to me." Before Arkay could duck, Avilan's soft, Gen lips met his. Before he could refuse, his body clamored for more.
      Avilan'd never felt such attraction for any other Gen. But with Arkay's lips still reddened with the removal of his awful makeup job, it was too simple to lean forward and brush them with his own.
      He'd only meant it to be a simple kiss, but no sooner had he made contact, than Arkay moaned softly and gave to him. The sweet, soft feel of another Gen stirred feelings in him Avilan wasn't ready to face. So he tried to pull back.
      But Arkay's hand cupped the back of his head, begging for more. Unable to stop, Avilan leaned into the kiss, opening his lips to taste as well as feel this new experience. A gentle warmth caressed his loins, drawing them tight, but without the frantic desperation he often felt with Simes.
      "Are you post?" He breathed against Arkay's now well reddened lips.
      "Less than a week ago," his eyelashes splayed over his magnificent cheekbones. They weren't so sharply defined yet, but Avilan could see the planes which would show through Arkay's wonderful skin very soon.
      "Three days ago," Avilan brushed his thumb over the cheek he was so admiring.
      "Then I suppose I should let you go." Arkay's eyes opened, even as the corners crinkled into a grin.
      "Not if you had other plans." Avilan was not a one to let opportunity pass unmolested if she walked too slowly.
      "Ask me later?" A cool draft tangled Avilan's legs and up the back of his kador. He knew in his mind this wasn't a personal rejection, but rather an appropriate one.
      "Don't think I won't." He cursed the fact he couldn't keep any carnal interest he might have hidden. At least standing up. "Let me redo your makeup before we go back out there?"
      "Sure," Arkay ran one hand through his hair. Even gloved, Avilan could tell his hands were far broader and stronger than most. The thought of such hands on his own body made his pulse race all out of proportion to his chances of such an ill advised liaison.
      Arkay would have sworn Avilan should have been able to hear his racing pulse. Never before had he reacted to anyone's touch, no matter how Siminine. The lords his father, Sharm Lord Sergei, had paraded before him had been beautiful, but they'd bored him silly by turnover.
      "You do have a wonderful face." Avilan's honey smooth voice matched so perfectly the taste and texture of his nager. It was a shame he couldn't yet tell, but Arkay knew Avilan had enough of a field to get himself ascended, eventually.
      "What is so wonderful about it?" He resettled his kador over his lap. Even in the restricting pants he wore beneath the heavy wool, he'd be quite obvious in his prurient interest in Avilan's body.
      "These," his thumbs brushed over Arkay's cheekbones. The contact made his breath catch in his throat. "And you have such strong features."
      "Like an ill tempered hawk, Avilan."
      "More like a great eagle," he smiled, taking the rest of Arkay's breath away. Now Avilan's face could have been used as a model for paintings by Maryam. She was the one who promulgated the Way of the Rus, and Avilan was the perfect image of an angel. Neither precisely male or female, nor too strong or at all weak, but rather perfectly carved and beautiful as a work of art, much less a human being.
      "You flatter me."
      "Do you mind?" He tipped Arkay's chin. "Look down."
      "Not really," he admitted, looking at the cracked tiles remaining on the floor. "I'd rather flatter you."
      "Go right ahead," he tipped Arkay's chin the other way. "Look up."
      "You're used to it?" He teased, wishing he could come up with the words to describe Avilan's beauty.
      "Hardly," he snorted, continuing to do arcane things to Arkay's face. "I don't want to put base on this, actually." He rummaged around in a few more pockets. "Here, I think this will do even better." Arkay's eyes widened as he caught a glimpse of the tin.
      "Oh, some lord or another gave it to me as a gift. Silly git didn't know it wasn't something I could ever wear without looking like a whore." He painted a very tiny bit of the silver powder at the corners of Arkay's eyes. "But you, now you have the eye color to wear silver. I try and it makes me look moldy."
      "You would look wonderful no matter what you wore." Arkay looked up at him through his now darkened eyelashes. "Even nothing."
      "I've had many tell me I looked better in my robes than out of them." He turned Arkay and the chair he was sitting on toward the mirror. Arkay stared at the incredibly masculine, adult male sitting in the room with them. He looked Sergei!
      Quickly looking behind him, he realized there was only himself and Avilan in the room. Arkay looked at the mirror again. He put his hands to his face. His white gloves touched his cheeks.
      "Yes, you won't stain your gloves touching your face now." Avilan's expressive mouth curled into a knowing grin. "Was I right?"
      "About?" Arkay's mouth dropped open, and so did the man in the mirror's. No longer was his skin marred by rough pores and the fact he didn't always managed to catch every whisker every time he shaved. Now his blue gray eyes looked luminescent and knowing, rather than stunned as he felt. "You are good at this."
      "Which this?" His dark blue eyes twinkled. "Makeup?"
      "Kissing," Arkay retaliated, wondering if he wanted another kiss to repay Avilan, or to repay himself for future wrongs.
      "It wasn't kissing which cleaned the crud off your face." Avilan leaned against the counter, carefully tucking his cosmetics back into his pockets. Some of them, like the silver powder, were far too expensive to leave lying around. Not that he'd ever have cause to use it on himself. "Here, I'd like you to have this."
      Their hands met. A shock of recognition seemed to travel between them. Avilan sucked in his middle and arched his back.
      "Are you hurt?" Arkay's now brilliant eyes seemed to go right through him.
      "I have to use the restroom really quickly, I'm afraid." He slipped a hand through the side seams of his kador and managed to rearrange himself.
      "So do I," Arkay waved toward the convenience. "It isn't like we aren't both Gens, Avilan." His nonchalance challenged Avilan to ignore the fact he was sliding out the top of his underwear. This wouldn't be so bad if it didn't expose the most sensitive part of him to the silk of his undertunic.
      "True enough," he took a deep breath, and realized he could always blame it on thoughts of someone else.
      Arkay's breath hissed between his teeth as he accidentally caught a glimpse of Avilan through the open side of his kador. Avilan's cheeks burned bright red. Arkay knew if he said anything it would be taken amiss, much less the fact he did not want to admit to having been looking.
      So instead, he stood, swaying slightly, and loosened his own kador. The floor rocked gently beneath his feet. Not too much, but just enough to feel good. The room was well warmed, so as he unlaced his own breeches, there was no sharp cold to get his mind on business.
      As it was, he was so out of sorts, he had to look to be certain of his aim. This time he didn't gasp, but he did look. Arkay'd never seen any male so large outside of a barn. No, he wasn't monstrous in proportion, but he was certainly large. For brief, irrelevant, moment, he wondered if he got any larger when fully aroused.
      Then he returned his attention to his own business. Or at least tried to. From relative scale, Avilan was actually more mature physically than Arkay was. Arkay was a very late bloomer, only having established about fifteen months ago. From the looks of things, Avilan had established years ago.
      "Would you go down?" He'd found out shoving at it didn't work.
      Avilan did have the grace not to snicker, or offer a hand. He simply finished and began the arduous process of relacing himself back into all his clothes. The lack of attention made Arkay able to complete what he'd started.
      "So, is there anyone you'd like me to introduce you to?"
      Avilan didn't think Arkay had anything to be ashamed of at all. Often he'd been quite embarrassed by his own build. More than one Sime'd sent him packing when they found out what his kador had hidden.
      "I'd rather be able to take my time." His fingers fumbled the laces of his kador.
      "Let me help." Avilan finished tying the stiff material and tucked the excess back through the lacing. Then he turned Arkay around and redid the other side, this time far neater.
      "I've never had a Gen friend." Arkay looked mournfully at the work Avilan had done. "Could you teach me all these tricks?"
      "If you like." It wouldn't be the same as figuring out his odd reaction, but still there was a part of him wanting to know far more of Arkay than he could get this one night. "Neither have I."
      "Why?" Arkay tried to cram his hair down inside his robes. Avilan shook his head and braided it quickly before sliding it down the back.
      "Don't know," he lied gently. Avilan knew. He'd had it thrown in his face often enough. Most of his fellow Gens took one look at his face and ran. Sometimes he felt like a pariah. Certainly he had suitors enough for his wrists in transfer, but little else.
      "I think you're gorgeous. Why wouldn't anyone want the chance to get to know you?"
      "Exactly," Avilan sighed, replacing his hood and veil. "Come on. Let me introduce you to Lyana and Yura."
      "If you like." Arkay's eyes didn't leave Avilan's face, even as he covered his nager. "But I think I'd like to get to know people before I have to deal with turnover here."
      "I know I prefer to set my sights before turnover." He opened the door. Before they'd gone three strides, a lord dashed into the room they'd vacated. She'd gone as green as her overtunic. Avilan quickly shut the door behind her. Lord Trisha had enough problems in her life without the world knowing she was pregnant and suffering horribly from morning sickness at all hours of the day.
      Besides, he had a sneaking suspicion he might have something to do with Trisha's current state. She'd not said anything at the time, but she'd vanished from his bed without a word about five weeks ago. It was not his place to tell her what to do, but he did feel rather protective of her if her child was his.
      One of Arkay's golden brows was lifted.
      "She's pregnant." Avilan whispered behind his veil.
      "Yours?" Arkay's eyes widened.
      "Quite possibly." He shrugged, wishing there were some politic way to find out. But he had no right to poke his nose into Trisha's business. It was her body, not his. "But she's been avoiding me." He clenched his jaw.
      "I'm sorry." Arkay wished he knew what to say. Often he'd felt it was unfair the way women had absolute choice over the produce of their bodies, as he'd wished he could have a child of his own. But as recently as a couple of hundred years ago, women did not have such control and a major feud had erupted as a result. Now no father had any rights over any children he might sire other than those the woman gave him.
      "I could have used a condom." His blue eyes were darker than Arkay remembered.
      "True," Arkay had to agree vocally, even as his heart ached for Avilan's exclusion. "Can you?"
      "Yes, barely," he chuckled softly. "Its not very comfortable."
      "I bet." He snorted. "I've never done it."
      Avilan's question was plain from his expression.
      "Never been post enough to have to worry about it." He felt the skin on his face grow tight. "At least not so much as to have any woman take advantage of me."
      "Now I'm sorry." Avilan wished he could give Arkay a big hug. He looked like he could use one.
      "Not so sure I'd trade." Already there were shadows in his eyes.
      "Actually, neither am I." He looked toward the closed door. How he wished to know. "I hope she's happy with her choice."
      "Does she have a partner?" Arkay waved to one of the remaining servitors. The renSime hurried over, bearing a mixed platter of drinks and food. Avilan filched some of his favorite cheese stuffed pastries. Arkay juggled a number of fried mushrooms they were so hot.
      "Yes," Avilan nodded, pointing toward the sharm lord slipping into the room after glancing around to be certain he wasn't being watched. "Otherwise I would have used more sense."
      "Or at least put up with being cramped." Arkay winked, nibbling at one of the mushrooms. "These are really good."
      "This is Azov." Avilan winked. His own waistline would be much the worse for wear if he didn't get so much exercise. "If its edible or wearable ..."
      "Or fuckable." Arkay's added comment behind his veil made Avilan breathe a pastry. Or at least try too. This time it was Arkay's turn to pound on his back.
      "Yes, that too." He gasped. "As I was saying."
      "You were." Arkay's gaze turned out towards the milling lords and sharm lords of Azov.
      "Yes, well, edible, wearable, breedable or ridable."
      "Aren't those last two similar?" Arkay's comment didn't catch him off guard this time. But he did let loose a snort of laughter.
      "You have sex on the brain, Arkay." Avilan nudged him in the ribs.
      "A lot lower down, I'm afraid." His wry comment got Avilan to chuckle. "To let you know. My last partner not only refused to consummate our transfer, but kicked me out before I even had a chance to ask."
      "Ask or insist?"
      "Ask," Arkay sighed. "I'd never insist, I'm afraid."
      "You have as much right to satisfaction as the next sharm lord." He sat at Arkay's side, far more wishing to talk with Arkay than any lord.
      "I don't want to be some lord's obligation."
      "There is such a thing as consideration." Avilan pointed out.
      "But what if I don't, what if I'm not good enough." He sighed, his gaze still on the people.
      "Then perhaps you aren't partnering the right lords." Avilan wondered who might suit Arkay. His wit was razor sharp, even though he was young.
      "Sometimes I'd simply like a friend, Avilan." He looked away from the others and the candor in his eyes was unmistakable. Maybe Avilan had done too good a job with the makeup. The man looking back at him from behind his veil was extraordinarily sexy.
      "I think I can try to find you one." He brought his own daydreams back to heel.
      "I think you might well turn out to be one." His smile lit his eyes. "But first to business. Who would you recommend?" He waved his hand toward the crowd.
      Arkay wished he knew what it was he was feeling. He didn't think it was simple friendship, even though heaven knew he'd take it if that was all he could get. He hadn't ever had a true friend since old lord Halin had died. For a moment he closed his eyes against the memory of his last smile falling from his face.
      "Arkay?" Avilan asked softly.
      "Memories," he shook his head, letting his new kador's fringe jangle. After he'd given Halin peace, he'd been asked to leave Sergei as soon as expedient after first thaw. So he'd chosen Azov, hoping to loose himself for a while as yet another sharm lord. But even here he'd been seen as a imposter.
      "Good or bad?" Avilan's hand captured his, both neatly hidden by the kilos of fabric shielding the surrounding Simes from inadvertent nageric disturbances. Right now he was very glad for such shielding.
      "Both," he blinked away a few tears. "My mentor."
      "Yes," Arkay nodded. "At my hands."
      Avilan did nothing more than squeeze his hand, not letting anyone else around them know of the gesture. But as such, it touched him far more deeply than he'd have ever guessed. Avilan was someone who could be trusted. "Why don't we find those two lords you pointed out earlier?"
      "Tonight?" He cocked his head to the side.
      "I want to get laid, Avilan." Arkay wanted to put all such serious talk behind himself. Here at Azov, he could simply be another featherheaded young sharm lord intent on sex, alcohol, dancing and singing. With occasional forays into actually doing some work. A year working for his father at Sergei had taught Arkay a great deal about the virtues of laziness.
      "Then shall we go see if we can scare up a quantity of laid?" Avilan stood with such grace Arkay wondered if they could skip the prerequisites and go straight to bed ... with each other.
      "Which flavor do you prefer?" Arkay figured Avilan'd prefer women. As it seemed he'd known most of the female lords of Azov.
      "I'm a bit off on women these days." His eyes darkened a bit.
      "You can't still be fertile?" Arkay blinked, wishing he'd checked when he'd had the chance. But few sharm lords were fertile for more than a day or two after transfer.
      "Yes, I am." His eyes hardened.
      "Hey, I didn't mean to hurt." He ducked his head, feeling the utter fool.
      "I know it." Avilan shrugged. "Not your fault. I'm a bit sensitive on the subject." His face turned toward the closed door.
      "Understandably," he grinned wryly. "What a pair we are."
      Avilan's eyes closed with his wince. "True," and then he chuckled. "So shall we play it safe?"
      "I never have." Arkay admitted, not quite sure of himself anymore. "Perhaps it would be best if we give up the whole thing as a lost cause."
      Avilan couldn't let this happen. He felt around in his pockets. There were quite a few things in them he wouldn't let anyone see or zlin. Finally he found the little packets. Glancing at them, he noted the quantity, and the fact he had two of the smaller ones as well.
      "Here," he handed Arkay the two. His eyes nearly fell out. "Lets do it." He strode up to Lyana and Yura. "Good evening."
      "And good evening to you, Avilan." Lyana preened, her tentacles rubbing at the backs of her fingers.
      "Who's your friend?" Yura bowed deeply over her extended leg, looking up into Arkay's eyes.
      "I am Arkay Valentinovich Azov nee Sergei." He held out his gloved hand. Yura took it and only brushed the back with a single dorsal. This was restraint for her.
      "Pleased to meet you." Her eyes slid sideways to glance at Avilan. "What brings you back?"
      "Arkay had said he'd like to meet a few of the Azov lords and did not feel entirely comfortable doing so alone."
      "We don't eat strangers." Yura smiled, her teeth showing.
      "Even if requested?" Arkay's fingers curled around Yura's.
      Lyana sputtered.
      "Only sharm lords are omnivores." Avilan stepped in to relieve Yura's shock.
      "Or perhaps willing to put in the practice." Lyana finally recovered, even though now it was Avilan's turn to blink.
      "Practice makes perfect." Arkay's thumb brushed Yura's so suggestively, Avilan looked away quickly.
      "But what about those poor Simes you've been practicing on."
      "Only one is no longer with us." Arkay handed him the perfect line and Avilan almost fumbled it because of their earlier conversation.
      "Because she expired of ecstasy." Avilan finished the poetic reference at the last moment.
      "You two are dangerous together." Lyana's knowing smile told Avilan all he had to know of their chances of success.
      "So you'd like to keep us together?" Arkay's silk clad fingers were now twined with Yura's.
      "Yes, I think I'd like to see Avilan with someone who's Gen enough not to be scared off by him."
      "Ah, but any Gens who are worthy of your affections could never be so cowardly." Arkay's smooth lines were intriguing Avilan until Lyana's hiss brought his attention back where it should be.
      "I'd certainly never wish to share my bed with a coward." He tucked Lyana's hand under his arm. "What is m'lord's pleasure, this evening?"
      She looked back over her shoulder at Yura. "I think I'd like to retire early this evening."
      "I think I could manage to get us into the second Sergei suite." Arkay's suggestion excited Avilan. He'd always wanted to see one of the great suites above. The stories he'd heard of some of the wonderful clothes and fantastic wall hangings had excited his imagination far more than the thought of bedding Lyana again.
      But he'd not mind, either. He wasn't dead and she was a sweet lord, with no real bad habits. But not any real notable talents either.
      By the time Arkay'd finished fumbling his way through figuring out what Yura wanted of him, he'd pretty much exhausted his own enthusiasm for this endeavor.
      "Do you not want me?" Her blue eyes were astonished.
      "What was that we were saying about omnivores?" He was not going to make a fool of himself, however. And her soft, Sime skin was certainly tempting to taste. He nipped lightly at her flank, enjoying her squeal of protest.
      "Not so hard," she flinched away, tugging at him with her tentacles.
      Arkay bit back his protest of how lightly he'd nipped her. She'd not appreciate such nuances at the moment. Now very careful of his teeth, he lipped his way down her side. Like all Simes, she had no padding to speak of, only sleek muscle beneath fine skin.
      And she was sweet. A bit more so than he preferred, actually. For a moment he wondered if she actually perfumed herself so as to attract more attention. As from her nearly frantic gestures, it seemed Yura certainly liked having his tongue between her legs.
      Neither was she at all shy about moving him where she wanted him. By the time she was done, he was exhausted. No wonder Avilan had implied Lyana and Yura were likely to make a pair of it. They'd well suit each other if this is what they liked.
      Arkay held her close in the curve of his arm as she murmured nonsense noises of how much she'd enjoyed him. His loins ached for some sort of release, but the rest of his body ached with the late hour. But even when her dainty Sime hand caressed him, there was little he could do but say, "Don't worry it, little one."
      "But I've done nothing ..."
      He hushed her with a finger against her lips. "It will be fine, Anya." Playing with her name cheered her up. "Is there anything else you would like?" Before his arm fell asleep, preferably.
      "You are so sweet, Arkay." She cooed, mistakenly brushing her cheek over his chest. Now this was something he avoided with all his will. He'd found out fairly shortly after his fourth, his chest was far more sensitive than it had any right to be. If he didn't want to be up all night with aching balls, this had to be stopped now.
      "Thank you," he managed to tuck a blanket around both of them, protecting his chest.
      "Yura?" Lyana padded into the room.
      "Ummm?" Yura's pleased grin warmed Arkay's heart. He'd done good.
      "I think I'd like to catch the last set down stairs." She said as Avilan appeared behind her.
      "I don't know if I can move." Yura's tentacles began kneading Arkay's flank. This was a safe area of his body and her touch did feel good.
      "If I can," the look she gave Avilan made Arkay blush. Avilan only winced, hiding partway behind the door.
      "True enough," she abandoned Arkay with hardly a thought. "Isn't Dzarkov playing tonight?"
      "Yes, after Lord Azov puts court to bed." Avilan's tenor seemed to catch on something. "He'll be down in room eight twenty four Geh."
      "Aren't you going to be with him?" Yura paused in tugging on her tunic. It was the only pause as the two Simes headed for the door.
      "Not tonight, I'm afraid." He yawned ostentatiously. "We've split up."
      Arkay's eyes widened. He'd remembered seeing Avilan with a rather good looking, older lord earlier tonight.
      "But you were dancing with him before Arkay showed up." Lyana's blunt question drove sharp spurs into Arkay's conscience.
      "We had a fight." Avilan opened the door. "Don't stall around the guards up here. They can be a bit aggressive and you don't want to get tossed out on your rear."
      "Thank you, Arkay." Yura blew him a kiss. He'd have rather had her stay. Or maybe not, he blinked in surprise as Avilan sat on the bed.
      "Success?" Avilan's nager twisted in wry amusement.
      "Probably about the same as yours." He admitted with a chuckle. "What a Sime." Arkay sighed, rolling over and then having to keep from bending himself in two.
      "Most likely," he shrugged. "I'm sorry. I'd forgotten how intent Yura can be in her own pleasures."
      "She tasted good." Arkay admitted, trying to determine if it was worth it to take matters into hand.
      "Flavoring," Avilan winked. "I've seen it in her medicine cabinet."
      "Arkay laughed at the look on Avilan's face. "So, what does Lyana like?" His energy was coming back faster than he'd have guessed it could.
      Avilan's blush warmed the whole room. "Size."
      "Oh," Arkay hid his chuckles.
      "Oh, laugh you silly git." Avilan shook his shoulders. "Go on!"
      "No, no, I won't." He squirmed in Avilan's grasp. "I won't do it. Just because you're built like a horse."
      "I am not." Avilan's field still twinkled with amusement.
      "How do you know?" Arkay had to roll over before he did himself permanent injury.
      "Because they are four footed, I am two." He sniffed, the gesture one any sharm matron would be proud of.
      "So, did you at least manage to give her what she wanted?" Arkay hugged one of the pillows to his chest, a good long one to hide his still rock hard member.
      "Probably as much the same you did." Avilan's hand brushing his side brought all his earlier energy and desire to get laid back in full force. But now, after having been so teased, he knew he'd only embarrass himself if he tried courting another. It was a lost cause. In absolute frustration, he bit the pillow he held, hard.
      Actually, Avilan had lied. Now he regretted it. "Truthfully, Arkay," he paused for a breath.
      "Yes?" He stopped chewing on the pillow.
      "She wouldn't let me do more than use my hands." He grimaced. "Trisha is one of her friends."
      "Oh," Arkay stared.
      "Said she didn't want to take the risk." He tipped his head back. "What a stupid thing to have done."
      "On whose part?" Arkay held out his hand.
      "Mine, I suppose," he flipped the remaining condoms, all of them, on the table, to join with Arkay's. "You too?"
      "Yes," he sighed. "You two showed up when she was trying to figure out how much it would cost her to be polite."
      "I am sorry, Arkay."
      "Not your fault."
      "I would have thought with someone new she'd have at least been willing to give it a try." He wished he knew what to do.
      "Maybe if there'd been more time." Then, much to Avilan's surprise, he chuckled. "Although I'd given up by that point."
      "Why?" Avilan could not figure this out.
      "Tired," his wry grin belied the energy Avilan could feel coursing through his body. "At least at the time."
      "Not now?" He flexed his fingers, trying to get a better feel of Arkay through the contact.
      "No, not now," his hips began rocking with Avilan's simple massage. This was one amorous sharm lord. Why hadn't he just flipped Yura on her back and had his way with her?"
      "Why didn't you just tease her until she begged you to take her?"
      "Didn't think of it." He chuckled, shaking his head. "I'm not very good at such games, Avilan. But now you tell. Why didn't you try to convince Lyana to change her mind?"
      "What if I did get her pregnant?" A chill ran up Avilan's spine.
      "Through a physical barrier?" He waved toward the pile of condoms.
      "They aren't perfect."
      "Then let me check something." Arkay raised an eyebrow.
      "Sure, whatever," he let go. Arkay rolled the rest of the way over and sat up.
      "I'm going to have to touch you." He warned the instant before his hand landed on Avilan's side.
      Arkay's vision grayed as the physical contact allowed him to do far more than guess at Avilan's state of desperate arousal. "Polo player, hmmm?" He teased, staring at the spreading wet spot where Avilan was tenting his trousers. It was right up at the waistband, and then, as he watched, the very tip of him peeked over the top.
      "What?" Avilan looked down and bit at his lower lip.
      "You dribble before you shoot." He chuckled, hoping to take some of the worst awkwardness out of the situation.
      "If I don't shoot first and ask questions later." His eyes fluttered closed as Arkay slid his hand over.
      "You too, huh?" Arkay couldn't count the number of times he'd misjudged his enthusiasm and ended up with sore jaws for having had to make up his mistake.
      "I just keep going." He snorted. "Annoying as hell."
      "I would think it would be nice to not have to stop." Arkay sniffed carefully at the now copious fluid dribbling out. It lacked the muskiness of fertility, but that didn't mean a whole lot.
      "I gets really old, really fast." He brushed away the worst of the wetness. "Besides, most women do not like being turned into a swamp."
      "Why not?" Arkay had to unlace Avilan's breeches. He couldn't tell any more by sight alone. Or at least so he told himself.
      "Because then they end up sore the next day."
      "That isn't because you get them too wet. The exact opposite I'd think." Now Arkay had Avilan's testicles in his hands. And yes, here he could sense the life in them, as if he'd had his transfer only yesterday.
      "Feels good," Avilan's hands tangled in his hair.
      "And yes, you are fertile." He looked up to see Avilan eyes glazed with lust. "Although I don't think you care much at the moment." His fingers continued their exploration.
      Avilan held himself back from throwing himself on Arkay only by the slightest of margins. He'd been examined by Azov's healer the day after his fourth, but she was a crotchety old lord more interested in getting through her day's work than in gentleness.
      Arkay's hands were so soft and gentle against the sensitive skin. He shifted his weight, wishing his knees weren't shaking quite so badly. "Is there anything I can do?" He asked at last.
      "I can recommend a few things, but nothing you haven't done so far." Arkay's breath brushed over his loins. It would be so easy to rock his hips forward and beg for more attention. Not that it wasn't obvious the way his thoughts were tending.
      "Not having sex with women and using condoms when I do?" His whole body was trembling.
      "Yes, and not, ever, having impersonal transfers."
      "Isn't that backwards?" He said as Arkay slid forward to the edge of the bed. He'd still not relinquished his hold, and Avilan wasn't saying anything about it.
      "The more impersonals you have, the more hardened you get to inadequate transfers. Sometimes, as men mature, they become reliant on excellent transfers to maintain fertility. But that takes time, and every impersonal sets back the clock." One of his thumbs slid alongside his scrotum, against his thigh. Avilan moaned, his stomach muscles tensing.
      "I," Arkay cleared his throat. "Does this really feel so good?"
      "Yessss," he arched his back, thinking of what it would feel like to be able to find anyone to take him. He could imagine Yura's warm lips caressing him.
      "I've never been with a male." Arkay's admission brought Avilan's attention crashing back to what was really going on.
      "Yes you have." He teased, kneeling over Arkay's lap.
      "I wasn't lying."
      "No, but you've been with yourself." He tugged the blankets out of the way.
      "So I have." Arkay's wry grin teased at Avilan's self control. "But it isn't the same."
      "Why not?" Avilan sucked in his middle so as not to make contact anywhere he didn't want to. Even so he wanted, more than anything else, to really figure out why Arkay was so reticent.
      "I've heard it can hurt." His cheeks reddened as he looked down.
      "We don't have to do this." Avilan himself was still a bit unsure. "It feels good. I have to admit it. But if you're uncomfortable, we won't."
      "It isn't so much uncomfortable." Arkay didn't dare breathe. He'd been horribly afraid of hurting Avilan with his examination, and then had been unable to stop touching him. Certainly he'd seen other males examined for fertility and had been examined himself. But the reality of the heavy weight of Avilan's testicles in his hands had been something else entirely.
      "Then what?" Avilan's deep blue eyes were nearly irresistible. There was an innocence behind them, for all his easy sensuality. It was as if he couldn't see anything wrong with fulfilling whatever desires he might have at the moment, as long as no one was harmed by it.
      "I don't know what to do." He put his arms around Avilan's broad chest. Arkay knew it would grow even more with time and work, and his head spun with the fantastic image.
      "Do what feels good." Avilan rested his chin on Arkay's head, even as his arms came around him. "Why not?"
      "We're both Gen." Which didn't seem to be such a problem at this very moment. His body was aching with desire for whatever it could get.
      "But does that make your hand feel any worse when you masturbate?"
      Arkay choked on his gasp of laughter. "No," he admitted, thinking about it. "Not that I do it so much." He'd rarely felt so amorous that he had to find some sort of release.
      "I do." Avilan's chuckle started low and then trailed off. "Probably more than I should."
      "Any particular reason?"
      "Amorous, bored, frustrated, lonely, all of the above." He shrugged. The gesture brought them closer together. "Want to touch myself."
      "I can understand why." Arkay wished he had such a wonderful thatch of soft hair on his chest. Tempted into boldness, he lipped at a bit of it. "You are very nice to touch."
      "Not better than you are." His hands splayed over Arkay's back. "I like this."
      "You like sex, Avilan." Arkay accused.
      "So I do." He leaned back, looking Arkay in the eyes. "Is there really something wrong with that?"
      Arkay had to think about this for a moment. "No, I don't suppose there is." It was like stepping onto thin air after having expected another stair. "Not that I've had so much to compare it with."
      Avilan wished he were brighter, yet again. "What would you compare sex with?"
      "Eating, elimination, transfer, sleeping," Arkay's continued nuzzling of his chest did not match his words. He'd had Simes less interested in his body.
      "You've done most of those a lot." He said the first thing that came to mind. "Do they require elaborate excuses?"
      "No," his breath cooled the dampness he'd left behind. "But Gens shouldn't have sex with other Gens."
      "Why not?" This was something Avilan had wondered about a great deal in the middle of the night. With Arkay, he felt as if he could ask anything. When Arkay didn't laugh and pull away, he knew his guess had been right.
      "Because it would be like having sex with yourself."
      "In other words, masturbation." Avilan thought this felt a great deal better than his own hands. They weren't sending little quivers of interest all over his body the way Arkay's hands were.
      "But if I spent all my time pleasuring myself, I'd never get anything done." His protest did not match his broad hands sliding down Avilan's back. As a matter of fact, those hands were clutching at him with mindless ferocity.
      "Do you have anything else to do right now?" He asked, a trickle of sweat tickling his side with the force he had to exert to keep talking. "I don't know about you. But I'm amorous as hell, lonely, want to be touched and would like to find out just what its like to bed another Gen."
      "You forgot frustrated." Arkay snorted.
      "Yes, and frustrated as shen." He lipped Arkay's hair, wondering what his own would be like when it had grown out so long. He'd not had it cut since he'd missed one transfer in his first year after changeover, but still it had been done. No one would mistake Avilan for a Sharm Lord, unless it was an exceptionally young one.
      "OK, and frustrated. Me too, Avilan." He pulled back and looked up into Avilan's eyes. "I'm so damned hard it hurts and I want to feel better."
      "Then why don't we find out if we can managed something about our mutual aches." Avilan really hoped this was the last of Arkay's dithering. His balls were about to fall off with all the delays and backfilling.
      Arkay's eyes widened as Avilan slid back off his lap. Now recognizing his chance, he watched avidly as Avilan walked back to the other room. They'd not felt up to sharing the same bed, Arkay for fear of looking the fool, Avilan for probably the same reason, but now it didn't really much matter.
      He returned, again capturing Arkay's undivided attention. Avilan's body was far more mature than his own, with thick hair already covering his chest and trailing down past his navel. The feel of it giving beneath his fingers made them itch to try touching it again.
      "Now we have all we will want." He set a jar on the bedside table. "Don't know what you're going to be up for, but I thought it best to be prepared."
      "What all do you carry in your kador?" Arkay grinned, amazed at all the stuff he seemed to pull out of various pockets.
      "Stuff," he shrugged, sitting back down on the bed. "And you?"
      "Two condoms and some silver eye liner." He admitted. "Not a whole lot."
      "Didn't plan on playing around tonight?" He turned and Arkay realized he'd taken the opportunity to clean off his heavy makeup. No longer were his eyes outlined in kohl and shadowed with all the iridescence of a butterfly's wings.
      "You are gorgeous." Arkay studied Avilan's fine features with all the intensity he'd used on Avilan's magnificent body. He'd probably drop the last few kilos of padding when he got his ascention, but otherwise the only signs left of his youth were his slightly outsized hands and feet.
      "So are you." Avilan's hand brushed down over Arkay's collarbone. For a moment he wanted to hide his still hairless chest, but decided it would be best to brazen his way through. Not all men were as hairy as bears. Then Avilan's fingertips brushed down the front of his pectoral muscles. Arkay gasped, feeling his entire body tense with the rush of sensation.
      "You like?" One fingernail flicked over one of his nipples. Arkay gasped, arching into the touch. "I think so." Avilan's voice dropped into a purr. It was the same as if someone had turned honey audible. Arkay's free hand came around and twined in Avilan's hair.
      "I do like." Arkay's voice had dropped as well. Now he knew what he wanted. "More?"
      "Of course," Avilan's lips required no paint. They were as red as fresh berries at the height of summer. They opened slightly as his pink tongue flicked out to brush where he'd touched. The fact Avilan wasn't as burning hot as a Sime allowed Arkay to do no more than sigh. Then that same soft tongue curled around under his pectorals.
      With all his strength, he pulled Avilan as close as he could. "I think you like a great deal." The tiny, tentative licks turned to nips. Arkay's head fell back as he concentrated on the pleasures so simple a touch could inspire.
      "I do." He caught his breath as Avilan took a break. Then he breathed over the area he'd wet. Arkay shivered all over, what little hair he had standing on end as it did for transfer.
      Avilan was having a great deal of fun. As Arkay's body temperature didn't send his hormones out of control, he could relax and wallow in the sensations he was causing. He'd have never guess Arkay would respond so strongly to being touched, though.
      But as he caressed elsewhere on Arkay's body, he merely cooed appreciatively and did little else. Avilan grinned. Had he managed to find Arkay's sweet spot so easily? With one thumb, he brushed the tight knot of one of Arkay's nipples. He bucked so hard Avilan almost fell off the bed.
      "I have you now." He growled, flipping Arkay onto his back.
      "Oh no, don't do ..." Arkay's protests broke off as Avilan captured his other nipple with his mouth. "Do that. Yes." His tune had changed in mid-phrase. Avilan chuckled to himself, still lapping at the bit of taut flesh. Arkay shivered all over, rocking beneath Avilan's hands and mouth.
      So he wouldn't become uneven, Avilan made sure his other hand continued to tease at Arkay's other nipple. Then he swapped sides just for variety. Arkay's incoherent moans were greater praise than any other lover he'd ever known. Even Dzarkov had merely called him adequate.
      Avilan liked sex. It was fun. Too bad so many people got themselves tied in knots over it. By the time he thought Arkay was well ready, he'd managed to wet his entire chest. He breathed over it, cooling the heated flesh. Arkay whimpered, clutching at Avilan's shoulders.
      "Better than masturbation?" Avilan kept him from answering with another nip. Arkay writhed against him. Avilan sure thought it was. Reducing anyone to a mindless puddle of sensation brought great glee to Avilan's heart ... and other parts.
      Arkay finally managed to catch his breath. He slid down to get Avilan away from his chest. Not that he hadn't enjoyed it. Far from it. But he had no desire to leave his new friend hanging the way so many Simes had left him.
      The smirk on Avilan's face was cute! He looked like a ferret with a bit of crinkly parchment. Then Arkay's hand slid between them and brushed the arch of hard flesh rising between them. Avilan's smirk turned to a gasp. "And just what would be your particular favorite entertainment?" He wondered out loud as he wrapped his hand around what he'd brushed.
      Never before had he noticed how very alive they were. Arkay's fingers had been trained to sense the life beneath the surface of someone's skin. But beneath Avilan's thin skin was a bonfire waiting to be released. As he himself preferred, he simply slid the loose skin protecting the head gently up and down.
      "Oh yes," Avilan's eyes widened. For a moment Arkay was reminded of a stallion as Avilan arched his neck with the gesture. Then another pulse of life against his palm made him quiver with longing to return the pleasure Avilan'd given him. But how?
      Experimentally, he tried nipping at Avilan's broad shoulders. But other than a few encouraging noises, he made no other comment. Then he caught sight of the silk handkerchief protruding from the sleeve of his abandoned kador. Keeping on hand on Avilan, he pulled out a number of drawers.
      At the bottom were a swatches of silk, furs and even a few feathers. Arkay grabbed as many as he could. Avilan stared at them with all the fascination of a rabbit staring at a hawk. He looked like he didn't know if he should run or hold still. Then Arkay took a handful of soft silk and brushed it over the outside of Avilan's arm.
      The effect was astounding. Avilan drew in a huge breath, pressing his arm against the simple contact. Arkay chuckled. "Turn about is fair play." He scooted forward so he could relinquish his hold and grasped some more of the silk. This time he stroked both of Avilan's arms.
      Avilan moaned, twitching against him as his eyes rolled up in his head. "I think you like." He murmured, following the silk with fur.
      "Yes, yes, anything," Avilan shivered, now his hair standing on end. Arkay stroked his face with soft, silky winter rabbit fur. "Oh, Gods, Arkay," he nuzzled Arkay's neck as soon as Arkay stopped teasing him. "I want you."
      A tremor of fear clutched at Arkay's heart. "I want you, but ..." he took a deep breath. "Yes, I do." He grasped Avilan's face in his hands.
      "But first," Avilan's smile turned even more wicked.
      Avilan knew Arkay wasn't going to be able to manage taking him. There was no way a virgin could. No male had ever accepted him and as far as he knew, few females ever would. It didn't matter how badly he wished things were otherwise.
      So instead he gathered up a bit of the silky smooth cleaner he'd had made for him, at one of his prior partner's recommendations. It worked beautifully, and made for a very easy cleanup.
      "Cold!" Arkay twitched back from him a bit.
      "I can warm it up." His hand caressed him, smoothing the slippery stuff into the delicate skin. Arkay bit at his lower lip, obviously loosing his battle to try the impossible. Avilan hadn't meant to ask.
      "You can just keep doing that." He began nibbling on Avilan's shoulder again. Now, with the anticipation of being taken at hand, he shivered as the tiny amount of pain changed to pleasure.
      "I have other plans." Avilan wished he could keep going as he was. But no. He did want something a bit more substantial. "Lean back."
      Arkay's eyes went flat with suspicion. Avilan realized he wasn't going to get out of what he'd said so easily. But then again maybe he would. He brushed both thumbs over Arkay's nipples. A shocked gasp filled the air. Arkay arched his back, not away, but into Avilan's chest.
      Then he cheated. Instead of letting Avilan tip him on his back so Avilan could straddle him, Arkay managed to get his thighs around Avilan's! He'd dreamed so very often of someone opening to him so willingly, but hadn't dared ask.
      "I think you might wish to be a bit more liberal with your anointment." Arkay's ability to form such a clear statement made Avilan's head spin even more. Instead he had to stop and think very carefully about what he was going to do. This was not a time for mistakes.
      "Are you very sure you want this?" He asked, praying Arkay would answer truthfully.
      Arkay knew he wouldn't last more than a fraction of a second if he tried taking Avilan. It would be ridiculous for him to even try. Not to mention frustrating for both of them. "Yes, I do." He reached down and took Avilan in his hand.
      No longer did he seem quite so huge. Arkay well knew it was possible. Particularly after some of the stories he'd heard passed around Sergei about things people used to pleasure themselves with. "You aren't as big as some zucchini."
      "You've been getting friendly with produce?" Avilan's fantastic blue eyes regained their luster.
      "Not personally," he grinned, "but I know some people who have."
      "Then if you're sure." He scooped a bit more of the slippery stuff he'd gotten out of his jar. At first it was cool, making Arkay nearly want to squirm away. Then, as Avilan's deft fingers worked it in, he opened to them.
      Certainly he'd heard of how wonderful such attention could feel. But none of his partners had ever been so forward. Nor did any of them take their time. Not only did Avilan take his time, he seemed to enjoy every wonderful touch and caress. It was as if there were no rush, no hurry to get on with things.
      Before long, Arkay was clutching at the bedsheets, rising up to meet Avilan's stroking fingers. More, he wanted to beg, but was rendered speechless by the sensations in his body.
      Then a sudden sharp pain made him draw back. "Its all right." Avilan leaned down and brushed his lips over Arkay's breast. The pleasure made the pain go away. A golden haze filled his vision. "There we go." Avilan's fingers teased at him, even as his lips spurred him on. His breath came in panting gasps.
      "Relax to me." Avilan's purring voice smoothed away the tremors threatening to make his muscles cramp. "I want you, Arkay." His own name on Avilan's lips returned his earlier longing with tremendous force. He opened to him, wanting to hold all of him.
      "Yes, my beautiful one, open to me." Something brushed over a knot of sensation with butterfly

wings. Arkay moaned, trying to reach for it. "There it is, my pretty." Another of those feather light touches and Arkay called out, trying to draw Avilan in more.
      A steady, sliding, stroking sensation filled all of his senses. Each time the fantastic touch brushed over those nerves, it made him writhe with wanting far more. "Give me." He demanded, trying to push himself downward.
      "I will." Avilan's surety sent him back to his world of pleasure. "A moment." The teasing, tempting fingers left. Arkay shivered with how empty he was. Then Avilan knelt over him. "Relax for me, my Arkay."
      No longer did Arkay worry about anything more than regaining the feelings he'd lost. He pulled his knees to his chest as Avilan set himself. Remembering how good his fingers had felt, Arkay strained to know more. Then, with only the tiniest twinge of pain, he had begun.
      Avilan quivered all over with the desire to drive himself in to the hilt. But even as things stood, Arkay was tighter than even the one virgin he had taken. Sweat streamed down his body as he held back.
      Then Arkay moaned, opening up to Avilan in a way he'd never dreamed another would. It was far too easy to slide in, giving in to Arkay's demands. "Oh, Gods, yes," Arkay hands clenched at his shoulders. "Avilan!" He screamed, clenching down as he convulsed in the first of his spendings.
      He relaxed again, shuddering. As smoothly as he could, he stroked Arkay's body, inside and out. Before long, sense returned to Arkay's face. But it was turned entirely inward.
      "Like?" Avilan shivered as another wave of frantic desire passed him by.
      "Oh yes, oh yes, I do, oh Gods," he finally shouted, bucking against him and writhing. "Anything!"
      "Oh?" Avilan leaned down and nipped at Arkay's chest. His harsh scream rang in Avilan's ears. He pulled Arkay to him, now holding him as he was held. There was so little friction now, the gliding sensations went on without end. Sweat and other things slicked their bodies. Arkay's nails bit into Avilan's shoulders.
      "I'm not quite ready yet." He murmured, worrying one of Arkay's nipples between his teeth. Arkay moaned incoherently, slithering beneath him frantically. He was still as hard as stone, pressing into Avilan with mindless desperation.
      Avilan reached between them and held Arkay in his hand. Arkay bucked in his hold, driving himself far harder than Avilan would ever have driven him. "Soon, my sweet one, soon," he tightened his hold.
      "I want you!" Arkay howled, clamping down on him again. "YES!" He shouted, giving over himself into Avilan's hand.
      "Now?" Avilan growled.
      "Give me." Arkay demanded, teeth clenched. But when Avilan let loose his restraints, Arkay softened, giving over to him as he'd so often dreamed. There was no resistance, no fighting to him, only acceptance. The last fetters of his will broke. Avilan clutched at Arkay frantically as he gave over himself to Arkay's hold.
      Molten fire gathered in his loins gave over to release. He sobbed as the last breath of desire soothed away into stillness.
      Arkay stroked Avilan's back in wonder. No one had ever made him feel so good. He knew he'd feel a bit hard worn in the morning, but right now his whole body buzzed with contentment.
      "Thank you," he whispered in Avilan's ear, not wanting to spoil the moment with loud words.
      "Oh, thank you," Avilan breathed, his breath catching. "No one, ever, anything like, oh Gods, Arkay," he was still quivering. Or was it Arkay? At this point he had no idea.
      "I'm no God, Avilan." Arkay chuckled, not wanting to move a cent.
      "Close enough," Avilan muttered, brushing his face against Arkay's chest. Arkay shuddered at the overwhelming sensation. A sudden awareness of how very wet and sticky they both were came to mind. He looked down when Avilan had leaned back to see a pool of moisture dribbling down both his flanks.
      "Who did that?"
      "You," Avilan chuckled. "I do have to move." As he slid out, Arkay shivered again. More wet stickiness came to his attention. "We're both a mess."
      "I'm a very happy mess." Arkay debated rolling over. He thought it might be a good idea. His body said no. "Oh, my," he let his legs fall back down. His hips ached.
      "Sore?" Avilan's hand landing on his soaked middle made him jump. "Sorry."
      "Oh, I'm just dazed." Arkay flailed around in hopes of finding Avilan. At last he made contact. "Get back over here." He tugged, futilely.
      "I didn't hurt you?" Finally Avilan's worried look penetrated Arkay's muzzy brain.
      "Nope," he grinned, thinking of how wonderful he felt. If he had more energy, he could dance on the roof tops. His thighs quailed at the idea. "Definitely better than masturbation."
      "I'm glad you think so." Avilan's laughter was so joyous, Arkay envied him for a moment. "You are a wonderful lover, Arkay."
      "You beat me to my own line." He tugged Avilan's hand in to kiss it. "Thank you again. Think we can do it again ... some other night?"
      "Not right now, no." He collapsed with a whuff of bedding. "Sticky spot." Avilan's expression of offense made Arkay giggle. Once he started, his laughter won.
      "Gods I feel good." It felt as if a hundred ton weight of selyn had been lifted from his shoulders.
      "So do I." Avilan dabbed at the puddle on Arkay's middle with a spare handkerchief. It did some good. Although it was certainly for the best that Arkay wasn't fertile. Otherwise they would have soaked all the way down to the featherbed. Then he moved and realized Avilan had. "I'm afraid I'm not the neatest lover."
      "I wouldn't agree with that." Arkay began heading for dryer territory. The far side of the bed was a long ways away.
      "What about the person this suite belongs to?" Avilan resisted the move. This didn't help any.
      "Trust me, they won't care." Arkay knew quite well the only person who could say anything about the secondary Sergei suite at Azov was his father, who'd be staying at Sergei for as long as Arkay was living at Azov.
      "I do trust you." Avilan wrapped himself around Arkay's backside and yawned in his ear. "Besides, I don't think I can walk anywhere right now."
      "I know I can't." Arkay laced his fingers with Avilan's. "Sleep, my lover." As he said the words, Avilan drifted off. Arkay remained a wake only a few moments longer. Long enough to wonder at how much he'd been missing those months at Sergei.
      Avilan woke feeling better than he had in months. There was something off about the warm, soft body he held in his arms, but at the moment he didn't care a whit. Then he breathed in a mouthful of hair.
      Sputtering, he leaned back to see a pair of broad, very Gen shoulders. Where had he ended up? Avilan did not recognize any of the furnishings. And from the chilly breeze, he was far, far above ground.
      "Good morning," a thick, rich baritone brought him back to earth.
      "Arkay!" He hugged him.
      "Yes," he chuckled, stroking Avilan's hands with his fingertips. "Not quite so loud, if you please."
      "Oh, sorry," he whispered, realizing Arkay would probably be feeling a bit delicate this morning. Avilan felt like singing his joy to the whole world. Then reality made his dancing thoughts come to a crashing standstill. "We should probably keep our relationship a bit quiet."
      "You're probably right." Arkay sighed, scooting back against Avilan's chest. "I don't know about your family, but mine will probably get a bit upset if they find out I'm dallying with another Gen."
      Avilan knew better than to ask, as from Arkay's reticence, he did not wish to talk about his father. There were so many Valentines in the Demense, he didn't have a hope of tracing down which one might have sired Arkay. "My parents are freeholders, Arkay. They don't," he hesitated, "well, lets just say they consider the Demense hotbeds of libertinism."
      "And so wouldn't be surprised?" Arkay snorted.
      "More they'd feel themselves justified in their concerns when I'd said I wanted to swear to Azov." Avilan couldn't imagine living anywhere else now. He'd overheard his parents talking about making matches for him and his two sisters growing up. The freedom to pick and chose his partners was something Avilan couldn't do without now.
      "Do you think they would try to take you back?"
      "I didn't think they could." Avilan wondered about this.
      "By freeholder standards, you aren't adult." Arkay's hands had grown cold on his.
      "We'll do fine, Arkay." He nuzzled his lover's neck. "Lord Azov won't even notice as long as we don't rub his tentacles in it."
      "I think he notices a lot more than you think, Avilan."
      "But he doesn't act on it unless he has to."
      "I hope so." Arkay sighed. "Well, this is my first day as sharm lord Arkay Azov. Where do I go to find out what jobs are open?"
      "What can you do?" Avilan glanced around, trying to find a clock. There were none up anywhere he could find them. His own was in a pocket in the lining of one of his sleeves. He did not want to brave the cold to look at it.
      "All the usual Gen things." He twined fingers with Avilan. "Cook, clean, sew, take care of children, keep books." Arkay did not sound too enthused about any of these things.
      "What do you like to do?" Avilan thought back on the time they'd spent together.
      "I like to help people." He sighed. "But S ... my father forbade me from working in the infirmary."
      "Why?" All the healers Avilan had ever known were so dedicated, to bar them from their vocation was cruelty. He propped himself on one elbow so he could see Arkay's face. It was lined far past his years.
      "Because he doesn't wish for others to know of the ties between us."
      "You are born of Sergei. There's no guessing who your father is if you work as a healer." Avilan snorted. "He's wrong, Arkay. You should do as you wish. Its your life."
      "But I don't want to go back, Avilan." He turned, looking up into Avilan's eyes. His own were nearly a storm grey. "I want to stay here, away from him. I do want to live my own life."
      "Then ask Lord Azov to protect you." He put one finger on Arkay's lips. "He knows you're a Sharm Lord. So do I. Its obvious even without the bracelets."
      "I was supposed to hide the fact I ascended myself at establishment." Arkay paled.
      "Which I think is a good thing." Avilan wasn't so sure how he felt about his own possible ascention. The few times he'd thought of approaching one of the Azov Lords to discuss it, he'd shyed away before making contact.
      "Why?" The lines began to fade from his mouth, as his fantastic brain took over from his emotions. Arkay, no matter what his patronymic, was going to be a force to be reckoned with in Russia when he came into his strength. Avilan gave thanks for the chance to get to know him first.
      "Because you now have the time to learn to deal with people as peers, before trying to lead them." Which was why Avilan was so skittish about the idea of his own ascention. Many lords had said he'd had the selyn capacity to make Sharm Lord. But if he had the will was up to the Gods. Right now Avilan had no idea.
      "But I find myself leading people anyway, Avilan." He sighed. "I can't help it. When I see someone doing something stupid, I have to help."
      "Because you are a good person, Arkay." He took Arkay's hands in his own. "Please believe me."
      "I do." His open smile transformed his face into something magnificent. There was a brilliance to him which went far beyond the physical. "I'll do it. I'll ask Lord Azov to stand for me so I can work in the infirmary."
      "Yes, ask for help so you know how to give it." Avilan felt his heart lighten as the life came back to Arkay's eyes.
      "Indeed," his smile broadened. "Although your wisdom, I think, far surpasses mine."
      "I'm older." He shrugged, not wishing to make much of it. Avilan knew it was simply good sense. "Live your life, Arkay. No one else will do it for you."
      "Thank you, my friend." Relief made Arkay's face regain its glow of youth.
      "Thank you for making love with me." He had to show his appreciation somehow. Even if they couldn't be acknowledged lovers, still he knew Arkay would always hold part of his heart.
      "Thank you for being so gentle." Then the smile redoubled in force. "I'd have thee as my lover."
      "Yes," Avilan gathered him up in his arms. "Oh, Arkay, thank you," he laughed with his joy until tears spilled from his eyes.
      Arkay was overwhelmed with the force of Avilan's emotions. Never before had he known anyone so open and free with their feelings and words. Most at Sergei had seen him as his father's son, closing their lips over their honest opinions until Arkay didn't know which way to turn.
      "You believe in me." He rubbed Avilan's strong back. "As I believe in you."
      "I'm nothing special, Arkay." He leaned back and wiped a few tears from his cheeks.
      "You are." He said, wishing he knew how to put his thoughts into words. "You will go far, my lover."
      "As will you." Avilan snorted, looking as mulish as any sharm matron Arkay'd ever seen.
      "Then shall we do it together?" He offered his hand.
      "Yes," Avilan took his wrist. "Selyn brothers."
      "Until death." Arkay reciprocated the grasp.
      "Until death, my brother."

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