“Are you going to keep pretending that you don’t hear me?” Armando asked.
Izdahl put aside the news file he was reading, shutting off the computer tablet that displayed the information. He placed it on the bedside table and looked pointedly at Armando.
“I did hear you,” Izdahl told the architect, sighing. “But I’m beginning to feel like some type of experiment.”
“Why?” Armando found his reaction to be surprising, given that he’d responded to other questions. “I was only asking you about wielding elements.”
“Lately, you’ve been drilling me for information about Nitelge traits. I was hoping we could spend a quiet weekend together, just staying at home. Instead, I’m being dissected. When do the scanners and probes appear?”
“I’m still learning about your culture,” Armando told him, becoming slightly exasperated.
“How about I give you my tablet? You can download everything on Nitelge from the national library and—”
“Izdahl, that’s not the same. I was reading a book about wielding but I thought I had a better source right next to me. Still, if my questions bother you that much…” Armando pushed off the covers and got out of the bed.
“Where are you going?”
“To your study to learn what I can.”
“I said you could use my tablet. You don’t have to go to another computer system.”
“Well, you seem to be in a bad mood. Be by yourself for a while.”
“Please come back in bed; let me talk to you.”
“Alright.” Armando settled himself next to Izdahl again. “I was asking if you could hide when you’re going to release an element.”
“Yes. I’ve honed my skills. I also participate in tournaments where the primary element that matters is that of surprise.” Izdahl nodded slowly, a smirk crossing his face. The architect laughed at his arrogance.
“Hey…” Armando paused, wondering if he had truly exhausted Izdahl’s patience for questions tonight. The main ones he wanted answered were still on his mind. So, despite the uncertainty, he pressed forward. “Can I see the Nakra Hein tournament?”
“Not in person,” Izdahl replied, firmly. “Our rules make it only for Nitelge.”
“Because it’s dangerous. We’re more resilient than humans. We have protective barriers but there are still accidents. At the same time, even if something like a fireball were to be deflected into the audience, most Nitelge wouldn’t flinch. On the other hand, a human would get injured.”
“Would it be possible for humans to view the tournament on television?” Armando pressed, sounding hopeful. “Or, can we be at The Gathering and watch the fire sparring in a safe area? Surely, the other competitions, like shape-shifting, don’t hold the same danger; we could see those up close.”
“To my knowledge, no human has been at The Gathering, which we’ve had for about 7000 years, almost since the beginning of our civilization,” Izdahl told him. “Humans only came to our planet 400 years ago. It might be difficult to convince most Nitelge to have humans there.”
Izdahl continued to explain the significance of The Gathering. It was a release valve and a way for the Nitelge to bond. While the clans did have some animosity, they focused their frustration into the tournaments. The spectators supported the participants of their respective clans, sometimes cheering for those of other groups, if the combatants were particularly skilled.
“I want to be there even more,” Armando said. “Is there a punishment for a human who gets in unauthorized?”
“Yes and that’s all you need to know.”
“Izdahl!” Armando complained, causing his lover to chuckle.
“Listen. On a serious note, do not try. You would bring much shame on me.”
“It’s quite exclusive, the antithesis of the atmosphere you and some Nitelge claim to want.” Armando gave a heavy sigh.
“I understand your annoyance but let me speak plainly to you. Humans are on our planet because we allow it. Please respect the reasonable boundaries we’ve set, to which your leaders have agreed.”
“I will,” Armando told him. “There’s no need to speak so formally to me.”
“Perhaps, in time, some of The Gathering’s events will be televised,” Izdahl said, softening his tone. “There’s a better chance of that happening than of humans seeing any of them firsthand.”
“If you say so…” Armando replied, cryptically.
“Armando…” Izdahl’s voice carried a warning and the architect grinned.
“Well, are there at least recordings of the sparring?”
“Yes but only certain individuals get copies, usually the Kelchos and those who spar. It is quite a special privilege.”
“Why is it so restricted?”
“The entire Gathering is meant to stay private. So, records of any type are released to few individuals.”
“Can you show me the…the Nakra Hein finals when you fought Rasmus?” Armando had been hesitant; he knew the mention of Rasmus could annoy Izdahl.
“I wasn’t in the most accommodating frame of mind during that session. I don’t want you to see me like that.”
“Maybe. Leave the topic alone for now.”
At least it wasn’t a firm ‘No’, Armando thought, I won’t quit until he says ‘Yes’.
“And just because that wasn’t a definite rejection doesn’t mean you can ask me every day.” Izdahl gave him a knowing glance.
“What? I never even considered—”
“Uh huh, of course, love…”
Despite the light tone of the conversation, Izdahl was pulled back to a vexing topic, causing him to groan in frustration.
“What is it?” Armando asked. “Your mood changed.”
“I’ll be going on a trip with Father,” Izdahl said. “We’re visiting a Nieri territory in the Western Hemisphere.”
He would be away for two weeks, though he didn’t want to go. One of the Nitelge he’d be dealing with on the trip was Lorne Nieri. Izdahl had disliked him since childhood.
“Holding a grudge isn’t something you generally do,” Armando noted. “What happened?”
“It’s a long story. I’ll share it some other time…Anyway, will you miss me?”
“Do you want me to miss you?” Armando teased.
“Yes,” Izdahl admitted, smiling. He gently rubbed one thumb along Armando’s bottom lip. Then he brought his mouth to his lover’s, lightly kissing him.
“And how badly should I miss you?” Armando asked. “Do I need to count the minutes you’re away, living each one in agony? But also anticipating the very second you’ll return to me?”
“Yes and make a short, artistic, black and white movie about how difficult it is for you.”
They stared at each other for a moment, then began to laugh.
“That was all a bit much. You know that, right?”
“Definitely,” Izdahl replied.
“So, when do you leave?”
“In a few weeks. Before I go, I want to give you something.”
“Like you already did today, twice?” There was a lewd expression on Armando’s face, which caused Izdahl to grin. A thrill went through his body as he thought of how lustily they had started the day and how they had begun the evening.
“No, something besides that.”
Izdahl got up out of bed. Armando gave his torso an appreciative appraisal as he searched one of the dressers. He opened the top drawer and removed a box. It contained an item that carried several deep meanings for him. He hoped Armando would accept it.
When Izdahl turned back around to face his lover, Armando was sitting up in bed, staring at him expectantly. Izdahl went to him, feeling nervousness beginning to rise.
“I wanted you to have this,” he explained, his voice strained. He opened the box, revealing a metal cuff with his family seal, along with his name and Armando’s engraved on the inside. “It would mean a great deal to me if you wore it. It is a Nitelge tradition to give our lovers these to wear. It symbolizes your connection to the Amasis and more specifically to me.”
“Izdahl, is this like a tag or something?”
“I’m joking. Relax. Why do you look so tortured?”
“Never mind. Maybe it’s too soon. If you don’t want to—”
“I didn’t say anything like that.”
Armando took the cuff, which was made of baltium, the strongest metal on the planet. He ran his fingers over the details. Then he placed it on his left wrist, thinking about the significance of what he had done. There was a bit of nervousness but primarily, there was contentment. It felt right to have a physical display of his relationship with Izdahl.
“I don’t have anything for you,” Armando said quietly. “I’ll have something made by the time you return.”
Izdahl let out a long sigh of relief and Armando laughed at him.
“Don’t make fun of me,” Izdahl murmured. “I wasn’t sure how you’d react.”
“Maybe I should have thrown it,” Armando joked. When Izdahl looked at him with wounded eyes, he considered the gravity of the situation. “Seriously, are my feelings for you in doubt?”
“Sometimes, but this makes it all clear. I like seeing my mark on you.”
Armando gave him a salacious grin, inviting him to put marks in other places. Izdahl was about to take him up on the offer when the architect paused, another desire coming to his mind.
“Wait, before we go further, I have a request. Can I try one of those orange capsules? Let me experience sex with it at least once.”
“Aren’t things good enough for you?”
“That’s not what I mean. Ever since you mentioned them, I’ve wanted to know what they’re like. And I’m aware that they’re not addictive; it’s not as if…I won’t take them if you don’t want me to do it.”
“Why are you looking at me so reproachfully?”
“We’re both adults. Yet, you act as if you need to protect me from myself.”
“I just don’t want to offer you anything you’ll regret,” Izdahl told him. “I know we’ve been together for a while now. But I’m still tentative about how much of the Nitelge world I expose you to, ‘Mando.”
“You think I can’t handle something like a capsule?” Armando raised an eyebrow, looking incredulous. “Seriously?”
“No love, it’s bigger than that.”
“Then let’s start with the small things first. Well, frankly, we catapulted past the ‘small things’ the moment we had sex.”
“This is true,” Izdahl replied, chuckling. He ran his hands through his hair, shaking his head and marveling at how often Armando could persuade him.
A few minutes later, the architect was drinking a glass of water, washing down an orange capsule. He was peering at Izdahl, trying to read his lover’s expression. There was craftiness in his eyes and Armando wondered why.
“You’re looking at me as if you know something I don’t,” Armando noted. “It better not be anything bad.”
“I guess that would depend on your definition of bad. But surely, we can focus on others things right now.”
Izdahl took the empty glass from Armando and put it aside. Pushing the architect gently onto the bed, Izdahl laid his body on top of Armando’s.
“Izdahl, remember what I said about your wings, a few months ago?”
“That you wanted them wrapped around you during sex?”
“Yes. Can we do it that way now?”
“Yes. You rarely show me your wings. Why?”
“I guess it’s because they’re one of the largest differences between us. And when I admitted to you that I was the hawk, you became angry with me.”
Armando thought back to his reaction, many months ago.
“I had my reasons and none of them had to do with your wings. We both know why I reacted the way I did.”
“True. I’m sorry.”
“I’m not because in the end, it led to good things.”
The last bit of Izdahl’s reluctance disappeared with those words.
There was always a wonderful surge of pleasure that occurred when he released his wings. This instance was no exception. And, to be doing it around Armando had a special meaning to him.
“I’ve imagined being this way with you many times,” Izdahl murmured.
He flapped his wings. The breeze created by them caused goose bumps to rise on Armando’s skin. They both smiled, when they saw his body’s response.
“You know, the same thing happened the first time I saw you show them.”
Armando stroked a few of his lover’s feathers. It sent ripples of pleasure through Izdahl; he groaned and his irises became a richer, darker blue.
“You keep doing that and you’ll end things before I’m even inside you.”
Armando laughed, taking his hands off Izdahl’s wings. To avoid tempting fate, Izdahl hid them. He chuckled at the look of disappointment on Armando’s face.
“I promise I’ll let them appear again.”
He ran his hands through Armando’s hair, kissing his neck.
The architect sighed, his skin now tingling from the feel of Izdahl’s mouth on him. When their tongues met, the charge from it made him groan loudly, as it traveled down to his crotch, fully hardening him. Izdahl smiled when he felt the new development.
He nibbled along Armando’s jaw line and then decided to take his exploration lower. His next area of interest was the architect’s well-developed chest, now more toned from their months of exercising together. Izdahl licked a fierce, wet path down to Armando’s stomach, biting him intermittently, watching his flesh redden.
When he arrived at the juncture of Armando’s thighs, he gripped his hips tightly. He licked the head of Armando’s cock and then boldly took him deep into his mouth.
Armando, surprised at the intensity of the sensation, bucked up, crying out. The orange capsule had now fully taken effect. Every touch sent fierce currents through him.
When Armando’s pre-cum was coating Izdahl’s throat, he released the architect. After readying him for his entrance, Izdahl slipped inside him. Holding Armando tightly in his arms, Izdahl began to tunnel into him hard, bringing out raw cries from the architect. Wanting to increase the effects of the orange capsule, Izdahl struck up an aggressive rhythm that was more vigorous than any he’d ever done with his lover.
Armando covered his face with his hands, feeling self-conscious at his raw expressions.
“Love, don’t ever hide from me,” Izdahl told him.
He pinned Armando’s arms above his head and pushed into him even harder. He cherished all the feelings he caused to dance across Armando’s face, thinking of those years ago when he’d wanted so much to have the architect.
“Can I touch you too?” Armando asked.
Izdahl acquiesced and Armando immediately began to stroke the crescents on his back. Coaxing the wings out, he ran his fingers across the ridges, now fully knowing what it did to Izdahl.
Armando was undone by the feel of Izdahl’s wings embracing him and the force of Izdahl’s last thrust. He splayed out completely on the bed, overcome by the sensations, his pearly jism escaping his body. He felt Izdahl have his own release, his lover’s fluids traveling deep inside him. Satiated, he lay there limp. Long after his skin had cooled and Izdahl had slipped out of him, he remained in the same position.
“Are you ever going to move?” Izdahl asked, laughing.
“I don’t know if I can. That capsule tripled all my reactions. Why didn’t you warn me?”
“You wanted it…”
“Well, I think I broke something.”
Izdahl laughed softly, his breath traveling against Armando’s neck. He breathed in the scent of the architect. The sweet fragrance from their sexual exploits lingered on his lover’s skin.
The phone call the next day was not welcomed but Uelden insisted that the caller was an important individual. The butler stifled a smile at the scowl Armando gave him and handed the architect the phone. Izdahl, usually a light sleeper, had not even stirred.
“Yes…This is Armando.”
“Hello. It’s Dmitri. Is Izdahl there?”
“He’s busy right now,” Armando responded in a gravelly but pompous voice. “He’s
recovering from sex with me…What do you want Dmitri?”
“Pictures of you two; videos; anything.”
“No, I mean why did you call?” Armando asked, laughing.
“Izdahl is late for a rehearsal. It’s not like him; I thought I’d see what happened. But, I know now. Please stop banging his head against the headboard. Leave him with some brain cells. I don’t want to be embarrassed at the concert.” Armando laughed even louder, awakening Izdahl.
“Be quiet, ‘Mando,” Izdahl grumbled, his voice groggy.
“Ah, my sexy prince awakens,” Armando teased him. “Dmitri is on the phone for you.”
“This early?” Izdahl rolled closer to Armando and planted a loud, playful kiss on his mouth. “Tell him we have better things to do.”
“It’s actually almost midday.”
“Midday? Ah, rehearsal was at 11!” Izdahl scrabbled out of bed and grabbed the telephone to speak to his friend. “Dima, sorry. I’ll be there soon; I promise.”
“I’ll excuse your tardiness, though it’s not very professional of you,” Dmitri responded. “The conductor is letting me take charge for your guest performance and here you are, halting my progress.”
“I truly do apologize. I’ll see you soon.”
Armando followed Izdahl, watching with amusement as the Nitelge hurried to get ready. Even as he was about to rush out of the door, Izdahl paused to give Armando a quick kiss.
“Last night was great,” he said, giving Armando a scandalous grin. His eyes raked over the architect’s body, tempted to climb back into bed with him.
“Go,” Armando told him, knowing exactly where his thoughts were wandering.
“I’ll be back in a few hours.”
Izdahl made his way to rehearsals, images of being with Armando still on his mind. When he arrived at the concert hall, Dmitri treated him with a glare through narrowed eyes. Before his friend could complain, Izdahl cut him off, “You avoid lecturing me—and I’ll overlook your necrophilia.”
“My necro—What? I am not interested in dead bodies!”
Some of the other orchestra members, having heard the exchange, expected more entertainment. They looked back and forth between the two friends.
“You know what necrophilia means. That’s quite impressive,” Izdahl goaded. “It’s such a big word for you.”
“I have a stunning vocabulary.”
“Of course, it’s not like when we were at university and I had to help you write your papers.” Izdahl smiled slyly, keeping Dmitri occupied with insults while he set up his instrument. “By the way, you still owe me for one paper. Can you imagine the interest on that payment?”
“For someone who was late, you sure are acting rudely,” Dmitri huffed. “Why can’t you—-”
“Aren’t we going to rehearse?” Izdahl asked innocently. “I’m ready now.”
When Izdahl left, Armando permitted himself to be lazy for just a bit longer. He pulled the pillow that Izdahl had slept on close to him, deeply breathing in his lover’s scent. Then he drifted off to sleep.
The dream world he entered was one of chaos.
He was naked in a cage in the center of a large, echoing, stone chamber. There were chains around his arms and legs, linking him to the bars of his metal prison. Nonchalantly observing his attempts to break free was a figure, whose face was obscured. The being sat on a throne, dressed in black armor, which accented his already massive physique.
“You do not know it yet but you will try to get in my way. And I will merely add you to my collection.”
Armando woke up sweating, the coldness of the chains and words maliciously grasping at him. He sat up quickly and scanned the room. It was as if the presence had left his dreams and entered the bedroom. When he was sure that was not the case, his breathing slowed to normal.