Darion was preparing to leave for his workday when he was summoned to Beilon’s office. As he walked the short distance to where his superior was located, he wondered if he’d be receiving good news.
“These are the files for the Hanio and Mekria mediation project,” Beilon said. “The parties personally requested you. Knowing your level of finesse, I agree that you’re the best to handle it. Just so it’s clear, the results of this issue can have international—and possibly interplanetary—ripples.”
Within a few seconds, the data about the dispute was downloaded to Darion’s handheld computer. He perused the information, considering what he knew of the two countries in question. Hanio, like Vaironia, was on the planet Bharatos, while Mekria was located on Paltromo. The conflict between the two nations involved Zeiban, a large island which they currently shared. The source of the tension centered on how the two parts of the island should relate. Vaironia, known for the quality of its negotiators, was solicited to help resolve the disagreement.
“I’ll do some more research and create three strategies,” Darion remarked. Then he hesitated, reluctant to ask the question on his mind.
Beilon looked at him expectantly.
“I’m really the one handling this?”
“Is it a problem for you?”
“No; not at all. It’s just that when Meric was giving the briefing this morning, he didn’t mention this assignment.”
“It hadn’t been officially accepted at that time.”
The surprise showed on Darion’s face and Beilon gave the negotiator one of his rare, full smiles.
“Yes, Darion. It’s impressive that you’ve been assigned it so soon after I’ve accepted it.”
“I’m actually surprised about it for more than one reason.”
“Why aren’t you more confident after managing the situation with Tolrek?”
“Well, I wasn’t the first negotiator asked to handle it. Plus, that situation was internal. This one has international consequences.”
“It certainly does. I’ll expect you to rise to the occasion.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Say that you won’t make a mistake,” Beilon told him, laughing. “No pressure.”
“Of course not,” Darion chuckled.
Beilon rose, leading Darion over to the door of his office. He gently rested one hand on the negotiator’s shoulder.
“Before you go, I want you to know that you should expect a visitor tonight,” Beilon told his protégé.
“Just be in your home by 2200 tonight.” Beilon gave the negotiator a meaningful look.
Darion nodded and left. Eager to get to work on the negotiation project, he stayed at his office late in the night, being mindful that he had to get home by the time Beilon required.
Halsam placed the golden box of luxurious chocolates in the middle of the marble table. Then, fastidious about taking care of Darion’s needs, he adjusted and readjusted the position of the box. Once Darion returned, the first thing he would see was what awaited him. Halsam took one last look at his handiwork to determine if he could make improvements. Satisfied, he started to walk away when Tolrek approached, curious after having seen the servant fret over the item.
“What’s that?” Tolrek asked.
“Oh, don’t touch it. It’s a present for Sir Darion.”
“Hmmm, definitely looks special.” Tolrek began to unwrap the package.
Halsam’s mouth opened in horror. He wasn’t sure which bothered him more, the way Tolrek had nonchalantly ripped apart what he’d took pride in setting up or the fact that the rebel was already eating what was meant for Darion.
“Tolrek, you mustn’t!” Halsam exclaimed. “He’s going to be so angry.”
“Over chocolates?” Tolrek sniffed derisively.
“They’re his favorites and have a special meaning for him.”
Hearing Halsam be unusually loud, Arjan came out of the kitchen to see what was happening. What he encountered made his eyes open wide. Surely Tolrek wouldn’t be so foolish, especially after the warnings from Halsam.
“Oh, I would listen to Halsam if I were you,” Arjan suggested.
“Don’t you have some pastries to make?” Tolrek asked, waving one hand dismissively.
“He’s on his own,” Fei told Halsam. “Forget it. Save yourself.”
“But…” Halsam looked pained.
“He has to learn,” Arjan cut him off. “Come help me in the kitchen. You’ll want to be far away when the explosion happens.” Halsam dutifully followed him into the kitchen.
Tolrek, while listening to the exchange, doubted the wisdom of his actions for one brief moment. Then he shrugged and chose a fourth piece of chocolate to eat.
A few minutes later, Darion arrived, preoccupied with what Beilon had last said to him. His preoccupation quickly came to an end when he saw the chocolates—and Tolrek in the middle of eating them.
“Are those what I think they are?” Darion demanded loudly.
“Maybe,” Tolrek replied, considering yet another morsel. Darion’s eyes burned into him.
“How dare you eat my chocolates? I get them once a year as a gift from my grandmother. She sends them all the way from Tildar. Only those close to her receive them.”
“Well, by transitive properties, I’m close to her because I’m close to you. So…I’m going to keep eating.”
“What did you just say?”
“You heard me and by the way, this last bit wasn’t my favorite. Maybe I should pick one without the creamy filling.”
“You oaf!” Darion exploded. “You rebelling, obnoxious oaf! Come here!”
Tolrek ran, clearly now understanding that he hadn’t made the best of decisions.
“I told him so,” Halsam grumbled.
Halsam heard the commotion move from the foyer to the living room then to the dining room. He gnawed on his bottom lip, the tension getting to him. Arjan, however, ignored the disturbance, other than hoping Tolrek would get mauled.
“Stop overreacting,” Tolrek laughed, stealthily avoiding the negotiator.
He was doing well until Fei entered the mix and shocked him, taking him to the ground.
“Damn you!” he shouted, as Fei expressed her mirth.
Darion snatched him up and dragged him to the Punishment Room. Once inside, Darion lifted him completely off his feet, causing Tolrek to dangle almost a foot off the floor.
“You will learn what it means to obey me!” Darion said, fiercely shaking Tolrek twice.
The absolute fury in Darion’s eyes made Tolrek swallow loudly. Suddenly, Darion put him back down on the ground and inexplicably turned away from him. The negotiator’s shoulders began shaking.
Surely he’s not crying over some friggin’ chocolates, Tolrek thought, What kind of wimp bested me in negotiations?
When the shaking continued, Tolrek began to feel a twinge of guilt. Maybe the chocolates had more meaning than he could have ever fathomed. Surely candy that could make Darion cry carried some extremely special memories. Maybe Darion’s grandmother was ill and getting this gift brought joy but also sadness. That must be it because it wasn’t like Darion to be unreasonably emotional. He had, after all, lifted Tolrek off the ground and looked like he had been preparing to throw him.
Tolrek cleared his throat. It seemed he had done something wrong and he was mature enough to apologize.
“Darion, I’m sorry. I’ve acted in an offensive manner. I didn’t me—”
“That was great, the look on your face!’ Darion exclaimed, turning to face him. Loud laughter escaped from him. “You really believed I would throttle you.”
“You were joking?”
“Then the chocolates aren’t important?”
“Not that type. The ones I care about are coming tomorrow. I just wanted to give you a preview of what would happen, if you put your hands on my chocolate.” Darion chuckled. “You know, I hope Fei recorded everything. I’ll have to watch it again…and again.”
“It’s ready for your viewing pleasure,” Fei confirmed.
“Did everyone else in the house know what you were doing?” Tolrek asked, coldly.
“No but they soon will.”
Darion exited the room, supremely pleased with himself. When he told Halsam and Arjan the real story, they enjoyed themselves at Tolrek’s expense too.
“It looked like the same brand,” Halsam said, still unable to believe what had actually happened.
“Yes but it was missing our Tildari family seal,” Darion responded. “That indicates which kind of chocolates are in there; they are the best of the best.”
“Oh Darion, that was great,” Arjan told him. “Tolrek deserves it for all the trouble he causes us.”
“You really had us worried,” Halsam admitted.
“Stop letting him torment you,” Darion said, exasperated. “I have Security Robots. You can always use them to restrain him. Then of course, there’s Fei.”
“But that all seems so excessive,” Halsam replied. “Besides, you deal with him best.”
“Yes, I sure do,” Darion said, pinching Tolrek’s ass.
The rebel smacked his hand away, having grown more annoyed as he listened to the conversation.
“Ha, ha, fucking ha!” Tolrek mocked.
He started to walk away but Darion grabbed him, holding the rebel close to his chest, breathing in his unique scent. Halsam and Arjan exchanged looks over the show of affection and then busied themselves, giving their employer and his obnoxious charge some privacy.
“I’ll make up for what I did,” Darion murmured in Tolrek’s ear. “Tomorrow when the real chocolates arrive, I’ll share them with you.”
“You can keep your teeth-rotting garbage.”
“Don’t be that way,” Darion chided. “Maybe I’ll share other things with you.”
His promise echoing in Tolrek’s mind, he went to have his dinner. Tolrek followed, sitting down at the table too.
“Didn’t you already eat?” Darion asked.
“No, I…waited for you.”
A small smile graced Darion’s face as they began their meal.
Shortly before the two finished their dinner, Fei announced that someone was requesting entrance.
“Fei, who is it?” Darion asked.
“It’s Kejaro Kasai,” Fei responded, having done a scan of the person’s features and gathered data. “Age 27, 5’ 10”, muscular, red hair and green eyes. Adept at gathering information. Stellar reputation for doing so in a discreet fashion.”
“Thank you,” Darion said, looking at his watch. It was around the time Beilon had told him to expect a visitor. “Let him in and have Halsam guide him to my study.”
“Why’s he here?” Tolrek asked.
“Official business,” Darion responded.
“As it should be. Don’t cause trouble tonight.”
A few minutes later, Halsam led the visitor to Darion’s study. After some general conversation, the two began to discuss the reason for Kejaro’s arrival.
“Sir Darion, I come under the orders of Sir Beilon Warel,” Kejaro said. “He strongly suggests that you use my services.”
“It is Mr. Warel’s belief that factions within the VSB are particularly interested in Tolrek Marou. Mr. Warel thinks this could lead to Marou’s death. Before Warel can do something to counteract the situation, he wants me to gather information.”
“How do I know you’re not from the faction against Marou?”
“Because I said I’m here at the request of Mr. Beilon Warel. There are only three individuals I fear in this country and, quite possibly, on this entire planet. He is one of them.”
“Who are the other two?”
“I can’t give you too much ammunition against me now, can I?”
“Clever,” Darion replied, chuckling and taking a sip of his wine.
“At any rate, I wouldn’t use Warel’s name in this fashion without permission. You can easily check with him about my credentials.”
“I’ll keep what you’ve told me in mind.”
“Good. Now, let me explain my reason for being here.”
The conversation lasted several hours. When it finished, Halsam showed Kejaro out. Darion stayed in his study, contemplating what he had learned.
“Darion, can we…” Tolrek stopped as he realized there was a guest. Tolrek eyed the tall, slender woman who was with Darion. She stared back at him. Was he imagining the flash of dislike in her green eyes?
“Tolrek, I will be finished here shortly,” Darion said.
The rebel nodded, apologized for the interruption and then left. Darion noted that a few months ago, Tolrek would not have done any of those things. He would have just kept on talking.
“He is quite handsome,” Elani Za said, once Tolrek had gone.
“Yes, he is,” Darion agreed.
Elani frowned slightly, hearing the desire in Darion’s voice. She laughed internally at herself. There was always someone, even a rebel, standing in her path to Darion. He simply did not want her and it was best that she turn her attention elsewhere. Yet, that was easier said than done. Once again, she’d found herself visiting him at his home, hoping to elicit some sign of interest. The result had been predictable and she wondered why she even continued to try.
After speaking with Elani and seeing her out, Darion called for Tolrek.
“I’m ready to watch the movie now,” he said.
“Alright. Halsam has it all set up. We can start at anytime.”
They were walking to the viewing room when Halsam called for Darion’s attention.
“Darion, if I’m not needed, can I have a night out?”
“Your standard day off is tomorrow,” Darion reminded him.
“Let him go out,” Tolrek chimed in. “Don’t be such a hard ass.” Darion gave Tolrek a warning look. Halsam stared down at the floor, suppressing a laugh.
Arjan, who had been a short distance away, stepped forward.
“Can I go too?”
Darion gave a long-suffering sigh. He looked at Halsam and Arjan, slightly suspicious of their sudden keen desire to be away from home. They tended to find entertainment in the house. “Is there something I should know?”
“What do you mean?” Halsam asked.
“There’s nothing happening,” Arjan assured him. “We just wanted a night away.”
“Did you hear that?” Tolrek elbowed Darion. “He said ‘a night way.’ Maybe your chef plans to screw your assistant.” Tolrek grinned, enjoying the blast of crimson that came to Halsam’s face. Arjan only laughed, not offering a denial. Though he wasn’t interested in the young man, he found Halsam’s mortified expression to be humorous.
“You wish to be disciplined Tolrek?” Darion demanded.
“Only if it’s by a handsome ne-go-ti-a-tor like yourself,” Tolrek joked, affecting a breathy voice.
Darion tried to look annoyed but failed, smiling with pleasure. He calculated what kind of salacious night he and Tolrek could have, given the rebel’s bawdy mood. Images of the two of them on various surfaces in the house flipped through the negotiator’s head.
“Have the night off,” he said, quickly ushering his staff towards the door. “Don’t come back until tomorrow.”
Tolrek stretched, his limbs aching from the three rounds of sex he’d just had with Darion. Now, the two of them were relaxing on the living room couch, sipping hot chocolate.
“That was really great, Darion,” Tolrek said, after finishing off his drink.
Darion smiled, putting down his empty mug. Tolrek did the same. Darion kissed away Tolrek’s milk moustache.
“I’ve been having this treat since I was a child,” Darion said. “When I was small, my grandmother on my father’s side took Ashrom, Aleena and me to her favorite chocolatier. We each helped make a special recipe that only goes to our family. Now, Grandmother Melrena sends me those chocolates once a year.”
Tolrek listened to Darion’s quiet tones, as he rested against his chest.
“Some of the chocolates come in solid pieces, so I can melt them. And when I put them in warm milk…Well, you know how fantastic it tastes.”
Darion heard Tolrek chuckle but there was a sad quality to it. Then, Darion remembered; as a baby, Tolrek had been left on the doorstep of the Chreba Orphanage. With no family ties, it might have been difficult to hear Darion talk about his.
“I’m sorry,” Darion said. “I shouldn’t have been so inconsiderate.”
“At least you’re consistent,” Tolrek joked, not wanting the mood to be darkened. Darion smiled and stroked Tolrek’s silver hair.
“There are so many odd things about you,” Darion observed. “Few people in this part of the world have silver hair or dark-green eyes. Most wouldn’t be able to lead a rebellion that had little to no bloodshed, yet was so effective. Sometimes, I wonder if you didn’t ultimately win the negotiations…”
“You’re not the one turned into a Pet,” Tolrek began candidly. “And just because we fuck, doesn’t mean I’ve come to terms with my situation.”
Tolrek got up and started moving away from Darion. Darion grabbed his arm to stop him.
“Don’t you enjoy any of your time here?” Darion asked, needing to hear the answer he wanted. “I try to make you as comfortable as possible. But you know how many people feel, especially in the government. You can’t be allowed to live out in the general population. You’re too dangerous and—”
“Spare me. I’m well aware of how I’m viewed, of how little freedom I have.”
“And I can make it bearable for you.”
“I appreciate your charity but it’s not as if you aren’t getting anything out of the deal. The amount of respect many had for you increased, once you gave the government what it wanted. I’m sure you used that as leverage to become my ‘Owner’.”
“What is this kind of talk Tolrek?”
“I used to have my freedom!” Tolrek exploded. “I fought for my country and it threw me away. Do you think that making me a Pet, fucking me and telling me about your damn chocolates erases any of that?”
“So you’re saying you have no feelings for me?” Darion demanded. “Did I just imagine your attraction during the negotiations? What about a year later when I saw you in prison? Even now…”
Tolrek scowled, not wanting to prolong the conversation.
“I thought you were finished with all of this ambivalence,” Darion continued. “I let you build your Krezka Unit. And just last week, I bought additional materials so you could construct more replicas. I thought I was pleasing you.”
Tolrek remained silent. Then he turned and walked away, shaking his head. Darion just couldn’t understand.
Tolrek went to the bath area, wanting to wash away the tension of the conversation. He was soaking, his eyes closed, when he heard and felt a disturbance in the water. He opened his eyes to see Darion making his way over to him.
“I’m sorry,” Darion said. “I can’t pretend I know what you’re going through. But it’s not as if I don’t care about you.”
“I’m sick of being confined,” Tolrek replied, sighing. “I’ve been here almost a year and I haven’t even gone outside this house yet and no—the balcony does not count.”
“Tolrek, you’re a prisoner…”
“But you’ve changed the usual circumstances of my imprisonment already. Why would one more privilege be such a big deal?”
“There has to be boundaries,” Darion insisted.
“You just think I’ll run. You think I’ll embarrass you. You don’t trust me.”
“No, not completely.” Darion moved closer to Tolrek.
“Either there’s trust or there isn’t.” Tolrek put distance between them.
“Oh come on!” Darion exclaimed. “Even as stubborn as you’re being, you should be able to see why you haven’t earned all of my trust. Sometimes I can’t even get you to come to dinner when I call you and—”
“And sometimes you lose patience, Sir-All-Must-Obey-Me, and then you cart me off to the Punishment Room. Believe me, I know how it works but I’m talking about more important things.”
“Like properly giving me a chance. Let me out of the house.”
“Why do you have me begging? Don’t you know how hard this is for me? I just want to go out on the lawn. You can have your entire security system trained on me!”
“My reservations aren’t strictly about trust. After the conversation with Kejaro, I do have some additional concerns.”
“What exactly did he say?”
“I’d rather not go into detail.”
“Why? Tell me.”
“Because mine is bigger than yours,” Darion said, giving Tolrek a salacious grin.
“Fuck! This is ridiculous. I haven’t even been able to do something small, like lay on real grass. Now here you are acting like it’s some kind of joke.”
“Tolrek, your situation is unique. Let’s not pretend it isn’t,” Darion said. “However, I’ll take what you want under serious consideration.”
“It’s the least you could do,” Tolrek grumbled.
Darion laughed and was finally able to pull him close.
“I’m not promising anything,” he told the rebel. “But if and when you go out, it will be under my terms.”
“Of course,” Tolrek said.
“You are being much too accommodating,” Darion murmured. “I’m suspicious now.”
Tolrek laughed and Darion was glad for the rich, clear sound. He hadn’t liked the pall of sadness that had permeated their last two conversations. He expressed his gratitude for the change in mood by giving Tolrek a teasing kiss. The rebel eagerly responded.
“Have you begun to get used to me?” Darion asked, against Tolrek’s lips.
“I think so. Why?”
“Don’t play games,” Darion replied, his tone a bit gruff because of his need. Tolrek laughed and then groaned as Darion began stroking him.
“We usually have sex in my room or yours,” the rebel said.
“I know but it’s time for a change. Let’s stay here.”
Darion gave his Tolrek’s cock a teasing squeeze. Then he lowered himself in the water until his mouth was just above the rebel’s hardness, keeping his eyes on Tolrek. He could see pre-cum already dotting Tolrek’s head. Ever so slowly, he touched his tongue to the tip, licking up the pearly drop and making the rebel shudder. Darion smiled and then engulfed Tolrek, all the way to his base. Working him with confidence, he listened to the sounds of Tolrek’s pleasure. Soon, the rebel was breathing hard and holding Darion’s head against his crotch. Darion’s well-placed firm bites of his head and a squeeze of his balls sent him over the edge. He came hard, his eyes closing tightly as Darion swallowed his offering. Letting out a sigh of pleasure, he lay back on the tiles, watching Darion through half-closed eyes. A masterful smile crossed the negotiator’s face and then he moved Tolrek into the water.
Darion activated one of his servabots, ordering it to bring lubricant. The robot arrived with the item in suppository form. It dissolved when it was inside Tolrek’s body, the pressure of the rebel’s sanctum breaking it.
Once the lubricant had coated the rebel’s walls, Darion slid inside him. The rebel and the negotiator groaned, glad to be connected in this way. Gripping Tolrek’s hips, Darion tunneled into him at a slow but steady pace. He took his time, enjoying the sounds he elicited from his partner.
“I want to come again,” Tolrek moaned.
Darion reached around and began to pump him. When the warmth of Tolrek’s hardened flesh further excited Darion, his breathing became more labored. Impatient for his second release, Tolrek put a hand over Darion’s, encouraging him to stroke his cock faster and with more force. The action quickly had its desired effect. Tolrek lost control and took Darion with him. The negotiator emptied himself inside his lover. Tremors still going through him, Darion slid out of Tolrek and the two moved further into the pool. They shared a kiss.
“Tol…” It was the first time Darion had used that nickname. “I really will think about what you said earlier.”
“Thank you,” Tolrek murmured. He pulled Darion closer, slipping his tongue into his mouth.
After wrapping themselves in warm robes, Tolrek and Darion went to relax on the living room couch. When the telephone rang, Darion momentarily halted his caressing of Tolrek’s chest. He decided to ignore the phone, focusing on his goal of teasing Tolrek. He was going to continue to ignore the phone, when Fei told him of its importance.
“It’s from the police about Halsam.”
“I have to take that,” Darion said. Tolrek nodded.
Darion sat up and reached for the phone. Tolrek listened to what he could hear of the conversation. The anger on the negotiator’s face let him know it was not a good situation. Halsam was in for a blistering conversation when he returned.
“He doesn’t know how to act in public,” Darion fumed, once the call ended. “He was fighting in a bar. I told the police to keep him until the morning. He needs to think about what he’s done.”
“Is he alright?”
“Yes, just a little bruised up…Damn him!”
“D, a little fight doesn’t—”
“I don’t want your opinion,” Darion snapped. “This is probably your fault.”
“How do you figure?”
“Your rebellious streak causes disruptions in this household.”
Tolrek looked down into his half-full cup of hot chocolate, a small smile gracing his face.
“Maybe you’re right,” he murmured.