Taggert had moved the desk against the outer bulkhead wall and stripped, carefully hanging his uniform on hooks near the autochef. After undoing the braid defining his status of rank and privilege, he shook his head, letting the kinks fall along his broad shoulders. Parsons admired the view. He never tired of the man’s body, so different from his own. Lean muscled and narrow hipped, there wasn’t a tor of extra body fat anywhere. The few days he’d spent on Lennix, in the intense heat and unrelenting solar radiation, had tanned his normally golden skin tones to a rich nut brown.
He ached for Taggert to turn around but the man teased, busying himself with small tasks, preparing for the moment. Parsons quickly shed his clothes, tossing them into an untidy heap in a corner. He braced, sensing movement, a slight tension in the captain’s shoulders. Muscles kneaded and bunched under the weight of perfect control, every square inch of flesh ripe for ravishment and the scourge of teeth marking territory, if not affection. The invitation was so starkly dominant, Parson’s throat closed in anticipation.
Even knowing it was coming, he was still shocked at the speed of the assault. He had two inches and three stone on the man, but his captain moved with such preternatural grace and cunning that he easily drove his own massive body into the wall, pinning him with a solid thump to the midsection. He released an “oof” of surprise, secretly delighting at Tag’s feral grin, lips drawn back over sharply contoured incisors, the mark of his kind.
Taggert asked, his voice a mere husk of a whisper, so soft Parsons could barely make out the words, “What do you want?”
Parsons could only exhale, “You,” as the captain pulled his head down to plunder his mouth, their tongues entangling in a dance that never failed to leave them both breathless.
The captain ordered, “Lights. Ten percent,” and backed away, leaving Parsons feeling cold and abandoned under a perusal that seemed to suck the air from his lungs. Displeasure, perhaps even a hint of disappointment, tinged the captain’s exotic features. The man was mercurial at best, but now he seemed on the razor edge of unhinged.
The dance with danger, the potential for pain inflicted with enthusiasm, was ever present. Yet this… Pensiveness like a portent was new and unwelcome. It raised doubts, the sting of fear unsettling Parson’s perceptions, undermining his acquiescence to the status quo. The last thing he wanted was for his lover to tell him what he dreaded hearing but knew in his heart to be true. He had never been enough, he never would be. He would always have to share. Knowing that had made it easier over the years to wear a hard shell, to mask his feelings.
Acceptance was the price of admission into Taggert’s world. It gave Parsons a seat at the table, a taste of delicacies and refinements parceled out in random portions, all at the whim and pleasure of a man who could afford to bequeath the largesse of his attentions but chose not to do so.
Shared duties and responsibilities, the weight of years of close confinement, training and trust all combined to make tolerable the intolerable. But for some reason, during their sojourn in the shadow of Swellyn’s home world, Parsons felt the façade he’d painstakingly forged shatter. It had taken all he had to maintain distance, to hold himself in check—for the crew’s sake if not for his own.
Now, in anticipation of certain rejection, he was losing control, his hands fisting and unfisting, clutching at phantoms. Chest in rapid rise and fall, he huffed a mental warning at the certainty haunting his every waking hour, willing it to be different. Not ideal, not better, not even adequate. He would take the crumbs and feast, worshiping at the altar of golden glazed perfection that had been his fantasy since he first met the young boy who would forever lay claim to his affections. He would willingly suffer the insufferable hand of fate, just so long as she permitted a boon… like now. Shorn of pretense, bereft of dignity, Ted Parsons would beg and promise. He would lie, cheat, steal, and commit heinous acts of betrayal. All in the service of a lust so profound, he would relinquish his own humanity to serve the whims of a man devoid of its very essence.
His agony had not gone unnoticed. “T-Ted?” Taggert stumbled over his name, the moment awkward. Despite the captain’s lineage, the legacy of diplomatic protocol and his undisputed talents as a negotiator, the man lacked perception when it came to those closest to him. His captain had no clue of the power he held, of the despair he could dispel with a look, a touch, or a soft, welcoming embrace. It crushed Parsons, even though he’d been a willing facilitator, an enabler of the man’s inability to grasp the most basic of human desires and needs.
Parsons had long acceded hegemony of his own agency to his captain. But he was no pathetic submissive clinging to scripted scenes played out on a small stage of artificial intimacy. The captain had no notion of the profound nature of that kind of shared familiarity. For nearly twenty years, that simple recognition had kept Parsons both in control and under control. Their frenetic patterns of avoidance and attraction suited them both.
Taggert would have taken that well-rehearsed script into his arrangement with the lady Swellyn. It no doubt had helped drive his consort away.
The captain whispered once more, the single word hanging between them, “Don’t.”
Parsons bowed his head, the don’t echoing hollowly, the accusation clear, blame assigned. He wore that mantle as number two, willingly and with pride. But here, in these quarters, with his heart bruised and raw, the only pride he had left lay in an untidy pile on the floor. When he stripped his uniform, he bared his soul to a man he loved and hated in equal measure.
Taggert lay back on the hard cot and held out his hands, as he always did, making the first move, inviting, then demanding until his scent and his power washed over and through Ted’s skin. There existed only the promise of release, the ultimate pleasure of rough caresses and heat, always heat. It burned him up and filled his mouth with acrid tastes and fibrile sensations. Parsons stared at gold-dappled eyes hungering at the sight of his own cock swelling thick and oozing pre-cum. How easily those eyes corrupted and speared him, owning him. He could be lost forever in their metallic, smoky depths.
Twining his fingers behind his head, the man posed, arching his back, waiting for the first sweet flick of tongue, the swift probe of the slit and teasing nips as teeth and lips explored every sensitive spot. Parsons knelt at the edge of the cot, prepared to pay homage to the lean muscle and spare flesh that was his captain. But the man surprised him. Taggert sat up, the motion elegant and feline. Powerful thighs encircled Parson’s torso, pincering him closer. Slim fingers pinched and rolled his nipples until they hardened and his breath rattled in harsh, gasping rasps. Long arms gathered Parsons into a brutal grip, dragging his body down as Taggert realigned them in the awkward quarters.
As Parsons lay supine across the lean axis of his fantasy, he clenched his eyes tight and surrendered to hands separating his ass cheeks, the captain’s fingers kneading hard muscle as thumbs probed the pucker and thrust him onto ecstasy’s precipice. Floating at the edge of consciousness, Parsons twisted his fingers into the coarse bedding, tugging his torso forward in response to the captain’s insistent pull. When he opened his eyes, the dark purpling length of his own cock was being swallowed, inch by excruciating inch. It was almost too much to bear. It had been too long, far too long and he wanted to yield, to give up and fill his lover’s mouth with his seed.
Parsons pleaded, “Wait, stop.” He knew the steps, the underlying beat. Approach, retreat. Tease. Beg. He rolled off, twisting into the kata’s defensive posture with ease of long practice.
Smirking, Taggert hissed, “I don’t want to stop.” He stood and continued the assault, his wicked tongue flicking across Ted’s nipples, blowing a cooling breath across one, then the other. Spasms exploded through Ted’s gut to his groin, his balls and cock heavy with need.
Voice sly and throaty, the captain murmured, “And this,” as he traced a path down Parson’s belly, sending Ted’s hips into convulsive thrusts.
In a breathy whisper, Parsons threw self-control away and begged. “Please, Tag.”
The man stood up and placed his lips close to Ted’s ear, close enough for his tongue to brush the sensitive lobe. “Please what, Commander. Say it.”
“I-I want you to…” With a groan Ted ground his aching cock against Taggert’s hard body as the man’s hands played his flesh like an instrument. He nipped and prodded at pressure points that had been mapped over twenty years of exploration. Ungodly, searing pain was gentled away with feather strokes, as Ted floated nearly senseless in a zero grav of lust.
“What do you want, Ted? We can do anything you like. It’s just us.” The voice wheedled, edging on insulting, and laced with promises.
Be a big boy, Teddy. Play nice with me and I’ll give you a treat… Trust me.
Parsons did not resist when Taggert pushed him onto the narrow cot and reached for a small box set into a recess at the head of the bed. Extracting a condom, the captain rolled it on, never taking those alien gold-flecked eyes off his second-in-command. Parsons would hate him for that, if he could. But the promise of those hands touching him—those fingers massaging and pleasuring him until he was ready to implode—that promise, that unrealized promise, was enough to break him, to keep him sucking dull, dead, filtered air into dried up, damaged lungs.
The scent of his own arousal sent fresh shivers racing up and down his spine. Taggert brushed his lips with a fingertip, his eyes dark with a desire that softened his alien features. The normally stern-featured man looked so like the young cadet who had first and forever stolen Parsons’ heart that memories flooded his head and he smiled at his captain.
“What are you grinning about?”
“You. Me. Our first time.”
Taggart barked a laugh. “Talk about the blind leading the blind.”
That was a pleasant memory, one of many from those early days. But twenty years in, they were no longer those naïve young men exploring all the possible paths for seeking pleasure. His voice tight with emotion, Parsons said, “I’m not naive anymore, Tag. And I’m not a kid. I know what I want.”
His lover chuckled softly. “I suppose you do. That’s what I always admired about you, you know?”
“No, I don’t know.”
Tag played him that way, pulling out the cadet card, glossing over the times in between, doling out compliments that weren’t … controlling him. He knew this dance. The verbal cue, the distraction. The invitation to submit.
He ignored it. If he went off-script the captain could shut him down. It had happened often enough in the past to be a real threat here and now. Idly, Parsons wondered if he were desperate enough to chance that kind of rejection now.
As before, the answer was a resounding no. Parsons was too aware of the consequences of denying his addiction, the mosaic of scars he bore a testament to the strength of its hold over him.
Taggert gently lubed his own shaft with one hand, the other roughly teasing at the slit on Ted’s cock and swirling pre-cum across, down and around, the stimulation almost more than Parsons could bear. Flashing a feral grin, Taggert nudged his engorged cock into the pucker, then withdrew just to the tip. He whispered, “Let me drive tonight, Number Two. Just lay back and enjoy the ride.”
Parsons grunted at the pain, the ungodly stretch and the stink of his own submission. He strained with the effort to stay still when all he wanted was to buck against the relentless pressure.
Taggert had squeezed his eyes shut, totally lost to the anticipation, before ramming down hard, to the hilt, moaning, “That’s good, so damn good, Ted.”
What Parsons wanted to hear were the words he’d craved for almost twenty years, words that would have sent him to hell and back if his lover so ordered. And then his captain, his lover, his enemy, his friend nailed him, nailed his prostate. Drove his cock like a battering ram nearly out Ted’s throat until pleasure and pain, joy and despair held him hostage. Nothing else mattered in his universe of supplication.
It was a price he paid, would always pay… To keep the terror at bay, if only for a moment. To watch the flush of joy and satisfaction flood the golden skinned god who owned him, heart and soul, was a gift he could not possibly deserve.
As his lover pleasured himself, Parsons sank away from niggling fear and despair, until nothing but the sound of flesh slapping flesh assaulted his ears, and the pressure built until his captain lost all control and came on a bellow, face frozen in a rictus of pleasure.
As Ted reached for his own cock, seeking release, Taggert brushed his hand away. “No, I’m driving, remember?” Parsons’ golden skinned Adonis took the final rough strokes on his cock, and they both watched semen and sweat coat Ted’s chest and belly.
For Ted, the sensation felt oddly cold and distant—divorced from the raw energy fisting at the base of his spine, bubbling and ballooning from the inside out, until pressure triggered the pain preceding pleasure. Like caged lightning, it rasped and tore him apart, nerve after nerve, the dominoes of his lust releasing in paroxysms approaching rapture.
Rapture that ached. Pain masked as pleasure, burying his screams of remorse and self-hatred under a need so intense he feared he would die without it. When his body ceased the unrelenting spasms, he felt the first pangs of relief and wished they’d sparred and drawn blood instead.
Blood he could understand, anger he knew and appreciated for the palliative balm it provided, but this… this agony of never knowing if the man who brought him to such peaks of ecstasy could ever care for him was a cancer eating at his soul.
Taggert collapsed next to him, wedged against the metal skin of the ship. His breathing was harsh as he rasped, “Fuck, guess I’m not as young as I used to be,” and gently brushed at the unruly mop of hair plastered to Ted’s face.
Ted cringed at the tenderness. It was unexpected. He spoke hesitantly, “Tag? Don’t get mad, but…” Shit, get mad, I don’t care. I’m sick of being an afterthought.
Taggert nestled Ted’s head in the join of neck and shoulder. A thumb bluntly traced the ridge of Ted’s Adam’s apple, applying pressure that was, at once, oddly sensuous and sensually threatening. The “Hmm?” reverberated in Ted’s ear, like a low, throaty rumble. Preparing for round two, the captain pressured him into heightened awareness. Ted squirmed. The compression increased, shutting him down until even the sound of his heartbeat seemed distant and unremarkable.
Ignoring the expectation, the demand, with an effort of will, Ted croaked, “Does she—?”
Does she… what? What was he asking? Did she squirm and wiggle prettily as he suckled her toward release. Perhaps she purred and moaned as he penetrated her slick channel. How often did she come for him? How often did he come for her? How often had he betrayed and made a mockery of their twenty years of fucking, loving and punishing?
Ted bit his tongue as the pressure eased. Taggert was listening and waiting, his body tensed. Ted had sworn he would never ask that question—or the one that ate at him whenever they made love. But knowing they were headed into Confederate space, intent on no good, changed everything. He needed to understand, not just what they were going to do but why they would do it.
He needed to understand about her.
Brows drawn together into a tight crease, Taggert asked, “Elly? You want to talk about my wife now?”
He’d expected sarcasm but the captain seemed genuinely confused, as if the existence of this woman had no import, no relationship to their lives on board ship, to them.
“You’re intent on working some black ops shit to keep something from happening to her, maybe getting us killed in the process. Possibly even start another intergalactic war. So, yeah, I think you owe me a few details. Sir.”
As soon as it left his mouth, Ted would have swallowed the “sir” if he could. He rarely if ever challenged his captain, though as Number Two that was his right and his duty. But this… this was different. He was placing twenty years of friendship and intimacy on the line. Calling into question decisions made to service a greater good. Decisions that had nothing, and everything, to do with a bond built over time, through war and peace. They’d bloodied and been bloodied, joined at the hip for so long it was damn near impossible to separate Ted Parsons, the man, from Number Two, the heir apparent to a loose cannon and possibly the last arbiter for peace in their quadrant.
To his surprise, Taggert relaxed and said, “Fair enough, Ted. You remember when my old man sent me to TexTan as his personal emissary?” The sneer in his voice was unmistakable.
Ted grunted, acknowledging he understood. Tag’s old man was a chief counselor for the Admiralty and his vaulted position was a rallying point for conservative interests, even of the alien persuasion. What was unusual was how the captain and his family were as far apart on the political spectrum as was possible, yet somehow they managed to work together in spite of, or perhaps because of, their differences. Neither trusted the other. That made them a formidable team with the fate of the galaxy resting on men who grasped the finer points of manipulation and control under the guise of enlightened self-interest.
Hiding the sigh of relief that they’d moved from a potentially adversarial position, Ted said, “That spat between the Feds and TexTan was about to bring that whole house of cards down. Yeah, I remember that one. Too well.”
Tag continued. “They thought they were being clever. If you don’t call it a war, then it’s just a misunderstanding.”
“And if it walks like a duck, squawks like a duck…”
“Exactly.” Taggert grimaced and stared at the bulkhead for a time, tapping into his inner vision, a kind of third eye that gave him the advantage when it came to negotiations. Finally he spoke, his voice tight. “We’d all come to the conclusion that nobody was going to win that one, so I went to see if there was a way for the Admiralty and TexTan to save face.”
He meant his father and the Alliance: TexTan was a minor planet on the fringes, of little value for commerce, except for the fact they seemed to have fingers in every political pie. They were the consummate deal makers and deal breakers, the power behind more thrones than a planet that size had a right to influence.
Theirs was a reputation well-earned. Whatever the original plan had been, the upshot was they managed to talk the most eligible unmated Admiralty darling into marrying into a prestigious family on a backwater planet. It was a family privy to enough secrets and lies to keep the galaxy’s power brokers, and the Admiralty in particular, in a constant frenzy.
And that was in spite of Taggert’s mixed race origins and uncertain loyalties to the Admiralty’s, or any else’s, causes.
Spite and bitterness coated Ted’s throat with toxic jealousy. Since it wasn’t a secret, he felt free to voice his feelings. “We were supposed to defuse a bomb that threatened to ignite and blow the galaxy to kingdom come. Instead, you…”
Parsons paused and chewed his lower lip, recognizing the accusation for what it was: jealousy treading dangerous waters. His claim to twenty years of fucking a man senseless had little to do with the reality of their relationship and everything to do with political expediency.
He swallowed the sour taste of “I told you so,” though the bitter fragrance of bile and betrayal was his near constant companion. Taggert looked at him, his eyes gone hard and dark, the warning behind them clear.
Ted ignored it in favor of finally voicing his frustrations over the fallout from that encounter. “So, instead of brokering a direct deal, you stay on TexTan and agree to marry a fucking royal heir and send me back to explain why that was a good idea.” He felt tears of despair well, remembering the sense of betrayal, the ache in his chest, and then the wash of joy when it had all fallen apart and Taggert had consoled himself as he always did. Fucking his second-in-command, drawing blood, killing them both with lust that would never be satisfied.
Taggert raised up on an elbow and stared down at Ted, the menacing look gone. Instead, a small smile played about his full lips as he resumed the long, slow strokes up and down Ted’s thigh, the fingertips teasing away frustration. Treating it like an afterthought. It worked. Ted’s cock, already on alert, thickened to the point of pain and he twisted under the onslaught, hating the gentling, and the rude dismissal of his feelings.
Like a recurring nightmare, he acknowledged to himself he’d never been able to break the hold the man had on him. The truth was… he didn’t want to. Call it love. Call it dependence. Call it bondage. Call it anything and everything, the fact remained… when the captain touched him—with affection or irritation or simply as a means to vent irrational rage—nothing else mattered. It never had. It never would.
Taggert directed the lust coursing through Ted’s body, now using it as subtle punishment for words expressed freely. It was the game they played, the rules organic, ever changing. Each placement of his fingers, his tongue, the pressure of his cock applied just so—every movement put Ted’s overheated system into warp drive. His flesh hungered for sensation, maddened by denial and deprivation. He, all of them, tread different paths to insanity, cocooned in plasteel and alloys, calling the cage home because it allowed for false security and acceptance.
He hated space.
He hated that Taggert would take his pleasure first. He despised that his own was not a given. The captain would decide, perhaps bringing him close to ecstasy even as Ted fought against it. He yearned to pray, to plead inside the emptiness… don’t make me stay. Don’t make me feel.
Please, gods, don’t let me love…
Escape was release. Pain was pleasure. Tonight he’d earned both. In exchange, he closed his eyes, free-falling into the divinity of the alien touch, worshiping at the altar of adoration until sweat and cum cemented them together.
Heedless of Ted’s shame, his lack of self-control, Taggert once more tucked him into the crook of his shoulder, murmuring, “That night, at the ball, that’s when I first saw her…”