“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.” Perhaps Dhavi’s rudeness was getting to him. It had been a long time since he’d been so terse with someone. He couldn’t grasp the comm, and rather than continue the struggle, or remove his glove and risk frostbite, Breon gave up for the moment and surveyed the landscape stretched out before him. The water below ruffled with waves, and as he watched with surprise, a host of small dark objects flew out and landed on what appeared to be a sandy shore. The conical creatures moved around in jerky starts and stops, some nearly colliding with others as they emerged from the water. He could hear splashing and a strange hooting noise he attributed to the animals. “Look there. What are those?”
Dhavi shrugged, the movement barely discernable under his insulated coat. “I didn’t read anything about such creatures in the planet report.”
“Considering it was written by a stellar cartographer for the mineral conglomerate’s scouts, I’m not surprised native fauna were given little attention. Unless these animals hold rare oils or minerals in their craws, they aren’t of interest to those who can afford to prospect here.”
Breon was shocked to his cold toes when Dhavi scoffed out a chuckle. Had he really made the other man laugh? Impossible. He began to walk down the slope, intent on a closer look at the creatures. Though he was interested in life from millions of years ago, it was still a valuable opportunity to assess how evolution on Cropax had fared in the intervening millennia.
“You would know all about it.” Dhavi’s voice was near, so he must be following. Breon resisted the impulse to turn and confirm it.
“What do you mean?” Now that they were halfway down the slope, he could see the animals were sleek grey and white cylinders with flippers or paddle-like limbs along their anterior. They were bouncing along the shoreline and still issuing those haunting calls from shiny short beaks. The water behind them eddied and swirled. The little creatures showed no fear as they approached.
“Corporations. Rich people. Privilege.” Dhavi shot out the words like projectiles.
“I’m not rich.” Breon gave up, staring at the curious creatures to face Dhavi. Granted, he had some trusts and would be in line for an inheritance at some point, but since he’d turned his back on the family enterprise, he didn’t collect any sort of income from it as his siblings and cousins did. “I’m only here because I won the grant from Clarion. Just as you did.”
Dhavi shook his head. “Hardly the same as me.”
Breon chose not to take offense. When they were students he’d done his best not to behave in a way which might make Dhavi notice the difference in their circumstances. He’d thought he’d done a good job then, but apparently, the disparity still rankled. “That’s right, Dhavi. We are different. I’m a different person than I was when you knew me before, but it seems you have retained all sorts of youthful resentments.”
Well. Maybe he had taken offense after all. He had changed, due in part to the painful sense of betrayal he’d experienced when Dhavi had cut him off and disappeared from his life. It was the first major loss he’d ever suffered through.
“My feelings on the matter are irrelevant. You’re rich and get the best portions of life as a result. That’s the way it is, and ever was.” Dhavi’s tone was as cold as the ice under their feet.
Breon’s stomach clenched. He wasn’t ready for this confrontation, though he’d known it was impending ever since he’d seen Dhavi in the ship’s cabin. He unwillingly stepped back, his feet slipping on the loose scree. The animals continued to cry out, even more of them flocking to the shoreline. “I don’t owe you a reckoning of my financial status.”
“Don’t pretend it’s of the same measure as mine.”
Now Breon’s stomach was flipping over and his blood was heating, which was a shock considering how frigid he’d been since landing here. It wasn’t his fault the family he’d been born into, just as it wasn’t Dhavi’s. “I don’t care about your bank account. I don’t care about mine.”
“Spoken like someone who’s never had to pass a moment’s worry.”
Dhavi’s smugness was as annoying as the physio exercises Breon still had to undergo each day. He managed not to snap back and tried the voice of reason. “What does any of this have to do with our current situation?”
With a tightening of his jaw, Dhavi turned half away and smoothly pulled his comm from a pocket in his coat and peered at it, as if to dismiss Breon entirely. Ka De crowded closer to a cluster of the sleek creatures, which were pulling themselves along the ground with rough jabs of their paddles. Breon tried to distract himself from his frustration by observing them more closely. Symmetrical arrangement of features, wide dark eyes on either side of the cranium, no size variation, so perhaps a peer group. Was it fur or feather or scales covering them so closely, or something else?
A sudden rushing sound overwhelmed him and he started, turning on his heel to see the water beside them erupting in a swelling wave. The animals around his feet shrieked and flopped, and Breon watched, frozen with disbelief, as a mottled white shape emerged and flung forward onto the gravel shore with a great, huffing wheeze. Its tubular body was at least three meters long and half as wide. As it flexed against the stones, sheets of water cascaded from its thrashing body and a wide maw opened at the near end. Shiny black triangles lined the edges of a wet, blue orifice. A purplish appendage emerged from it to sweep into the scattering creatures, snaring two before it retracted. The two captured animals squealed and writhed, their bodies shaking with effort as they attempted to escape, but the huge predator was too fast for them, closing its mouth with a decisive smack against their bodies after they were impaled on the bigger animal’s mouth spikes. The little paddle beasts shuddered, then went limp as greenish fluid spurted from their beaks.
Dhavi must have heard a smidge of encouragement tacked on to the delayed response because he crowded even closer to Breon’s side and pressed his full lips to his neck, right in that spot that made Breon’s knee joints loosen. “Are you interested in men?”
“Yes, some,” Breon managed to croak out after a fraught pause. Dhavi rose beside him, his face a shadow in the fragmented light of the shelter. The cold wind outside kicked up a notch and Breon shivered, relishing Dhavi’s weight along his side.
“Really? I never knew.”
“You never asked.”
“I never caught you looking, not once. Even when Olad would wander through the common room half naked and sweaty after a plekko match. Remember him? He was astonishingly attractive.” Dhavi almost laughed. “Do you like how I look?”
“Yes.” Breon’s breath disappeared as he tried to speak. His body was as tense as if an electrical charge was coursing through and he thought he might die if Dhavi kissed him. Dhavi leaned down and Breon’s heart stuttered in his chest, but it kept beating, hard enough he wondered if Dhavi could hear it.
Without another word, Dhavi leaned down and bumped his nose to Breon’s. A puff of his breath flickered across Breon’s lips, then he gingerly pressed his mouth to Breon’s. Incoherent thoughts careened through his mind as Dhavi slowly shifted his lips, then took a slow, inexorable nibble on first the upper, then the lower. Was his breath fresh? Did he smell of sweat and fear? Was that Dhavi’s hard cock rubbing against his hip as Dhavi flexed his body above him? Commanding his scattered brain to shut up, Breon reached up and tentatively rubbed his palm along Dhavi’s back, his fingers sliding up and down all that bare skin, along swells of muscle, hoping he didn’t accidentally brush against a bruise.
Dhavi slid his tongue between Breon’s lips and waited a bit as if to ask whether it was permissible. When Breon opened his mouth, Dhavi rumbled out a pleased noise and deepened the kiss, always with a pause before every new movement. Breon’s cock throbbed and without much thought he reached down and squeezed himself, then cupped his balls, urging his body to calm down. A kiss was a matter of attraction and entreaty, not a promise of sex.
“Why did you stop touching…ah, I understand,” Dhavi whispered. “Let me do that.”
It was difficult for Breon to believe that the man he’d wanted for so long, even through the long estrangement, was now embracing him, was now nudging his hand away so he could measure and grasp Breon’s cock. Dhavi licked at his neck as he stroked up and down Breon’s length through the layers of quilted thermal garments.
“I’d wondered about this. Did you ever think about mine?”
“Yes.” Breon knew he was gasping, but couldn’t do anything about his lack of control. Dhavi rocked his hip against Breon, which he took as an invitation, one he was almost afraid to take. He wanted Dhavi, had always wanted him, it seemed, but now that the time had arrived, he was shaking with insecurity. A large part of him couldn’t even believe this was happening.
“Touch me.” Dhavi nosed at Breon’s jaw as if to urge him on.
“I…” Breon gulped and was immediately ashamed. He was nearly mute like an untested youth, hardly an attractive trait.
“We need this, don’t we?” Dhavi touched the tip of his tongue to the corner of Breon’s mouth.
“Yes.” Breon relented, accepting this would happen. Even if it didn’t live up to the fantasy, it was still something he would not deny. With that acceptance, his body performed a curious, simultaneous relaxation and escalation of tension. With a jolt, he remembered Dhavi’s request, and fumbled his way to his waist, allowing his hand to trace along Dhavi’s hipbone before travelling lower. When his fingertips encountered Dhavi’s rigid cock jutting out from the soft fabric of his undershorts, his own member throbbed. Breon listened to Dhavi whisper encouragement in his ear as he rubbed his fingers along the length. As his reward, he received an answering caress in turn.
It was so warm under the blanket, sweat broke out all over his skin.
His muscles tightened as the breath caught in his throat. Dhavi kept touching, skimming one hand along Breon’s chest, pressing his lips to his neck, then returning his attention to Breon’s aching cock. When Dhavi slid his palm lower to cup Breon’s balls, he gasped aloud as his hips arched up. He lost hold of Dhavi and thoughtlessly threaded his fingers into his hair, the bedding, anything he might grip to keep himself on the bed. Pulses shot through his calves and thighs as his cock strained. Dhavi coiled above him, still kissing, still stroking and intent on Breon’s body. In agony, Breon tugged at his pants, desperate to free himself, needing Dhavi’s skin to slide against his with primal urgency.
His hands tangled with Dhavi’s and he hoped desperately he didn’t misunderstand, didn’t think he was pushing away. His cock was caught in folds of stretchy fabric and he yelped out a curse of frustration.
“Let me,” Dhavi whispered directly into his ear, and again, Breon sank back, shifting his body to allow Dhavi to untangle him. As soon as Dhavi’s hand slid up his length and closed over the head of his cock, Breon pressed his head against the mattress, his eyes tightly shut as his impulses took over. Warm and firm strokes, one after the other in an unrelenting rhythm made his knees draw up and his thighs open as if his body was begging for unrestrained access. Dhavi rubbed his thumb along the underside of his cock in a knowing stimulation. He was reeling with the crushing realization Dhavi was touching him so intimately, like the dreams he’d entertained so shamefully. Reality was infinitely better.