When his memories begin endangering his happily-ever after on Celos, Jimenez is forced to choose between forgetting his lover Teo, or accepting the sometimes painful gifts of Spindrift.
Scars and a tattoo may be the only physical reminders from his years as a slave, but when Jimenez suffers a setback in his medical treatment, the only option is a therapy that will wipe away all his memories of the past including his time with Teo. Teo, torn between supporting his lover's decisions and the good intentions of his family, sets out to teach Jimenez about Spindrift Gifts and how memories are celebrated on Celos even when they are painful. Can Teo and Jimenez weather the storm to find their happily-ever-after on Celos?
Jimenez ducked under Teo's arm, but got caught by the tentacle curling at his waist. Teo's breath, hot and humid, teased the back of his neck, followed by the tickle of lips, right there, below the bottom of his nav port. Jimenez clamped his hand on the tentacle, and kicked off the other two attempting to worm around his thigh. He squeezed, lifting it away long enough to extract himself from their grip and scramble off the wide bed.
"Ow." Teo grumbled behind him, but Jimenez stalked to the round steam closet and turned on the hot water. The spray doused him, the faint tang of brine rising from the spatter of aerosol drops on the blue stone shower floor.
Jimenez rinsed his face and darted a glance at the free-form opening where a door should be. Teo lounged in the frame, arms crossed over his chest. His tentacles were wrapped tight to his torso. His long, lean body had blossomed under the Celosian sun. Teo's skin darkened to a ruddy tan, and the muscles he'd developed under the heavier gravity of Switchpoint bulged in his arms and thighs.
"Wanna talk about it?"
Jimenez opened his mouth to say no. But instead he said, "Come on."
Teo crowded into the steam closet with him. At the first brush of Teo's hand, Jimenez leaned in, and Teo cuddled him close with arms and tentacles.
Slaves can never be forgiven. Slaves can never be given anything.
The voice shouted in his head, causing him to tremble, his hands clenching even as Teo embraced him.
"You've got nothing to be sorry for." Teo's tone soothed like a balm on his agitation, washing the voice into the background again. They swayed under the warm water.
Jimenez took a deep breath of the humid fog, his eyes burning, but not from the heat and steam.
"I dropped to my knees at the dinner table, in front of your family." His voice broke. He leaned against Teo, snuffling into the bend between his shoulder and neck. "If you and Maida hadn't talked me out of it, I might have--" He'd been pleading with Teo, begging to be spared the laserthread, offering himself in front of Teo's family. He'd been minutes from crawling on his belly like a whipped animal.
"But you didn't." Teo tilted his chin to kiss him, stopping his protest. The warm slide of Teo's kisses through the water tasted saltier than they should have.
Unable to stop himself, Jimenez pulled away to meet his gaze, afraid of what he might find. But concern and love lived there. He choked back the fear, back into his belly.
"My family knows about your treatments, the pathways reopening in your neural net." Teo kept up a soothing rhythm, caressing his shoulder and down to his wrist.
"They know I used to be a slave, but knowing and seeing are two different things." Jimenez stilled, muscles straining, fighting against Teo's loose embrace.
"It probably surprised them." Teo laid his forehead against him. Jimenez shifted his gaze to his feet, knowing what his lover would say.
"Have you thought anymore about what Dr. Parkins advised?"
The only thing a slave owns is his memories.
Jimenez shook his head. "Regrow therapy is too risky. I'd forget everything. I'd forget you." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I don't want to forget you."
Teo tightened his arms around him. "I don't want you to forget me either."
They stood still a moment, holding each other before Teo turned the water warmer.
"I'm coming with you to medical today."
Jimenez shrank back, shaking so hard the water droplets spun away from the ends of his hair. "I wish you wouldn't."
Teo's worried gaze caused an ache in his chest. He couldn't accompany him into the treatment room anyway.
At first Teo had sat in the empty waiting room at the medical research facility for off-worlder treatment--sometimes for hours while Jimenez endured scans, or while nanites scurried in his blood. But being there didn't help Jimenez get better.
"Besides, didn't you promise your cousin you'd help with hull repairs?"
Teo groaned, plunging his head under the spray. "Don't remind me." He wiped the fall of water from his skin. "I've got to find a job before my family kills me with all their favors."
Jimenez handed him the soap. "Wash my back before you go?"
Teo's wicked grin reappeared, his dimples peeping out beside his mouth. "Your appointment's not for a half hour, right?"
Jimenez glanced at their bare feet and remembered the last time they had sex. How Teo's calves had clamped his hips when he'd thrust into him. Had it been two weeks ago? Arousal stirred like warm honey in his groin. He turned, unsurprised to find his lover's eyes hot, his tentacles grasping the air like little fists. With a smile he looped an arm around Teo's neck to collide his lips against his own.
Teo's wet palm slid down his stomach and through the water, to tug at his cock. The familiar grip pulled pleasure in its wake, speeding up his heart. Jimenez deepened their kiss, his tongue spearing into Teo's mouth on a gasp, searching for the heartfelt groan that buzzed against his lips. Teo's cock at his stomach ground hard against him. And then Jimenez's erection started to fade, no longer responding to Teo's grasping touches. He jerked his body away from him before his cock went limp.
Jimenez ripped his mouth away last, panting. The frustrated sob choked him, lodging in his throat and blocking his airway. Teo's hands cradled his shoulders. Jimenez hid his face against his lover's chest, shoulders shaking.
"You'll have to touch the damn tattoo. I can't keep it up without it. My brain--"
"Shhhh." Teo's big warm body encircled him, the tentacles wrapping around him, calming the shudders that wracked him. He reached wet slippery fingers toward the hard brand of Teo's cock but his lover plucked his hand away.
"Maybe right now isn't the best time." Teo leaned into his sightline.
Jimenez avoided his gaze, blinking away the water spilling over his head and into his eyes. "You can't be comfortable. Let me at least jack you off--"
But Teo's fingers laced with his. He pulled Jimenez's hands to brush against the dusting of hair decorating his chest.
"We've got the rest of our lives for sex. We can wait until you're healed. It's not a hardship."
Jimenez searched Teo's dark eyes for some sign he lied, or worse, pitied him. But Teo watched him steadily and never averted his gaze. He brushed a tentacle across Jimenez's cheek and into his hair. He kissed his cold lips, still wet and stinging from their passion.
The reminder sounded from the bedroom, tinkling bells telling him to get dressed and head to the center for treatment.
Jimenez sipped at Teo's lips a last time before he disentangled himself. But he hesitated, loathe to leave the warm, wet room and Teo.
"You need to get going." Teo said it for him.
He nodded and stepped into the loud, hot winds of the adjoining room to dry. Jimenez slicked his hair away from his face, letting the wetness on his cheeks evaporate. He ignored the sounds of his lover stroking himself off in the shower in the next room.
What use is a slave if it can't service a cock?