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Riki was just about to turn on his airbike when his wrist comm went off. He grunted and pushed back his sleeve, checking the display. Reading the coded message was second nature now. Developing that skill was essential when you working in the Black Market. Katze wanted to see him in his office.

 Cursing, he stored the helmet back in its hidden compartment then trudged back to the elevator, mumbling the whole way. Riki took the time to check his shields on the way up. He’d been too lax the past few days, but that wasn’t an option around a Sentinel – even a level one Sentinel. Riki made sure his empathy wasn’t projecting anything by the time the elevator reached the level 30.

 The hall was empty like usual. Katze’s office took up most of the top floor and, most of time, it was just him. Stopping before the door, Riki knocked then waited.

 A minute later, a voice sounded behind the door. “Enter.”

 Riki opened the door and walked in. As soon as the door shut behind him, Riki stopped. The room was dark except for the light from the holoscreen. The holoscreen was a glass dome over the control chair where the user could interact with information directly. Katze was reclined back in the chair, reading reports. Riki had no chance of keeping up with any of it. Text flew by so fast that it looked like a blur to him. Only Sentinels would be able to take in information that fast.

 When the blur of text ended, the lights came back on and the holoscreen rotated back under the floor. Katze rose and pressed a button on the arm of the control chair. The window stretching the entire back wall slowly transitioned from opaque to transparent. From where he stood, Riki could just barely make out the buzz of the warehouse floor below.

 Not for the first time, Riki was amazed when he watched Katze move around the room. Like all Sentinels, Katze was tall, but he moved with grace and purpose. No movement was wasted and everything was controlled. He was beautiful and fit. So was every other Sentinel Jupiter created.  Most Sentinels kept their hair short, but Katze took it a step further. He was almost completely bald and his face was clean shaven. What little hair that Katze had on his head was black against his dark complexion.

 All level one Sentinels had black hair – it was the reason they were called Onyx Sentinels. Classification of Sentinels dealt with how far their senses could reach. Onyx had a sense range up to a mile, up to three miles for Bronze, five miles for Rubies, ten miles for Platina, and twenty miles for Blondies. At least that’s what they taught him and all the other kids in Guardian. They also taught kids that the super computer Jupiter was a perfect ruler. Yeah, right.       

 It was only after Katze stood behind his desk and looked in his direction that Riki went further into the room.

 “I don’t have a report from you.” Katze wasn’t one to mince words. Actually, Riki kind of liked that about him.  

 “Shit,” he sighed. He pressed a few buttons on his wrist comm, sending the report he’d filled out earlier. “There.”

 Katze glanced at his dataslate when it pinged a new report on the server, reading the entire thing in seconds. Then he looked back at Riki. “You normally remember to file reports.”

 Riki shrugged. “Come on, give me a break. I’ve been up for 36 hours. The drop off at Kassara was more of a pain in the ass than I thought it would be.” Even after being a Black Market courier for ten years, Katze still wouldn’t let Riki work alone. Every pilot needed a co-pilot. He knew that. It was just dumb luck that Riki always got stuck with the dumbest or laziest fucks in the whole system.

 “Nothing in your report suggested any problems.” Katze didn’t ask the question, but Riki knew he wanted an answer.

 Riki licked his lips. He didn’t want to rat out a fellow mongrel. This wouldn’t have happened if he’d just remembered to send the damn report.

 Katze’s brown eyes simply continued to watch Riki, expression blank. Katze expected certain things from people. If he didn’t get it, then you simply didn’t work for him anymore. And that was the worst thing for a mongrel from the slums of Ceres. Without citizenship, there weren’t many jobs for people like him.

 He sighed. “He wasn’t there.”

 One of the Sentinel’s black eyebrows raised, still silent. In all the time Riki had worked for him, Katze never raised his voice. Riki never knew if that was a Katze thing or a Sentinel thing. He didn’t really want to meet another Sentinel and compare. It was nerve wrecking enough to be called to the office of an Onyx Sentinel.

 “I waited almost twenty minutes for Alec, but he never showed." He shrugged. "I left without him.” Alec had been his co-pilot for less than a year. Good guy, but he loved stout a little too much.

 “Is this the first time you’ve covered for him?”

 Riki didn’t say anything, but he really didn’t need to.

 Katze picked up his dataslate. “Your next shipment will be ready in four days. You may go.”

 He left the office without a word and headed for the elevator.

 - - - - - -

 The sun was hovering over the ruins of Dana Bahn by the time Riki got there. He was early.  There was no one else for miles and that’s how he wanted it. Riki lit a cig and inhaled deep. When he exhaled the smoke, Riki let all his shields down. It was like pulling off your clothes before taking a shower. Layer upon layer of empathic shielding came down until Riki’s mind was naked before the world.

 This was the only place he could do it. Letting go like this within the city limits wasn’t an option. There were too many people. Too many minds waiting to rub him raw. For now, there was no one and he took advantage of it. Riki hadn’t done this for about a week and it showed. He got twitchy and more than a little bitchy when he couldn’t take time to be by himself.

 Riki wasn’t sure how long he stayed open like that. When he opened his eyes, the cig between his fingers had burnt out. He flicked it away with a sigh. The presence of another mind brushed up against his from a distance. Riki made a face and slowly brought his shields up – layer by layer. He was careful to make them as strong and tight as possible.

 As soon as that mind touched Riki’s, he knew it was Guy. When they grew up together in Guardian, Guy had always told Riki how much he loved him. But Riki was an empath. If an empath was feeling good, then everyone around them felt good too. So he couldn’t trust that Guy’s feelings were genuine. As they got older, Guy had always pushed to be his pairing partner. Riki always told him no because Guy made the hairs on the back of Riki's neck stand up. That’s when things started to change. All empaths craved skin contact and Riki was no different. Finding a warm body at night was easy and it always ended the next morning. Most people in Ceres were fine with that. But Riki’s refusal to even sleep with him grated on Guy’s pride. So Guy’s professed love slowly began to mutate into resentment. Guy was on edge the last time Riki had been around. Now Riki figured a fight was headed his way.

 Guy pulled off his helmet and set it on the seat of his own airbike. Shaking his head, Guy’s greasy hair fell away from his face. He looked as pissed as he felt.

 “Nice of you to actually join us this time.”

 Riki lit another cig before replying. “You knew I was off-world.”

 “You’re always off-world. In the past five years, I've probably seen you twenty times.”

 He took another drag and held his breath for a few seconds before slowly blowing out the smoke. “How’s the business?”

 “Great.”

 Guy took a few measured steps and stopped right in front of him. Riki sat on a ruined slab of concrete, looking up at Guy. Normally, Guy was only a few inches taller than him, but now he was using their different positions to loom over him. Riki felt his perverse delight in doing it.

 “Actually, that’s something I want to talk to you about.”

 “Is that so…”

 Guy nodded. “Since I’m pretty much running things anyways, I think it’s time for you to step down.”

 Riki raised an eyebrow. “You think? Hmm, that sounds like a pretty weak leader to me.”

 Annoyance took over the delight Guy had been projecting. “You’re out. You won’t even be able to fight your way back in. But…” Guy trailed off, a smirk growing on his face.

 "But?”

 “I’d be willing to make an exception if you begged real nice.” Leaning back a little, Guy’s hips shifted closer to Riki’s face. Guy looked down his nose at Riki.

 “You know what I think?” Riki exhaled the last drag and flicked the spent cig away. “If you don’t get your dick out of my face, I’m gonna punch it through your asshole.”

 Guy twitched and took a step back. "You think you're tough, but really you're just a bitch. Ever since you got that job, you're too good for any dick in Ceres. That guy you work for must be an amazing fuck. He has you right by the balls – that's why you never say his name."

 Riki rolled his eyes. "I can't say his name. It's the Black Market, you stupid bastard."

 A horn sounded not far in the distance right as Guy opened his mouth to reply. Guy turned to wave at the members of their gang as they approached. Then looked back at Riki with a sneer. "You have two choices. Either tell them you're stepping down or I will beat your bitch ass in front of them and then kick you out." He turned and walked away before Riki could reply.

 Riki stood and took two steps forward, kicking Guy in the tailbone. When Guy fell to his knees, Riki wrapped an arm around his neck and pulled back, stretching Guy out and taking away his balance. "Or I could kill you right now and everyone would thank me for making Amoi a better planet."

 He felt Guy's panic set in when he couldn't get free, anger with some surprise from the others, and one spike of rage.

 "Let go of him, you son of a bitch!" Kirie—the youngest member and Guy's fanboy—screamed at him. He rushed at Riki, swinging a wide hook.

 Riki let go of Guy and ducked, punching Kirie hard in the stomach. It brought Kirie to his knees beside Guy. Riki's former friend was holding his throat and gasping for breath. He turned to address the gang turned silent audience.

 "I was told that you're not satisfied with my leadership anymore."

 He looked at the familiar faces of the gang he had led since he was eighteen. Most were frowning, anger came off the crowd in waves.

 "Fine, then Guy is officially your leader. I hope you don't regret it. Oh, by the way," Riki turned to Guy, "If you ever threaten me again, I will kill you and none of these fuckers will be able to stop me."

 Guy managed to glare up at him before another coughing fit took over. Kirie was too busy coddling and fretting over Guy to notice much else.

 The crowd of men parted to give Riki a wide berth. As he walked to his airbike, Riki felt a mixture of anger, fear, awe, and a little lust from them. Whispers of demon and Riki the Dark  followed after. Hearing his old nickname made him snort softly. Riki threw on his helmet and took off, never looking back.

 - - - - - - 

 Iason exhaled a deep sigh of relief as the lid of the Cradle closed over him. He lay in warm water up just past his ears. The middle pane of glass transitioned until Iason could no longer see his Furniture, Daryl. Sensory deprivation that the Cradle provided was the only thing that kept him going lately. This was the only place that Iason could find peace – except for the constant headache.

 Normally, the Cradle was only used when a Sentinel was in a fugue or on the verge of one. Iason used it every night. It was a secret between him and his Furniture. Raoul would protest and tell him that he needed another Pet. Logically, it was sound advice, but Iason couldn't bring himself to do it.

 Not the first time in his existence, Iason wondered why Jupiter allowed this flaw in them. Sentinels were supposed to be the pinnacle of bioengineering and nano technology. The only thing science couldn't duplicate perfectly was the human brain. So Sentinels were given human brains that were grown in a lab and enhanced with nanites. The body was advanced and strong, but the brain was prone to overload from processing too much information. To counteract this, Jupiter allowed Sentinels to have Pets to focus their senses. Pets were humans with empathic abilities.

 His last Pet had been appealing on the auction block, but useless where it was needed. At the time of purchase, he knew the Pet wasn't empathically strong, but thought nothing of it. Iason had fallen into a sensory fugue while conducting business on the planet Kessler. The clients on Kessler liked to brand their newly purchased Pets. The smell of burning flesh had pushed him over the edge. It was fortunate that Mimea was able to pull him out. However, since that day Iason had been plagued with a headache that never stopped. Even Raoul—Tangura’s leading Biochemist—couldn't explain its cause.

 By the time morning came, the pain had dulled. But Iason knew from experience that it would grow worse throughout the day until he could seek refuge in the Cradle at night. The middle pane of glass was slowly transitioning from opaque to transparent. Daryl was waiting for him with a towel in hand.

 "Good morning, Master," Daryl said softly after the lid opened, bowing low and offering the towel.

 Iason rose and slowly took in the information around him. The air filters in the tower of Eos were high quality, but he could still smell all the things in his suite – plastic, silicone, fabric, various metal alloys, and low scented cleaning products. The only other thing he smelled was Daryl himself. His Furniture was freshly washed and clean. He couldn't even smell food on the man's breath.

 "You haven't eaten yet today."

 "No, Master. I was waiting until you had left for the day so you wouldn't have to be burdened by it."

 "Thank you." Iason took the towel from Daryl, patting himself dry. "Were there any messages while I was occupied?"

 "A senator from the Federation would like to place a custom order. He seemed to be in a rush."

 "Inform the Senator that he’ll have to come here or request a holoconference. I have a meeting with Jupiter this afternoon."

 "Yes, Master. Also, Katze wished you know if you wanted to meet about the next shipment before it departs."

 Iason nodded and handed back the towel. "Yes. Tell him I'll be there this evening." Without shame, he walked nude through the suite until he had to put on clothes to attend to business.

 - - - - - -

 Riki still had two days left before his shipment transport and that annoyed him. He would have spent that time hanging out with his gang members, but he was done with those assholes. He hoped to never see any of their faces again.

 To kill some time, he decided to walk around Midas. He wouldn't be able to do anything because he didn't have an ID, but he was able to bask in the empathic symphony. On average, citizens had a much higher quality of life than the mongrels of Ceres. It made the atmosphere very pleasant for him empathically. In his youth, he would steal a car or two to sell the parts, but not anymore. He just walked the streets, enjoying other people's happiness.

 When he got closer to the center of the city, Riki felt a note sour the symphony. It was deep sadness, loneliness, and pain rolled into one. Feeling other people's emotions was normal for him. What wasn't normal was how drawn he felt toward this empathic note. Unconsciously, his feet headed in that direction.

 It would have been easy to find the source of this note, but…. 

 Absolute terror spiked against Riki's shields.

 The new emotion wasn't what distracted him. It was the fact that he'd felt this person before – it was Alec. Somewhere close by, Alec was terrified. Riki took off running down three alleys before he found his co-pilot. But he wasn't alone. Alec was surrounded by five guys. Two of them were holding him still, two were beating him to a pulp, and the fifth was watching. The others stopped at his command.

 "Stop." The fifth guy stepped closer to Alec. "So what you're trying to say is that you don't have the money?"

 Alec groaned, blood dripping from his mouth.

 "I see. That's really unfortunate." The guy dug into his pocket and pulled something out. Riki only knew what it was after it was turned on. The blade of a las-knife glowed bright in the dark of the alley. The ring leader raised it high above his head and Riki ran. He ran straight for the leader and kicked a leg out from under him. Never stopping, Riki went after each guy that came at him. His surprise appearance gave him an advantage at first, but it wore off quickly.

 After Riki got a car between him and the thugs, he looked around for Alec. Any hope he had that his co-pilot would fight were dashed when he saw Alec running down the alley. Then Alec disappeared around a corner, never looking back. Bastard.

 "Who are you?" the ring leader asked.

 "Do you really give a shit?"

 The man shrugged. "Not really. I just wanted a name to go with the punk that stuck his nose where it didn’t belong."

 Riki didn't answer. He was busy trying to figure a way out of this. The alley behind him was a dead end and all the thugs were in front of him. His element of surprise was gone. Three of the thugs were slowly making their way around the car.

 It was now or never.

 He took a step back before jumping onto the hood then the roof of the car. Riki kicked two of the thugs in the face. He jumped over the third thug and landed on the trunk of a different car. Just as he ran and jumped for the roof of the third car, Riki heard the loud hum of a phaser being primed.

 "Shit," Riki hissed through his teeth.

 He didn't want to look behind so he ducked and changed direction. Riki jumped to the side, off the roof of a car toward the street. Cars made great cover. But before Riki made it to the ground, he felt something hit him in the ribs. Burning followed. He'd never been shot by a phaser before and it made Riki shout. The burning pain blossomed from his ribs and took over his chest. Landing on the ground jarred Riki. It took a second for him to recover. By the time he'd thought about getting to his feet the thugs were already on him. Their intent was clear.

 Riki always knew he wouldn't die an old man. Most people from the slums never did. He just never figured it would end like this.

 - - - - - -

 The hardest task of his day was left for last. Iason had to venture out into the city of Midas to meet with Katze. Midas was widely known throughout the system for its variety of entertainment and pleasure districts. Shopping, auctions, dancing, brothels, drugs, gambling, and virtual reality cafes were the city's lifeblood. Unfortunately, the building Katze operated from was in the center of all of this. Iason exited the building after the meeting ended, keeping his dark glasses on helped dim the neon lights.

 He was ready to go back to Eos. His head was pounding and there was too much noise. Aircars drove past… Clinking of shoes on metal streets… Music bled out of speakers… Laughter bouncing off buildings… Groaning from sex in the brothels…

 "Give us a bottle of your finest wine!"

 "That'll be twenty credits, please."

 "Do you like the blue or the red better?"

 "Yes… yes! Don't stop!"

 "How about we go for a drink?"

 "Oh my Jupiter, I won!"

 "She's top quality – used to be the Pet of a Blondie you know."

 "Quick! Get the body in there before someone sees."

 Iason paused. He focused his hearing on the area that voice came from. It was in an alley not far from him.

 "Man, did you have to shoot him? There's blood all over my clothes."

 "Fuck you. If I hadn't, he would've gotten away."

 "This guy is short, but he's really fucking heavy."

 "Shut your traps and help him get that little shit in there."

 "Why don't you help? You're the one that kicked him the head!"

 Iason counted six heartbeats, but only heard five voices. The last heartbeat was slow and the breaths were labored. Crime wasn't unheard of in Midas, but it was more common in the slums. In a normal situation, Iason would inform Midas Police and let them handle it. However, he felt a… pull he'd never encountered. It was so strange that he ran toward it without really deciding to do so.

 Using his Sentinel speed, Iason dispatched all five men before they even knew he was there. Now he could only hear two heartbeats in the alley – his own and the heartbeat that was slowing down. He followed its call to a dumpster and opened the lid. Inside was a man laying face up on piles of trash bags. Black hair stuck to the bruised and bloody side of his face. Blood was slowly dripping from a wound on the ribs. Iason could see it clearly through the hole burned through the black shirt and jacket.

 Without thinking about it, Iason reaching inside and carefully lifted the man out. Large amounts of blood littered the ground. Blood and burned flesh were heavy in the air. Wet crackling in the man’s lungs told Iason the man had been hit with a full power blast. He held the man close to his chest and walked back to his aircar. There was no valid explanation for his behavior, but he was more concerned about getting back to the tower at the moment. He would puzzle over the situation later.

 By the time he reached Eos, it was late evening. Iason didn't care that eyes followed him as he walked through the entry to the elevator with a body in his arms. It was probably not the oddest thing to occur in the tower this week. When the elevator doors opened on the top floor, Iason was pleased to see Daryl. His Furniture bowed then followed him into the suite.

 "I have obtained the medical equipment you asked for, Master, and a bath has been prepared."

 "The bath will have to wait. He has a phaser wound to the ribs." Iason gently laid out the man on the biobed. The scans confirmed what he already suspected and one thing he didn't.

 "He's a mongrel," Daryl breathed in surprise.

 The absence of nanites and body modification certainty indicated that. Iason turned the man's head and felt the lobe of his ear. There was no nodule signifying an ID chip. "Yes. He also has a concussion, internal bleeding, burns from a phaser, and broken ribs. Help me get these clothes off." His Furniture nodded, saying nothing else while he helped.

 Iason programmed the biobed to heal the man's wounds and closed the lid. He kept the hand on top of the lid as he thought. Deciding to bring the man here was still puzzling. He could have easily dropped the man off at an emergency facility in Midas, but… Iason wondered if it had anything to do with the buzzing at the base of his skull. It was faint, but he had felt it since first hearing that sluggish heartbeat. Now he heard the heartbeat growing stronger and steadier. Tension slowly bled from his body. He blinked. Iason hadn't realized he'd been tense.

 He turned to wash his hands as the bell to his suite chimed. Iason finished what he was doing and let Daryl answer the door.

 “I was told something curious this evening,” Raoul started as he entered the suite. A look of disgust took over his features. "What is that smell?"

 Iason motioned to the biobed. "There was an incident in Midas while I was out. I found citizens trying to dispose of a mongrel's body. They thought he was dead, but that wasn't the case. I brought him here for treatment."

 Raoul stepped up the biobed and looked through the viewing screen. The wrinkle on his brow was still in place when he looked at Iason. "When someone told me that you were seen carrying the body of a human through the lobby, I thought you had finally purchased a new Pet. I never would have imagined this. You shouldn't pick up strays, Iason. You have no idea what diseases it might be carrying," Raoul sniffed in disgust. "It smells like garbage in here."

 Inhaling a little deeper, Iason blinked. Air filters had already taken care of the lingering scent of the dumpster and alley. The man himself was in the air-tight biobed. The scent Raoul complained about was coming from him. Iason had carried the man in and it transferred onto his clothes, but the smell didn’t bother him. It hadn’t even registered. "That resulted from the attack. His clothes are being taken care of as we speak."

 "As soon as it’s clothed again, you should get rid of it."

 The idea of getting rid of the man made Iason clench his jaw. He paused. His reaction just now and the initial compulsion to bring a stranger here made him wonder. Stronger Pets brought out the protective instincts of a Sentinel. He'd seen it with other Sentinels in Eos, but he'd never encountered one that affected him. Could it be possible?

 "He's injured… and I suspect he's a Pet."

 "Please," Raoul scoffed. "If it had Pet abilities, it would have been found by the Testers years ago. Every institute is required to submit its juvenile population at least once a year. This one is at least thirty years of age – well past the blooming of an empath. You've just been without a Pet for too long. You need to pick a new one. For everyone's sake. Jupiter will not be pleased if you fall into another fugue like the last one."

 He nodded. Arguing was pointless and his head was pounding, but he made sure to keep his face blank.  "I understand. I will look for one at the next auction."

 "Very well." He turned to leave. "You should burn anything it touched after you drop that thing back on streets where you found it," Raoul called over his shoulder.

 - - - - - -

 When Riki finally woke, he wished he hadn’t. His head was killing him and his side was tender. Riki grabbed his head and turned over to block the light. It felt like he was in a bed and he buried his face in the soft sheets.

 “Oh shit... Somebody please… just kill me,” he mumbled.

 He wasn’t expecting an answer, but he got one. “I’m afraid that you were close to dying once already. My Master would not be pleased if you were to accomplish it now.”

 Riki spun around then had to close his eyes. The room was spinning. “Who the fuck are you?”

 “I am called Daryl. My Master asked that watch over you until he wakes.”

 He started to shake his head but stopped. The pounding started in his temple, but it encompassed his whole head and down his neck. “Fuck, was I shot in the head?”

 “No, in the ribs, but you have a concussion.”

 Laying his head in his hands, Riki went completely still. It seems to help. The pain was still there, but it dulled the pounding. “Where am I? I don’t remember getting here.”

 “My Master saved you and brought you here for healing. He can tell you more after he wakes.”

 “Master?” Riki jumped when he felt a pinch on the side of his neck. He looked up to see a handsome kid in his early twenties holding a hypo. “What the fuck was that?”

 “Something to help with the pain so you can sleep.”

 Riki threw off the covers and started to get off on the opposite side.

 Daryl ran around the bed and pushed at his shoulders. “Please stay in bed, sir. You’re not well enough to leave yet.”

 “I don’t give a shit,” Riki tried to say, but it didn’t come out like that. All the words slurred together and made little sense – even to his ears. And, instead of pushing the kid away, Riki’s head dropped and his upper body leaned on Daryl. He felt his eyes close and couldn’t get them open again.

 The next time Riki tried to open his eyes, he could do it. His lids were still heavy and wanted to close, but he could keep them open. As a test, he turned his head to the side. The pain never came. If anything, he felt a little numb all over. That must have been some quality shit. He was so happy to be pain free that it took an embarrassingly long time for Riki to sit up and finally notice that someone was in the room with him.

 “Who are you?”

 The man was sitting in a chair across the room, just watching him. He had short, wavy blonde hair that was pushed back – except for one stray curl lying on his forehead. He was dressed impeccably and was easily the most beautiful person Riki had ever seen. The expression the man wore was blank, but Riki could feel deep pain coming from him. 

 “I am Iason Mink,” he said in a rich voice. Riki waited for more, but he didn’t speak again.

 “Let me guess, you’re the Master the other guy was talking about.”

 “Yes.”

 “What're you the Master of?”

 “Tanagura.”

 Riki felt like his stomach dropped into a pit. “The capital city?”

 “Yes.”

 “And where are we now?”

 “The tower of Eos.”

 His heart skipped a few beats before it started racing. “The Sentinels’ tower?”

 “Yes.”

 Riki’s jaw closed and he reached for his shields. “Shit,” he hissed. They were a mess, full of rips and holes. His empathy was leaking out all over the place. He would bet money it happened when he was shot. Now it was too late. He’d been awake and in the presence of this Sentinel for too long.

 He’d been hiding from the Testing Board ever since Guardian. It was just his fucking luck that he was shot anywhere near a Sentinel. A Blondie at that. The Testing Board at Guardian was made of Platina, Bronze, and Ruby Sentinels. In order to hide from them, Riki’s shields had to be whole and tight. He’d never been around a Blondie, but Riki was sure Iason had noticed.

 After pushing back his panic, Riki focused back and glared at the Blondie. The Sentinel was watching him blankly, but Riki felt a brief wave of amusement before it went back to pain. It made Riki frown and he watched Iason in return. Their staring contest ended when the Blondie looked to the door. Daryl walked in with a tray a few seconds later.

 “Good morning, sir. I hope you’re feeling better today.”

 “Yeah.” Riki sat back when Daryl placed the tray over his lap. “Thanks, but don’t ever do that again.”

 Daryl filled the empty glass with water from the small pitcher on the tray, taking a step back after. “What do you mean, sir?”

 “I would have cleaned someone’s clock if they injected me with something without asking me first. Lucky for you, yesterday was an off day for me.”

 He felt the kid’s confusion, but Daryl just nodded. “As you say, sir.”

 “Riki.”

  “Pardon?”

 “My name’s Riki, not sir.”

 Daryl gave him a small smile and a bow. “I’ll come to retrieve the tray later. Enjoy, Master Riki.”

 “Just Riki. I ain’t master of shit,” he called as Daryl left the room. He looked back at Iason. “What’s with that guy? Does he call everybody that?”

 “Yes.”

 “Why?”

 “Because he is my Furniture.”

 Riki blinked. “Furniture?”

 "Yes, he manages the suite when I'm away and sees to my needs while I'm here."

 He gritted his teeth. "Basically – a slave."

 "No, a servant. Naturally sterile citizens can volunteer to become Furniture in Eos."

 "Why do they have to be sterile?"

 "So they can fully dedicate themselves to the needs of their Master."

 "Ha, Master," Riki scoffed, feeling another small wave of amusement from the Sentinel.

 Iason shrugged, face still blank. "For some, they see it as the only way to advance in life."

 "Obviously, they're stupid. I'd rather be in a gang than run to someone's every beck and call. Besides, there are always opportunities in the Black Market."

 "So which one are you – a gang member or an employ of the Black Market?"

 "Both. Well… I used to be.” Riki fell silent. This situation was weird. He’d expected to get arrested or something, not be given breakfast in bed. He stared at the Blondie uncertainly.

 Iason gestured toward the tray. “Eat. Before the food gets cold.”

 Riki shrugged. They didn't make a secret of drugging him earlier and smart mongrels never turned down food. More things about the fight came back to him as he ate—most importantly—what he felt before Alec’s terror. There was an empathic note of deep pain, loneliness, and sadness that had drawn him. Riki now realized that the source of the note was sitting in the room with him. It was unnerving to feel all that pain, but look upon a beautiful, blank face.

 When he finished eating, Riki sat back and crossed his arms. He winced a little as the new, sensitive skin pulled over his ribcage. Since the Sentinel wasn’t going to bring it up, Riki might as well point out the Rancor in the room. "Don't you want to know how I did it?"

 Iason stood and walked to the bed. "How you did it is not difficult to see. The Testers would not have been prepared to look for a Pet of your-"

 "I'm not a fucking Pet,” Riki snapped. “I'm a person – a human being. You may look down on being pure human, but I sure as shit don't."

 The Blondie nodded and picked up the tray, setting it aside. "They would not have been prepared to find an empath of your caliber." With the Sentinel this close, Riki noticed how blue the eyes that studied him were. "The idea of becoming someone's Pet displeases you."

 "No fucking shit. I wouldn't have hidden for most of my life if I thought being a disposable chew toy was a good idea."

 "Pets are not disposable," Iason said matter-of-factly.

 "Coulda fucking fooled me. How many empaths have you burned through in your life? Ten? Twenty?"

 Iason’s made no outward appearance of thinking, but Riki could feel a wave of guilt building.

 "That's what I thought."

 "I have not kept a... an empath in my company for over a year."

 "Don't have to tell me that. You’re broadcasting pain all over the place. I’m surprised you’re not making the other empaths in the tower uncomfortable. Who finally pulled you out of your last fugue?"

 Both of Iason’s eyebrows rose slightly. "Mimea. She's the empath of my second in command, Raoul."

 Riki scoffed. "She did a horrible fucking job. It feels like she yanked you back by force. Everything about you is still raw from it. I bet you have headaches, right?"

 Iason blinked before nodding. "Where did you learn all of this?"

 "From a yearmate in Guardian.” Riki shrugged. “The basics anyways. Then I met an old empath on another planet that knew her shit. As far as technique, I've had years for personal trial and error since then." Silence reigned over the room until curiosity got the best of Riki. “Why haven’t I been arrested yet?”

 The Blondie sat on the edge of the bed beside Riki. Shadows lurked under both blue eyes and his cheeks were slightly sunken. “What have you done to call for your arrest?”

 “Oh, I don’t know. Lying to the Testing Board for years, fighting in the golden streets of Midas, language in front of an almighty Sentinel… Take your pick.”

 A corner of Iason’s mouth twitched. “I am not in charge of the Testing Board. Any grievance for hiding from Testers would have to come from Aisha. From what I heard last night, you did not start the fight and those that did have been dealt with. As for your language, I find it oddly… refreshing.”

 Riki lifted an eyebrow. “You’re weird, you know that? You’re not how I thought a Blondie would be.”

 “Then I am not the first Sentinel you have encountered.”

 It wasn't a question. His teeth clicked as Riki closed his mouth.

 “You mentioned the Black Market earlier…”

 Riki said nothing, but it looked like Iason already had his answer.

 “Then you must work for my subordinate, Katze.”

 “Your subordinate?”

 “Yes. As the head of Tanagura, the Black Market is under my purview. I placed Katze in charge of it.”

 “Right.” The world under Riki’s feet spun upside-down and it had nothing to do with a concussion this time. He never thought that Sentinels governed each other. A fresh wave of pain came from the Sentinel and it brought Riki back to the present. “Take off your glove and give me your hand.”

 The Sentinel sat and stared at him.

 Riki snorted. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just wanna see if I can fix it. So just give me your damn hand before I change my mind.” He could do it without touching the Blondie, but it would take more time. He’d rather just do it in one shot.

 One hand, covered in white, pulled the glove off the other hand. Iason extended it with his palm facing up.

 Taking a deep breath, Riki laid his hand on top of Iason’s. It was hot and soft to the touch. His shields didn’t need to be intact for this party trick. It was the least he could do for someone that saved his life. Gathering his focus, he mapped the energy of the Sentinel. The core of Iason’s energy was shaded and withering. Loneliness and sadness tend to do that to people – even Sentinels apparently. The outer layers had what he called energy road rash. That other empath had clawed Iason’s spiritual body raw in order to wake him up physically. It left a nasty mark. Spiritual wounds weren’t like physical ones. They would remain open until actively healed.

 He was going to be so fucking tired after this. Riki took another deep breath and let his spiritual body free from his physical body. Working as a spirit—as pure energy—was something he hadn’t done in a long time. Good thing it was like getting back on an airbike after piloting a spaceship for weeks. Drawing in energy from the air around him, Riki warmed it with some energy of his own. He used it as a balm for Iason’s road rash. There wasn’t anything he could do about the shadow in the Blondie’s core. That would be too personal. Soothing and healing what the other empath had done would at least take away the spiritual pain causing the Sentinel’s physical headaches. 

 Working like this always made Riki lose track of time. It felt like a long while before he was satisfied all of the road rash was gone. When his spirit slipped back into his body, Riki swayed. He would have fallen off the bed, but he felt a strong pair of hands holding him upright.

 “Riki?”

 It could just be his imagination, but Riki thought he felt awe and worry from the Sentinel. He waved a hand in the air. “I’m fine,” Riki slurred, eyes closing. “Just need to sleep. Just… a little….”

 The empath was asleep before he even laid the head of black hair onto a pillow. Iason sat back and stared in amazement. He’d never felt anything like that. For the first time in over a year, there was no headache. Whatever Riki had done took it away and left him feeling exceptionally warm. The only part of him that felt cold was his hand. He missed the feel of those rough fingers on his skin. Iason wanted to reach out and touch Riki again. The thought of it made his stomach clench.

 Iason stood and slipped his glove back on. He left the room to avoid temptation.

 "Daryl."

 His Furniture appeared from around the corner. "Yes, Master?"

 "Summon Katze to me. Now."

 He bowed low. "I will, Master."

 - - - - - -

 Iason was sitting in his office, looking out on the city at night. Midas was alight with colored and flashing lights. The two moons of Amoi lighted the slums and ruins of Dana Bahn beyond. He took a slow sip of scotch.

 "You called, Alpha?"

 Katze was one of the few Sentinels that called him that. It was one of the many reasons he placed Katze in charge of the Black Market. The Onyx Sentinel was unwaveringly loyal to him and Iason considered him a close confidant. He could count on Katze to give him the truth. Truth without shoving his opinions down Iason’s throat like Raoul tended to do.

 "Tell me everything you know about a mongrel named Riki."

 There was only a slight pause before Katze began to speak. "Riki is an unregistered human living in Ceres. 31.4 years of age. Parents unknown. He came to be in my employ 12.9 years ago.”

 "Why?" Iason questioned.

 "What do you mean, Alpha?"

 "Why did he come into your employ? Did he ever give you a reason?"

 "No. He never said and I never asked."

 Iason nodded. "Continue."

 "At first, he worked in the warehouse. Then he was a mule – running small jobs. After three years, he became a pilot. He has a propensity to stand up for other mongrels and those he considers weak. He is stubborn and strong willed, but I can count on him to get things done on time."

 In the following silence, Iason turned to look at Katze for the first time. “Is that all?”

 “That is all I needed to know.”

 Iason held back the sudden urge to sigh, turning back to the window. “What would you say if I told you that he’s an empath?”

 Katze was silent for so long that Iason turned to look at him.

 The Onyx was frowning. “If someone other than you said this, I would dismiss the idea outright. Still, I am having a hard time believing it.”

 He motioned with his hand and Katze came to sit in the chair next to him.

 Daryl entered the living area from one of the side doors. “What would you like to drink, Master Katze?”

 “Water is fine.”

 Iason took another sip scotch as Daryl set down a glass of water then left again. “In all the time he’s worked for you, you never suspected that he might be an empath?”

 “No. Not once.”

 He nodded. Sentinels did not have near the scale of empathy that a Pet had. They had just enough to successfully communicate with Jupiter. Iason had the highest level of empathy, but it was still well below the level of a proper Pet. Oddly enough, Katze was the Sentinel with the next highest level of empathy.

 “How did you come by this information?”

 “After leaving the warehouse last night, I heard Citizens trying to dispose of a body.”

 One of Katze’s eyebrows lifted in question.

 Iason shook his head. “He is alive. They beat him badly enough that they thought him dead. I overheard their conversation as they tried to put him in a dumpster. I was… pulled in that direction in a way I’d never felt before.”

 “He called you empathically.”

 “No, he was unconscious. I just felt… him.” Out of the corner of his vision, Iason saw Katze frown. As the Alpha, he was normally more composed than this. Especially in front of Katze. “At the time, I was barely aware that I was being drawn. I neutralized any threat to him and brought him here for healing. It was only then that I suspected. After he woke, he healed me.”

 “The headache?”

 “Yes. He was in an empathic trance for over an hour. Almost immediately after coming out of the trance, he passed out.”

 Both of Katze’s eyebrows were raised. “I’ve never heard such a thing.”

 “Neither have I.”

 “What will you do now?”

 Iason stared into his glass for a long while. He shook his head and downing the rest of the scotch. It burned his throat as he turned to look out the window again.

 - - - - - -

 There was no one in the room when Riki woke. He took the time to meditate and repair his shields. If no other Sentinel around here knew he was an empath, maybe they wouldn’t arrest him. Filling holes and mending rips in his shields were easy compared to fixing Iason’s road rash. Took a lot less energy, too. When he was done, Riki dressed in the clothes he found on the counter. Pants and boots were his, but the shirt was new. At least it fit and they got him one that was black.

 He counted four people near him. If he had to guess, there was an argument happening in one of the other rooms. He felt four distinct energy signatures and emotions: worry, annoyance, resignation, and fake calm. Two of the signatures were easy to identify. Daryl—a very soft and caring signature—was radiating worry. Resignation came from Iason. The Sentinel's signature still carried notes of loneliness and sadness, but it felt stronger now that the pain was gone. Riki still felt pulled toward it.

 He'd never felt the signatures of the other two before. Curiosity got the best of him and Riki left the room. He followed the voices and emotional signatures to the right. Staying hidden by a corner, he leaned against the wall to listen.

 “Master Iason, I’m sure it’s nothing, but I should check to make sure you haven’t been infected by this stranger,” an unknown woman said sweetly. She was the one projecting fake calm. Genuine calm was a soft emotion and had a feel of sincerity to it. The calm coming from her was too forceful. Patronizing, too – like patting a grown ass man on the head.

 “Sentinels are immune to infections.” That was Iason.

 “To physical infections, but Mimea tells me that an untrained Pet can cause a great deal of damage,” said another man, voice deep and menacing. Annoyance was coming off him in waves.

 “He is not untrained and his name is-”

 “That’s not the point.”

 “Then by all means, Raoul, enlighten me. What is that point of your visit?”

 “As head of Tanagura, you have immense power. This stray is obviously trying to control you. What Mimea felt last night was manipulation of the highest crime – bonding with a Sentinel of Eos. It should be arrested. Mimea needs to break the bond for your sake and the sake of the syndicate.”

 “That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard.”

 All eyes turned to stare at Riki.

 The plan had been to lay low and hopefully sneak out while the Sentinels were focused on their argument. His mouth got the better of him though.

 Iason and Daryl were in an office with a man and woman Riki had never seen before. The man, Raoul, was obviously a Sentinel. He had short wavy blonde hair that was pushed back and he was tall like Iason. Both Sentinels were beautiful, but this new one had a set-in look of distain. The woman was really short, but pretty. She wore a white see-through dress that hid none of her olive skin. Long black hair reached her waist. A necklace of diamonds and emeralds circled her neck then fanned across her chest. 

 Raoul turned back to Iason. “If it’s well enough to walk and talk, it’s well enough to be arrested.”

 “Arrested for what?”

 Daryl walked up to Riki, his head bowed low and whispered, “The Masters are having a conversation. We’re not supposed to interfere.”

 Riki shook his head, walking further into the office. “No, fuck that. If you’re going to accuse me of something, you’re gonna to say it to my face.”

 Raoul refused to look at him, choosing to scowl at Iason instead. The woman said, “Last night I felt you give your energy to Master Iason. In Eos, it is a crime of the highest order to bond with a Sentinel. I don’t expect an untrained Pet like you to understand this, but you must be punished.”

 “You’re a fucking idiot. Giving someone your energy isn't anything. Tying your core to someone else's is bonding. It creates a link. All I did last night was heal the damage you caused to his spiritual body. Between the two of us, you’re the one who’s untrained.”

 The fake calm was broken by fury and the woman’s face flushed.

 A thought crossed Riki’s mind and he pointed at her. “Unless you’re faking. Did you actually hurt him out of sheer stupidity or," he paused and pointed at Raoul, "did the big goon order you to do it?”

 Raoul finally turned his cold eyes to look at him. “Watch what you say. I could have you liquidated by the end of the day.” The Sentinel lifted his arm and pushed a button on his wrist comm.

 Now it was Riki’s turn to ignore Raoul. He walked closer to Iason. “Look, I may not know how things go around here, but I didn’t bond with you last night. I wouldn’t do that to anyone without their permission.”

 Iason merely stared at him, face blank with a storm of emotions underneath. They were swirling around so fast Riki couldn’t catch most of them.

 “He’s lying,” Mimea said, voice as sweet as honey. The fake calm was back and it was stronger than before. “I felt his malicious intent last night. I worry only for your safety, Master Iason. I wish to protect you.”

 Riki frowned at her. “Are you kidding? Sentinels are the baddest motherfuckers in the galaxy. Why would they need anyone’s protection?”

 “We all are worried,” Raoul added like Riki hadn’t said anything. “I have taken the liberty of notifying security. Once this mongrel is out of your presence, we can have Mimea check you over.”

 The look on Mimea’s face never changed, but Riki felt a wave of triumph from her.

 Riki narrowed his eyes then turned to Iason. “I don’t know what kind of game that bitch is playing, but don’t let her touch you. Don’t let her in. I think she hurt you on purpose. I just don’t know why.”

 Iason stared at him, a frown on his face.

 The front door of the suite opened and three security bots came in. Raoul pointed at Riki. They headed straight for him. Riki hunched down, ready to strike back.

 “Enough,” Iason snarled. The bots halted and all eyes turned to him. “I have not been manipulated – I was healed.” 

 Raoul was the first to speak. “How can you be so sure?”

 “The headache is gone.”

 His friend’s eyebrow raised minutely in interest.

 “My Pet and I-”

 “Pet?” Mimea screeched.

 Both Sentinels winced.

 “Yes. As of this morning, Riki has agreed to be my Pet.” He looked at Riki and saw the empath staring at him with his mouth slightly open. Riki’s eyes—pitch black with slivers of grey throughout the iris—held confusion and a little anger in them.

“Where is his collar?”

 “I am having something custom made.”

 Raoul shook his head. “Jupiter will not like this.”

 “I have never made a mistake in my work and I’m not going to do so in the future. As long as I perform my duties perfectly, Jupiter has no say in my private life. Neither do the two of you.”

 The pair seemed to have no response. Mimea was vibrating and the bitter scent of anger was oozing from her pores.

 “You have taken up enough of my time. Daryl will show you the way out.” Iason gently laid a hand on the small of Riki’s back, directing him out of his office and back to his bedroom where the empath had been recovering. He was amazed that Riki kept quiet, but it quickly wore off.

 As the bedroom door slid shut, Riki took a deep breath. Iason clapped a gloved hand over his mouth and shook his head. Riki glared at him, but he was busy listening. Daryl had led Raoul and Mimea out of the suite. Iason waited until the pair got in the elevator and went down before he released Riki. Reaching over to the wall, Iason turned on the red noise generator to protect the room.

 “I’m not your fucking Pet,” Riki sputtered indignantly. The fiery empath put the width of the room between them.

 Iason stayed by the door. “I know. You made your view of being a Pet quite clear.”

 “Then what the fuck?”

 “Think of it as payment for healing me.”

 Riki frowned and blinked at him. “But… I healed you because you saved my life.”

 “That does not count.”

 “Why the hell not?”

 “I did not save your life out of kindness – it was curiosity. Avoiding your arrest was a kindness. Now we’re even.”

 Riki crossed his arms. “So now what? You’re just going to let me go?”

 Iason bit his tongue. He didn’t want to let this empath go. The fire that burned inside of Riki fascinated him. However—if he kept Riki against his will—Iason understood that fire would burn him.

 “Yes.”

 “But…” Riki hesitated, uncrossing his arms. “You said I was your Pet. If they don’t see me around Eos, won’t they know you lied?”

 “Yes.”

 Riki frowned.

 “I will drop you off wherever you wish to go.” He turned to leave.

 “Wait…”

 Iason turned back. The empath’s teeth were gnawing on his full lower lip. Iason watched little drops of blood appear. He fought back the urge to lick it from Riki’s lips.

 “I- I can help you, you know.”

 “I have no doubt that you can.” Iason listened to Riki’s heart race. “But you don’t want to help.”

 Riki looked up and stepped forward. “That’s not it. I just… I don’t want to be a Pet. I don’t want to be seen as a thing… a thing with no rights or say.”

 “A Pet is merely a status. If you were to stay in Eos to help me, I would have to register you as my Pet. Jupiter would not allow an unregistered human to live in Eos. Also, I understand how very human you are. It would not be possible to see you as an object.” The man had come too close to death for him to forget it.

 “Maybe… we can work something out?”

 Iason raised an eyebrow.

 “I want to help you, but refuse to be collared and leashed like a dog. You'll just have to trust my word when I say that I'll stay with you."

 “You would be required to wear a Pet device by law, but it does not have to be a collar. Some are jewelry like you saw Mimea wear.” He looked Riki up and down, failing to see the empath draped in jewels. “I can have one incorporated into a wrist comm that you can take off and put on at will.”

 “Yeah,” Riki said, nodding. "Yeah, that could work."

 "Are there any other conditions?"

 A thoughtful look wrinkled Riki’s forehead. "I'm not changing my name and I won’t be idle. I’m a cargo pilot for Katze, but I’m sure he can loan me to you since you’re his boss. I’ll fly whatever you want so I can be there if you need to go off world. But if I want out, you have to let me go. And if you want me to leave, just say so. This has got to be a two-way street for us. I won't have it any other way. Oh, and I’m definitely not wearing anything see-through or going to the Academy for training."

 “Agreed.” From what he’s experienced, Riki could teach the empaths running the Academy. He stepped further into the room, inhaling Riki's scent deeply. He had been actively avoiding getting familiar with the empath's scent, but now he took deep breaths. It was smooth and pleasant, but it had a bite to it – like aged scotch. The desire to taste Riki came back to his mind and Iason’s heart skipped a beat.  "And what is your stance on sex?"

 Riki blinked. "I thought Jupiter created you to be above something as dirty as sex."

 Conceding with a nod, Iason slowly walked toward Riki. "Normally you would be right. Pets are merely a focal point for our senses, but our case is not normal. I understand humans need physical contact. Pets would normally get that contact from other Pets, but I am more than willing to provide what you need." He stopped in front of the empath. "Plus, I have a few conditions of my own."

 Black eyes narrowed. "Like what?"

 "If you stay with me, I want you.” Iason saw Riki blink in surprise, eyes wide. “All of you… for as long as you'll let me have you. And, while you're helping me, I will protect and shelter you to the best of my ability."

 Riki looked indignant. "I don't need to be protected or sheltered."

 The corner of Iason’s mouth curled. "Then I will cherish you. Do you agree to my conditions?” He watched the slivers of grey in Riki's eyes shrink, pupils blowing wide.

 Riki licked his lips, breathing quick and shallow. "Yes."

 "Thank you." Iason leaned down and lightly swept his tongue over Riki’s lips, tasting his empath for the first time. Initially, the salty taste of Riki’s skin exploded on his tongue. Then he swallowed and a pleasant burn settled in the back of his throat. Iason hummed.

 Riki wrapped his arms around Iason’s neck and pressed their lips together. Behind Riki's back, Iason pulled off his gloves. Then he slipped his hands under the black tank top Riki was wearing. The man turned his head and gasped.

 "Holy shit, your hands are hot. Is that normal?"

 "Yes." His tongue traced Riki's jaw. Burying his nose in Riki's hair, Iason inhaled deep.

 Riki tried to turn his head back, but Iason's position prevented it. "What're you doing?"

 Speaking lowly into Riki's ear, he said, "I need to imprint all of my senses on your body."

 The body in his arms trembled briefly. “Okay.” Arousal became stronger in Riki's profile. "What do you need me to do?"

 Iason pulled his head back. "Remove your clothes and lay on the bed." When Riki frowned at him, Iason added, "Please." He felt the odd urge to smile when Riki nodded and pulled back, pulling his shirt over his head.

 "Sentinels are so used to getting their way you barely remember common courtesy."

 He watched Riki undress. His empath's body was littered with scars from living in the slums, but that didn’t detract from the beauty of a male body in its prime. Iason doubted Riki even thought about getting rid of them. "Common human courtesy, but yes. We are used to getting what we want without asking for it."

 Riki jumped on the bed. Putting his hands behind his head, he laid back against a pile of pillows. His cock lay hard against his belly. "Well, I'm an empath, not a mind reader. You gotta ask me for what you want."

 Iason removed his own clothing. "I will keep that in mind." He saw Riki looking him over as he approached the bed.

 The man's heartbeat jumped when Iason slowly crawled onto the bed. With a rough voice, Riki asked, “So what’s an imprint for?”

 “I can extend my senses more efficiently if I have your body as an anchor. I will also be able to find you more easily should we become separated.” Iason gently nudged Riki’s foot, urging him to uncross his legs. He did and Iason grabbed Riki’s ankles, pulling him off the pillows to lay flat on the bed.

 Riki’s cock twitched and he sucked in a breath.

 Releasing his grip, Iason let his hands slide up Riki’s calves. The only hair on the man's body was on the head, groin, and eyebrows. All of it trimmed and neat.

 “Why-” Riki cleared his throat when his voice cracked. “Why would we get separated?”

 “There will be occasions and places where humans are not allowed. Jupiter Tower is one such place.”

 Riki nodded.

 Iason leaned in. “Try to lay as still as possible until I’m finished with the imprint,” he whispered against Riki’s lips.

 “I make no promises,” Riki whispered back.

 He felt the corners of his mouth curl before he took Riki’s mouth again. The taste of his empath was just as thrilling the second time. Starting from the top, he took his time and sampled all of Riki. Though he squirmed and moaned through most of the imprint, Riki stayed where he was. The only times his empath jumped was when Iason sampled under his arms, the bottom of his feet, and the new skin on his side.

 Admittedly, an imprint didn’t need to be this involved, but Iason couldn’t help it. Every twitch of muscle and breath of noise he could bring out of Riki enraptured him. He made sure to save the red, leaking head of Riki’s cock for last. His lips had barely closed over the crown when his empath grunted. Back bowing, Riki came in his mouth. Iason swallowed what he could then licked up the rest that had trailed down the shaft.

 “S- Stop.”

 Sitting back, Iason licked his lips. “Turn over.”

 Riki was covered in sweat, hands clenching the bedsheets under him. Black eyes looked at Iason from under thick lashes. “You’re joking…” Riki’s breath came out in heavy pants.

 Iason raised an eyebrow. "Please."

 Huffing, Riki shook his head. “Right.” Slowly he sat up and turned over.

 Iason grabbed a bottle of oil out of a side drawer before setting it aside. A thick pillow was placed under Riki’s chest and hips before he began again – sampling all of the skin in his view.

 Scars were more prominent on his empath’s back and arms than anywhere else. It should have been off-putting. Most Pets made sure to have smooth skin. Not out of necessity, but vanity. Riki’s body was sculpted and nourished. It was easy to see that his empath took pride in his body, but wasn’t vain like Eos Pets. Whenever Iason found a new scar, he made sure to greet it with a little nip of his teeth and his tongue.

 The scent of Riki’s arousal had faded after his orgasm, but it was slowly building again. His hips were rocking forward, rubbing against the pillow. Iason kneaded the cheeks of his ass, pushing Riki’s hips still against the bed. His empath groaned.

 “When was the last time you took someone inside you?”

 Against the bed, Riki shook his head. “I… A while ago. Months maybe.”

 Iason ghosted a finger over Riki’s hole and the muscles twitched. He continued to stroke until Riki relaxed.

 “You’re going to need lube or something if you’re going to get anywhere.” Riki grunted in frustration when he tried to move his hips.

 Leaning down, Iason spread Riki’s ass open with his hands. He took his time and kissed Riki’s hole just as tenderly as he did his empath’s mouth. Riki moaned his appreciation. Iason reached for the discarded bottle of oil and covered a finger. The attention from his mouth had already relaxed the muscle enough that Iason’s finger slipped in with little resistance. Muscles inside clenched around his finger, drawing it further in. Iason lightly blew on the wet skin in front of him. Riki’s hips jerked and he babbled into the bedsheets. He took his time, adding a second finger only when he felt the body was ready for it. His fingertip brushed over a bump and Riki’s whole body twitched.

 “Ahh… If you don’t hurry up, I’m gonna have a happy ending all by myself.”

 Iason chuckled, removing his fingers. “All you had to do was ask. I’m not a mind reader.”

 Riki huffed out a laugh. “Oh, fuck you. You can probably smell how ready I am.”

 “An aroused body is not permission.” Iason slicked up his own cock with the oil. “I would rather you ask for it than assume I have permission.”

 Turning his head, Riki’s black eyes locked with his. “I want you to fuck me, Iason.”

 He felt the corners of his mouth curl slightly. “With pleasure.”

 Iason stroked his cock over Riki’s hole before pushing in. Both groaned when his hips finally pressed against Riki. His empath’s body was shaking. The smell of sweat and sex was heavy in the air. Keeping his hips still, Iason used his oil covered hands to massage Riki’s back.

 Riki moaned, circling his hips. Iason curled his fingers around Riki’s hipbones and urged his empath up onto his hands and knees. Riki got to his knees, but his upper half laid on a pillow with arms tucked under his head. Iason started slow, adding a swivel occasionally that made his empath moan. Soon Riki raised his upper body and pushed back against Iason.

 He ground his hips into Riki before pumping harder. His empath was now moaning nonstop. The only coherent thing Iason heard was when Riki demanded, “More.”

 Leaning over, Iason wrapped his arms around Riki. When Iason sat back, he pulled Riki onto his lap. Iason pinched at his empath’s sensitive nipples and Riki’s head fell back onto his shoulder. “You want more?”

 Riki turned his head. Teeth scraped over the side of Iason’s neck, followed by a hot tongue. “Fuck yeah.”

 Iason shivered. With a thought, he let his cock swell a little more in length and girth.

 “Oh fuck!” Riki’s whole body tensed, back bowing. “What the- Did you just- Holy fuck.”

 Iason covered Riki’s mouth with his own, tasting himself in Riki's mouth. He began to move again when Riki shuttered, squeezing Iason’s cock with his ass. Reaching up, Riki’s fingers tangled into his golden blonde hair. Feeling his empath pull on it made him groan. One arm locked down around Riki’s chest and his other hand reached to stroke his empath’s cock. Riki’s mouth pulled away and he moaned out his pleasure. It didn’t take long before Riki shouted, spilling come on Iason’s hand and the bed. Iason followed after, biting Riki where his shoulder and neck meet. He licked up the tiny drops of blood from the skin. After his cock softened and changed, Iason gently pulled out.

 Riki’s head was still on his shoulder, chest heaving. “I’m- I’m not gonna lie. I think… think I’m about to pass out…. Again."

 His empath sunk down onto his lap. Iason nodded, tightened his arms around Riki, and moved them to lay down on their sides. “I’ll be here when you wake.” He placed a pillow under their heads and held Riki close. Touching his brow to the back of his empath’s head, Iason nuzzled Riki – tangling together their hair of black and gold.  

 

END