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Because I can

Chapter Text

As Khan dismounted in the middle of the army camp, his soldiers nodded and bowed to him respectfully. Their emperor had taken some time to inspect the surroundings, but it had been more of a stroll for the horse; they’d go home tomorrow, their work here was done, the rebel strongholds blown to pieces.

A stable boy hurried forward just as Khan pulled the reins over the mare’s head, and bowed, without looking into his eyes.

“Wash her. Reward her. Spoil her silly if she wants.”

The boy did not respond, he only bowed deep, and Khan hadn’t expected anything else. He ruffled the horse’s mane and played with her soft mouth, slipped her a carrot and answered her playful nips at his hands with smiles and laughter. Not only was it in his nature to treat animals well, it was also a sign to the people around him, a not so subtle show, demonstrating that animals were simply treated better than them.

One of his generals came up to him.

“Your lordship, while you were away, one of our patrols brought back a young man.”

The Augment unfastened his water skin from the saddle before the stable boy led the mare away, and took a sip. Then he looked back at the soldier.

“A young man? A rebel?” he asked and tried to dust himself off a little; the desert sand und dirt clung to his skin and clothes in a very uncomfortable way. Small clouds of dust rose from his field uniform and light armour into the evening light.

“No, my lord, we think not. He is dressed in some kind of uniform that is not saved in any databanks, and his DNA test did not bring any results either…”

“I’ll deal with that tomorrow, while we pack up, Kumar,” Khan said, trying to keep the tired and disinterested tone at a minimum.

“Yes, my lord. But…”

“Tomorrow,” he said, more firmly now. “Keep an eye on him as you see fit. Keep him quiet, feed him, tell him I’ll see him tomorrow if that’s what it takes, but today, I don’t have the nerves to deal with tramps before sunrise.”

The general bowed his head respectfully, even though Khan could see he wanted to say more. “Yes, sir.”

Khan nodded and then strode into his tent without paying the general any more attention, looked around briefly, found the room empty and frowned.

“Derya!” he thundered. “Derya! Where are you?”

“Here, here your highness!” Derya came stumbling through a tapestry, bowing deep.

Derya was quite a young slave, barely twenty. He had jet black, straight hair that was so long it reached his slim waist, elegant movements, kohl-lined, ice blue eyes and painted lips. He was not actually a ‘he’, as such, although the male pronoun was his own choice. A biochemical catastrophe some decades back had caused thousands upon thousands of unborn children to develop both male and female traits, and Derya was one of the best examples for why, in Khan’s opinion, it had not only been a catastrophe at all. For Khan, Derya was a jewel, rare and valuable. Apart from his ethereal looks, Derya had a bright mind and sharp eyes, which, all in all, made him a perfect servant for a ruler. The intersex human had been in Khan’s service for the last three years now, ever since Khan had found him at a slave auction ready to be castrated and sold to a brothel. Officially, Derya was one of many slaves in Khan’s palace, but as his personal attendant, and one of the emperor’s favourites, he had certain privileges and freedoms. That, however, did not mean that Khan liked when the young slave took liberties.

“What have you been doing?” Khan asked sharply. He didn’t appreciate coming into his tent and not seeing his slave.

Derya bowed again. “Preparing your bed, your highness. I saw you riding back into camp. I thought you might also like a shower as soon as you came in, and I got your things ready.” The young one kept his head down, as he usually did when Khan scolded him for something. In everyday life, when the two of them were alone, Derya was one of the few who dared to keep his eyes on his master’s face sometimes, although not on his eyes.

“Hmmm. I’ll let it go this time. Still, I don’t want to have to call you. You saw me coming, be quicker next time.”

Derya bowed even deeper. “My sincerest apologies, your highness.”

Khan nodded, appeased. “Come, help me undress.”

The Augment swept into the adjoining room behind the tapestry, his bedroom of sorts, and the only place in the camp that could be called private, where nobody but him and his personal slave were allowed to go. He stood, waiting, and Derya started to take off the light armour Khan was wearing piece by piece. As the emperor watched the young beauty work, his eyes filled with greed.

As Derya was putting the flexible armour away for cleaning, Khan pulled off the sand grey tank top he had been wearing underneath and dropped it onto the floor, then removed his combat boots, but kept his camouflage trousers for now.

Sex was not primarily what Derya was for, but as a personal slave, the young one tended to Khan’s needs. Any needs.

The Augment let his eyes zero in on the long, tanned neck that Derya was showing off while he was bending over the chest for Khan’s armour, his back towards his master. The long silky curtain of hair had been swept to the side and revealed the area where the spine met the skull. Khan let out a low growl.

Derya’s body tensed for a second, then he resumed his work. Khan could see that the fragile hands were shaking slightly. He knew it was not from fear; he could smell fear, and Derya never smelled of fear, except when Khan was in a truly murderous mood. Sex with Khan was dangerous, and many could not cope when Khan unleashed his full power on their breakable human bodies. Yet Derya knew his place well and never complained.

“Take off your clothes,” Khan rumbled.

Derya stopped what he was doing and complied after he had shut the chest thoughtfully. The fine wool cloak he’d been wearing fell to the ground with a soft thud, revealing the brown, smooth skin of Derya’s back and shoulders and soft cotton trousers, which he pushed down from his hips as well, stepping out of them. He did not turn around; he had not received a command or permission to do so.

Khan knew that Derya was a devoted servant who knew his place, knew that when his lord and master wanted something, his own comfort and desires were of no importance. As Derya’s owner, he had every right to treat him as he wished. Sometimes, but very rarely, the human would plead for mercy, relief or more gentleness, but he never begged his master to stop altogether.

Khan stepped closer and let his strong hand stroke the warm, clean expanse of golden skin for a few moments, before he bent the human over rather forcefully. He noticed that Derya’s back was indeed shimmering slightly golden; the slave had the habit of using different iridescent powders to make his skin glow.

“I know I’m being rash, I hope you don’t mind,” Khan mocked, grinning.

Derya only lowered his head a bit. “Your servant, your grace.”

Khan let his long fingers travel further down the tanned spine to Derya’s enticing backside, and found the slave prepared as usual.

“You never disappoint, Derya. Hold on. This one will be over quickly.”

As he had hoped he would, he felt Derya shiver underneath his fingers when the meaning of the words settled in; Khan would not be gentle, and he would not offer mercy. The young slave grabbed the chest and let his master nudge his legs apart with his bare feet. At the sight of the human offering himself up, Khan felt his cock jerk impatiently inside his trousers, so he opened them and took it out to let it rest against the servant’s flesh for now. He reached around Derya to touch the human’s most intimate part, and could actually feel it jump a bit against his palm. The slave’s physique and the way his body experienced pleasure was not too easy to understand and handle, but his master had been curious and ambitious enough to learn, so he knew the light jump already meant a lot. Khan smiled to himself, feeling the beast inside him purr.

He gave Derya no chance to prepare any more than he already had; after he had given himself a few quick strokes, Khan parted the human’s cheeks with his hands and pressed forward. The oil Derya had used on himself was not enough to make it even nearly painless, but Khan did not care. Slowly but insistently, he buried his whole length inside the quivering, clenching body. He could tell Derya was hurting, struggling to keep quiet and take it all, but the human managed to stay still and almost silent. As he bottomed out, Khan allowed himself a small moan. The slave was so tight around his twitching cock, and the knowledge that he was in pain only fuelled Khan’s desire. Slowly, Khan started to thrust forward, pulling out more and more each time and shoving back in until the rhythm was almost uncomfortable even for himself. More lubrication would have made it way better, but Khan could not help but relish the bit of discomfort. It made him close his eyes and he just let his instinct take over, let himself pound into his slave forcefully, and the more uncomfortable it became, the more lust he felt, the more he seemed to be filled with the urge to just finish, to move faster and faster and bring it to a sweet end. The Augment felt his heartbeat speed up still more, and he let out his moans freely now. Chasing his climax that seemed too rushed and too soon but also still too far away in a bittersweet way, Khan clawed at the slave’s hips and shoulders. He wanted to come so badly, but his body was not quite there yet, and Khan increased the speed and urgency of his thrusts, so much so that after a minute, Derya could not bear it any longer and cried out in pain, all his discipline forgotten. Khan groaned at the sound and put a hand on the back of Derya’s neck to hold him in place for what he could feel were the last few brutal thrusts. His orgasm hit him with a delicious, dazzling force, and he pressed his cock in as hard as he could one last time as he filled the now sobbing slave with his seed.

For a few moments, Khan remained bent over his prey and took deep breaths to get his bearings. When he finally straightened up, he ran his hand through his hair to get the black strands out of his eyes. Under him, Derya had calmed down a bit as well. The human was used to such rough treatment, however, he had gone through even rougher times in his life, and he never complained. Khan liked that.

Carefully, Khan pulled out and watched his come trickle out of the slave’s abused arse.

“Clean my armour while I take a shower...and clean yourself as well. And be ready for me again afterwards.”

Derya straightened up while Khan pulled up his pants and trousers, grabbed a towel and soap that Derya had laid out for him before and marched out of the tent. It was only a few meters until he reached the showers, not caring one bit that he was half naked in the middle of his army camp, still half hard no less. There were barely any soldiers still around anyway, and even if they had seen him all, Khan would not have cared all that much. Augments were not squeamish, Khan even less than some others of his kind. Yet, it was a matter of manners that he did not just show himself completely naked in front of his soldiers, even though his nudity was almost as much of an armour as their combat gear.

The showers were smallish, very plain, and thankfully empty of people; Khan was not one to socialise with humans, least of all in the shower. The emperor got rid of the rest of his clothes and  let the cold water pour over his body. If only the tension would have gone away so easily as well. He tried to take care of his erection that had sprung up again already, but he realised after only a few strokes that masturbation would, sadly as usual, not bring him any kind of peace, and he cursed his altered body. He thought back to the coupling a few minutes ago. Like so many times before, he had been close to breaking Derya’s neck, for the mere cruel fun of it, with hands or even teeth. It was hard to control that urge, in passionate moments like the one that had just passed even more than in any other. The thought turned him on, the thought to kill just as he came. Maybe one day…

After a few minutes more under the icy spray, Khan decided that he had calmed down enough and, after one last scrubbing everywhere, shut off the water and toweled himself dry. His pants in hand and the towel loosely held around his waist to cover his sex, he returned to his tent. His skin felt cold to the touch, even though he himself felt fine, and he could feel his heart working furiously on compensating and bringing his skin temperature back to normal. The tension in his body was still there, though, not as lethal as it had been, but still too noticeable to go to sleep or even relax a bit more. Derya would have to do something about that.

The young slave looked up when Khan came into the tent, and bowed. If he was nervous, he did not let on. He was still naked.

Again, Khan let his gaze rake over the slave’s body and felt restlessness course through him. Derya never seized to entice and stimulate him, and Khan thought he’d never get enough of the creature. To buy him had been an excellent decision.

He went over to his slave and seized his face with both hands to kiss him roughly, forced the other one’s mouth open, licked inside, not caring what Derya wanted, taking his pleasure from him as usual. With one arm, the Augment picked him up, while the other cleared the table next to them with one quick swipe, then he deposited the slave on his back, none too gently. The long black hair poured across the wood surface like ink and Derya let out a little grunt of distress. Against his cold skin, Derya felt positively feverish, and for a moment, Khan thought of a slab of cold marble that held a recently killed sacrificial animal, still warm and steaming. The force of the impact of both their bodies against the table knocked over a small bottle of oil that had been left there, very probably by the slave himself, after he had prepared his body. Khan picked up the bottle, opened it while pressing his sex to Derya’s, relishing the warmth of the other’s flesh. When his hands were dripping with the oil, Khan took himself in hand for a moment, stroking his hard member a few times, brought his fingers to the slave’s opening quickly, and then, without further warning, gripped Derya’s hips and shoved inside again. He could feel that Derya had once more used a good amount of oil to prepare himself while Khan was gone. With Khan’s girth and length, though, none of his partners could ever hope for a completely comfortable penetration. Also, the servant was still sore from before and so let out a heart-wrenching cry. Khan forced himself to wait for a few seconds this time, feeling the muscle around his manhood clench and spasm, relishing the feeling of power. He wanted nothing more than to start thrusting forward at once and rush to the finish, but he had had that already. He also did not want to overtax his slave’s body too much or the coupling with him would lose much of its pleasure for a few days; waste not, want not.

With a feral grin, Khan started pushing further into the tight heat, and set a slow, steady rhythm. He was sure that whoever was still outside his tent would hear Derya loud and clear since he was either unable or unwilling to hold back his groans and little cries. Smirking, Khan drove deeper into his servant’s body. He bent and let his tongue dart out again to lick Derya’s earlobe, and slowed his thrusts a bit more while he continued to lick the golden skin on Derya’s neck. Angling his hips, Khan tried to hit Derya’s sweetspot and succeeded; the slave sobbed and his brows furrowed briefly. His master repeated the motion, his eyes glued to the beautiful face that expressed distress and after a short time, despair and defeat.

“M-master, please…”

Khan chuckled, satisfied with the reaction. Derya was usually very disciplined, so his master liked to take him apart and torment him until he broke down and begged.

“Please what, my little one?”

“Please, master...please…”

“You can’t take it anymore, can you?” Khan grinned and kept moving. “You forget your place, Derya, asking me to come is very rude. My wants and needs are more important than yours. Your body can scream bloody murder; as long as I’m not satisfied, I will keep fucking you, no matter how long it takes. You know that, don’t you?”

“Y-yes, your grace.” All discipline and training be damned, Derya could not hold back his tears anymore. Khan licked them up like a rare treat.

“And yet you ask me to come. I think you should beg my forgiveness, Derya. You don’t want to anger me, do you? You know what happens when I get angry.”

While he was talking, Khan kept snapping his hips just enough to torture his human just a little more and make sure the tears kept coming.

The human let out another sob and a pitiful cry. “Forgive me, your highness, I beg you. Have mercy, my lord, for the love of the gods…”

Khan slapped his slave across the cheek, not hard, but with enough force to smart a bit and maybe leave a little bruise for an hour. “Don’t talk about the gods. The only god you have is me! I give you life and it’s in my power to take it away.” The Augment bent down and forced another kiss on his slave. Even though Derya must have been beside himself with misery, he did not reject his master’s lips. Khan straightened up. “But I’ll be merciful.”

In one swift movement, he pulled out, fisted his hand in the long black hair and forced Derya off the table and onto his knees. The human cried out in pain and shock; only his training kept him from trying to fight off the Augment. Khan saw the other one looking at his thick shaft with due fear, but he had no plans to force it down Derya’s throat. Instead, he pulled the young one closer while still fucking his own fist with the other hand, so that the slave’s face was resting near Khan’s groin. He kept pulling the long hair hard and again and again shoved the soft cheek against his manhood while his hand sped up. When he felt his climax approach, he held the human still as his ejaculate hit his face, hair and long neck. He smeared the last few drops across Derya’s cheek, and then let go of the silky black strands of his slave’s hair and gave him a little shove, so that the human fell to the ground, where he remained for the moment, shaking, shedding a few overwhelmed tears. Meanwhile, Khan stalked over to a small basin of water to wash himself once again.

For a few minutes, the only sound was the gentle dripping of water and a few occasional sobs and gasping breaths from the human slave. Finally, Khan dried himself off with a towel, wet a second washcloth and went over to where Derya had curled up on himself.

“Shh, come now, calm yourself, Derya,” Khan said, his tone as gentle as it would be with a scared animal. He lifted Derya’s head with his hand and started to wipe the smeared, wet face until all seed and tears were gone. Then Khan helped the slave sit up and folded the cloth, wiping his neck and chest with the clean side. Straightening up after he was satisfied with his work, Khan pulled Derya onto his feet with him. The human winced and brushed his hands over his hurting backside. His legs were a little shaky, too.

“Go and shower,” Khan ordered in a mild tone, and the servant obeyed wordlessly.

When he came back, his master had dressed and sat down to eat already. Khan heard muffled laughter from outside when Derya entered, and he could read from the expression of shame on the slave’s face what had transpired out there. In his haste to obey, Derya had only taken a thin white cloth with him to cover up a little, and Khan knew how inviting it could look, and knew also what soldiers could be like. Frowning angrily, Khan got up from his cushions and stalked towards the young human, who flinched a bit, but Khan went right past him and pulled away the tarpaulin to look outside. A few young soldiers were still standing and staring and laughing, though the blood drained from their faces when they saw their emperor.

Khan might not have been a gentle ruler or slaver, but he did not appreciate it when others paid his property too much unwanted attention. He did not waste time.

“If you ever touch any of my things again, including slaves like Derya, or even look at them in an undue way, I will have you shot with no questions asked. Are we clear, soldiers?”

The young men who had troubled Derya on the way from the showers bowed hastily and murmured their understanding.

Khan went back inside, where Derya was standing, head bowed, close to him. The Augment paid him no more heed and went back to his food, but just as he sat down, he heard a little whisper from the human.

“Thank you kindly, your highness.”

“Sit and eat,” Khan said brusquely instead of replying. “Sit with me ,” Khan specified when the slave moved to sit behind him, and Derya went to his knees next to his master. The Augment looked up and scanned the slave’s face for a moment. “Are you well?”

“Yes, your grace.” Derya bowed his head a little.

Khan nodded thoughtfully, then pushed an empty plate towards the human, who took it with a slight nod of thanks und began to fill it with a few modest bites.

Khan kept staring for another moment. “You’re so beautiful,” he praised, gaze trailing over the still flushed cheeks, blue eyes and long, silky hair. It was still wet, and smelled of flowers. The golden skin glistened with oils. “Sometimes I want to crush your pretty skull and tear you apart, you’re so beautiful, little witch.” That was what  Derya was often called by others: the Witch. But in contrast to others, Khan did not mean it as an insult, and Derya knew that. The servant’s lips twitched slightly at his master’s morbid words, but he said nothing.

After Derya had carried away the dishes and leftovers, Khan retreated into his cot and had Derya join him for a bit of closeness. The young slave curled up on a futon mat on the floor next to Khan’s bed while Khan stared up at the ceiling, one arm dangling from the side of the cot, his fingers tangled in Derya’s hair. The tent was mostly dark, save for one oil lamp that gave off a dim, comfortable light. Khan hated the bright electric lights that the other soldiers used to illuminate their tents. The tiny flame made it all that much softer, and it made Derya’s hair shimmer like pitch.

Khan did not feel sleepy yet. The last few days replayed in his head, all the plans for the days to come, and the few words about the strange man his patrol had found. DNA test inconclusive. How extraordinary. Every man, woman, and other category of human was registered with their DNA at birth. To find anyone who was unregistered was strange enough. Khan would have a look at the man in the morning. Everyone would be busy breaking camp, so Khan would have a bit of time on his hands. With this bit of harmless excitement to look forward to, Khan finally felt his body relax a little. Lazily, he purred and gripped Derya’s hair a bit tighter, tugging the slave’s head up from the ground and towards his hardening cock. Derya obeyed wordlessly, knelt next to his master and opened his mouth, guessing correctly that the emperor wished to use him without having him work too much. All he needed to do was take what he was given. Khan shoved inside, giving Derya a few moments to breathe. With both hands in the black hair, Khan moved the pretty head to his liking, not demanding skill or finesse, only wet heat. Since Khan had no interest in drawing this out, it did not take long before he spilled his seed down Derya’s throat and let go of the long hair with a satisfied sigh and a smile.

“You can go to sleep now, Derya, I won’t be needing you anymore tonight.”

“Thank you, sir,” Derya answered, and Khan’s lips twitched into another tiny smile at both the words and the used quality of the slave’s voice.

Chapter Text

The stuffy air in his tent and the faint clattering of dishes being moved was what woke him the next morning. Out here in this desert, the sun rose early and would make it hard to breathe by ten in the morning, even for an Augment like himself.

Khan got up, scanning the tent for Derya, who, by the sound of it, was preparing breakfast in the next room. It had to be around seven, it was hard to judge with no stark shadows here under the canvas, but the light still seemed young.

The Augment stretched and went to splash his face with some water.

“Good morning, your highness. I hope you slept well.”

Derya had come in with a small tablet which held a glass of cool, sweet mint tea.

“Thank you, Derya,” Khan said without answering the question, and took the offered tea. Sipping it, he went to the entrance of his tent to test the temperature in the sun. He pulled an undignified face. There was no way he’d wear his damned stifling uniform today.

“My blue cloak.”

“Yes, your highness.”

The slave slunk away to fetch the garment while Khan put on some pants and sipped his tea. This would be an easy day. A short trek across the desert to the mountain range where the helicopters would be waiting, and the flight home. He’d have plenty of time to have a chat with the unregistered man they had stumbled across. After a light breakfast consisting mostly of fruit, Khan got dressed in loose fitting white trousers and allowed Derya to close the clasps of the blue-green silk cloak he had brought him earlier. Khan usually dressed himself, but he liked having Derya touch him like this, fleeting, innocently. Also, Derya took care that his appearance always had a regal touch, even without being asked, and the Augment had to admit that he was quite good at it, too. Nevertheless, Khan looked up at his slave and pulled up one eyebrow when Derya slipped a gold brace on each of Khan’s upper arms.

“I’m among my soldiers, do you really think this is necessary?” he asked, but his tone was light and mocking. He knew Derya found him beautiful, and sometimes, when he was in a really good mood, he had to bite back a smile when Derya made decisions like those for him.

Derya bowed shortly. “Nothing displays power so much as power casually worn, your eminence, and amidst your soldiers and in front of your prisoner, I thought you might wish to emphasize that you are the emperor.”

Khan thoughtfully flexed the muscles in his arms. Of course he liked it, royalty and ruling power was his birthright. And his vain side liked to look the part, certainly. He may have been a fighter, but even lions were just big cats, and loved luxury of any kind.

“Come, let’s have a look at our guest,” Khan instructed the slave instead of answering, and left the tent, knowing Derya would follow.

 

Khan first made sure everything was being prepared for their departure. Most soldiers were already up and packing. Many greeted him by calling out or bowing to him, and Khan nodded in acknowledgement while he strode past them to find the general, who had informed him of their new arrival yesterday.

“Kumar,” he called when he saw the soldier, and the man stood at attention.

“Good morning, sir.”

“Your prisoner?” Khan asked directly.

“Wasn’t happy that he had to wait. Was asking weird questions about where he was and when and who was in charge. Can’t say if he’s just playing dumb or maybe got a hit to the head. I don’t think he’s dangerous at the moment, he’s very weakened. Dehydrated probably. Perhaps a sunstroke.” General Kumar shrugged a bit helplessly.

“Name?”

“Wouldn’t tell us, sir.”

“Where do you keep him?”

“In the guard tent, your majesty. I heard he slept badly, kept saying nonsense words.”

“Any idea where he could be from?”

“The North American continent, I’d say, judging by his accent. I mean, if it weren’t absolutely impossible.”

“Hm. American? Interesting.” Perhaps Joaquin would know more about the man. “Anything else you can tell me about him?”

“No, sir, I’m afraid not, sir.”

Khan thought about this meagre amount of information, then nodded. “Thank you, Kumar. Get your troops ready to leave, I’ll talk to him.”

“Yes, your highness.” General Kumar bowed and jogged away.

Khan turned and strode towards the guard tent, where a few men were already packing up, like the rest of their comrades. When he entered, Khan raised his hand as a sign to the men to stand at ease and continue their work.

In one of the corners, obviously chained to one of the pegs that had been drilled deep into the ground, sat a young man, cross-legged, with his head in his hands, looking utterly tired and somehow desperate. His hands were bound with soft leather cuffs that were attached to a fairly long chain, and there were no signs of injury, he looked clean and was dressed in standard military shirt and trousers, so he had obviously had a shower and a change of clothes since they had picked him up in the dunes. That thought pleased Khan very much; maltreatment of unknown entities was not how Khan liked to do things and his men had obviously honoured that.

The Augment stepped closer. One of the soldiers noticed that the man had not budged, and gave him a light slap on the shoulder.

“You, the emperor is here! Show some respect.”

The man’s head snapped up. He had blond hair, military style cut, blue eyes, full lips, light beard dotted with the first silver, and an otherwise red face, probably sunburnt from a long exposure of his very fair skin to the relentless sun.

“I…”

“YOU! Son of a bitch!”

Khan blinked. That was unexpected. Derya and the soldiers gasped at the prisoner’s scandalous insolence. But before any of them could do anything about it, Khan had moved like a flash towards the prisoner and his fist connected with the offender’s temple with a sickening crunching sound. No matter if he was not otherwise dangerous, Khan did not tolerate insults of any kind.

He stepped back, smirking about a fleeting feeling of amusement that it would have hurt much more for the man if Derya had made his master wear rings, too.

“I have a feeling that I do not need to introduce myself. However, I’ll advise you to hold your tongue from now on. I want to ask you some questions and you will answer them for me.”

The man looked up and shook his head like a wet dog. Khan saw him wince, possibly with a bad headache. “You’re the emperor ? God, I can’t believe my luck.”

It still sounded like an insult, and Khan made a sour face, but kept his posture.

“If you mean your luck to still be alive, yes, it’s almost unbelievable as long as you talk like that. My patience has limits, you know? Now. My questions. Shall we begin?” Khan walked around the other man, who followed him with his eyes as well as he could. They were burning with hatred. A very personal kind of hatred, Khan found. The man seemed to know him, personally, but Khan could not recall meeting him, which meant, of course, that they had never met.

“I’ve heard that before.”

Khan’s eyebrows lifted from a frown into a mildly surprised scowl.

“Have you? Where and from whom?”

The man scoffed, and Khan had to hold back another punch. This human really was outrageously respectless.

“You won’t believe me if I told you that.”

“First of all, you’ll address me as ‘sir’ at the very least. Second, I’d still like to know. You’d be surprised about the unbelievable things I can believe to be true. For example, a young man from the North American continent shows up in the middle of Karakum, a war zone, at least it was until yesterday afternoon, with no information about how he got here, a detail I’m very curious about, since all traffic between continents is forbidden for citizens. He’s not even DNA-registered. He asks questions about where and even more interesting when he is, and he doesn’t know who controls this part of the world. All of those things alone are quite improbable and suggest you’ve lived under a stone since birth. The whole story is more or less unbelievable.” Khan stepped a bit closer. “Yet here you are, staring up at me like you’d love to tear my flesh from my very bone. So, stranger, tell me your story and surprise me.” The Augment leaned down, grasping the other man’s chin between his long fingers, holding the man’s head even though he struggled. “You’ve got a lovely face,” Khan remarked in an intentionally bored tone. “You might want to keep it for a while. As well as the head it is attached to.” He let go and easily sidestepped the punch the other man had thrown at him. Khan reciprocated listlessly, but of course his own punch hit the other man squarely in the chest. The man coughed and tried unsuccessfully to hold back a groan of pain.

“Do be cooperative and give me something interesting. I have more important matters to attend to than some straggler, as unusual as the circumstances may be,” Khan drawled, a touch colder than before, warning.

The stranger took a few deep breaths, then looked up. “What would you like to know, then, Emperor ?”

He said the title like an insult, but Khan let it go this time. “Your name, for a start.”

To Khan’s utter surprise, the man started giggling rather manically. “How about John Harrison?”

“I fail to see how this is funny. Is that your name or not?” Khan was beginning to lose his patience. Maybe the man was simply mad and they should leave him here for the scavengers.

“It’s yours. Or it will be. Will have been. Not yet, though.”

Khan scowled. “What are you talking about? I’m warning you, I’m growing tired of this game. Tell me your name, and then tell me how you came to be here.”

The other man smiled sadly and shook his head. “Alright. My name is James Kirk. But I can’t tell you anything else. I actually have no clue how I got here.”

“Where is your home country? Who is the ruler of your domain?” Khan asked.

“Uh...Iowa.”

Khan frowned when the second question remained unanswered. “And your occupation?”

“Traveller.”

“I can see that. Travel is forbidden between countries unless you have the necessary papers. I hear you had no papers on you whatsoever. You are not in our databanks, you are not chipped, nothing.” Khan crouched in front of the man and looked into his blue eyes. “Did someone send you?”

“No.”

“Are you alone?”

“Yes.”

Khan did not fail to recognize the glint of sadness in the man’s blue eyes.

“Do you wish to cause anyone harm?”

“No.”

Khan straightened up. At least those few things were true, Khan could detect lies instantly and Kirk was telling the truth, no doubt about that.

“That is all that concerns me at the moment. So...what am I to do with you now?” It was meant as a rhetoric question but the man decided to answer with his own suggestion.

“You could just let me go and forget you ever saw me,” Kirk said in a hopeful tone.

Khan smiled wolfishly. “Oh I don’t think so. You’re far too pretty for that. And you insulted me.” He looked at the soldiers. “We’ll take him with us. Have him brought to my tent, secure him a little better, this one looks like he’ll put up a fight. And…chip him, as one of mine. You are not to kill or hurt him severely even if he struggles, if I find him too damaged it will have consequences for you.”

The soldiers bowed and moved to obey, but the man sitting on the ground got lively now. “What? I’m not going with you, and what do you mean by chipped as one of yours ? Hey!”

Khan cocked his head to the side. “Of course you’re coming with us. And how can you not know what being chipped means? It means you’re mine now.”

“The hell I am! What do you mean yours ?”

“My slave,” Khan said simply.

“What? You can’t just do that!”

“Of course I can. You have neither papers nor a DNA match. You committed a crime by travelling without papers, around half the world. You could be executed for all those things, unless a member of the ruling caste claims you for their own. You’re...fair game. Or you were, because I am claiming you herewith. Well, partly, for now.” The Augment licked his lips and smiled at the horrified look on the young man’s face. “I suggest you try to adjust to your new place first thing by shutting that big mouth of yours, or you’ll see it occupied in a way you won’t like very much. Not that that is of any importance anymore, since what slaves want is never really important.” The emperor turned to leave.

“I’m not your fucking slave!”

Khan looked back over his shoulder and flashed the panting, enraged man a cruel grin. “You have a way of putting things. Rest assured, you will be very soon...my pet .”

 

When a guard brought the man back to Khan’s tent, his wrists were cuffed behind his back with a very short chain in between. His shirt was gone and the left shoulder bore the mark of a new chip that had been implanted under his skin. With this chip, it would be possible to find the man anywhere on the globe, and to get it out was impossible for an individual on its own.

“Your highness, what about his personal belongings? We also found this device hidden in his boot,” the guard said and put down a small bundle of yellow and black clothes, a pair of boots and handed a little silver device to Khan that looked like an old-fashioned mobile. Khan flipped it open and examined it, but it had no buttons of any kind.

“What is that?” he asked his new servant, but the man only frowned and pressed his lips together.

Khan would not let his temper take over and gave the device to Derya. “Pack it away with the rest of his things. We can have a technician have a look at it later. You may go,” he added in the direction of the guard, and the man left.

Derya bowed and took the silvery gadget and the bundle of clothes to put them into a travel chest. For a moment, Khan watched the graceful movements of his favourite slave, let his gaze flick over to the blond man, and made a decision.

“Derya, come here.” His voice was deceptively sweet.

The slave came and stood before his master, hands folded, head bowed. The Augment lifted a hand and fisted it in the long hair to hold the human in place as he leaned forward and kissed him roughly on the lips. His tongue thrust inside the slave’s mouth. He tasted of sweet mint tea and bread. After a few possessive kisses and licks, Khan took a hold of the breakable neck and pressed down to make Derya go to his knees, and the human did without hesitation. With one finger on his chin, Khan lifted Derya’s head and made him look up. “Who do you belong to, Derya?” he asked in a calm, purring tone.

“You, your highness.” The answer came without hesitation and the human’s face was a pretty mask of polite obedience.

“What is your place in the world?”

“I am your faithful slave, your grace.”

“And what rules apply to a slave’s life?”

“A slave’s life belongs to his master, he grants it and he ends it. A slave does not want. A slave does not demand. A slave does not disagree. A slave does not refuse. A slave is only active when commanded to be so. A slave’s body is not ours but our master’s tool. The purpose of any slave is obedience. The purpose of any slave used in the house is to be silent. The purpose of any slave used in bed is to say yes. And a slave never speaks to their master as if they are equal to the master.”

The rules had been drilled and beaten into Derya’s head during his training, and he’d never forget them to the day he died. The human delivered the words like he was reading from a textbook, and kept absolutely still. Khan smiled. He was under the impression that Derya wanted to prove himself and be a good example of an obedient slave. Now that a new human was with them, he must not lose his master’s interest.

“Hear that, James? Soon, you’ll be able to say those rules in your sleep, too. Take a good look, James, this is what a good slave looks like. You can learn a lot from Derya. If you respect those rules, you’ll have a relatively good life with me.” The Augment let go of Derya’s chin and stood facing the blond man. “I can see you won’t give in without a fight, and I like that, but let me tell you, I’ve broken tougher ones than you. The question is, how much pain do you want to have to endure in the process? We’ll go home in a few hours, where I have to take care of a few political matters. You might be lucky and have a bit of reprieve. But sooner or later, I shall break you in. Rather sooner than later, I think, I’m looking forward to it very much.” Khan tried to caress James’ cheek, but the man jerked his head away. Khan looked him over. He had the posture of a man of authority, same as Khan himself. James was certainly not used to taking orders. Good. It would be more fun to break him, then.

“Why are you doing this to me?” the man said in an almost pleading tone.

“Why?” Khan cocked his head to the side. “Because I can. It’s in my power, you know? I want to do it. So I do it. And also, as I said, you insulted me.” Again, he tried to touch the man, and again James tried to avoid the long pale fingers, but this time, Khan was having none of it. He grabbed the man’s face and held him. “Don’t make it harder for yourself than it needs to be. Derya?” Khan turned to his other slave who was sitting upright where his master had deposited him.

“Yes, your grace?”

“You’ll teach him a few things, help him adjust.” The emperor turned back to James. “I can understand if you’re struggling at first, I guess fighting is normal in your position. If you manage to take on a few of your guards, good for you. But I can promise you, should you hurt Derya in any way or for any reason, you will lose your head, and before that, you will lose a great many other things, from your dignity to certain body parts, are we clear?”

James looked a bit surprised but he nodded.

“Good. Now. I’m going to go outside and see how far they’ve gotten. You two will get my things from here, pack them and let the men pick them up. I won’t be long. And I expect some progress until I come back.”

“Wait you...expect me to pack your stuff?” James asked in a tone that made it clear that he thought the task beneath him. Definitely not used to taking orders.

Khan smiled. “What part of the word ‘slave’ is unclear to you?”

“If you think I’m taking orders from you, you must be…”

“You are taking orders from me if you know what is good for you,” the Augment said matter-of-factly.

“No...no, you know what, fuck you, I’m…”

James never made it to the end of the sentence before Khan’s fist hit his temple. The man staggered and only just managed to find his balance again before he could topple over.

“You will never again talk to me like that, James,” the Augment said with deadly calm.

The man groaned and wheezed. “Or what? Are you going to kill me?” He held his head for a moment.

“That would be a waste, but yes, I could do that,” Khan said smoothly.

Kirk straightened up. “I would rather die than be your servant.”

The Augment chuckled. “You are not a servant . Servants get hired and paid and they have personal freedom. You are a slave. The best thing that happens to you each day is that you fall asleep with your heart still beating. So either you start moving or else I’ll have you punished.”

“Punish me, then,” the young man fired back. He really had a quick mouth. And Khan found it quite concerning how the man always had a tone like they were equals. As if they knew each other.

Khan narrowed his eyes to slits. “I don’t think you are really grasping the situation you are in. You are practically worthless, so there is no reason why your punishment should be any less than torture. I don’t think you want what my soldiers have to offer. You do remember that I don’t really need you? The only reason why you are still alive is because I am allowing it. So shut your mouth and get to work.”

For a moment, the man seemed perplexed about something, and then he actually smiled. “For now.”

Khan smiled. “You’ll be hard to break, I can see. I really am looking forward to it. Oh, and James, don’t try to run, there’s a literal army outside this tent. If you try something as stupid as trying to flee, I’ll give you to them as a token of my gratitude for their services. The last one lasted two days and died a death I wish on no-one. I hope you’ll be sensible.” And with that, Khan left the two slaves alone.

Chapter Text

The journey to the capital and the palace went by quite quickly. Khan amused himself by staring unnervingly at the new one while Derya was kneeling between Khan’s legs, head on his emperor’s thigh, enjoying his master’s gentle fingers in his hair like a cat. As cruel as Khan could be, he valued Derya’s company enough to be gentle with him on occasion. He liked to stroke the silky hair like one would stroke a pet, and he knew it was a welcome break for the slave as well. James should see what it could be like, he’d demonstrate on his loyal Derya everything James would experience himself over time, except maybe punishment. Derya never did anything to warrant punishment, and Khan may have been quick to hurt but he never punished without good reasons, a fine line, but one that others had to live with. Khan looked down at the ethereal creature and traced the beautiful face with his fingers, a bit lost in thoughts.

Many other Augments all over the world had taken consorts, sometimes for power, sometimes for politics, sometimes even for such stupid reasons as love. Khan wondered from time to time if there would ever be love in his life. Not from a consort, certainly; marriage in his caste was always political. But sometimes he could not help but wonder. He could never bring himself to let anyone quite close enough or even allow himself to entertain the thought of deeper feelings. Sometimes it weighed on him that he could trust no-one, share his life with no-one. But then, he’d have to share his power, too, and that was not happening. Khan did not share, least of all something as vital to him as power.

 

When they arrived in the palace, it was late afternoon. He sent two attendants away with James, to prepare and secure the room he’d stay in as long as he could not be trusted to not attempt escape, and to prime and brief him a bit about his new life. Derya was to go with them to keep an eye on things. Khan noticed that the young slave did not talk to James, but it felt not like shyness but almost hostility. James on the other hand seemed to try very hard to be nice to his new colleague, possibly to try and find a way out of his current situation. Khan let them be. He trusted Derya as much as a slaver could trust a slave that had proven his loyalty over and over again but who also had to endure many things that should have made him wish his master a most prompt and painful death.

In the evening, the troops had a little feast to welcome them home, and Khan attended with Derya trailing in his wake, sitting behind him at dinner, giving him that odd feeling of comfort and looking utterly angelic in his white tunic.

When they returned to Khan’s rooms, the sun was starting to rise already. James was fast asleep in a small chamber next to Khan’s bedroom, chained to the wall next to the bed. The chain was fixed to the wall so that it could not be removed, the other end was attached to a steel collar that fit snugly around James’ neck. The lock was in the back and the key was hanging neatly next to the door, just out of reach.

“Did you come up with that idea, Derya?” Khan asked quietly and bent down to look at the blond man’s face. “I thought you of all people would be opposed to the idea of collaring and chaining him up. Then again, you are way past that stage, aren’t you? I wonder if you still know what it feels like, to wear an iron or steel collar.” He looked at the heavy gold ring that was clasped around Derya’s neck. He, like any slave, had started out with a rather ugly and uncomfortable shackle, but these days it was more a status symbol and an ornament since Derya was never chained up anymore, so he now wore one of pure gold, round and smooth and as thick as a finger. It cost much more than the slave himself, and next to no slave ever got such expensive accessories, but as he was the emperor’s favourite and loyal on top of that, he only got the finest.

“I do wear mine with pride, my lord. I would doubt he will, too.”

“Did he do anything to warrant such restraints?”

“He attacked his handlers, twice, your highness. I thought it necessary. If you’ll allow me to voice a few observations about him, my lord…”

“Yes?”

Derya’s eyes flickered over to James. “He has impressive fighting skills and most likely went through a lot of training, and the odd brawl, probably. He is not used to following rules or orders. I would even go as far as to say he is used to giving them.” The remark about how it may have not been wise to chip such a man went unsaid, as it was not Derya’s place to question Khan’s decisions, but the emperor knew it nonetheless.

“Everybody on this planet is registered, even I. He is a blank page. Blank pages do not give orders in this day and age,” Khan replied calmly.

He straightened up and turned to leave the chamber with Derya acting like a shadow as usual. The Augment got undressed and wiped himself down with a wet cloth; he’d bathe first thing when he woke up.

He gave Derya his clothes to tidy them away. “You may go if you like, I’ll let you sleep in. It was a long day.”

Derya looked shortly towards the small room that held Khan’s new toy.

“I would like it if you allowed me to stay with you, my lord.”

That did surprise Khan a bit, but he also could not suppress a smile. “Are you jealous , my pet?” It was very rare that Derya voiced a request at all, and he was also one of the few people who came away without punishment for doing so.

Derya lowered his eyes with an air of stubbornness, an emotion that almost never showed in the young slave. “No, your grace.” He did not, however offer any other explanation.

Khan let it go and smiled to himself. “I’m in a good mood today. You may sleep here if that is what you want. I think you deserve a good night’s rest. Come, lie with me. No...leave that on,” Khan interrupted when Derya started to undress and had begun to lift his undershirt. “Leave it on. I like when you are a bit covered. It makes it more fun to undress you later.” Khan grinned and slipped under the silk covers while Derya went to the washroom before he joined his master in bed.

The Augment found it curious that the slave wanted to stay with him tonight, or better, today, but he would not reject him. As much as the emperor was a loner sometimes, he did like to have a bit of warmth in his bed, and did not like to actually be lonely . From his youth, he was used to having people around to tend to him, and at least one slave had always slept in his room when he was a child. In those times, of course, they had had a mat in the corner, and before Derya came along, rarely anyone ever shared a bed with Khan for a whole night. Ever since Khan had first begun to be sexually active, his partners had been more or less relieved when they had done their duty and were allowed to leave again, even though at the beginning, Khan had not been half as cruel as he was now. Also, his father had not allowed that anybody stayed with his son for the night, out of concern that he might develop tender feelings for anyone, and even after his death, nobody shared Khan’s bed for long. Certainly nobody did it out of their free will. Only the young intersex beauty had ever done so, as far as his could be called free will. Khan was often mean enough to him, when he was in a bad temper or while aroused. But that never really seemed to be able to keep the slave away. Most slaves tended to stay as far away from him as possible, out of fear, mostly, but Derya was not one of them. And Khan doubted, somehow, that James would be, either. The man did not strike him as someone who gave up easily, or as a coward. He would probably keep his shoulders straight in any situation, and if it killed him. That notion excited Khan, like a cat-lover would be excited by the idea to tame a lynx. Anybody could keep slaves, but keeping a proud, strong one, was so much more gratifying.

 

Khan woke with his face buried in Derya’s hair, his arms slung around the lean body, and his half-hard manhood pressed to the slave’s enticing backside. His fine hearing registered the sounds of a normal palace afternoon outside the windows, and beyond that he could hear the city around them. He heard birds chirping, water splashing in the gardens, the sound of palm trees in a light breeze. He also heard a shuffling next door, the clinking of a chain and knew from the breathing pattern that James was wide awake in there.

In Khan’s arms, Derya moved a bit closer. His breathing on the other hand told Khan that he was still fast asleep. The slave looked so beautiful, so...human, so like any other person, when he slept. Sometimes when he looked at him like this, Khan almost forgot that he was just his property. Almost.

Carefully, he let his hand creep up Derya’s round thighs and over his hips. Derya sighed audibly and a second later, the light movements next door stopped dead. Khan smiled. Oh, so James was listening in. This should be good. The Augment moved to kiss along Derya’s neck and licked the skin underneath the gold collar, while his hands stroked Derya’s chest underneath his thin white undershirt. Finally, the slave woke.

“M’lord?” he asked in a sleepy voice that made Khan smile.

“Lie still and relax, you don’t need to do anything. Let me give you a bit of pleasure. You’ve been so good lately.”

The emperor touched his slave’s earlobe with the tip of his tongue and let his lips slip lower, to his jaw and cheek, his neck, and sucked a small bruise into the golden skin. Derya’s whole body shivered. Careful to keep his touch light and undemanding, Khan let his hands glide under Derya’s shirt and caressed every bit of skin he could reach from his position behind the slave. His own cock throbbed with want, but as he had decided to derive his pleasure this time from giving Derya pleasure first, he ignored it resolutely. While one hand kept stroking the warm skin lightly, his other began to slip down towards Derya’s most intimate places. The mutation Derya had been born with had left his genitals somewhat disfigured, or so many would have said. But Khan liked it. The small cock never really got fully hard and seemed to function more like a woman’s clitoris. The exposed position and the size made it quite easy - sometimes inevitable -  for Derya to experience pleasure when his master was on top of him, and Khan found that to be an amazing treat. When he pressed the heel of his hand to the right spot, Derya let out a soft moan and moved against him a few times before he threw his master an apologetic look over his shoulder and stopped.

“No, no, my pet, do it, go on,” he whispered and moved his hand against Derya’s crotch. “Do it again. It’s alright, this is what I want from you. You give me pleasure so often, now I want to give you some. I want you to enjoy it thoroughly.”

Khan heard Derya’s heartbeat pick up a little and kept his hand working until Derya was moaning constantly and pressing his backside to Khan’s manhood so hard that the Augment’s determination would surely have wavered had he been a lesser man.

“Do you want anything, Derya?” Khan asked playfully.

“I...a slave does not want, my lord…”

“Shh, you can, this time. Would you like me to finger you? I’ll be gentle. Just say yes or no,” the Augment whispered into Derya’s neck while he kept his hand working and moved his body in that ancient rhythm with Derya’s to give his own body at least some relief.

“Yes,” the slave choked out, and Khan gave him a few extra kisses to the side of the throat before he moved away to get some oil.

Very gently, Khan let his slippery index finger caress the rim of Derya’s hole for a bit while his other hand went back to the slave’s front to keep up the stimulation. He had oiled up both hands and Derya keened quietly at the sensations that now came from two sides. Khan’s index finger nudged at Derya’s entrance, and his other hand went a bit further between his legs. The slave’s body had never developed testicles, but a rather enticing, small opening, just big enough for two fingers. Khan slipped one finger inside shortly, but he knew the canal was very sensitive and small, and would only allow him to enter to the first knuckle. Had Derya been sold to that brothel years ago, they’d have opened it up in an operation to gain room there, but Khan liked it this way, and he never even tried to use the small opening for his own pleasure. What others would have thought a mutilation, Khan found interesting, enticing and beautiful. In the beginning, Derya had been stock-still with fear when his master had touched him in that particular place, but he had learned over the years that Khan would not hurt him there, not even when his temper was at its worst. Now he enjoyed it when his master decided to give him pleasure that way, which admittedly was not often.

Deeper inside his slave, Khan’s finger moved to touch Derya’s prostate and rubbed gentle circles around it, while his other hand had gone back up to his front to provide something for the young one to rut against. Derya let out a small cry and moved his hips back and forth.

“Master…”

“Yes, my little one?”

Derya moaned when Khan’s finger hit the right spot again. “What about you?”

“I forbid you to think of that now,” Khan said gently. “Only think about how it feels. Think about what you’re craving in this very moment. That is what I want. Your satisfaction. Tell me what you want, my pet.”

“I want…”

“Go on,” Khan encouraged. He knew it was hard for Derya to forget his training and voice his needs.

“Just more of this, master….please,” Derya pleaded. He knew Khan could be quite impatient in bed so he merely pleaded for more time.

The emperor smiled against his slave’s silky hair. “Of course, Derya. I’m not in a hurry. I could watch you writhe like this for hours. Take all the time you need. I love when you shudder with every touch, when I feel you clench around my finger. Do you want me to use a second?”

“If you would, my lord,” Derya sighed, and Khan complied gently.

Instantly, the slave’s moans got louder and more desperate. There was a soft chink of chains from the next room, and Khan felt his cock twitch at the thought that James was of course still listening. Had Derya been quieter, the Augment might have been able to hear the blood rush through the man’s veins to his face that was no doubt red with shame.

With gentle movements, Khan made Derya lie on his back and knelt between his legs. Still careful, he slipped two fingers back into Derya’s arse and after a moment of teasing, added a third one. The slave’s back arched and he fisted his hands in the silk sheets while he moaned with abandon.

“Do you want to come, Derya, my pet?”

“Yes, master, please, please, let me,” the slave moaned and Khan felt that his young beauty was on a hair trigger.

He teased with his fingers inside as long as he dared, and then pulled them out to lie down on Derya’s body, with one strong leg between the other one’s thighs. He moved it firmly against Derya’s crotch, with just enough pressure, not unlike he’d do with a woman. His own cock felt impossibly hard and was weeping pre-come by now, swollen and red as it was, but Khan clenched his jaw and endured. If anything, he went through with what he decided. Besides, Derya was now writhing under him and he wanted to soak up every second of it. He brought his lips to the side of Derya’s neck and sucked at the skin.

“Come, beautiful, make your master proud.”

He could feel the exact moment when Derya fell apart a few seconds later, felt his body convulsing and shuddering, listened to the lustful cry that sounded like music to him. He kept moving with his slave until he felt Derya’s body relax, and then positioned himself next to him to give him time to calm down. The young one took a few deep breaths before he spoke in a somewhat shaky voice.

“Thank you, your highness. You are too kind to me.”

“Perhaps,” Khan said carelessly and let his hand trail over Derya’s stomach. His own cock still ached, and he was fighting both the urge to take Derya regardless and to go to the next room and force James to let him use his mouth. But he had decided to leave Derya alone for the morning and to take James properly, not just in between, and not just yet. He did, however, get up when his erection had gone down a bit, tied a sarong around his hips to cover himself - he did not want James to see him yet - and went to the small room to check on his new slave.

“In case you do not know, pet, you are supposed to greet me, with ‘Good morning’ for example. A good slave would do that,” Khan drawled when the human only looked at him in silence for a few seconds.

“I’m not a good slave, I guess,” James retorted, and stared at him with hatred. His eyes flickered to the door. “What you do to that boy is disgusting. Do you even give him the option to say no?”

“He’s not a boy. And no. Of course not. Would you give a horse the option to refuse to carry you?”

“He’s not a horse, or any animal, he’s a human being!”

“Exactly. And a slave, moreover. Both are far beneath me, I have no time to give everyone in my services the option to refuse. Nothing would get done if I had to discuss and ask all the time.”

James seemed baffled and enraged by this explanation. “But...you...what you do with him is not...he’s not... you’re raping him! You’re aware of that, yes?”

“He’s my property, just as you are, and hundreds of others. I can do whatever pleases me, with any of you. You need to get that inside your pretty head.”

“Don’t call me pretty…”

“I will call you whatever I want, aren’t you listening to me?” Khan said in a silky but still rather dangerous tone. “You’re mine. I might not have bought you, but I found you, like one picks up a stray dog at the roadside. You are my property, just like Derya or my dogs or my horses, or this palace. Every piece of furniture is just as much mine as you are, and most pieces are worth much more, mind you. Wrap your head around that or not, but if you would, it’d be much easier for you. Because I’ll put you to work this way or that.”

“And by work, you mean…” James began to ask, but Khan grinned at him with so much blatant greed in his eyes that no more words were necessary. The man had the decency to look properly frightened.
“I’ll break you, James. No matter if you fight or obey. I’ll have you, and you won’t like it very much. And shall I tell you one more thing? I don’t care. Because I am the emperor and you are just a piece of trash I picked up in the desert. Your screams will be like poetry for me.”

Satisfied, Khan watched James’ eyes widen with horror.

“Why? Why do you want to do this to me? Is that kind of cruelty just part of you, or why do you hate me so much?”

“You are the one who hates me, I saw it the second I first laid eyes on you, and you are quite passionate about it. And I told you yesterday, I do it because I want to, it’s in my power.”

“You don’t just do it because you can , that’s not a motivator for rape.”

“True,” Khan smiled, and stepped closer. James tried to move away and fight off his new master, but the Augment held him easily and pressed him down onto the bed where he had slept, one knee between his slave’s legs. All the struggling the human tried was completely worthless; Khan had him pinned down and was lying between the man’s thighs within seconds. “Very true, that is not my only motivation. You ask me why I do this to you?” He moved his hips against James’ and the man’s face showed the disgust he felt. “I like it. I like doing this to you, it pleases me. And I will keep doing this to you - keep doing you until it no longer pleases me to hear your screams and your begging and see the terror and despair in your eyes. To see those things, hear those things, makes me happy. And when it no longer does, I’ll find some way to get rid of you, and it won’t cost me a second thought.”

“You’re a sick bastard,” James whispered, and anger and repressed fear seemed to mix in his voice when he said it.

“That I am, James, yes. And you are not even trying to get on my good side. All you do is struggle. Don’t you want to spare yourself the indignity of fighting me and losing?”

“I will spare myself the indignity of not fighting,” James replied stubbornly, and Khan smiled.

“Good. I like your courage and your spirit. If you survive the first night with me, I might make you a regular guest in my bed.”

Khan got up and left James to his own devices without a look back. In his own bedroom, Derya had already dressed himself and made the bed.

“Bring my breakfast and run me a bath. Have Mirela brought to me while I bathe, it’s been quite a while since I’ve had her, I would hate for her to get bored. You can eat meanwhile, and bring the new one something to eat, too. While I’m in the meeting with my generals later, I want you to have James thoroughly checked by a medic if that wasn’t done yesterday. Otherwise, he needs a bit of training. But tell them not to ruin him, I want him pretty and I want him ready, but not tired out or too hurt. Nobody fucks him before I do.”

Chapter Text

That evening, Khan came to his rooms and found James exactly where he had left him, but noticeably worse for wear.

“How was your day, pet?” Khan asked mockingly and sat down on a chair opposite the bed where James was resting. Derya, who had joined his master after he had had James deposited in here after training, remained standing at the door.

“Well, I’ve had better. You have some mean people in your services, I gotta admit, they seem to be even more cruel than you, and they enjoy it more to hurt people.”

“Possible, though highly unlikely as you will see over time. I couldn’t send you to the petting zoo if I wanted you to learn something, now could I? So. Have you learned anything useful?”

The man would not answer, but a blush crept up his neck, so he probably had learnt something quite new to him. Probably, he had had training for how to be a normal slave in this household, and then they had done a bit about being a bed slave for the emperor. That would certainly make a man of James’ caliber blush. The rest would just have made him angry and stubborn, but Khan knew that Sabir, the man who trained and monitored all the slaves in the palace had a no-nonsense attitude towards his job, and being shown and told certain things from preparation to rules as a bottom, would certainly be uncomfortable for a man like James. Khan knew James was a top by instinct, and that he did not fancy men. And Khan loved that he had the power to make the man bottom for him nonetheless. He could, and he would. But not before he had tormented him a little more, with a mix of fear of what was to come, and shame.

“I see. Well, I hope you’re not too tired for some more education.”

Khan got up from his chair and he could see that James was close to panicking when his new master came closer. The Augment smiled and blocked James’ resistance. He did not, however, touch the man otherwise, but only unclasped the collar and caught his slave in a firm grip to take him to the main bedroom. James struggled until he noticed that he was only being taken to another small couch with a collar and (much shorter) chain on the wall. Here, Khan had him sit down and chained him up again.

“I thought you might want to have a closer look at what you will be used for. Listening is good for learning, but seeing it is better.”

“You always sound like rape is something you can train a person for like a dog can learn to fetch a stick.”

Khan chuckled lightly. “But of course, James. And it is not rape, stop thinking of it as that, rape is something illegal that a free person does to another free person. This is a service like any other that you have to provide as one of my slaves. You’ll get used to it.”

James snorted in his corner while Khan sauntered over to his bed.

“I will never get used to your sick games.”

“Well, if not, that is not my problem,” Khan drawled carelessly and began to undress. “Wine,” he ordered, and Derya left them alone to obey. Without paying the other slave any attention, Khan wrapped himself in a midnight blue silk cloak embroidered with silver and went to an adjoining room to fetch a book. When he came back, a big, black cat had jumped onto the windowsill and meowed imperiously.

“Cassandra, haven’t seen you in a while,” Khan murmured to the animal with a smile and felt James’ perplexed gaze on him when he picked up the cat and laid down in bed with her next to him and the book on his lap. Derya came back with the wine. Khan took it with a nod while the cat was busy sniffing the Augment’s chest and slowly crawled up to his neck. It was visible on the slave’s face that James thought he would throw the animal off, but Khan calmly let himself be used as a climbing tree, trying not to wiggle unduly when the little claws prickled on his skin.

“You may go and do your evening routine, but be back for the night,” the emperor instructed, and Derya bowed and left wordlessly.

For about half an hour, everything was silent in the room except for the sound of pages being turned and the deep purr of the cat who by now had draped herself across Khan’s lap and made sure the Augment did not forget to pet her.

“What you did this morning, with Derya…” James said suddenly and Khan looked up from his book.

“You ask before you speak, did Sabir not teach you that?”

Cassandra meowed chidingly at the harsh tone and the stilling of Khan’s hand on her neck.

James frowned but after a few seconds went on. “You...took care of the boy this morning, without using him for your own satisfaction.”

“You also address me as your master or ‘sir’.”

The slave ground his teeth. “So why did you do it, sir ?”

And you do not question my motives, slave.”

James made a face, and Khan sighed. Cassandra started to bite at Khan’s fingers but he paid her no heed.

“However, since you’re new, it is obvious that you need to understand some things. I satisfied Derya this morning because I wanted to. I like doing it, just as I like hurting people. It gives me power over him and it makes his loyalty to me even stronger. Also, he is one of my most obedient, most selfless slaves, he never does anything wrong and he does what he can to be good. I value that, and despite your observation that I am cruel, I do reward such good work, even though he is only my property. Carrot and stick, James. You need both to train any pet, be it horse or slave. I also reward those who have earned it when I see fit, and Derya was good and obedient.”

“And you reward that...with an orgasm? Jeez, you need help, sir ,” James scoffed.

Khan smiled instead of rising to the bait, and continued to scratch Cassandra’s ears. “I know my Derya. He is very sensitive, and if you know how, easily stimulated. Yet when I take my pleasure from him, I mostly don’t care if he comes, and since sleeping with me is one of his duties, he rarely enjoys it at all, even if his body is aroused. By making this morning about him alone, I reward him for all the times he dutifully lets me do what I want without getting anything back. I know it is one of his cravings, one that has not been wiped from his head and never will be. You’ll see in time what I mean.”

“And a day off is not the way to do this reward-stuff?” James asked sarcastically, not rising to the bait either.

“A day off would be too much for a slave. He would have to do much more than only his duty to get a day off. And what would he do, anyway? He lives to serve me.”

Cassandra purred on Khan’s lap as if she knew the feeling of others living simply to serve her and closed her eyes when the Augment’s index finger gently stroked the bridge of her nose.

James huffed. “Well. He certainly is very loyal to you, sir. I’ll never understand that, by the way” he said, more to himself than to Khan, but the Augment answered regardless.

“I saved him.”

Saved him,” James laughed harshly, but Khan cut in.

“Yes, James, I saved him, much more than I even saved you.”

“I was happier in the desert, to be honest. And I think the boy was happier wherever he was, too,” spat the young human.

“Oh, I doubt that,” Khan said silkily. “You were half dead. And Derya was even worse off. I found him at a slave market. He is not a boy as such, by the way. I’m sure you’ve noticed that he is female as well as male. Such people are low in society, and since he grew up on the streets, he was a member of a low caste anyway. For whatever reason, Derya had gotten himself in a situation where he was being sold at an auction. He was a beauty even under all the dirt and blood and the whipping marks that marred him that day, and I wanted him immediately. A pimp had already made a bid for him and a few other unfortunate souls, and he was just haggling with the seller about the price, saying he’d have to castrate and open them all first and that would cost money, so he wanted them cheaper than the other man would sell them.” Khan noted the appalled expression on James’ face before he continued. “I made a bid that was twice as high as his offer and got them all. The others were only good for housework below stairs, but Derya was a stunning one. He was so adorably shy and afraid at first, and still a virgin at around twenty, which is a rare treat in slaves these days. He never struggled the way you do and he is very good at everything he does for me. He was worth every single unit I paid for him and the others.”

“Because he was a virgin?” James laughed. “Sorry, but if you’re interested in that, I’m not one.”

Khan grinned wolfishly. “The way I will use you, you are. But virginity in the sense of innocence is not primarily what I’m after. Virginity is merely almost always a guaranty for something else.”

“And what would that be, sir?” James asked, trying to sound bored, but Khan could tell he was curious. He liked when his slaves were curious. It meant they weren’t dumb. Khan hated dumb people.

“Purity. In the sense of health,” Khan replied and went on to explain when the man obviously did not follow. “Before he came to me, Derya has not been touched or penetrated. The chance that he had any STDs was very slim, and it continues to be so because nobody but me is allowed to touch him. A normal harem can breed many plagues. Mine can’t. Derya was clean when he came to me. I had you checked thoroughly to make sure you are, too. Virgins are always cleaner. After all, that thought was what started the craze about virginity and purity and exclusivity hundreds if not thousands of years back. Religious people tend to forget that is was a medical thing to begin with.”

“You are not religious, though, I guess, sir?” James asked again.

Khan shook his head. “No. Religions are forbidden in my territory, anyway, if at all, it must be a private thing. I personally think it's nonsense. But I still like to know that nobody soiled my property before I acquired it.”

“But you can’t...get sick, can you, sir? Aren’t you immune to all kinds of disease or something?” James asked.

Khan’s face darkened a bit. “Yes, I am. But you wouldn’t buy a dirty garment, even though you can wash it, would you?”

“I...guess not, sir. But how did you know Derya was a virgin when you bought him at the market?”

The question made Khan’s lips twitch. No, James was not dumb. He liked that. “You’re right, I didn’t. Not for sure, but I hoped it, and there was something about him that made me buy him anyway. Also, as you can see from yourself, I don’t require any of my slaves to be virgins, but I like it. And in case you were wondering, he was very thankful. He found a home here, food and shelter, and a purpose, when he could have been on the street or in a brothel, made into a woman by force, servicing fifty men a day until he would have died from hunger or exhaustion or disease, much sooner than later. Here, he only has to service me, it’s well known in the palace that it’s forbidden to bother him. So yes, I’d say I saved him.”

“That is still no substitute for freedom,” James tried to argue.

“Freedom,” Khan scoffed. “Don’t you know what freedom means in this day and age? Is Iowa so different? From what I’ve heard from my brother, it is not, it’s worse. Freedom is almost always death if you belong to a lower caste.”

“To die in freedom is better than to live in slavery,” James said stubbornly.

“Is it, James? Would you really prefer to die? Out on the streets, hungry, cold and disease-ridden?”

“Yes,” the man answered in a flash, and Khan smiled.

“No. You’re a fighter. Only cowards and weak people choose death over life. Any life. You’re not a coward, nor are you weak. You’ll do very nicely.”

And with that, despite James’ words of protest, Khan went back to his book until Derya entered the room about an hour later and stood beside the door until he was needed.

Khan marked a paragraph, shut the book and stretched like a cat. Sick of the Augment, Cassandra hissed and jumped from the bed to the windowsill and out.

“You’ll service me tonight, Derya. If you’re not prepared, you have time until I return.”

The Augment got up and went to the adjoining bathroom. As soon as the door was closed, Derya began to undress and hurried over to the small basin of water that always stood near the window. Without paying attention to the fact that he was not alone, Derya bent over for a moment to remove a plug from his arse. He cleaned and wrapped it in a small cloth, washed himself thoroughly and put the toy and his clothes in a neat pile next to the door before fetching the bottle of oil from a chest and applying some of the liquid to his entrance. It did not take more than two minutes. Obviously, it was a routine that had been practised many, many times.

“How can you be so relaxed about what is about to happen?” the blond slave asked in a hushed voice.

Derya looked up and wiped his fingers on a towel. “Slaves do not refuse and not disagree. You should learn about that quickly. Our lord Khan’s patience and goodwill does not last for ever.”

“I’ve seen none of his patience and goodwill until now.”

“He has not killed you, has he? Or starved you. Or given you to other men.”

Obviously, the other one did not know how to respond to that, and there was no time, either, because the emperor came back in that moment and both slaves fell silent.

Khan walked to the bed, completely naked now, and he was satisfied when he heard James stifle a gasp when he finally saw all of him. However, he paid the blond slave no further attention and went over to Derya instead. He looked him over shortly and smiled possessively before he grabbed his neck and pulled him forward into a harsh kiss. The young slave complied quietly and went to his knees when his master pressed his fingers on his neck a moment later. With his eyes half closed in absolute obedience, he opened his mouth to take Khan’s length and sucked it until it was rock-hard and his master’s breathing was heavy. With a few effortless movements, the Augment picked him up, threw him on the bed and was behind him in a flash, oil in hand, and slicked himself up. There was neither finesse, nor exceptional cruelty about the way Khan took the young beauty, he merely pushed inside without stopping, even when Derya grunted in discomfort, and thrust forward hard and fast, holding the slave in front of him on his knees so he could have him like an animal. He could tell Derya was trying to hold back any exclamations of pain, whether for James’ sake or for a good show of his own skills, Khan did not know. A few times, he looked from Derya’s bent back over to where James was sitting, who had demonstratively turned away, face glowing red. However, the man could not tune out the sound of skin on skin, or the moans of either of the two on the bed, or the sound of Khan’s groan when he spilled inside his slave. The Augment pulled out a moment later, patted Derya’s backside gently to indicate that he could move now, and went to wash himself over by the window.

“You see, it can be this easy if you cooperate,” Khan said to James when he had given the washcloth to Derya for his own use, and turned to saunter over to his new slave. “Not every time, certainly. I’m usually a bit more demanding. But you will satisfy me, one way or the other, and you might as well make it easy for yourself.”

James scoffed. “All your bravado, and yet you’re nothing but a horny bastard who just takes every hole by force that he wants to shove his prick into.”

James did not even have time to raise his hands in defense before his slaver was in front of him and slapped him hard across the face. The emperor’s own features remained completely calm, however. “It’s time you learned some respect. I will not tolerate your insolence any longer and I will keep punishing you until you’ve learned to keep your mouth shut. And by the way…” Khan bowed down to James so their eyes were on the same level. “You will be the next hole I shove my prick into , so I would think twice about mocking your master, if I were you.” He smiled sweetly and straightened up before he unclasped the collar and went to lie on the bed and pull the covers over himself. “Derya, take him to the bathroom before we go to sleep, we don’t want him to make a mess during the night. Chain him up right there again afterwards. Then you can leave.”

Derya bowed and obeyed, gesturing to the blushing blond that he should lead the way into the bathroom. After the man was chained back in place across from Khan’s bed, Derya bowed again and left, turning off the lights on his way out. The only illumination came from one of the oil lamps Khan liked so much.

“I thought he…”

“I told you to ask for permission before you speak. Don’t get me into the mood to get up again just to box your ears. Either you ask or you won’t speak at all, clear?”

“One would think you’d be in a better mood after sex.”

Khan raised his head from the pillows. “If you don’t want me to gag you, shut up now.”

“Permission to ask a question, sir ,” James hissed.

Khan did not like the tone, but at least he had asked. “What is it?”

“I thought Derya always sleeps here. Where did he go?”

Khan blinked, a bit surprised about the question, but he answered nonetheless. “Derya has a room just across the corridor. He doesn’t actually sleep here all the time.”

“He has his own room?” James asked, sounding surprised himself now.

Khan frowned. “Of course. He might be just a slave, but he is my personal body slave. He is someone in the palace, and he needs a space close to mine. So he got one.”

“Hm. I didn’t think you cared so much about him.”

“I take care of my own,” Khan answered, a little disgruntled.

“Oh yes, I just saw how you take care of him.”

“I have the right to do what I want with him. He…”

“...is your property, I know, I know. But the fact that you can do something doesn’t mean you should…”

Enough! ” Khan shouted and sat up in his bed. “Never, NEVER interrupt me while I’m speaking. And I don’t need advice from a slave like you. You don’t question what I do, do you understand? Stop talking to me as if we’re equals. Now shut up or you’ll sleep in the dungeons.”

For a few moments, there was, surprisingly, silence.

“You’re hard to figure out,” the man almost whispered.

Khan laughed a mirthless laugh. “It is not your job to figure me out, only to obey me. So shut up already.”

 

From then on, Khan put James to work in the gardens and in the lower levels of the household, so much so that when he came back to his rooms in the evenings, James was always sound asleep. Judging from the reports Derya gave of James’ training and the rest of the days, the man was nearing his breaking point. His quick mouth was no longer as quick, or as respectless as it had been in the beginning. He did not disobey as often as before and mainly seemed to try and do what he was told, and as quickly as he could. There had been a few punishments, and obviously, they had done their job.

Khan enjoyed touching James when he was asleep like this, completely exhausted and at his mercy, and he did so every night, but he never went further than the man’s torso. He found he enjoyed the still, almost lifeless body under his fingertips. No struggling, no sign that the touches registered with the slave at all, no quicker heartbeat or breathing, nothing.

Some evenings, Khan woke James to let him watch when one of his female concubines kept Khan company until he went to sleep. They were never allowed to stay the night, like Derya was, but Khan made sure James got an eyeful before the girls had to leave. He knew James usually slept with women himself, and he also knew that the man’s libido was likely severely underfed with no women and no privacy, underfed and hungry enough to let the human slip up from time to time. Sometimes, Khan caught James when he was watching what transpired on the bed, and grinned at his slave across the naked body under him with an obvious message: this is what is waiting for you, too.

Chapter Text

After almost two weeks of letting him stew , Khan let James be taken downstairs, but ordered to give him easy work and let him be cleaned and prepared for him in the late afternoon. When he gave the instruction, he looked at James and saw a look of terror cross his face. Khan grinned and ordered an extra guard on the man. He had decided that tonight, he’d finally have his new pet. James had learned a bit of lowliness, but he was certainly still going to fight him, which was why he would not have James tired out today; weakened prey was no fun for a hunter.

“Don’t prepare his body too much, though,” Khan instructed, and got another horrified look out of James. “Just the basic polishing, but not his hole. I want to do most of it myself.” He grinned and looked James squarely in the eye when he addressed the other servant again. “A small plug should be enough.”

A week ago, this would have made James shout abuse and protest, but now, he only gnashed his teeth and looked away. Khan smiled triumphantly and swept out of the room to tend to his country.

Concentrating was hard today, even for him. The anticipation kept making him hard and his predatory side ran amok for most of the day. James was somewhere in the palace, knowing what was coming for him, knowing what was going to happen. Maybe his fear was mounting just like Khan’s desire?

In the evening, he found James chained to the wall as usual, but he looked groomed and very uncomfortable. The smell of sandalwood drifted over to the Augment, and his sharp eyes saw that James’ body hairs had been shaved or plucked or waxed away in the usual places. The way he was sitting indicated that he was indeed wearing some kind of toy, just as his master had ordered, and that he didn’t appreciate it at all. He was dressed like he usually was, in white cotton trousers and a shirt, although the shirt showed a bit more chest than usual. Done up like a whore, prepared like a delicious dessert, ready to be ravished. The Augment also noticed that the human had bruised knuckles. He must have fought his handlers today, probably more than once.

Khan smiled and started to undress, not taking his eyes off his slave, and James stared back at him with utter, bitter hatred. Inwardly, Khan was impressed. Many were so afraid the first time that they sat there, shaking, crying, begging, as if their lives were going to end as soon as the Augment touched them. James was not like that. True, he was not calm and collected, which was understandable even for Khan, but he was not a frightened mess, either.

“I won’t make this easy for you, I’ll fight you, just so you know it.”

The Augment chuckled. “I expect nothing less from you, why do you think did I let you rest so much today? I want you wide awake and ready and able to fight.”

“You’re sick!” the man spat, but his master merely laughed, put away his underwear and went to wash himself.

He had sent Derya away this time, but most likely the slave would be present when he took James in the future. However, he wanted to enjoy this night alone with his new toy. He took the washcloth he had used over to where James was sitting and put it on a low table before he moved to a small chest of drawers and got some shackles and snap hooks to secure James’ wrists to the chain he was already wearing. The man struggled a great deal, but after some scuffling, Khan had James’ arms where he wanted them: stretched out in front of the man, bound to the ring in the wall, all but immobilising him and making him unable to resist when Khan turned him and made him kneel on the couch. He could not even kick without losing his balance completely. That did not, however, prevent him from trying. Khan did not mind, he rather enjoyed it. When he pulled down the trousers and spread James’ cheeks with his hands, the man bucked violently, but the strong Augment held him without great difficulty and pushed at the flared base of the plug that currently filled James’ hole.

“So this is how you want to do this? With me chained up like this? I thought you wanted a fight,” the slave hissed through clenched teeth. It was still audible how much his voice was shaking.

Khan smiled. “This is not how I want to take you, honestly, where would be the fun in that? This is for preparation. If you struggle like crazy when I prepare you, you could be hurt. But I know you won’t be sensible enough to not struggle, so I’m chaining you up.”

“I’ll be hurt anyway, won’t I?” James spat und pulled on his chains.

“That depends on whether you are good now. At least, it will change whether you’ll be in a lot of pain or a little less. Now hold still if you don’t want me to tear something right away.”

With practised fingers, Khan removed the plug, ignored the grunt of discomfort and wiped the clenching opening with the wet cloth he had brought over. He could see the man’s face was glowing red with shame as Khan worked on his most private part.

“Did they stretch you properly in training these last two weeks?” Khan mocked. “You should be used to it by now, then.”

James did not answer, but Khan had not expected it anyway. He just grinned as he put two dry fingers into the slave’s hole and held the man in place by his collar; he had begun to thrash around the second he felt the intrusion.

“I guess not,” Khan said dryly.

“Get your filthy hands away from me you sick bastard!” James shouted at him in reply.

“That’s the spirit, pet,” Khan drawled, and added another finger. His new slave was still wonderfully tight, and his body had not gotten into the routine of relaxing upon penetration yet, which made it all the more painful and disagreeable for James. The man bit his lips to prevent any sound from coming out, but as Khan added a fourth finger, he could not suppress a pained growl.

“If you’d even try to relax, it would be so much easier for you, you learned about that in your training.”

“Get! The hell! Away! From me!” James grunted, and he did not relax. Perhaps that small move would already have felt like giving up, and James would not give up easily, Khan knew. The Augment smiled and kept pushing his fingers into the warm body, adding oil, until he was more or less satisfied with the preparation. James would have to relax sooner or later, or he’d hurt himself. It was of no importance to Khan. He pulled out and unclasped the collar and shackles. The moment after, James was on him, attacking since he had no chance to flee. Blocking the assault easily, Khan wrestled James into a tight grip and hauled him over to the bed where he forced him down onto his back, ignoring his shouting and kicking. This had been fun for Khan until then, but now he became more serious. Taunting was over, it was time to show James that he’d ruthlessly take what he wanted, that all his niceness had been just Khan’s way of toying with his new property. There was nothing at all pretty or playful about the way they fought each other, and James really struggled bitterly, gnashed his teeth and growled with the exertion, all teeth and fingernails and elbows. Khan loved it. Nobody had ever fought him quite so doggedly, and it excited him. The sharp stabs of pain that bloomed and wilted on his body wherever James managed to get past his defence were exhilarating and only managed to fuel his desire. Khan hissed at his prey and growled while he held his writhing arms and pinned his slave’s legs to the bed. There was some fighting skill behind the movements alright, but as the minutes ticked by, it was more and more the helpless, instinctive resistance of an animal that was aware that it was losing the fight against an alpha.

Khan held James’ wrists with one hand and blanketed the weaker body with his heavy one to keep him a bit more still while he nudged his leaking cock against the other’s entrance. James bit his lips and went still for a moment before he made another violent attempt at breaking Khan’s grip, but Khan held him and used his free hand to push his cock just past the outer ring of muscle. Blood began to pool where James was biting his lips to keep silent, but when Khan thrust forward brutally, the man let out a cry of pain. Khan sighed as if he had never heard anything more beautiful, and he stopped for a moment to let the intensity of the situation sink in, for James as well; he was now inside, and there was nothing that could change that fact anymore, it would always be edged into both their memories, this moment, when Khan had conquered James. When Khan finally edged forward bit by bit, the human kept grunting and shouting in pain .

“It wouldn’t hurt so much if you’d just let loose and relax ,” the Augment said in an amused voice that made it clear that he preferred the screams. “It would be so easy if you’d just give in.”

“Keep dreaming, you son of a bitch,” James managed to choke out.

“That’s what I wanted to hear, my pretty pet,” Khan whispered, and licked a wet stripe up the man’s neck, who shuddered with revulsion. Despite the resistance of the other man’s body, Khan started to move in and out until James could no longer bite back his screams. The Augment smelled blood. All of James’ lovely tightness that enveloped him made Khan thrust deeper and harder and it felt so good! He kept going for a long time, and felt the occasional attempts to push him away grow weaker and weaker. The human was tired out, and gradually, he also relaxed around Khan’s manhood. His insides must have felt like they were on fire, but Khan did not care; the feeling of having conquered this feisty one was too sweet. When Khan felt that the slave was not only tired but so exhausted that he had stopped struggling altogether, he let go of his wrists and put the almost lifeless legs over his shoulders to penetrate his toy even deeper. James wailed pitifully at the renewed stretch, but he did not fight anymore when his master folded him in half and pounded into him like the devil’s worst nightmare. Khan looked into James’ face. The man looked lost, pained, and traumatised, as if he could not grasp that this was happening to him. Just as Khan observed him, a tear squeezed from the corner of the right eye, and Khan leaned forward to lick it up. The new angle made James groan weakly, and Khan felt the wonderful tightness work its magic on him; he picked up speed and looked down to where his bloodied shaft moved in and out of his slave, and the sight finally made him come hard inside the man.

If there was a flicker of relief in the blue eyes beneath Khan, it was crushed again quickly when Khan only took a few deep breaths and pulled out, and James saw that the Augment was still hard.

“Oh yes,” Khan purred. “We’re not finished yet.”

He went to wash the blood away and left James where he was. The human looked close to passing out, and apart from that, utterly scandalous, with his legs still spread open and his abused hole fully visible, even though he made little twitching movements that indicated that he tried to get his exhausted muscles to comply and close his legs protectively.

“I have to admit, you were everything I imagined you’d be. I could not have asked for better, you were magnificent,” Khan praised and went over to his slave with the washcloth to clean him up a bit before the next round. James whimpered when the wetness touched the broken skin, but he was too weak to fight it off. “Which is why we’ll keep going,” Khan added, and went to wash out the cloth before returning to the limp body. He lowered his head to James’ entrance and licked away a bit of blood and semen. The slave shuddered and weakly tried to kick the Augment, to no avail. It only made the bigger man laugh.

“I see you’ve recovered a bit. Shall we continue, then?” Khan asked and grabbed the oil again. The mewl that escaped James’ mouth when Khan shoved his cock into his human’s arse once more was like music in his sharp ears.

The mewls turned into cries and the cries turned into sobs over the next one or two hours. Khan did not care how long it had been since they had started, it was like a rush, and he would not stop. He came again, and again, before James finally fell completely silent and the fight visibly went out of him. A look into the slave’s eyes told Khan that he was mostly gone. His master had started to kiss and suck at his neck, and the skin there was marred with dark marks by now.

“Please...stop…”

Khan turned his head and looked at his slave, who had his eyes closed as if he had passed out. But his lips moved again.

“Please, Khan, stop...please.”

A cruel kind of joy filled the Augment when he heard James’ broken voice. To have a man like James beg was just extraordinary. But he was not done with humiliating the human yet.

“You still haven’t gotten this into your dense head, have you? You call me ‘master’, you don’t use my name. Go on.”

There was a pause, and Khan thought the man would just fall silent again, but…

“Please...master. Please stop. Please stop. Please stop!” James pleaded. He did not even sound like himself anymore.

“Beg me for mercy!” Khan commanded and snapped his hips violently. He could not keep himself from grinning. Oh yes, this was one of the moments...one of the reasons why he did this, why he liked this! The power he had over this human and the horrible joy he felt in this moment thundered through his veins like a physical thing and made his head swim for a moment, a sensation his augmented body rarely ever granted him.

“Have...mercy. Please! I beg you!” the man hissed, his voice hoarse from the continuous screams and cries of the last hours.

Khan grinned manically. “Alright, James, I will stop. But I want one last thing from you.”

“What?” the human rasped.

The Augment’s smile got wider; he probably looked manic but he did not care. “A kiss.”

“W-what?”

“I want a kiss from you, James.”

The man looked at him with a mix of complete incomprehension and disgust on his tired face. “You...you want me to kiss you?” Obviously, his pain and humiliation was not extreme enough to make him obey such an order blindly.

Khan nodded, still smiling. “A real kiss. And don’t just lie there, I want you to respond, I want to feel it.” He lowered his head so that their lips were almost touching, and stayed there so that James had to make the last move. The human hesitated for a few long moments, revulsion, continuous pain and despair plain on his face. As a motivation, Khan snapped his hips and growled quietly. That seemed to do it. With obvious effort, James lifted his head a bit and pressed his lips to Khan’s. The Augment noticed that it was supposed to be brief, but he met James halfway and kept kissing him, long and sweet, and that finally seemed to break even the last bit of sanity in James. He sobbed once, and then tears spilled from his eyes and began to stream down his flushed cheeks. Khan watched, satisfied, as the floodgates finally opened. Without forcing another orgasm, he pulled out and left James on the bed while he went to get Derya from his room.

“Take care of him,” he instructed, and motioned to the sobbing mess on the bed while he cleaned himself again. Derya’s face betrayed no emotion whatsoever as he pulled James into a sitting position and dragged him to the bathroom. The man’s legs wouldn’t obey him and he kept stumbling. Just inside the bathroom, he suddenly retched and was violently sick on the floor. Khan smiled to himself and called another two slaves to make the bed and mop the tiles. He himself went out onto his balcony and stretched out on the silk pillows there, still naked, looked up to the stars and dozed, very satisfied with himself and his new pet.

 

Derya held the other slave’s shaking body as he threw up again into the toilet, and stroked the man’s flushed back. As a good slave, he would never question his master aloud, but he felt uneasy when he thought about how cruel the emperor must have been to get such a reaction from this one. He must have broken him bit by bit until there was nothing left. The man cried and cried, so much it seemed he would not stop, ever. Derya held him, and made comforting sounds. When the master did not come to check on the man, Derya made a decision and pulled and pushed until James sat in the bathtub. Using the emperor’s bathtub to bathe another slave without permission could cost Derya his head, so he only used the shower head to rinse away the sweat and other body fluids and get some warmth back into the abused body. He knew that hot water felt comforting on his own skin when the emperor had been rough with him, so perhaps it was the same for James. On the other hand, James’ reaction had been quite a bit different from his own. It was easy to see that the blond slave was disgusted by everything related to Khan. Derya had learned to endure and enjoy, he often secretly looked forward to servicing his master. As rough as he could be, as much as he often hurt him, Derya could not help but be completely devoted to Khan. He had heard that sometimes, certain things happened with people’s heads that made them like what cruel people did to them, and Derya often thought that he might be one of those. But Khan was almost a god, and all gods had to be feared and loved, and so Derya did not question, but feared and loved Khan with all his heart. But James was not used to Khan, and from what Derya could see of his body, James had also been stupid enough to struggle a great deal. Shaking his head, Derya got James out of the tub, ignored the tears that still dripped down his face, toweled him dry gently and made him bend over the side of the tub. That was when the other man pushed him away vehemently, so that Derya almost fell onto the hard floor.

“What the hell are you doing?” the blond shouted angrily, new tears brimming in his eyes. Derya noticed again that he had no Asian accent like Derya and all others here; his English, the language of the Augments and the ruling caste, was just as fluent as the master’s, but the way he spoke it sounded like nothing he had heard before. Derya’s English was good enough for a slave; it was not like he was expected to say much. But James almost spoke it like an Augment. It made Derya wary.

“Your wound needs treatment, I’ll help you, I promise I won’t do anything else,” Derya said in a soothing voice and produced a tube of ointment from his pocket that he had taken with him in wise foresight. “Don’t be afraid. It will stop hurting if you let me help you. I promise.”

James looked at him for a while longer, but turned around in the end and grabbed the edge of the tub hard. Unfazed by the man’s obvious embarrassment, Derya examined the wound quickly and found a lot of tearing and blood. Derya himself rarely bled when the master took him, and this here was far worse than he’d ever been. While applying the ointment, he said: “You should not struggle, you must relax when the master enters you.”

“I will never let him win like that!” James spat, but Derya yanked his arm, hard, to make him look at him.

“It will kill you if you continue to resist like this! It is dangerous, what you are doing! You will only hurt more, but the master will not stop. What good does it do you to die in the master’s bed just for stubbornness?”

James looked at him with pure hatred, but Derya was not afraid. Lord Khan would protect him because he was always good. After a few moments, James turned away and let Derya continue to treat him. When the cooling medicine finally started to work, he sighed with relief.

“Thank you.”

Derya did not reply, he only helped James stand up and brought him back to the emperor’s bedroom where he told him to wait while Derya went to the balcony to get further instructions.

“Your highness?” he said tentatively, knowing how his master could be in these situations.

“Derya? What is it?” Khan asked, sounding relaxed and good-natured.

“What would you have me do with your new slave, your highness? He’s clean and he’s been treated. Shall he get dressed again?”

“Bring him to his room and chain him up, and yes, he can get his clothes back on. I won’t be needing him anymore tonight. Nor you, you can retire now.”

“My lord.” Derya bowed and went back inside.

James had leaned on the bed with exhaustion, but he had not sat down. It probably hurt too much.

“You may get dressed and I am to take you to your room.” He gestured to the chamber he had occupied from the first night every time Khan had not dragged him out to watch what went on in his bedroom. “He says he won’t need you anymore tonight.”

James had already begun to climb into his clothes, as if he could not cover himself soon enough. He shuddered. “I think if he did, I’d die after all. I really don’t know why he hates me so much.”

Derya frowned. “That has nothing to do with you. Do you really think you are important enough to make the emperor feel anything? He just likes challenges and conquering, and by struggling, you gave the master exactly what he wanted.”

The man seemed to think about that for a few moments. “Derya. Would you call me Jim? You may be the only friend I have here.”

Derya escorted the blond back into the small chamber and fastened the steel collar around his neck. “Jim,” he repeated, while the blond winced and touched his neck where the coldness of the metal bit into his skin. “I am not your enemy, but don’t think I am your friend. We are slaves, Jim, not friends. We struggle to remain in the master’s favour, and you are in my way on that path.”

James looked up to him with big eyes. “What? But I don’t want his...his favour . I want him to stay away from me as far as possible!”

“And exactly that will draw him to you. He might grow tired of you if you present no challenge, if you don’t struggle,” Derya explained. The strange man really did not understand their master at all.

James shook his head. “You don’t struggle, and he has not grown tired of you.”

Derya smiled the most mischievous grin a slave could manage. “The emperor is very generous to me. And I am devoted to him for it. His reasons for liking me are not my place to question. But I can tell you that he likes you because he can still break you, and the master likes breaking people for the mere sport of it. You are nothing at all like me, that is why the rules that apply to me do not apply to you and the other way round.”

James scoffed. “You are proud to serve him, aren’t you? You love him.” The man looked up at Derya with the same disgust he had shown towards the master.

It took a few moments before Derya answered, and his words were very carefully chosen. “Yes, I love him. He is my life, and my life is his. He is a god and I love and serve him accordingly. If he is the one to cut me down I shall gladly bleed to death. You will never understand that.”

James shook his head vehemently. “No. This is sick.”

Derya shrugged and turned to leave. “No, it is necessary. If I had closed my heart against him like you, I would also break, just like you. But as it is, I am whole and even happy. So what is the better approach to this life? Your stubborn sense of pride or my devotion?”

Chapter Text

Jim did not sleep well that night. He kept waking up whenever he heard the slightest movement from Khan’s bedroom, afraid that the monster of a man would come for him again. His backside hurt and his hole felt raw and swollen. From time to time, he felt a bit of wetness escape his body, and he squirmed, but as he had nothing to clean himself with, he had no choice but to lie there and try to ignore it. The magnitude of what had been done to him slowly sunk in, and he cried, disgusted with his own lack of self-control, overall disgusted with himself for his weakness. He had not been strong enough to keep the monster away. Now he felt dirty and used and broken and absolutely horrible . He had begged him to stop, begged . And kissed him. Jim retched but managed to control the urge to throw up again. Kissed. Khan.

The thought alone was disgusting, would have been even before this evening. And even worse; he’d be taken again, there was no doubt about it, and if he did not comply, if he did not give in and just let Khan do it, he might very well not survive even one month like this. Tonight, he had fought until he had been so exhausted that he could not even lift his arms anymore, it had been scary. Usually, his strength did not fail him like this. But it had.

Jim closed his eyes, but the smug face and the gleeful smile haunted him. The night replayed in his head in all its horrible detail. He had hated Khan before, but now he hated him even more. When they had met in Jim’s time, he had at least made the impression of a halfway civilised man as long as he was inside their holding cell. Jim had known what Khan was capable of, at least he had thought so. But what the bastard had done to him here...parts of his brain could not even believe it now.

How long would he have to endure this? He could only hope that his friends would find him. He did not even have any real idea why he was here. The last thing he could remember was that they had explored some kind of unstable mini-wormhole phenomenon that had started to occur in the entire solar system around Earth. They had found loads of rubbish from other time periods of Earth floating through space. Well, obviously, the stupid wormholes also worked the other way round. Next thing he knew was that he had been in some desert, wandering about until soldiers had picked him up. When Khan himself had walked into that tent, Jim had almost lost it. The bastard looked younger in this time, more tanned, and his hair was marginally longer, though still short enough. But his eyes were the same; sharp as icicles and deadly calm or angry - nothing but the two options seemed to exist - but always, always cold.

As lucky - or rather unlucky - as he was, Khan had not killed him but had obviously taken a kind of fancy to him. Jim did not think he wanted to know if the Khan in his time had also had such thoughts about him. He flinched violently when he - inevitably - thought about that nonetheless - and realised that he must have changed things...in his time period, he had already been here, so to speak...so Khan must have known him when they met in the future! Had he? Had he already met the Khan that had been changed by what was happening now or would he come back to a future that he wouldn’t know? If he came back at all. But Jim was almost sure that Khan had somehow known him. Maybe he hadn’t been able to place him, but…

When Jim had attacked Khan on Qo'noS, the Augment had at first looked as if he’d seen a ghost, and then disgusted, and he had stood there and let Jim hit him, and the first word he had said to him just after, his title, that breathy Captain , spoken as if something had fallen into place in his mind... Had those taxing looks, all the purring , that strangely familiar attitude...had that all been because Khan knew him already? He could practically hear it, and the memory made his hairs stand on end.

‘Oh Captain. Will you punch me again, over and over until your arm weakens? Clearly you want to, so tell me...why did you allow me to live?’

Jim shuddered. He should have just fired those torpedoes and killed the bastard. But, in the end, that would not have helped him in the here and now. Would he ever come back to his own time? He knew his crew would not rest before they had found a way to save him. But was there even a way? He himself could not do much. He could only hope that Spock and the others would somehow find him, which was, admittedly,  highly unlikely. How should they know where he had gone? And how long would it take? Did even the same amount of time pass for them as for him? The other Spock had come through the wormhole just seconds after Nero, but for Nero, it had been twenty-five years. Jim could only hope that this was not what would happen to him. There was no doubt that he would not survive more than a few months here. Though he had to try. He had to try and last as long as he could! But how long would that be?

Feeling hopeless, Jim curled up on his bed, flinching when his body reminded him vividly of what had been done to it. Fuck, how was he supposed to survive this? Khan had made sure that he had seen during the last few weeks how insatiable he was; almost every evening, there had been a woman in his bed, or Derya. He had made sure Jim was always there and listening, often even watching. The Augment had certainly taken his time before he had taken Jim, just to prolong his fear of what was coming. Khan sure was a sick bastard. Through the haze of pain and horror, he had noticed how much Khan had enjoyed it, hurting him, humiliating him, Khan had loved it, just loved it. And the sexual satisfaction had not even seemed to be that important to the Augment. The sheer power he had had over the weaker human had certainly made him harder than anything else. Jim threw his head from side to side to get those thoughts out if his head. It would happen again, and Jim could do nothing about it, he knew that, Khan had made sure of it.

 

The Augment could hear his slave toss and turn all night, and even the repressed sobs reached his ears. Khan revelled in the sounds; he was not one bit sorry about what he had done.

Derya always let himself be comforted when his master had been rough with him. But it was not quite the same with James. Derya was a docile dog, he would let him do terrible things to him, he’d cry, and still come back and he would never question that Khan was his master. James was like a wild animal, untamed and afraid. Khan had given him the stick, quite literally, but somehow Khan could not say if James would accept the carrot - ever. In Khan’s opinion, James would rather bite his hand and take the punishment than loosen up and let Khan invade his head. But on the other hand...Khan liked James savage and cornered. It was most gratifying to break him. James was beautiful when he cried and begged, and the lost look on his face was marvellous. Khan would have liked to get up and go to James, but something held him back. He had told Derya that he would need neither of them anymore tonight, and he would not go back on his word, even if a word to a slave was not worth much.

Khan waited until the sun rose, then he went to check on his slave. James woke with a start when he felt Khan’s presence. The emperor smiled briefly.

“How do you feel this morning?”

James stared at him, half afraid, half angry. “Spectacular.”

The Augment laughed and sat down next to James, who scrambled away. “You are still cheeky. I think none of my slaves was ever this ill-mannered, let alone after the first night. Come, let me look at you…”

Khan twisted around and tried to grab James’ hips, but the man tried to fend him off. Khan sighed impatiently. “You’ll never learn, will you?”

He got up and trapped the human on all fours against the wall with one knee, and pulled his pants down. During the night, there must have been a bit more bleeding and most of his seed must have dribbled out; the pants were soiled with blood and semen and must have been horribly uncomfortable.

“I think you need a bath,” Khan grinned. “Your bitchhole looks disgusting.” The crass words seemed to hit the mark; James let out an ashamed growl and tried to struggle free, but Khan held and examined him with quick fingers. “You really should have listened. Maybe next time, I’ll give you something that will force you to relax. This kind of tearing will need some time to heal. I hope you know that won’t change anything; this is your own fault, and I won’t spare you. But the medicine Derya gave you yesterday has helped a great deal already. I’ll tell him to use it again, to prevent infection. Another reason you need to bathe.”

“Why would you want me to heal, anyway? You like it when I’m hurt,” James bit out.

“Don’t give me ideas, James,” Khan chuckled and shook his head, keeping his fingers on James’ body longer than necessary to make the man more uneasy. “But honestly, I don’t want you sick. If you get an infection, I can’t use you, and you might die, and then I can’t use you anymore at all. It’s more fun to break you over and over again. Hmm…” Khan looked at the man, contemplating. “You know what, you’ll bathe with me. Come on, pet.”

“Over my dead body, you bastard!” James cried out, but Khan had already gotten up to get a collar without chain that Derya must have left out. When he came back, he casually slapped James across the mouth.

“That could be arranged. And you are not supposed to say such things to your master. Come.”

With the collar fastened around his neck, James had no choice but to let himself be pulled from the room. He stumbled behind his master, yanking up his trousers. To humiliate him a bit further, Khan took James not into his en suite but down two corridors to a much bigger bathroom, where Derya was already preparing a bath for his master together with a young female slave.

“Derya, I’ve brought company. Do you have that ointment on you that you used yesterday?” Khan yanked on the collar and James almost fell to his knees. “It worked wonders. I want him usable again a s a p.”

Derya looked to the other man briefly, then bowed to his master. Somehow, he struck the emperor as...skittish. Just like the girl who was helping him with his task.

“I can go fetch it. Will he be bathing with you my lord, or just watching?”

“He’ll bathe with me. Go fetch your medicine, you’ll treat him after he’s clean.”

The slave bowed and hurried from the room. Khan stood there for a moment and looked at the slave girl, who tried to pretend he was not there, and looked as if she would prefer it if she were not there, either.

“What is going on?”

She looked up, stopping her gaze at the height of Khan’s collarbone, not looking into his eyes. “My lord?”

Khan stepped closer, dragging James behind him with a finger still hooked in the collar. “Something’s wrong with you and Derya, you’re both nervous like frightened horses. What is wrong?”

The girl lowered her eyes and wrung her hands. Under Khan’s continuous stare, she slowly sank to her knees. “When your morning routine is finished, my lord, Derya was supposed to brief you. Will you not enjoy your morning first, your highness?”

Khan growled. “I am asking YOU. One last time. What happened?”

The girl started shaking. “Only a little problem with one of your concubines, Cara, she…”

“Stop. That’s enough. I think I’d really rather listen to this later. I have the feeling I will be in a very bad mood later.” He stared at her for a moment longer, but decided she was scared enough for now. “Now run along.”

Stumbling over the hem of her skirt, the girl fled the room.

For a moment, Khan looked to the door where she had vanished, then he let go of James’ collar and began to undress, dropping his clothes where he was standing. James did not move, and for once, the human seemed to prefer silence over a snarky remark that would certainly have gotten him into trouble. He did not move at all, in fact. Khan turned around and frowned at his slave.

“I am really getting a bit tired of having to tell you everything, but you’re not just a pleasure slave, you are for everything, and when there’s anything lying on the floor, you tidy it up. NOW!”

It was the first time James saw him remotely angry, and that seemed to do something in his head, at least he really did bow down and collected his master’s clothes without a word of protest, and put them down on a small stool in the corner. The immediate obedience improved Khan’s mood immensely, and he nodded, turning away and walking towards the pool of water. The whole room was clad in smooth marble, very unlike the other bathrooms in the palace that usually had small mosaic tiles, and was shaped like a grotto that opened onto a terrace. It had a pool that would have held a few people if Khan had not preferred to bathe alone-ish.

“Come here.”

A little hesitatingly, James stepped closer.

“Undress and join me,” Khan commanded and stepped into the steaming, shallow water. With a sigh, the Augment leaned back against the marble wall, stretched out his legs on the sloping floor of the pool and watched as James shed his clothes, obviously trying very hard not to show shame, and then also stepped into the water. He winced when Khan grabbed the collar and pulled him into a kneeling position across from him. The careful way the man knelt  amused the Augment.

“Does it sting, James?”

The human merely scowled, but Khan did not mind. Instead, he pulled the man closer by his collar and kissed up and down his neck. “You’ll service me well, my wild pet. And very frequently, as long as you are still this pretty. I’d regret having to disfigure your face, but if you keep being disrespectful, I will. It would be your own fault, though. I like my bed slaves pretty.”

The human’s nose wrinkled in disgust. “I wonder why you see the need to threaten me constantly.”

“So you don’t forget your place, my pet,” Khan explained in a fake friendly tone and kept nuzzling the man’s neck.

An angry growl sounded from the man’s chest. “You’ve got me in a chain and collar, you forced yourself on me, you keep me under lock and key or put me to work. How do you think I could forget the place you have assigned me here?”

“But you do, pet, you still talk like a free man, you talk to me as if we are familiar, you are respectless all the time, every one of your sentences would warrant a beating, you just speak your mind when everyone here knows one should never do that. It’s interesting for now, to have someone who talks to me like that. But I will lose my patience with you one day. I cannot figure out what it is with you. By not punishing you every time you open your pretty mouth, I silently accept your insulting attitude. You have no respect for me, and I let you get away with it. I don’t yet know why, but eventually, you won’t be so lucky and I won’t be so lenient.”

“Lenient...you call what you did to me last night lenient ?” James hissed, and Khan slapped him across the face for good measure.

“You don’t question your master. And what I did last night was not a punishment. You are a young hothead, and I guess you’ll be hard to break. I will. I can and I will, rest assured of that. Whippings might not work on you, but other things will. And believe me, you don’t want me to resort to those.”

“Like what? Taking me unprepared?” James asked with grim boldness.

Khan smiled dangerously. “I could do that. But I think that is not the way to break you, either. Every bit of plain violence will only make you more stubborn. I have to give you that, you have a strong and proud spirit. No, I think the way to break you is taking away your pride, hope and freedoms and exploit your bigger weaknesses.”

“And how do you plan to do that?”

Khan could see that James was trying to hide his concern about the answer.

“With something permanent, something that goes against your code of honour,” Khan said calmly. “I mean, I could cut out your tongue, or have you castrated. Blinded. That would at least subdue you a bit. But I think you have a conscience. I could punish others for what you do. I think you are stupid enough to be broken by such things. If I killed someone every day you misbehave...you’d become very docile. You don’t want others to suffer, much less because of you.”

“How would you know if I care about others?” James asked in a shaky voice.

Khan laughed. “I see it in the way you look at my Derya. When you heard me with him, you told me what I did was disgusting. Of course you care about others. Yes, I think that would work. If I ever get tired of your games, and I get tired of disobedience quite quickly.”

“You...you can’t just do something like that!”

“I am Emperor of Asia, I can do whatever I like with you or others,” Khan said in a bored, matter-of-fact tone. “When will you get that inside your head? And I will do whatever is necessary. And when I’m tired of trying to tame you, I’ll get rid of you. I have a country to run, and as enticing as you might be, I’m not willing to let a small cog such as you ruin my well-oiled machinery. You are lovely, but replaceable. You might want to take that into consideration. Death is not the worst fate in my empire. You have people who love you. It’d be a shame if you died of stubbornness.”

The young man tried to hide his astonishment. “What...I don’t…”

“Of course you do. Maybe not here but somewhere. I know how people behave who have nothing to lose and nobody to go back to, to love them, and it’s not the way you act. Spare me your stuttering. Wash yourself already, or I’ll do it for you. I’m getting tired of this banter.”

Khan let go of his slave, grabbed a bar of soap jelly and rubbed his own skin with his hands to clean himself. From the corner of his eye, he watched James do the same after a few moments, and grinned to himself when the man tried to clean his nether regions without his master noticing. All that shamefulness was really adorable.

A few minutes later, Derya returned with the ointment and Khan grabbed James by the collar and pulled him out of the water, so that James had trouble keeping up quickly enough to not break his neck accidentally. While Derya helped Khan to dry himself, James did the same alone, a little awkwardly and very carefully in certain areas. When Derya approached him with the medicine, James insisted on taking care of it on his own. Khan allowed it, but watched the man who squirmed under his gaze, grinning. As Derya massaged some lotion into Khan’s lightly tanned skin, the Augment brushed his fingers through his thick black hair. He even caught James looking, and smiled.

“Derya, what is going on with Cara?”

The sudden tension in the room was tangible. Usually, Derya showed no fear, not even when his master hurt him. But now he seemed to try and recoil as far as possible without seeming too rude.

“Your majesty, General Kumar would like to talk to you about that in the courtroom…”

Khan growled dangerously. “Everyone keeps saying that someone else will tell me! What is wrong?!”

Derya slunk back even more. “She was caught...trying to escape, your highness…”

“WHAT?” Khan screamed, and it echoed back from the polished stone walls so that both James and Derya flinched violently. All the relaxation the bath had brought him was history. The Augment got dressed, fuming, and rushed from the room, shouting to Derya that he was to bring James with him. The two slaves hurried after their master, who stormed through his palace, visibly furious.

 

Jim only had time to put on a pair of new trousers and rush after Khan together with Derya; he knew this was not the moment to anger Khan even more by trying to run away. When they arrived in the courtroom, the Augment was striding towards a middle-aged man who looked like he might be the general. A few metres away, between two guards, knelt a fair-haired, very pretty girl Jim had never seen before. She was sobbing.

“Tell me what is going on, quickly!” Khan demanded.

The general stood at attention. “My lord. Your servant Cara was found at the outer wall this night, where she had obviously tried to climb over to escape.”

Khan growled and turned to the girl, then back to the general. “There’s more. You stink of fear. Tell me!”

The man was indeed sweating and shaking slightly, Jim could see it from where he stood. “She was hurt, so the medics treated her and examined her more closely. She…”

“TELL ME!” Khan thundered, and Jim was surprised that the man did not just run away.

“She is four weeks pregnant, my lord.”

For a moment, Khan’s face fell completely, then, a second later, immeasurable rage distorted his features as he turned around to the girl and snarled. The young woman threw herself down at his feet and began to beg tearfully, but Khan grabbed her by the neck and pulled her up.

“You!” he growled, “You!” He seemed too enraged to say much more, he just shook her like a doll.

The girl grabbed his hands around her neck. “Please, my lord, I beg you…”

“You WHORE!” the Augment screamed, swung her around and hurled her against a wall, hard. “Who was it? Who was it?! I’ll have him gutted and thrown into the streets for the scavengers! And YOU!”

Khan seemed beside himself. He had the same murderous expression on his face as when he had crushed Admiral Marcus’ skull. He did not even seem like the same man that had mocked Jim with his lewd smiles just ten minutes ago. This face was terrifying, there was nothing human in it. Jim knew he should move and do something, but he felt like he was frozen to the spot where he was standing.

“NOBODY BETRAYS ME! NOBODY CHEATS ON ME! AND NOBODY EVER GETS AWAY FROM ME IF I DON’T WANT IT! NOBODY!”

“Please, my lord, please!”

“Tell me who it was! NOW!”

“My lord, the child, please…”

“It will die with you! I’ll have no such vermin in my palace! You will tell me who made that thing and if you do it quickly, you’ll have a quick death. I’ll get the name from you before you die, I don’t care how!”

The woman had begun to wail in terror, and Khan let her go, so that she fell to the ground hard. “I want the name!” Still crying noisily, the girl shook her head. Khan crouched next to her and pulled her head up by her hair so that her tear-stained face was visible, but his whisper was still very audible. “Tell me, is he worth dying a slow and painful death? Do you think you can protect him if you don’t tell me? We’ll read the DNA of the thing inside you and have the name sooner or later. No?” he asked, when the girl still shook her head. He grabbed her hair harder and smashed her head onto the floor, and Cara screamed.

“Do you love him?” Khan shouted. “Did you think you could be with him? Raise that bastard inside you? You are just a bitch among many in this household, and the only place where you will go is the afterlife! Whores like you never get to love! Nobody loves you or ever has! When your father sold you to this palace, did you think you’d find love here? Hope you’d ever be a wife and mother?” The Augment slammed the girl’s head onto the floor again, and Jim closed his eyes for a second, until he heard a knife being drawn and could no longer look away. Wide eyed, still unable to move, he watched as Khan turned back from the guard he had taken the weapon from, back to Cara, who curled up on the floor, but had no chance when Khan picked her up and pressed her against the wall.

“Tell me who fucked you.”

“Please, have mercy, my lord! I’ll do anything…”

“Tell me who fucked you!” Khan repeated, and put the knife to her eyebrow.

“Spare my baby, I beg you!” the girl kept pleading but Khan only seemed to tighten his grip.

“I will not spare any of you! Tell me his name!”

The scream Cara let out when Khan pressed the blade into her flesh and dragged it down very slowly made Jim feel sick. Even Derya, next to him, who never seemed to budge when Khan showed his cruel side, was looking down at his hands instead of the scene before them. Jim took a shaky step forward, but Derya stopped him with surprising strength and shook his head.

“He’ll kill you instantly if you interrupt now, and she’d die regardless,” the slave whispered urgently.

As if in a dream, Jim stopped and kept staring at the nightmarish scene before him. He was not fully sure that he was even there, it felt so surreal and his body felt so numb.

Khan stopped his hand when he reached the jaw, but kept the blade pressed down. Cara was shrieking and writhing in the Augment’s firm grip, but Khan did not move one bit. Her face was dripping with blood. It formed a cruel pattern on her white dress and Khan’s exposed arm.

“The name.”

When the woman did not speak, he moved the blade downwards, still cutting, over her jaw and neck, her clavicle and cleavage, through the fabric of her dress, until he reached her left breast.

“I want the name !”

Jim could see that the woman was not even capable of uttering a word anymore, she had obviously succumbed to sheer and utter terror and was just wailing like a wounded animal. Khan moved his hand and sliced through the side of her breast, and Jim cowardly turned his head away for a moment. From the corner of his eye, he saw that this time, Khan had stopped the blade over the woman’s belly. Blood was streaming from the long cut and the dress the woman wore was tattered and soaked with it down to the floor. Khan did not even ask this time, only waited a few more seconds before he started to press the knife’s tip to the skin over Cara’s uterus. He must have seen the girl move her lips because he put her down a little and relaxed his grip around her throat. She only spoke two words and Jim almost missed them altogether because she was capable of no more than a whisper.

“Captain...Sohrab.”

Jim heard the others in the room draw in audible breaths, and Khan’s face twisted into the most abhorrent smile Jim had ever seen.

“He’ll be right behind you,” he said, and with a twist of his hand, the knife sank deep into the girl’s belly. She screamed, but a moment later, Khan let go of the dagger in her flesh, grabbed her head and twisted it sideways, and she fell silent immediately. Her lifeless, mutilated body, streaming with blood, fell to the floor when Khan let go. Jim pressed his lips together and tried to breathe evenly. He felt like he might throw up any second.

Meanwhile, Khan turned to his general.

“Find Sohrab and bring him here.”

The man bowed without an answer, motioned to one of the guards to follow him and ran from the room.

As soon as they were out the door, Khan went to the other guard.

“Give me your DNA scanner.”

The man hastily handed over a little gadget that Jim vaguely remembered seeing when Khan’s soldiers had picked him up in the desert. Khan took it. He went over to the dead girl and knelt beside her, holding the knife like a scalpel now, and Jim could not bring himself to watch when he finally grasped what Khan was going to do, he looked away. He could not, however, shut out the sounds of flesh being opened up. After a few minutes, he heard an electronic beeping sound and dared to look in the general direction where Khan was standing again, frowning at the little black thing in his hand while it whirred until there was another beep, probably for confirmation that it was done with whatever it did. Khan nodded and handed the device back to the guard, who looked a little green in the face.

“It really is Captain Sohrab’s. You’re witness, soldier.”

“Yes, your majesty, I see it. I would never have thought…”

Khan held up one bloodied hand, and his voice sounded angry again, but Jim could hear that he was trying to control his temper. “Don’t speak. I don’t want to hear anything.”

While they waited in silence for the general to come back, Khan paced back and forth, shooting dark glances from time to time, once or twice to Jim himself. To Jim’s own surprise, he was horrified of what had just happened here, but not directly afraid. Khan had not acted violently towards anyone else, not even the people who had delivered the message, not to the general whose command the man most likely worked under, none of them. As headless as his rage had seemed, he had not abused anyone but the guilty party, and had even checked if her words were true before he did anything to the accused captain.

When the general came back with the second guard and a young man who was likely Captain Sohrab, Jim could see that the captain had no idea what was about to happen. Only when he noticed and recognized the dead body on the floor (which, despite the disfigurement, seemed to go pretty quickly), the man froze. Khan nodded to the general to lock the door and stood before the captain, back ramrod straight, hands clasped over his tailbone.

“You slept with Cara, Sohrab. And as if that would not be blasphemic enough, you made a child with her, too.”

Jim pitied the now shaking man to no end, even more so when it became apparent from his face that he had not known anything about the pregnancy. He did not try to deny anything, and Khan gave him no time, either.

“You know it’s forbidden to touch my concubines. They’re here for me only, for nobody else. How long has this been going on?” His voice was deadly calm.

The man still seemed shaken, but he tried his best to answer. “We met four months ago, your highness. But I only touched her this one time, I swear.” His voice sounded dead somehow.

Khan growled. “You don’t deny that you committed that crime? That you betrayed my trust in you?”

“No, sir.”

“You’re aware that what you did was high treason?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you know how high treason is punished?”

The man closed his eyes and lowered his head. “Yes, sir.”

Khan motioned to the general, who stepped forward and gave the Augment a weapon that Jim recognized as a gun. Old fashioned, for Jim’s standards, but obviously still common in these days.

The emperor made the man kneel with a touch of his hand and held the weapon to Sohrab’s temple. When he spoke, he sounded grim. “Sohrab Kabir, I hereby sentence you to death for high treason and lese majeste. Any last words?”

The man looked up at Khan with a pleading look in his eyes. “Spare my family, emperor, please.”

Khan hissed as if he felt insulted. “I have no reason to punish your family for your misdeeds. Nothing will happen to them.”

The man nodded and stared straight ahead. Jim had to give him that, the man was trembling, but all in all still remarkably calm. Or perhaps he was just in shock, really.

“Was she worth it?” Khan asked, very quietly.

Sohrab looked up and Jim saw a spark of defiance and pride in his eyes. “Yes.”

The Augment nodded, as if that was the answer he had wanted to hear. Without another word, he pulled the trigger, the man jerked once and fell to the ground, just a few metres from the dead girl.

Khan gave the gun back to General Kumar, who stored it safely away in his belt.

“Take them to the hydrolysis chamber and dissolve them. Inform Sohrab’s family of what happened. I doubt you’ll find Cara’s but you can try. And you two,” he said, turning to Jim and Derya, “clean that up.” Khan walked the few metres to where Jim was standing, who had to check himself to not flinch away. “In case you’ve been wondering what it looks like when I lose my patience with unfaithful people, I hope you got an idea of it now. Learn from it.”

He left, then, and Jim found he looked hollow somehow.

 

The guards thankfully took care of the bodies while Jim and Derya went to get some cleaning equipment. Only when they were alone, scrubbing the tiled floor clean of the pools of blood and other things he did not want to think about, did Jim find his voice.

“How...how did he know right away that the child was not his? If she’s his concubine, couldn’t it have been his own…”

“She has not been with our Lord for over two months. Apart from that...the master cannot father children,” Derya said hesitantly, as if he did not know if he was saying too much.

Jim’s mouth fell open. “He can’t? Why?”

“I don’t know for sure, nobody really knows, but there are many rumors. Some say he is not human enough anymore, a few say it was the Augmentation process itself that did it. I’ve heard someone say that with the right medical procedure, he could well be able to, again. But I don’t know anything about medicine. The caste I come from would simply say he is cursed.” Derya shrugged.

Jim frowned at those explanations. “Augmentation process? I thought he was...I don’t know...born like that. Made like that.” Khan had said on the Enterprise that he was genetically engineered. Jim had often asked himself how that had been done.

Derya looked up, suddenly suspicious. “What are you talking about? Everyone knows Augments aren’t born .”

Jim realised he had made a fundamental mistake and tried to come up with some excuse. “Oh...I don’t know, I just never really...thought about it. That he is...was...actually human once. So how did Khan become...that?”

Derya continued to look at him like he was stupid, but after a few moments he explained nonetheless.

“I can only tell you what everyone in the palace says. As far as I know, his father forced him to go through with the Augmentation when he was nineteen. The old emperor said his son would be a new kind of ruler who would help lead humanity to peace, like other rulers all over the world. They say his majesty refused, since nobody really knew what it would do to each individual, and research had not been going on for too long, only since the nineteen thirties, which is, for such an invasive thing, not enough, they say. It’s said to be a complicated, expensive process with uncertain outcome, but his father would not hear anything of it and forced him to go through with it anyway.”

Derya interrupted his story to wash and wring out the rag he was using to clean the floor.

“After the procedure, well...they say he has not been the same since. Older servants in the palace say that he was a very kind child, but his mother died shortly after giving birth to him and as he grew up, his father took care of his education and development and he ended up being a...very temperamental and often vicious boy. His father was not a very popular ruler in these lands and he taught our lord about leadership qualities . Some say he mistreated the boy until he was like him. After he became an Augment, though, his majesty’s cruelty is said to have doubled and he cannot control his temper and...dark sides, apparently. People like him more than his father because he has brought improvement to many areas of life, but they still fear him because of his temper. You saw him kill, and you felt him on your first night with him. He never shows much regret when he does such things, and he sometimes decides very quickly about someone’s death. Old Mima from the kitchens says the boy she helped bring into this world, the boy she helped raise, was not like that at all.”

The slave stopped again for a moment and pushed a strand of his long hair behind his ear. Jim noticed him blushing ever so slightly.

“When I was young, I used to watch the old emperor’s processions with the other street children. I remember the people cheering the young prince, much more than his father. All of our hopes for betterment rested with him, then. He was a bit older than me but already very handsome and grown-up. I can remember him on his horse that one day.” Derya’s eyes took on a dreamy quality that Jim was not sure he liked. “It was such a huge animal, with its fur painted with a gold and red pattern. His majesty was...fifteen, maybe. But he led the horse so steadily and he looked so regal and strong that people cheered him more than the emperor at the time. His father is said to have hated him for being so popular and I vaguely remember him looking at the master like it, too.”

Jim thought about this story for a while, but then remembered his task and why he was doing it. “He is still nothing but a cruel monster,” he whispered. “What he did to that girl was horrible. What he does to you and me is horrible.”

Derya seemed to want to shake his head but stopped himself. “Jim, I don’t know where you come from but in this country, you would call this execution merciful. It was horrible, yes, but quick. His father would have had them both whipped and bled dry in the sun, and he would have executed both their families, every living relative he would have found, and possibly still more people. Even with the Augmentation, Lord Khan’s violent temper is nothing like his father’s, or other leaders in the world, believe me.”

Chapter Text

That evening, Jim was lying on the low couch in Khan’s bedroom again, and Derya was back in the Augment’s bed.

To Jim’s surprise, Khan did not demand any services from either of them. He did not even talk to them, only stared into space, sometimes scowling, sometimes wearing a completely unreadable expression. There were a few stacks of papers that Khan had brought back that looked like government business and reports, but at long last, he had put them away. Jim doubted somehow that Khan had gotten any work done at all. He just lay there and caressed Derya’s long black hair until the slave fell asleep with Khan’s permission. Jim could not sleep yet, he did not feel safe enough, even though there had been no more fits of rage that Jim knew of, what Khan had done to him yesterday was still too fresh. He only dozed a bit until, in the middle of the night, he heard Khan get up and walk to the doors to his terrace. When he opened his eyes, Khan turned his head and looked at him.

“I thought you’d be tired after the last night was so short for you. I guess I’ll have to try harder to tire you out in the future.” It sounded like the usual mocking banter Khan always used on Jim, but somehow, there was no passion behind the words.

“Your night was not that long, either,” Jim said carefully.

“Ah, you’re finally afraid of me,” Khan observed, and showed a tiny smile. “Afraid enough to choose your words more carefully.”

“And you look like that is the only thing that made you happy today,” Jim remarked. Khan turned away to look out into the night. “Don’t tell me you regret what you did this morning?”

Khan shook his head. “No, I don’t. I did what I had to. I just wish they had not made me do it.”

Made you... Nobody made you murder them,” Jim protested vehemently.

“Shh! For Sekhmet’s sake, James, spare me!” Khan growled, turning to him, but kept his voice down, actually throwing a glance at Derya’s sleeping form before fixing Jim with an icy stare. “She was my concubine and he was an officer in my army. They both betrayed me. I can’t let people get away with that. I’m the emperor, what do you think people would say about me if I let them live? It was my right and duty to punish them as I did. I don’t regret it. I just would have preferred if she had not been unfaithful in the first place, and if he had not broken the rules and touched her.”

“It was still not right to kill them!” Jim hissed, keeping his voice down as well to let Derya sleep undisturbed, but did not break eye contact.

“James,” Khan groaned and actually rubbed his temples, rolling his eyes as if Jim was the most stupid thing he’d ever encountered. “I really do not know how you come by such ideas. Of course it was right, it was what happens to traitors here. And it is my birthright to judge and punish.”

“Just because you have the right does not mean it is right ,” Jim insisted.

Khan remained silent for a while and stared out the window, chin in hand as if in deep thought, the other hand holding his elbow in front of his chest. After a few long minutes, he spoke again.

“Did you know your father?”

Jim looked up. “W-what?” he sputtered, and Khan nodded.

“I thought not. You’re too soft,” the Augment said dismissively.

“Well, I suppose you didn’t know your mother then. You’re too cold-hearted,” Jim shot back without thinking.

Khan scowled at him for some time, then he actually smiled. “You are a passionate one. It annoys me that I will never get to see that side of you in bed.” Khan moved towards Jim and touched his cheek almost reverently, but Jim pulled away as usual. Khan took the insult stoically this time. “I could force you to enjoy it, but never with your heart and soul. You will always fight me, won’t you? Even if I break you, you will never want me the way Derya does,” he murmured thoughtfully.

Jim threw the Augment a cold look. “Correct. What is going on, Khan? One lover down, and now you are worried about being lonely?”

“Don’t be silly. I am always lonely, James, even when people are with me,” Khan said in a bored tone. “And she was not my lover, she was a concubine. They keep you company, they entertain you, they fulfill your needs, they give you a brief bit of pleasure. That is all.”

“How is that different from what Derya is? And what you seem to see in me?” James asked.

“You are slaves, you are there for everything. You work, you are servants that I own, and I can do with you what I want, beat you, kill you, mount you. My concubines don’t work, they are only there to see to my sexual needs, they have a bit of a higher status and a better life, I guess. They may move freely throughout the palace and grounds, and they get a bit of a monthly allowance to spend how they wish. And I never hit them. If they have to be disciplined, there are other means. Compared to you or other slaves, they live in luxury.”

“But they are not free to go, I guess.”

“No. Nobody leaves without my consent. Theoretically, concubines would be allowed to leave eventually, but mine were all sold to this palace by their families. You see, James, I am not the only one who can make an overly moral man such as you cringe. The world is full of humans who care nothing about the lives of others, who kill and rape and torture completely unchecked.” There was a short moment of silence before Khan continued, his voice even quieter.

“When I was younger, I thought I could actually change something for the better. How foolish I was. Humans do not want enough for everyone, they want more for themselves. The Augments were supposed to make a difference. But all you humans do is whine all the time how bad life is and how cruel our leadership, while we try to juggle the last remaining resources of this world that you yourselves have ruined and try to keep losses as small as possible. You accuse us of violence and are even worse yourselves, you don’t obey even the most sensible rules and laws, you keep violating and murdering each other. You yell that you want everyone to be equal and then hiss when you are supposed to live with a little less so others can have at least the basic necessities. Nothing will ever change this world for the better as long as it is populated by humans who have free will. Because free will is in humanity’s way. Freedom is always just the freedom to make life miserable for others. One for all, but more for me, that is humanity’s maxim. Free humans are not afraid of anything, they fear no punishment, and without the fear of punishment, you are capable of atrocities that…” Khan checked himself and a brief, sad smile flew across his face. “Listen to me, I am talking to a slave, who understands nothing.”

“You think I understand nothing about how the world works?” Jim snapped, checking himself in the last moment before he could say that he was not a fucking Captain for nothing.

“Obviously, or you’d know that morals are not the way to live long here. Humans are a violent race, by nature. I control over a fourth of them. If I let them destroy themselves I might be able to contribute my bit to saving this planet. Imagine, James, what the world would look like without humans. A green jungle full of life and no malice far and wide, no greed, no politics.”

Jim gaped at that explanation. “You...you would wipe out the human race?”

Khan laughed quietly. “They don’t need me for that. Sadly. I think I’d enjoy it very much. It’s either that or somebody has to invent a button you can press and all humans who have a shred of evil in them drop dead.” Khan sighed, seemingly lost in thoughts.

Jim shook his head. “Would you put down a dog just because it does not obey you? Do you hate humanity so much that you would kill us all? What have humans ever done to you?”

The look Khan suddenly gave him made Jim’s blood freeze; he growled and bared his teeth as if Jim had mortally insulted him. “Shut your mouth! All your talking only shows that you know nothing about nothing !” He was not keeping his voice down now.

Jim was so perplexed about the sudden rage in Khan’s eyes that he did, indeed, shut up promptly, and moved away tentatively, back to the wall. But that did not seem to appease the Augment this time; he had turned towards his slave and now took a few steps forward. “You talk too much anyway. Every sentence that comes out of your mouth is too much. And your ideas of how the world should work are preposterous. A good slave should not even think about other things than his duties.” With a snakelike movement, Khan grabbed Jim by the throat and pulled him up from the bed. “If you don’t know your place by now I shall have to teach you! Over and over and over again!”

Desperately struggling for breath, Jim grabbed the Augment’s wrist. “Khan, please…”

I told you not to call me that!” Khan shouted, and shook him. “What do you do with a dog that does not obey, James? Do you pet it and let it be, for the sake of its free will? Or do you train it? You talk like you could solve the world’s problems by being nice and honourable. You call me cold-hearted.” Khan hissed. “I am what I am, James, and nobody loves me for it and nobody will and I don't care. Compassion and forgiveness are not part of my vocabulary, and kindness and honour get you nowhere in this wretched world. You, for sure, won’t be the white knight who turns things around.” The Augment pulled him closer, so that they were eye to eye. “ You are nothing but a little rat, and I am your master, whether you like that or not! And you will serve me well and honour me and treat me like a slave treats his master, and you will respect me and keep your mouth shut, do you hear me! And you will NOT call me by my name!”

The grip around Jim’s throat was so powerful that the blond man saw black spots dancing before his eyes as the blood flow was inhibited. He tried to pry Khan’s fingers from his skin.

“Kh...master…”

To Jim’s surprise, the pressure lessened a bit and he tried to breathe evenly. Only now did he become aware that he was sandwiched between the wall and Khan’s half-naked body. He could feel the Augment’s fast heartbeat against his own chest. His stomach jumped, partly with fear, partly with a sensation that felt a lot like embarrassment, and shame, at the memory of what had happened the night before. He squirmed, but that only made it worse. Khan’s eyes locked with his, and for a second, Jim saw such a desperate emptiness - loneliness - in them that he almost forgot who was holding him by the throat here. The Augment looked kind of manic, too.

For another second, Khan just stared, then his gaze swept to Jim’s lips and back, and then his mouth was on Jim’s, and all the resentment and disgust came rushing back to him. He struggled to turn his head away to break the kiss. When Khan felt what Jim was doing, he growled and let go, but slapped his human slave hard across the face, obviously very irritated by Jim’s rejection.

“I should show you your place for refusing me, slave!” Khan hissed and threw Jim down on his bedstead with one powerful movement, but did not follow after him. Jim waited in fear for the Augment to come after him, to kneel on the bed and force himself on Jim again to teach him a lesson, but all that happened was that Khan hit him yet again, and then turned to stomp out onto the terrace. Wide-eyed, Jim watched as Khan climbed the stone banister and jumped, vanishing from view.

“What the fuck?” he whispered.

“He went out for a run.”

The blond man jumped a bit. “Derya. You’re awake?”

The slave sat up in bed and wrapped the light blue silk blanket around his torso like a woman would to hide her breasts. Not for the first time, Jim noticed that Derya had, indeed, a bit of a female chest that would even have been enticing to him, had he not been living in constant fear here.

“I cannot afford anything but a light sleep. Waking quickly can mean the difference between life and death. Plus, you were quite loud in the end, it was absolutely impossible to sleep any more.”

Jim did not answer directly, he only looked to the windows again. “What did you mean, he went for a run?”

“In the gardens,” Derya explained.

“The gardens are a good, what, sixty feet below! Twenty metres,” Jim corrected himself when Derya stared at him uncomprehendingly.

The slave shrugged and rubbed his startlingly blue eyes, looking very un-lady-like. “That is no height for our master. His bones and joints can take a much bigger strain than a human’s.”

“Hm. And why does he go for a run? It must be around three in the morning,” Jim pondered.

Derya smiled and combed through his black hair. He somehow looked like a cat washing itself, and Jim smiled back briefly.

“He sometimes does that when he is angry, it is the only form of anger management he seems to have. He likes to run.”

“I’m impressed that he likes anything ,” Jim remarked in a sarcastic voice, but Derya shook his head as if the blond was a stupid boy.

“I know our master often gives the impression - wants to give the impression - that he does not have anything so trivial as...hobbies. But he does like to run and do all kinds of physical activities. Things that come in handy in combat. Or sex, of course, you’ll have noticed that he does that like a mere exercise sometimes. He is also quite fond of animals.”

Jim blinked. “Animals? Oh, you mean like the cats that are everywhere and jump into his bed sometimes?”

Derya nodded. “Animals are more precious to him than any human on this earth. The stable boys sometimes complain that the horses eat and live better than they do.”

“Why do you have horses here, anyway? Aren’t they...you know...a little outdated in this day and age?”

Derya’s face made it clear that Jim had yet again demonstrated that he was not from around here. “Horses save fuel and they create jobs with the whole industry around them. Fuel is rare and expensive in every part of the world, I thought.”

Jim looked away. “Sure it is. I just thought...since he is the emperor, he would use more modern means…”

“The emperor does not ignore the fuel shortage just because he is rich,” Derya stated matter-of-factly.

Jim snorted. “He’s got some morals, then. He just doesn’t give a shit about people.”

“You should not talk like that, it can cost you your head if the wrong people hear that.”

“And you? You heard me.” Jim cocked his head to the side and threw his colleague a questioning look.

Derya pressed his lips together and frowned. “I am not the type of person to betray others and bring them trouble. Unless it is something vital that could put my master in danger. Or me, by not telling.”

“Like what happened with Cara? Would you have told on her?”

“Of course not, unless it could have been expected of me and proven that I knew. Which I did not. I only knew that she used to be very interested in our master, even seemed to hope that she might one day be his wife, the silly girl. She tried to win him for herself, but when she understood the master’s indifference she only did for him what they all do: their duty. His majesty then lost interest in her even more, because he did not feel very...welcome in her bed. It usually does not stop him from taking anyone but I think deep down, it does hurt his pride. I think nobody ever particularly wanted him, and he hates that, and so he uses his power to justify that he takes what he wants without asking.”

Jim was astonished that the slave had obviously given this a good bit of thought. “You want him, though, am I right?” he said in a low voice, trying not to sound accusing.

Derya looked away. “A slave does not want.”

Jim sighed. “Derya, you can tell me. If anyone knows that a slave is only human, it is me. I hate that role and I will never accept it. You want Khan, you’re positively crushing on him. You told me you love him.”

Derya’s head snapped up and his blue eyes found Jim’s. He looked furious and afraid. “As a slave loves his master!”

“I think it’s a bit more than that.”

“It’s not my place!”

“...and I think it might even be more for him,” Jim continued matter-of-factly.

Derya’s eyes got even more round and scandalised. “His majesty deserves much better than me, and suggesting that it is even thinkable… It is like suggesting that he should marry his horse!”

“What if he wants you, too?” Jim persisted.

“He wouldn’t. I am nothing.”

“You are his favourite.”

“He has a lot of favourite pets of many races, I am merely one of them and I should be grateful for that. I am!”

“He threatens others with death if they hurt you, I think you are more to him than a pet.”

“Stop it!” Derya shook his head and actually put his hands over his ears. “Don’t talk about such things! Stop at once!”

Jim held up his hands. Maybe he had overdone it a bit. “Okay! Calm down! I’ll shut up.”

The other one seemed to relax a bit, but still threw Jim a pleading look as he let his hands fall into his lap. “Jim, the only way I can be happy here is by knowing my place and not daydreaming about what could be. Do you understand? Thoughts like the ones you speak out loud are not only forbidden, they are poison.” Slowly, the slave picked up the blanket again and covered his naked chest once more, and it looked unusually shy and somehow adorable.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you angry or sad. I’m just not used to thinking like this, to follow orders blindly,” Jim said in a hopefully calming tone.

Derya looked at him sharply. “I wonder where you grew up. Where you came from. What place is there on this earth where you don’t have to be careful what you think and say? Where you don’t have to obey orders?”

Jim grinned, but it was tinged with sadness. “I should obey some orders. I’m not good at it, though, and, granted, I’ve been punished for it but not in a way that would have my life in danger.”

“Your ruler must be very lenient.”

Jim nodded but said nothing. He had probably said too much already.

When his colleague said nothing more, Derya burrowed back into the silk sheets and gave off something that sounded very much like an exhausted huff. Jim settled down again as well, and finally managed to fall asleep now that Khan was not here.


Khan jogged around the gardens for over an hour, scaring a few guards on the way.

It felt good to exercise his muscles and not think too much about James, although after some time, Khan noticed that that was exactly what he was doing. James was a slave unlike any other, fearless and outrageous and one of the most exciting humans he had ever met. It was strange, but Khan enjoyed the banter as much as the attempts to break the man, enjoyed both his strength and his weakness. The way he called him ‘master’ made him shiver with want, and the fact that he did it so rarely should have enraged him more than it excited him. He felt like he had finally found a perfect set of slaves; Derya was soothing water, and James was a raging fire. Derya would yield to him in the most pleasant ways, and James’s struggling was exhilarating. Before James came to him, Khan had wanted hardly anything more than Derya’s devotion and dedication to his master and the task of satisfying him. Now, he wanted James’ devotion and dedication, his longing and his pride, his lust and his breathless moans. Taking him by force had been sweet, an unusual challenge, and he would do it again at the next chance, after James’ body had had a bit more time to heal.

But the mere image of James under him when he wanted him, responding to his touch and moving eagerly... it made Khan weaker than he would have liked to admit. His own lust was great, and mostly, his concubines managed to fake it enough to make it reasonably enjoyable for their master. And Derya had learned to enjoy servicing him, if his devotion was anything to go by. His body reacted wonderfully to him, not only did he not struggle, he also showed signs of definite, genuine arousal when he was with him. Not always, granted, but mostly. It did not matter if Derya cried in the end, or while his master was inside him… But there was simply - sadly - no substitute for real reciprocal lust. Khan often told himself that he did not need that, and mostly, he was doing fine without. But there was no doubt that in some cases, he missed it, the passion, the sight and sounds of a willing partner.

Before, James had been sort of...breathless when they had been pressed together, and Khan had heard his quickening pulse, but the kiss had obviously been unwelcome. Khan hated being unwelcome, he had never gotten used to it even though he had been unwelcome all his life. It made him angry, even more so when there had been such a small moment of hope for him that James felt the strange magnetism, too. But on the other hand, the slave had made it abundantly clear that he hated his new master, and that he’d fight him, always fight him, that he’d never forgive him for last night. That Khan would never be welcome. It made Khan even more angry, and when he was angry, he tended to take what he wanted by force, just to show that he did not need to be welcome, to show that he had the power.

Khan shook his head. The embarrassing situation with Cara must have wounded him more than he had initially thought. A woman had cheated on him, a woman who had not wanted him at all for the last few months. Khan could deal, if badly, with not being wanted, but he refused to let anyone cheat on him. Even worse, she’d been pregnant with another man’s child .

Khan did not care much for children, and he did not want any, either. He knew that giving his empire an heir was the logical thing to do, but apart from the fact that he was not very keen on passing on his violent genes, he also had the feeling that the world would change so drastically before he himself had the chance to die and leave his throne to someone else, that his empire would not need an heir. Also, he still shied away from the idea of children after what had happened in his youth. When he had been made an Augment, they had told him (afterwards) that it might lead to sterility, which had been a shock to him at first. The way he had found out that he was not , in fact, sterile, had been when his concubine at the time had told him that she was actually pregnant with his child. And Khan’s father had also heard of it, not a day later.

Officially, she had miscarried and died in the process. Khan, since he was still only the prince at twenty, and not yet the emperor, had been forced to bend to his father’s will, and had to undergo another medical procedure, a vasectomy, that would only be reversed when Khan got properly married. If Khan got married. The memory of his father’s reaction to the whole story was still vivid in Khan’s mind, and every time he thought about it he unconsciously touched his shoulders, rubbing scars that were not there anymore. To make a concubine, barely more than a whore, pregnant, had been an atrocity for his overly religious father. Religious, as long as it suited him. Even though Khan had been allowed one concubine and a few slaves, the emperor had done everything to prevent his heir from having children before he was married. Fathering a child, outside of marriage, and with a woman of no standing, too...this had not sat well with the old emperor. He had decreed long ago that his son would marry the daughter of an important ally and then they’d be allowed to have children, and that was that.

Khan still cringed at the memory of the punishment he had gotten for this whole affair. He rubbed his hand over his neck and shoulder blade again.

The only time when the emperor had punished his son even harder than after the story with the unwanted baby had been when he had heard that Khan slept with men, too. There had been no greater sin than men lying with men, or anything that did not suit the emperor’s idea of ‘natural order’. People like Derya had been shot down in the streets. Same-sex relations had been punished with public torture and social humiliation. Those laws concerning sexuality and gender were among the first Khan had changed radically when he came to power, but the old ideas still stuck with the older people. It would probably take one or two more generations for such things to vanish from people’s heads.

Khan sighed and entered his palace through the garden gate, climbed the hidden spiralling staircase and came out in a corner of his balcony. A light drizzle had begun to fall that would hopefully announce the rainy season. Times had been tough, and mostly, dry for these lands, and harvests were not going well. A few years more of this drought and half the population would starve. As much as Khan hated humans as such, he had sworn to be a caring ruler. He wished death on humanity, but not actually on the people he had sworn to shepperd. Caring for them was what he was for. He could not abandon that post.

When he entered his bedroom through the terrace doors, he noticed that Derya must have moved a great deal, probably he had been awake and talked to James. The blond slave was still on his couch, of course. Large bruises had begun to bloom where Khan had hit him in his anger. They went well with the many other bruises that decorated his body from the night before.

In his sleep, James looked beautiful, and Khan felt the sudden urge to break his neck. The tousled yellow hair, so uncommon in this part of the world, reminded the Augment painfully of his first lover, a boy he had grown up with, although he had been a slave boy, born in the palace. A boy he would have considered a friend if he’d been allowed to. They had spent a completely unplanned, frankly mind-blowing night together, and the morning after, his father had shot the boy. Khan had not been allowed to mourn him, because he was a man, and bedding men was sinful, and on top of that, Khan was not supposed to get attached to the ones who merely satisfied his bodily needs, not as the emperor’s son, not as an Augment. The boy’s death had done nothing, however, in terms of correcting Khan’s appetites. Perhaps it had even provoked the contrary.

Although the laps around the gardens had not brought Khan as much peace of mind as he had hoped, he made himself lie down on his bed and closed his eyes. With his heightened senses, he could feel Derya’s body heat. Just as he thought about how he longed to reach out without feeling too pathetic and human, the slave seemed to respond to his presence even in his sleep, and rolled closer, close enough to touch. He wrapped his arm around the smaller human, breathed in the familiar scent of lilac and allowed himself to doze off.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Jim woke with a start, clinging to the edge of the couch he had slept on.

“Nervous?”

He turned so fast to the voice behind him that he almost twisted his neck. Khan was coming from the bathroom, clad in nothing but black pants that clung to his body in a way that could have been enticing if not for the dark memories the sight inspired. The Augment brought with him a waft of humid air. The sound of running water must have woken Jim.

Jim shook his head to clear it from sleep and nightmares. The light outside was rosy and soft; he could not have slept more than a few hours.

Khan bent down to Jim, who flinched away, feeling startled. With a frown, Khan took Jim’s head in one hand and leaned in more, holding the human in place. At first, Jim struggled as much as he could, but when Khan’s lips touched his, he let himself go limp, pinched his mouth shut and tried to clock out completely.

He felt, more than heard, Khan growl.

“You refused me yesterday, and the day before, and now again. You should be very careful about for how long you want play this part. I get bored easily.”

“I’m not playing, I want you to leave me alone,” Jim spat.

Khan straightened up and slapped Jim almost casually across the mouth before he went into his dressing room as if nothing had happened.

Derya was nowhere to be seen, and Jim guessed that he was busy making breakfast or something like that. Jim sat up, leaning against the cool wall, and waited. There was nothing to do but wait until someone opened the collar with the chain that kept him tied to the wall.

He let his fingers glide across the chainlinks and the collars, one with the chain, one without, one a means to physically restrain him, the other the sign to everyone that he was a slave. They were thin enough to fit both around his neck, but heavy and uncomfortable. Every time Jim tried to stretch his neck and shoulders, the collars were just a little bit too tight to allow him even that bit of freedom. Jim was sure that was deliberate, meant to remind him of his place.

The fresh memory of Khan’s touches made Jim shiver with revulsion and fear. Even though this time, Khan had let himself be pushed away, Jim knew it would happen sooner or later that he would not be able to stop him. The thought frightened him.

Over the next days, however, after the first shock of the first night, Jim discovered that he felt...well, not as bad as he had thought he would. The fear of Khan was there, yes, and any time his ‘master’ came near him, it flared up and left him virtually breathless, but over the course of the rest of each day, he felt more numb than anything else as long as the Augment himself was absent. Jim did not chat with the other slaves and servants as much, and he winced when Khan’s name fell in a conversation, but he saw no signs that he would turn into a teary wreck some time soon, and found that to be a somewhat comforting thought.

Maybe it had been a good thing that Khan had waited before he took him, because even though it had been horrible, Jim had been as prepared as he could have been, mentally, and also physically. Well enough, at least, to let him cope better now.

As a Starfleet captain, Jim had been prepared for all kinds of stressful situations, all kinds of psychologically challenging scenarios. Not for this here, certainly, but he was probably able to cope better with trauma than he would have been without the Academy. And, perhaps, he thought grimly, also without the rough treatment by  his step-father.

Khan spent the next two nights with Derya, and every night he made damn sure Jim was watching them together. Jim was, as usual, somewhat horrified about how much stamina Khan displayed, and tried to make himself as small as possible on his couch, so that Khan would hopefully not get ideas to have a bit more after he was finished with his favourite.

He did notice that Khan was unusually gentle with the other slave, he caressed the human, prepared him patiently, gave him time to get used to the penetration, and his movements were not as brutal as they could have been, as if he did not want to hurt Derya and cared genuinely about his arousal. And Khan’s efforts were rewarded; the slave obviously enjoyed himself more and more. Derya was visibly happy, and Jim was absolutely puzzled, until one night he noticed a second thing, namely that Khan might have seemed to make an effort for Derya, but that he was actually watching Jim while doing so.

Jim understood then that this display of gentleness and caring behaviour was nothing more than another mind-game, and that Khan was using Derya and his arousal to show Jim how good it could feel to yield to him. There was no knowing whether Khan actually believed that making Jim watch when the Augment gave his other slave so much pleasure would make him want it for himself. If he did believe it, he was being plain stupid. Only Jim knew Khan was anything but stupid. This version of Khan might have been much younger, much rawer, and a lot more of a narcissistic ass than the one he had known in the future, but he was still Khan, and Khan always did things for a reason.

 

Jim discovered the reason another two days later.

He had kept refusing Khan, had kept pushing him away whenever he had tried anything, and Khan had slapped him for it, hit him even, but had indeed left him alone in the end. It was far too easy and Jim was almost more frightened by this development than if Khan had just forced himself on him again.

That morning, Jim woke with a start because someone was shaking him roughly by the shoulder. It was a man Jim had not seen before, maybe a soldier, or one of those servants who were less feminine and built for harder work than the household tasks. He would not speak when Jim greeted him tentatively and only opened the collar that chained Jim to the wall. Then he gave him a grey tunic to wear instead of his usual white and fixed something shiny to Jim’s slave collar. Jim could not see it but when he touched it, it felt oddly like a dog tag.

When they left Jim’s room, he found that Khan and Derya were already gone. The stranger brought Jim to a slave bathroom where a few others were already busy washing themselves. Jim noticed that all of them had grey tunics at hand, and tags hanging from their collars. He had never seen these on any other slave, but he noticed, while he showered with the others, that they were different colours, most had bronze, three in the group of maybe fifteen had silvery ones, two had black. Jim would have liked to know what colour his tag was, but there were no mirrors in this bathroom. He would have asked one of the others, but under the stare of the burly man that had brought Jim here, and two others of his kind, the slaves around Jim were absolutely silent. Usually, the bathroom was a place for chit-chat and gossip, but nobody spoke today. Although many seemed gloomy enough, Jim expected that talking was not allowed, and since he did not want to bring trouble on him or any of the others, he, too, kept his mouth shut.

They were ordered to get dressed soon enough, and herded downstairs into the yard, where a group of mules stood waiting. They were surrounded by horses, ten well-groomed animals, all of them jet-black. Their sandy-grey tacks and saddles, short manes and meticulously cut, braided tails marked them as army horses, whose uniform-clad riders were swarming around the yard. Jim and the other slaves were commanded to mount the mules, and two soldiers busied themselves with tying each slave’s hands to the saddle of the mule they were sitting on.

Jim did not like this, whatever it was that was going on, it couldn’t be good. The moment he had finished the thought, he heard hooves on stone paving, and through the gate of the yard came a horse, white as a dove’s wings, carrying the emperor himself, and Jim’s already anxious heart dropped further. Khan’s presence was never a good sign, ever.

The Augment sat in the saddle with the kind of awfully unfair grace he already displayed on two legs, although Jim was struck by the unwelcome thought of how Khan looked like this was his actual element. He moved easily and elegantly with the horse and brought it to a halt without a command or visible gesture of the reins (not that Jim would have known, since horses were a rare and expensive thing in his time that he had only seen once or twice). He was greeted by a servant Jim recognized as something like Sabir’s second in command; he had doled out a few of Jim’s own punishments when the slave overseer had been too busy. Jim had forgotten his name; whenever they had met, Jim had had more pressing problems.

“Ready?” Khan asked, sounding business-like.

“Almost, your highness, as soon as the mules are tied together, we are ready to leave.”

At this moment, Jim jerked when his mule moved forward, pulled by one of the soldiers, and tied to the saddle of one of the soldiers’ horses. Another mule was tied to Jim’s own saddle, then the horse of a soldier, two more mules, and so forth until they formed a long line of eight soldiers and fourteen slaves, plus two soldiers who were perhaps meant as guards. Sabir’s little helper was parading around the group on a dappled grey horse. Khan rode along the line of slaves and soldiers with the air of a merchant inspecting goods, until he said in a barely raised voice that nevertheless carried around the yard:

“Should any of you try to cause problems, you’ll be shot. Keep still and in place and don’t speak unless spoken to. Keep your eyes down. Ignore everyone around you. Open the gate! Move!”

The gate of the yard opened and the small caravan slowly moved through it.

The palace as Jim knew it was surrounded by a bit of gardens and greenery, a high wall, more greenery and beyond that lay the bustling capital of the land Khan called his domain. As they rode through the busy streets, people kept staring at them, and Jim got increasingly worried about where this was heading. Khan was circling the group on his pale horse, and people bowed respectfully to him whenever they became aware of his presence. Jim had half expected the guards to shadow him, but the Augment moved independently and did not seem the least bit worried about his own safety. Jim was internally debating whether this was due to Khan’s massive ego or the soldiers’ rifles when a space opened up in front of them and Jim thought he suddenly understood what exactly was going on. He promptly felt sick and frightened, and vaguely thankful that he was tied to his mule or he might have fallen off.

All around what seemed to be a huge market square were people, obviously buying and selling...other people.

The slave market stretched on as far as Jim could see in the dust that permeated the hot air. Pitiful creatures were standing or cowering in groups, bound with ropes or chains, men, women, children, many half or completely naked, some clean, some dirty and grimy, some scarred or even bloodied, some groomed and adorned with flattering clothes.

Jim’s heart started to hammer against his ribcage. Khan wanted to sell him! Had he really exhausted Khan’s good mood that far? Jim should perhaps have been delighted to get away, but as he eyed the people around him, it dawned on him that life behind the palace walls had been easy - and a lot healthier - compared to the lives of the poor souls that were being traded here. Plus, his communicator was still in the palace, and if there was even a meagre chance that his crew might find him by tracking it down, he needed to stay close to it. If Khan sold him, he’d be absolutely lost!

The arrival of Khan’s caravan was noticed immediately by those closest to them, and people came closer, closer than Jim liked, for that matter. The caravan slowed down and the soldiers unfastened the ropes so that each soldier had only two mules attached to their horse, to make moving around in the masses easier. Khan, although staying close, began to eye what other traders had to offer. Slavers yelled offers and questions at the Augment or Sabir’s henchman. When the first few traders came up to Jim and began to touch him, Jim tried to kick them, but one of Khan’s soldiers whacked him across the back with his gun, so Jim tried to keep his panic at bay and let the men feel him up. After two dozen or so metres into the market, the group halted by the pitch of a mean-looking man.

“Your royal highness, such an honour,” the man boomed and bowed. “I hope you are as well as ever.”

“Ashur,” Khan greeted gruffly, nodding.

“Just selling today or buying, too, your majesty?”

“Both, if something catches my eye.” The Augment looked over to the slaves the man had obviously brought with him. “But selling only, to you, I estimate. Unless you have some surprise you are not yet displaying.”

The creatures chained to a rough peg in the ground were of the pitiful and dirty kind, mostly women. They had a wild look in their eyes, all of them, and Jim asked himself if they had been drugged for this ordeal. It seemed likely.

“Ah, I am afraid  this is all I have this time, perhaps not worthy of your time, highness. Just leftovers, you might say. But I see you have a surprise with you,” the man said, and stared directly at Jim. “Blond...white...and somewhat pretty. And cheap, too! It must be some sort of trouble-maker then, I assume?”

Jim perked up. Cheap? How would this asshole know how much he would cost?

“Quite. His spirit is not yet broken, you could make good money with this one if you...marketed him right.” Somehow, Khan’s smirk was not at all encouraging.

“Oh, one for the chains, then,” Ashur smirked back, and came closer to Jim. “Experienced?”

“Let’s say, broken in. Enough for what you will need him for.”

“Hm. Might I see him?”

“He’ll stay where he is, you can see his upper body if you want,” Khan answered, and after the man had nodded, gave a sign to one of his soldiers, who came up behind Jim and pulled his tunic over his head. Jim protested and received another blow with a rifle.

“No scars whatsoever. Completely unharmed,” Khan boasted, and Jim felt bile rising in his throat.

Ashur chuckled when Jim struggled moodily against his bonds and the tunic around his arms. “And feisty. Is that why you want to be rid of him?”

Khan smiled evilly at Jim when he answered the man. “He just won’t behave. I don’t have time for a slave who does not behave. But I know some of your clients pay good money to have someone like that. I can personally assure you, he is very enticing when he struggles. But you see, I am a very busy man…”

“Of course, of course, your highness. I see. Very generous of you to think of my humble establishment to send him to,” the man said in a slimy, submissive tone and bowed before eyeing Jim again. But Khan interjected.

“I am, of course, not offering him only to you. I will see what market value he has, first. Mohit here will take your offer and contact you when the bidding has begun. He is, after all, a fine and rare specimen and not a kitchen slave.”

“Of course, your majesty,” the man said, although Jim could see that he was trying to hide the disappointment he must have felt when he heard that.

Khan clicked his tongue, and the mules and horses moved forward once more while Sabir’s little helper, Mohit obviously - yes, that rung a bell somehow, Jim thought - lagged behind to note down an offer for Jim.

Jim felt worse and worse about this. Not only was it the first time someone had ever offered money for the privilege to own Jim’s body, but naked fear coursed through that body now as well. Khan had told Jim over and over that refusing him would get him into trouble, and obviously, today was volcano day. Khan had not been speaking of punishments, he had spoken of this here; selling Jim to someone else, someone who looked like the kind of business man Khan had ‘saved’ Derya from years ago. This here was to show Jim how good his life in the palace really was, just like Derya had told him some time ago. Jim knew it was blatant manipulation, but also seemed horribly accurate now that he was here and facing a man who would very probably not hesitate to offer him to as many clients as he could fit into one day. And if Khan sold him cheap, there would be no regrets if Jim died in the process. The slaves on offer by this man had looked like they never bathed, rarely ate and barely slept at all. Yes, from Jim’s point of view, Khan was treating him hellishly, but these times seemed to have worse things on offer. Blatant manipulation, but not less true because of that.

Nobody bothered to get Jim’s tunic back into place and so the relentless sun burned down on him while he was being paraded around the market place. All the other slaves that were with them were sold one by one or in small groups of two or three. Obviously, for them, the price was agreed on right then and there. Some of the faces that left them now he had seen somewhere around the palace, they were household slaves, for cleaning or cooking. Jim wondered what they had done to be sold here today. Some of them accepted their fate with the stoicism of someone who has been bought and sold multiple times. One young girl was crying silently when she dismounted her mule and joined the elderly woman who had bought her. Maybe she was leaving friends behind, maybe she was just afraid of the unknown.

Jim stayed with the group, though. Many interested potential buyers looked him over, felt him up, checked his teeth, even, as if he was some animal. Mohit noted their offers and then they were off so the game could begin again. Jim had at least learned by now that the grey tunics signified that they were for sale, and the tag on the collars indicated the price group. The bronze tags had scored a three-digit price, the silvery tags a four-digit price. The black ones were obviously the lowest, and the prices had sounded low even to Jim, who had no idea of the monetary system in Khan’s country. Jim still did not know for sure, but he expected, from the contemplating looks he got from men who did not look like they had the kind of money to afford a silver tag or even a bronze one, that his tag was black. To others on the market, the system with the tags seemed to be known, anyway.

Jim’s back and arms were burned and red by what must have been early afternoon. They had circled the enormous market now, and Khan, who had been riding ahead of the group, came back to talk to Mohit.

Jim noticed that they had not bought anyone. Maybe they did not need any new slaves at the palace at the moment, or nobody had caught Khan’s eye. Many had tried, though, especially sellers of what looked like very expensive concubines, had pleaded with the emperor to have a closer look at the men and women, or sometimes, to Jim’s horror, girls and boys, they were selling. Khan had not graced any of the offered children with a second look, and next to none of the exotic creatures around the market had held his interest for more than a few seconds. Once he had stopped his horse and looked at a girl with milky white skin and long hair that was so blond it was practically white. She was beautiful, but the smile she gave Khan when her seller instructed her to do so seemed very forced. Khan scowled at that, but nevertheless asked Mohit to place an offer for her. Obviously, she too was one of those who were sold to the highest bidder, not the first one.

Overall, it was a gruelling experience for Jim, being offered and probed like this, and seeing fellow slaves’ fates, which were not very pretty to say the least. Blatant. Manipulation.

But Jim knew, he was not ready to be a personal slave for Khan but he was even less ready to be a cheap whore for god-knew what kind of people. Plus, of course, he had to stay in the palace as long as he could while there was still a chance. If there was any chance to not be sold, he would take it. He had to try, at least. So for the first time since they had met, Jim decided to swallow his pride.

When Khan’s horse was next to him at some point, Jim tried to talk to the Augment.

“Master?” The title was bitter on Jim’s tongue, but he knew that was probably the best way to move Khan to look at him and listen. And obviously he was right, as Khan turned his head and looked at him.

“What?”

“Please don’t sell me.”

The Augment stared at him with an unreadable expression. “And why wouldn’t I?”

Jim bowed his head before Khan in a submissive gesture, even though everything in him screamed that this was humiliating. But it was necessary. He did not know what else he could communicate, except that he did not want to be sold. God have mercy on his soul, he wanted to stay with Khan. For now at least. Anything, anything but what he saw around him on this market everywhere.

“Please.”

“Why not?” Khan barked and Jim jerked in the saddle of his mule as if Khan had hit him.

“I will behave, I promise.” Jim dared to lift his head a little and looked around. The way the other slaves were being treated made him sick. “Please.”

Khan did not answer for such a long time that Jim finally lifted his gaze to the Augment’s face. What he saw was...triumph. Satisfaction.

“Finally realised that you wouldn’t last three days in the hands of these people?”

And there the penny dropped. Khan had probably never had the intention to really sell him. He had wanted to frighten him. And had succeeded. That bastard! All of this, just to scare him into obedience! Well, Jim had to concede that it had worked better than any punishment.

While Jim was still contemplating this revelation, Khan suddenly gripped Jim by the hair and pulled him forward until his face was close to Khan’s and he was trying to not fall off his mule and break his bound wrists in the process. The Augment stared into Jim’s eyes and bared his teeth.

“I encourage you to think about this day when you ever feel like misbehaving again.” He yanked on the blond strands as if to emphasize a point. “Be thankful.”

Khan let go and Jim tried to scramble back into his saddle. He hid not ask what he should be thankful for and Khan did not specify. Jim had no intention of being thankful or good, but he did remind himself to be more careful from now on. If he wanted to stay, he had to do something to get on Khan’s good side, if it existed. He shuddered, though, at the thought of what he would have to do. Fuck, he was so screwed. But Jim Kirk did not believe in No-win-scenarios.

Chapter Text

In the days after the market day, every time James crossed his path, Khan could smell the man’s fear. Fear that maybe, maybe… But Khan still held back. He knew what he wanted to do next, and good things were worth waiting for.

One night, Khan decided that it was time for his new approach, and had the two slaves join him on the terrace for dinner. The sun had only just set, and it was still warm outside. It had been a positive day for Khan and he was in comparatively good spirits. Good enough to not send the two slaves themselves to get drinks and sweets. He let a slave girl wait on the three of them; the white-haired one from the auction at the market. He had bought her almost out of boredom, more than out of actual want for a new bed slave. She had arrived a day after market day, but he had not even touched her yet. The girl seemed more than fine with that, and Khan found he was, too. She was compliant and consequently boring. But with one concubine dead, people would expect he chose a new one soon. He’d see whether this one was sophisticated enough to replace the treacherous girl. She was pretty and expensive enough to show off, but she lacked Derya’s gracefulness...and James’ fire.

Khan shared the wine she brought with his two favourites. Both grew a bit bold with the alcohol, even the disciplined Derya, and Khan amused himself by snogging the young one so thoroughly that the slave actually started giggling after a while. Of course, someone like Derya was not used to wine, as it was usually too expensive for people of the lower castes, at least ever since Khan had introduced some strict laws (and obscenely high taxes) for stimulants. The Augment smiled when Derya fell asleep a little while later right on the silk pillows beside his master. He let him sleep and turned his attention to James instead, who had consumed considerably more alcohol than Derya, but also seemed to be able to hold his liquor a bit better. This discovery gave Khan pause for a moment; Joaquin, the leader of the territory where James must have been born, also had prohibition laws in place, and only the richest could afford to drink regularly. So either James was involved in highly illegal procedures or he had access to someone very rich. The Augment made a mental note to follow this thought later.

Since his wine had been very potent, James was continuously shaking his head as if to clear it. Khan knew it had not exclusively to do with the alcohol level of his drink.

“And you, James, my pet? Would you like a kiss or two as well?” the emperor purred seductively, and grinned.

Instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust as he would have done before the day on the market, James grinned back, albeit viciously, and leaned forward. “I’ll never be drunk enough for that.” He snorted and shook his head again, grunting as if he was annoyed with it.

The Augment would not be discouraged by the cheeky reply, if anything, it made him move close enough to make James retreat clumsily.

“Don’t be too rude, James, you swore you would do better from now on. Besides, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. I could make you feel better than anyone else ever has, if you only were compliant.” He said it like the fact that it was, without boasting, but added a bit more of a purr to his voice when he continued: “You must be growing impatient by now.”

Khan had been drilled to analyse all people, and had guessed from the beginning that James was usually a very outgoing man when it came to sex. It showed in the way he talked to certain people, the way he moved around attractive women, in small reactions to certain actions in the bedroom.

“Impatient?” James slurred, took another big gulp of wine and then leaned back into the pillows, staring at the sky with a strange longing, acting as if there was no Augment scooting closer.

“Yes. You miss sex,” Khan explained and settled in right next to his slave, whose head lolled aimlessly from left to right now, as if shaking it would only make it worse.

“Yeah, kinda, but the kind that involves anyone but you,” James declared, turning his head away and squeezing his eyes shut a few times.

Khan laughed a pleasant, charming laugh. “Of course, James. You’d never admit it to yourself, would you?”

“Admit what?” the slave asked, frowning, and turned back to Khan, who had come so close in the meantime that the blond man actually jerked back a bit, albeit a little sluggishly. Khan closed the distance again and pressed the length of his body to James’. He wore only a silk cloth draped around his hips like a shendyt, and his tunic was hanging open. He did not need clothes to keep him warm and had planned on being naked soon, anyway. Khan could feel goosebumps forming on James’ skin and smiled to himself. Things would work out in his favour this time. The Augment leaned over the smaller man very slowly and caressed his face with his free hand.

“W-what are you...?” James stuttered, sounding slightly concerned, but he did not put up a fight for once. He just let it happen.

“Do you have to ask that?” Khan purred. “Giving you a bit of what you want and what you need, of course.”

“I...I don’t want...you…” For a second, it looked like James was about to raise his hands to push his master away, but decided against it. He himself seemed confused about that.

“No?” Khan let his fingers brush over James’ chest and the blond shivered. He still did not struggle. But his answer was vehement.

“No!”

“Tsk, James, it is your job here to lie about that,” Khan whispered, but he did not stop and actually leaned down to gently kiss the human’s neck. The shaky breath James let out told him everything he needed to know. There was no smell of fear on the man, and his heartbeat had sped up considerably. Eventually, as Khan’s lips progressed to James’ throat, down to his shoulders and up to his jawline at last, there was a vague but noticeable brimming in the smaller body. With two fingers, Khan nudged James’ chin in the right direction and finally kissed the other man’s lips, gently at first, then more demanding. It was as if James did not realise right away that he was not even trying to struggle. When he did, he drew in a sharp breath, resurfacing for a moment, and tried to get away, but Khan held him, demanding more, and bit by bit, he moved so that he was atop James’ body and at last, kneeling in between his legs. When Khan pressed a knee between James’ thighs, against his crotch, the human moaned and moved his hips very tentatively in response. When he opened his mouth, the words sounded so confused that Khan flashed a wicked grin.

“No...no what are you...don’t...”

Khan smirked and sucked the skin right below the slave’s ear.

“Remember, you swore to behave. You pleaded with me to keep you. Apart from that; it would come across better if you sounded like you actually mean it.”

James shook his head again like a wet dog, but other than that, managed to not move at all. “I do mean it.”

Khan smiled. He was curious to know if James would at least guess what it was that was not right with him. Out of pure spite, he decided to plant a certain thought right where he wanted it.

“You’re very drunk, James. I think your body is more honest than your mouth at the moment.” Khan let a hand glide up and down James’ body and the reaction was more than a little positive this time round. “Since you should be behaving anyway, I suggest you let go and enjoy it,” he instructed, while caressing the expanse of James’ upper body very gently.

“You...I feel…I can’t…” The man took a deep breath. “I’ve been drunk loads of times in my life and it never felt like this.”

“Tell yourself that, if you like. But the facts say different. Come now. Don’t be afraid, James, you’re in good hands.”

With that, Khan resumed his kissing while nudging against James with his upper thigh, hands possessively on the side of the human’s face and around one shoulder. The blond man moaned, sounding a bit helpless, but after a while, he started to move a little, as if his body was doing it without the brain giving the order, and Khan knew that that was exactly what was going on.

When Khan broke the kiss to let his hands glide down James’ side to the hem of his shirt, the man sighed, sounding pained.

“I feel...heavy…”

“As I said, James. You are quite drunk. Stop thinking. Come here…”

Khan pushed up the hem of the slave tunic to reveal the waistband of the cotton trousers. Slowly, so as not to startle his prey, he pulled them down and was greeted by the sight of a half hard cock. He had never seen James aroused, and the sight was, admittedly, rather thrilling. It had been ages since Khan had seen another man fully aroused. He was very much looking forward to it.

James whispered something when the Augment scooted lower to get rid of the slave’s trousers.

“Lie back and relax,” Khan purred with a devilish smile, and caressed the silky length with his fingers.

“I...I…”

“Shh, shh, James, it’s fine. It’s all fine,” Khan soothed in a low voice. “Don’t rack your brains. And don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you. There will be no pain at all tonight. You’ll find that your muscles will relax so fast that you need not be concerned this time. It’s all fine.”

While he had been whispering to James, Khan had positioned himself much lower, so that now, he could take James’ legs and press them upwards against the man’s chest to expose his nether regions. James whimpered a bit, but did not protest. All slaves bathed and shaved before bedtime, so Khan caught the smell of soap and lotion and shaving cream as he leaned down and let his tongue ghost over James’ hole and perineum.

“You can’t…!”

Khan had the feeling James would have shrieked the remark...normally. Now he only sounded slightly breathless.

“Shh, James, it’s alright. No shame in this. Everything is fine.” Without giving James time to say anything else, Khan set to work with his tongue. The moans James let out were gorgeous, even more so because they seemed to startle the man who was producing them, and Khan doubled his efforts, circling and probing and licking until James seemed close to hyperventilating. When the Augment unearthed a bottle of oil from between the cushions and gently slid a finger inside his slave, there was no resistance whatsoever. Still, he was careful when he added another finger, and James moaned with unwelcome pleasure, but pleasure nonetheless. The human relaxed as quickly as anticipated, and Khan went on preparing the slave until he could move four fingers easily in and out of the twitching body. The Augment curled his fingers and circled James’ prostate, gently, gently, until the man let out a pitiful wail.

“What you’re doing to me...it’s...” the blond all but sobbed.

Khan smiled. “I know, James, I know,” he said in the same soothing, low voice he’d been using for a while now, a deep, hypnotic murmur that was meant to appease and comfort. He scooted back up, lying down between the other one’s legs again, but not pushing forward yet. His lips devoured the slaves’, who let out a few more sobs but otherwise seemed unusually pliant. Slowly, very slowly, Khan moved his hips closer, nudging the man’s thighs to make him open wider. With one hand, Khan got rid of the silk around his waist and oiled up his aching erection, and, just to tease, James’ as well, because by now, the man was hard and aching, too.

“Just relax,” Khan repeated softly before he pushed in very slowly, inch by inch. James’ hips twitched involuntarily and he moaned. As the Augment sank in deeper, he felt the man’s legs pressing into the sides of his hips, almost as if the muscles were contracting, cramping...or as if James was holding him there. Khan knew James could not help it, and he smiled at the thought.

Once he was fully sheathed inside, Khan started to rut against the blond man, and at last began to thrust in and out properly. James moaned and sobbed, but he never struggled. When the Augment began to angle his thrusts carefully to hit the right spot inside, the human’s body started to twitch and squirm.

“You feel so good, James. See how good it can be? You were made for my cock, James, you know that, don’t you?” He kissed along James’ jawline and neck while he murmured to the man. “And now that you’ve felt like this, you won’t ever get enough of it, not really. You might deny it but deep down, you’ll know. The sensations you feel now will never leave you, you’ll always crave them, the way they make you fall apart.”

Khan leaned down just enough, and James started to buck against the bigger man, still looking confused, like he was very far away and only half noticing what was happening to his body, but also seemingly pondering which he should favour, his own cock and the sensation of it against Khan’s body, or the other man and the feeling he created deep inside him. Khan made the decision for him; he grasped his slave’s cock and started stroking it just as he picked up speed again and pushed his length as deep inside as it would go from this angle. Before long, James froze in place and came, shouting, spilling his seed over his master’s fist and both their stomachs. Thinking that this would be enough for today, Khan let himself be carried away now, too, and followed James over the edge in a matter of seconds.

They lay panting, James for quite a bit longer than the Augment. The smaller man’s legs were still wrapped around Khan’s hips, and he only let go when his master practically pried them off.

They lay there together for a few minutes before James moved.

“I can’t believe...” the slave whispered as the reality of what had just happened here dawned on him.

Khan pulled out and smiled. “Good boy, James,” he whispered and kissed the man’s forehead, got up and wiped his hands on the side of his stomach. “I knew you’d like it eventually. I am very pleased with you.”

The human shook his head in denial. “I...I didn’t…”

Khan laughed cruelly. “Didn’t...what? Come? Oh yes, you did. I told you I’d break you, remember? Obviously, keeping a little philanderer like you on a short leash, giving him wine and gentle touches and making the sex all about him is all that is needed to do that.”

James stared in disbelief - or denial - for a moment, then, when it all finally fell into place in his head, he let out a bothered groan and curled in on himself. Khan watched, smiling, just as he had done after the first night.

“Why don’t you just kill me?” James murmured, his voice full of hopelessness and shame. He did not cry this time, but it was obvious that it was not for lack of sorrow.

Khan grinned maliciously. “Waste not, want not. I’m being economic. You have no idea of the value you have, do you? With your pale skin, blond hair and blue eyes? Your good looks? You are even halfway intelligent, it seems. The offers we got for you, even though I offered you cheap...my, my, James. We could feed the staff for a month if we sold you to the right people. Not that I couldn’t still sell you to the bad ones.” Khan caressed James’ shoulder with mock softness. “Good thing you behave now, right?”

Khan turned to leave, hesitated, turned back with a smile and wiped a hand through the mess James had made on his own stomach as he came. The young man tried to curl up enough so Khan could not reach, but in vain. Grinning lasciviously, the Augment rubbed the cooling semen between his fingers, then smacked James’ bare behind with the wet hand.

“Now you can’t deny it anymore, James. You want me. You belong to me. I own you. No matter how many times you struggle from now on, you will always know deep down inside that you crave me, exactly there.”

While James was shaking on his pillows, Khan turned to Derya. He only saw now that the other slave was awake as well. There was no telling how much he had heard, but by the blank look on his face, enough.

“Come. I need a shower.”

The slave got up and followed his master. Khan caught him looking back at the picture of misery in the pillows.

Once inside, Khan showered and let Derya dry him off with a towel. The slave kept his eyes down as usual, but this time, Khan sensed that he was hiding rather than being respectful. When he left the bathroom and sat down on his bed, Derya looked out of the window again.

Khan raised one eyebrow. “You do not approve of what I did to James.”

“I would never judge your actions, your highness. I have no right to do so.”

“No. But you still have an opinion about it. I want to hear it.”

Derya kept his eyes on the floor. Truth knew no rank under Khan, and he’d be punished for lying or refusing to answer. He knew that very well.

Now.

Derya took a deep breath. “It’s not that I approve or disapprove...I don’t understand it, really. With the greatest respect, your highness. You went through the trouble of secretly lacing his wine with an expensive drug that makes men both pliable and aroused, and then told him that he is drunk but nothing more. To torture him, I must assume, with the thought, the lie, that he truly does want you. I long to understand why you treat him like this, your highness, and why you put so much effort into the...schooling of a mere slave.”

“Derya, I know you tend to romanticise me, but never forget that I enjoy being cruel. That is all.” When Derya kept staring at the floor, Khan sighed. “Say what is on your mind, go on, all of it.”

“You are never like this to others, my lord. I know your cruelty first hand, but only in bed, because it is in your nature to be the part of the strong, unforgiving, dominant male. I can understand that and take it. But James... You punished him with pleasure, which is unusual for you. You either punish or reward, and if both does not help, you get rid of the subject. I cannot help but ask myself what the meaning of all this is, trying to make him enjoy it...but not. You have singled him out but I am not sure what for, exactly. What makes you hate and still want him so much?”

It sounded as if Derya had not meant to say the last one out loud, but Khan took no offense. Instead, he pondered Derya’s words for a moment. It was true, he hated James in an exceptional way. He also wanted him, he wanted him to be miserable, he wanted him to be fierce and fiery, but at the same time wanted him compliant and enjoying himself. He hated James for making him feel this way, so obsessed, so confused, hated that James did not want him, but loved when he struggled and cried, nonetheless. He reminded him of someone else and he hated James for that most of all. He would never say this out loud, though.

“I admit that he is much more interesting than most other humans are. He defies me, and nobody ever does. I want and hate him for it.” Khan stared at Derya’s black hair for a while, the obediently folded hands. “Do you think I’m being too cruel to him?”

“There is, I think, a fine difference between having to do your duties as a slave, being treated like slaves have been treated since the dawn of time, and facing intentional, purposeful, personal cruelty, abuse and violence. Both kinds of treatment are, of course, your birthright. You like being cruel in bed because it excites you, but you are overall not an abusive master out there.” Derya motioned to the door to indicate everything outside the bedroom. “But you are cruel to him even outside the bedroom and that is strange to see. He is in some way special to you, and you want him to enjoy your company, but want him to be miserable when he doesn’t. I know you asked about my opinion, my lord. This is at least what I have observed. If it would not confuse me so, I might have a real opinion on it.”

Khan could not help but smile. He had not expected such an elaborate answer, not from a slave who usually did not talk much. He was not even sure he had ever heard Derya talk like this.

“Such spirit. All those years in my service, and you still manage to have a mind of your own. Very well. So what do you think should be done about him?”

Derya dared to look up and seemed to focus his gaze on Khan’s throat. “From your point of view? He is your plaything and must behave as such, but doesn’t, so he should be punished. From my point of view…” Derya swallowed hard and looked as if his courage was about to leave him, but Khan touched his hand gently and nodded for him to go on. “Even though his disobedience often vexes me because this is no way to treat you, your highness, I pity him at the moment, too. We must never accept a bad fate for anyone as long as we can help. I do not consider myself above other slaves, or very much important to you, but I do think I have your goodwill in some way. Therefore, may I ask you to let me go to him, master, and comfort him.”

Khan raised both eyebrows. “You ask me that?”

Derya nodded, pressing his lips together.

The Augment looked from the dark-haired slave to the terrace and back. “I am not sure I understand you. You stood by, unmoving, unprotesting, when I killed two of my subjects, and an unborn child, and before them, many more. And now you want to go and comfort a slave who is upset about his duties.”

“Your two subjects who died that morning died for a reason, as punishment. They committed treason against you, my lord. They deserved to be punished and it is your right to judge in what way. James may be stubborn and impolite and might deserve punishment for it as well, but he is suffering in this situation that is still unusual for him, and I want to help him deal with it. I do not pity your other slaves for what you do to them, but for how they react to it, and James is exceptional in his...suffering.”

“Oh? Is he exceptional? What is he to you?” Khan asked, trying to remain calm.

“A slave who is doing far worse than me.”

The answer surprised Khan, but the anger he expected to feel did not come “Hmm,” he hummed. “You think I overdid it.” He could see Derya disapproved of his master’s conduct with James in some way, no matter if he said it was only the man’s reaction he was concerned about. But he did not know if Derya resented the cruelty or the wish for James’ devotion.

“It is not my place to judge, your highness. It is your right to treat us however you wish. And it is our duty to obey and do as you wish, which he does not always do, I am aware. But I like to help where I can,” Derya insisted.

“Do you often do that for other slaves? You never say so.”

“You do not usually ask, your highness. I tend to have the wish to help those who are miserable, as you helped me when I was, too.”

Khan was astonished at how observant the slave had been, and also how he had spotted the small differences in his behaviour. The situation was certainly unusual. It made him think of his lessons about war. There was the option of going to war for the land, for resources, for a useful purpose. And then there was the kind of war where you were more interested in killing people. Genocide. That kind of war had never held much appeal for Khan, but he could see now that this was the difference Derya meant, the difference of how he treated other slaves and how he treated James. Yes. Maybe he took personal offence in the man’s resistance, and it made him want to break every last bit of him, and make him miserable if he’d refuse to enjoy what Khan gave, as Derya had said. He also wanted James’ devotion and maybe even something like his...approval. Khan took a moment to reflect on this particular feeling. No, it was no tender emotion for the blond human, certainly those would not come along with the almost irresistible urge to tear, to shred, to punish, to control, to destroy. No, it felt more familiar, like...greed. His need for possessing people was what made him wish James would fall for him. Fight him, yes, but still...want him.

At long last, he smiled. “Come here, Derya.”

The slave stepped closer, and Khan could see him shiver, and smelled what he seldom smelled on Derya: fear.

“You are afraid of me, Derya. Why?” Khan asked and frowned.

“I spoke very frankly, my lord. I made observations and voiced opinions a slave should not make or have. I have seen you kill for less.”

The slave’s voice was shaking, but it held no regret. Khan respected that. But it also upset him.

“You think I would kill you? I asked for your opinion. And your answer was...remarkable. And very admirable.” Khan raised his hands to Derya’s cheeks, and the slave shuddered.

“Don’t be afraid. Not you,” the Augment said in a low voice, and kissed Derya’s forehead. “You are wiser and much more compassionate than one would think. Leading a life as a slave and still caring about the needs of people who are just as low as you. Or lower. Yes, lower,” he said, when Derya made the impression that he wanted to protest. “You have a higher status than others.” He stared at the slave for a few seconds more, then he let go. “Go to him and do what you think is necessary.”

Still somewhat amazed and strangely fascinated, Khan watched as Derya bowed and went outside. He watched from the doors as the slave knelt down beside the other one and spoke soothing words, stroked his hair, helped him dry the tears of frustration and despair that must have finally come when Khan was not looking. Compassion was not something Khan had learned, and his favourite’s decision to help was somewhat strange to him. Of course, slaves helped each other out every once in a while, and certainly took care of one another since nobody else would, but it was not the mere help Derya offered James that astonished the emperor, it was his decision to speak out about it, the fact that he had faced his master and told him what he thought of all this. Derya never asked for anything for himself if he could help it. And yet he had stood up for James, a slave for a slave. Asking to be allowed to go and comfort someone the master had just intentionally hurt was, no matter if said out loud or not, disapproval of the master’s actions. It impressed Khan to no end. People did not do that, put themselves in danger for others (for it was nothing but dangerous for any slave to speak to their master like Derya had spoken, to the emperor no less). It was something James might do, with his strange moral code, but people these days saw to their own needs only. Except Derya, obviously. One of the lowest in society, and he was still willing to help. Derya knew he might be allowed to help, and so he asked. It was a fascinating and strange scenario for the Augment. He decided to leave the room and go to his library to give the two humans some space. Certainly, James would want to bathe, and perhaps giving him time would help James see that his master could be considerate, too. But in case James had any funny ideas, Khan locked the door to his rooms from outside as he left. He would not let James do all that he wanted, after all.

Chapter Text

Jim’s dizziness had mostly subsided and the alcohol in his bloodstream seemed to have vaporized after his...high. He felt bad. So bad, and so ashamed. There were no tears forthcoming for now, but he almost wished he could cry, have some relief. The man who had killed (or would kill) Christopher Pike, the man who had terrorised London, the man who had attacked his ship and had been on the verge of killing him and his entire crew, had just fucked Jim...and had made him come. True, he had been drunk. Alcohol had always had that effect on Jim; brought out horrible truths about him. Apparently, cheek and a predelection for bar fights were not the worst of it. Some part of him, however well-hidden, however dark and twisted, must find Khan attractive, desirable, or this would not have happened. The thought made Jim feel sick. There was no excuse for what had just happened. Jim cringed. Everything about this was wrong. From start to finish. Not only their past / future experiences together should have made him hate Khan’s guts, but also their present. And he did hate him, he did! Khan had made Jim a slave and he had raped him. Maybe it was Jim’s love for danger that had made his subconscious feel such things for the man? But it had gone too far this time, seriously. There could be no other explanation, could there? Jim thought of the wine. Derya had fallen asleep after drinking the stuff, so maybe it was just that potent. Or could it be…? No, surely he was wishing for an excuse, but this was ridiculous. There was no reason why Khan would feel the need to...

“Jim? Can I come to you?” Derya announced himself thoughtfully before he knelt and touched Jim’s shoulder.

“Go away,” Jim said, but it sounded so pitiful that there was no way he’d be left alone.

Derya sighed and pulled one of the silk sheets over Jim’s body that had covered the cushions on the ground.

“Jim, don’t beat yourself up. That is the worst you could do. Giving in to horrible thoughts is not the way to deal with this.”

“I...can’t really help it, you know?” the blond replied, a little annoyed, without turning to look at Derya. Instead, Derya gently but firmly turned him so they could look at each other, and petted his hair.

“Not now, I know. But try it later. Don’t let this feeling overwhelm you. You are not powerless against it, although you might feel like it now. Sleep on it and let a day pass, and maybe...” The slave trailed off, and caressed Jim’s cheeks with the back of his hand.

Jim sighed. He had no strength to fight with Derya, who, after all, only meant well.

“You’ll get used to it, Jim,” Derya tried to comfort, but the words did not sit well with the blond man.

“I don’t want to get used to it and I don’t have to!” Jim growled.

The dark-haired slave stared at Jim inquisitively. “What do you mean? Do you want to run? You can’t. You saw what happens to those who try. He’d kill you!”

Jim realised that he had made another mistake and tried to change the topic. He managed a hopeless sigh in the name of deception. “I just wish I knew why he hates me so much. I know I’m not the most obedient, but...is he always like this? I really am trying to fit in somehow but it’s like he makes it twice as hard for me. I mean, I do my work in the household and I pick up after the lazy bastard and I try to hold still when he comes close, but...” He sighed again, this time not solely for theatrics.

Thankfully, Derya followed this new thought. He seemed to ponder his answer while he stared into the distance. “I would normally say he doesn’t hate you, because he has no reason, but...he does act like it. Hateful, and also maybe a bit...obsessed. I know he can be difficult to deal with. But he is not an evil man. You have to understand, Jim, our master’s life is not as easy as many people think, and he sometimes takes his frustration and stress out on us. He is dealing with a world that is in ruins, and he has to fight to keep as many people alive as he can. Whatever you think of him, his majesty does care about the lower castes, too. Many wealthy people want to tell him what to do, they want to be first in line, and they get angry when the emperor insists he has to feed the poor masses too and that the rich cannot have more than is fair. You think he is heartless, and yes, maybe our lord’s heart is cold sometimes. But I have seen him lose his patience at the conference table, insisting he would not let people starve, sooner he would kill all the wealthy men around the same table to give away what they have. He has more than the one side he shows you, Jim.”

“Oh, don’t you fucking defend him!” Jim sneered. He was not interested in hearing how good Khan could be when he wanted. If anything it was even less forgivable to be horrible when the capacity for being good was there. “If you think he is such a good man, then tell me why he has slaves, tell me why he is so cruel to me all the time!” Jim challenged. But at the very least, talking with Derya and letting out his anger made him feel a little better.

Derya looked at him as if he had asked him why breathing is so important. “But having slaves is normal, it can’t be that different in Iowa! There have always been slaves in the world. But as for why he is so cruel to you...I don’t know, Jim. I cannot tell you. I have never seen him like this. Maybe because you defy him so thoroughly. You were not registered, and he knows nothing about you, where you came from, nothing at all, you’re quite the mystery. He knows you are very different from everyone, so many things that set you apart. You treat him like his rank is not important to you, or even sometimes as if it is a joke to you. You wound his pride with that, and also day in day out when you refuse his attentions. And you hate him, too, hated him from the second you met, and he feels it. I think he might feel...intrigued and defensive at the same time. You are a slave, Jim, but you act like you challenge the emperor. That is dangerous, but it is also new for him. Perhaps you remind him of his father in that way, you never approve of him and you show that openly. That would be a reason why he would hate you.” Jim blinked at the slave, completely perplexed about this explanation. Derya continued. “You stir things up, inside him, too, things that are probably not good, things that should maybe better remain buried. If you could just forget your pride, I think it would get much better. Won’t you try, Jim? Please?”

The blond man grumbled. “Why would I try to be nice to him when he treats me like shit? I mean yes, he could still sell me but he does make it hard for me to be good. It’s like I can’t do anything right, like there’s no code I can follow that will make sure I’m a-okay.”

Derya made an annoyed noise. “ He can’t give in, you know that! He’s the emperor , he can’t give in first, to a slave no less. What are you thinking! But he can reward you if you try to be good. And I mean, really good. I mean, don’t just do the work he wants you to do, but do it without radiating contempt and hate and showing off your bad mood. Please, Jim. Just try?” When Jim only grumbled in reply, the dark-haired slave tried a different approach. “Look, Jim. I am used to his cruelty, but I hate having to watch him torture you. He claims he does it because he likes it but I think it is only... fun for him at the very beginning. Even he won’t want you to be miserable forever but he can’t give in and go easy on you if you don’t change your attitude. As much as he likes to punish you now, he will soon be annoyed by having to do it. I don’t like having to watch people be miserable. I don’t like when people feel bad. And for no good reasons, too, just misplaced pride. Please, Jim,” Derya repeated in a pleading tone. “I know he did things to you that you hate him for. But you cannot go on this way. You promised him to behave, on the market, I heard you two talk about it.”

“I did not even try to fight him off!” Jim blurted out, and his voice broke a bit when he realised that he was ashamed of that, too. He tried to push the thought away. ”I am trying!”

“But you must try harder, because if this is you trying…” Derya’s voice had gotten a bit louder, but he obviously caught himself and continued in a softer tone. “Just…try harder. He does not want you pliant and unresisting, he has plenty of women who just lie there and take it. That is what he usually wants from us. That is probably not what he wants from you, though.”

“Then what does he WANT?” Jim groaned and threw his arms up in momentary frustration. “He doesn't want me compliant, he doesn’t want me defensive, he doesn't want me indifferent...he wants to hurt me but tonight he made me...I mean, does he know what he fucking wants?”

Derya flashed a smile but caught himself again. “Maybe not. Why don’t you help him find out? Your task as a slave is to support your master in every way, after all.”

Jim thought about Derya’s words. At the very least, the conversation had made him stop shivering. He tried to push those thoughts down and take a few deep breaths.

“Thanks for the tip...I guess. It’s hard for me. I can’t adjust to a life as a slave, just like that , that is not in my nature.”

“So I’ve seen. But do try, Jim. Other people will have to suffer, too, when he gets too angry at you. Think of them if it helps you.”

Jim nodded vaguely, and Derya seemed satisfied. Tentatively, the slave reached out and rubbed Jim’s shoulder. Slowly, he let his soft hand caress Jim’s side and head with long, comforting strokes. The touch was not too intimate, not sexual, and it soothed Jim’s nerves, to be touched by someone who did not wish him harm and did not want to use his body for anything.

Derya let Jim enjoy the sensation for a bit before he spoke up again. “I think you should shower, Jim. Come inside.”

The young slave helped Jim get up and kept close to him as they went inside. Khan was nowhere to be seen and Jim breathed a sigh of relief. He felt constantly uneasy around the Augment, and was always happy when he was not there.

Although Jim should hate to be touched these days, he found a lot of comfort in the way Derya helped him undress and shower. He had often asked himself why Derya did what he did, for him, for Khan, for anyone, but it occurred to him that Derya might just be the caring kind, who loved to do things for others. When he had gotten out of the shower and had dried himself off, Derya brought him fresh clothes.

“Thank you, Derya. For everything.” He paused after he got dressed, and, after a moment’s hesitation, took Derya’s hand, squeezing it gently. “Are we still not friends?”

Derya gave his colleague a lopsided smile, and opened his mouth to respond. Just then, the lights flickered and went out, leaving the two in complete darkness.

Jim looked to the ceiling, startled. In the distance, somewhere in the palace, he could hear noises of unrest. So it was not just this room. In fact, when Jim went to look out of the terrace windows, he saw that the whole city around them had gone dark. Then, the ground shook beneath his feet.

His first instinct was to grab Derya’s arm and hold on, slinging a protective arm around the slave. The whole world seemed to be shuddering, and there were panicked screams in the air. Derya, although whimpering, maneuvered them over to the door and pulled the handle, but it wouldn’t budge.

“It’s locked!”

“Locked? Derya, what’s happening?” Jim looked around them, heart hammering.

“An earthquake,” Derya said while he tried to keep his balance. The ground had not stopped shaking, and Jim noticed that the other one looked increasingly pale and afraid. Dust was coming down from the ceiling and walls, and things had started falling from their places all around the room. Derya looked after a few of the objects as they rolled away and wrung his hands. “He must have locked us in when he left! Maybe he thought you’d try to leave the room.”

Jim cursed and tried the door again. It didn’t move. He cursed again because there was nothing else he could do.

“How do we get out of here? Is there another way?”

Derya stumbled and fell. His beautiful face was a mask of fear and he had started to cry. The ground had stopped the worst shaking for a moment, but Jim could feel it was not really over. “No...I don’t think so. The master often leaves over the terrace, but if we jump, we’ll be hurt.”

“Come on, up with you, maybe we can climb down…”

“While the whole palace is shaking? We’d fall!” Derya argued, but he let Jim move him out of the room and to the terrace. At least nothing could fall down on them here...unless the whole palace collapsed. Jim looked around for a way to escape, but saw none. A look beyond the ornamental banister told him all he needed to know about this way, too.

“Shit. You’re right, there’s no way we’ll survive that fall. At the very least, we’d break a few bones.” He looked around again for any inspiration, anything that could help, anything. Plaster, bits of stone and more dust were now falling everywhere. With all his heart, he hoped that the floor would not collapse. Derya sunk to his knees and buried his face in his hands.

Jim knelt next to him and hugged him tightly. “It’ll be alright, come on, it’s just an earthquake, it’ll be fine,” Jim tried to comfort the slave, but the almost constant, barely interrupted shuddering and the sound of debris and much heavier things falling all over the palace started to get to him, too. Derya whimpered when there was an all-too audible cracking somewhere nearby, and held onto Jim for dear life.

 

When the lights went out, Khan was in the back of the library where he kept a few rarities. Instantly alarmed, he put the original first edition he was holding back on the shelf and stood very still, concentrating on his sharp senses. He was bare-footed and felt the vibrations in the ground before they would have been noticeable for any human. Without losing a second, Khan sprinted to the front door of the library and pressed a button on the wall panel. All around him, the bookshelves sealed themselves shut with an audible snapping sound, but Khan was already yanking the door open when the real earthquake started. He heard shouting in the corridors and turned to run, yelling orders at guards to secure rooms and make sure people went into the gardens, where they would be safest. He was halfway down the main staircase, watching as servants and slaves came from below stairs and ran out, when he saw one of the intersex slaves who had come with Derya, and he stopped dead.

He had locked them in, Derya and James, in his room, and not even Derya knew about the hidden staircase on the balcony. Nobody knew that they were unable to run outside like all other inhabitants of the palace. Sending anyone would take too long, and since Khan’s wing of the palace was usually the most empty, guards would check there last.

Khan hesitated just for one more second, then he felt himself turn around and fly up the stairs, letting out a string of filthy curses. One of his soldiers shouted after him, but Khan barely heard him. He sped along the corridors on autopilot until he reached his rooms. Almost bouncing off his door, he turned the lock and threw it open, looking around. There was nobody there, but the room was in chaos and the doors to the terrace were wide open. Khan crossed the room and ran outside, where he found the two slaves huddled together on the ground.

“Derya! James!” he shouted, and they both looked up. The lost, terrified look on Derya’s face made Khan’s heart twinge. “Are you hurt?” he asked, stooping down and reaching for them, checking them quickly for any visible injuries.

“Master,” Derya whispered and looked up, obviously relieved to see him.

“We’re alright. You locked us in!” James accused, but Khan did not care.

“Shut up and come with me!”

He pulled them up from the ground, which had again stopped shaking for now, but Khan could feel more aftershocks coming. James seemed relatively steady but Derya was shaking like a leaf. Khan grabbed his hand and pushed James in the direction of the corner with the hidden door before he changed his mind. The staircase was narrow and old. The way through the dark corridors was much longer, but perhaps also a bit safer. And perhaps it was unwise to show James such an easy way to escape. So he ushered the two humans into his room and to the door.

“Run, down to the main staircase,” he instructed, but did not let go of Derya’s hand. The humans did their best to follow, but nothing was faster than an agitated Augment, and it was also pitch-black around them due to the lack of electricity. James stumbled beside them, and he could obviously have been faster, even though Khan must have been the only one who could see much of anything.

“Run!” Khan commanded, but he could see how James turned his head to Derya, who was panting and whimpering.

“No way.”

“You’re not helping him here. Run, and help downstairs! NOW!”

James seemed wary, but for once, he obeyed and sped up his somewhat stumbling steps as he hurried along the dust-covered corridors in almost total darkness.

Derya whimpered quietly. “Master…”

“Shut up and run!”

The shuddering under their feet increased again for a moment and fear let Derya go a bit faster. The aftershocks of this quake really were enormous. Khan did not like the thought.

They reached the main staircase and the door unharmed, and Khan pulled his slave along to the gardens where the inhabitants of the palace were huddled together like sheep. Soldiers and guards were running around, reporting to superiors, checking on people. Medics were trying to treat a few who had obviously been hit by falling objects. Concubines and their servants stood in the middle, clutching pets and talking animatedly. Khan could see James crouched before one of the very young stable boys. The boy was sporting a large bruise that Khan identified as the imprint of a big hoof and was shaking just as badly as Derya. When they finally came to a standstill, Khan wrapped one arm loosely around Derya’s shoulder to try and stop the slave from shuddering. General Kumar was heading towards his emperor.

“Report.”

“Everyone is out, sir, all accounted for. Some have slight injuries, nothing too bad.”

“Fires? Explosions?”

“No, sir. Fuel reserves are safely stored, no fires, no explosions.”

“Substantial damage to the palace?”

“Nothing we know of, the building seems to hold up well, considering its age.”

“The stables?”

“Open to the paddock. They were okay and on their way out when they left them, sir.”

“What about the city?”

“We don’t know yet, sir, it’s not been long enough to get any reports. The military field in the middle of the city has been opened to refugees as usual, medical aid and makeshift shelter is available.”

Khan noticed the man’s gaze flitting towards Derya a few times, and the way the slave was huddled against Khan’s bigger, stronger body seemed to displease him. Not that Khan cared too much, not at the moment anyway; there were more pressing problems. Kumar was a good man, a good soldier, but he had begun his career under Khan’s father. He was very loyal towards his new rightful ruler, but people like Derya still didn’t sit well with him. He had been raised to despise them, like many older people.

“Good. Excellent work, general. Keep me updated. Let’s hope this will be over soon.”

Khan could already feel that the earth beneath his feet was calming down, finally. The worst shaking had stopped after only a few minutes but the aftershocks had been almost as bad. It still felt like hours, even to Khan. Something so raw and powerful as an earthquake did not leave even him untroubled.

The general bowed and turned to walk away. Khan scanned the crowd. They seemed all shaken but all in all, relatively well. Then he looked down at Derya. The shuddering under his bare feet was now almost imperceptible.

“Are you alright?”

Derya nodded and moved in Khan’s half-embrace as if to test if the Augment wanted to let go. He did not, though, and the slave dared to lean back into him.

“I am, your highness. Just shaken.”

“Thoroughly, I imagine,” Khan answered and managed to make the slave smile. “I’m glad nothing happened to you.”

“Thank you for coming for us, your highness. You must have had enough to do with the evacuation without having to save us, too.”

Unconsciously, Khan tightened his hold around Derya’s shoulders, but for once knew no answer that he thought dignified enough. He had not thought too much about it, he had just run, cursing that he had to do this, but no less sure that he had to do this. His father would have scolded him, because they were just slaves, not worthy of risking the emperor’s life. It was the other way round, slaves should risk their lives for their masters, not be saved by them.

He brushed Derya’s hair away from his face and slowly let go. He had the impression that Derya did not like the letting-go part but of course, it was not his place to hold on.

Khan looked the slave up and down and noticed he was holding his wrist. Khan could see from the form of the bruise where it came from.

“I did not mean to grab you so tightly.”

“It’s nothing, your highness. You saved me. Us. I am too thankful for that to pay this injury any mind. Thank you again.” Derya bowed formally.

Khan studied the slave for another moment, and nodded. “Go and see if you can help,” he instructed, and Derya bowed yet again and left obediently.

Khan walked around, talking and inquiring. As long as the aftershocks of the quake were still palpable, they’d have to stay and spend the night outside of the palace. After one turn around the bunch of people, Khan walked over to Kumar again.

“Let the staff move to spend the night in the stables. The soldiers are to go to the city and see if they can help.”

The general nodded. “Yes, sir. Shall we leave some guards here or should they all go?”

“They are needed outside, more than here. I’ll stay with the staff and wait for your reports, Kumar.”

The general bowed. “As you wish, sir.”

Khan watched as the group parted into servants and soldiers and one went into the stables and one into the paddock to fetch their horses and ride out.

Half an hour later, the ground was only shuddering slightly from time to time, and the humans around him were settling in slowly, most of them in the hayloft, some on the ground level in unused horse stalls, with blankets from the tack room that were stored there exactly for such situations. There was an underground shelter too but the night was not too cold and it was probably not a good idea to rob the servants of fresh air when it was not absolutely necessary.

Khan’s mare had sought him out while he had been standing at the gate to the paddock, and was now lying beside him, nuzzling his hair and cheek to prompt him to rub her nose. She was still skittish, but the Augment’s presence seemed to soothe her. Khan did not like to admit it, but the big animal body he was leaning against also soothed him. She gave him some warmth, which he appreciated; he had not bothered to get dressed properly after he had left Jim lying on the terrace and showered, and the cool night air that managed to penetrate his thin tunic and pants was a bit unpleasant. Derya was lying close by, but since the mare and the slave did not appreciate each other much, Khan let him be.

His hearing picked up hesitant steps and he and the mare turned their heads to James, who was approaching from the side.

“I wanted to thank you for saving us,” the human whispered.

Khan nodded, but said nothing and looked back to Derya. However, James did not leave. He came a bit closer and tried to pet the mare, but she would not let him.

“She’ll bite. Don’t touch her.”

“Oh, a pretty girl? Alright, no touching, no problem,” James said, and it was obvious from his friendly tone that he was talking to the horse. Somehow, Khan liked that. “You own a lot of pretty girls, it seems.” This time, James’ tone was full of barely masked disapproval.

“None quite as beautiful as she is, though, huh?” Khan said, also talking to the horse and petting her soft nose. She neighed quietly in approval. “None quite so loyal, either.”

“Well, Derya is very loyal to you.”

“Yes. Derya is loyal. Not a girl, though, not quite.”

“You’re also very loyal to him, I feel.”

Khan looked at James abruptly, eyes narrowed to slits. “Careful.”

James raised his hands defensively. “Just saying. You came running for him when your whole palace was in chaos. You were afraid for him. You wouldn’t even let go of him.”

“What are you implying?” Khan asked in a dangerous tone.

“That you care deeply for him.”

“I protect those under me. That much should be obvious to you by now. I guard people, it’s what I do.”

“But him, most of all. Your favourite .”

Khan growled. “I’d tread carefully if I were you, slave.”

“He’d be over the moon, you know? To know that he means so much to you. He won’t allow himself to hope it.”

“How dare you!” The Augment took a deep breath and looked away, trying to control his anger. “If you say one more word about that, ever, I will cut out your tongue. If I didn’t like your skin better unmarred, I would have had you whipped long ago. And now go away.”

Chapter Text

“Emperor? You sent for me.”

“Yes. Come.”

Khan entered the small conference room, where his father was talking animatedly to a man Khan had never seen before. At eighteen years old, he was still not allowed to attend all conferences, meet all the people his father knew, so this was no surprise. The emperor did not think him ready to be presented to the world as soon-to-be successor. Too much optimising to do, he claimed.

“This is him, then, your majesty?”

“Yes, yes of course,” the emperor grumbled at the other man, and Khan heard the famous impatience in his voice. He was not looking at his son, but at a vial of a slightly milky, bluish liquid. “Will he fulfill the requirements?”

Khan did a double take and tried not to look annoyed while the stranger looked him over, first his face, then his body. The insolence made Khan scowl, but he kept his temper. It was not for some man to look at the crown prince of the Asian empire like he was a girl on the street, but the emperor had asked a question.

“He should train a lot. He must be in excellent health.”

Train more? Khan practically did little else with his time, except study. He scowled.

“He should be as perfect as possible, inside and outside, or it might end badly.”

Khan longed to ask what the hell was going on, but he knew he was not allowed to. He looked to the emperor, who had turned around and was coming towards the two of them now.

“Fine. It will be done.”

The stranger turned to Khan and looked at him, this time as if he was aware that the prince could hear him. “It is very brave of you to agree to this procedure, my prince.”

Trying not to show his anger - and complete cluelessness about what was going on - Khan squared his shoulders and stared the man down. “Agreed?”

The man seemed unsure all of a sudden, and looked to the emperor, just like Khan. Nonchalantly, the older man waved a hand.

“He doesn’t know yet.”

“But my emperor…!”

“Silence, doctor! It is my decision, he will learn about it all today. There was no need to tell him before now.”

Khan took a deep breath, his anger at being left out again, when it was obviously about himself, slowly surfacing.

“Keep your exasperation to yourself, boy,” the emperor thundered, even before he turned to look into his son’s face, wearing an angry scowl Khan only knew too well. “The doctor will tell you everything,” he said, and then he left, not even looking back.

 

Yes, the doctor had told Khan everything. How his metabolism would change, how he would become more aggressive and less able to handle strong emotions with a cool head, how his sex-drive would increase, how he would become faster, stronger, more agile, more intelligent, better healing, with heightened senses. He told him how his father had selected him to become one of those super humans, without regard to whether Khan wanted to be or not. Of course he wanted to, why in the world not? His father was paying for it, and it would make him a superior creature, a superior ruler. Surely this was what Khan must want, right? Besides that, it was nothing less than his duty to his father and the empire. That was what the emperor had said when Khan had tried to tell him that no way did he want to become one of those gene-modified freaks. But there was no question. Never were there any questions. Because Khan would certainly want what the emperor told him to want.

Khan remembered well that he had fought, begged, and argued for months, during any short time when he found himself alone with the emperor, during the festivities of his nineteenth birthday, during the last five minutes before the procedure began. He remembered how the emperor had punished him for refusing, and told him that it would be the best for him and Khan would thank him later, surely. He remembered being enclosed in the metal capsule and having only one thought; how much he hated the emperor for doing this to him, this and so many other things, and he also found himself hating already what was going to become of him. This hate, this fury, had always been there since, like a fake, extra layer of skin one was unable to shed. He had learnt to tame it to a certain degree, of course, had to when he had learnt just how unfit he was for human contact until months after the procedure. Had the change only messed with his body, it might not have been as bad, but the superior creature invaded his head so quickly that he was not sure who he had been before. His new abilities both  impressed and frightened him sometimes; there was no question that he was now truly superior, even if he was a creature born from hatred. Over time, he learnt to live with that hatred. But he still relived the moment every now and then, that moment when he closed his eyes against the bright lights in the capsule and screamed, screamed as his rage grew, and grew, as more of the hellish blue liquid entered his body, screamed because the fury would not fade even when the pain and lights did.

 

Khan stayed awake all night, moving only when a particularly unwelcome memory came back to him now and then, watching over the servants huddled on the floor and in the straw. Derya was curled up in a corner close to Khan and his mare, but although the Augment would have liked to have him much closer, he let him sleep. The night had been exhausting enough for all of them. Moreover, Khan’s mare did not like the slave and Derya did not care much for the horse either. It was no use forcing the two of them together; if there was one thing even Khan could not control, it was girls disliking each other and the consequences thereof.

In the hour before dawn, Khan heard a soft stirring, and saw James sit up near the door. At first, Khan sat very still, wanting to see if James would be stupid enough to try and get away now that all guards were out in the city, but he just sat there, leaning against the doorframe and gazing at the stars longingly, as if he was waiting for something. He looked dead tired; maybe the human hadn’t slept at all.

Khan knew the feeling; he, too, had actually not slept through a single night since before the last military operation, the one where James had been thrown at his feet, like a reward for the victory. Khan’s Augment body saved him from most negative consequences of insomnia, but he did feel it, slowly but steadily draining him of his strength. Still, no matter how much he tried to tire himself out, he never fell asleep as fast as he would have liked, never woke up well-rested these days, and it helped neither his mood nor his helf-control. Maybe he wouldn’t even have noticed how far gone he was sometimes, how horrible his moods were, if Derya hadn’t decided to be brave and speak up about it. James would not know better because he hadn’t been around long enough, but Derya must have noticed some time ago, then, how...well, how mean his lord and master had become. It was showing. Khan scowled. He’d have to do better. He had sworn to himself that his days without control were over, and that it was beneath him to be mean just for the sake of it.

He looked to James and his lips twitched with a small smile. Well, admittedly, who would want to control themselves if they could have this in their bed? Who wouldn’t be mean if such beautiful reactions could be coaxed out of the human? In this regard, James was just like Derya; so handsome in his suffering that it made the horrible part of Khan’s heart weep for joy. The monster in him snarled and bared its teeth each time James showed fear, or hate, or his readiness to fight. Khan knew most humans had that monster living inside, but unlike him, many humans were able to control it, would not even think of letting it out because they knew it was wrong. For an Augment, it was harder to control, and where James was concerned, Khan often found he was not at all interested in containing the salivating beast. The joy of seeing what it could do to James was often too great. And there was nothing and nobody to stop Khan, really, since James was his property.

It was a strange feeling that it had only been a few hours since he had been with James. Khan saw the picture of James underneath him before his inner eye again. It had been just as satisfying as he had imagined. James was a natural, even though Khan was fully aware that much of it had been the drug. But drug or no drug, there were some things that could not be fabricated without any kind of basis. In Khan’s mind, there was still no question that James hated his guts, which could turn out to be dangerous; the man was not some dumb human slave who had been trained not to think from early infancy.

Obviously, the man was used to doing and saying what he wanted, wherever he came from, and he seemed vaguely intelligent - for a human. He was not used to keeping his voice down. Neither in life, nor in the bedroom. Khan was often annoyed by the first but admittedly liked the latter. He also hoped James would not make the mistake to think sexual attraction always meant liking the person one longed to sleep with, though Khan had the feeling James had done all kinds of things with women he hadn’t really known or liked. Getting to them would not have been too hard for the likes of James, as he possessed that strange kind of American handsomeness that was somehow both plain yet stunning. Had he not trusted Derya to be absolutely faithful...

Khan sighed and turned a bit, trying not to wake his mare, and pressed his cheek against her silky white shoulder. He should stop thinking about sex, should stop his thoughts from tumbling through his tired brain like scattered leaves. It would not do to become too restless. His gaze fell on James by the stable door again, and he saw, to his surprise, that the man must have been crying silently; wet tracks glistening on the man’s cheeks gave him away. Khan frowned and wondered what could have caused this; he had only seen the slave cry in or due to quite extreme situations, not silently, in the middle of the night.

To hell with it, they were the only ones awake, both restless, so James could as well do his duty and help him pass the small hours. Also, he had given the human a hard time ever since he had arrived here. He would now need to change gears to win him over. Carrot and stick. A necessary turn to train any slave as hotheaded as James. And perhaps, since James had taken care of Derya during the earthquake and had not left his side until Khan had commanded him to run, maybe a small reward was in order. Civility with slaves often went a long way. And it was also time to put his inner beast back in the cage...for a little while. Maybe it would do him good.

“Is anything wrong?” he asked in a deep purr that made it almost impossible to hear him, but James heard alright and looked up.

“No, of course not, everything’s marvelous.”

The cheeky sarcasm was not lost on Khan, but he decided to ignore it for now. “Then why are you crying?”

James managed a sad smile. “Feeling sorry for myself.”

Khan frowned, then beckoned with his hand. “Come here.”

The man looked frightened, even though he tried to hide it. “Why?”

“First, you don’t question my commands. Second, I don’t want to wake anyone,” Khan bit out, trying for patience.

James did get up, practically tiptoed over to him and sat down when Khan indicated the place next to him. The mare twitched a bit, but Khan laid a hand on her neck and made a soothing sound, and James sat down against her lower belly when she had settled down again.

“Can’t sleep?”

“With you here, watching like a hawk? No chance.”

Khan felt anger rising in his chest. “Respect, James, don’t forget again who you are.”

Now, James looked at him. “You feel really provoked by my way of talking, don’t you? Anger management is not one of your strengths. Sir.”

“I have so many strengths that I don’t care about one weakness too much, James. And anger management is a strength most Augments don’t possess anyway.”

“What an excuse.”

“Do you have an excuse for that extraordinary pride of yours?”

“I can work on that.”

“Oh, I don’t think so.”

“If I work on my pride, would you work on your anger issues?”

“I’m not striking any wagers with slaves!” Khan hissed, trying to remain quiet, and looked at his slave who had just spoken to him as if there was any familiarity between them. Had that man just tried to bargain with his master?

“No, I just meant…”

“You ask me that in the most respectless tone I’ve ever heard from a slave. You ask me if I treat you better if you behave better and do it like this ? So much for ‘I can work on my pride’. I doubt that you can. That question alone from any kitchen slave would warrant a beating. You’ll have to do better than that.”

The young man seemed to be struggling for something to say, and Khan gave him the time. Carrot and stick. Patience and a bit more friendliness than was appropriate, after a strict start, sometimes worked wonders on the wildest of stallions. He had learnt that lesson early.

James sighed and swallowed visibly. “It’s incredibly hard for me to find the right words...your highness.”

Khan allowed his lips to twitch into something like a smile when he saw the disgust on James’ face, as if the title left a foul taste on the human’s tongue. “Titles are not a bad start. But talking is not everything.”

Very slowly, to gauge James’ reaction, he lifted a hand to the human’s face. The man looked at the hand and shuddered.

“Don’t question me, James. That would be another good step.”

James closed his eyes and tried to hold still as the Augment caressed his face with his long fingers. It was obvious that he did not want it, but he did not pull away with that indignant facial expression like he had done at the beginning.

“Good,” Khan praised, then he leant in closer. “Look at me.”

James opened his eyes and looked at him warily. He would really have liked to test his slave further, but the man had done his duty once tonight already, and they were still in public, so the Augment let go of James’ face without doing anything more and leant back against his horse.

“Not bad, James. Maybe you will get the hang of it in time. If you do what you are told to do and don’t refuse me or treat me without respect, you should be fine.”

“And by not refusing you, I guess you mean...I have to let you…” James muttered, and Khan smiled.

“For example, yes. If it goes like earlier tonight you might even become my new favourite.”

James looked a bit sour, and flushed, but he didn’t protest. Khan nodded again and decided to let it go. He saw James shiver, and not from revulsion.

“You are cold. You should get your blanket from your place at the door.”

“It’s fine,” James dismissed, but Khan shook his head.

“We may have come far in the last century, but dying of pneumonia is still a very real danger, James.”

“And wouldn’t that suit you just fine,” James mused in a low whisper, but Khan heard him.

“What? You dying? Why would you think I want you to die?”

“You hate me.”

If people had not been sleeping around him, Khan would have snorted rather un-emperor-like. “If I wanted you dead, you would be by now. Since you’re not, you should know I don’t want you to be.”

“Because I’m such an entertaining little toy, sir?” James said bitterly.

Khan cocked his head a little. “Yes, you are. Is that why you feel sorry for yourself? Others would give so much to hold my interest for such a long time.”

“Well, we’re not all honoured by your attention, not everyone’s world revolves around you, and I don’t get my self-value from how much you want me. Sorry, sir.”

Instead of pointing out how respectless James was being again, Khan answered with the first other thing that came to his mind. “We all receive our value from the people who value us.”

James looked at him from the side, uncertain at first, then annoyed. “Except you, you’re the emperor, you were born worthy I guess. Surely they’ve been telling you that since you were a boy?”

“Perhaps when it came to my caste, yes, but apart from that, quite the opposite, James,” Khan said patiently.

The human frowned. “What?”

“I just told you, we receive our value from the people who value us. As an emperor, I receive my value from the masses, from my own people. Leaders are not simply born, they are made, from experience, learning, suffering and decisions that will benefit some, and hurt others. A leader without followers is not a leader but a tyrant.”

James’ frown wouldn’t go away. “I thought you think yourself above us?”

“I am above everyone else, now . But I was just a useless human child once, brought into this world by a woman who meant next to nothing to my father, or anyone else. I was worth something only some time after my accession to the throne, when I had done things people could benefit from. Without my people, who would I be?”

James seemed to ponder this. “Yeah. I know what you mean.” He looked out at the night sky again.

“Do you?” Khan asked, but he could see it in the slave’s eyes. “Yes, I think you do,” he murmured softly.

“Yes, I do,” James confirmed earnestly. “I think you’d be surprised how much I know about the value others confer to our lives. There is nothing more valuable than when others decide you are worthy of their love and trust. It changes you. And I think I also know what you mean about you needing your people. I guess you would do anything to protect them.”

Khan stared at James while the human avoided his eyes and kept looking at the stars. “You were a leader yourself, weren’t you?” James did not respond but Khan knew instantly that he was right. “Of course. Your pride, your inability to follow orders, your refusal to accept your place, even the way you talk to me. Like an equal. Except...nobody of rank would be unregistered these days, as you were. So who would you command?” he asked curiously, more to himself than to James.

The human still did not look at him. “Can’t tell you.”

Khan sighed. “I thought not. It is of no matter now that you are here. By now, it’s obvious that you’re alone; nobody’s coming for you.”

James made a face but held his tongue this time. They were silent for a few minutes. Khan knew he had hit a sore spot; he could practically see the hopelessness slowly crawling over James’ features. Well, if the last of his hopes had finally been destroyed, Khan had to provide consolation, and new hope. Not out of sentimentality, but out of pure logic. Anything done by men without hope would always, invariably, be done badly. And what a shame it would be to ruin James’ performance.

So, again, it was Khan who spoke first after a bit of total silence.

“James, tonight, when you tried to protect Derya, who, as you very well know, is very precious to me, when you stayed with him, comforted him, and wouldn’t leave him until I said so, repeatedly I might add...this is a set of morals I can applaud. Some of your world views are a bit strange, some just plain stupid, but I value greatly what you did tonight. I reward bravery and loyalty. Is there any request you’d like to put forward? One you know I can grant,” he added. There was little chance James would be stupid enough to ask for his freedom, but stranger things had happened.

James looked at Khan for a few moments, obviously not knowing what to ask for.

“Something that would make life better for you, maybe, something you desire, a small privilege, even, perhaps?”

James smiled sadly and looked to the stable door again. “It’d be enough for now if I could sleep in peace, for once, without being chained to the wall or you breathing down my neck, or next door, as it is.”

“That can be arranged.”

James turned his gaze back to Khan, who explained in more detail.

“Derya, too, has his own room. You were never meant to stay in that broom cupboard anyway, it was a safety measure, as was the chain. You would, of course, only spend the night there when your duties permit it. Would your own room, next to Derya’s, be a good reward for you?”

The slave looked at him, stared, insolently, really. Khan hated being stared at like this, but tried to keep his temper.

“You really mean this?” There was the hint of a laughter in that tone, and that was the detail that fired up Khan’s rage again.

He snarled loud enough that his mare whinnied in her sleep and moved restlessly; she was a war horse, after all, ready to go at the slightest command. Khan stroked her neck again to soothe her but he was still furious. Others would have been so thankful that they’d have thrown themselves into the dust in front of him, but James stared at him as if he doubted his words! Bristling, Khan hissed at James: “Why would I not mean it, you ungrateful creature?”

Obviously, James knew he had overstepped again, and scooted away a little, bowing his head quickly. “I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to be rude. But you have to admit I am not used to you being...generous to me. Even though I don’t think it’s necessary to reward basic human decency, I thank you for it. If I haven’t fucked it up now, that is.”

Khan’s anger faded a bit. “I hope you understand me. This is a reward, from your master, for behaving honourably in a situation that could have lost me a valuable possession. I expect you to be mindful and respectful of that, and behave even better in the future. I have heard good things from overseers, don’t think I haven’t. They say you’re a hard worker. Your manners, however...well, you already know that those need improving. Which I expect you to do. Do we understand each other?”

James looked a little sullen but had to know that he shouldn’t overdo it again so soon, because he nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now. Go to sleep if you can, James. Stay where I can see you.”

The human went to lie down, as far away from Khan as possible.

Outside, the sky was already losing its dark blue colour and turning into the greys and oranges of a new dawn.

Khan, of course, still didn’t sleep. He felt a bit like a sheepdog, and also a coward. He would rather have gone out to do his duty as a leader, but it really was easier to stay and wait until the reports of his troops came in. In the maze of the city streets, no messenger would have found him. And what could he have done, anyway? He was a skilled killer, but a rather mediocre healer. Kumar was good at coordinating such situations, food, water, medical help and shelter for those who had been less lucky than others. It was not the first earthquake and it wouldn’t be the last. Most people were already used to it, although this quake had been unusually violent. Reactions like Derya’s were an exception, but then, he had once lost friends to earthquakes, and this time had been locked in as well, so Khan could understand his slave. Khan knew that Derya was actually no coward, no matter what people in the palace thought. He was courageous in his own, quieter ways or he would not have survived long enough to be where he was now.

When the sun was already up, soldiers started coming back with messages to Khan and thus roused half the staff along the way, so Khan decided they might as well start with the work. Structural engineers came for safety evaluation while the servants tidied up what they could. Derya asked if he should help but Khan would not let him leave his side.

The thought gave Khan pause. The slave was getting to him more and more. Possibly, he had liked him always, but James’ arrival might have shown him clearly how lucky he was indeed to have someone as obedient, loyal and trustworthy as Derya. This was not good. Derya was far, far beneath him in terms of status. Just a slave. To perceive a slave as someone likeable, someone to trust and confide in, even, someone to be gentle with, was nothing if not dangerous. He gave the orders and Derya followed them, he decided what to do and Derya provided whatever was necessary. That was how it was supposed to be, the way the world worked. However, another thought calmed Khan again immediately. No matter the bit of...tenderness he might feel for the slave, he still liked the feeling of owning Derya, commanding him, using him. These were not feelings a true lover had. Still, he would have to be more careful, more detached again.

James had been commanded to follow them around as well, but that was only because Khan did not trust the human. If anyone was stupid enough to try and run away now, it was possibly James. The slave collar and the chip, which were making it obvious what he was and whose he was, would not change that. Because if any slave was clever enough to figure out a way to get rid of both, it was also James, Khan was sure of that. It wasn’t actually that hard to open a collar or get the chip to malfunction or take it out. Slaves didn’t try simply because they had been told all their lives how impossible it was. So many boundaries were made impenetrable due to the boundaries in people’s heads. In the heads of slaves raised in this country, in this palace, there were innumerable limitations and boundaries. But Khan was a good general because he tried to never underestimate his enemy; James had neither been raised here, nor as a slave. The man could think for himself, one reason why it was sometimes even strangely amusing to talk to him; Khan could never really just talk to anyone except to his Augment family, but they were far away. Anyone who was not family could not be trusted, however, no matter how amusing. It actually just made them much more dangerous. So James had to stay by his side for the day, and jump up and run whenever Khan wanted something. Khan would have been lying if he had said he didn’t enjoy that part. Taming the lynx among housecats was going rather well at the moment.

 

When the house was declared safe, the staff began with the almost impossible task of returning the palace to its normal state, a task they always excelled at within a remarkably short time nonetheless. Derya and James were assigned to Khan’s private rooms, of course, but after they were done there, Khan sent James away to help in other parts of the palace while Derya was allowed to stay and do a bit of fine-tuning. His favourite also got the task of making James’ new room ready to be lived in. The young one seemed to be happy about his master’s decision, but did not comment further since it wasn’t his place.

It took all day until everything was somewhat in order again. The city seemed to be faring pretty well, too, and normality was slowly restored.

In the evening, Khan had dinner by himself and sent Derya down to the kitchens to have supper as well. James had not yet returned from his work in the palace cellars when Derya came back upstairs, so Khan let Derya accompany him for a bath and some stress relief. Since the Augment himself had seen nothing but papers, soldiers and rubble all day, he decided to go for a walk in the gardens later, and take his two slaves with him.

When James did come back upstairs however, he was still covered in dust and grime, and had not eaten.

Looking the slave over, Khan sighed. “Go and shower, and eat something. Change your clothes. But don’t take too long, I want you to be back within the hour.”

Thankfully, James did not ask any questions and turned on his heel, looking quite relieved at the mention of the word “shower”.

Still naked after the bath, Khan let himself sink down onto the edge of his bed. Since he had not slept at all last night, it felt softer to him than ever, but even though the hot water had done him good, his mind was still sifting through paperwork, and he knew he would not be able to sleep yet. He needed that walk.

“My lord?”

Khan looked up at Derya. The slave was still naked, too, but wore an expression of polite concern.

“Yes?”

“You look distressed. Troubled. Is there anything I can do for you?”

The Augment wiped a hand across his face and beckoned the slave to move closer.

“It’s nothing. But I thank you for asking.” Putting his hands on the small of Derya’s back, he allowed himself to lean his head against the young one’s warm belly and breathe in the scent of bath salt. His hands glided forward and came to rest on Derya’s hip bones. “I think you’ve gained a few pounds. Have you been eating more of late?”

From the corners of his half-closed eyes, Khan saw Derya’s arms twitch as if to touch his master, but remembered his place in time. “My lord, you’ve been kind enough to let me eat with you more often, lately. Does it displease you?”

The young slave sounded so worried that Khan felt himself smile against his will.

“No, it doesn’t. You’re lovely as always. Why would you think otherwise?”

“I want to please you, my lord. You noticed and mentioned it, I just wanted to make sure,” Derya replied in a servile tone.

Khan raised his head and looked up into the slave’s face. “You please me by looking healthy.” Sitting back, the Augment let go of Derya’s hips and motioned for the human to twirl around once, and Derya did, smiling tentatively. “Womanly hips suit you,” Khan said graciously, and caressed them with his fingertips again. They really had gotten a bit rounder, giving the slave a more feminine look than usual.

Derya looked down along his own body. “I am glad you think that. You have many women, and I was bought to balance that out without being completely male, being both. Looking...exotic is the one advantage I have, I do not want to lose it by looking too much like a woman.”

Khan hummed to himself, still moving his fingers along the soft brown skin. He knew Derya must be afraid of losing his master’s favour, and therefore his standing or even his life, in some way or another. Many favourites of many emperors had met their end that way.

“Need I remind you, I am the only one whose opinion of you counts, not those of others. So don’t worry about your hips, they are not what makes you you.”

Khan tugged the slave closer again and let his hands linger on the small female chest while his tongue ghosted over dark, sensitive nipples.

The door opened quietly, and Khan looked over to see James, who stood there looking a little awkward.

“Do you...uh...want me to go, sir?”

Khan could not help but smile and turned back to Derya’s enticing nakedness, unaccustomed to shame when it came to one slave seeing him with another. “No, James,” he said, kissing and sucking the dusky little buds before him reverently for a few more seconds, before he got up and gave the slave’s naked behind a little pat. “Get dressed.”

 

The two slaves followed him down to the garden where the air was heavy with the scent of flowers after a long, hot day. As they strolled around the garden paths, deeper between the huge, flowering bushes, Khan used the chance to inspect the surroundings and see if there was any damage to the valuable plants that had not yet been fixed.

“Can you read, James?” he asked in passing.

James actually stood still for a moment and the Augment could see indignation in his slave’s face when he turned to see why the slave had stopped walking.

“Can I…? Of course I can read! Why would I not be able to read? Sir?!” he added, but it was clear he was really hurt.

Khan merely shrugged and continued walking. “It’s not uncommon in our generation that people can’t read.”

Our generation?”

Khan nodded. “You can’t be much younger or older than either Derya or me. What are you, twenty-six? Twenty-seven?”

“Thirty,” James said, and scowled.

The Augment raised his brows in mild astonishment. “That old already, and you still don’t know how to follow orders and control your hothead?”

Gnashing his teeth, the human eyed his master in a way Khan did not like too much. James had no right to look at him like this.

“And you still can’t control your anger, no matter how old you are.”

Khan straightened up to his full height. “I’m twenty-seven. And you want to watch your tone.”

“Just twenty-seven? Jeez, you don’t change much over the years…”

“What do you mean?” Khan snapped. “We’ve never met.”

Maybe it was Khan’s agitated tone, but for once, James ducked his head. “Never mind. Sorry I said that, sir. Maybe you could explain why you thought I can’t read?”

Suspicious, but too mollified by James’ tone (and overall too tired) to care much more, Khan let it go and explained while he turned away, walking along a path lined with jasmine bushes of various different species. “Derya couldn’t read either, before he came to the palace. When he grew up, school was not for free, and he would have been arrested for what he is as soon as he had entered any public building. Many could not afford school in our generation, street kids like him least of all. So, many people our age and above can’t read. Apart from that, I just thought you might have tried to get your hands on a book by now, you know, on the long evenings where you just sit there in the corner and wallow in self-pity.”

From the corner of his eyes Khan saw how James balled his hands into fists as if to keep them from reaching for his master’s neck, still scowling. “I didn’t know I could ask for such things, sir. But just because I don’t read doesn’t mean I can’t. I just don’t have much time for reading.”

“Oh yes, your evenings in particular are filled with so much work here, when I don’t want you,” Khan scoffed. “And no, slaves don’t usually ask for books but as Derya managed to find a way around that until I offered it, I thought you might have, by now.”

“A way around? How?” James asked, looking directly at his fellow slave.

Derya smiled, but it was Khan who answered.

“He often lay next to me when I read, and at one point I noticed him staring at the books but he was obviously unable to read a single word. So I told one of my housekeepers to teach him how to read and told Derya that he could borrow some books with my permission.” Thinking back to those days, Khan now stepped between high walls of flowering rhododendron bushes, trailing his fingers along the branches and leaves. The two slaves followed in his wake.

“That was...actually quite nice of you. Sir.” James seemed perplexed enough about that.

Khan sneered. “I have my moments. Books are the only escape I’ll allow my slaves. What was the last book you read, then?” he asked the blond man, who still scowled back at his master. It began to annoy Khan greatly; he was trying his best to be civil to this worm and he had the gall to scowl .

“Uhm…” James seemed to think hard about the answer. “Can’t really remember.”

The Augment raised his eyebrows. “You’re lying.”

“It was a textbook.”

“About what?”

James grimaced. “ Astrophysics , your highness,” he said in a mocking tone. It was obviously meant as a joke, and Khan let it go, he was too tired and did not want his mood spoiled entirely.

“Nice to know I have such a well-read slave. But learning from a book is not the reading I mean. I mean the kind of reading that enriches your soul,” Khan clarified, stepping into a clearing and leading the two slaves into a large ring of blooming azalea bushes.

“I am impressed that you as the emperor have the time to enrich your soul,” James jeered.

Khan chuckled. “The things that cling to my soul these days are dark and deadly, and unfortunately do not come from books. I do enjoy classic literature once in a while. When I was younger, I was rather fond of fairy tales. I think they are always a very underestimated part of each civilisation’s heritage and culture. They tell a lot about the people who keep telling them. Which fables were popular where you grew up?” On a low garden bench in the middle of the azaleas, Khan sat down, motioning to the other two to sit by his feet. Maybe the answer to his question could also tell him more about the slave. Too much about him was still a mystery. Mysteries could be dangerous.

“Well, I don’t know, really,” James answered while he let himself fall onto the sparse grass. Derya knelt, more elegantly, next to the bench Khan was sitting on.

Khan raised an eyebrow. “Did your mother never tell or read you stories?”

It was apparent from James’ expression that Khan had hit a sore spot.

“No. Sir.”

Khan cocked his head to the side and tried to analyse the face James was making.

“I thought it was your father who was absent when you grew up?”

“My father died the day I was born. My mother was… There was nobody there to read me stories.”

“Hmm. I guess that is the reason why you are such an angry man, and so stubborn as well. And desperate in many ways,” Khan mused.

“I’m not an angry man,” James growled, belying his own words with his tone. “And I’m not desperate.”

“Yes you are. You are restless. Not just here in this place. Your very soul. Traveller, indeed. You could not stay in one place to save your life. Which is why I am afraid that one day, it will be you in my courtroom, with a gun to your head.”

James threw him a questioning look. “You sound as if you’d actually regret to shoot me.”

“I would, James, I told you before that I do not wish to see you dead.” Khan felt compelled to flash his sharp teeth in a feral grin. “A warm, living body is much more useful than a corpse. But you still don’t seem very pleased by the prospect of staying here forever. You haven’t accepted it.”

Even though James did not reply, the answer was written all over his features. Khan sighed.

“For the protocol, if I decide that I should better use you while I haven’t had to kill you, you brought that on yourself. Don’t ever try to escape, James. It would be a waste. Sabir would have you whipped if they found you even near the outer walls. And deep whipping marks are very unsavoury in my opinion, they tend to reopen in bed and then my silk sheets would be ruined.”

“I’ll try to keep your sheets in mind, your highness,” James said dryly, and Khan could not suppress a smile. The boy had guts, he had to give him that.

He got up from the bench and walked back to the footpath, hearing the two slaves scrambling behind him to keep up.

“You can be just as entertaining as you can be annoying, James. Besides, even though the slave market was a means to scare you, you don’t even know what you are missing in the world you live in now. Actually…” Khan turned to Derya, thinking hard. “I think it might be time to show him off to the world...and show him the world he now lives in. Don’t you think?” Khan broke off a peach-coloured blossom from a desert rose tree and stuck it in Derya’s long black hair.

Blushing fiercely and obviously slightly baffled that the emperor would ask his opinion on such a thing, Derya nodded without saying anything.

“Yes,” Khan said, unbothered by the silence, turned back to James. “I think I should take you along to the Women’s Market.”

At that, Derya made a little sound of astonishment, and then joy, and James looked completely clueless, even a little cautious.

“Women’s market?”

“Derya, would you like to explain, since you’re practically bouncing on your toes?” the Augment asked, without malice, but the slave quickly stood very still and lowered his head.

“Forgive me, your highness.”

“No need. Do explain to him. I think he could need a taste of your enthusiasm.”

Sitting down on a low, thick branch of an apple tree they had come to, supported by a little wooden crutch, Khan beckoned the slaves closer. The two of them sat on the grass again, and Derya leant his head against Khan’s knees like a lapdog. While Derya talked, Khan wound his fingers into the silky black strands.

“The Women’s Market,” Derya explained to James, “is a special market that is only held once every few months. It’s at the same site as the slave market, but it is a market for luxury goods, gold, silver, perfume, special spices and herbs, silk, jewels, rare pets, anything you could imagine. It was originally a market only for the emperor’s harem, wives, courtesans and concubines could go buy things there, away from prying eyes, because nobody else was allowed to enter the market, and no other man was allowed to ever see these women. But under our Lord and Master now, all women of the upper two castes are allowed to go there, together with the concubines and our master himself. It still is quite a private market, since only the richest can afford to buy anything there. Most other emperors had quite a large harem, they filled the market alone. It is not so large now, so without this change of rules the tradeswomen there would  not make much profit. It is a truly beautiful place.”

James seemed to mull that over. “Okay...sounds...interesting. But I happen to be a man. If it’s not allowed for other men to go there, how will I get in? Why would you take me there if it’s forbidden?”

Khan smiled wolfishly at his slave and wound Derya’s black hair about his fingers a little too tightly to still be perfectly comfortable. “Because I can, James. Because it pleases me to have you with me. I made that law. Do you think anyone there will question me?”

Chapter Text

As the date of the mysterious Women’s Market rolled around, Jim was woken by a very early knock on his door. Days in the palace always started quite early, to make use of the somewhat cooler hours before the sun was up high in the sky, but today it was still very much dark outside.

Jim rolled over in his bed, groaned and managed to sit up before the door opened. Standing in the doorframe was Derya, looking excited already.

“Time to get up, Jim, don’t let the master catch you still in bed. He’s been up for hours.”

Now that he had his own room, Jim had thought he would get a bit more sleep than before. And he could indeed fall asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow, and did not lie awake half the night because Khan was close by. But the Augment had had them working late into the night each day and would only let them leave well after midnight, and that was only if he did not want anything physical from either of them. Unfortunately, last night had been one of these nights where the Augment just couldn’t get enough, and he had taken them in turns. Rarely had Jim ever been so embarrassed, even more so because his treacherous body had shown a - in Jim’s opinion entirely Pavlovian - reaction at the beginning, a reaction he had thankfully not had to worry about for long, because he had been painfully oversensitive long before Khan had finally sent them away a lot later. How this beast would never tire out for hours on end he’d never know. And at least Jim’s backside had not let him forget it for the entire night, however stoically he had tried to take it as it was being done to him. So all in all, Jim did not feel particularly better rested than before he had moved. He had to admit though, it was nice to wake up alone again.

Grumbling, Jim rubbed his face with his hands. “Doesn’t he ever sleep? It must have been three in the morning before he let us go! What time is it now ?”

“It’s not your place to question when you are dismissed or woken, Jim,” Derya said sternly but not unfriendly, as if he was chiding a child. “Now get up, have breakfast. The master wants you to help out downstairs before we leave.”

Right. Even though he had no choice but to go, Jim found he was actually curious about this market, not least of all because Derya had been excited like a little kid on Christmas Morning about it for the last two days. The young slave spoke about the place as if it was magic. Jim, however, was still sceptical. In his opinion, going out in public with Khan and being shown to people, not as goods this time but as a member of the household (albeit one with a collar) still held too much potential for failing in some way and losing what little patience Khan had with him. Being so dependent on the bastard made Jim furious, but he was stranded here, and for what it was worth, had to survive until his friends found him. He absolutely refused to believe that anything other than exactly that would happen.

Jim swung his feet out of bed and got dressed quickly, then made his way downstairs to the kitchens to eat. Breakfast was always a great opportunity to talk, in-depth and undisturbed, at least with those who could speak English, which was most, but not quite all. Jim only knew that English was considered a language for the “better“ people, so everyone tried to learn it, but many of the lower castes never succeeded. Since at breakfast, everyone came together no matter their caste, Jim found it a great opportunity to chat and learn about the others. Today, though, it was so early that only old Mima, the undisputed boss below stairs, was awake, together with two kitchen maids who often stared and winked at Jim but did not speak English well. Mima often scolded them for paying any attention to Jim, presumably in their own language. He couldn’t be absolutely sure but he suspected it was something to do with being Khan’s plaything and nobody else’s. Great. Not that he had really counted on it, but the thought that no woman here would give him a chance at anything because Jim was ‘spoken for’ by Khan himself put him in a really disagreeable mood every time he remembered it.

“Excited, James?” Mima asked and put a large mug of tea and a bowl of oatmeal with milk and raisins in front of him.

“Not as much as Derya. Thank you, Mima.”

The old woman laughed. “No wonder. Derya is rarely allowed to leave the palace, but every time he comes back from the market he tells stories about it as if he’s never seen anything more beautiful. I hope you’ll comb your hair before you leave, by the way.” She ran a gentle hand through his increasingly long, now very blond hair. It had been bleached by the sun so much by now that it contrasted starkly with his ever darker suntan.

“Sure I will.” Of course he wouldn’t. “Have you ever been to that market, Mima?”

The woman laughed again. “James, really. When would I have gone there? It’s a market for the wealthy and beautiful women of this capital. A place where rich mothers take their rich daughters to spend the money of their rich husbands and fathers, gossip, and see the emperor, and be seen by him. I am neither rich nor is my caste high enough to go there. I am a servant in the palace, my place is here. It is an honour for you to go, none of the servants except Derya ever attends. I hope you’ll have a wonderful day, dear.”

She bustled off and left Jim to his own devices. After he had finished his breakfast, he went to find an overseer who had orders for him. As it turned out, he was supposed to help with the horses, not only Khan’s mare but also two grey dappled ones Derya and he were supposed to ride (a daunting prospect for Jim, particularly after the night he’d had, but at least they were not mules), and a bunch of light golden Arab palomino mares, obviously meant for the women.

Jim had only ever seen Khan’s concubines in his bedroom, but couldn’t really recall any of their faces because he had tried to ignore what was going on at the time. He now realised he had never seen any of them around the palace, learnt any names, or ever found out how many there were, exactly (he now counted eleven golden horses, so there was a clue). Only after the earthquake had he seen them standing around on the lawn, but since maids and female slaves and attendants of all kinds had been with them, it had been hard to guess a number, and he had had other things on his mind, then. They had certainly not slept on the floor in the stables, and had been gone from view quickly after the palace had been declared safe. Jim wondered if Khan kept them locked up somewhere, especially after what had happened to Cara.

Shortly after sunrise, the grooms left Jim alone with the horses, all orderly tied up in the courtyard, brushed and curried until every last coat was shiny and silky, all saddles in place and polished, all manes braided. Just when his loneliness was beginning to make Jim uneasy, he heard female voices chattering, and a horde of splendidly dressed women entered the yard.

Their laughter turned into giggles when they saw Jim, which immediately made him self-conscious. A giggling bunch of women had certainly been more fun when he had still been a captain. Jim shook himself briefly. He was still a captain, damn it! Just because he had to play golden boy for the Augment pervert, he must not forget who he really was!

A tall, blonde one, who walked in the middle of the crowd, pointed a finger at him. Jim saw pale greenish claws and delicate gold rings on even more delicate chains that led to a gold wristband studded with some kind of pale blue gemstone.

“See, I told you he was going to come with us.”

“Seems only fair after all that’s been taken from him,” another, shorter blonde giggled. It sounded malicious.

“His manners must have gone to hell, too. Are you going to bow or what?” the first asked in a sharp tone.

Jim decided to bow slightly and keep his mouth shut.

“Wait a second!” The tall blonde strode over to Jim, and, to his surprise and horror, she grabbed his crotch with her right.

“What the fuck, lady?!” Jim took a step back and slapped the invasive hand away.

Mirela!” one of the women squeaked, and the others gasped.

Mirela, meanwhile, laughed. “Uhhh, ladies! He still has it all! How exciting!”

The other women came a little closer. Maybe for the first time in his life, Jim wished he could be invisible for a group of girls. He hadn’t quite expected Khan’s women to be as handsy and inappropriate as the man himself. Thankfully, the others seemed to be in no mood to follow suit.

“Mirela, you know you can’t do this! If anybody reports this to the emperor!” A tall, cream-skinned woman with long black locks cast a nervous glance back to the door.

“Then I advise you to keep your pouty mouth shut, Radhika. It’s not like anything happened. I was just checking.”

“Checking what exactly?” Jim asked, still angry, but Mirela slapped him across the face.

“Such a loudmouth. Don’t you know you’re not supposed to talk to us? I’m surprised you are even allowed to be alone with or look at us while you still have your junk.”

“I’m sorry?!”

“As far as I know he’s never actually done it to anybody, he banned that practise, didn’t he?” a delicate, Chinese-looking one chimed in with a melodic voice and becoming accent. “If Khan wanted him castrated he’d have done it by now.”

“Castrated?!”

“Yes, but he still sleeps with that one, doesn’t he?” Mirela argued without paying any attention to Jim. “Why would he want him to still have all that? That’s disgusting! He shouldn’t be sleeping with a man at all, it’s bad enough to share a bed with the mutant. Although I have to say, this one is pretty enough. Still, I don’t see what a man like the emperor sees in him, there’s nothing feminine about him!”

“Maybe it’s his lips,” the shorter blonde threw in, and a few of the girls giggled knowingly.

“Could you ladies please stop talking about me like that?!”

Some murmured indignantly when Jim growled at them, but Mirela let out a screeching laugh. “You’re just a slave whore, I’ll talk about you any way I want to.” Her eyes lit up for a moment. Jim didn’t like the expression. “By the way, you slapped me.” She grinned. “You’re done for. The mutant bitch is always too clever for such mistakes but you… consider your career over .”

A hissing and whispering went through the small crowd and all of them curtsied when Khan practically floated into the yard, followed by Derya. He was wearing a long, mergreen robe and thick gold bangles today, and Jim allowed himself to breathe a little sigh of relief; these getups with flowing robes and jewellery, as strange as they still looked to Jim on Khan, were always a sign that the Augment was as much off duty as he could ever be, and therefore usually in a much more relaxed mood than in daily life. There were murmurs of “your majesty” as Khan strode closer. The Augment’s eyes wandered from Jim to Mirela.

“Is there a problem, ladies?” Khan’s voice was pleasant and, at least to Jim’s ears, horribly dangerous. Jim’s stomach jumped at the unbidden memory of the last man’s fate who had come too close to one of Khan’s women.

Most of the concubines shook their heads but the tall blonde one called Mirela turned her back to Jim and took a step towards Khan.

“My lord, we were all just talking amongst ourselves when that slave touched me! When I tried to get away from him he slapped my hand! Look!”

“What?! That’s bullshit! She…”

“Silence, slave!”

Khan took Mirela’s white wrist and turned it. The skin showed a hint of a blush that the Augment caressed with his thumb.

“I see. What a shock that must have been for you, my dear. Surely you are shaken by such brute behaviour.”

Khan’s voice was very much pleasant, gentle even, full of understanding, and yet sent a chill down Jim’s spine. Mirela nodded, a tragic little pout on her face.

“Well, in that case, you should stay here and recover. I cannot possibly expect from you to spend the day in the presence of the slave who did this, but I need him close by today. Rest assured, there will be a reasonable punishment. Now go upstairs. We’ll spend the evening together.”

Khan let go of her wrist, smiled at her, and turned his back on Mirela. The concubine stood there, shaking with what Jim thought might be rage, threw Jim a dirty look, but since Khan’s last words had definitely had the tone of a command, she had no other choice but to turn around and go back into the palace.

“The rest of you, please go find your horses. James, bring me my mare.”

Jim obeyed, but his eyes followed Mirela as she marched back to the palace doors. Khan noticed.

“What do you think of her?” he asked quietly while casually checking the saddle and stirrups.

“Mirela? Uh, she...she’s a beauty, I guess,” Jim responded, not sure what Khan wanted to hear, and not at all certain that he was not going to be punished. He shot the Augment a nervous glance from the side.

Khan smirked and gave the mare an apple slice that he had pulled from a little pouch. “She’s a cow.” When he saw Jim’s face, his smirk widened to a grin. “She was quite new here when I bought Derya and she was immediately jealous. Tried to poison him. Acts like a favourite, schemes and plots when she gets bored. She’s also a compulsive liar. But she can be quite entertaining in bed, and she’d sell out her best friend to me to gain my favour, which makes her quite a valuable inside reporter.”

Jim decided there would not be a better moment to defend himself. “I swear, I didn’t attack her. I just slapped her because she came too close.”

“Yes, I know. I saw the whole thing. And I heard. I waited upstairs on purpose, I wanted to see how they’d react, how you would react, without me there. I rather expected Mirela to behave like this. I am not stupid. I know what kind of a woman she is. I usually see through people really well.”

Jim decided to ignore the side blow. “So...you’re not going to punish me?” He was not sure he could quite believe his luck.

“No, this time it was hardly your fault. But I’ll put her in her place tonight. She’s not supposed to touch any other man, and absolutely not the way she touched you.” A shadow crossed Khan’s face. “It has to be done, it seems it’s overdue.”

Unwilling to think about what that would be, Jim changed the subject. “Can I ask a question, sir?”

“Quickly, then.”

“The girls talked about...well...she touched me there to see if I…”

“To see if I had you castrated,” Khan explained with a dark look. “It’s not a valid argument for touching you this way, since, as you heard from Mei, I banned that barbaric practice. And I see no reason to do that to you. It would be a shame.”

Jim tried to ignore the lascivious grin on Khan’s face. “But why would they think that, then?”

“Probably because you are allowed to see them even though you are not a guard. Moreover, you were alone with them, even if it was just for a few minutes. Anyone they usually see alone is female, or one of the hermaphrodites, and if they see male guards they are usually not alone. So you are the first man they’ve seen alone in years, apart from me. I guessed they would be curious, and usually Derya would have been with you when you met them. But I, too, was curious. Now mount your horse. You and Derya go next to last, in front of the last guards. And James? You are not to look at them directly, keep your head down when they look at you. And don’t ever talk to them again if they catch you alone.”

When everyone had mounted their horse (Jim with a bit of difficulty), the gates of the yard opened. Outside, at least two dozens of guards were waiting on their own horses, ready to accompany the group of thirteen. As they rode along the streets, the same way they had taken to the slave market, Jim noticed that the streets were completely empty, at least those they were on. He tried to convince his horse to move a bit closer to Derya’s, and failed. Smiling, the slave came closer on his own.

“Where are all the people?”

“Nobody is allowed to use the streets we use. Nobody is allowed to see the concubines unless it is some official occasion. And we are less at risk without crowds. Past concubines, of past emperors, have been murdered in these streets.”

Jim smirked and dropped his voice to a whisper. “And I thought our jealous boy just doesn’t want anyone to see his toys.”

Derya shushed him harshly for his words and scolded in an almost inaudible whisper: “Do you want to be punished after all? What if he hears you?”

Jim looked ahead, feeling sceptic. “There’s a whole lot of people between us and him.”

“But his ears are better than anyone’s! You really have to learn to hold your tongue, Jim. At least in public. He’s the emperor, you can’t just call him a boy, let alone in front of others!”

“Alright, alright. Sorry, I guess. So, can you tell me something about the girls? I don’t even know their names,“ Jim tried to change the subject.

Derya let it go and seemed to ponder the question. “Hmm... I suppose it won’t hurt. Fine, let’s see. You’ve met Mirela.”

“Charming woman, yes, the one we left behind?” Jim asked.

Derya nodded. “Yes. She is...quite difficult. She cost the most among all these girls, and therefore thinks herself above the others, above anyone really, except our master.”

“She feels superior for that ?”

“Yes. Her impoverished mother sold her to the palace, some widowed woman from the second caste. She’d be allowed to come to the market but she never does, not even to see her daughter.”

“A charming mother for a charming daughter. Alright. And the ones who are with us?”

Derya craned his neck and Jim followed his example.

“The blonde one there directly behind the master, that is Ania. She is friends with Mirela, or whatever you call an alliance of…” Derya struggled to find a word.

“Bitches?” Jim helped in a quiet voice, and Derya shushed him but did not object.

“She was a gift from the Russians, to improve political relations.”

“What? A head of state gives another head of state a human gift ?” Jim whispered in a bewildered tone.

Derya cocked his head to the side and gave Jim one of these looks that told him just how little he knew about this time and how suspicious it looked. “It is quite a common thing these days. Your country did the same; Selene there, with the dark brown hair two horses in front of us, she is the gift of the American government. The difference between her and Ania is that Selene is madly in love with our master, and she won’t give up her dream that one day he’ll marry her. Stupid girl, he’ll never marry any of them.” Derya shook his head as if in disbelief and then continued in a quiet tone. “Right behind Ania are Mei and Radhika. Mei was sold to the palace by an important business partner from further east, she is the only...um...trained courtesan here, if you will, and takes her tasks very seriously. She is quite a smart girl. We’re friendly, and she is also friends with Radhika, the tall one with the black locks next to her. Radhika was sold at a pretty low price by her parents, almost a gift, to show loyalty to the new emperor, but she, too, is quite smart and dutiful about her position here. Both Mei and her are of the opinion that they bring honour to their families by serving the emperor. Among all the girls, Radhika is perhaps the most trustworthy and friendly, even to me.”

Jim looked at the pair of very different women riding close to the front of the procession. “I didn’t know you are friends with any of the girls.”

“Friendly, not friends,” Derya corrected. “And only with those who are not competitive about their position here. I can’t afford to be friends with any of them. Apart from that, I am just a slave, they are much higher in the… pecking order, I think you would call it.”

“Hmm. Alright, and the others?” He looked forward again, as did Derya.

“Behind them are Asami and Sarah, both sold to the palace purely for the money, both not very fond of the master, but quiet enough in his presence to not be a problem. The redhead in the middle is Rika. She is a bit of a feisty one, actually sold herself to the palace, to settle her family’s debts, and is very proud of it, too. She is probably least afraid of the master but still very respectful, and also on the smart side. The emperor is quite fond of her, I think, her and Radhika are among the favourites. Next to Selene, who I already told you about, that is Isabel. She, too, was once very much in love with the master but hopelessness has claimed her heart by now. The one with the creamy skin close to us is Jelena. Her father sold her to the emperor to escape disownment and possibly prison for something he did, something to do with business, I don’t remember what it was. She is the only one who is a little older than the master and possibly the least favourite. He’ll only see her every few months. She is deeply afraid of him and cries a lot.”

“I am surprised that there aren’t more of those. And the black woman directly in front of us? I’ve never seen her before, I think I’d remember her,” Jim whispered, and jerked his chin in the direction of a woman with very dark skin and long braided hair. Other than the other girls who were all dressed in wide, flowing clothes, this one was wrapped in a tight, earthy red dress and wore no jewellery that Jim could see, except golden beads in her long braids.

Derya, too, lowered his voice even more. “That is Mirembe. She is a bit of a special case; Khan does not sleep with her, nor has he ever, her status as concubine is only an official thing, so she can have certain benefits. She is an African princess, and she is not a gift, or really the master’s property; she is in peace custody if you will, a hostage of sorts, to keep her father’s country and his allies from declaring war. She and the master have some sort of agreement that involves politics, loyalty, and her keeping her virginity. But I don’t think there was a need for that agreement, I doubt the master would use her anyway.”

“Why?” Jim asked, very much curious about this woman who managed to live under Khan’s roof completely undisturbed.

“Because she is royalty, and her...integrity is the master’s responsibility. Two of his own sisters are in peace custody in Australia and Brazil. If he’d touch Mirembe, it would be a bad sign to other leaders, and he’d be rightfully afraid for the two of them.”

“Wait a second, his sisters?” Jim gasped, and threw a look to the front of the line to where Khan was riding. “He’s got sisters?”

“But of course, several. Which stone did you live under before you came here, Jim? His majesty’s mother was the only one ever to give birth to a son, but his father had many wives. He tried to have sons for many years, and therefore had many daughters.”

Jim felt a little gobsmacked by these news, although it probably figured. “But...but where are they? I’ve never seen any of them! Wouldn’t...shouldn’t they be with us today? I mean, it’s called Women’s Market, wouldn’t it be, you know...”

Rolling his eyes, Derya explained. “They were all married off, of course. What else would they be good for?”

Jim had to bite back a venomous comment on that, and instead asked another question. “Married off...by their father?”

“Most of them, yes. Some by the master himself.”

“He married off his own sisters?”

“For good relationships all over the globe, yes. Some of them are married to his brothers.”

“Wait, you said he was the only boy…”

Derya made a frustrated little noise. “Augment brothers, Jim, Augments! Of course he is not related to them by blood, but to some by marriage. And many of them are quite close anyway, they see each other as family because they are more like each other than they are like humans. He did not just give his sisters to anyone, he chose wisely. That is, after all, what marriage is all about; expanding your family and forging alliances.”

“Pah. Figures.”

“What?”

“Nothing. So why hasn’t he married any of their sisters yet?”

Derya shrugged. “He never talks about marriage for himself, he has always been able to find another way to get what he wanted, politically.”

“Or maybe there’s someone he can’t marry, so he doesn’t want to marry at all,” Jim remarked very quietly.

After that, Derya completely refused to talk to Jim until they arrived at the market.

Some sort of curtain was hanging across the narrow road. As the group approached it, the guards who were with them dismounted and positioned themselves somewhere along the street. Behind the curtain, Jim could hear the soft buzzing noise of the market.

“Dismount, give someone your horse to hold and come with me to the screen. We’ll hold it open for the women and the master and follow last,” Derya whispered to Jim, who did as he was told, holding the cloth open and his head a bit down until the girls had all passed. Khan went in after them, and Jim let Derya go before him, bowing minutely and winking at his colleague, who smiled a bit and blushed slightly as he went through. Jim followed at last.

At first, he could scarcely believe that this was the same place where not long ago he had been paraded around on a mule, watching all the human misery. Today, the large open space looked clean and beautiful. People - women - dressed in all kinds of rich colours were strolling from stall to stall in groups of twos or threes, sometimes more. Jim could smell flowery scents, spices, and some sharp animal tang he couldn’t quite place.

The concubines had already vanished; obviously, they were not required to stay with Khan, but Derya was gesturing for Jim to hurry and catch up with their master, and Jim quickened his steps and looked down to his feet when he noticed another thing.

“The place is tiled! There weren’t any tiles here when…”

“Of course there were, the place has been swept clean for this market, do you think the ladies want to dirty their expensive shoes and clothes? Now. Stay two steps behind the master, don’t touch anything and don’t look at anyone, it would be very offensive and insulting. You are only allowed to be here because you are with the emperor. This is a safe space for women, especially unmarried ones. Try to blend in as much as you can and don’t attract attention. If in doubt, just watch what I do.”

“I thought he wanted to show me off to the world ?” Jim quoted.

“He probably does, but that does not mean you should draw attention to yourself. Presenting yourself as humble and quiet will do the trick just fine. If you make a bad impression by standing out too much, it won’t look good for our master. That, too, is why it’s such an honour for you to be here; he’s giving you a chance to shine, and a day out. That’s more than a slave can ask for. So whatever you do, do not stare at or speak to anyone! If anyone does talk to the master about you, you bow the moment you are mentioned, a deep bow, stay down for three seconds, come back up and keep looking at the ground. Oh, and keep your hands folded on top of each other while you bow and until the attention is no longer on you.”

“Alright…” Suddenly, Jim felt very nervous about this, particularly the do-not-stare-at-people-thing. He had heard at some point that in ancient - or at least bygone - societies, unmarried women had been guarded like a pile of gold by a dragon. Social rules like not being able to talk to or look at an unmarried girl were obsolete where Jim came from. The inequality between men and women here was often disturbing for him, but then again, being forced into sexual slavery was one giant hint that something was deeply wrong with this society he had landed in, so he should probably not be surprised.

As he trotted along behind Khan, though, he found it harder and harder to keep his head down, what with the stunning scenery that surrounded him now, the chattering and laughter of girls and women, the light morning breeze and the soft, almost gentle light of the sun that had just come up. One beautiful thing followed the next here; gold and silver tableware, lamps, carpets, mirrors and other luxury things one could probably stuff into a woman’s room, a rainbow of exotic, colourful flowers on display in pots and the corresponding pouches of seeds, lots and lots of glittering jewellery, with precious stones or intricate little details, necklaces, earrings, bangles, rings and bracelets, mostly in gold and silver, but some fashioned from pieces of wood, ivory, precious stones, or even bone or leather. He smelled perfumes and essential oils that still made him sneeze minutes after they had passed the stalls, and saw the inevitable mountains of handbags and shoes, although they looked quite different from what he was used to in his time. He saw combs and brushes inlaid with ivory, ember or gems or made of precious, glossy woods, more kinds of cosmetics, makeup, creams, tinctures and cosmetic tools than Jim could name or had ever seen, clothes ranging from Western to Arabian Nights, and yards upon yards of no doubt expensive textiles in every conceivable colour and shade. There were displays of fans, snappers and delicate silk shawls - which, as Derya informed him, were all actually for dancing - and sweets and all kinds of nuts and dried or fresh fruits that made Jim’s mouth water only by looking at them, as did the smell of hundreds of different spices and herbs that pervaded the air. The stalls that sold coffee made Jim dizzy with longing (coffee was not for slaves here), and thousands of delicious-smelling tea varieties reminded him vividly of how thirsty he was becoming under the sun that had risen fully by now.

In one corner of the market, Jim finally saw where the sharp smell of predator came from; a small menagerie was sitting there in cages; black panthers, leopards, and smaller but no less dangerous looking cats Jim could not name sat next to a young litter of wolf pups, a bunch of what looked like fennecs, a white fox, two mane wolves, and dozens of different dog and house cat breeds. A bit further along were smaller animals, bunnies, chinchillas, something that made Jim’s brain come up with the name “sugar glider”, glass cases full of snakes and lizards, and then rows and rows of exotic, colourful birds in rather small cages.

For a few moments, Jim was actually able to forget why he was here, and just breathe in the fresh morning air and marvel at all the pretty things around him. He guessed his neck would probably give him hell tonight, but he could not stop turning it into every direction with each new step and aisle. A few times, Derya had to jab his side a little when he was being too obtrusive, but Jim could see by his sparkling eyes that the slave shared his feelings about this place; it was nothing short of magical.

Khan often stopped to exchange a few polite words with some of the older-looking women, but he practically ignored the daughters who were standing next to their chaperones with their hands folded and their heads bowed, looking all proper and virginal. It freaked Jim out a little, but at least he had the chance to look at the many goods around himself every time they stopped.

Jim also noticed that Khan did not actually buy anything. They encountered Khan’s concubines here and there, and to them, too, Khan was pleasant and let them talk about the wonders they had seen and bought. Jim got the feeling that this was more of a social, or rather political visit for the Augment, to show himself in public and cement an image of a mild, gentle man. Well, Jim thought, if people actually saw Khan like this, they were dead-wrong. He had known the Augment to be an excellent actor, but this… If those mothers knew, Jim thought, what Khan was like in the bedroom, would they still put their very available daughters on display like this? If they knew how brutal their emperor could be behind closed doors, how little he cared about consent and tears and blood, would they still want them to marry him? Jim hoped not, but had the feeling that they would probably see it as a duty for family and country, and in the end, it seemed to Jim more and more that Khan had been brought up in the spirit of his time, so how important could such things be for the society he lived in?

When they were approximately halfway through the aisles, an elderly woman strode in their direction to greet Khan. She was tall and lean, with a beautiful, dignified face and long white hair held back by a thin gold chain. The girl behind her was so young she might have been her granddaughter, and acted very shy, unlike the older woman, whose smile was wide and sweet-tempered like she was family. She did not waste much time with smalltalk but came to the point immediately after the bow and salutation.

“My emperor, I have been looking forward to seeing you. Everyone is talking about you!”

Jim could see Khan’s polite smile. “Is that so. And what do they talk about?”

The woman smiled slyly. “As if you did not know, my emperor! Your new pet of course!”

The two of them looked at Jim and he did not need Derya’s help to know that this was the point where he was supposed to bow, so he did. When he came up again, he kept his eyes on the ground until the two had turned to each other again. So much for not drawing too much attention to himself.

“He’s all anyone can talk about! I have to say, my emperor,” the woman dropped her voice to a whisper, “you have impeccable taste when it comes to men and women.”

Khan inclined his head slightly as a sign of thanks. “Do they complain about another man being here?”

The woman made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “Not when he’s that handsome. You know how it is, your highness: who cares about rules when there’s gossip ? He’s easy on the eyes and everyone is quite thankful that you share him for a tiny look. And of course, they all wonder how you obtained someone like him, he must be so valuable! Must have cost a fortune!”

“Nerves is what he cost me,” Khan replied smoothly, but he seemed to be in a very good mood.

The woman laughed charmingly. “Well, he is well-behaved now. An ornament for you and the palace, that is for sure. If your goal was to show off and evoke jealousy and admiration at the same time, you succeeded spectacularly. A tiger on a golden leash could not have made the ladies more excited!”

“That is nice to hear. I prefer humans for indoors, though. Less messy. And cheaper to feed.”

Khan’s voice indicated clearly that he was smiling, and the woman laughed again.

“A pity, otherwise you could breed the pretty thing and every household would want one. But do tell me, where did he come from? Everyone is so curious about him.”

“I am afraid that is a state secret,” Khan said in a voice that sounded both stern and jovial.

“Oh I bet it is,” she answered jokingly. Then she came a bit closer to Khan. “Will he be the first male concubine?”

This time, Jim could not help but look up in shock, even if it was just for a second. Had he just heard that right?!

Thankfully, Khan was quick to deny. “No, even though I know many of my liberal subjects would like the gesture, but no, certainly not.”

“But you do sleep with him, do you not?” she woman whispered inquisitively. “I can’t believe he wouldn’t be sufficiently...captivating.”

Jim was actually surprised that Khan let her ask him such things, even though most of his brain was still too shocked to really question it.

“He is sufficiently captivating...all of him. That is all the gossip you will get from me about him, I’m afraid,” Khan stated, still in a friendly tone, but it was also very clear that the conversation, or at least the topic, was at an end.

The woman leaned away again. “Forgive me for being too forward, my emperor. Curiosity can be an overwhelming thing.”

“No offense taken.”

Probably, the woman had noticed that Khan’s tone was nevertheless a bit cooler now, even though it was still friendly.

“That is good to hear. Well, I think we will continue on our way now. Your highness, I hope you’ll have a splendid day.” She bowed, Khan inclined his head, and the woman was gone.

“Who the hell was that?” was the first thing that came to Jim’s mind that he could manage to say out loud.

“Give him some background,” Khan murmured, and walked away, the slaves trailing behind him.

“It wouldn’t have killed him to explain it himself,” Jim scoffed, but Derya shook his head.

“He can’t talk to a slave in public, are you crazy? Anyway, the woman. That was Lady Naheed, the matron of one of the city’s oldest, richest, most influential families from the second caste. People often call her “The Vice-Queen”, although strictly speaking that is against the law. Apart from being immensely powerful, she is also known as a fierce supporter of our master, from the first hour, and she’s known him for most of his life.”

“Huh. And here I thought women have nothing to say in this country.”

“The young ones, certainly not. But the oldest woman in the family has all the power when her husband is dead, not the sons.”

“Alright, so she is…”

“Widowed.”

“And something like Khan’s weird political great-aunt. That’s why she could talk to him like that.”

“Something along those lines, yes, though the master would most likely tolerate the overall tone from any elderly lady, especially one who knew him as a child. It is considered polite by any caste to treat elderly people with respect.”

“So rape and slavery is cool, but…”

“Enough!” Khan interjected roughly, and Jim shut his mouth, albeit a bit unwilling. This society was so weird!

The sun was now up high in the sky, it was probably around noon. At a stall that sold sweets and nuts, they met two of the concubines, and Khan stopped - thankfully - in the shade of the canopy, to make smalltalk. He purchased some rose water, even for Derya and Jim, and a handful of bite-sized orbs Jim had never seen before but did not get to try. After a long morning of walking around in the increasingly hot sun and not eating or drinking anything, they smelled delicious, though.

While the two slaves waited until Khan continued on his way, Jim sipped his drink slowly, despite the raging thirst he felt, and looked around. Next to them was a jewellery trader, selling all kinds of marvellous treasures. He saw Derya staring longingly from below his lashes. It seemed that Khan had seen it, too, because when the girls had left, he silently stepped up behind Derya. Jim would have liked to warn the young one but had no idea how, without Khan noticing.

“See something you like?” he purred, and Derya jumped.

“No, my lord!” he answered in a slightly panicked tone.

But Khan did not seem angry. He could, of course, just be hiding it because they were in public, Jim mused, but he had the feeling that the slave was not actually in trouble.

The Augment stepped around Derya, closer to the glittering display behind which the saleswoman stood, bowing, and Jim saw Khan’s eyes sweep up and down the little lane between the booths. They were pretty much alone.

“If you could choose something, what would it be?”

The way Derya squirmed in response made Jim feel almost sorry for the slave. “I couldn’t possibly, my lord…” Derya stuttered, and looked at the gold and silver and gemstones again. Jim knew what his problem was; it was absolutely out of the question to refuse Khan anything, even if it was the answer to a question like this. On the other hand, Derya was not used to making decisions or asking for anything at all, let alone expensive glittery stuff.

“Hmm. Well, let’s see, then…” Extending a hand over the display of precious things, Khan moved it around, but kept looking at Derya from the side. Jim watched, not knowing if he should be fascinated or feel worried for his colleague. Just when he started asking himself what Khan was waiting for, Jim saw Derya move only a tiny bit, and Khan’s hand stopped. Of course, the slave’s body language had given him away. Khan smiled impishly and reached out for the piece, a delicate gold chain with a small stud on one side and a ring on the other. Tiny silver droplets were dangling from the chain, and the stud had the form of a minute flower made of what might have been rubies. It was quite beautiful, quite tiny compared to much of the rest on display here, and quite feminine; Jim might not have known much about jewellery, did not actually know what this might be and how it would be worn, but he was dead-certain that a man in this time and country would never wear it, it was so obviously meant for women. Jim prayed that Khan would not be mean, not mock Derya and not humiliate or berate him. But Khan said nothing for the moment, just looked at the piece and then to Derya. After a few moments, Jim became aware he himself was not really breathing, he felt so tense.

“My lord…” The saleswoman spoke up timidly and with a heavy accent, and all three heads turned towards her. “If I may, there is an earring for the other side to go with it.” She held up a ruby flower with somewhat shaky fingers, a little bigger than the stud on the chain, but still not bigger than a fingernail.

“Thank you,” Khan responded and took it, and at the same time held out two small coins to the woman, who took them in turn. Then the earring and the chain vanished in the same pouch the coins had probably come from, and Khan turned to walk away without another word. Jim had not even noticed the Augment reaching for the coins. A little stunned by what had just happened, he hurried to catch up with Khan, as did Derya. None of them talked, and Derya had his head hanging down so his long black hair hid his face.

A little further along the way, Khan suddenly stopped, shivered noticeably, and turned to look at the sky. Jim followed his example, and, still far away, saw something he had not yet seen in all his time here: clouds. Dark, big clouds. Having grown up in Iowa, Jim immediately knew those clouds meant trouble, and Khan seemed to know it, too. He wheeled around to his slaves. Jim was surprised to see that he did not look too worried but rather excited.

“Derya, go round up the girls. We need to leave. Warn everyone along the way, in any dialect and language you can think of. Word will spread quickly enough. James, you come with me.”

Jim did not even think about disobeying. The earthquake a few weeks ago had at least shown him that Khan's senses when it came to natural disasters were just as sharp as any beast's, and he'd know what to do. The storm clouds were still far away, and the day was, overall, still hot and sunny, but Jim knew it could become serious business in no time, which was why he could not really understand the excitement on Khan’s face.

Khan did not run, but he was quick as he walked towards the place where they had left the guards and horses, speaking to anyone they saw on the way, here and there in a language Jim could not understand, but just as often in English, giving out a storm warning in a few clear words. Soon enough, the message had overtaken them, the visitors of the market were suddenly gone, and the saleswomen were packing up rapidly. When Khan and Jim reached the curtain, Khan flung it aside and ordered the guards to go along the perimeter of the market and get rid of the screens to let people know the market was over, and why. He also sent away one guard on a horse. Minutes later, Jim heard a short alarm blaring, and the city around them came alive with the sounds of people hurrying around, but there was no hint of panic in it, either, rather it felt like anticipation. Derya emerged moments later from the marketplace with all ten girls in tow, just as the first clap of thunder growled through the city. There was still sunshine, but the sky had gone darker already. All in all though, it could only have been around ten minutes since Khan had noticed the oncoming storm.

Strangely enough, the girls, too, looked...excited, even happy. Jim could not understand it.

“No time to lose, ladies, on your horses, and quickly. Stick to your two guards, but go as fast as traffic permits. Don’t take any risks,” Khan added almost softly, then bellowed some more orders to his guards, and the girls were off along the increasingly busy street. As Khan, Derya and Jim mounted their horses, it got suddenly dark, and just as they finally reached the palace walls after a breakneck ride Jim could absolutely have done without, the first drops of rain fell down on them.

Instead of hurrying towards the palace gate and escaping the rain, Khan dismounted amongst the concubines who had arrived seconds before them, laid back his head to look at the sky, and smiled the most genuine smile Jim had ever seen on the Augment.

Derya helped Jim get off his skittish horse, but made him stay close to Khan. Within minutes, the light drizzle had grown into a heavy downpour that made it hard to breathe, but apart from Jim, everyone seemed tremendously happy about that. In fact, the girls around them were laughing and hopping about, all dignity forgotten, they were hugging each other and stretching their arms up to the sky, squealing and screeching with joy. Khan did not hop or laugh, but he looked as happy as Jim had ever seen him. In fact, he looked positively gleeful, and moved as if he had a hard time holding back. The horses had been taken away by grooms and guardsmen, so they were all alone with the girls.

Jim, on the other hand, stood with his arms wrapped around himself, pondering whether it was worth the punishment to go and stand in the dry archway of the portal.

“Why is everyone so fucking happy about this rainstorm?” he asked Derya, who was looking just as elated as the rest.

“Because it has not rained like this in four years, Jim!” Derya shouted over the din of the rain. “They are happy because the drought is possibly at an end! If this keeps up, the famine might finally be over!”

“Yes, because most people will have drowned!” Jim shouted back, but Derya did not pay any attention to him.

Khan let the concubines celebrate for a few minutes more, but at last, the wind was picking up speed, and he ordered all of them inside. Once the dripping wet girls had scurried off towards their wing of the palace, chattering lively, Khan heaved a deep sigh before he headed off towards his own rooms, Jim and Derya hurrying after him.

Back in Khan’s bedroom, Jim was not very delighted to see the man opening the windows and stepping out onto the terrace, where he simply stood in the rain again. Jim stayed in the doorframe where it was at least a little dry, but Derya went out to stand next to Khan.

“Look at that,” Jim heard Khan say as the Augment motioned with his chin towards the grey mist behind which the city was hidden. “I almost feared I’d never see that again.” The Augment let out a shaky laugh and wiped a hand across his face. Jim realised what he was seeing was Khan actually being moved , and it was the strangest thing for him. Suddenly feeling like he was somehow encroaching, Jim stepped back further into the dark room, found a towel and dried himself off a little bit, but kept an eye on the Augment. Although he could not hear any more of what the two were talking about, he did see how the Augment brushed his hand against Derya’s before turning to the slave, smiling like Jim had never seen him smile, and seizing the young one’s face for a kiss.

Jim had seen this many times by now, but it somehow felt different this time, because this kiss was not loaded with dominance and sexual tension; it was like the Augment needed a vent for the sheer elation he was feeling. Uncertain what to do, Jim stepped even further back into a dark corner so he was not so easily spotted, but also not gone if Khan called. After a few more kisses, which were pretty much back to what Jim knew from the Augment, all heat and no breath, Khan let go and came inside again, though, with the slave trailing behind.

Jim could see Derya was trembling with cold, and thankfully, the Augment noticed as well.

“Go put on some dry clothes, and then go downstairs and prepare a bath. I think we could all use it,” Khan said, not in his usual commanding tone but rather softly. Then he looked at Jim and the expression in his eyes changed, only minutely, but it made Jim shudder. “Don’t come back up,” the Augment added, never taking his eyes off Jim. “Wait downstairs. We’ll join you then. But first I have things to discuss with James.”

Derya bowed wordlessly and left the room, trying to hide his curiosity about the topic, the anger at being sent away when Jim was allowed to stay, and his relief about getting out of his wet things.

As soon as they were alone, Khan turned to Jim, staring at him for a few moments. Under the searching gaze, Jim remembered awkwardly the way his clothes were clinging to his body with rainwater, and how cold he felt in them. Khan seemed to have the same thought, because his gaze swept across Jim’s torso and legs for a moment, before he stepped closer.

Jim could not help but tense up slightly, anticipating the Augment’s hands all over his body any second now, but Khan only laid his hand on Jim’s shoulder, where it remained for a few moments. Jim blinked at it.

“You did very well today, James. Very, very well. You behaved, interacted in the right manner, kept your mouth shut in front of people you are not supposed to talk to...I think I should say, my compliments. I have to admit, it was a test I feared you’d fail, but you passed it with flying colours. I am very proud of your progress.”

“Uhm...thanks?” Jim really did not know what else to say. Was it really praise to announce he’d behaved like the perfect slave?

Khan smiled at him, really smiled. “You’re welcome. Now…” The Augment’s gaze became suddenly predatory and he took his hand off Jim’s shoulder. “You’re cold.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Take off your wet clothes. You’ll catch your death.”

Looking pointedly to the open terrace doors, Jim waited if Khan would say or do something else, but no, the man only smiled crookedly and made a gesture with his chin to tell him to get on with it. Sighing, Jim let go of the towel he had had slung around his shoulders, peeled the wet tunic off his skin and finally let the trousers fall to the ground. His underwear was damp as well, but before Jim could decide whether keeping them on was worth the punishment that might follow, Khan had closed the distance between them and kissed him.

Tensing up again, Jim just stood there, trying to clock out and think of nothing, but the rather cool wind coming in through the doors made it very hard. When Khan broke the kiss for a moment, he got rid of his own clothes quickly before coming close again and continuing his kisses on the side of Jim’s neck. Jim could feel the Augment hooking his thumbs into the waistband of his underpants, pulling them down very slowly, but as his old pals Discomfort and Panic were trying to start running amok in his head, he also became suddenly aware of the heat Khan’s body was radiating. Oh, Khan could be such a beast, Jim thought, while fighting the instinct to lean into the warmth. It turned out he did not have to, because Khan stepped so close that they stood pressed against each other, Khan’s lips on Jim’s throat and his hands now firmly gripping Jim’s butt in his pants. That was the only warning he got before Khan picked him up suddenly, and threw him down on the bed. He was over him in a split second, rubbing his groin on Jim’s, sucking and biting at the human’s neck. Jim got a moment to breathe and get his bearings - sort of - when Khan leaned away to find a bottle of lubricant and get rid of Jim’s pants completely. After that he was fully occupied with keeping as quiet as he could. He did not complain, protest or shout this time, knowing it would only make things worse, but when Khan shoved two fingers inside Jim’s body, he could not help but cry out.

Khan smiled above him. “Too much?”

Jim keened when the Augment moved his fingers in and out. “After...your praise and...last night…”

“Yes?” Khan asked, obviously amused.

Jim panted. “Can’t you at least be a little more gentle? Sir?” He was still sore, and being on horseback or walking around all day had not helped.

He had half expected Khan to admonish him for his tone, but to his surprise, the Augment kept smiling, albeit a little deviously, and removed his fingers, starting again with only one, and more oil. Maybe it was because it had really only been hours, not even a day, but Jim had the feeling relaxing was easier this time. Not that it didn’t hurt at all - it did - but with the help of the oil and the - admittedly - gentle movements, it was not half as bad as Jim knew it could be. Also, he did not struggle and tense up like he had the first time; he knew it would not help in any way, and only harm him more. Instead, he tried to let loose, knowing he could not stop the Augment. It was still uncomfortable and wrong and somewhat embarrassing, but he could feel that this time, it was not about him. The first few times, Khan had done it to humiliate and hurt Jim, but for whatever reason his gut instinct told him the Augment was not out to hurt him now. When he felt Khan grow impatient, felt his slaver’s hardness, Jim simply turned his head to the side and tried to ignore what was happening completely. Again, it was a gust of cold wind that blew around them that pulled Jim back to the here and now. God, it was cold! In all his time here, he had not been so cold. Goosebumps covered Jim’s body all of a sudden, but then, Khan was there, lying down between his legs, on top of him, and the heat he brought with him almost made Jim sigh.

“Put your arms around me,” the Augment ordered, and Jim obliged, feeling he should put up more of a fight, but finding himself unable to do so. As he wrapped his arms around the muscular body, Khan used the moment of Jim’s distraction and inner monologue to sheathe himself inside the human’s body, and Jim groaned with discomfort. For a few moments, his body fought the intrusion, but it got better. Again, Jim had the feeling he should not feel half as okay as he did, but the lack of food and water during the hot day, the cold air, the smell of rain, the thunder from outside and the warm body on his seemed to play some tricks on his mind. Soon, the feeling of Khan moving inside him, on top of him, against his body, skin on skin, was not too uncomfortable any more but positively bearable. He needed a few minutes to realise how hard he was gripping the Augment’s shoulders, whether due to the cold or the feeling of being penetrated, he could not say. But the mix of sensations made his stomach flutter in a weird way. He was all too aware of Khan’s mouth on his shoulder and neck, the tickling of his soft hair, the light sheen of sweat that covered the Augment now and the way he smelled of dust and rain and sex. Whenever Khan thrust deep inside or hit Jim’s prostate, the human moaned, feeling the mix of discomfort and something good , and even though he was not hard or even felt particularly aroused - which he should not be! - his cock jumped and twitched from time to time. Jim dismissed it as an involuntary bodily reaction and tried to concentrate on soaking up the warmth Khan’s body provided without seeming to snuggle. Usually, the Augment had a flood of dirty remarks and humiliating practices in store, but today he seemed almost as far gone as Jim wished he himself could be. Obviously, the Augment needed Jim’s body to satisfy his own desire, no more, no less, and Jim felt relieved somehow, felt that it could be worse, and promptly hated himself for it. He let his body be moved this way or that but otherwise was not forced to participate. This was neither a lesson, nor a punishment, or an attempt to break him. This was a service pure and simple, and Jim knew he felt far less disgusted than he should have, although he was acutely aware of Khan’s body, his movements, and the feeling of him inside. Perhaps it was true after all that any horror repeated too often loses its power to frighten, but surely he should not be there yet? He heard Khan moan quietly, and it sent a shiver down his spine. At a new gust of cold wind, Jim instinctively tightened his hold on Khan’s shoulders, which was acknowledged with another moan and a few open-mouthed kisses along his jawline. Jim turned his head away from Khan’s lips but did not otherwise protest. He tried very hard to concentrate on the sounds of rain and thunder outside, or anything but the feeling of the muscular body sliding against his own, and the hard manhood inside him. 

Jim tried to keep that in mind like a mantra as Khan changed his angle and the intensity of his thrusts became quite hard to ignore. It should have worried him slightly that he could tell by now from Khan’s breathing pattern alone that the Augment was approaching his climax - hopefully not the first of many, and if so, Jim would have liked to be far away when they happened. The last few thrusts were far more brutal than Jim had hoped, and he cried out in unison with Khan, even if it was for a very different reason.

Khan lay there on top of him, breathing hard against Jim’s bruised neck for a minute, before pulling out almost gently and walking away to wash. Immediately, Jim felt cold, and he slid off the bed, flinching as he felt the sticky wetness between his thighs. It seemed like he could bear the rest pretty well by now, but feeling Khan’s semen on and in his body still disgusted him deeply. Shuddering with revulsion, he stepped towards the basin (since Khan was occupying the bathroom) and washed as well as he could. He found himself almost hoping that Khan would allow him to share the bath he had sent Derya to prepare, or at  least have a shower in peace.

Khan came back just as Jim started to shiver in earnest, and closed the terrace doors.

“Get yourself some dry clothes. And then get me some tea. To the downstairs bathroom. You’ll bathe with me,” he instructed while he pulled on a black and silver tunic and some comfortable trousers.

Turning on his heel, Jim fled the room as fast as he could before Khan could ask anything else of him; he knew Khan’s refractory period was ridiculously short, and had no wish to stay around. This strange new mood Jim had just seen on Khan was freaking him out a little.

In the corridor, Jim could see a guard hurrying towards Khan’s room, but he could not care less.

Jim rubbed himself down with a towel to get some warmth back into his limbs, and put on a new tunic and new trousers. Tea in the downstairs bathroom, pah, Jim knew that would probably not be the end of it; Khan liked to combine sex and hot water, whether it was in the shower or the pool where he’d brought Jim after their first night and received the news about Cara, where they were headed now. He looked around and used the only stool he had to hang up his soaked clothes before he went to the door.

Just as he opened it, an arm shot out and blocked his way so fast that he jumped back and stood in a defensive position before he knew it. The arm, it turned out, belonged to Khan, and the look the Augment was giving him was nothing short of murderous.

Jim blinked rapidly. Murderous? What the hell had happened in the last two minutes? What could possibly have caused the Augment to go from frisky to furious this fast?

“Come with me.” Khan’s voice was shaking with barely suppressed rage. It made Jim’s whole body go cold with fear. Last time he had seen Khan look like this had been before a kill.

The Augment did not actually wait for Jim to move, but grabbed his steel collar and pulled him along after him.

“Sir, what…”

“I’d shut up if I were you! I am this far away from breaking your neck on the spot.”

Jim did not dare to speak again and concentrated on stumbling along after the Augment, who led him down one flight of stairs after the other, until they arrived in a corridor that was obviously underground, and seriously spooked Jim with a row of heavy metal doors and neon tubes. Nowhere else in the house had he seen anything like it, it seemed far too modern for the old Indian palace. Close to the last door, which was opened by a guard just as they approached, Khan finally let go of Jim’s collar and pushed him forward.

“Go on.” Khan nodded to the door with a cold expression that Jim knew by now hid nothing but cold rage. “It seems you have visitors.”

If possible, Jim’s heart sunk even more but he made himself take one shaky step after another, followed by the seething Augment. What the hell?!

Chapter Text

Almost as soon as James was gone and Khan had turned back to the window to watch the rain, there was a knock on the door. Khan growled, but he recognized the way his guards knocked when there was an important message. Glad he had gotten dressed already, he opened the door. The man standing outside bowed deep and apologised for the intrusion.

Trying not to sound too impatient, Khan addressed the guard before he could come up with more formalities. “Bilal, what is it? News from the city? Has the storm done any damage?”

The man bowed again. “I do not know, your highness. General Kumar sent me regarding a different matter.”

“What matter?” Khan asked, wishing the man would get on with it so he could go downstairs to take his bath. If this was not about the storm, it could not be incredibly important.

The guard bowed again. “My lord, we picked up two strays outside the city walls. Strays like your new slave, James,” the soldier added.

Khan, suddenly very much alert, blinked at the man, processing what that meant, and all it could mean. So James was not alone, after all? He could feel his body going slightly numb and his facial expression closing off.

“How do you know?” he asked, almost automatically. His brain was whirring. Others like James.

“Their clothes, they are the same as his were, although one was wearing red rather than yellow. Two men, sir. They are not from here, either, but neither are they Americans, your highness. You can hear it from their accents.”

“What kind of accents?” Khan asked, playing for time, trying to concentrate on the pure facts instead of the storm brewing inside him. He knew the feeling, a cold kind of rage that would take full possession of his body if he let it. He had to hold on. Not yet. He needed facts first.

Bilal shrugged and hung his head for a moment as an apologetic gesture. “I have to admit, I don’t know, sir. Foreign accents are so rare here. But one is just as blond as he is, and they are definitely not Asian. They do not, however, have the same accent, that much I am sure of.”

He must not let it out on the guard. He had to stay focussed. “Where are they now?”

“In the holding cells in the basement, sir. We thought that would be...”

“Good. It was the right decision to lock them up. You can go, thank you for the message, Bilal.”

The soldier bowed and turned to hurry away. Khan closed the door as gently as he could, then stood with his hands pressed against it for a few moments, trying to breathe. A feeling he could not quite place mixed with the anger he felt. Something like...disappointment? James was a slave, not more, but he had gotten used to him these last few weeks, perhaps a bit too much. He had spent more time talking with him than he had with anyone outside his family; usually, he found humans too dumb or too limited to talk to them long, but James was interesting. Still, he had said he was alone, which had obviously been a lie. What if he had been lying as well when he had said that he meant no harm? Or that his being there was an accident?

Khan shook his head in disbelief. Nobody managed to lie to him of all people! But James had somehow managed it, and Khan felt...almost betrayed. It was as if one had let a stray dog into one’s household, fed it, trained it, and now a former owner came and would certainly not only try to take the dog away from its new owner, but also make the dog go back to old, bad habits just by being there. There was obviously more to James than Khan had anticipated, and it was his duty to always anticipate everything! The shame about having been tricked warred with the sheer anger at the human. The man had lied! Had acted like he was alone, lost and clueless! What if James had only been biding his time to infiltrate the palace, to get to him? More than one assassination plot had worked from within in the past. What if finding James had not been coincidence but careful planning on his side, his and his companions’? If so, Khan should have seen it, and he hated himself for failing like this.

Nobody played Khan. Nobody lied to him and lived to tell the tale. James had managed to slowly but certainly worm his way in, managed to make Khan like and trust him even just a little bit, and now it turned out that everything Khan had believed he knew about James might be false. The rage and hurt Khan felt upon that realisation was almost blinding.

He took another deep breath.

Don’t fight your rage, just channel it. Your conscience is only an obstacle when there are things to be done. Use your rage to make them fear you. Their fear is the only reliable source of loyalty. The red haze is your friend, it keeps you safe and numb inside your head until everything is done.

Snapping his eyes open, Khan threw open his door and let his rage carry him towards James’ just as it opened. This time, he would have his answers, and it did not matter what he may or may not have felt for the human, he would get them no matter what it took.

 


 

 

Jim stepped shakily through the door and saw six medieval-looking cells, three on one side and three facing them on the other, all with bars as a fourth side. The dungeon looked simple, cold and very effective. There could be no hacking into the system to flee these cells as it was in Jim’s time, because the only ‘system’ here seemed to be locks made of steel, with old-fashioned keyholes.

Khan gave Jim a hard push towards the back of the room, so he went. When he stepped in front of the last cell on the left, a sound escaped his lips without his permission, a sound a wounded animal might make, but he could not help it; the sheer dread creeping over him was too overwhelming. A second later, he was practically glued to the bars, reaching out towards the two men inside the cell, who spotted him this very second and rushed to meet him.

“Jim!”

“Sir!”

Even though he should probably have had some more self-restraint, Jim could not help but let out a pitiful sob as he reached out and took the hands that were extended towards him.

“Oh god, no,” he whispered. “Scotty, Chekov! How did you end up here?”

Scotty covered Jim’s hand with his own through the metal bars. “Same as you I suppose, Jim. Aam sorry, they caught us outside th’ city, we could nae do anythin’...”

“Are you guys alright? Did they hurt you?” Jim asked and grasped his friends’ hands tighter, too tightly, probably, but he was both horrified and also a tiny bit relieved to see two familiar faces. They looked tired and a bit tousled, but thankfully not too bad.
“No, Jim, we’re fine. Fer now, at least. An’ you? What th' heel is 'at aroond yer neck? Ye look...” Scotty threw a look over Jim’s shoulder and his face fell. Jim knew by that look that he had spotted Khan behind him, and was just as taken aback as Jim had been when he had seen the Augment come into that tent in the desert. Jim did not have to look behind himself to know that Khan was probably doing his official six foot something emperor pose and wearing his intimidation face.

“Is ‘at who ah think it is?”

He can hear you, Scotsman,” Khan rumbled, and it echoed eerily in the dungeon. It sounded icy and angry at the same time, and Jim knew that was probably the worst mix when it came to the man. Khan was clearly pissed, and Jim was truly afraid to find out how much.

The Augment stepped closer and pulled Jim away from the bars and his friends by the steel collar, like one might pull back a dog when it barks too much. “You seem to know me. But I don’t know you. Your friend here was just the same when we found him; he knew me, he cursed when he saw me, and all of you have no manners, and no respect. And slowly but certainly, I’m fed up with people from all over the Northern Hemisphere turning up in my backyard. So I will ask you all - and know that I hate to repeat myself: who are you? Why are you here? Where did you come from and how did you manage to come here undetected?” Khan grabbed Jim’s collar harder and forced him down to his knees just by lowering his arm enough, and faced Jim directly. As it did so often, his anger seemed to explode out of him when a second ago, he had seemed in control of his temper. “I want answers! It was fine as long as there was only one of you, but I won’t tolerate it any longer if you tell me that you can’t say ! That you don’t know ! You just appeared ! People don’t just appear! What are you? ” The Augment shook Jim, fist still around his collar, until Jim’s teeth chattered. “Spies? A vanguard? Answer me! What are you here for?”

“Let him go, ya bastard!” Scotty shouted from the cell while Chekov cried out Jim’s name.

The shaking stopped, but Jim knew by the way Khan’s knuckles turned white and the groaning of the metal in the tight grip that the Augment was livid.

“What did you just say to me?” the man whispered, looking at the Scotsman.

“Khan, no…” Jim tried to catch the Augment’s attention and grabbed a handful of his trousers.

The fist that was not currently holding Jim’s collar came down on his skull faster than he could even see, and Jim groaned in pain, holding his head with both hands, trying to shield it from more hits which - thankfully - never came.

“I told you not to call me that, slave! And as for you two!” Khan turned as quickly as an enraged snake would. “All of you are strangely unaware that by being as disrespectful as you all are to me, you practically beg for death! My patience with you lot is at an end! I hope you, James, I hope you remember what happens when I lose my patience!” Khan shook Jim’s collar again, so hard this time that the human coughed and wheezed. “So either you tell me who you all really are, or I’ll make sure at least one of you loses their tongue. Probably the old one there,” Khan said carelessly and Jim did not have to turn his pounding head to see that he was pointing to Scotty. “I’ll be needing your tongue, pet,” he said, and janked on Jim’s collar. “And perhaps I’ll need this one’s, too. He’s almost prettier than you. So young and sweet.”

This time, Jim did look up and he saw Khan ogling Chekov, who looked back and tried to maintain a brave facade, although Jim could see he was afraid. The two men did not seem to have grasped the gravity of the situation, not of Jim’s situation at least, but the threat was obvious enough to frighten the two men in the cell.

To Jim, however, the threat was like an electric shock; he was probably the only one of the three of them who knew exactly what it could mean. “No,” Jim stuttered, feeling the fear for his friend course through him. “No, you can’t touch him...”

I CAN! I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT WITH ANY OF YOU! WHEN WILL YOU GET THAT INTO YOUR HEAD? YOU WON’T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!” Khan screamed back, and the three humans flinched violently. Jim ducked as far as the firm hold on his collar permitted, still on his knees, but he could hear Khan breathing heavily. When Jim looked up finally, he saw Khan still had his furious gaze on him.

“Please,” Jim wheezed, trying to get his bearings despite his spinning head and racing heart. “Please don’t hurt them!”

Khan straightened up but still maintained his hold on the collar. “You know, I was starting to think you deserve my goodwill. But it seems I was wrong. You lied to me about being alone, and who knows what else. Your struggling was entertaining sometimes, as were your recent attempts to behave better, but now I can’t be sure any of that was not part of some sort of scheme. I don’t know what you were planning, you and your friends here, but it won’t work. You are impressively hard to break, I have to say. But now that your companions are here, it seems to me, I finally have something you really want to keep safe. So go on. Beg me. Beg me not to hurt them, and I might be willing to reconsider all the different things I want to do to you at the moment.” He jerked his chin forward aggressively as a sign for Jim to get on with it.

There was no doubt about what Khan expected of him now. The Augment had finally found the one weakness that could actually break him; his crew, his friends, his family, and all the fight went out of the usually bold human. He would not play games or give a shit about his dignity or honour when so much was at stake. He realised that every time he had felt like Khan had done it all to him in the past months, every time he had felt it could not possibly get any worse, every time he had thought he had now properly been beaten, had only been a taste of what went on inside him now: complete and total surrender.

“Master…” Jim whispered, prepared to do anything that was necessary, and turned his whole body towards Khan so that he was now kneeling aptly in front of the Augment. He did not know what Khan meant about them “planning” anything, but one false move and they would probably all be dead, so he did not particularly care just yet. The most important thing now was to get them out of this situation here.

The Augment let go of the collar.

Jim dared to look up, but avoided eye contact with his two friends very pointedly. He did not want to see the expression on their faces upon hearing and seeing their captain beg and crawl before none other than Khan. How could he ever have started to feel better in the presence of this man, a little safer even? How could he ever have gotten the feeling that he was starting to understand him, starting to get an idea of what the man wanted and how he had to talk to him to have a little bit of peace? Over the last few weeks, whenever Khan was not directly harassing him, he had started to forget the monster behind those eyes and see the man, but there was nothing left of that man in the cold eyes now staring down at him. Any progress he had made, it seemed, was null and void now.

“Please, don’t hurt them. I’ll do anything you want, anything at all. I swear, we mean no harm. Just leave them alone. I beg you!” He bowed in the most formal way he could remember from training, hoping it would pacify the man at least a little bit. He only came back up after a few seconds, when he felt Khan move.

The Augment had again straightened up to his full height and was now grinning horribly. Jim felt nauseous at that grin; he knew it was really just a grimace, and no sort of smile at all. Snarling or baring his teeth would have sent just the same message.

“How prettily you can beg when you really want to, pet,” he purred in a dangerously low voice. “You are going to answer my questions, first of all. If you do that in a satisfactory way, I’ll leave them be for now, at least I’ll leave them unharmed. If you’ve got nothing bad to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear, on the whole. When I’m done with my questions, I will decide how to deal with you. But whatever your fate will be, if you dare to disobey or disrespect me one more time, I’ll come down here and take one of them with me for whichever of my desires ails me most at that moment, and you know they are mostly not very pleasant. From now on, you will do exactly as you are told, and you will behave exactly as a good slave should, do you hear me, pet? One mistake, one, and those two will pay for it. Twice over.”

Jim closed his eyes in defeat and hung his head. “Yes, your majesty.”

“Is that any way to bow to your emperor?”

Jim hesitated only for a split second, then he bowed again, this time until his forehead almost touched Khan’s bare foot.

“Who do you belong to, James?” Khan asked in a deadly cold voice, and Jim’s stomach lurched when he recognized the words they taught in slave training, the very question Khan had asked Derya in front of Jim on the very first day. They were meant to humiliate, nothing more. The longer he’d been here, the less he had been forced to repeat the words during punishments or training, and Khan had never ordered him to say them to his face. Not until now. He almost choked on the words but he managed to get them out. The hours with Sabir, the slave overseer, had ingrained them very thoroughly.

“I belong to you, your highness.”

Jim heard Scotty and Chekov shift in their cell but did not dare move a muscle himself.

“What is your place in the world?” Khan asked again and his voice shook with barely-suppressed, cruel glee now.

“I am your faithful slave, your majesty.”

“What does a slave not do?”

If the Augment would have put his foot on Jim’s neck, he could not have felt worse.

“A slave does not want. A slave does not demand. A slave does not disagree. A slave does not refuse. A slave does not speak to their master as if they are equal to them.”

“And what is your purpose as a slave?”

“The purpose of a slave is obedience. The purpose of a slave in the house is to be silent. The purpose of a slave used in bed is to say yes.”

Jim’s voice almost broke at that last phrase. He could feel that his face was red with shame and his eyes were burning with unshed tears. It was as if he had never felt more miserable in his life, which, lately, was saying something. One false movement and Khan would kill Scotty and Chekov, he was dead certain of that this time. Khan might have liked Jim in some perverse, strange way, but he did not know, want or need Scotty and Chekov, so there was no reason why he should hesitate to kill them .

“Very good, my pet,” Khan praised, and Jim felt how the Augment’s fist closed around the back of the collar and pulled him up. “Come. Time to get some answers out of you.”

Thankfully, the two men in the cell seemed to bite their lips for their captain’s sake, because no protest was forthcoming. They probably knew that it would have brought Jim much more trouble if they had kept shouting. Before Jim stumbled away in the Augment’s steely grip, he dared to throw the two of them a look. There was probably fear in it, and regret, and shame, instead of the reassurance that he as a captain should provide. But the situation hardly left any space for that.

 

Khan dragged Jim along the corridor, but they did not go above ground, instead Khan brought him into a room where Jim had never been, but he had heard tales about it from other slaves, hushed whispers full of fear. Floggings and other punishments were usually carried out in one of the yards for all to see. This place was obviously for interrogation. Jim could only just keep himself from whimpering. He thought himself a brave man, and had proven that often enough, but even he had his limits, especially after the weeks - months? - that were behind him.

While the cells were just a medieval dungeon, this room looked white and sterile, lit by neon tubes, which almost frightened Jim more than stone walls and torches would have. Even the floor was painted in immaculate, shiny white. At the far wall, there was a drain in the floor, and the thought of what it was for made Jim shudder. The room looked strangely empty, there was just one small white table firmly fixed to the left wall, but then Jim saw that the wall on the right was apparently one huge cabinet. At least, he could see the outlines of doors that made up a flat white surface. At the back of the room, there was nothing but a small recess that would possibly hold a human in an upright position, and left and right of it, shackles made of brushed steel, like Jim’s collar. This was where Khan took him to, turned him around so that Jim was facing the room, and clicked the shackles closed around Jim’s wrists. Jim did not dare resist. He had to think of Scotty and Chekov. It took him a moment to register the quiet clanking and clicking of the shackles; he was shaking so much in his bonds that the chain links that bound the shackles to the wall left and right were rattling in their sockets. There was no point in denying it: Jim really was horribly afraid of what would happen next.

After he had secured Jim, Khan went to one of the doors in the wall and opened it with a light push against it. The first thing Jim saw in the compartment was a horribly long whip, curled up like a snake, but Khan did not touch it. Instead, he took out a thin, cylindrical something that looked like a nightstick made of metal, but was no longer than Khan’s hand. While the Augment came back to him, he saw that it had a round tip and two buttons on a rubber handle. Jim’s eyes flashed back to the whip in the compartment. If this little thing was deemed more effective by Khan than a fucking bull whip, he did not want to know what it did.

Obviously, Khan had been watching him and guessed his thoughts.

“If I ever come at you with that whip, my goal will be to kill you. It’s only ever used to carry out a death sentence, and only for the most horrible crimes. So you do not need to worry about it...for now. Unless your answers do not satisfy me. Then you should worry about it, because at the moment I am not far from using it on you.”

Jim shivered violently at the thought. Being lashed to death by Khan with that thing was certainly not a pretty - or quick - way to go, and the mere mental image made him nauseous.

“I told you, I like my sheets unbloodied and my slaves usable,” the Augment continued and held up the thing in his hand. “This here will not damage your skin, but it will hurt, a lot.” Khan twirled the stick in his long fingers. “So. Tell me who you are, you and your friends, where you came from, and what you want here.”

Jim tried to straighten up a bit. He might have been worried about the two others but he still had some sense left. Khan would never believe the truth, so what good would it do to tell the whole story? Hell, he did not even know the whole story!

“We are travellers. I honestly don’t know how we came to be here. But we are not spies and we did not even mean to come here, I swear. We don’t want to cause trouble, we just want to go home.”

“And if you don’t know how you came to be here, how are you planning on returning home ?” Khan retorted, and Jim bit his lips.

“I don’t know…”

“Wrong answer,” Khan said, but made no move to use the thing in his hand yet. “Where is home ?”

The hairs on Jim’s arms had stood up in fear when Khan had spoken. “That is...difficult to explain.”

“I’ve got all night.” The lack of the lascivious smirk, or any kind of smile that Jim half expected at those words, showed him how grave the situation was.

“And I shouldn’t explain, for a very good reason,” Jim added.

“And which reason is that?”

“I...can’t tell you.”

Khan sighed. “You are not giving me much to work with here. Why don’t you try to explain in as much detail as you can, where you came from in the first place? Take your time.”

Jim tried to come up with an answer. But saying that they were from the future was no option, was it? Saying that they were from a star ship that would hover over this planet in almost three hundred years was no option either.

“I told you, we are travellers and explorers. We have no country we belong to, and no organisation that could wish you harm.” The fact that Khan’s future self was held imprisoned in a cryotube that would fail sooner or later and kill him, at this very moment, so to speak, by said organisation, flashed through Jim’s mind. “I swear, we never meant to come here. It was an accident.”

“And you materialised out of thin air. First you, then the other two, later. By accident.” Khan made no effort to conceal the disbelief in his voice.

“It was an accident that I turned up here.”

“And your friends? Did they follow you here?”

Jim did not answer, but Khan must have read his face.

“So they knew where they had to look. And how to get here. Not an accident, then.”

“No...yes…I don’t know. It might have been.”

“So they can find you. And there are more of you, more people who could just follow you here.”

“Y...no, I, we…”

“Liar,” Khan growled and touched the silvery device in his hand to Jim’s chest.

An electric current ran over Jim’s skin and made him convulse and shriek for a moment. Then it was gone. Khan stepped back.

“How many of you are there?”

Jim felt a bit breathless after the electric shock but managed to keep talking. “Please, we don’t mean to cause trouble, they probably just came to find me…”

“How many?”

“They don’t…”

Khan tasered him again and Jim felt his heart skip a beat.

“How many?” Khan asked in a slow tone of voice.

“It’s not important, they won’t come here…”

Khan growled in earnest now and held the device to Jim’s ribs for what felt like ages. His whole body jerked, and felt hot and cold at the same time, like he was being cooked alive and then dipped into icy water. A pained groan escaped his lips when Khan stopped the current.

“Answer me,” his tormentor demanded in a voice completely devoid of emotion.

Jim spluttered. “I can’t...please!”

“More than a handful, then,” Khan assumed. “Enough to be dangerous. And if those other two can come here, looking for you, so can the rest of your friends.”

“We’re not dangerous! We only want to go back and you’ll never see us…again...” Jim stumbled over those words, and Khan noticed.

“You were saying?” Khan said, grinning maliciously for a second. “I can see you’re lying. You already know you’ll see me again even if I let you go. Which means you’re a risk.”

“No, really, we’re not a risk, please, believe me, please! I can’t explain it, I really can’t, but…”

Khan stepped closer and looked at Jim with unforgiving eyes. “You know how that sounds, right?”

“I know. I really know, but...I can’t. It will be better if you don’t know and it could have bad consequences for everyone involved if I told you the whole story, including you. I beg you, believe me, we don’t mean any harm, we just want to go back!”

“Go back WHERE?”

“I can’t…”

“James, I’m warning you…”

“It’s the truth!” Fuck this, he was not going to start crying like a little kid! But he was afraid, on edge, hurting, so he was not sure if he could hold it back.

“I can see you believe that. But I’d rather decide for myself. Is that information worth your life and that of your friends? Not that it’s worth a whole lot...”

Jim flinched but he knew no way out. He did not know what to tell Khan, what kind of information was safe and which wasn’t, and his head was spinning, which did not help. Or would the story sound so ludicrous that Khan would not believe him anyway?

“I don’t know what to tell you…”

“The truth !”

Khan tasered him again.

Jim screamed, wondering when his heart would simply give up under these conditions. When Khan stopped after what might only have been seconds but had felt like an eternity, he gasped for air. “The truth is...I have no idea what damage I could do if I told you! I don’t know what I’m supposed to say! Please, K...my lord, for one second, please, try to believe me!” Gosh, he sounded whiny. Fuck it. “Try to understand that for me, this situation is far more dangerous than you can see, and I don’t know how to react, okay? And you would probably not believe a word of it anyway, because from your point of view, my story is utter bullshit.” His tongue could not always keep up with how fast the words were tumbling out, but he felt like he had not much breath left before he’d pass out.

Khan took a few deep breaths, obviously trying to control his volcanic temper, but Jim knew the man was not too good at that.

“You’d be surprised how much I can believe, I told you that the first day. Try me. Tell your bullshit story and we’ll see from there.”

Jim was not even done shaking his head when the next shock travelled through his body.

“Tell, me, James,” Khan said warningly, but did not wait for an answer before he tasered Jim again for what felt like forever.

“We’re fucking time travellers, happy?” he shouted out as soon as Khan stopped and he could get enough air into his lungs. “We come from the future! Does that make more sense, yeah?” Fuck it, he couldn't care less as long as his body was burning like this! Fuck it!

To Jim’s surprise, Khan laughed. “Has humanity survived long enough to invent a time machine after all? I thought Augments were the weirdest thing they could come up with.” The grin on Khan’s face looked disturbing, but also a bit like a mask that hid...worry? Consternation? Jim couldn’t be sure.

“I...what? Do you...do you actually believe me?”

“Why, are you lying?”

No !”

Khan looked him sharp in the eye and Jim could see a glint of something that gave him hope.

“See, James, that is the trouble. I know when people lie to me. I know you are not lying. And that means I would have to believe that you are actually from the future. How far into the future?” Khan asked abruptly and Jim had to collect his thoughts first.

“Uh…” Would it hurt to tell him? He’d come this far. In his fried brain it seemed like a pretty good idea to say it. “About...three hundred years?”

Khan chuckled. “Not bad. And can you tell me how you came here? In your time machine?”

Khan’s tone was mocking, but not completely unbelieving, so Jim had to try.

“It was...not a time machine. It’s an anomaly we’ve been exploring. We’re explorers, scientists.” He was still wheezing a bit, but at least Khan had not tasered him again. Jim hoped that was a good sign.

“So how are you planning to go back?”

The question was not surprising but Jim did his best to answer it while Khan was really listening.

“No idea, to be honest.” Jim was rather hoping the other two had a plan. But it might have been another accident.

“But that anomaly...it brings people here? And you don’t know if it takes them back, too?”

Holy shit, Khan was buying this! Perhaps there was a chance that they’d come out of this alive.

“We, or I, at least, hope it does,” Jim said vaguely. The pieces of ancient rubble they had found floating around the Enterprise were actually proof that the wormholes worked both ways. At least on inanimate objects.

Khan sighed. “You know how hard it is to make sense of your story.”

“Believe me, I’m fully aware of that.”

“Alright, then tell me something else. If you are from three hundred years in the future...how do you all know me?”

Jim’s heart sank. “I can’t tell you…no, please!” He screamed in pain when the current ran through his body again as Khan pressed the stick to his ribs almost nonchalantly.

“I think I’ve been fairly nice to you up until now, even though the story you told me is just as hair-raising as you predicted. But you’ll answer me this one. How do you know me three hundred years from now? I have no intention of living that long.”

“I...I’m sure you have stories in your time, too, stories about time travel and how dangerous it is, the effects it can have on the future, how it can even destroy the future. Please, I can’t tell you, I genuinely don’t know what will happen.”

Another round of pain had Jim panting and hanging in his chains. The shackles were biting into his flesh but he could not convince his knees to cooperate.

“We know who you are because,” Jim said, following a sudden inspiration, and looked up with a bit of difficulty, “you’re part of Earth’s history, obviously.”

Khan threw him a strange look and paced a few steps. “You could have told me that from the beginning. That’s not it. You did not only know me, you hated me. A bit too personal, your hatred, for a man you know from a history book. No matter what they wrote about me.”

Jim did not know what to say to that. Either way, he must not tell Khan anything about his future. Didn’t the man understand that?

“I swear, I’m not lying. But I can’t tell you anything about yourself. I won’t. No matter what you do to me.” Jim tried to make his tone sound final, and he tried to suppress his fear of Khan’s reaction. Khan did not disappoint. He stared at him for a minute in total silence before he acted.

“Let’s test that, shall we?”

This time, he touched the device to Jim’s temple, and the blond waited for the electric shock to fry his brain directly this time. Instead, at first, he felt nothing. Then, some kind of impulse went through his head and he cried out. It was not electricity, it was more like a vibration, and it gave him the worst headache he had ever felt. He felt as if his skull was about to burst. He would rather have dealt with the tasering, this was somehow so much worse, as if a particularly bad case of migraine, accompanied by a fever, had been treated with a burning log being smashed onto his skull. Multiple times.

Khan kept the stick at his temple for ages, removed it to let Jim breathe for a moment, and when no more words came, Khan repeated the procedure. Jim noticed at some point that he was screaming his lungs out, but he could not stop. They did that for so long, and Jim’s head was spinning so badly, that he could not think, not breathe, and not feel his body. Khan allowed Jim another few breaths and then started all over again, asking the same questions he had already answered, and Jim answered them again between screams and groans, and then Khan would give him the next headache, or taser him, over and over and over again until Jim had the feeling he was blacking out a few moments at a time and coming back repeatedly for hours.

At some point, long after Jim had used up all strength for screaming and could not even answer anymore, Khan finally stopped.

“Tell me again, did someone send you here?”

“No!” Jim wailed, expecting pain again, but this time, none came.

“Do you wish to cause anyone harm?”

“NO!”

“What is your mission here?”

“I don’t have a fucking mission!!” Jim answered, and he noticed that he was more sobbing than talking.

The Augment took a step back.

“Well, well. I have to think about what to do with you now. The things you told me, the things you did not tell me, it’s all not very satisfactory. The council will want to know all about you and your friends. They did not care for a stray dog, but three… I’ll have to question your friends, too.”

Jim managed to look up. “What? No! Please! Don’t hurt them, I told you all I could…”

Khan held up a hand. “I said question, and I promised earlier that I would not harm them, and even though your answers were not satisfactory enough to really seal that deal, I will keep my word. If their answers match yours, there will be no need to harm them at all. I don’t see any signs that you are lying, which is the only reason why you are not dead yet. So I hope your two friends will be able to give the same answers, in the same manner. In the meantime, I cannot let you walk around. And you deserve punishment for betraying me,” Khan said in a matter-of-fact tone that made Jim’s skin crawl. Betraying him? In what…? Jim’s head would not let him finish the thought but instead made him feel briefly like he’d been flung to the left, even though he was hanging in those cuffs like a sack of wet wool. The nausea passed after a few seconds, but he still felt as if he was merely clinging to the edge of consciousness.

The Augment went to store the hellish device away behind the panel again, then he opened the shackles on Jim’s wrists and the blond man slumped on the floor, holding his head and groaning. Not giving him time to breathe, Khan wrestled him up and pulled him from the room - by his arm and thankfully not by his collar. Jim tried to keep up and make his feet work, but most of the way, Khan dragged him, up stairs and along corridors. When he let go, it took Jim a moment to recognize his own room. The window was now sealed with a metal shutter, so when Khan left him alone, closing the door behind him after he had deposited him on the floor, it was completely dark.

Jim crawled forward sluggishly until he found his bed, and crawled into it, trying to convince his head to stop spinning and hurting, and his body to stop sweating and shaking. He hoped that his two crewmen were safe. As safe as they could be in Khan’s dungeon. Hours passed and nobody came. In a way, Jim was almost relieved, because it meant that, if Khan had really questioned the two men directly, they had not given Khan reason to kill all three of them. Plus, he welcomed the dark and the opportunity to return to his normal body functions and rest a bit.

 


 

 

After he had locked James into his room, Khan took a deep breath and leaned his head against the door for a moment. It was late evening by now, but the council would not come asking questions before the next afternoon. The news of James’ two friends, all the things the human had said...it was unexpected and quite a lot to deal with, even for Khan.

Time travel. He’d have killed the man on the spot, except that there had been no sign that he had been lying. It was almost impossible to lie to Khan. But even if James had managed it somehow, the other two would probably not have the same semi-magical ability. So questioning them should bring rock-solid answers, even though he did not really know yet what he would do with the answers.

But not today. He was too tired, too riled up, even too hungry to deal with prisoners and more interrogations today. Questioning prisoners was not something to be done in the condition he himself was in right now. So he’d finally take his bath, have dinner and then go to bed and try to sleep properly.

The Augment shuddered a bit; he’d had not much luck with sleep lately, and after all that had happened today… No, being afraid of going to bed was not an option! Though in fairness, Khan was not afraid of sleeping, he was afraid of not sleeping, again . He was afraid of lying awake, half lucid, only to watch the sun rise later without a memory of falling asleep or waking up at all. For the past weeks, his nights had almost all been like that, and he hated it.

He shook himself, telling himself to keep it together, and went downstairs to the marble bathroom.

When Khan entered, Derya sprung up from a little stool in the corner where he had been waiting for his master. Khan’s sense of time told him his little excursion had probably taken one or two hours, but it was a bit difficult to estimate the exact time, now that it was so dark outside with rain and clouds. He could see Derya was a little confused as to why James was not with him, but, being a good slave, he did not ask.

Khan walked up to Derya and turned brusquely, letting the slave undress him. When he stepped into the bath, he gestured to Derya, so that the human stripped quickly as well and followed his master.

“Is the temperature to your liking, my lord? I tried…”

“It’s okay, Derya,” Khan answered, perhaps a little gruffly, and the slave shut up promptly.

Khan made Derya sit down near the edge so that he himself could stretch out and rest his head on the human’s lap while being in the water up to his ears. The warmth helped almost immediately and he gratefully let it soak all the anger and stress out of him, relaxed his muscles one by one, and tried not to think about the nuisance James had turned out to be, and all the confusing things he had learned. Instead, he tried to concentrate on the scent of fresh flowers in the bathwater, and the warmth of Derya’s skin.

Without a command - or permission - to do so, the human started combing his fingers through Khan’s hair, stroking and massaging his scalp lightly, and Khan allowed himself to let out a deep sigh. He half expected to feel lust stir inside him, but instead, he only felt something akin to...exhaustion, and not just the physical kind. He knew part of him was still brooding, angry with James but far more angry with himself, for not letting himself take into account the possibility that there was more, far more to James than just a pretty face they had picked up in the desert. The whole appearance and demeanor of the man had taken him back many years from the very beginning, and had made him blind and weak. Plus, being told that somebody came from the future was just... He almost hoped that tomorrow, he would find out that James had been lying about that.

“Derya?”

“Yes, my lord?”

Khan hesitated for a few moments, unsure what he actually wanted to say. He would have liked to mention how he was feeling, but one could never admit weakness in front of a slave when one was a ruler. And feelings were weakness. But he knew it might help to tell part of the story.

“There’s been a development, and I had to lock James up for now. It seems he is not as alone as I thought he was.”

From upside down and below, Khan could see Derya raising his eyebrows in astonishment. “Not as alone? How do you mean, your highness, if I may ask?”

“Two men were found outside the city today and brought here. They are somehow associated with James. From their reaction when they saw each other, I would say they are close friends, or some kind of family, although James is as American as they come, and the other two are from Scotland and Russia, judging by their heavy accents. I could not fathom how they can even know each other, if it weren’t for one very important detail James has informed me about, a detail I might just be forced to believe. The Russian also called James “sir”, like a superior, and the other called him “Jim” like a friend, and yet, there’s no notable difference in their behaviour as such, they were all over the moon to see each other. I shall see tomorrow, when I question the other two, whether James told me the truth at all. One incredibly good liar might be able to fool even me, but not three. If they tell me the same story, they must therefore tell the truth.”

“It would seem so, my lord,” Derya confirmed his master’s words, still playing with Khan’s hair. It was obvious that he was trying to sound very much neutral. “Might I ask though, what will happen to James now? Is he...will you kill him? I mean, is he dangerous? Is he a criminal or a terrorist, or anything of the sort? Will you sentence him to death?”

Khan turned his head slightly to glance out the window. “No, I don’t think so, unless he gives me a good reason to. And for some reason I don’t know yet, I don’t think he is dangerous, or a terrorist. He was a criminal already when we found him, because he was not registered, and he was in a restricted zone. But I seriously doubt he means any harm. I did not kill him then and I have no intention to ever do it, if it’s not a matter of national security or anything of the sort. No. Though for the time being, he’ll stay locked up, first so we can learn more about the situation without him wandering around, and secondly, with his two friends here, I think he needs a harsh reminder of who’s in charge, just in case he gets too excited. A little solitary confinement might be good for his discipline while I figure out the whole story. I won’t let anyone see him but you. You’ll go to him tomorrow morning to take care of him, but you won’t speak to him. No food or water. I want him to feel a taste of how much he could really suffer if I really wanted it.”

“As you wish, my lord.”

There was no hesitation in Derya’s voice, no regret upon hearing that James was being locked away, except perhaps there was a bit of relief that the other slave would probably not die . There were times when Khan gladly allowed Derya to have an opinion or provide a second one, but this was not it, and the slave clearly felt it.

Khan stretched in the warm water, listening to the sound of the heavy rain. He’d been so happy just a few hours ago, actually happy, which was rare for him. And then James and his friends had ruined this day, the day the rain came back, the day of success at the market. It should have been a wonderful night, all softened edges and good thoughts for a change, and perhaps a full night’s sleep. Due to the rain, things would grow again, and his people would live. Well, not his people , but at least his subjects, which was a start.

His people were facing more and more problems and enemies. It was one of the things, though not the most pressing, that kept Khan up at night. The humans blamed the Augments for all their problems all over the world, and unrest and dissatisfaction were simmering here and there. His brothers and sisters everywhere were feeling it. Some dealt with it by brute force, like Teyrn, others like Katie hoped that their charm and good deeds would save them. Humans seemed to have forgotten that the Augments were their creation, meant to save them and their sickly planet, and now they were beginning to resent them as alien, power hungry despots. Khan knew that most of his own subjects approved of him, because he had made life better for many of them since his accession to the throne, but as soon as the tide turned against Augments elsewhere, he’d certainly go down like all the others, and that was all the more annoying for Khan because he had never wanted to be an Augment at all. People liked blaming minorities for their problems, because they were easy to get rid of, and it was always easy to convince poorer, more common people to hate rich, beautiful, privileged people, or people of other races. His paternal lineage might have been flawless in that way: a long line of royals who had been shaping the history of this country for hundreds of years. But with a mother like his, white and inconsequential, practically not much more than a concubine or a common whore as the sixth wife…

The Augment shook his head. Where did such thoughts come from, all of a sudden? He had managed to almost completely ignore anything to do with his parents or childhood for a long while now. He decided to blame James for reminding him of all the worst parts of his childhood simply by looking and talking the way he did.

Khan sat up. The warmth of the water was not comforting anymore, and he only felt more troubled, tired out and hungry.

“You’ll bring dinner to my room, and we’ll eat together. Then you’ll stay with me tonight. Wash yourself, and then go.”

Obediently, Derya nodded, and Khan watched, a little lost in thought, as the slave washed thoroughly, then got out to dry himself and threw on some new clothes.

About twenty minutes later, Khan sat down to eat, with Derya next to him. The slave was silent as usual, but today it somehow bothered the Augment, so he ordered him to talk about something. The human did his best, but he was not a concubine, who would have been skilled in the art of conversation. He was a slave, trained to be silent, and after a few minutes, Khan held up a hand, more or less accepting the silence that was now even heavier. Obviously fearful that he had failed to serve his master well, Derya hung his head a little.

Khan did not wish to draw things out and so they prepared to go to bed shortly after dinner. While Derya was tidying away his master’s clothes and undressing himself, Khan wandered about the room a little aimlessly, thinking, brooding, until at last he spotted the leather pouch he had had with him on the market, lying on his nightstand. Remembering what was inside it lifted his mood a bit.

“Derya? Come here.”

Hastily, the slave set his own clothes down by the bed and knelt on the sheets as Khan indicated by patting the spot where he wanted him. Taking the pouch from the little table, Khan stood before the slave, who still kept his eyes downcast and his head low. Khan sighed. They had to get that out of the way first.

“I can tell there is something you want to say, so say it.”

Derya bowed gracefully. “My lord. I have the feeling that this evening, you are tired, dissatisfied, and troubled. It is my purpose to put you at ease and support you in that case, but I haven’t…”

Khan held up a hand and the slave fell silent at once.

“I am not dissatisfied with you. I am troubled and yes, I am tired, and most of all I am angry that a slave I’ve grown accustomed to turned out to be even more of a troublemaker than I thought he was. I can’t trust him anymore, and I don’t know yet what I am going to do with him. I don’t know if I can believe him or if he’s a liar. And none of this has anything to do with you. You did not fail me. It was a long day, and on the whole, I am pleased with you.”

Derya bowed. “Thank you, your grace.”

“Now, hold still.”

Khan extracted the nose chain and earring he had bought earlier from the pouch, and turned to the slave. Derya made a peculiar little sound, but sat perfectly still as Khan fixed the delicate earstuds and the nose ring in place. He could even hear the human’s heartbeat and breathing pick up, and smiled briefly to himself. Finished, he held the human’s chin between his fingers, and turned the lean face this way and that to watch the little droplets on the chain move on the dark skin.

“Beautiful. Come look at yourself.”

Getting up, Khan led Derya into his dressing room to the three floor-length mirrors there. The picture thrilled him somehow, and thankfully, it also made his dark thoughts retreat to the back of his mind for now; both of them standing naked, he himself behind Derya, but much bigger than the fragile human, it was just too captivating. He could see the brown nipples perk up and slung both arms around the small body, crossing them in the front to tease the little nubs with his thumbs, all the while looking at Derya’s ghostly blue eyes that were fixed on the jewellery.

“I’ve never worn anything more beautiful, my lord. Not even the collar can match it. Thank you for letting me wear this.”

Khan chuckled. “Derya.” He buried his nose in the silky black hair for a moment. “The collar is not yours. The jewellery, however, is. It’s yours now. It’s a gift.”

“What!” Derya clapped is hands over his mouth, effectively locking Khan’s arms to his human’s chest.

The Augment smiled, feeling mollified by how thoroughly the gesture was being appreciated. After all, this gift was quite valuable, made of real gold and silver and rubies, in delicate handiwork. It might not have been worth as much as Derya himself, especially since the slave was now worth much, much more than when Khan had bought him. Back then, though, it might have bought a few of Derya’s kind. Khan guessed that the slave knew that.

“But… I am… I cannot… slaves cannot own any kind of property,” the human whispered, obviously doubtful that he had understood right.

“And I still say it is yours. There will be no discussion about this. Just say thank you.”

“Thank you, my lord. Thank you,” Derya said breathlessly.

“You’re welcome. It really does suit you.”

“My lord?”

“Yes?”

“Do you…want me to wear it at all times?”

Khan cocked his head to the side as he considered this. Derya had a point with that question, namely that such jewellery on a slave would attract negative attention. Even free women - and only women - wore it only for festive occasions, and brides wore it at their weddings. But of course, Derya would never be free, or a woman, or a bride, so he really had no business wearing this kind of jewellery at all.

“You can wear it for important festivities. Or,” Khan said with a slightly predatory smile, “for me. I like how it looks on you. Turn your head for me. Very pretty.”

Seeing his pet thus adorned stirred a certain owner’s pride inside him. Also, the slave looked flushed, his cheeks and lips were darker, and when Khan let his thumbs caress the sensitive little breasts, he heard the human’s breathing hitch minutely. He grabbed the small nubs, harder than necessary, and stared into Derya’s eyes in the mirror. The slave let out a pained little groan and stared back, something he rarely did, except in bed.

“You’ll see this gift as a token of my high esteem for you, and a reminder that loyalty takes you further than willfulness.” He squeezed the nipples between his fingers just a bit more, and Derya yelped. “You won’t disappoint me like James did. Ever.”

“Not ever, my lord, I swear,” the slave squeaked and Khan stopped pinching him, caressing the swollen nubs instead.

“Good. I know you won’t. You never disappoint me.”

Slowly, he swept the black curtain of hair aside and kissed Derya’s neck, and he could feel goosebumps spring up beneath his lips. It made Khan smile almost involuntarily.

“I’d like you to be very responsive tonight,” he whispered, brushing the shell of his slave’s ear with his lips, making the human shudder. Though he’d had sex not three hours ago, he already felt like he had not had any in weeks, a side effect of his Augmented body that he still did not know if he loved or hated.

“Yes, my lord. As you wish.”

In the mirror, Khan could see Derya’s pupils widen slightly, and flashed a grin before lowering his head back down to the human’s neck, kissing and biting the skin while letting his hands roam about. When he brushed his fingers over Derya’s nipples, the human whimpered endearingly, and for a moment, Khan covered the dark-skinned chest with his large hands like he’d do with a woman’s breasts, although there was not much to grab.

He could feel his half-hard manhood brush against naked, warm skin, and could see Derya’s body shivering in reply. There had never been an opportunity to see himself with someone before, but it occurred to him that he liked it immensely. He enjoyed the scene in the mirrors far too much to go back to the bed, actually. Letting one hand remain at Derya’s left nipple, with his arm around his torso, he let the other hand glide lightly down across the sensitive belly and between the slave’s legs, where he used the heel of his hand to press down gently and provide some pleasure.

Derya’s breathing became deeper, and the simple sound excited Khan even more. Often enough, he did not care much about the people who saw to his sexual needs, but sometimes he liked to revel in the sounds, the smell, of genuine arousal, rare as they were in his bedroom. He would actually have liked to hear such sounds from James again, he had liked it very much when he had heard him under the influence of the drug.

Realising that his thoughts had again turned to James, he ground his teeth and must have squeezed Derya too tightly, because the slave let out a pitiful little wail of pain. Immediately, Khan relaxed both of his hands.

“I did not mean to do that. Are you alright?” he asked in a low, soothing voice.

“Yes, your highness, I am well,” the slave whispered back, sounding a bit tearful, and Khan noticed to his own surprise that he felt sorry for having inflicted enough pain to make someone as hardy as Derya cry. He knew his hands were stronger, and that a tight grip would be like steel, much more painful than any man’s, and he felt compelled to let those hands caress the bodyparts he had hurt with featherlight touches to make up for it. He also resumed kissing Derya’s neck and jawline from behind. He wouldn’t say sorry, that word had not come across his lips since before his father’s death, but he did try to soothe the human as best as he could.

“I’ll be gentle now, do try to relax again,” he murmured, and felt the muscles in Derya’s shoulders loosen up. “That’s it, pet. Good, faithful creature. Turn around.”

The slave turned as ordered, keeping his gaze straight at Khan’s chest so as not to stare at his master’s manhood, as he would have if he had kept his gaze down as usual. The thought that Derya still paid attention to such things when really they saw each other naked every day made Khan smile briefly.

“On your knees, lovely pet.”

When Derya had obeyed again, Khan gently grabbed the human’s jaw to make him open up and guide himself inside. The picture in the mirrors was spectacular to look at, and the Augment swept the curtain of black hair to the side to reveal the thick gold collar around the slave’s neck. But he had to admit to himself, the picture that presented itself to him when he simply looked down was even better, with the slave’s lips stretched around his cock, the silver and gold chain and ornaments glinting and dangling this way and that on the brown cheek. Khan kept watching while Derya started to suck him off. He put a hand on the slave’s head and moved his hips minutely to meet the skilled tongue.

“A little less, pet, just so...just the tip, softly...yes, that feels good, very good, my little one. Not too much. I have more plans for you.”

For a moment, Khan just let himself enjoy the sensation of a warm, wet tongue on his cock, pressing his fingers against the breakable jaw until the slave was merely mouthing along and caressing his length instead of sucking it.

“Are you ready for me, pet? And prepared?”

Derya pulled back to answer and even gave him a hint of a smile. “Of course, your highness.”

Khan smiled back. “Very good. Stay.”

He went and fetched the bottle of oil from the bedroom, and when he came back, he pressed down gently on Derya’s shoulder to make him lie down. Kneeling, Khan opened the slave’s legs to position himself between them, watching the mirrors from the corner of his eye, lips curling into a smile at the sight of the two of them. He dribbled a generous amount of oil onto his fingers and reached for Derya’s opening, taking out the plug and massaging the muscle, feeling his cock twitch in anticipation. Even though this time round, James was not here and no show was necessary, Khan found he had no wish to be rough with his favourite as he often had been before James had come along.

The slave moaned quietly, and it made Khan smile again. He took out his fingers and moved to lie down and positioned his cock, ready to push in.

“I said I wanted you very responsive tonight,” Khan whispered. “But I’d also like you to enjoy yourself if possible, so if there’s anything you want, you’re welcome to tell me. Will you do that?” he asked while caressing the adorned cheek with the back of his hand.

“I will certainly do my best, sir,” was the slightly breathless reply.

Good enough.

Once more, Khan lowered his head to kiss along the slave’s neck and jaw. Slowly, he pressed his hips forward to enter the warm body he was lying on, feeling the gentle glide of oil and skin, and the sensations that exploded in his nerve endings. He was still a little sensitive from the last time, then. Without really meaning to, he flexed the muscles in his shoulders luxuriously when he bottomed out, simply enjoying how good it felt. Even the thought of James and how pliant he had been a few hours ago, and therefore the reminder that there were problems to deal with, could not spoil this moment for Khan. There really was nothing better than sex to take your mind off things sometimes.

The Augment thrust forward with vigour, making the slave jowl briefly, but as his next few thrusts became more gentle, Derya relaxed gradually, and even put his hands on Khan’s back. He did not often dare to do that, but perhaps the expensive gift and the offer to voice wishes had made the slave a little bold tonight. Khan did not mind, he liked it. His partners rarely touched him, and it felt nice, the warm, soft contact and the implied closeness.

He kept moving, and glancing at the mirrors that showed him the scene in all its glory. Watching himself fucking his favourite, seeing what it looked like from the outside, was strangely arousing, even though it was merely a different perspective than what he was used to.

Looking back down, he changed the angle of his lower body so that he was flat against Derya’s centre of pleasure, and moved against it until he heard the tone of the moans change from hardly more than loud, laboured breathing to actual moans of arousal. The angle was sufficient, though not ideal for Khan, but he really did hope Derya would come tonight. It would give himself more peace of mind, and he found he rather liked a bit of an afterglow together once in a blue moon.

“Master…”

“Tell me,” Khan demanded, but Derya did not say anything.

He only moved his hands from Khan’s back to his face. The Augment could feel the slightly sweaty, quivering fingers caress his cheeks, pulling ever so gently to indicate what he wanted. Khan knew it was not a demand, Derya just had problems voicing things he really wanted. So he gave in easily, lowering himself more onto the small body, lowering his upper body, too, and kissing the slave gently on the lips. Khan’s heightened senses instantly noted the temperature of the slave’s breath on his face, the dampness of his lips, the racing heartbeat under every patch of skin, the change of the angle when Derya’s lower body adjusted to take his master in deeper, and the vibration of the moan that made his lips hum with the other one’s pleasure for a second.

“You can move your hips if you like, Derya,” Khan murmured before pressing his mouth against the human’s again, and a moment later, he could feel it, the slave’s effort to fight the weight on top of him so he could move. Lifting his body just enough, the Augment helped him along with shallow, gentle thrusts, keeping close so Derya would feel it all in the right places, and he was rewarded with more breathy moans and hands clutching his lower back. His own lust increased by the second now, but he only ground against the human more fiercely, until at last, after a few more kisses Khan felt compelled to give, the moans jumped an octave, and he felt the slave’s body clench around him while Derya let out a high, breathy moan and shuddered all over. Without losing another second, Khan let go and was swept away completely as his orgasm crashed through him, and with it, a split second of peace of mind.

 

Khan got his afterglow, lying on his back on the fluffy silk carpet in his dressing room, with Derya half on top of him. Though he was usually a man for meticulous cleanliness, Khan did not yet care about the stickiness on his body, or the damage they’d done to the carpet. But nevertheless, his mind was starting to work again, slowly, and he started wondering what on earth he was supposed to do about James and the other two now.

Of course, first thing in the morning, he had to question the two new arrivals. He’d keep his word and not torture them, but he had been taught about interrogation from a very young age and knew the tricks.

And then? What if they confirmed Khan’s fear - and James’ words - and he had three actual time travellers on his hands? It was the weirdest thought, but Khan knew that there was no way to lie to him, really, so it must be the truth, and it fit all the details perfectly, it was the best explanation for everything that had happened, and for James’ thoughtless and respectless behaviour as well. Other people would have said it was completely impossible, but being the leader of one of the world’s nations that were at this very moment attempting one of the most complicated space missions, and also being the result of a highly advanced medical procedure that would have been seen as witchcraft only a century before, Khan was quite prepared to give the explanation of time travel a chance.

The council, though, would question him about it, they would want to know what was going on, but he couldn’t very well tell them the story James had dished out. So he would have to rely on the fact that he was the emperor, and if he said everything was alright, they had to believe it. But would everything be alright? James had also said they meant no harm, and Khan had seen that he genuinely meant it. He could tell the council that, but if they were indeed from another time, he would have liked to keep them locked up for a while longer. But how would he explain that he kept James locked up for no reason, then? Sure, he could do that. But it would lead to unpleasant talks behind his back. He’d have to let James out sooner or later, and let him go back to his work. A part of Khan did in no way mind that. His possessive side still wanted James, and now that he knew that he was possibly the rarest and most advanced kind of human on this earth, he wanted him even more.

But another thought kept nagging Khan. The three of them clearly knew him, personally, wherever they came from, he had no doubt about that by now. Which had to mean that he was still alive three hundred years from now. Khan felt a muscle twitch in his cheek, an expression Khan would have identified as “revulsion” in any face-to-face conversation. Would he really have to be around this long? And if yes...what did the three men have to do with his future self? They were obviously enemies, but they clearly did not see him as a superior. Would they harm him in the future? Or he them? Judging by the intense hatred James had displayed the first time they had met back in the desert, Khan himself had probably done something to make James hate him so, but Khan was used to that by now. He had made enemies at practically every point in his life, and it certainly was something that came with the duties of an emperor.

But as James had said, there were stories about time travel in his time, too, obviously, and if the three of them knew him in the future, their lives were connected by something important. And there was the nagging thought. If they were now gone from his future timeline...could that hurt him? Or would it suit him well? He’d have to find out more, and he already had an idea how to do that. The three of them would certainly have a lot to talk about if they were ever left alone. Nevertheless, Khan couldn’t shake the thought that the wisest thing would be to actually let them go back. He couldn’t know what damage it would do to him or to anything that was his business in three hundred years’ time, so if there was a way, he would probably have to let them leave.

Khan sighed and tightened his hold around Derya’s shoulders, wishing the two others would just screw up during the interrogation the next morning so he could be done with it.

Chapter Text

It was still very early in the morning when Khan sat down in one of the other interrogation rooms in the cellar with James’ Scottish friend. The man was eyeing his every movement very carefully, and he seemed nervous, obviously aware that the situation could become very dangerous very quickly.

Good.

He was no trembling wreck, though. Like James, he seemed to have been trained for situations like this one. Well, Khan had received training, too, and lots of it.

“Now, Scotsman, why don’t we start with you telling me your name. James called you Scotty yesterday, but I presume that was a little inside joke.”

The man did not say anything, and the Augment had not actually thought he would. Khan leant forward on the table, folding his hands exactly like the Scotsman had folded them, though the prisoner’s were shackled to the table legs. Khan judged that the best approach for this one was to be blunt.

“You are not doing James any favours by keeping quiet. He told me the whole story yesterday, and I want to know if it’s true. If you don’t confirm his story, I will have you and the little Russian executed.”

“Where’s Jim?” the Scotsman growled instead of an answer.

“Upstairs.”

“I want ter see him.”

Khan smirked. “Surely you know that won’t happen. Perhaps I should inform you that if you do not talk and tell me what I expect to hear, I will come and ask you the same questions every day. And the more days you make me come back, the longer James will suffer upstairs.”

The Scotsman shivered visibly. “What are ye doing to him?!”

“Nothing,” Khan shrugged. “Not even feeding him or giving him water, to be precise. For as many days as you make me come back and ask you the same things. Today is only the first day but we were out yesterday, and thanks to your arrival he got no food or water since pretty much breakfast a day ago. So you should consider cooperating rather sooner than later, or he’ll die within a few days, and it will be your fault. Do we understand each other now?”

Khan let the words sink in, and watched the man’s facial expressions and body language intently.

Anger. Indignation. Sorrow. Desperation. Surrender. Determination.

Khan managed not to grin. “Your name?”

“Montgomery Scott.”

Khan decided it was the truth. “Fitting. What is your relationship with James, Mr Scott?”

The man looked up into Khan’s eyes with more intensity than the Augment had really anticipated. “What’s yours?”

Khan raised an eyebrow. “And why should I tell you?”

“He was wearing a metal collar yesterday. What kind of sick things are ye doing to him?” the man suddenly hissed, his voice full of anger, and he leant forward.

“If you answer all my questions, maybe I’ll tell you before I leave. So what is your relationship?”

The man sighed and leant back on the stool he was sitting on, trying to balance awkwardly since it had no backrest. “We’re friends.”

“How did you two meet?”

“He helped me get out of a dark and lonely place and we’ve been friends ever since.”

“And you work together, do you not?”

The man just stared for a moment and Khan felt annoyance rising inside himself.

“You were all wearing uniforms,” he drawled, massaging his forehead for a second to demonstrate his impatience at having to say it at all. “Or do you mean to tell me that people in the future have lost all sense of fashion and everyone wears the same clothes?”

That hit a mark. Mentioning the future so casually worked wonders on the man’s stoic facial expression, though it changed back to guarded a moment later.

“Yes, we work together,” Scott said in a clipped tone.

“Where do you come from?”

“Aberdeen.”

Khan smiled wolfishly. “And what year were you born?”

The man looked away without responding.

“No need to hold back. James told me. Not the year you were born but the time you come from.”

That seemed to make the human nervous.

“He… He wouldn’t have.”

“Probably not under normal circumstances, but, you see, I tortured him,” Khan said straightforward, and watched the man grow even paler than he naturally seemed to be.

“You...you...I...I swear, if you touch him again…!” the Scot stuttered, obviously enraged, but Khan interrupted him carelessly.

“Of course I will touch him again. Before you two came here, James was beginning to be a good, obedient servant, but I can’t shake the feeling that he’s going to misbehave again now that you and the kid are here. I’d hate to have to start all over again with punishments, and I have no actual interest in starving him. But I will, if any of you two puts a toe out of line or refuses to answer my questions. Apart from your answers, I do not want to hear another word from you, Mr Scott. Or James will pay dearly for it. I hope that is motivation enough for you.”

Khan paused to gauge the man’s reaction, and even though he was still glowering, Scott kept all his thoughts to himself now.

“Good. Now. What year were you born?”

 

In the end, Khan stayed with Scott for four hours straight, asking the same questions over and over again, in any way he had learnt, and tried every questioning method he could think of, until he was satisfied that the man could not be lying. After a bit of prompting, Scott had more or less confirmed James’ story. The same approach worked with the Russian, who, Khan found, despite his somewhat childish appearance, held out much longer under Khan’s steely glare than the Scotsman had. He could not shake the feeling that Chekov had a much less personal relationship with Khan where they came from, and while Scott had mostly avoided looking at him, Chekov had bravely kept his eyes on the Augment’s face. Khan had found he could deal with their being respectless better now that he knew that they came from a completely different era .

Khan had told the two new arrivals nothing about what exactly he did to James, but he thought they might have started to guess. An Augment would have known ; when Khan had brought James down to see the two prisoners the day before to learn their reactions, the smell of their coupling only minutes before had still been prominent enough to stoke Khan’s rage during James’ interrogation. But he doubted that humans could smell things like that. It was probably better to wait and see whether James would tell them himself. Surely they would ask him, and then James might have to explain.

He had not wasted any time on trying to find out what role he himself played in the future. James had refused to tell him, so he could not drop any hints about it that could have convinced the other two that they could talk about it, as he had had to do throughout each interrogation. He’d find out about his future self when he left James alone with his two friends; for now, he was more interested in confirming the story and piecing as much together as he could. For humans, the three of them seemed quite clever, thoroughly educated and trained for stressful situations, and most importantly, they appeared to be close, a real team. But not only a team who merely worked together. No, Khan was sure that only friends, or some kind of family, could be as afraid for one another as these three were.

When he was done with the prisoners, Khan finally went upstairs. Now he had the information he had wanted, he was still unsure what to do with it - hell, he had time travellers in his house, and the thought made him grateful that he did not actually get headaches. Time would tell, Khan decided.

It was just past noon, and the instant Khan emerged from the stairs to the cellar, he felt how warm it was up here. He had not noticed, but it had to be really cold down in the cells, and due to the rain, temperatures would continue to drop over the next few days. Upstairs in the palace and on his own floor, on the other hand, the air was still warm, positively stifling. He checked on James, who lay either sleeping or simply drained in his pitch dark room, and Khan noticed that the air in the small cell must be almost unbearable for a human; it was hot, humid to the point where breathing became uncomfortable, and it reeked of sweat. Khan moved silently over to James, whose quiet, slow breathing told him that the human was indeed asleep. The Augment laid a hand on James’ body, felt his skin temperature and his pulse on his neck; he felt hot, almost feverish, and his heartbeat was racing. The human moved slightly in his sleep, and Khan noticed the slave was smiling as if the touch had been a caress from a lover.

A sudden rage overwhelmed him when he saw James’ smile in the half dark, and he stepped back out of the room and shut the door again, locking it. He had told the two prisoners that he’d let James go if they confirmed his story, but in his anger, he was suddenly determined to not let him out quite so soon. The grin would be wiped from his face, when he woke thirsty, hungry, and burning. He deserved it. What for, the angry creature inside him didn’t even care about, he just found James deserved to stew in there. He deserved to grow weak, and he deserved to stop smiling .

 


 

Jim felt an arm around himself, and moved into the warmth. There were puffs of breath tickling his neck, and the cool yet somewhat stifling sensation of silk against his body, his legs, his side, his cheek. In his sleepy state, he had no idea where he was, but he was not too keen on making his head catch up, either. All he knew was that he felt peaceful, calm, warm and protected. The someone lying behind him tightened their hold on him irregularly, probably asleep and dreaming themselves. Jim leant back further into the body. It felt big, bigger than himself, and there was body hair tickling his naked skin on his back and on his legs. Yet, he felt perfectly calm about the person lying there with him, and thought that his instinct would warn him if he were in any danger. And how could he be in danger with such a strong arm around him, anyway?

Jim decided it was probably a man. Well, it was all the same to him. Had he not trusted that man enough, he would never have fallen asleep next to him.

The other moved, and Jim felt another tickling sensation on his neck, not just breath. Maybe a nose, rubbing against his skin in a gentle, unhurried rhythm. He liked it. It felt to him like there should be more, like the gentle caress should be followed by more gentle caresses, by hands on naked skin, by lips in places where hands were not enough, in that unhurried way that worked when both were half asleep, without opening one’s eyes.

Feeling like he could very well purr like a cat, Jim moved until he felt hard muscles against his back, and heat a bit lower down, on his arse. With his eyes still closed, Jim smiled to himself when he felt the twitching cock against his skin. Obviously, his proximity was giving the other man pleasure. Perhaps he would give back some of that pleasure to Jim, who felt a quiet, warm sort of arousal in his own stomach. The man had given Jim pleasure before, he knew it, felt it, although his thoughts were otherwise jumbled or nonexistent. But Jim liked this dreamy, sleepy state, it was so relaxing, not having to think. It was as if he was made up of only one thought, one feeling at a time, and right now, that feeling was the anticipation of more pleasure.

When he pressed his lower body against the man behind him, the arm around his middle tightened suddenly, and he felt himself being pressed face forward into the soft bedding. Jim had always liked it a bit rough, so he let it happen, it even excited him a bit. His neck received a few quite harsh bites, then, and the other’s hard manhood was pressed against Jim’s cleft, insistent and rough and… threatening.

In a moment, the warm, fuzzy feeling was gone and fear overwhelmed Jim as if a bubble around his head had popped. He tried to struggle, but the body on top of him was far too heavy. He could not move, he could not even cry out, he tried, but could not manage it. The bites on his neck got increasingly painful, and he tried to shake the man off, bucking like crazy.

A dark, smooth laughter sounded in his ears, revealing a pleasant voice but with a cold, cruel undertone that made Jim realise all of a sudden who it was, grinding against him.

Jim woke with a start, turning and twisting in his bed, sweating, looking and looking behind himself, but it was so dark in the room that he could not see anything.

“Lights...lights!” he shouted, but nothing happened, and his panic only kept mounting until his brain was awake enough to remember that there was no computer here to turn the lights on and off. In the complete darkness, everything still felt surreal, and it took a few minutes before Jim could breathe properly. Wiping his face with his hands, he swung his feet out of bed and set them flat onto the cool stone floor to get a sense of reality back, trying to calm his still racing pulse.

It took a good long while until his tired brain had caught up, and he remembered what had happened the evening before. With his face still in his hands, Jim tried to get the ugly remains of the dream out of his head. It was not new to him in any way, he’d had that dream quite a few times ever since Khan had made him drunk and had fucked him into oblivion, but he had the feeling that the dreams were getting worse these last few days.

Jim could still not understand what had happened that one night, but the dreams that had started immediately after, had, to his great shame, left him more wanting than angry, as if the adrenaline had still been in his system days after. Now, thankfully, they just made him angry.

Jim had had loads of quite experimental sex in his life, though never with a male individual, and he had thought that some time he’d try it out if someone sufficiently captivating came along. And then Khan had happened and all thoughts of ever again being intimate with anyone had made him sick...until that one night when he got drunk; his fear had practically evaporated and an overwhelming arousal had taken over his body as if against his will. It had by far been one of the most intense and thoroughly horrifying climaxes of his entire life, and though Jim still hated himself for that, he could not help thinking that if Khan had not been a brute, a rapist, a killer, a generally unlikeable person and just Khan , things could be really enjoyable with a man as… acceptable-looking as the Augment. Perhaps that was where that silly dream came from: knowing that a man in general could give him something that good, but then always returning to the knowledge that it was Khan just taking what he wanted and that ruined it all. A consensual good fuck was better for stress relief than anything else, and boy was he stressed out here. And Khan was by far the most attractive bastard around, but sadly the most evil one as well.

Jim shook his head viciously and knocked his fists against his forehead, despite the headache. What the fuck was he thinking? This place was certainly starting to mess with his mind, which was why he was sort of grateful to know Scotty and Chekov were close by; Jim had the feeling their presence would keep him more grounded, although he was aware that it was also the most dangerous place for them to be.

Feeling exhausted, with his head spinning, Jim laid back down, trying to avoid the sweat-soaked patches of the bed and finding it far too narrow to do so. He just hoped that come morning, Khan would let him out again so Jim could find a way to talk to his friends.

In some way, Jim could even understand that Khan had locked them all up after Jim had revealed most of the story, Jim himself would probably have done it as captain of his ship; Khan was a head of state, and unknown entities had arrived in his domain, in times of what seemed to be questionable peace at best. Judging by the manner of their meeting, Khan had just finished some kind of military activity, it was a wonder that he had not killed him on the spot, neither that day nor to-day for that matter. But Jim had told Khan both times that they meant no harm and Khan had believed him, and Jim could only hope that it would stay that way.

He grimaced when an unwelcome idea on how to keep it that way flitted through his mind. Khan had pretty much said that first day that his mercy was merely due to Jim’s pretty face . Playing that card in his favour would be ugly business, but now that it was no longer only about his own safety, he might have to do just that. The thought alone made Jim shiver, and he hated himself already for what he might have to do.

He turned in his bed, enraged, and promptly hit his knees on the wall. This place was seriously starting to mess with his head.

 

When he woke up after another bout of fitful sleep and was still alone, he began to feel queasy. It had been early in the afternoon when they had come back from the market, but it now felt like days had passed. Jim’s stomach was rumbling, he was thirsty and longed to go to the bathroom, but of course, his door was locked. All this made him even more queasy. Usually, even in the early days when he had always been chained up, someone had always taken care of him, made sure he was unshackled long enough to go relieve himself, and they had never left him hungry and thirsty, not even when he had been new or behaving badly. That much could be said for the palace, they fed their slaves well. But not now, apparently. Jim had almost forgotten what it was like to be this hungry. The last time he had eaten had been breakfast, presumably the day before... It was morning, wasn’t it? In the complete darkness, Jim had lost all sense of time. And the thirst was even worse. It was hot enough in the small room, even though he could still hear the downpour outside, but that just made him more thirsty. The sheets Jim was lying on were soaked with sweat; fluid he could not actually spare at the moment. The headache that had started to plague him last night had worsened.

He waited for what felt like many more hours before he went to the door and finally called out, first for Derya, then for Khan, then anyone who would hear him. Nobody answered, and nobody came. Jim knew Khan’s wing of the palace was usually empty of people, so his room was at least a long, long corridor away from the next pair of guards.

When Jim’s lower body was already sending painful signals to his brain on more than one desperate need and his head was again feeling as if it would soon be split in half, the door finally opened and Derya came in. When Jim tried to talk to him, though, Derya only shook his head vigorously and accompanied Jim to the bathroom. He said nothing and did not even look at him when Jim asked if he could have something to eat or at least some water. Instead, he gently but firmly pushed Jim back into his room that felt more like a cell now, and left him in darkness again. Jim laid back on the bed and thought about what was going on. This was obviously a lesson Khan wanted to teach him. But it was only for him, right? Would Khan hurt Scotty and Chekov? Hopefully not. Jim hoped that down there in their cell, they were being treated better than Jim was, up in his own cell. He certainly hoped they had water, at least.

Derya came back in what Jim judged to be late morning and repeated the procedure. Not one word came across the slave’s lips, even when Jim begged him for water. A bit later, impossible to say how much later, Khan himself appeared in the doorway. He, too, did not react to Jim’s begging and said no word. He looked at his slave for a while, and then vanished again. Jim had no idea what that had been about, but his head felt dizzy and hurt like hell, and thinking was hard now. He tried not to move too much and conserve what was left of his strength, but he kept breaking into a sweat and passing out. Hunger was gnawing at his insides and the thirst was killing him. Soon, it would kill him for real. This was a damned warm country even during the rainy season, it seemed, and even when he did not move, in the humid air that now pervaded everything he was sweating constantly. Usually, that was not a problem here, as there was always water for everyone who needed it, but he felt it all the more clearly now. Also, the shutters were so tight that neither light, nor a whole lot of air came into the room, and Jim had the feeling that on top of everything else, he was slowly suffocating. This solitary confinement in complete darkness was driving him nuts. Just sitting there took away all sense of time and self, and his mind, already running wild, was starting to imagine things, hear things that weren’t there...probably.

When Derya came back that evening, Jim refused to get up or move. There was no water left in his body, anyway, and he felt like any kind of movement might be too much right now, he felt so miserable. Jim tried to beg for something to drink again, but his throat refused to cooperate, and he could tell from the one look he managed to bestow on the slave - since even moving his eyeballs hurt at this point - that Derya pitied him very much. Jim certainly felt like the next time he closed his eyes, they might stay shut for good, and Derya seemed to at least guess it.

The young slave left, but to Jim’s surprise came back what felt like almost immediately. He left the door a little ajar, so Jim could see in the light streaming in - which hurt his eyes - that Derya was hiding something in the folds of his robe. When Derya revealed a litre bottle of water, Jim lifted his head carefully and opened his mouth, but only a croaking sound came out. Derya shook his head vehemently, shushing him, and pressed the bottle into Jim’s hands before he almost ran from the room. With a lot of difficulty, Jim managed to sit up against the wall and open the bottle, sipping slowly since he was unable to hold his arm up long enough to empty it in one go. A few minutes later, Derya came back to take the bottle from him. Jim felt still too weak to talk, but took Derya’s hand for a second to express his thankfulness. The slave did not smile, he only looked at him gravely, but Jim could feel him press his hand in reply. Then he left, and Jim let his head fall back onto his sweat-soaked pillow. The water had helped a little bit, at least he felt like he might not meet his maker just yet, but Jim knew that if Khan did not pardon him very soon, he would not leave this room alive.

 


 

This council meeting had by far been one of the most annoying ever. The men had questioned him, about the prisoners, about their motives, about what he intended to do with James now, since surely, he would not want him in his service any longer? The post as his body slave was perhaps the highest a slave could hope for, and people expected well-behaved, loyal beauties like Derya to fill them, not strays like James. High-ranking people were not happy that such an unworthy creature was allowed by their emperor’s side every minute of the day.

The men had been forward and respectless, almost more concerned with the image James presented than the story that had brought him and his companions to the palace. Khan was thankful that they had - grudgingly - believed him when he assured them that the three aliens meant no harm, but their questioning his decision to keep James by his side had put the Augment in a foul mood. While climbing the stairs, he decided he might let Derya soothe his anger with a massage and some rough sex.

As he turned into his own corridor, Khan could see Derya slipping out of James’ room, locking the door behind himself. There was something about the way the slave moved that made Khan frown. It was Derya’s task to bring James to the bathroom and back, but Khan judged by the sun that Derya should have done that more than an hour ago. Had he been too busy elsewhere? Khan quickened his steps, his instinct telling him to hurry for some reason. Something was off, the Augment could feel it.

The slave whipped around just as Khan reached him. He had one hand already on the handle to the door of his own little bedroom.

“My lord!”

“Derya. How is James holding up?”

The slave fidgeted. “He is very weak, my lord.”

Khan frowned. “What is wrong?”

“He… he is dehydrated, your…”

“Nonsense, I mean you. You are skittish. Is it because you were a bit late? What kept you from looking after James?” Khan turned his head minutely and sniffed the air around them. “James did not leave his room. He certainly did not come back just now, or I’d smell him.” He turned his sharp gaze back to Derya and could see sweat beading on the slave’s forehead. “Why do I not smell him when you left his room just a minute ago?”

Derya’s breathing picked up considerably.

“He could not move, my lord, he would not even get up.”

Narrowing his eyes, Khan stepped closer to the human. He could smell, and see, that the young one was close to panicking.

“Why are you so nervous?”

“I… I…”

“Are you hiding something from me?”

From the corner of his eye, Khan saw Derya clutching the side of his robe, and his hand shot forward to intercept the slave’s. Under the cloth, he bumped something solid and light. Khan looked down and traced the shape with his fingers before he reached into the pocket of the garment. Derya let out a choked noise when Khan pulled out a small plastic bottle and held it up, looking it over.

In all honesty, Khan was speechless. The bottle was empty except for a few drops of water. When he opened it and smelled the rim, he could detect a hint of James’ scent on it.

Feeling anger creep through his veins, ready to burst out, he fixed his gaze on Derya’s eyes again. For a moment, he was too puzzled, too angry, and at the same time too busy trying to hold back his anger, that he just stood there and stared at the slave. The human had lowered his head, his body shaking with fear.

Khan forced himself to take a deep breath and turn around, opening his own door.

“Inside.”

Derya moved on seemingly shaky legs, past the Augment, who was trying his hardest to control the violence that was trying to break free from inside him. When Derya was inside, Khan stepped in after him, closing the door by swinging it shut so hard that the resounding crack made Derya jump. The slave was clutching his own hands, still not looking at his master.

“Explain this,” Khan demanded, unable to keep his voice from shaking with suppressed anger, and held up the empty bottle.

Derya’s voice, too, was shaking, but with sheer panic. “I was afraid… afraid he’d die, my lord...”

“This morning, we had a conversation about this, and I explicitly forbid you to bring him water!” Khan interrupted. He noticed his voice growing louder without his permission. It was all he could do not to kill Derya on the spot; he knew he’d regret it, but the red haze he seemed to be looking through was almost overpowering. It took everything out of him to lock his muscles into place so he would not attack.

“How much did you bring him? How often?”

“It was just this once, only this bottle, I swear…”

“And you just decided that on your own?”

“I am sorry, my lord, truly…”

“You disobeyed a direct order!”

“I just thought…”

“I thought I could trust you!” Khan shouted, unable to control his voice any longer. “I thought you were loyal! How dare you! You wilful, disgusting creature! Has this vermin’s wayward nature infected you, too, now? What gave you the idea you could just do something like that? How could you disappoint me so? Did you forget who your master is and that you follow my orders no matter what? Look at me, slave!

Derya lifted his gaze, wringing his hands. Khan could see his eyes brimming with tears, but he did not care. He felt like his trust in his favourite had shattered into a thousand cutting little pieces the moment he had realised what had happened, what he had done.

“What came over you that you betrayed me like this?!” Khan shouted at the human, who was swaying a little on the spot.

Derya’s voice was whiny and desperate when he answered. “I thought he was close to dying, and you wouldn’t give him any water, I felt…”

Khan lashed out with his hand before Derya could say any more. The resounding slap forced the human’s head to the side sharply, and, crying out in pain, he stumbled and fell.

Khan stayed where he was, frozen to the spot.

He had not actually meant to do that.

The slave, crumpled into a heap on the floor, holding his cheek, was sobbing and shaking, rocking back and forth. Still almost as shocked as if he himself had received the blow, the Augment stood over him, his heart hammering.

It felt wrong.

He did not usually punish Derya for anything, never had any reason to, and hitting him like this... He had not hit Derya, ever , not in earnest, not like this. The longer he watched Derya’s trembling form on the floor, the less he could bear it, so he turned away, taking a few deep breaths. He was still angry, but it was not that hard to control anymore.

He balled his still stinging hand into a fist, trying to ignore the sensation and a very alien emotion trying to latch onto his conscience. Derya had betrayed him, he was not going to feel guilty for punishing him!

“Really, what made you do such a thing? You never disobeyed like this before,” Khan almost whispered when he found his voice again. “It was not for you to decide, it was not your place to think anything, to feel anything, to find a way to help him against my orders is practically treason .”

Derya was still holding his cheek, and the Augment could see it was beginning to swell up. Had the blow really been that hard? It must have been, as his own palm was still tingling. He wished it would stop. The sight of the crying, hurt slave also made him uncomfortable.

Khan had not really expected it, but Derya managed to choke out an answer between heaving sobs.

“I truly... am... sorry, my lord. A… a few days ago you told me that… that his sentence was not death, so I was sure you did not want him dead. I thought… I thought you had just forgotten, in your anger with him, how much or how little humans can endure. You are not human, my lord, I thought maybe you might have...miscalculated, since you would not go to see him yourself…”

Derya’s voice trailed off under Khan’s hard stare, and he slumped forward on his knees until his forehead was almost touching the ground. Khan could see teardrops on the polished stone. He was frozen in place, again, but this time, it was Derya’s words that had immobilised him.

You are not human.

The words stung, though unexpectedly. Khan called non-Augments humans, he often said that he was not one of them, that he was more, better, and yet the words stung. You are not human. It had an ugly ring to it that he was unable to explain to himself.

He looked away to the side.

“Get out. You’ll work below stairs until I decide I can stand the sight of you again.”

The slave let out a pitiful little sob that made the Augment turn away, but dutiful as he was, scrambled to get up. Khan did not watch as he slunk out of the room.



Hardly any punishment or transgression had ever kept his mind as busy as Derya’s, so, as was to be expected, Khan did not sleep well, and around sunrise the next day decided to leave his empty bed and his empty rooms to go seek the only kind of company he could stand in this mood.

His mare was obviously happy to see him. His animals were always happy to see him, one reason why he preferred their company to that of humans. Their loyalty was the other reason. All his mare wanted from him was a treat and a bit of grooming if he had the time. Sometimes, when he was in a brooding mood, there was nothing more balancing than the repetitive movements that had to be carried out when grooming a horse. Animals always tended to give him a sense of calm and normalcy, and even though his mare was now pregnant and a little skittish at times, her presence calmed him, especially since he was still somewhat angry with James and Derya. Two lousy slaves should not be able to influence his mood like this, and never had, before James had come along.

“Your majesty?”

Khan looked up, slightly startled by the voice. His superior hearing should have picked up her steps even in the din of the rain, his instincts should have warned him. And yet she had managed to surprise him.

“Mima? What are you doing here? How did you know where to find me?”

The elderly woman took a few steps into the stable, smiling, unimpressed by his scowl, and wiped her wet, grey hair out of her eyes. It was still pouring outside, and getting colder.

“I knew a little boy once, who loved nothing more than to get on a horse and ride out all alone, and scare the living daylights out of all of us who should have been watching him. He usually came back long after nightfall, and he didn’t care whether it rained or if the sun was burning down. His horse was his everything, not only the wings of freedom, but also the greatest comfort in a rather hostile household. Whenever we did not know where else to look, we knew he’d either be in the stable or gone. Not much has changed about that, it seems, though now you can’t just leave anymore.”

Grunting, Khan turned back to his mare for a moment. “That boy died years ago. What do you want, Mima? Is there a problem?”

“Forgive me, emperor, but I was about to ask you that very question.”

Khan knew there was really no point in lecturing her about respecting ranks or privacy. Mima’s hands had helped bring him into this world and as long as they were alone she would talk to him any way she pleased. Oh, she knew how to be polite about it, but due to her somewhat unique status, and her age, she could dare to choose almost any topic, no matter how displeased Khan was about it. Though they lived in the same house, their lives were so different that they had not talked - about private matters, at least - ever since before Khan had ascended the throne years back. He had thought it would feel a lot more strange, talking to his old nurse. He had never learnt to come to anyone for help or support, even though Mima would possibly have been a good choice. And he had never had to go to her; if Mima had the feeling something was not right, she had always come to him and confronted him about it. The last time had been after the late emperor’s death. Her being here today was not a good sign, then. And there could only be one reason why she would think something was so desperately wrong with him...

He laid aside the curry comb and turned to her, one arm resting across the mare’s back.

“I guess you’ve run into Derya,” he sighed.

She nodded carefully. “That, too. And I haven’t run into James for the past few days. Derya is not allowed to talk, and he is…”

Khan made an impatient gesture with his hand. “What do you really want, Mima?” He felt like her coming to see him was an accusation in itself. She only bothered in what she thought were extreme situations, and Khan had been trying to push away that thought since last night.

The woman dropped all pretense of servitude and looked straight at him. “I want to see if you are alright. I have no idea what Derya did, but usually, he can get away with anything. He looks like you slapped him really hard, and he’s constantly crying all over my kitchen. He’s used to pain, so I don’t think it’s the bruise he’s sporting that’s making him bawl like that. It is the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen. And I heard through the grapevine that you have locked James in his room and that he might die in there because you are not giving him any water or food. And while it is your right to do that, I do worry about what is going on inside you that made you do these things.”

“They both betrayed me, and it is not your business how I feel,” Khan shot back, feeling a little stubborn. He did care a lot for Mima, but he hated how she could make him feel young. Childish.

The stout little woman persisted, looking up at him. “I am sure you had your reasons to be so harsh with them. You know I do not question your decisions. But I have the feeling you are somehow troubled. Locking people up with no water and slapping your favourite are all valid punishments, but they are not typical for you . And here you are, hiding with your horse. You always did that. It worries me that you do it now,” she said, a little softer.

The Augment sighed again. Denying it would be useless. And perhaps talking would help him sort through the jumbled thoughts in his brain.

He sat down on the stairs to the hayloft, and she sat next to him, closer than she’d been in years.

Khan hesitated for a few minutes before he spoke, rubbing his temples. “There are two prisoners in this house, three if you count James, who keep an unspeakable secret, and I just do not know what will be the right thing to do about them. I certainly cannot tell anyone else what they told me. I thought I knew all that was necessary about James, but I was very, very wrong. And my closest slave has violated my orders, to help that man, who might or might not be one of the greatest potential dangers I have ever encountered, even though I think as long as I have his friends in custody, he is relatively harmless. And…” Khan hesitated again before he went on, it sounded so pathetic to even think it, but he knew she would not mock him for it. “I can’t sleep. The night before we headed back home from the last operation was the last night I really slept.”

Gently, she laid a hand on his arm. She did sound a little shocked when she replied. “But that was over two months ago!”

“I know that,” he answered, and it sounded cranky even in his own ears. “I sleep… an hour a night, maybe a bit more, otherwise it probably would have killed me by now, but every day I have the feeling it is harder to keep myself sane, even before I heard the story of the three aliens , and since then, it has been even harder. I think it might have started to change my behaviour some time ago, even though I did not see it for what it was at the time. I just didn’t think it mattered. A while ago, Derya told me I was behaving...odd, especially towards James. I had not even really noticed it back then, but I realised it was true. I was very hard on him when he came here. And yet I didn’t just get rid of him like I would have done with any other impudent slave who didn’t want to bend to the rules. I have never, ever, gone through so much effort to make anyone mine. He is annoying and respectless and…”

“...and perhaps the reason why you can’t sleep?” Mima asked tentatively.

Khan gnashed his teeth. “You make it sound like I’m a lovesick girl. I can assure you, that’s not it.”

The woman hurried to explain. “No, I mean...your instincts are much sharper than anyone of us humans can imagine. It there something about him that makes you nervous? Do you feel threatened by him?”

Khan shrugged. He really had not thought about it, since he was not used to feeling threatened by mere individuals anymore. But perhaps he had always known that something was distinctly off about James, and now he had proof that what was off about the man was actually the century he came from. Yes, perhaps that might have freaked out his instincts a little. That and the fact that the last person who had shown his hate for him so openly had been the late emperor, and that had never gone well. Yes, Khan could imagine that all that might have been why he had so desperately - and brutally, at times - tried to get some control over the man, and why his instincts would never have allowed him to fall into a deep sleep as long as the ‘threat’ was so close by. And his bad mood due to lack of sleep had then formed a vicious cycle and he had treated James, and now finally Derya, worse than perhaps strictly necessary. However…

“If that were all, why do I want to keep him?”

Mima looked at him with the kind of pitying look he hated so much. “Don’t you think that might have something to do with him being quite a… unique one? A blond boy?”

Khan scowled at her again. “The lovesick girl thing. Don’t do that.”

“You know perfectly well what I mean, Khan. He reminds you of him .”

Yes, Khan had noticed that too. He remembered that one night, the sight of James sleeping, the urge to break his neck. He had shoved the thought aside since then. But if Mima had had the same thought, it was probably really that obvious.

“Great. I don’t trust him enough to sleep as long as he’s here, I hate him because his attitude is reminding me of my predecessor, and I want him because he reminds me of...the other one, and since I don’t sleep because of him, I am turning into an even angrier monster than I already am.”

“Khan, you’re not a monster,” the old woman said sternly, but Khan interrupted her.

“Yes, I am. You know that.”

Mima sighed. “I’m sorry you believe that. There’s far more to you than just that chemical, you know. Just because you are fighting hard against an inner demon does not mean you are that demon.”

Khan did not know what to tell her. How should she understand what it was like to be an Augment?

“So, if I understand correctly, James is a bigger problem all by himself, and Derya ignored your orders regarding him. What exactly did he do?” she went on.

Khan leant back against the rough wood of the stairs. “As you said, I forbid for James to be fed, and he was not supposed to have water. Derya brought him some, last night. I had told him that very morning that he was not allowed to do that, and he went and violated my orders.”

Mima sighed. “I think you should ask yourself: why did he do it? It was certainly not because he does not respect you. We all know he does more than that. But you know why he did it.”

“He thought James would die.”

“He would have, after a while. You know that. And you know that Derya will do anything to save someone who is not meant to die.”

“Yes, I know.” Khan rubbed his temples again. “Things would have been a thousand times easier if he had.”

“But you don’t want him dead.”

Khan sighed and answered what was not really a question. “No. Not really. I even told Derya that.”

“So Derya actually did it in accordance with an earlier order, one could argue. And you want James back in your service again, I guess? You said he should not be a danger at the moment. If you don’t want him dead, I would advise you, release him, and pardon Derya. You should not punish one for having a good heart, and the other for inspiring those conflicting feelings in you. You don’t want to kill James, and you don’t want to make Derya miserable. I know you don’t, Khan. So don’t. Be merciful this time.”

 


 

Jim did not know how much time passed before the door opened again. When he lifted his head tentatively to see who it was, he saw Khan standing in the doorway, and the fair-haired slave girl Khan had bought not too long ago was coming over to his bed with a small tablet that she set down on the only stool in the room. He thought he could see the Augment sniffing the stale air and wrinkle his nose in disgust very briefly. Jim was almost startled when Khan spoke the first words Jim had heard in many days.

“Your friends confirmed your story, more or less. But you won’t see them. It’s noon now. You’ll eat and drink and you’re allowed to recuperate and leave your room, though you’ll have dinner alone, in here. Tomorrow you’ll work again. If you can’t manage, you’ll be punished. I want you in my bed tomorrow night. No excuses.”

With that, Khan shut the door, and a few moments later, Jim heard an electrical whirring sound and the metal shutters on his windows began to move until they showed narrow strips of the rain and sky in between, and a bit of fresh air came in. Groaning with relief, Jim managed to sit up, holding his head, and inspected the tray the girl had brought in. It held a big jug of water, a glass, a large bowl of soup and a small loaf of bread that made Jim’s mouth try to flood with saliva, but he was too dried out, so he started by sipping water before he wolfed down the food. It was hardly enough, but since Khan had sounded like Jim was now more or less back to his usual schedule, he tried to console himself by thinking about dinner and breakfast. To test his theory, Jim slowly stood and walked to the door. It was not locked, and Jim sighed with relief. When he had emptied the whole jug of water and felt less horrible in his skin, Jim took a fresh pile of clothes, pulled off the bed sheets and walked slowly down into the basement. He showered, careful not to overdo it with the warm water in case he collapsed, dressed in the new clothes and threw the sheets and reeking tunic into the laundry room, returning upstairs with a new set of blankets. Feeling much better, he decided to go down to the kitchen and find some dinner.

It was late evening already, so when he came in, the kitchen was mostly empty, and the last few slaves were just leaving. On the way back out, carrying a fresh jug of water and looking around for some leftover bread and fruit, Jim stopped when he saw Derya in a back corner. Setting down the water, he walked over to the young one.

“Derya? What are you doing down here, you don’t work in holy shit what happened to your face !” Jim exclaimed, recoiling in shock before he managed to pull himself together and step closer.

Derya shook his head and turned away, not saying a word. Jim, of course, would not have it. He stepped around Derya and reached out for the slave.

“Derya, wait, come on, what is that? Did...did Khan do that to you?”

He managed to get a hold of Derya’s forearms, but the other still managed to cover his face with his hands, though not before Jim had gotten a good look at the black and blue bruise that bloomed all across Derya’s left cheek. It did not matter that Derya would not answer, Jim knew that nobody in the palace would raise a hand against the emperor’s favourite, so it must have been the emperor himself.

Still, somehow, Jim could not believe that Khan would mistreat Derya in such a way, no matter the things he had seen the Augment do already. It should not have shocked Jim that something like that was not beneath the man, when he had seen him murder a mother-to-be and her child, and been the object of abuse many times by the man’s own hand. Yet, it did shock him, and it made him angry at Khan and sad for Derya. It just seemed so...crude. Giving a weaker person a black eye was something violent men did to their women out of anger or drunkenness. Khan’s punishments were usually more refined, but there before him was proof that even the proud Augment would resort to the behaviour of an abusive husband in one of his sudden fits of rage. He had just never thought Derya would be the recipient of any of that violence. Jim had never seen the Augment raise his hand - or even his voice! - against Derya, not even once. Yet there it was, dark and swollen and ugly.

“Why did he do that to you?” Jim asked sadly, but before he knew it, Derya had thrown off Jim’s hands and shoved him back with so much strength that his weakened body could not offer enough resistance, and he fell against one of the massive kitchen tables before tumbling to the ground.

“Ow! And what the fuck was that for?” Jim cried out.

“He did this because I saved your life ! He banished me downstairs looking like this and everyone knows that I’ve fallen from grace! Because I let you drink !”

“W-what?” Jim managed to get up by pulling himself up along the table legs. “He hit you for that ?”

“Yes!”

“And...what do you mean banished?”

Derya let out a pained sound. “I’m not allowed upstairs until he sends for me again, I’m not...he said he can’t stand to look at me at the moment.”

Before Jim could move a muscle, the young slave broke into tears and turned away, his hands over his face again.

Jim bit his lips; he was not really an expert when it came to comforting crying people, but he felt responsible for what had happened to Derya. Khan had hit his favourite, because he’d been merciful and kind to his prisoner. The young one might actually have saved Jim’s life with his gesture, and he’d been punished for it. Jim had not asked Derya for that favour, but he was ever so grateful for it, and felt horrible for his colleague.

He did not really know how else to communicate his gratitude for the slave’s help and his sorrow for what had been done to him for it, so he stepped a bit closer to put his arm around Derya’s shoulders. When the slave did not shake him off, he leaned in and kissed the bruised cheek very gently, folding his arms around him in a hug. When he let go, the younger one had dropped his hands again, and though tears were still streaming down his cheeks, the sad smile that flashed across Derya’s face for a tiny moment made Jim feel a little bit better, and he looked at him for a second longer. For the briefest moment he saw the young girl in the slave very clearly, a side he often forgot actually existed. Then Derya moved his head and the fleeting glimpse was gone.

Jim held Derya for a bit longer before he spoke again.

“I’m sorry this happened to you. Please...come on, stop crying, please. You didn’t do anything wrong, he did.”

Derya had calmed down a bit, though the tears kept coming.

“Say, he didn’t...want me dead, actually, did he? Then he wouldn’t have let me out.”

Derya shook his head. It seemed his brief anger at Jim was already gone. “No, that’s why I saved you at all. Had he wanted you dead, I wouldn’t have interfered.”

“Great to know,” Jim said dryly.

“I’m serious, Jim, had that been his sentence, I would have known there was no helping it. It would only have prolonged your suffering to give you water then, but I thought he simply forgot…” The slave suddenly took a deep breath and straightened up, obviously trying to pull himself together. “I’m not actually allowed to talk, another command you made me disobey. Don’t talk to me.” He moved away, seemingly trying to close off his facial expression and appear neutral, the way he always presented himself when Khan was around.

“Derya, wait a second. Thank you, for saving me, really. If I can ever make it up…”

The other shook his head, looking irritated again. Jim slumped, knowing there was no use in going on.

“Just, thank you. And I’m so sorry.”

Derya nodded shortly, and then left the kitchen with long strides, not looking back even once.

Jim really felt sorry, but the longer he thought about it, the angrier he also felt with Khan. He did not know why he was actually surprised, perhaps because he had only ever seen Khan treat Derya fairly well, but damn what an asshole! Derya did not deserve punishment, much less for saving Jim’s life with a goddamn bit of water!

When he was back in his room, still sipping water to rehydrate, a thought came to Jim and he smiled grimly to himself. Khan could not manage long without Derya, even though there were a hundred other slaves in the palace to choose from. Khan needed Derya by his side, Jim was certain of that, and he could only hope that the bastard would come to this conclusion himself very soon and realise what he’d done when he had wounded the only creature he cared for, and, more importantly perhaps, who cared for him. Jim felt sorry for the young one, knowing Derya’s strange obsession with his master, he could only guess how painful it must be for him to hear that Khan could ‘not stand to look at him’, as Derya had said.

Then, another thought hit Jim. If Derya was not allowed upstairs, he, Jim, would possibly be all alone with Khan. Sure, perhaps the white-haired girl would be there to do some work, too, but as far as Jim could tell, the Augment was not really interested in her body. So Jim would be the only one for Khan to take out his moods on, be it anger or lust. Jim didn’t like that thought. Being on duty for Khan all alone was an alarming prospect at best. And the way Khan had said that he wanted him in his bed the next night had almost been more of a threat than an order. Shit.

And then there was the small matter of how to get to his friends and get away . Jim really hoped the two had a plan, because he didn’t. Both were brilliant men, but Jim knew the plan had to be absolutely watertight, or they’d all end up dead, with a bullet through the head and not many questions asked, and Derya would clean up the tiles afterwards. And until they had hatched said plan, he’d have to play nice and try to get on Khan’s good side after he’d almost died because of his orders, and he had to play it in a way that wouldn’t let any of them end up dead either, all while his body was still weakened by the misery of the past few days.

Oh. Dear.

Chapter Text

The first morning, Jim had a very rough start, being woken by a guard who came into his room shouting at him to wake up and get his ass downstairs. Jim hadn’t even realised that he had overslept. He usually didn’t, because Derya woke him every morning. Rubbing his face on the way to the kitchens, Jim asked himself whether Derya was not only not allowed to work upstairs, but also not allowed to sleep in his room or come upstairs at all. He definitely had to find a way to get up punctually in the future, he was not keen on having that guard stand over him every morning until Derya returned. If he returned. Surely he would, though? Khan would not be so arrogant to banish Derya downstairs forever when he could not even tie his proverbial shoes without the young one. Right?

After breakfast, the overseer sent Jim into the stables where the groom had obviously already received instructions to put him to work. And Jim tried, he really tried, but the lack of food and water in the past days had taken a toll and his limbs felt like they were filled with lead. When he finished in the evening, he felt even worse, his knees were so weak he could hardly use stairs, and absolutely fucking everything in his body hurt. He was allowed to bathe and eat with the rest of the slaves before he went back to Khan’s rooms, where he sat nervously on the couch, alone.

He pondered whether he could, or should, do something useful - if only to keep himself from falling asleep on the spot - tidying something or maybe preparing his body for what was surely about to happen, but he did not quite yet have an eye for what had to be done in the room, he usually followed Derya’s guidance on that. After a few minutes of anxious pondering, though, Jim got up and went to his room to prepare himself. It was weird, doing this alone, and almost even more humiliating, since it felt like if he did it by himself, he was doing it out of his own free will. He kicked himself in his mind. This had nothing to do with free will or preference, it was purely to protect his body from damage. After he was done with his fingers, he got his plug. Putting it in was still awkward business, but Jim knew it was for the best. This thing had saved him from serious injury many times now. If he didn’t need it, fine, but he was too afraid Khan would not have the patience for preparation on the spot one day. And since the man had only yesterday let him out of confinement, it was very possible that today was that day.

Feeling full and a bit strange, Jim went back into Khan’s bedroom to wait on the couch where he’d been shackled to the wall by his collar not too long ago. Perhaps, not all ‘achievement’ had been lost. In front of the cells a few days ago, Jim had had the impression things would be horrible all over again, but he could move freely, had no guards following his every move, after he had left his cell there had been no more talk of punishment or anything of the sort… Well, he did not yet know what Khan himself had in store for him, so perhaps it was a little early to get his hopes up.

A flutter of now familiar fear made his stomach lurch unpleasantly when he thought about how Khan had looked when he had told him yesterday that he was wanted here tonight. No matter how often it had happened by now, and how well he had managed to tune out the last time, he was afraid, but this time, it was more for his friends than for himself. He could only let Khan take what he wanted and hope he would not be displeased enough to kill anyone, at least for now, until the dust had settled a bit.

After the last few days of punishment, he had no idea where he stood, he had no idea whether Khan was still angry or if he’d behave differently now that he knew more about where Jim came from. He had said that he wanted him in his bed again, so things could not have changed that much. The thought of being more… active in bed to get on the Augment’s good side shot through his head again, but Jim knew there was no way he could even move much tonight, he was far too tired and too weak to put on any kind of convincing show.

When Khan entered the room some half hour later and looked at him darkly and unsmiling, Jim immediately knew he was in trouble. From what Jim had learnt, Khan only seemed to know two moods for sex: taking what he wanted for his own satisfaction, and using it as a sort of lesson or punishment. Jim really hoped for the first, though the look in Khan’s eyes rather told him it was probably the latter. He scrambled to his feet.

“Are you going to be difficult or will you give me what I want?”

Jim let his shoulders slump, hoping it would appease the Augment a bit. “No. I mean, I won’t be difficult, sir.”

He could not interpret the frown on Khan’s face but since the Augment had been frowning when he had opened the door, it did not seem to matter much.

“Undress, then.”

Jim did, and then turned back to Khan with what he hoped was a somewhat demure posture.

There was a certain resolve inside him to do whatever was necessary to protect his crewmen. It almost felt like the moment immediately before a battle; no time for fear and feeling sorry for yourself. Time to focus and do your best to save as many as you could. And he only had to save two men here, and preferably himself, too. He had fought battles where the odds had been less in his favour. He’d survived this before, he could do it again, and it could hardly be worse than the first time. He just had to keep it together and not let fear overwhelm him.

“Good,” Khan said, and sat down on the edge of his bed, ordering Jim to come over and kneel in front of him with a simple hand gesture. “Get to work.”

Kneeling, Jim swallowed hard. Yeah, so much for that resolve and the flash of bravery - could Khan have smelled it and decided to crush it, for heaven’s sake? This was perhaps the last thing Jim had not gone through yet. Maybe Khan had been a bit concerned that Jim would bite as long as he was wild and fighting. However, now Khan had real leverage in the form of his two prisoners, and seemed to have changed his mind.

Jim was not thrilled. He had never given one blowjob in his life, unsurprisingly. Theoretically, he knew how this was supposed to work - you couldn’t be a great big whore, as Bones had so lovingly called him during their academy years, and not pick up certain things.

Khan’s menacing growl reminded him that he was just kneeling there, staring, and even though he was repelled by the mere thought of what he was about to do, he tried to swallow the bile rising in his throat and get a grip. He was only thankful that Khan was almost obsessive about cleanliness.

While Jim undid Khan’s trousers, the Augment stroked the slave’s hair.

“By the way, if your teeth so much as graze me, I’ll break your neck while my cock is still down your throat, and that will not stop me as long as you’re still warm,” Khan said in a cool tone. “So watch it.”

Well, that was not very reassuring, but Jim tried to keep his hands from shaking and did not answer or look up. He had seen Khan naked on numerous occasions now, but never this close up, and the view from down here made him more than a bit uncomfortable. All of a sudden, he was not so sure he could do this.

Khan growled impatiently. That bastard was in a really foul mood today. Perhaps it was better not to agitate him further.

Jim took a deep breath and leant in, licking the head tentatively. From his point of view, it had probably been a stupid idea, because the salty-bitter taste of precome almost threw him off again. But Khan grunted and leant back a bit while still watching his slave with hawk’s eyes. Jim tried again. Licking was easy but a hand on the back of his head told him that was not all that was expected of him.

Jim took yet another deep breath. Come on. People do that all the time. He decided to just close his eyes, open his mouth and go for it.

At first, taking more than a few inches was very uncomfortable and seemed impossible to do, especially since the thing in his mouth was now growing bigger and harder by the second, but as soon as he had spread a bit of saliva along the shaft, it was a little easier to go deeper. He hoped he could work with that, though, and tried using his hand on the rest of the length. Khan purred approval, seemed to like it, and Jim took great care to keep his teeth hidden behind his lips, which wasn’t as easy as he had thought it would be. After a few minutes, Khan began to move Jim’s head with his hands, gently at first, but just when Jim thought that this was going rather well in terms of punishment, Khan began to press down harder, and it was all Jim could do not to panic.

“Relax your throat,” Khan breathed, and if his situation had not been so desperate, Jim might have rolled his eyes. It was not that simple! Jim tried, and Khan actually gave him a bit of time to adjust. Perhaps he knew that his slave was about ready to puke.

Slowly, Jim seemed to get the hang of things. He figured, the better he was, the quicker it would be over. But of course, Khan’s stamina and determination to make this hard for his pet pretty much negated all of Jim’s efforts. Khan made him keep going for so long that Jim’s jaw was starting to hurt and cramp, and he was still shoving him down too often, keeping Jim on edge and afraid. From time to time he pulled him off a bit and made him suck the tip of his cock before pushing him back down.

Of course, having Jim on his knees with his master’s prick down his throat was not enough for the Augment. Khan began to hold the blond head still with his hands and thrust upwards, which felt even worse to Jim. This, he could not control, but he tried to relax his throat and keep his teeth hidden as well as he could manage. Khan continued this for perhaps a minute or two, though it seemed much longer to Jim, but in the end, he pulled out abruptly, gripping the base of his cock in a way Jim knew all too well from his own experience. He knew the adrenaline that coursed through a man’s body in that particular moment, and knew that if Khan was ever on the edge of his self-control, it would be now.

Before he had finished that thought, Khan grabbed him and heaved him up on the bed, pressing him down face forward. Jim thought he shouted in surprise, but Khan did not even react to that. He stuffed a pillow under Jim’s hips so that his backside was up in the air, but then there was a moment of silence as Khan discovered that Jim was prepared already. Jim could feel a warm finger tracing the rim of his hole around the base of the plug and shivered. It felt almost gentle, but Jim knew he could not expect gentleness from the man at the moment. He tried to stay relaxed, tried not to tense up, as Khan’s fingers pulled out the toy. He could hear it being tossed aside carelessly, could feel the wetness of more oil on his skin, could hear how the other man was coating his own length, and then Khan was on him.

With a fierce grip on Jim’s neck, the Augment mounted him like an animal, pushing in roughly, albeit not as unforgiving as in the past, and Jim cried out, but resisted the urge to fight. He could do this, he just had to breathe. His prep seemed to have been good enough to spare him from the worst pain, though Jim realised that Khan was holding still for a few moments, as if giving Jim time to adjust once again.

That pain was not necessarily what Khan was trying to inflict this time became clear to Jim when Khan hit a certain spot inside and it felt good , if just for a tiny moment. A second later, the feeling was completely gone, but it had reminded Jim of the frequent dreams he kept having. In those dreams, he always craved that feeling, until he realised who it was that would be the one giving it to him. Very briefly, he wondered what the hell was wrong with him, before Khan’s brutal thrusts pulled him back to reality.

The Augment certainly knew exactly what he was doing, hitting that spot over and over and over again. Jim tried to fight the feeling that was slowly spreading inside him, but that only made it worse, because it became unbearably uncomfortable as soon as he tensed up. But to just kneel there and let the feeling take over seemed almost worse. He had not felt like this since that fateful night when he’d been drunk. At first, it was just a weird, buzzing feeling, like restlessness. When Khan draped his heavy, muscular body over Jim’s back completely, though, it changed the angle of his thrusts so that the stimulation was now constant, not only a jabbing nuisance, and Jim could take it no longer, he cried out. To his horror, he realised that he was half-hard, no matter how little he wanted it, no matter how much he told himself he didn’t want it. He also realised with a pang of guilt that the weird restless feeling was arousal, and he was so bewildered about it that he almost forgot the precarious situation he was in. It had to be some sort of purely physical reaction, mixed with the long abstinence and perhaps the ordeal and relief of the past few days. While he was still trying to explain it to himself, he could feel a hand snaking around his lower body, touching him right there , and he tried to struggle, but Khan kept an iron grip on this most vulnerable part of him, so instead he worked on keeping his panic and revulsion at bay while the warm, strong hand stroked him to full hardness.

Khan did not mock him about it, not with words. Instead, he took it for granted that his slave got increasingly desperate to stay silent. Every time Jim told himself that it was a physical thing, his brain supplied memories of that other night, how good it had felt back then, how good it had felt to come...

His slaver suddenly seized Jim’s hips and turned them onto their sides, so that they were more or less spooning, and while his other hand was still on Jim’s cock, working him more expertly than Jim had anticipated, Khan also pushed two fingers of his free hand past Jim’s lips while his mouth was open, not deep enough to make him retch, only to keep him from biting his lips again. With no way of keeping quiet, the blond could not help his moans and little cries, and it made him feel awfully ashamed, but also thoroughly befuddled. Khan’s thrusts were more shallow now, gentler, as if he wanted to give Jim a chance to enjoy it. Jim had no intention to enjoy any of this, and yet, it felt too good, and maybe he was trying to fight it, trying not to give in, but he could already feel he would. In no time at all. It was the strangest feeling, being so repulsed by the man doing this to him, and still recognizing the rush of an oncoming climax. Still, he did not want this, not with Khan, it wasn’t right, this time he did not even have the alcohol to blame, this should not be happening, he could not…

Jim felt his body shudder under the horrible onslaught of pleasure and moaned out loud, a long, desperate sound, while he felt his muscles quivering and spasming around Khan’s cock inside him, the same moment as Khan’s hand seemed to tighten on Jim’s length to milk even the last drop from his desperate body. It felt amazing and terrible and it burned through him with an intensity that, for only a second, wiped all thoughts from his mind.

Jim slumped forward, feeling the sticky sheets on his hip, suddenly feeling strangely empty, and thoroughly, intensely confused by what had just happened.

He focussed on the other man behind him. The Augment had not pulled out after the slave’s last shudders, but he had stopped moving for a minute. When he started moving again, it was more like rutting, but it was a slow movement, and now that his mind felt relatively clear again, all of a sudden, Jim noticed the sounds Khan was making, his rapid, intense breathing in his ear. For some reason, it made Jim’s stomach churn, hearing Khan like that, listening to his breathy little moans that made it clear just how much Khan was enjoying himself, how much he was getting off on this. The Augment had begun to kiss his neck from behind. Whatever had brought this on, the bigger man was getting an immense kick out of it.

But Jim did not refuse, did not fight, did not interrupt the man as he wound one arm around Jim’s chest, and the other around his hips, pressing them together while he pulled out a little and thrust back inside his slave’s body. Without further warning, the Augment came, quietly by his standards, with a long, low moan.

Jim felt nauseated when Khan sighed and kissed him between the shoulder blades.

“You’re so beautiful.”

There was no telling what was going on inside the Augment’s head, but Jim had the sudden urge to ask if he’d completely lost it. But even if there should have been some part in Khan’s personality that gave him the option to be all cuddly, Jim knew how quickly his mood could change. He still felt strange, though. All of this had become so strange. When Khan had entered and thrown him his dark look, Jim had thought it had been abundantly clear where they stood. But this here felt all wrong. Until Khan righted it somewhat with his next words as he pulled out.

“I swear, nobody suffers as beautifully as you do.”

Jim felt the Augment nose along his neck, and it reminded him of his dreams again, the part where it still felt good. It made him shudder. There was also the odd, uncomfortable sensation of wetness and the other man’s still half-hard cock on his behind that made him want to squirm.

“I will destroy you,” Khan breathed, in the same tone others would use to confess their love to someone, and rubbed his nose and forehead on Jim’s spine like a cat. This mock display of romance was just one more demonstration of Khan’s absolute, complete power, proof that he could really do whatever he wanted and nobody could stop him.

Suddenly, Jim was so repelled by the whole situation that for a moment, he did not care what outcome his words would have.

“You are a sick, horrible man,“ he whispered.

Khan only laughed mirthlessly and grazed his slave’s neck with his teeth. “Of course I am.“

The man got up with one sudden movement, and Jim sat up gingerly. The gush of semen from his body made him blush furiously, but it did not hurt much. Only after a moment did he notice that Khan was not actually washing but looking at him expectantly.

“Come.”

Jim swallowed a question and got up, shuffling a bit inelegantly because of the dribbling sensation between his legs, but Khan grabbed his arm and pulled him to the bathroom where he positioned them both under the showerhead. Great. Showering together. Just what Jim needed.

But it soon became obvious that Khan had not planned any more of his sick mock-romantic episodes. As soon as the water was running, he turned his slave around and shoved him forward so that Jim had to brace his hands against the mosaic tiles. His slaver worked two fingers inside him and scissored them, not very gently, and Jim gasped. If his subconscious would ever stop being ashamed when Khan did such things, Jim would be hugely grateful. He stared at the colourful pattern in front of him and tried to ignore the fluid dripping down from the fingers in his arse.

“Come on, tell me how much you hate me, I know you want to. I like that you’re trying to be a good pet, silent and obedient. Let it out now. Tell me. Go on.” Khan accentuated his command by thrusting his fingers deeper, making Jim squirm. Usually, Khan would have delivered such an order in a mocking, jovial tone, but somehow it was missing today.

“I hate you,” the human whispered, and he really did. “I hate you!” Don’t cry. Don’t fucking cry! “ I hate you!

“There you go.” The Augment kissed the back of his neck. “Again, come on.”

“I hate you,” Jim pressed out between gritted teeth.

“Good boy, James. It’s healthy to let it out once in a while.” It had a strange ring of finality to it.

Jim remained silent while the Augment pulled away. After he had washed his hands under the spray of the shower, he was gone without another word, leaving Jim where he was, confused and a little shaky.

 

All in all, Jim had experienced worse nights with Khan, much worse, but rarely more confusing ones. Miraculously, Jim’s fear that Khan would now only be more violent, more abusive and more sexually demanding, did not really come true, and he gradually relaxed when he saw Khan was not openly angry with him any more. Of course, Khan shouted at him whenever he could find a reason, but he did not discipline him physically, and had Jim not known better, he’d almost have said Khan was trying to restrain himself a little in terms of sex.

With Derya gone, and - seemingly - the last of his punishment over, Jim took over the place of Khan’s first servant, which meant he had to be around Khan all day, wait in or outside conference rooms, and bring Khan anything he wanted. Jim could not decide whether he liked this job more than the usual hard labour he did in the gardens, stables, or other parts of the palace. People looked at him funny, and Jim himself knew he was not cut out for this new job; following was simply not the style of Jim Kirk.

Surprisingly for him, he also had to open his eyes to the fact that not only Khan was not good at living and working without Derya; Jim wasn’t, either. He simply did not know about the finer details of this work, he was neither graceful nor pretty nor did he manage to make a truly servile impression, and so both Khan’s and Jim’s nerves were worn thin even after the first day.

After all other duties had ended and Khan was going into after-work mode - where he did not need Jim - he had to tidy Khan’s room, before he was allowed to go eat in the evening. Jim Kirk was not a man who excelled at doing any kind of housework (Bones had told him that, too, during their academy days - more times than Jim could count), hell, he never actually tidied up after himself as long as he had enough socks left… a trait he obviously (annoyingly) shared with Khan. How Derya had managed to do all of this alone before he had come along as a colleague was completely beyond him.

More than anything, Jim wanted to see his friends, but he couldn’t remember the way to the cells in the labyrinth that was the underground levels of the palace, and Khan kept him busy enough that he never had enough time to go exploring without being missed somewhere. Asking was, of course, out of the question, and even if he had miraculously found the creepy passageway, there would surely be a guard, and he was still working on what to tell that man. Jim refused to lose hope; opportunities came to those who kept looking for them.

 

“Oh just put it down , will you!”

Jim had been dusting, or more like, flitting from corner to corner and obviously annoying Khan in the process. Khan was lying on a low couch, trying to read, but growling every time Jim moved anything. Somehow, Jim could not manage to be as quiet and unobtrusive as Derya usually was. Surprise.

Obediently, Jim put away the dust cloth, washed his hands and flopped down on a black cushion next to the couch, failing to remember - or see, in the dim light Khan preferred - the black cat lying on it, who charged at him with a hiss and vicious little claws before meowing indignantly and leaving the room via the open terrace door, tail held high, taking some cat-route that was dry and safe from the still incessant rain. Jim cussed and finally sat down, feeling just so done with this day and this week. Tomorrow was Sunday but of course, it would be like any other day, seeing as neither slaves nor the emperor, for that matter, ever had a day off.

Khan groaned and closed his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose impatiently. “If you are trying to force me to let Derya come back by being irritating, you are doing a marvellous job. If you continue each day like this one, you might not live to see it happen though.”

Jim was quite sure this was an empty threat. Whenever Khan meant it, his voice had that psychopathic ring to it, he thought. He suppressed a grim smile; so even Khan was so done with this week that he could not even manage to properly threaten him.

“Sorry for getting on your highborn nerves. I was never really good at this kind of stuff.”

“Then what are you good at?”

Khan did sound annoyed but Jim heard he was not really in trouble. Yet. He knew how quickly Khan’s mood could change.

“Well, you could send me back to the stables or the gardens or something, I did well there. You have that new girl what’s-her-name, I bet she’d be much better at all this stuff than I could ever be, and perhaps she’s also better at not annoying you.”

“No,” Khan replied stubbornly, “you’ll stay with me and do this job properly. Whoever you were in that other life of yours as a traveller or scientist or explorer or whatever, here you have to do what needs to be done in order to earn your keep - and that of your friends. And that happens to be to do what pleases me. The three of you seem to be my problem now, as you can’t leave and I can’t let you go talk to anyone about who you are.”

“Do you honestly think I’d run around telling people about that? I could have done that a long time ago but you see, it sounds a bit…”

Khan snapped his book shut and Jim stopped himself, afraid he’d been too impolite and Khan would punish him for it now. Instead, Khan swung his feet off the couch and leaned forward, his elbows propped up on his knees, and stared at Jim.

“You don’t get it, do you? You are a matter of national security in the eyes of some people. Not many people know where you came from, but the entire palace staff and guard knows your friends appeared out of thin air. None of you were DNA-registered, which is something that has not happened in a hundred years. People ask themselves what you are, where you came from...and if you’re dangerous. For the time being, my word has enough weight when I say you are harmless. But there are people who want the three of you dead. People in this country are nervous when it comes to anomalies such as yourself, and if knowledge about these incidents spreads to the commoners, that trip to the Women’s Market was your last outing, because the public would want your blood. And important people are already very unhappy about you being in my immediate circle of servants. In their opinion, you should be down in these cells with the two others, at the very least, not in my bed. It is a controversial choice to them, you being here with me. Not least of all because you are a man, and a foreigner at that.” Khan grimaced. “If anyone here dislikes you just because you are male and still my bed slave, you can be grateful.”

Jim blinked, confused by these words. Khan had never spoken to him like this.

But he had now, and that gave Jim enough courage to venture a little bit further into that dangerous territory. “But...then, why am I not? With them, down in those cells?”

Khan leant back and looked away. “Can’t have you plotting with them. It’s better to keep an eye on you. Besides, you’re pretty, and fascinating. Entertaining. I just said, your duty is to do what pleases me. I want you here, so you stay here. And please me.”

Jim sighed deeply. “Great.”

Khan’s head swivelled around to him again. “That reminds me…you haven’t yet done your duty today.”

Jim flinched and tried to shuffle backwards without seeming to. So the brief moment between them was over and they were back to their usual dance. Yay.

“What is it, pet?” Khan asked silkily, turning his whole body towards him now,  like a cat ready to pounce. “I thought you’d be relieved that I’ve taken a liking to your mouth.”

“I’d rather wish you hadn’t,” Jim murmured, trying not to show his disgust and fear too openly. This whole week, Jim had prepared himself every night, but always for nothing. His mouth seemed to be the only thing Khan wanted at the moment, though he kept mocking Jim about his lack of finesse. The Augment’s overall mood, though, never improved.

“Really?” Khan asked, sounding half mocking, half surprised. “I thought you hated it much more to service me with your other hole...seems that my kindness once again fell on ungrateful soil, and you still have not learnt when to be thankful for your lot when it could be worse.”

He got up and came closer now, stalking towards Jim, who flinched again but made no real attempt at getting away; he knew he wouldn’t succeed, and what would follow would be so much worse if he did try in earnest.

Even his meagre attempt had obviously angered Khan, though, which was not hard these days. He was on him in a flash, seizing his head. In no time at all, Khan had freed his cock and shoved in.

Though almost used to it after this week, it was still hard for Jim to accept, because it required much more initiative from him than usual. It was certainly a relief for his backside, but it almost felt as if he was much closer to Khan this way, it felt more intimate, and he could not just ignore the man as easily as when he was being taken from behind, facing away.

Khan was fully hard in less than a minute, and Jim hoped that would mean it would be over quickly.

“You’ll swallow, understand? Don’t you dare spit it out or I’ll make you lick it up,” Khan moaned through gritted teeth.

Jim found that prospect even less appealing than the current state of affairs, but when the moment came - and thankfully it was very quickly - he found he really had no choice, because Khan gripped his head tightly and held him in place while the salty liquid shot down his throat. Luckily, Khan pulled out quickly afterwards, so Jim could swallow properly a few times, yet he fell down on all fours, coughing and retching, trying his hardest to make it stay down.

It was actually the first time that Khan had made him swallow, and Jim wished fervently that it would be an exception. For the last six nights, except for the night after Jim had been released from his cell, Khan had pulled out beforehand and finished some other way but this was… Jim coughed again.

“I advise you not to puke on my carpet,” Jim heard Khan say, and it sounded so bored that he briefly pondered being sick anyway, just for the heck of it. He didn’t, though, he was far too afraid of how Khan might react to that.

After he had resumed breathing, he sat back on his thighs and frowned at the Augment. His throat hurt and he was in a really bad mood due to the shitty, draining week he had had with the Augment.

“Really, you could at least look a bit happier,” he hissed. “It can’t have been that bad.”

For a second, Khan stared at him, obviously baffled, and then a small smile tugged at the corners of the Augment’s lips, the first one he’d seen in days. It was gone again quickly though.

The Augment sat down on his bed, looking smug.

“What do you want, praise?”

“Well, I almost choked, and you look like we could just as well have played a round of poker!” Of course, Jim didn’t give a rat’s ass about praise from Khan but the always-moody face made him bristle. Nothing, nothing he had done this week had been enough to make the Augment seem content or satisfied with anything.

Khan smirked at him and leant back on his elbows. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say I hurt your feelings.”

“Nah, it just irks me a bit that I just went through an ordeal you can’t understand of course, and you don’t even have the decency to look less than bored,” he said, with a tad more venom in his voice than was probably okay.

In any other situation, these words would possibly have angered the Augment, but perhaps he was a bit more relaxed after all, due to the blowjob and being all alone with Jim. Whatever the reasons, Khan remained calm.

“You must think very highly of yourself and your skills in bed if my indifference irks you.”

“I know what I’m doing in bed, and believe me, I’m used to better reactions,” Jim shot back.

Khan actually chuckled. “Do you now? Between your rather mediocre oral technique and your usual whimpering, I wonder what makes you think you’re such a great lover. I haven’t seen any of that.”

“Of course not!” Jim spat, but immediately tried to calm himself. Shouting would not help him. He shouldn’t botch it up just because Khan was good at making him angry. “I’m also used to being the one on top, and having entered a tryst out of my own free will. Here, it’s neither. No chance to get any of my vast experience in, not in your bedroom.”

Jim knew he was being cheeky, too cheeky perhaps, but the Augment did not make the impression that he minded. For the moment, he seemed amused enough. Khan even grinned, and it did not look menacing.

“Vast experience?”

Jim looked straight into Khan’s eyes. “As I said, I know what I’m doing, when I feel like it.”

At that, Khan actually laughed. “Well, I remember a few times when you did just fine as a bottom. Perhaps, your body is slowly learning to enjoy what I can give.”

Jim froze again. That had not been where he had wanted this conversation to go. “Bullshit.”

With a sudden movement, Khan got up, flexing his muscles. “Regrettably, yes...”

That caught Jim off guard. “W-what?”

Khan grinned but then turned away as if he could not care less about Jim’s reaction. “It is bullshit. You wouldn’t have come, ever, I guess, if I hadn’t helped you along.”

Jim frowned, starting to feel pissed. “Hey, if you mean that handjob at the beginning of the week…”

Khan made a dismissive hand gesture and went to wash his midsection briefly. “I didn’t mean that. Really, James, haven’t you figured it out by now? I thought you hated me so much and wanted me so little. How can you possibly think that any of your raging arousal was natural? Unless, of course, you like me more than you let on. But we both know that is, as you so eloquently put it, bullshit.”

Confused, Jim shook his head. Not natural? Well, the first time he’d had the alcohol to blame, and the second time… “What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

Sighing, Khan came back to the bed, pulling on a long, silky robe. “That wine you drank that night? Laced with a drug that let you feel exactly how you felt. And the other night? I had your first jug of water, that you drank after I pardoned you, laced with it. What was left of it in your body was enough to make you feel good enough to come even a day later. So you see, it’s not real. Not completely.”

Jim opened and closed his mouth a few times without knowing what to say. Meanwhile, Khan had taken up a book and was settling into bed. Jim couldn’t tell if he meant it and really did not care, or if he was secretly gauging every bit of Jim’s reaction. Perhaps he was even lying, to torture Jim more? It was, admittedly, hard for Jim by now to tell what was real and what was not, Khan’s little games had seen to that over the past few months.

“Why are you telling me this?” he asked, suspicious.

Khan shrugged. “Because the first night, it was rather entertaining to see your reaction. But it’s not entertaining any more. I see no reason to keep it a secret any longer, as it probably won’t happen again.” The Augment did not even look at him, he seemed to have started reading again and was talking to Jim merely on the side.

Too baffled by this explanation and the whole turn of events, Jim just sat there next to the bed, mulling it over. He did not yet know whether he believed that Khan was tired of any mind game. Or did he really just not care anymore?

“So...I did not...react like this out of some weird… I mean, I don’t… You drugged me? To make me come?”

“To make you wanting, to be exact,” Khan said simply.

What the fuck?!” Jim stood up, feeling nauseous.

“Calm down, James, it’s not dangerous. And it has no permanent effects,” Khan drawled.

His tone only helped infuriate Jim further.

“Oh, so what do you call these… these dreams I keep having?” Jim asked accusingly, and now Khan finally did look up from his book.

“Dreams?”

“Yeah, dreams.”

Khan frowned. “What dreams?”

Jim gritted his teeth. “You know which, I am sure.”

Khan shook his head, still frowning. “No. Usually, there are no side-effects like dreams, not that I know of. Apart from increased arousal, the drug does nothing and leaves the system quite quickly.” The Augment showed him a lopsided grin. “Anything else is therefore your own problem. What kind of dreams are you having, then?” he asked, looking mildly interested.

“No...nothing. Just stuff. Probably stress-induced, then,” Jim evaded the question. “I can’t believe you did this.”

“Believe it or not, I don’t care. I thought you’d be delighted, actually. Relieved. Even though I am still a little disappointed that you didn’t figure it out yourself. Derya knew right away.”

Jim’s head snapped up. “Derya knew?”

“Of course he did. He’s far more observant than you.”

Jim hummed to himself, a little disappointed. Well, he probably shouldn’t have expected anything else, Derya would never… Except he had betrayed Khan for Jim once, very recently, and still had to suffer the consequences.

“How is he doing, actually?”

Jim looked up at the Augment, a little nonplussed. The question had sounded casual, but Jim was suddenly dead-certain Khan had wanted to ask that question for some time and had never found an excuse to. Jim decided it was better not to let Khan know about that realisation or the Augment would clamp up like an oyster again. So he answered in a similarly nonchalant tone.

“Not too good. He cries a lot.”

Khan looked up from his book and to Jim, nodding serenely. “I heard about that, yes. And his…” Khan ran a finger across his own cheek.

Jim shrugged. “Still not very pretty. It’s healing, but it’s quite a bruise.”

“I see.”

Jim sat there, asking himself whether Khan would say anything else, but the Augment, who had returned his attention to his book, was silent for a few minutes. Indeed, it might have been the most awkward silence they had ever shared, which felt weird to Jim, as weird as their whole conversation had been. Actually, Jim thought, things did seem drastically different between them now that he thought about it. The whole week had basically consisted of awkward silences, awkward conversations, exhausting work and even more awkward and exhausting blowjobs at night.

“So… you haven’t seen him or spoken to him?” Jim dared to ask.

“No.”

Jim expected some elaborate explanation of how Derya had betrayed him, after all, or something, so he would certainly not see him, but to Jim’s surprise, Khan remained silent for a few minutes, seemingly lost in thought.

At last, the Augment sighed.

“You can go for today.”

Jim got up, bowed almost automatically, and left, not without shooting one more look towards the bed. He had seen Khan in many different moods, but he had never seen him look so tired .

 

It was not twenty four hours later when a servant approached Jim as he was waiting for Khan outside a conference room.

“James? Will they take much longer?”

Jim turned his head to the young girl. He thought he had seen her around a few times.

“No idea. What is it?” He knew he was being a bit rude, but he was so tired of playing answering machine for the Augment.

“It’s Derya.”

Jim pushed himself away from the wall he had been leaning on. “What?! What about him?” He immediately had a bad feeling about this.

The girl tucked a non-existing loose strand of hair behind her ear. “He collapsed in the kitchen a few minutes ago. We think that he didn’t take enough care of himself as of late, you know, eating, drinking, sleeping.”

“Shit. Is he going to be okay?”

“We hope so, or, most of us do. Just, would you tell his majesty that we had to move Derya to his old bedroom? He will probably not like this.”

Jim combed his fingers through his hair nervously. Yeah, Khan would make a scene when he heard just how bad Derya was doing. “Sure, yeah, I’ll tell him. Is he at least awake? He’ll definitely want to know how he is, so…”

The servant girl laughed. “I meant, of course, he will not like that Derya is in his room since his majesty does not want him upstairs any more. The emperor might be upset to find him in his proximity again, that’s why I’m here, not because the emperor would worry .” The girl actually leaned in and touched Jim’s cheek very gently. “You must have learnt nothing in your time here to think he would worry about anyone who is not his family. Let alone slaves like us. Even if he was his favourite for some time, but that seems to be history.”

With that, she smiled as if she thought Jim might be a bit soft in the head, and turned away, leaving Jim to stare after her.

Were others that blind? Or was Jim simply allowed to see things Khan let nobody else see? Why would he? Was it another game? No. He knew better. Jim was absolutely certain that Derya meant a great deal to the Augment, no matter what others thought. And he would be sick with worry about him, of course, he was not…heartless.

Jim hesitated.

He had never actually thought too much about it, but now that the thought had crossed his mind, he felt it rang true. Khan was not heartless. He was a pretentious asshole who might have liked to come across all cold and unaffected, but the things alone that Khan had done in Jim’s time, were they not proof of some kind of insane love for his family? Misguided, yes, ruthless, yes, and completely mental, but... nevertheless the deed of a desperate man who cared deeply…

The doors to the conference room opened and Jim shook himself, reminding himself that this place was messing with his head, badly . A throng of men poured from the room, Khan following last, still talking to some minister of agriculture, as far as Jim could remember.

By now, Jim knew he was not allowed to talk to Khan in front of such a bunch of bigwigs, and tried to catch Khan’s eye, but in vain. So he had to be content with taking his place behind the Augment and plucking on his clothes in an unseen moment. He was allowed to do that, in situations that were a matter of urgency, and Jim knew (prayed) that Khan would see this as an urgent situation.

The Augment stiffened minutely and showed Jim a hand gesture that said he had understood. Communicating with Khan of all people in code like this felt strange to Jim. Too intimate. But it served its purpose.

When all others had left, Khan turned to Jim. “What?”

Jim did not waste time. “Derya collapsed in the kitchen about half an hour ago. They think he fainted because he hasn’t been taking care of himself. Thought you’d want to know asap, sir.”

Even while he was talking, Jim thought he could see Khan pale a bit. Without hesitation, he pulled Jim back into the empty conference room. He closed the door and turned, regarding Jim with a grave expression.

“Is he okay? Will he be okay?” he asked urgently.

Jim shrugged. “I don’t know. Someone came and told me they had brought him upstairs to his room. I don’t know anything else. But I’d like to go to him and see for myself.”

Khan paced the room for a few minutes, looking at Jim every now and then. Jim had been right, he was worried.

When Jim was already asking himself whether Khan would say anything else, the Augment stepped closer to him until he was close enough for him to see the worry in Khan’s eyes.

“You’ll go to him, and take care of him. Report to me tonight how he’s feeling.” Khan stepped even closer. “Whatever he needs in terms of food and water, you get it yourself. Let nobody prepare it for you, understand? Nobody else is to see him.”

“W-what?”

Khan seized Jim’s upper arm and the young man yowled briefly.

“If people think he’s helpless and without my direct protection, somebody might try to poison him...if they haven’t already and it was not a simple dizzy spell. If you have the feeling that is the case you come straight to me. No matter what I am busy doing.”

Jim felt flabbergasted. “Do you really think...but why would anyone wish him harm, I thought everyone liked him?”

Khan let go of Jim’s arm, snorting. “People in the palace are jackals, James. Now go to him, see what you can do. If he really is sick, you are relieved from other duties until he is better, and he is released from his sentence not to talk. Now go.”

 

Jim had never been in Derya’s room and had never even had a glimpse of it, even though he slept next door. Whatever he had imagined, it was certainly not this.

His own room was spartan and small, with naked white walls, a bed, a stool and a smallish chest that was empty except for some changes of clothes. Jim had somehow imagined that all slave’s rooms looked like that, and Derya’s, too. But the room could not have been more different from his own.

First of all, it was about twice the size of Jim’s room, and the walls were not white or naked stone, but had been washed in an earthy shade of reddish orange. Someone had painted white ornaments at about head-height all around the walls, flowers and vines. Jim expected Derya himself had done this, it looked airy and sweet. The window had floaty orange curtains, not made to keep the light out but more to soften it. They looked expensive at first sight, though Jim could see the colourful embroidery at the bottom end was torn here and there. Perhaps Derya had salvaged it when some concubine’s room had been refurbished; it rather looked like cats or other pets had been involved in the history of these curtains at far too many points.

While he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him, Jim noticed many more details. A small doorway led to a tiny private bathroom, hardly big enough for two people to stand in there, but enough for a toilet and a sink. There was no door, but seeing as Derya lived alone here, there was perhaps no need for it. In terms of furnishings, the living room could not have been more different from Jim’s as well. There was a large wardrobe with three doors and a row of drawers, some of which stood slightly open. Jim had never really paid much attention to what Derya wore on a daily basis but it occurred to him now that he had never seen him in the usual white slave tunics; he usually wore something made of softer fabrics, long and floaty, white, but with embroidery. Whether this was Khan’s or Derya’s preference, Jim did not know, but now that he thought about it, he was perplexed that he had not noticed sooner.

The thing that astonished Jim most in this room was a vanity, complete with a stool and round mirror, close to the window, stocked with makeup. That was something else he had always seen as a given thing about Derya, something he had not even thought about, because it was so normal. He was not even sure he had ever seen Derya without makeup, not even at night or in the morning. Jim could see powders in several shades of nude, pink or light red, a rainbow of eyeliners, lipsticks, eyeshadows, and an array of brushes. Jim had always taken the young one for the orderly type, but the vanity, as well as the wardrobe, looked a bit cluttered and sort of pleasantly chaotic. Since Derya was otherwise almost annoyingly perfect, the slightly untidy room somehow warmed Jim’s heart a little bit more for the slave.

There was also a soft, worn rug on the floor, looking like giant knitwork in a prism of colours; Jim guessed it might be composed of old pieces of cloth. The bed was only half visible, since there was a rather tattered white see-through curtain hanging around it.

The overall feel of the room was, compared to Jim’s own, luxurious, but it was almost tangible that most of what one could see here was somewhat old, worn and had probably belonged to someone else before. It felt a bit like standing in the giant nest of a magpie.

Jim called Derya’s name but got no answer, so he stepped closer to the bed and pulled the sheer curtain aside to find Derya curled up, facing the wall and away from him. Sitting down gently, Jim noticed that the sheets were also made of a finer fabric than his own, and there was an actual pillow instead of the lumpy little cushion Jim slept on, but both were lying discarded at the end of the bed while Derya lay in the middle.

“Derya?” he asked quietly, but the slave did not turn. He had noticed him, though, because he sniffed noisily and pulled his knees a bit closer to his body. Jim sat down on the bed, hesitating briefly before touching the young one’s shoulder very gently. Only now did he realize Derya was crying almost silently into the sheets.

“Hey, hey, come on, don’t cry, shh... Come on, sweety, calm down…” Jim would have liked to pull the other closer but did not know whether it was welcome. Instead he kept patting his shoulder. “Khan sent me to take care of you. You’re allowed to talk again, he said. And he was really worried when he heard you collapsed.”

Derya turned his head enough so Jim could see his eyes; they were red and swollen and his whole eye-area was one big black smudge of  eyeliner. It looked somehow scary, but at least it looked like Khan’s fear of the young one having been poisoned was unfounded; he looked tired and worn, but not sick.

“Does he want me to come and work again?” Derya croaked.

Jim shook his head and tried a winning smile. “No, of course not, he wants you to get better.”

It must have been the wrong answer, because a fresh wave of tears washed down the slave’s cheeks and he turned away again. “He hates me.”

“Don’t be so absurd, really! How could he hate you? He forgave me, so he’ll forgive you, I guess he already has, but thinks you’re not fit to work in this state.” Jim was absolutely not certain about that last part, but he tried to say it as firmly as he could.

“He forgave you because he never expected much of you,” Derya sniffed, sounding both teary and wicked. “But he trusted me. And now he won’t ever trust me again…”

“Now, that’s enough, Derya,” Jim said, reaching for the young one’s shoulder and squeezing it reassuringly. “Feeling sorry for yourself won’t bring you back to him, and crying never helped anyone. He misses you more than he dares to admit to himself I guess, but it’s very clear, to me at least.”

“And what do you know about the master?” Derya asked testily.

“Quite enough,” Jim replied dryly. “And I thought I knew about you, too, but a teary wreck was not what I usually picture when thinking about you,” Jim remarked, trying to stir at least some pride in the young one.

Derya sniffed again and curled up tighter, but otherwise it seemed he had stopped crying.

In a softer tone, Jim continued. “I always thought of you as strong, stronger than you look. And you saved my life. Khan knows it was the right thing to do, I’m sure of it. He’ll come round. Very soon, you’ll see. And when that happens, I think you should be a little more presentable, hm?”

The slave sniffed once more, but this time it sounded less desperate. When Jim pulled on his shoulder this time, Derya actually rolled around and relaxed his body enough so that he could heave his head up on Jim’s lap. Jim stroked the sweaty hair away and caressed the wet cheeks, trying to provide warmth and comfort like Derya had done for him numerous times when Khan had been rough with him. It was in moments such as these that he remembered that they really only had each other here.

While they were sitting there, Jim’s gaze fell on Derya’s hands and he noticed something glittering between the slender fingers; it was the jewellery he had seen Khan buy at the market. He had been asking himself a few times where it had gone. Obviously, Khan had given it to Derya just as Jim had thought he would. How could the slave possibly think Khan did not like him enough if he gave him such gifts? Inwardly, Jim shrugged. Being obsessed with, afraid of, or dependent on someone would probably do that to anyone. But he was here to help the little one get back on his feet.

He stopped petting the slave for a moment. “I’d suggest I’ll go get some water and we’ll wash your face, make you pretty again, and then we’ll eat together, up here, I’ll bring the meal upstairs. Khan allowed me to do anything that would help you. See? He does care. Even though I’m not sure whether his choice of nurse was wise.”

He gave Derya a lopsided smile, and was grateful to finally see it returned, however small it was.

While he got up to see whether he could find a bowl and a washcloth, a memory shot through his mind and stung bitterly in his chest. It was Bones who had never tired of repeating that Jim was no good as a nurse and that he was a hazard to every patient in his close proximity. He hoped it wouldn’t show on his face, but it took Jim a few minutes to stop hurting. These little episodes of homesickness were becoming more frequent and increasingly painful now. He missed his friends, Bones’ grouchiness, Uhura’s gentle professionalism, Spock’s hair-raising rationality, Sulu’s quick wit. He had not forgotten his friends down in the cells, but as long as Khan did not sleep properly (Jim heard the Augment’s door open and close at night in irregular intervals - again, didn’t the man ever sleep?), it was simply too risky to try and go down there to talk to them.

Over the next few days, Jim took care of Derya as best as he could, he brought him food and provided company. The young one came down with a light fever for two days and would not leave his bed. He would not stop crying for very long periods at a time, either, and Jim felt more helpless by the day. Slaves, he was told, did not get looked at by doctors, and Sabir, who was responsible both for inflicting and healing wounds of slaves said that if the problem was in the head, he could not help. Jim had no idea whether it was entirely in the head, or what to do about it if it was, but at last Derya’s temperature returned to normal and his crying subsided enough so Jim could coax more food and water into the young one.

Every night, he reported to Khan. The Augment seemed annoyed that there was hardly any progress but apart from forcing Jim to his knees in front of him and using his mouth after he was done reporting, he largely left him alone. Jim thought he noticed a change in Khan as well, in his eyes, mostly. His body remained the same, but he had the distinct feeling that Khan seemed not only tired, but that he also appeared...less sane. His eyes looked wilder sometimes, particularly in moments when Khan might have thought he was not being observed. Jim was glad that he was allowed to spend his days with Derya and he felt truly sorry for the white-haired slave girl who now serviced Khan all day, except, it seemed, in bed. As far as Jim knew, Khan slept alone these days, like his two closest slaves, and not even his concubines were welcome in his bed.

Jim did not mention the slightly manic look in their master’s eyes to Derya, he did not want to unsettle him more than necessary; he still seemed unsettled enough for two.

In the mornings, Jim’s first duty was to go down to the kitchens and bring breakfast upstairs for Derya and himself. Eating together seemed to make Derya eat more without making a fuss about his weight (he had lost some, anyway, as had Jim, so that was not an argument he would hear out). The day after the fever had gone down, Jim managed to make Derya get up, get dressed, and sit at the window with him, shaky though he seemed. He had gotten a book from the palace library, and they took turns reading to each other. All in all, this was perhaps the best morning he had spent here yet.

“You know,” Jim said during a break from reading, “Now that the redness  from all the crying has gone and your eyes are not puffy anymore, I notice for the first time how pretty you are.”

Derya blushed a little but smiled. “Thank you, Jim. But forgive me, you’ve seen me almost every single day for months now, should I be cross that you haven’t noticed sooner?”

Jim smiled back warmly. “You always had makeup on. I didn’t even realise that until I saw you crying. I’ve never seen you without, before. I mean, I’m not saying you don’t look beautiful with makeup on, you do, but your natural face is somehow much...sweeter.”

Seemingly not taking offense, Derya looked out of the window and smiled as if to himself. “I look younger without, but with, I look...better. More perfect. And that is what matters.”

“Really, you are perfect even without painting your face, it’s not…”

“Shush, Jim, don’t talk about things you don’t understand,” the younger one said, firmly this time, and looked at him with narrowed eyes. It did look less dramatic without the black rim.

Crossing his arms in front of his chest, Jim stared back. “Really? Tell me then, what am I missing here? You are perfect, you always are, you were probably born perfect…”

He had only meant to tease, but he was interrupted when Derya leapt up from the broad windowsill in a flash. His cushion tumbled to the ground. He seemed furious all of a sudden, and actually shouted at Jim.

“Don’t you dare say that to me, do you hear me! That is what you know nothing about! Keep your mouth shut and don’t say such things to me!”

Jim was so perplexed that he just stared at the young one while he paced a few steps.

“I...just meant…“

“I am a lot, but not born perfect! Look at me! I’m a domunha who is lucky enough to have a beautiful enough face to catch the emperor’s attention!”

Jim had no idea what the hell a ‘domunha’ was supposed to be, but he had the distinct feeling that it was not a very polite word, and that this discussion was getting a bit out of hand.

“Listen, I just meant... I mean, look at you, you’re gorgeous, you’re graceful, and you’re Khan’s favourite, and there’s a man who loves exquisite things. I only meant to pay you a compliment, and tell you that you don’t need makeup to look perfect, nothing…”

“You really don’t understand it, do you?” the slave yelled at him. “The things you see, the way I walk, talk, move, the way I carry myself, even the way I pick up or set down things, the way I sit, kneel, disrobe, lie down, the way I fold my hands or blink ...do you think I was just born like this, that it was simply given to me ? These are hard-earned accomplishments, Jim, years of work and training! And the way I use makeup is not that different! You say I am always so perfect almost like it is something bad! But do you know what it is for me? A necessity! Do you think I enjoy everything I have to do to appear so flawless?” He almost looked like he was in a mood to spit on the floor, but didn’t. “Again, it is hard work! That is what you simply don’t understand; that if I hadn’t learnt to be so perfect, I’d be dead by now! That is how it works in the palace, for my kind more than anyone else! That is why I need to paint my face! That is why I do anything the way I do it! Because if you don’t perform well enough, you don’t stay alive or in the favour of important people long enough to try a second time! Except for you , of course, since it seems you can do what you want and you have no skills whatsoever for this job you are doing, and you’re still here!”

A few times during this tirade, Jim had opened and closed his mouth like a carp, but it seemed these things had been building up inside Derya, perhaps for years, and he would not be interrupted. The last point, though, made him get up as well and raise his voice more than he had meant to.

“If I had anything to say, I would be long gone! I don’t want to be here, and I don’t care for the job I’m doing, you could have Khan all to yourself for all I care! I did not come here out of my own free will!”

“Neither did I! But I worked hard to stay here and become what the master wanted me to be! You, on the other hand are so ungrateful for all the chances you’ve been given! And then you dare act bored and annoyed by what I have accomplished, when you don’t know shit about what I’ve been through to get here!”

“Oh, I know a bit about what it means to serve Khan by now, thanks! At least I didn’t fall for him. Or was tricked into thinking I fell for him.” Jim knew it was a low blow, but he, too, had been building up rage and his temper simply wouldn’t be contained at the moment.

Derya hissed like an irate snake. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“You know perfectly what I mean! It’s not real, what you feel for him! You just don’t know anything about how abusive this relationship is, this is slavery, this is rape, this is not love!”

The words were hardly out when Derya’s flat palm connected painfully with Jim’s cheek. It was much more powerful than he had anticipated from someone who looked so dainty, and it brought him back to his senses.

How dare you judge whether my feelings are real or not! ” Derya screeched from the top of his lungs, and Jim actually took a step back, holding his cheek. “How dare you belittle my love for my master? Just because my reasons are not good enough for you! Just because he bought me!”

Derya stepped closer and actually raised his hand as if to strike Jim again, but instead balled it into a fist and let it fall against his side. Between clenched teeth, he hissed at him. “I know that for you, there are many reasons to think that my feelings are not what I think they are, but don’t you dare mock me for them! You know nothing about me or my reasons for loving him, nothing!”

For a moment, Jim wondered whether there were other people listening. It would not have been hard, not with how loud Derya’s voice had become, and Jim was not done shouting either.

“Enlighten me, then! What makes this life with him so precious, spending your days tidying up after him during the day, being used at night?”

Derya scoffed, looking strangely haughty for a second. “Do you even have an inkling of what my life was like before I came here? The older street kids found me on a pile of trash while scavenging for food! My parents threw me away, literally! We were illegal, and anyone was allowed to kill us on sight! I saw my street siblings shot and strangled and raped, I got spit at, and beaten, and harassed and yelled at, throughout my entire childhood!”

Derya had begun to shake, with rage or with exhaustion Jim could not tell, but at least he seemed to finally be done shouting for the moment. When he spoke again, his voice sounded bitter and raw. “Under the new emperor, a new law was passed, and I was not illegal anymore. But I was still a nobody, and a slave trader snatched a group of us. He almost sold us to a pimp, who would have made me a woman so men could rape me better for money. All my life, I was told I was worthless, a shame, a mutant, an abnormality. Born perfect , was I?” Derya scoffed, and scowled at Jim before he finally sat down on the edge of his bed, looking drained and tired.

There was a deafening silence between them for what seemed like an hour.

“I’m sorry,” Jim offered, and Derya sighed shakily.

“Can you even imagine what it was like… when he found me? Being bought for a sum nobody in their right mind would pay for a bunch of mutants? Being brought to a palace , cleaned, fed, clothed, for the first time in your life? And then, the most powerful man in the country, perhaps on earth, takes you on as his personal slave, dresses you in silk, gives you a teacher to train you to be graceful and skilled. He doesn’t shout, doesn’t beat you, doesn’t hurt you, he only expects you to do your best and, well yes, learn to be perfect, but it is a trade like any other, and if you learn fast, it is possible to be magnificent enough to please him. Most importantly though, he talks to you like you are a human being instead of some gutter animal, he tells you that you are beautiful, worthy of his attention. He even punishes those who try to harm you. As your looks improve from starved to supple, he shares a bed with you as if you are just as precious as one of the flawless girls he keeps, like you are more than just dirt that he scraped off the pavement, sleeps with you and touches you the way nobody ever has. I tell you, you would have forgotten the pain that comes with coupling, if he had kissed you the way he kissed me that first night.” Derya looked up at Jim now, chin pointing towards him defiantly. “He was the first one to ever look at me as if I am worth something, as if I am beautiful instead of freakish, desirable instead of appalling, special instead of disfigured. From the day I could walk, I was told that I was a lower-than-dirt-mutant, Jim, and suddenly there is a man, and not just any man, but the emperor himself, who treats me like he won’t sully his hands when he touches me. I did not even have a name until I came here! Most people, even the kids, just called me Witch, because they thought my eyes are evil. He gave me a name, made me someone. He raised me from nothing, and gave me all that I have, all that I am. And I always feared that if I am not perfect enough, he would cast me out and everything would be taken from me again, and that fear helped make me better and better. Until you came along and I feared for your life more than for mine, because I thought I had become... And look at me now, it has happened, I have made a mistake, overstepped, and I am lucky if he lets me stay in the palace.”

Looking exhausted, Derya scooted backwards until he was leaning with his back against the wall. Still feeling numb after all he had just heard, Jim came closer, slowly and carefully, until he was by the bed. He knelt in front of it, to be able to look at Derya’s face. The slave had tucked his knees close to his chest and was, again, crying silently.

“I’m sorry,” Jim whispered again, feeling that the words were insufficient, but he could not think of anything else to say. The story had floored him, and he was ashamed of what he’d yelled earlier, even though he still felt like whatever the young one felt would not be love. But who was he to judge, having grown up in a world without hunger and slavery, where everything was so different? Who was he to judge whether someone like Derya could really never truly fall for someone like Khan? He, who used women to pass the time between missions. What did he know about love, really?

Derya sniffed. “I know you are here by force, and I am sorry that you hate it here, with him. I know he can be cruel, and I know he is no saint, not by a long shot. Don’t think I am so in love with him that I ignore that side of him, that I choose not to see what he does every day, in war and in his bed. I am not blind. But don’t you dare tell me that I can’t love him just because you hate him. It’s just that I will never be able to forget his kindness, even when he is cruel to me. Just like you will never forget his cruelty when he is kind to you. I may only be a slave, still, but you have no right to tell me how I feel.”

Jim nodded shamefacedly. “True. I don’t have that right. I’m sorry.”

Slowly and carefully, he pulled himself up on the bed and sat next to Derya. With the thunderstorm between them over, Derya leaned into Jim, who wrapped his arm around the young one. Still, Jim felt the need to console him. Both their nerves were worn thin. The shouting had helped a bit.

”Derya… I don’t think there is even a chance that he won’t want you back. Would he have sent me here, allowed me to do anything that is necessary to get you back up on your feet? He’ll ask for you back.”

“But he hasn’t , Jim. Why does it take him so long if he is as sure as you seem to think he is? Unless he doesn’t want me back and only wants me to be able to work again...or train a successor.” Derya shuddered.

Finally, Jim had the feeling he could see clearly in this case. Why had it taken him that long? Derya had never been poisoned, and he did not need nursing, or more food, or time off work, he was not sick. Jim felt like an idiot for not seeing what Derya needed to recover.

Firmly, he took Derya’s hands in his own. “He will ask for you.”

 


 

“You must see him. It would help. Actually, I think all my nursing won’t help as much as seeing you would.”

Khan looked at James in the mirror. The blond man had not even waited to be asked to report, he had simply spoken out of turn. Everything about what he had just said was a hefty breach of protocol, and yet Khan could not find the strength in himself to reprimand him.

“Don’t, James.”

Coming up behind him and picking up and folding the clothes Khan had let fall in passing while he was undressing for bed, James did not give up quite so easily. From what he had been reporting about the last few days, the man’s nerves must have been frayed, wiping away so many tears and seeing no improvement must have made him frustrated and reckless.

“Just a friendly word. Or a message! A promise about when he will be allowed to come back!”

“James!”

“Don’t you think you’ve punished him enough? Even I am back in your service, dammit, why isn’t he? How can you forgive me but not him?”

“He is not being punished. He is sick, and not fit for work.”

“He would be fit if he heard he can come back! But he thinks you don’t want him anymore. Show him he is still special.”

“He is a slave, as are you, by the way, although you tend to forget,” Khan remarked loudly, trying to shut up James and his obnoxious tirade.

James, however, straightened up even more defiantly. “He is not just a slave,” he said slowly and distinctly. “We both know he isn’t.”

Khan only rolled his eyes and got rid of the last of his clothes. “If you’re going to start again with your futuristic ideas…”

“You know perfectly well what I mean. He is much more to you than a slave. He is important to you, why do you insist on acting like he means nothing…”

“Enough! I told you never to interrupt me!” Khan shouted, turning around in a flash and facing the blond man. He had expected him to recoil but he still stood proudly.

“He is hurting!” James shouted back, which surprised Khan even more. James had not dared to shout at him in a long time now. And Khan knew he should have punished him immediately, but instead of taking a step forward, he just stood there, growling, for a moment. Not that James seemed to be impressed.

“He is sick and hurting and you care deeply for him, I know you do, so what is your problem? You can always have him brought here if you’re unwilling to go to him yourself. He’s not just any slave for you, like the rest of the faceless sheep you usually keep here. He may have been once, but you really should stop lying to yourself that he still is! Nobody else needs to know, but if you keep ignoring him, I don’t know what it will do to him. You…”

“Shut up! Out! Get out! ” Khan screamed, raising his hand, ready to strike James, stepping closer and closer, but slowly enough that James had time to realise the gravity of the situation and haul ass, finally leaving him in peace.

And just in time, too, because Khan realised a minute later that he was shaking like a leaf. Spooked by the sudden weakness of his body, he collapsed onto his bed, staring at his hands and fighting down his panic. This did not happen, it could not happen, he was an Augment , his body could withstand anything...well, it now became very obvious to him that it could not withstand what had brought this on.

Khan wiped his trembling hands across his face, and they came away damp with cold sweat. He knew it was the exhaustion, insomnia, stress, and being too hard on his body for it. He knew he was deteriorating, he just hadn’t thought it would happen this fast. It was far worse than he had hoped, but the fact that he did not feel like he had the strength left for actual sex and instead let James give him rather mediocre blowjobs every night should have clued him in, really. But he knew he was quite good at denial. He would not have anyone sleep in his bed, either, for fear that they would see how weak he had become in just a few weeks time. Outside his rooms, it took almost everything out of him these days to appear normal, but he was good at that, too. Deception and denial. It was one of the reasons why he had welcomed the chance to assign James to Derya; having James around all day made keeping it together even harder, and as long as James was with Derya, both of them were out of harm’s way.

James and his talk about Derya... It was part of the problem, his own denial about the little one and James knowing about it. Feelings were not part of his makeup, and things he had buried deep, deep under all these layers, behind these walls, were suddenly, maddeningly, coming to light. James, again, was at fault for this. Before he had arrived, it had been easy to see Derya only as a slave, a favourite, an ornament, but still a slave, beneath him, liked and appreciated no more than a particularly faithful dog. Khan was not sure he could allow himself to let his thoughts go down that path, no, actually he was sure he shouldn’t. It was not allowed, he had sworn to himself that the time for such things was over, that he would never again make himself so vulnerable.

Flopping back on the bed, feeling the exhaustion that was eating his brain alive, he closed his burning eyes, without falling asleep.

He felt like a glacier in hot weather; bits of him were breaking off, falling away, and he would possibly have to prepare for a complete meltdown. Scientists said that due to glaciers and poles melting, ancient diseases were being released into the world once more and could wreak havoc. Khan was certain that the same would happen to him if he let himself lose his armour of ice; old, garish things would surface and destroy him. But denial was hard to keep up without proper strength of mind, and Khan knew that he had to face the fact that he had a serious problem with his mental abilities. He had tried to exhaust his body, but his head wouldn’t let him rest even when his body felt more than ready for it.

Whatever it was that was keeping him awake, Khan knew he had almost reached his breaking point. He could talk to nobody about it, and whenever he went through his door into the world, he had to focus his remaining strength on his tasks, trying to make good decisions for his empire. He grimaced, eyes still closed; James and his nagging about Derya… Damn the man and his gut-feeling, he was sure that others would never have noticed the things James noticed, or that things were changing up here, they probably still thought that Derya was merely a privileged plaything. So should he! Nothing could come of this, why bother and make it worse?

For a moment, a scene formed in Khan’s head, of the little one lying dead, spattered with blood, chalk-white, with wide open eyes, still and silent. It would solve the problem, because Khan had taught himself, decided, not to care about dead people, or he would have lost his sanity years ago. But the thought also made his head spin and his insides ache. The same picture, but with James’ face… Khan felt sick all of a sudden, and he rolled over quickly, heaving, but nothing came, and his body calmed itself again. The nausea was replaced by a fierce headache, and he tried to close whatever door to his subconscious he had opened. No painkiller would help him, he knew it would not work on his body… Briefly, he thought of a bullet through his own treacherous, reeling brain… No, he had duties! He had sworn to be of service to his empire the day he ascended the throne, he had been born and raised for no other reason.

Khan dragged himself up the bed until his head touched his pillow. He squeezed his eyes closed, trying not to see the things, the faces he knew he would see if his brain managed to fall asleep. Nightmares… he hadn’t had them in many years, and they were sometimes bad enough to doubt his desire for sleep, even in the state he was now in. The shaking had stopped, so had the sweat, his body regulating both like a machine. He had to get rid of James, and in a way that would not bring on more nightmares, and Derya… well, he wanted him back, but he was at a loss about how he would…

That second, he felt his eyes roll up into his skull, his brain give up, and he fell into unconsciousness.

 


 

It took Jim another two days to get Derya to the point where he would leave his room. After breakfast, the young one sat down in front of his mirror and let Jim watch the routine that not even Khan might ever have seen; he dressed carefully (he had spent almost the whole time with Jim in a nightgown) brushed his hair and put perfume in it and on his clothes, and carefully put on his makeup. While Jim watched, the face of the young, sad kid that he had tried to take care of during the past few days vanished, and the perfect mask - for Jim now knew that was exactly what it was - took his place. Jim thought how it seemed that Derya literally painted the portrait of a perfect slave for the emperor, and asked himself whether Khan had ever seen the real Derya, or only this mask. He sighed. Neither of those two was truthful with the other, in Jim’s opinion, but how could they? Keeping up their respective masks was their part to play in this world.

Jim shook himself. This was none of his business, his business was to get Derya back to Khan and use the time where even the Augment would find himself distracted, to find a way to talk to his own friends.

At the clicking sound of a brush being put back into a wooden jar, Jim looked up. He smiled at the sight of Derya turning his face this way and that to see whether his reflection was truly perfect. Even though it had taken the young one about half an hour to get ready, the difference was very subtle.

“You’re a real artist, Derya.”

The slave smiled. “I told you, Jim, it’s training, not talent.”

Jim inclined his head to show he did not dismiss that notion. “I know, but I’m quite sure I could try to learn this for ten years and still not be able to do what you do with your face. It doesn’t even look painted, that’s why I only noticed you wore a lot more makeup than I thought you were when...you know, I saw you without.”

Derya smiled again. “Have you never studied something and mastered a skill when at the beginning you thought you would never be able to do it?”

“Yeah, I guess…”

“Then you know it only takes patience and determination. Did you have a master, where you come from? I mean, someone to teach you?” Derya asked, looking interested. With his wardrobe and the makeup, his whole posture and demeanor had somehow improved, and he seemed more like himself - or the version Jim knew - than he had in the past few days.

Jim was unsure what to say, Derya had never really asked him personal questions like these. “No, I… went to an academy. I had many teachers.”

“An academy? Like… a university?” Derya asked, obviously awed. “But aren’t they really expensive? I thought only people from very rich families can afford that.”

“Uh…” Shit. “No, the one I went to wasn’t expensive.” Hell, he had landed in a century where education was still a matter of money. That explained things. “But it was a very good one.”

Politely, Derya let the topic pass. “And you? Were you good? Did you pass your exams?”

Jim smiled lopsidedly. “All but one. I was pretty good, if I do say so myself. Top of some of my classes.”

“So how did you fail that one exam?” Derya smirked - actually smirked at him!

Jim resisted the impulse to stick out his tongue. “I...uh… cheated and actually passed, but it was a sort of psychological test that you weren’t supposed to pass, something about not getting what the test was about, anyway, they dragged me to a hearing.”

“Were you punished?”

“Nah, not really. The hearing was interrupted. Like I am going to interrupt this hearing now, weren’t we supposed to be going somewhere?” Jim really wasn’t sure he was supposed to talk about himself.

Smiling weakly, Derya took one last look at himself in the mirror, then nodded. “But only somewhere out of the way.”

Jim hopped down from the windowsill. “Sure, I thought we could go up to the attics? I snuck around up there this week to stretch my legs and did not see a soul.”

He bounced to the door, eager to get out of this room, and laid a hand on the doorknob. When he looked back, Derya had got up from his stool but was still standing in the middle of the room.

“What if he sees me?” he whispered, seemingly overcome with worry again.

Jim moved towards him and took his hand. “He won’t, it’s almost noon, he’ll be somewhere downstairs. And if he sees you, I can’t imagine he could be angry. A servant such as you needs to use their legs or you’ll forget how to do it. And you look far too lovely to be angry with.”

The compliment worked enough to bring a nervous smile to the slave’s face and he let Jim pull him to the door and outside.

“So, is there a shorter way than…”

Just then, the door to Khan’s room opened, and the Augment stepped into the corridor. All three of them froze for a moment, before Derya made a strangled noise and fell to his knees, palms and forehead flat on the ground. It happened so fast that Jim was just standing there, looking, for a few seconds, before he finally focussed on the Augment and remembered to bow.

As he did so, he caught a brief glimpse of Khan’s face and found he looked almost as startled as Jim himself felt. When he had straightened up again, he saw Khan’s eyes flick back and forth between his two slaves until he seemed to come to a decision, and his expression closed off.

“James, leave us.”

Jim lifted his chin slightly. “Sir…”

“Leave us, now!” Khan commanded, and Jim, after one more look at Derya, complied and walked away hesitantly. He had tried to repair the damage for over a week now, he hoped the Augment had enough sense to not make things worse again.

 

As soon as James was out of sight, Khan focussed on Derya. The slave was shaking almost imperceptibly, but otherwise had not moved an inch.

“Come into my room.”

Chapter Text

The sun was cruel and relentless, the sky without a cloud, an endless blue. Khan’s favourite horse was recovering from an injury; hurdles were usually one of the stallion’s favourite things, but he was getting old, and had not been able to take that one last hurdle as he should have. He’d fallen and broken a front leg, throwing Khan in the process. The grooms had told the emperor to put the horse down, but he had refused, and demanded they treat him. The horse was a fighter, and had recovered enough to soon protest vehemently each time his master had chosen a different horse and left him in the stable. His foals were promising, but the likely successor, a mare, was not quite done yet, not feisty enough for battle at least. Today, Khan had not had the heart to refuse the old stallion, though his limp showed that he had not fully recovered yet.

He still carried his master proudly, unaware of the sad stories unfolding around horse and rider at today’s slave market.

Khan’s last body-slave had been caught stealing and had subsequently been executed, so he needed a new one. It had not been Khan’s decision alone; until next year, Khan had to share power with the council. As soon as he was twenty-five, the council would only advise, but not rule with him any longer. He’d been on that shared throne for two years now and could not wait to be rid of them and rule alone. There were so many things he still wanted to do that the council would not let him do. Traditions, they said. Customs. Pah. He had been able to go through with quite some debatable bills but there was still so much more to do, so many changes still to be made.

The first of which was getting a new slave. What he had seen until now, though, did not even warrant a second glance. The wares were mostly rubbish, looking like they’d been dredged up from the sewers, and due to the burning sun, many smelled like it, too. His fine nose wrinkled every time the wind turned. Humans were indeed disgusting creatures. How had he been able to cope with being one of them for so long?

He still kept looking, tired of having common household slaves poking through his things every day. He wanted something… nice. Something that could blend in and become a pretty part of his living space. He liked exquisite things, and his personal slave should be one as well.

Across the marketplace, a crowd had gathered around a seller who had a group of Domunha on display; “two-faced” humans as people called them. Khan had helped abolish the laws saying they could be killed on sight, along with other ‘untraditional’ people. Still, they were the lowest of the low, mostly members of the poorest caste. Khan was not particularly interested in those, he found their features distracting at best and their bodies were often repugnant. He had heard they were not only disfigured, but also hysterical and retarded. Those stories, Khan did not buy, knowing how people insisted on telling lies about minorities they did not want to understand. Giving them equal - if mostly theoretical - rights had not done him much good, but Khan had had enough of honour killings, hysterical, uneducated mobs and dumb fairy tales about how people who were different were not people. He had heard that from the old emperor far too often. Still, those humans were practically out of the question. No, he was after an ornament that people would envy him for.

 

He had only done half the round, and his horse was starting to tire already. Perhaps they should return to the palace, he thought, but at that same moment, the stallion stumbled and almost fell. The Augment twisted in the saddle, pulling on the reins to stay upright. The animal regained his balance slowly, dancing from left to right, and Khan soothed him with a hand on his glossy white neck. He let the somewhat shivering horse stand still for a minute, taking the time to look around, when from across the space, he caught a pair of eyes looking at him for only a moment - very, very blue ones. Khan did a double take, scanning the crowd with his eagle eyes, but could not determine who exactly it had been. Blue eyes, like his own, were so rare here that they must stand out somehow if he just kept looking.

Turning his horse, he let him walk over to the crowd around the Domunha, his treasurer Mohit close behind him. The trader was shouting about how the dirty, ragged creatures by his side, nine in all, could be used for anything one would not want to waste a good slave for, and started haggling about the price for the lot with one of the best-known pimps of the city. Another owner of a whore-house chimed in, and another, but only the first one seemed serious. Meanwhile, Khan was looking at the wares, haggard-looking creatures wearing dirty rags, some weeping and shivering, some completely catatonic. Most of them were hanging their heads. Khan stared at them, wondering whether any of those had had the courage to look at him, when, there, on the far side of the line, one lifted its chin enough so Khan could see them - cyan eyes, clear as tropical water, so bright that they had to be the result of a mutation. They were averted again almost instantly, but Khan kept staring at the creature. It was young, much younger than Khan himself even, and had shortish, black hair which just came up to its ears, a gaunt face with sharp angles and dry, cracked lips, and a thin, dirty body draped in rags. The hands, shackled in the front with iron rings, were like claws, they were so slim. And still, Khan saw the potential in that slave, and he decided that it was the one he wanted, even though it would take a lot of work to make this one look presentable and a true source of other people’s envy.

The trader was now going along the line and pulling off tunics, so the audience could see the slaves’ bodies. All of them were marred with scars, some of them had fresh wounds as well, gashes of whips, cuts, burns, things a slave trader would not put on display on a normal slave, but Domunha were little more than household appliances to most people, things to be used until they were broken, and then you could buy a new one. The blue-eyed one had the bloody gashes just as the others did, and Khan moved his shoulders uncomfortably, reminding himself that his own marks were long gone.

The vendor was now arguing with the pimp in the first row.

“They need treatment to heal and I probably have to open most of them, what sort of price do you think I’d pay for that raw material there? They are practically disposable items, good only for one time use!”

“My good man, most already have two holes, and who knows, maybe your clients will enjoy making that second one themselves?”

The crowd laughed and jeered.

“Fifty each, ten more for each with two holes. I’m not going over five hundred for that lot.”

“My friend…”

“Nine hundred for the lot.”

The crowd of people gasped and turned towards their emperor, who had shouted the bid from the back. Khan could hear Mohit groan quietly, but he only kept staring at the vendor.

“A thousand if none of them has an infection or sickness.”

Khan urged his nervous horse forward through the parting crowd, which had fallen silent.

The businessman babbled something and then bowed. “My lord, thank you, my lord. S-sold, of course, to you, glorious emperor, an honour…”

But Khan did not even listen, he took one last look at the creature at the end of the line and turned his steed, nodding to Mohit - who was making a face like Khan had just asked him to pay with his firstborn - as a sign to fix the deal, and pressed his thighs together, leading his horse out of the crowd, and back to the palace.

 

The next morning, the trader arrived with the wares at the palace gates, and Khan made a point of being there while Sabir and Mohit inspected every single last one of the pack. According to Sabir, the wounds could be dealt with and none of them were dangerously sick, even though they were malnourished. The slaves had obviously bathed the day before, because the stench, dirt and blood was largely gone. Of course, the naked bodies still looked positively skeletal. The vendor got paid and escorted out, then Sabir ushered the group into the shower room next to the courtyard, where, undoubtedly, many of them had their first experience with soap, while the rags they had worn were burnt in another yard.

All the while, Khan followed his special one with his eyes. The human seemed like it knew it was being watched, but never looked at its new master.

While Sabir dressed the wounds or applied ointments, a palace slave brought new white tunics, and another brought brushes and lice combs so the newcomers did not bring any vermin into the house.

Khan kept a close eye on the lot, trying to gauge their character and abilities; most were the usual, demure, resigned or afraid. Potentially useful.

After he was done with the treatment of their wounds and everyone was getting dressed and de-loused, Sabir gave his usual talk about discipline.

“You are now the property of our beloved emperor, and the purpose of your existence from now on is to serve him well with everything you have, your purpose in this household is to be useful and quiet. Remember this, you are palace slaves now, not servants to commoners, so behave like it. Wake-up call at five, then breakfast, then each of you finds an overseer who will assign you your work for the day if there is no single station for you. Lunch at one, you resume work at two, showers and then dinner at eight, lights out at ten. If you have a problem or question, you ask instead of making mistakes. If you do make a mistake or refuse to obey an order, you will be punished. You will not wander around the palace or the grounds, and you will stay in the areas where you can move freely. If you try to run away, you will be executed. I’ll say it again: this is the palace. We are not interested in working our slaves to death, we are interested in things going smoothly, and supporting our great emperor and our empire by doing our best. I expect all of you to work towards that goal. Nobody here will harm you unless you deserve it, so don’t give us any reasons to. You will go and eat now, and after that, we’ll see each other again.”

“What is your name?” Khan asked, making the blue-eyed slave whip around in fright.

The eyes burnt into Khan’s for a second before the human bowed deeply and kept its head down.

“Your majesty,” the creature said in one of the native tongues, “I am sorry, I do not know the language of the higher castes that well, only a few words.”

“You’ll have to learn it.” Khan asked his question again in the native dialect the slave used.

“Forgive me, your majesty, but I have no name.”

Khan frowned. “Why would you not have a name?”

“I grew up on the street, I never knew my parents, I do not know what they called me.”

“But you were not alone when you grew up, right? Your kind always lives in little gangs. What did they call you?”

The slave’s shoulders slumped a bit. “They called me Witch, sire. For my eyes. They said they show I am evil, cursed.”

“Nonsense.” Khan reached out and pinched the slave’s chin between thumb and forefinger, raising it. The human kept its eyes averted but did not resist otherwise. “I saw you while you got dressed,” Khan said, and had opened his mouth for the next bit when the slave interrupted him.

“I am sorry you had to see my disfigurement, your majesty, I know we must look hideous for someone like you.”

“You only speak when I ask you to,” Khan growled.

The slave flinched. “Please forgive me, your highness, I won’t speak out of turn again.”

“Fine, you are forgiven. I guess you can’t know any better yet. So… what are you on the inside?”

The slave blinked nervously. “Forgive me, I do not understand what your question means?”

“Are you a boy or a girl inside? You are both outside, so what’s in there?” Khan asked, tapping the brown forehead with his fingernail. “What do we call you, he or she?”

The slave seemed to ponder this question. “I’ll… be whatever the master tells me to be.”

Khan smirked. “Not a bad answer, you learn quickly. But you may decide that one yourself.”

“I… don’t know, I grew up as both outside, and so as both inside, I think. Others called me both. I do not mind either.”

Before the slave could say any more, Sabir came over to them. The other slaves had gone off to have what was likely their first full meal ever, so they were now alone in the courtyard.

“A word, your majesty?”

“Yes, Sabir?” Khan answered, changing back into English, not looking away from the slave’s face, still turning it this way and that with his fingers.

“May I speak freely?”

“You know you can.”

“Alright, your majesty.” Sabir took a deep breath. “The whole lot is going to be a waste of money. They are not disease-ridden, but they are half-starved. You paid twice the amount they are worth and in the first month they will need to eat twice as much as any other slave!” Khan saw from the corner of his eyes that the man cocked his head to the side. “I guess this one is the reason why? I thought you wanted a boy for a change? To be honest, your majesty, the last thing I expected you to turn up with was a bunch of Domunha.”

He was a blunt man, and Khan appreciated that. His job here was too important to clip his words with false politeness. Sabir had known him as a boy, and Khan trusted him.

“Stunning eyes, are they not?” Khan asked instead of reacting to the overseer’s words.

Sabir made a resigned sound. “Ocean eyes. Much too open and too deep. Such people are often uncontrollable and bring nothing but problems. Witch eyes, in that kind of face. In my village, there was a healer woman with such eyes, Dareia. Knew her stuff, but a ghastly old hag, she was, ugly as the underbelly of a camel. Even that one here is prettier than she was… if you like them two-faced.”

Khan inclined his head. “This one will be my new personal slave, train them about what that entails. You’ll also have to find them a teacher; I won’t speak the native tongue in my own household, and this one doesn’t know much English.”

“Certainly, my lord. Will you also want him, or her, or whatever it is, to be trained for bed?”

Khan smiled. “I should think so, but just tell them the rules, I’ll do the rest myself.”

“Of course, my lord. You, slave,” Sabir addressed the human sharply in the native tongue, “What do they call you? Are you a he or a she?”

The young slave moved slightly. “I’ll be happy to be called he if it pleases the master, but I do not have a name, sir.”

Sabir groaned. “They did not only cost us a fortune, now we also have to name them. At least it has a talent for words. And it seems it did understand at least a bit of what we were talking about. That’ll make it easier for the teacher.”

“Look at me,” Khan said to the slave in English, nudging his chin. Shyly, the slave raised his eyes until they met Khan’s. “You are right, they are ocean eyes.”

“Any idea what you want to call it then, your highness?”

Finally, Khan let go of the slave’s chin. “Derya. His name is Derya.”

 

After dinner the same day, Derya was sent up to Khan’s rooms for the first time. The new slaves had gotten double rations and one warm meal more that day, in the hopes that they would put on meat fast so they’d be able to work well. When he entered, Khan noticed that the slave did not nearly fill the tunic he was wearing; he was far too skinny. On the market, Khan had already seen the potential for beauty there, but now, bathed and dressed in white, it was even more visible. It would come over time, Khan thought, but hopefully quickly. He wanted his ornament, and he was not used to waiting for things to become beautiful. If the slave remained this thin and gaunt-looking, he would hardly be an ornament. Also, those ghastly injuries had to heal and the scars would have to be removed; he wouldn’t use this body as long as it was covered in whipping marks. Perhaps it would even take a few drops of his own blood, but he wanted his new pet to look perfect, to be perfect, as perfect as a human could be. He had a reputation to maintain, and he loathed ugly people.

At first, the slave was clumsy and very ordinary, his movements sluggish and inelegant. After he had watched him pour wine in a manner that suggested he had never used any kind of tableware, Khan told Derya to sit at his feet while he himself was reclining on a low couch with a book and one of the many palace cats on his lap. Obviously, Sabir had at least managed to teach him how to kneel properly, even though the movement was not quite as elegant and fluid as Khan would have liked to see.

“How old are you, Derya?” Khan asked, curious, again in the slave’s own language. He did not really look too young to be taken to bed, otherwise he never would have bought him, but one could never know with a two-faced human.

The slave looked up for a moment before remembering he was not supposed to do that. “I am sorry, my lord, I do not know exactly. Maybe around seventeen. Certainly not yet twenty.”

Khan snorted. “Anyone could see you are nowhere near twenty. The others that came with you, are they street kids, too?”

Derya nodded towards his knees.

“Are you related to any of them?”

“I guess not, we are just all unwanted. Since we were forbidden until you came to power, your majesty, our parents left us. There are younger and older children in the group, but most are about as old as I am.”

“And do you take them in or how do they survive long enough to grow up?” Khan asked with interest. It was an aspect of life in his empire he had not yet had time or reason to study.

“Yes, your highness, we take them in. But since the ban on our lives was lifted by your grace, the foundlings got less.”

“But there are many more of your kind out there?”

The slave hesitated, as if afraid he was saying too much.

Khan leant forward. “Answer me. I won’t hunt them down, I am not the late emperor. I don’t have time for such nonsense. And you should also remember that it is not for you to decide whether you answer me or not.”

The slave bowed his head. “Forgive me, your highness. Yes, there are more, many more. You only own the smallest part, now.”

Khan leant back again. “Well, at least here, you’ll all be fed, clothed, clean and you can sleep under an actual roof. Mind you, where did you sleep out there?”

“Wherever we found shelter, my lord, behind stables or in alleys, huddled together.”

“Have you ever slept in a bed?”

Derya seemed to shrink by the minute. “No, your highness.”

“Not even once?”

Derya shook his head. “Not ever.”

Khan contemplated that. “Have you ever had sex?”

The slave shivered violently and got very red in the face. “No, your highness.”

“No one's ever used you?”

“I...in what way do you mean, my lord?” the slave squeaked.

Khan found it kind of endearing. “Your body,” he clarified, “Has anyone ever penetrated it? Your mouth or whatever you have between your legs?”

The slave flushed some more and shook his head.

“Have you experimented among your own kind or with yourself?”

It was quite lovely, Khan thought, to see the young one squirm. He found he was enjoying questioning him like this. He was obviously as innocent as could be.

“I...not...much. Things happen when you sleep arm in arm against the cold with others, but that is usually the last thing on your mind when you are cold and hungry.”

Khan now turned towards the slave, swinging his legs down from the couch. “You have kissed before, though?”

The slave kneaded his hands in his lap. “Not really. My eyes frightened most of them too much.”

Just like he had done in the morning, Khan took Derya’s chin between his fingers.

“Your eyes are not frightening, they are beautiful. And over time, the rest of you will become just as beautiful. Why else would I have chosen you for myself?”

The slave twitched as if Khan had shouted at him. “You are too kind, your…”

Khan leaned forward then, holding the slave’s face firmly between his fingers, kissing him. The human was tentative and shy, or perhaps he was just shocked, but he did not dare to react. When Khan pulled away at last, though, he tried to lean forward for a moment to follow Khan’s lips.

“If you are this lovely when I take you for the first time…” He watched the slave react to that. “Don’t you like that thought?” he asked dangerously when the slave’s blush vanished and left him pale all of a sudden.

“I am sorry, my lord, no, of course… I mean… as I said, I haven’t, ever… it’s fear of the unknown,” the human stuttered.

Khan cocked his head to the side. “Are you afraid of me, Derya?”

“N...no…”

“Derya,” Khan said sharply and let go of his face. “You should know one thing from the start. I know when people lie to me and I find it insulting when they try. So when I ask you something, you do not lie to me, understand? Always tell the truth, no matter what you think I want to hear. No answer will ever make me as angry, and be as insulting, as a lie. Truth knows no rank under me. Do you understand?”

Derya nodded fiercely. Khan thought he could see tears in the slave’s eyes.

“So, do you fear me?”

“...yes, my lord. I do fear you,” the slave said in a shaky voice, looking as if he was about to cry.

Khan leant back again. “That’s quite alright. But do your best to be perfect, and you’ll have no reason to.”

 

The young one scrambled to his feet while Khan turned and held the door open, just as he had about two weeks ago when he had cast him out. The similarities of the situation had obviously not escaped the slave, because he was trembling more and more.

Khan took care to close the door gently, never letting Derya out of his sight. He was half-bent over in an effort to hide his face and appear small.

Khan would not have it. He stepped closer, slowly, and gently lifted the slave’s chin with two fingers. He was relieved to see no trace of the bruise, it seemed to have healed nicely. The slave kept his eyes downcast and his lips were trembling along with the rest of him.

“You’re still afraid of me. I guess I cannot blame you for it, I was very harsh last time you saw me. But please be assured that there is no reason to be afraid anymore.” He took care to use the calming voice he also used with spooked animals.

“I did not mean to… My lord, I’m sorry you had to see me,” Derya managed to whisper, not sounding reassured at all.

Khan raised his eyebrows. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“You said you would call for me when… You did not call me…”

“You think I am going to punish you because we crossed paths?” Khan cocked his head to the side and frowned.

Derya hung his head.

“I won’t. As I said, there is nothing to be afraid about.”

Khan caressed Derya’s cheeks with the back of his hand, and when he saw that it did not help, stepped closer, and, before he could hesitate, placed a kiss on the slave’s forehead. The slave’s fear of him made him uncomfortable, so he hoped the kiss would put him at ease.

It did make Derya look up tentatively. “So, you have forgiven me, my lord?”

Khan stepped back a little. “I would rather say, I realised that there was nothing to forgive. You saved a life that I cherish and I punished you for it. I shouldn’t have.”

Derya looked down at his toes. “Still, I disobeyed your command. I can understand that you did not want to see me afterward, my lord. But I am glad that you called me in now.”

For a moment, they were silent. The slave had stopped shaking and Khan could see the muscles in his shoulders relax.

“Are you feeling strong enough to come back to me tonight? James told me you had a fever. If you are sure you are fully recovered, I’d like you to resume your work. But not until tonight. I have important things to do today. You can have the rest of the day to yourself.”

Obviously excited by the words, Derya fidgeted. “I feel excellent, your grace. I hope I am not keeping you, though.”

“I am the Emperor of Asia. They can wait for me. This, here, is more important.” He bent down and gave Derya’s forehead another kiss. “Until tonight, then.”

He led Derya from the room, and that was that. When Derya rounded the corner, Khan allowed himself a deep breath. He had feared this conversation to be much worse. But he knew it had not even really started yet.

 

They had dinner together, which James brought upstairs. Before he left, Khan saw James wink at Derya and smile. He seemed genuinely happy for his fellow slave, which impressed Khan more than he wanted to admit.

By now, the whole palace knew, of course, that Derya had been pardoned and was back by his master’s side. Khan did not mind. He felt much better, much more at ease now that Derya was back, and although he was still dead-tired and unsure whether his brain was working as it should have been, it felt good to have the trusted creature around him, who knew how he liked things, knew to do things without being told, knew how to make Khan relax after the day’s work.

Derya did hover for a moment when his master got ready for bed. He was unsure why, but Khan felt like at least tonight he could not take for granted that the slave wanted to stay. He had hit him, after all, something that would not have kept his mind busy with any other slave, but it did with Derya. So he got undressed and held out his hand. He knew well that Derya was trained not to refuse him, but he could still gauge the manner in which Derya accepted, which was by way of a smile that made the Augment feel strangely warm.

They lay down together after Derya had undressed and tidied away his clothes. It was obvious that he had also prepared his body, but Khan knew it had been in vain today. Breathing in the familiar scent on the slave’s skin and hair, Khan could feel his muscles relax all by themselves. It felt a bit like coming home after war. He was sharply aware of the warm skin on his, their intimate nakedness, and noticed he had missed it. Although it would have been natural for him to be wanting, it was easy for Khan to push away any thoughts of sex for the moment. He felt too tired, still, and to his surprise very much content with what he had here. Derya seemed unsure what was expected of him, but as his master only held him tightly, playing with his long hair, he gradually relaxed as well. Khan gave the young one permission to fall asleep if he liked; it was unnecessary that they should both lie awake.

Envious, Khan watched the slave’s features become smooth in sleep, listened to his slowed heartbeat and breathing.

“He will never be a match for you,” he whispered against Derya’s hairline at some point during the night, not fully lucid himself. He caressed the healed cheek. “Stupid child. I have to get rid of him.”

He pressed a kiss to the silky forehead, then another, and some right next to the eye and on the cheekbone. He only realised fully what he was doing when the little one stirred in his arms again.

“My lord?” It sounded sleepy and soft. “Do you need me?”

Khan smiled gently. “It would seem so.”

Finally, he allowed himself to kiss the slave’s lips, first fleetingly, but then again, and again, a little firmer, a little longer. He twined his fingers into Derya’s hair simply to feel more of it. All this still felt unreal, which gave him the determination to go on with it. Had he been fully awake, he thought, he would have had more self-control. But they were in darkness, and alone, and his defenses were weakened. So he resumed kissing his favourite.

When he let up for a moment, he felt Derya’s blue eyes on himself.

“My lord, is something wrong?” He really did sound worried.

Khan laid his head back down onto the pillow, facing Derya. “You.”

“M-my lord?”

“You are wrong. About something.”

He felt like someone else was saying the words, and it seemed like Derya shared the feeling, because he looked completely bewildered.

“I don’t understand…”

“You think I kept you away for your punishment. It’s true that I did not want to see you. But it was not because of what you did.” Khan let his hand caress the cheek again, where the ugly mark had been. “It was because of what I did.”

The slave was very still in his arms now. “I’m still not sure I understand, my lord.”

Khan touched his forehead to the slave’s. He felt like he could only say the next words in a whisper or not at all. “You and everyone else in the palace thought I could not stand to look at you because I was angry with you, but in truth, I could not stand to look at what I’d done to you. It reminded me of my failure, not yours. The bruise… I never wanted to leave such a mark on your body. I know it is my right, but that did not make me feel better about it, especially after I realised that what you had done was right. I meant to ask for you to come back when it had healed, but then you got sick. James did not know how to help you, and I was worried you’d caught something, or that someone in the palace had made you sick on purpose. I also thought maybe you were relieved not to see me, after what I did. So I left you alone, and did not go to see you.”

An unfamiliar feeling crawled through Khan’s veins. Derya kept silent after his master’s last words, and it made Khan feel almost insecure, and vulnerable. He fought down the instinct to become angry. It would be the easiest thing to do, the Haze would protect him inside his head, Derya would cower and everything would be back under control. He pushed it down with all the strength he had left.

“Do talk to me,” he managed to say between clenched teeth. He must not become angry at the little one, he had so regretted it that last time.

The slave seemed to cast around for the right words for a few moments, before he finally answered.

“Then you, too, are wrong about something, my lord.”

“Am I?” Khan asked, not sure whether it was not perhaps better to get angry after all.

“I would never want to be away from you for any reason. I… I think I might not have been ill at all… not knowing whether you’d sent me away forever was not easy to bear, it made me…”

Khan felt perplexed when he finally understood. “So that’s what it was? You thought I would… what? Cast you out? Why would I send you away for good? The mere thought!”

Derya recoiled a bit. “I am sorry, my lord. Everyone who has your favour is afraid to lose it, and so am I, and I thought I had, so I was desperate…”

He fell silent when Khan locked him in a tight embrace. A new feeling swept through the Augment now, like icicles weeping in the spring sun.

“You were ill because you missed me ? Me of all people?“ Khan felt incredulous at the mere thought.

The slave nodded. “James has already informed me about how ridiculous it is, I hope you'll see it as enough of a reprimand to not feel the need to repeat it.“

The little one's body language and tone clearly said he would not be able to stand it if Khan mocked him now, but the Augment had no wish to reprimand him. He only hugged him tighter and stroked his hair. All his life he had been told personal ties were bad and would only bring problems, that they were not for him, that a man in his position should not have them. For so long he had seen chances to do or say something gentle and had so often let it pass due to his deeply ingrained aversion to gentleness. Not twenty-four hours ago he had reassured himself that this was not a path he could or would take. But the warmth and fragility of his favourite in his arms let his melting defences shatter at last. He knew his weakened mind had something to do with it, but for now, he had no strength left to fight it. He needed someone, he needed the young one, and felt as if he might fall apart if he let go now. And he was even too far gone to feel pathetic about it.

“Derya, never, never think that I’d send you away for good, never. If that was what made you ill, it was unnecessary. I want you by my side, always. You have always been trustworthy and loyal. And I will never reprimand you for what you feel. It is too much of a gift to refuse it.“

They lay there, a cozy pair just this once, suspended in the moment. Perhaps too shy, perhaps unable to come up with the right words, Derya finally pressed his head under Khan’s chin like a cat, and Khan felt the slave’s lips on his skin, kissing him. Usually, that was out of the question, but for this small moment, there seemed to be something like a balance of power between them. Khan adjusted his arms around the warm body, wishing the morning wouldn’t come, when everything would be back to normal.

He caressed Derya’s back with his fingers for some time, revelling in the now lazy kisses Derya bestowed on him. At long last, he made a decision. But the discussion about it would have to wait until morning.

“Go to sleep, little one. You must be tired. Sleep now.”

“Good night, my lord.”

For the first time in a long time, Khan felt something akin to peace creep over him as he listened to Derya’s breathing even out once more. While still listening, he too, closed his eyes, and went out like a light.

 

Once he had cleared away the dishes from Khan’s room, Jim snuck out by the kitchen door into the kitchen yard. He was confident that tonight, at last, he’d have time for a little expedition; he had no doubts that Khan and Derya would be very busy until morning. He’d need the time, to find what he was looking for.

He had remembered that in that dungeon where the cells were located, there had been a tiny barred window, high up on the wall, and that window had to lead somewhere. Perhaps he would not have to deal with any guards, and wouldn’t need to find a way through the labyrinthine subterranean part of the palace, not for now at least, not if he only wanted to talk.

Checking every single one of the little vents that he had seen everywhere around the palace yards once he had begun to look for them, seemed an almost impossible task, but what choice did he have? The palace had a dozen or so inner courtyards, but it was a start. And now he had finally been granted the opportunity he had been working towards during the last weeks. Jim had almost given up hope that he would ever be able to arrange an accidental meeting between the two, but he had actually succeeded right away.

First, Jim checked the kitchen yard, although he was pretty certain that he’d find nothing. Next, he snuck into the huge courtyard where the washing was hung to dry, but had no luck here, either. He really wanted to try the one where the slave accommodations were located, and where punishments were doled out if necessary, but it was still too early, he’d run into too many people, too many guards. So he checked all other accessible yards first until he had killed enough time; there was the familiar bell that announced it was time for lights-out. Jim did not care; this was one of the very few pros of being Khan’s; lights-out did not apply to him and every guard who would see him knew it. Still not keen on being overheard or seen while he knelt in front of every ground-level window, Jim checked carefully whether all was clear, silently thanking Starfleet Academy and former female acquaintances for teaching him how to sneak around unseen and unheard.

Thankfully, this was an inner courtyard, and most guards were always on the outer walls. The slaves had all gone inside. It was now or never.

Swiftly, Jim went from vent to vent, whispering each time into the darkness while looking around and checking whether anyone had seen him. All remained quiet, and Jim was beginning to feel desperate when he finally, finally got an answer when he had done half the round.

“Jim? Jim, is that you?”

Jim remained still, cowering where he was, and heard shuffling, a bit of scrambling and a sharp coughing sound, then his name again.

“Scotty? Chekov? Oh my god, finally, guys!” He had a hard time whispering now, and had to cover his mouth with his hand to stifle an overwhelmed giggle. He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to cry or laugh, he was just so relieved.

“We’re here, Jim.”

There was another cough.

“Scotty, are you sick?” God, Jim would have given anything just to be able to see their faces, but he could only see blackness through the bars.

“Sick an’ tired a’ sittin’ in this hole here, yes. But what about you? We were afraid Khan had… He just dragged you away and then we did nae hear anythin’ from you for weeks! He interrogated us, Jim, an’ he said he was keepin’ you without food or water…”

“No, I’m alright, guys, I’m fine, really, that’s all been resolved. I’m sorry it took me so long. But seriously, are you two sick?”

This time, it was the high, young voice of Pavel that answered. “I am feeling alright, sir, eet iz Scotty who iz sick. Eet iz really cold and damp down here, sir.”

“An’ the food standards are medieval, let’s be honest.”

Jim grinned for the fraction of a second about the two of them; hearing their voices felt better than he had imagined it would, however, the news that Scotty was sick sent shivers of fear down his spine. He had not actually thought about how the monsoon would affect the temperatures in the cells. It had stopped pouring it down by now, but it was still damp and the sun was not out all that often. What if he was already running out of time to save his friends? Khan would not care if the two men died down there. Jim knew that slaves did not get medical help, so, he presumed, neither would prisoners.

“Alright, alright, I’ll see what I can do, we’ll think of something. In the meantime, don’t… “ Don’t die on me? “Just hold on.”

On the wallwalk of the yard, Jim could hear the shuffling of feet coming closer, and pressed himself to the wall.

“I can’t stay, I’ll come see you again soon!”

“Use your famous charm to get the kitchen to bring us some hot soup, ya hear me, Jim?”

Despite the guard above coming closer, Jim flashed a smile. “Will do. See you!”

Jim got up carefully, and, flattened against the wall, inched his way to a doorway, where he waited until the guard had passed overhead, then he made a beeline for the next set of stairs. While he went back to his room, his thoughts were racing. He had to help the two of them, and soon, or it might be too late. But still, no brilliant plan would come to him. They were sitting in the middle of Khan’s palace - fortress, really, from their point of view - and there was a tracker chip in Jim’s shoulder, which would lead Khan right to him even if by some miracle he managed to bust the two men out of that cell and get them over a thirty foot wall that was teeming with guards at all times, day and night.

Lying down on his bed, Jim tried to calm himself a little. It would not do to lose his nerve. First, he would have to wait for an opportunity to go back and really talk to the two men, see what they knew about guards, any kind of routine, anything that could be useful. There had to be a way. Had to be.

 

Sleep had evaded him for so long now that Khan was almost shocked when he woke in the morning. The sun had just come up, and he looked over his shoulder at the rosy sky. He could hardly believe it. He had actually slept! Not for long, perhaps a few hours, but it had been uninterrupted and refreshing. He did feel better, though he knew that if he wanted to be restored to full health, he needed a fair few such nights. Yet it still amazed him, and lifted his spirits considerably.

He had been careful not to move his body too much while turning, but Derya, pressed against his master’s chest as he still was, stirred nevertheless. Khan gave him time to wake, then kissed him softly on the lips.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, my lord. And you?”

The Augment made a vague movement.

“I need to discuss something else with you, my little one. Something very, very important.”

“Of course, my lord, whatever you wish.”

“I need you to do something for me, but it is different this time. I am putting all my trust in you, and you must be aware that this is possibly the most important thing you’ll ever do for me. I would not and do not trust anyone else with this, not even my generals. It has to be you.”

He looked down at the slave earnestly, and the young one stared back, bewildered, but then he nodded determinedly.

“I am at your service, your grace, whatever you wish, I will do it, I shall not disappoint you. May I ask, my lord, is it about the Kurultai?”

Khan shook his head somberly and sat up, pulling Derya with him, until they sat in the middle of the bed, facing each other.

“No, it’s not about that. It’s about James.”

 

When Jim finally came crawling up the main stairs the next day, night had fallen already. Now that both he and Derya were rehabilitated, it was back to work in the gardens and the stables for Jim all day long.

He had had supper with the other slaves, bathed while trying not to fall asleep on the spot, and now finally knocked on Khan’s bedroom door and let himself in after a few seconds; he still had orders to come back in the evening and see whether the emperor needed him. He really hoped that Khan would not need him in bed tonight, if yes, there was a good chance all he would do to defy him this time would be snoring; it had been an exhausting day, something was in the air, like some big event coming up, and overseers were nervous and short-tempered. Jim hoped against better knowledge that Khan wouldn’t be. But Khan had not touched him for some time now, perhaps his luck would hold.

To Jim’s astonishment, however, the Augment had not yet come back, and the rooms were empty. A little more awake, Jim went out onto the terrace, even looked down into the gardens. Khan was not there, not that he could see. Derya was missing as well, and none of the lamps had been lit.

Jim waited where he was for a little while. What should he do? Maybe this was another chance for him to go see Scotty and Chekov? Usually, when he came back in the evening, Khan was somewhere around, but today he was not here to keep an eye on him, and neither was Derya. But what consequences would he face if he was not there when Khan finally did come back? Well, on the other hand, what if he waited for hours and he didn’t? It would be a wasted opportunity and he had no time for that. He knew he was pushing his luck, but he had to try.

Careful not to make a noise, Jim opened the door again and listened. Nothing to hear. This wing was exclusively Khan’s, so it was no wonder that nobody was around. There was no knowing whether Derya was in his room but Jim did not stop to try and find out, though he guessed that wherever Khan was at this late hour, Derya was with him.

His bare feet did not make a sound as he scurried through the corridors, down the stairs and found his way into the right courtyard. There was nobody around; lights-out had been half an hour ago. It was already a bit later and darker than the day before, and Jim kept his fingers crossed that this would help him avoid guards at least a little bit. Again, he inched his way along the wall towards the right window, always checking after a few steps whether he was still alone.

He was just sorting the questions he wanted to ask in his head when suddenly, he heard a soft thumping sound directly behind him and a hand closed around his neck.

“Hello, James.”

Jim was certain his heart stopped for a few seconds. At first he fought the grip on his throat reflexively, but the more he struggled, the more tightly Khan held him. Jim knew it was Khan, by his voice and his smell, as Khan was now pushing Jim face-first against the wall, pressing himself to his back. Forcing himself to stop struggling, Jim kept his hands latched onto Khan’s to keep him from strangling him, but otherwise held his body still, and promptly felt Khan relaxing behind him as well. The Augment was keeping him in a secure hold, but when Jim stopped fighting, Khan also stopped hurting him.

“Surprised to see me?” Khan growled into Jim’s ear.

“W...where did you… Were you waiting for me here?”

“No, James, do you really think I’d waste my evening down here? I saw you on the terrace, looking down to the gardens, and when you left again so hurriedly I figured out where you’d probably go. I know you were here last night, I knew you’d found the window.”

“But...how did you get here before me?” Jim asked, trying to think of a way out but saw none. It was pretty obvious that he had, again, managed to fuck up.

The Augment laughed a cruel laugh. “It’s my palace, I’ll always know a shorter way than you do. I’m also much better at jumping down from heights and moving without a sound than you are, though I have to say, for a human, you’re quite good at moving silently.”

Jim had no idea what this overly affable conversation was about, but he knew the Augment’s temper too well, and knew beneath the surface, Khan was probably boiling over at this very minute.

“Please, sir…”

“Oh, all of a sudden you have manners again, I see. You could have just told me how much you miss your friends, you know?”

Jim decided to trust his gut and be blunt instead of grovelling.

“So… what happens now?” he asked carefully.

“Since you want to see your friends so urgently that you sneak around the palace at bedtime when really you should be upstairs waiting for me, I think a night down there would do you good.”

Without further explanation, the Augment took a step back but hooked two fingers into the collar to pull him away from the wall, and led Jim away, back into the palace, one hand on Jim’s shoulder. Jim went, with conflicting feelings about this whole situation. A night in the cells would give him exactly what he had wanted, enough time to talk to his crewmen, but also, he had only so recently been imprisoned, that the thought alone made him anxious.

At least, Jim thought, he now had the chance to see the way to the cells again. He tried to keep track of every corner and corridor, every door, and when they reached the creepy underground hallway at last, he also noticed there was a distinct lack of guards down here.

Khan flicked on some lights and pushed open the last door for them, and led Jim down to the last cell where he finally saw the two men. They jumped to their feet as soon as they became aware of who their visitors were, looking uncertain about this new development, and Scotty even dared to open his mouth and ask what was going on, but the Augment just hissed.

“Silence!”

He suddenly squeezed Jim’s neck hard and pressed down until the blond fell to his knees. “Again, you disappoint me, James. Each time I forgive you for your shortcomings and welcome you back, you disappoint me. You really should have stayed at your post tonight. And instead you’ve come down here to see them.” His voice was deceptively calm, but Jim could feel the Augment’s hard nails dig into the skin on his neck. All three humans kept completely silent, not daring to even move.

“I don’t think keeping you locked up in your room helped much, do you? You’ll spend the night here and take a good look at your friends, you obviously crave that so much that you came down here instead of waiting for me in my bed as you should.”

Jim twitched at that last remark. He was certain it had been very deliberate.

Khan pulled a key from his pocket and pushed Jim into the cell that was facing the one his crewmen were in.

“Sweet dreams, my lovely pet. Come morning, we’ll see how you did down here, and we’ll put you to work again. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll take you up to my bedroom so you can show me properly how sorry you are.”

Khan grinned evilly so that only Jim could see it, and then left.

There were a few minutes of uncomfortable silence between them before Jim sat down on the icy stone floor in his cell and glanced over to his friends. Man, it really was cold down here. He shivered. Scotty and Chekov were still in their Starfleet uniforms, but Jim only wore the rather thin cotton shirt and trousers every slave wore here. Good in the sun, bad in a freezing dungeon.

“It’s not like he wants to make it sound, you know?” Jim whispered, because he did not know what else to say. It was no lie, and yet it was one. “It’s not like that,” Jim repeated and hung his head.

“We know ‘at, laddie, he’s a lying bastard, we can remember ‘at much,” Scotty rasped in his thick, comforting, Scottish accent that washed over Jim, the epitome of homesickness.

The blond captain gave his friends a thankful look, and noticed that even though Scotty had said that and Chekov was nodding fiercely, they both looked very worried for him.

“Have they hurt you?”

“No Jim.”

“Zey never hurt us, sir,” Chekov agreed. “Zey feed us, and zey never did anything to us.”

“Except fer keepin’ us doon here in this freezin’ hole,” Scotty supplied. “Anither week and I might dissolve intae snots. An’ the darkness isnae good for th’ mood, either.”

Jim snorted weakly at that small attempt at humour, and looked up to the ceiling where there was only a small lamp burning, a crude thing like he had seen in old pictures of mines. Khan had not turned it off when he had left.

“I would tell you that I’ll talk to his nibs about it but I’m afraid I’m not in his good books at the moment...not that I ever was. Or maybe I could be by now if I wouldn’t fuck it up every single time. I’ve been trying to come up with a plan, but… my head is so completely empty of brilliant ideas, it’s so frustrating.” Jim ran a hand through his hair and pulled at it.

“Don’t rack yer brains about it, Jimbo, we’ll pull through. What about you, though?” asked the Scotsman and his voice made it clear that he was afraid of the answer.

“It’s… nothing. I can manage,” Jim lied.

“Jim...was that...what he said before… jist talk? Or diz he actually… touch you?” It was clear that Scotty did not really want to ask but considered it irresponsible not to.

Jim turned his head away, but did not answer; the lie would be too obvious. This conversation was what he had been afraid of almost more than anything else.

There was another minute of very telling, very uncomfortable silence before Scotty growled: “I’ll break each one o’ his pale, long, greedy fingers if I ever…”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Jim said tiredly.

“I cannae believe he actually had the nerve tae…”

“And please, if you want to help me… try not to talk about it at all. I can handle this, and it’s been getting better, he’s lost interest during the last month or so, he only said that to embarrass me,” Jim interjected to keep Scotty from actually saying it. It was not entirely true but it would not do to worry them more. “So please. Don’t mention it at all if you can help it.”

“Aye, course, Jim, if that’s what ye want,” Scotty replied and Chekov nodded again, looking very sad nonetheless.

Jim smiled in thanks and then dared to look at them directly for the first time. They did not look much thinner or beat up, as he had feared, just a little haggard, probably like anyone would if they were kept down here with no sunlight and loads of damp, cold air. He also noticed they looked relatively clean, and the bad smell down here was at a minimum, more mouldy than anything else. It comforted Jim that at least, Khan seemed to be keeping his word in this case and had not let anyone harm them. Living with his own misery was easy for Jim, considering the fact that it kept his friends from a similar fate. He shivered when he thought about the look Khan had given Chekov when he first saw him here. He would do anything, really anything, to keep Khan away from his crewmates.

But he had to do more than that… he had to get them out of here! And if at all possible, they had to get back to where they belonged.

“So, Scotty...how is everyone, what do you think?” he asked, overcome with homesickness. At some point, he’d have to ask about what had happened, anyway.

“Waiting for us, I s’pose,” Scotty replied. “Not stoppin’ anytime soon. Or ever. Not sure how they’ll proceed, though, since we’re your actual rescue team. Ta-da.”

Jim snorted a laugh. “So you’re not here by accident like me?”

“No. Soon as ye were gone, the whole Enterprise was in a bloody frenzy. But we found out soon enough that th’ portal ye vanished through opens every few hours like clockwork, and we also found out it opens to the same place every time, in the exact same spot. We then conducted a few tests to see whether it is possible to come back through unharmed, tracked ye down by yer communicator, got into a shuttle and came here. Would have been so simple, and if it weren’t for Mr Emperor, we’d have been home for supper.”

“Wait a minute, hold on, hold on, hold on, are you saying you came right after I vanished?”

Scotty smiled at him from across the dungeon. “I thought yer ego would let ye know about that anyways, but yer kind of important, Jim. We arrived here two days later, perhaps, because of all the tests, and it was perhaps a day before we got arrested here. What’s wrong, Jim?”

Jim was staring at Scotty blankly for a few moments, then he shook himself. “Wow. I don’t know if this is good.”

“What is it, Jim?”

“I was here forever before you guys showed up! Weeks, perhaps months!”

The three of them exchanged looks.

“Then they won’t even have noticed something’s gone wrong, not yet. Ah, hell. But perhaps that’s good as well, we’ve meddled enough, we shouldn’t even really be here. It was strangely easy to convince Spock to do something this illegal, by the way. I’m sure there’s a rule somewhere against goin’ back in time and saving a member of yer crew. Stuff about interfering. But needless to say…”

“You all overlooked that.” Jim smiled, feeling touched.

Scotty smiled back. “Sure did, Jim. We’re a family.”

The words almost made Jim sigh happily, sappy or not. “We are. So, you have a shuttle?”

“Hidden, near the city, waiting ter take us straight back to th’ portal. We jist have to find a way to get out of here and out of the city, up into the hills. Which will be the hard part, I am guessing.”
Jim snorted. “You can say that again. My first mission will be to get you out of this cell, at least, so you don’t get even sicker than you already are. With Khan’s permission. I’ll manage that somehow. We’ll see from there.”

“You’ve not given up, then, Jim. That’s good ter see. That he didn’t break yer spirit. But do be careful, this version of him seems to be even more short-tempered. How young is he here, exactly?”

“Only twenty-seven, and I think that, whether he wants to admit it to himself or not, he likes my spirit. He tried to break me in the beginning, but I think he’s stopped and only tries to keep me under control enough so I don’t do anything really stupid. But I think he likes the banter every now and then.”

“Ah, Jim, ye wouldn’t be yerself without your stupid actions, or yer banter. Ask Spock, ask Leonard. Hell, ask that guy who presided over your hearing at the academy, what was his name?”

Jim let out a short bark of laughter. He knew the man had tried to cheer him up a little, and it had actually worked.

“Thanks a lot, Scotty.”

Jim tried to make himself more comfortable between the cold, hard floor and the cold, hard wall in his thin clothes.

Even though he should probably have used the time to talk as much as he could, find out as much as he could, he could not keep his eyes open. And what else was there to discuss, anyway? He knew he would never bust them out of here, he had to work with Khan to get them upstairs. Everything else could wait.

“I’m sorry you guys, mind if I close my eyes for a bit? I’m really exhausted.”

“Sure, Jim. Guess we’ll be here when you wake up,” Scotty sighed, and settled in for the night as well, with the young Russian next to him.

 

The next morning, Khan came back for Jim just after breakfast. He found him shivering and half awake; Jim had not slept well, which was no surprise. The Augment, on the other hand, looked better rested than he had these last few weeks, and his mood was dangerously good.

“Learnt your lesson, James?”

“I guess,” Jim answered, keeping it brief. Khan’s mood could be weird in the morning, and it was a wonder that nothing worse had happened to him yet.

“I doubt that, to be honest.”

Without further delay, Khan opened the cell and pulled Jim to his feet. He only managed to nod at his friends before Khan shoved him forward. They did not say a word.

“I know humans can only stand so much, so this was your only night down here. Be thankful,” Khan murmured in his ear while guiding him back upstairs, again, with one hand on his shoulder.

Jim only hummed, but it seemed Khan had not expected an answer anyway.

“You’ll have breakfast, a shower and a change of clothes. And after that, you’ll come to my office.”

“Your… your office?” Jim asked, perplexed. He had thought they were through with this. “I thought Derya would attend to you again, from now on?”

“I don’t want you there to wait on me. I’m just not done with your lesson. You have half an hour.”

Khan turned away and went upstairs, while Jim’s brain went into overdrive to figure out what Khan had planned for him this time. He had not even been in his office until now, he had only waited outside during the time as Khan’s personal attendant. And, not done with his lesson? Well, if it was in his office, it could not be that bad, surely?

After Jim had had breakfast, had showered, and then changed his clothes as ordered, he went up to Khan’s office and knocked. He was called in after a few seconds.

Khan was sitting behind his desk as Jim came in, but got up after just a few seconds.

“Take off your tunic and your trousers. Keep your underwear on.”

Now Jim felt completely confused, but he obeyed. If Khan wanted to take him, surely he would have done so in his bedroom, or he would at least not have specifically said to keep his pants on? But the Augment did not even pay Jim much attention while he undressed, he only rummaged around in some drawers, before he emerged from behind the desk. In his hands, he was holding something that looked like a flat, narrow, long piece of cloth or leather, not thick or strong enough to be a belt. For a moment, Jim thought Khan would hit him with it.

“Hands behind your back, held horizontally.”

Again, Jim complied, asking himself once again what the hell was going on.

The Augment bound Jim’s forearms together so that he had to keep them crossed. Then he pulled him by his upper arm until he stood in front of the window, and let go.

“Kneel.”

Khan sounded calm and collected, as if he was giving Jim instructions on how much water his potted plants needed. Jim had learnt to mistrust that tone, but again, complied and knelt on the floor, somewhat shakily since he did not have his hands to steady himself. To his surprise, Khan then turned around and went back to his desk, ignoring him completely. He only sat down and started to work, shuffling papers, reading, writing things down. Getting more and more confused by the minute, Jim tried to wriggle into a more comfortable position, but just then, Khan’s head snapped up.

“No no, you will sit still. If you move, you will only sit there longer, do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

After a minute, it finally dawned on Jim what the point of this was. Like most floors in the palace, the one he was kneeling on was tiled, and as he looked down, he realised he was kneeling in the middle of a huge, beautiful mosaic, crafted from tiny blue, red and yellow mosaic tiles not bigger than a fingernail.

And they hurt like hell.

They had been harmless at first, and had he been allowed to move at all, he could probably have endured to sit here for a while. But since he wasn’t, their sharp edges were starting to bite into the skin on his knees, shins, and the tops of his feet, since he was sitting on his heels. As soon as Jim had fully understood, it instantly hurt twice as much, and he grunted involuntarily.

Khan said nothing, but Jim caught the bastard smirking.

The minutes crawled by. There was a whole array of clocks on the walls, all showing different time zones, and every single one of them seemed to be mocking him. After twenty minutes, Jim’s knees and legs were burning, and his shoulders were beginning to hurt. Pressing his lips firmly together, Jim tried to breathe evenly and not make a sound, but every intake of air had gone from shaky to laboured by the time half an hour was over. At forty-five minutes, he was moaning quietly, unable to hold it back anymore.

“A little goes a long way, doesn’t it?” Khan asked rather smugly, looking up from his work. “You are stunning. Last time I saw your nostrils flare like this you were fighting me in bed. I’ve missed it.”

Jim only grunted in reply, biting his lips. His body was bathed in sweat by now, and his position by the window, through which the sun was streaming in, was not helpful there. It had been raining in the early morning hours, and the humidity mixed with the hot sun was getting to him. After an hour, Jim was about ready to collapse. How much longer would he have to endure this?

By then, Jim had given up sitting straight and was basically leaning on his upper thighs, so he did not notice right away when Khan got up and sauntered over like the smug asshole that he was.

“If you want it to stop, all you have to do is ask. Nicely.”

Jim managed to lift his head and turn it so he could see Khan’s face. He was grinning.

“Say ‘please, sir’.”

At the sight of Khan’s glee, Jim had to bite back a whole lot of unfriendly words and chose to say nothing. He had learnt this would be better for him.

“I always liked that you’re a feisty one, with so much pride. But even you can’t go on forever. You won’t even last another hour.”

“Yeah?” Jim bit out.

“There he is, the cheeky boy. And trust me, I know. Not long now and you’ll beg.”

“Don’t you have stuff to do?” Jim groaned, shaking his head to get his sweat-soaked hair out of his eyes. He could feel perspiration trickling down his spine.

“This sight here makes me want to do you first…”

“Thanks, I’ll pass.”

“... but I won’t.”

“So this is what you do instead, now that you don’t want me in your bed anymore?” Jim panted.

Khan hummed. “I never said that I don’t want you. But I thought you’d appreciate me leaving your body intact… more or less. Are you complaining?”

“Ah… at the moment I’m not really sure. At least your bed is soft.” Holy shit, his kneecaps felt like they were on fire!

Khan chuckled next to him and crouched down. “Your cheek is still intact. Good.”

“Yeah, I know you love me for it,” Jim hissed, pissed off about the Augment’s jovial tone.

Khan got up and circled him, touching his aching, damp shoulders. “It has become increasingly hard to concentrate on my work, ever since you’ve started moaning, you know?”

“Feel free to send me away, then, sir.”

The Augment only laughed, and sat down in a chair close to Jim.

“Come, ask for it,” he said in a low, persuasive voice. “Ask for it and I will send you away. You are not doing yourself any favours.”

Months ago, Jim would have spit at Khan’s feet as an answer, but now he knew better. He decided to keep playing nice and make Khan happy; Khan loved winning, so he’d let him. With that thought in mind, it was quite a bit easier not to see himself as the loser of this game.

While Khan got up to go back to his desk, Jim took a few more laboured breaths, and then let his shoulders slump, lowering his head. Just before Khan sat down again, Jim spoke up.

“Please, sir, allow me to stop.”

The Augment stopped in his tracks and came back, looking down on Jim.

“You may stop,” he said, very gently.

Jim let out a relieved groan, and, knowing he would never be able to get up, just let himself fall to the side as careful as he could manage. He groaned again when the blood finally shot back into his legs, and he tried to slowly stretch them out, which also hurt. Everything hurt.

Now I think you’ve learnt your lesson. You may go now.”

Jim rolled over onto his back, groaning. “Permission to catch my breath first, your royal highness,” he panted.

“Granted,” Khan replied, sitting in a chair close to him, staring.

Slightly annoyed, Jim looked up at the Augment. “Enjoying yourself?”

The other man merely nodded, looking very entertained and smug indeed.

Jim laid his head back on the floor, feeling exhausted. Something kept tugging on his mental sleeve. He let his eyes wander back to the Augment without moving. Khan definitely had enjoyed himself, had enjoyed the whole show, Jim’s pain, and his surrender… But unlike in the past, he had not inflicted the pain himself, he had not done this in bed, he had not acted on his very obvious desire to take his human - the hunger in Khan’s eyes was enough to guess at what he would have liked to do to Jim, he had said that he wanted to take him.

But he had not.

Whyever not?

Was he still too tired? That was unlikely, Khan was as lively today as he had not been in weeks. A strange new loyalty to his favourite? Just as unlikely; Khan took what he wanted, when he wanted it, there was no reason to deny himself any pleasures…

Unless… Khan had mentioned twice now that he thought Jim would appreciate this, his trying to be nicer, less demanding, less violent. Could it be that, now that Khan knew Jim had not been born one of his subjects, had the Augment accepted that Jim was not… his? It was obvious that Khan was still very much interested, and yet he had left him alone more and more.

If his guess was indeed right, Jim should have been thrilled. And a part of him was definitely relieved. But another part of him reminded him of what Khan had said to him time and time again at the beginning: that all he needed him for was his body and his pretty face. And what else was there Jim could offer Khan for his friends’ relocation? He had made it very clear that that was all he wanted him for, that he was practically worthless if he was not available for sex.

So what Jim had to do now, whether he liked it or not, was to make sure he was available, and that Khan would still accept his trade, even if he had - miraculously - indeed decided against taking advantage of Jim. This time, though, Jim was taking advantage of Khan as well, so that made him feel at least a little better. He had been playing with this thought for a while, but only now did it become apparent to Jim just how much of an effort he would have to put into this, probably far beyond just surprising Khan once in bed.

This sucked . This whole plan sucked massively . But Jim was fresh out of both ideas and time. He reminded himself that one of humanity’s most amazing abilities was the ability to adapt for survival. He just had to come up with the right approach, for Khan and himself.

 

Jim knew it would not be easy, doing something that was going so very much against his nature. But the Augment had been in a better mood these last few days, he wouldn’t get a better chance.

He waited until it was late one evening, and Derya and he were being dismissed. When Derya slipped out of the door, Jim remained behind. He waited until Khan noticed him; he knew the Augment would appreciate it more if he did not speak first. At last, Khan looked up and frowned slightly. Jim could see a flicker of the tiredness and a lot of annoyance in his eyes; so he was better, but not nearly well, or otherwise this slip of control would not have happened.

“I said you could leave.”

Jim decided to put on a charming smile. “This once, I’d rather not.”

Gottcha! He could see the other man was intrigued, even though he was still frowning. Khan had not expected this.

The Augment seemed to try for patience. “Is there something you wish to discuss with me?”

“Indeed, there is,” Jim said, trying not to sound insolent.

Khan shifted, and Jim prepared himself for a rebuke, but the other man only nodded after a few moments, closed his book, put it on the nightstand, sitting up straighter in his bed and crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Go on, then.”

“May I come over and sit?”

Khan nodded, and Jim sauntered over and sat cross-legged by the bed.

“I have a proposal for you.”

“Yes, what is it?” Khan asked abrasively. He seemed impatient, but Jim would not be deterred this easily.

“You know, it’s taken me the better part of my time here, but I think I finally know what you want,” Jim opened boldly. It wasn’t even just a phrase; he really had thought long and hard about this.

Khan cocked his head to the side, obviously perplexed. Evidently, he had not expected this either.

“And what is that?”

This was where he’d have to take a leap of faith. Jim knew from Derya that despite his being back in Khan’s bed, nothing much had happened. He also knew there had been no concubines. After Jim had noticed the man’s too obvious tiredness for the first time, he had seen it more clearly, more often. It had been at its worst just before Derya had returned; Khan did seem to feel better lately, the manic, haunted look was not as prominent in his eyes now, but still there. Perhaps he was just better at masking how he really felt now that he seemed more at ease thanks to the young slave. Be that as it may, from what Jim knew, it was not normal for Khan to spend his nights sleeping chastely, and there, Jim thought he saw the opportunity he had been waiting for. He knew this whole plan was basically insane, but he had to try, for Scotty and Chekov. He could do this. He’d done worse.

“Seen any of your concubines lately?”

Khan narrowed his eyes at him. “None of your business.”

“Thought so. I keep asking myself - if you refuse everyone else, would you still want me ?”

“I think I’ve made it quite clear from the beginning how much I want you. It’s no secret,” the Augment admitted readily, though he still sounded cross.

“And yet you’ve not taken me to bed in weeks,” Jim probed.

Khan grunted in annoyance and swung his legs down from the bed so he was looking at Jim directly, bending down until their faces were level. “I am beginning to lose patience, James, what is your point? What do you think you have discovered that I want?”

Jim sat up, shifting to his knees and leaning forward, closer to Khan, trying to ignore his fear that the Augment might strike him. “My point is that you are sick and tired of having to force or order people to be with you and do everything yourself. That’s why you have certainly not seen your concubines these last few weeks. You are bored by them. You are tired of having dutiful slaves in your bed. You want to be wanted, you need volunteers. And perhaps also someone who does something for a change, instead of lying there like a starfish. I could imagine that is… exhausting for you.” Jim could see he had hit a nerve but that it was one he would have to be careful with. Suggesting to Khan too bluntly that he was weak would not do.

Khan exhaled slowly, seemingly trying to control his anger. “Your point being ?”

“I can give you that.”

At that, the Augment laughed, abrupt and without mirth. “You of all people?”

“Yes,” Jim said earnestly. “Let me show you what I can do, what I can give. Leave the reins to me, lean back and let yourself enjoy what you are given… just for a bit. You won’t be disappointed.” Jim stared into the other man’s eyes to show he meant it and fought down his self-hate. Khan would notice and then he’d be in trouble.

Khan snorted, not even trying to hide his contempt. “Why should I let you? Why should I allow such outrageous things?”

Jim gave his answer promptly. He was prepared for any question he had been able to anticipate. “You were curious when I mentioned I’m a great lover, were you not? Let me show you, then,” Jim purred. He was not going to give up so fast, he had known this would not be easy. “Let me show you all the things you’ve been missing out on. I am better than anyone you’ve had, I bet I am. I’ll make you feel alive for a change. As I said, I know what I’m doing.”

Khan cocked his head to the side and crossed his arms in front of his chest again, giving him a suspicious look. “That doesn’t sound like your usual self. In case you forgot: you are one of the people I had to force. Why the change of heart? What’s in it for you? If you’re prepared to do something like that, you’ll want something from me for it, and don’t deny it.”

Jim rather hoped this question meant Khan was taking the bait. The other man was understandably sceptical, but again, Jim had taken his time to plan this. He was sure he could handle this.

So he decided to be blunt with his request. Lying was useless anyway. “I don’t deny it. I want my friends to be allowed out of the cells. Send them to some secure room upstairs if you have to. Down there, in the dark and damp and cold, they might die or get even sicker than they already are.”

Khan grinned, though it looked hollow somehow. “I really don’t care about their health.”

I do,” Jim answered with emphasis. “If it’s nothing to you, it should be easy to consent to my terms. If you’d allow that, I’d be very thankful. And I would show you, and not like one of your trained puppets.”

The Augment stared at Jim for a few long minutes, thinking, obviously, but the fact that he was contemplating Jim’s suggestion was a good sign in itself. In any case, he had not said no, he had not shouted at Jim for offering such a trade, and had not thrown him out.

Then Khan smiled. “James, James. I would never have thought you’re capable of such an unsavoury proposal. I thought you think of yourself as a man of honour?”

“There is nothing honourable about sacrificing one’s friends instead of one’s pride. If you agree and they don’t die as a result of that, I’ll gladly play whore for you.”

Khan made the nasty face Jim knew so well from their beginnings. “You’ve been doing that for months, ever since you came here. At the beginning, all I heard from you was ‘get the hell away from me’, pet, but you were my whore all the same. And now you tell me you’ll volunteer your… prowess and expertise?”

Jim would not let himself be irritated, but smiled instead. “Change of priorities.” And if that wasn’t the understatement of the year. No, he could not let himself think about how much he should not want this, it would not make things any easier for him.

The explanation seemed to be enough for Khan. He leaned back on the bed. “Hmmm. I will admit, I am curious about these… abilities you seem to think you have.”

Jim could see the Augment was very much intrigued; all the annoyance was gone from his eyes, he even seemed less tired, as if Jim had woken him from a stupor just with his proposal. Jim’s heart leapt at the sight of the very alert Augment. At least this part of his plan was working. The next smile he gave Khan was not as forced as the first one; the feeling of having a little bit of power in this game was indeed sweet.

“Well, then let me show you. But you have to let me . This will only work if I can be confident that you’ll let me… work my magic on you.” Jim was careful to pair this remark with a flippant grin and a sultry look.

Khan snorted again, but softer this time. “You do think very highly of yourself, don’t you? But tell me one last thing: you said I wanted volunteers, that I want to be wanted. We both know you don’t really want me, and I know you are too intelligent to think I would fall for it if you pretended in earnest that you do want me. How does that detail fit into your little game?”

Jim grinned and shuffled slightly closer to the bed, actually straightening his back enough so he could hover just below Khan’s face, just this side of respectless but also somewhat playful.

“That’s exactly why I will not even try to lie to you. We both know this will be a game, but I reckon it’s a game we’d be both spectacular at. I’ve been around the block enough to know that sex can be enjoyable even with people who don’t mean much to you, and I think you have, too. I believe we are both experts in that art, although we come from completely different backgrounds. I won’t pretend I’ve made a u-turn and adore you now.” Jim let his eyes flicker to Khan’s lips, then down his torso, and with a look into his eyes made sure the Augment had gotten the meaning alright. “There are far less alluring adversaries than you, and if you promise not to hurt me this can be beneficial for both of us. We would both get what we want - I get my friends out of your dungeon and a chance to prove my worth to you without having to be afraid, and you… you’ll get your mind blown, something I believe does not happen to you often enough.”

Jim leaned even closer, letting his breath ghost over Khan’s naked skin near his throat, and noticed with no small amount of satisfaction that the Augment shivered slightly. Jim could almost hear the other’s heartbeat accelerate. This was good. It gave him more power, and let him feel better. Jim had not been sure at first whether or not he would be able to convince himself to go through with this, but one of the main reasons why he had hated to do his duty in the past had been fear. He was not afraid now, he was actually confident that Khan would not push him away or punish him. He could not explain it to himself, but for the moment, his fear of Khan was gone, and all he felt was the certainty that this time, the Augment would follow his lead.

“So are you interested, or are you not? Your highness?” he added, for good measure, though he had the feeling Khan could have cared less at the moment. The Augment seemed mesmerized by all of this, and Jim had a hunch as to the reason why; Khan was not used to flirting, or people literally coming onto him. This might well be the first time this happened to him; Khan was old in many ways, but in terms of situations like this, he was nowhere near his twenty-seven years of age. Jim had practically based his plan on this fact.

“Well… I am intrigued, I’ll admit,” the Augment said slowly, eyeing Jim up with a look that told him he now took him seriously for the first time in this conversation. “Even though I am also a bit shocked by your insolence.”

Jim gave the other man a lopsided smile. “Oh come on, you wanted me for my wildness, it’s what made me interesting to you in the first place. You don’t actually want me docile, you were the happiest when I challenged you. Battling is better for you than winning, because you usually win, easily, and that is boring for you… now that you know me , at least.”

Jim dared to prop his hands up on the bed between Khan’s legs, without actually touching him. Finally, the other man’s eyes took on an openly hungry quality.

“I present the only bit of challenge, in contrast to your other bed-slaves, am I right? I can do things to you that others would not dream of doing, I say things they’d never dare to say. Think about it, and tell me I’m wrong. ”

He watched a whole range of emotions flit across the man’s features, and the one it settled on encouraged him further.

“So… will you just lie back and leave everything to me tonight? No keeping me or even yourself in line, no pleasantries, no nothing. Just a good, honest round of hate-sex.”

This was it, the thing he had to make Khan believe, the thing he had to make himself believe, too. That was what it would be. No mock display of romance, no false pretenses of liking each other. Just sex. It had taken himself some time to come to terms with this.

It seemed to have taken Khan a lot less time to fall for the idea; for a moment, Jim thought he saw something like triumph gleam in Khan’s eyes at the words, though he did seem to try and hide it.

Oh no, you don’t. This would not do.

Fuck it.

Jim leaned forward, brought a hand to the nape of Khan’s neck to hold him in place, and kissed him hard.

Chapter Text

It would have been a lie to say Khan was not shocked, even after all the words and moves leading up to this point. For the shortest moment, all thoughts seized, he felt his own eyes widen marginally, and his brain stood still.

Admittedly, James kissing was all he had wished it would be. He had wanted James to be active in bed from the very beginning, and this was the chance, he just had to take it. When James had started this conversation, the Augment had been perplexed and contemplating whether or not to punish James for his presumptuous behaviour, though admittedly that thought had been short-lived, and had basically imploded the second their lips met.

So he held against the kiss, not relinquishing command, but fighting a silent battle against the human, acutely aware that he did not actually want to win this time. A draw would do.

No matter what James might have thought, Khan was very aware of how he was being manipulated here, but the price the man had named was, in truth, positively tiny compared to what he’d gain. Letting James’ friends out of the damp basement and relocating them - it was the easiest thing, and had more or less been on his list anyway. He had no wish to kill the two humans, but James did not need to know that. Ever since he had heard the audio recording from the evening when James had found the window to the cell, and then the one from the night the man had spent down there, Khan had known something like this proposition was coming. It had been so ridiculously easy to spy on James that he had asked himself more than once why someone as intelligent as the man seemed to not have figured out that his conversation with his friends had in no way been private. The recording device had been in place ever since the day that James had been allowed out of his room again, and Khan had learnt so much, especially from the second tape where the men talked about shuttles and plans of escape. And he had had enough time to think about James’ wish to have the men moved to a different room. There was really no reason to deny him that. The ‘price’ was not the thing that kept Khan’s mind busy in this moment.

However, coming to terms with this exchange of power that James had suggested, lying back, letting someone take the lead in his bed, that was not as easy for him, no matter if James counted as a real slave or not, he could not simply strike a wager with such a man. Well, not usually. However…

The human was still kissing him, with a self-confidence and fervour others admittedly lacked. It was a very good show, though Khan could see through it. The good thing was, they were both fully aware that this was a game, and yet it didn't make the kiss any less exciting.

The strategist in him had to compliment James on his timing; Khan’s armour was worn thin these days, he was tired, and sick of keeping up his defenses, which had been seriously crumbling since that particular night with Derya.  He was not weak , however. So before he could let this continue, he had to put this straight between them. He freed himself from James’ sly lips and held the man at a short distance.

“If I grant your wish, then not as an exchange, but a reward , and it remains between the two of us . You’re not to tell anyone about this, not even Derya, do you understand?”

“Yes,” James said, without any hesitation, then smiled.

The human did not wait for a command or permission, but got up and slid onto Khan’s lap shamelessly - at least this once he was smiling, and Khan could almost believe that smile was real. James was an amazing actor when he wanted to be.

The man leaned in again, brushing his nose against Khan’s before he kissed him, first softly, then more firmly, and his hands glided over Khan’s back, up and down his arms, his chest. Although he was still fully dressed, it felt way too good, and it had been far too long since the last time. He did not usually allow these things. But it seemed there was no such thing as the “usual” with James. At the moment, he didn’t give a fuck about “usual”.

He smiled crookedly into the kiss. He was actually curious what it would be like, to just do nothing for the first time in his sex life. He’d let James try to impress him in order to earn his reward, and have this moment of respite from having to control everything, including the man and himself. Also, he wanted to see what James had planned and what he would do. All in all, the scenario was just far too interesting to say no. Telling himself that helped soothe the animal in him that always fought for control.

When James gently pushed him down onto the bed, he let himself fall willingly, and felt strangely thrilled about being handled like this. The other man knelt over him, hands propped up next to Khan’s head, in a position that might have felt predatory to a lesser man, but it only made Khan’s pulse quicken with anticipation, so much so that he felt it down to his fingertips, and asked himself whether the human's perception was good enough to see it under his skin. It certainly felt like he should have.

“So, do we have a deal?” the human asked cheekily and smiled. “You won’t hurt me and you'll move my friends to another room where they’re more comfortable, and in return I’ll show you what a lot of promiscuous experience looks like.”

Khan inclined his head and showed James a dirty grin. “Yes. We have a deal.”

James smiled again, and leaned forward, but he did not go for Khan’s lips this time. Instead, he worked his way along the jawline with little nips and kisses, biting the earlobe when he got to it, and then sank his teeth into his neck before sucking the skin there, hard.

Khan let out an involuntary sigh and closed his eyes to be able to concentrate better on the sensations. He could feel the tiniest bit of stubble on James’ cheek, a hand on his nape, could feel the fingers tightening a little on his skull while James worked his way down the side of his neck until the high collar of the shirt stopped him from going any further. All the while, James’ other hand roamed the front of Khan's body. Suddenly aware of how tense he was, the Augment ordered his muscles to relax. A small, beastly part of Khan wanted to shove the man away, but another part - namely the one connected to his cock - desperately wanted him to go on. James’ hands seemed to be everywhere and yet never where he needed them, and the more they touched, the more starved for touch he felt.

Just as he realised that, James stopped and looked up. He was frowning, looking at the places he’d just worked on. Khan bit back a growl at the interruption.

“You don’t fucking bruise. Figures. Or do I just need to go harder on you? I’d really like to see a few marks on that pale skin of yours,” he murmured, and for once, Khan had no idea what to say to that, he was so baffled by the man’s frankness. It had not even entered his mind that the human was trying to mark him like that, but found the idea… well, not as repulsive as he should have. He was curious how far the other would go.

James did not seem to expect an answer. He just kept talking.

“I’ll need you to be a little more naked for the next bit, your highness.”

Khan had to admit, James was good at this. He knew the purr he was using only too well, he used it himself often enough. It made the hairs on Khan's arms stand up, to hear James talk and sound like this. He had not expected to like it.

Again, the man did not wait for Khan to respond, but started to peel him out of his silk shirt very slowly, popping each button carefully and following his hands with his mouth across naked skin. The Augment jumped a bit when the other man’s tongue dipped into his belly button, and he looked down to make sure he did not miss anything James was doing. With the last button open, James folded back the midnight blue silk, and Khan felt a thrill at the sight, of the kind he had never known. Nobody had ever undressed him like this, and although this was just his shirt, he could feel a rush of excitement run over his skin like an electric current when James merely knelt there for a moment, looking him over like he was some girl he was seeing naked for the first time, not a superior being he had seen and serviced quite often already. There was silent admiration in James’ gaze, though, and Khan allowed himself to bask in it; he knew he was beautiful, but it was rare that others confirmed it so openly, even if it was with their eyes. Against his instincts, he was in the role of the observer, so his hands twitched in an attempt to stay unmoving as James let his palms glide over the hard muscles, his abdomen, his chest, and those hands splayed out over Khan’s collarbones, circling back…

Another involuntary sigh escaped Khan’s lips when James pinched his nipples, thumbed them softly for a moment, and then pinched them again, harder. The glide of nimble fingertips on his sensitive skin felt soothing and exciting at the same time, and he felt desire creep through his veins like liquid fire and pool in his groin. His hips bucked up, his cock seeking friction, but James was still kneeling over him, his hips out of reach - well, not quite out of reach…

Unable to keep still any longer, Khan grabbed them and pulled James towards him, but in that moment, the caresses on his chest seized, and the other man propped his hands up left and right, trying to lock his body into place like a mule.

“No!” James protested. “Just let me fucking work here!” He glowered at him.

Khan glowered back, and growled. “Fine, but get a move on!”

To his surprise, James smiled. “Good things come to those who wait. You don’t have any patience! We’ll get there, and it’ll be worth it, trust me, just let me do my fucking job. Try to relax a bit, and leave this to me. Try feeling instead of moving, for once in your life.”

While he was talking, James resumed the caresses, and on his last words, took his now sensitive nipples between his fingers and tweaked them, hard enough to make it smart more than just a little this time.

Khan arched his back, letting his head fall back into the pillow, groaning quietly. James let up after a few seconds, but leaned down right away, and Khan felt his breath hitch when he saw and felt James’ lips close around his left nipple. His tongue caressed the little nubs alternately, and the pinching fingers that compensated for the feeling as soon as it vanished, only to reappear on the other side, sent jolts of pleasure through his body. He had rarely done this to partners, and had never felt the sensation for himself. He had not thought it possible, but the feeling of the softly swirling, hot, wet tongue on his nipples shot right to his core, and he became acutely aware of his straining, neglected cock. If only he could persuade James to come closer! But if he just dragged him down, the other man might stop what he was doing, and deal or not, Khan did not want to ruin James’ fervour by being too harsh… yet. Perhaps if…

He let his own hands wander up the other man’s thighs, taking care to be gentle, just as James switched sides on his chest. Up, up to the firm behind he reached, stroking it, letting his hands wander across the lower back, always taking care not to appear too demanding. James let him do it, even hummed appreciatively, and flicked his tongue across the sensitive little nub in his mouth before scraping it with his teeth. The moist, tickling feeling made Khan let out a harsh breath. Gently, very gently, he tugged on James’ hips again, just a short press of the hands against still-clothed skin, to show, to ask for what he wanted. And this time, James complied, lowering his body at last, and sat squarely across Khan’s lap. Not many had ever been in this position; James felt positively heavy, but it was a welcome weight, comforting and grounding, somehow, and it put a good amount of pressure and heat right where he wanted it. Khan could not help but move his hips at least a little; controlling that urge was hard, he felt like a horse held back by the bridle, ready to dash forward at the slightest touch.

“James...” he moaned, flexing his hips a little more vigorously this time.

James bit down hard on his chest, making Khan cry out and rise from his pillows for a moment, before James pushed him back down decidedly.

He clucked his tongue at him. “Your majesty . So eager.”

His tone was mocking, but Khan almost did not care, his brain was busy handling all the input of this whole scenario, the pressure of another body against his clothed cock, the strange yet enjoyably painful sensation on his nipples, where James’ hands had set to work again, and the suction on his neck, where the man was now applying his lips once more. It was not an exaggeration to say that he had never in his life felt like this, but the feeling itself defied any definition. It was almost unsettling in its novelty, its intensity , its profoundness. It went against his nature, but he still wanted more, more of the self-confident touches, more of James’ tongue, his teeth, on his chest, on his groin, everywhere .

“James!” he whispered, more urgently now, and with a hint of annoyance. “You know that patience is not one of my strong suits,” he said, trying to ignore the skilled teeth on his neck enough so that he could talk. “There’s only so much that I can handle, and I’ve gone more than a few days without… You don’t want to test - oh!”

There was a sudden surge of pain and a spike of arousal through his whole being. He could feel James had broken some blood vessels on the side of his neck this time. The blond man straightened up, regarding his work with a smug smile.

“There, finally. It looks good on you. Brings out your eyes.”

Khan snorted, finding again that he was not nearly annoyed enough by this respectless attitude. He brought a hand to the spot, felt the slightly elevated skin temperature. There was no wound on the surface, but he could feel it was a bruise, and not a small one.

“You injured me,” he said, more astonished than mad. That was quite a feat after all.

James only cocked his head to the side and smiled sweetly. “Please. That’s not an injury for you. And don’t forget that I know you liked it.” He gyrated his hips lazily, still smiling, putting more pressure on his cock, which had certainly jumped just as much as Khan himself had. “I could feel how much you liked it. Speaking of which…” He scooted backwards and plucked on Khan’s trousers. “I think a little more nakedness is in order again. Give me your clothes.”

James shifted, until he was kneeling on the bed with only one leg, and held out a hand. Khan, too, sat up, slipped the shirt off his shoulders and got rid of his trousers and underwear - slightly disappointed that it was not James taking them off - handing all of it to the other man, who took them away into the closet. He was back only a few seconds later, shedding his own clothes more carelessly on the way to the bed, chucking them vaguely in the direction of the door. When he slipped off his underwear, Khan could not help but notice the state James was in, or not in, as it were. The lie, the game, only went so far, of course. Khan decided then that he would change that; he wanted James hard, it was a sight too beautiful, too arousing to go without it tonight.

He sat there, one leg drawn up, leaning on it with his elbow, waiting for James to return to the bed, and watched James’ muscles move under the tanned skin as he walked around it to fetch the oil. It had been a while since he had consciously noticed what an attractive man James was, and it stirred his blood just a bit more. He had never owned a purely male, masculine bed slave before James, only women, and Derya, who, lovely as he was, still looked quite feminine.

James, however, was very different, a man in every way. Khan found himself captivated by the silhouette of the well-toned chest, the smooth ripple of muscles along the blond’s upper thighs when he turned to the basin in the corner and bent forward to remove the plug he had used for preparation. He felt his muscles twitch at the little sigh James let out. When the man finally sauntered back to the bed, he just stood there for a moment, staring at Khan, meeting his gaze head-on. It was almost unnerving - since it was forbidden to look him in the eye, it often felt both unfamiliar and exciting when people did it anyway - and he was just about to ask what James was waiting for, when the other man took up the bottle of oil he had left on the nightstand, and, without looking away from Khan’s eyes, rubbed some on his hands and reached for his own cock, and Khan felt the hair on the nape of his neck stand up. Obviously, James would continue to give him what he wanted without him having to say anything.

The man stroked himself leisurely, still watching Khan’s every reaction with a cool smirk, as if he was not an aroused predator, sitting not two arm’s lengths away. Khan had to grab his own cock to relieve some of the desperate want he felt bubbling up at the sight of James pleasuring himself, and squeezed it, feeling stickiness on his fingertips. It took all his strength to keep his hand still, now that he finally had some friction where he needed it most, it was tempting to just keep going. He could see James growing hard in his own hand, just as he had hoped, and had to let go of himself after all, or there would be no going back.

At last, James moved onto the bed, cock in one hand, oil in the other, and straddled Khan’s hips again, though now that they were both naked, it felt even better. Khan could feel the body heat more intensely, he was acutely aware of his surroundings, the smell of their bodies, sweat, soap, arousal, the wet and silky sounds of body fluids being smeared across skin, his own, by now aching hardness, the throbbing in his bitten nipples, the sensation along his shaft where James’ groin touched his own. He shivered, embarrassingly.

“Let me just take the edge off,” James whispered in a throaty voice, and positioned himself so that their cocks were touching. This sight, as well, made Khan feel pathetic with want, and he even let James shove his hand aside carelessly when the blond encircled their erections with both hands.

“That’s not going to satisfy me,” Khan remarked, somewhat relieved that his voice sounded not as needy as he felt, but almost moody.

“I know,” the other man replied lightly. “I said take the edge off. Don’t worry. I’ll fuck you in a minute. I just want to stay in one piece when it’s time for that.” A vicious smile spread across James’ face. “You liked that. Didn’t you? Me saying that I’ll fuck you?” James squeezed Khan’s treacherous cock for a second, making the Augment gasp. “Because I will, you know?”

“Don’t… overdo it, James, you’re doing so well. Don’t get overzealous,” Khan breathed.

James nodded shortly, but did not otherwise respond, perhaps aware that even though Khan was an enthusiastic part of this for now, there were still boundaries. Instead of teasing him further, James busied himself with the oil, adding more to his hands and between them, until they were both slick and Khan was about ready to overpower James and just take what he needed. He had never had to exercise so much patience in his own bed. But James really was doing rather well. He’d try to wait as long as he could manage.

Luckily, he did not have to wait too long, as James now began jerking them both off with quick strokes. Khan propped himself up on his elbows, and was trying his best to keep himself upright. His fringe had fallen into his eyes, but he was almost thankful for the tiny bit of privacy. His hips moved of their own volition, grinding up against James and his clever hands.

The blond leaned forward to kiss him, and Khan met his lips and tongue, moaning enthusiastically. Then James moved on down, to his neck, licked the bruise which was surely fading, and latched onto the other side of his throat, sucking and biting the skin hard enough to create a second bruise and make Khan moan and wish he had his hands free to grab the other man. The pain had brought him closer to completion, he only needed that certain, tiny bit more…

“I hope you’re not holding back,” James whispered into his ear, and Khan was happy to notice that he did not sound as unaffected as he might have wanted to; Khan was not the only one who was rock-hard by now, or short of breath. “Because the sooner you come, the sooner I can fuck your brains out.”

Khan turned his head to look at the other man, and crushed their lips together before James could get away, sitting up properly so he could take the blond head into his hands and hold it close. James did not try to get away; he chased Khan’s lips, breathing little moans into his mouth while he twisted and moved his hands along their cocks, nipping at Khan’s lower lip. When Khan moved his hands into the blond hair and fisted it roughly, James let out such a desperate, needy sound that it would forever be etched into Khan’s perfect memory in all its sinful glory. The familiar fire crawled through his veins, but stronger, hotter than he was used to, it burnt him like a wildfire, from the inside out, leaving only ash in its wake. For a moment, his own laboured breath was all he could hear over the rushing of blood in his ears while James stroked him through it.

When he opened his eyes, he saw the man smirking at him.

“I’m trying not to be jealous.”

There was no need to ask; a look between them confirmed they were both still hard, even though the mess spoke volumes. James had not come, and Khan was glad; he remembered human men often lost all interest in continuing once they had finished. He himself, of course, was still hard due to his enhanced organism. Briefly, he thought about telling James off, since, from his point of view, a libido as insatiable as his own was in no way a reason to be jealous; it had been a nuisance far too often.

“I told you it would not satisfy me.”

“And I told you that was not the point. But you’ll be more… manageable now.”

Before Khan could collect his thoughts enough to decide whether or not to be cross, James scooted down and started to lick the semen from the Augment’s erect member. Khan let out a shuddering breath. The predatory part of his brain that had been silent for a mere minute now started to growl again. His prick was sensitive enough after the first orgasm to send sparks of intense pleasure through his body with every touch and drag of James’ sly tongue.

James made a show of it, fingering every inch of naked skin after he had licked him clean, letting his hands glide over his torso, and back from his shoulders to his belly, then cupping the sides of his hips with his hands, thumbing the deep creases that led down to Khan’s manhood. Even if he had been a lesser man, with less stamina, he thought he might have been hard again by the time James’ hands reached his centre once more. They went away again without touching where Khan wanted it most, went back to all the places they had just been, but massaged and kneaded where on the previous round they had only caressed. Khan was now looking forward to the moment when James would reach his chest, and he closed his eyes in bliss when the other man pinched his nipples again, twisting them a little. He was not used to feeling everything so intensely. Usually, he was the one moving, the one dishing out sensations if he was in the mood, but not moving at all put so much of his focus on the sensations on his own skin that is was almost a little hard to handle all of it at once. Of course, Khan was not used to being touched all that much, especially not like this.

And James’ touches made it really very hard to lie still and do nothing! But he ordered his body not to move, instead of following the call of habit to grab and pull, and just let it happen. If this was what he’d get for it, he would never move again.

The thought was absurd, of course, but Khan did not want this to end. His head felt more and more blissfully empty, and even though he felt tired and his eyes were burning, he did not feel stressed. There was no need to finish quickly, nor - for once - any frustration about the fact that one orgasm had not been enough, no daunting prospect of having to maintain control and arrange the other body this way or that. And there was absolutely no chance of it not being enough tonight. He was fairly confident that James would satisfy him thoroughly.

The blond’s next kiss tasted of semen and was hard and unforgiving, and Khan allowed himself to simply close his eyes and revel in it. When he finally let up, James cupped his head with both hands, looking down at him with heat in his eyes, seemingly fearless. For the briefest moment, Khan remembered that, unlike with his usual conquests, he was the younger one, and James was the elder. Of course, he as the Augment was the superior, but still, the thought sent a strange little shiver through his body.

“Do you want me now?”

“Yes.”

James shifted, trapping their cocks between their bodies. Khan let out a longing breath.

“Do you want me to ride you?”

Khan could feel himself grow harder, and his skin broke out in goosebumps. He knew it was not actually a question, but he answered anyway, though in a much quieter, huskier voice than he would have liked.

“Yes.”

Khan reached for James’ behind and squeezed it for a moment, then let his hands move upwards until he could cup the other’s head and pull him down for another kiss. James let him, but bit his lip playfully after a few seconds of moaning into his mouth.

“Well, if you want me, you’ll have to help me prepare a bit more. You’ll manage that, won’t you?” James asked flippantly, and Khan glowered at him.

“You want my fingers up your arse and you’re being cocky with me?”

James leaned in for another, very filthy kiss. “What else would I be?”

Khan only sighed, trying not to smile. Indeed.

James gave him the oil and looked at him with anticipation while the Augment sat up, and James with him, so that the man was kneeling over his lap. He looked up at the blond man questioningly.

“Lie down,” Khan ordered, but James shook his head.

“No. I’ll stay right here. You can do it like this.”

Khan raised an eyebrow but said nothing. If the human wanted it like that… It was unusual, but what was not, tonight? Though Khan had to admit to himself, he quite liked the closeness this position granted. He rarely had anybody sitting on his lap like this, especially since it did not feel like James was someone inferior now. He sat there, with that certain posture that was very like the man Khan had found in the desert, as if he had occupied this spot, almost as if he was   claiming it, not because he was a tame pet. Khan asked himself why that notion kept exciting him, but it did, Khan felt it, like a warm tingling up and down his spine, every time James did something unexpected and new.

Khan slicked up his fingers, and laid his left, unoccupied hand on the back of James’ neck, while he looked straight into those blue eyes, letting his hand wander between them, not to the back but to the man’s front. James obviously got the hint; his lips twitched with a suppressed smile, and he raised himself further up on his knees, legs spread, and Khan let his right hand glide along the underside of James’ hard cock, along his balls, and behind them. When he brushed his fingers over his hole, already slick and lose from the plug, James raised his arms and linked his hands behind Khan’s neck as if he was holding on. Khan could feel the warm fingers tighten rhythmically as he slid inside, and the other man was pushing back, making his digits sink in deeper. When Khan aimed for his prostate, James moaned. The sound sent shivers down Khan’s spine and made his cock twitch. He wanted the human, he wanted him now !

“James!” he whispered urgently, beyond caring whether the look he gave the man was too much like a plea.

“Soon. One more finger. Go on - oh!”

James let out a long, low moan as the Augment inserted a third finger. It was impossible for Khan to look away from James’ open mouth, even less so as the man began to rock back and forth on his fingers. The sight was truly breathtaking, and he could feel the tight muscle around his digits, the sensitive balls resting against the palm of his hand. He carefully pressed them against James’ body, and felt a drop of precome land on his upper thigh. His cock twitched again, desperate for friction, desperate to be touched. Before he could ponder how to get some without having to let go of James in any way, he felt the man’s breath on his face, the other’s forehead on his. James was leaning into him, with his eyes closed, and his hot, panting breath burnt against Khan’s cheek.

“Try another… but please be gentle.”

The soft way the words were spoken, just as much as the words themselves, touched something in Khan. He eased his fingers out - despite the whining protest - added more oil to them, and slipped them back in, then added a fourth very slowly, very carefully, while his left hand clutched at James’ neck as if to steady him. The man moaned into his ear, obscenely loud, his hands were grasping Khan’s neck so hard that he actively had to hold against them, while James shuddered and squirmed. Khan moved his hand only minutely, he was not out to hurt this time, and James let out a continuous streak of little moans and huffs.

The human let his head rest on Khan’s shoulder, allowing for more of the strange closeness, and Khan found himself leaning forward just a bit, until he could reach James’ neck with his teeth, his tongue, his lips. He nibbled the man’s skin carefully, aware of the damage his sharp teeth could do. His aim was to provide pleasure, and it seemed he succeeded, since James inched closer to give the Augment more access to the curve between his shoulder and his neck.

Due to Khan’s arm in between them, they could not get much closer than that, but Khan wanted to, he wanted to be pressed against the human, skin on skin, feel as much of him as he possibly could, kiss him, bite him, fuck him, and see his eyes roll back into his head with the pleasure he brought him.

“James!” he said, yet again, and there was no denying now that it was no more than a needy, breathless whine. To emphasize his point, he curled his fingers inside James, swirling the pads of two of them around the man’s sweetspot.

James echoed Khan’s needy whine, and, with a sudden, urgent movement, disentangled himself from Khan, shoving away both of the Augment’s hands and sitting back on his legs. They stared at each other for a moment, and Khan was glad - euphoric even - to see his own hunger reflected in James’ eyes, his own heavy breathing mirrored when his eyes darted to the other’s - rather comely - heaving chest. The look suited him very well.

Khan let his hands fall to his sides while James picked up the oil and, with slick fingers, gripped the Augment’s manhood once more, but this time only for a few seconds. He almost expected the man to say something, but James merely sat up, reached behind himself to grab Khan’s hard prick and held it steady as he sank down on it.

The Augment’s breath hitched for a second, the feeling of tightness was so amazing around his cock, and he put his hands on James’ hips while he tried to keep his composure. He pulled him closer, and the man keened when Khan sank in deeper. James leant forward to kiss the Augment again, and in the process bit his lips, first carefully as if to gauge Khan’s reaction, but then more firmly, and Khan found he wanted James to go on, to bite him harder . Then the taste of blood filled his mouth, his own; James had bitten him firmly enough to break even his skin. He moaned into the man’s mouth and pushed his tongue inside, feeding his blood to the human, and James moaned back. He could feel fingernails on his shoulder blades and flexed them just so, to give James wordless permission to rake them down his back, which he did, harder than Khan had expected. The tingling of what humans would have perceived as pain made him grunt and he could feel himself twitch inside the man.

Oh yes, this was what he had hoped for, no, actually it was better than he had ever dared to expect! He closed his eyes for a moment to enjoy the sensation before he started bucking up into the human, grabbing the round bottom to pull it closer, down on his cock, and he thrust up, again, and again, and again, and instead of whimpering and trying to squirm away, James met his thrusts and moaned, his fingers now digging into Khan’s pectorals, hard, and harder with every thrust. It was obvious that James was enjoying this. Knowing that James got a kick out of both the sex and being rough with the Augment for a change, sent a thrill through Khan, as clear and sharp as the pain itself. There would be marks, and for a second, Khan wished that they would be visible for longer.

His fingernails still in Khan’s chest, James leant back, making Khan’s cock press inside him even deeper, and Khan seized the chance to stroke James’ prick leisurely as a little reward. As he had hoped, the human moved into his hand, fucking his fist as well as his cock, but slowly, slowly; the carefully timed movements of a man who knew how to make things last. Khan let his other hand travel up the human’s chest and pinched first his right, then his left nipple. James let his head fall back and moaned; obviously, Khan was not the only one who enjoyed this.

The bite wound on his lip had healed by now, but the Augment bit it open again and pulled James in for another bloody kiss. The human came willingly, he licked and sucked and bit some more until Khan felt something drip down his chin, onto his chest and run down his neck. He did not care one bit that it was him bleeding for a change, if anything, it excited him; the monster inside him always relished a bit of blood. The only important thing at the moment though, was that James’ mouth was following the trail of the blood down his throat where he bit the side of his neck, right above the bruise from earlier, latched onto the skin there, and added another mark. The Augment growled with lust and rolled his hips against the human’s arse. This felt better than anything else before had - though his memory was admittedly hazy with lust. This whole night was a maelstrom of sensations, and James was pulling him ever deeper into it, but he did not care. He had never experienced anything like this, and he was going to savour it, even if he ended up losing all control.

James squirmed on Khan’s lap, he could feel his muscles clenching around him as the human leant away from him again, hands holding onto the back of Khan’s neck. No, grabbing it; his nails were digging into his skin, and not too carefully. Khan took it as an invitation, and he grabbed James’ hips, picking them up and pushing them down again in a quick rhythm. The man cried out, but in pleasure, and let himself be manhandled for the moment. The sight made Khan’s animal side roar, and he surged forward to push James onto his back at last.

Yes, this was how it was supposed to be, his instincts told him, him on top, and whatever weaker prey below him!

Picking him up to adjust his own legs, Khan felt James’ knees on his sides, and then the heels of his feet on his spine; the man was holding him close, actually pulling him in. The Augment growled and showed his teeth in a feral grin.

“You needy whore,” he chuckled. It sounded throaty and rough.

“Just fuck me,” James bit out, and, to Khan’s surprise and delight, grinned back wolfishly. “Or is that all?” His eyes flashed.

Hissing with arousal, Khan pushed his right hand against James’ cheek so that one side of the man’s face was pressed into the sheets, half holding him down, half shutting him up. Even though it was a somewhat humiliating position, James seemed to like it, there was a throaty laugh, and his hips kept moving against the Augment’s. Hefting the man’s right leg higher, positioning it over his shoulder, Khan leant down until the stretch of the muscles made the human moan loudly. Simultaneously, James’ hands locked around Khan’s upper arms as if to push him away, but other than digging his fingernails into Khan’s flesh again, the man did not seem to want to hinder Khan, at all. In fact, he seemed quite eager now.

“There”, James moaned despite the hand holding his jaw. “Right...there! Oh!” The human did not let go of his biceps, he only dug his fingernails in deeper, his hips moving to meet his thrusts.

“Trying to tell me to go harder on you, whore?” Khan asked, trying for smug, but panting just like the human did while he kept moving. He felt his muscles strain more and more with the effort, but he welcomed it. His hand let go of James’ face to grip his hip and get more leverage. The change of angle also brought a change to the man’s reactions.

“Fuck, yes! Yes!” James moaned and gripped Khan’s behind with both hands, pulling him still closer. He was not bashful, timid or shy now, not even hostile or rejecting. His grip on Khan’s arse was bold and just short of painful, and Khan found he loved the feeling of the human’s nails digging into the skin there. Although his brain was not at its most alert at the moment, he was almost sure that James was the first to ever touch him there at all.

For the first time in his life, he experienced what it felt like to be used for pleasure; he was being fucked just as much as he was fucking James, even though he was topping. He should have been livid, but instead he wanted more of this, more pain, more blood, more heat .

“Where are your claws, pet?” he mocked, even though James’ nails were currently buried deep in his skin, almost drawing blood. “Where are your fangs? Do you like my cock in you so much that you forgot to fight me? Docile as you are now, one could think you’ll start cuddling me soon.”

James snarled underneath him and stared into his eyes with a fire that made Khan veritably shiver with anticipation.

“I can change that,” he ground out, and moved his hands up Khan’s spine, over his neck, and into his hair. There he laced his fingers through the black strands and pulled, hard.

Khan howled, and closed his eyes, savouring the new sensation. Nobody had ever had the courage to do that, so Khan was surprised how much it really hurt, and he liked it very much, even though his nature commanded him to free himself. Reflexively, Khan tried to shake him off, but James held on tight, moaning when the Augment’s hips thrashed against him. Clever little devil!

Khan purposefully thrust into the other man again, spurred on by the pain in his scalp and the moans from the human who was now pulling so hard that the Augment had to lean his head back and bare his throat. James was absolutely ruthless in what he was doing, and he was not playing around. Khan realised that when he felt the human bite down on his neck hard enough to do real damage.

He shook him off in earnest this time, briefly pinning the man down with his arms.

“Yes, come on! Show me that your fire still burns, James!” Against all instincts, Khan rolled onto his back again, taking James with him, not letting their connection break. James let out a loud, almost distressed sounding moan, but sat up almost immediately, staring down at Khan with hooded eyes, mouth hanging slightly open. “Show me that you hate me. Fuck me like you mean it!” Khan hissed at the human, rolling his hips languidly to spur him on. “Or is that all?” he echoed James’ words from earlier.

He saw his fists coming and blocked them easily, but held onto them until, as if by accident, their fingers had intertwined, and James was using them for leverage as he moved in a passionate rhythm on Khan’s lap.

“Oh god, yes… Yes, yes that’s it! God, you’re so big,” the human mumbled, and shifted tentatively, trying to find an even better position. To Khan’s delight, he kept moving, and moaning, obscenely, and when he found the right spot, Khan heard it clearly in James’ changed tone of voice - slightly higher and more breathless.

Khan closed his eyes. The other man felt hot and tight, and he moved his hips with a perfect, fearless confidence. The perks of taking an experienced lover who had not grown up a slave.

Holding the other’s hands like this was its own kind of thrilling, but he had enjoyed what James had done earlier, so he let go and put them where he needed them, willing the man to understand what it was that he wanted, and James obviously did. With a cunning smirk, the human pinched Khan’s nipples once more, hard, harder than before, and Khan keened, bucking up. James never stopped moving his hips, and yet his grip seemed to become still tighter. It hurt, it actually hurt, and the pain felt just too good. Suddenly, Khan felt his climax coming on, ridiculously fast, and his hips stuttered for a moment. Just as he was preparing to let himself fall over the edge, he felt James let go and put his hands flat on Khan’s chest. His hips stopped moving all of a sudden.

“No! Not yet! Hold on!”

The tone surprised the Augment; it was somewhere between demanding and pleading.

Khan growled with frustration, sitting up and seizing James’ hips with his hands and holding them, willing himself not to move as well. He did not have to listen, he was still the master here, and yet, he did hold on. There was always the possibility that he’d stay hard after another climax. And he still held back, tried not to move, breathed deeply and let the moment pass.

“I’ve killed...for less,” he finally managed. “You don’t tell me what to do! Especially not like this, not now !”

“Yet, here I stand...well...kind of.” James tried to sound nonchalant, but he, too, was breathless.

Khan looked down. “Quite proudly, I’d say,” he panted, unable to hide a smile.

James nodded, smiling back cheekily. “Help me out? Unless you feel that I haven’t earned it...”

Khan found himself reaching up to cup James’ face with his hands and kiss him. “You’ve earned it. And going by your smug grin, you know that.”

“Gee, thanks,” James replied, still cheeky, and resumed an unhurried rhythm with his hips, making the Augment close his eyes again, his hands falling to James’ shoulders, squeezing hard. He moaned.

“James, I…”

“Do you think you can fuck me and still hold on? Fuck me until I come?” James interrupted, but he did not care.

“Depends,” Khan pressed out between clenched teeth. He was really too sensitive by now to be having such a conversation! “If you need another hour, I might lose patience first.”

“I won’t need another hour, not if you keep going like this. But it’ll be quicker if you touch me…”

It was a seductive whisper more than anything else now, and Khan felt himself trembling. He so wanted to come, right now , but he also wanted to see, to make James come, he knew his own orgasm would be so much more satisfying if it was shared. He reached for the other man’s cock to stroke it.

“Keep moving, James, I want to see you come, I want to see you fuck yourself on my cock, see how much you enjoy it. Because you do, don’t you?”

James hissed. “Stop talking. Just make me come. I need you to make me… oh…”

Khan twisted his wrist, speeding up his movements, watching James’ face.

“Look at me! Look at me when you come, let me see your eyes!”

Quickly, James had adapted his rhythm to the pace of Khan’s hand, bearing down with every stroke. He did try to look into Khan’s eyes, but he was too far gone to really manage, Khan could see it, and he doubled his efforts, stroking the man hard and fast, trying to ignore the answering thrusts of James’ hips that threatened to set his own body on fire. It was almost a relief when James suddenly fisted his hands into Khan’s hair again and yanked on the black strands with a desperate cry. His body on top of the Augment’s went rigid, and he moaned loudly, without holding back.

Khan could not look away, but he did feel that his hand on the man’s cock was suddenly slippery and wet. He barely managed to stroke him through it, but then James regained enough of his senses to breathe Khan’s name into the void between them, and now it was Khan who could no longer hold back. His instincts took over and he only felt his hips moving erratically, his fingers clamp around James’ sides and he tried to thrust inside the man as deep as possible. James might have yelped in pain, but Khan could do nothing except ride it out.

He could not remember lying down, but when he could think clearly again, he found himself on his back. His body felt like it was filled with lead, as if all his strength had been drained. James was still on top of him, though leaning forward on his forearms, head resting on Khan’s chest. He was swearing quietly, sounding out of breath. For once, Khan could say he knew how the other man felt, he even noticed that his own body was covered in a fine sheen of sweat, a rare sight. With a strangely satisfying feeling, Khan felt his softening cock slip out of James’ body. The man acknowledged it with a shiver and a soft mewl.

Usually, Khan would have gotten up, taken a shower, but he felt that none of that was going to happen tonight.

“Stay,” was all he managed to say before he let sleep drag him under for good.

Chapter Text

He did stay, as ordered. Moving was hard at first, so he could not actually get up at once, but Jim also felt in desperate need of a shower after what had just happened, and staying on Khan’s lap was really out of the question anyway. He was out of breath, sweaty, and absolutely beat.

Jim had expected for Khan to get up, throw him off at the very least, but when he straightened up and looked at the Augment, he noticed that he seemed to be fast asleep.

For a moment, he just stared, baffled; if not for the steady rise and fall of his chest, he might have thought Khan was dead, he had never seen him so still. Actually, Jim had never seen the Augment sleep, really, though that was probably partly due to the fact that he had never bothered watching. If Khan could fall asleep while Jim was still on top of him , he must have been close to blacking out all evening. Obviously, even an Augment could only endure so much. Jim could not help but feel smug. To think that he had managed to fuck the other man into oblivion this time filled him with a grim kind of glee. He was pretty certain that Khan would be very satisfied with him in the morning, and keep his side of the bargain.

At the thought, Jim let out a deep breath. He had done it, his plan had worked, surely it had. He had given Khan something he had enjoyed, perhaps even something that he would crave in the future, something nobody else could give him. It was a relief, not to feel powerless against the beast any longer. Khan had been… well, not gentle, neither of them had been gentle tonight, but the violence had been different this time. First of all, it had been mutual, and Khan had let Jim get away with it. He had also displayed patience, because Jim had made him be patient. Jim himself had enjoyed having power over the other man, having him underneath him, using the man as much as he had used Jim, for a change, enjoyed it to the point where it gave him actual pleasure. The almost brutal passion he had felt during their coupling had been reciprocated, and even though it had been strange to feel like that, it had made things unexpectedly easy.

Yeah, a niggling little voice said in his mind, you can play whore for the man who enslaved you, sell your body for your friends’ welfare. Well done.

Jim shook his head. That little voice had plagued him from the very beginning, but it was tuned down this time. He did not feel sorry or hate himself anymore; it wasn’t his fault that he’d had to do this, Khan had seen to it that Jim was desperate. He’d had that conversation with himself hundreds of times. No more. At the very least, this was a job well done, at best… alright, he did feel unexpectedly good, and relaxed for maybe the first time since he had come here, because the sex had been fucking awesome.

Of course it had been awesome, Jim grinned to himself, he had been calling the shots this time, not Khan, who, for all his experience, obviously knew little about what could make good sex amazing.

But Jim did. With that, he had some leverage against the Augment, and he was sure that, at least for the time being, he need not be afraid of Khan. Even during foreplay, he had felt Khan respond well, at some points even considerate, to his advances, instead of like his usual bossy self. The Augment wanted what Jim could give, too much to hurt him anymore, Jim was almost certain of that.

And it was the best feeling of all, to be rid of the fear and the shame all in one go.

He looked down at the sleeping man, realising how young he looked now that no frown or mean grin was plastered across that face. He could see Khan’s Augment heartbeat under his ribcage, fast even during sleep, the ripple of tendons along his throat as his head rolled a bit more to one side, his lips slightly open, fringe sticking to his forehead with sweat. The hickeys were gone, as was every other bruise Jim had managed to put on Khan. Shame.

For a moment, Jim wondered if Khan felt safe with him here, and thought how easy and how convenient it would be to cut that white throat now. It was the perfect opportunity. If he could manage to…

Jim jerked back, startled by his own thoughts. Khan twitched in his sleep, and Jim pulled back more, slowly crawling away from the man until he could get up from the bed. He still stared at the Augment. Where had that come from? It might be something Khan would think about, but since when did Jim Kirk ponder slitting a man’s throat in his sleep, and so casually, too?! Well, he simply didn’t! Such thoughts were beneath him! No matter what the man had done to him! He remembered that, a few years back, he had wanted to murder Khan for what he had done to Pike, at first, but that had been different, it had been an immediate reaction, and he had thought better of it in the end. This here was plotting. And Jim was not someone who calmly plotted people’s deaths. Besides, if he killed the Augment, he would never leave the palace alive, let alone get a chance to rescue his crewmates.

Still a bit shocked about these new alleys his brain was obviously taking these days - he decided to blame Khan and his bad influence - Jim decided to stop with the staring and went to take a shower. Perhaps he should have collected his clothes and gone down to the servants’ washrooms, but he felt too knackered and also a bit rebellious, so he closed the door to Khan’s private bathroom behind himself - without permission. There, he caught a glimpse of his body and face in the mirror, and chuckled. He looked tousled, bruised, and a bit of Khan’s blood still lingered in the corner of his mouth from when they had kissed. Hopefully, the stuff would help him heal the bruises and other remnants of the night, although he did not know how much of an effect the Augment’s blood would have like this.

The hot water helped, but he still felt increasingly sore as the high of his orgasm ebbed away, and knew his body would give him hell tomorrow morning. Jim laid his head back to enjoy the water on his scalp. Worth it though, totally worth it, actually. He had had many wild nights but if he managed to ignore who he’d had it with and for what purpose, for just a second, he had to admit it ranked somewhere high up. He absolutely did not want to delve into the psychological analysis of those feelings right now, and just decided it was survival instinct. He had promised himself he would have this conversation with himself no more .

When he exited the bathroom, combing his fingers through his wet hair, annoyed at how long it was getting, he found Khan exactly as he had left him, the guy had not moved a muscle. Somehow, it felt wrong to leave him like that. Jim wouldn’t have wanted to spend a night like this, even though Khan could probably not catch cold, but still, he looked so… exposed. But why should he care? Would Khan even thank him for it? Or would he be angry with Jim for meddling?

After a moment of pondering, and a sigh, Jim covered the Augment’s naked body with a sheet before he lay down on the opposite edge of the bed and wrapped himself in silk as well. He felt exhausted, but in a rather good way. A job well done, he thought to himself, yes, definitely a job well done. Perhaps it wouldn’t even be so bad to repeat it. Khan would certainly want to.


 

When the Augment woke, his inner clock told him it was shortly before dawn. Outside, heavy rain clouds blanketed the skies, and it seemed it would be a windy day.

He must have slept at least five hours, he thought, which was good. He felt good, too. Tentatively, Khan moved his head, and located James behind him on the bed, sprawling like a toddler, lying on his front and snoring softly. He was half under a sheet, they both were, curiously, now that Khan thought about it, and plucked on the silk covers currently keeping him warm. Had James…? No, he had probably covered himself at some point, James really would not do such a thing for him. The faint smell of soap told the Augment that the man must have taken a shower last night. He frowned. The implications were far from thrilling; he had not heard running water, could not remember anything, actually, after his climax, not even James moving off of him. He’d fallen asleep instantly, while James must have stayed awake for some time. Usually, the sound of someone moving around should have woken him. But it had not. This could be dangerous. Alertness was key for someone like him.

However, James did not seem to have taken advantage of his weakness. He moved faintly under the blanket. Had James tucked him in, more or less, after all? The mere thought hurt his pride. And why would he care about Khan’s comfort? Well, of course, he might think it would win him extra points that he could use for the wellbeing and comfort of his friends. That would be an approach Khan could understand, and the thought soothed him a little.

He scooted closer to the other man, running his hands over the silk that covered James’ lower body, and went on to caress what was visible of his skin, resisting the urge to pull away the sheet to reveal everything from the waist down. James had become so much more interesting during the last night, and Khan could feel himself wanting that extraordinary man again. But it had to be his decision to comply, forcing himself on him would not be good enough any more. To his astonishment, Khan found he did not want to, either. He went on to caress the whole expanse of James’ back. It felt nice on his fingertips, to map the muscles and feel the warm, smooth skin. Khan noticed he felt uncommonly mellow this morning. The man was getting to him, he had to be careful not to end up in his net, he must not lose sight of his plans, could not let gentler feelings get the better of him. James would undoubtedly try to manipulate him, now that he had found something that he could potentially use against his captor. He would have to stay alert. Which did not mean that he could not enjoy the perks of this development between them. He just had to be careful not to lose himself in this game of pretending. It would not be good to let this get too casual, or to let James start to think he would get any special treatment. Playing equals in bed was certainly fun, and the endorphins in his blood would make it only too easy to forget their real roles here. He must not lose control. And not fall for James in any way.

Just as his hands reached the valley between James’ shoulders, the man woke with a start, looking around, and Khan pulled his hand back slowly. Had this been Derya, the young slave would have politely greeted him with ‘good morning, my lord’. But this was James, and his greeting was nowhere near as polite.

Fuck , I’m sore,” the man declared carelessly, stretched, and rolled around to face Khan, rubbing his eyes.

“I believe you have every reason to be.” Khan said, his lips twitching as he tried not to smile and failed.

James looked at him, a bit uncertain at first, but then smiled back, although it did not completely reach his eyes.

“And I believe you’d like another round.”

“I would.”

James grinned and stretched again. “Well, in that case, I guess you’ll have to use your wonder drug on me or something, because I don’t see myself getting hard any time soon.” He sounded cheerful, not apprehensive as Khan would have thought. James was obviously still full of surprises.

He gave up trying not to smile. “I could do that if you like, but I’m afraid there is little time left before we have to get up and start the day.”

James chuckled. “If I throw you a quick fuck, do I get the morning off, you know, to recover?”

Khan laughed softly. “That’s not part of the deal. Come on. Things to do, people to see. Like your friends.”

“That’s an even better idea,” James grinned.

“Now, I mean of course that I am going to see them. You won’t.” Khan shuffled to the end of the bed, trying not to let the disgust show that he felt when he became only too aware of his unwashed body.

“Wait, what do you mean?”

Looking behind himself, Khan noticed that James’ facial expression had darkened considerably. The Augment explained.

“We had a deal that I give them a new room and you show me what you can do in bed. Truth be told, the night was spectacular, so I am planning on honouring our agreement. But you won’t see your friends, and you won’t be told where they are. Surely you’ll remember that that was not part of the deal either.”

James sat up straight, frowning. “So how do I know you did keep your word? How do I know they are well?”

Khan shrugged. “That is not my concern. But I never go back on my word, if that is in any way reassuring for you. You specified barely anything when you came to me with your… suggestion last night, but I’ve told you from the very beginning, I reward good behaviour, and I see no reason to trick you regarding what you wanted for your friends. They’ll be comfortable, but for now, you have no visitation rights. Don’t look at me like that, did you think I would make it so easy for you to conspire with them against me? You know better than that.”

James did look furious, although he was obviously trying to hide it. His emotions were always so wonderfully close to the surface.

“Fine. But can I at least… have a look at them? Meet them somehow? Somewhere? To make sure they’re okay? One of them had a cough when I… spent the night down there. Please. Just once. Please!”

Khan stared at the man for a minute, thinking it over. Despite what James might have thought, it really was not his intention to be mean this time; anyone with the most basic knowledge about prisoner security would have done the same. James would see that upon reflection. Refusing James’ wish to see them just once would have been mean though, Khan could see that as well. And he was not in the mood to be nasty, he truly wasn’t. Not after James had done so well, and not when he had high hopes that there would be another night like the past one.

After they had scowled at each other for another long minute, Khan finally grunted and relaxed his stance. “Fine, you can see them, some time this week, but only for a few minutes, and under surveillance, in a location I choose. Only to make sure they are well.” Khan pointed a finger at James accusingly. “Don’t think you can talk me into any more things now. This is a favour I would not have to grant. It’s pure goodwill on my part, and only because I think you deserve a reward. Got it?”

“Got it. Thank you, your majesty.” James bowed, not only his head, but he lowered his whole torso, and Khan felt mollified by the gesture he knew James hated.

“Good. Now get out, and send Derya in, before I change my mind.”

He did not wait around to see James go, but turned and marched into the bathroom to take a shower. So much for not letting the man get to him. But he really did deserve a reward… and probably a little incentive to replicate last night some time. Some time soon.

 

He took only one guard with him when he went down to the cells to get the prisoners, and that one only to inform the usual people later where the two men had gone. Derya trailed behind them silently as they descended down to the cells.

The men looked scared when he opened the cell door. Despite that, Khan could see that the Scotsman, consciously or not, moved his body slightly in front of the young Russian. It never ceased to amaze Khan how protective these three men were of each other. Taking a beating for someone else was never wise.

“Come with me.” He took a step back and waited.

The men came forward.

“Where are you taking us?” the Scotsman asked carefully, and coughed. Khan could tell that he was sick. James had made his bargain just in time.

“To a new room, just like James promised you.” Khan could not help but grin at the emotions playing across the men’s faces; confusion, relief, anger, sorrow. “Don’t worry, he’s alright. And now move.”

The men moved, silently, climbed the stairs behind Khan and followed him through corridors, while Derya and the guard brought up the rear. At last, after they had wandered through half the palace, Khan went down a certain hallway and gestured to the guard to open a door.

“Here.”

After a short hesitation, the men went in, the Scotsman first, the Russian followed. Both only took two steps into the room and then stopped.

“This is… our new prison?” asked the Russian in his heavy accent, and looked around.

“Well, this is...grand,” the Scotsman agreed. He, too, was turning his head this way and that, before he looked straight at Khan. “I don’t understand. Why this?”

Khan stepped in after them while Derya and the guard waited in the corridor. He could understand the men’s surprise. It was a beautiful room, half as big as his own living room, with expensive furnishings, thick carpets, silk-covered walls and, invisible for now behind carved wooden doors, a luxurious bathroom and two separate - if small - bedrooms, all of it in rich colours and decorated with gold. It would have been a room fit for a foreign dignity, had the windows not been fitted with an artfully crafted but still very strong metal mesh. It kept out the sun a little, and windows could be closed against it from the inside, and it did throw a lovely, ornamental shade on the carpets and the light golden stone floor, but it would also keep anyone locked inside the room if necessary. Not even an Augment fist could make a dent in them, Khan knew that from first-hand experience; this had been his own prison cell for two months after they had realised that they could not control a newly made Augment with anger issues. This room would keep the two men exactly where they were, Khan thought grimly; if he had not been able to break out, nobody would be. The two men had probably not realised yet what the mesh was, and thought it was just decoration, or they might have looked a bit less dumbfounded.

“Why this?” Khan echoed, and smiled sweetly. “Because James earned it for you. I shall give him your thanks. Don’t !” Khan said, a bit louder, when he saw the Scotsman’s face go red and his mouth open in protest. “Don’t ruin it. We made a deal, he and I. He kept his side of the bargain and I am keeping mine herewith. So I suggest you hold your tongue, for Jame’s’ sake. He put so much effort into achieving this for you. It would be a shame to waste it.”

The Scotsman ground his teeth while the Russian scowled at Khan with a much darker expression than he had thought was possible on such a boyish face. But they both kept their mouths shut.

“Good. Now, make yourselves comfortable. You’ll stay in here from now on until I decide otherwise. Your food will be brought here.” Khan’s gaze flickered over their dirty uniforms. “As will new clothes, now that I think about it. I’d be thankful if you didn’t even sit down while you’re still wearing these. And I expect you to behave. Otherwise the consequences for poor James would be quite fatal, I’m sure you’ll understand.”

“Don’t hurrt heem. Please. Ve vill behave,” said the Russian. His voice was pleading, but surprisingly steady. Khan let his gaze linger on his face a little longer. The boy had already impressed him during the interrogation. He had to be about Derya’s age, perhaps a little older. Somehow Khan had thought at the beginning that he would be a wimpy child who would hide behind the Scotsman, but he had proved himself to be much braver than he looked. Khan would have liked to see whether he would be as feisty as James had been in bed, but no, it was better if he had as little to do with them as possible.

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Khan sneered, and turned to close the door behind him. “If you will keep in mind that this depends partly on your own behaviour.”

He locked the door behind himself and left the guard to deal with the rest, then waved for Derya to follow him. When the guard was out of earshot, Khan let Derya catch up so they walked side by side.

“You remember the way.”

“Yes, my lord, of course.”

“Good. James is not supposed to know yet where they are. I’ll tell you if or when that changes.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Khan stopped for a moment and took Derya’s hand.

“When that changes, you know what it will mean.”

He felt the slave’s fingers tighten around his.

“Yes, my lord, I do.”

“Good.” He reached out to cup Derya’s cheek with his right. “I know you don’t like it much, but it has to be done.”

“Whether or not I like it will not play a role. I will do as you asked. I told you, I will not disappoint you.”

Derya looked directly into Khan’s eyes as he said it, and the Augment could not help but smile.

“I don’t doubt that,” he murmured, and leaned in for a quick kiss. “I don’t doubt you.”

Khan let go of the slave and they continued on their way to the main conference hall, where the council and the day’s work would be waiting for him.

 

When Khan entered the room, he immediately felt that the council members were nervous. Since the Kurultai was the only thing on the agenda for the moment, he guessed that something bad must have happened, and he felt his good mood deflate like a balloon.  After this awesome night, could the day not have held some good news for once ?

However, as soon as he had sat down and Derya had taken up his place by the wall where he would await orders, the ministers started the meeting perfectly according to plan, with the update about the preparations for the Kurultai.

Those meetings took place four times a year, twice on either side of the ocean, a voluntary gathering for Augments from all over the world. There were simply too many by now to have every single Augment attend, but some made the journey regularly to discuss news and developments, and socialise with their own kind. Khan was one of them, being one of the most powerful Augments in the world, although he always awaited those meetings with mixed feelings. On one hand, meeting his brothers and sisters was always the only time when he felt that he was not alone at the top of the food chain; his special friends among his kind were the only family he had, after all. He’d have a chance to spend some time with them, and he always looked very much forward to that. But not all of the Augments were friends. Khan knew he was not the perfect example of a human made Augment, with all his anger management problems, but there were worse than him. Some of the Augments attending the Kurultai were also his greatest enemies, even though they tried for civility on the surface. They were leaders who had not declared war simply because they knew the other Augments would be down on them like a ton of brick, because it was considered treason to attack a member of the own race. They had to be invited, though, every Augment had the right to attend.

“Your majesty, the other palace will be ready for your guests within the week. Staff is still being brought in and trained. All repairs have been done, and cleaning is well under way,” one of the council members informed Khan.

“Excellent. How many guests do we have by now?”

The minister next to Khan handed him a list.

“A hundred and two, my emperor.”

Khan raised his eyebrows as he scanned the list. “We’ve never had that many. Let’s hope some leave their entourages behind.”

“We will accommodate everybody, do not worry, your highness.”

Khan looked at the last entries, the Augments whose confirmation of the invitation had come in last, and he frowned.

“Typical.”

Of all the people who had undergone the procedure, Teyrn and Morrigan were easily among the worst, and while Khan could be a monster when provoked or aroused, those two were monsters twenty-four seven. Even in their human lives, they had been cruel and ruthless; Khan had met them as humans, at meetings with his father and at his father’s funeral, and even then, Teyrn had killed two of his servants for practically nothing. What else should he have become after the Augmentation but a brute and a tyrant? Genocide, war and the death sentence, in Teyrn's eyes, were all good against overpopulation. And he always attended the Kurultai, so Khan had to put up with him four times a year, even when he was not hosting. This would be the second time Khan was hosting, and he remembered that the first time round, Teyrn had been one of those who had sent their answers last, which was why his name was, again, at the bottom of the list.

Khan was not personally afraid of Teyrn. His strength was great but Khan’s was greater, since he had been much younger than other Augments when he underwent the procedure. But the man was absolutely mad, and completely unpredictable. Khan killed when he had to, for punishment or in war, but never for sport. Teyrn and his sister Morrigan killed because they enjoyed it, which made them two of the main reasons why humans around the world were slowly but certainly starting to rebel against the Augments leading them. The thought always made Khan treat the siblings with as much weariness as respect; not for his own sake, but for the sake of his subjects.

“My lord? May I ask whether you have received messages from your, uhm… closer allies, regarding your birthday?” asked one minister from the other end of the table.

Khan put the list aside and Teyrn out of his mind. “Yes, I did, they were expressing their hopes that they could come early and perhaps stay the week afterwards until the Kurultai begins.”

“Wonderful, your highness. Will you remain here for the festivities or will you move to the other palace with your friends?”

Khan shook his head. “We’ll stay here, I want to welcome them into my home, not that showroom that is being prepared for the gathering. And there will only be the festivities that are absolutely necessary.” For all his well-deserved arrogance, Khan hated celebrating his birthday.

“Very well.”

“My lord, we have prepared the order of the rooms and the sitting arrangements, I suggest we move on to these. If you will have a look…”

Khan sighed inwardly, but took the file handed to him. Boring, awkward business, dinner politics. Debates ensued between the councilmembers about who should stay where and who should sit closest to Khan, whether or not to include those of his sisters who had married Augments and were confirmed to attend with their husbands… It took over two hours to come up with a version that pleased everybody at least somewhat, and it bored Khan more than talks about taxes would have. Growing up, governing a country had seemed much more interesting to him than it had actually turned out to be.

But as all things ended, so did this. Khan was just about to formally end the meeting and get up, when one of the ministers spoke up one more time.

“Emperor, there is something else we wanted to discuss today.”

Khan, who had been looking forward to leaving so he could go to his horses, leant back in his seat again. He felt that the tension he had perceived at the beginning was back, therefore, so was his own.

“Yes?”

The ministers all exchanged looks and the atmosphere was suddenly more than just tense, it was charged. They were nervous, even afraid, he could smell it. This topic scared them, so it could only be something that he himself would not like to talk about.

“Well, your highness…” one of them started but could evidently not bring himself to go on.

“Please don’t waste my time, ministers. Say what you have to say,” Khan tried to move them along.

The man who had spoken first seemed to pull himself together and spoke up. “Your highness, you will turn twenty-eight next month. At your age, it is highly unorthodox for any leader to be… unmarried and without children,” he began.

The men around the table seemed to hold their breath collectively while they stared at their emperor to see his reaction.

For a moment, Khan sat at the head of the table as if carved from stone, then he took a deep breath. It would be very unprofessional to shout at them, even though he really wanted to.

“I think I made myself very clear, ministers, when I told you about the conditions of my getting married. Have you found any candidates yet that will match those conditions?”

“Well, no, sir, but…”

“Then we have nothing to discuss, now, do we?” Khan said very quietly, and yet he knew every single man in the room had heard him. It was so quiet even a human could have heard a pin drop.

“Your highness, we have been thorough in our search, and it is ongoing. But the conditions you...”

Khan leant forward and put his hands flat on the polished surface of the table top. “I told you I would only get married to a woman whose connections can help the people of this country survive the next few years, in whatever way. I will not get married for any kind of politics.”

“Sir, your Augment brothers have daughters who…”

“...are not of any use to me. I told you I cannot favour one Augment over the other. And I need more than some rich peacock’s daughter,” Khan said angrily. They had been over this time and time again! Even humans could not be so stupid!

“My lord, surely you must know that the conditions you stated are… unrealistic.”

“Also, your highness, I am afraid - we all are - that we are running out of time. The mood of the public is turning against you, a royal wedding could turn this around, and an heir, too…”

“I will not get married to give the people a show !” Khan shouted indignantly at the man who had spoken last. “That is even worse! If they are turning against me, a wedding will not change that!”

The men around the table seemed to have gathered some courage, though, and were starting to talk over each other.

“Your highness, history has shown us that such things work, and really, the palace could use the good publicity.”

“And you need an heir, anyway, and soon! Give the people a sign that your line has a future.”

“Your more conservative subjects are starting to wonder and rumours are heard here and there…”

“Yes, word has gotten out about the company you keep at night, your majesty, and there is outrage among some of the conservatives.”

Khan’s head snapped around. “I don’t think it is anyone’s business what I do in my bedroom and who I do it with!”

“Of course, but the new one is barely a good choice, not only because he is a man, which infuriates people…”

“But he is also a troublemaker, and he might be dangerous. Of course, most of it is not common knowledge but it is impossible to keep these things completely secret.”

“My emperor, perhaps it was not wise to present him so publicly at the market, it got the right people talking, but the wrong ones, too.”

Khan scowled while he looked around at the faces before him. “Again, what I do with him is a personal matter.”

“My lord, with respect, as you are the emperor, your private matters are always state matters as well...”

Willing himself to stay seated, Khan glowered at the man who had said that. “Do not preach to me. I know that very well. But this particular thing is of no concern to the public. He is a nothing, a nobody .”

“But you seem to favour him and… your other servant, over the women of your harem.”

Khan willed himself not to look at Derya.

“It makes people wonder if you are indeed willing and able to get married to a woman and have children.”

This time, Khan rose to his feet and hit the table with his fist. “Enough! I will not listen to this! What I do with my slaves says nothing about my ability to father offspring! And need I remind you that it was the council’s decision, under the late emperor, not to intervene when the emperor decided to take my fertility from me? Do not put the blame on me or my favourites, or my preferences! Accuse me of prolonging the process of finding me a wife, if you are brave enough, but don’t you dare repeat that other vile accusation! I had fathered a child already. You decided to kill it, and its mother.”

There was a long silence around the table. None of the men would meet his furious gaze, and they remained motionless for a while even after Khan had sat down again with a huff. Finally, the man who had spoken last got up from his seat and bowed formally. Khan continued to glower at him while the man straightened up again.

“My emperor, I wish to apologize, I beg your forgiveness. I should have chosen my words more wisely. Please believe me, it was not my intention to question…”

“Oh, sit down !” Khan barked. “And do choose your words more carefully from now on.”

The man sat, and Khan took a few deep breaths. Losing his temper like that would not help him in this situation, especially since he was very much aware that the actual topic was something else entirely, not his fertility but his wish to not get married. He had always known that he could not run from an arranged marriage, he had known that this day would come, from an early age.

The men were still afraid, but he knew they would not give up this time. And sure enough, the other ministers had won back their courage just a few minutes after Khan’s outbreak.

“Your highness, the general public, the subjects of royalty, sometimes need gestures , and they know next to nothing about what happens behind these walls. They are asking themselves why you have no wives, even though you are far beyond the age when most men get married. The rumours will only get worse. This is nothing that can be stopped by your new laws. Your favour for… more unorthodox slaves in the bedchamber can be, and certainly is, your personal affair, but you will need a marriage to keep the public calm. You need to show them stability, and they need the thrill of the event. And there are advantageous matches that may not clear your personal conditions, but they will, we are certain, bring benefits to your empire nonetheless.”

Khan sighed. He felt cornered. Of course, he knew what they were saying, knew they were telling him that his time was up, that they were tired of him getting his own way when it came to this ridiculous but seemingly still necessary ritual of marriage. For many years, he had been able to postpone the decision, cite war and other reasons why it would be a bad time to choose. And they had been too afraid to push him, until now. Now, they were all staring in his direction, and he knew they would not take no for an answer any longer. They had grown bold with the pressure from the public. Of course, this was not the matter the people were most concerned about, but Khan also knew that such publicity events did work out more often than not. It had worked for his ancestors often enough, because people loved a show and celebrations and they generally gobbled up anything that took their mind off their own problems.

Trying to convince himself that it would not be so bad, he finally nodded. “Fine, I won’t postpone it any longer. So, ministers, what do you propose should be the next step?”

They all looked much too relieved at his words, and Khan felt a bit sick.

“After the Kurultai has ended, we would suggest you have a look at the potential candidates to narrow it down, and we will work from there. And, of course, you should prepare for the medical procedure. After all, an heir is the next step after your marriage, and your healing powers should facilitate the process immensely for you. It can be done at any time you wish.”

Khan, feeling strangely detached now, made an impatient gesture with his hand. “It can be done this week for all I care.” At least, he wouldn’t have time to worry about it.

The men around the table nodded in agreement.

“The choosing of a suitable young lady will, of course, not be rushed. The Kurultai is in a month, so we will not start with this before the beginning of August.”

Khan let out a long breath. That was precious little time. He tried to order himself not to make such a big deal out of it, but of course, that was exactly what it was. His birth, marriage, and death, were the most important things that would ever happen to him, together with the birth of his first son. At least as far as the public and the council were concerned.

“Fine,” he said again. “But until then, I don’t want to hear a word about it. Are we clear, ministers?”

Murmurs around the table indicated they had understood. Still furious, and trying to keep it together, Khan dismissed them and was out the door before anyone else had risen from their chair. Derya followed him almost silently and shut the door. Usually, the ministers left the room all in a hurry as well, but today, nothing stirred.

For just a moment, Khan stood still and concentrated on his breathing. He was angry that the topic had been brought up in such a way. But he had known this day would come. Underneath his anger, he felt resigned. And a bit out of sorts. Marriage. The thought did affect him more than it should have. Compared to those arrangements, the thought of the operation did not bother him much. It was all the same to him, really.

He became aware of Derya standing very close to him. The slave was not touching him, out of respect, but he was clearly closer than strictly necessary.

“Derya…” he began, but stopped himself. If… no, when he got married, would things stay the same with the little one? Khan shook his head. He was still the emperor. No woman, not even his wife, would tell him what to do, or who to have in his rooms.

“Yes, my lord? What can I do for you?”

It sounded much more compassionate than servile. Khan hated to be pitied, but he could not bring himself to be angry with Derya.

“Go… go to the stables, tell them I shall look at the new horses and pick some for training, in half an hour. Then you send word to Kumar and tell him I will be an hour late for the inspection of the new recruits, and after that, you go to Sabir and tell him I need a training session in the afternoon. Very, very late afternoon. Tell him to stand by.”

“Yes, my lord,” Derya whispered, and bowed away.


 

All morning, the groom had kept Jim busy with a bunch of newly arrived horses that were supposed to be trained for the royal guard. The beasts were not trained at all , Jim felt, or had been beaten too often; he had been bitten and kicked like never before. He would freely admit that he lacked finesse when it came to handling animals, but he was sure that not all of his bitten fingers were his fault. Since he was also sore as hell from last night, his mood was just as bad as the equerry's.

Jim couldn’t understand the man’s grumbling in some native language, but he gathered that the emperor would come down and inspect the new-arrivals before lunchtime.

Whatever he had expected Khan’s mood to be after last night, when he saw him as he walked over from the palace, it was clear that it was a lot worse than Jim had counted on. He sniped at the equerry and the stable boys, he did not even look at Jim, and he was short-tempered even with the horses, which was basically unheard of. Jim continued to ask himself what could possibly have gone so wrong this morning, throughout the tryouts. After he had checked all the animals and had seen them move, Khan seemed to almost pick some at random, and then hissed at the head groom to show him how his mare was doing. Before the man could follow Khan into the stable, a young boy, who had come running from the palace a few minutes ago, stepped forward. Jim had seen him around, he was a lively kid, perhaps ten years old, and Jim thought he was usually assigned to the concubines’ quarters, as a messenger boy and general page.

“Sir, Radhika and Rika want to take their horses for a stroll through the park.”

The equerry hummed to himself, sounding frustrated. “I don’t have time to take them.”

He stepped inside the stable, but the boy persisted.

“Rika says they want to go now , and you should get their horses ready.”

The man groaned. “Who does this veshya think she is? I’m busy!”

“She said she didn’t care who took them.”

“What is the matter?” Khan asked, emerging from inside the stable, glaring at the head groom and the boy in turn. Jim, standing beside the door, was glad he was out of the line of fire. The boy repeated his message.

Khan grunted. “Fine! James!”

Jim stepped forward, taking care to keep his head bowed. He knew Khan would not tolerate undue behaviour in front of others.

“Yes, sir?”

“You take those two out for a stroll, saddle their horses and take them to the side gate!”

Jim bowed and went, with the boy in tow, into the part of the stable that housed the girls’ horses. The boy, Bijay, he introduced himself, helped Jim with the mares, grooming one while Jim did the other, carrying tacks and saddle blankets, while babbling constantly and asking invasive questions about Jim’s life upstairs. Jim tried to be friendly but evaded the more personal ones. Why did this nosy child, of all residents of the palace, have to speak better English than most?

When he arrived at the side gate with the two golden horses, two women were sitting in an alcove, accompanied by a few servant girls. He remembered them both from the Market Day, when Derya had told him all about the women in Khan’s service. Radhika, with her dark locks, who had been sold to the palace by her family, as far as he remembered, looked slightly annoyed today, and did not even move at first. Rika, on the other hand, was on her feet in an instant. Jim remembered Derya saying that the redhead had sold herself to the palace to save her family from debt. Supposing the don’t-talk-to-the-girls rule had not gone out of the window, Jim merely bowed to the women and waited, holding the horses.

“Come on, Radhika! It’ll rain again before you start moving!”

Rika stepped close to Jim, so quickly and so close that he flinched back, making the horses twitch and prance. With a gentle pat and a few murmured words, Rika soothed her mare quickly.

“I won’t bite, James,” she giggled, and Jim looked up for just a moment, and saw that she was grinning. He looked away again quickly, not feeling too sure about this.

“Help me up, come on!”

Bijay, who still hung around, quickly took the horses from Jim, so he could help the woman climb up into the saddle. He could feel everyone’s eyes on himself and let go of her as soon as she was sitting safely. By then, Radhika had moved towards them as well, and the awkward procedure repeated itself. Jim could not understand why Khan would have sent him of all people to deal with the women, and at the thought of being alone with the two of them, ugly memories of a knife and a trigger pulled, were surfacing in his brain and made his heart race.

He tried to push those thoughts aside, and waited for a command from the two.

It was again Rika who spoke to Jim.

“Give me my reins and walk between us.”

He did as ordered and the horses, led by Rika, moved out onto a garden path. From the corner of his eye, Jim saw that the other horse was basically just following behind, because Radhika seemed wholly disinterested in the whole affair. To Jim’s relief, Bijay and another page boy, as well as two older servant girls, followed them at some distance like chaperones, on foot. The boys ran around, playing catch, but the girls kept their eyes on Jim the whole time.

“Isn’t the weather wonderful, Radhika?” Jim heard Rika say as he walked between the horses. The other girl snorted in response.

“It’ll probably be raining again in a few minutes. I really don’t know why I let you talk me into this.”

“Because I can be a real pain if I want something.”

“Quite. I’d rather have remained upstairs.”

This time, Rika snorted. “Oh, quit your whining. We need fresh air and exercise, or we’ll grow fat and the emperor won’t like us anymore. Or worse, our horses will get fat!”

“It seems he doesn’t like any one of us anymore, or has he sent for you lately?”

“You know he hasn’t. James?”

Jim flinched. “Yes?”

“Has Khan sent for any concubines these last few weeks?”

“Uhm…”

Radhika made an exasperated noise. “You shouldn’t ask him that! And he shouldn’t answer, either! You shouldn’t even talk to him. He will probably run to his master and tell him and then we’re in trouble!”

Jim, not ready to let the woman talk about him like that, cleared his throat. “Lady, I’m not a tattletale, I am, in fact, the last person who would ever go to Khan and inform on anybody…”

This time, Radhika let out a little cry of rage. “How dare you speak to me? And how dare you call the emperor by his name! You should learn your place!” She shot a dark look to the other woman, and maneuvered her horse away, letting the mare trot a little faster so she could put a small distance between herself and them, leaving Jim alone with Rika, who sighed.

“You’re too far beneath her to talk to her like that, in her opinion. And I will admit that I'm really surprised that you call the emperor by his name. I can't imagine he allowed it.” She did not sound angry, or as haughty as Radhika had been, but was talking to him as if they were familiar.

Since he could not have explained that Khan would proceed to introduce himself arrogantly with just that name, roughly two hundred and sixty years from now, and it had just stuck , Jim decided to evade her question.

“Not really. Will you shout at me for talking to you, though?”

Jim knew he should keep his head down, but he did look up for a second, and saw that she was smiling softly.

“I'm not like her, she’s from a higher caste, I was not, so we grew up with different expectations of how people have to treat us. And I’m glad you are talking to me, it gets so boring, life behind these walls, with the same faces every day. I hope you can forgive Radhika, she’s not usually such a cow. She’s just not over Cara’s death.”

The mention of the executed woman made Jim wince, but Rika did not seem to have noticed. She went on.

“None of us really are, but she was sort of friends with her. As far as any of us are friends at all. I guess you remind her of the whole story. We know you were with her when she was executed. She was not prepared to meet you today, and I guess she is upset. She has been avoiding Derya, too.”

Her tone was measured and calm, but Jim thought he could also hear sadness in her voice.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I didn’t even know Cara before… that happened. And I certainly didn’t have anything to do with it,” he defended himself, without really knowing why he felt like he had to. Rika had not sounded accusing.

“We know it wasn’t you. It was her own fault from start to finish. Mind you… We are all wondering… How did she die, what did he do to her?” she asked carefully, lowering her voice almost to a whisper. “We only heard that she was executed for her crime, we were all together the night before, and she seemed distant when we parted, but we never saw her again after that. And nobody would tell us anything, apart from the obvious.”

For a little while, Jim pretended to look at the scraggly bushes they were currently passing.

“I’m not sure you want to know, in detail. He killed her himself, and the man,” Jim said softly, and looked up briefly before he ducked his head again. “Derya said at the time that the executions would be called merciful, and that his predecessor would have done worse, if that is worth anything to you.”

She was silent for a few moments before she asked: “Was it quick?”

Jim could not help but remember how Khan had tortured the name of her lover out of her. “Relatively. It can’t have taken more than a few minutes, although it certainly felt like hours to me.”

“I understand. Thank you, James.”

For a while, the crunching of hooves and feet on the sunlit gravel path was all that could be heard.

“Strange things have happened in this palace since your arrival, especially when it comes to the emperor.”

Jim tried to just stare straight ahead. He was not sure he wanted to hear this. “Have they.”

“Yes. You have captured his attention more thoroughly than even Derya could have. And now we haven’t seen him in weeks.”

“Hmm.”

“He even took you to the market, and left you alone with us.”

“Yes.”

It seemed that Rika would not be deterred by his reluctance to talk.

“There have been rumours that he’s fond of you.”

Jim snorted. “He’s certainly not fond of me.”

“Then he likes whatever you do in bed. What’s your secret?”

Jim looked up, raising an eyebrow at the woman. “Are you asking me for advice or something?”

Rika looked back with a completely unreadable expression. “Maybe?”

“Then maybe try being a bit more active.”

It sounded snotty even to Jim’s own ears, and he regretted it instantly. But Rika did not seem to mind terribly. In fact, she laughed at him.

“He would never let us. That’s… no. I’ve tried that. He gets angry.”

Jim didn’t answer and stared straight ahead.

“Wait, do you mean to tell me that you’re serious? And you’ve done it? And he let you ?”

Her tone told Jim that he had delivered her perhaps the best bit of gossip this year. Damn, and Khan had made him promise to keep quiet!

“It was an idea, not a report. I’m not telling you anything, I should have kept my mouth shut altogether,” Jim replied stubbornly.

Rika, unexpectedly, giggled. “Well well, won’t you look at that. I didn’t take you for a man-hunter.”

“A what?” Jim’s head snapped up so fast that it hurt.

Rika grinned down at him. “You know, instead of a ladies’ man. You certainly look like one, but sure, you never know from looks alone. And I heard he had to force you. Perhaps I was wrong on both accounts, if I hear you talk about being active and then blushing like that…”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute! What does that have to do with anything? You think I like him? Or what he does to me? I can assure you, I have no interest in men. At all. And certainly not in him of all people. And he did force me,” he added angrily.

Rika looked down at Jim with a puzzled expression, as if she was trying to figure out a complex riddle. Yeah, Jim thought, good luck with that, I haven’t figured this out myself. And perhaps it’s better that way.

She cocked her head to one side. “I’m sorry, I just thought, for a moment… But you are now feeling better with him, am I right?”

Jim kicked a stone in his path. To hear it from somebody else… still sounded bad.

“Hey, it’s not a crime, you know? Enjoying it makes it easier, and if you have to think nasty thoughts and grin a spiteful grin in private, at least at the beginning,” she whispered, as if the two of them were best friends telling each other secrets.

The familiar talk was making him a little nervous. Although that was exactly how he had dealt with his situation the night before, he was not at all sure that he could trust the woman.

“I found out how to make it easier, and better, for both of us, that’s all. That doesn’t change me, or him, for that matter. I don’t like him, and I don’t want to do it, but I have to.”

Rika was silent for a few minutes, perhaps thinking.

“You still struggle an awful lot with your job. More than anyone I’ve ever met, I think, and yet you’re his favourite, or one of them.” She still sounded a little puzzled, although Jim thought that she must know a bit of what he was going through, she had basically just said so, and yet it seemed to be different for her. Was he making such a big deal out of it? Or had she and the others here simply been brainwashed into taking their situation too lightly? Then again, did he have the right to tell anyone how bad they should feel about anything?

Jim glanced at her. “It’s not even a job, it’s slavery. And an inner conflict. So yes. Of course I struggle. Don’t you?”

The woman looked down, frowning as she thought over her answer.

“Not that much, to be honest. It’s been some time and…”

“And it is our duty, no matter what,” said Radhika’s voice suddenly, and both Jim and Rika flinched a little and looked behind them. The other woman had evidently halted her horse by a little fountain to let it drink, and, hidden between the thick flowering bushes, had obviously heard what they were talking about. She glowered at Jim while she let her horse draw closer to them.

“It’s so typical for a man to whine about a duty women have had since the dawn of time. And you feel sorry for yourself, of course, because now it affects you as well, ” she said scornfully.

“Radhika, shut up. You’re being very unfair,” Rika cut in before Jim could say anything, but it only made Radhika turn on her as well.

“Life is unfair, but that is no excuse for whining. And you should not talk to him at all. If anything, you should have scolded him for asking you questions and for his apparent lack of respect for the emperor and his orders.”

Rika looked at her with an expression that made it clear that she would not take the bait. Rolling her eyes and huffing, Radhika turned around in her saddle, forcing the horse to turn with her, and kicked it into a canter, slowing down a few hundred yards ahead of them.

Jim did not know whether to laugh or be angry about the accusations.

“She’s not always easy. Radhika is all about duties, and she can’t stand it if people whine about things, she always says, whining doesn’t help, either do your duty properly or do something about it,” Rika explained dryly.

Jim frowned at Radhika’s back. “I’m not a dude for half-assed things either, but I’ve also never had to sacrifice my whole ass for my job, so I think I deserve a little whining.”

That made Rika chuckle. “You know what? I like you, James. I hadn’t expected it, but I do like you. You’re so different from other men… not that I have met a lot of them these last few years.”

Jim looked up, and couldn’t help but smile. “And I guarantee you’ll never meet another one like me.”

He hadn’t meant it flirtatious, but he saw a slight blush creeping up Rika’s neck. She still smiled, however. “You're cheeky. I'd really love to know more about you, but I believe if everyone keeps their own secrets, everyone is a lot safer here. How does the emperor deal with that quick tongue of yours?”

“He hits me,” Jim replied carelessly. Well, at least he had in the past. Last night, he had more or less rewarded him for it. With a mind-blowing climax and sore muscles, but this was no place to be picky. “May I ask you something?”

“Sure, ask!” Perhaps she was really starved for new acquaintances, because she sounded delighted.

“You were saying you did not mind your… occupation much. How did you manage to forget all the…”

He was lost for a polite word, but Rika helped him out.

“... negative aspects? You mean, besides the nasty thoughts and such?” She smiled. “Well, one thing is, there are eleven of us, but only one of him, and then there’s you and Derya. He used to see me relatively often before that last trip to the battlefield where he apparently found you, and yet it’s not nearly once a week that I see him, not even close. I bet it’s very different in your position, since you’re close to him every morning and every evening at least. But life is very comfortable, to the point of being boring, when you’re one of us. We live in luxury, we never go hungry. And yes, we have to sleep with him whenever he wants us, but to tell the truth, I’ve had men who were a lot more rough with me than he usually is, even though he’s not even human. It’s a small price, in my mind, for the life I lead, and when I leave the palace again, I will have no shortage of suitors, and I will be able to pick my husband, instead of having to marry the first pig who asks for my hand, which is a lot more than other women can expect.”

Jim was baffled about that explanation. The questionable morals of this day and age were nothing new to him anymore, and he tried very hard not to judge, but at the same time, it was quite fascinating to hear her point of view. He had never really thought about the life of the concubines, or what happened to them when Khan got tired of them.

“So the comfortable life you lead, and the long breaks from your duty, are what keeps you going?” he asked, and found he really was interested in what she had to say. He was way past keeping his head down now, and looked at her openly, even though it was at an annoying, awkward angle. He was only half aware that it could be dangerous to be seen talking with one of Khan’s own women, but he, too, was starved for some normal conversation and a new face.

Rika cocked her head to the side. “Not only. Those are the little things. Have you heard yet how I came to be here?”

Jim nodded. “I heard you sold yourself for your family.”

She nodded. “That's the long and the short of it, yes. I freed them from debt, and I think of that every time the rest of my little arguments fail me. You know how he is, he fucks like a demon, like he could melt your insides, but without a heart. It takes some getting used to, but you know that as well. I remind myself that I do it for my family. I don't know if you can relate to that, though.”

Jim gave her a sad smile. “Actually, more than you might think. I have people to keep safe, too.”

“Oh yes, I’ve heard, the two miraculous prisoners nobody knows or has ever seen,” she grinned. “But I did not think that you are that close.”

Jim nodded. “We are. They’re my family. The one I chose, at least.”

“Well, then you do understand what it’s like to sacrifice bits of yourself for your family. I’m sorry for your situation, though. I won’t ask you about your story, but I hope that the three of you will come out of this okay.”

She sounded and looked sincere, and Jim nodded his thanks somberly.

“I appreciate that. But I don’t even know where they will end up. I mean, they’re here but K… the emperor wants to resettle them, get them out of the dungeon in the basement. I’m glad they’ll be out of the holding cells but I feel so far away from them, now that I don’t know where they are, or where they will be eventually.”

“Hmm. What would you do if you knew?” she asked carefully, and Jim answered likewise.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’d try and go talk to them for a bit. I miss them. They’re part of what I feel like is home, and I think that my homesickness would get better if I could just spend some time with them.”

Jim knew he was toeing a line here, that he did not know if he could trust Rika, but he thought he could say that much.

They were silent for a few minutes, before Rika said: “I could find out about your friends, I think. If they are still in the palace after they have been moved, it should be easy enough to find out where he took them.”

Jim stared at her, joy and doubts mixing in his head. When he had stared at her for so long that she began to look uncomfortable, Jim took a deep breath.
“And what do you want for that?”

Rika gave him a look that was half smile, half pity. “There are many things I want, none of which you can give me. But if I can ask for one thing in return…volunteer to take me whenever I ride out. I like talking to you.”

Jim blinked, speechless about the request. He had expected something more, something dangerous or sinister maybe, and suddenly, he felt slightly ashamed of that. First the lapse this morning when he had thought about slitting Khan’s throat, and now this. Jim Kirk usually believed in the good in people. But his time here seemed to change him bit by bit. Determined to not lose himself even more, he nodded and smiled.

“I like talking to you, too, it’ll be my pleasure to take you for a ride every now and then.”

And then he winked, and Rika laughed loud enough to make Radhika turn around on her horse and frown at them.

 

After a nice long shower and a hasty dinner, Jim trudged up to Khan’s rooms, where he met Derya. The slave was busy cleaning, but he let the feather duster sink as soon as Jim closed the door behind himself.

“I tell you, I am so done with horses for today, these new beasts they - ouch! What the...?”

Derya had caught his forearm, and none too gently.

“Jim, whatever you do today, do not vex him.”

“Huh? Who, Khan? Why?”

Jim gaped at the young one, surprised by his sudden intensity. His strange blue eyes bore into his own.

“It was a very bad day for our master, so try not to anger him more.”

For a little moment, Jim feared that Khan had somehow heard about his talk with Rika and was furious with him, but then again, he would have been in trouble much earlier, and nobody would have had time to warn him.

“Ah...alright? I’ll do my best. Can you please pry your nails out of my arm now?”

Derya let go quickly, as if he had just now realised how hard he was gripping the man. Jim rubbed his arm and looked down at the slave.

“Actually, I saw him today, and he did seem kind of… out of sorts. But thanks for the warning. Say, is everything alright?”

The slave turned away. “I hope it will be, I hope his mood will get better…”

“I meant you, actually. Are you alright? You seem out of sorts yourself.”

Jim stepped around the young one and looked at him earnestly. He had half expected him to present his perfect mask and lie that he was fine, but instead, the slave shook his head after a long minute of silence.

“No. But it does not matter, and I also cannot tell you why, so don’t bother asking me.”

“Okay… are yours and Khan’s bad mood somehow connected?” Jim asked anyway.

“Partly.”

That was basically nothing to go on, but Jim knew Derya’s loyalty went too far to have a chance at getting anything out of the slave.

“Alright, fine,” he said, reaching out to cup the smooth cheek in his hands for a moment. “But it does matter if you feel bad. Tell me if there is anything I can do for you. You don’t even have to tell me anything.”

When Jim took his hands away, Derya caught them in his own and squeezed for a moment.

“Thank you, Jim.”

Jim squeezed back. “Really, Derya, you can come to me if you need me. I know you like to be all self-sufficient and not accept any help, but I’ll be there for you if you need someone. I consider you a friend.”

Derya gave him a long, hard look, but then smiled.

“I guess… yes, I guess we are friends.” He pressed his hands one last time and then let go.

Jim smiled back. A month or two ago, the young one would not have said this. Somehow, it felt good to know that he had a friend here, even though they would probably never see each other again if - when - Jim got away from this place. The thought actually hurt a bit.

As usual, Khan ruined the moment as he walked in. He did not even look at them, but seemed deep in thought. Jim watched him intently. He had seen the man in a bad mood often enough, but he did not seem angry, maybe a bit stoic and … lost? Whatever that blank facial expression was about, Khan was anywhere but here with them.

The Augment waved his hand in their general direction.

“You can go, Derya.”

The young slave gave Jim a warning look and left without a word.

Not having been dismissed, Jim stayed where he was. Khan did not speak again, he only moved into his walk-in closet, waving at Jim to come with him. A flutter of the old, familiar fear made Jim hesitate for a moment, but he obeyed. The Augment took off his silk shirt and undershirt, and Jim folded both neatly and put them away. Since it was a normal workday, Khan was not wearing any jewellery, but for a moment, he thumbed some of the gold and silver trinkets that lay on a shelf, staring at them absentmindedly. Jim felt more confused by the second. After the warning, he had expected Khan to be loud and fuming, but he had never seen the Augment behave like this. Khan did not go around playing with things, even when he was brooding, he always had some purpose. Jim was also unsure about why Khan would let Jim see him like this. Usually, the Augment seemed to be very aware of his presence, but now it felt almost like he had forgotten him.

After a moment, Khan continued to undress, but put on a different pair of trousers a moment later. No sex, then, Jim thought. Well, the chafed skin on his backside would certainly be thankful for that.

Leaving his upper body bare, Khan went back into his living quarters without saying a word, and Jim followed. He watched as the Augment sat down on a chair by the window and stared outside. The silence began to get to Jim when Khan finally spoke.

“I moved your friends this morning. And I have a bit of time early on Friday. I’ll take you to your friends then.”

The Augment’s voice sounded unusually tired and hollow. But Jim had a hunch that it was not physical tiredness this time; Khan had slept, and felt better these last few days. What could have happened that morning that had made Khan react like this? Being slightly grumpy was nothing new for Khan, but Jim remembered the grueling two hours with the horses, and how impatient the man had been even with them. It made Jim both wary and curious.

“Thank you, sir.”

Khan acknowledged with a nod and fell silent again. Nervous about this unfamiliar situation, Jim decided to take action; Khan was obviously unhappy about something. Perhaps he would be thankful for a … distraction. Maybe he would even talk or hint about what troubled him.

“Sir, can I do anything for you?” he asked, boldly speaking without being asked to, something Derya might have gotten away with if he had ever tried, but certainly not him - well, not until last night. Surely, the day would not have erased Jim from Khan’s good books?

He stepped closer to Khan, who only grunted, but Jim had no idea whether it meant yes or no. It was not a clear no, he thought, so he only stopped right behind the man. He could see the taut muscles in Khan’s shoulders and back. He dropped his voice to a soft purr, a tone Khan had liked a lot last night.

“You look like you could use some relaxation. I can help you...again.”

Reaching out, he let his hands rest on Khan’s shoulders, who flexed them, but did not actually pull away. Jim still had no idea whether Khan was for or against this, but figured that Khan could have broken his hand by now if he wanted to be left alone. Digging his thumbs into the flesh left and right of Khan’s spine, Jim started to massage Khan’s hard shoulders a little. Even though the hard work here had given him a bit of extra strength in his hands, he did not have the feeling that his hands achieved much; Khan was incredibly tense. This time, the Augment made a movement that clearly said he was shrugging him off. He still said nothing, though. Jim decided to push his luck a bit.

“Won’t you let me take your mind off whatever it is that’s bothering you?” he asked silkily, and let his fingertips ghost along Khan’s neck and into his hair.

Obviously, he had gone a little too far.

The Augment was out of his chair in a millisecond, turning to him and looking reproachful, if not as angry as Jim had feared he would be. Jim had no time to ponder that particular fact before Khan backhanded him like he was a bratty child. It did not hurt much; the Augment must have calculated the blow carefully, and there was none of the usual anger behind it. However, Khan did look cross when he spoke.

“I told you this morning, don’t take liberties! And don’t touch me unless I allow it.”

Jim bit his tongue to keep himself from reminding Khan that he always touched people without an invitation. But he also felt that, if he backed down completely now, he might lose some of his new standing. He had to remind Khan who he was; not a slave, not his property.

“Alright, I’m sorry, sir.” Then he smiled tentatively. “May I ask again tomorrow?”

Khan’s scowl fell completely, and he stared at him, obviously baffled. Jim had to get a grip on himself, or he would have laughed, because the expression seemed to make Khan’s sharp Augment features unusually human.

He dared to cock his head to the side and look at Khan from underneath his lashes, but trying not to lay it on too thick. “I will ask again tomorrow, if it’s welcome,” he said again.

Khan stared at him for a few moments more, but Jim saw his scowl twitch into a reluctant smile, if only for a second.

“You may. Now get lost.”

Trying very hard not to grin, Jim bowed and left, still somewhat glad that he had gotten away with no punishment, and that he could have an early night after the last. Really, the good news about his friends had come far quicker than he had anticipated. In his room, by himself, when he had had time to process it, he felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Scotty and Chekov were out of the cold, damp cells, and maybe there was even a chance that he would find out where they had gone, or at least, Rika might find out. When Khan had told him this morning that he would only see his friends once, it had put a damper on his mood at first, but talking to Rika and finding, maybe, a sort of ally in her, had been uplifting indeed. In the last twenty four hours, so much had changed. Only two days ago, he had been worried sick about Scotty and Chekov, still doubting whether or not he’d be able to help them. And now he was able to pull Khan out of a dark mood, if only for a moment, and make him smile at the thought of another night with him.

Perhaps that had made him a bit careless. He would have to test the new limits more carefully, but going by the fact that Khan had barely slapped him for his insolence a minute ago, whereas, in the past, he would have done far worse, those limits might turn out to be quite extensive.

Jim took off his clothes and laid down in his bed, letting his mind wander, thinking, he noticed, about last night (not for the first time today), thinking about how it had felt, grappling with the man, heard again Khan’s voice, so different from usual, as he pleaded with Jim to get on with it. He remembered the thrill when Khan had cried out as Jim pulled his hair, and the strange, forbidden feeling when they had briefly held hands. Jim cringed just a little at the thought. He also remembered his talk with Rika, how he had not been able to stop defending himself, although she had not really accused him of anything. Here, in the privacy of his own room, alone in bed, he could deal better with the conflicting feelings he had about his and Khan’s situation, it was a lot easier than trying to explain it to someone else. Letting yourself go was, of course, a prerequisite for good sex, which had been the objective. Well, he had enjoyed himself, and he had earned that, damn it. Thankfully, there had never been anything remotely romantic about the whole thing, not even when they locked their hands together, and that calmed Jim’s conscience considerably. He smiled to himself. He had shown Khan. Closing his eyes, Jim remembered how the man’s skin had felt when he had marked his neck, and drifted off to sleep.

It felt like he had slept perhaps for a minute, when he woke again. It was now dark outside the window, so at least one or two hours had passed. Confused, he looked around to find out what had woken him, when he heard a light knock on the door. Even more confused, he got up, wrapping his coarse sheet around himself; he was only in his underwear, and there were already decidedly too many people in this palace who knew him naked. When he opened the door, though, he saw Derya, in a long white nightgown that made his dark hair and skin stand out in a strange way, especially in the half dark, since Derya had brought no light. But the moon was bright tonight, and Jim knew the slave instantly.

“Derya? What is it?”

He half expected to be called to Khan’s room, but the little one signed for him to lower his voice.

“Jim, can I come in?” he asked in a whisper.

“Uh...sure.”

Jim stepped back, wondering what the hell was going on, and let the slave creep into the small room. He shut the door, and pulled his sheet tighter around himself; the night air in the corridors was still mighty cold when one was in the nude.

“Something wrong?” he asked tentatively, because Derya stood there in the middle of the room, wringing his hands as if in distress. At last, he spoke.

“I can’t sleep. Jim, what you said, before, did you mean it? That we’re friends and that you'd offer me your help?”

Jim blinked, surprised, but nodded earnestly. “Of course I meant it.”

Derya took a deep breath. “Then… Then this is me coming to you for help.”

“O...kay?” Jim was wondering where this was going and what the little one could possibly want from him.

“Can I stay with you? Tonight?”

Well, that was the last thing he had expected to hear. Jim took a deep breath as well.

This could be dangerous. Friends sharing a bed was not unusual where Jim came from, but Derya was Khan’s favourite. He had seen what had happened to the man - and woman - who had dared to lay a hand on someone who essentially belonged to Khan. Had this been his time, he’d have welcomed Derya without a second thought, but even though this would not be a sexual encounter, it was still dangerous. What if Khan found out? Something told Jim that the Augment would not be happy to discover that his favourite and Jim had shared a bed, no matter for what purpose.

“Please, I don’t want to be alone,” Derya added, and his shaky voice told Jim that he was about to burst into tears. That got him. Derya was usually controlled, so this lapse was kind of disturbing, as the last and only time he had seen Derya cry had been when he was sick. No matter what Khan might do to him, if he ever found out, he did not have the heart to turn Derya away now. The plea had sounded as if the problem went a little deeper than he was prepared to say, but Jim did not ask. Instead, he nodded assent.

“Sure.”

A little awkwardly, the two of them shuffled towards the bed. Jim untangled his sheet, and they both piled onto the narrow mattress. Mumbling something about the little one becoming cold, he opened his arms and held up the blanket for Derya, who snuggled up to him.

Jim was surprised that it actually felt a little awkward. They had seen each other naked and in the most embarrassing and painful situations in Khan’s bed, and yet, being almost skin on skin with the little one felt definitely forbidden. What little skin was showing beneath Derya’s nightdress was indeed cold, and Jim wrapped his arms more tightly around him. Had Derya been out of bed long? Had he paced in his own room or hesitated outside his door?

“Thank you, Jim.”

It was an almost inaudible whisper, but Jim heard. Derya wrapped his arms around Jim’s waist and pressed his face against Jim’s chest, and thankfully, the awkwardness melted away completely. It felt more like a nightmare-visit from a little brother or sister would possibly have, he thought.

“You’re always welcome,” Jim replied, and briefly stroked the other one’s back. Derya, in the tight space between them, moved his hands to his face, and Jim noticed he was wiping at his eyes, so Jim resumed his caress.

“I guess you still can’t tell me what’s wrong?”

Derya just breathed a no and kept wiping away his otherwise silent tears. To Jim’s surprise and relief, it did not last long, and soon, Derya was breathing normally again.

“It’s good to have a friend,” he whispered. “It’s good to have you as a friend. Even though I sometimes resent that you crossed the master’s path, I also sometimes wish that I had known you sooner.”

Jim tilted his head as far as possible, but of course, he could not see the slave’s face.

“You resent me? Why?”

“Not you, particularly… You made me aware of too many things. I was so happily ignorant before you came along. Those things you made me long for can never be, and it hurts, today more than ever.”

Jim had no idea what to say to that, but it was spoken without malice, and no answer seemed to be expected anyway. They were quiet for a little while, before Derya spoke again.

“You still want to run, don’t you? I won’t get to keep my friend, one way or another.”

The last was not a question, and Jim squirmed a little, feeling uncertain about what he should say. Of course he still wanted to flee! But as much as he wanted to trust Derya, he was still Khan’s most loyal servant.

“Well, I have no idea where my friends are, so…”

“As if that would stop you of all men,” Derya snorted rather unlike his usual proper self. “But you’ll have a hard time finding them, I’ll guarantee that.”

“You know where they are?” Jim asked, feeling a bit breathless. Yes, of course Derya would know.

“Of course, I was with the master this morning, when he brought them there,” the little one echoed Jim’s thoughts.

“So… they are okay? They’re really safe?”

“Yes yes, they’re more cozy than you can imagine, actually, but they are well-hidden, too. I’m sure your older friend will get better now.”

“But...it is inside the palace, right?”

“Yes, but don’t ask me any more. And I fear for you, Jim, I’m afraid of the day you will try. I don’t want to lose you.”

Jim did not answer. It would have been unfair to console the little one by lying that he would not try.

“Will you report me to Khan? My plans to flee?”

Derya shook his head. “I would not tell him anything new, he knows you want to flee, you have made that quite clear from the beginning.”

“Huh.” Well, of course, Khan was not an idiot. However, perhaps Khan would think it less likely that Jim would attempt escape, now that his crewmates were in a perhaps-soon-not-so-super-secret location in the palace. On the other hand, Khan was a brilliant man, and he would probably be able to anticipate pretty much any plan Jim could come up with. The way Derya had put it, Khan was already anticipating that Jim would try something .

“Let’s not talk about such things, Jim,” Derya ended Jim’s inner monologue, and pressed his cheek harder against Jim’s chest for a moment. “I wish I knew what we could talk about, though. I’m afraid I’m not very good at being friends.”

Jim chuckled. “Smalltalk is not what friendship is about. But you’re not, by far, the first of my friends who doesn’t have the first idea about how to make friendly smalltalk.”

“Really? What are the others like?” Derya asked eagerly.

Adjusting his arms a little, Jim thought for a moment.

“I told you about the hearing I went to, remember? At my university.”

“Yes, I remember. What about it?”

“Well, it was one of my friends who called for that hearing. It was his test that I cheated at. That was before we were friends, though.”

Derya made an appropriately exasperated sound. “And you still became friends?”

“Yes, although I’m still not quite sure how exactly. He’s the polar opposite of me, a stuck-up know-it-all.”

Derya giggled. “Polar opposites attract sometimes. Any other annoying friends?”

“Oh yes, annoying, yes. One of my oldest friends, another know-it-all, but less stuck-up. He’d like people to believe he is, being a doctor and all, but I’ve seen him drunk, he’s...what?”

Derya was suddenly giving him a funny look, partly impressed and partly suspicious.

“What’s wrong?”

“You have a doctor friend? And you’ve seen him drunk?”

“What’s the matter?”

Derya seemed to cast around for words. “Doctors are so high up in society, and alcohol is mostly forbidden in many countries… you must come from high up in the system,” he mused, sounding almost sad.

Jim kicked himself in his mind and nudged Derya’s forehead with his nose. “I really don’t. None of us do. Come on, let’s go to sleep, okay? Forget what I said.”

Derya settled in, but Jim could almost hear him think.

“You must miss them very much.”

Sighing, Jim turned onto his back, but kept one arm around Derya to signal he was still welcome, and the little one followed behind, keeping his head on Jim’s shoulder.

“Yes. Sometimes I hope that I open my eyes, and discover that all of this here was just a dream. I want to be with them. So much so that it physically hurts sometimes.”

“Yes,” Derya said softly, holding Jim tighter. “I know what that feels like.”

Chapter Text

When he felt something moving close to his body, Jim woke as suddenly as if he’d been stung, muscles taut and ready to defend himself. It took him a long moment to realise that it was only Derya untangling himself from his arms. Relaxing, he stretched, feeling awfully stiff after spending the night locked into one position, and slightly embarrassed about his reaction.

“Good morning, Jim,” Derya said, and gave him a smile while he sat up.

Jim smiled back groggily. “Mornin’. Is it time already?” With one hand, he tousled his hair a bit more and sat up as well, so that they were both perched on the edge of the bed, side by side. Last night came back to him, and in the light of day, such as it was, he started to feel anxious about the situation. Again, he wondered what had distressed the young slave so much that he had come running to him in the middle of the night, but he knew he would get no answer if he asked. 

“Not for you, you can stay in bed for another half hour or so. But I have to get up, I couldn’t do it without waking you, I’m sorry.”

Jim stretched again, rolling his shoulders to coax some feeling into them. “No, it’s fine, I’m getting up. Might as well.”

“Thank you for letting me stay, Jim.”

“No problem. That is… I hope it won’t be.” Jim looked up at Derya. “You won’t tell him, right?”

For a moment, Derya said nothing. “I doubt he will notice or care, but if he does ask, I have to tell him. You know he won’t be lied to. But if he does notice and does mind, I’ll take the blame.” Jim’s concern must have shown on his face, because Derya went on quickly. “It’s very unlikely that he’ll think anything… improper happened. So I doubt he’ll care. Don’t worry.”

Jim did worry, though; he had learned to always worry when it came to Khan. The Augment guarded his treasures, of which Derya was doubtlessly one, like a dragon guarded his gold. Rika had called Jim a favourite yesterday, but would that matter when it came down to it? Probably not. Favourite or no, the more he thought about it, the more Jim was sure Khan would not be okay with their little sleepover. He could only hope that the man was still preoccupied with whatever had troubled him yesterday and would not know. Anyway, the damage was done now, he had made his decision last night, and had to live with it.

“With his weird nose, I guess he could even smell me on you.”

Derya looked away. “We’ll both shower, and anyway, he hasn’t… come close enough lately to smell you on me.”

Jim noticed the sadness in the slave’s voice and ducked his head sheepishly. “It’s been a long time for you, hasn’t it?”

The young one nodded, still not looking at Jim. “The last time he touched me, you were still imprisoned in your room. I’m afraid of what it might mean.”

“Well,” Jim said hesitantly, “have you...offered?”

Derya levelled one of those looks on Jim that told him a lecture was coming. “The emperor is not the kind of man you proposition, Jim. It’s not my place to ask him to fulfil my needs, I’m here to serve his. If he has no need of me… I have to live with it.”

Trying not to show how awkward the words made Jim feel (the area between his thighs still felt tender), he nodded vaguely. “I still think that maybe you could show him if you want him. You told me a while ago that he hates to be unwanted and therefore takes by force what he wants. Well, maybe he has just stopped using force, and would welcome it if you showed him you’d be willing? You don’t have to go to him and order him to screw your brains out. Batting your eyelids would probably be enough in your case.”

“Jim!” Derya said sternly, but at least there was a faint smile on his face now, which was enough for Jim.

“Really, Derya, I think he’d like it. He likes you. Remind him of it, hm?” He winked.

The young one smiled tentatively. “You must feel particularly unlucky these days, you being the only one he wants, when you’re also the one who wants him least. You were with him the night before last, am I right? When you refused to leave with me. He was in an exceptional mood yesterday morning.”

Jim felt his face getting hot and made a noncommittal sound. “I’m sorry. You must feel even more neglected for that.”

The other did not reply. After a moment of silence, Derya got up. “I have to go. I’ll see you later.”

 

With Derya gone back to his own room to get dressed, Jim put on his own clothes, and went down to the kitchens for some breakfast.

There were not many people around, but Mima looked up from what she was doing and gave him a little wave, so he went over to her.

“Morning, Mima.”

“Good morning, James!” She smiled at him and interrupted her work for a moment. “Bright and early today? Has the bustle of the preparations finally reached the upper floors?”

Jim blinked, confused. “What? Preparations?”

She laughed at him and continued kneading the mountain of dough on the table in front of her. “For the Kurultai, of course. Really, if I did not see you for breakfast every day, I’d think you live behind the moon.”

“Kuruwhat?” Jim had never heard the word before, but since pretty much every interruption of the routine here had, so far, not been very good for him, he did not like the sound of it.

“Kurultai,” Mima reiterated slowly. “It’s the Augment gathering. Did nobody tell you about it?”

Jim shook his head, swallowing a side note about how nobody here told him anything, so it was not really a surprise. Mima, without stopping her work this time, explained further.

“The Augments meet four times every year in a big gathering. We thought that, after the first one a few years ago, it wouldn’t be our turn for some time, but for whatever reason, we’re hosting again. Perhaps because we're one of the bigger households, they think we can manage easily. But it’s an awful lot of work nonetheless. The amount of people you have to feed during that time… and the security is just exhausting!” Mima made an exasperated sound.

“So, how many will come exactly?” Jim asked, picking an apple out of a nearby fruit basket.

“Oh dear, between eighty and a hundred, they will tell the staff soon enough. And really, it depends on how many servants each of them brings, those are the real numbers we have to worry about. Some think themselves quite important, and they bring half their palace staff, you would think. Such nonsense. When his majesty travels, he only takes little Derya with him, and the second in command of the general, the rest is, again, security. I really wish he’d choose a wife, as would be fitting at his age, but no lady would tolerate Derya by the emperor’s side, and our lord and master seems unwilling to live without him.” Mima smiled as if to herself, and Jim smiled with her. “An empress would probably get rid of the little one through some kind of plot.” She whispered the last word conspiratorially to Jim, who kept smiling politely although the words made him feel very uneasy.

A meeting of Augments. He had never given much thought to other Augments, or how many there were, apart from those he’d had on his ship. Or what they would be like. Or how well Khan knew them. But since it was Augments meeting, he was now really a bit surprised that he had not noticed more of a buzz in the household. “I had the feeling that the palace has become quieter lately, not busier.”

“Could you hand me… Yes, that.” Mima let the dough fall into a huge baking pan Jim pulled towards her. “The palace has become quiet because some of the servants and slaves have been sent to the other palace, where the Kurultai is being held, they are needed there for the preparations. The bustle I was talking about earlier is what you get when you are suddenly short on staff but still have to do the same amount of work here. I expect you have not been to the other palace? No, I think not. It’s much grander, the actual Imperial Palace. The master prefers this one here, he always has, he grew up here and he never felt at home at the other one, where his father lived most of the time. You’ll be amazed when you see the Imperial Palace, James, it is simply breathtaking ! I’m looking forward to going there, even though it means a lot of work.”

Jim tried to imagine a palace even grander than this one; it was already massive to him, but what did he know? Perhaps Khan really saw this one more like his country cottage, the damned rich boy... Then his brain caught up.

“I am going?”

Mima made an annoyed sound. “Yes, of course you’re going, silly, you’re one of the emperor’s body slaves! Do you think he’ll leave you behind? Because I don’t.”

So Khan would drag him along as his personal monkey. More than a nuisance, it was time he could not use to plan his escape, valuable days, perhaps weeks, or, who knew, maybe even months, in which he could do nothing about their situation, and had to leave his friends behind to go wherever. 

“Right… when will I be going, then? How far away is it? How long will it be until we're back?”

Mima made a stern face and heaved up the baking pan to carry it to the oven. “The emperor will tell you when it is time. It’s not like you need a lot of time to pack.”

 

Jim mulled over the conversation all day, but of course, he could not just go and ask Khan about the details of this excursion. The Augment expected him to ask again if he could stay the night though, so Jim decided that he would. And after, if Khan did not just pass out again, he might be able to have a conversation with the man and ask some questions that would perhaps even be answered. 

He waited until after dinner, and until Khan had changed for the night and sat down with a book, and finally spoke the words Jim had been waiting to hear all day.

“You can go, Derya.”

For a moment, Jim was nervous about what Khan would do, but he reminded himself that things had changed. No need to be afraid anymore. 

The Augment put his book away, leant back and looked at him expectantly. Jim had no way of gauging his mood; Khan’s face was blank. At least he seemed to be over whatever had happened yesterday that had upset both him and Derya so much, so he might be easier to handle than the night before.

It took Jim a full minute to come up with the idea that Khan was so unnaturally still because he was waiting for Jim's move. And since hesitation would gain him nothing, and embracing his role again for the sake of coping would probably keep him alive and sane, Jim made his move. He took a small step forward, clasped his hands behind his back and smiled tentatively.

“Anything I can do for you, sir?” Briefly, he thought about how fucked up the situation was, having to ask his captor for it, pretending this was something he did out of his own free will. But that thought was not helping, so he pushed it aside and tried to hold onto his determination to make this happen. He had had an idea during the day, and if Khan was amiable, things should be very easy tonight.

Slowly, as if afraid that he’d startle him, Khan rose from his seat to stand right in front of Jim, close enough that he could feel his body heat. Jim felt his heartbeat accelerate, and knew Khan could hear it. The Augment leaned in, but did not touch, he only let his nose ghost along the line of Jim’s neck, as if he was scenting him; Jim could feel him taking a deep breath. He shuddered, but to his own surprise, did not feel too appalled. Faintly, he asked himself what Bones would call this phenomenon, because he was damned sure that his healthy self would have wished very much to push Khan away, but the urge was strangely muted. Therapy. He'd need a shitload of therapy when they came home.

“That depends on what you’re prepared to do,” Khan said, and showed him a soft smile, not the predatory snarl Jim had come to associate with the man.

Jim grinned. “I’m prepared to do a lot of things.” He reached out, hoping that Khan would be in the mood this time, and let his hands ghost over the Augment’s shoulders. “You know, I’ve been thinking, about what you said yesterday morning. You agreed that you’d give me the drug again if I wanted. If you help me along like you said, I think I could...perform even better.”

Khan moved his head to the side like a cat, obviously enjoying the touch, openly, to Jim’s surprise.

“Fair enough. I can understand that you want it.”

Slowly, the Augment stepped away from Jim, and vanished into the small side room. Jim could hear him rummaging around in there, though he had no idea what he was doing. He had dusted in there often enough to be almost certain that there was nothing in there but books on shelves.

“Pour yourself a glass of water,” the man called, and Jim went to do so, all the while pricking up his ears to guess what Khan was up to. Once, he thought he heard faint clicking sounds, and made a face he was glad Khan could not see. Of course, someone like Khan would need a secret compartment behind a bookshelf. But in a palace with so many hidden passageways, that did not surprise him much.

As Jim was putting the water pitcher back on the table, Khan emerged from the other room holding a small, brownish bottle Jim was sure he’d never seen in there. He waited until Khan had added four drops of the clear liquid with a dropper, then picked up the glass.  It was a pretty thing, emerald green, painted with golden ornaments, making the stuff inside look far more inviting than it really was. He looked at it, swirling its contents around. Last time, he had fought it, but this time… this time he would enjoy himself thoroughly, he decided grimly. He was not scared of taking the drug, he had tried enough substances in his life to know that this one was almost harmless. After Romulan Ale, everything else was a cakewalk, really. The memory of what the drug could do was still vivid in his mind; he would lose control and feel awesome for a change, and god damnit, he deserved a respite. He would not have to make himself like whatever Khan did; he would crave it like air . He had to make the best of what he had to work with. Jim briefly shook himself and chugged the water down before he could decide to fling the glass against a wall. Then he caught Khan looking at him.

“What?” He grimaced when he became aware of a sickly sweet aftertaste.

Khan cocked his head to the side and offered him a half-smile. “I used to wonder, when I first gave you that drug, why you could hold your liquor so well. That gesture just now clearly indicates that you’re used to drinking. Excessively, perhaps.”

Jim shrugged, wondering if Khan was making conversation until the drug kicked in or if he really was curious. “I’ve had a youth in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, I know how to drink properly.”

Khan gave him a look that was almost concern. “Nice to know that that is the future.”

“What, didn’t you drink when you were young? I mean, when it still had an effect?” He put the glass back onto the table.

Khan shook his head. “Never. I wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol. And I expect my supervisors were more unpleasant and more thorough than yours.”

Jim cocked his head to the side and gave Khan a cheeky smile. “Were they afraid that the crown prince could have some fun for a change or what?” Uh-oh, his tongue was getting a bit loose, obviously. He hoped Khan would not punish him for it.

The Augment did frown, but surprised Jim by actually giving him a sort of answer instead of a blow to the head.

“No. Religious reasons. Alcohol was more or less illegal here before I had anything to say about it, although then it was forbidden by religion and now it is forbidden by law. As is the open practice of religion, I might add. But the old emperor was very strict about that sort of thing. Especially when it came to me.”

Jim nodded his understanding. “Pity that nothing will affect your system now, I’d rather like seeing what you’re like drunk...or drugged.”

Khan came closer to him, so that they were almost touching. Jim saw his nostrils flare as Khan breathed him in, as he had done a few minutes ago, but this time, Jim could feel the primal nature of the gesture stir something inside him.

“If I were to take that drug, I’d destroy you,” Khan rumbled, and the substance must have started working, because Jim’s skin prickled as he heard the man’s words, and not with fear.

Khan, meanwhile, brushed past him, casually getting rid of his shirt on the way to the couch. This time, Jim made no move to pick up after him, but he watched the man intently. The thought hit him how good he looked, how gracefully he moved. Khan caught Jim ogling him, and grinned. But Jim did not feel ashamed. Instead, he felt something flood his brain with the force of three shots of tequila, and a sizzling, tingling feeling spread through his limbs. He felt as if his senses sharpened, while at the same time, a drowsy calm seemed to come over him. His thoughts wandered to Khan’s body, not only what was in front of him, but memories, things Jim hadn’t even known he remembered; the sight of a hickey on his neck before it faded, the way his nipples perked up, the smell of his skin, the feeling of his moans, traveling as vibrations through Jim’s skin, the way his chest heaved when he particularly enjoyed something Jim did. His head was suddenly blissfully empty of anything not connected to the two of them, and his whole self seemed to narrow down to the twinges of beginning arousal. He was so preoccupied with what was happening to his body that he almost didn’t notice Khan stepping closer. He only became aware of him when the man grabbed his chin to make him look up.

“You’re there.” 

Jim had a hard time concentrating on words. His blood pressure was going through the roof, and he could not stop staring at Khan’s lips. Another wave of the drug hit his brain, and he moaned quietly.

“How do you feel?”

“Horny,” was the first word that came to his mind, and it was out before he had given his lips permission to move. “Like, extremely horny." Ogling the nicely-built body in front of him was not enough, and Jim reached out with both hands to touch, but Khan's hands met his in mid-air and stopped him, gently. Jim noticed how his fingers intertwined with Khan's and remembered the last time they had done that, shortly before a mind blowing orgasm. Jim let out a breathy sigh.

The other man smirked. "Extremely, huh?"

Jim stared into those eyes, noticing that he liked them far too much right now. "Yeah. As in, going-to-jump-you-I’m-so-horny, if you don’t touch me soon.” Ah, no filter. Somehow it felt nice. He took a deep breath. “ Wow , what kind of dose was that, anyway?”

Khan did not seem to mind, but he also did not give him a direct answer. “Do I have to prepare you?” He stepped back a bit and waited, hands leaving Jim's, which felt kind of disappointing.

Strangely enough, Jim did not want any preparation, he just needed to be touched, right now!

“I guess we’ll see about that,” Khan said patiently when Jim did not respond, and loosened the waistband of his trousers. Jim groaned when he saw that he was very naked underneath, and he moved towards him without knowing what his feet were doing. Khan did not seem to mind that either, he stepped out of his trousers, and towards him until they would have been skin on skin, except that Jim’s clothes were in the way. Why the hell was he wearing clothes, anyway? His skin protested, feeling like the cloth was chafing him mercilessly. Khan brought his fingers to Jim’s face again, and offered his lips.

Jim practically sprang forward, crushing his mouth against Khan’s. His arms were up and his fingers twined into Khan’s silky hair before he realized it. Khan responded enthusiastically, and started backing him… somewhere. Jim didn’t care, all that mattered at the moment was that Khan’s tongue was invading his mouth, and that the cock Jim felt on his hip was at least half hard already. At last, his back hit a silk-covered wall, and Khan interrupted their kiss. Jim tried to chase his lips, but the Augment laid a hand flat on his chest to push him back. Then the second. He looked at Jim for a moment, and Jim looked back with a no doubt pleading expression. Before he could say anything, Khan tore open Jim’s shirt like it was made of tissue paper. While Jim was still staring, he brushed the shirt's remains off his shoulders.

“I’ll just say it, that was pretty hot,” Jim heard himself slur, and Khan smiled.

“Your trousers.”

Jim shoved them down and kicked them away along with his underwear, and then the other man finally, mercifully, pressed the whole length of his body against his. This time, Jim grabbed Khan’s head and kissed him, and Khan went along with it. The strong hands suddenly gripped his butt, squeezing harder and harder, until Jim felt that he lost his footing. He yelped, though it was muffled by Khan’s lips, and a moment later he found that Khan had picked him up, and was pressing him against the wall, holding him up with his arms and the pressure of his body alone. Delighted, Jim wrapped his legs around Khan’s waist, trapping their cocks together. Khan’s answering moan went through him like a lightning bolt, and he kissed him more fiercely, twining his tongue with the other man’s, until he felt dizzy. He bit him, and Khan bit him back, and Jim felt the Augment’s breath on his face; panting, often interrupted puffs of air while their teeth snatched at each other’s lips and they kissed and kissed. Jim had always loved making out, and while he knew perfectly well that he was in no condition to judge whether or not Khan was a good kisser, he could certainly say that he was a fiery one. The man had begun to rut against him, and Jim was all for it, though he could not move much. Instead, he bit Khan’s lip hard and, though it cost him a great deal of strength, he leaned away.

“Bed. Now.”

Khan cocked his head to the side and frowned, panting just a tiny bit but looking more than a little dishevelled. “You don’t tell me what to…”

Jim leaned forward again, shutting Khan up with the filthiest kiss he could muster in his state, then stared at him. “ Bed . Absolutely. Fucking. Now.”

To get his point across, he shoved his hand between them and squeezed their cocks together.

Khan moaned, and nodded before he gave him another quick kiss. Jim could feel Khan's hands dig deeper into his ass cheeks for a moment, then the man hoisted him up and away from the wall. Without letting Jim down, Khan walked to the bed.

"Fuckin' braggart," Jim giggled, forgetting that there was such a thing as fear and instead letting his hands glide along Khan's bulging biceps.

"You're really lippy when you're high."

"Problem, babe?" Oh no, that wasn't a good thing to say, right? But it was out, and Jim tried to care, but didn't. He could only concentrate on the arousal sizzling in his veins. Even though Khan was still holding him up by his ass, Jim tried to move so he could get some friction.

Khan growled, but Jim thought he could see the tiniest of smiles in the corner of his lips. "If you keep saying such things, yes. But for once, I know you can't help it, so I can't even punish you."

"So- ugh !" Jim barely had time to fling out his arms when Khan threw him onto the bed. By the time he had sorted out all his extremities, Khan was already crawling over him, and Jim heard himself whimper at the sight. He tried to hide it with a cough, but probably fooled no-one. "So, what will you do about it? Cause I really don't have a filter at the moment and I don't wanna end up dead because of it."

Khan rolled his eyes. "Maybe the dose really was a bit high. As for your filthy mouth…" He stooped down for a kiss, and Jim met him halfway, kissing back until he felt a hand on his cock and moaned. "I'll just have to either keep it occupied or make you forget how to form words, huh?"

Ugh. That shouldn’t sound so perfect. “Yes, please,” Jim breathed.

Another kiss, but Jim keened more against Khan's lips than anything else, because the other man kept working him, before flattening his hand against Jim's cock and letting it glide down over his balls and his hole. Jim's terrible longing increased with every movement of Khan’s hand, the burning need to fuck or get fucked, he really did not care which one, as long as he was getting some. He looked up at the other man, pleading with his eyes. The smile he got back made his stomach churn; it was hot, and genuine, and full of lust and promise and challenge. While he still marvelled at the look in Khan's eyes, he felt a finger probe between his legs, and opened them wider without thinking. Of course he had prepared for the night, so it slid in easily, even more so because the drug, he remembered, helped him relax. He let out a shaky breath as Khan moved in and out and added a second finger.

"More!" Jim demanded, spreading his legs wider to give the other man a better show and better access.

Khan smiled again. "You'll get more. But first…" He let his fingers slide out and lowered his body enough to kiss Jim again, before crawling further up on the bed, until he was kneeling over Jim's chest. 

Jim let his gaze wander upwards, along the muscular thighs, the impressive cock and the toned stomach and chest. His hands followed his gaze, and Khan let out an appreciative hum. Not even thinking about stopping himself, Jim dug his fingers into the flesh of Khan's ass, and it earned him a soft moan and a chuckle. The cock in front of him twitched, and Jim lifted his head to let his tongue dart out playfully, trying to lick it. Their eyes met for a moment. Then Jim felt a hand at the nape of his neck, helping him keep his head up, guiding him forward, and he opened his mouth without a second thought to let Khan in. The Augment adjusted his position slowly, carefully, sighing softly when Jim's lips closed around his manhood. He did not force anything, only held Jim's head, taking the strain off his muscles, and Jim was thankful for it. He had not let go of Khan's behind, and held on tightly for leverage as he began to move his head back and forth. Khan’s hips twitched, as if he was trying not to thrust. Jim could hear him moaning. He pulled back a bit to let the tip of his tongue play along the sensitive underside of the head. Curious how far the man would let him go, Jim purposely pushed his fingernails into Khan's cheeks and looked up to see the reaction, which was more positive than he had anticipated; Khan took it, with half-closed eyes and a positively rapturous facial expression that made Jim's own, untouched cock twitch sympathetically. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he asked himself if he had ever seen such genuine reactions from the man, but the keening sounds he elicited by raking his nails down Khan's ass and along the back of his upper thighs clearly told him no. He could feel the muscles under his fingers, hard as iron, but shuddering ever so slightly, growing soft for a second as Khan shifted minutely on the mattress. Jim got back to work with his tongue and swallowed Khan down a second time, trying to take it in deeper, not minding the lack of air tonight since he felt lightheaded already. Khan still held his head up with one hand, the other braced somewhere behind Jim against the silk covers, but he could feel the man’s impatience growing by the second, in a good way, he thought, because the twitches of his hips had become little thrusts, and his moans were getting louder.

“James,” he heard him groan, and the supporting hand on his nape started to ease him away.

With an obscene pop, Jim let go and let himself sink back.

“You’ve improved,” Khan remarked with a smile that wasn’t mean for a change.

“No, I’m high,” he replied, and smiled back. “And still really horny. Shouldn’t you do something about that?” To emphasize his point, Jim let go of Khan’s thighs and put his hands on himself, stroking his cock with one and fondling his balls with the other. With a look over his shoulder, Khan saw, and shifted off of him. For a moment, he seemed to watch Jim’s hands with interest, but then he caught his wrists and pulled them away, making Jim whine. 

The Augment smiled down at him. “Not yet. For now, giving you pleasure is my privilege.”

“Then give me some already,” Jim began to complain, when Khan grabbed Jim’s hips and turned him, hoisting him up on all fours. In the past, this position had made him anxious, because it allowed Khan to be especially rough, but tonight it thrilled him, and he pressed his hips against the other man’s when he had positioned himself behind Jim, rubbing his hands along his back and sliding further down.

“Like this?” Khan asked, and Jim felt two fingers breach him slowly while the other hand reached around and pressed his cock against his lower body, but without moving. Jim keened and rocked his hips back and forth, trying to get some friction, but Khan’s hands moved with him, which only made him more desperate. He pushed back harder, and heard Khan chuckle.

“I asked you a question.”

“Can’t remember what it was,” Jim whined, too busy with the sensations he craved more than felt, to care about politeness.

He heard Khan’s rumbling laughter, and a moment later felt his sharp teeth nipping at the skin along his spine.

“I said ,” Khan repeated, and shoved his fingers in as deep as they would apparently go, while squeezing Jim’s cock hard and keeping the pressure up instead of letting go again, “ like this?

Jim yowled, head thrown back, balancing on his knuckles with the tension running through his body.

“Yes, yes! Fuck, yes, like that! Oh god, more!”

His hips were moving of their own accord, and Khan let him, even moving his hands a bit, giving Jim some friction, which the blond acknowledged with some deep, drawn-out moans. He also felt Khan kiss and bite and nibble along his back, and arched into it until the man straightened up again. It had felt too good, strange and alien, and some part of his brain that was still more or less conscious told him that he should not like it, but he did, and he wanted more of it.

With some effort, he, too, straightened up, leaning his back against the other man’s chest. He placed one hand on top of the one palming his cock while steadying himself with the other by holding onto Khan’s upper thigh, not quite touching his ass. The Augment remained steady behind him, although he pulled out his fingers very slowly and deliciously, so Jim put more of his weight against Khan's chest and turned his head back so he could nibble along Khan’s jawline. The man hummed his appreciation.

“Fuck me,” Jim whispered, nipping at Khan’s chin playfully, and feeling very pleased with himself when he felt Khan’s breath stutter for a moment. Smiling, he squeezed Khan’s hand on his cock, letting his head fall back on the other’s shoulder. “Get the oil and fuck me. And you better put your back into it and make it good, because I really need to come.” On his last words, he squeezed Khan's ass hard.

This time, Khan’s laugh was incredulous and a bit shaky, which filled Jim with glee.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make you come.”

"Good," Jim said matter-of-factly, and squeezed again.

“It seems you like to do that,” the Augment stated, and wrapped his arms around Jim’s torso, letting his hands glide up and down Jim’s chest, thumbing his nipples, mapping his pectorals.

“Do what?”

“Touch me there.”

“Well, it’s a really nice ass, to be fair. And you seem to like it too. I bet people don’t do that often enough.”

He could feel Khan’s lips on his shoulders, where they met his neck, kissing and nibbling and wandering higher, the trail only shortly interrupted by Jim’s collar, until they reached that spot under his ear, and Jim felt a surge of arousal when Khan started sucking the skin there.

“You might be the first who dares to touch me there. But yes, I like it,” Khan admitted quietly between kissing and sucking along Jim’s jawline, which made him smile and close his eyes so he could appreciate the sensations more.

"This feels really nice… but could you do that while you're in me? Just asking."

Khan chuckled against Jim's neck, small, warm puffs of breath. "You really need it, don't you? Fine, stay there."

Jim could feel Khan’s hands slip away from him, and he missed them instantly. The Augment left him so quickly that Jim had to fight not to lose his balance, but he followed Khan with his eyes while he got up to get the bottle of oil. Following a sudden inspiration, Jim shuffled towards the headboard, pushing away the pillows so he had a somewhat even surface to kneel on. When Khan turned around with the oil in hand, Jim looked at him, with a naughty grin on his face, and wiggled his hips a little while leaning on the headboard with his elbows. It would give him some leverage, and he’d be able to hold himself up instead of being shoved face down into the mattress. The Augment smiled back and came over to him, kneeling behind him again.

He could feel Khan’s insistent erection rubbing against him, which, suddenly, violently, made him aware of the desire in the pit of his stomach, the need, the wish to just bend over and let Khan shove in, to be filled, taken, ravished, and he let out a high-pitched moan at the thought.

“Fuck me,” he repeated, sounding needy even to his own ears, and ground back against the other man.

Khan chuckled, but he did pick up the oil; Jim saw it from the corner of his eye.

“Two nights ago, you were all about drawing out foreplay.”

“Two nights ago, I was also sober, and didn’t feel like I’m burning up from the inside - ow!”

His hips jolted forward when Khan slapped his ass, not viciously, but it did smart a bit, in a not entirely unpleasant way. Jim held onto the headboard, presenting his behind, probably looking like a bitch in heat and not caring either way.

“I wasn’t complaining,” Khan explained, and Jim could hear the slick sound of oil on skin, which made him shudder with want.

Just a moment later, he felt something nudge against his entrance.

“Say it again, come on.”

Jim groaned. How often would he have to say it before the man finally got to the important part?! “Fuck me, please! I need...” 

He cried out when he felt Khan push forward, but his body gave way easily, without hurting. It felt spectacular, and it wasn't nearly enough. He whined.

“What do you need, pet?”

Jim heard his own breath coming in short gasps. “This…”

“Not enough, come on,” Khan said, sounding gleeful. 

Jim felt Khan pull out a tiny bit, and his desperation grew even more.

“No! Don’t! Fuck, just...”

“Yes?” Khan rasped, in that tone that made the hairs on Jim’s arms stand on end. So the other man was just as aroused as Jim was. The thought only stoked the fire in his veins. Well, if Khan was enjoying the dirty talk… 

He lowered his voice to a deliberately husky whisper. “Need you... to fuck me, need your cock in me…come on, please...”

Khan groaned, and Jim could feel his grip tighten delightfully around his hips as he pushed in again, inch by agonizing inch. “Very nice, pet. Again.”

Jim was panting, but he heard that the other man was panting as well. How could Khan still have such self-restraint?! Jim himself felt as if he was about to burst into flames! He growled. “For pity’s sake, fuck me already! I need you to fuck me! Now!

Without losing another second or word, Khan rammed in, waiting only a moment before drawing back out, and pushing in again, setting up a rhythm and keeping it up. Jim moaned with relief, rocking back against the other man, meeting his thrusts enthusiastically now that Khan was not holding him back anymore, gripping the headboard tightly and throwing his whole body into the movement so that their bodies were slapping together with an obscene sound.

“I like how eager you are like this,” Khan remarked, and Jim grinned at how breathless he sounded.

“You’re quite eager yourself,” he replied, looking cheekily over his shoulder. 

Khan met his gaze and returned the grin. “You still talk too much.” 

“Keep me quiet, then,” Jim moaned, turning his head back and stretching luxuriously, knowing Khan was looking, showing off his body while pressing his backside against Khan’s groin.

“Oh but I don’t want you to be quiet, pet,” the Augment hissed, and slid his hands forward, from Jim's hips to his waist, where he grabbed him hard and pulled him back onto his cock, gaining speed.

A part of Jim still expected to feel the searing pain shoot up his spine, but there was only a delicious feeling of fullness, and a strange sort of peace that came over him while Khan fucked him hard and fast, an almost meditative state where he could accept that this was good, and right, and amazing, that this was how it was supposed to be. He could feel Khan’s cock throb inside him when the Augment slowed down for a moment, kneading the areas where he’d dug in his fingers and kissing down his spine before he picked up the pace again, slamming into Jim, and Jim loved every moment of it. He became aware, after what might have been many minutes, that he was moaning continuously, but that was fine, too. From time to time, Khan hit his prostate, making Jim see stars behind closed eyelids, and he would cry out and throw his head back to show Khan how much he enjoyed what he gave him.

Jim had long lost all sense of time, instead feeling like he’d been caught up in a maelstrom of pleasure inside his own head without any coherent thought, but at some point he noticed full feeling return to his body when Khan slowed down and did not speed up again. He opened his eyes and became aware of Khan’s chest on his sweat-slick back, and of the Augment’s lips peppering his damp shoulders with unhurried kisses. The heartbeat against his spine was racing, and Jim smiled. Perhaps it was time for a little change of position.

He straightened up carefully, nudging Khan along, and the Augment did not seem to mind. He even slung one arm around Jim’s torso and slowly sank back on his heels, taking Jim down with him until, after some shuffling, Jim was sitting backwards on Khan’s lap, his breath coming in erratic gasps because the new position really forced him down on the other man’s hard prick. Plastered to Jim’s back, the Augment held him upright with his arms, and started to move again, carefully, perhaps knowing that Jim was close to reaching his limit. Jim rocked back and forth with Khan’s little thrusts, holding onto Khan’s thighs for leverage and whimpering when the Augment began to roll Jim’s nipples between his fingers.

“You’ve been… paying attention, last time,” Jim gasped, looking down along his body, taking in the magnificent picture of Khan’s long fingers fondling him, his own flushed, straining cock, and Khan’s thighs between his.

“So you like it, huh?” Khan asked, pinching Jim’s nipples between index and middle finger while keeping his hands flat on Jim’s chest to hold him up. 

Jim nodded, letting his head fall back and nudged Khan’s face with his nose until the man finally got it and turned his head enough to kiss him. It was messy and the angle was seriously challenging for his neck, tongues snaking around each other and teeth clacking together, but Jim loved it. He closed his eyes, opening his mind to all the pleasurable sensations again, Khan’s gentle lips, his cock inside him, working him slowly but steadily towards the climax, his hands on his nipples… But they were not only on his nipples anymore, Jim noticed, one of Khan’s hands was trailing down Jim’s body, rubbing gentle circles into his skin on the way, and snaked around Jim’s cock. The blond man gasped at the feeling, eyes flying open, kisses forgotten as Khan started to stroke him in time with his thrusts. He moaned loudly, feeling lust take over, arching his back and blindly reaching behind his head with one hand, fisting it into Khan’s hair while fumbling for purchase with the other. Khan caught it, and held it hard against Jim’s lower body while his hips thrust upwards into him. Jim went rigid while his orgasm thundered through him, and he heard himself cry out while Khan stroked him through it.

For a moment, Jim went completely limp on Khan’s lap, and the Augment held him. It took him a moment before his senses rebooted and he could hear Khan’s harsh panting, and became aware of his hand that was still in Khan’s hair. He eased it out, and found he must have ripped out some of it. 

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

Khan chuckled softly and let his hands roam over Jim’s upper body while nuzzling his cheek, placing a few lazy kisses along his jawline. “They do grow back, you know? I’m not that dead inside.”

“Hmm.” Carefully, Jim moved on Khan’s lap, feeling something wet between his thighs, and noticed that Khan was only half-hard. So he had come as well. Maybe he himself had been too far gone to notice. “You seem to like it when I pull your hair,” he said lazily, feeling both sated and still hungry, as if he could easily go another round if he got the chance.

“I seem to like a lot of things you do,” the Augment replied quietly and eased Jim off very gently, turning him at the same time, so that Jim came to rest on his back. “Wait there.”

“Wasn’t planning on moving anyway,” Jim mumbled, feeling sleepy all of a sudden. The storm in his blood seemed to have burnt up a lot of his energy. Perhaps a little nap might… Oh, hello…? 

With great effort, Jim opened his eyes again and looked down, to where Khan was sitting between his thighs, gently cleaning him up with a warm washcloth. That kind of temperature felt really nice there, he thought sluggishly, and was just about to thank Khan when he saw the cloth being tossed to the floor and Khan lying down - face down - between his spread thighs. 

The lust that had quietened down to some extent was back with a fervour when Jim’s slow brain grasped what the man was doing. His first moan was admittedly a bit late because all breath had left him temporarily, but all the louder when he felt the soft tongue on his entrance. Only now did he become aware how used it felt, and how soothing the gentle licks Khan bestowed on him.

“Oh fuck, Khan… mmmmh… god, yes… so good… feels so nice…” he babbled, lacing his fingers through Khan’s soft hair again while he felt the gentle warmth ghost over his perineum and back to his hole. Usually when Jim used Khan’s name, the man would punish him immediately, but not this time. Perhaps, Jim thought, perhaps Khan was just as far gone as he was, even though he had taken nothing. Jim smiled. Well, nothing except him . Under Khan’s ministrations, he felt his cock stir, and within a minute, he was hard again. Khan noticed and looked up, grinning while Jim let go of his hair.

“Want some more?” He stroked him gently, and a mewl escaped Jim’s lips; he was oversensitive to say the least.

“Give me a minute, please? It’s still too much, to be touched.” 

The Augment actually did let go, but kept his hands on Jim’s body, tracing his fingertips over Jim’s stomach and down past his manhood to his hole. “ All of you, or just some parts?”

Jim smiled. "Well, you could continue to eat me out until I beg for your cock again. Just an idea. I'm very willing to beg today."

"Then I'll make you beg again." Khan's voice was husky and so deep with lust that Jim thought he could feel it vibrating through his whole being. And then those lips were on him once more and Jim forgot how to do anything except moan, and - occasionally - draw shuddering breaths. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the warm sensation that bloomed where Khan's tongue was licking his abraded skin, and seemed to crawl up his spine from there. He twined his fingers back into Khan's thick black hair, thinking that maybe he had developed a new kink, feeling strangely fascinated by its silky texture. When Khan flattened his tongue and dragged it all the way across his perineum and back before gently sucking the spot behind his balls, Jim tugged at his hair a bit, and earned a moan that really did vibrate through him. Thanks to the insistent attention, and probably the drug, too, his cock felt hot and heavy against his stomach without having been touched, though Jim really wished Khan would. The man had always held back in that department, but tonight, everything seemed possible. It was worth a try, right? 

Carefully, Jim nudged Khan's head further up, indicating by way of pressure what he wanted.

"Please… Please!" he whispered. He felt the other man hesitate. "I'll do you if you do me," he offered, before he had thought about it properly, but when had he thought properly about anything tonight? If it meant Khan would suck his cock... "Please, Khan, I'll do anyth- Jesusfuckingchrist !" 

While Jim had been babbling both in his head and out loud, Khan had swallowed him down, and Jim fisted his hands into the bedsheets, crying out, because hell, he was still sensitive enough that the suction almost put him out of his goddamn mind! He knew he was arching his whole body far too much, but Khan held him down while he scrabbled for purchase in the sheets. Fuck, he was way too good at this!

"Khan! Oh god, Khan! Fuck yes! Oh god! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck !" 

Khan's mouth was working him vigorously, determined, almost merciless. He felt heat coil in the region beneath his stomach and squeezed his eyes shut. "You have to let up! Khan! I'm close! Stop or I'll be done in a moment!" His own voice sounded whiny, and he knew without looking that his knuckles must have been as white as the sheets he was clinging to. Just as he thought the tension would tear him in half, the other man pulled off completely, leaving Jim to writhe in the sheets.

"Calm down, breathe."

"Easy for you to say!" Jim moaned, but took a few deep, shuddering breaths. He felt Khan crawl up and plunk down next to him.

Jim licked his dry lips and closed his eyes, chest still heaving. "Fuck. That wasn't your first time, that's for sure and certain."

"Hmmm second time," Khan murmured, nibbling Jim's earlobe and caressing his upper body with his hands.

Smirking, Jim rolled on top of the other body, grinding down against Khan's hard-on and looking directly into the Augment’s eyes. "Well, considering that, you were fucking spectacular. I feel honoured. Who was he?"

Unexpectedly, he thought he could see a pained shadow cross Khan's face. 

"Nobody I talk about, least of all with you!"

The reply was so harsh and sudden that Jim pulled back a bit. Khan's whole demeanor was suddenly telling him that he was on thin ice here, and that the Augment was a word away from exploding. Damn, he hoped the cozy mood could still be saved. Don't make a big deal out of it, act as if you didn't notice.

Gently, Jim lowered his head and kissed along the side of Khan's neck, knowing that the man liked that. His breath was still a bit fast, and he let it ghost across the other man's skin as he spoke.

"None of my business, that's fine. Then I'll keep my list of alien conquests to myself as well. Your loss."

Khan chuckled a bit, and Jim could feel the tension leave the body beneath him. Success. Doubling his efforts on Khan's neck, Jim slipped a hand between them, sliding his hips sideways to be able to reach, tucking one knee between the other's legs. He made a point of looking into Khan's eyes again when he began to stroke him, slowly, but not quite gently, and he saw the rapture rising in those eyes, making the annoyance disappear completely, saw his eyelids flutter with the effort to stay open. Khan looked back at Jim. Then he seized him and turned them around so that Jim was on his back once more, feeling the crushing weight of the Augment on top.

"Yay, am I getting fucked again?" 

Jim grinned at the man's half exasperated, half amused expression.

"You're an impossible mood killer!"

"Oh, am I?" Jim asked, still grinning, humping Khan's thigh between his legs. "Sex is supposed to be fun . Ever heard of fun?"

"No, wasn't part of my education," Khan said with a serious expression, but Jim chuckled.

He reached up to pull Khan's head towards him, kissing him gently. "Fuck me," he said in a taunting voice between kisses, "come on, big boy, fuck me. I want that cock up my ass again, want you to split me open, want you to make me cry out your name when I come. Get on with it, or I'll rub myself off on your thigh."

"You think that would keep me from fucking you? I bet I could make you howl with pleasure again, no matter if you'd just come. Oh wait, I just did ," Khan said in the same taunting voice. 

Jim smiled and opened his legs a little wider to welcome the other man between them. "Alright, no dry humping. But I'm still not getting fucked, come on, sir, what's wrong with this picture?"

Khan chuckled and bent down to kiss him some more, and Jim sighed against his lips. Even though he did not feel like he was going to burst anymore, he could still feel the effects of the drug. There was still a hunger in him, a craving for more of those delicious pleasures that he had felt so very recently. So he responded with enthusiasm when Khan broke the kiss to pick up the oil once again and slicked them up, or when he put Jim's legs over his shoulders and sank in, making them both groan, or when he caught Jim's hands, intertwined their fingers and pressed them onto the bed, effectively nailing Jim in place with no way to do anything. But Jim did not want to do anything except lie there and take this; the angle let Khan penetrate him fully, up to the hilt, and Jim caught a glimpse between their bodies that made him mewl helplessly. With his hands pinned left and right of his head, and his legs being stretched this way, he felt strangely open, debauched, but he liked it.

Slowly, Khan began to move on top of him, his hips' motions unhurried.

"I'm going to fuck you like this until you come again, and I want you vocal, understand?” he murmured. “I want you loud, I want you whining, and I want you to scream my name when you come. If you don't, we'll continue until you do."

Jim shuddered, looking up at the man and trying to grin at him through the haze of arousal.

"So it pays to shut up?"

Khan smiled and snapped his hips, making Jim squirm and whine.

“Alright, I think there will be no problem with me being vocal, but just a pro tip from yours truly?” Jim keened as Khan continued to fuck him, but directed his gaze back to the man’s eyes, smiling wickedly. “If you want me to be loud, you better not give me the silent treatment yourself. Let me hear you, too.”

Khan only gave him a lopsided smile before he lowered his head to Jim’s neck, licking just below his collar and, judging by the feeling of it, sucking a few bruises into the skin. He never stopped moving, and after a few minutes, Jim found himself back in that gentle state of rapture, doing nothing except rolling with it without inhibitions or shame, enjoying thoroughly what he was being given. When Khan’s movements became quicker, so did Jim’s breathing. There was no finesse this time, no change of positions, but this worked just as well. Jim’s knuckles were white from clutching Khan’s hands, still interlocked, palm against palm with the other man. His body was pliant and his senses were running amok with each thrust that grazed his prostate, and needy sounds and encouraging words were constantly spilling from his mouth. After a little while, the other man began to answer with small sounds and words of his own between kisses and licks to any part of Jim that he could reach. As both of them gradually became louder together, Jim relaxed his fingers, trying to pull his hands away, and Khan let him when he finally noticed, seeming quite far away himself. Jim managed to shift his legs off Khan’s shoulders, sighing with relief before hooking them around the other man’s hips to find a position that gave his own cock some more friction. He also put one arm around Khan’s shoulders, holding him close while gripping the back of his neck with the other. Clinging to Khan like this with his whole body, Jim looked into Khan’s eyes again, pleading.

“Fuck me. Come on, give it to me, fuck me hard.”

Khan was not smiling now, he only had that faraway look on his face that Jim felt he had, too. The other man shifted to prop himself up on his elbows, but also slid his forearms underneath Jim’s body so he could hold him still from below by clamping his hands over Jim’s shoulders. The position brought them so close together that Jim could not help but stare into Khan’s eyes. They were alive with a fire he had never seen there before, the usual ice was gone, Khan’s pupils were blown wide, and his eyelids were fluttering constantly as he started working his hips against Jim’s again. 

With every thrust, Jim’s hand tightened on the back of Khan’s head, fingers combing through his hair, and he moaned ever louder, and still louder, feeling the tension build in his lower body, feeling it spread upwards through his spine into the back of his skull, flooding through his shoulders and into his fingertips, and he finally broke eye contact to mash his face into the crook of Khan’s neck, moaning with abandon, sliding his face against Khan’s smooth cheek, pressing him closer to his body with his other hand. Khan was equally vocal by now, and it turned Jim on like nothing else ever had.

“Khan,” he panted, keening and swallowing hard when the other man thrust into him harder. “Khan, ‘m gonna come, fuck me, just like that, fuck, so good, feels so good, harder, do it harder, want you to come with me, Khan, fuck, yes …”

Moaning into Jim’s ear, the Augment did pick up the pace just a little more, and Jim was done for. He felt his orgasm roll over him like a wave, a toe-curling, spine-arching, earth-shaking climax, and he did scream Khan’s name, twisting and writhing against the heavier body that was writhing just as much, while Khan was hissing and growling and whimpering as he, too, came undone.

 

Jim might have hoped to talk to Khan soon after they were finished, but he had not anticipated how exhausting the evening would be. He smiled to himself; yes, maybe this had gotten a bit out of hand, but it had been fucking amazing. 

The Augment did not fall asleep right away this time, but they lay there, unmoving, for quite a while before Khan helped Jim up and into the bathroom, where they took a quick shower to clean themselves before they went back to bed. They did not speak a word, there was no taunting, no mocking grins or sneers; they were both too exhausted and still too far gone to even acknowledge each other much until they were in bed again, where they lay close, arms touching, though nothing more. 

Most of the drug had to be out of Jim’s system by now; his brain was starting to work again. At least, he did not yet feel uncomfortable enough to move away from Khan, whose breathing had already calmed, and a side look told Jim that his eyes had fallen shut. He looked strangely peaceful and young - and, Jim found, annoyingly beautiful.  Oh well, maybe he was still not completely sober after all, Khan himself had admitted that he had given him quite a high dose. 

Jim lay there on his back, making himself look at the ceiling instead of the man next to him, letting the huge, intricate mandala play its optical tricks on his eyes for a few moments before he closed them. He noticed how good his body felt - exhausted in the best way, relaxed, sated, warm. Surely, the inner conflict would come later, as inevitable as the next sunrise, but for now, his mind felt almost as calm as his body. 

“I’ll admit, that was something else,” Khan murmured next to him, and Jim flinched a little.

“Thought you were asleep.”

“Am not.”

“Huh. Wasn’t exactly hate-sex, like I promised at the beginning of this week. Sorry for that.”

“I won’t complain. Don’t worry, it’ll pass soon, then you can go back to hating me.”

“Thank god. In retrospect, it was kind of spooky.” Jim licked his lips. “Hot, but spooky.”

He heard Khan chuckle next to him. “I won’t hold any of what just happened against you, I know the effects well enough not to judge. We’ll treat it like the first night and not talk about it. You didn’t talk about it, right? Last night, with Derya, or yesterday, with Rika?”

Jim suddenly felt like he’d been doused with ice water. So Khan knew. Feeling anxiety rising in his chest, he opened his eyes and turned, looking at the other man, who was watching him intently, eyebrows drawn together.

“Nothing happened!” Jim spluttered. “Rika and I just talked, like normal people, and I can assure you, nothing at all happened with Derya! He just slept over!”

Khan, to Jim’s surprise, kept staring him down, and snorted, but left it at that. “I know nothing happened with either of them, do you think you’d still be here talking about it, if I thought there were a chance that it had?”

Jim hesitated for a moment, feeling nonplussed. “I’ll… admit, you’re not as mad as I expected you’d be.”

“Oh, you expected me to be mad but did it anyway?” Khan huffed. “Don’t let it go to your head. I just know none of you three would ever do something so stupid. I’d never have let you go with the women if I thought you couldn’t hold back, and they still had chaperones for a reason. As long as nothing comes of it, I don’t care what you talked about. But I do have to warn you not to overdo it. If people start talking about you and her, I’ll have to act. So watch it. And I know Derya would never sleep with you, and you very probably not with him. But again, take care that nobody sees you, or I’ll have to punish you both. I’d rather not do that.”

“Uhm...thank you, sir? That’s awfully understanding of you.” Somehow, the whole thing seemed fishy to Jim. Not only that Khan knew all about Rika and Derya, but also that he was so calm about it. Since when did Khan not want to punish Jim for anything? He could not believe that the two nights had changed that much between them, perhaps a few things but not that .

Finally, Khan stopped staring and directed his gaze back to the ceiling. “It’s not necessarily for your benefit, so much as it is for Derya’s.”

Now Jim was the one who stared, until it clicked in his brain. “You know why Derya came to me, don’t you? You know what his sleepless night was about.”

Khan nodded slowly. “I can guess. Is he better now?”

Jim frowned. “He may be. If you know what it is, why don’t you talk to him about it?”

“Because I cannot offer him any consolation.”

“Really,” Jim scoffed, not bothering to phrase it like a question. “Now I’m really asking myself what the hell this was about. Because he wouldn’t tell me. And I believe there are not many things where he wouldn’t appreciate your input.”

“He didn’t tell you?” Khan turned his head and looked at Jim, obviously surprised.

“No, of course he fucking didn’t, do you think he’d ever betray your trust again after what you did to him last time?" Jim said heatedly. "I only gathered that it must have something to do with you, so I figured there’s no point in asking. He seemed sad, somehow, so I thought it might be due to the fact that he misses your… uh… physical attention. But I can’t see how this would give him sleepless nights…”

“I’m getting married.”

Jim stared, speechless for a few moments. Whatever he had expected, that was not it. “You… you what?”

The other man had stopped looking at him and was hypnotizing the ceiling again. “Yesterday morning, my council informed me that I have to choose a wife soon. Derya was in the room with us. Perhaps I underestimated how much it affected him to hear that whole conversation.”

“Uhm…” Jim was lost for words. That would definitely explain both Khan’s and Derya’s bad mood. “So… how do you feel about that?” Jim had always thought that Khan was more or less all-powerful in his domain, but apparently, he was not. The Augment had told him about the council when he had warned Jim that he was not so welcome here, not in everyone’s eyes. It seemed that they had more power than Jim had anticipated, since it was obvious for Jim, even without hearing his answer, that Khan did not actually want this marriage.

Again, Khan snorted. “I grew up knowing an arranged marriage is the only option for me, and now it’s time. I’ll cope.”

There was a moment of silence between them.

“What will happen to Derya?” Jim asked, remembering how Mima had told him this very morning that an empress would never tolerate the little one.

“Nothing. Nobody will take him away from me,” Khan said, growling at the ceiling as if daring anyone to try.

“I think you should tell him that,” Jim replied after a few minutes, very quietly. “It would make him very happy, I believe.”

“Please remember that I do not need any advice from you, James."

Jim sighed. Of course, Khan was right. But Jim had noticed that he worried about Derya more and more. He could not help himself, he liked him. He might not be able to understand the love he felt for the Augment, but he had stopped judging him for it. Feeling that Khan was beginning to withdraw from their conversation, he decided to change the topic and ask his original questions while he still could.

“I heard about the Kurultai this morning. Is it true that you’ll take me with you, away from here?” Jim had decided that the blunt approach was best.

“Yes. In about three weeks time. Why, do you have other plans?”

Despite the neutral tone, Jim knew what Khan meant, and tried not to shake his head too quickly.

“May I ask if we’ll be back soon?”

Khan took his time answering. “We’ll be back after about two weeks. But why would you care?”

Jim did not know what to say to that. That he did not want to leave his friends behind? That he did not want to be however far away from the only place he knew here? Now that he thought about it...

“How far is it, anyway?”

Khan grunted. “Again, why would you care? When you’re back or how far away it is will change nothing about the fact that you’re coming with me.”

“I know,” Jim replied, a little sourly. “I’m just curious. And I only heard about it this morning, so it’s still fresh, it takes some getting used to.”

Khan shrugged. “It’ll take us a few hours to get there. I didn’t tell you because it’s not usually necessary to inform my slaves about my plans. You’ll go when you’re told to go, to the place you’re told to go to. ”

Jim only held back with great effort. He really wanted to shout at Khan that he was no slave, but by his facial expression, Khan knew what was going through Jim’s mind.

“Derya’s coming with us?”

Khan snorted. “Of course.”

“Good.” So at least there would be someone familiar.  He knew there would be no way not to go if Khan wanted to take him, he had learnt that much in the past months. Pondering his lot in this time, he vaguely asked himself again what Bones would say to his new conditioning. How the crew as a whole would react to him when he came back. He made a mental note to escape any and all attempts at a Mind Meld with Spock; he really didn’t need the Vulcan to see him literally under Khan.

“What are you thinking about?” Khan asked, sounding genuinely curious.

Jim grimaced. “Home.”

“Home,” Khan echoed, sounding thoughtful. “Sometimes I ask myself what your home is like. Which things I could still recognize as familiar. Whether or not you have a family waiting for you, except perhaps your mother. I don’t believe you have a wife or children, you are not the type and you don’t act like it, but you are certainly protective of the two other men. I wonder what your role is in your other life.”

“Really, you ask yourself those things about me? I thought I was just a slave?” Jim asked with a good dose of venom in his voice. 

Khan frowned, but also seemed to be too sated and too sleepy, in a good way for a change, to be mad. “You are. But you are also more real now than at the beginning.”

“Gee, thanks,” Jim huffed, finding the direction this conversation was taking increasingly uncomfortable.

Khan hummed, still calm. “Tell me you don’t know the feeling, James? That someone becomes more real once you think about them a lot? Spend time with them? Talk to them? People evolve from two-dimensional to three-dimensional figures when - if - we deepen our relationship with them.”

Jim snorted. “To be honest, your majesty , I’d be relieved if you wouldn’t deepen anything here. You want me for some mind-blowing sex, and that’s what I give you.”

Khan made an impatient gesture with his hand. “I didn’t mean it like that, James, I am not romanticising this any more than you are. I’m just curious about you, what made you… this. Usually, I’d say, your father, but in your case, perhaps it is more your father’s legacy of some sort. I’m sure you do things to make him proud.”

“And I suppose you don’t do that,” Jim replied testily. He did not like this topic, Khan did not have the right to talk about Jim’s father!

Khan snorted. “Aren’t we all just sons, asking ourselves whether or not our fathers and their fathers would approve of what we are today?”

Taken aback, Jim did not respond, he only looked at Khan, asking himself what had brought this on, and pondering, not for the first time, what Khan’s relationship with his own father had been like. Khan showed him a peculiar little smile, and Jim thought it looked a bit sad.

“Am I more real to you now, James? It’s not that easy to reach a one-dimensional verdict about someone as soon as you get to know them better, right? I know it isn’t,” Khan said quietly.

Jim shifted, feeling even more uncomfortable now. He did not want to think of Khan as more than a bully, a murderer, and a slaver. And he absolutely did not want Khan to think about him in any way.

“How real is Derya to you?” he blurted out to distract the Augment, and promptly felt the other man’s muscles stiffen. “Is he real enough to ask yourself about his father, too?”

To Jim’s surprise, Khan relaxed immediately following that question. He even chuckled.

“I don’t need to, James. I know who his father was, and his mother.”

That made Jim’s eyes go wide and he propped himself up on one elbow. “What?”

Khan groaned as if Jim were a child who kept asking stupid questions. “Really, James, I hope nobody ever discovers how little you know about our time. The DNA registration, keep up! We know everything about everyone’s family. Derya is no different, he may not have been registered with his family name, but we certainly know who matches him. That is why we were so puzzled about your case, ever since the registration has become mandatory for everyone, there has never been anyone like you. Of course, when we found you, we had no idea why we could not find anything about you. Time travel is not really a factor that is included in our margin of error.”

Jim opened and closed his mouth like a fish. “But… I thought he was abandoned and doesn’t know his parents!”

“He doesn’t.”

“But you just said… Wait. So you never told him?!”

Khan shrugged his shoulders. “He never asked, so why should I concern myself with these matters? I know whose child he is, and he must know that. If you really wanted to know who your parents are, and you are close to the man who could tell you, would you not ask? So what do you think it means that he has never even mentioned it? I don’t think it’s important to him, it’s in the past and the knowledge will not change anything, his parents do not define him. And maybe he also didn’t ask because he knows his place, unlike some ,” he said pointedly and looked up at Jim.

Jim growled, annoyed that Khan would start with this again . Very deliberately cocking up one eyebrow, Jim gave the other man a bored look. He had had enough of the taunting. “Can't you just stop with that already? What happened to you’re more real now ? I know you probably have to bully me out there, but please, just… In here, stop pretending that you have not already accepted that I am not your slave . That I am much more than that. It's really annoying. Jeez.”

Jim instantly regretted his choice of words when he saw Khan’s face. At first, Khan looked only annoyed by Jim’s bold words, but then, all of a sudden, his eyes turned cold and empty. It was a scary transition to watch, and it filled Jim with dread before Khan had even begun to speak.

“Oh? Why would I? It seems you have begun to accept your role. Why else would you come to me and offer yourself up so prettily? Would you really do that if you thought I did not see you as my property at all? If you did not see yourself as that, even? Because I think you do. Deep down, you have begun to accept that you might be a bit special, but still mine .”

Jim stared, feeling both furious and humiliated. Too close. Too close! They had crossed a thin line into a horrifying sort of intimacy some time in the last ten minutes, and now Jim knew he could not take it one second longer. Talking after sex was always a grave mistake, but never so much as it had been tonight! He could not even fathom why Khan had reacted with such malice, when they had just been talking like… well, almost like normal people would! And he was not even sure if Khan’s argument made any real sense, but somehow, it had hit a nerve with deadly precision. Jim’s brain could not process which, or why, or how, he only knew that he needed to get away from that man, now .

He sat up, throwing off the covers, annoyed and hurting and thoroughly mortified.

“Permission to sleep in my own room, sir ,” he spat, getting up without waiting for a response.

“Granted,” Khan hissed back, not moving, but watching him with slitted, angry eyes. Jim did not even care what it was that had made Khan so angry when really, Jim had been the one who had been attacked. He did not care to find his clothes either, not even his underwear, he simply snatched a silk sheet from the bed and wrapped it around himself, shielding his naked body from Khan’s burning cold stare, before he walked to the door without looking back.

“You even ask permission like a slave!” he heard Khan shout after him as he slammed the door behind himself.

 

Khan could hear James slam his own door shut as well. He felt like punching something. A wall. Himself, maybe. Or James. How dare the little bitch speak to him like that? Well, of course, it was partly his own fault. He had let all of this get too casual, just like he had promised himself he would not . But still, he had expected a bit more... diplomacy from James; he had thought that it was understood between them that no matter their arrangements, some things were not to be said between them, and to tell him outright that…

Turning around, he growled, feeling close to snapping. James had no right to say these things. He was not…

Without warning, Khan felt his body break into a cold sweat, felt it trembling, felt how his lungs seemed to shut down, and he fought for air, trying to get up on all fours. His arms would not cooperate. Neither would his lungs. He felt like the wind had been knocked out of him, and as if he would never be able to draw another breath. Even his vision blurred, and he became aware of a few tears running down his cheeks, whether from the lack of air or the emotional turmoil, he did not know. Still panting, but feeling like no breath he was taking was doing anything, he managed to at least roll onto his side, away from the pillows, and prayed for his breathing and heartbeat to go back to normal. It was a scary state to be in; short of breath, feeling helpless and not in control of his own body, feeling trapped inside it, ordering and ordering it to work, but it just would not. He knew the cold feeling creeping over him now. It felt like dying. And despite the fact that he had wished for death to come so often in his life, in this moment, Khan was afraid it truly would. The prospect of dying only fueled his panic further, made it even harder to breathe than it already was.

It felt like hours passed before the pressure on his lungs faded, and when it did, he lay there for another few minutes, just breathing evenly, grateful that he could. The cold sweat on his skin clung to him like a scornful reminder of his weakness, and Khan decided to take another quick shower... as soon as he was sure that his legs would support him. When he finally did make it into his bathroom, the burning shame in the pit of his stomach prevented him from even looking into the mirror.

Exhausted by this nasty episode, the sex and the insomnia that was still haunting him, Khan fell back into bed, trying to stay as far away as possible from the spots that smelled of their coupling, but of course, his superior senses would not leave him be. With a foul curse on his lips, Khan got up again to open the windows. He should call someone to make the bed, to get James’ stench out of the room. He should go into the garden to run a few rounds. But he did neither. He was tired , he only wanted to sleep! With another wave of shame, he realised that he might not even be in a condition to run.

Leaving the windows wide open, Khan sniffed out the least contaminated pillow and blanket and migrated to the side of the bed nearest the windows. His own weakness disgusted him; thankfully, nobody had been around to see, but he would still remember it. This should long be over, it had been more than ten fucking years , it was not supposed to happen anymore! And it was now much worse than it had been then, and had been getting worse. He could not be weak! He was not a child anymore! And for years, everything had been perfectly fine, until James had come along! It really was high time to get rid of him. He just had to bear his presence a little longer. It had to be done right, and at the right time. A small part of him still wondered what it would be like to just keep the man for all his... talents. But the disadvantages he had just experienced definitely outweighed all arguments for that. He snarled. No, however entertaining he was, James had to go.

 


 

It was before dawn, most people in the palace were still asleep. The perfect time to make his escape. 

Khan crept through the corridors like a cat, barefoot, dressed in plain riding clothes, his boots in hand. Three days without his father had sounded great at the beginning, but two of these days had already passed in a whirl of duty and studies. But not today! He’d get his horse, and ride all day, in any direction he pleased. He would have liked breakfast first, and some provisions, but nobody must see him until he was at the gate at least, or they would try to stop him. At the age of seven, they had still been able to do so. Now, ten years later, they mostly failed at keeping him safely at home. This was his palace, and by now, he had learnt all about it, especially how to get around quickly. Or how to get away.

The stables that housed the more valuable horses were located on an outer wall of the palace, separate from the horse guards’ stables. Khan’s own white stallion was still half asleep and neighed quietly when the prince came to him. But in a moment, the horse was wide awake; he knew the procedure, knew when his master came so early, they would spend the day running, free from saddle and bridle and far away from the trainer who tried to make him walk elegantly. It was tangible how much the animal was looking forward to it; he started nibbling his master’s fingers, hoping to get a treat before they were off.

“Sorry, my friend, I have nothing for you today,” Khan whispered apologetically and caressed the soft grey lips.

“I do,” said a voice behind them, and both Khan and the horse flinched, hurriedly turning their heads. 

Khan let out a sigh and smiled. “Oh, Felix, it’s you. What on earth are you doing here at this hour?”

Felix was around Khan’s age, a stable boy, born and brought up a slave. He was as close to a friend as Khan had, and the only one, too, since he was otherwise alone with his teachers all day, every day. Despite their positions on opposite ends of the food chain, Khan had always liked the other boy very much. Felix was friendly, charming, funny and lively, with dashing blond, slightly wavy hair, and dark blue eyes in a lean, white face. His parents had belonged to Khan’s mother when she had come to this land, and had been sold long ago, a few years after her death. Despite growing up without them, Felix had never lost his spirits and had become a slightly scrawny, at times disrespectful, but all in all gentle boy. They had done each other good over the years, and Khan had thought they would always be the best of friends, and nothing would ever change that. Except one night, only weeks ago, when Khan had come back in the rain, and they had sat in the hayloft together, they had kissed for the first time, and sat with their arms around each other for a long time. Now, every moment they were alone together was filled with tension, though it was not altogether unpleasant. He had always been taught that physical relations between two males were sinful and wrong. But people had never mentioned anything about these degenerates, as they called them, falling in love or having feelings at all, as if their depraved ways of coupling was all there was to them. So, since Khan was quite sure there were feelings involved, to some extent, maybe they did not belong to that vile group after all. On the other hand, some of the things he thought about at night now said something completely different. It was all very confusing, but it felt too exciting - and not wrong enough - to give it up. It was not like he never felt his bad conscience weigh down on him, but there was something about Felix that made it impossible to refuse his… friendliness.

“What am I doing here? Well, I thought you might need this, your majesty,” Felix answered and handed Khan a leather bag. Inside was a water flask, apples, carrots, buns and cheese.

“Stop calling me that. How…?”

The other boy giggled. “Oh come on, how often have I seen you sneak out and come back starved and parched, your royal highness? It’s the third and last day of the emperor’s travels and you still haven’t been out, so I figured this must be the day.” He stepped closer and, after a moment’s hesitation, slung one arm around his shoulder.

“I said stop calling me that!” Khan complained, and shoved the other boy playfully before leaning back into him. He knew the other was teasing him. He could not remember a time when Felix had not called him by his name, although nobody else ever did. And he hated it when Felix used any of his titles; between the two of them, it felt simply ridiculous. 

“How did you get all that anyway?” he asked, looking into the bag again. Food was not something that was abundant in the palace, not for the likes of Felix at least.

“Stole it from the kitchen, of course, in wise anticipation,” the boy answered nonchalantly.

“You’re insane,” Khan laughed and cupped the other boy’s face with his hand for a moment to show his gratitude. “Mima will strangle you if she finds out.” He took a carrot and fed it to the patiently waiting horse, then fastened the strap of the bag across his torso.

Felix rolled his eyes. “It’s for you, what could she possibly say against that?”

Khan quickly pulled on his boots, then went to open the stable door and led the stallion out of his box. “Well, no mother hen actually likes her eggs being stolen. Be careful she doesn’t catch you, no matter who it’s for.”

“And there is no bigger mother hen than her. Which is why she’d never let them flog me for stealing some apples and carrots. Come, let me help you up.”

Felix stood next to Khan and folded his hands so that Khan could step into them and mount his horse better, and the prince accepted the aid, even though he did not need it. For a few very long moments, Felix’s fingers lingered; Khan could feel them clasped around his ankle, and it made him quiver. Felix looked up to the boy who was really his crown prince and superior in every way, and the look was warm and friendly.

“Be careful and come back in one piece, your highness.” He still had his fingers on Khan’s boots.

Khan swallowed hard. “I will.”

Instead of letting go, the other one tugged on his ankle, smiling playfully, until Khan finally mirrored the smile and bent down to kiss the stable boy goodbye.

Satisfied, Felix’ hand left Khan’s ankle to take a handful of white mane and lead him out to the courtyard. Khan’s whole leg felt warm and tingly when he pressed his heels into the horse’s flank.

All morning he rode only forward, relishing the speed and the wind in his hair, the sweet air of freedom in his lungs and the feeling of powerful muscles between his thighs. He pushed the stallion to his limits until they were both sweating, but the young animal was full of energy and seemed determined to go faster than ever before. Only when the horse began to stumble from time to time did Khan make him slow down to walking speed. He chose a place by a stream to drink something and rest in the shade of a group of acacia trees.

“Thoughtful of Felix, was it not, to pack some more apples and carrots for you. Only because he knows I spoil you whenever the groom isn’t watching. He knows me so well.” The horse whinnied and tried to slip his soft nose past Khan’s hands and into the bag full of good things. “I wonder why it feels so strange lately, between Felix and me… When I’m with him… or at night… the things I think about… it’s not natural, you know?” He rubbed the yearling’s nose. “Just like you wouldn’t mount another stud. It’s not the way nature works,” Khan explained sternly, only to whisper the next words into the furry ears in front of him. “But it’s not just that, you know?” The horse wiggled his ears, stuck his head into the bag, up to his eyes, and started chewing noisily.

The mere thought - and the graphic images that followed - of kissing Felix the way he really wanted to, made Khan close his eyes for a minute. He felt his cock thicken, not an unwelcome feeling, and not completely new either when it concerned thoughts about Felix. He might have given in, if it had been night and if he had been alone in his room or the shower, but it was broad daylight, and even though there was nobody around, this was public territory. He remembered this morning, Felix’s hand firmly wrapped around his ankle, and his hand brushed over the spot. A moment later, he frowned and forced his eyes open.

“No, no!” he said loudly, and his stallion pulled his head out of the bag, possibly thinking he was the one being admonished, and looked at his master sheepishly. Khan got up briskly, picking up the empty bag and slinging it around his chest. He turned to the stud, who was hanging his head a little. “Now, let’s see how much you remember of your last lesson. Bow!” the prince ordered, making a hand gesture to accompany the command, and after the second try, the animal sank down on his front legs so Khan could mount easily over his shoulder. “Good boy,” he praised, patting the sleek neck. “Now, home, my boy, come on.” Khan clicked his tongue and pressed his legs together, and the stallion went off like the wind again.

When they returned, it was late at night. Ever since he had started doing this, a small side door was always left unlocked for him whenever they found his horse missing, so coming back home was never a problem. In the stable, he could see a light in the hayloft, and smiled to himself. Felix was waiting for him, then. 

As Khan was closing the stable door, Felix came down the creaky stairs. 

“How was your day?” he whispered, so as not to disturb the horses.

Khan led the horse to the middle of the stable and smiled at his friend. “Good. I tell you, he can run faster than even father’s horse. This is a great bloodline, we should find him a mare or two to breed with.”

Coming closer, Felix fetched a bucket of water and two sponges so they could wash the horse’s dusty, sweaty coat. ”Not the only great bloodline in this house,” he remarked cheekily. “One day they’ll get you a wife or two to breed with as well.”

Khan took one of the sponges and went to work. “Pah, I hope they’ll take their time with that.”

“It’s only politic that you should be married young, to someone important,” Felix replied patiently.

The young prince growled under his breath. “Fuck politics, what do I have sisters for? I am important on my own, thank you.”

“Well, if politics were as interesting to you as your horses or your cats, I daresay…”

“I, as your crown prince, forbid you to use the p-word in my proximity one more time!”

The two boys smiled at each other and finished washing the horse, then pulled a blanket over him that Khan would remove later when he went back to his room. After they had maneuvered the horse back into his box, they climbed the staircase to the hayloft and settled down on some thick woolen blankets Felix had laid out. An oil lamp provided just enough light to see anything at all.

“Why exactly do you hope they’ll take their time? Don’t you want to get married at all?” Felix asked softly while settling down very close to Khan’s side.

Khan shrugged and put an arm around the boy’s shoulders almost automatically. He could feel Felix’ thigh against his own, comforting and warm. “What for? I see my sisters cry every time father marries off one of them. And for me, they have to choose someone who is not only from an important family, but she’ll be empress consort some day. You can’t take just anyone for that. I know I must marry one day, but I am not looking forward to it. There is nothing in the world I could want from a woman that requires marriage. Women are boring and foolish, for the most part, and when they have acquired some wisdom, they are old.”

“Perhaps they would not be as boring and foolish if they were allowed to attend school?” Felix remarked carefully.

Khan shrugged again, staring at the flickering flame in the lamp. “That is not happening any time soon, not while father is still in power, and when I get my chance to change it, the first girls to profit from it will be far too young for me. So forgive me if I’m not jumping for joy at the thought of having to marry one of my own generation. Sex is pretty much all I need them for.”

Felix cocked his head to the side, not looking at Khan directly but at his friend’s knees. “What’s it like? Lying with someone? Will you tell me?”

The prince looked up at his companion. “You’ve never been with a woman, then?” he asked, astonished. Felix was a handsome boy, and this train of thought was not helping him focus.

The stable boy grinned crookedly. “We've been friends forever, don't you think I would have told you? No, I haven't. You get a new concubine every year, your royal highness, but the rest of us actually have to make an effort, you know?”

Khan dug his fingers into the soft flesh of Felix' armpit, which made the boy yelp and laugh. “Cut it out with the highness-thing already, you’re getting on my nerves. Besides, are you actually making an effort?”

Felix kept grinning. “No, I don’t like any of the girls here. I don’t know why other young men in the palace make such a fuss about them. I never look at them the way they do.”

“Never?” the prince asked again.

“No.” Felix was rarely shy, even less so when he was alone with his friend, but now he turned a bit pink in the face. “I don’t… I don’t think I like that. Girls. But I… I like you,” he said softly and cast down his eyes coquettishly.

Khan remained silent, so after a few moments, Felix looked up at Khan through his fringe, looking uncertain for the first time. They had never actually discussed what was going on between them, and Felix was obviously not sure how his friend would react to a confession this blunt.

“Hey,” Khan said quietly, and pulled Felix closer by his shoulder. He still had no idea how to respond, hence his long silence.

Felix seemed to search his companion’s face with his eyes. “Do you find me disgusting now?”

“What? No!” Khan exclaimed, a bit too loud for the late hour.

“Are you mad at me?”

“Why on earth would I be mad at you?”

“Because it’s forbidden and… and unnatural. You won’t tell anyone?” The boy’s face had flushed a bright red by now, a very unusual sight.

“Certainly not,” Khan said, decidedly. “I like you, too.” He only hesitated a second before  continuing. Felix had trusted him, so why should he not trust him as well? “And I… find myself liking you in a different way as well, to be honest. The way I usually only want girls,” he confessed.

That made the other boy look up with wide eyes. “You do?”

Khan nodded. “But I think you know that already. And I think… I think maybe you feel the same way about me?” Reaching out, Khan touched Felix’s ankle, like Felix had touched his this morning.

The boy blushed even harder. “I was so happy when I realised you liked the touching and even the kissing... but I never thought you’d genuinely return the… I mean…” He blushed even harder and turned his face away. “I do like you that way as well.”

It was strange for Khan to see the boy who was usually so cheeky when they were alone this embarrassed. He could only think of one thing he really wanted that might distract Felix.

He reached over with the hand not currently clutching his friend’s shoulder, turned the other’s face back towards his, and did not let go before he could feel those lips on his. It was a proper kiss this time; the others had been mere pecks compared to what Khan felt now. He was even sure that he had never kissed any girl like this, either. Had he been one of those Augments that were popping up like weeds in world politics these days, Khan was sure he might have heard Felix’s heart speed up considerably; he could almost feel the boy’s pulse racing, and he could certainly feel his hurried breathing.

When they separated to catch their breath for a moment, Felix finally looked into Khan’s eyes again. “I… I’m so confused. I want more of this… More of you. But… the law…”

Khan smiled and kissed the other one again. “Oh, don’t pretend you suddenly care about the law. The law also states that you are only a slave and therefore not even allowed to talk to me unless I give you an order. When have we ever cared about the law when it came to our friendship?” Khan let his eyes wander downwards for a second, then back to Felix’s face. “What do you think about at night? When you’re alone?”

Felix’s eyes grew round and his cheeks more flushed. Then he smiled shyly. “I don’t think I can talk about it... but I’d like to show you. It's just… I’ve never done that before, with someone… I don’t know where to start and what to do,” he admitted.

Khan smiled back. “We’ll find out together.”

Felix fidgeted a little, but then smiled. “...okay.” 

Khan let Felix pull him closer and during another round of overwhelming kisses, and he forgot all about his insecurities and upbringing. Shifting slightly, the other boy lay down on the blankets and held out a hand for Khan to join him. Through the coarse cloth of the slave uniform trousers, Khan could see that his companion was not unaffected by the mood, and he was glad that he was not alone in his state. Khan knelt over the other boy and laid down, just as he would have with a woman, except Felix did not open his legs but only allowed one of Khan’s knees to slip between his thighs, so that he had one knee between Khan’s legs as well. Felix put his arms around his prince and started kissing Khan like he had never been kissed before, fierce but gentle, and with his whole body moving against the other. Instinctively, Khan pulled his knee up just a bit to provide friction, and Felix moaned into his mouth. The two boys rutted against each other, and it was perfect. Then Khan remembered something. This was Felix’s first time with anyone ever, and he hadn’t even thought about it much.

“Is this what you wanted this to be like?” Khan asked, slowing down a little to a gentle rolling of the hips. “To lose your innocence with me?”

“Well, I had hoped that I could see you, for starters,” the boy said and fondled the lacing of Khan’s black tunic. “And don’t you dare act like I’m a fourteen-year-old girl. It’s not my fault that it took you so long to catch on.”

Khan laughed at that. “Well, I’m terribly sorry.”

Felix let out a dramatic sigh. “So what about it? Can I see you?”

“Only if I can see you, too,” Khan smiled. He got to his knees to take off his shirt, and Felix peeled off his own tunic, and began to unlace his trousers as well. Khan froze and watched, and his companion noticed. 

“Too much? We don’t have to, if you don’t want…”

“No, no, I want,” Khan reassured his friend quickly. “It’s just, I’ve never seen another boy or man like this in all my life.”

The other boy shook his head in disbelief. “Your handlers are overly protective idiots. I guess showering with other slaves has some advantages, then.”

Curiosity and his frantic heartbeat was stronger than Khan’s annoyance at the remark, or his sense of propriety and shame, and he helped Felix get rid of his trousers, since their position made it hard for him to do it alone. Felix did not seem to mind and pulled on the fastenings of Khan’s trousers, but the prince didn’t budge for a moment. He could not look away from the gorgeous sight in front of him: it made his knees wobbly with arousal. Felix looked almost nothing like him, and yet very much so, just as women were never just the same down there…

“Khan? This is getting a bit embarrassing…”

“Hm? Oh, sorry.” Khan smiled sheepishly.

“Now...you?”

Khan, suddenly very nervous that Felix might not like him naked, slowly pulled down his trousers regardless.

“Oh my...you’re so…”

“What?” He knew it might be a little hypocritical to feel self-conscious after he had stared at the other one just a minute ago, but he really had to fight the instinct to cover himself with his hands.

“Beautiful,” Felix added, and the feeling vanished immediately.

“Am I?”

“God, yes.” Felix grinned up at him. “I’m jealous of your concubine. She gets to see this every night.”

“Not every night, idiot. She’s a bit boring, anyway. My last one was better with her mouth,” Khan mused aloud, and Felix’ eyes lit up.

“Ah, yes, I’ve seen that sometimes, in dark corners. I’d be happy to try my hand at that. Or, you know…” He smiled and shrugged. “Would you like that?”

The mere thought made Khan’s cock jump, and he nodded, smiling back. They shuffled around until Khan was the one lying flat on his back, with Felix lying on his legs. They had both kicked off their trousers and were now completely naked. Khan could feel a strange buzzing throughout his body, and it felt nice, exciting. Seeing Felix like this felt exciting, and he found himself wanting his friend’s hand on his body, wanted to put his own hands on the other’s body, wanted to feel all there was to feel.

What he did feel was Felix’ hand on his cock, and then his mouth, and he bit down on his own fist to stay quiet. To him, it was immediately apparent that Felix was not an expert at this, but he did not mind; in fact, he found the somewhat sloppy ministrations endearing. And it was not like they were not exciting as well. Khan kept biting his hand while reaching out with the other to feel Felix’ face, his hair and his smooth cheek. Feeling his excitement mounting, he nudged the boy to make him stop, far too soon. Felix did not seem to mind; he came crawling up Khan’s body with a wicked grin and laid down on top, inserting one knee between Khan’s thighs and moving against him in a slow rhythm. He bent down for a kiss, and Khan was surprised when his friend slid his tongue inside his mouth. It tasted salty and a bit bitter, and the prince made a face that made his companion laugh.

“Never tasted yourself on anyone before?”

“I’m not… in the habit of kissing my concubine that much, actually,” Khan grumbled in reply and swallowed a few times to get rid of the taste. “Especially not after she's done that.”

“Shhh, stop talking about her. She doesn’t matter right now.”

The other one picked up the pace, and Khan joined in, until they were rutting against each other like dogs, following their most primal urges. There was no knowledge needed for this, their bodies knew the right way to move. Khan felt himself twitch, his nerves sing, and for a moment, he wanted to be sheathed inside the warm body underneath him, if it had been possible, if only to be even closer to his companion. He felt the oncoming storm after what might have been minutes or a small eternity, and worked his hips in an even fiercer rhythm.

“Oh, this feels so good! Oh Khan, don’t stop, please! I need you!” Felix whispered from above, and Khan actually did have to stop then, to keep himself from coming. 

This was new as well; he had never waited or restrained himself. He suddenly felt ashamed that he had not even considered that his partner would want some pleasure as well; that was just not the way it went down in his bedroom, sex was for him, and the other party was providing a service. But it seemed important now. Felix was not doing this for him, they were doing it together. 

“Tell me what I can do. What do you need?” he asked, feeling a little awkward, but for the first time in his life, Khan wanted to please his partner, and he had never really learnt how, so he had to ask.

In the dim light, he could see Felix bite his lips.

“Tell me,” he urged again, and after a moment, the other boy nodded.

“Would you do what I did for you? Earlier? I’d like to know what it's like…”

Khan could barely hide his reluctance, but felt it would only be fair if he reciprocated.

“It doesn’t have to be long. I’m just curious.”

“Okay. Move,” Khan ordered, and there was more shuffling while they changed places.

The view from down here was quite nice, Khan found, and took a few moments to look at his companion from up close before moving on to the important part. It was not so bad, actually, and since he had been on the receiving end many times, he was able to wring a few very satisfying sounds from his partner when he tried a few things he knew he himself liked. The sounds and the view more than made up for the taste in his mouth, he thought, just as Felix pushed him away by his shoulder.

“Come back up! I need to feel you!” Felix pleaded, and Khan was somewhat relieved when he stopped and crawled up to face his companion again. Their legs intertwined once more and their dance started anew. Groaning, Felix seized Khan’s head and pulled him down, kissed his prince without letting up until he could not keep his mouth shut anymore. Moaning and writhing underneath the bigger boy, grabbing his neck and hair hard, so hard that it hurt, Felix started chanting Khan’s name into the little space between them like a mantra. Khan wanted to do something more, anything to make it better for Felix, but he could not concentrate enough to think of anything, his whole world currently consisted of the naked body beneath him, the lust he felt and the throat against his lips, vibrating with moans, for he was now kissing the boy’s neck. With any girl, all the rutting and kissing would never have been enough, but with Felix, it felt different; warmer, more intimate even though their bodies were not joined. It seemed that his frantic heartbeat was providing one half of the pleasure, and the novelty of it all the other. For this small moment, it seemed to Khan nothing more than Felix himself was needed to make him overflow with joy. The thought made him shudder and pick up the pace.

At first with a breathless mewl, then with a relieved cry, Felix came, Khan could feel the wetness on his stomach, and the thought of another boy’s semen on his own body hurled him over the edge as well. For a few seconds, Khan just kept moving sporadically, still caught up in the moment, watching the other's ecstasy with wonderment. They were clutching each other, breathing heavily, staring at one another and Khan felt positively enraptured. He had never thought he could feel so close to anyone.

Felix' hand slid over Khan's where he was clutching the smaller boy's ribcage, then to his back and to Khan's hair, where he combed his fingers through the damp strands.

“Well, well, your highness,” Felix said in a teasing tone, closing his eyes and smiling. “Who would have thought you liked little slave boys so much.”

Not taking the bait, Khan rested his head on Felix’ collarbone. “We’re the same age, and you’re much more than just a slave. You must know that. At least to me, you are,” he said tiredly but as sincerely as he could muster.

He felt Felix’ silent laughter on his cheek. “With you, I certainly feel like a prince.” He slung his arms around his friend’s body. The night was very warm, and together, their bodies generated enough heat to be comfortable. “We should get up. You need to get back to your room.”

“Just give me a moment, I don’t want to leave yet. I’ll be on my way in a few minutes...”

***

The next morning, Khan did not know at first what startled him so much that he woke, but when he became aware of the naked, slightly chilled boy in his arms and the voices downstairs, he was wide awake in a second, sitting up in a hurry. 

Shit! They must have fallen fast asleep! Why had he not listened to Felix last night and left? He looked to Felix, and saw his own horror reflected in his face; pale and very much awake as well. His eyes were wide open and his lips pressed together. Below them, voices were talking loudly. Then…

“Felix? Felix! He must be upstairs.”

“Maybe he’ll know where my son is, seems he used his horse today or yesterday evening…”

“Yesterday, my lord.” That was Sabir, the slave overseer’s first henchman.

The other voices were those of the head groom and the emperor himself - Khan’s father! 

Khan could feel himself start to shake with fear as steps came up the creaky wooden staircase. He couldn’t move. He wished he could jump up and get to his clothes but he felt like his body was not his own anymore. Felix seemed the same, stiff with fright, lying there on his back, knowing there was nothing he could do now. He only managed to tighten his hold on Khan’s arm, and the prince reciprocated. Then the emperor and the groom were there.

“Felix, where…” The equerry stood rooted to the spot when he saw them. The emperor grumbled and pushed him out of the way, then he, too, saw the two young men, and froze. He was still in his travel cloak, holding his riding crop in one hand. He must have just come back, brought his horse to the stable and seen that Khan’s stallion was still in his blanket.

“Leave us,” he managed to say, and the groom fled back downstairs. For a few long minutes, the man only stared directly at his son, shaking with anger.

“How dare you,” he whispered finally. “How dare you...have you no shame? What on earth could have compelled you to…”

“Father…”

“Shut your mouth you disgusting creature!” the man screamed at the top of his lungs and stormed over to them. Khan’s first instinct was flight, but his body was shielding Felix at least somewhat, and he could not bring himself to move away. He was just too aware that his chest and belly were still smeared with dry semen. 

“How dare you? And you, piece of vermin! How dare you touch the prince… in that way? Sodomy! Under my roof! I will not have it!”

“Father, he has nothing to do with it, it’s my fault, mine alone. I made him comply, I ordered him to be obedient to me. If you want to punish anyone, punish me,” Khan managed to say in a relatively steady voice, and made a deep bow to try and appease his father at least somewhat.  

“I don’t care if he offered his hole to you or if you took it by force, I have no use for slaves who wake such desires in my successor!”

“That is not what happened!”

“SHUT UP, YOU NASTY LITTLE BASTARD!” For a moment, the emperor fumbled with his belt, and Khan was asking himself what that was about, when he realised, far too late. The emperor had pointed the gun and pulled the trigger before Khan could react, but Felix managed a pitiful little screech before the bullet pierced his skull with a sickening crack. Khan flinched instinctively, jumping an arm's length away, but kept staring at the wound and the blood. He thought that a sob might have escaped his throat, but he couldn’t be sure. He was shocked, and his heart was racing, but most of all, he felt as though the bullet might have hit his own chest.

“Get up, and get dressed!” the emperor ordered through clenched teeth. “Now!”

In a daze, Khan got up and grabbed his clothes while his father looked away. He was too shocked to feel anything. His clothes kept gliding through his fingers, they felt so numb.

“Hurry up, boy! I swear, if you weren’t the only male heir I have, I would have shot you too!”

“Perhaps you should,” Khan commented flatly, not even sure he had really said it, but he must have, because a second later he felt a searing pain on his cheek. He looked up and saw his father standing before him, with the riding crop shaking in his hand. The part of his face where it had struck him went from hurting to numb within seconds. He felt like something was trickling down his face but he did not check. He only waited until the emperor had moved away again, breathing heavily, and then continued to get dressed. Right now, he did not actually care what happened to him. Felix’s screech echoed in his head. Again. And again. He thought he might also hear an ugly dripping sound from downstairs, directly beneath the floorboards where the ruined head was bleeding out, but it might have been a cruel trick of his imagination. The horses downstairs whinnied and shuffled, no doubt nervous due to the shot being fired so close by. Khan could hear the groom trying to reason with Sabir to let him back into the stable, and Sabir trying to reason with the groom to stay outside if he valued his life.

The emperor was walking up and down in front of him even after Khan was dressed.

“I just cannot fathom what has lead you to this...this behaviour. You can have almost any woman you’d want…”

“It was just curiosity,” Khan said flatly.

The emperor whirled around to him. “This is not something to be curious about! This is against divine will!”

“No god ever said that it…”

The emperor slapped Khan hard across the face, hard enough to make his other cheek go numb as well. “Don’t get clever with me, boy! What you did with that...that dog was...what are you, an animal?!”

“I told you, nothing like what you think happened."

“I thought, at the beginning, that the boy might teach you some social skills, but that was not what I had in mind! This is so disgusting that I have no words for it!”

Khan looked over to the dead body and felt his eyes well up with tears at last. From the corner of his eye he could see his father step closer and felt him raise his arm. When he looked back to the man, he flinched when he saw the barrel of the gun that had just shot Felix, trained on his own head.

“Don’t you dare shed one single tear over that piece of dirt, do you hear me? I asked, do you hear me? Look at me!”

For one moment, Khan could feel the fear and grief, anger and hatred almost boil over inside him, but then he felt the most frightening sensation: a creeping cold, growing and sprawling, leaving behind only frozen emptiness in his chest. All feelings were gone, and he felt both numb and relieved, in a weird, dead way. He looked up, training his gaze on the emperor’s collarbones, feeling absolutely nothing.

“Yes, sir. I heard you.”

His voice was completely flat, but the emperor still huffed as he put the gun down. 

“Don’t be so whiny with me, be a man! Sometimes I think some of your sisters have more balls than you. You were always the weakest pup of the litter. But I never thought you’d be that much of a disappointment. Really what were you thinking? That you could be with him?”

“No, sir.”

“Damn right, because you can’t! You have duties, to your country and your people! You have no time to invest in anything like private relationships or… or feelings! You cannot be biased and distracted like that, you cannot make yourself this vulnerable! And absolutely not because of a man! That is not only stupid, but it is vile and disgusting and sinful as well! You will never again engage in such perversities, do you hear me?!”

“Yes, sir.”

“From now on, you’ll focus fully on your studies and your training, until you are ready for the next step. Getting ready for your role as emperor is the only thing that counts. Your personal wishes will always be second in line, your duty must always come first, you better get that into your dense little head already! Speaking of which, your little excursions are cancelled. I knew what you were doing when I’m not here, so it is my fault as well, but like with the slave boy, I thought it would do you good, improve your skill set, teach you something. But that is over, do you hear me? When it is not needed for your training or for duty, you’ll stay away from the horse from now on. You won’t ride him unless you have to.”

“Yes, sir.”

The emperor cocked his head to the side. “I don’t have the feeling that you are actually paying attention. And you must be punished for what you did. You know that, don’t you?”

Khan turned his head slightly, looking at the body. He felt nothing. He knew he should have felt something but he only felt cold. Felix’ eyes were looking back at him, just as cold. “Yes, sir.”

The emperor seemed to look at him for a moment longer, then he turned away, shouting down the stairs.

“Sabir! Sabir!”

Khan heard footsteps. “Yes, my lord?”

“Give me your whip. Give it here!”

Khan knew the whip, he’d seen it in action often enough, the long, snakelike braid tinged red with slave’s blood. Now it would bite his own skin. It was all the same to him.

The emperor turned back to Khan. 

“Bare your back and kneel. No, over there, next to him. You’ll look at him until I’m finished with you, so you’ll never forget your crime.”

Pulling off his tunic again, Khan got on his hands and knees, right next to the dead body of his only friend, and he could not help but look. A bit of blood and presumably brain matter had stained the blond hair, Khan could see the droplets as if magnified. His fingers twitched with the memory of how soft that hair was. No, he’d never forget. At the same time he never wanted to remember. Khan focussed on Felix’ eyes. He’d think of nothing else for however long his punishment would take. And then he’d forget him, he promised himself. For a second, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath, allowing himself to feel the blessed cold inside and outside.

The whip eventually broke through to him, but it only hurt on the outside, curled up on the floor, while his head and his chest still felt empty. The vicious coils ripped his skin open, and the flesh underneath, and it seemed the emperor would never stop his lashing. At some point, Khan stopped moving, even though he still felt the blows, and at last, he lost consciousness.

Later, he could not remember much, only a few certain moments, like waking up as servants were fussing over him, Mima’s tearstained face, and Sabir’s consternation. He could remember many more punishments because he refused to talk for many weeks. And he could remember a small body with a shock of blond hair, being left out for the carrion birds, in the usual place together with traitors and other criminals.

Chapter Text

At breakfast, Khan sent word to James that he should not bother coming to him that evening; he was still too riled up to talk to him, and the day ahead of him would not make it better. 

He spent the morning going over more details for the Kurultai and his birthday, and spent the afternoon with the doctors, going over the procedure that was scheduled for the next day. It, too, had almost certainly played a role in his behaviour last night; he had been nervous all week, but it was getting worse - another shameful weakness on his part. That nervousness and subsequent aggression were two of the reasons why he had wanted it over with as soon as possible; he needed what little self-control he had to run his country, especially with all the important events coming up. And James had definitely gotten to him far too easily last night.

When he came back to his rooms from his last consultation late in the day, Derya was re-shelving books that his master had left lying around. Khan usually liked it when the young one tidied up and flitted about, he found it relaxing, but today it made him nervous. Today, everything had made him nervous, so he invited Derya to sit and later spend the night with him. Perhaps it would do him good. Derya had always had a calming effect on him, something he was in dire need of between last night and the next day. The slave certainly seemed happy to have an evening alone with his master, even though he took the order with his usual politely detached demeanor. But after years together, Khan was well able to spot the glitter of real elation in the little one’s eyes. 

When they lay down together, Khan remembered what James had mentioned in passing yesterday, in this very same spot: that Derya might miss the sexual part of his duties. He looked at the young one. Was that even possible? He had to admit to himself that he had never thought about the possibility that Derya liked sleeping with him. He knew that Derya could sometimes find pleasure in it, yes, but that he would actively want it? And miss it? That was hard to imagine. Something about the thought felt uncomfortable, so he pushed it away.

It was, however, true that it had been a while since he had taken Derya to bed; he had been so fixated on James and, most recently, the new turn they had taken that he had never felt any need for Derya. Gentle, quiet Derya. Why would he miss his master's brutal way of coupling? He had left him crying often enough to make sure he should never actively yearn for his touch. What was far more probable was that James and Derya had talked about this at some point, and that James, in his futuristic naivety, had mistaken Derya’s desire to go back to his master’s bed to remain the favourite, for something like actual physical desire for Khan.

Absent-mindedly, he kissed his slave for a little bit, and Derya did seem eager, but Khan’s mind was too far away tonight, so he pulled back soon enough.

"My lord, is something wrong? Did I displease you in some way?" the slave asked, sounding anxious enough to move Khan to give an explanation.

"No, no, Derya, you did not," he assured him, stroking his cheek with his fingertips and asking himself if what he could see in the young one’s face was indeed disappointment. "I'm just…" Nervous? Utterly terrified of being cut open? He could hardly say that out loud. "... preoccupied. You know that the medical procedure is tomorrow."

Derya nodded; that explanation seemed to soothe him a little after obviously feeling rejected. "Yes, the one that will allow you to father children again. I'm not sure I understand it, really."

"I don’t expect so. I'll spare you the gruesome medical details," Khan murmured.

"My lord? May I ask questions about it anyway?" 

Perplexed but not entirely displeased, Khan nodded, and Derya went on. 

"Will it take long?"

Khan shrugged as much as his position allowed him. "A few hours perhaps, I’m not a doctor. It is, after all, quite an invasive procedure. My recovery will take longer. Maybe till the evening. Maybe all night."

Derya pondered that answer for a little while before he asked the next question. "Will they… will they put you to sleep, as they did with me when my scars were removed?"

Khan suppressed a shiver. It would have been unseemly to show fear in front of the young one. That was the whole problem, wasn’t it?

"They… No. I'll be awake for it. They cannot put me to sleep, you see, nor can they give me anything for the pain. My organism renders any anaesthesia useless. I cannot be drugged, as you perhaps know."

The look in Derya’s eyes mirrored Khan’s own horror, even though he would never admit it.

“But… but will you be able to bear it?”

“Of course I will!” he growled. “I’ve done it before. It can hardly be worse than the first procedure.”

Obviously scared, Derya pulled back a little. “Please forgive me, my lord. I did not mean to suggest that you could not bear it, it just seems so… cruel.”

He wanted nothing more than to agree with Derya, but whining about it to his favourite would not help him, and their difference in rank kept him from doing so in any case. Going through this procedure again had been one reason why he had resisted getting married for so long. It had been a good decision, after that disastrous meeting at the beginning of the week, to not wait any longer than absolutely necessary with reversing it. Khan had been in battle a few times; close combat had never frightened him. He was quicker, stronger, and healed faster than others. Being wounded on the battlefield held no horror for him, but knowing that he’d have to lie on a table and let that mortifying and painful procedure take place once again, having to hold still while they cut… Even though he was enhanced, he was still a man, with any and all natural protective instincts. The first time had been pure agony. Since he had already been an Augment at the time, he had gone through that one without anaesthetics as well, but then, he had been almost eight years younger, barely twenty. And there had been no good reason for the operation at any rate. The old emperor had simply ordered it to be done, knowing well that his son would be fully conscious throughout, that he would be afraid, and that he would suffer. Oh how he had hated him. Probably the only feeling that had ever been mutual between them. Khan could never forgive, or forget, the many dreadful things the man had put him through.

Feeling his pulse accelerate dangerously, Khan tried to put these thoughts out of his mind; losing it while Derya was with him was absolutely out of the question. The only thing that could mute his terror somewhat was the knowledge that he would heal within hours, instead of weeks like a human man would. But it was a small comfort, if he was being honest with himself.

He tried to push all thoughts about the coming day away, but knew that he would not sleep again tonight. The few uninterrupted nights that Derya and James had given him lately would have to be enough, perhaps for a while.

“You’ll have most of the day to yourself tomorrow, after breakfast. I will let them send for you when my healing process is complete.”

“Yes, my lord, I will be there,” the slave replied gently, seeming to try and find something else to say but gave up in the end. 

“What will you do?” Khan asked curiously, realising he did not know much about how Derya spent what little free time he had.

“I don’t know yet, highness. I guess I could make myself useful elsewhere. Maybe go to visit your women. It’s been a while since I’ve been in their wing of the palace, the last time was certainly before the last earthquake.”

“A long time indeed. Didn’t you spend many nights in their common room with them once?” Khan asked, gesturing for Derya to come closer. Lying down with his head on Khan’s chest, Derya took a few moments before he replied.

“Yes, I did. But those were the nights when you had one of them here with you. Only when you had dismissed me for the night, of course. Then I’d go. But…”

Derya did not go on, but Khan knew what he meant; it had been some time since he had asked one of his concubines to come to him. Having a harem had always been… a convenient thing, maybe something to take some pride in, and something that certainly served his animal instinct for dominance, and, not least of all, his reputation. But lately, he had been more and more occupied with James. Breaking him in. Or just breaking him, sometimes, he admitted to himself. Things had changed so much, and so quickly, too. Maybe he had become too obsessed with his new pet, maybe he should try and seek out his concubines again to clear his head. But not before next week, probably. He would have to be careful after the operation, and he could also not be careless anymore when he slept with them. Getting any of them pregnant was not an option, so that had to be taken care of as well. He huffed. 

“I won’t go if you do not want me to, my lord.”

Coming back, Khan had to take a moment to recall where he had lost Derya. “No. No, you can go, go wherever you want to, and do whatever you’d like. Just make sure they’ll find you, later in the day.”

“Of course, my lord. I will be there, as I said.”

“I don’t doubt it.” Khan noticed that Derya was having a hard time staying awake, and gently touched his eyelids with his fingertips so that they closed reflexively. “Sleep now.”

“Good night, my lord,” Derya replied, and let his head rest on Khan’s shoulder.

Khan barely managed to keep himself from snorting. Good night, indeed.



Just after he had finished his breakfast, Derya materialised next to Jim in the kitchens and told him to come upstairs. Slightly worried, Jim followed the summons that could only come from Khan himself. This could not be about last night, could it? Khan had specifically sent word not to come to him, so he had used his free time to - once again - search the palace for his friends, which was made harder this time by the fact that he had no idea where to start. This time, it was not about a window, but about finding the one room among the hundreds  of rooms that the palace had. Had Khan found out about his search again?

When he entered, Jim wore a carefully blank expression on his face, and noticed Khan seemed to be trying exactly the same, even after Derya had left them alone. And yet, he could see that the Augment's body was incredibly tense, and that he looked more tired again, as though he had not slept at all last night, no matter how scrupulously he was trying to hide it. Jim did not allow himself to pity the man. The hurt of their last conversation still went too deep, let alone everything before that.

“You sent for me,” he addressed Khan in a neutral tone. He had no idea what to expect. Khan had ignored him ever since he had stormed out two nights ago.

The Augment looked up at Jim from where he was sitting on a low couch. “Yes. I told you I have a bit of time today. We’ll go to see your friends in a few moments, as agreed.”

His first reaction was excitement, but the way Khan said it also made Jim weary, as if that was not all. “Thank you, sir,” he answered carefully, and waited if Khan would continue. If he was being honest with himself, he had not actually expected Khan to keep his word this time, not after what had happened. So, with the way Khan was looking at him now, Jim wondered if there would be more conditions tied to this visit. A blowjob beforehand, perhaps. That would be like Khan.

“I also wish to talk to you about our conversation a few nights ago.” 

Jim grunted, feeling slightly relieved but still weary. Of course. “I’m listening,” he said, knowing it sounded a little rude, but he could not help it; Khan had been the rude one last time. In fact, Jim still had no idea why he had been so hurtful.

The other man cocked his head to the side. “Just one thing, to remind you of your place, as you seem to have gotten things mixed up lately.” Khan got up from the couch and walked over to Jim, standing too close for comfort.

Jim tensed involuntarily. In the past, that phrase had brought physical punishment. Perhaps his relief had come a bit early…?

“You are, for all intents and purposes, still my slave. Sweet-talking in the middle of the night does not change that. Allowing you to use my given name when we have sex does not change that. Not being at each other’s throats whenever we are in the same room does not change that. My knowing where you came from and how very different you are from everyone here does not change that . I gave you leave to act casual around me when we are alone. I even allowed you to talk to my women and have sleepovers with my Derya, because I trust you more in that respect than anyone else here. But I told you to not let it go to your head that you get special treatment regarding some things. Because it does not change the fact that you are my captive and that you will do as I say. Clear?”

“Crystal,” Jim replied, rather testily. That was so typical. Still, he could not and would not let this be the end of it. What Khan had said last time had hurt his own pride far too much. “But just so you know, sir , contrary to what you seem to think, I have not begun to accept my role, I have only adapted to it for survival. In case you get those two mixed up. It’s not that I accept it because I like it, it is that I have no other choice.”

Jim was mildly surprised when Khan nodded and replied: “Of course, I know.” He leaned in closer to Jim until they were almost nose to nose, and gave him a reproachful look. Jim stood his ground, even though every fibre in his body wanted to take a step back, or better yet, run. “Just know that, if you ever again, in my presence or with anyone else, claim out loud that you are more than just a slave, I will punish you myself, and this time, you will lose your pretty face. Not your head, but certainly your face. Feel free to take this as a threat. I never want to hear such assumptions from you again. You may think it. You may grumble it to yourself in the solitude of your own bed. But you will never, ever, utter those words to another living soul again. This is the last warning you will get from me.”

Jim had a few very distinct opinions on this topic, but he kept his mouth shut - like a good slave, he thought grimly. Jim still had no idea why exactly this small thing was so infuriating for Khan, but knew they had to keep their relative peace somehow, and Jim expected that Khan wanted that as well. “Understood, sir.”

“Also, I think it would do you good to take your ego down a notch again. For the next seven days, you’ll sleep downstairs with the other slaves, in the main quarters. Maybe it will teach you to value what you have here, upstairs, and teach you not to demand or assume even more than that.”

Jim felt his mouth open in a surprised expression. He really had not expected this. It had not even been his fault! Khan was the one who had been mean! And now he got punished for… what exactly?! Saying that he was actually much more than a slave? He let out a long breath. Fine. Sleeping in the main slave quarters. He had never really seen them from the inside, but… What could happen? It would mean sleeping in a room with many others, nothing more.

“Alright, sir.”

“During that time, you don’t have any duties with me, either, starting today after work. You stay below stairs unless I send for you,” Khan added.

Well, that was not a tragedy at all. Jim nodded dutifully.

“Good. Then follow me.”

Khan lead the way to a small conference room on the ground floor, where Jim had never been. Outside the room, two guards were waiting. They stood at attention when they approached, and one opened the door, but they did not follow them inside.

Jim all but forgot the Augment’s presence when he saw his friends pacing the room. They looked well; they were wearing the usual tunics of slaves, but at least they were out of their filthy uniforms. On the whole, they looked much better this time, not as hungry, not as tired. Without thinking, he rushed up to them, hugging them both for a long minute before he could bring himself to let go. It felt so good to see them again, someone from home, someone he could trust! Maybe even someone who reminded his survival-addled brain about who he was.

“Jim,” Scotty said in a low, gentle voice while he hugged him back, and suddenly, Jim felt his eyes pricking dangerously. He had to remind himself that Khan was still here, leaning on the wall next to the door, actually, watching them intently. So he tried to pull himself together.

“You guys okay? You look good.”

“Aye, Jim, mustn’t grumble. Th’ cells were worse.”

“So you’re not in a cell anymore?”

“We have a pretty comfortable room noo, Jim, we’re fine. But what about you?” Scotty gave him a look. “We heard you, ah, made a deal with-" he gestured towards Khan, "-he-who-mustn’t-be-named, for us. An’ we’re really thankful, but…”

Jim shook his head. “It’s okay, Scotty, I know what you want to say. Thanks for the concern. I can manage,” he said firmly. He knew they would tell him not to worry and not to strike any deals with Khan that hurt him further, and he would simply keep on doing exactly that because he could not bear doing nothing while knowing full well that he had the power to ease his friends’ misery simply by doing what Khan wanted.

“Jim,” Scotty murmured to him nonetheless, “That wisnae whit I meant when I said ter use yer charm…”

At home, it might have been a joke, but now, the Scotsman looked so devastated that it took Jim a moment to connect the dots in his head. And then he could only stare at his friend for a moment before he could answer.

“I… no, Scotty, that’s not… That had nothing to do with it. Honestly, stop thinking about it, if you want to help me in any way.” 

“But Jim…”

“Don’t But-Jim me,” he said in his captain voice. “Enough with the blame-game, that’s an order. You just take care of yourselves. How is your cough? Do they feed you?”

“It’s better, almost gone, an’ yes, we’re not going hungry. The good doc would still be appalled, but… It’s all as well as can be, you jist take care o’ yerself , Jim.”

“I’m terribly sorry to interrupt this very touching scene, but I have an important appointment. You had your minute to check on them. Now say your goodbyes,” Khan grumbled from his post at the door, and Jim sighed inwardly.

Turning back to the two crewmen, he opened his arms again.

“Sit tight,” he whispered while hugging Chekov. Jim had no actual plan whatsoever, but it was better to let them think he did. Better he got into trouble than them. “I’ll find you,” he murmured to Scotty while hugging him. Thankfully, both were too bright to let on, but Jim knew he was taking a risk nonetheless; he could not be sure that Khan had not heard him. Both men said a few words of encouragement back before letting go.

“Satisfied?” Khan asked as they exited the room. Jim watched the guards go inside, presumably to get their two prisoners back to where they had come from. A comfortable room, Scotty had said. Theoretically, Jim should have been satisfied. But of course, there was always a chance that Khan would go back on his word now that Jim had seen the men, and put them back in the cells, or move them somewhere else. He had to keep that in mind.

“A bit more satisfied, yes. Thanks for letting me see them.” Jim looked away from the door to Khan as they walked away. “They are wearing a slave uniform. Do you put them to work?”

The Augment shook his head. “No. Do you wish I would?” he asked, raising one eyebrow.

“No! Of course not,” Jim tried to backtrack. “I was just wondering.”

“They are too valuable as pawns, and it is dangerous enough to let one of you three walk around.” Khan jerked his chin in Jim’s direction. “Also, they were dirty. The clothes they got are good enough.” At the head of the main staircase, Khan stopped and turned to look at Jim. “By the way, Rika will again request your company in the garden for today’s ride, I have heard.”

Jim’s stomach leapt at the mention of the woman’s name. Had it only taken her a few days to find out where his friends were being kept? Then his heart sank just as quickly. Khan had heard. What else had he heard? From who? He looked up at the man, uneasy, waiting as he stepped closer. It was easy to see that he meant it as a threat.

“I am not in the mood for more accounts of your open-hearted behaviour. For someone who thinks he’s adapted to his role for survival, as you put it, you have been very reckless. You have learnt maybe half of what is required to survive in a palace. I’m not the only one who always has eyes and ears around you. So don’t overdo it with the charm.”

Perplexed, Jim opened his mouth to ask questions he could not even form in his head so quickly, but Khan had already turned around and hurried away.

 

With Khan’s warning still ringing in his ears, he was probably a disappointing companion for Rika that day. She tried to make conversation, but Jim remained quiet whenever he could, and at some point, she gave up. Jim was glad, but also felt bad about it. He had really enjoyed talking to Rika, and was loathe to disappoint her, but he really did not want to run the risk of people starting to talk about the two of them. There were a lot of socio-political things he did not understand about palace life yet. When he left Rika at the gate, Jim tried to apologize, but Rika shushed him immediately. So he went back to his work feeling like he had botched up his one chance of having a friend here except for Derya.

The afternoon went on the same as it usually did for Jim, until the shift ended.

He showered with the usual faceless crowd - he never liked to socialize here - though he had to wait for his turn this time. Usually, he could skip the line a bit, because he had more duties as Khan’s body slave, but today, he did not need to hurry and thus got no special treatment. Jim rolled his eyes about it, but kept his thoughts about the petty Augment to himself. If this was supposed to be punishment, Khan knew even less about him than Jim had thought.

After his shower, he went to grab some dinner from the kitchen, but Sabir held him back from the doorway with the stick he always carried, smiling and shaking his head.

“You don’t eat with the attendees and household servants today. You eat with the group you came in with.”

Jim  had no idea what that would mean, specifically, but shrugged and turned around to follow the rest into the biggest yard, the one where he had found the window to the dungeon. There was also a kitchen window in that yard, where all the others obviously got their food from. Jim had little to no knowledge about how the other slaves lived; he knew he was one of those who got coddled a little more, part of the smaller group of household servants and slaves who served the higher ranks, but he had never really bothered to find out about the rest. His own life here was stressful enough, and his extended working hours at night, when everyone else was off duty, meant he had little time to find out much about what palace life meant for the other slaves. 

These here looked more worn out, their hands were dirty despite the shower, and their faces looked harder. Their tunics seemed thinner, more ragged than Jim’s, and some were almost as grey as the ones he had seen going to the slave market, though this grey here looked more like the result of dirt and being washed hundreds of times. His own white tunic stood out like a sore thumb, and it earned him a few dirty looks, full of contempt. 

Usually, Jim ate in the kitchen, at a real table, with others from the household, and then ran upstairs, no time for socializing. The lot he usually got to have any contact with, if only for meals, consisted of about fifty to sixty slaves - depending on when their masters let them go to dinner, so sometimes there were barely twenty people sitting around the table - but none of those seemed to be here. They, too, would have stood out, because he had never seen them in anything but the white tunics that he had thought were the standard. Well, obviously they were not, or maybe only for those who worked inside the house. Jim guessed there were about a hundred people here in the yard, give or take. Mima had mentioned that many servants and slaves had gone to the bigger palace, and Jim asked himself where the hell the rest of the workforce lived when they were here; the yard was overcrowded as it was.

He recognized only a few faces, people who also worked in the gardens or the stables, and yes, now that Jim thought about it, they had always looked pretty shabby, but so did he before he changed his clothes for dinner and his ‘night shift’ with Khan after the shower. Oh well, obviously, he still had a lot to learn.

He went and fetched his food from the kitchen window like the others, looked around and realised that nobody was eating together, or at a table for that matter, but simply where they stood or sat, at best in groups of two or three. Sighing, Jim sat down by the wall, nervously eyeing the guards who stood and watched the group from every corner and the walkway above them. Wouldn’t want any rebellion at dinnertime. He looked at the goo in his bowl and the flat, flabby stuff that might have been meant to be bread. The fare he usually got was perhaps not the fine stuff Khan and other important people ate, but at least it was reasonable, with rice, vegetables and rich bread, sometimes even meat (twice in all that time, actually). The sludge on his spoon offended his sensitivities a little, but he was hungry. He knew Mima, her cooking and her kitchen regime, so he was hopeful that this stuff was edible, even though it was meant for the lowest of the low in this household. It was edible, although it tasted so bland that he might as well have been eating hay with the horses. At least hay would have had some herbs in it. The bread was just the same. Obviously, nobody wasted any spices on the lower slaves. Missing the tasty food Mima dished out in the kitchen, Jim felt even hungrier after he had finished whatever indefinable slop he had just ingested. He remembered Scotty complaining about the prison fare. He had to agree with his friend: Bones would have been both shocked and appalled. 

After he had brought his bowl back to the kitchen window, Jim looked around for a clue on how to proceed. Everyone seemed to be sitting around aimlessly, talking or just staring into space. Jim walked among the slaves - mostly men, he noticed now - until he had established that nobody here was using English. He was sure that some knew the language a bit, but nobody talked to him; most people even turned away, or threw him more dirty looks, so Jim decided to just sit down in a corner and wait. This seemed to be what probably counted as free time here, so Jim tried to enjoy it, reminding himself that usually, he would now be prepping himself just in case, and then fetch wine and sweets for Khan, tidy up a bit, get clean sheets or fold Khan’s clothes when he came upstairs and dropped them where he was standing, the fucking spoilt brat. As if it would really have been so hard to tidy up after oneself. It had taken Bones only a month or so to make Jim keep his clothes in order, after all, by repeatedly dumping everything Jim owned onto his dormitory bed, dirty and clean stuff alike. Maybe, he thought grimly, he should try this, he would have loved to try this, actually, if he hadn't been sure that such a thing would result in a punishment that would prevent him from sitting as well as walking for a long time...

The chimes signalled the beginning of curfew, and the guards immediately began rounding everyone up, towards the dormitories. Jim saw the few women go first, and then the men, and he hurried to follow. When he reached the doorway, he slowed down, perplexed, enough to be shoved inside roughly by others. He had expected… well, sleeping quarters, but all he could see was a huge room, almost like a gym, except that it had no windows and was completely bare except for a rack by the door. At the other end of the room, Jim could see the women walking through another door, and a guard closing that door, locking them in. It was made of a metal mesh, so Jim could see the women moving behind it. The guard who had locked them in was walking to the entrance they had just used, and, stepping outside, locked that door behind himself as well. No guards remained inside. Jim looked around again, and noticed that there were no other doors. No bathrooms, then, either.

Meanwhile, the other men had lined up by the rack at the door, pulling something out of it, one each. It took Jim a few moments to realise that they were mats - tightly woven straw mats, rolled up, Jim discovered when he had gotten his own. A blanket was rolled up into it, or rather a sheet, thin enough anyway. There was no pillow. Jim watched the others lay out their mats in neat rows, and followed their example. Jim wondered if this room was really big enough for all of them; it was very crowded and the mats were lying closer together than Jim cared for. He guessed they provided a bit of protection in terms of keeping away the cold of the stone floor, but it looked horribly uncomfortable. Just as he was unfolding the sheet, someone slapped his ass.

Jim whirled around, hands curling into fists. A few men were standing uncomfortably close to him, smirking, muttering under their breaths in a language Jim could not understand. Only their facial expressions told him that the topic was very unpleasant - at least for him. He tried not to show fear and glowered at them until they turned away, although they were still muttering and grinning. He could distinguish the native word for ‘whore’ by now, and two out of the four of them used it while he was still staring at them. 

Trying to remain calm, Jim sat down on his mat, already feeling like this morning was a world away. He definitely had to hand it to Khan; staying here for a week would be punishment. He felt alone and isolated, and desperately unsafe. 

Around him, the rest of the men began to settle down as well. At the far end of the room, someone banged against the see-through metal door that lead to the women’s room. He, too, said something in an unpleasant tone, and several men around him laughed. Jim’s neighbour on the right, whose mat was not much more than a hand’s breadth away, leered at him in the way Khan usually did, with a mix of contempt, anger and lust. It made the hairs on his neck stand up. He was not sure whether he should hope that he would fall asleep immediately or not at all. Just as he was contemplating leaving and finding another bit of space - of which there was absolutely none left - the one neon light under the ceiling went out and plunged them into a dim light that only filtered in through the metal mesh in the entrance door.

Jim lay down, listening to the others. Many quietened down almost immediately, but there was still an underlying restlessness that lingered in the dormitory. Squeezing his eyes shut, Jim made a move to lie on his side with his back to the room, but then decided against it. He had been right, the mat was really uncomfortable, and the coarse sheet did not provide much warmth. He thought about curling up but dismissed that plan as well - there was not enough space, and he certainly was not going to expose his ass to anyone here. All around the room, he could hear the shuffling and stirring of his fellow slaves and realised that the room would probably heat up soon enough - and also smell really bad. He felt thankful for lying near the door. Perhaps it would be a bit colder but at least he would have fresh air. 

Try as he might, Jim could not sleep. After sunset, when it had gone completely dark in the room, the stirring did not really get any less. From across the room, he could hear grunting coming from at least two different directions, and also a low but decidedly pained moan, giving him a clue about what was going on over there and making him feel sorry for whoever it was. Nobody else reacted to it. Perhaps it was normal. Jim’s immediate neighbour’s breathing had also become laboured these last few minutes, and the other sounds coming from him told Jim exactly what he was doing. He had never wished more that he could turn his back to anybody, but he found it too risky under the circumstances. So he stayed on his back, keeping his eyes closed.

Man. He had had no idea what was going on downstairs, really. This was not what he had expected. And he still had six more nights to go. Had Derya gone through the same when he had been banished downstairs? Or when he had arrived at the palace? Jim realised he had not ever asked the slave about it, but now he could not help but wonder. At the time, Jim had thought the slave overly dramatic, but now he could understand what it must have been like for him, and he hoped that he had been allowed to sleep in the women’s room. He knew that was where he would have felt a lot safer. Actually, he was becoming more and more uncomfortable while his neighbour continued to jerk off not an arm’s length away from him. Jim turned his head away. Sex had become part of the job here for him, but what went on down here made him feel more grossed out and squeamish than he had any right to feel. Khan and his perversities were worse, right? Okay, maybe they had dulled down to a mix of being tiresome and seriously confusing (because also hot and satisfying). It dawned on Jim that Khan was not the only gross bastard here, and probably not even the worst. At the beginning, he had assumed Khan did to him what he did because his position here put him above the law, that a man of his status could get away with such vile things because no matter what, authorities would look the other way. But