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It was intended to be a power move. I’m giving you another chance, the note said. Expect me for dinner, and a time written in pen; with a post script, added in cursive with a sinuous flourish: Let’s take our relationship to the next level. It made his intentions plain; and yet was still ambiguous enough, Professor Venomous thought, for deniability if the letter were intercepted. The Boxman Jr. project was still tightly under wraps, but it was no secret that Venomous’ lab had a renewed business relationship with Boxmore, and that Venomous—with or without Fink—traveled to the factory regularly to check on the progress of his recent large purchase of robots, to negotiate and troubleshoot. Nobody outside of Venomous and Boxman, hero nor villain nor minion, knew about the weeks of innuendo; the subtle (and not-so-subtle) caresses made in passing; or the recent long evenings they’d spent in Boxmore’s private theater, their physical proximity more responsible for their racing hearts than the images of fiery explosions or geysers of blood onscreen. And Venomous intended to keep it that way; it was nobody’s damn business but his and Box’s. But Boxman’s response to the letter’s mandate was full of such heart-on-sleeve excitement, such sincere enthusiasm to prove himself and please his guest, that Venomous was almost ashamed.

Boxman more than made up for the previous charred-ham fiasco. Seated at Boxmore’s long formal dining table—this time with the placemats arranged crosswise the short way, so they wouldn’t have to raise their voices to converse—Venomous found himself wearing an embarrassingly goofy grin as Boxman trotted out from the kitchen, smile stretched ear-to-ear, and presented the plates with a flourish of his hand. Duck breasts, scored with mechanical precision, with exquisitely crispy skin over succulent dark meat. A side of miniscule potatoes with taut spice-dusted skins and fluffy centers. And roasted carrots with just the right amount of char to enhance their sweetness, still bearing crowns of green stem calibrated for maximum charm. And as accompaniment, a proper adult drink: beer layered over cider, poured with care so a clear division between the amber and the dark brown showed through the glass. Venomous nodded in appreciation, wondering if Box knew about crème de cassis, vowing to gift him a bottle.

“I am truly impressed,” Venomous said, letting a purr infuse his voice. Boxman blushed; he glowed.

Venomous took his time enjoying the meal, savoring each bite. Boxman, meanwhile, gulped his drink and poured another one, a tremble in his hand spoiling the layering effect, making the colors swirl and blend. He scarfed his potatoes and carrots and picked at the duck breast. And then, while eyeing Venomous finishing his meal across the table, he began to… shrink?

“Uh… Box?” Venomous ventured.

All that was visible of Boxman above the table-level was the top halves of his eyes, his furrowed brow, and his hair, which was slowly freeing itself from a formal slicked-back state into its familiar wild crests. “Mmmph?” Came from somewhere under the table.

“What are you… Are you going somewhere?” Venomous smirked.

“Mmaymtryeenttplay footsie,” the muffled voice seemed to come from the table itself. “Pummai LEGS ertoo SHORT.”

“Oh? Like this?” Ven raised one foot, already smoothly drawn free of its boot, and ran a toe along the inside of Boxman’s thigh. The scalp across the table turned brilliant red, and the table transmitted a gratifying yelp.

Ven took a last long sip from his glass. He swallowed his last bite, swept the plate with the back of his fork and licked it, raised his napkin to dab at his mouth, and set the napkin back on the table in neat folds. He looked at Boxman, and waited.

Boxman spoke, eyes shining with expectancy. “The kids are all on the other side of the house. I set them up with PG movies. They won’t bother us.” He hadn’t raised up to sit properly in his chair again, but was instead tilting his head back so that his mouth could clear the level of the table, like a drowning man gasping for air.

“So… What shall we do?” Ven let the question hang in the air for a moment. “… We could play ‘Union Buster’. Remember that time we played a six-hour game with everyone? Fink got two hotels on Promenade, Darrell was trying to cheat by swallowing money, and then Shannon shredded the board? Good times.”

Boxman was changing colors again; not to the warm rosy glow of before, but a frustrated maroon. Ven suppressed a chuckle. He shouldn’t tease him like this, he really shouldn’t, but he was just so easy to fluster, it was irresistible.

“We could watch a movie ourselves. You did say you had a new newsreel of demolitions, didn’t you? That would be a pleasurable way to pass the evening, wouldn’t it?”

A lone drop of sweat rolled from Boxman’s hairline and out of sight under the table. Ven thought he could hear a whistling sound, a teakettle about to boil over.

“Or…” Ven paused, one eyebrow arched, “… we could do whatever you feel like doing.”

Boxman’s eyes widened and his skin returned to its normal wan color. “Ah… ah… anything?” His tone rose to a stratospheric, inquisitive point.

An… ny… thing,” Venomous leaned across the table, presenting each syllable like it was giftwrapped.

And suddenly he was being pulled out of the room, feet flying off the ground, Boxman’s arms wrapped snug around his middle.

Venomous threw back his head and laughed, letting his body go limp and trail in the wake of Boxman’s rush. He was going to get laid, he was going to get ravished, and it was going to be awesome.

A long dim hallway flew past, a corner and a door, another hallway? The twists and turns of the building blended together as Ven rode a wave of anticipation and tried to keep his head from hitting any walls.

Then they entered a room, finally—Ven spotted a bed out of the corner of his eye before he was pushed up against the wall with such hasty energy, he thought he could feel Boxman’s body flattening around him with the force of impact and then bouncing back into shape.

Boxman was reaching up to his shoulders, to his face, bird claws dimpling the nape of his neck, pulling him forward and down like he was a sapling topped with a single tempting ripe fruit. But he turned his head and received Boxman’s kiss on the side of his neck—he was already one step ahead—to watch his right hand as it deftly, rhythmically undid buttons down Boxman’s shirt. Boxman saw what he was doing and a feral grin spread across his face; he straightened out his bird hand like a karate chop, and in one smooth motion, like a letter opener, tore open the buttoned front of Ven’s vest, sending buttons pinging across the floor. He pulled Ven’s shirttails free from his pants and slid his hands around his partners’ hips, dragging his fingertips across the small of Ven’s back before cupping his small firm buttocks. Ven made a low purr of encouragement and pulled Box close, grinding his growing erection into his belly. The move drew a delighted grunt from Box, so Ven bent his legs into a crouch to line up their heights more conveniently and slipped his hand to the waistband of Box’s pants, inside, down. And felt… nothing.

Ven had already known—from a surprising-then-awkward-then-illuminating make-out session—that Boxman’s avian side meant he had internal genitalia: testicles within his body cavity, and a penis that stayed safely tucked inside his body until he became erect. But…. certainly… this should be the time?

Ven stopped and drew back to look Box in the eyes. “Is something wrong?”

“No no! Of course not!” Box announced in his usual brassy tone. Then his gaze slipped to the side, down, settled at floor-level; his snaggle-tooth slipped over his lower lip. “I er… ah um…” His voice quieted, drifted into its lower register. “I’m a little nervous.”

Ven squeezed his shoulder with one hand, cupped his cheek with the other and guided his head up so he would make eye-contact again. “Ah. That’s fine.” He gave a sincere, reassuring smile. “Let’s take this slower. …Shall we?” Keeping his one hand lightly on Box’s shoulder, he steered him to the bed.

Ven gave the area a critical eye and set about preparation. There was something… yellow?... on top of the rumpled sheets. He picked it up and, with a touch of trepidation, gave a sniff… oily fried starch, liberally salted. And stale. He swept at the bedspread with a brisk hand, and, when more hidden crumbs sprang out of its folds, he took it by the edge with both hands and gave the whole blanket a sharp snap. He peeked underneath the bed… lost screws and metallic junk, golfball-sized dust bunnies, and… a box of tissues! Perfect. That went on the bedside table, within easy reach. Before traveling over he had squirreled a small bottle of lube and a couple of condoms in his pockets, in high hopes; but setting that out now could create too much pressure, so he left them stashed. Satisfied with the set-up, he nudged Box to take off his pants and shirt and sit on the edge of the bed.

After getting undressed himself, Ven climbed onto the bed and settled comfortably behind Box’s back. He flexed his fingers and rubbed his hands together vigorously so they wouldn’t be so cold, as Box wriggled out of his briefs and dropped them on the floor. “Just relax,” Ven breathed, and set to massaging Box’s shoulders. Box’s torso rose with a deep breath, sank again.

This approach wasn’t entirely unselfish… as Ven rubbed and kneaded he was also probing, trying to feel those bulging muscles that he had seen back during their first meeting, during the revelation with the pie gun. Here on the left side just behind the shoulder there was a huge knot—of course, this was Box’s dominant tool-wielding arm… Ven pressed his thumb into the middle of it, hard; felt Box tense, yelp, squirm, then relax again with a sigh of relief.

He ran his manicured fingernails up Box’s back and was rewarded with a pleased whimper, watched goosebumps raise along both arms. On the right arm, the human arm, the fine hairs were invisible; but on the left, the feathers raised and fluffed, their edges becoming defined. Ven smiled to himself, remembering that chaotic night on Billiam’s yacht, with Box standing in the wreckage, coaching his facial expression from a maelstrom of conflicting emotions into feigned nonchalance; his feathered bicep still puffed to twice its normal size with avian aggression. At their first meeting Ven had assumed that Box’s bird arm was a simple stitch-job, but he certainly couldn’t think that after getting a clear look. The quills of the larger feathers sprung organically out of the human skin of his shoulder, their bases swathed in silky wisps of down.

Box’s skin was deliciously soft. Ven leaned in to put his mouth and nose against the broad triangle of flesh where shoulder connected to neck. Opening his mouth slightly to fully engage his keen senses, he took in Box’s scent. To be perfectly candid, initially he had had some concerns about… well, Box sometimes seemed to be rather oblivious to his own organic nature, which did make a sort of sense given his complete immersion in a world of mechanical work, mechanical companions… Ven had had some concerns about hygiene. But Box’s skin smelled clean, warm, fresh with the recent memory of Ivory soap. There was a slight coppery undertone too, but you didn’t set out to fuck a cyborg without fully expecting that.

Pricked by an impish, lustful impulse, Ven laid his mouth against the base of Box’s neck, closed his lips, and gave a sharp strong suck. Box made a high-pitched sound somewhere between a grunt and a giggle. Ven drew back and admired his handiwork: the pale skin was blossoming handsomely with little red dots—this hickey would last for days, he thought with satisfaction.

Now might be a good time to apply some lube to his palm, to facilitate what he planned to do next; but this moment called for a bit of pageantry, not just simple practicality. He leaned around to the side and guided Box’s head so that he was watching. Ven laved his tongue over his fingers and palm, building up a slick layer of saliva; he inserted his fingers into his mouth one-by-one, letting the slight fork in his tongue play around the edges, lowering his eyelids in a show of lustful promise. Box’s eyes grew wide; he sweated and gulped.

Now Ven slid his hand around to Box’s front. From behind, from this angle, he couldn’t see over the roundness of Box’s belly, but his position was comfortable and his arm was long enough. He reached to his groin and—yes!—his hand closed around firmness. He ran his palm over the head for a few smooth, slippery swipes, then found the shaft and ran his closed fist up and down, up and down. Box’s breathing quickened, a shudder rippled up through his body. Ven felt the firmness grow until he had a substantial handful. “So powerful,” he breathed into Box’s ear; and, to his delight, the contents of his hand grew even more.

It wasn’t long before Box’s jagged deep breaths were interspersed with incipient fragments of moans, were turning into wheezing. His body twitched, twitched again. Ven settled into a regular rhythm, alternating firm and soft strokes. So their first liaison wasn’t going quite as he had pictured it; that was fine. Box was clearly enjoying himself, and soon he was going to come. After release he wouldn’t be so tense, and they’d be able to explore each other’s bodies with more ease, to feel out the rest of the evening.

But then…

“Wait!”

Ven stopped his motions; picked up his hand; twisted his torso and head to look at Box’s face.

Box’s chest was heaving irregularly and covered with a rosy sex blush; his forehead was dewed with sweat. He was clearly close… very close. So… what…?

“I’m… ah!... I’m dizzy,” Box gasped. Ven waited. “It’s the beer. Nnnnn… Need… water. Could you…?”

Ven paused a moment more, and then disentangled himself from Box’s back, rose to stand beside the bed.

“There’s a cup… in the bathroom.” Box tilted his chin to indicate one of the doors along the wall.

Box watched Ven walk away, admiring his nude body. His limbs were so lithe, his movements painfully graceful. His back was spangled with the little round scars of healed acne, like his cheeks; but Box appreciated that too, he liked that Ven’s skin wasn’t smooth and flawless like shiny plastic or brushed steel, but varied, complicated, unexpected… like the sky on rare nights when the smokestacks of Boxmore factory were shut off and Boxman stepped outside and remembered that there were stars.

Box sucked in a deep breath; held it inside his chest; let it out slowly through pursed lips. It was scary to be with someone like this. It was scary to be vulnerable. Under the ministrations of Ven’s hands, with his body held against his body, Box’s heart had beat harder and harder… and suddenly the sensation was too much like panic; the feeling of losing control made his subconscious remember times in the past, just before he’d regain his senses to realize that he’d made a fool of himself once again.

But this wasn’t like that. He hadn’t lost control; control had not been taken from him. He had made a request and Ven hadn’t questioned—even if it didn’t make sense—he hadn’t mocked or sneered, he had listened, he had gone and done it. Box took another deep breath, this one easy, and felt the knot of worry in his guts loosen. This was fine. This was good. He could let go.

Ven was returning now, with a cup in his hand and a mild expectant look on his face. And Cob, he was gorgeous. Tall, taut, dark… oh wow… erect

A swell of warm pleasure rose inside of Box, and this time he didn’t fight the feeling; he rode it, savored it… Ven was going to give him the water—an act of kindness, an act of trust—and then he would wrap his body around him again, he would touch him again, he would tou… he… ah… hnnnnn… oh no.

Not now, Box ordered his body, but it was already too late; his wave had crested, he was spilling over, falling, crashing… He barely had enough time to think Not on the floor and grab a tissue before white static closed over his vision and his body gave a pulse of ecstasy.

He came to his senses again, tingling in the wave’s wake. And the first thing he saw was Ven, standing in the same place, with glass still in hand and an inscrutable blank expression on his face. Box tracked Ven’s eyes as they travelled from his flushed, sweating face… to the now-damp tissue clenched in his hand… to his groin. Box didn’t have to look to know that his penis had already retreated like a timid woodland creature.

And now Box thought he could interpret the look on Ven’s face. It had to be the same expression he’d seen there many times before. It was shock, and it was disappointment.

Now another, very different feeling rose inside Box, just as irresistible. Tears sprang to his eyes.

“Box…” Ven said. His voice wasn’t angry, it wasn’t disgusted… it was soft and kind… And that was even worse.

“I knew it! I knew something like this would happen,” Box’s voice grated with frustration like the squeal of rusted gears. The sweet feeling of relief that had settled between his hips curdled into a sensation that disgusted him. Tears rolled out of his eyes, and his chest heaved with a sob as he spoke through clenched teeth. “I’ve ruined everything.”

Eyes screwed shut, Box didn’t sense Ven approaching until he was by his side, had dropped to a knee so he wouldn’t loom from above.

“Box… listen to me.” Ven laid a hand on Box’s knee. “It’s all right. Nothing is ruined.”

Box paused, looked at him and sniffed. Oh Cob now you’re sniveling, how pathetic.

But the velvety low tone of Ven’s voice was steady, and his eyelids drooped in his familiar unconcerned expression. “It happens. Nothing to worry about.”

“Really?” Box quavered, giving him a watery smile.

“Really. Now, dry your eyes… NOT WITH THAT TISSUE… Here, drink your water.” As Box drank, Ven took the crumpled tissue gingerly between fingertips, looked in vain for a trashcan, and then dropped it surreptitiously beside the bed, hoping it wouldn’t have too much time to make friends with the dustbunnies. He saw Box watching him again, and let a sly smile bare the tip of one of his fanged canine teeth. “In fact, I’m kind of glad. Because now… it’s my turn.”

Venomous sat on the edge of the bed, spread his legs, and guided Box between them. A level -10 villain kneeling on the ground in front of him, a level -10 villain about to suck his dick… Ven felt an electric frisson as he waited for Boxman to start.

And waited. Box was kneeling, looking intently, brow furrowed as if he were thinking through a complicated circuit.

“Is… something the matter?”

“Just taking a moment to familiarize myself,” Box huffed. “Grabbing equipment before you understand it is a good way to lose a hand, you know.”

Ven snorted and smirked. “Oh my Cob, you’re not romancing Lady Dentata. It’s just a penis. Not so different from yours.”

“Kinda different,” Box said, voice distant. “I’ve only ever been with…” He stopped short, and a high truncated note sounded from somewhere in his skull, like he had built a set of words and was about to launch them from his mouth but then thought better of it and drop-kicked the whole lot into his sinuses. “Well I don’t have this,” he said in a rush, a little louder than necessary, and gestured to Ven’s second penis.

True to his viperous DNA, Venomous had a pair of phalluses (conveniently human in appearance, without the spines and elaborate ornamentations he might have inherited). One was erect, and had drawn Box’s eye during Ven’s trip from the bathroom back to the bedside; but the other was flaccid, and Box gestured at it. “Should I be worried about this?”

A hurt look shot through Ven’s eyes. Box stammered, backpedaling. “Uhm I, I said that wrong, I just mean…” The feathers on his shoulder rose defensively. “Well, you asked me first!”

Ven’s expression relaxed, understanding the question; Box relaxed in turn, and his feathers settled.

“Ah. Everything is working fine,” Ven answered. “And there’s nothing more you should be doing, either. I can only get one erect at a time.”

“But… but I mean, will it feel everything the same as the other? Even when it’s not, you know…”

This question brought Ven up short. Most of his past partners, on discovering that he had two penises, immediately wanted to know what he could do for them… and many had been disappointed to learn he couldn’t give them two simultaneous erections to play with. He couldn’t recall a time when a partner’s first concern had been what they could do for him with his set-up. “Yes… ah… not quite as sensitive, but… If you… That is, I would like it if you…” Now, to his surprise, Ven was the one getting flustered. But Box just nodded, understanding.

Ven felt an impulse to share something else, to trust Box with more information. Or at least to avoid the surprise he had seen on the faces of past partners. “And I have hypospadias,” he said.

“Hype-a-what now?” Box asked. Ven reached down and lifted his penises to show the underside, just above his scrotum. “It won’t affect my… performance here.” He paused, spoke quieter. “But I have to sit to urinate.”

Box raised his eyebrow into a steep why-are-you-telling-me-this angle. “Um… doesn’t everyone?”

Ven smirked in chagrin. “Lots of people expect men to stand. Some get… inordinately discomfited by men who don’t.”

Box gave a bark of laughter. “Really!? As if I’ve got that kind of time, to fluff up a hard-on every time I want a piss. The factory’s not gonna run itself!”

Ven felt the release of a fear he didn’t know he’d been carrying. Once again, he’d been needlessly tied to some societal expectation, some pressure to measure up to standards, real or imagined. Once again Boxman had crashed through his assumptions and his hang-ups, leaving him a little freer than he had been before.

He relaxed, sighed, and rolled his shoulders. He was ready.

But still Boxman hesitated: now he was looking at his hands.

Ven was starting to feel frustrated. “Can I… offer any guidance?”

“I was just wondering which hand will feel better to you,” Boxman mumbled. “Because this one,” he held up his left hand, the bird hand, “Is strong! Dexterous! Exceptionally capable!” He held up his right-side, human hand. “But this one doesn’t have talons.”

A low growl rose in Venomous’ throat. “Oh for Cob’s sake, Box. Sometimes I think your mouth is big enough for. Like. Half a dozen dicks. Use that.”

Boxman’s pupils dilated, and his eyes unfocused into the middle distance. A slow smile spread across his face, and his snaggletooth stuck out again.

Ugh, well done me, Venomous thought, Now he’s dreaming about half a dozen dicks. Acting on impulse, he reached his hand forward and snapped his fingers in Boxman’s face. And immediately felt shame.

He liked to think he was so much better than the other villains. They’re all too blinded by their silly prejudices to see Boxman’s worth, ha, how foolish of them. He let himself feel superior… not to Boxman, but to those who felt superior to Boxman. It was true he had denigrated Box too, before he had spent time with him—had even belittled him to his face—but that was all in the regrettable past. Or it was supposed to be. And yet, now he had let his guard down for one moment, and he had done THAT. Dominant behavior in the bedroom was one thing, dominance was a tool that could be wielded to enhance everyone’s enjoyment, but THAT had been something else, THAT had been imperious, condescending. He felt a shock of fear that Boxman would rightfully take offense, would end what was happening between them.

But he didn’t. He… responded, as if on autopilot. His eyes snapped back to clear consciousness, then closed, and he leaned forward and took Ven’s erection into his mouth.

The anxious thoughts fled Ven’s mind and he hissed with pleasure, feeling warm wetness envelop him, melting into the sensation. It had been too long.

For all that Boxman often acted reckless and chased after impulses, he was a lifelong learner and a methodical thinker, capable of intense and sustained focus when he enjoyed the subject. He experimented, moving his tongue and lips this way and then that way, repeating the motions that drew hisses or low moans from Ven. And then Box pulled back a moment, and licked at his human hand. He was trying to imitate Venomous’ seductive show from earlier in the evening, and he looked utterly ridiculous at it—but that didn’t matter; it was actually rather endearing, Ven thought. Then his mouth was back on Ven’s erection, and now he added his human hand, fondling Ven’s second penis with a deft, delicate touch. A few minutes later, after Box had shifted his weight to get more comfortable and take pressure off his knees, his other hand hovered, as if looking for something to do. Ven guided it to his balls, holding his own hand over it to demonstrate the touches that would feel best. Box picked up the technique quickly; Ven took his hand away, leaned back and braced himself with both hands, and closed his eyes.

Ven had been with many other villains, and there was usually an infuriating amount of pomposity, of pride-stroking, of showmanship in their liaisons. Listen to my erotic monologue. Praise my magnificent cock. Look at us in that giant mirror; don’t we look wicked together? It had all been fun, up to a point, but soon it had started to feel shallow and performative. Box, though… Box just looked for the best way to get results and got down to business. It was refreshing. Ven appreciated his candidness in all areas, but possibly more now than ever, as he felt arousal coil in his pelvis, tension building tighter and tighter.

A level -10 villain… kneeling between his legs… giving him the best damn head of his life. This was not going to take long. This was not going to take long at all.

He leaned forward to stroke Box’s hair. “I um… I’m getting cl…” Boxman’s tongue executed a particularly sultry pattern of swipes. “Oooh-mmmMMUH GET READY!” Ven tangled the fingers of both hands in Box’s hair, holding his head steady.

Box’s eyes popped open at having his head restrained; but then he glanced up into Ven’s face, watching with excitement, with pride, as Ven’s eyes tightened for just a moment into an expression like excruciating pain, as his lip drew up and bared the sharp edges of his teeth, as a thin whine came from his chest and a shudder gripped his body… and then he gasped, a sheen of sweat breaking out on his forehead, an open and careless smile splashing across his face, and Box had to swallow quickly.

Ven took a moment to savor the aftershocks, to let the rush subside enough to regain use of his arms. Then he pulled Boxman up against his chest, pulled him up into a kiss. Ven could taste himself on Boxman’s mouth, and he relished using all of his senses to take in what had just happened. He drew back, blinking slowly to show how he’d been overwhelmed by the sensations he’d just felt. “Well… done…” he breathed.

Boxman coo’ed with delight and returned the kiss. And deepened the kiss. He leaned forward, hands clasped around Ven’s shoulders, and pushed him back onto the bed, keeping their lips locked. Climbing on top of Ven, he ran his hands through his hair, down his neck, dragging his fingertips over his pecs and abs, reaching down to grip his hips… And then rocked back onto his heels, sitting astride Ven’s thighs, panting.

Finally feeling rumpled the way he’d wanted from the beginning, Ven laughed with abandon. He followed the line of Box’s puffed-out chest, eyes tracking down, and saw that his erection was making a second appearance. “Ah! So… What do you want now?” Ven asked, voice low and inviting, body still jelly.

Box paused. His wild triumph subsided, and he regained some of his shyness from earlier in the evening. “I would like to… get what I just gave.” Suddenly bashful, he ducked his head and peeked up at Ven, seeking approval.

“Excellent choice,” Ven hissed. He wriggled out from under Box, guided him to sit where he had been sitting, and set himself to reciprocation.

Ven had developed quite the repertoire for his lips, his forked tongue, his throat, and he brought all his skills to make Box’s pleasure achingly intense. He ghosted his fingertips across Box’s thighs and perineum and buttocks, exploring, applying pressure, teasing and satisfying in turns. Boxman grasped at Ven’s head with both hands; not to control its movements, but like he was holding on for dear life.

But for all Ven could tell that Box was fully immersed in his pleasure, for all that the twitches and blushes of his body promised a powerful orgasm on its way, and soon, Box was… surprisingly quiet. He was usually so vocal about… absolutely everything. But now, where were the yelps, the cackles and grunts and growls that he usually used to express himself in even mundane situations?

One of Box’s hands disentangled itself from Ven’s hair, and he opened his eyes and looked up to see Box press a finger to his mouth, squeezing his eyes shut and holding back a cry. But he had said that all the robots were on the other side of the house, far out of hearing range, so why…?

Oh. Of course. Habits ingrained by long years are hard to break. Alone in this huge building, the corridors packed with children as inquisitive and energetic as he was, he must be used to getting what little sexual release he could find hurriedly, hidden away, silently. But, Ven thought, Box had broken him out of his assumptions and his calcified, constricting habits; time to return the favor.

Ven continued his rhythm, his patterns, until he recognized the signs he had seen earlier in the evening, the signs that meant Box’s arousal had built to the burning edge of intensity, was a thin moment away from breaking.

And he stopped.

Body trembling, Box’s eyes fluttered open. “Mmphf?” he whimpered. And then, “MMMFPHSFH!!!” a moan-whine of desperation that rose up from his belly.

“I’m going to make you come like you’ve never come before,” Ven drawled through flushed lips, voice deep and husky, every word dripping with promise. Mouth shut tight in a pleading grimace, Box nodded so enthusiastically he almost knocked himself off-balance.

“But I need you to do something.” Ven drew back for just a moment; and even though his head was lower than Box’s, he seemed to loom above, the low light of the room drawing hollows under his cheekbones and eyebrows, his eyes shining with blazing intensity; every inch the villain. He grinned, baring his fangs, as he rasped his command: “Scream for me.”

And he took Boxman deep into his throat, the feeling hot, tight, and irresistible.

The sound started deep within Boxman’s chest, a baritone rumble that grew, and then faltered, and grew again, climbing in volume and in tone. It rose and rose and then cracked, returning louder in his higher octave. His body shook and shook as his voice climbed even higher, turned into a full-throated scream, and then it cracked again—either his voice had gone silent, or dogs would now be howling across the city—and he arched his back, face turned up towards the ceiling, eyes screwed shut and mouth open, teeth bared, helplessly carried away by the mind-melting intensity. Ven swallowed once, twice, again?? hadn’t he come already not an hour before?

All at once it was over. Boxman’s voice returned back from whatever plane of existence it had traveled to, sobbed in his throat before turning into a soft moan, then a sigh of bone-deep satisfaction. Ven gently continued holding his penis in his mouth as it softened and retreated, finally planting a soft kiss on his slit, and drew back to admire what he had done to his lover.

Box leaned forward, slumping with fatigue. His cheeks flushed, his eyelids drooped, and a smile of contentment spread across his face as he realized that he felt happy; and not with the giddy feverish endorphin hit he got from attacking heroes—how long had it been since he’d felt any other sort of happiness?—but with organic, genuine joy.

* * *

Jethro hadn’t intended to disobey a direct order. He hadn’t wanted to. But he and his brothers and sisters had all watched through the credits scene, through the little logo animation, into static; and all the games—the fun games anyway—were on the other side of the house. They’d all drawn straws, and even if Raymond had seemed to take an extra-long time arranging the straws in his fist, fair was fair.

The route back took Jethro past Father’s bedroom. He scooted past the door as quickly as he dared, as quickly as he could without dropping the board game balanced on his head, thankful that his tire treads didn’t make footstep sounds.

Not a minute after he had passed the door, Jethro heard a scream.

There was nothing unusual about Father’s business dealings involving him screaming. But this scream was something Jethro had never heard before, had never imagined hearing before. The sound was long, and loud, and bleedingly organic. Father must be hurt—not hurt as in his usual disappointment, but suffering some sort of melt-down of his organic components—and Jethro was instantly ready to spring to his rescue.

But as many times as Boxman’s recursive “honey-do” list had included “give Jethro move backwards,” he had never actually gotten around to doing it.

So with the board game fallen and forgotten, pieces scattering across the hallway, Jethro sped away, whining “I am Jethro” in a panicked undertone, back to his siblings.

* * *