“You’ll never accomplish anything that way.”
Jimmy looks up from his position on the floor, where he's sprawled on his back. Wing-Commander Barrow is standing over him, upside-down from this angle.
“What’re you on about?” Jimmy asks. From anyone else, it’d be insubordination and they’d get a flogging, but Jimmy’s always had more leeway than most, at least as far as Mr. Barrow is concerned.
“You’re trying too hard,” Mr. Barrow says simply. One side of his mouth curls up the way it always does when Jimmy needs his help. Jimmy scowls and rolls over onto his hands and knees, grabs for his sword lying half a meter away.
“And you can do better, can you?”
Mr. Barrow’s smile widens. “I can show you, if you like.”
“You can try,” Jimmy spits. He surges to his feet and lunges at Mr. Barrow. Mr. Barrow meets him halfway, sword appearing out of nowhere.
It’s not a long fight: Mr. Barrow is one of the best fighters in the weyr. He’s not the strongest and he’s not the bravest, but he’s quick and he’s clever. He’s good with his hands, is Mr. Barrow, and he’s got Jimmy pinned sword-to-throat against a wall within ten minutes.
“Do you give?” Thomas whispers into Jimmy’s ear. His body is pressed very near to Jimmy’s and the heat of him is making it hard for Jimmy to catch his breath.
Jimmy sets his jaw. “Never,” he hisses. He looks up into Mr. Barrow’s shining eyes and he can feel the sweating start (not from the fight, he knows, and the thought makes him want to curl up in a corner somewhere and die of shame).
“Mr. Barrow!” a voice sounds from behind them, and Mr. Barrow pulls his sword back at once. They both wheel around to see Weyr-Commander Carson in the in the doorway of the sparring room, looking thunderous. “Just what do you think you are doing?”
“Training, Mr. Carson,” Mr. Barrow says at once, sounding cool and collected, and not at all like he was just half a beat away from kissing Jimmy. “Isn’t that what a Wing-Commander is supposed to be doing? Weren’t you just saying last week how the fighting form in this weyr has been slipping?”
“Hmm,” Mr. Carson says. “I’m not sure I approve of your methods of teaching.”
Mr. Barrow grins. “Well, lucky for me,” he says, “Queen Cora feels otherwise. I got my commission directly from her, as you know Mr. Carson, and if you think I should be demoted you can take it up with her, can’t you?”
The cheek of it is incredible, and Jimmy flushes with admiration. Or maybe it’s the other type of flush, the kind he dreads all year, the kind that hasn’t let him get through a spring unaffected since he was sixteen and first bonded with a female hatchling.
“Be that as it may,” Carson continues in the same disdainful tone, “There are things to be done in this weyr, Mr. Barrow, and those things do not begin and end with James’s sparring abilities.”
“Of course not, Mr. Carson,” Mr. Barrow agrees at once. “In fact, I’m off right now to inspect the leather room. We’ve had a fresh batch of saddles in just this morning and they’ve yet to be fitted.”
“Yes, well, see that it gets done,” Mr. Carson intones gravely, then he turns and strolls from the room.
“Well, that’s me in hot water, isn’t it?” Mr. Barrow says with a cheerful wink. “And you should work on your footing, alright Jimmy?”
“Nothing wrong with my footing,” Jimmy manages. With Mr. Barrow’s eyes on him once again, the flush is worse than ever. “My sparring is fine.”
“Then how did I beat you?” Mr. Barrow teases.
Jimmy doesn’t answer, just starts to pant.
Mr. Barrow’s sweet smile falls off his face and he looks suddenly serious. “Jimmy,” he says slowly, “You should go lie down. Your Anissa is three this year, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” Jimmy whispers, and it comes out barely audible. The flush- the heat- is worse, now, worse than it ever has been before in all of Jimmy’s three years as a dragon-rider. The first week of May has never been easy, has always made him uncomfortable and sweaty and woozy, but it’s never been this. The heat is pooling in his stomach and he wants, wants so badly. He can smell Mr. Barrow- Thomas- can almost taste his skin: the tang of sweat, the sharpness of leather, the musk of the wyrm.
“So she’ll be flying tomorrow in the mating flight for the first time.”
“Go lie down, Jimmy,” Mr. Barrow repeats. “Stay in your quarters, won’t you? I’ll have someone bring you a tray when they’re bringing them to the girls.”
“I’m not a girl,” Jimmy says through clenched teeth. “I can manage-”
“No one’s saying you are one,” Mr. Barrow cuts in. “And the confinement’s not for your sake. Think of Anissa. She needs her rest before she flies. She’ll not get that if you’re stumbling around the place making a fool of yourself.”
Jimmy opens his mouth to argue, but Mr. Barrow shakes his head. “No cheek,” he says. “I mean it, Jimmy. Now go.”
Jimmy sheaths his sword and goes.
The knocking startles Jimmy out of his doze. “What?” he says- probably not loud enough to carry through the solid wood of the door, but he’s feeling too miserable to care. Anissa isn’t too well, either; she won’t answer when Jimmy calls out to her and keeps sending waves of need through the bond.
“Only me,” Mr. Barrow says, pushing the door open with his hip. He’s a tray in his hands, one he sets on the side-table. “How’re you feeling?” he sits on the edge of the mattress, stretches out a hand to brush against Jimmy’s forehead.
“’M fine,” Jimmy says, squirming away from the touch. He can’t stand it, hates Mr. Barrow’s touch, hates the way that touch makes him feel. It fans the heat inside him, hotter than Anissa’s fire already and burning hotter still.
Mr. Barrow frowns. “Hungry?” he asks. Jimmy shakes his head and Thomas sighs. “You’ve got to eat, Jimmy,” he says. “You’ll need your strength for the morning. You’ll have to be up before dawn to… prepare yourself.”
Jimmy shudders. He’s never been through a mating flight, not with Anissa only now full to maturity, but he's seen what they go through, the women (and men, what few there are of them) bonded to female dragons.
“There now,” Mr. Barrow says, voice gentler than Jimmy’s yet heard it in all his years under the man’s command. “You’ll be fine.”
“And what do you know?” Jimmy hisses. He can feel himself tearing up, and he is a bloody girl, isn’t he? He’s always known it, deep down, always felt it- he’ll never be a real man, not so long as he’s bonded to a female and forced to roll over like one. “You’ve never had to- to do that.”
“Never had to, no,” Mr. Barrow says cryptically. “It’s not so bad, Jimmy, really. You don’t know… you might even like it.”
“I never would,” Jimmy grates out. “I’m not a bloody girl!”
“No,” Mr. Barrow agrees softly. “You’re never that.”
There’s a silence where the two of them simply look at one another- Jimmy hot and flushed, and Thomas pale and tragic- then Mr. Barrow clears his throat and looks away.
“I’ve got to go,” he says suddenly, standing. “You should eat and get some rest. Whoever… whoever wins your Anissa will be by in the morning.”
Jimmy waits until he’s gone, then he rolls over onto his stomach and puts his head under the pillow.
Jimmy doesn’t sleep that night, just tosses and turns as the flames within him grow stronger. He holds off as long as he can, but by the time the moon is high in the sky, he loses patience- shoves a hand into his trousers and brings himself off twice in a row. It’s good, but not satisfying, and it does nothing to ease the mating heat. From that point forward, he alternates between fervent arousal and terrible dread, between masturbation and biting at his knuckles in shame.
He can feel it when the sun rises, can feel Anissa’s desperation along with his own. He feels it when she spreads her wings and rises from her nest, knows when she takes to the air. He feels her- she’s him. He closes his eyes and then he’s with her.
She’s in the air and down from the spire, wings spread and gaining speed. The others are around her, a cluster for now but they’ll scatter soon. And there- there are the males and they look hungry. Anissa’s body shudders, but she doesn’t stay still. They’ll not catch her so easy. She’s not weak, no matter what the others says, and she’ll not be the first one put down. She takes a breath and flies.
It’s north she goes, and it’s the river below, but the clouds are high and the sun is almost completely up. She can feel two males directly behind her, and one a bit further back and to the left. She can lose that one easy, she’s sure- they’ll not encircle her- so she dives and loops back, taking eastward direction directly into the sun. A flash of heat and need nearly catches her up, makes her falter, but she fights through it and starts a climb. The risk of glance behind her tells her the third pursuer is gone; two left. And one of them- he can’t bank.
The mountains are ahead of her- she can see them looming up, so she takes another dive, this time into a valley along the first range. She doesn’t slow, but whips around the nearest peak- and sure enough, the slower male disappears out of sight.
And then there’s one, one pursuer, one potential mate. And it’s Janec- he who she’s always wanted, always craved, ever since she came to the weyr. He could swallow her whole, she thinks, tear her apart, and she wouldn’t mind it. She can’t make it easy for him, no matter how she wants him, but she’s losing altitude without her consent. It’s the heat in her blood, making her shake, making her vision go gray, making her wings falter. And he’s gaining, no question on that.
He’s two hundred meters behind her. He’s a hundred meters behind. He’s fifty meters back. He climbs- he’s above her, he’s forcing her down. She swerves left, then right, but she can’t get away; his wingspan is too much greater than hers and he’s got his claws caging her in, pushing her down. He’s got her, she’s trapped, he’s won her and she’s his and it’s what she’s always wanted and they’re falling and-
Jimmy’s eyes fly open and there he is- Mr. Barrow, come to collect his prize. Jimmy opens his mouth, wants to tell him to go, but all that comes out is a strangled, needy moan.
“Roll over,” Thomas says. His voice and his hands are shaking. He’s pale, paler than usual, and his eyes are feverish. Jimmy wants him more now than he ever has- and he has, that’s no lie. He’s wanted, he’s always wanted, and maybe that’s Anissa’s want for Janec spilling over through the bond, and maybe it’s the reverse. Maybe it doesn’t matter either way, because it’s happening now and Jimmy wants it.
“Thomas,” he says, reaching up a hand to clutch at Thomas’s bare shoulder. “Thomas, please.” He’ll be embarrassed about it later, but he’s out of his head with need and if he doesn’t get something now, he’s going to die.
“Roll over, now,” Thomas says, and Jimmy does, rolls over onto his front. He can feel Thomas shaking as he climbs onto the bed, but his hands are oddly gentle when they strip Jimmy down to his skin. Janec and Anissa have reached the ground by now- Janec is having her- and Jimmy’s eyes roll back in his head at the need to be doing the same.
“Hush,” Thomas says, but he’s strained, and he doesn’t waste any time in shoving Jimmy’s legs apart and pushing in.
“Oh!” Jimmy cries out, hips pushing back instinctively. “Oh gods, oh please.” He’s panting, can’t catch his breath, but he can feel every inch of it, of Thomas’s cock impaling him. It’s the worst thing he’s ever felt, and the best, and he wants more.
“You’re alright,” Thomas says into Jimmy’s hair. “You’re alright.” He keeps repeating it, even as he pulls himself away and then shoves back in. It hurts, it still bloody hurts, but Anissa is mewling in his head and Jimmy pushes back again for more. Then Thomas does it again, out and back in, and Jimmy’s mouth starts making noises he can’t control- moans and cries and growls.
He doesn’t know when it stops being painful, but it must, because soon all he can feel is the pleasure, the rightness, and friction and burn of it. The inside of him clenches every time Thomas pulls away, as though it wants to keep him inside and Jimmy’s forever, and every time Thomas shoves back in Jimmy’s toes curl. Janec is growling now, too, and Jimmy can’t hear it, but he can feel it somehow, or maybe that’s just Thomas, panting above him and jerking inside him.
But then it’s different, somehow, and Thomas is kneeling up where before he had been lying. Jimmy misses it all at once, the heat of him covering Jimmy’s back, but the new angle touches something inside, and Jimmy’s teeth clench. Anissa feels him, knows him, and she sets the forests around her to burning with their pleasure.
“There,” Jimmy cries. “There. Now.”
“I love you,” Thomas sobs, and forces his hand under them to wrap around Jimmy’s cock.
It’s the end of it all, then, and when Janec marks Anissa, Thomas bites as well- in the crook of the neck, both of them. And then Thomas’s hand twists and his body shoves forward harder than it’s done before, and Jimmy loses himself, even as Thomas does the same.
They lie together panting afterward, connected still and maybe forever.
“I’m… sorry,” Thomas says after a stretch. “I know you didn’t want- this.”
“Well,” Jimmy says, voice unaffected as it can be with a man still inside him, “Didn’t is sort of a strong word.”
He feels Thomas's slow smile against the side of his face. “Do you ever want to go riding sometime? With me?”
“Might as well,” Jimmy tells him after a moment. He doesn’t want to think about what’ll happen now, about the shame and fear that will probably overcome him when the mating heat fades. He doesn’t want to think about how he’s been fooling himself all this time, lusting from the start for a man he'd promised would never have him. But maybe, maybe it’s not too late; maybe he can be a man, a real one, and still be Thomas’s mate. After all, he and Anissa have led them on quite the chase, haven’t they- three years and hundreds of kilometers. And Thomas, he loves Jimmy, would do anything for him. “But I want to chase you.”
“If you think you can catch me,” Thomas says.
“I can,” Jimmy swears, and turns his head to kiss him.