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The change in him has been gradual, but a good Peacekeeper is aware of his environment, always, and knows that understanding the tactical situation inside one's own skull is as important as acquiring sound intelligence on the outside world. This is one of the things his training has taught him, and no matter what anyone may say, Miklo Braca has never forgotten his training, in anything. He knows precisely what his association with Scorpius has done to him, and he knows, too, that his training has been wrong in one fundamental respect. He hasn't been contaminated by the contact. He's been purified.

He remembers with perfect clarity the gut-churning disgust he felt the first time he saw Scorpius and knew that this Scarran half-breed, this unthinkable abomination, was to be his new commander. He cannot help but remember it now as Scorpius' lips brush for the first time against his, and his stomach flutters inside him in entirely new and infinitely more welcome patterns.

"My dear Lieutenant Braca." Scorpius' voice is calm, Sebacean-cool, a casual prelude to a casual frell. But his breath against Braca's ear is hot and dangerous, like the first flush of heat delirium.

That breath excites him, as does the feel of Scorpius' mouth, the sharp promise of pointed teeth behind soft, caressing lips. But it is Scorpius' use of the possessive that sends a thrill through him, a tingling rush that starts in the back of his brain and spreads rapidly down through his chest, his stomach, his groin.

"Yes," he says. The word comes out a breathy rasp, and he swallows through a sudden, dry lump in his throat. "Sir."

All his life, Braca has effectively belonged to others, his own will subject to his commander's, to the higher demands of the Peacekeeper Corps. Before now, this has always been a simple fact of his existence. Before now, he has never found that submission so... erotic.

Other cultures, Braca has observed, use the word "love" to cover a bizarre range of meaning, from obsessively sentimental sexual relationships, to the genuine camaraderie of a smoothly-functioning company, to a casual preference in food or clothing. Only lately has he come to realize that his own language does much the same with "loyalty." He would have said, once, that he was loyal to Crais, in that he obeyed the man's orders and treated him with the respect his rank and office were due. But to call what he feels for Scorpius by the same name...

Braca raises his hand to caress his commander's face. Scorpius' flesh is fever-hot beneath his fingers, strangely textured between strips of warm, sleek leather. Externally, he is as alien as any species Braca has ever met in battle. But inside that alien shape lie the vision, the determination, the selfless patriotic drive of the truest Peacekeeper that Braca has ever known. If Crais, whom Braca despises more with every day that passes since he deserted, was a hollow figure of a Peacekeeper in which the unfaithful, undisciplined heart of a conscript lay concealed, then Scorpius is his precise opposite, and he deserves the precise opposite of detestation, whatever the proper word for that might be.

Scorpius' hands slide up Braca's body and come to rest on his shoulders. They stand like that a moment, looking into each other's faces, a faint hint of a smile playing across Scorpius' lips as if he has read the thoughts in Braca's mind. Suddenly, his fingers dig hard into Braca's shoulders, and Braca finds himself propelled back against Scorpius' cabin wall, hard enough to knock the breath from his lungs, not hard enough to injure. Such incredible strength, incredibly controlled...

Braca gasps, his breathing ragged for reasons that have nothing to do with the impact. Scorpius kisses him again, not giving him time to recover, and the taste of his breath, sour and sweet, lingers in Braca's mouth when Scorpius' withdraws.

"Recreate with me, Lieutenant?" Scorpius says, his voice mild, his body hot against Braca's, through layers of armor.

Braca swallows. "You... You know you needn't ask, sir." Because it must be written in his eyes, his face, in the pattern of his body's heat that his answer is "yes," he means, but Scorpius chooses to interpret it another way.

"No," he says. "I could order you, of course. Or force you, if I chose." A hand clamps on Braca's arm, Scarran-strong, in demonstration. "Could I not?"

Braca nods, unable to speak.

"Yes." The word comes out a purr, a hiss. Some fascinating hybrid of the two. "However rest assured, Lieutenant, that I desire no one in my... bed... who lacks the courage or the personal motivation to be there of his own will."

In that pause, the deliberate silence about the word "bed," Braca senses a heady rush of meaning. From anyone else, it would be merely salacious, suggestive, meant to conjure up thoughts of other places of Scorpius' into which one might be invited, infinitely more intimate than a bed. That meaning is not lost on Braca, either, and his face flushes at the thought. But with Scorpius every sentence has layers, always, and Braca also hears not "bed," but... what? "Personal employ?", "friendship?", "trust?" He hears that others are to be merely commanded, or coerced to do Scorpius' bidding, but Braca... Braca stands with him, by choice.

"Well?" Amusement flickers in Scorpius' eyes. He already knows the answer as well as Braca does, or he would not ask the question.

"Yes," he says. "Oh, yes."

Scorpius smiles at him, an expression in which Braca sees a strange, predatory affection. His hands slide up Braca's body and begin unfastening Braca's uniform.

He undresses Braca like a soldier field-stripping a pulse pistol, deftly and efficiently, but with all the care a tool upon which one's life might depend deserves. The feel of the leather uniform sliding over and away from his skin is almost unbearably sensual, for all its familiarity, and the chill air of Scorpius' cabin feels strangely intimate against his newly bare flesh.

Scorpius stands back for a moment and looks at him, taking in the sight of Braca's naked body with an air of detached approval. Braca closes his eyes, and the thought of Scorpius' gaze on him, unseen, evaluating him, assessing his physical fitness and his personal desirability, is an unexpectedly powerful thrill.

He opens his eyes with great difficulty. Scorpius is still regarding him silently, still close enough that Braca can feel the heat of his body through the armor. He lifts a hand tentatively to touch the chitinous covering, his fingers trailing along a seam. "Should I--?" he begins, but Scorpius places a hand over his, stopping it.

"Not even under these circumstances, I'm afraid."

Braca nods, and Scorpius releases his hand, but Braca does not take it away, instead sliding it down the hard shell of the body suit, slowly. His fingers seem to possess a newly heightened sensitivity, somehow, and every bump and ridge feels full of significance. He imagines that armor, those ridges and prominences pressed against his naked body and finds the thought entirely welcome. This is Scorpius, this hard, sleek, complicated shell. This is the self he has chosen to present to the world, and to Braca. Whatever pale, alien physiology lies behind it is as irrelevant as the shape of Braca's own internal organs. He feels a rush of hot admiration for this man, this man who has shaped disadvantage into such great and fearsome strength.

He wants to tell Scorpius this, wants to make sure Scorpius understands the depth of his devoted admiration, his appreciation of this honor, but the only ways he knows of to say such things sound like sycophantic babblings in his own mind. Struggling for words, he only manages another throaty "Sir..." before Scorpius kisses him again, fiercely and thoroughly. Then, his lips still locked with Braca's, their tongues marvelously intertwined, he whirls Braca around and bears him down onto the bed.

Scorpius' weight on top of him is startling, and Braca struggles instinctively as Scorpius captures his wrists and pins them against the bed. But Scorpius looks down at him with an expression of calm interest mixed with a sort of amused arousal, and instantly Braca stills, finding the self-control to overcome his automatic Peacekeeper reflexes. Scorpius' eyes flicker as he offers Braca a slight, approving nod, then kisses him again, forcefully.

The kiss is hot, intense, demanding, and when Scorpius at last takes his mouth from Braca's, Braca is deeply flushed, his breath coming shallow and rapid. Scorpius shifts atop him, and the pressure of the coolant suit's topography against Braca's flesh is just as he imagined it, beautifully poised on the threshold between pressure and pain. Braca presses and wriggles against it, against Scorpius, the little he is able. His penis stiffens, as if trying to match the hardness of Scorpius' external shell with whatever hardness his Sebacean body can produce.

Scorpius makes a small, pleased sound, scarcely more than an exhalation of breath, then follows it up with the barest, sub-vocal hint of a growl. His tongue darts out to trail slowly down Braca's neck, pauses to lap up a bead of sweat at his collarbone, tastes it carefully as if considering its vintage or evaluating its biochemistry, then continues down Braca's body.

He does not release Braca's wrists, a fact that Braca finds equal parts welcome and frustrating. He desperately wants to do something with his hands, but he isn't sure what, doesn't know what part of Scorpius he could possibly touch, and the fact that Scorpius has taken that choice from him is both exciting and something of a relief.

Instead, he clenches and unclenches his hands, moaning out words whose meanings he isn't sure of, but which he vaguely hopes are not too disgraceful, as he watches Scorpius' mouth exploring and probing his body, seeking out and testing his vulnerable points. Braca bucks and gasps as teeth scrape across a nipple, unsure whether it's the sensation or the sight that arouses him more. Scorpius smiles at him and does it again, biting down just hard enough to draw blood, a perfect red bead against Braca's chest. Both of them stare at the drop for a moment, Scorpius admiringly, Braca with a strange sense of significance, as if there is some obscure ritual taking place here, one in which he is happy to participate but does not fully understand. Then Scorpius touches it with his tongue and gently, almost reverently licks it from Braca's skin before letting his mouth continue its journey downward.

Braca allows his eyes to drift shut, the better to concentrate on the sensations, on the sheer number of things Scorpius is capable of doing with his mouth and lips as they slowly work their way across his body, creating an intimate map of him with taste and touch.

It should not come as a surprise when Scorpius at last takes him into his mouth, but it shocks Braca nonetheless. His eyes fly open again, and a startled moan escapes his lips. Scorpius looks up into his face without stopping, noting and gauging Braca's response. Dimly, Braca thinks that perhaps he ought to say something -- make a verbal report, some voice in the corner of his brain suggests with a giggle -- but the power of articulate speech, having deserted him at the beginning of this encounter, isn't about to come back to him now. Fortunately, Scorpius does not seem to require it of him.

The inside of Scorpius' mouth is hot, astonishingly so even with the memory of how it felt against Braca's tongue so sharp and recent. And Scorpius is as good at this, it seems, as at everything else he has ever attempted. He rocks his body against the bed as he takes Braca deeper into himself.

Scorpius' hands tighten against Braca's unresisting wrists, hard enough, probably, to bruise. The motion of his body stills. Almost delicately, he draws back his lips and rests naked teeth against Braca's flesh, grazes him lightly, then clamps down just hard enough that Braca can feel the sharp points making dents in his skin.

Scorpius, his face not moving, looks at him again with something hot and dark burning in the ice of his eyes. It occurs to Braca that perhaps he is searching for signs of fear, that perhaps this is a calculated exercise in trust, but it's not a thought that Braca's mind is capable of latching onto, and it slips away on a wave of incredible arousal. Another moan escapes him, and only a supreme act of self-discipline keeps him from thrusting into Scorpius' mouth. He trembles with the effort, drops of sweat forming on his face and body, but there's a wide, dazed, smile on his face.

Scorpius remains still a moment longer, an interminable, intolerable, and ultimately far too short moment. Then his teeth pull back, his lips curl into the hint of a smile before closing around Braca again, and he sucks Braca back in, hard. Self-discipline yields, along with self-awareness, and Braca writhes and cries out as pleasure explodes through him like the shock from a plasma bomb.

Dimly, through the slowly ebbing pleasure-haze, he is aware of Scorpius moving, of Scorpius' weight once again pressing down on him, Scorpius' body rocking slightly against his inside its shell of armor and leather, of Scorpius' mouth sucking greedily at his neck. He suddenly realizes that his hands are finally free, and his arms come up almost instinctively to encircle Scorpius. The embrace is oddly protective considering that armor, considering the formidable creature that Scorpius is, but it feels right. It feels very much right.

Scorpius clutches at Braca's shoulders and his head flies back, his eyes closing. He lets out a roaring hiss, an incredible sound that in other circumstances Braca suspects would be terrifying, but which instead evokes a warm swelling feeling inside his chest, something that is perhaps akin to pride. The sound rapidly gives way to a series of harsh, panting gasps as the side of Scorpius' head opens and a cooling rod bursts forth, its red glow bright enough to cast shadows across Braca's face in the muted light of Scorpius' cabin.

Braca lets out a small, dismayed sound and snatches up the rod. It is astonishingly hot, possibly enough so to raise blisters, but the combination of a sudden spike of adrenalin and a post-coital flood of endorphins helps him ignore the pain almost completely.

Suddenly, he realizes that Scorpius is still on top of him, preventing him from moving, but he's scarcely opened his mouth to say something when Scorpius rolls away, landing heavily on the barely-yielding surface of the bed before righting himself into a sitting position. His breath is still coming in harsh, rapid pants, and a faint moan escapes him.

Braca lets the spent rod fall to the floor and casts his gaze around the cabin frantically until he spots the cabinet that contains the spares. Fumblingly -- he's only done this a few times before -- he shoves a new one into the still-smoking slot. It seems to take far longer than it should, but eventually the rod whirs back into Scorpius' skull, and Scorpius' panting fades into a single, slow indrawn breath, then to normal breathing again. His eyes close, and a satisfied-looking smile slides slowly across his face. The replacement of the rod must be an immense relief for him, but Braca feels only misery at having been, in some manner he only vaguely understands, the cause of Scorpius' distress.

Baca sits down beside Scorpius on the bed, uncertain suddenly how close he ought to get. "I'm sorry, sir. I'm very, very sorry. Are you all right, sir? Scorpius?"

Scorpius touches the side of Braca's face, cradling his cheek with his gloved hand, and silences Braca's distraught questions with a gentle brush of his thumb against Braca's lips. He pulls Braca's head toward his, their foreheads meeting. Braca feels the worried tension of the last few microts flooding out of him again, and for a moment something in his body aches with a strange, tender feeling of relief. He kisses the tip of Scorpius' thumb where it still rests against his mouth, then sucks at it softly. The taste and smell of the leather are simultaneously exciting and, oddly, comforting.

After a moment, Scorpius pulls his head back and pats Braca's cheek. "Do not worry, Lieutenant. I can assure you, you did nothing whatsoever wrong. The encounter was... most satisfying."

From anyone else, under the circumstances, that response would sound cold, condescending, but from Scorpius it is high and honest praise, and Braca feels that glowing warmth inside his chest again. It does not, however, entirely dispel his trepidation. "Are you sure? I mean, did you...?" Did you orgasm?, he's about to ask, but it occurs to him that he still knows very little about Scorpius' anatomy. Is it possible that Scorpius is not capable of orgasm as he thinks of it? That he isn't properly allowing for the alienness of Scorpius' physiology? He trails off, unsure whether what would be a simple practical question for a full Sebacean is acceptable or even reasonable to ask of Scorpius, and ends the question instead with a lame gesture of his hand, representing he isn't sure quite what.

Scorpius appears to understand, though. "Oh, yes," he says, tapping the mechanism at the side of his head. "You know me well enough by now, I am sure, to understand that I am a strong believer in turning one's disadvantages into assets."

The corner of Braca's mouth quirks up. "I had noticed that, sir, yes."

Scorpius smiles, a truly, unabashedly happy smile, and Braca feels the glow inside him grow stronger. "Pain and pleasure," Scorpius says, "are not entirely dissimilar things. They can be made to work together. They can even be interchanged, with the right mental preparation... and the right trigger." He runs a finger along the bare flesh of Braca's thigh, and Braca shivers, his eyes shining.

"I'm glad to be of service, sir." He has never uttered a more heartfelt statement in his life.

"Of that," Scorpius says, "I have no doubt." He pats Braca's leg. "Perhaps later," he continues, "I can show you some of the, ah, finer points of my thinking on the matter. I am certain you could apply them to good effect." This time his smile is a wide, sharp-toothed grin.

A cycle ago, Braca would have found that smile, and that invitation, appalling. Which goes to show what an excellent teacher experience is. Experience, and Scorpius.

"Oh, yes," he says, the words rushing out of him in a breathless whisper. "Yes. I'd like that sir. Yes."

It's a word he's been saying a lot lately, he realizes... Well, no, in truth, he's been saying it all his life. It's a word he's been meaning a lot lately, which is an entirely different thing. And regardless of what it might or might not have meant to him in the past, he is quite certain he's never, ever going to regret saying it to Scorpius.