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The shuttle landed on a Persea 4 at midday. Their coordinates put them in the flat center of a large amphitheater carved into a plateau of tan rock. The plateau seemed like a lone rocky island amidst a sea of trees stretching for miles in every direction. The only building in sight was a small one-story building near the edge of the plateau.

Alastair took a deep breath of the recycled shuttle air as the bay door hissed and started to open. The smell of sulfur assaulted him instantly. His nose tingled and he resisted the urge to sneeze as his cybernetic filters adjusted to the new atmosphere. He stepped out onto the gangplank and hesitated at the bottom. The first step onto foreign soil was the most important, or at least that's what his grandfather had always said. It set the tone for the entire stay. Alastair smoothed down his ceremonial frock coat and stepped off the ship. A stone shifted under his foot and he stumbled, nearly falling. He frowned. It was just a silly superstition anyways.

Four figures emerged from the building and descended the amphitheater steps towards the shuttle. Alastair smiled. It came out slightly strained, but he blamed that on nerves. Very little was known about Persea 4 and its inhabitants. He was used to having far more information to work with. The opportunity for misstep was plentiful and he desperately wanted to prove himself on his first solo assignment. He was, for the most part, the first point of contact with the Persea 4 civilization and the success or failure of his visit would color all future dealings.

The four reached the bottom of the stairs, forming an intimidating tower in front of him. They were all taller than Alastair – not that that was hard, he was short even by human standards – but all but one of them was taller by at least a foot if not more.

One of the representatives stepped forward. "Welcome to our home." The actual words sounded nothing like English – they were a combination of hiss and growl, full of harsh guttural sounds and high-pitched trills – but the translator in Alastair's head translated the words for him so that the meaning was clear, even if the sound was not. The speaker was a Kreeya, part of the leader caste – they called them tribes here, if he recalled correction – which was the tribe they'd had the most dealings with so far. The Kreeya looked like giant lizards with six limbs, each hand and foot ending in three sharp claws. This particular Kreeya was slightly over seven feet tall and had gray-green scales. His – Alastair assumed it was a he, there were no obvious genitalia visible and the Kreeya didn't wear clothes – long tail brushed back and forth against the ground.

Alastair bowed. "Thank you for hosting me." His mouth felt odd as it formed the words in their language. It always took him a while to get used to a new language and the strange shape of it on his lips. "I'm Alastair Reneau of the Allied Planets. Thank you for extending your hospitality to me. It's a privileged to be able to visit your planet and to learn more about your people. I hope that I can make your transition into the Allied Planets as smooth as possible."

"I am Treeya," the Kreeya held a clawed hand to his chest. "This is Amalia." He gestured to the Drevan on his left. She was one of the warrior tribe, closer in appearance to a human but still holding strong lizard features. She had a ridge of purple-pink scales running down the sides of her face and then disappearing beneath her thick leather clothing. There was a definite feminine curve to her form and to the delicate lines of her face, though Alastair had no doubts that she could kick his ass all over the plateau if she wanted. He wasn't inclined to give her any reason to want to. "And Xorn." He gestured to the pair to the right. Alastair was particularly interested in learning more about the Triandri tribe. They were part of the worker tribe and a bonded pair – one small and thin with grey scales and a mostly human frame, the other large and thick with a tough-looking brown-green hide and rippling muscles. Alastair wasn't sure how the bond between them worked or how deep it went. They apparently shared one name between them, but did they share a mind as well?

The pilot dropped Alastair's cases behind him. "Are we set here?"

Alastair hesitated a fraction of a second before nodding. "Yes, thank you."

The pilot retreated back into the shuttle. The bay door retracted with a hiss. This was the part Alastair hated the most, when the shuttle took off. Usually, though, they weren't leaving him as the only human on an alien planet. He kept his polite smile plastered in place, not letting even a hint of negative emotion make it to his face. He was an ambassador. This was his job, had been his father's job, and his father's father's job. There was no room for cold feet.

"Xorn." Treeya waved a hand forward. The larger Xorn stepped forward and picked up Alastair's cases. A protest lingered on his lips but he swallowed it with a smile.

"Thank you."

The larger Xorn gave him a somewhat confused look and plodded up the amphitheater stairs with the smaller Xorn following behind. He'd have to think of some way to differentiate the two, at least in his own mind. Maybe the smaller one would be Xor and the larger Orn? Would it be rude to differentiate them? He'd have figure out some way to politely ask the protocol for that.

"If you would follow me, we can show you to your accommodations," Treeya said. He was obviously in charge of the three, which made sense given what he'd been told of the caste-tribe system. The others had yet to say a word. Was that some sort of traditional respect or were they simply not interested in speaking to an outsider? There was so much to learn about the tribes. Hopefully he wasn't limited to getting all of his information through Treeya.

Not that Alastair objected to that. His eyes followed Treeya as he climbed the stairs. He was the most alien of the four and thus the most fascinating. What were the middle pair of limbs for? He walked on his hind legs and gestured with the uppermost pair when speaking, but the middle pair had remained clasped over his midsection as they had talked. When he walked they hung slightly in front, almost reaching for the stairs in front of him but not quite connecting. There was no differentiation between his hands and his feet, so presumably he could run on all six, but did he or was that something they'd evolved out of?

Treeya pressed his palm to a glowing blue pad on the building at the top of the stairs. A section of the wall slid open, revealing a large door tall enough for Treeya's height and wide enough for Orn's bulk. Orn was the first through the door. He set Alastair's cases in the spacious sitting room inside.

"Common room." Treeya gestured to the room they were in. "Bedroom with bathroom attached." He pointed to the door on the far wall. "Kitchen area." He pointed to a door to their right. "Office." He pointed to the door further down the wall to their right. "The building is secured through these locks." There was another panel like the one Treeya had used to open the door on the inside wall. "Please place your palm here." Treeya tapped the pad.

Alastair did as he was told. The pad was warm to the touch and had a slight give, like it was made of gel. The screen turned from blue to yellow.

"You may remove your hand."

Alastair pulled his hand away and watched with curiosity as Treeya tapped at the corner of the pad to open up a menu of strange symbols. Some were numeric, according to his translator, but they'd yet to get a good source for the written version of the Persea 4 common language. Treeya pressed a sequence of symbols and then the menu went away as the screen turned blue once more.

"The locks are keyed to the four of us as well as two other Triandri who are available for maintenance, repairs, and cleaning. Should you need their services, just press this button." Treeya opened the menu again and pointed to a particular square-edged symbol. "Unless you need anything further, we'll leave you to settle in. I'll be back to collect you in the morning for a tour of our capitol city."

"Thank you." Alastair grinned. He was looking forward to seeing more of their world. "That sounds lovely."

Amalia crossed her arms over her chest, fists closed. "I shall return in a week to show you the Crystal City." Her voice held a strong forceful tone with a faint lyrical note. It was strangely calming.

He bowed back. "I look forward to it."

"We shall arrive in two weeks for a tour of the Undercity." Xor mimicked Alastair's bow, with Orn mirroring him silently.

"Thank you."

Treeya let the others preceded him out. He lingered for a moment, his black eyes fixed on Alastair. "The building is set to automatically lock down at sunrise. Please do not venture from the building by yourself after dark. There are... beasts that are not pleasant to encounter if you are not properly prepared."

There was something in Treeya's tone that seemed slightly off, like there was something Treeya wasn't telling him. It would take Alastair months to learn the nuances of tone and posture but Treeya's unease was obvious. Given the implied strength and toughness inherent in the varying biology of the tribes, Alastair didn't want to imagine what kind of predators they'd evolved to survive against.

The door slid shut behind Treeya, leaving Alastair alone for the first time in months. He took a deep breath of sulfuric air and stared around the room. Time to settle in for a long year abroad.


Alastair stepped out of the blissfully spacious shower and paused halfway to the closet. Treeya stared at him from the common room, his eyes wider than normal. Alastair stared back and gripped the edges of his towel tightly. He was keenly aware of his lack of clothing, though he wondered if Treeya saw it as as much of a taboo considering the Kreeya's normal state of undress. Treeya seemed entranced by Alastair's pale skin. His eyes moved over Alastair's body. Neither of them spoke. They were locked in a strange stalemate. Alastair could feel his face reddening, but the blush only seemed to increase the intensity of Treeya's stare.

After a long, awkward minute, Treeya looked away. "My apologies. You didn't answer the door so I came in to see if you were awake." Treeya shifted on his feet, causing his entire bulk to sway slightly. Was that a sign of unease or regret?

"No problem." Alastair forced a smile onto his burning face. "I'll just be a moment." He pressed the button to shut the bedroom door and then leaned against the wall. His entire body felt like it was on fire. He wanted to hide in the closet and never come out. He was overreacting but at the same time it was just so... so unprofessional to be caught naked by his hosts. Where was his propriety? He should have left the damn door shut.

He shoved away from the wall with a sigh and let the towel fall to the floor. He'd managed to unpack most of his things yesterday. He didn't really have much to bring with him, just clothes, toiletries, and his computer. Some would say he was roughing it but Alastair had always been one for living light. His father had been against frivolous possessions and the habits of his childhood stuck with him even when he could finally afford the frivolities his father had railed against. It came in handy when his profession involved constantly travelling between worlds. Still, he was grateful for the few pieces of technology he did have with him. His long hair would have been unmanageable without his comb-dryer.

He dressed quickly and grabbed his travel bag from where he'd left it next to the closet. Thankfully the people of Persea 4 had mirrors, or at least a close enough facsimile that Alastair could give himself a quick once-over in the slightly shimmering wall panel before heading back out to meet Treeya. He'd been self-conscious his entire stay on Omeron 9 – not a mirror on that planet and he hadn't thought to bring one.

"Sorry for the wait."

Treeya bobbed his head and started for the door. "We are in no rush. If you would follow me."

They followed the top edge of the amphitheater around to the side of the building. For a second, Alastair thought Treeya was about to lead him off the edge of a cliff but as they got closer Alastair could make out a small ledge. His unease grew with each step until he was staring down the side of the plateau at the trail carved into the stone. It was wide enough to accommodate Treeya's bulk easily but Alastair kept as close as possible to the side of the plateau as they descended.

The trail switched back and forth at even intervals. Alastair kept his eyes on the path ahead of him and tried not to think how easy it would be to make a misstep at one of the landings and fall to the forest floor far, far below. They descended below the tree tops and kept going until they reached a wide wooden bridge connected to the trail by two thick poles. The trail kept going further down. Treeya stopped at the bridge and climbed into the front of a strange vehicle – like a cart and a motorcycle fused together.

He patted the bench on the back of the cart. "We'll take this to the city."

Alastair took a step onto the wooden bridge and hated it instantly. He could feel it swaying beneath him as a breeze ruffled the leaves overhead. There was no ground in sight below them, just growing darkness and a long fall down. He clung to the side of the cart as he awkwardly climbed over the back to take a seat. It didn't seem very safe. There wasn't much of a back to the bench and nothing to hold onto.

Treeya made a strange gesture and then leaned over the motorcycle-like front portion. His front four arms gripped a dual set of handlebars while his back feet settled on something that looked like pedals. His tail curled in the bed of the cart. It was a strangely comforting weight on Alastair's feet.

Then the vehicle lurched into motion and Alastair didn't feel safe at all. He shrieked slightly, cutting off the sound almost before it began but Treeya had still heard it judging by the slight change in his expression. The vehicle increased in speed. Alastair clutched at the edge of the bench but it was a perfectly square edge with nothing to hold onto.

Tree trunks blurred by on either side. The road disappeared into darkness and Alastair decided he didn't care about propriety if it meant tumbling off this thing. He slid off the bench onto the floor of the cart. Treeya's tail shifted to make room for him. There was a hissing sound from above and Alastair was fairly certain that Treeya was laughing at him.

He told himself he didn't care.


The vehicle slowed as they reached the outskirts of the city, giving Alastair a chance to better appreciate the surroundings. There were houses in the trees. At first there were just one or two houses nestled in the thick branches with no obvious way to reach them. As they drove further down the wooden road the houses became more numerous until they were packed around the sides of the road, sprawling into each other and running together in a mass of ropes and bridges and wooden walls. The bridge they were on branched off into other parts of the city but they kept going forward, straight towards the center.

The bridge opened up into a wide circular platform. Dozens of ropes branched off from the edges and disappeared into the surrounding trees. Some connected to houses, tying off just above the roof. As they drove onto the platform, a Kreeya stepped to the edge and climbed up one of the ropes, scurrying along it with incredible speed and then dropping down onto the small porch at the front of a house. He caught sight of other Kreeya scaling the trees, climbing the thick bark with no apparent difficulty.

Treeya took a left on the platform and turned onto a smaller bridge that was barely wide enough for the vehicle. They came to a halt outside of a three-story building built around a massive tree trunk. Treeya's tail slid off of Alastair's lap and Alastair instantly missed the weight of it. Treeya dismounted the bike and then held his left arms out towards Alastair.

His legs shook slightly as he stood. Treeya's hand was cold in his. This was the first opportunity he'd had to touch a Kreeya and he found it rather fascinating. Treeya's scales were smooth beneath his palm and when Treeya closed his hand over Alastair's the tips of his claws poked against Alastair's skin. It was a strangely pleasant sensation and he was rather grateful for the assistance climbing out of the cart. In space, he'd always been glad of his short stature since everything was so compact but here it was proving to be somewhat of a detriment. He felt so small compared to the Kreeya and the immensity of the forest around them only heightened that feeling.

"Welcome to the tree city Raail. What do you think?" Treeya's hand slid away once Alastair's feet were solidly on the wood floor.

His stomach rolled at the thought of how much empty air was below him, separated only by a piece of wood. At least the wood seemed sturdy. It held the vehicle's weight without any trouble. He smiled and hoped none of his unease carried through. "It's lovely. I've never seen anything like it." It was lovely, like something out of a fairytale book. He'd never seen a city built in the trees before.

Treeya's mouth stretched back in a wide smile, exposing two lines of sharply pointed teeth. "I'm glad." He stepped over to the front door and pulled it open. "My home is yours for the duration of your stay in our city."

Alastair couldn't help the blush that washed over his face. He'd expected to be placed in temporary housing, like the previous night. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept in someone else's home. "Thank you. I'm honored."

At Treeya's urging, he preceded Treeya into the house. The interior was strange but in a pleasant way. It reminded him of the stories of Earth before, when things were green and growing and the population wasn't packed in tiny houses like sardines. The building he'd stayed in last night would have been considered a sizeable home for four in Earth standards but this was a mansion in comparison.

He didn't miss Earth, but he kind of missed space.

"I will show you where to put your things." Treeya turned a corner and started up a staircase built into the side of the tree. It was wide enough to accommodate a Triandri and thankfully had a railing. After their earlier climb, Alastair was less than inclined to be near the edge of anything.

The staircase continued up to the third floor but Treeya stopped on the second floor landing and opened the door to the right of the staircase, revealing spacious bedroom. It was nicer than the one he'd slept in the night before – not that that bedroom was bad, it was better than what he got on any spaceship but it was impersonal. This bedroom looked like someone could have lived here, though the neat order to everything told him no one had. There were wooden carvings on the walls and pictures made out of what appeared to be woven plants. Best of all, there was color – bright reds and oranges and blues, almost a riot of color. It made Alastair smile. There wasn't a raised bed like he was used to but rather a large cushiony mass on the floor layered with blankets and throw pillows.

Alastair dropped his travel bag by the bed. Two windows let in the breeze. It was warm here, warm enough that he didn't need his coat but he was reluctant to leave it and its protective layers behind, at least not until he knew how safe it was in the city. "It's lovely."

Treeya smiled at him. "I'm glad you like it. Don't hesitate to ask if you require anything."

Alastair nodded. A million questions floated through his head but he'd save those for later. There would be plenty of time to get to know the Kreeya and he knew how much he hated it when he was bombarded with questions about life on Earth.

Treeya gestured to the door on the other side of the landing. "My room is through here. I do not mind being woken should you need my assistance. Now, would you care for a tour of the city?"

Alastair's first thought went to the cart-bike. His reluctance must have shown because Treeya hissed slightly in the way Alastair was coming to strongly suspect was a laugh.

"No worries. We will go by foot."

Alastair blushed and smiled through his embarrassment. "I would love a tour."


Raail was a massive city. It seemed to sprawl for miles, at least in terms of length. He had no idea how high up the houses went. They seemed to disappear into the treetop, hidden by the mass of branches and bright green leaves. He caught glimpses of a few houses below them as well but those seemed few and far between. Everywhere he looked there were Kreeya talking, laughing, climbing. He was absolutely amazed at the speed at which they could move and their ability to jump from tree to tree as if the distance meant nothing.

They passed through a bustling market square full of stalls of exotic foods – he saw something that looked like fish and a myriad of brightly colored vegetables – and wood carvings and what looked like delicately spun glass but Treeya assured him was much stronger. There was strangely little technology, at least not that Alastair was able to notice. The entirety of Kreeya society seemed to be based around living things and their by products. He didn't see a single factory or machine shop. Aside from Treeya's vehicle, Alastair only saw a handful more vehicles and they all seemed designed to carry cargo. Alastair didn't blame the Kreeya for their obvious preference for travelling by foot. They could probably run faster through the trees than Treeya's bike and not be limited to a single road.

Nightfall was only obvious by the change in lighting. The little light that carried through the canopy faded away and was replaced by the soft glow of dozens of globes hanging from the trees. Alastair had hardly noticed them up above until they started to glow with a soft yellow light.

In the distance, he heard music.

Treeya smiled. "There is a celebration for your arrival."

Alastair smiled back. There was always a celebration. It was his favorite part.

They returned to the large circular platform at the center of the city. It had been empty save for a handful of Kreeya passing through when they'd first arrived, but now there was a crowd. The lights where brighter here and the music louder. He caught sight of the band at the far end of the platform, though their instruments were largely unrecognizable aside from one that sounded and appeared much like a drum.

Treeya's hand closed over Alastair's wrist and he had the strange urge to shiver.

"This way." Treeya smile was even wider as he led Alastair through the crowd toward the center.

Their arrival did not go unmarked. A cheer went up and then people were turning towards them, stopping them every foot or so to greet Alastair. He pasted on his best smile and returned their version of a handshake – a light touch on the shoulders with each hand, Alastair's two to their four.

At the center of the platform was a wide clearing in the crowd. There was a bright stone in the middle that gave off light and heat like a fire but without burning the wood beneath it. There were Kreeya undulating around the stone and swinging through the air above them – dancing, Alastair assumed. He was certain he didn't even want to try to imitate them. He was a poor dancer even by Earth standards and his coordination was nowhere near good enough to handle the complex spins and jumps the Kreeya were performing.

A Kreeya with layers of red beads around her neck shoved a bowl in Alastair's hand and then Treeya's. Everyone around them seemed to have a similar bowl in hand.

"Drink up," Treeya said with a grin.

Alastair watched the dancer's shadows play across the wood at his feet as he took a sip. It tasted sweet and fruity, like freshly squeezed juice – something Alastair had only tried once as a child – though he couldn't place the flavor. Almost orange or maybe mango. He liked it instantly.

"Come. Let us eat." Treeya's hand was pleasantly chill against Alastair's skin. The heat from the center must be getting to him because he felt warm all over. He grinned as Treeya led him over to a section of cushions. Several Kreeya lounged together, their bodies and tails intertwined. There were platters of food scattered between the cushions. Treeya led him to the least full section of cushions and curled up on one much like a cat.

Alastair hesitated for a moment, deciding between taking an empty cushion that was much too large for him or sharing space on Treeya's. Then Treeya held out a hand and Alastair let Treeya pull him down with him on the cushion. The same beaded woman from a moment ago came by and refilled Alastair's drink. He smiled at her and she smiled back with an amused sort of hiss. Treeya passed him a plate of what seemed like some sort of gamey meat – skaava, they called it.

Shadows played across the wood as the dancers' forms blurred against the light. Alastair could feel the pulse of the music, pounding in his head and his chest. He was only vaguely aware of his drink being refilled a third time and lost count after that. At some point others had joined them in their section of cushions. He lay against Treeya's chest, though he didn't recall how or when he'd gotten there. There was an arm across his chest, holding him lightly in place and Treeya's tail was heavy across his lap. His hands rested on the cool scales. He might have been petting them.

There was a strange blur of motion as the music and the lights faded away. He felt cool scales against his face and then there was a soft bed and blankets. He stared up at Treeya's face as it moved away. He thought Treeya said something about 'tempting' but Treeya was turning away with a smile. The lights went out. The door shut. Alastair smiled in his sleep.


Alastair woke with the worst hangover of his life. He rolled out of bed onto the floor and stayed there for several minutes with his face pressed against the cool wood. His head felt like it was two sizes too small and in danger of exploding at any moment.

The door opened. Treeya walked in and Alastair winced as the vibration in the floor from Treeya's steps when straight to his aching head. Treeya squatted next to Alastair. "Are you alright?" He seemed happy and not the least bit hung-over. Alastair wasn't sure whether to hate him or envy him.

"Hangover," Alastair mumbled into the floor. He shifted his head slightly to get a better look at Treeya. "Do you have those? I mean, does that word make sense?"

Treeya laughed and Alastair was immensely grateful for how quiet the sound was compared to the booming laugh of his last ship captain. Treeya's laugh didn't hurt his head, but it didn't make him feel any better either. "Yes, we have those. Wait here."

"Okay." Alastair wasn't inclined to move anywhere. He should probably get off the floor. He wasn't sure whether this counted as more or less undignified than Treeya seeing him mostly naked but at the moment he couldn't bring himself to care.

He felt Treeya's return before he heard it. It was almost like the wood was part of Treeya, broadcasting his location. When Treeya once more crouched beside Alastair's prone form, he had a bowl in his hand. "Drink this. You will feel better."

He reluctantly rolled onto his back and sat up. Treeya's left hands settled on his back to support him as he took the bowl and swallowed its bitter contents. It tasted like burnt oranges but he drank it all with a grimace. Treeya took the bowl away and Alastair flopped sideways, landing partially on the bed.

Treeya chuckled. "You'll feel better soon. I shall return in an hour to see how you are doing."

Alastair waved his hand as Treeya left. Once the door was shut, he let out a low groan. If his stay continued like this, Persea 4's inclusion in the Alliance was doomed.


Whatever had been in the drink Treeya had given him had worked like a miracle. He felt better than ever an hour later. They walked to the market for breakfast and Treeya seemed perfectly content to spend the day there, explaining the different stalls to Alastair and going into how each item was made and where it came from. It was fascinating. Alastair could have spent days wandering the stalls but as the glowlights flickered on the stalls started to pack up.

Alastair loved the lights. They shone like large stars in the treetops. He still missed real stars but he felt like he could love this beautiful growing city just as much. It was so alive, so vibrant compared to the dead metal walls he was used to – cold space crammed tight with too many people and no room to think. Everything in Raail was big and spread out, or at least more spread out that he was used to. Even when the houses here were crammed together there were gaps between them for a Kreeya to fit through.

Something small and black flashed in the corner of his eye. Alastair turned at the same time as the thing lunged at him, hissing and snarling as it jumped out from between two houses. Claws raked against his coat. They were sharp but they didn't come close to tearing the heavy armored fabric. Alastair took a step back, his feet shifting automatically into the stances he'd practiced over and over again at the academy. He started to grab for the thing – some kind of black-scaled lizard – but Treeya was faster. His tail smashed down on the creature. It slumped to the wood floor, though Alastair had no idea if it was dead or unconscious.

"What..." Alastair started to ask what that thing was but Treeya grabbed him before he could, spinning him around to face Treeya. Treeya's mouth opened, teeth showing, and he hissed as he pawed at the spot where the thing had hit him. "I'm fine."

Treeya's hand rested over the exact spot the lizard had struck him. "It didn't harm you?"

He shook his head and held up his other arm. "The coat's made from a special kind of fabric. It can't be cut and will stop pretty much anything short of a laser rifle."

Treeya's hand moved over Alastair's chest, caressing the fabric. He blushed and then looked away as two Kreeya dropped out of the trees with long metallic spear-like weapons. Treeya pulled his hand away.

"What happened?" One of the new arrivals asked.

Treeya nodded toward the lizard. "A skree attacked us. It shouldn't have been able to make it this far past our defenses."

They both saluted by crossing their arms over their chests. "We'll double the guard below." One of the guardsmen grabbed the skree and tossed it over the side of the walkway. "Do you need further assistance?"

Treeya shook his head. Two of his hands settled on Alastair's back, turning him away from where he was still staring after the fallen skree. "We should head home. Perhaps a quiet night in is in order. I'm sure there's much for us to discuss."

Alastair let himself be led away but he couldn't help but wonder what had just happened. Was that the creature Treeya had warned him about on his first day here? It hardly seemed like much of a threat. It was probably better that it wasn't. He didn't want to think about what would have happened if he hadn't been wearing his coat.


On his fourth day in Raail, the Kreeya threw another party. He wasn't sure if he was getting more used to the Kreeya culture or if something was going on that he didn't know about, but this party had a more fevered air than the last. There were more Kreeya crammed together on the platform, so many that the dancers barely had room to perform, but that didn't seem to stop them. When space was limited horizontally, they took their dance vertically, swinging from the myriad crisscrossing ropes overhead.

He didn't hesitate to sit next to Treeya on the cushions. The limited seating forced them closer together, but Alastair didn't mind, especially not after the drink – kaaveya, they called it – started coming. He knew its warmth for what it was this time and limited himself to small sips. It had an almost immediate intoxicating effect, leaving him feeling warm and happy and content. Treeya didn't complain when Alastair melted back against him. Like last time, his arms came around to hold Alastair in place.

People were looking at them, smiling and whispering to each other behind their hands. He knew he should read something into that. There was a meaning there that he wasn't quite grasping but he wasn't in the mood to analyze it. He just wanted to enjoy the celebration.

Night deepened and the music slowed as the crowd started to disperse. "Shall we head back?" Treeya asked.

Alastair nodded. He was able to stand on his second try. Two of Treeya's arms circled his chest and waist, steadying him as they walked back to Treeya's house. He envied the way the other Kreeya slithered into the trees, disappearing into their homes with silent grace. The music carried through the trees all the way back to Treeya's house and even after, Alastair could hear it as a faint pulse through the walls.

He made it up the stairs without stumbling and laughed as he fell over backwards onto the bed. He unbuttoned his coat and let the fabric fall away. A chill washed over him as the heat trapped inside the coat dissipated and he shivered.

"...far too tempting."

Alastair looked up at Treeya. He'd only caught the last few words but he knew there was something important he was missing. "What's tempting?"

Treeya shook his head and hissed a laugh. He took a step closer and cocked his head. "Your face is red again."

"It does that."


Alastair blushed, though it was likely hardly noticeable when his face was flushed from alcohol. He stared at the ceiling as he tried to think of a good answer. "Many reasons. When we're drunk, our faces turn red from inebriation. It's also a sign of embarrassment or self-consciousness."

Treeya shifted closer. He was staring at Alastair like he had the day he'd caught Alastair fresh from the shower. "Is that all?"

His blush deepened and he shook his head. He was keenly aware of Treeya's proximity. His feet were just below Alastair's. He wanted to spread his legs and invite Treeya closer. What would it feel like to have Treeya's weight on top of him, to feel those cool scales against his skin?

"What else?"

He hesitated. Treeya stepped forward. His clawed feet brushed against Alastair's shoes. His shadow was like a blanket over Alastair. "It's also a sign of arousal."

Treeya's forked tongue flicked out to taste the air between them. "Are you aroused now?"

He nodded.

Treeya shifted, lowering himself down onto all six legs. His arms framed Alastair's body. Alastair shivered again. His hand curled around one of Treeya's arms, earning him something between a hiss and a purr from Treeya. "I find you fascinating." Treeya's tongue flicked through the air bare centimeters from Alastair's face. His arm turned in Alastair's grasp and his hand brushed against the underside of Alastair's arm. "So soft and warm."

Alastair let his fingers play on Treeya's scales. "I find you fascinating as well."

Treeya hissed and rubbed his hips against Alastair's body. His muzzle nuzzled the side of Alastair's face. "I want you."

There was a world of unknown tied up in those words. He'd never had sex with a non-humanoid, but the thought of sex with Treeya was thrilling. He wanted it, desperately, but he had no idea what that would involve. How did the Kreeya even have sex? Then Treeya ground his hips into Alastair again and there was something there that wasn't before, a thick mass that pushed against his skin. He moaned and spread his legs wider.

Treeya pushed back and Alastair took the opportunity to glance down at Treeya's hips. There was a pair of penis-like protrusions that hadn't been there before, jutting out from between his back two limbs. They weren't like a regular penis, thicker with strange sort of ridges down the sided.

"May I?"

Treeya nodded and Alastair slid partially onto the floor so he could reach Treeya's penises. His hand wrapped around the closest, instantly making Treeya hiss and dig his claws slightly into the floor. It was warm and slightly wet. The ridges slid along his hand as he stroked down and then caught slightly, not painfully but with a strange sort of tug, as his hand pulled up. He shivered as he thought how that would feel inside of him, stretching him and pulling inside of him.

Treeya's claws curled in his coat. "Perhaps you should remove your clothes."

"Good idea." Alastair slid back onto the bed and sat up. He placed a kiss on Treeya's muzzle. Treeya gave him a confused look and he smiled. "Do you have any lubricant? Something that would be safe on your skin and mine."

Treeya nodded and took a step back. "One moment." He cast a lingering look over Alastair's body before turning and disappearing upstairs.

Alastair used the time to disrobe. He tossed his clothes to the side and slid back towards the center of the bed. Treeya returned with a bottle in hand. His eyes widened as he caught sight of Alastair and his tongue flicked in the air for a few seconds. He handed the bottle to Alastair and then settled on the bed next to Alastair.

"How do you..."

Alastair grinned and opened the bottle. "Just a moment."

He poured a generous amount of liquid onto his fingers before setting the bottle aside. Treeya's gaze was fixed intently on him. Alastair lifted his hips and slid his fingers inside with a low moan. Treeya shifted closer, brushing his penises against Alastair's leg. Alastair pushed more fingers in, spreading and stretching himself as quick as he could stand. It burned slightly, but he didn't mind, not when it got him closer to Treeya inside of him.

"Come here." He guided Treeya on top of him with one hand while the other reached down to rub oil over Treeya's penises, coating them both just in case Treeya planned on using both. Treeya growled low in his throat and rubbed his head on Alastair's shoulder.

"Roll over." There was a heavy note in Treeya's tone, thick and low and commanding.

Alastair shivered and complied, shifting slowly in the close confines of Treeya's arms. Treeya shifted above him and Alastair gasped as Treeya's penises brushed over his ass. He pushed his hips back, encouraging. That was all the invitation Treeya needed. He shifted, aligning his hips and then pushed his way in.

"Oh, God." Alastair clenched his fists in the blankets.

Treeya froze. "Am I hurting you?"

He shook his head violently. "Don’t stop."

Treeya hissed and pushed in further. Alastair groaned. He could feel himself opening up under Treeya's girth. The ridges felt amazing inside of him. He pushed back as best he could. Treeya's middle arms wrapped around his hips, pulling him back the rest of the way until Treeya was seated all the way in him. They paused there, frozen together for a moment, for which Alastair was grateful since it gave him a moment to adjust.

"You're so warm." Treeya's tongue flicked against Alastair's ear as he spoke. Treeya's scales were cool against his back, which made for a tantalizing offset to the heat burning inside of him.

Then Treeya pulled out and the heat doubled. He yelled his pleasure into a pillow. The ridges on Treeya's penis pulled at him, grabbing at his insides and dragging against his skin. Treeya's hands rested on top of Alastair's as he halted. His thumb rubbed over the side of Alastair's hands. Then he pushed back in and Alastair felt like he was losing his mind.

He was going to come apart. He could feel himself breaking, inside and out. It felt so good, like nothing he'd felt before and he never wanted it to end. Treeya's breath was warm on his shoulders. His tongue ran along Alastair's back, tasting the salt on his skin. Alastair shivered and lowered his head against the pillows, giving Treeya more bare skin to work with.

The arms around Alastair's waist shifted. One slid up, holding him over his belly while the other hand closed over his erection. He screamed and pushed into the cool, smooth tunnel of Treeya's palm. It was too much, far too much. He was coming apart in Treeya's hand and in his arms and under the weight of his body and his dick. He shivered violently as he came and kept shivering all through his release, until Treeya finally stilled and the warm weight of his penis pulled out, leaving him feeling like he was missing a vital part of him.

He collapsed against the bed and turned his head to the side. Treeya was grinning wider than Alastair had ever seen him.

"Hey." Alastair's voice was reduced to a low rasp.

"Hi." Treeya ran a hand down Alastair's back. "You okay?"

He nodded.

Treeya grinned at him. "You make interesting sounds."

Alastair laughed. "Those sounds were entirely your fault."

Treeya leaned back slightly in a way that reminded him of a preening cat. "I accept this blame."

A wave of exhaustion washed over Alastair. He shifted and then instantly regretted the movement. Still, he kept moving anyways until he wiggled under the blankets. Treeya moved to join him. He curled under the covers, his bulk taking up most of the space. Alastair didn't mind. He pressed himself against Treeya's side and used Treeya's shoulder as a pillow. It was surprisingly comfortable, even more so after Treeya's tail pressed against his others side, sandwiching him against Treeya's body.

He fell asleep to the even rhythm of Treeya's breathing and the knowledge that his trip was turning out to be less of a disaster than he feared.