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The Tie That Binds

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Neroon was tired. His brain felt numb after a long day of endless meetings--quarrels, actually--with the other leaders of the Warrior clans. Not a surprise, given the fact they were warriors. Dul--Consensus--was never reached without dum'wa--conflict. Still, today it gave him a headache. Rubbing his tender right temple, he swept his hand over the door panel and entered his quarters.

"Welcome back, Alyt."

Stopping in his tracks, Neroon stared at the crowd greeting him. Marcus stood at the far side of the room, near the corner abutting the windows. He was clad in black silk, a simple shirt with mandarin collar and loose pants. His feet were bare. Behind him sat two warriors in front of traditional hak'sei--drums.

"Ah'Zha'den-- My warrior." Marcus bowed deeply. "Happy Winter's Solstice. Come in, I have a gift for you."

All Neroon wanted to do was lie down for the next few hours, but his shield mate seldom asked for favors. To refuse would be an act of rudeness to the extreme. He sighed. Pushing back the throbbing pain, he nodded. Marcus waved him to the couch, the only indulgence to comfort Neroon permitted in his common living space.

"Tea, for you," Marcus said. On the small side table sat an earthenware mug, a previous gift from the time of their courting. Obediently Neroon sat, then lifted the cup into his cold hands, savoring the warmth, and the interesting texture, both rough and smooth, against his palms. He inhaled the smoky fragrance deep into his lungs. Ah, Lapsang Soo-chong, his favorite.

Leaning back, Neroon watched as Marcus lifted a sleek instrument into his hands. It appeared to be little more than a rod of black wood overlaid with strings. A violin, Neroon believed the humans called it. Very similar to an instrument favored by the Minbari Religious caste. Valen help him if Marcus intended to play a religious piece. In Neroon's opinion such music was good for only one thing: inducing sleep. Which admittedly he could use right now, though he doubted that was the effect Marcus intended.

"My gift," Marcus said, "is a song about a human man, an explorer, who long ago travelled the whole of the known world to an exotic land of riches beyond imagining, the same land that birthed the tea you're enjoying." Marcus smiled slightly as he tucked the violin under his chin. Putting bow to string, he drew forth a long note, like the wail of a wild creature, a predator stalking the high peaks of Minbar.

The melody, a haunting ribbon of sound, filled the room, joined by the thrum of the drums.

Neroon leaned forward, spine straightening, attention riveted. Not a religious piece. Not even close.

Bare feet gripping the smooth floor, Marcus bent and swayed, playing with the whole of his body, not just his arms. His eyes closed until only a thin crescent of green gleamed between the lids, the lashes dark against fair skin. Neroon stared at Marcus's mouth with its slightly parted lips, and the memory of their last tryst overtook him. How well he remembered the taste of his ma' fela and the scent of their arousal. And sweet low moans, more vibration than sound....

Then Marcus's voice joined in, following the melody, and Neroon succumbed completely. The room fell away, with everything and everyone in it. Only his mate existed, and the throaty hum of his voice, weaving a spell, threading like gold strands through water.

The sound felt exquisite, accentuated by the concave and convex ridges of Neroon's bonecrest, which funneled the sonic vibrations down to the sensitive inner skull. Just like fingertips caressing him, down along the length of his nerves, to settle hot and insistent in his groin.

Down went the cup, the tea forgotten. The music swept around Neroon, tugged at him, swelled and covered him. He could barely breathe as he watched Marcus playing, the bow flying across the strings, body swaying, hair flying loose. Green eyes held his, speaking without words.

When the last thrum faded away, Marcus lowered his instrument. Neroon exhaled slowly, realizing he had been holding his breath.

"Merry Christmas, ah' Zha'den--my warrior," Marcus said. His voice was deep and warm. "May we always remain Zha'aia-- one heart."

Neroon found himself standing. The fatigue and headache were gone, replaced by a hot tingle along his scalp, a burning along the border between skin and bonecrest. He knew without a doubt that the cerulean patches on his skull were starting to flush.

"You two," he barely glanced at the drummers. "Get out." He pulled off his tunic, almost ripping the stays. The two warriors looked at him, eye ridges raised.

"Better do what he says." Marcus's smile grew wider, sharper. The pupils in his green eyes dilated. "Unless you want to watch."

"Out!" Not exactly a roar, but something close, between a growl and a snarl. The musicians shot to their feet, and began dragging out the heavy drums, thumping along the floor. "Leave them!" He took a threatening step forward. The two warriors left, scrambling over themselves, the door almost catching the hems of their tunics.

Marcus's laugh was cut short when Neroon sprang.

And although Neroon possessed great speed for one of his kind, he was no match for Marcus.

One moment his shield mate stood motionless before him, then in the next--gone. Only the violin was left, leaning neatly in the notched corner of the room.

"Behind you." A slight breeze breathed across the bare skin of Neroon's neck and shoulder, accompanied by a husky laugh.

Neroon spun around, hands outstretched.

Marcus faced him, just out of reach, bare-chested, shirt in hand. He looked Neroon in the eye, then stripped off the silk pants with his free hand and tossed them aside. He wore nothing underneath. "Catch me--if you can."

How well Neroon knew that look. Fey yet sly, like one of the sprites from the legends of Marcus's homeland. He slowly smiled back, accepting the challenge. No easy surrender tonight. That was fine by him. Waiting sharpened desire.

"As you wish," he growled, and gave chase in earnest.

His quarters were by no means spartan, but neither were they spacious. Even in such a constrained space Neroon was hard pressed to follow Marcus's lead. Round and round they went, up and over furniture, springing off side walls, leaping through the air. More often than not, Neroon missed his target by a hair's breadth, fingertips brushing bare skin, laughter echoing in his ears, the flicker of silky cloth sliding across his face like a caress, saturated with Marcus's spicy scent.

It was enough to drive a man mad.

Time for a different tactic: distraction.

Neroon abruptly abandoned his pursuit. Skidding to a halt, he swiftly skinned out of the rest of his clothing and ceremonial armor. He did so with great deliberation, his stare never once leaving Marcus who perched somewhat precariously on a side table near the entry to the sleeping chamber. His green eyes glittered with a feverish light as his gaze travelled down Neroon's now naked form.

"Vi'is--Yes," Marcus breathed, and that one word held lust and longing in equal measure.

The whisper slid across Neroon's senses like an oiled hand over flesh. His arousal jumped another notch, becoming almost painful.

It was high time to end the game.

"Prepare to be caught," he said.

Marcus arched an eyebrow. "In your dreams," he replied, and leapt from the table.

Coiled and ready, Neroon launched himself up and forward with a powerful spring of his legs. Marcus twisted in mid-air, an avoidance tactic, but Neroon anticipated the move and connected with a satisfying impact of muscle against muscle, tumbling them onto the trampled bed.

"I have you now, ard ahael-- brightfire," he muttered into the nape of his beloved's neck, into the wonderful tangle of dark hair there.

"Not yet, you don't," Marcus said. His lean body, slippery as a wet snake, writhed beneath Neroon's heavier frame.

It took every bit of self control Neroon possessed to resist the urge to take what he wanted by force. He pulled in a ragged breath. How could this one man, this human, worm behind his defenses and threaten his Minbari sense of control?

"Yield." Neroon slid one of his hands down to grasp the jut of his mate's hip. At the same time he shifted to drape his body to match Marcus's position, arms to arms, legs to legs, chest to back. Beneath him, Marcus squirmed then suddenly rocked back, deliberately provocative. Neroon responded, hips curling. A groan rasped from his throat, followed by an answering moan from Marcus that deepened into a growl.

"Vi'is--Yes." Marcus turned his head, mouth catching Neroon's in a fierce kiss. His tongue probed deeply, withdrew, thrust deeply again. "Now," he growled, breaking free.

Neroon didn't waste time. He loosened his embrace only long enough to shove the lone pillow on the sleeping platform under Marcus's hips. Then he desperately cast his gaze around the chamber for lubrication, unsure if his own anticipatory outflow was enough.

"No! I'm ready, don't stop!" In one fluid movement Marcus slid back, impaling himself, almost unseating Neroon with the force of his thrust. Neroon gasped. Yes, oh yes, more than ready, slick and prepared, open yet tight. His hands curled into claws, fingers pressing into skin over muscle and bone. A wave of pleasure crashed over him, snatching his breath away. No matter how many times they coupled, the act never grew routine, never stale, never predictable. It unsettled Neroon down to the last fiber of his being. He, who had earned the name of Khon'vah--Ice--he, so logical, so disciplined, all of that washed away, leaving him more bare than the crystalline bedrock abutting the sea after a great storm.

Marcus made a raw anguished sound, and his body stretched and bunched. Neroon gripped tighter, stilling the movement.

"Slow, " he whispered. "My gift, my way." He curled his head over the smooth curve of shoulder, and Marcus twisted to meet him. For long moments they stayed locked, mated together above and below, until Neroon started to move, slowly, sinuously, sheathing and unsheathing his sex, like sliding a hand into oiled and supple leather.

He kept up the lazy pace, interspersed with sensuous kisses, until Marcus broke away panting. One of his hands clenched into his black silk shirt, still imprisoned in his grasp, the other dug into the tangled bedclothes.

The drumbeat throb of the music Marcus had played echoed the pounding of Neroon's heart and the rocking of his hips. He eased his grip in unspoken invitation. Surging up, Marcus rose to meet every thrust, butting back with great force and increasing the tempo. Neroon matched the brutal pace. Lean muscle flexed under his hands, and the alkaline scent of sex filled his nose and nostrils, spiked with spice and musk.

"More," Marcus groaned. "More."

Neroon reached down, sliding fingers into the hollow of hip to grasp Marcus's erection, sticky and hot. He pulled and slid the velvety skin up and down the rigid shaft, mirroring the movement of his hips.

"Yes," Marcus hissed. Arching his back, he spread his legs wide and rocked forward, pumping himself into the tunnel of Neroon's fist. Faster. Harder. Their bodies connected with bruising force. Neroon gritted his teeth as pressure built in his belly and loins. So tight, so hot, so perfect. Heat spread into his chest and face.

Then Marcus cried out, clamped down around Neroon's member and spent himself. The feel of hot seed spurting over Neroon's fingers jerked him over the edge. With a roar he came, grinding his pelvis against the sweet curve of his mate's backside. Every one of his senses vibrated like a plucked violin string.

Shaking, he slumped over his beloved's slick body and kissed the binding brand seared over Marcus's right scapula. It stood out vivid and flushed against the fair skin. "Ah'fel--my love," he whispered. Carefully he eased the top half of his body to one side, letting the bed take the majority of his weight. But he didn't withdraw. He wanted to prolong the joining of their flesh into one as long as possible.

Gleaming eyes, dark with satiated lust, met his. They gazed at each other until their breathing slowed.

Quietly Neroon spoke. His voice sounded raw and rusty. "How often is this "Christmas" celebrated?" he asked.

"Once an Earth solar year," Marcus replied in a voice equally rough. A roguish grin spread over his face. "Why are you asking? Hoping for a repeat?"

"I don’t know if I can stand many more of your "gifts"," Neroon replied.

Marcus turned his head and laughed helplessly into the mattress.

Neroon smiled in satisfaction. It was always a joy to hear his shield mate laugh. Moreso when Neroon sparked the hilarity.

"I never knew you played such an instrument," Neroon said.

"Legacy of my mum, handed down to her by her mum," Marcus said. He wiped the tears from his face with his silk shirt. "No daughters, so I was the lucky -- or unlucky, depends on your point of view -- one who got to spend hours practicing. Finally paid off tonight. " He chuckled, a sound like coarse pebbles tumbling over coarser parchment. "Wills got off easy, the little bugger. Tone-deaf. No sense of pitch whatsoever unless he faked it." Another scratchy laugh, only a little tinged with regret. A good sign, since Neroon knew the grief still ran very deep.

"The..." Neroon hesitated over the strange word. "The 'violin' belonged to her?"

"Yes. It was one of three she owned, the only one to survive the attack on Arisa 7. It was made by a luthier descended from a long line of craftsman born and bred in my ancestral homeland. One of the so-called modernistic designs utilizing some kind of chip inside to amplify the sound. Magic to me, I just play it." He stretched out a hand and ran a gentle finger along Neroon's left temple, just at the edge of the bonecrest. Neroon shivered.

"How in the world did you ever persuade Shakat and...and--" Neroon tried to hold onto his train of thought.

"Morann."

"Yes, Shakat and Morann to man the drums?"

"Quite simple really. Begging and bribery." Marcus laughed, and in doing so, snugged tight around Neroon's member.

Neroon groaned under his breath and lifted himself on one elbow to again kiss the shoulder beneath his lips, tasting salt and musk. He very much doubted any member of his crew would be susceptible to something so petty as bribery. Something more subtle was at play. After the Kas'zha Fal'shak Nil, the violent, bloody and glorious consummation ritual, his family and crew had treated Marcus with the utmost respect, bordering on deference. Anything Marcus asked would likely be granted, within reason. It was not openly spoken of, but sexual prowess with one's mate was prized as much as battle skill amongst the Warrior Caste. As outwardly restrained as the Minbari were, such an outlet was held in high regard, almost reverence.

"Neroon.…" Marcus leaned forward and bit lightly at the curve of tendon in Neroon's neck. His fingers continued stroking the place where bonecrest met skin.

"Gods, don't," Neroon admonished in pained delight. He felt himself harden completely.

"Once again, love. I'm still hungry for you. Then you can sleep...very well, I assure you."

"That is what you said last time," Neroon replied, amused. "And it was more than once." As a newly deflowered virgin, Marcus was voracious, something Neroon had suspected after months of observing his mate's battle skills. That drive was kin to the sexual one. Good thing his endurance in sparring and fighting extended to the bedroom.

But he wasn’t complaining. He wouldn't change one thing about his ma'fela. Not one. He was bound to Marcus by ties that went deeper than blood, deeper than flesh. The ties of spirit, of soul, kept his heart captive. Neroon wouldn't change that for the universe.

"Again," he agreed, and let the ties of love twine about him.