CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR: FIRSTS
As Jace proceeded to turn onto his stomach, Khoth found himself saying, “Perhaps you should take off your shirt.”
Jace froze in mid-turn. He could almost feel Jace blinking as he always did when Khoth did something unexpected, or amusing. He hoped it wasn’t the latter. He would hate if his attempts at seduction were funny to Jace rather than romantic. He hadn’t done research into human mating rituals. He wondered if he should have before embarking on this course. But it was too late now. He was committed.
It would be illogical for him to claim that these acts weren’t romantic. And despite what difficulties having a relationship with the Pilot, his superior, and a different species would bring… he had no doubts about doing this. Some would, undoubtedly, think he was trying to fill the hole of family and belonging by starting this romantic attachment with Jace.
But, though that was more logical than what he was feeling, he was certain it was not so. From the moment he had met the Pilot some part of him had known that their paths were intertwined. He had, after all, ignored what was best for the Alliance when he saved Jace’s life that first time. That it had ended up being the absolute perfect thing to save the Alliance was, well, luck as the humans would say. The Thaf’ell would call it daq. Where logic, reason and consequences had no place. Daq was the reason that some believed in gods or some sort of higher power. Daq had led him to Jace.
“Oh, yeah, good idea. Shirt off and turn over. I can do that,” Jace finally answered and got up on his knees so as to accomplish this first task.
Jace reached down for the hem of his shirt and, uncharacteristically, was clumsy as he brought it up over his head… and it got stuck.
“What the Hell?” Jace hissed as he struggled to get the clingy shirt off his head. He blindly wiggled right then left then right again. “Ah, really?! Really, shirt, you’re doing this to me now?! Et tu, Brute?!”
Khoth watched as Jace pulled at the shirt that just seemed to stretch rather than come off. But his eyes slid from Jace’s covered head to the rest of him as if they had a mind of their own.
Jace’s chest was bare. His skin was a golden color with his nipples darker like coffee. He was muscular yet lithe. There was more softness about him compared Khoth’s own chest. He found his fingers itching to touch that softness and see if it felt like he imagined.
“I think I’m having trouble breathing,” Jace let out a bark of laughter. “The shirt is trying to kill me!”
“Let me help you,” Khoth said as he couldn’t bear to watch Jace wrestle with the shirt anymore. He knew it wasn’t actually causing Jace trouble breathing.
Khoth took a firm hold of the shirt and pulled. It popped off Jace’s head. Jace blinked again as if he were a mole-creature emerging from its den. His bronze-colored hair stuck up in all directions and he looked rather bewildered.
“You remind me of a frun,” Khoth chuckled.
“What is a frun?” Jace quickly reached up to fix his hair. He merely managed to smoosh it against his head but it was still messy. This only had him looking more like a frun.
“It would likely be compared to a small earth-dwelling rodent that--”
“You think I look like a--a rodent?” Jace’s voice rose, half in amusement and half in horror.
“N-no, well, yes, but they are very endearing with their big eyes filled with confusion and hair sticking up every place and--”
“Khoth, you are digging yourself deeper here,” Jace warned though he looked more amused than horrified now.
“I am not digging. I am merely sitting here with your shirt.” Khoth realized that he was running his fingers over Jace’s shirt as if it was the young man’s skin.
Jace saw what he was doing. The young man met Khoth’s gaze and gave him a half smile even as he flushed. Fruns did not blush. Not all pink and sweet. It was so endearing.
Jace, who was so very clever and capable, to have difficulty with a simple act like removing his shirt must have been because he was nervous. Very nervous. Yes, nervous and anxious and eager. All of those things. Jace didn’t have the same need to hide mistakes in public like the Thaf’ell did, but there was still a sense of intimacy in Jace showing him this when they were alone. Jace was never afraid to be open with him. Exposed. But confident. Just like now.
“You are so beautiful,” Khoth murmured as he reached over and re-arranged Jace’s messy hair.
Jace’s gray eyes widened. The embarrassment changed to pleasure. He flushed again. Pink highlighted his cheekbones. Jace lowered his head. He looked up again at Khoth, but through his eyelashes this time. Khoth’s heartbeat seemed to both slow and quicken at the same time. Heat bloomed between his legs. Arousal.
“You are too,” Jace said and blushed harder. “I mean… Well, I really mean that. I’m not just saying it because you said it first and--”
“Thank you. I am glad you find my physical attributes pleasing,” Khoth answered.
“Just stating a fact. Definitely a fact.” More blushes. The pink color was just fascinating to Khoth. The opposite of his own coloring.
“You are surprisingly logical always,” Khoth complimented.
“I hear for a human in there.” But Jace didn’t seem offended. Again, he flashed one of his brilliant smiles.
“I find that I do not know humans at all now that I have met you,” Khoth admitted.
“Right, well, I hope I don’t disappoint,” Jace said and there was a blush of a different sort. Jace then cast around himself. “Ah, now that we have conquered the shirt--”
“It was a deadly foe,” Khoth said solemnly.
Again, Jace blinked. “Ah, yes, yes, it was. But it is now dead.”
Khoth lifted the “dead” shirt and tossed it off the bed. “It is most definitely dead.”
“I should lay down and you should… well, do whatever you want to do,” Jace mumbled and threw himself face down onto the bed, face pressed into the pillows. The blush this time swept around to the back of his neck and even onto his shoulders.
Khoth regarded him for long moments. The graceful sweep of Jace’s back. The solid muscle of his ass. The surprisingly long legs. Jace shifted. His head moved to the side.
“Everything okay?” Jace’s words were muffled.
“Yes, I was just… admiring,” Khoth admitted. “And you blush again.”
“No one’s ever said that I was… beautiful. No one’s ever admired me,” Jace told him, gripping the pillow a little tighter. “I’ve never… uhm, I’ve never had a massage.”
Khoth’s eyebrows lifted. “Not even by a machine?”
Jace let out a strained chuckle. “Uhm, no, not even by a machine. I was… I was in pain almost all of the time. I would see auras around everything and everyone. There was a near constant ringing in my ears. The headaches would literally lay me flat for days. One summer I didn’t leave my room for a month.”
Khoth’s forehead furrowed deeper and deeper. “You suffered.”
Jace shrugged. “I guess. I mean… it wasn’t all bad. Okay, so a lot of it was bad. But my parents were amazing. And my few friends were… were really good to me.”
“I see,” Khoth murmured. “That is… I am glad that you were able to be helped.”
“You did the helping. Well, you and Thammah and Gehenna and--”
“I almost did not,” Khoth felt this was necessary to confess.
“Because you thought twice about handing over the key to destroying the Khul to a kid you just met? No, Khoth, that’s not failing to help. That’s… normal,” Jace insisted.
“I see now what a mistake that would have been. To not help you,” Khoth stated, his mouth dry. “To think you could have continued to suffer like that or--”
“Or die. I was dying. After Metal Rain, I was really messed up, but it would have been better than dying at the hands of the Khul,” Jace told him, seemingly blithely. “I got to save Walter and his granddaughter. Not to mention Sammi and her brother. So if I had gone out then--”
“Do not say it!” Khoth was shocked at the raw emotion in his voice and the way he gripped Jace’s shoulders. Too tight. Jace grunted, but didn’t express pain in any other way. “Do not… do not speak of that. Of dying. Of it being… acceptable. It is not acceptable.”
“Okay,” Jace said and his voice was calm and measured as if he had seen beyond Khoth’s words and whatever he found there didn’t worry him or scare him, but made him certain. “But I will point out that you were going to let yourself die in that Hive, thinking I was just going to leave you there and--”
“That was different.” Khoth lifted his chin up.
“No, it wasn’t.” Jace shook his head. It was more a rubbing his face against the pillow, but Khoth knew what that movement was. “You’re just as important and necessary as me.”
“Hardly. I am merely one Thaf’ell Commander. You are the Pilot.”
“You’re necessary to me,” Jace might have said, but his voice was too blurred by the pillows to be sure. Then he turned his head and said clearly, “But you were asking me about my, ah, experiences with… uhm, people. Special people. Because of the pain… I just couldn’t really do the da--I mean the massage thing with anyone.”
Khoth read into these words what he thought that Jace was telling him.
“You have never engaged in sexual contact before?” Khoth asked.
“Ah, well, I’ve--I’ve kissed someone, but… yeah, no, I’ve never done any of that. Really. I’m not sure if this is that,” Jace told him. “I mean are you just massaging me or is this… something more?”
Jace went a very interesting red shade and he wiggled, which had Khoth abruptly moving and straddling Jace’s thighs. This allowed him full control and access to the young man’s body. His own heart rate increased and more arousal pulsed through him.
“Something more,” Khoth finally answered.
There was so much that could be said here. But he wasn’t sure of the human words. He really wasn’t sure of the Thaf’ell words either. His tongue seemed abnormally large in his mouth and didn’t wish to work. So he just swallowed and left it at that. Ambiguous but full of meaning.
Jace let out a sigh and stopped wiggling. “O-okay.”
Khoth placed both of his hands on Jace’s broad shoulders and dug his thumbs into the skin and muscle there. Jace was as soft and hard as he had imagined. It was Khoth’s turn to sigh.
“You are very confident in all you do, Jace,” Khoth said as he got control of his voice again.
Touching Jace was quite an experience. Things inside of him that had been dormant seemed to turn on as he smoothed his hands down the sweep of Jace’s back to the waistband of his pants. He wondered if he should have asked Jace to strip completely. But no, that ran counter to what he was going to say and what they were going to do.
“I’m just a good bullshitter,” Jace answered as he adjusted his head on the pillow so his face was to the side.
His eyelids were half shut and his breathing had increased. He was relaxing and getting aroused. Khoth knew this without being told or knowing human biology well.
“I do not know how excrement--”
“You’re putting me on! You know what that means!” Jace laughed.
Khoth grinned. “Yes, I know. But you are not a liar.”
“I’m a fake it until you make it sort of a person sometimes.” Jace shrugged and let out a moan as Khoth’s thumbs framed his spine at the base of his back. “I mean, I had to pretend all the time that I wasn’t too sick to do things. I just pushed forward until I was doing them. Sometimes the pain would recede and I was okay.”
“And when it did not?” Khoth inched his way up Jace’s back, pressing in all along Jace’s spine.
“Then I paid for it. In bed for days with the blinds closed. Parents angry and worried, threatening to not let me go out and do anything if I kept doing stupid things,” Jace told him.
Khoth imagined this beautiful young man shaking with pain, one forearm over his eyes in a darkened room, not knowing when the agony would end, unsure if it would or if he would pay a yet greater--and permanent--price for pushing himself.
“Yes, I can well picture this.” Khoth stroked Jace’s arms with the backs of his fingers, running them down to Jace’s elbows.
Jace shivered and arched up beneath him. “Oh, God, that’s really--really nice.”
“Yes, it is. You are very responsive. It will be a pleasure to learn your body and teach you,” Khoth remarked softly.
“Ah… oh, fuck, yeah, that sounds… hah, oh my God, I don’t know what to say,” Jace squeaked, excited and eager and… nervous.
Khoth had leaned over Jace’s back. His lips were mere inches from the young man’s skin. He licked his lips and swallowed the sudden rush of saliva. It would be so easy to just allow himself to sink down the rest of the way and kiss that flesh. To open his mouth and let his tongue linger against that tender, untouched skin. To feel the vibrations of Jace’s moans as he…
Khoth pulled himself to a fully seated position. His cheeks were flushed a dark blue. The color likely had spread all the way down to his stomach. His sexual organ pulsed. He remembered… remembered being young and needy and overwhelmed. And an older Thaf’ell face over him. Hooded eyes. A slice of a smile--a cruel smile, he would think later--on that handsome face.
That is not this. That is not… But Jace is new to this. He is dealing with so much. Am I taking advantage with my cruel smile hidden?
“You do not need to--to bullshit with me, Jace. I wish you to be honest at all times,” Khoth forced the need out of his voice.
Jace’s desire to learn his own sexuality. He had been deprived for so long to know the simple pleasure of touching and kissing and making two bodies one. But Khoth knew how newness could lead to mistakes. Eagerness could override sense. That had happened to him the first time. He caressed the center of Jace’s back, longing to kiss that same swath of skin.
“Do you understand what I am trying to say, Jace?” Khoth asked. It was not his way to speak in riddles, but he found himself doing so now. The ugly thing that lack of consent was causing his shoulders to twitch. “You need do nothing, agree to nothing, at all.”
Jace hadn’t spoken as he’d done this, but suddenly he was shifting underneath Khoth, turning over. Khoth made to get off of him, but Jace grasped his hips and held him there.
“No moving. No leaving,” Jace said with a faint frown.
“I am not. I do not wish to,” Khoth admitted.
Jace could see his arousal. This outfit hid nothing when the tunic was not on. But Jace, too, was aroused. He guessed that Jace likely knew everything going on in his body. Jace studied him with those steady gray eyes. The pupils were enlarged. His pink lips were parted. Khoth couldn’t help but touch the lower one. Of course, Jace smiled.
“Nice. Feels nice,” Jace murmured. “All of this does.”
“That is good,” Khoth answered, unable to stop touching Jace. This mixture of need and concern and the memories… But everything with Jace felt good. Yet the memories did not.
“You don’t need to worry about if I want this or not--want you--I do,” Jace told him. “And if I don’t like something we’re doing, I’ll tell you.”
“No, you won’t,” Khoth contradicted even as his fingers traced Jace’s jaw now. He loved the faint roughness of Jace’s stubble. Thaf’ell did not have this. It was different and somehow precious.
He is not me and I am not...
Jace’s eyebrows rose. “I won’t?”
“No, because you will not realize all at once. It will be gradual and you will tell yourself that it does not matter,” Khoth stated. “Desire will override that feeling inside of you that cringes away from my touch. You--”
Jace cupped Khoth’s face. His thumbs ran along Khoth’s cheeks. His expression was tender and yet pained. “I would never feel that way with you. You would never do anything that would make me feel that way.”
Khoth swallowed. His tongue was in the way of speaking again. This was not what he meant to say to Jace. The Pilot was not some shrinking flower, some child, but Jace wanted to please those he cared for, even if it was not wise, even if it cost him.
Jace tilted his head slightly to the side as he continued to gaze up at Khoth. His expression cleared slightly, “Oh… something like that happened to you, didn’t it?”
Khoth gave one single nod.
“Your first time?” Jace asked. “Your first lover?”
Two more nods. Why could he not speak? It was long ago and the story would help Jace understand his concerns! But his tongue was intent on not obeying him.
“You were young,” Jace stated instead of asked.
“And they were older. Respected. More experienced than you,” Jace said.
More nods and then he whispered. “He was my father’s colleague. Another Justiciar.”
Jace’s head sank back against the pillows and his gaze went distant. “Oh, God. Your dad’s friend, right? Someone you knew and trusted and--”
“I admired him. He was… is a highly respected member of the courts,” Khoth said. “I do not know why I am speaking of him. It is not important. He is not--”
“He hurt you because you were young and inexperienced and he preyed upon that, I’m guessing. Using your good nature and respect for him against you,” Jace again was stating these things as if he had been there. “And when you realized that I am… new to this, you immediately jumped to your mind.”
His tongue still fought him, but he got out, “I would not have that for you. We will only do what you wish. We will… will never… nothing… nothing like that will ever happen with us.”
He was disturbed by how his memories of Typhon surfaced even as he pushed them down. A flash of that smile. Those hooded eyes. The shame that curdled his Xi. He would never pass this onto Jace.
He found himself saying, “You are the first one since him that I--I allowed myself to… to feel. Sexual coupling is pleasing. This is…”
“Something more,” Jace whispered.
“There are some Thaf’ell who… feel too much. They can become obsessive and possessive,” Khoth told him. He thought of the feeling of being unlocked when he touched Jace. Was that happening to him? Was he like Typhon? No… no…
“You feel just the right amount, Khoth,” Jace assured him.
Jace’s hands slid from Khoth’s cheeks to the back of his head. His fingers threaded through Khoth’s hair. Jace slowly pulled him down. They were half an inch apart. Their lips practically brushed together when Jace spoke.
“You are safe with me,” Jace murmured. “I am safe with you.We are safe together.”
Khoth closed the final distance. Kissing Jace. Wrapping his arms around the young man. Pulling Jace against him. Relishing the way their bodies seemed to click together. To fit. They only broke apart when they needed air. They rested their foreheads together.
“I want…” Khoth began then licked his lips.
He was not Typhon. Jace was not him. The memories lingered but he pushed them down and looked into Jace’s gray eyes.
“What do you want? You can have whatever you want,” Jace told him, sounding breathless and needy.
His lips slid along Jace’s again. “I want to massage you until you fall asleep. And I want you tucked against me while the planets spin above us.”
There were those blinks again and, of course, there was the smile. “I want that too. Let’s make that happen.”