CHAPTER SEVENTY-SIX: TEACH
The moment the crew left, Jace popped up from bed. He had been lying relatively still, seemingly he was about to go to sleep, but now sleep was the last thing he appeared to want. Khoth’s brow furrowed. Jace’s eyes went electric blue for a moment and a grin appeared on his lips.
“Locked,” Jace whispered. “Thank goodness. Finally!”
“What is locked?” Khoth asked, lifting an eyebrow.
“The door. And there’s an equivalent of a do-not-disturb sign on it.” Jace chuckled and smiled into the distance at something.
Khoth looked where Jace was gazing. But there was nothing. “What are you looking at?”
“It’s one of the AIs. They’re being really cute,” Jack explained as he refocused on Khoth.
“You see them? They are visible?” Khoth asked as he stared harder at the door, the walls, the ceiling, the air.
He expected to glimpse tiny flickering somethings in the air. Or maybe smaller balls like the one that had burned all the Khul remains away. But no. The air was perfectly clear, except for dust motes. Were those dust motes? Maybe those were the AIs that had Jace smiling so broadly? But how could Jace see them being “really cute”? The dust motes--or AIs--appeared to be floating and drifting in the air currents as they usually did.
“Well, yes… and no. I mean…” Jace shrugged. “I can see them. I don’t think anyone else can. But they’re cute little buggers. Hopping up and down. Sending me smiley faces. They are really into emojis.”
“Emojis? Ah, the little faces that show simplified emotions that humans text to one another?”
“Yeah. Exactly. And I guess it makes sense that they’d use them, because they don’t communicate like we do. They talk in bits of code so emojis are sort of like that, but for talking to humans,” Jace paused and frowned, clearly realizing that there were no humans in that room, including himself. “I mean… Altaeth or… people like me and you. Anyways, the point is that the door is locked and no one is being let in! Not for a while anyways.”
Having filtered and understood most of what Jace was speaking about, Khoth lifted up the blanket and urged Jace to lay back down. “That is good. Now you can sleep--”
“No?” Another eyebrow life.
“I mean yes. Well, I actually mean yes, but later, because now…” Color bloomed in Jace’s cheeks and his eyes were bright. “You know how they say facing death makes you really appreciate life and makes you not want to waste another minute?”
“Life is precious,” Khoth agreed, still trying to push a resisting Jace back down on the mattress.
“Yes, exactly! And we shouldn’t waste a minute of it! I mean, we thought the only danger on Haseon was that the Alliance was going to kill us, when, in fact, it was the Khul going to kill everyone and… what?” Jace paused again, seeing something in Khoth’s expression.
“The Alliance were not--and are not--planning to kill us.” It was his turn to pause. “Except my mother. But she was emotionally compromised at the time she used violence. She appears beyond that now.”
He hoped that was true. She seemed more in charge of her Xi and Xa now that she had ceded the post of High Councillor. Not that she hadn’t still tried to control things. His father had been right about that. But still. No more killing.
“Oh, right.” Jace nodded and Khoth narrowed his eyes, unsure if Jace really thought that or if he had doubts about Nova still, too.
“They might have imprisoned us and used laws to strip us of our rights, freedom and property, but there is no death penalty in the Alliance,” Khoth said.
“Yeah, yeah, except we’re not Alliance and those rules only apply to Alliance members,” Jace pointed out gently. “So…”
Khoth frowned. “Yes, I suppose you are correct in this, but I would hope that they would follow the rule of law for us as well.”
“You’re probably right. The Alliance just simply would have locked us up and attempted to force us to work with them,” Jace agreed amiably.
“That almost sounds worse than the simple killing,” Khoth admitted.
“It’s definitely not my idea of fun. And it appears, for now, like there isn’t the political will to do it,” Jace said, bobbing his head as if agreeing with himself.
His eyes were glowing blue again. He was clearly monitoring something. Likely the High Council and everyone and anyone in power.
“They will not leave us alone for long, I think, which is why you should rest, Jace,” Khoth urged once more.
“No, it’s all the more reason to embrace life and--and seize the moment!” Jace grinned at him with this rather hopeful expression as if Khoth could interpret his face like an emoji.
Khoth shifted on the bed. It was best to simply ask what Jace meant. Human or Altaeth, Jace was still a mystery to him at times.
“Is there something you believe would satisfy the seize the moment feelings you are having?” Khoth asked.
More blushes. “Y-yes. Like yes. Definitely yes.”
Jace bobbed his head, though his eyes were not glowing, and he kept looking down at his hands and then at Khoth and then back down at his hands again.
“Whatever this thing is, are you concerned about it? Or something else?” Khoth probed gently.
Jace let out one of his laughs that sounded like a bird cry. “I am concerned about everything. I’m worried about Gehenna. I’m worried about the Khul. I’m worried about the people in the Alliance who have had their entire existence turned upside down. And, like you said, there are a ton of people coming to see us. Plus… Well, the list goes on and on and on. I am more concerned than I am anything else.”
Jace scrubbed both hands over his face. He appeared exhausted just by having thought and listed his current concerns. And Khoth knew that these were but a fraction of the ones that Jace had. Khoth reached over and took Jace’s nearest hand in his. Touching Jace appeared to calm the young man. It certainly did him.
“There is much to do, but you need to recover before anything,” Khoth told him, and rubbed his thumb over the top of Jace’s hand.
Stress bled out of his own shoulders as he touched Jace’s skin. Jace’s hand opened in his and he linked their fingers together. This felt right as well. His Xi and Xa settled happily together as if in a locked orbit. It was a slow, pleasant spin where he felt completely at ease and at peace.
Jace’s breathing became even and his body lost some of its tensity. The frantic flickering of eyes stopped as well. Jace lowered his head and looked up at Khoth through his dark lashes. There was something very arousing about that look. Jace was far from a fragile flower, but in that moment, all of Khoth’s protective instincts kicked in. He drew Jace’s hand into his lap and held it with both of his hands.
He wanted to draw Jace’s whole body into his lap, but doing so would be taking the next step between them. Nothing could have felt more intimate than being in Jace’s quarters in the Osiris, but being on Haseon made him feel the weight of his feelings for this young man. On the flight to the Compound, there had been confessions of a connection between them. And a much deeper connection desired.
But Jace was the last Altaeth. Could he be worthy to be the mate of such a being? But, then again, Jace was Jace. Perhaps Khoth was not worthy, but Jace clearly wanted him near. And he wanted to be near.
“We don’t really have time for me to be sick and out of commission,” Jace said, and the strain of that fact thinned out his tone.
“I will make sure you have that time,” Khoth promised.
More blushes. More looking up at Khoth through his lashes. Strange flutters in Khoth’s stomach. His spine began to tingle and his lips parted.
“I know you mean that. I think you’d do anything to give me that. Well, almost anything,” Jace amended. “And I--I can’t thank you enough for it. But I’ve accepted that the alone-time for me is limited, which is why I want to take advantage of this moment.”
“Yes, but not by sleeping?” Khoth guessed.
“Exactly. Not sleeping.” Jace reached over with his free hand and caressed Khoth’s face. “By being with you.”
Khoth’s eyelids fluttered half-shut at the touch. His skin became extra sensitive to touch when aroused and he was most definitely aroused. His pupils dilated and his nostrils flared as he scented Jace’s arousal, too. His mouth flooded with saliva. His spine grew hot. His eyelids opened wide again. What was happening to him? He knew but… Could it be happening? Should he not tell Jace. But words simply left him. Besides, the Osiris likely informed Jace--or was informing him now--of Thaf’ell biology and Khoth’s particular biology when around him.
Jace’s breath ghosted over his face as the young man had moved closer to him. Now there were but inches between them. Jace’s lips looked pinker, plumper and were slightly parted. His breathing came in shorter, sharper gasps.
“I’ve never been with anyone Khoth. I mean, I told you that. So I’m not sure how this all works,” Jace told him. “Thaf’ell. Human. Altaeth. It’s all unknown to me. I wouldn’t let the Osiris tell me what to expect though, because I want to learn it from you.”
“Learn from me?” His heart raced.
“Yes. I want to make love. I want you to teach me how to please you,” Jace said. “And I don’t want to wait. Can we do that? Do you want that too?”
The Thaf’ell in every situation but with their mates and closest family members used words to get across all communications. But when they were alone with those their Xis were connected with they rarely spoke at all. They acted. They showed. Because in this, all was revealed where words could conceal.
Khoth grasped Jace’s chin lightly and slowly pulled the young man towards him for a kiss. He gave Jace enough time to pull away--his touch so light that it could be broken with a simple hesitation on Jace’s part-- to give Jace the chance to show him if the action was unwelcome. Because that was the thing about actions. Once they were done, they could not be taken back. But Jace did not resist.
Their lips met and Jace was his. Khoth curled an arm around Jace’s back and brought the young man flush against him. Their bodies molded together. Their chests rose and fell with one another’s as their breathing synced. That tingling along his spine increased and Khoth’s mouth went dry. Was this really happening? Thaf’ell spoke of this sensation when finding one’s mate, but how many really experienced it? He thought few. His parents couldn’t have, because he could never leave Jace, no matter what the young man might do.
So dangerous to be like this. Completely at the bidding of another. There is no me. Just us. If that is what Jace wants. I am powerless to change what I feel.
Khoth needed to feel more of Jace’s skin. If he was to teach, he had to learn. He had already begun studying Jace on the Osiris. But there was so much more yet to be discovered.
Jace wore only a white, long-sleeved shirt and black pants. They’d stripped him of everything else so that he could sleep. Boots, socks and jacket lay over a nearby chair. One of Jace’s bots had checked them both, eliminating all traces of Khul, but still Khoth wanted to throw these clothes out and begin fresh. They held memories of what had happened here.
Khoth’s hands ran up the back of Jace’s shirt, lifting it off, as his palms slid over silky skin. His study of human biology might be for naught now. Jace was Altaeth. So he would have to observe Jace very closely to understand what gave him pleasure.
Jace lifted his arms up and the shirt was easily shucked off and tossed to the side leaving Jace just in pants. Jace laughed as his hair stuck up on end. He tried to press it down with one hand, but Khoth knocked that hand away. He ran his fingers through the golden brown locks. There were hints of copper that glinted warmly in the sun. So different than Thaf’ell hair, which was always white or silver. Khoth pressed his lips to Jace’s temple.
Khoth pulled back for a moment to look at Jace’s naked chest. He’d seen it before, but now he could truly linger. Jace had a graceful V-shaped torso. Broad at the shoulders and narrowing at the waist. Thaf’ell bodies did that too, but they were longer and their waists were thicker, too.
Had the Thaf’ell looked like Jace? Looked so human? Or had they hidden their differences with technology until their descendants showed nothing abnormal on the outside? They were clearly heroes and leaders of humanity. Maybe villains, too. People who moved the world as they had once ruled the universe.
Jace’s nipples were peaked and a warm brownish-pink color. Khoth could not help tracing the softer skin of the right areola with his index finger. Jace let out a soft grunt as the nipple hardened more. Khoth wanted to feel that nub harden on his tongue. But he had to look and see all first.
Jace’s muscles rippled under his skin as if Khoth’s gaze was a physical caress on his body. The flush on Jace’s cheeks flooded down his throat and extended to mid-chest. Khoth allowed his fingers to trail along the dips and swells of muscles of Jace’s belly. Dark hair began just above the waistband of his pants and lead lower to where his sex must be. Khoth wished to follow that treasure trail of hair to its final destination. But he had to look and see all first.
He followed the lines of Jace’s ribs around his sides. Jace’s skin tightened with the touch of his fingers. Khoth got up fully on the bed. Jace tried to turn with him, but Khoth indicated he should stay put. Jace’s head swiveled around to try and watch him as Khoth circled him.
Jace’s back was lovely. The graceful sweep of his spine. The way the muscles attached to bone. There were no ta’na there, though Jace could have covered his back with Thaf’ell tattoos based upon what he had done since before even becoming the Pilot. There were no birth ta’na either that would glow like his glowed now upon finding one's mate. Khoth swore that there must be a lightshow going on under his clothes. He spanned Jace’s back with his hands, resting his thumbs on either side of Jace’s spine. He wished there was a faint glow. But no, there was not. Altaeth must not have that.
Unless I am not his mate, but no, he is mine so it is just a difference between us. That is all.
Perhaps he could convince Jace to tattoo this flesh, pick a design that was just theirs with meanings all their own. He would ink Jace himself. The intimate press of the needle against skin. He would ease Jace’s pain with kisses and strokes. He would wipe away the blood as the ink took hold.
“Is everything okay?” Jace whispered.
“Yes, it is,” Khoth answered with the barest breath.
The words were so hard to form. But he must assure his mate that all was well. Jace was so new at this. So new at everything. He was brave and willing, but Khoth had promised to teach. He must have control here despite wanting to lose it all.
The short hair on the very back of Jace’s neck attracted Khoth. He wondered if Altaeth necks were as sensitive there as Thaf’ell’s were. He lightly blew heated air along that delicate skin. The hair rose and Jace shivered.
Yes, just as sensitive.
Khoth allowed his fingers to glide down Jace’s spine again until they reached the waistband of his pants. There was a dark space where his fingers could reach below the material. He allowed his fingers to dip inside, out of sight, and saw goose flesh rise on Jace’s arms. High color lit up Jace’s cheekbones. His pupils, too, were more black than blue. He looked over his shoulder at Khoth in that way that caused Khoth’s stomach muscles to tighten and his own sex organ to harden.
The dar’nac around the base of his sex stirred to life. They pushed against the material of his pants, questing for Jace’s cock or an opening to Jace’s body. Desire caused his skin to flush a deeper blue. If Jace could have seen his back, he would have witnessed the birth ta’na burn as brightly as the sun along Khoth’s spine. It was so natural. Not a thing to be feared. Not a thing that one could control either.
He pressed his front against Jace’s back, kissing Jace’s bare shoulder, biting it a little before licking the wounded spot. Jace moaned and pushed against him. The dar’nac surged and his organ lengthened another inch. Compared to humans, Thaf’ell’s male sex organs were thinner, but longer and capable of movement even when fully engorged.
Neither male humans or Thaf’ell had birth canals, but his research told him that just like between male Thaf’ell that they could join together easily in other ways. Jace might be Altaeth, but he was still seemingly built this way. Khoth held Jace closer to him as his sex throbbed and ached. He had to strip off his pants soon so that he could be fully engaged. Would Jace want this?
He had said “make love” so yes, he did. But again, Khoth would be careful unlike how Typhon had been with him, taking his own pleasure first before Khoth’s. Pushing him into things that--though deeply pleasurable--have left him lost and wanting at the same time. He would not have Jace feel that way. With him but alone. No, they were together. They were as one. Jace would never feel afraid or alone in this.
Khoth kissed the spot behind Jace’s right ear. He let his lips linger there. He felt his birth ta’na pulse. His breath came out in a shuddery gasp. He licked the lobe of Jace’s ear and he nearly cried out at the pleasure of the taste of it while imagining Jace’s tongue on his spine doing the same thing. Biting, licking, kissing all over his birth ta’na. His seed nearly spilled. His breathing became even more harsh and ragged.
Jace twined one hand around his head and twisted his head so that their lips could meet. Even with the pleasure of Jace’s body between his legs, he needed to see Jace’s face and kiss him deeply.
Khoth circled Jace again so that they were face to face again. Jace’s lips were wet and plump and definitely needed to be kissed again. He dove in. It was like drinking tal--the spiced wine of Aegis--as he slid his tongue between Jace’s lips and sampled him.
Jace’s teeth caught his lower lip between them and rasped lightly over it. The pleasure-pain sensation had another zing of pleasure running up his spine and along his sex. The dar’lac pressed against their cloth prison. He could almost imagine them angry with him as if they were a separate being. What would Jace think of his sex? It was different from a human cock. It could give more pleasure. But Jace might think it frightening. He had to be careful. Had to prepare him. Now he almost wished the Osiris had insisted on showing Jace everything about the Thaf’ell.
“I thought… uhm, the bath or shower? Could we? In there?” Jace pointed in the direction of the bathing room.
It was pleasing to see that Jace was robbed of unnecessary speech when they were together. But he was glad that Jace had gotten those words out, because this would give him the opportunity to slowly show Jace his differences and what pleasure he could receive. Yes, this would be good. Plus, they should be cleansed of battle first and then joined together new and fresh.
Khoth slipped off the bed and lifted Jace into his arms. Jace’s legs wrapped around his waist. His arms wound around Khoth’s neck and they kissed again. It was a long and breath stealing kiss. Khoth swore he could feel Jace’s lips imprinted upon his own.
Jace reached up and touched his lips, smiling slightly, even as his eyes were wild. “My lips tingle and you taste… I don’t know. I’m drunk with you, Khoth. Drunk, but I need more.”
“I will give you all you need.”
Khoth carried the young man easily to the bathing chamber ready to teach and learn and satisfy Jace’s every need.