Madrah stared at his image critically. He wasn't so ugly today as he normally was; his pale skin was clear of blemishes and his dark, curly hair was neither fluffy nor greasy, a combination of blessings that occurred only on rare occasions. There wasn't much he could do to disguise his mismatched eyes - one blue, one green - or the dark skin discolouration that ran down his spine, neatly dividing undeniably well-shaped, dark-feathered wings, but, he supposed, he didn't look so unattractive as usual. He had bought with him, to the town of Rachesh, new leather trousers and a silken halterneck, an outfit he had only recently purchased and knew greatly improved his appearance. For his eyes he had bought kohl, under the mistaken, optimistic belief that enough kohl detracted people's attention away from the actual colour of his eyes.
He bathed quietly, gently wringing the excess water from the cloth before running the rough terry-towelling over his body. Sometimes he hated bathing, hated to have his flaws glaring him in the face, but mostly he enjoyed the task. There was always the comforting masturbation that preceded the cleansing, and orgasm rarely failed to bring with it some small feeling of satisfaction. Truthfully, it was probably more that his soul mistook the short, sharp pleasuring as a symbol of outside care, but to remind himself of his actual, painful solitude would surely detract from the strength of his climaxes and so Madrah continued his routine without allowing himself to philosphise.
Today he would be meeting Katarou. Katarou who looked beautiful and had recently listed himself for sale as a husband. He had good-breeding, Madrah had checked his pedigree and had been suitably impressed, but his family weren't wealthy and after severely damaging his left wing six months ago, the medical fees had plunged the twenty-one year old into financial difficulty. For Katarou, there had been three options; live with a disfigured and disabled wing, have his wing repaired and sell himself into bonded labour, or have his wing repaired and sell himself to the most suitable, interested person.
Madrah, for his part, did not appreciate that he had to buy a partner, but he had accepted his fate three years ago and had only recently realised sufficient savings to purchase a suitable partner. He was twenty-three years of age and although his destiny had been decided the second he was conceived, it had taken him some twenty years to grasp the rather simple fact that if he wanted a partner, he would have to buy one. He hadn't wanted this; he had wanted to be loved but love never comes easily to the unattractive and Madrah was cursed with more than a few faults.
Neither entirely male or female, he was what the Innan people termed 'Vazelki'. A millenia ago, Vazelki had been at the extremely popular, coveted and desired as courtesans and servants, feted over and adored. Breeding, originally selective and careful, became more makeshift as their popularity increased, inbreeding became frequent and flaws began to appear. The occurence of Vazelki in the Innan community increased from a natural 1 to a peak of 20 and, predictably, as a result of their flaws, their popularity began to wane. The Vazelki's employers grew impatient with the poor breeding and when the Chetneks invaded, the largely incapable Vazelki were blamed for the unduly drawn-out war. After all, had the generally helpless Vazelki not existed in such numbers, the Innan wouldn't have taken so long to defeat their would-be conquerers, and the number of lives lost would have been fewer. What nobody regarded was that it was the Vazelki themselves who suffered the greatest number of casualities; sent to the frontline, untrained and frightened, the previously adored creatures had been mercilessly slaughtered by the hundred.
Since the invasion, the Vazelki had failed to return to their former position of honour and the situation was now that they were viewed as the scourge of society. Five Vazelki were born for every hundred births and less than half of these survived their first hour, for it was Innan law that an unwanted child may be killed within it's first hour. If the child was viewed as an abomination great enough to be a threat to the community - and the Vazelki unfortunately assumed this position more frequently than not - then it was the midwive's option to end the life of the child they had delivered. Yet even survival did not guarantee future prosperity, regardless of the individual's intelligence. So widespread was the community's perception of the Vazelki as having subnormal intelligence that most individuals afflicted with uncertain gender faced a future filled with battle and inequality. They were forbidden to mate with, or even have a relationship with, one another and their suicide rate was approximately 10. Once so worshipped, they were now the outcasts of Innan society.
The exact physiology of the Vazelki varied from overtly masculine with feminine characteristics to overtly feminine with a few masculine traits. Hormone levels were manipulated by the use of native drugs so that the original dominant gender characterstics weren't necessarily set in stone; put simply, Madrah could choose to increase his feminine traits and, if desired, have a child. He already had a natural predispotion towards masculinity, but it wasn't so dominant in him as it was in other Vazelki and his choice to live as a male was due largely to the Innan's patriarchal hierarchy combined with a little amount of personal choice.
As he dried himself, Madrah ran one hand between his thighs, his fingers catching the slight dampness of natural vaginal lubricant. He raised his hand to his face, considering the scent. It was distinctly feminine, a marker of his identity and he sighed briefly before dipping his hand in the tub of tepid water. It saddened him that it had come to this. It disgusted him that he would buy a partner, essentially forcing someone to stay with him, but he had become adept at vindicating his actions and told himself that if only someone gave him a chance, maybe they would develop some degree of fondness for him. He told himself, over and over and over again, until he almost believed his own mistruths, that he wasn't a bad person and that he deserved to be loved.
Perhaps Katarou would be the one. He'd heard, via his employer - who in turn had learnt of Katarou from one of his friends - that the man was friendly and easy-going and sought not so much a position as a trophy partner but someone decent and honest. Madrah didn't view himself as either honest or particularly decent, but he was reassured by the fact that Katarou would consider a Vazelki as a mate and and thus had made the eight hour flight to meet the man.
He dressed carefully, noting the way his pants hugged his figure, revealing hips that were too rounded to belong to a normal man, yet didn't look entirely unattractive. His blue silk shirt clung to his torso, enhancing his effeminancy, and making the normally undesirable trait appear somehow beautiful. Madrah needed the shirt, his nipples were too large to belong to anyone but a Vazelki or woman, and his stomach was the not the flat, washboard one of a man but rather the slightly rounded belly of a female. Nonetheless, he was definitely more masculine than feminine; his shoulders were broad, and although his hips and thighs more rounded, they resembled that of a man's more than a woman's. Tall and thin, he had a grace to him that most Vazelki lacked and his wings were strong and powerful. In essence, he was close to what his ancestor's breeders had desired most; the perfect blend of male and female. He could either sire or mother a child, he could breastfeed, he could fly with great speed and he was highly intelligent. His face was delicate, his mismatched eyes each a beautiful, clear colour and his hair was thick and shiny, evidence of the care he took of himself. Smoothing away a few loose feathers, he took a deep breath and smiled sadly at his image in the now-cool water he had bathed himself with.
'Goddess Fenna, give me strength,' he whispered, breaking his image with his forefinger before standing up proudly and leaving the cave.
Katarou scanned the medical report blankly. The dry, technical language, scrawled across the pages in almost indiscernable scribble entirely failed to disclose the answers to the questions that plagued him.
'Need help?' his agent, a stately, forty-year old woman inquired.
'Thanks Ulla,' he replied with a weak smile.
Ulla took the bound report from her client's hands and perused the analysis the medical examiner had provided. Forcing herself to concentrate not on Katarou's dismal future, but on the commission she would be receiving, she began her explanation.
'It's healthy. Twenty-three, no communicable or terminal illnesses, fertile - if you want babies,' Ulla paused as Katarou winced, obviously imagining the sexual aspect of procreation. A wave of sadness swept over her as she realised that Katarou hadn't even begun to think about regular sexual activity with a Vazelki. He was so young, so naive, and she knew from their conversations, that he'd already found a mate and had been preparing for their binding ceremony when he'd suffered the unfortunate fall that had led to his current predicament.
Katarou stared down at his hands, pondering how on earth he was going to phrase the one question he truly wanted answered.
'Katarou?' Ulla ventured. 'Madrah has a fully functioning penis as well as a vagina. As for how it prefers to undertake sexual relations, I'm unsure, but there is some good news in this report; it's not a virgin. If you accept it, you should be able to negotiate third-party lovers.'
Having a normal, male or female, lover, was only a small consolation to Katarou. Nothing changed the fact that six months ago he had been free, in love, and clear of debt. Now he owed the healer a not insignificant sum and unless he came up with the fee soon, his life could be taken. Unfortunately for him, prospective buyers were limited and when Ulla suggested he consider a Vazelki as a partner, he hadn't been in a position to refuse the idea. All the same, having daily relations with said Vazelki was a prospect he had swept from his mind as he pleaded with his Gods to lead a older, female, buyer in his direction.
Both Katarou and Ulla jumped at the sound of a loud, harsh knocking on the door. No sooner had Ulla uttered 'come in' than a thickset young woman barged in. Ulla recognised her immediately as Lasann; harsh negotiator, herself partner of a Vazelki and worst of all, Madrah's agent. There were rumours around the town that no payment had exchanged hands for Ulla's partner, and that the woman had voluntarily chosen a Vazelki. Ulla wasn't sure whether she believed the rumours or not, but all the same, one had to watch what they said about the misfits when Lasann was present. Even grosser than the whisperings that Lasann had chosen her partner, were the increasingly loud rumours that Lasann was involved in the underground Vazelki movement which fought to raise Vazelki rights to that of the normal Innan.
'Ulla, keeping to your reputation of leaving everyone waiting?' she inquired.
Ulla scowled. She had come head to head with the younger woman on more than one occasion and today - when she was menstrual and inclined to be a little more emotional than usual - she didn't want to become involved in a pointless fight over prices, quality, or the trivial matter of being a few minutes late.
'Are you ready?' she asked Katarou kindly, entirely ignoring Lasann.
Katarou shrugged, giving his agent a lopsided grin. 'What have I got to lose?'
Lasann exhaled heavily at the comment, unable to decipher why it was Madrah was so interested in this man. She'd done her best to persuade the young Vazelki to consider one or two, more suitable, others, but he was unshakeable; his employer had suggested Katarou and his employer being the one person in his day to day life who was somewhat kind to him, Madrah was inclined to accept his opinions with reverence normally reserved for the immortals.
In the next room, Madrah wrung his hands nervously, ill at ease and wishing the day were over and he was back at home, ensconsed in the safety of his own, small cave. He licked his lips nervously, smoothed his hair and adjusted his shirt, praying that Katarou's face wouldn't reveal any sense of disgust at his appearance.
His wish wasn't granted. Katarou was visibly taken aback at Madrah's appearance, never having expected his potential mate to be so ugly. Ingus, the woman he loved, was so attractive with her long blond hair and curvaceous figure and here was...it. It was impossible to compare the two, for Ingus had been everything a man could want, whereas Madrah was the epitome of Vazelki disgrace.
There was no physical contact between the two as they sat on opposite sides of the carved stone table, each man alongside his agent. In silence they appraised the other, Madrah's heart filled with pain, Katarou's with fascinated, undisguised, disgust. Aware of his poor physical appearance, Madrah turned his gaze to his lap, tears stinging his eyes.
'Did either of you have any questions?' Lasann inquired coolly, as though unaware of both her client's and Katarou's thoughts.
'No,' Madrah whispered, almost imperceptibly.
Katarou paused, something unfathomable stirring inside of him, something that was dangerously akin to pity for the hideous creature that sat opposite him. As Ulla, Madrah and Lasann exchanged weary glances and began to stand, he suddenly spoke.
'I have a question,' he interrupted. All gazes turned to the man as he flushed red and fumbled with his words.
'How often would you want sex?' he asked bluntly, not realising how devastating his question was and that this was the type of question that Ulla should have asked on his behalf, had he desired a figure.
Madrah's eyes widened in horror and he turned to Lasann, desperately in need of advice. Lasann fought the urge to belt the incredibly insensitive interrogator, instead strengthening herself and meeting Katarou's gaze.
'Are you accepting Madrah's offer?'
Katarou swallowed bitterly. What choice did he have? Surely everyone present knew he had little choice but to accept Madrah and all he wanted was some idea of what was expected of him.
'Yes,' he replied.
Madrah glanced up quickly, surprised. Katarou was willing to be his partner? Surprise didn't do justice to the utter confusion that descended on him in those few seconds, and he mentally scrambled to ascertain why it was that someone who was obviously found him so unattractive.
'Madrah?' Lasann prompted. 'How often?'
How often did he want to engage in sexual activity? That wasn't the sort of question he wanted to answer, least of all in front of three others. It was neither the type of question he had expected, nor was it of the nature that he could readily supply an answer to.
Understanding her client's predicament, Lasann led Madrah out of the room and counselled him on the current standards.
'That all depends, of course, on whether or not you want him,' she finished, carefully appraising her client's reaction.
Did he want him? Madrah questioned himself. Or, more to the point, was he prepared to experience another 'meeting' with a person who was, in all likelihood, going to be harsher, more interrogative and show greater disdain than Katarou? The answer, he knew almost immediately was 'no'.
'Yes,' Madrah replied sadly. 'I suppose.'
Lasann nodded, armed with the knowledge that her latest client would soon be leaving her, less wealthy and with far less self esteem than he'd possessed just half an hour beforehand. But for Lasann, the worst part was not knowing that her commission would be small, or that Madrah would only be able to expect mutual sexual activity once a week, but having seen, once more, the realisation upon her client's face that money could not, indeed, buy love.
'Ready for your first night as a married man?' Rosthar inquired gently.
Madrah felt a flush creep over his face at his employer's words. 'No,' he admitted, melancholy. 'I'm not sure I want this anymore.'
Rosthar sighed regretfully. In hindsight, he should never have suggested Katarou; his initial words had only been offered in a friendly, offhand manner and he'd never intended that his employee should heed them and actually go so far as to purchase the damaged Innan.
Reaching into a carved stone nook, he retrieved a small bottle and handed it to the younger man with a wry smile.
'He'll be so horny he won't be able to think straight,' Rosthar explained. 'He'll be all over you like a rash.'
Madrah accepted the bottle reluctantly, knowing that it was highly unlikely he'd take the opportunity to drug his new husband's fluids. It was Katarou's choice whether or not they'd consummate their relationship tonight and besides, it was wrong to deceive a partner. What would Katarou think of him if he were to betray him within hours of their union?
'Use it,' Rosthar ordered. 'If his agent is worth anything, she'll have warned him that more likely than not he'd be given some type of aphrodisiac, and he'll be looking forward to something to ease the pain of his duty.'
Rosthar had no idea how bitingly cruel his words were, for the very reason that he'd never truly made any effort to understand the Vazelki. He considered Madrah an excellent employee, that went without saying, but his empathy was more limited than it appeared. In giving Madrah the potion his intention was simply to ensure that Madrah was sexually satisfied and Katarou able to 'perform', for if Madrah found himself in the unenviable situation of being bound to someone who was unable to achieve an erection, his workplace performance would inevitably decline. And Rosthar knew damn well exactly how much of his own success he owed to the young Vazelki.
'Thank-you,' Madrah whispered, slipping the bottle into his pocket. 'And thank-you for your kind words.'
The elder man nodded. 'Well, the working week is over, child. You'd best head home to prepare yourself.'
'Thank-you,' Madrah nodded, bowing his head slightly. 'I'll see you on Monday.'
Biting down on his lower lip, Madrah turned and exited the spacious cave. He walked through the city center, careful not to meet the eye of any superior, his heart pounding as he considered his future life. Innan pushed and shoved him around, heedless of his emotions, not caring of anything other than arriving home as quickly as possible.
Sometimes, perhaps a little spitefully, Madrah wished that for just one day the Innan were at the mercy of the Vazelki. Maybe then the arrogant men and women who ruled the city would realize how hurtful it was to be treated as though one was nothing but dirt; continually restricted, insulted and, unfortunately, often beaten or raped.
Once he was out of the central business district, Madrah took to the air. He lived with others of his kind, in a small, dirty neighbourhood on the outskirts of town, where the only non-Vazelki inhabitants were the bonded partners of the more well off Vazelki. It wasn't an unsafe area, but it was certainly one where on dark nights, Vazelki engaged in illicit sex with one another and thus Madrah had learned to keep his mouth closed and his eyes trained away from the areas where lovers strayed. Madrah did not care to be involved as a witness when the inevitable day came that a copulating couple were caught in flagrante.
Before he knew it, he had arrived at his small cave. His surroundings were unusually clean, the result of a fortnight of anxiety as he awaited Katarou's arrival. With little time to spare, he hurriedly heated his bathing water whilst laying out a pair of thick, denim jeans and a heavy coat. It would be cold out tonight, and dressing in flimsy, provocative clothing would be nothing but foolish. In addition, he was unfortunately aware that Katarou probably didn't want to see him in anything regarded by the Innan as 'sensual' and would view the upcoming coitus as nothing more than duty. No attraction, no fondness, and definitely no love would touch the man's heart during the sexual act.
Forty-five minutes after he had arrived home, Madrah took to the air once more. He touched down shortly afterwards outside of Lasann's residence, his hands shaking and his face white with fear. For over three years he'd been impatiently waiting for this moment, and now that it had arrived, he just wished he'd been capable of living without the overwhelming urge to have someone to share his life with. Katarou would never love him, he was entirely aware of that, and his guilt over what was in essence nothing but slavery and rape had almost driven him to suicide three nights prior.
'Madrah,' Lasann greeted professionally. 'Come in, Katarou has arrived early.'
Katarou glanced up miserably as Madrah entered the room. Good grief he was ugly with those mismatched eyes and the spinal discolouration but, if nothing else, his figure was trim. Yes, trim, he frowned, Madrah's physical image was slightly different to what it had been a fortnight ago. Narrowing his eyes, Katarou realised the Vazelki had been fiddling with his hormone balance in the past two weeks; his hips were slimmer and his body more muscular than he had been at their first meeting, definite signs that the oestrogen levels had been reduced.
The knowledge worried the blonde. He didn't want a man. He may not have wanted a Vazelki, but at the very least, Madrah's previous disposition had hinted at feminine sexual passivity, now the…thing…was more man than woman and there was a chance that Madrah wished to engage in sodomy with his new husband. The thought turned Katarou's stomach and he swore to himself that he'd never lie on his stomach for a Vazelki's pleasure, never experience an ounce of pain so that the thing that had purchased him could experience orgasm.
He hated him. Every scrap of regret, pain and fear he experienced swirled into an almost smothering sense of loathing. This was not fair. He didn't want to be joined to Madrah, he didn't want to engage in sexual relations with it, and he could think of almost nothing worse than spending the rest of his days in a flea bitten Vazelki district.
'So, we'll get started,' Lasann prompted. 'I believe you've all signed the appropriate forms, now all that we really have left is to mark you both as partners.'
Lasann was nothing if not efficient in her duties. Aware of the constricting pain, fear and regret that each of her companions were suffering, she made the markings swiftly and, perhaps, brutally. Afterwards, both men touched their fingers to their bleeding septums, unconsciously acknowledging the trickle of blood and all that their new piercings signified.
'You should go now,' Lasann remarked. 'My wife is awaiting for me.'
Neither Madrah nor Katarou dared argue. It was not the custom of either the Innan or the Vazelki to argue with a host, so regardless of their reluctance to commence their lives as partners, they gave their thanks and headed to the door of the cave.
Lasann watched the pair leave, a bitter taste filling her mouth. It wouldn't have taken much for the bitterness to turn to anger, but fortunately her thoughts were interrupted by warm, plump arms encircling her waist. She leant back into her lover's arms, squirming so that her wings were in a more comfortable position.
'You're a good woman,' Marsala remarked kindly. 'Don't doubt yourself Lasann, you work magic in a society that tells us there should be nothing but discrimination and hatred.'
'That's not true,' Lasann argued. 'They won't be happy. They're a bad couple, there's no promise or hope for them.'
'Maybe,' Marsala shrugged, kissing her wife's strong, smooth neck. 'You've joined enough couples who have since found love for one another.'
Lasann scowled, pulling herself from Marsala's grip. 'Not them. They're both so selfish, not caring what the other is feeling.'
'They're young,' Marsala argued as her wife stormed to the back of their cave. 'And quit being such a hormonal woman and come and give me a hug. Bitchiness doesn't suit you.'
'Bitchiness suits me just fine,' Lasann retorted, smiling widely, her irritation apparently forgotten. 'It just doesn't suit you.'
Sometimes Marsala wondered what her wife's clients would say if they could see her relaxed and happy. Probably, she mused, even nastier things than they were already saying.
Katarou took the mug offered and raised it to his lips. It was sweet – too sweet for plain water – and he acknowledged that he was being drugged. For this, he was thankful. Lasann had whispered in his ear as she marked him, warning him not to take any aphrodisiac he may have purchased as Madrah was planning on slipping into his drink the extra 'something' that would assist his performance.
It wasn't long before the potion took effect. Within minutes he was aware of a tightening in his crotch, coupled with an image of Madrah, bottom naked, on his hands and knees.
Madrah appraised Katarou carefully from across the stone table that had been carved into the side of his cave wall. Katarou's pupils were large and dark, with only a thin line of green iris around them and the normally strong features of his face were slightly slack with lust. Hesitantly, Madrah leant over and smoothed back his husbands' blonde hair, judging how drugged the man actually was. Judging by the sliver of pink tongue that lashed out along his lower lip at the physical contact, Katarou was mindlessly high, unaware of anything and anyone but his own arousal.
'Come,' Madrah whispered, leading his partner to the small room he slept in. The room wasn't unusual by Vazelki standards, and nor was the cave. The layout of the cave itself was simple; the floors were flat, with the only protrusions being the carved table and a makeshift oven/fireplace. Several nooks had been carved into the walls for the storage of footstuffs, personal belongings and water and on the floor was a large, hand-woven rug. In the bedroom, towards which an increasingly unaware Katarou was being led, was nought but a few hooks carved into the walls and a pile of blankets and pillows on which Madrah slept.
Katarou fell clumsily onto the pile of blankets, staring up at his lover with a wanton expression. His mind was free from all thoughts, all fears and all regrets. The only thing on which Katarou concentrated was the overwhelming urge to reach orgasm, over and over again.
Madrah knelt beside his partner, carefully removing his jacket before laying him on his back. His fingers fumbled with the buttons on Katarou's jeans as his hands shook and his gaze settled on the bulge of the Innan's erection.
'Lift your hips,' Madrah whispered.
Katarou obeyed wordlessly, unashamed of his nudity, desire coursing through his veins. He wanted to fuck, and he decided that if he lay here silently, Madrah would do what Ingus had once done for him; pleasured him to the brink of orgasm with his mouth before mounting him and riding him till their mutual satisfaction swept over them in rapturous waves.
He was therefore confused when, after slipping out of his clothing, Madrah did not make any move to orally stimulate him. What he did feel was the spreading of his legs and the slickness of warm oil being massaged into the crease between his buttocks.
He intended to stop Madrah, he truly did, because drugged as he was, he most definitely did not want to participate in this particular act. Unfortunately, before his mouth had a chance to form the words, the Vazelki had penetrated him with a finger, and within seconds a rush of warmth spread throughout his groin.
Madrah smiled sadly at the groan of pleasure Katarou made. Thiswas how the act was intended to be, slow and pleasurable, and he regretted that his new husband was unable to enjoy the activity sans aphrodisiac. He slipped another finger in, noting the beauty of his husband's strong, muscular body as he twisted with longing, impaling himself on the Vazelki's hand.
As he massaged the tight ring of muscle, patiently allowing it to relax, Madrah's left hand gently stroked Katarou's manhood. The desperate whimpers that were his reward reminded Madrah of his own desire and he allowed himself a small grin as his fingers swept the blonde's prostate.
'More,' Katarou pleaded. 'God, don't stop doing that.'
Madrah withdrew his fingers, wiping them quickly on an old cloth before kneeling between Katarou's legs. He'd been under the impression that Katarou would be a little more active; instead the man was almost comatose and uninterested in everything save his own satisfaction.
Lifting Katarou's dead-weight legs over his shoulders, Madrah rested the head of his cock against the younger man's loosened entrance. Exhaling heavily as he penetrated, he was almost overcome by the firm grip of what was obviously virgin ass, clamped around his hard-on.
Katarou's hand snaked its way down to his eager member, stroking it in tune with Madrah's careful thrusts. The blonde couldn't help but marvel at the assault of sensations. His hand worked more quickly, increasing the pressure steadily as he climax built, and a series of short, sharp cries escaped his mouth, spurring his lover on.
One last, strangled moan escaped the blonde's mouth as he reached orgasm, viscous white liquid spilling over his stomach and hand in seemingly endless torrents. His body jerked and thrust and his face showed the power that his intense release held over him.
'Fuck,' he wept as the last waves of climax swept over his body. 'Oh fuck.'
An odd feeling of satisfaction settled in Madrah's stomach as Katarou climaxed. He was happy that he could bring about this reaction – even if Katarou was drugged – and he smiled his first genuine smile in weeks.
He was still smiling when he came, his face shining with happiness as he thrust between his husband's legs. He was so goddamned relieved and maybe, maybe some small part inside of him was hoping that now Katarou knew how good things could be, he'd willingly agree to more frequent sexual activity than had been stipulated.
As he thrust one last time, squeezing from his orgasm the remaining ounce of pleasure, he allowed himself a moment's fantasy. In his mind, at that second, Katarou loved him and once Madrah had finished cleaning himself, they'd lie together, their legs tangled and their wings protectively closed over another. It was a beautiful, dangerous, thought.
Katarou made a noise protest as his older husband withdrew and left to clean himself. Dazed and slightly confused, Katarou squinted at the candle that was lighting the room. Don't bother, his mind told him, go to sleep and it will all make sense tomorrow. He pulled a blanket over his exhausted body and shut his eyes, determined not to move, not to do anything save give into his drowsiness, unless absolutely necessary.
Madrah returned to the sleeping quarters to find the young Innan almost snoring. Almost, he smiled, but not quite. He slid into bed and, after a moment's debate, wrapped his arms around Katarou's stomach and rested his face in the golden feathers that adorned his husband's wings.
Five minutes later he regretted his foolishness. He was sneezing uncontrollably, his eyes watering and his nose undoubtedly red.
Another potion, this one a topical powder used to induce allergies and prevent unwanted affection during the night had obviously been dusted onto Katarou's wings. It was a common enough solution to many an Innan's hatred of being held by the person who had bought them, and it was frequently used by the local comunity.
Swearing to himself as tears slid down his cheeks, Madrah tried to stop the incessant sneezing. He was a chemist's assistance for God's sake, he should have expected this.
But he hadn't. He hadn't imagined that Katarou would dislike being held.
Katarou leant over the bucket and retched, thick, acidic mucous trailing from his mouth to the brown, wooden receptacle. His head was thumping, his butt was tender and his stomach had obviously reacted terribly to the aphrodisiac.
Madrah critically appraised his new husband, slightly disgusted by his illness but more than a little sympathetic. The blonde looked so miserable that Madrah's heart ached for him, and he resolved that if nothing else, they should be able to form some sort of congenial relationship. Katarou may shirk in disgust when it came to sex, he would no doubt be melancholy and grieve for his lost freedom and he may loathe living in a Vazelki district, but they could at least be friends.
'Are you currently taking any medication?' Madrah inquired politely.
Katarou gagged, wiping the stringy saliva away from his mouth. Nodding, he replied, 'For my wing.'
No wonder he'd been so knocked about last night, Madrah thought. And little wonder he was so sick this morning. Katarou should have advised him he was being medicated – according to the medical report he'd been handed, Katarou certainly hadn't been taking any drugs at the time of their first meeting – so he could have adjusted the dose of the aphrodisiac.
Making his way to the kitchen area, Madrah mixed a glass of water and a native herb known for curbing nausea.
'Drink,' he whispered gently, kneeling beside his husband. 'You should have woken me when you first were sick. How long have you been up?'
'A few hours,' Katarou replied, gulping down the grainy mixture. 'I didn't realize it would affect me like this.'
The Innan flushed as he recalled last night's activities. It had been the first time he'd been taken and he was embarrassed at how easily he'd acquiesced to the act. Madrah was a Vazelki for heaven's sake and Katarou had only hours prior to the act sworn that he would never allow his husband to take him in that manner.
'I remember what you did,' Katarou added aggressively. 'And I don't want you to do again.'
Madrah nodded. 'I won't. But wasn't it…good?'
'I was high,' Katarou retorted. 'Not that it matters how it felt. I'm telling you not to do it again, because it's not something I agreed to. If I'm going to be stuck here for the rest of my life then at least allow me some dignity.'
'I didn't intend to demean you,' Madrah replied softly, turning away. 'I would never do that.'
'You bought me,' Katarou hissed. 'You bought me and you dare tell me you wouldn't demean me? You already have demeaned me Madrah.'
Madrah half-turned, in shock, and utterly unsure of how to proceed. Why was Katarou reacting so badly to his newly wedded status? Madrah had understood Katarou would take some time to settle in, but why the anger? Why such fury? And how dare he act like this anyway? Katarou was being treated far better than the Innan treated Vazelki and still he was complaining.
'I'm going to go to the bathhouses,' Madrah replied quietly. 'It certainly looks like your nausea has passed, so if you wish, you're welcome to come with me.'
Katarou paused. Madrah was right; his nausea had ceased and his headache was rapidly clearing. Whatever it was the Vazelki had given him, it was certainly effective.
'Okay,' he agreed, deciding that perhaps anger wasn't the right way to deal with the situation. 'I'll come. But remember, no more anal sex.'
'I remember,' Madrah replied dryly, somewhat amused by Katarou's rapid shift in mood. Obviously the prospect of a nice, hot bath was more than capable of sweetening his husband's mood. Until Katarou settled in and they developed a more reasonable relationship, the bathhouses could probably be used as a bargaining chip. 'No more anal.'
A little embarrassed by his vehemence, Katarou nodded agreeably. It was hardly as though Madrah was well hung; he was Vazelki and they – according to what he'd been advised – tended to average around four inches erect (something to do with the hormones? Katarou pondered) but the fact remained that he didn't appreciate submitting sexually to someone whom he viewed as having lesser status.
Katarou followed Madrah to the sleeping quarters, pulling on a pair of jeans as his husband did likewise. Ugly as he may be, there was also something oddly fascinating in the way his partner looked; the softness to his otherwise masculine body, the slight breasts with large pink nipples and the rounded hips and butt. The skin discoloration that ran the length of his spine was almost perfectly straight and Katarou couldn't help but wonder if it was natural, or somehow enhanced with drugs or make-up.
He made his way to where Madrah was brushing his short, dark hair and hesitantly reached out, trailing his finger's down the Vazelki's back. The skin was soft and warm but there was no ridge where the discoloration ran, and nor was there any pigments that rubbed off onto his fingers.
'Why do Vazelki get that?'
'I'm not sure,' Madrah replied uncertainly. 'Maybe the question is why doesn't everyone get it?'
Katarou shrugged and moved a little closer and rested his hand on the marking. It was a peculiar thing for a person to have; it was almost animalistic in design and he couldn't imagine why it was chemists hadn't discovered some painless method of removing it from the Vazelki's backs. Cautiously, he turned Madrah around so that they were facing one another, his eyes roaming over the unique body of his husband.
Aware of the inspection his body was undergoing, Madrah tried to hide his anxiety. He wondered if Katarou would become curious enough to initiate sexual activity, and the pondering arose the memory of his loss of virginity. He'd been fourteen and almost ready to end his life when he'd met Hikari. In hindsight, there hadn't been anything especially wonderful about the Innan, but at the time, Madrah had fallen head over heels for him. With only a few, quick – albeit, hidden from public view, Madrah added ruefully – gestures, Hikari had managed to accomplish the rather effortless task of gaining Madrah's heart.
The sex had taken part on their first private meeting, in an abandoned cave a few kilometers West of the Vazelki district. There hadn't been much to it; Hikari had ordered Madrah to remove his clothing and lay on the floor with his legs apart. He'd obeyed nervously, feeling at once both eager to please and ashamed of his nudity. Hikari had smirked, fucked him, and then made Madrah clean him with his mouth. The second Madrah had completed the humiliating, confusing task, Hikari had hit him. Hard.
'We should get going,' Madrah blurted, unable to deal with either the memories, or Katarou's shameless curiosity. 'I'll finish dressing.'
Katarou nodded and sat on a pillow, his gaze following his husband. Something akin to pity stirred in his heart as he observed the sadness of his owner and it struck him that Madrah, like he, had been forced into this situation by circumstance. Madrah didn't want to force sex upon him, he wanted him to willingly participate and Madrah didn't want to ruin Katarou's life, only sought companionship and love. Not peculiar desires, Katarou realised, only the reasonable wants and needs of a man in his early twenties.
It was odd that he was only just realizing these things. Perhaps this was why the Vazelki district was kept separate from the Innan ones; nobody wanted to realize that the differences of the underdogs of society lay only on the outside. Madrah was ugly, yes – very ugly – but there was also something inherently fascinating in his genderless figure. It wasn't anywhere near sufficient to arouse Katarou, but he did recognize that in a scientific way, the appearance of Vazelki was more magnificent than he'd previously thought.
'Do Vazelki find each other to be ugly?' Katarou inquired.
Madrah frowned, unsure of how honest to be. Vazelki weren't permitted to have Vazelki partners, so admitting attraction may lead to…difficulties. On the other hand, the moment they arrived at the bathhouses, Katarou would likely be confronted with the truth, so there shouldn't be any harm in advising him correctly.
'No,' he replied. 'Not in the way Innan people find us to be unattractive.'
The flight to the bathhouse was uneventful, despite both men's nerves, but the reaction he faced at the bathhouse cave was unlike anything Katarou had ever experienced. All his life he had been in the majority; an Innan surrounded by Innan, with the Vazelki being treated poorly, swept out of the social circle and excluded from fair treatment. It was due to his former position as a respected member of society that he entered the bathhouse with the expectation that he would be treated with the respect he deserved. Instead, he was treated with disdain whilst Madrah was warmly greeted.
'If you wish to bathe with other Innan,' Madrah murmured. 'Go through that door. The Innan usually congregate in that room.'
Katarou all but ran to join his kin. Madrah was slightly disappointed at his husband's eagerness to join his Innan brethren, but not overly surprised. Slipping out of his clothing, he gently eased himself into the warm water, remembering, as he dunked himself, that Katarou had coated his wings in that wretched substance that had caused his sneezing fit last night. Sighing, he removed himself from the bathing pool and went to find his companion before he immersed his poisoned wings in communal waters.
There was no shame to his nudity, not in this bathhouse. The clients were nearly all Vazelki and they weren't at all disgusted by genderfucked bodies. The aura of belonging imbued in Madrah a sense of comfort and for a few, brave minutes he didn't care what Katarou thought of his naked form.
Walking into the smaller, more cramped, Innan bathing room, he caught Katarou seconds before he entered the pool.
'Katarou? You need to clean your wings first. Otherwise, that….powder…will affect the other bathers.'
Katarou turned, flushing red, embarrassed that all Innan present now knew this particularly ugly specimen of Vazelki belonged to him. 'Oh. Okay.'
With the eyes of resentful Innan upon him, Madrah's bravery and self-esteem fled, and with a flush of his own, he left the room.
Madrahshame fled as heturned to see Zabar, an acquaintance of sorts. Vazelki didn't have 'friends'; friends were frequently interpreted as 'lovers' by the Innan, and the second a Vazelki was found guilty of having relations with another of their own kind, their life was over. Literally.
'Zabar. How are you?'
They embraced, two predominantly male forms intertwining in a public display of kinship.
'I'm lonely,' Zabar whispered. 'Could you...?'
Both Vazelki understood what Zabar was requsting. Madrah's teeth bit down on his lower lip. It was a hard decision, because he was married now, taken, joined to an Innan. And he wanted his relationship with Katarou to be good, congenial, friendly, and being caught masturbating a Vazelki would hardly be conducive to marital bliss. But would Katarou truly care if he saw his husband performing such an act? Oh, he would be revolted, Madrah was aware of that, but he was revolted a good portion of the time, anyway. Madrah was not naïve; he understood the Katarou's dismay of just minutes prior, when his fellow Innan had recognized him as his husband, and he recognized that Katarou would most likely draw from the Innan a lover, so was there truly any reason not to give Zabar the relief he desired? Even if Katarou did catch sight of him with Zabar, marital law demanded that one partner could not give evidence against the other in legal cases. It must have been something of an oversight of the legislators of the time, but there had never been any exemptions or exclusions in the case where one partner was a Vazelki, but nonetheless, there was no reason for Madrah to fear any legal ramifications. Certainly, the Vazelki were never inclined to turn one another in to the Innan authorities, and there were only Vazelki currently bathing in the main room.
The bathhouse was a large structure, with the large pool of water fed by a series of underground rivers. Enclosed in catacombs, there were more than a few, secret, passages where the act could take place, but Madrah and Zabar chose an old favourite of theirs.
Hidden behind stalagmites, formed over millions of years and untouched by the careful, Vazelki intruders, Madrah gripped his companion's erection and commenced a slow, easy, rhythm.
'I thought you weren't going to….oh fuck,' Zabar swore, his body tightening. 'Madrah. Madrah. Oh damn, slow it down, there's no rush….yes, like that.'
Madrah smiled bitterly. 'I know. I said I'd cease this. I think maybe later…I'm not sure. He's still so disgusted.'
'Fool,' Zabar gasped, arching his back. 'Foolish, foolish….damn. I only hope he remains an idiot, because I'm not…fuck, Madrah, fuck, slow it….quite ready….to stop being with you.'
A soft smile replaced the bitter countenance. He drank in the beauty of Zabar, the silky black hair, the doe-shaped brown eyes, the honey coloured skin. Zabar was a beauty to the Vazelki, but he was a queer man. He did not appear to regret his status as Vazelki, and he showed great disdain towards the Innan, almost to the point of impertinence. Often, Madrah would worry if Zabar were not present for the Saturday morning bath, fearing that his acquaintance had finally been punished by the Innan for his attitude, but Zabar somehow managed escaped Innan reprisal, time after time.
'Hold me,' Zabar groaned, falling into Madrah's arms. He began to buck and sway, thrusting desperately into Madrah's arms, his body caught in the grip of orgasm, ribbons of milky whiteness coating his lower abdomen as he ejaculated. There was no sense to his release – there never was – but there was beauty, and Zabar reveled in the short, sharp bliss of his climax.
Zabar was panting heavily as the contractions subsided, pulling himself from Madrah's grasp whilst leading the man's hand from his erection to his mouth. Slowly, carefully, his cleaned the spilt semen from Madrah's hand, accustomed to the bitter taste. It was Zabar's conviction, a conviction based on his religious beliefs, that what was spilt in pleasure should be returned to the body soonafter, saving the inherent power of his seed for himself.
Madrah, who only infrequently practiced the custom, waited patiently for Zabar to complete the task. He knew Goddess Fenna endorsed the return of seed to a man's body, but he had never been overtly religious. How could he care for religion, when each day was a mental struggle to survive?
'Here,' Zabar offered, pressing his mouth to Madrah's. 'You will need your strength.'
Madrah drank the last of the bitter liquid from his companion's mouth, wondering what the man could possibly mean, for he had already faced the worst, and what could possibly exceed the disdain of the Innan?
Nonetheless, he took Zabar's seed, embarrassed at his companion's zealousness. He had no need for extra strength, not now that the worst – his solitude – was over.
Katarou would come around, Madrah would see to that. And once he and his Katarou had a congenial relationship, there would be no more bathhouse lovers. There would be nothing but the friendly familiarity of he and his husband.
Madrah nodded, before quickly scurrying away from his companion, returning to the relative anonymity of the large bathing pool, without bothering to throw even one last look in Zabar's direction.