Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Eleven, Part Two

Notes: This ended up being a little shorter than I intended because SOMEONE decided to cut her nap short, but it still works. Enjoy! Please vote if you're in a state holding elections today!

Title: Mutable: Chapter Eleven, Part Two


Chapter Eleven, Part Two

There was a strange, almost seductive sense of shame in cleaning up after his act of self-pleasure. It was a new feeling for Cas—taking care of his body’s needs was just another chore to be done, like monitoring the phage or keeping his senses sharp for signs of an assassination attempt. This time was different, though. He’d done it in bed, in his bed, the one he was supposedly sharing with his husband if their hours ever coincided. He could imagine Rone’s body next to him, watching him, taking care of the mess himself in a dozen different ways. It was…compelling. Cas needed to stop thinking about it.

A quick shower took care of the gunk on his face and body, and by the time he stepped out of the spray—hot water, amazingly hot, he’d thought they’d be consigned to something less decadent and more efficient on board a ship—his Beren face was back in place. The phage practically purred under his skin, rejuvenated by the rest and the pleasure.

“Calm down,” Cas muttered to his reflection as he dressed in the bathroom. He was blushing—he shouldn’t be blushing. Fucking thing. Sometimes he wondered how deep into his neurology the phage had penetrated, whether it had any sense of his own ideas and inclinations. The fact that it had responded so strongly to Rone in the past—he needed to get a handle on that. He couldn’t afford to be compromised by his own body. He needed to be in control when he went after his husband.

An hour after he woke up, almost exactly on time, Rone entered their quarters. His jacket was off and his face looked a little tired, but he still smiled to see Cas waiting for him in the living room. “Hey. How was your day?”

“Uneventful,” Cas confessed. “I ate with Private Fillie, then…it’s kind of embarrassing, but mostly I just slept. My body has a lot of catching up to do, apparently.”

“I see.” Was it his imagination, or did Rone look a tiny bit disappointed? “Well, if you’re ready for another round in the mess hall, we can head out as soon as I’ve cleaned up a bit.”

There was an opportunity here, for both information and intimacy, and Cas didn’t want to squander it. “Actually…do you mind if we eat in the room? Just us, together? I’d be happy to go and get the food while you shower.”

Rone’s little smile was back. “I think that would be great, but there’s no need for you to go and get it, Beren. The mess hall delivers.”

Cas shrugged. “I’d like to stretch my legs anyway. Just tell me what you’d like.”

“Whatever the cook has on special.” He shrugged his broad shoulders. “I’m not picky.”

“Okay.” Cas stood up and laid his hand briefly on Rone’s arm, then headed for the door. “I’ll be back soon.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

Cas left and walked the short distance to the mess hall, letting his phage fill his skin and send back information that he hadn’t been able to get for a while. Vibrations to the left—three people coming down the hallway. To the right, a change in the air pressure, very faint—a door opening and closing, probably the one that led to the bridge.

Once he stepped inside the mess hall, which was packed as people came off shift, every hair on his body seemed to quiver as he became the center of mostly covert, but occasionally overt, attention. Cas ignored it and headed for the line, getting into place behind two crewmen whose red uniforms looked a little shabbier than the norm. They smelled differently too—some sort of lubricant. Engineers? Technicians? He needed to learn the rank insignia yesterday.

The cook handing out food was pleasant and proper enough, verifying that Cas was getting plates for two and giving him an extendable tray to carry it on. He smiled his thanks but kept his ears open and his senses extended, listening to the conversations around him. A few were benevolent, but most of them were…not.

“Can’t believe he married that—”

“The children were bad enough, but now—”

“It’s an insult to the monarchy! The king is going to—”

Ah. It seemed like the xenophobic bent in the Imperian troops went beyond one overly-aggressive nurse and a few soldiers who tended to be loud. Speaking of loudmouths, though, Cas felt a vaguely familiar presence sneaking up behind him, probably with the intention of running into him. For fuck’s sake, what was this, a childcare facility?

Cas let the man get close enough to reach out, who seemed intent on making his deliberate tumble look like a bump, before suddenly sidestepping to the left, spinning out of the way and bringing his food with him. A second later not a morsel on the plates was out of place, but the man who’d tried to ambush him—and Cas recognized him now, it was the one who’d extolled to his friends back on Leelinge about how refugees should be grateful for whatever they got—staggered forward, catching himself on the counter at the last minute.

He turned and glared at Cas. Cas stared right back, unyielding. Beren might be nicer than him, but he didn’t like bullies and he could be vicious in a fight. “I grew up in the dark,” he said softly. “You think I can’t tell when someone is coming at me in the light?”

“You’re a freak,” the man hissed. Cas glanced at his badge—Private Grenier. “All Delacoeurians are. You shouldn’t be here. You don’t deserve to be here.”

“James,” another soldier cautioned from a few feet back. “This isn’t the place to—”

“Shut up, Aleks! This is exactly the place!” He stepped in close enough for Cas to feel his body heat and smell the stench of alcohol on his breath. Someone had been drinking on shift, interesting. “You should have died on your planet,” he said. “Some win, some lose, and your people were fated to lose. Captain Basinti is too soft to understand it, but the king knows. He sees the destiny of all people. Imperians are meant to rule, and your kind? You were all meant to die, and someday soon, you will.”

James!” the other man—Aleks—snapped. “You’re being recorded, you fucking idiot!” He grabbed James’s arm and pulled him back. “I apologize for him,” he said stiffly to Cas. “He’s having a hard time adapting to space after so long on the ground, his biorhythms are way off. I’ll take him to the infirmary.”

“You do that,” Cas replied. He looked around the room. Two more people were on their feet, ready to intervene, but they looked angrier at Private Grenier than at him. Molson and…Yeun, good to know. He might engage with them later, but for now, he had a husband waiting to be fed, and a whole slew of questions to ask him. “Enjoy your meals,” he said politely, then left the mess hall.

His coming conversation with Rone was about to be a lot more interesting than Cas had originally planned.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Eleven: Part One

Notes: Heeeey, how about some awkward self-satisfaction today? Oh Cas, you're so organized except when you're really, really not. Explicit masturbation ahead, don't read it if you don't like it.

Title: Mutable: Chapter Eleven, Part One


Chapter Eleven, Part One

Not everyone’s reaction to planning the beginnings of their greatest revenge would have been to take a nap, but Cas wasn’t everyone. He carried a phage, and that phage was starting to make demands.

In most ways, the phage made Cas better. It was nearly-impenetrable camouflage, it offered incredible options for attack, it responded to commands and controls with precision and alacrity. It was like having a really excellent partner who lived just beneath his skin. In a few ways, though, the phage was a constant challenge.

The phage had needs, and when those needs became pressing, it took care of itself first. It didn’t give a damn about your plans or agenda, it didn’t care if you had someplace you absolutely had to be, it just took its due. Whether that was making you sleep for three days straight, eating a ridiculous amount of sugary food, or lying in a hot mud bath for hours on end, you would pay or you would damage it beyond repair.

The way to forestall that sort of desperate play by the phage was to take care of yourself while you did your job, but Cas simply hadn’t had the time or ability to do that lately. If he didn’t take some time now, though—if he didn’t let himself get a full twelve hours of sleep, at a minimum—then the phage would stop supporting his shift. He needed to let it go for longer than the nap he’d gotten earlier, back in Rone’s tent. He needed to turn back into himself for a while and let the phage, and his own cells, rest and recover.

He had the time now, but he was also trapped in this ship, and undoubtedly being monitored by his husband. Privacy wasn’t something he could reasonably expect—if it wasn’t Rone, then it might be someone on the medical team. Either way, he couldn’t risk it, so he needed to come up with a reason to hide his face.

Remembering his last mud bath gave him an idea. “AI,” he said. “What personal hygiene products are available for use?”

It listed about ten basic products: soap, shampoo, exfoliants, antibacterials. Not quite what Cas was looking for. “Can anything be more specifically synthesized?”

“We do not have that capacity on board, Consort.”

Lovely. He’d have to make this on his own, then. “Fine. I need the basic soap, a moisturizing lotion, and a bowl of cooked oatmeal.”

“I will ensure you are supplied.”

“Thank you.” Joy of joys, it was time for a facial.

It was a clumsy way to hide a change in his appearance, but Cas had used it before. As long as he caked whatever product he was going to wear on thick enough, it would hide the imperfections in his mask. He and Beren were so close in appearance anyway, it wouldn’t take much. It would give him the excuse he needed to rest the phage and keep Rone entertained if he bothered to check on him. Speaking of which… “AI, how long before my dinner appointment with Rone?”

“Fourteen standard hours.”

Perfect. “Please wake me in thirteen if I’m not already up.”

“I will do so.” The door chimed. “Your requests have arrived.”

Even better.

It didn’t take long to mix up something that would render him unrecognizable without harming his skin. Cas went into the bathroom to apply the paste to his face, caking it on thick enough that he’d have to let it dry some before lying down. Once he was sure his coverage was good, he let the phage withdraw, not just relax the way he’d done earlier. It retreated into itself, deep under the surface, and Cas resisted the urge to gasp.

Fuck, that hurt. His muscles had to remember how to take the weight of his own features. He stared at his ridiculous reflection and willed himself not to cry—there was no phage right now to block his tear ducts, but by god he wasn’t going to reapply all this shit because he ruined it with a tear. He’d be fine. He just needed to lie down.

Cas’s whole body ached as he eased himself onto the bed, the residual damage that the phage had been compensating for catching up with him. Without it to help manage his reactions, everything he felt seemed magnified. Cas settled his head back on his pillow and sighed deeply. Whatever. He was disguised, he had an alarm set, he needed to sleep. His body would follow suit fast enough.

Only…it wasn’t. He was getting horny instead.

It fucking figured. First time in a bed in what felt like ages, the first time letting the phage relax in even longer, and instead of getting its own much-needed rest, his body decided “woohoo, time to let loose!” Of course, it had been something like…weeks…months since he’d last come, but…

Cas glared down at his erection, tenting the fabric of the loose pants he wore. It remained unfazed. “Fine,” he snapped, getting under the top blanket before he shoved his pants down. If there was an observer checking in on him now, they weren’t going to get a show. “AI, take the lights down to five percent.”

“Yes, Consort.”

Undoubtedly the place was equipped with night vision, but every little bit of cover helped. He would just take care of this fast, and then—

“Ohhh.” It had been a long time since he’d let himself get hard like this. Just the touch of his own hand made Cas tremble like he’d been punched in the gut. “Fuck.” He started to bite his lip, then stopped, remembering the mask covering his face. A mouthful of soap would only make things even more awkward right now.

All right, fine, it was…kind of nice. Cas closed his eyes and stroked himself, squeezing tight from tip to root, no teasing or playing around. He wasn’t in it for something long and languorous—he needed to get off and get to sleep. Up, down, up, down, fucking up into his fist a little bit as he thought of nothing much at all, nothing except—

--Rone’s broad shoulders straining the fabric of his uniform, and that smiling mouth, and how good it would be sliding down his cock and—

No. No indulging in using his husband as mental candy, he was using the man enough already. Cas was going to seduce him, wanted to lock him in tight before he started the next phase of his operation, but that didn’t mean he had to be a little shit about it.

It’ll go better with you being attracted to him, the logical side of his mind somehow found the blood flow to say. Might as well get used to coming with him on your mind.

Fine. Then this was going to be over very quickly.

If Cas had his way—if he didn’t have to pretend to be Beren, who would be shy and suggestible in bed, then he would put his handsome husband on his back, spend about an hour opening him up with his fingers and tongue and whatever they had on hand that would fit inside of him, then fuck him so hard he couldn’t breathe. He’d bend Rone’s knees back until they touched his ears and use the phage to keep himself hard, to delay coming until he’d made Rone spill at least twice, then—and only then—let go. There was nothing better than riding that edge, making your lover both satisfied and desperate until finally—

Mmmmmm…” He came as quietly as he could manage, only remembering at the last second that when he didn’t have the phage, he couldn’t control whether he actually ejaculated or not as he orgasmed. And this time, whoa, did he ever.

“Shit.” He’d made a mess of this blanket. He should clean it up, but…damn, he was tired now. And there were two more of them.

Cas shoved the messy blanket off to the side of the bed, pulled another one up, settled back carefully enough that his mask stayed in place, and finally let himself fall asleep the way his body was screaming for.

He’d better damn well wake up before Rone got in here and saw all this.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Read Tempest on Wattpad

Hi guys!

It's a busy birthday for me--omg, is it ever--but fyi, if anyone is interested in reading my mm fantasy romance Tempest (the one Samhain pubbed before they went under) I'm posting it chapter by chapter over on Wattpad. You can find it here. This is kind of an experiment for me, so...yeah, we'll see if itgets traction there. I'll be self-publishing it later, but for now, well...here you go!


Read, enjoy, be happy. <3 p="">

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Mutable: Chapter Ten, Part Two

Notes: New chapter is up, finally! Baby girl's teeth have slowed their inexorable invasion, so it was easier to get things done. This chapter is extra long, too, so enjoy Cas learning about who betrayed him and where they are today ;)

Title: Mutable: Chapter Ten, Part Two


Chapter Ten, Part Two

Cas was convinced that there had probably never been a more knowledgeable, less suspicious source for information than Private Fillie. She was like a bioluminescent eel lighting the way through an underwater cavern—completely unconcerned with any sense of danger, even though she really should be.

“Here you go!” she said enthusiastically as she sat down across from Cas in the mess hall, stretching her wrist out. “I’ve got all the names and locations queued up and set to transfer, if you’re ready.”

“Definitely.” Was he ever. “How do I take them, though?”

“Just hold out your hand.” Cas did so, and she briefly touched their wrists together. A moment later there was a tiny flash of blue light beneath his skin. “And done! You can pull the information up on a private pad in your room, or on one of the walls or a viewscreen if you let the AI scan for it.”

He would not be doing that, thank you very much. There was no sense in making it easier for someone else to track his actions than he had to. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re so welcome! So.” She tied her curly red hair back, then tucked into the plate of—some sort of potato hash, maybe?—in front of her. “How are you finding life on the ship so far?”

Cas smiled. “Well, it hasn’t been very long, but it’s…it’s really amazing.” He didn’t have to force any astonishment into his voice, either. It was all amazing to him. “Getting off world was a little frightening, but Rone helped me handle it.”

“Awww.” She looked like she wanted to clap her hands to her cheeks and was barely restraining herself. “That’s so sweet! He’s the best, right? I told you he was the best.”

“He really is.” He was a lot of other things too, things that Cas would be investigating now that he had the means to. The first thing on his list—what could have caused his husband’s glowing eyes after the eater attack. “Are you enjoying being on board again?”

She shrugged. “Yes and no. I really like being planetside, especially somewhere I’ve never been before, but usually we get shore leave, a chance to explore on our own. Not this time.” She paused to eat a bite, then said, “I got really tired of looking at the same grey walls after a while.”

“It’s too bad you didn’t get a chance to see more of the land itself.” Cas decided to offer her something, since she’d been so helpful to him. It wouldn’t cost him anything, and it might make her happy. “If things had been different, maybe you could have visited one of the caves. There were some that were filled with crystals stretching from floor to ceiling, coated in glowing algae. Walking through them was like walking through a forest coated in gemstones.”

Fillie nearly dropped her fork. “Wow,” she murmured. “It sounds gorgeous.”

It felt surprisingly nice to have his former home appreciated. “They came in every color imaginable. Red and orange and violent and even a black that glowed with a golden undertone.” The black was also highly lethal and would kill you if you touched it with your bare hands, but she didn’t need to know that. “Sometimes people would harvest the little crystals and give them as presents to their lovers. Green meant new love, purple meant forever friendship. Orange was for passion, and red was a mourning color, meaning your thoughts were with them as they grieved.”

“Oh.” She looked a little taken aback. “So Imperians must look like we’re in mourning all the time to you.”

“It’s taken some getting used to,” Cas confessed shyly, but in truth he’d been exposed to the Leelangers enough that his native colors sense had ceased to confuse him outside the caves. “And it doesn’t matter anymore anyway,” he added. “Since none of us live there anymore, and the Leelangers never would. The crystals will have the caves to themselves from here on out.”

“That’s…that’s kind of sad.”

“War is sad.” Cas felt a little melancholy too now, at the thought of never seeing the vast, sparkling caverns again. The crystals themselves were mostly useless—not valuable as weapons or to trade, and after the algae died, not even really valuable as keepsakes. They had been a part of his childhood, though, one of the easiest ways to show affection in a world where emotions were normally kept as hidden as their own city. “Being part of a people scattered across the system because we have no real home now is sad. But nature going back to the way it was for millions of years before we came along and started chipping at it?” Cas smiled a little. “That’s not really sad. It’s…inevitable, I guess.” He self-consciously stroked a fingertip over his implant. “Thank you for this information, really. I think I’ll feel better knowing just a little bit more about where everyone ended up.” He pushed away from the table and stood up. “I think I’m going to spend some time in my rooms now. I’ll see you later?”

“Yeah,” Fillie said, a little flustered but trying not to show it. “Of course, whenever you want. I’ll be there.”

“I appreciate it.” Cas walked out of the mess hall, very conscious of the eyes on him as he left. Not just Fillie, not just a few random gawkers who hadn’t been introduced to him yet, but one person in particular watched him like she could see right through him if she just stared hard enough. Nurse Galway. She’d take some monitoring, he decided. Cas would have to look into her associates, too—it was hard to know what he was dealing with here, and he didn’t like being behind the curve.

If he’d been home, he’d have already known every political, social, personal and monetary angle there was to be had behind a look like that. In this ship, he knew next to nothing. On Imperia he’d be even worse off if he didn’t step up his personal education. He needed Fillie for that—documentaries could only take you so far.

Fillie was for tomorrow, though. Tonight, until he met Rone for dinner, was for his people.

Cas returned to his rooms, grabbed his pad and retreated to the far side of the big, too-comfortable bed, then got to work. It didn’t take long to engage every privacy setting offered to him, then upload the new files. He was probably being overly cautious, but…you never knew what someone else might find suspicious. Better not to test it.

The information from Fillie was disheartening, mostly because it spoke to how successful the Leelangers had been at taking advantage of internal Delacoeurian betrayal to commit atrocities. There had never been many of them, but they’d numbered over five thousand in Shyne, their capitol, before the invasion.  Fewer than ten percent of that had made it off the planet, beneficiaries of Imperian “work service” programs that looked more like indentured servitude than a chance to build a new life.

Cas bit the inside of his cheek, hard. Those fucking tools…he was going to kill them so, so slowly when he found them. They’d pay for what they did to their own people.

Speaking of…the first common denominator would be status. None of these people had been poor in Shyne, and none of them would want to step into a situation that would leave them worse off if they could help it. Cas had to look for the good jobs, the best of the best, and deduce from there.

For starters—Mayor Jasen Pendry. Shyne’s defenses had been multilayered, extremely elaborate, and required two key players to compromise. The first of them was the civilian leader, who knew the access codes and supply routes better than anyone. Jasen Pendry was as slick as any Delacoeurian ever could be, and he’d been ambitious. He’d encouraged not just Cas, but all of the phage-bearers to do more for the city, disrupt more of Leelinge, persuade more people to attempt the phage. He’d lived large among them, a beautiful, smiling serpent. He would be somewhere nice now, under a brand-new identity.

Jasen didn’t have much in the way of technical skills, though. Once Cas narrowed down the few high-paying jobs and weeded out the hardcore techies, there were only three names. One was a biologist Cas knew, lured to a new planet with the promise of her own lab—fair enough, she was brilliant in her own right. One was a geneticist—another given. The last one…the man who bore that name had been a janitor. Now, apparently, he was a psychologist.

“Holden Kaske.” Cas swallowed hard and memorized the name, then moved on.

The other key player who would have to be turned in order to make it to Shyne was Commander Marigo. Glynnis Marigo had been a good soldier, one of the few people who’d carried a phage and lived long enough to expel it without dying. She’d kept order in the ranks, she’d had numerous military successes against the Leelangers. After her only daughter to make it to adulthood died in the line of duty though, she’d changed. She’d turned inward, stopped speaking with the troops, handed over day-to-day responsibilities for people. She had to have cooperated with the invaders. Deactivated alarms, disabled traps. She left Shyne defenseless, and the Leelanger army had marched through and killed, and killed, and killed…

Cas brushed a tear out of the corner of his eye and kept looking at jobs. Military, military…there were a few minor positions listed, but the people pictured matched their descriptions. There had to be a classification he was missing. He couldn’t picture the commander cleaning or farming, so what…

Hmm. Interesting. “Innkeeper.” Someone was brought on to manage a decent-sized business here, and that someone was…Melaria Yoshika. Cas had never met Melaria, but he knew her brother. The man had died on the next-to-last day of the invasion, but before he’d gone, Ryu had bemoaned his sister’s fate, and the deaths of all her children.

Hello, Commander. He memorized her new information and, hands trembling a bit, began searching for the last and most important name. Because every ring needed a leader, an idea person, and that could only be Christala.

She’d wanted so much, and lashed out about being denied it. She’d been so smart, so very, very smart, and so charismatic. She’d been Pendry’s lover, and so close to Glynnis she might as well have been adopted. And she’d hated Shyne so much, and Cas along with it.

Her hating him was incidental, but it had certainly been returned. Sometimes talent fed off other talent, grew with it, but sometimes it wanted to cut its throat. It had been like that between them. They were the most successful phages of their generation, but Cas had been just a tiny bit better, and she had hated him for it.

In the end, her profile was the easiest to find. Christala craved the high life, the fine things that she felt living underground had denied her. She would be on Imperia, she would be well-paid, and her mask would be flawless.

She was Danie Yorque now, linguist, translator, and very, very beautiful. Christala and Danie had been friends, back before all this. Cas wondered if Christala had killed Danie herself, or simply taken advantage of her death.

It didn’t matter. She was on Imperia, just as he’d thought. That meant he could start with her.