Raymond Prescott had never thought of himself as a man who enjoyed pain. Pain was something to be endured, conquered, ignored, as often as not, because he could not afford to pay any attention to things other than his fleet, the men and women whose lives had been entrusted to his hands.
When asked, and compelled to answer with full honesty, Prescott might have listed good food, a comfortable chair and a well-written book as things he enjoyed. It would have never occurred to him that he might enjoy the touch of soft, well-groomed fur against his naked skin, and it certainly would not have entered his mind that even more than the soft fur, he savored the sensation of very sharp claws ghosting over his skin, not quite drawing blood ... yet.
The first time that had happened, Zhaarnak had been mortified. Prescott thanked his lucky stars that he had been clear-headed enough to notice and reassure Zhaarnak that he did not mind at all - the opposite, as a matter of fact.
Zhaarnak had been dubious, but he had been forced to accept Prescott's ... hard evidence.
Now, it had become almost a game, albeit one where the loser often left as satisfied as the winner.
Zhaarnak would try to control himself, to keep his claws sheathed. As an Orion, he hardly needed claws to gain a physical edge over Prescott, who stayed in shape well enough for the demands of commanding a fleet, but who had no illusions regarding his abilities when it came to hand-to-hand combat.
Of course, the fact that Prescott lacked the physical prowess of, say, a Marine did not mean he had no other means at his disposal to bend Zhaarnak to his will.
Not that Zhaarnak required any bending, most of the time. Prescott knew that the vilkshatha bond had not turned him and Zhaarnak into soulmates or some such thing. They could not read one another's minds, or feel one another's pain, or sense when the other was in danger.
It sure feels like it sometimes, though, Prescott thought, shivering as Zhaarnak's tongue lapped at his chest. For another Orion, it would have been a grooming gesture.
For a human like Prescott, it was purely sexual. Zhaarnak knew that by now, which was why he had done it. Prescott had no idea if Zhaarnak enjoyed the act or if the only thing he enjoyed was Prescott's reaction. Perhaps there was little difference between the two, just like there was little difference between Prescott savoring the sensation of Zhaarnak's fur against his hands as well as the expression on Zhaarnak's face as Prescott got his hands on some of the more sensitive parts of his body.
Humans and Orions might not share all the same erogenous zones, but that only meant Prescott and Zhaarnak kept finding new things about each other's bodies to enjoy.
By now, Prescott could write a book about the feasibility Human-Orion sexual relationships. Not that he had any intention of doing so. No-one would buy it, anyway. Humans might find Orions attractive enough, but a peltless human body held little in the way of attraction for your average Orion.
Lucky me, for running into an Orion who is anything but.
Zhaarnak growled softly, a deep sound that had once frozen prey animals in their tracks as they watched their deaths come upon them. On Prescott, the effect was somewhat different.
"You're being very quiet," Zhaarnak said, in the Tongue of Tongues.
"You're not giving me much to get loud about," Prescott replied in the same language, baring a small portion of his teeth as he smiled, to make his response a challenge rather than a complaint.
He knew Zhaarnak would not be fooled: Prescott's own body gave away the fact that Prescott was far from indifferent to Zhaarnak's ministrations.
The real challenge was for Zhaarnak to get Prescott to admit so out loud, by preference without unsheathing his claws. That, Zhaarnak might find far more difficult to accomplish, though Prescott knew that when it came to his vilkshatha brother, his own will was as weak as a kitten's.
In bed, at least, even if the Orion did not employ such furniture, preferring to do their sleeping and not-sleeping in a nest constructed of pillows instead. Prescott found the practice easy enough to get used to, discovering Zhaarnak far more reluctant to spend the night in a human bed, for all that Zhaarnak had been quick enough to grasp the practical uses of bed posts.
Blankets, alas, were a problem. Prescott needed them; Zhaarnak despised them, alternately claiming that they were too heavy, too light, too warm, or too thin to keep Prescott warm enough.
Thus, often as not they ended up at Zhaarnak's quarters.
Zhaarnak hissed softly, to indicate an acceptance of Prescott's challenge. Prescott felt a shiver run down his spine, even though he had heard the sound plenty of time before - or perhaps because I have heard it before, and remember what usually follows.
"Very well. No more Mmmister Nnnice Guy."
Prescott chuckled, realizing his mistake too late to keep the sound inside. The expression on Zhaarnak's face sent another shiver down his spine. His mouth went dry, even though he rationally knew that Zhaarnak would never hurt him - well, no more than I want him to, anyway, Prescott amended as he felt one of Zhaarnak's claws break skin.
He almost broke right then and there, feeling the word 'please' hover on his tongue already. Zhaarnak would not stop, of course, nor would Prescott want him to, but honor would be satisfied in regards to the challenge.
Zhaarnak watched him closely, as much to enjoy his reaction as to look for signs of distress Prescott knew. He wanted to say that there was no need, that nothing Zhaarnak could do to or with him in this moment would be unwelcome, but what remained of his common sense prevented him.
"You will regret your folly and beg me for forgiveness with your belly in the dust," Zhaarnak assured Prescott. "You had best seek to please me with great ardor."
Prescott considered pointing out that he would have to make a great effort indeed to find dust anywhere in Zhaarnak's rooms, given how thoroughly clean they were kept. The thought made him smile - without teeth, happily, though that was more luck than anything else.
Zhaarnak sighed. "I threaten you and you only smile at me. Do you think me a liar?"
"Never," Prescott said. "I cannot but humbly crave your pardon if such is the impression I gave you."
"My claws are dipped in your blood, Raaaymmonnd. It is a strange time to be joking." Zhaarnak raised one of his claws to his lips and licked them clean. Not that there had been all that much blood. Prescott experienced almost no pain, and what little he did feel was more than blotted out by his arousal.
"Perhaps you should seek to strike deeper next time," Prescott suggested. His stomach fluttered, imagining the sensation.
Zhaarnak's ears flicked. He had lost one half of the game already, by drawing blood. He would be loath to give away the second half as well, by doing as Prescott had asked him, effectively handing over the command on this encounter.
"Devious as always." Which was, Prescott knew, Zhaarnak's way of saying that he wanted to do what Prescott suggested. "Never did I imagine to meet someone like you, let alone a human."
Right back at you. Prescott summoned his most winning smile. "Now that you have me, wouldn't it be a pity to waste this opportunity? After all, who knows what tomorrow might bring?" Bugs or paperwork would both be good guesses. Prescott no longer knew what he hoped for. The waiting was getting to him. He wanted to do something, show the Bugs that they had met their match and more than their match.
"A sore back?" Zhaarnak suggested. "And, perhaps, in your case, a sore ass?"
Prescott made himself a little more comfortable in his nest of pillows. "Is that a promise or another threat?"
"Why not both?" Zhaarnak bared his teeth. Prescott decided that they were a lot more impressive than his mere human ones would ever be.
"Both works for me," he said. "Both works quite well, in fact."
Zhaarnak purred a chuckle and set out to prove that 'both' worked for him as well.