Hello, loyal readers! The countdown to Christmas is over — Christmas Eve is here! Most of you will be opening presents tomorrow morning, but we thought we’d give you a little something to enjoy the night before. Behold, your gift story for this year:
Home for the Holidays
by H.B. Kurtzwilde
Vanni held tight to Kourt’s arm while they climbed through the twisted passageways of Port Calm Monsoon Dry Wind. He had gotten them a slot in the repairs arm, and a room near the middle of the spindle. It was the best hospitality they could be offered.
Port Calm Monsoon Dry Wind was one of the few stationary places owned by the people of the Home Ships. Vanni had never been allowed inside before. On his visits to his folks, he had been far too young to see this pit of lawlessness and debauchery. If he’d had a choice, he would never have brought Servitor Master Kourt Crowe to such a place.
Not that Kourt would be shocked, but that he would probably like it too well, and start to wonder about Vanni’s childhood. The trouble was, Vanni had allowed Vanni to modify their vessel any way he wanted. Now that the coolant system had developed inefficiencies, the original manual was useless. Vanni needed the expertise of those who had taught him to tinker, and that meant going home.
Only after arrival did he stop to check the local calendar. There was always a one in seven chance of there being some kind of festival, remembrance or holiday going on among the Home Ships. Without intending to, Vanni had led Kourt straight into the biggest event in the ship year.
“Are people always this festive here?” Kourt shouted above the assortment of loud music.
“Probably,” Vanni sad. “The only reason to come here is to make cred and spend it, as rapidly as possible. This is my first time in port. This all might be because everyone’s having a birthday at the same time.”
“How’s that?” Kourt asked. “You humans don’t have a birthing season.”
“Age is accounted by year of arrival, not day,” Vanni said. “You reckon I’m about twenty-six or so. Everybody here thinks I’m about to turn thirty.”
“So it’s your birthday too?” Kourt asked.
“More like, happy new year,” Vanni tried to explain.
“But you don’t care what day you were born on,” Kourt said. “This is what you would get instead, right?”
“Instead of what?” Vanni asked.
“Cake and ice cream, paper hats,” Kourt said. “Silly games with your friends and family. The Garus were very big on happy returns of the day.”
“That must be an Eab Nanoorn thing,” Vanni said. “I never heard of it.”
“Oh,” Kourt said. “I thought it was a human thing. What about presents?”
“They burn paper stuff for the ancestors,” Vanni said. “At least, that’s what I heard. I didn’t spend much time out here, all told. I’ve always been in a university when this day rolled around. Duck your head here. Anyway, I’d settle for a place to sit down.”
They came to their room and Vanni got his wish. The accommodation was familiar to him, but Kourt was curious about everything. He soon discovered for himself how the furnishings hung suspended from the ceiling, and stowed high up high to make the most of limited space.
“Maybe we should try to visit your family,” Kourt hazarded. “You might have cousins here.”
“I do,” Vanni said. “Every single person you just waded through is at least my cousin but probably closer. I’d rather not attempt to socialize.”
“How about shopping?” Vanni asked. “It’s human here. We could get clothes and food.”
“If you like,” Vanni said. “I need a nap. I can’t think of the last real sleep I got, with babying that coolant pump along.”
Kourt took down the swing bed and loaded it up with their pillows and blankets. Vanni shucked out of his boots and uniform, then went gratefully to that warm, soft nest. Kourt drew him close and rubbed his back, humming and soothing tunes until Vanni drifted off to sleep.
He woke alone, rocking in the swing bed. He could feel Kourt reaching through the Telsma to keep that steady rhythm going while he busied himself with other things. The room smelled of citrus and roasted meat. Here and there, Kourt had affixed paper flowers to the walls. The man himself stood studying a sizzler wand like he knew it did tricks but couldn’t figure out how.
“Break off the tip,” Vanni said through a yawn. “Skies above. Do I smell coffee?”
“No, it’s only kav,” Kourt said, apologetic. “I looked for coffee. Honest, I did.”
“Kav is plenty close enough,” Vanni said, crawling out of the nest. On his way to the hot pot, he took the sizzler and snapped the tip off, setting the false sparks going for Kourt. “Wave it. You can draw pictures if you’re fast.”
Kourt laughed in childish delight, marking patterns in trails of sparkling colored light. “I love birthdays. Never had one myself, of course. But I’ve always liked the idea of them.”
“No hatching day parties for you?” Vanni asked, amused. “You ought to be too old to like sizzlers by now. Are you drunk?”
“Not yet,” Kourt said. “But I got started without you. Would you like a bath?”
Vanni didn’t bother to reply. He threw the door open on a tiny washroom and found that Kourt had already set the sealed tub to heat. Vanni tossed his grubby clothes aside and started to shut the door.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to scrub your back?” Kourt quietly asked.
Vanni hesitated. “Are you offering to help me wash? Just how young do you think I am?”
“Either twenty-seven or thirty, so plenty old enough,” Kourt said. “You should let me. I think you would enjoy it.”
“No,” Vanni said. “But you can watch. I’m about as hungry as I am dirty, and don’t want to distract you from that meat.”
“Fair enough,” Kourt said with a smile. “Whatever you like. I love you. You are beautiful. And today is a special occasion.”
Vanni found once more that he could not tell if Kourt was making a joke or not. He sat down on a low stool and started scrubbing all over. “Not really. You shouldn’t pay any attention to cultural habits.”
“Why not?” Kourt asked in childish tones of disappointment. “Because I’m a Servitor? Because you are? Because I’m Crecarian, and only human about as deep as my skin? What if I said you ought not to resist pleasure with the same bitter determination that you resist pain?”
Vanni groaned under so many questions posed so fast. He let his hair down and combed it, then settled in to wash its thick, silver-blond lengths. Out of bone-deep habit, he kept his mouth shut until he had considered the questions appropriately.
When he was done rinsing the suds away, he turned to smile at his lover. Kourt wasn’t even looking. All of his attention was on the food. For all Vanni knew, Kourt had watched until the last moment, or not at all.
He might have sneaked into Kourt’s mind to find out, but it wasn’t worth provoking him. Instead, he asked “Did I miss a spot?”
“No,” Kourt said.
“Are you sure?”
Kourt turned around, surprised. “Yes, I’m sure. Did you want me to see, or did you merely endure my admiration?”
Vanni stood up slowly, arching his back to make the best of his lean, strong and perfectly symmetrical figure. “I take pleasure in your admiration. Only, I rarely see you acknowledge something so insignificant as my—“
Kourt was up and across the room so fast, Vanni hardly saw him move. Kourt scooped him up in his arms and sucked a deep kiss form Vanni’s lips as he kicked the cover off the bathtub. Gently, Kourt lowered Vanni into the hot water, as if tucking him into a soft bed.
“Nothing about you is insignificant,” Kourt said. “I watch you all the time. Only, you’ve acted uncomfortable every time you see me looking. Now, enjoy your bath and get ready to come out with me. We are going to celebrate the beauty of you.”
“Yes,Kourt,” Vanni said.
The last thing he wanted was to comply. Every time Kourt kissed him, Vanni wanted to skip over all other considerations directly to a quick fuck. Over time, he had learned that if he was patient, Kourt would give him everything he wanted and more.
He stayed in the tub until Kourt called him on to eat. He dried off and went to get clean clothes. That was when he noticed the spread Kourt had assembled. He stood over the table and studied it, trying to remember where he’d seen such a thing before.
“Seven-dish feast,” Kourt said, filling in the blank Vanni was drawing. “The lady at the meat stall said, specially for today. It’s all things you like, or at least things you’ve eaten without objection.”
“If you make me go through all this, you have to come too,” Vanni said. “It’s for everybody.”
“I don’t have a birthday,” Kourt repeated. “And I can’t see celebrating my emergence. I was alive long before that day came. All I remember is being cold, alone, desperately hungry and violent for the first time in my life. It’s hardly worth a party.”
“Well,” Vanni hesitated, squaring up to the challenge of winning any kind of disagreement against a Master Servitor. “You’re not violent today, nor cold or alone. You’ve come a long way in just two hundred years. That’s something, at least.”
“Fair enough,” Kourt said. “Get dressed. Showing me that fine ass of yours isn’t going to change my plans.”
Vanni pulled out his wear-softened work pants and a knit shirt, then sat down to the feast Kourt had arranged. Beside real meat there were fried vegetables, mashed ones and long roasted yellow things. Kourt had somehow got hands on fresh bread, sweet wafers and fruit as well. There was more than plenty of beer. All Vanni had to do was sit down and eat it. They devoured everything in old Servitor style, acknowledging that good things weren’t guaranteed to come again.
When Kourt stood and stretched, he looked too relaxed to be also full of energy. He grabbed Vanni by the arm and steered him out into the corridor. Whatever the hour by local reckoning, it was a noisy one.
Kourt smiled serenely as they let the crowds carry them along. They came at last to the center of the spindle. In most port stations, some sort of trick would be in place to disguise the fact of being inside a large spinning tube. Perhaps an artificial sky, or an elaborate but unnecessary ceiling would hide the truth.
Not so for Port Calm Monsoon Dry Wind. The Home Ship people saw a sky as a prison. Wide-open spaces were so rare and precious, they were revered. Kourt and Vanni stood out in the crowd by virtue of their suntans. The crowd above and below was uniquely and uniformly space-living humans. Their bodies were thin as if elongated by the light-gravity lives they enjoyed.
Though tall, Vanni had never fit in among them. He was fluent in Tene Tatu, but his first language had been PCU Type 5 Standard, as taught to him in the nursery of a Servitor university. He spoke six other languages beside those, and was learning Vantishari from Kourt. The Home Ship people would hardly admit they spoke anything but Tene Tatu, unless there was cred to be made. He understood the songs going on above and below, but preferred Kourt’s lullabies.
“Those songs you sing at night,” Vanni asked, lips close to Kourt’s ear. “What language are they in?”
“Anglois,” Kourt said. “They’re songs to make human children sleep. Didn’t you know?”
“Nope,” Vanni said. “I just suddenly wondered. They’re nicer than these ones.”
“Oh yeah?” Kourt asked. “These sound happy. What are they singing about?”
“Cred,” Vanni said. “Wars and pillage. Greed. And how proud they are to have the chance at another year of it all.”
“Huh.” Kourt smiled on. “I guess it’s better that I don’t need to understand. Come here.”
Kourt drew Vanni closer, and left his arm tight around Vanni’s hips. He forced his way through the crowd until they were pressed in at the central railing. Kourt pulled out his pack of sizzlers and shared them with Vanni. All up and down the port, others were sending out streamers and light shows. Kourt laughed over it all, and joined in without hesitation.
When a fellow came by selling milk-looking wine, Kourt bought the largest-sized bottle. Vanni helped him drink it, by now accustomed to Kourt’s expectations regarding a journeyman’s tolerances. Kourt held him closer, kissed him time and again, and helped him stay upright as the crowds buffeted them.
“See?” Kourt asked, leaning in to nibble at Vanni’s neck. “I can’t have this moment without you. Isn’t that worth a party, at you are here and so am I?”
“Oh yes,” Vanni agreed, then hiccuped. “But I’d rather be alone with you right now. All I can think about is how it feels when you’re inside me.”
“Just keep thinking, little Vanni boy,” Kourt said, like a promise.
“I will,” Vanni said. “Want me to show you?”
“I have my own imagination, thanks,” Kourt said. “And for me, anticipation is part of the pleasure. Now, look at that. What is it?”
Vanni leaned over the railing and saw that among the confetti and balloons, there were people out beyond the railings .Vanni tossed his sizzler to see what it did. Instead of falling or rising, it drifted. “Dunno. Maybe the grav’s off. It wouldn’t matter much in this crowd. They can do with it or not, once there’s enough open bottles. You want to try it?”
Then Kourt was up and over, spinning confidently, reaching to catch Vanni in his arms once again. Vanni leaped to catch up to him. They held tight to each other, but more people were reaching out to them. Then Vanni noticed what else was drifting among the false sparks, streamers and confetti.
“Oh,” Kourt said, catching a passing shirt. “Is it an orgy? I wasn’t expecting group nudity.”
“Me either,” Vanni said. “Though I guess the stories about this place had to start somewhere.”
“Are you into this?” Kourt asked.
The question came out calm, with no judgment. Vanni knew if he said yes, Kourt wouldn’t mind in the slightest. It all went back to Kourt’s unrelenting curiosity about what Vanni liked and wanted of their sex life. That intensity was unsettling, considering that Vanni had been strictly forbidden something so disorganized as love until Master Crowe came into his life.
Vanni looked around and shivered. “No, I don’t think so. If I’m going to get laid, that’s something I only do with you.”
“Then we’d better get out of here,” Kourt said. “Sometimes people forget to take no for an answer.”
“That isn’t going to work for me,” Vanni said. “I’m not sharing you. Not even the visuals.”
“I think you have a jealous streak,” Kourt said, smiling wider. “I like it.”
Vanni laughed, and Kourt shoved off from a convenient body to set them drifting toward a railing. Jealous? Oh yes. Possessive, obsessed, all the things Vanni had been warned of that made love dangers came quiet naturally to him these days. Never mind that his training had supposedly put an end to those impulses, Kourt had reawakened a few of Vanni’s primal, human instincts.
The alcohol was also doing its part to undo Vanni’s self-restraint. While the rest of the port seemed bent on communal excess, Kourt and Vanni quietly retreated to their ideas of indulgence. Was it secretive, like a Servitor should be, or merely a desire for privacy? Vanni couldn’t care. As soon as the door closed, he reached to loosen Kourt’s clothes.
This was not their usual, semi-formal, focused and disciplined style. Kourt kissed Vanni again, but this time there was something very Servitor indeed flowing between them. Vanni grasped as raw emotion, love and pure lust, crashed through their physical contact. Something deeper, wilder and more urgent pulsed underneath it all. For once, Vanni didn’t resist whatever it was that rose up so naturally in his lover.
“Please, I need it,” Vanni said. He shoved his hand down Kourt’s pants, rubbing at that crazily sensitive, so-xeno spot on his belly. He felt it when, instead of going hard like a human might, Kourt shifted his shape to suit their purposes. “Let me see, or let me feel it. I don’t care which.”
Kourt laughed, but let his eyes change shape to their natural, slitted irises. “There, my horny xenophile. Is that what you need? An alien you can see?”
Even with that gentle teasing, Vanni only wanted more. One day, Kourt would trust him completely. He would put aside his entire human act and show Vanni what was hiding under perfect muscles and golden skin. But for now, this was plenty to interest whatever it was that made Vanni seek out and embrace that which was radically different from himself.
“Right here,” Vanni said, leaning up against the wall. “Those swing beds are dangerous for anything energetic.”
“Turn around,” Kourt said as he dropped down to knee.
Vanni obeyed on pure instinct, leaned his weight against the wall and shoved his pants down. Kourt grasped Vanni’s buttocks and parted them wide. Vanni sighed happily, then Kourt licked form the base of his coccyx down to his perineum, and lapped his way back up to Vanni’s hole.
“Please,” Vanni whimpered, then made himself clench his jaw. He didn’t want to distract Kourt form whatever he had in mind.
Kourt lapped eagerly at Vanni, but even in this it was nothing like what Vanni might have had with a human. Saliva was all well and good, but what Kourt had was thick and made his skin tingle. The tip of Kourt’s tongue penetrated Vanni with delightful gentleness, spreading that modified saliva deeper.
“Kourt,” Vanni moaned. “Please. I need your cock. I miss it so much. You said I had to ask first.”
Once again, Kourt did that stunt of moving so fast Vanni couldn’t track him. There was only a change of heat and pressure. Kourt’s hands clenching at Vanni’s wrists, then the blunt tip of his shaft pressing urgently at Vanni’s ass. Even after all this time, Vanni had no idea if this act had even a passing resemblance to what Kourt would have enjoyed with a Crecarian. He wanted to care, but Kourt had taken him from zero to fuck-me-now in about two minutes.
Kourt kissed so hard on the back of Vanni’s neck, it was almost biting. “You feel so good.”
Vanni relaxed into Kourt’s slow penetration. “Tell me what you want, please, just this once.”
Kourt laughed against Vanni’s neck. “You really don’t listen to a word I say. Just trust me, like you always do.”
Vanni groaned as Kourt began once more to fill him in that unique way of his. Vanni arched his back, spreading wider as Kourt sank into him. Though they stood perfectly still, Kourt’s shaft grew thicker and longer, piercing Vanni as deep as he could take. Vanni whimpered, certain that this was the time he would break under that relentless pressure.
“That’s it,” Kourt purred into Vanni’s ear. “You can take it. Duzzin’ hurt. Just relax, lover. I’ve got you.”
Vanni squirmed, Kourt groaned and that strange sense of connection-beyond-flesh snapped comfortably into place. Something in their Telsma senses fused, echoing traces of sensation and emotion back and forth. At least, Vanni assumed Kourt got the same feedback as he did. He hardly felt this was the time to ask.
“Deeper,” Vanni begged. “Please, Kourt, I can feel it, please! Do it again, I need it!”
“Sure thing, pretty Vanni,” Kourt said with a chuckle. “Real soon now.”
Vanni screamed as Kourt began at last to thrust. Whatever it was Kourt did to him, it overrode every thought beyond satisfaction. His flesh became the conduit for raw power, as if his love for Kourt had become a physical thing of flesh and bone. His ass bounced eagerly as Kourt rode him, but after a few minutes, even that was somewhat secondary to the real pleasure Kourt gave.
His need rose, too fast and too hot for him to endure long> Kourt’s control of the Telsma burned bright, keeping the torrents to something within reason. Vanni twisted and writhed, helpless and thrilling to the pulse of energy that echoed between them.
“Do it,” Vanni begged. “Please, Kourt, please do it to me again.”
“Right now?” Kourt asked, teasing again.
“Yes, skies above right now I want it now!”
“Now,” Kourt said, with the iron-sounding strength of a Suggestion skill to make it real.
Vanni shouted as Kourt’s will rolled what was left of his own. What Kourt desired was Vanni’s total satisfaction. With that wicked Suggestion trick, Vanni got precisely that. He came hard, for a long time, shivering and bucking through aftershocks that ran far beyond reason.
“Now,” Vanni managed to cry out, though his own Suggestion was a pitiful thing compared to Kourt’s.
Their bodies shook, and they slid down the wall together. Vaguely, Vanni was aware that his seed had splattered all over the place. That hardly seemed to matter as their mutual tremors went on and on.
Kourt kissed Vanni’s hair, still laughing as he shivered. “You should have let me do that to you in front of the whole port.”
“Skies no,” Vanni said, and coughed to clear the soreness from his throat. “They talk about me enough as it is.”
“Oh yeah?” Kourt asked. “What do they say?”
“That I’m a virgin,” Vanni said. “Don’t ruin their idea of my purity. It’s the only thing that kept them from selling me off by the hour when I was an apprentice.”
“For a Sourcerer, you’re a pretty good liar,” Kourt said. He got up and helped Vanni to the swing bed. “I’m impressed. Would they really have pimped you?”
“Sort of,” Vanni said, and yawned. “It would have been to do with arranging my dowry, which I don’t need because I’m not getting married. But I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have stopped them either. So. Virgin. And ever will be, as far as the Home Ship peoples will ever know. So when we wake up?”
“Do it again.”
Further racy imaginings of H B Kurtzwilde can be found in the whimsical steampunk adventure, “Chocolatiers Of The High Winds”:
Happy holidays, from all of us at Circlet Press!