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Black Tattoo

"So hot," Jinme whispered as she lay on her back and stared up at the thatched ceiling of Jake's hut. The tattoo on her shoulder was still there, just as it had been for the past two months. Jake hoped that someday it might just disappear. He'd feel a lot safer if it did.

The black sun tattoo was huge. He had heard about such things, but had never thought to see one. He had expected it to be small, maybe something that he could cover with his hand, but no dice: the one on her shoulder would easily have peeked out from under his hand, probably both hands. It covered her shoulder, trailing down her arm and slithering into her shirt. He could see that one point might even trail down over her breast. He'd had more than a few glimpses of her full breasts in the past month. He didn't need to think about them more.

"Yup," Jake said. "Hotter than hell."

"Better than boat."

"You had a breeze."

"Him, too," she said. Jinme turned over, rose into a crouch on her knees and elbows, and then stretched out, one arm before, one leg and her tail behind, her lissome body reaching some apex and trembling hard with the effort, one arm and opposite leg outstretched. The tremble manifest in her strange ears with a fast shake, her tail echoed it with a sinuous wave. Jake's heart quickened slightly. He knew he shouldn't think of her that way, not with that tattoo, but he couldn't help it. She was beautiful in a way that such Bastet women were supposed to be beautiful. He just wished he were more attracted to her, or less. He wanted his twice-damned soul to make up its mind already.

"What happened to him?" Jake didn't even know who "he" was. Jinme had not been forthcoming about the name, profession, identity, or any other detail about her former owner. All he knew was that he had been a pirate.

Jake had dealt with pirates before. His tiny island was well to the East of the strait, but once in a while pirates ventured out this way with their speedboats, and sometimes they landed on his island for a night. The Royal Australian Navy liked to perform maneuvers in the straits and now that the war was over pirates were their targets of choice. When the pirates got word, they'd head out to open waters to get ships on their way in, where the pickings were slim but their odds of avoiding the RAN better. He never gave them trouble, and they never gave him any either.

"Oh," she said. "Out there." She gestured toward the beach and the blue open ocean, glistening through the palm trees like metallic wrapping paper torn from a much-wanted Christmas gift. "Somewhere."

Jake had an inkling that meant dead.

A seaplane buzzed low overhead, heading out over the water. Jake and Jinme looked at each other, then both ran to the beach and watched as the plane banked and came around for a landing. Pontoons created sheaves of foam before the plane settled, lost lift and sank to a comfortable float. Jinme grabbed his hand and held him back behind the tree line.

Jake had never known pirates to use seaplanes, but there was always a first time. If Jinme had murdered her former owner they might be in a vengeful hurry to find her. The plane pulled up to the sand.

Three young men got out and began tossing cargo onto the beach. Jake watched with dismay as they handled six large U.S. Army style locked trunks, almost a dozen floursack bags, and finally a large green duffel that Jake knew from experience contained one (1) U.S. Army regulation Four-man Durable Expedition Tent.

One of the young men had the ears of a Bastet protruding prominently above a shock of long, white hair. He looked at the wood line where Jinme had hidden, smiled and waved, shouted up to the plane. A tall, thin figure leaned out of the plane, followed by three other anxious faces. They all glanced up toward the treeline, none of them with quite the same precision as the first. One, an older gentleman, spoke to the Bastet. A brief conversation ensued. "He knows we here," Jinme said.

"I'm going," Jake said. He walked out and shouted, "Oy!"

The two men were startled, but the Bastet just turned and grinned, holding out his hand. Jake was momentarily startled by how... pretty he was in his khaki pants, white linen expedition shirt, and fisherman's vest. Jake flexed his fist in frustration. He had tried to put those experiences and those feelings behind him. They were part of the reason he was here.

The Bastet said, "I knew someone lived here. The maps said this island was deserted. Not even an indigenous population." The Bastet eyed him carefully. "You don't look like a native."

"I'm not, but it's my island."

"It's an ANZAC protectorate," one of the other young men said in a heavy Australian accent. "You're just a squatter."

Jake decided not to argue the matter. "What are you doing here?" he said.

"They're helping me unpack," said the Bastet. He too had the accent, just not as pronounced. "I'm stayin' for three months. Part of a post-war research project."

"What are you researching?"

"Birds."

"Yeah, birds. Counting and documenting the birds that come through here to see if the war did anything to their migratory patterns and population counts. Honeyeats, cuckooshrikes, orioles, whistlers, that kind of thing." He tapped a pair of field glasses he wore in a hard leather bag at his waist. "Holy Bast, a drongo!" He pointed at the treeline. Jake couldn't see a thing. "Damn, that's a rare bird."

An older man leaped out of the plane. "This one of your locals, Lyon?"

The Bastet said, "Yes, sir. Uh, I don't know your name, mate. I probably should, as we're going to be neighbors."

Jake didn't want a neighbor. Hell, he didn't want Jinme around, but it wasn't as if he had any way of getting rid of her. "Jake," he said.

"Jake. Professor Briaci, this is Jake. Jake, this is Professor Briaci of the Royal Academy of Science out of Darwin University."

Jake held out his hand. The old man looked Jake over as if he'd found an unusually unpleasant species of beetle before reaching out with his own hand. He wore a beautiful precision watch, the kind carrier pilots usually bought with a whole month's pay. "Huh. Jake, is it? What are you here for? Desertion? Murder?"

"Solitude," Jake said.

Briaci smiled wanly. "You're not going to be a danger, are you?"

"No, sir," Jake said.

"Well, Lyon is quiet, usually. And he can definitely take care of himself." He gave the Bastet a curious glance. Lyon's mouth twitched in a gentle smirk. "He won't give you any trouble. This island looks big enough I bet the two of you could go six months without seeing one another. Do you have trade with the world? Any pirate friends?"

Jake paused. "No friends among pirates, thanks. The supply boat comes through here once in a while." Jake had been hoping that it would come soon and take Jinme off his hands. Damn, after almost a year of peace suddenly the population of his island retreat had tripled.

"You're not from around here."

"No, sir. I'm from Kansas."

"The US? You're a long way from home. Are you a deserter?"

"No, sir. I've got my discharge. I just didn't want to go back to the farm yet."

"I see. Well, Lyon, let's get your new home set up."

"I'll help," Jake said.

An hour later, Jake and Lyon watched as the seaplane cranked up its engines and headed off with the other members of Lyon's bird-counting class. They had their own assignments on their own islands. Briaci assured them both that they would get to the next island before nightfall, and all would be well.

"So," Lyon said as they finished stacking a sack full of other bags of dried beans, peas, rice, and macaroni. "Who is she?"

Jake had been sure he wouldn't be able to keep Jinme a secret for long. The Bastet were rumored to have an excellent sense of smell, and Jake wondered if there was some kind of heat they would go through. That notion crept into his head and he looked at Lyon and wondered what he would look like naked... Jake shook his head. Lyon regarded him curiously.

"Her name is Jinme. She's– "

"Right over there." Lyon eyed Jinme as she walked into the small clearing where he had set up his tent. She walked with the same slow, sensual step she always had, as if her body were trying to carve curves out of the very air, and Jake's heart beat faster. Jake resolved not to get between them. Best to let them work it out, and leave him out of it.

Jake made introduction. Lyon eyed Jinme's shoulder, but didn't make any comments about the tattoo.

Lyon made dinner that night. Jake contributed fish and some taro that he had found growing further inland. Lyon also brought out some whiskey in a small flask. "I thought Bastet didn't drink," Jake said.

"People think weird things about us," Lyon assured him as he lifted the flask to his lips and swallowed.

Jinme and Lyon continued to eye each other with something that looked more like suspicion than desire. Jake knew almost nothing about Bastet. Jinme was the first one he had ever talked to, and other than the high, feline ears and long black tail she seemed like a completely normal, ordinary woman. Well, as ordinary as one could get having been the slave of a Hong Kong pirate. Bastet were incredibly rare creatures. Slavery of the Bastet had been common throughout the world, although it was illegal in the U.S, Australia, India, Europe, and now Japan and China. In nastier corners of the world, though, neither the Bastet nor their owners had gotten the memo.

Because of their resilience and resistance to disease, many of them ended up as prostitutes and playthings. Jinme seemed to fit the stereotype rather well, but Lyon was a different matter. He was as beautiful as Jake had heard a Bastet would be, but he was also a university student, doing research work in zoology. That didn't fit with his notion of what a Bastet would be like. He seemed as capable, as human, and just as smart as any man Jake had ever met.

For the next week, Jake and Jinme didn't see much of Lyon, who left early every morning with a backpack, his field glasses, and a notebook to start his survey of the birds and plants to be found there. Jake tended to his taro field and Jinme tended the fishing nets.

Jake wandered out of his hut one morning before sunrise to find Lyon sitting on his fishing stone, rod in hand. He'd noticed Lyon's tail earlier, but now that he saw it flipping back and forth casually against the rock, as white as Lyon's hair, he wondered how really useful it was. After finding a convenient tree for his morning piss, he walked out onto the beach and said, "That's usually where I sit when I cast."

Lyon smiled at him. "It's the only big rock close to the water. I thought you had the nets." Lyon was wearing only the fishing vest with no shirt underneath, and a pair of ragged jeans that had once been much longer but had long since been cut so short as to be illegal in most states. His body was lean and hard.

Jake said, "I got a rod and reel, too. You catch different things that way. Can't live forever on those small things the net catches. I catch yellowfish and groper on my line." He gestured toward the gentle rolling surf. "Got anything yet?"

"Not yet," Lyon admitted.

"Wait 'til the seas warm up. It's better near nightfall than now."

"It's pointless now?"

"No, you can still catch something. Chances go up later in the day."

"Ah," Lyon said. He held out a canteen. "Water?"

"Thanks," Jake said, and took a drink.

"You're not a hermit, Jake," Lyon said.

"No," Jake said. He took in a deep breath. "No, I'm not. I do well around most people, I think. I just don't think most people would do well around me."

Lyon cocked his head in a gesture a human could never achieve. It was those ears and those pretty, pretty eyes. Jake looked back out over the sea, where the horizon was reaching that blazing yellow just before the sun shatters the smooth light of dawn with its radiance. He hoped the light covered up his blush. "Anyway," Lyon said, "I've got six days of data and I've filled up two notebooks already. It's a good thing I brought thirty. That ought to last me three months, at any rate. Won't hurt me to get in a day of fishing, eh?"

Jake tried not to look at him. He could tell just by the voice that Lyon was smiling at him, tempting him. He looked out over the sea instead, just as the sun rose and pointed its fingers of cleansing light right at him. "Jake?"

"Eh?"

"Just wondering if you were paying attention, mate."

Something inside Jake relaxed a bit. He said, "Yeah, I'm paying attention. How come you and Jinme haven't, you know..."

Lyon shrugged. "She's nice, but she's a Bastet, too. I think she's more interested in you than me, anyway. What's with that tattoo?"

"You don't know?" Lyon shook his head. "It's a Black Sun tattoo. She belonged to a pirate group called the Sanheihui, Indonesian pirates with Hong Kong backing."

Lyon looked shocked. "Belonged? She was a slave?"

"That's what that tattoo means. She escaped, and washed up on the shore here about a month ago. I think she killed her owner and whoever else was on the boat. Hopefully just him. I also hope she had the good common sense to scuttle the damn boat and drop it to the bottom of the sea where nobody'll ever find it again."

"God, a slave. I knew that still happened, but..." Lyon looked even more pale than usual. "We have to get her out of here!"

"Where will we take her?" Jake said.

"When Professor Briaci comes back to pick me up, the plane'll be a lot lighter. No food to pack." He padded his flat stomach. "We could take her back to the mainland. That doesn't look like the kind of tattoo you get for fun."

"No, it certainly isn't."

Lyon shifted on the rock and leaped down. A shadow at Lyon's crotch caught Jake's attention, and he saw Lyon's large, handsome sex slip out. Jake tried not to look, but he felt his own rush of blood to both the face and the groin before he managed to tell himself he'd seen enough and look away. "Sorry about that," Lyon said as he tucked it back in. "I think I cut these a little too short."

"It's okay," Jake said, swallowing.

Lyon stopped for a moment, took a deep breath as if sniffing the air, and then sighed. "Your discharge wasn't honorable, was it, Jake?"

Jake looked up, horrified. Finally, he shook his head. "No," he said. "It wasn't. It was convenient for the war board to ignore me throughout the war, and then at the end of it, dishonorably discharge me and take away my veteran's benefits, my GI bill money, everything. They branded me a pervert, told my parents I was, and kicked me out. When the Columbia stopped at Manila, my commanding officer told me to get the hell off his boat and not come back. I had a little cash left, and I made my way here. I worked on the supply boat for a while, then decided to just get off and stay. I went from Seaman Jake Hull to outcast overnight."

"You weren't caught feeling up little boys, were you?"

"No!" Jake said. "No, it was just bad luck and stupidity." He tightened his mouth in a grimace. "God hates me." Lyon looked at him, curiously. "I came to this island to get away from everybody so I wouldn't feel torn in half, and then what happens? Fate drops one of each on my fucking beach."

"Oh," Lyon said.

Jake hadn't meant to be so open about his pain, but now that he had, he felt both better to have it out in the open, and depressed that he'd revealed his obscene secret. At least Lyon didn't seem like the type to beat him up for it. "Now that you know, I guess you'd rather I... "

"What? Leave? It's your island, mate!" Lyon laughed and took another swig from his canteen, then held it out to Jake. Surprised, Jake grabbed it and took a drink. It was cool and clean, and he sighed as he drank deep. He held it out to give back to Lyon.

Lyon reached past it and seized Jake's wrist instead, pulled the other man closer. "Jake, I'm a fucking yowler. I'm either the personification of pervert, or I don't know the meaning of the word." He kissed Jake, hard.

Jake groaned, a deep, welcoming sound that was born deep inside his chest, down where secrets lived, where all the trash of his life had been dumped and composted and turned into dreams. For a moment, there was a flowering of desire so strong Jake wondered if the rays of the rising sun had pierced him through the belly, if he was bleeding light inside. Lyon's lips parted and Jake's heart crashed open. He grasped the other man, fingers clawing into Lyon's shirt and pulling him close.

Jake could hear only his heartbeat, only the loud pounding. He could smell Lyon, though, the strong scent of a young man who had gone several days without a proper bath, and his cock hardened immediately at the idea. He wanted to taste Lyon, to find out what the other man had beyond just this.

Lyon suddenly let him go and Jake staggered back, overwhelmed with desire, with self-loathing, with hunger. He stared at Lyon and Lyon smiled back. "It's your ball to pick up."

Jake took a deep breath. He wanted more. He shouldn't have wanted more. Lyon said, "You'll spend the whole rest of your life not knowing. You can't get hold of it, Jake, and throw it out. It's not something you have. It's something you are."

Jake growled softly, then took a step closer to Lyon. Lyon said, "Let's go back to my tent. I even have a bed." They ran across the sand, ditching tennis shoes and woven sandals at the door and falling across Lyon's mattress, Lyon's thigh pressed hard to Jake's crotch, bringing Jake to full awareness of the hard throbbing that waited there. They struggled with their clothes, pushing them off shoulders and baring their chests to one another. Jake kissed Lyon's shoulder, his chest, raking his teeth unconsciously across the other man's skin. Lyon hissed with something like pleasure as they fell, Jake on top.

"Slow down, Jake," Lyon whispered. "Too fast. Drink it in."

"I might never..."

"You've got it as long as we're both on this island, if you don't screw it up." Lyon puts his hands on either side of Jake's cheeks and pushed the other man up far enough they could look into each other's eyes. "Really, Jake. You want to like it." He picked his head up and kissed Jake again.

Jake's mouth remembered many things: the taste of the man he had kissed on Midway, the whiskey in his throat and the cigarettes the other man had been smoking. The smell of sweat and the thick, hot air of the darkened bar after hours. He remembered being caught by the MPs and the march to the brig. In the morning, the smell of vomit and fear was still in his nostrils as he faced Captain Heard and eventually signed the confession that Heard had used to drop him in the Philippines.

Lyon smelled nothing like that. No whiskey, no cigarettes, no vomit, no fear. He smelled like a man in heat, a bright, musky, sweet smell that Jake wanted to breathe for the rest of his life. He was hard just from the scent of Lyon.

And Lyon's own erection was discernible through his shorts, a big pipe of a cock that shoved its way out the leg of his pants. Even as the kiss deepened and tongues touched, his hand slid down Lyon's leg of its own accord and found that presence, touched it. Lyon stiffened and then laughed into Jake's mouth, and Jake felt his mouth smile back. They held one another, body to body, mouth to mouth. Jake shoved himself up onto his hands and said, "Lyon, what do we... two men do?"

"Whatever they want, Jake. There are no rules about this. There's nothing we have to do. Just like there's nothing I have to do with a woman, either." Lyon sat up, pushing Jake over. "Take those pants off, Jake."

Jake hesitated, then with a shaking jerk that made him wonder if his arms would continue to obey him much longer, he shoved his pants off and threw them across the tent, where they hit the canvas and fell to the ground with a soft thud. His cock stood up and slapped his belly, hard and ready. Lyon slowly closed the space between them. He took Jake's cock and balls in his hand, grasped them with a firm grip, and pulled them up a half-inch. Jake groaned. "We don't have to do anything, but there are things I want to do."

At first, it was just his eyes that let him know what Lyon was about to do. And then his cock told him, as Lyon's lips kissed the head of it, then slid down, taking the crown in his mouth. Jake felt Lyon's silky, superfine hair, the hair of a cat, and the odd soft ridges of Lyon's ears against his belly as the other man slowly pressed his way down the length of Jake's cock until his lips were gently flexing against the base. Lyon's body shook and he seemed to cough, then he relaxed and picked his head up. "God," Jake gasped.

Lyon's laugh, more felt than heard, told him this had nothing to do with God. Instead, Lyon's lips and tongue made way up and down the length of Jake's cock, freeing Jake from a year of self-abuse, giving Jake something new. Jake caressed Lyon's head and tilted his own hips back and forth, trying to contribute.

Lyon gasped as he let go of Jake's cock and instead concentrated on his hair-covered scrotum. Jake had never felt that before, and Lyon's soft mouth and playful tongue tickled and warmed his balls and he squirmed. "Lyon, that's good."

"I know," he said, his voice muffled by the soft folds of Jake's ballsac. His tongue was soft and tickling against Jake's balls, and then he rose again and engulfed Jake's cock, sliding along it until Jake's was shaking with need. Lyon suddenly let it go. "Jake," he said. He pushed his shorts down and let his cock flop out.

Jake had never looked closely at another man's cock. He had never really even regarded his own very closely, and Lyon's was different. "What's that?" he said, pointing to the way the skin rose up around the head.

"My foreskin," Lyon said. "They cut them off on you Yanks when you're born, don't they?"

Jake looked down at his own, still throbbing, still spittle-soaked cock. "They do?"

"Yeah. Especially in soldiers. Something about it being easier to keep clean." He smiled. "Mine's clean, Jake. Taste it."

Jake looked at it, reached down and touched it. The skin was smooth and dry, like skin should be. It felt softer than the skin of Lyon's arms or chest, and looser, but it was just skin. He leaned down, his mouth watering with the thought that he might taste Lyon's cock, might take it into his mouth, might give Lyon the gasping, grasping pleasure he had just felt himself.

He smelled Lyon's sweat, and piss, and other smells he had not known existed on anyone other than himself. He looked up at Lyon, who nodded quickly. "Do it," he said.

Jake opened his mouth and let the head of Lyon's cock slide along his tongue. It felt soft, and slippery. It bumped against the top of his mouth and then back. His tongue explored the soft join between the head of Lyon's cock and the rest of it, the musky, wonderful taste of another man. He sighed and began to move his mouth back and forth, trying to mimic what Lyon had done to him.

"Yeah, Jake, yeah, do it like that," Lyon said. Jake reached down between Lyon's thighs and found his balls. The hair on them felt different from his own, or from any woman Jake had ever known; it was soft and thick, like a cat's. Lyon's groans grew louder as he bucked against Jake's mouth. Jake choked, and Lyon said, "Don't try to learn everything in one go."

Jake let go of Lyon's cock, lowered himself to take in Lyon's balls. He tried to do what Lyon had done to him, but Lyon's fur was thicker and darker, and he soon switched back to the bare skin of Lyon's cock. "Use your hands on what you can't reach, mate."

Jake took Lyon's cock in his hand and held onto the base. "That's it," Lyon said. "You're doing it right. Oh, yes, oh... " Jake took that as all the encouragement he needed. He moaned himself as he sucked on Lyon's beautiful cock, but he couldn't go for much longer. His jaw began to ache, and soon it ached so much he couldn't go on. "Sorry," he gasped. "Sorry."

"It's all right," Lyon said, pulling him close. The very feel of Lyon's body was enough to make Jake moan. He felt his cock rest next to Lyon's, and as the two of them kissed more he wondered how they measured up. He sat up, one thigh firmly between Lyon's, and held their cocks together, stroking them. Lyon's was a little longer and a little thinner, but they were comparable, He liked that. Neither one of them seemed very large.

Jake believed he knew what he should do next, but he was afraid it would hurt. "Lyon," he said. "Do you want to, uh, have sex?"

Lyon pulled him down roughly, turned him over. A pillow got shoved aside by the gesture. Lyon landed on top of him. "We are having sex, Jake." He kissed Jake's throat, then explored his way down Jake's chest until he reached the throbbing expression of Jake's desire. He licked at the head playfully until Jake was groaning, then took the whole thing down his throat until Jake was squirming. Lyon pulled off of Jake's cock, a narrow strand of spit connecting the two men, just long enough to say, "Relax, Jake, and come this way." He went back to work on Jake's aching cock.

Jake did relax, and Lyon performed a kind of magic with his mouth that was not like the Magic of the Bastet but the magic that existed between two horny men. Even as he let go with his calves and his shoulders, his belly and thighs tightened into a whirlwind of need and hunger. He felt Lyon's spit dribbling down his balls, felt the other man's hands on his cock. Lyon's hand probed between his cheeks and he tensed as Lyon's fingers touched his asshole but went to further. Instead, Lyon tickled at his bung while sucking down his cock in a fierce, almost competitive way. Jake felt the initial shivers, his body squeezed tighter than a fully loaded magazine. The whole world became a narrow tunnel at the end of which was Lyon's mouth. He had only enough time to wonder how Lyon kept it up for so long before his whole body gave way. He shouted out, everything unwinding, every fiber of his being letting go into Lyon's sucking, patient throat. "Oh, God," he groaned. "Oh, God."

Lyon raised his head and looked up at Jake. Jake fell over, unable to hold himself vertical after so much effort. Lyon covered his body and kissed him. The tent had become warm with the morning sun, stifling with the heat of two overcharged bodies, their sweat, and their efforts. It was too much for Jake, and he began crying.

Lyon slid around him and he curled into a ball. He pressed his chest to Jake's back and kissed his shoulders and whispered sweet, meaningless words of reassurance. Jake couldn't stop it, but it hurt so much to admit it: he was queer, and he loved men. For a moment, he hated Lyon for showing him such a painful truth, but he also knew he loved Lyon for showing him an undeniable truth. "It ought not to hurt so much," he said.

"It does, for you people. I know. I've seen too many go through it. You people seem unable to come to grips with how some of you are different. Yowlers never had to do that. It's always been assumed that we were perverts with childish, sensual minds and all that crap." Coming from Lyon, with his beautiful Australian accent, it sounded so calm, so learned. Lyon's hands were playing along his torso, touching him, holding him. He gasped as his senses came back to life. "This is what some men want, Jake. Why shouldn't I give it to you?"

"I don't know," Jake said. "I just don't. This thing that's got me..."

"Is you, Jake." Lyon's hands caressed his arms, made the hairs stand on end. "You're a handsome man, Jake."

Jake felt Lyon's cock against his buttocks. He shivered at the sensation and its implications. He pushed back against Lyon and said, "Do you... want to, uh... "

"Bugger you?" Lyon whispered. "I'd love to." Jake lowered his head. "But not now. You're not in the right mind for it."

"I don't know if I ever will be."

"Oh, you'd be surprised," Lyon said, his voice a soft purr. "I'm often in the mood for it, myself." Jake felt Lyon's hand probe between them, and he realized Lyon had grabbed his own cock and was stroking it. "Right now I just want to come, and I want you to help."

"How?"

"Kiss me," Lyon said, turning over onto his back. Jake pushed himself over Lyon and looked down. Now that he'd come, he had an opportunity to look at Lyon closer. He liked what he saw, the simple skin, the eyes so bright they were almost like glass, the round iris with its glistening feline golden purity, the sweet lips, the feminine nose. Even with his passion diminished, Jake couldn't deny that he wanted more. He kissed Lyon softly. Lyon's hand stroked his cock, the other reached down between his legs and played with his balls, or with something deeper.

Jake kissed Lyon's neck, and then his chest. He touched Lyon's belly, felt the firm muscles of youth there. He kept out of the way of Lyon's flying, caressing fist wrapped around his cock. Jake stared at Lyon's cock. He had had that thing in his mouth until recently. It was hard to believe. He had done it. He had more than walked over the line. "Jake?"

"Sorry," he said. "I just... can't believe..."

"No one can, the first time. I'm close. I want your attention on me, Jake. I want to know you're watching. Yes... I want to watch you watch me... because... yes!" Lyon's back arched and he jerked into the air. A glob of semen landed on his belly, a big white pearl of juice that seemed to shimmer. It landed close to Jake's hand, and he dipped a finger into it and brought it to his mouth, tasted it.

It tasted awful, like slime and salt. Jake made a face. "I can't believe you... you swallowed mine."

"I did," Lyon said, still gasping for air. "That was very sexy, watching you do that. Come's an acquired taste. You kinda acquire it by being so turned on from having a man's cock in your mouth that you can't think of anything else you'd rather do than swallow." Lyon reached up and touched his arm. "Be all right, Jake?"

"Yeah," Jake said. "Yeah, I am."

"We'll see, right?"

After a time Jake felt grow more awkward with every minute, he said, "Where are my clothes?"

"Over there," Lyon said, pointing.

Jake retrieved them and put them on. He felt better with a layer of clothing between him and temptation. He knew he'd shed them all in an instant, when this momentary exhaustion wore off, when he'd recovered enough. He sat down on the floor of the tent next to Lyon's mattress. "I can't... I can't take it all."

"You liked it."

"I'm not a queer."

"What do you think a 'queer' is, Jake? You don't have to dress in women's clothing. You don't have to have a lisp. You just... want men. And you've always wanted men, haven't you?" Jake crumpled his lips together in frustration, then nodded. "I'm sorry, Jake. I'm not trying to be cruel."

"It's just what I live with. It's why I came out here."

Lyon nodded. "I won't ask again if you don't."

"I don't know that I won't be able to... to not ask."

"I won't hate you either way."

Jake's jaw clenched. "That just makes it harder."

Lyon nodded.

Jake walked back to the hut he'd built for himself, the one he shared with Jinme. It was easily big enough for two and he'd added to it on and off through the year. He'd constructed a rough floor and tied together the thatching with long strands of some fiber he'd twisted off some bark he'd found. It kept out the sun. It usually kept out the rain, unless it was one of those storms that threatened to tear off the roof.

Jinme was lying on her back. She took a deep breath, rolled over and rose on all fours, stretched again, arching her back in that way that pushed her butt into the air and made her long tail shudder. "Mmm. A new smell for you, Jack." She gave him a huge smile of a kind she'd never shown before. He scowled. "What's wrong?"

"Don't want to talk about it."

"Something between you and Lyon? Something happen?"

He growled momentarily. He had talked about it. He'd talked about it with Lyon, who he'd known for less than a week, and mostly just in passing. He'd known Jinme for nine weeks now, he ought to be able to talk to her. But then, she never talked to him, either. They seemed to like each other that way: silent. Jinme said, "I wonder why you not look at me. I see now. You like boys."

"No," Jake said. "No, it's– I like you too, Jinme. I just thought that you wouldn't want to. Not after you were, uh–"

"A slave." She crawled over to him on all fours, looking more feline than she ever had before. She stopped nose-to-nose with him. "Jake, I no like him. I like you." She kissed him.

He groaned. He would never have believed that after years of nothing he would get lucky twice in one day, but now Jinme was offering herself to him. He kissed her back, gently, and she took control, pushing him down to the floor. They rolled over onto his sleepsack, a Navy thing rated for high Chinese mountains or so the Navy claimed, and her mouth was on his lips and then her tongue was in his mouth.

He was again trading sloppy kisses in a kind of desperation, a different kind from what he had shared with Lyon. Jinme felt right too, and as his hands stroked her flanks and pawed at her beautiful, full breasts he felt right once again. "Jake?" she sighed.

"Thank you," he said. He reached for his shirt and then the two of them shed their minimal clothes in a frenzy, falling back to the sleepsack. Jinme was on top, and with an easy care she aimed his now-hard cock into her pussy.

Jake's own attractions had made him feel outcast and he had avoided the brothels of the Philippines and Hong Kong when his fellow sailors had gone crazy for shore leave. That had given him a reputation as a stable and trustworthy recruit. His officers had commended him and respected him until they figured out why he hadn't quite so keen to whoring. He'd never actually been inside anyone else before. It was stunning, to be so surrounded, so enclosed, to have another body above him, her breasts pressed to his chest, her mouth on his, her pussy sucking in his cock. "Jinme..."

"After Lyon, you take time, huh?" she whispered, and her hips bounced up and down.

"Oh, god," Jake groaned. He didn't know if he would. Her long black hair brushed against his face as she slid herself up and down. "Do you like it?"

"Touch me, Jake. Use hands. Use mouth." Jake didn't have a choice. His hands moved of their own accord, as did his lips, seeking out her breasts, finding one, closing on one nipple. She moaned. "Good, Jake, good!"

He couldn't keep track of what he was doing. He tried to grasp her breast and hold it, and she groaned with the pleasure of it even as she doubled her effort over his cock, taking sex from him, pushing him on and up in overwhelming pleasure until finally he couldn't hold back anymore and he came with a loud moan, collapsing, his head to the floor of the shack, laughing.

Jinme laughed as well. "See? You not so bad, Jake."

Jake could barely make out words or see above the floor. The world swam liquidly in his line of vision. "That was too much," he breathed.

"No. Was good!" Jinme laid down next to him and nuzzled his cheek with her lips. She was purring, exactly the way a cat might, and he smiled and stroked her arm where he could reach it. "You pretty good, Jake."

"Glad to hear it," he said. "I guess."

"Stay here, Jake?"

"It's our hut, Jinme. Lyon's got his own."

She purred softly. The afternoon sun beat down, and they took a nap together.


Lyon invited the two of them to his campsite for a moonlight dinner that night. He had plenty of food, he said, and they were welcome to come and take part. Jinme seemed hesitant when he offered it. "How come?"

"Heat," Jinme said.

"It's been hot all month," Jake said.

"No, Jake. Heat. You know..." She gestured to her privates, now covered with the ratty denim he had loaned her. "Heat. Too long for me since I with Bastet man. Lyon... who know how long for him. Too long, maybe."

"Oh," Jake said. "And that's bad?"

"No, not bad. Probably kittens, though. Not ready. Not here. Go without me."

Jake swallowed. He hadn't really considered the possibility of Jinme becoming pregnant. She'd said it couldn't happen with him. It should have been obvious that it could happen between Jinme and Lyon, but was she saying that if they got close enough it might even be mandatory? "Okay," he said. "I'll go ask."

Lyon was sitting at a small fire, a pot of beans and rice hanging above a small folding iron frame. He looked so beautiful in his khaki pants and white expedition shirt, long white hair. Even the ears looked liked they belonged. He glanced up. He had grey eyes, Jake noticed. Despite having already gone two for two in one day, Jake felt a rush of warmth and desire in his groin. Lyon said, "You came. Where's Jinme?"

"She says she's not sure she wants to get close to you," Jake said. "That something might happen."

Lyon cocked an eyebrow. "Yeah. Two Bastet in a small space, something might at that. It figures. Most folks don't really understand us well enough. Or if they do, they think they're doing us a favor by keeping us apart. Maybe she thinks that way, after what you told me."

"So, it would be bad?" Jake said.

"Depends on whether or not she wants to be a mother. Toms are always ready. Bastet kits are pretty good at taking care of themselves even after two years, but they really need to be watched until they're at least twelve." He glanced around the island. "A desert island might be the perfect place to raise kits. I know a few tabbies that have tried this kind of isolation thing before." He glanced at Jake. "You don't understand, do you?"

"Nope," Jake said. Lyon gestured for Jake to take a log near the fire. He dished out dinner for the two of them.

"Bastet don't live as long as you, Jake. I might make it to forty-five, and if I'm very lucky it'll be fifty, but sometime between forty and fifty I'll wake up one day feeling tired, and a little nauseous, and two weeks later I'll be dead." He shrugged as he said it.

"Just like that, huh. You sure?"

"Sure as I am about anything. There are three things that get Bastet, Jake: bloodfire, the sneezes, and old age. Kids get the first two. Almost half of all kits get bloodfire or the sneezes. One day the kid says his arms feel all hot, and it slowly spreads up his shoulders and down to his feet. It takes about a month, and there ain't nothing you can do about it, and soon the fever just kills him. The sneezes are worse. The kid starts sneezing one day and won't stop, and it goes on and on and on for about six months, and then he gets a fever and just falls over." Lyon sucked in a breath. "That happened to my brother when I was about five. But if you make it to nine or ten, you'll make it. You get full grown about fifteen, and then you have about thirty years of life looking just the same as you did at fifteen. We don't seem to get older, like you do. We just... wear out." He shrugged. "Every Bastet tabby has a litter of two, usually, and that's good because so many die. But because we want to see ours grow up, too, we usually have 'em young. I'm twenty-two. If I don't have any in the next three years or so, I might not ever seem them make it to college like I did."

Jake looked down at the green, enameled bowl Lyon had given him. "You don't get sick from anything else?"

"Not nearly as much as you people seem to." He gestured toward the food. "I could get food poisoning, I guess. Never had it. Some adults get bloodfire, but that's rare. I've never known anyone who had it, or a relative that had it. We don't catch what you have, and you don't catch what we have. We don't get pregnant from you, or vice versa." Lyon frowned. "That's why Jinme was a slave. That's what they kept her for. Could fuck her all they wanted and she'd never get sick, never get pregnant, and never get old. Until she just fell over one day, dead."

"Oh," Jake said. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Lyon said. "You didn't do it."

"Just... never knew any Bastet before. There weren't any in the Navy. Where'd you all come from, anyway?"

"Yeah, Navy doesn't want Bastet. Not yours or mine, eh? Bad for discipline, bad warriors, all that. They treat blacks better than us, but they seem to hate 'em more." Lyon spat. Jake just nodded. "Do you believe in the Magic Age, Jake?"

"Sure," Jake said. "It's kinda hard to deny. All those photos in National Geographic and Life and all."

"The story goes that when the Magic Age was at its height, a pharaoh, king in Egypt, wanted to make a race of super warrior beasts. So he had his best wizards work to try and blend some warrior slaves they had captured from the Greek islands with their holy animal, the cat. They didn't get warriors, those. They got us. Not a whole lot of fight, you know, but we do like to be petted and stroked. And other touchy things." He grinned at Jake, who only blushed in response. "Some escaped and went South into Africa, some got kept in Egypt as slaves and pets, and some got traded to the Romans later, and from there into Europe. That's why there aren't a lot of Bastet in the Orient. Not a lot of trade that way and they didn't really like us out here. Except China. We were the prize possessions of Emperors!" Lyon held out his bottle of whiskey. Jake appreciated the drink.

"Do you believe that?"

"Best explanation I've got for what I am, eh? How about you. Where is Jake from?"

Jake shrugged. "Nowhere. Iowa City, Iowa. Dad had a farm out there. Wheat, mostly. Hay."

"That's it?"

"Nothin' more to it," Jake said. "Three brothers, four sisters. I was in the middle somewhere. Mother always did lose track of which one went where." The whiskey was helping him some. He was looking at Lyon and his cock was threatening to rise back to full height. "I came from the middle of nowhere, my lieutenant said once, and that was good because on a carrier you're always out in the middle of god-damned nowhere, and I was used to it. I guess that's why I came to this island. It's out in the middle of god-damned nowhere too." He stood up and walked to Lyon, sat down next to him. The Bastet smiled. "I don't know what I'm going to do with this thing I've got, Lyon, but Hell, here in the middle of god-damned nowhere not even God is gonna know what I do."

He leaned over and Lyon mirrored his gesture. Their mouths met and tongues met and Jake tasted the odd sweetness of Lyon's sweat and the taste of whiskey in his mouth. Hunger surged up in his soul, and the two of them wrestled with their desires as Jake crushed his mouth to Lyon's as if he might never again have anything quite so good. Hands groped for crotches, and Jake's hand found its way to Lyon's full-sized package. Lyon grabbed back, massaging Jake's raging hardness through his trousers. They'd been neglectful of anything else and the fire had dropped down to only a few coals down in Lyon's pit.

They stopped kissing long enough to stare at one another. "What am I doing?"

"Hell if I know, Jake," Lyon said. "It's not time to think–" He paused, turned. "Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Jake said. Then he heard it clearly. A boat motor. "We'd better go look." He scrubbed his mouth with the back of his hand in case visitors could see the signs of his misdeeds on them.

Lyon's campsite was set only a few yards inside the treeline, so when they reached the edge they were able to see clearly. Five men were climbing out of a large, wooden motorboat, the kind most owners used for pleasure. Four carried pistols, and the last had a Japanese-made machine gun. At least two had machetes on their belts. "Oh, shit," Jake said.

"They came for Jinme, didn't they?"

Jake nodded. "Bet they did."

"Right," Lyon said. They could hear the men arguing. "You stay here. I'll just be a minute." He ran back to his tent, returned with two guns. "You know how to fire this, right?" He handed Jake a revolver.

"Yeah," Jake said. He eyed the .20-06 bolt-action Lyon had brought out. "What the heck is that for?"

"Bastet eat meat, Jake." He grinned. "Sometimes, I gotta shoot one of the birds I watch."

"You cook it first, right?" Jake said.

"Yes," Lyon said, his voice heavy.

"I don't speak a word of Chinese, or whatever it is they're saying."

Lyon grunted in agreement. "Neither do I." Two of the men started up the beach in the direction of Lyon's tent, the others hanging down by the boat. "Shit," Lyon said. He lifted the rifle to his shoulder, aimed down at the ground, and fired.

"What the Hell are you doing?" Jake said.

"It was just a warning shot," Lyon said. "Look."

The two men had stopped, stared at the ground, and then aimed their pistols in the direction they'd been walking and opened fire.

Jake and Lyon both hid behind the trees they'd taken for cover. Bullet hit trees all around them, but not the trees they had chosen for cover. Either they were terrible shots, had terrible guns, or they had no idea where Jake and Lyon really were.

The bullets stopped. "We do not want to kill you!" one of the men shouted. "We just want the girl. She is a murderer!"

"His English is pretty good," Lyon muttered.

"We're not giving her up! Not to pirates like you!" Jake shouted. Then he glanced at Lyon, who nodded his agreement. "I knew I liked you."

"For more than my dick," Lyon said. Jake grunted.

The man on the beach replied, "We will kill you too if we have to."

Jake gestured to Lyon to move further down the treeline so that his voice and Lyon's gun would be in different places. Lyon crept away. "I don't think you will!" Jake said.

"There are only two of you. There are five of us."

"There are three of us," Jake said. A shot cracked through the trees. Jake heard a scream. Another shot. Another. Bullets were now flying through the forest from the men at the boat, but still the single shots from the treeline rang out.

Lyon stopped, and so did the pirates. For a minute, all Jake heard was his own beating heart, the wind, and the sea.

He tilted his head around the tree and looked. He counted four bodies on the sand, turned his attention to the boat. Lyon rejoined him. "Where's the fifth?"

"I don't know," Lyon whispered. "I think he's in the boat."

"You're a good shot," Jake said.

"I've had practice. Moon lit up the sea pretty well. They all stood out." Lyon gestured upward. "Jake, I've never killed anyone before. It was... it was easy to do. But..."

"Yeah," Jake said. "I know what you're feeling."

"Oh, Bast," Lyon said, suddenly falling to his knees. Jake didn't watch, but the retching sound was enough to tell him that he did know exactly how Lyon felt right then.

Instead, Jake watched the boat, looking for the last man. He had killed plenty during the war. Mostly from a distance, mostly with huge guns. He'd seen his own buddies' guts strewn across the deckplating of the Columbia. He had no compunction against shooting men who were here to shoot him. Justice was rough out in the south seas.

Lyon sniffed the air. "Yeah, he's still in there. We need to get him. If he gets away with the boat, he'll bring more." The sound of the boat's starter motor turning over emphasized his point. "Let's go." Jake and Lyon ran across the sand. The engine turned over, stalled, turned over again, sputtered, and kicked into life. Jake reached the boat, threw himself into the deck, and tumbled as the man at the wheel panicked with his pistol and fired blindly. Jake brought up his own pistol, fired. He heard two shots at once, and two screams.

The man at the wheel fell. The boat lurched as the engine roared. Jake scrambled for the throttle, shoved it down and cut the power. He kicked the gun away from where the man dead man lay on the floor.

He wasn't dead yet, but Jake had seen enough chest wounds like that during the war to know that without a real surgery he wouldn't last more than ten minutes. "Sorry," Jake said.

Blood bubbled about the man's mouth, but he was too weak and too far gone to do more than that. Jake turned to see where the other scream had come from.

Lyon was on the deck of the boat. "Lyon?"

"I'm fine," Lyon said, his face as white as his hair. "I think... I'm not as brave as I thought I was. I panicked when I saw the gun. I did something, twisted, landed on my wrist. Hurts." He was holding his hand, but Jake didn't think it hung broken.

"If these guys don't come back in a few days, they'll send more."

"Then we have to get out of here," Lyon said.

It took only a few hours to pack, and no time at all to convince Jinme that they had to leave. She'd heard the shots and come running, only to find four Sanheihui pirates dead or dying on the sand. She recognized three of them, and that confirmed for Jake their need for escape.

They scoured the boat for navigational aids, turning up a compass, a few maps, and a decent chronometer. Both Jake and Lyon knew how to navigate. If they made it into range of the mainland the chance was good they'd get within sight of a RAN ship eventually. The boat had a tiny cabin with two sleeping platforms. Ransacking the boat for supplies, Lyon found a sheet of paper in a tiny drawer. "Oh, no," he sighed. "No, that's not right."

"What?" Jake said, looking over his shoulder.

The hand on the paper was neat and masculine. It read:

My friend,
In many years we have helped each other. You have related to me the recent disappearance of Yongik Shiaomin and his yachtmate, and the beautiful yowler who he kept. I believe she is still alive. I believe she is on a small island, the coordinates of which are listed below. She is there with an American and my student. If you retrieve her, I beg of you not to harm my student, and we shall have done each other a favor.

The letter was signed "LB." There were numbers underneath.

"LB. Lewis Briachi."

"Your professor? He set us up? He has contact with the pirates and he sent them out here? Why would he do something like that?"

Lyon sighed. "It explains a lot. He always seemed to have a lot more money than other professors. He could afford these kinds of extensive surveys, he has a big house." Lyon laughed darkly. "He has a big bed. Silk sheets."

Jake shook his head. "But why?"

"I don't know," Lyon. "I can't imagine what he does for them."

"We ready, yes?" Jinme said.

"Yes," Jake said.

"Good. We go! I stay down." She dove into the cabin, barely giving Lyon a spare glance.

"I think I'll stay out here," Lyon said. "Take first watch."

"Okay."

Lyon drove the boat slowly, trying to save wear and gas. Jake sat next to him, watching the dark waters. Lyon held the travel west by southwest for hours, waiting until the sun came up behind them.

Jake must have fallen asleep. He heard a hissing sound, a loud yowling scream that jolted him awake. "What, huh?" He scrambled, wondering where his gun was, his body suddenly shaking with shock and adrenaline. The sound was coming from behind him. He turned in his seat and found Lyon and Jinme on the deck, both half-dressed, clothes thrown open in a desperate drive to get at each other. He watched, unable to look away, as they coupled. It was far more animalistic, far more feral, then what he'd done with either one of them. They looked angry with one another, but neither was fighting to escape.

Lyon didn't even last long. With a few vicious thrusts, his pants flapping over his pale ass, he cried out with release inside Jinme. She suddenly rolled away from him, curling over and coming to a crouch. He hissed at her, and she grinned. "Get what you want?" she said.

"Did you?" Lyon said.

"Yes!"

"Then it's done," Lyon growled. He glanced over at Jake. "Did you... ?"

"I'm not sure what's going on here," Jake said. "Is... you're not going to kill each other, are you?"

"The opposite, I'm afraid," Lyon said.

"Oh." Jake remembered what Lyon had told him about Bastet heat. That's what he'd just witnessed.

"We'll be safe for a few hours," Lyon said. "Better get driving, Jake."

"Right," Jake said.

Jinme retreated to the cabin again, and Lyon took Jake's former seat. He stared out into the water, his eyes looking even more exhausted than they should have. "Jake," he said finally. "What have I done?"

"It looked like you were trying to make babies to me."

"Yah." He shrugged. "It's not supposed to bother me," Lyon said. "And really, it doesn't. But I do worry about her. What's she going to do when the kid's ten?"

"What do you mean?"

"Jake, Bastet don't marry. We don't even get along well, the two sexes. Like you saw, when we mate it's an animal thing, it's not like what Bastet do with people. That's more like petting and being petted. We like it." He reached up to scratch behind one ear.

"You didn't like that?" Jake said.

"Eh," Lyon grunted. "It's different. What I mean is, Bastet tabs are very independent. They don't want the tom hanging around and making trouble. We're more trouble than it's worth, and we don't really work hanging around and being all husbandy. Most Bastet tabs find a man to help them, someone who wouldn't mind adopting. I guess you fellows don't smell wrong. But Jinme– she's 36 years old Jake. She could die in four years, or fourteen. But it will be somewhere in there. Making it to fifty-one is like one of you lot making it to a hundred."

Jake looked down at the cabin. "She doesn't look like she's over 18."

"We never do," Lyon said. He sighed, his eyes closed. "I'm not supposed to care about 'my children.' In a way, I don't. But in another way, a way that comes from my human half, I don't want some nine-year-old kid to suddenly be without a parent. I'm not fit to be a parent, Jake. It's not what toms do."

Jake understood. "I'll do it. If I can."

"Thank you," Lyon said.

"Be around, though?"

"Now and then. When I can."

Jake snorted. "Good enough."

Hours later Lyon spotted smoke, and shortly thereafter their little yacht pulled alongside the Royal Australian Navy Destroyer Courageous.


Jake was working on the tractor when he heard the sound of a sputtering engine coming up the dirt road to his farmhouse. He knew that car better than the sound of his favorite tractor. Jinme smiled and said, "You go see. I stay here."

Jake grinned, putting his tools down where he'd find them again, and ran around to the front of the farmhouse. When he got there, Lyon was already climbing out of the little GT. It fit him, the small car. He wore white woolen slacks, a shiny silken shirt, and a white vest. A narrow tie completed the look. "Where'd you get those duds?" he asked.

Lyon just smiled. "Where I always get them."

"Let's go inside. I'm sure you're ready to see Sid and Easter."

"Always." They went into the house and up the stairs. Jake led him into the bedroom and to the window. He pointed out into the back, where two kittens played, side-by-side. Both were almost two, and at that age the robust bodies and elastic bones of youth, even moreso with Bastet, made them beautiful and rambunctious and utterly unmistakable.

"They ain't caught anything yet," Jake said.

"I'd better stay away," Lyon said. "I can't keep visiting, Jake. Isolation seems to help with the sneezes. But I don't know if that's just putting it off or if it really matters. Kits get bloodfire no matter how far away you stay, though."

Jake knew all about it. He was probably one of Australia's best experts on Bastet nowadays, and that was saying much. There were less than a thousand Bastet on the whole continent. He also knew that Lyon was wrong about how toms didn't care about their kits. Lyon cared. His nature drove him away after too long, but he cared just the same. "Jinme looks after them just fine."

"I'm sure she does. She deserved a better life than the one she had. You gave her that." He turned away from the window. "I came here for two reasons, Jake. The first is to tell you that Professor Briaci will be spending the rest of his life behind bars for what he did to you and me. And the second is to give you this." He held out an envelope.

Jake opened it. It was a check. "Four thousand dollars? For what?"

"Yours and Jinme's portion of the first sale book rights. Remember you gave me permission to write a book about our adventures? Remember all those conversations we had?"

Jake remembered. Lyon had been serious, then. And so had Jake. "Did you tell 'em I was queer?"

"You said I should."

"But did you?"

"Yes."

"Good," Jake said. "I'm a hero. That's what they tell me. I saved a beautiful woman from a fate worse than death, and I married her to make her an honest woman afterward." He looked at Lyon. "You know what they say, though... suck one dick..."

Lyon grinned. "You ought to move to Melbourne. Darwin's not a hotbed of homoloving."

Jake shook his head. "I'm happy. I keep thinking... when she's gone, and the kits grown, what I'll do next." He looked Lyon up and down. "I missed you like I would have missed my right arm."

"Did you use that arm a lot?"

Jake gestured toward the bed. "Jinme's a good woman in more than one way. I like her. The love is good, but it ain't what happens– she isn't you."

Lyon smiled and put his arm on Jake's. "Would you like me to be me?" He closed the space between them.

"God, yes," Jake said, and kissed Lyon's mouth.

Kissing Lyon happened rarely, but when it did the rest of Jake roared like a summer grassfire. The two of them shed their clothes in record time, falling back onto the soft, feminine covers made Jinme happy. Skin rubbed on skin. Jake grabbed Lyon's tail, which he had learned was one of the other man's weak spots, and Lyon gasped with pleasure.

"I never did understand what bound us," Jake said breathlessly when they had a moment's separation.

"Getting shot at," Lyon said. "I guess."

"And since then?"

"Your being a hot man," Lyon said. "Figuring out what didn't matter." He kissed Jake's chest, his belly, and then took the other man's cock into his mouth and blessed Jake with the kind of attention men crave. Jake groaned as Lyon's talented tongue magically imbued Jake with a kind of invulnerability– from criticism, from age, from fear.

Lyon didn't let Jake climax. Instead, he turned over and said, "Now, me."

Jake didn't hesitate. From his lips, chin, neck, nipples and lower, Jake worshipped as much of Lyon as he could reach without having to turn the other man over. He kissed Lyon's cock and licked along its length, surprised as always at the sweat, the sweetness, the beauty of it. Jake knew he was spoiled on Lyon's body, its unique Bastet characteristics, but he also knew that it wasn't the Bastet, it was the man, that he craved more than anything else.

Lyon's body quivered with impending climax, and Jake knew just went to break off. Lyon groaned, "Damn, you're just as good at that as I am."

"I'll take that compliment," Jake said, sliding back up the now sweat-slicked body.

"I'll bet you will," Lyon said, turning them both over.

"I just never know what to make of you, and me."

"You people worry too much about it."

"You Bastet don't worry about it enough. It drives ordinary men crazy, this wondering, what am I, who am I."

Lyon pushed Jake over until he fell down to the bed. "Jake, you're a man who loves Lyon and Jinme. You're luckier than most other men will ever be, since most never get one Bastet, much less two." He straddled Jake's form, and Jake's hard cock, now more sticky than slick with Lyon's cooled, dried spit, batted up between Lyon's strong, narrow buttocks. Lyon shivered. "I could use that."

"Are you sure?" For all the passion the two men had expressed, Jake had never once buggered Lyon, and Lyon had never invited him. Jake figured it was something to be left off. Lyon had taught him that sex is what two naked people do with one another, especially when there's erections and wetness and thumping hearts and getting off, and that all the usual forms and rituals were just that, forms and rituals. One just had a side-effect: making babies. That wasn't going to happen with either Lyon or Jinme, but Jake didn't mind. He had two kits, and a lifetime of looking forward for more life.

"I'm sure," Lyon said. "I like it a bit. Just not often. Now, you, yes." He sighed.

"You might be wanting that, then," Jake said, his Iowa accent thickened even further with desire. He pointed to a small plastic tub beside the bed. "Just add water." He pointed to a plastic water jug.

"Jinme teach you that?" Lyon said.

"Vet taught me that," Jake said. "Jinme taught me that it might work for us too."

"Smart tab," Lyon said. He poured some water into the tub, and swirled it around with a finger. "Bast, it's gooey!"

"Works great," Jake said. "Don't get any on the sheets. Jinme'll kill me."

Lyon slathered Jake's cock with the substance, whatever it was, and then pressed some up between his cheeks. Jake had never fucked Lyon, had never fucked any man before, but he'd done it often enough with Jinme to know how the action went. Doing it with a former sex slave of a Hong Kong organized crime boss had certain advantages; Jake and Jinme had taught each other a lot about love and lust. So when Lyon positioned himself above Jake's cock, Jake watched, breath held slightly, as Lyon dropped down onto it, and he felt the sweet parting of Lyon's asscheeks, the resistance of Lyon's asshole, and the slow disappearance of his cock into Lyon's sweet, warm body. "God."

"Yeah," Lyon said. He patted his smooth belly. "You feel good inside me."

"You sure?"

"Someday, you might find out," Lyon said. He made a few experimental strokes. "Whatever that stuff is, it's great. Might want to bottle it and sell it in Melbourne. There're a coupla bars there. Bast, that's good."

Jake had to agree. Words escaped both of them then, and the two of them were lost in each other, smiles and gasps and moments. Jake couldn't control his hips, they thrust up with a will of their own. The warm grip of Lyon's insides taught Jake more about men, more than he dreamed possible, until ecstasy at the tip of his cock blossomed into a demand. He said, "Gonna come!"

"Then come."

"And... YUH!" Jake bucked up hard against Lyon's buttocks. Lyon let out a gasp of his own, murmured, "Deep," as the two of them tumbled together into that moment where neither can remember anything other than how much he loves another.

Jake held Lyon for a long time, his attention drawn elsewhere only by the momentary pop of his cock out of Lyon's ass, into the warm autumn air. Jake wondered how long it would last, this love, but for the time being he was content that it existed.


Out in the field next to the equipment shed, Jinme couldn't hear a thing, but her nose told her stories. She approved. She turned her attention back to the tightening the repaired fuel line.