His lock release beeped, and the door slid open. Degorsk stared in utter shock as Lidon walked in and the door shut behind him.
The son of a bitch had used his security pass to force the lock.
Lidon took a long look at him, his eyes darkening at Degorsk’s near nudity. His tone, in contrast, was polite. “Good evening, Doctor.”
“Please, come in. After all, ‘go away’ is Nobek for ‘welcome’, right?” Degorsk’s voice dripped angry sarcasm, but his stomach curled in sudden fright. Lidon had tried every civilized trick in the book to get him alone over the three years Degorsk had been on board the destroyer, methods the Imdiko had managed to circumvent in a myriad of ways. He wouldn’t have minded a one-night stand with the admittedly sexy Nobek, but Lidon had made it clear he wasn’t looking to scratch a temporary itch.
Lidon had apparently decided to play dirty tonight. Looking at the muscled, determined man only inches away from him, Degorsk’s head swam with a confusing mixture of want and terror. This was bad.
Lidon smiled, the warmth of the expression in no way canceling the predatory glint in his eyes. “Are you feeling better now that everyone is patched up?”
Degorsk had two ways of dealing with fear: joking and anger. He had no sense of humor right now. He snarled, “Everyone was not patched up, damn it. Four are still critical. And who the fuck knows what we’ll find at the other colonies and defense stations?”
“That’s not under your control. You did well today. You’ll do well with whatever we find.” Lidon’s voice was quiet, almost soothing.
Degorsk snorted. “Will I?”
“You will do your best. As you did in the Battle of Delfy.”
Damn Lidon and all his ancestors. Of course the resourceful Nobek would know about that.
Degorsk didn’t bother to mask the pain in his voice. “If you’re aware I was in that slice of hell, then you know I lost my intended Dramok and Nobek there.”
Lidon nodded slowly. Fortunately, his features remained still, not moving into pity. “You watched them die when the Tragooms ambushed your battalion. And yet you singlehandedly managed to save twelve other men’s lives. You were decorated for that.”
Degorsk’s lips twisted into a nasty smile. “You know what I did with that meritorious bar, Lidon? After the award ceremony, I tore it off my uniform. Then I burned my uniform. I melted the bar down and sold the metal for scrap. The vid plaque that came with it? I deleted it and then I smashed the piece of shit. It meant nothing when I couldn’t save the two men I was supposed to clan with. When hundreds more dropped before my eyes. Twelve men saved? A mere dozen? What kind of heroism is that?”
Lidon didn’t react to his rant. Instead he said, “Today brought that back. I saw it in your eyes. Have you vented any of that pain yet?”
Degorsk folded his arms over his chest and scowled. “Does it matter?”
“It does for an Imdiko. Your breed feels too much to keep it bottled in.”
Degorsk watched him carefully. What the hell was Lidon thinking? Something was up, but the Imdiko couldn’t figure out what.
To hide his discomfort, he commented drily, “Thanks. I’ll bring it up with my shrink. Or a big bottle of kloq. They’re one and the same.”
Lidon grabbed him. Degorsk was in the air before he could gasp, and then crashing down on the mat. The Nobek was straddling him an instant later, sitting on his abdomen as he grabbed first one of Degorsk’s wrists, then the other.
Degorsk was too startled to move. “Hey! What the hell are you doing?”
Lidon spun around, his bad leg apparently no barrier to doing so. He grabbed each of Degorsk’s ankles in turn. “I’m cuffing you.”
He got off Degorsk to stand next to the sleeping mat. Degorsk slowly raised his arms and stared at his wrists. Thick hovercuffs circled them. He sat up and saw his ankles were also bound. He looked up at Lidon, speechless.
Lidon cocked an eyebrow at him. “Elevate subject one foot above floor, place in vertical ‘X’ formation.”
The cuffs tugged upward, taking Degorsk with them. He yanked hard against them as they moved him to float before the Nobek, his legs splayed wide, his arms likewise over his head. He couldn’t get free.
He yelled at Lidon. “Son of a bitch! This is unauthorized use of hover cuffs. I could have you put in the brig.”
The Nobek seemed unimpressed. “I’m the weapons commander. I authorize my use of them.”
Degorsk gaped at him. He was simply too confused by the other man’s actions to form a coherent thought.
Lidon tilted his head and settled his hands on his hips. In a musing voice, he asked, “Now Doctor, what therapy do you usually prescribe for an Imdiko who is incapable of spontaneous emotional release of trauma?”
A sense of dread crept over Degorsk. Had he been afraid before? Not by half. Real terror made him cold all over.
He hissed at Lidon. “This is insane. You have no right to do this.”
Lidon’s lips quivered, as if a grin was trying to break through. “I looked up the medical board’s recommendations in cases similar to yours. Do you know what our esteemed head doctors have to say about the matter?”
A tremor broke out over Degorsk’s body. He couldn’t stop it, though no doubt Lidon saw every minute shiver. If Lidon did what he planned to do...
“Of course I know what they recommend. But you’re no doctor! You’re not sanctioned for such a determination!”
Lidon nodded. “No, but the diagnosis of release reluctance is in your file. So the determination has been made for me.”
Degorsk unleashed a stream of curses.
The weapons commander continued as if the flood of profanity hadn’t occurred. “In a typical case, the matter would be left to your Dramok and Nobek to carry out. Lacking those, you would submit yourself to a licensed disciplinarian for a therapeutic beating until you are sufficiently able to rid yourself of grief. Guess what credentials I possess, Degorsk?”
Degorsk’s insides seemed to shrink in upon themselves, as if trying to find a place to hide. He really was in trouble. As ship’s head disciplinarian, Lidon would also have been cleared for therapeutic punishment. Degorsk was well and truly fucked.
“I hate you.” He sagged in the cuffs. He was in for it, all right. Had he been presented with a case such as his own, Degorsk would order the very treatment he was about to receive. A therapeutic beating was standard practice for a non-expressive Imdiko, particularly one with ongoing trauma made acute by an aggravating incident. Dealing with a mine full of the dead and dying certainly qualified as an aggravating incident.
For some of his sensitive breed, there was a tendency to internalize the pain they encountered. Degorsk was one of those Imdikos who didn’t easily allow grief to escape. Instead he held it in and added to it, unable to release it on his own. Unlike fear, which he unloaded under the guise of humor or profanity-spewing anger, Degorsk hid his sorrows from the world.
His case wasn’t rare. Imdikos were often employed in professions that regularly exposed them to suffering. Many who found it difficult to express their stress routinely scheduled therapeutic beatings from licensed disciplinarians. Physical pain allowed the floodgates to open, letting them rid themselves of emotional agony as well. Degorsk had kept regular therapeutic beating appointments himself before getting involved with Nobek Semlo. Semlo had possessed the proper training and administered Degorsk’s therapy when it became clear they would someday clan.
It had proven hard for Degorsk to give himself up to discipline after Semlo’s death. The Imdiko knew he needed it. He couldn’t unload the ongoing traumatic stress from losing the Nobek and Dramok Bara otherwise. But it was such an intimate act to surrender himself in that way; to bare his real emotions before another.
Especially someone like Lidon. Damn the man and his license to wear Degorsk’s ass out.
Lidon startled him by suddenly planting his lips over Degorsk’s. The Imdiko gasped, which parted his lips. Lidon’s tongue surged inside, tasting of brute male and lust. Not even thinking of what was happening, Degorsk sucked on the raspy, delicious appendage, drinking in the feral flavor of the Nobek.
His wrap fell from his hips, having been tugged loose. Degorsk moaned into Lidon’s mouth as strong, calloused hands cupped his buttocks and kneaded them. He strained forward to make contact with the Nobek’s body. Lidon moved close so that their fronts touched. The heat of his body and scent of his arousal was a wallop to Degorsk’s senses. His cocks filled, growing heavy and hard. Keening with need, he rubbed against his captor, his pricks straining against the rigidity of Lidon’s crotch.
“Degorsk,” the Nobek groaned, breaking the kiss. His mouth traveled down, licking a wet trail down to one of Degorsk’s nipples. The Imdiko’s head fell back and he groaned to the ceiling as Lidon flicked the erect button. Delight pulsed from the tasting, arrowing straight down to Degorsk’s already throbbing cocks.
He wanted Lidon. He had for a long time. The trouble was, he wanted him too much.