Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Epilogue

“You can’t leave,” I declared. I clenched my jaw, narrowing my eyes. “That’s final.”

“Oh stop. He’ll be fine,” Deke drawled. “Totally safe. I’ll be with him.”

I slowly panned my head to the side, blinking slowly. “Did you just suggest that you would be a safe traveling partner for my Chomper?” Half the time Deke still tried to shoot him because Chomper had blasted him with fire or hooked him with a wing and lifted him just far enough off the ground to knock him on his ass from above.

“We have an understanding. Besides, he learned not to blast any fire the last time he was aboard one of Freska’s ships and the A.I. dumped an entire tube of retardant on him that hardened and locked him in place for nearly an entire shift.”

“That was just last season!”

“He’s grown. You can’t keep him here locked up. Have you even seen Sparkles since she left Chomper here?”

“Shh,” I hushed him. I always feared Chomper would feel abandoned by his mother taking off with his siblings from the other eggs, but he’d never said anything.

“I be fine. No fire. No tricks. Just Deke and I travels on the ship to check out some fire blazer gems on Maerico IV and visit Jenezza. I stay with Deke. Not alone. Stay safe.” Chomper stood in front of me. He spent most of his time among other beings in his humanoid form, his wings reabsorbed and his claws retracted. He crooked up one side of his mobile lips, the smile one that humored me. “Gotta let that boy go sometime.”

I gasped. “You were listening at the door last night!” My face caught on fire. If he’d heard that, he’d probably heard… other things. Maybe him going on a trip wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“Cap’n smart. You scared. I be safe with Deke. I be smart, not do stupid things. Not be juvenile.” His smile faded. “Need to go.” He was rubbing his chest.

What urged him to wander, the walks, then day trips, then short hops through the system, and now an even longer trip with Deke was a mystery. But I knew it was real; I caught a glimpse of the feeling, just a tugging in my chest that caught my breath and made me turn from time to time. But I always ended up spinning in circles until I was dizzy and the world tilted, never able to find the right direction.

If that little of the feeling leaking into the bond would do that to me, I could only imagine how Chomper felt. But he was mine; the egg I’d rescued, the infant I’d cuddled, the child I’d loved, and now the being even taller than me who I hated to let go.

“I want vids. Updates on your trip, pictures, you will catalog any and every bruise or space symptom if you get sick. Every single waking shift. Without fail. Or I will send people after you.” I glared at Deke who was rolling his eyes. “Like Danie. Or Freska and Danie.”

That shut him up.

Captain strolled up and put his arm around my waist, tugging me into his body. “All ready?”

“Yes. I ready. Deke ready. Kohen finally ready to let go,” Chomper said. His dark skin grew darker as he snickered, they laughed, and I glowered.

“I’m not letting you go, I’m just letting you wander a little farther than before.” I turned and hugged Captain around the chest and back. “I don’t let go of the people I love.”

“Awww,” Deke said.

I growled, but Chomper scampered close and put his arms around me and Captain. “I see you soon. Send you vid. You send vid back. I home soon. Ish. Soonish.” He glanced at Deke over his shoulder. “Soonish.”

Deke had already disappeared onto the ship and he waved frantically. “Come on!” Chomper squeezed us one last time, let go and took off, his muscular legs eating up the distance.

“Wait. Soonish? You have a return date. It is soon. Not soonish. What ish? Deke! What did you do?” The door spiraled shut without an answer.

I glanced at Captain, but he looked away. He knew too. It was a conspiracy!

Captain cupped my face, stroking my jaw with one rough thumb. “He’s going to be fine. I sent more than just Deke, and I know every step of their journey. He just needs some freedom. The itch we keep feeling means something, I just know it. Deke will update us the second they deviate from the plan.”


“Well, I made him swear on pain of worse things than siccing Danie and Freska on him, so yes, I feel safe to promise that.” Captain’s hand had slid down my neck and he was squeezing my shoulder now. His other hand cradled my waist. “Now, we haven’t had a truly private moment in the three seasons since you saved my life and renewed our bond. Even that was a bit… crowded.” He towed me toward another small ship, this one just a three-seater.

“What’s this?”

“I thought we might go on a short trip ourselves. A little R & R. Maybe a clothing optional vacation on a planet with a spot where it’s just us. After all, I am retired now, and no one has come after us in all this time. I think we are finally safe.”

We settled into our seats, the cockpit of the small ship a cozy affair that had our bodies pressed tight together. “Is it far?” I put my hand on his thigh.

“Nope, not far at all.” His breath hitched.

“This ship have autopilot once we leave atmosphere?”

“Yes.” The one word came out strangled.


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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 106

If I hadn’t had Chomper, would I have still known I could bond again? The pain as the venom coursed through the fried circuits in my head pushed me to the brink. I bowed my head over Captain’s, the synthgar slipping from my neck to his. Sweat was pebbling my brow, and yet I was chilled.

Fire and ice warred inside me. Pain threatened to consume my focus away from that still, silent form I plastered my chest against. I could feel the slight rise and fall, reassurance that he was still with me.

I’d hidden away inside the house; Captain had hidden away inside his mind. Shut down, the loss of our bond had done something to him. If I’d been fried, he’d become brittle, like glass.

The slightest touch the wrong way, and he’d shatter beside me. “Sting him,” I whispered to the synthgar. “I need him; he needs me. You’ll never be without us both again, I promise you.” I stroked the tiny back, my trembling fingers delicate, so careful. “Please,” I begged breathily.


Captain’s body bowed, his neck muscles going taut, his head, shoulders, ass, and heels all that touched the bed. I caged my body over his. He thrashed, gasping, sucking in deep lungfuls of air. The trickle of his emotions I’d felt when the venom began coursing through me became a raging flood.

Regret. Pain. Anger. Despair. Acceptance.

“No! You won’t accept death. You will wake up.” I braced my chest against his, leaning more of my weight against him as he sank back against the bed. The touch of skin to skin was electric. I gasped and shuddered.

Every inch of me was raw, nerves begging for more even as I wanted to shy away. But I wouldn’t. “Open your eyes.” My voice was a husky rumble. Liquid lava ate at me, turning me into a torch. He had to wake up.

Captain turned his head back and forth, mumbling. His guilt rose, the sense of surrealistic déjà vu through the bond forming between us.

“No more. Wake up.” I took matters into my own hands, or lips might be a better word. I kissed him, no deep thrusts or intimate tongue tangles, just pressing my lips to his.

“Please,” Captain moaned.

“Yes. I’m here. Wake up.” He had to. If we didn’t complete the bond, I was going to explode.

I swung a leg over his hips, fully caging his body with mine. Leaning back on my knees, I cupped Captain’s cheek with one hand. I tapped his cheek. “Wake up.”

The barest sliver broke between his lashes.

“There you are,” I crooned. “Come on, wake up.”

“Mmm… hmm… dreaming?” he rasped.

Only the last word was understandable. He mumbled something else, then licked his lips. Did he taste me?

“You’re not dreaming. Wake up!” I resisted the urge to pull down on his eyelid, to make him open his eyes.

Captain blinked a few times, his eyelids fluttered, then he slowly pushed them up, as if they weighed a ton. “Ko-Kohen?”

“It’s about time you remembered your mate’s name.” I tried for a teasing tone, but I failed.

He slowly looked past me. “What….” He coughed, his chest and shoulders quaking. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to help you.”

“No.” He shook his head once, and he nearly couldn’t move it back upright off the pillow. “No, not after what I did.” Guilt was so strong, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to push through it.

“You tried to save us.” I sighed, fighting against my need for him, pushing back the physical to use my words. “We need to stop trying to protect each other, stop trying to fix things. We need to stop keeping secrets. Become a team. Equals.” He wanted to protect the fragile young man he thought he rescued, and I wanted to protect him from the danger I represented.

We were both horrible at it.

Captain blinked, looking up at me. “Protect each other.”

“As a team. If we work together, we win. But can’t keep things hidden.”

“No more secrets.” I don’t know if he was agreeing with me or not, but his guilt had lessened. He was arched under me, his body moving against mine.

Bonding. I could almost feel the ties binding us together. The nerves inside me were barely healed, barely able to handle it, and my body was lit up with both pain and desire. I craved this man, and I’d missed him in the weeks I’d tried to force myself to stay independent.

“Please,” I gasped when he grabbed my hips, then arched and rubbed his stiff length against mine. Captain tilted me, turning onto his side, hitching one of my legs over his hip.

Oh! This left me so open to him. My breath hitched, then picked up, until my chest heaved. I couldn’t stop touching him, and he couldn’t stop touching me. The venom pushed away conscious thought, sending his emotions crashing through me and mine through him. Paired with the feverish touches, neither of us lasted long as Captain and I both used our hands to stroke and fondle, moving in tandem.

Sticky fluid coated our skin, our releases mingling on our bellies. Finally, awareness returned to Captain’s eyes. He was still weak, panting, his body wasted from its former taut muscles and lean spacer build. I shuddered as my synapses fired with our connection and I was forced to feel that crispy feeling once again as my battered brain worked overtime.

“Don’t… you ever… do that again,” I panted. “You almost died.”

“So did you. My fault.” Captain traced my face. “I can’t believe you came to me.”

“What else was I going to do when Deke told me?”

Captain frowned. “Deke?” His jaw hardened. “I ordered him to leave you alone.”

“And that was wrong! I’m your mate! You other half. You don’t get to decide to die. You can’t leave me.”

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 105

I thought the idea of leaving my cell was the hardest thing I’d face. That being free, having choices, not being a number… the very necessity of learning who “Kohen” was and learning to fit that shape. It’d been hard. The being who’d helped me in the end had also shattered me.

Both of them. It wasn’t just Lakshou’s actions to take my mind and body from me with embedded conditioning. Captain had gotten his hits in too, keeping his secrets, not being honest. It broke the bond inside me, the need I’d had to connect to him on a level so deep he’d never leave me alone.

Or maybe the electricity that fried the circuits grafted with alien DNA in my body had been what connected us, and when that had been burned to a crisp, our bond had been burned away too.

He’d been gone since we got back. Chomper and I took care of each other; my alien son had made another leap that day and his body now shifted seamlessly between a humanoid or dragon body, and his understanding grew every day. He spent hours on the vid, learning about the universe, while I stared at the walls of our tiny home.

All that was hard. Almost impossible to survive.

But facing down the eyes of the crew who’d gathered at Deke’s home staring at me wordlessly was harder. My heart pounded, and if I’d eaten already, I might have vomited. Chomper hissed, the air heated in waves in front of him in spite of being in his humanoid form. “Move,” he demanded.

The room was silent as bodies slowly parted, like they didn’t want to.

Deke led the way, the asshole just as quick to push when there wasn’t enough room. “Seriously people, why are you here? I said I’d bring him.”

Aparoe appeared in the door. “What is going on? I said you needed to be quiet out here.” They stopped. “Oh. Oh thank the stars. Quick, come quick.”

The crew moved out of the way even faster then.

“He needs you, Kohen.” Aparoe stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. “I know you’re not well… but he doesn’t have much time.”

I still wasn’t prepared for what I’d see when I stepped inside the bedroom. Captain, the strong, vibrant man who’d saved me was now a shadow of his former self. The skin was stretched tight across his skull, his cheeks sunk in. Dark shadows circled his eyes. His body was unnaturally still, his shoulders still somehow hunched, his arms cradled across his stomach.

“He helped you. Now help him.”

“Deke. Stop it.” Aparoe hit him.

“Hey, what happened to do no harm?” Deke frowned.

“You don’t count. And I didn’t hurt you so stop whining. Kohen, remember, touch heals.” Aparoe ushered Deke from the room, even though he kept complaining it was his house, his room.

“Chomper, what did he do to himself?”

“He’s sick. Bonding sickness. Looked it up. Bad. Bad. He needs you.”

“When I bonded with him, he kept trying to take away my choices. Worse, his choices were forced because he was bonded to me. I’m not good for him.”

“Not good without you.” Chomper moved to the bed, curling up on the chest at the foot. I knew it was full of weapons.

“Don’t open that or go poking around,” I warned him. He was growing up, maturing, becoming something I never expected, but he was still into everything around him. The last thing I wanted was for Chomper to blow parts of himself up. I wasn’t sure they’d grow back.

“No,” he agreed. He put his head down on the bed, a sad look on his dark-skinned face. His large, liquid eyes looked at the still body and then back at me. “Help him?”

I couldn’t forget Captain had raised him too. What I felt for him, Chomper felt too.

Sort of.

He probably didn’t feel the heat curling in his stomach, even with Captain’s body so wasted, looking so ill, that I did. The need in my fingers, to touch that skin.

Oh, stars burn, did I need him. A sob cracked my chest wide open, and I crawled onto the bed to collapse next to him. “How could you do this to yourself?” I mumbled brokenly, stroking his face. The stubble was rough as always, but his skin was cold.

The precious gift he’d given me, the synthgar, slid down from behind his ear. Even it looked weak, its deep blue scales pale to nearly gray. He’d told me this, told me if we separated we’d be harmed. I hadn’t remembered. Why didn’t I remember what it could do to him?

Bonding. The synthgar. If I wasn’t sick, then the bond must be broken on my end. Maybe, if I let it bite me again, bond us together?

“Chomper, go see Aparoe,” I said. “No looking up the things we talked about on the vid while I’m in here.”

“Help him?”

“Yes.” I couldn’t do anything else. No matter what I felt, how angry I’d been, how scared for him, he’d saved me so many times.

Now I was going to save him.

“Go. I’ll be out… later.” It would work or it wouldn’t. Captain’s breathing was getting shallower. I had to try.

I nestled the synthgar on Captain’s neck for a moment, and rolled over, stripping off my clothes with haste. He was naked beneath the blanket, and I shivered at the cool stiffness of his body. It was like he was already gone, if I couldn’t see the slight rise and fall.

Thinking back to that first bond, I nestled the synthgar against the hollow of my throat. “Sting me, please.” I stroked its back. “Bond me, us. Please,” I begged.

A sharp sting, a wash of heat, and I jerked as the cold inside Captain invaded me. His feelings. His despair.

“Oh no, love. Come back to me,” I whispered.  

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 104

A hissing roar drowned out the shouts in the distance, and there was a flurry of activity around me. I still couldn’t see, couldn’t move, didn’t really want to. I was tired, so tired. In my short life, I’d lived lifetimes of pain and suffering, and I was done.

Regret pushed at the corners of my brain but not enough to want to stop it.

“Aparoe? He’s not breathing!”

“I’m trying. Stay calm, he needs you calm.”

“He’s not breathing! I can’t feel him! No! Get off me! Deke! Stop it!”

What was happening? Deke… that asshole had better… No.

“No fire, no fire, no fire.” The roar ended with the words chittering. “Move!” Metal screeched painfully, and I would have covered my ears if I could. “Burns, burns, burns.”

Chomper was there, close to me, his voice so loud he had to be right next to my head. “Oh, oh no. Come back!”

“Stay back, Chom—” Captain broke off when Chomper hissed.

“Not. Burns. No fire, no fire on ship. Bad, bad.”

“Someone, get a tranq down here.”

Tranquilizer? Were they going to hurt him again? They couldn’t!

“Please, Aparoe, you have to help him now!”

“I… I can’t. His block means all electrical impulses are negated the second they touch his body. I can’t get through.”

“Stars, no. Kohen, please,” Captain’s voice broke down then.

“You bad! You fire! Hurt.” His hiss heralded one of his outbursts.

“No,” Captain suddenly shouted. “Don’t do that, you’ll—”

Chomper roared in pain, and suddenly I could feel again. His back legs straddled my sides, half his body curled over my legs, and there was so much pain, so much burning. It was still arcing through my circuits…

I screamed, my throat stretched wide, and my shoulders arched off the ground. Chomper cradled my torso in his arms, his body nearly human but for the alien color of his skin, and the crackle of white-fire that bathed his entire form.

He was touching both the ports in the back of my neck, and I could feel the flames pouring out the terminals to dance up his arms.

“No fire. No fire in you. Go away, bad.” Chomper stared into my eyes, and I lived in the connection between us, breathing when I’d given up before, inhaling through the fire that slowly eased in tiny increments.

He was somehow connected to me, pulling the electricity still overloading my circuits out. The side of my brain responsible for rational thought had come online suddenly, like a restored system after a crash. Sharper, clearer, more knowing for all that I’d nearly crispified my brain in order to take out the threat to my family’s safety.

It was what I’d been trained for. What I knew. Those were my excuses, but in the end, deep inside, I’d wanted to feel Lakshou’s brain snuff out as I pulverized it. As I took out the evil tool he’d used to take my feeling of safety and security in the love I’d found.

As I made sure I couldn’t survive it so I wouldn’t have to live with knowing I’d become that ruthless. But all it took was for this innocent soul, for my Chomper, to be in danger.

And look at what he was doing. No idea if it was dangerous, no second thought about if he should… he just tried to help me. To take away the flames and fire. To follow the rules.

I snorted, or tried to, at least. I coughed and choked, my lungs tight and unwilling to open up to allow me to do more than take the shallowest of breaths.

But I was breathing.

Slowly, the fire in me eased. I still felt like there were things inside me that were wrong. Broken. But how much was hardware and how much was my soul?

“I want to go home,” I choked out.

We went home. Chomper stayed with me, the flames having no affect on him. But the electricity kept building back up in my body and I’d already set one bed on fire before we realized he needed to be touching me at all times to drain them off when it grew.

I refused to speak to the crew. To Deke. Captain.

He came, talked to me. Tried to touch me a few times, but the sadness grew in his eyes and he’d taken to flinching away every time I drew back, refusing to touch or talk or even acknowledge he was there.

Our land was still just as dry as ever. I’d be a danger to the landscape if there was much there to burn. But there wasn’t, so Chomper and I started taking little walks farther and farther down the rough-hewn roads.

We went back to the cliffs, the pool.

And every day my brain warred with itself. I had my bond to Chomper. It was stronger than ever. The tiny being I’d pulled from the remnants of the egg was growing each day. He ate voraciously, he absorbed my fire, and I think he grew more intelligent.

Or I lost my mind, not having anyone else to talk to.

Captain kept them all away, just like I insisted. At times, I felt the eyes, the trackers. I was being monitored.

But he gave me what I needed.


Until one day even that ran out.

“Hey, you selfish bastard, where are you hiding?” Deke’s voice rang out in the house “There you are. Get up, Kohen.” Deke stomped over, and Chomper flew in the window, tucking his wings and hissing, diving between us.

“Shut up, lizard. Hey, Kohen, you might have given up, wanted to die, or whatever the hell happened on that ship that you won’t talk to anyone about, but I will not sit by while my best friend dies. Captain is sick—you’ve broken your bond, you bastard, and he’s dying now.”
That got my attention. “What?” I croaked. 

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Wednesday Briefs: Denied Chapter 103

“Aparoe! Danie!” The bellows beside me were jarring, as much as the hands on my body. “Gods, get this damn thing off him. Fucking Freska and her technology.”

“It did what it was supposed to do. And I designed most of it,” Danie said. “The suit is locked into his ports. You have to disengage them here and here or you’re going to hurt him more.”

“By the stars!” The smell of burning flesh and scorched metal only grew stronger. Deke was there too, his voice somewhere near Captain’s. “That was inside him. It’s fried.”

“The circuits compartmentalized his mind using the implanted technology, keeping a kernel free from Lakshou’s control until the end when he said whatever that phrase was, letting Freska control his body. That let your plan move forward. It succeeded.”

“At what cost?” The bellow was a whisper. “Kohen, I’m sorry. So sorry.”

I couldn’t answer. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. I’d been given next to no time to absorb the plan after the details had been revealed to me. In the end, the fact was I’d had no choice.

“The suit was supposed to do all the work after we took out some of the aliens. It was just supposed to be strong enough to electrocute and stun Lakshou. Not this. How did this happen?”

“He did it.” Freska’s voice entered the room. I still couldn’t see, couldn’t feel my body, but I could hear them all.

“Freska! Are you okay?”

“Fine. Stop, I’ll be fine. But Kohen drew in a large amount of electricity from the ship through the connection the AI shared between us, and since I was locked in, he also sapped my system.” Her voice shook. “I didn’t even know that was possible. He used the channels in his mind and turned them back on Lakshou, cooked him from the inside. I caught just a glimpse of his plan before he walled me out along with Captain Querry.”

“I don’t feel him. I don’t feel our bond.” Captain’s voice shook. “He’s not moving, not responding. Where is Aparoe?” His voice rose in a roar at the end. “This ship is not that big!”

“People are injured.”

“Kohen may be dead.” Captain’s voice broke.

“Do you see him breathing?” Aparoe’s voice was as steady as always. They were so unchanging, so… them.

“Just… help him!”

If it had been anyone else, I might have been concerned. My heart might have started to beat faster. Or beat at all. I still wasn’t sure what was going on in my body. I could hear, but I couldn’t see or feel anything. Aparoe said I was breathing, but I couldn’t even tell I was doing that, and I couldn’t smell anything.

Shouldn’t everything smell burned. I felt… crispy. Crumbly. Fragile on the edges. Like a single touch would make me fall into a pile of dust.

“His heart is beating, he’s breathing. His brain patterns are not consistent, however. They are different from his baselines, and I’m tracking fluctuations. What do you sense?”

“Nothing!” Captain’s voice grew more wild. “It’s like… like our bond doesn’t exist.” His voice broke. “He’s gone.”

“No, I don’t think so. What did you do?”

I tried to sense Captain as the voices rose and fell around me, but that caused an instant surge of agony. I retreated instantly.

“Wait! There. Oh yes, he’s definitely in there.” Aparoe cursed. “Look at these circuits. Damn it! If he wasn’t infested with these nanos, he’d be dead. You realize that, don’t you? He burned out his brain in order to burn out Lakshou’s through the connection that traitor had made through their auras. How could you let him do that?”

“That’s not… I didn’t! The suit bomb Freska set off was supposed to stun them so we could capture them with the weapons he was hiding.”

“And do what?” Aparoe snorted. “Turn Lakshou in? That worked before. He was going to die; Kohen wouldn’t let you make that decision and we know his past, so he made it. He purposefully channeled the power not just through the suit, but into himself and his internal circuitry as well.”

“Blast the stars, Kohen! Why? Did you want to leave me?”

I hadn’t, but at the same time, in the very short period they’d given me to learn about what was happening, I’d gone through so many emotions. Betrayal, anger, frustration, reluctant understanding, and a resigned acceptance of what I had to do.

The only one who could stop Lakshou’s threat forever was me.

“Why won’t he wake up?” Captain asked.

“He’s got shields raised. I’m guessing he’s in a lot of pain and shock. I can alleviate some of that, and maybe it will help.”

A hiss and pop.

Scrapes, bangs, people moving and sounds of murmuring… I still couldn’t feel my body. I didn’t want to. Opening my eyes meant opening myself back up to everything I’d faced before. All the disappointment.

“Did it work? Kohen? Wake up, please. Please, I love you.” The words were spoken softly, right against me.

Love only went so far.

The AI’s voice rose above all the crew voices in the room, rose above Captain’s harsh whispered pleas, and said, “There has been a containment breach on Deck Three. I repeat, a containment breach on deck—”

I didn’t need to hear any more. Whatever had happened, before this or after this moment…

Chomper had broken free.

And he was pissed off.

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