SPOILERS: Vague ones for Narcissus in Chains.

WARNING - D/S, shifted sex with a wereleopard in cat form and other things that might squick you are within.

A Place of Their Own
(Sequel to Bloodlust)

Rina & Orithain

November 2002

Disclaimers: Asher, Nathaniel, everyone else, and the entire universe belong to Laurell K. Hamilton. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Asher stretched slightly as he awoke with the sunset, smiling, already accustomed to the warm weight pressing against him. Although it did seem rather furrier than usual. He opened his eyes, finding himself face to snout with an oversized, sleeping black leopard. Not exhibiting any of the alarm most beings would in his situation, he smiled fondly and blew lightly on the twitching whiskers, continuing until a paw came up to bat at the annoyance.

Laughing, the master vampire drew his head back slightly and blew harder.

Sneezing and shaking his head, Nathaniel came awake as well, huffing snorts of breath out of his nostrils as he lifted his head. Focusing on the source of his annoyance, and also of his greatest pleasure, the wereleopard wrinkled his nose and made a rumbling noise deep in his chest - right before flicking out his tongue and licking the side of Asher's face.

Sputtering his laughter, Asher mopped his face with a corner of the sheet. "Much as I love kissing you, Nate, being drowned by that long tongue of yours is not quite what I had in mind!" He wrapped his arms around the huge leopard, tugging him on top of himself, then reached back to prop himself up with pillows behind his back.

"Dare I ask what you have in mind for tonight... since you're in cat form?" he asked, petting the heavy fur and enjoying the silky softness.

Nathaniel's answer was a throaty purr, and he sprawled across Asher's cool body, lazily rubbing his muzzle against the vampire's chest and neck. As he was in feline form, his growing erection wasn't easily noticeable quite yet, but he knew that Asher could feel and smell his arousal. Knowing how his lover enjoyed the feel of his fur under his fingers, Nate had shifted before climbing into bed next to the master vampire and taking his evening nap, wanting to wake him with a surprise.

"Mmmm, I see you do have something in mind," Asher murmured, his own arousal growing, the blood he'd taken before his rest allowing him to react physically. "You're spoiling me, but I can't seem to make myself object," he admitted, his fingers digging deeper into Nate's pelt to massage the lithely muscled body. The feeling of that warm fur against his naked groin... He couldn't hold back a moan of pleasure.

Pleased with this reaction, Nathaniel gave a feline smile, baring fangs that could easily rip a man's face off. Shifting his hips and flexing his spine, he rocked his lower body against Asher's, his forepaws kneading at the bed linens as his tongue flicked out to lap delicately at a dusky nipple.

Eyes widening, Asher gasped, and his body arched as that exquisitely raspy feline tongue ran across his sensitive nipple. "Oh, my Nathaniel, what a treasure you are," he panted, letting the were see his pleasure. "Such a wickedly clever kitty," he praised, his legs parting slightly.

Nathaniel's deepening purr gave evidence of his own pleasure, and he continued to writhe against Asher, letting his soft belly hair slide across the vampire's erection. Giving little growls of pleasure, he worked his way across Asher's chest, his tongue tracing the lines of his lover's scars before seeking out and finding the tight nub of his other nipple, lapping at the tight bud, carefully rubbing a canine across the sensitive skin.

Moaning, Asher arched upward, seeking friction against his now rigid cock, his fingers gripping fistfuls of Nate's fur before he forced himself to let go, not wanting to injure him. "Oh yes, so good, more, Nathaniel," Asher babbled, the continuing rasp of Nate's tongue on his chest and soft fur against his cock nearly driving him mindless with lust.

Ecstatically happy to do just that, Nathaniel curled his tail around Asher's leg, tickling his instep with the tip. His hips and lower body were moving in small circles now, and he could feel his fur and skin dampen with Asher's precome. His own erection rubbed at the sheets between the vampire's thighs, and the slight burn of the friction gave Nate the bite of pain that made everything even better.

Now flattening his tongue, he ran it up Asher's chest to his neck, flicking the tip into Asher's ear, before bending his neck and beginning again on the opposite side.

Asher's nails shredded the sheets at his sides as he fought to make this last, nothing he'd ever experienced feeling as good as this. Unable to hold still any longer, his hips began to hump against the heavy were sprawled atop him, his legs closing slightly to grip Nate's cock and give him something to thrust into.

Needing Nathaniel's blood now, hungry for him in all ways, he snarled and arched up, his teeth sinking into the furred throat that was exposed to him.

Letting out an echoing snarl, Nathaniel's back bowed as Asher's power combined with his own lust to send him toppling over the edge into oblivion. As his come pulsed out onto the sheets, he could feel Asher drawing his blood from his throat, and Nate cried out again, this call a lower, needier sound.

His claws dug into the mattress as his body spasmed, writhing on top of Asher in mindless abandon, the move shifting him enough so that the thicker fur of his legs brushed along the length of the vampire's cock.

The rush of hot blood added to the stimulation of Nate's fur against his erection toppled Asher over the edge only moments after Nathaniel. Snarling his pleasure and possession of the wereleopard, Asher arched violently beneath him, his bloody come spurting out over the gleaming black fur, matting it against them both.

After an endless moment, Asher relaxed again, arms once again around the purring were as he petted him. "I could get used to waking up that way," he admitted with a fond smile, pressing a kiss to the top of the furry head.

Nodding in agreement, Nathaniel's whiskers bent against Asher's cheek, making the were wrinkle his nose and shake his head once again, pawing at the irritation before giving a small sneeze followed by a somewhat sheepish look.

Asher had to laugh. "One would think you would be used to your own whiskers by this time," he chuckled, petting Nate easily. "I begin to wonder just how much time you normally spend in this form?" Then he laughed at himself. "And I wonder whether I am actually awake," he said self-mockingly. "Or perhaps I actually expect a leopard to answer me verbally." He shook his head.

"We'd better get you cleaned up, or we'll never get the knots out of your fur," he said regretfully, enjoying lying there with Nathaniel atop him.

Muscles rippled under sleek fur as Nathaniel shrugged, more than content to stay here as long as Asher wanted - after all, it wasn't as if he minded in the least. As for his vampire's question, he could answer it later, if either of them remembered it.

"Then again, washing and drying you is fun too," Asher decided, remembering the first time they'd shared a shower and Nate had ended up in leopard form. "Besides, I really don't want to move yet."

Stroking Nathaniel's heavy fur almost unconsciously, he met the violet gaze. "Would you like to live somewhere else? To have a place of our own?"

Now Nathaniel blinked, and he made an inquisitive sound in the back of his throat. Live somewhere else? It didn't really matter to him, but wouldn't Asher be in danger away from his secure underground area?

Making a frustrated noise because his form didn't enable him to communicate much, Nate sighed and nuzzled the side of Asher's face before twisting his body, landing lightly beside the bed, and padding into the bathroom.

Nudging the shower door open with his head, he stepped inside, closed his eyes, and shifted, slowly straightening up in a shower of clear liquid as his fur vanished beneath his skin and his human coloring returned.

Deciding that bathing could wait a bit longer, he wiped himself off with a towel, and quickly braided his hair so that it wouldn't get horridly tangled while damp. "Somewhere where?" he asked, coming back out of the bathroom and settling on the bed beside Asher again. The sight of the ruined sheets and mattress made him smile, and he wondered to himself just how many they had totaled.

Asher shrugged, one hand automatically moving to land on Nate's thigh. Whenever the were was anywhere nearby, the vampire tended to be touching him. "I don't know. There are plenty of places to live in St. Louis," he pointed out. "And it might be nice to have a place of our own, someplace away from the club. Unless you would be uncomfortable elsewhere?"

"No," Nathaniel answered honestly. "Not for myself. I'm just worried about you. Would it be safe?" He looked as if, had he been in cat form, his tail would have been twitching with consternation.

"Most places can be made secure for my kind," Asher said indifferently, as if this weren't something he'd never before considered in all his centuries. "I would like to know that the place we inhabit belongs only to us, that we chose what goes into it." He was dancing around saying in so many words that he wanted a home with Nathaniel, even at the cost of some of his precious security.

Nathaniel was quiet for a long moment, one of his hands moving over Asher's chest as his tongue had been doing not long before. "If we can find somewhere safe for you..." He looked into Asher's eyes, violet meeting blue. "I'd like that very much - for a place that was ours."

"Then I think we should forego the dancing tonight in favor of looking for a place to live." Asher cocked his head to one side as he considered the matter. "Best would be to find a house rather than an apartment, I think," he said slowly. "That way there would be basement that could be secured. Most apartments don't have a room without windows."

He drew Nate onto his lap, resting his chin on the were's shoulder. "Do you have any preference as to location?"

"Within walking distance of Ted Drewes and The Hill?" Nathaniel offered, giving a low chuckle as he did so. He knew Asher was well aware of his addiction to the frozen custard and the authentic Italian food served in the many restaurants on The Hill. "Or something further out?" As he spoke, he was unconsciously rubbing his face against Asher's, marking them both with the other's scent.

"A little further out, I think. While I'm more than happy to take you to dinner as often as you want and buy you custard till I can roll you down the street, I must admit that I would prefer not to live in a Catholic neighborhood." Unconsciously, a hand rose to touch his scars, his gaze turning inward.

Nathaniel's expression immediately turned apologetic, and he caught Asher's hand, kissing it, and then the ridged flesh he had been touching. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have even suggested it. What about Chesterfield? There are some nice places out by the Monsanto facility - if you don't mind the chemicals... Or there's some nice parts to the city. How far out do you mean by out?"

"I was thinking more along the lines of Creve Coeur," Asher replied, hugging him tightly. "Someplace where I can show you off properly." He kissed Nathaniel, not wanting him to worry about mentioning the Hill. "Think you could stand to live in the lap of luxury?"

"Lots of old money there..." Nathaniel mused, playing with the tip of his braid while he thought. "Though I suppose you're an expert on old money, aren't you?" he flashed a small grin up at Asher though his fingers were still worrying the loose hairs in his braid.

The past two months had greatly boosted his confidence both in dealing with Asher and in himself as well, and, though he'd never be dominant by any stretch of the word, Nate had grown comfortable enough in his new situation to offer his opinion and desires when asked, and sometimes unprompted.

"Then that's where we'll work. With enough money, you can always find what you want," Asher said with the inborn arrogance of the nobly born, an attitude reinforced by centuries of being able to take whatever he wanted.

"Is there anything in particular you would like? A swimming pool, a special view, anything?"

"A bed, a shower, and you - not in any particular order," Nate smiled, twisting himself around to sit astride Asher's lap while facing him. "Other than that, it really doesn't matter. I guess... I've bounced around so much I don't know what I want in a home."

"Then it's going to be my pleasure to pamper you," Asher said calmly, his arms linking loosely around his lover. "We will have to call a realtor to find us what we want. I'm sure there must be some who work nights to cater to vampires. Hmmm, we should perhaps ask Jean-Claude. He may be able to assist us." Asher was growing distracted by the man in his arms, now nuzzling the arched throat.

Torn between the thought of a home that he shared only with Asher and the feel of his lover with him, Nathaniel squirmed. "We could drive around there to- tonight and see if there's anything we like." His breath caught when Asher rubbed his fangs over his skin.

"Or we could have someone drive us, and we can play and look at the same time," Asher purred, allowing a fang to just break the skin, then lapping the few droplets of delicious fluid that welled up. "That way whether we find anything tonight or not, we still have a good night."

"Will - will we even notice anything then?" Nathaniel shivered, though his head and neck stayed still.

"We'll make sure to take frequent breaks to look around," Asher mumbled, hardly paying attention to what he was saying. He drew Nathaniel closer, already hungry for him again, wanting to feel the tight heat of his body this time. Then he groaned and leaned back slightly. "I think we'd best continue this in the limo if we expect to go anywhere tonight."

Giving a low, frustrated mewl, Nate nodded, though he rested his head on Asher's shoulder for a moment to get control of himself again. "If we call for one now, we'll have to be quick in the shower..."

"True, it will be a sacrifice," Asher said, trying to look mournful, "but just think of the rewards... we can find a place to live, and you can ride my lap the whole time." He waited for Nate's reaction, grinning.

Nathaniel chuckled, leaning in to kiss Asher thoroughly before sliding off his lover's lap and climbing out of the bed. "That means I'd better pack some lube as well as some food for the night then."

"Mmmm, I wish you could taste this," Nathaniel moaned, curling his tongue around the plastic spoon and licking it clean of the custard, hot fudge and cherries. "It's just sooo good."

They were curled up in the back of the long, black limousine, the were settled on Asher's lap, eating his frozen custard as they were ferried along I-70 from downtown toward their destination.

As Jean-Claude's staff was very capable, along with Nathaniel's meal there was a listing of several residences for sale in the exclusive neighborhood, and the driver had directions to take them by each.

Deciding that this was a good lead in to something he'd been thinking about for a while, Asher hugged Nate closer and murmured, "I could taste it... if you were my human servant."

He said nothing more, not wanting to pressure Nathaniel in the slightest but hoping that he would be in favor of the idea. While tasting food again would be nice, he was far more interested in giving his lover immortality. He didn't want to lose him.

The spoon paused halfway between the container and Nathaniel's mouth, and the were turned his head fractionally to look at Asher, his eyes wide violet pools in the shadowed car. "But - how? I'm not human, would it work?"

"No reason why not," Asher replied, having given it a great deal of thought. "You're still mortal, and I can give you the marks. I'm not quite sure how strong that would make a lycanthrope, but I'm not going to object to anything that gives you an added advantage, pretty kitty. I want you to be around for a very long time."

Nathaniel's expression turned sober. Moving carefully, he set the container of custard in the console on the floor and, as he straightened up, pushed the sleeves of his light cotton sweater up, exposing his forearms. "Which do you prefer?" he asked, breaking into a grin that he just couldn't contain any longer. The thought of being with Asher forever... it was dizzying.

Asher blinked, startled at the speed of his acceptance. "Not that I want to change your mind, but are you sure? This is forever, Nathaniel. Once I do this, we'll be linked totally. Killing one of us will kill the other," he warned, wanting to be sure that Nathaniel was aware of what he was agreeing to. At the same time, he maintained a tight grip on his lover, unconsciously preventing him from getting away.

Suddenly looking much older than his true age, Nathaniel regarded Asher steadily. "If something happened to you, I wouldn't be alive past the next day anyway, so it changes nothing for me."

"Nathaniel..." Asher stared at him helplessly, without the slightest idea of what to say. "I love you," he finally settled on, pulling Nate closer. "If this is really what you want...?" He held one of Nathaniel's hands, the wrist turned up and his lips caressing it.

Reaching up to run his fingers through Asher's blond hair and down the side of his face, Nathaniel nodded. "Four marks, Asher. As close as I can be to you." His heart may have been racing at the thought of what was going to happen, but his gaze and his hands remained steady.

Blue eyes searched violet for long moments, then Asher nodded slightly, his tongue coming out to lick the sensitive skin of the wrist he held. Nate's indrawn breath was what he was waiting for, and his fangs sank into his lover, the power of the master entwining with the were's being as he gave him the first mark.

Done, he raised his head after licking the wounds to seal them. "Only one tonight, cheri. Give yourself time to adjust, then tomorrow we will add the second."

Disappointed but knowing that Asher was the expert in these things, Nathaniel nodded before closing his eyes and resting his head against his lover's shoulder. It was the oddest sensation, as if he were growing, broadening somehow, and his acute senses sharpened even more to the point that he could hear the heartbeats of the man driving the limo. He supposed it was something like the first time he'd changed, but he really didn't have a concrete memory of that, just flashes of pain and blood and the smell of rutting around him.

Looking at his wrist, he noticed the two puncture wounds were still visible. "They're still there," he murmured, running a finger over the small indentations before smiling. "You marked me."

"Now you really are mine forever," Asher said, the pleasure and possessiveness in his voice audible for any to hear. "No one can ever take you away." His arms tightened around his lover, then he finally noticed that the car was motionless and had been for some time.

"I think we're at one of the houses that's for sale," he said, nudging Nate's head toward the window to take a look.

"Hmm?" Nathaniel finally tore his gaze away from his wrist and looked out the window, hitting the button to roll the tinted glass down when he couldn't catch a good enough view with it up. The cool spring breeze tickled his skin, and he grinned before leaning out a bit to study the house at the end of the driveway.

"It's big. It's really big."

"Is that a problem?" Asher wondered, eyeing the house. It was far smaller than the castle in which he had grown up, so very long ago, but he supposed by modern standards it was quite large. "I don't think we're going to find anything small in this neighborhood, Nathaniel." He gazed warily at the many windows, noting that much of one wall was pure glass. "Perhaps we should view the next? We should see everything available before making a decision."

"No, big isn't a problem... just different is all." Leaning back against Asher's chest again, Nathaniel hit the button to close the window. "And seeing them all would be good, plus we need to look around the insides too."

He twisted a bit and picked up his slightly melted custard, eating a spoonful before remembering the mark and glancing up at Asher, smiling boyishly. "So? Do you like it?"

His eyes slightly wide as he tasted something other than blood for the first time since Julianna had been killed, Asher thought about it for a moment. "It's sweet," he allowed cautiously. "But good. I see why you like it so much. We didn't have anything like that when I was alive."

He activated the intercom to tell the driver to continue on to the next address, then turned his attention back to Nathaniel, licking his lips.

"It's supposed to be sweet," Nathaniel laughed, "it's ice cream - or sort of anyway." He dug the spoon into the somewhat melted concoction again, this time bringing out a cherry covered in fudge. "How about this?" he asked, before eating it, the sour taste of the cherry mixing with the hot fudge in his mouth.

"Ohhh, that's good!" Asher exclaimed. "I think I'm going to enjoy experiencing flavors again." He smiled, watching Nathaniel with enjoyment. "Do you want to go for dinner after we see this next house, or shall we continue until we've seen them all?"

Beaming, pleased with himself and the fact that he'd given Asher that much pleasure, Nathaniel shrugged. "There were only four houses on the list. We could drive by them all, then get something to eat afterward. If we like any of them, I can arrange with that realtor Jean-Claude told us about to see them tomorrow night."

He squirmed happily on Asher's lap before settling against the vampire again. "What would you like to eat then? Since it's been so long, you can choose."

Asher frowned, considering. "I really don't know. Food is so different now, so much variety." He shrugged slightly. "Pick whatever you like best. I taste it the way you do, so if you like it, so will I." He thought about that. "Although Anita did say that she ate things that she disliked but Jean-Claude liked and enjoyed them." He raised his hands helplessly. "Surprise me. After we see the houses, you can direct the driver to whatever restaurant you want."

Nodding, his expression turning serious as he tried to decide what food would be best to introduce Asher to that night, Nathaniel absently finished his custard, setting aside the cup just as the limo stopped in front of their next destination.

"This one's nice," he commented, craning his head out the window to catch a glimpse of the elegant home. "Lots of trees and lawn, and I think it has a pool..." He leaned farther out the window, trying to see around the side of the building.

"Shall we inspect this one more closely?" Asher suggested, reaching for the door handle. There were plenty of shade trees to reduce the sunlight, enough windows to give Nathaniel light while not driving Asher into fits, and the architecture was most attractive, blending into the landscape nicely. "It certainly seems to have possibilities."

"I just hope they don't have nosy neighbors," Nate laughed, sliding off Asher's lap and out the door. He stretched and reached out to catch his lover's hand as they walked up the driveway toward the house. "They might get an eyeful if they decide to snoop."

Asher shrugged, indifferent to the possibility. "As long as they don't interrupt, I don't really care." He looked around appreciatively. "It is well-maintained," he said with approval. "Let us hope that the interior is equally attractive... We need something good enough to show you off," he teased lightly.

Nathaniel looked around, still entranced by the old oak and maple trees in the yard. "Bet you could climb up there, no problem," he murmured, brushing his fingertips against the bark of one as they passed by. Then, hearing Asher's last comment, he laughed. "As well as furniture that won't show black hair or bloodstains too easily."

"We'll buy very sturdy furniture... and several scratching posts," he laughed. "We wouldn't want you to ruin the drapes." Grinning at his lover, he rang the bell, hoping that the owners would be amenable to showing them the house.

Wrinkling his nose as he tried to scowl at Asher, Nathaniel ended up laughing instead. "At least you didn't suggest a litter box!"

When no one answered the bell, he let go of Asher's hand and climbed down off the porch, scooting behind the bushes to peer in the front window. "Looks empty, I don't think anyone's here."

Asher followed his lover a little more slowly, not wanting to invade someone's home, then more rapidly when Nate said it looked empty. Peering over the were's shoulder, he had to agree.

"Well then, let's check it out." He returned to the front porch and, using vampiric strength, forced the door open. As he stepped inside, he muttered, "Needs a good security system." He looked around curiously, noting the uncluttered, open architecture with approval. "Shall we look upstairs?"

"Asher!" Jaw dropping in shock, Nathaniel stood in the bushes until the vampire motioned him into the house. "I cannot believe you did that. We can't lock the door again; what if something happens? What if they have a 'you break it, you buy it' policy?" The were looked nervous and twitchy, and he plainly wasn't looking around the house.

Asher eyed him curiously. "If they do, we buy it. And if this isn't the right place for us, we sell it again while we continue looking for the one we want. But I hardly think that's likely." Seeing that Nate still looked nervous and distracted, he decided to calm him down in the most pleasant way.

A moment later Asher had his lover in his arms, hands caressing his back and ass, and was kissing him hungrily. His tongue explored Nathaniel's mouth, stroking over the sensitive flesh and inviting its counterpart to join the fun.

"Asher..." This time the vampire's name was a moan, and Nathaniel fell into the kiss with total abandon, his tongue sliding against and over Asher's, moving carefully between his lover's fangs before deliberately nicking himself on one of them.

For the moment nothing else mattered; Asher always had this effect on him, and if he'd suggested it, Nate would have gladly stripped down and let Asher have him right there in the entryway.

When the kiss broke, the were looked dazed, but calmer, and he rubbed his hands and face against Asher's chest. "Guess we'd better look at more of it then, if we're going to own it and all."

Asher hugged his lover close. "We should look around, but we don't have to buy it if we don't like it," he pointed out. "But let's see how it is... and if the previous owners left a bed behind," he suggested with a teasing laugh.

He looked around curiously, lightly petting Nate's back before turning him in his arms so they could begin to explore. They strolled through room after beautifully appointed room, gleaming wood and flawless marble reflecting the moonlight throughout. At the back end of the house they found a thoroughly modern kitchen which overlooked well-kept gardens and a comfortable patio and gave a glimpse of the pool off to one side in a sheltered area of the lot.

Asher started to move on again when an idea struck him and he turned back to inspect the room more carefully. If he were to learn to cook, he would never have to worry about Nathaniel getting proper nutrition again. He smiled slightly. "I like this room."

"The kitchen?" Nathaniel laughed, peering in cabinets and drawers but still keeping contact with Asher. "It's got a lot of space, that's for sure. It's bigger than..."

He fell silent, before turning back and smiling. "Guess that means I'd better learn to cook something other than eggs and pancakes and hot dogs, or it'll go to waste."

"We can learn together," Asher suggested. "I think I would like to cook for you... to provide you with a meal for a change." He smiled tenderly at the were, then drew him toward the patio doors. "The pool is nicely secluded. We can swim naked together if we like."

He looked forward to making love to Nathaniel in every room of the house. "Shall we look upstairs now? Or would you rather start with the basement?"

Nathaniel lingered at the glass doors, imagining the feel of Asher's cool body against his in the water, and shivered with anticipation. "Let's look at the basement; if it isn't secure, then..." It went without saying that they weren't buying the place if it couldn't be made safe for Asher during the day.

Asher had to agree with the unvoiced sentiment. No matter how much either of them liked what they'd seen so far, there was still enough anti-vampire feeling that it would be foolhardy to choose a home where he would be unprotected during his vulnerable hours.

"The stairway was back toward the front," he remembered, starting in that direction. "Let's hope there are separate rooms downstairs that can be secured or that the layout allows for building walls." He did like the house and was strongly hoping that it would meet their various needs.

Feeling a wash of relief when Asher agreed with him, not even noticing that both his objection and the vampire's answer had been silent, Nathaniel followed his lover back to the front of the house. The stairs were under the backside of the ones to the upper portion of the house and proved to be well lit once they found the light switch.

"No washer and dryer," he commented, leaving Asher's side and peering around the large, wood-paneled room. A wet bar occupied one end of the area, and there was a door to another section near it. "They must be upstairs somewhere."

Asher nodded. "Humans tend to dislike the damp chill of basements... or so I'm told." He shrugged. They would have servants to take care of things like that, so he was not particularly concerned. Fortunately, he had amassed enough of a fortune both in life and over the centuries since his unlife began that he could afford to live in the style to which he had been born.

Dismissing the issue, he moved toward the door at the far end of the visible portion of the basement, curious to see what was on the other side. Once he'd pushed through, he stopped, eyes widening slightly, and began to smile.

"I believe that one of my kind lived here," he observed, eyeing the luxurious room running most of the length of the house, the rich paneling and carpeting, and the total absence of any windows. "There must be another exit concealed somewhere here as well. No vampire would be comfortable with only one exit from his resting place."

Peering in under Asher's arm, Nate felt a little of his tension leave him. The room was very close to what their quarters at the Circus looked like, and from the bolts and locks on the inside of the door, it could plainly be made invulnerable - or just about.

"This place is getting better all the time. But I wonder who lived here?" Stepping inside the room, the were looked around, running a hand over the paneling, feeling for grooves or depressions that would mark another entrance. The thick carpeting gave beneath his sneakers, and he yielded to temptation, kicking his shoes off and walking around barefoot.

Asher smiled when he noticed, already knowing that Nate preferred to wear as little as possible at all times, usually wearing no more than an unbuttoned pair of jeans if they were staying in and relaxing. He started around the opposite side of the room, looking for any other exits as well.

"It could have been anyone," he shrugged, "and not necessarily recently either. I still have houses in other countries that I haven't set foot in in decades or centuries in some cases."

"You do?" It made sense, though in all honesty, Nathaniel rarely gave much thought to the fact that his lover was hundreds of years old. "Do you remember where they all are?"

"Most of them. I have lawyers and accountants to handle those details for me," Asher said offhandedly, staring intently at a section of paneling that he was sure concealed an exit.

"Do you see anything here? I'm sure there's an entrance, but I don't see how it works."

Leaving his shoes where they lay, Nathaniel moved over to Asher's side, running a hand over the wood grain and frowning slightly. "There's a draft, do you feel it?"

At Asher's nod, Nathaniel leaned in closer, frowning when he couldn't spot anything that might provide them access to the emergency exit. "Well, we could always bust it down and rebuild," he offered, grinning a bit.

Asher snorted. "I think we'll leave that for a last resort," he responded dryly. "Much easier just to bring Anita over and let her figure it out. It will probably take her all of thirty seconds." He suddenly turned, pinning Nate against the wall with the weight of his body.

"Now do you want to explore the upper floors right away, or shall we make good use of this comfortable carpet first?" He nibbled lightly along the were's jaw, teasing with the promise of his bite.

Automatically tilting his head, both to get his hair out of the way and to give Asher a better angle, Nathaniel shivered and relaxed, his eyes closing. "Here, please?" he whispered, feeling his cock throb to life at the feel of Asher against him and the thought of them 'christening' what undoubtedly was going to be their new home.

"Oh good," Asher purred, lightly scraping his fangs over Nathaniel's throat, still teasing him. "It would have been very difficult to walk up the stairs in this condition." He pressed his hips forward, his erection digging into the were's belly making it clear what he was referring to.

He tugged at Nathaniel's clothes, wanting him naked again, kissing him the entire while he stripped his lover. Once they were both naked, he urged Nate to wrap his legs around his waist, knowing how much the younger man enjoyed the feeling of helplessness when Asher controlled him with his vampiric strength.

Fingers clenching on Asher's arms, legs winding up and around Asher's slim waist, Nate moaned. Their cocks rubbed against each other as he settled into place, and his hair fell around them, tickling exposed skin, when he bowed his head forward. "Asher... love..." The last was gasped out as he lifted his head again, lost in the master vampire's pale blue eyes.

"Yes," Asher hissed, his hands biting lightly into the flesh of his lover's ass. He easily raised the were, holding him slightly above his own cock, the slick head twitching over his sensitive opening while Nate squirmed and mewled pleadingly. Laughing, Asher pulled Nathaniel down onto his cock, knowing he would enjoy the bite of the dry penetration.

Nate's violet eyes went unfocused, and he let out a yowl that combined pleasure and pain. His whole body tightened for a second, fighting the sizable intruder, then he relaxed, allowing Asher to slide the rest of the way inside him. Once settled there, however, he found he couldn't stay still, and he writhed, trying to rub his erection against Asher's chest as his hands slid up the vampire's arms, fisting in his hair at the base of his skull.

Laughing wickedly, Asher suddenly pulled him up and back off his cock. Before Nate could do more than yowl once in protest, the master vampire's fangs were sinking into his cock, his power suddenly exploding through the were, far more intense than even usual thanks to the location of the bite.

Nothing existed for Nathaniel in that moment except the climax that poured through him, urged on by the tendrils of Asher's power and his own lust for the vampire. Gouts of creamy semen slightly tinged with blood from the location of the bite splattered into Asher's mouth, rolling down his lips to drip onto his chest and Nathaniel's dangling legs.

"Ash..." The vampires name dissolved into a harsh snarl as Nathaniel fought to keep from changing, his control stripped to rags by the intensity of his orgasm.

Spasms were still wracking the were when Asher slammed him back down onto his cock and immediately began thrusting into him. His lips closed over a rigid nipple, and he bit down again, himself thrown into a frenzy of lust by his mate's unabashed pleasure in him and Nate's sheer sensual abandon.

Nathaniel could feel the blood leaking out of his cock and his nipple, and he yowled again, this time in amazement as he could also feel a faint echo of Asher's pleasure and hunger burning within him. His hands sprouted claws, and they dug into the muscles of Asher's arms, holding them both in place as they writhed and twisted and slammed together and up against the wall behind him.

"My pretty kitty," Asher growled, feeling his skin give way as Nate's claws dug in. He lapped at the blood dripping from the nipple he'd just bitten, then switched his attention to its counterpart, scraping his teeth over the rigid nubbin but not unleashing his power... yet.

Not able to go deep enough this way, he suddenly turned and dropped down so that Nathaniel was on his back on the floor and the vampire was over him, powering into him, blue eyes fixed feverishly on violet.

Freed slightly by the move, Nathaniel's arms wrapped around Asher's back, scoring red lines in the pale skin of his back. Nathaniel bucked upwards, wanting more, his harsh, guttural grunts witness to the transformation he was still managing to hold at bay. His hair was caught under them, pulling his head back at an angle, but Nate didn't care; he could feel Asher, smell him, taste him, and that was all that mattered.

Asher's hands now supported him, allowing him to thrust even harder into his lover, and he growled his pleasure in the beautiful man beneath him. Once again, his head bent forward, his teeth this time sinking into the pulsing jugular as he fed from Nathaniel even as his body tightened, teetering on the brink on orgasm.

Nathaniel's wail echoed off the bare walls before being absorbed by the plush carpeting beneath them. His spine flexed sinuously, and his body tightened around Asher's erection, pulsing around it in the same rhythm the vampire was feeding from him. A rush of power roared over him, and Nate screamed, another, nearly dry, orgasm ripping through him, pushed onward by Asher's power.

Now snarling like some wild beast, Asher hungrily sucked at the fluid, pausing only to yell his pleasure as his climax ripped through him. He could feel Nate's body rippling around him, driving him on, and it was only through a supreme act of will that he tore himself away from the hot liquid pouring into his mouth.

Slumping over his lover, he licked lazily at the wounds in his throat, sealing the wounds. He sighed contentedly and lay atop Nate, not certain he would ever be able to--or want to!--move again.

Taking a deep breath, purring in contentment at the feel of Asher's weight on top of him and the knowledge that it was his blood swirling through the vampire's body, Nathaniel smiled. "I think I like this place," he murmured, running his hands over Asher's back, careful not to scratch him again as his claws still hadn't been reabsorbed back into his fingers.

Asher nodded, nearly purring himself. "Now if it just has a decent bathroom, I'll be in love." He suddenly frowned slightly, looking around. "There has to be more than we're seeing here, love. There must be a shower or bathtub down here somewhere. We definitely need Anita to take a look." Curious as he was, it wasn't enough to make him move.

"Mm-hmm." Nathaniel stretched luxuriously, smiling when he felt the pull of his new bites. "Safe for you and room for me, that's all I want."

"And I want lots of luxury to spoil you with," Asher replied, leaning down to kiss the smiling lips. Slowly, reluctantly, he withdrew from Nate and sat up, looking around for their clothes.

Sighing, wishing they could just stay where they were but knowing it was impractical as well as dangerous, Nathaniel sat up. Looking down at his hands, he frowned slightly, turning them over to stare at them in fascination. "Asher, do you think the marks affect my lycanthropy? I've never been able to do this before." He stood and waggled his fingers, intrigued when the motion made the claws retract partially. "It's only the dominants who can partially change, and that is one thing I'm certainly not."

Asher eyed Nate's hands curiously, finally taking one in his own to inspect it more closely. "It must," he finally replied. "This isn't an area where there's been a great deal of experimentation, so you and I are blazing a new trail." He glanced up at the were, his eyes twinkling. "It appears those scratching posts had better be at the top of our shopping list."

"Ha ha." Nathaniel pulled his hand back and bent over to gather up his clothes, using his underwear to clean most of the blood and semen off himself, then stuffing them in the pocket of his pants, preferring to go without rather than to wear clammy silk. For now he left his sweater off as the wound around his nipple was still clotting.

"Upstairs now?"

Once again impeccably dressed, Asher grinned at his lover. "You might want to put your shoes back on first... or at least pick them up and bring them with you." Chuckling, he started for the visible door, moving slowly enough that Nate could catch up with him.

His arm securely around the young were's waist, Asher started upstairs again, curious about the second and third floors of the house. Hopefully it would live up to the promise of what they had seen so far.

Peering around the multitude of bedrooms on the second floor, Nathaniel whistled in amazement. "The whole pard could be here, and there would still be rooms left over! What are we going to do with all this space?"

"Live in it. Invite your pard to join us if you wish. Decorate it, and then when we get tired of something, start over." Asher shrugged. "What any people do in their home." He smiled faintly, thinking that he was about to share a home for the first time since Julianna's death. "Be together."

Offering a sweet smile, Nathaniel rubbed his cheek against Asher's shoulder and chest. "That's the best part of if all: being with you." He'd have to think about inviting the pard to stay with them; the majority of his fellow leopards were fine, but Elizabeth and Caleb in particular made him uncomfortable, especially since they were dominant over him and therefore could order him around unless Anita or Micah were there to stop them.

They entered another bedroom, this one opening up onto a balcony that spanned a good portion of the back side of the house and looked out over the pool. "Bet you could dive in there from here," Nate grinned before peering into the bathroom and moaning in pleasure. "But with that tub, who needs the pool?"

"No jumping off the balcony!" Asher immediately replied, looking worried. "I happen to like you just the way you are, not smeared over the patio." He moved behind his lover, arms wrapping around him as if to prevent him from leaping off that very instant.

"It's not that far," Nathaniel protested, before stopping, forgetting that topic as he was enfolded in Asher's embrace.

"So, do you like it?" the vampire wanted to know, chin resting on Nate's shoulder so that the night breeze mixed long strands of blond and auburn together. "Or would you rather go see the others before making a decision?"

"I don't think we need to see the others, do you?" He twisted his head to look at Asher's profile, feeling a burst of pride and love because it was the vampire's scarred cheek that was closest to him. "This one feels right, if that doesn't sound stupid. Like it was waiting for us."

Asher smiled, his arms tightening slightly. "Yes," he said slowly, "it does feel perfect. We should have a witch in to make sure that there's not some trap disguised, but I really do think this is right for us."

He looked around with satisfaction. "Our home," he said softly, already planning what would have to be done to complete the purchase.

Relieved that the movers, furniture store vans and the wereleopards who had decided to come over and help were finally gone and that peace and quiet reigned once more in the house, Nathaniel collapsed on the stairs, groaning and wondering if shifting would get rid of his sore muscles.

The sun was going down behind the house, tinting the rooms with warm shades of red, and Nate pushed himself to his feet, turning on lights as he double-checked the locks and security system, then headed down to the basement where Asher had been settled in since the night before.

Undoing both the physical and aura-tuned locks that had been installed, he slipped into the dimly lit room, curling up on the carpeted flooring by Asher's coffin, waiting for the sun to fully set, so that his lover could explore their home with him.

The moment the sun set, Asher's eyes snapped open, and he instantly knew that Nathaniel was with him, waiting. He'd given his lover three of the four marks, but both had agreed that they would wait for the final one until they were moved into their new home. Tonight would be that time.

Already smiling, Asher sat up and smiled at the were. "Hello, love."

Nathaniel twisted around, getting to his knees in the same motion. Pushing his hair back over his bare shoulders, he rested his hands on the coffin's rim, his lilac eyes alight with love. "Hi. You missed all the fun, you know."

He could feel Asher's hunger through the pull of the marks and leaned in, offering his neck to his lover and master.

Asher smiled and pulled him closer, kissing him instead. "Show me," he invited, climbing out of the coffin and pulling Nate against his side. "Show me our home." Although he was hungry, the vampire didn't want to get in the habit of feeding on Nathaniel the moment he arose. It wouldn't be healthy for the were, but once they had explored the house, they would enjoy exploring each other.

Tilting his head to the side to look up at Asher, Nathaniel frowned slightly, but the expression cleared away after a moment. "Those rugs you ordered from Europe haven't come in yet, but everything else is here."

They walked up the stairs and Nate held the door open for Asher so that the vampire could have a clear look at their newly furnished home.

"Very nice," Asher approved, gazing around to take in the finished effect. It had taken some convincing, but once Nathaniel accepted that Asher really did want his input on the decor, he'd come up with some fantastic ideas. About to continue on, Asher's attention was caught by the dark, fake bearskin rug in front of the fireplace, where a cheery blaze had already been started.

Abruptly changing direction, he drew his lover toward that inviting rug, his sudden image of Nathaniel's pale, gleaming body and vivid hair against the dark fur large in both their minds.

"But I thought you wanted to look around?" Nathaniel asked innocently, though growing desire made his voice hoarse and sent his pulse rate soaring. Being able to see himself the way Asher saw him was enlightening and also an aphrodisiac, not that he needed one when around his lover.

He wasn't wearing much, just a loose pair of pale lilac jogging shorts, and it was nothing to step out of them and onto the lush synthetic fur, flexing his toes against the thick pile. Dropping to his knees, then his back, Nathaniel relaxed in a position mirroring the one in Asher's thoughts.

A faint groan of desire escaped the vampire as Nathaniel once more brought one of his fantasies to life. Since sharing the marks, the were had been even more eager to pleasure his dom, and Asher found himself completely unable to resist him, not that he ever tried.

"I love you," he rasped, hot gaze running over Nate's body in a caress the were could almost feel. He never looked away as he tore his own clothes away and dropped to his knees, straddling his lover, his erection only inches from the slightly parted lips.

Unable to resist, Nathaniel flicked his tongue out to lap at the tip of Asher's cock, and he whimpered in pleasure as the shared sensations rippled over his nerves. "Love you more than life," he whispered, hands sliding over Asher's cool legs as he licked his erection again, this time more purposefully.

Groaning his pleasure, Asher curled forward, his hands on the rug behind Nathaniel's head supporting him in the deep bow his body formed. "So good," he panted, staring down and watching his erection slide between those soft lips. Seeing Nate's mouth stretch around him made a shudder of arousal race down his spine, and he whispered his lover's name.

"All mine, pretty kitty," he rasped, pulling away despite Nathaniel's attempts to keep him and pushing himself down Nate's body until he knelt between the dancer's thighs.

"Always." Not moving, Nathaniel watched Asher, love, trust, and anticipation radiating from his gaze. Unable to touch the vampire any longer, he contented himself with rubbing his inner thigh along Asher's leg, each second that dragged out stringing his nerves and lust tighter.

Staring into Nate's eyes, bright blue meeting lavender, Asher raised his lover's wrist to his lips, licking it then biting down, penetrating him with fangs, mind and body all simultaneously as he gave him the fourth and final mark.

Time stopped for Nathaniel in that instant. Everything he was, everything he had been, everything he would ever be, all merged before being consumed in the cold blue fire that raged around him. He didn't exist; all there was, was Asher, Asher's life, his death, and his undeath, and that was the way he wanted it.

Not realizing that he was crying, shaking, and that his belly was wet from his orgasm, Nathaniel came back to himself, though he fought to remain where he was, twined tightly within Asher's consciousness. Breathing in short gasps, he opened his eyes and was greeted with the oddly twinned vision of looking up at Asher and down at himself.

Asher shut his eyes for a moment, allowing both of them to grow accustomed to their increased closeness. He felt himself inside Nathaniel, felt both their sensations, and it was nearly overwhelming. "Mine," he breathed, eyes opening to stare into the gorgeous purple gaze he loved so much. "You're mine." He began to rock his hips lazily, still hard and eager for his lover.

Throat so tight that he couldn't speak, Nathaniel only managed to nod, raising his hands to stroke up Asher's arms to his face, drawing him down for a tender, lingering kiss.

The duality overrode him again, and he could feel fingers tracing down his face, the pull of old scar tissue, and the pressure of tight muscle around his cock. "Is it always going to be this strong?" he asked wonderingly, in between kissing Asher's lips and rubbing their faces together.

"We'll learn to control it so it's only this intense when we want it to be," Asher explained, somehow managing to concentrate despite the velvet heat squeezing his cock. "And we'll always know if we need each other." He kissed Nathaniel in turn, unable to stop smiling.

"I always need you." Nathaniel purred when Asher's cock rubbed over his prostate, and he arched up under his lover, wanting to bring him as much pleasure as he'd had.

"That's n-not quite what I meant... Ohhhhh!" Asher's back arched, and he drove deeper, "but I like that too." He sank his fangs into Nate's throat again as he stiffened, thrusting forward as deep as he could go, coming inside him as he shook with the pleasure of it.

"I know," Nathaniel murmured some time later. He was floating on a cloud of pleasure and contentment, and he didn't care if he never moved again. Arms and legs still wrapped around Asher's body, he nuzzled the side of his lover's face and closed his eyes, intending only to rest but falling asleep because of the day's, and night's, events.

Smiling, Asher watched the wereleopard sleep, one hand lightly petting him. Not wanting him to grow stiff from sleeping on the unyielding floor, the master vampire rose to his feet, Nathaniel still wrapped around him, and carried him upstairs. He yielded to his curiosity with quick glances into the rooms he passed, but Asher refrained from exploring them, wanting to wait until Nathaniel could do it with him.

He settled them on their bed, Nate still deeply asleep, and lay still, perfectly content to watch the were.

It was over an hour later when Nathaniel yawned, stretched, and opened his eyes. Smiling tenderly at Asher, he scooted closer and wrapped his arms around his lover, rubbing his face over the vampire's face, neck, and chest.

"Mmm, sorry I fell asleep," he murmured, continuing to rub himself over Asher's upper body. "What have you been doing to keep busy?"

"Watching you," Asher replied tenderly. "My favorite activity." He stroked the silken fall of Nathaniel's hair. "You're so beautiful. I wonder if I'll ever get used to opening my eyes and seeing you with me, knowing that you're mine and that you actually love me and don't care about the scars."

Nathaniel's eyebrows furrowed together as he frowned. "The only thing that would keep me away from you is death," he whispered, his voice low but filled with conviction. "Asher, you - " He closed his eyes and bit his lip before continuing.

"This - this is part of you, part of why I love you." He reached out and stroked his hand over the ruined flesh. "Asher, you're so beautiful, so amazing; it's more the other way around. I just - I'd never been happy, really happy until you."

Asher's eyes widened, and he stared at the other man, not sure what to say. "Nathaniel... I love you." In the end, that was all that he could say and all that he needed to say. "I feel like... a person again, thanks to you. You gave that to me, Nate, and I can never thank you enough for it.

"I can't imagine my life without you in it anymore, and I'm glad I'll never have to. We belong to each other now."

The were smiled at that and curled closer, placing a gentle kiss on Asher's cool lips. "I love you," he whispered, before kissing Asher again, this time more lingeringly. "Always, no matter what." That said, he rubbed his face against his lover's, sighing happily. "Should we go let you see the rest of the house now? People were asking when we were going to have a house-warming party today. Do you think we should?"

"I think Anita might return to her monster-slaying ways if we don't," Asher laughed wryly. "She picks the oddest things to be feminine about," he shook his head. "We'll have a party for everyone we know, and after a little while, we'll sneak away and leave them to amuse themselves while we amuse each other," he promised in a near purr.

"I think we could manage to have things ready by next weekend. What do you think?"

"I don't think I have to work on Friday night..." Nathaniel mused. "And once we get the stereo set up and some food in here, we should be pretty well set."

He paused and turned his face to rest his cheek against Asher's chest. "I'm scared. This feels so good, so normal; I just keep thinking the other shoe is going to drop soon."

"There is no other shoe," Asher soothed, petting the long hair, one arm tight around the were's waist. "I love you, you love me, and you belong to me now. Nothing's ever going to change that. In fact," he mused, tilting Nate's head upward so he could smile into the beautiful eyes, "I think we need to make that more visible." He rubbed a thumb over the sensitive skin of Nathaniel's throat. "A collar, one that will adjust when you change forms. What do you think?" he asked as he drew them both to their feet, wanting a shower.

"What do I think?" Nathaniel's smile grew until he was beaming. "I love the idea. It's nothing compared to the marks and how they make me yours, but everyone can see it and know the truth." He sighed and tiptoed up to kiss Asher's neck. "Maybe we can go shopping this week."

"Want to show off, do you?" Asher chuckled warmly, his arm tightening and holding Nathaniel pressed to him. "We'll make the time to go out and find the perfect collar for you, pretty kitty, one that's as gorgeous as you are." He tilted Nate's face up so he could kiss him properly, his body hardening at the familiar taste and sensations.

Sighing and relaxing so that his body molded against Asher's, Nathaniel purred, the newly deepened link between them only serving to heighten his arousal by twining it with Asher's. "One that shows everyone who I belong to," he murmured, sliding his hands down Asher's back to cup and knead his ass, shivering at the thought of getting his bare flesh under his fingers again.

"My kitty," Asher responded possessively, sucking and biting a passion-mark into being on Nate's throat. He raised his head to eye it, wishing it could remain. "Something with a nice amethyst to match your eyes and the marks I put on you," he teased, thrusting his hips against his lover, then starting to walk. "Come on, love, we need a shower."

"Good thing I washed those new towels we bought then, isn't it?" Nathaniel smiled, shivering lightly at the press of Asher's body against him and the thought of the collar he'd soon wear and everything it represented. "And yes, before you ask, I ate earlier, and there's food in the fridge for me. I ordered in some Chinese for later."

Asher smiled. "Good. I'd've hated to have to wait while we went out and got groceries for you," he teased, knowing how much both of them hated waiting when they wanted each other. His smile widened at the face Nathaniel made, and he hugged him closer as they walked across the room toward the en suite.

Once inside the lavishly appointed bathroom, the vampire finally let go of his lover to switch on the water in the shower, looking forward to trying it out with its three showerheads. Seeing that Nathaniel was already testing the water temperature, he shook his head with amusement as he stepped under the water, sighing happily at the hot massaging pressure of it.

He opened one blue eye to peer at the blissful wereleopard. "I thought cats weren't supposed to like water?"

His expression one of exasperation and amusement, Nathaniel shook his head before ducking under the full spray of the nearest nozzle. "I was a person before I was a cat, though I don't recall liking baths much when I was a kid. Besides, cats like water, haven't you ever seen the tigers and leopards at the zoo? They go swimming in their pools all the time when it's hot out."

Reaching for the lightly scented soap, Nathaniel poured some of the thick gel into his palms, working up a lather before beginning to wash Asher's chest and shoulders.

Practically purring as Nathaniel cared for him, Asher looked down at his lover almost quizzically. "How could I? Even now, most zoos are only open during the day, and there was nothing like that when I was mortal." He shrugged. "Besides, it's more fun to tease you, my pretty kitty, than to find out the facts." His arms rose to loosely encircle the wereleopard, holding him without restraining him.

Nathaniel rolled his eyes toward the heavens, secretly pleased that Asher was now able to tease and joke with him like this as it was something that most who knew the vampire thought him incapable of.

Soaping up his hands again, Nathaniel moved closer to Asher and ran them over his lover's back and down to his ass, kneading the firm, cool flesh even as the warm water rinsed the suds from Asher's pale skin.

Asher's hands came to rest on Nate's hips, enjoying the sensation of the warm, slick flesh beneath his palms as much as his lover's ministrations. "You must spend half your life trying to get your hair or fur dry," he observed lazily. "I don't know how you manage, but I'm glad you do. It's beautiful." One hand rose to stroke the wet auburn silk, using it to tug Nathaniel's head back so he could kiss him.

Brushing their lips together, his head tilted back by the pressure of Asher's hand in his hair, Nathaniel purred, his tongue flicking out to lap at his lover's mouth, then slide inside.

"You get used to it," he murmured once their lips had parted. "Taking care of it and adding in the time to do what you need to it."

"I'm glad you do. I love it," Asher said, knowing perfectly well that saying so guaranteed that Nathaniel would never cut it. This was one instance where he was willing to make use of Nate's desire to please him, since he really did love his hair, and Nathaniel had been the one to first choose to grow it anyway.

His hand slid down through the hair, letting Nate lower his chin again, and he finally stepped back, giving them enough room to move. Returning the favor and washing his lover, he questioned him about their plans for the evening. "Do you want to go out tonight, love, or spend this first night alone together?"

Purring as Asher's hands moved over his body, lathering and rinsing his skin, Nathaniel shrugged negligently. "It is our first night here," he offered, half-turning to look back at his lover. "Maybe just a walk around the neighborhood?"

"Sounds good to me. We can see what the other places look like and maybe meet some of the neighbors, if anyone else keeps our hours." He grinned wickedly at Nathaniel. "Hopefully there won't be too many dogs to bother you, love. I'd hate to have the neighbors after us for disturbing their pets."

"If a dog tries to take a bite out of either of us, I'll eat it," Nathaniel answered matter-of-factly, reaching for the lever to turn off the water now that the soap had been rinsed off them. "Mind drying my hair before we go though? It's still too cold to leave it wet."

"It will be my pleasure," Asher replied instantly. He loved Nathaniel's heavy hair and took advantage of every excuse to touch it. "But really, love, you should try to avoid eating the neighbors' overpriced, over-pampered pets. It's really not the best way to achieve domestic harmony," he teased. "Besides, I think it highly unlikely that a dog would attempt to bite either of us."

Having toweled off, he sat down on the chaise in one corner of the huge bathroom, and drew Nathaniel down to sit between his legs. Smiling fondly, he carefully combed the luxuriant auburn length, making sure it was free of tangles, then picked up the dryer and began to blow it dry, finger-combing it as he went.

Eyes closing, Nathaniel leaned his head back, slowly scooting forward as Asher worked his way through his long hair, drying it from crown to tips before releasing it to fall in a heavy silken veil around him, caressing his bare skin.

Turning and getting up onto his knees, Nathaniel rested his hands on Asher's thighs and smiled up at his lover. "I love how you take care of me. Thank you." Leaning in, he kissed Asher, teasing the vampire's lips open with his tongue and feasting on his mouth for long moments before finally falling back. "We'd better put clothes on if we're going walking. I bet the neighbors would like streakers even less than their pets getting eaten."

"It would be a close race," Asher agreed, smiling faintly at the absurd idea of him streaking anywhere. "And it would perhaps not be the best first impression to give of ourselves to the neighbors. Scandalized puritans would be no less disturbing to our rest than monster haters." He urged Nate to his feet so he could stand up as well, then they moved back into the bedroom to dress.

Quickly dressed in a simple pair of pants and a sweater, Asher leaned back to watch Nathaniel dressing, enjoying the simple pleasure of looking at him.

Nathaniel looked faintly troubled and looked up at Asher, pausing in pulling his jeans over his slim hips. "Do you think that's going to be a problem? When they find out who we are?" he asked, doing up the buttons and reaching for a violet tank top and a button-down denim shirt.

Asher watched the lithe body vanish beneath the clothes, enjoying the knowledge that he could see and have Nathaniel whenever he wanted and that Nate wanted him just as much. Considering the were's question, he shrugged, seemingly indifferent, but that was something he could never be, not with his history of run-ins with humans who didn't care for his kind.

"Hopefully not," he said honestly. "It's not as if we're planning to move into their living rooms. But we'll be careful all the same." If anyone threatened Nathaniel, Asher would destroy them. He would not lose another lover.

Chin up, violet eyes glinting in the electric light, Nathaniel's expression turned almost feral. "No one is going to hurt you again," he said adamantly before giving himself a small shake, his expression returning to normal. "Ready to go?"

Momentarily taken aback, Asher was reminded that no matter how submissive Nathaniel's personality, he was still a wereleopard, with all the feral instincts of his kind. And like any true sub, his dom's wants and safety were extremely important to him. "We'll protect each other then, love," Asher said softly, drawing Nathaniel into his arms for a tender kiss.

"And yes, I'm ready. Let's go explore our new home." Arm in arm, they strolled out the front door, looking forward to a pleasant walk.

Sighing happily, Nathaniel leaned his head against Asher's side as they strolled down their long blacktopped driveway and out to the bike trail that ran along the road. The spring air still held the day's warmth, and a profusion of flowers bloomed in the beds both on their property and that adjacent to their house.

The houses in their neighborhood were old and the lots large, about a half acre to an acre each, so there was a feeling of openness not often found in city areas. "This is nice," Nathaniel murmured, sliding his hand under Asher's shirt so that they could have skin to skin contact. In the distance, he heard a car approaching but really didn't pay it any mind.

"Yes," Asher agreed, tilting his head slightly to smile down at his lover. He couldn't believe how much he was enjoying something so simple as taking a walk, and he wondered why he didn't do it more often. Then he realized that having Nathaniel with him was what made it so special.

"Queers!" The raucous yell made Asher's head jerk up, and his eyes fixed on the nearby car and teenaged boys hanging out the windows with deadly intent. For that moment, he looked like the killer he was, and the youths' eyes widened with fear when they realized what they were facing. They gunned the engine and sped away, leaving Asher to turn to Nathaniel with concern.

"Are you all right?" he asked anxiously, dismayed that their evening had been spoiled but more concerned about how Nate was reacting to the altercation.

The light in Nathaniel's eyes dimmed somewhat at the heckling, but not wanting to worry Asher, he gamely smiled. "I've been called worse and for less reason. I don't want those pricks to ruin our night."

"Then they won't." Relieved, Asher slid an arm back around Nathaniel's waist and started walking again, intent on continuing their exploration of the neighborhood. "It's very beautiful here. I only wish I could see you here in the daylight," he said wistfully. "Your hair must look beautiful in the sunlight." But that was something he would never be able to see. Still, Nathaniel was with him, and he didn't regret anything.

"Is there any particular direction you'd like to go, or shall we just wander?"

"Maybe..." Nathaniel filed the thought away for further consideration and nestled against Asher's side. "How about away from the main road? That way we can see more of the neighborhood."

Asher nodded, heading toward a side road that he could see a little ways ahead. "Just so long as we stick to the streets and keep off people's lawns. I'd hate to have to call the firemen because a dog chased my kitty up a tree," he teased nonsensically, smiling.

Nathaniel groaned. "Told you I'd eat them, remember? And I don't want to hear any jokes about getting your 'kitty' spayed so he doesn't mark the furniture, got it?"

"Never!" Asher faked a shudder at the very idea. "I like all your parts just the way they are, in perfect working order. If you get an urge to mark something, feel free to use me." He stopped walking to pull Nate into his arms for a possessive kiss, nipping at his lower lip then licking the blood away and healing the small wound.

Nathaniel's shudder was very real and for an entirely different reason than Asher's, and the light was back in his eyes when he looked up at the vampire after the kiss. "I think I like the marks you gave me instead." He grinned, looking very young for an instant. "And then there's the collar you promised me..."

"We'll go looking for a jeweler tomorrow," Asher decided, already picturing a heavy collar of sliding links around Nathaniel's throat. The sliding metal would allow it to remain snug yet still expand when he shifted forms, and they would test it before they bought it. "Hmmm, I thought platinum, but with your coloring, I'm not sure. Maybe gold instead?"

"Which is stronger?" Nathaniel tilted his head to the side, trying to imagine what Asher had in mind. "I don't want to lose it."

"Platinum... and good point. We wouldn't want it to wear out from your shifting. Besides, the silvery color of the platinum will look gorgeous against all that black fur." He smiled, knowing how much Nate liked looking good.

"Mmm, it would go over well at the club too. I can't wait." The were grinned and stretched up to kiss the underside of Asher's jaw. "I love you. This is all so amazing, but the best part of it is you."

"You've got that backwards; you're the amazing one. I never thought..." He fumbled for words, wanting to tell Nathaniel how he meant to him, how special he was. "You made me happy, made me want to wake up each day for the first time in a very long time."

"And I intend to keep doing that for a very long time." Violet eyes met pale blue, and Nathaniel kissed Asher again, this time on the lips. "Want to walk more?"

"Yes," Asher said quietly, hugging him tightly for a moment, then releasing him to again walk at his side. "Another little while, then we can turn back and find our way home again." Home. Such a small word and such a big thing, especially when one finally had one again after so long alone. He smiled.

"I wonder if the welcome wagon will pay us a visit?" The thought struck Nathaniel as funny, and he laughed softly at the thought of them receiving a basket of flowers or whatever the hell they gave.

Asher snorted. "As long as they don't give us casseroles. Although..." he eyed Nate, "you could use a bit of fattening up."

"That would lose me my job. People want a show other than the changing for their money, remember."

"As if you would ever be other than gorgeous and sexy," Asher scoffed. "But I can't really see you eating tuna surprise, I have to admit. Now a catnip casserole..." Happiness was making him uncharacteristically giddy, but he was enjoying it.

"Keep it up and I'm going to change out here and chase you home," Nathaniel laughed. He loved it when Asher's defenses dropped, letting him be carefree.

"Ha!" Asher taunted laughingly, backing away slightly. "As if you could keep up with me." He smirked at his lover, practically daring him to do it. It was dark enough that it was unlikely that anyone would see them, especially as quickly as they could move.

Nathaniel blinked, not having expected Asher to take him seriously. He glanced around, then lifted his chin and started to skin out of his clothes, tossing them to Asher so that they wouldn't be lost. "Wait and see," he promised with a grin before settling into a crouch, his body sheathed in moonlight and his hair.

Nathaniel shuddered, then his skin began to flow. His bones twisted and popped and a shower of clear liquid rained down onto the grass beneath his feet, all four of them. Giving his body a shake to get rid of the few droplets of liquid that clung to him, he looked at Asher expectantly, poised for the chase.

Having bundled up Nate's clothes while the were was shifting, Asher now grinned and suddenly vanished into the night, faster than human senses could track. Laughter floated on the night breeze as he played in ways he hadn't had the heart for since he and Jean-Claude had been lovers.

Tracking Asher with his own heightened senses as well as the marks that bound them, Nathaniel bounded after the vampire, flowing over fences and several cars that had been left outside garages as he chased his lover down. He reached a wooded area that bordered the neighborhood and paused in the shadows, head lifted, eyes, ears and nose all searching the night for a clue as to where Asher was hiding.

Pausing in the deep shadows, Asher watched Nathaniel, enjoying his beauty and the animal side of him, seeing when the breeze shifted and carried his scent to the hunting cat. Laughing again with sheer pleasure, he broke from concealment and raced through the trees, aiming for the back of their own lot, not far away.

Body twisting as he changed direction in mid-bound, Nathaniel sped after Asher, gaining on the vampire with each bound. He leapt over the wooden fence surrounding their property without breaking stride, and tackled Asher, pinning his lover to the ground and rubbing his face against Asher's before beginning to lick him, his sandpaper raspy tongue scouring over the vampire's cheeks in long, tender swipes.

Laughing and squirming, Asher lay beneath his feline lover, trying to twist away from the rough tongue while wrapping his arms around the were. "Now that you've caught me, what are you going to do with me?" He petted the soft, luxuriant pelt that covered Nathaniel, grinning up into the violet eyes.

If Nathaniel could have smiled, he would have, but as that was impossible, he squirmed just enough to get Asher to relax his hold, then dipped his head, catching the silk where it was fastened with a row of buttons and tugging until the first disc popped off, working his way down until Asher's chest was bare to the moonlight.

Blinking in faint surprise, Asher lay loose and relaxed as the huge wereleopard slowly stripped him, using his teeth and claws. "I guess you know what to do with me." Pale blue eyes reflected the moonlight back up at his lover. Does this mean you're going to take me right here?" He was grateful that the lots were big enough and wooded enough that no neighbors were likely to see them. He didn't particularly care for himself, but it wouldn't exactly be an ideal first impression, and he didn't want anyone to snub Nathaniel.

Dismissing the mortals from his thoughts, Asher arched his back slightly, offering himself to his lover.

Violet eyes widened impossibly large against Nathaniel's black fur and he froze, staring down at Asher, his silent question plain from his posture and expression. Not that he hadn't taken other men before when he was told to, but this was Asher... And if it was what he wanted, Nathaniel would do it and love every minute of it.

Nathaniel's surprise was clear, and Asher stared back up at him. "That not what you had in mind? It's up to you, pretty kitty; this time's yours to pick. Top or bottom, whatever you want. I keep telling you that I enjoy everything with you." Asher petted him, wanting to make him purr again and to feel that rumbling against his own body.

Lowering his head slightly, his eyes still fixed on Asher's face, Nathaniel nudged the vampire's legs open a bit wider and settled between them. His tongue flicked out, lapping at Asher's testicles, his purring growing louder as the musky flavor filled his senses, making him dip his nose lower, licking the tender skin of his perineum and the tight bud of his anus.

The vampire groaned wordlessly, legs spreading wider as he gave himself up to Nathaniel. He was glad Nate was comfortable enough with him to take the lead occasionally, and he promised himself to reward the were for his initiative later. Right now however... "Oh yes, so good, Nathaniel," he gasped, head falling back to expose his throat.

His rough purring rumbling through the night air, Nathaniel splayed himself on the ground, lapping at the most private part of Asher's body, his own arousal growing with every moan and shudder his lover gave. Finally, unable to take it any longer, knowing they both wanted him inside Asher, he crawled back up the vampire, nuzzling his chest before lowering his head and willing himself to change.

Asher shuddered slightly as Nathaniel changed and the thick fluid cascaded over him in heated contrast to the cool night air. He wrapped arms and legs around the now human form atop him and pulled Nate's head down so he could kiss him hungrily.

"You really want..." Nathaniel whispered once their lips parted before stopping himself, knowing that Asher wouldn't have offered if he wasn't in agreement. "I love you." That was said as the were collected some of the cooling liquid on his fingertips and trailed them between Asher's thighs, then over his loose, damp anus.

Glancing up to meet Asher's eyes, he licked his lips, then pressed one lubricated digit inside the cool, clinging depths of the vampire's body.

Eyes falling half shut, Asher murmured his pleasure and raised himself to meet Nathaniel's tentative stroke. "Yes, like that, want you inside me, pretty kitty," he rasped, his eyes blazing blue fire from beneath heavy lids. "Want to feel you inside me while we're outside, under the moon." His fists clenched in Nathaniel's long hair, tugging sharply.

The slight pain in his scalp brought Nathaniel's mind into sharper focus, and he shivered, feeling the nighttime breeze play over his damp skin and Asher shift beneath him, his hips canting up for more. Adding a second finger, Nathaniel scooped up more of the gelling liquid and smoothed it over his cock, his hips bucking forward involuntarily at the sensation.

Slowly pulling his hand back, Nathaniel rested Asher's legs on his shoulders and set the head of his cock at the entrance to his lover's body. "Asher..." he whispered, before pressing inward, his heated flesh slowly surrounded by the vampire's chill.

"Nathaniel," Asher murmured in reply, opening himself fully to the marks so that he felt himself penetrating and being penetrated at the same time, the sensations of both their bodies rushing through him. "Love you," he gasped, rising up to meet each thrust.

His sense of self lost in the rush of sensation and emotion linking them, Nathaniel closed his eyes, tears seeping from beneath his lids to run down his cheeks and fall to Asher's chest at the beauty of the moment. He rocked his hips, and his moan twined with Asher's as they both felt their prostates nudged and their cocks gripped more tightly by clenching muscles.

Blue eyes locked on violet, and both drove together, wanting this to last forever yet hungry for the climax that awaited them. Hands stroked and caressed, neither knowing which of them was touching and which touched, both lost in the pleasure. Asher groaned as his balls drew up, trembling on the brink of climax yet wanting Nathaniel to come at the same time.

Lost somewhere between being the possessor and the possessed, Nathaniel moaned, his hips snapping forward and back, each thrust causing himself to feel more and more of Asher's reactions until he wanted to throw back his head and snarl, then bite his lover hard enough to taste his blood. His cock throbbed, and he felt the rush of orgasm roll over him, though if it was his own or Asher's, Nathaniel had no idea.

Asher cried out as the pleasure echoed between them, each reinforcing the other's sensations until he thought he might die of the joy. He curled upward, hungering for the taste of his lover, and his fangs sank into the vein at Nathaniel's throat, the rich, complex flavor of the wereleopard filling his mouth as they both came endlessly.

Some time later, Nathaniel wasn't even sure how long had passed, they stirred. Moaning softly as Asher's fangs slid from his throat and his now soft cock slipped from the vampire's body, Nathaniel lifted his head to look down at his lover. "I felt you - like I was a part of you," he whispered, still awed by the depth of their connection by the marks. "And you were a part of me, and will be, always."

"Yes," Asher replied simply, raising a hand to stroke through the tangled silk of Nate's hair. "Even if I could never touch you again, we would be bound forever... but I can touch you and plan to at every opportunity." He stretched beneath his lover, then gathered him close, enjoying the heat of the were's body atop his own cool flesh. "When we can move again, we should probably take a swim." They were both coated in semen and the liquid of Nate's change, as well as dirt, twigs and various bits of flora. "We're a mess."

"Mmm hmm." Nathaniel would have been quite happy to lie there all night long, but the realization that Asher probably wasn't all that comfortable had the were shifting to get off of his lover. "The heater is on, so it should be warm enough by now," he said, shifting back to his knees, absently pushing his hair back over his shoulders. "And I know, I'll get something to eat afterward, I promise."

"I certainly hope so," Asher chuckled. "I so enjoy working the calories off you." He rose to his feet, flipping his blond braid over his shoulder and smiling down at Nathaniel. "Not to mention my growing addiction to that snack and your reactions to it." He smiled sensually, thinking of how Nate came apart when he let his power loose. He'd never used it so often with any other lover, but knowing how much Nathaniel enjoyed losing control, he tended to use it more often than not with him. The resulting quivering heap of were-lover was most enjoyable.

He didn't realize that his eyes had kindled as he allowed himself to remember Nate's reactions.

Nathaniel stood sinuously, his breath catching in his throat as he both saw and felt Asher's emotions and felt his own arousal flare to life again. Leaning in close, he rubbed his face against Asher's chest and shoulder, flicking his tongue over the rough, scarred flesh as they walked toward the pool.

Breaking apart long enough to drop into the water, Nathaniel dunked himself under the warm waves, sighing in contentment when he surfaced, shaking his head to clear his vision and stroking closer to Asher. "This feels good," he sighed, standing on tiptoe and running his hands down his lover's chest. "You feel good."

"As do you." Asher reached out and encircled him in his arms, drawing him closer still. "Just keep in mind that you do need to breathe," he murmured as he sank down beneath the water, teeth scraping lightly over the were's chest.

"Asher, where..." Nathaniel swayed as his lover's hands closed on his hips, and he let his head fall back against his shoulders, his hair trailing in the water around them both. He had a very good idea as to what was going to come next, and despite his recent climax, he felt his body tighten in anticipation.

Asher could see Nate's reaction as he realized what the vampire had planned, and he smiled faintly as he sank down through the water until he could nuzzle against the twitching flesh between the were's legs. Nathaniel had been soft and exhausted moments before, but just imagining Asher taking him into his mouth had had this effect on him, and the vampire was smugly delighted.

Moaning, Nathaniel spread his legs wider, trying to keep his balance in the shoulder-high water as Asher trailed the tip of a fang over his valiantly rousing cock. Biting his lip to keep from moaning out loud for fear of disturbing the neighbors, knowing how sound carried at night, he slid one hand down to tangle in his lover's hair, his whole body jerking when Asher nipped at his inner thigh.

Asher looked up through the water at his lover, admiring the sight Nathaniel made with the moonlight silvering his features, head flung back, the water casting shadows and rippling highlights over him. Only the irritation of the chlorine made him look away, blinking rapidly to soothe his eyes while he bit his lover's thigh, drinking briefly from the femoral artery before licking the wound closed and dragging a fang along the again rigid erection.

The painful pleasure dragged a deep moan from Nathaniel's throat, and he fisted his hands in Asher's hair, panting out mewling cries as the vampire teased him to the edge again and again. The taste of blood was in his throat, and he could feel Asher's pleasure as well as his own, making him whimper once again.

Feeling Nathaniel's sensations start to edge past pleasure into true pain, Asher plunged his fangs into his lover's erection, letting his power flow, pushing the were into orgasm. When the last spasm passed, Asher rose to his feet and drew the young man close, petting his back. "I love you, my Nathaniel."

Nathaniel slumped against the taller man's side, happily letting Asher support him as he doubted his own legs would. "I - you're everything, Asher, and now we have a home together..." He stopped and shivered, overwhelmed by it all.

"We have forever together," Asher corrected gently, sliding an arm beneath Nathaniel's legs to pick him up, then carried his lover out of the water. "I... I'm happy," he said slowly, tasting the words. "Thank you."

"If I said 'thank you', would you growl at me?" the were murmured, sliding an arm under his long hair and pulling it up to his chest so that Asher wouldn't trip on it. "You being happy is the most wonderful thing I can think of."

"I think it is a very good thing that Anita is not here to hear this. She would have something suitably deflating to say about it," Asher chuckled. "Perhaps... perhaps seeing us together will convince her to allow Jean-Claude to give her the fourth mark. It would make them both happier with each other."

Nathaniel raised his lavender eyes to meet Asher's. "Richard won't like it."

Asher shrugged, not impeded at all by Nate's weight in his arms. "Even Anita has admitted that though she loves him, they cannot be together. Richard refuses to accept too much of what she is, and while it can be pleasant to hide for a little while, it becomes painful. Though I do not think that Micah is necessarily right for her either." He shrugged again. "Not that she will care what I think. Anita will make her own decisions."

"I hope they make her happy," Nathaniel sighed, letting his head rest against Asher's shoulder and rubbing his cheek against the ridged skin beneath it. Asher pushed open the patio door and carried him inside, and Nathaniel remembered something that made him sit up in his lover's arms. "We left our clothes out there..."

"We have others. You can get them later." Asher frowned slightly as he carried Nathaniel up the stairs to the master bedroom. "We will really have to get some servants to take care of the house and you."

Nathaniel frowned and played with the ends of his hair. "Why? I like it with just you and me here."

"Have you noticed how big this place is? A month from now the dust will be up to our knees. Unless you really have a desire to spend the rest of eternity doing nothing but housework?" Asher pointed out gently. "We will enlist Jean-Claude's assistance and find discreet servants who will remain out of our way except when we require them."

"All right," Nathaniel acquiesced, not wanting to go against Asher's wishes. He yawned and rubbed his head against the vampire's shoulder again. "As long as they're safe."

Asher stroked the silky hair as he walked down the hallway, lying down still holding Nathaniel once he reached the bedroom rather than letting him go. "They will be. I realize my relationship with Jean-Claude can be rather confusing from the outside, but Anita has made me understand that the old feelings are still there. Jean-Claude would allow harm to come to Richard before me. There is no need to worry on that account."

Nathaniel blinked at that. Jean-Claude would truly pick love over power? His brow furrowed as he thought it over, but then he nodded in understanding. "I believe you."

Asher smiled. "So it's quite convenient that I'm as powerful as he is, apart from what he gains as Master of the City and Anita's unique strengths. So you needn't fear that I will be unable to protect you, my Nathaniel."

"I wasn't worried about myself," the were said, frowning in confusion. "I was worried about you."

"I know, mon cher. I was trying to remind you that it would take a very great deal to harm me. There is no way to expose my coffin to direct sunlight, and if anyone were foolish enough to disturb my rest, I'm old enough and powerful enough that I would not be the one to die."

Nathaniel nodded and curled closer into Asher's arms. "If they tried, there wouldn't be anything left to try and wake you."

"Why do I have the feeling we are no longer talking about what I would do them, pretty kitty?" Asher laughed, though he was touched by Nathaniel's ferocity in protecting him.

Ducking his head so that he peered up at Asher from under his damp hair, Nathaniel gave a shrug. "Because I'd never let anything happen to you," he said, his tone one of complete surety.

"Then we're even, cheri, for I feel the same about you." Asher stroked the hair back so he could see his lover's violet eyes, and he kissed him lightly.

Nathaniel closed his eyes and hugged Asher tightly. "I love you," he whispered, clinging to the master vampire. "You're my life."

"And you are mine, both literally and figuratively." Asher stroked the long lines of his back, holding him close. "For the first time in a very long time, mon cher, I find I am looking forward to the future."


  since 02-03-07



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