Warnings: D/S, bestiality (sort ofóheís a wereleopard, i.e. sentient)

Note: AU in light of events in books post Narcissus in Chains.

Christmas Traditions

Orithain and Rina

February 2008

Disclaimer: All characters © Laurell K. Hamilton. Weíre just letting them have a little fun together without Anita.

As the sun slipped behind the winter horizon on Christmas Eve, Nathaniel stretched out beneath the Christmas tree heíd set up earlier that day, nude except for the red velvet bow tied around his neck. His senses were tuned to his lover, waiting for his awakening, and he smiled, turning to his back to admire the sparkling white lights in the branches above him, as he thought of Asherís reaction to the decorations heíd put up.

Asherís eyes opened, and he stretched, somewhat surprised to wake alone. Nathaniel was usually curled up beside him. He smiled, knowing that if Nate was elsewhere, it was because his kitty had something planned. He stood up and shrugged into his robe, a habit heíd developed while living at the Circus of the Damned, then padded out in search of his lover, letting the marks guide him to the wereleopard.

He stopped in the doorway, smiling in admiration. "Iím developing a whole new appreciation for Christmas traditions."

"Ones of our own?" Nathaniel asked, turning to face Asher and holding out a hand, wanting company.

"Most certainly." Asher took the hand and sank to his knees beside Nathaniel, automatically petting the other man. "I like my present," he laughed, blue eyes inspecting every visible inch of Nate.

"Thereís more," Nathaniel laughed, catching Asherís hand and bringing it to his lips, kissing his fingers before licking his palm. "But itís for after midnight."

"So I get to play with this one till then?" Asher asked, his free hand coming up so he could trail a finger along the edge of the velvet band around Nathanielís throat above his collar. "Iím not sure that will be long enough."

Nathaniel chuckled, arching up into the touch and unconsciously tilting his head to the side to that Asher could feed. "One reason I like winterólong nights."

"One of these days I am going to kidnap you and drag you to whichever pole is appropriate. Even you should be satisfied by six solid months of sex," Asher teased, lightly scraping his fangs over the offered throat but not biting... yet.

"Possibly," Nathaniel purred, closing his eyes and opening himself fully to the marks joining them, feeling Asherís pleasure and sharing his own and his happiness as well.

Asher supported himself on one arm over Nate, smiling down at him. "I do love you, mon cher," he whispered, lightly brushing his lips over Nathanielís but not yet giving him the kiss he wanted.

"Then why wonít you kiss me?" Nathaniel asked, opening lilac eyes to meet Asherís crystal blue ones.

"Because teasing you is very pleasurable," Asher admitted, smiling.

"Youíre the best present I could ever get," Nathaniel sighed, twisting his head to rub against Asherís shoulder and chest.

Asherís hands clenched in the long auburn hair draped over the floor behind Nathaniel, holding him still as the master vampire finally began to feed, fangs sinking into the arched throat. And then one hand dragged the silky mass over Nathanielís erection, teasing him.

Nathaniel whimpered, his body twisting as he kept his neck still to make Asherís feeding easier. He could feel his loverís power pulsing through him, and he moaned, reaching up to grab hold of Asherís forearms, his cock throbbing with every touch of his own hair.

Asher smiled, easily sensing Nathanielís growing arousal, and he let his power free, his bite becoming orgasmic as he enjoyed his mate.

Howling, Nathaniel writhed on the floor, his semen pulsing out of him just as his blood was until one was spent and Asher stopped drawing in the other. "Mmm," he murmured, looking up at his lover with passion dazed eyes, "merry Christmas."

"Have you ever heard of the twelve days of Christmas?" Asher purred wickedly. "I want all my presents."

"Or is that you want your present all the ways possible?"

"You know me so well." Asher began lapping at the cooling seed on Nathanielís stomach, enjoying his flavor as much as the arousal he could feel begin to grow in Nate once again.

Nathaniel chuckled and squirmed. "Like you donít know me inside and out." He shifted position enough to rub against Asherís newly born erection. "Iíve got dinner waiting in the dining room. Care to work up a little appetite?"

"You mean in you? I always have an appetite for you." Asher smiled wickedly as he settled between Nathanielís legs, letting his cock rest against the wereleopardís.

"Mmm," Nathaniel sighed, feeling the slide of Asherís erection against his own replete shaft. "In any form, I hope."

"Of course. You should know how much I like my pretty kitty by now," Asher teased, rocking gently against him.

"I might have noticed," Nathaniel laughed, winding his legs around Asherís and dragging his hands down the master vampireís back.

"Good thing, I was wondering if I was going to have to get your vision checked," Asher chuckled, pressing closer. "I havenít exactly been secretive about it."

"Have I ever acted like I minded?"

"Only when I stopped." Asher pressed forward into him, knowing Nate preferred it without preparation.

Nathaniel groaned and arched upward, the pain as Asher took him inexorably mixed with the pleasure, causing his cock to rouse once again. "Never stop," he gasped, clinging to the vampireís body with arms and legs, wanting more.

"Never," Asher agreed. "Youíre mine and Iím yours, cheri." He drew back only so he could press forward again, groaning as Nathanielís passage clung to him.

A soft cry of agreement was Nathanielís answer, and he rocked against Asher, reaching out for their bond, connecting them both in a feedback loop of pleasure.

Losing control as the pleasure of both filled him, Asher slammed wildly in and out of Nathaniel, feeling the pain increase his human servantís pleasure, and he caught hold of the bow still around Nateís throat, twisting it so the ribbon tightened.

Nathanielís vision darkened as the velvet around his throat constricted, cutting off his air, but he didnít care. He moaned as much as he was able, bucking against Asher, lost in the complex dichotomy of sex and death.

Asher sank his fangs into Nathaniel just as he was about to lose consciousness, only then releasing the ribbon to allow life-giving air into his lungs.

The rattling breath Nathaniel drew in gave way to a groan as he came again, shuddering under and around Asher as he teetered on the edge of consciousness.

Asher drove into him yet again, burying himself deep inside Nathanielís body while he continued to let his power course through the trembling were. Then he drew his nails down Nateís sides, slicing into him and leaving bleeding slashes over his ribs.

Nathaniel spasmed again, his nostrils full of the smell of blood and sex and his body lost in the intoxicating pain of the moment. "Asher..." he moaned.

The sound of Nathanielís voice was the final impetus that spurred Asher over the edge. He drank deeply as he came, filling Nate as he filled himself with the wereleopardís blood.

Feeling drained emotionally as well as physically, Nathaniel could only manage a smile as he looked up at Asher. "Love you."

"Je tíaime aussi," Asher replied, his English momentarily deserting him. He lazily nuzzled Nathanielís throat, licking the wounds to be sure that they closed and simply enjoying the moment of closeness.

Nathaniel had no idea how long the two of them lay together under the Christmas tree, but his legs were numb when they finally roused themselves. "That wasnít your real present, you know," he murmured, opening his eyes to look up at Asher.

A blonde eyebrow rose. "I canít imagine anything better."

"After midnight, youíll see," Nathaniel said mysteriously.

Asher smiled curiously. "Youíre going to make me wait?" he asked, rolling to his back and drawing Nathaniel on top of him, an arm curling possessively around his waist.

"Itís not Christmas until midnight," Nathaniel pointed out logically, resting his chin on his arms as he looked down at Asher, their hair tangled around them.

"In this time zone. We could pretend to be in Europe. Where Iím from. Itís already Christmas there," Asher coaxed.

Nathaniel chuckled. "Were you the type who waited up for Santaóor did they have Santa when you grew up?"

"No, not Santa. But we did exchange gifts throughout the twelve days. It was a happy time," Asher murmured reminiscently. "One Iím glad to share again with you." He only hoped that Nathaniel would like his gift.

"After midnight," Nathaniel said adamantly. "Before that we can eat and sit in front of the fire and watch holiday specials... If you want."

"It sounds delightful. Perhaps we shall even put on music and dance together."

"I suppose itís too much to ask for snow in St. Louis," Nathaniel mused, leaning in to brush his lips over Asherís.

"You never know. But if itís snow you want, we can go away somewhere that your fur coat will be very useful, not to mention striking against the stark white background." Asher thought about that. "A trip together would be nice."

"I didnít mean I wanted us to go somewhere," Nathaniel said quickly. "If we traveled, you might get exposed to the sun..." He shuddered at the thought.

Asher chuckled. "How exactly do you think I got from Europe to here? I enjoy traveling, though I admit that I take care and plan for every contingency beforehand."

Nathaniel looked slightly troubled but nodded. "If weíre sure you can be safe..."

"I promise you I have no desire to die, not now. Now I have very much to live for," Asher murmured, stroking the long hair.

"Thatís all I want to hear," Nathaniel smiled, pressing his hand against Asherís face.

"Did you ever doubt it?" Asher opened the marks fully between them, letting Nathaniel feel his love and desire.

"Never you, only myself."

"Silly kitty," Asher replied fondly. "You made me want to live again, made me love you. How could you doubt that?"

Nathaniel shook his head slightly. "I could never doubt that or anything regarding you, Asher."

"Now we just have to work on your self-doubt," Asher said with a faint smile. Who would ever have expected one of Belle Morteís former servants to be concerned with someoneís self-confidence? he mused wryly. But he was, at least when it was someone he cared about, and he cared about Nathaniel very much.

"Iím trying," Nathaniel answered, raising his eyes to meet Asherí crystal blue gaze. "I really am."

"I know, mon cher, and I must admit that I enjoy possessing you at any time. You are perfect for me, and I cherish you."

"I love you too," Nathaniel murmured, kissing Asher again before rolling to his feet, holding out a hand for his lover. "Come see the dining room."

"Considering how rarely you are eager for anything to do with feeding yourself, it must truly be a marvel," Asher teased as he rose to his feet, Nateís hand in his.

Nathaniel grumbled quietly but kissed Asher and led him to the dining room, hoping his research on holiday meals from the past had been correct.

Once inside the dining room, Asher stopped in his tracks, eyes widening as he took in the feast spread out on the table. His eyes darted from one platter to the next, taking in the whole pig, the goose, the sauces and other meats, and his fingers tightened on Nathanielís.

"Thank you," he breathed, inhaling the aromas that brought back so many memories of his long-ago life as a mortal.

"I donít think I can eat all that," Nathaniel answered, ducking his head, "but this way you can taste everything, and Iíll take the leftovers to a shelter in the morning."

Asher had to chuckle. "No, I didnít really think you couldóor shouldóeat twice your own weight in food. But this is amazing, Nathaniel. I never expected it." He pulled the were close to hug him.

Nathaniel blushed and ducked his head against Asherís shoulder, pleased that heíd made his lover happy. "You do so much for me; I wanted to do something for you." He looked up, his violet eyes shining. "The desserts are in the kitchen, for later."

"You mean you arenít my dessert?" Asher murmured, brushing a tender finger over Nathanielís cheek. "I canít imagine anything Iíd enjoy more."

"Iím yours any time you want me, but the desserts are for you too," Nathaniel smiled. "Now come and sit down and tell me what you want first."

"Plum pudding," Asher replied instantly, smiling almost sheepishly. "I think youíll like it. It was my favorite when I was a child."

"So itís dessert first? We can do that."

"I thought I might offer myself as a serving dish," Asher replied, petting Nathanielís hair.

Nathaniel gave a purring chuckle. "I do have chocolate pudding for that later on too, but I like the thought of eating plums off of you." Reluctantly, he moved away from Asherís side. "Just let me go get it while you get comfortable."

"Comfortable isnít really a possibility when this aroused," Asher pointed out wryly even as he went to sit down. "And if youíd rather have your main course first, thatís fine. I only meant that would be the first of the desserts. I donít want to give you indigestion."

"Iíll be fine," Nathaniel promised, leading Asher to the head of the table. "Now sit."

"You too."

"Yes, master," Nathaniel laughed, taking his plate and transferring a slice of the bird to it, adding the side dishes that Asher indicated. Violet eyes rose to meet pale blue, and he lifted a piece of goose to his lips and bit into it, opening himself fully to Asher so that the vampire could experience the meal as fully as if he was eating it himself.

"Mmm, as good as I remember," Asher murmured, his eyes half closing as he savored the flavor, and Nathaniel beamed, taking another bite, then continuing through the dishes, eating slowly so that Asher could enjoy them as well.

"That was wonderful, thank you," Asher said once Nathaniel was done, unable to eat another bite. He leaned toward the were, raising a hand to rub a thumb over Nateís lower lip, Nathaniel opening his mouth so that he could swiped his tongue over Asherís digit.

"Mmm, better than the food," he sighed, his voice somewhat muffled by Asherís finger.

"I think youíre easily pleased, my pretty kitty," Asher said fondly, leaning over to kiss him.

"By you," Nathaniel mumbled against Asherís lips.

"As it should be."

"Of course," Nathaniel grinned.

"I also think that Iím going to have to carry you to bed after you ate that much," Asher chuckled.

"Maybe come morning, itís still early now," the were laughed, dipping his finger in some of the melting cream sauce and licking it clean.

"I wasnít planning on sleeping," Asher told him, smiling. "But youíre right; we still have to exchange gifts at midnight."

"Yeah." Nathaniel gave a nervous smile. "I hope you like it."

"Iím sure Iíll love it." Asher only hoped that Nathaniel liked his gift, tickets for both of them on an Arctic cruise that included New Yearís Eve.

"Why donít you wait until you see it to say that?"

"Itís from you; Iíll love it no matter what, but I know you know what I like."

Nathaniel nodded at that, though he chewed on his lower lip and flicked a nervous glance toward the formal living room.

"Nathaniel, relax," Asher said, rubbing a hand over his back.

"Iím sorry, I just want it to be perfect for youóand Iím not sure I know what a perfect Christmas is," the were admitted, flushing with embarrassment.

Asher kissed him tenderly. "A perfect Christmas, my Nate, is the two of us, together, in our home."

Nathaniel sighed into the kiss, and when he pulled back, his lavender eyes were bright. "The perfect anything is the two of us."

"Precisely," the vampire assured him. "So you will stop worrying now," he ordered, pale blue eyes sparkling with amusement.

"Is that an order?" Nathaniel asked, his smile returning.

"Of course," Asher replied looking down his nose before chuckling.

"Mmm, then Iíd better obey."

"Good kitty," Asher praised before kissing him.

"Iíll purr if you rub my belly," Nathaniel laughed softly before licking Asherís jawline.

"I think I have to test that for myself," Asher decided, sliding a hand under Nathanielís shirt.

"A-asher!" Nathaniel giggled, squirming before arching up against the hand petting his stomach and emitting a rusty purr.

"Mmm, very nice," Asher murmured, curling his fingers so he could lightly scratch the soft skin over hard muscle that was Nathaniel.

"Mmmhmm." Nathaniel writhed sinuously before letting out a loud belch then breaking into giggles. "Sorry, too much dinner."

Asher laughed as well. "I donít think youíre up to too much exertion at the moment. Perhaps we should curl up in front of the fire and simply enjoy watching it until midnight."

"That sounds good to me." Nathaniel stood, holding out his hand for Asher to take.

Asher took pleasure in the simple touch of hand on hand as he rose to his feet and they strolled into the den to curl up together on the loveseat facing the fireplace.

"It would be nice if it would snow," Nathaniel murmured, repeating his earlier wish as he slid his hand under Asherís shirt and rubbing his chest.

"If I could arrange it for you, I would. A white Christmas would be nice." The vampire suddenly chuckled. "Though one advantage of this modern age is that we can have a fire whenever we like, even if we have to turn the air conditioning on."

"Well, itís not that hot out," Nathaniel laughed, looking out the window at the frosty ground and bare trees. "But curling up together in front of a fire is nice."

"Yes, it is," Asher agreed, stroking the long fall of Nathanielís auburn hair, spreading it over them like a silken blanket, Nathaniel reaching for Asherís pale hair as well and twisting strands of both colors into a braid that bound them together.

"I like that," Asher said, smiling down at the congress of their hair. "Some time weíll have to do that when someone else is around to take a picture."

"Or do it when youíre in me." Nathaniel squirmed languorously at the thought of it.

"As long as they know enough not to touch."

Nathaniel grinned at that. "We can ask Jason."

"You have a higher opinion of his self control than I do," Asher replied dryly.

"I have a higher opinion of his sense of self preservation; besides, who else would we ask? Anita? Jean-Claude?"

"Anitaís blush might make her spontaneously combust," Asher laughed.

"Exactly," Nathaniel grinned before kissing Asher again.

"I think Jean-Claude would be annoyed if we killed her."

"And neither of us would like it much either," Nathaniel reminded him.

"No, she has become a friend, much to my own surprise."

"And hers, I think."

"Considering that I came to kill Jean-Claude and her as well if need be, I think we surprised everyone," Asher chuckled wryly.

"Iím glad you didnít, because if you had, we never would have met." Nathaniel lifted his head to gaze into Asherís blue eyes at that.

"That would have been a great loss."

Nathanielís vigorous nod made him yelp when it pulled at the braid that bound them together.

"I think we need to separate our hair if we ever hope to join anything else without scalping ourselves."

"If you mean weíd end up bald if we tried to fuck, yeah, youíre right," Nathaniel grinned, reaching up to undo the braid, stroking his fingers through Asherís hair as he did so.

"You have no romance in your soul," Asher said with amusement. "But thatís all right, I have enough for both of us, and you have other talents."

"I do too have romance!" Nathaniel protested before pouting, causing Asher to laugh and kiss the pout away.

"I do!"

"Yes, you do, and you inspire great romance in me."

"Iím glad," Nathaniel grinned.

"Me too," Asher admitted with a tender smile, brushing the wereís hair back from his face.

The clocked chimed, and Nathaniel stroked Asherís face. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Nathaniel. Itís but the first of many."

"Thatís the best gift I could ever get."

"I hope you will like this one as well." Asher withdrew an envelope from his pocket and handed it to Nathaniel, watching him intently.

Auburn brows furrowed as Nathaniel took the envelope and carefully opened it, pulling out a brochure. "A cruise? For New Yearís? But how..."

"Itís an Arctic cruise," Asher replied. "No sun for months."

"No sun?" Nathanielís expression turned to a smile of pure happiness, and he pulled Asher into a tight hug. "Youíll be safe!"

"And youíll be exhausted," Asher said with a wicked smile.

"But very, very happy."

"Iíll be very happy to carry you off the ship, wearing a smug smile," Asher chuckled.

"As long as it docks after dark!"

Asher laughed. "I meant that I would be wearing the smug smile and not that it would be all I would be wearing."

"And I meant I donít want to have to worry about your health if it docks during the day," Nathaniel commented wryly before leaning over to give Asher a lingering kiss. "Thank you."

"It wasóand will beómy pleasure," Asher assured him.

"I hope you like your present as much."

"Perhaps you should show it to me now," Asher suggested gently.

"We need to get up to see it," Nathaniel admitted, keeping hold of the envelope as he stood.

Looking curious, Asher got to his feet as well and took Nathanielís free hand. "Then lead on."

Nathaniel shook his hair out of his face and smiled up at the master vampire, then led him into the formal living room, waiting to see his reaction when he saw the portrait hanging over the fireplace there.

Asher froze into absolute stillness, his eyes drinking in every detail of the image of him and Nathaniel. Not since his time with Jean-Claude and Julianna had a picture been painted of him, and the artist had done a commendable job with light and shadow, leaving his scars without making them too blatant. If anything, it was the collar around Nathanielís neck and the expressions on their faces as they looked at each other that drew the eye.

"Cíest magnifique," he murmured, "itís wonderful." He drew Nathaniel tightly against him without looking away from the portrait.

"So you like it?" Nathaniel asked, one hand rising to rub at the jeweled collar he wore. "I thought it could be like the one you had before, but with us..."

"I love it; itís perfect. Thank you, Nathaniel." Asher finally looked away from the painting and gave the were a brilliant smile.

"Iím the one whoó" Nathaniel began before taking a breath and raising Asherís hand to his lips, kissing it. "Youíre welcome."

Asher smiled tenderly. "Youíve made this the perfect Christmas, Nathaniel."

"Good, because thatís what I wanted. I know itís the best one Iíve ever had."

Asherís smile widened. "Merry Christmas, my Nate."

"Merry Christmas, Asher," Nathaniel murmured, rising on his toes to kiss the other man. "I love you."





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