Krall hadn’t seen either face in two seasons. Before that, though, they’d had more than five years in close company and shared deeds; he’d have instantly recognized either of them, never mind the conspicuous pairing. Seeing them now, the bear’s heart leaped with joy.

He started making his way through the crowd, taking care, even now, not to push. He was a big man among a big race; he could have forced his way through if there had been true and urgent need. Courtesy was an old habit, though, and one he would not lightly set aside – no matter how eager he was to meet those two again, that did not an emergency make.

The drake – whose wings, even furled, gave him enough personal space to have a clearer view – was first to see him; turning, waving, then twisting to give his human companion a nudge and say something to him, excited. Then both of them were working along the crowd’s edge to where there was a bit more room.

Krall adjusted his course to suit. For all he wasn’t shoving, people still parted before him; nobody wanted to be in the way of a bear his size, for even without meaning to, he could have quite an impact if he just stumbled against someone. Besides, with him out of the press of people, everyone else would have that much more room. So it was that he got to the mouth of the alley just as the other two did; they all collided in a laughing tangle, one of Krall’s arms winding around each, pulling them in close.

“Stars above, you’re a welcome sight, Krall,” the human said into the bear’s chest, a bit muffled but loud enough to be clear even over the crowd. “How are you? And Katia?”

“All’s well with us,” Krall rumbled, splaying one hand over the drake’s back to keep him in close, while the other lifted up to stroke over Allan’s sandy hair. Gods, it had been too long. “She’s tending to her gear; prefers to do her business when the market’s not quite so lively.”

“Do you still have business about, then?” Raskin asked, reaching up to stroke Krall’s jaw.

“Nothing of consequence,” Krall replied instantly. Nothing that couldn’t wait for another day when he wasn’t meeting old, dear companions for the first time in too cursed long. “This way; my home is a modest place, but there’s room enough for both of you, always.” He tugged them toward the alley; it was  not, perhaps, the most direct route home, but it was the quickest way away from the press of the market and it at least went vaguely the right way.

“How is Tabar?” he asked once the noise of the crowd had ebbed somewhat. “None the worse for the journey south, I hope?”

“There were some unpleasant times,” Allan said with a guilty wince; it was his kin the trio had gone to visit, after all. “But we made do, and he’s well. Glad to be back in the northlands. He parted ways with us but a few hours ago – said he wanted to hunt down his own food for once.”

“Ah, Tabar,” Krall laughed. Quiet though he was, the snow leopard was a proud man, and proud especially of his ability as a hunter; paying for food on a regular basis would run against his grain.

And he’d not deal well with debilitating heat. Their journey had brought them south at the height of summer…

Well, he was back now, and their companions said he was thriving; Krall would content himself with that, and seek a proper reunion when he could. He even had a small bottle of good wine set aside for it. For now, though, he turned his thoughts back to the companions he did have nearby.

Krall’s home was the smallest he could find that was sized for the larger races, but that still made it a respectable space. The furnishings were simple but sturdy, the work of a few good carpenters and joiners the bear knew; the proportions were, from the perspective of his guests, quite roomy. Krall fetched goblets and wine – not the small, precious bottle he’d set aside for Tabar, but still a vintage he knew to be quite good – and took them into the main room, where he sat on the large couch; delightfully, they sat on either side of him, leaning in.

The drake’s fingers ran over the carved wooden surface of his goblet. “As always, Krall, your modesty does more to impress than many a boastful man’s pride. An open yet cozy space, a good warm fire, fine craftsmanship of all kinds all around…”

“And good company in the midst of it,” Allan put in with a laugh. “That’s our Krall, all right.”

Krall allowed himself a chuckle, giving a light squeeze to each man’s farther shoulder. “Only the best for my friends,” he rumbled. “And since I don’t have the means to get another set of comforts for them, that means I have to be choosy with my own, hmm?”

Another laugh from Allan. “Krall, you can make a log to sit on seem like a grand comfort! But you did always have an eye for quality, no doubts there.”

“I like to get the best I can,” Krall replied, ruffling the man’s hair. “But if that’s pretty basic, no matter – especially not when the company’s good.”

“And good company is something we’ve not lacked for,” Raskin observed, shifting a little closer. One of his wings nudged Krall’s shoulder, and the bear shifted forward a bit to let it in behind him; crooning, Raskin curled it around him and drew right in against his side.

“So what have you two been up here in the north,” Allan asked, “while we went to the jungle and back?”

And they’d apparently done well for themselves on the way; both of them sported ornaments that they hadn’t had when last Krall saw them, and his discerning eye saw it for good work all of it. “Things have been peaceful enough. A few times Katia and I gave aid to law-bands hunting down especially tenacious bandits, but for the most part we’ve been in the city. She’s been helping keep the peace; most of my time has been at the Guild – practical experience has given me much to talk about with my old instructors, things I think all our future students could benefit from.”

“Not as an instructor yourself?” murmured Raskin, head tilting.

Krall chuckled. “No, they prefer someone more settled for that, and with good reason. It takes time to learn students, and time for them to learn to trust a teacher. It’s not a good life for someone who wants the freedom to head out into the hills for some excitement now and then.”

“And is the city so boring as that?” Allan laughed, giving the bear’s thigh a squeeze.

Krall managed not to shiver; he didn’t check his low, rumbling groan, though, and let his eyes slide half-shut. “It needn’t be now that you’re back here,” he breathed. Oh, yes, he’d missed these two, and Tabar as well.

But talking about his Guild had reminded Krall of something. “Before we get too distracted – I’d thought of a few applications in healing for the sort of magic that wizards weave, Allan. Normally, there’s a limit to how much healing can be forced on a body without making it grow back flawed – but a persistent weave can spread that healing out over time, letting a body mend smoothly and gradually. It works better for mending bones than several, more intensive sessions, and it’s less work for the healer because he could just put it in place once and then keep his time free for other patients.”

“I think I follow that much,” Allan said. He was sitting up a bit straighter now, head tilted slightly in professional curiosity.

“Now, such weaves aren’t something all healers can do, so it’s never been part of our training,” Krall explained. “I picked up a few things from watching you work, and I’ve put it to good enough use that my colleagues are interested, but I don’t know enough about it to teach others. I haven’t been able to find a wizard here who’ll discuss it without charging exorbitantly by the hour, though…”

“For healers?” Allan grimaced. “Being so miserly with knowledge almost made the arcane arts die out entirely two hundred years back. I suppose not everybody learned that lesson.”

“Faragul has put together a modest fund for the purpose,” Krall said, “so you needn’t do it as a complete charity either – it’s your time and energy, after all. I could get you introduced to her, and you could work out the details.”

The human nodded. “Truth be told, though I don’t want to spurn your welcome hospitality, I’ve been rather itching for something to do. There’s little enough call for a wizard on the road, most of the time.”

“Though when there is, nobody else will do,” Raskin put in.

Allan conceded that with a flick of a hand. “At any rate, I might as well do that sooner rather than later,” he said. “Get it done, and not only will it benefit everybody, but,” he grinned, “then I’ll have it out of the way and can focus on my friends with a clear conscience.”

Krall offered to take him there, but Allan demurred; he knew how to find the Healers’ Guild. “Besides, with the nip in the air, I think Raskin would probably enjoy staying inside now he’s here.”

The storm drake flicked the tip of his tail. “I haven’t been that obvious about it, have I?”

“Not hardly,” Krall assured the drake, laying a hand on his shoulder. It wasn’t just a companionable contact – with that touch, he could look with more than his eyes, and found that, yes, there was a bit of a chill to his body that it was having a bit of difficulty dispelling, even with the fire’s aid. Nothing dangerous, and most likely the drake didn’t consciously notice it now that he was in the warmth of Krall’s home, but surely uncomfortable to actually be out and about with – and an awareness of that was likely what he’d not wanted to be obvious about. “And it’s not as though I mind hosting you here – far from it.” The bear grinned, holding Raskin’s gaze.

The drake didn’t have trouble interpreting that gaze or the accompanying grin; he tensed a bit, leaning just a little closer in anticipation, then apparently remembered that Allan was still right there and steadied himself.

“If it’s that sort of hospitality I’ll be missing,” Allan said archly, “I’ll want a chance to catch up later.”

“You know I’ve always got plenty for you, Allan,” Krall replied, with a grin for him, too.

“You are plenty for me. For both of us,” the human shot back, grinning in turn. “At any rate, if a written message will do to put me in touch with the right person, I can leave you two to it.”

And that was one of the things that made the man a comfortable lover: there wasn’t a jealous bone in his body. He trusted that he’d still have opportunities later on, so he didn’t need to pounce on each one instantly.

Krall wrote a quick letter of introduction – he wasn’t a man of fancy words if he could avoid it, so most of his letters were quick – and told him who to look for. The human tugged his fine cloak about himself and let himself out, leaving Raskin and Krall standing side-by-side near the door.

“That man,” Raskin sighed, “is unlike any other human I’ve met.”

“There’s much in him to be fond of,” agreed Krall, squeezing the drake’s shoulder.

Raskin twisted a little, smiling up at him. “And so there is in you, too. In all four of you I’ve found much to enjoy and treasure, each in your own way; and glad I am that all of you in turn have found something good in me.”

“You’ve a warm heart, beloved,” Krall murmured, hands on both the drake’s shoulders this time. “Now, it looks to me like you’ve had a long and wearying journey. Come and rest with me, hmm?”

“Oh, I’ve still some energy in me,” Raskin purred, smile widening into a toothy grin.

Krall delayed only to make sure the fire was in good order, and then brought his guest to the little side room that held his bed. There wasn’t really much else to that room; most of the comforts he wanted during the day were in the main room. But he’d not skimped on the bed any more than anything else here; it was large enough for two of him, very sturdy, and very comfortable.

With his thick white pelt, he didn’t need much protection from the autumn air, and most of it had been the cloak he’d hung up as soon as he’d brought his guests indoors; his vest and trousers were swiftly put aside, and then he applied his hands to his lover’s more extensive coverings. Measure by measure, more and more sapphire-blue scale met his gaze, until it was all that covered that slender, wiry form.

Most of it, anyway. One notable exception, clad only in blue skin flushed purple with underlying blood, jutted proud in front of him, and Krall drank in the sight, gliding his fingertips along it; first underneath, from the slit that normally concealed it up to its tip, more sharply pointed than, say, Krall’s own ready arousal; around the rim of the drake’s glans, then, as Raskin shuddered, whined, and clung to Krall’s shoulders, the bear stroked along its upper side, over the three ridges which paralleled that glans.

“It’s been far too long since I last saw this in action,” he breathed, curling his hand around the drake’s length. Amazing warmth radiated from the smaller male’s body, and nowhere, it seemed, more intensely than that half-foot of bare flesh.

Panting, squirming, Raskin nevertheless found it in himself to lay a hand tenderly against Krall’s cheek “You always seem so fascinated by me, Krall,” he managed. “I can tell you appreciate the others, too, but this…”

Krall shrugged. “Can’t deny it,” he murmured, feeling the drake’s heartbeat through the thin skin under his fingertips. Drakes of all varieties had heartbeats faster than the other races, even at rest, and Raskin certainly wasn’t at rest now.

Indeed, drakes were distinct in many ways. Some of them only a healer could appreciate – it made them a challenge to work on, for things that worked on everyone else simply didn’t work quite right with them. Other things were the reverse.

Some of the differences, though, were plain to anyone who paid attention. Wings, most obviously; their horns and scales were similarly plain. And Krall, who’d known men from all the intelligent races, could state that none of them were built quite as complex as drakes were. The snow cats came closest, them and their jungle kin – distant kin indeed – to the far south, but overall were still put together more like the races that had some manner of hair than any of those were to the drakes.

In the time since they’d become lovers and before this long separation, Krall had had a few dozen chances to get this close to Raskin, and the drake’s distinctiveness – both on the surface and deeper down – never ceased to fascinate him.

He couldn’t hope to put all that into words, not without making it seem like Raskin was just a curiosity to him. Which he wasn’t. For all Krall could drink in the details of any partner, and had enjoyed doing such that with more casual lovers in the past, those in his band were something more, something deeper. There was love there, that force which came in as many forms as there were souls to know it, and that was something that transcended words.

Even physically, it wasn’t just Raskin’s member that so intrigued him, of course. His other hand roamed about the drake’s body, and though it strayed to all those things that marked his race as special – from his horns and jaw, past the roots of his wings, over his scaly hide and whip-like muscle, down to the base of his sinuous, spike-tipped tail – it wasn’t just to explore. He was no wizard, nor flame-sensitive elementalist, to warm the drake directly and chase that lingering chill from him; but he could coax the body to respond a little better to the heat that was now in the air, to channel that heat inwards and warm him naturally.

Though maybe there was something else he could do directly. That it touched on a thing he’d discovered, in the months of the trio’s absence, to be quite enjoyable to him was incidental, and he knew the drake might not care for the thought in turn.

But if he never raised the notion, he’d never know, would he?

“There’s more applications than the purely practical to what I was talking about with Allan,” he murmured, nudging his nose against the drake’s snout with a smile. “The same power that can replenish someone’s blood can be bound elsewhere, in a lingering effect that sustains something rather different. It can make a man much more productive than his usual, and I’ve found myself rather enjoying the result.” His smile widened. “Some would call it unnatural, but so’s a city, and some would say the same of lovers being the same sex or different races. Doesn’t need to mean it’s bad.

“You don’t need to convince me of that,” Raskin chuckled. “I’m willing to be a bit… adventurous. Who was it you meant to work on?”

“I was mostly hoping for permission to work it on you,” Krall clarified, “but if you’d like to try drinking a meal out of me, I could do it to myself just as easily.”

The drake’s head tilted. “You’re already pretty copious, Krall. But something tells me you’re not exaggerating in the least, here.”

The bear shook his head. “It’s enough that I have trouble keeping up with the flood, and wouldn’t want to try it on a full stomach. From the other side,” he ought to disclose such things, after all, “I can say from experience that it makes for a peak that’s much longer than normal, possibly more intense. If you’ve energy to burn,” he grinned again, “it’s a fine way, in my mind, to do so.”

“Ever thoughtful,” Raskin crooned, tilting his head up, long tongue darting out to tag Krall’s ear. “I’ll try it at least once, and we’ll see, hmm? Both ways.”

“I hardly ever see drakes up here, and I certainly haven’t had any to practise on,” Krall confessed, “but this I can still do with confidence. Just relax for a moment…” He was still in touch with the rhythm of Raskin’s body from the subtle work he’d been doing; now he looked deeper, sensing the pulse of life all through the drake’s form, in all its wondrous complexity.

Drakes didn’t sport an obvious and vulnerable pouch like the males of the other intelligent races, but the organs in question were all there, a bit deeper in. In touch with his gift, all the patterns and connections were as clear to Krall as any feature on the surface. He could see where the drake’s arousal had his body working harder, preparing for release; he wrapped those places in a delicate web of power, heightening their rhythms somewhat but mostly monitoring them.

The weave would do more when the actual moment of release struck; for now, it was enough to make Raskin whine and squirm against him, but for the moment his focus did not permit him to be distracted by that normally-enjoyable stimulus. He still had to do the same for himself, after all.

It wasn’t just the drake’s perception of Krall’s own productivity that had prompted the earlier remark; Raskin was right – objectively, bears did tend to be messy in their release. Not only was that the case, but Raskin, of course, was much smaller than he – and had a correspondingly smaller stomach. So Krall’s touch was gentler on himself than it had been on his lover, and it wasn’t only because keeping that amount of concentration was difficult while his own body was suddenly being stimulated in unaccustomed ways, and screaming much more for release than it already did just by virtue of being aroused.

He’d be deluding himself if he thought that wasn’t a factor, though; it was just as well that he didn’t need the effect to be as potent there.

“And done,” he sighed, letting his senses retract to normal. Which still left rigid flesh in his grasp, a wiry body beneath his other hand, and the mingled scents of their lust strong in his nose, of course; but his awareness of their readiness didn’t run as deep. “No shame if you can’t keep up with it, mind – as I said, I’ve had trouble. Besides,” he grins, “I don’t mind being a mess.

“You never have,” the drake laughed, ruffling the shaggy white fur on Krall’s chest. “Not that it shows as well as you as on some.”

“Like, say, yourself?” Krall rumbled. A bit of stray semen could show very clearly indeed on that deep blue hide…

“There is that.” Another laugh. “But you fare so much better on the bottom than I do.”

Well, yes. A quarter again the drake’s height and several times as heavy, it’d be utter folly to have his weight on top of the smaller male; drakes were amazingly strong for their size, but not that strong. Even if he bore his own weight, the risk that he might slip in the wake of his release was just too great. And that was without considering the wings.

They’d come to this conclusion together long ago, of course. Now, with one last stroke to his lover’s delightfully-shaped length, Krall stepped back and let go, easing himself onto the bed. Coming from beside it, he turned to put his head towards the headboard; Raskin, slithering on after him, turned the other way.

It was all familiar enough – far from the first time they’d enjoyed each other like this – and the magic Krall had worked wasn’t changing anything of substance now; it had felt strong being applied, but now it was only his conscious mind that knew it was there. He stopped thinking about it when the drake’s hands planted on either side of his hips, a leg swung past his head, and that violet-tinged piece came right in front of his snout.

They’d spent enough time getting arranged; without further ado, Krall brought his hands up to his smallest lover’s waist, tilted his head just a little, and started licking.

The taste of him, too, was a distinct sort of delight. Not that Krall didn’t enjoy the more familiar delights of others, of course; liking one thing didn’t mean he disliked others. But this particular pleasure was one he’d been long without, and the chance to reacquaint himself with it was very fine indeed. So he did, first with little more than a caress of his tongue, most of the sensation coming to him by way of his nose; then with firmer, faster lick; then, just as Raskin moved on from tonguing over his balls to lick along the bear’s length in turn, Krall brought the drake’s shaft right into his muzzle and suckled hungrily upon it.

That wasn’t quite the sort of attention he was receiving, and probably wouldn’t. Where one of his massive hands was enough to surround the whole of the drake’s manhood, both of Raskin’s hands together still left at least the crown of Krall’s own jet-black length free when they were snug against one another at its base, and it was rather more of a stretch to curl around it – twice the breadth made for a much harder piece to engulf. And while Raskin could get that in his long muzzle more easily than could, oh, Allan – who, after all, didn’t have an elongated muzzle at all – it was still a stretch, and one the drake didn’t often push for.

That was fine. All those fingers roving over Krall’s flesh or drifting past it to his balls were nearly maddening as it was; the light, slippery strokes of the drake’s strong and nimble tongue, even more so. He never lasted very long with Raskin tending to him like this, nor the reverse, and it didn’t seem as though this day would be any exception to that.

Of course, in the past, when Raskin had peaked in the bear’s muzzle, it had amounted to a few spurts that lingered pleasingly on his tongue. This time, when the drake cried out and his shaft jerked in Krall’s mouth, the first surge brought a torrent of hot, sticky semen that made for a generous swallow indeed – and it became rather harder to keep up as the drake’s climax wore on and on. Krall gulped it down as fast as he could, but it was not unlike trying to drink from a fresh-tapped keg – for all his efforts, still the sticky stuff filled more and more of his mouth.

The taste and scent of it, sharper than any other race he knew – almost spicy – but very, very recognizably masculine, made his head spin. Had he the breath to spare, he’d have moaned around the drake’s bucking, still-jetting member; as it was, all he could do to warn his lover was to tighten his grip on Raskin’s waist.

It was enough; even as he gasped for breath, he set his muzzle against Krall’s glans, lapping swiftly over it, fingers wrapping around the bear’s length and tugging urgently.

That was all the signal he needed. Shuddering, Krall gave up trying to swallow the entirety of Raskin’s augmented load and let the drake’s member slip from his mouth, sending hot and sticky spurts over him as his own body surged up in an electric thrill of pleasure.

He’d held on long enough that Raskin only squirted a half-dozen times or so over his chest – only! That was as long as he usually lasted, and even these latter spurts were each more than the drake usually pumped out over an entire climax – and the smaller male’s pleasure had started to ebb to something gentler; enough so that he could focus on Krall’s in turn, lapping at the bear’s gushing member, getting rather more sticky white seed on his scales than went down his gullet – though he was swallowing quite busily indeed. Through it all, his fingers – slicker by the moment with spilled semen – chased over Krall’s flesh, coaxing it to give up more of its prize.

Krall had subjected himself to the full-strength version of this effect in the past. His climax then had been unimaginably intense – though that was probably not the magic’s doing, at least not solely; he’d been eager at the prospect, cheered by imminent success, in general very excited and worked up. What had been distinctly supernatural had been the way the spell had lingered in him, its power charging his balls and a number of more obscure organs on the way to his shaft, keeping their stocks of fluid a trifle over-full even as they strove to empty themselves again and again. He’d felt both the energy and the sense of fullness. This, for him, was subtler. Oh, there was a special tingle in his balls, certainly; he was still producing more in one spurt than he normally did overall, and he could feel each copious jet rushing out of him; but he didn’t feel full of it, and it wasn’t so much that it would have left him soaked even if Raskin hadn’t been intercepting some of it. Damp, liberally streaked, thoroughly unkempt – those, yes, but not sodden and dripping with the stuff like his first successful efforts. And unlike then, he was still aware enough of the world to see how his lover was managing.

It was still probably more than Raskin could have kept up with even if he’d had Krall’s glans right in his muzzle, but that was of no matter; Raskin seemed to be enjoying the torrent greatly, and that was the only thing beyond the rush of orgasm that actually mattered.

At length, the rush faded into a gentler, warm haze, his shaft fell still under Raskin’s fingers, and the drake lifted his head, swallowed a few times, and laughed. “Indeed, you weren’t exaggerating in the least,” he said, starting to turn the other way. “Stars above, how do you possibly clean up after such as this?”

“Easy enough for me,” Krall laughed, gathering the spent, quivering drake in against his side. “I have power over substances of the body – you know that.” For someone such as him, for whom minor works of power came easily, it could thus be less of a bother than needing to find a latrine; he’d taken advantage of it several times with his band of comrades-and-lovers. “No matter that in this case, it isn’t in the body anymore.” He swept a hand over the colourfully-woven blanket, and what of the mess had landed on it instead of directly on one of them ceased to be.

“You are a wonderfully useful person to have around,” the drake sighed a bit wistfully, nosing into Krall’s shoulder.

In response, the bear just held him close, nuzzling at his brow. It was an old and familiar complaint: Raskin’s command over elemental power was quick and potent beyond any of the other magic-wielders in their band, but the only thing he could do with it was destroy. Fire could have had practical applications aplenty, but lightning was just too chaotic, too violent, and just plain lacking in ancillary purpose. It was an expression of nature’s power in one of its most destructive forms.

And while that made the drake’s wrath a terrifying thing, one no foe ever wanted to stand against, by and large Raskin was a gentle soul who’d much rather have abilities that could be used to create. Unfortunately, artistic pursuits weren’t something he’d ever had success with – and not for lack of trying. Enduring ones, anyway; sculpture, painting poetry – he’d tried them all in time.

Krall laid a soft kiss on the bridge of Raskin’s snout. “You make me feel good,” he promised. “The others too. Even if there were nothing else, I would value for that, as I am sure would they. As it is, if ever circumstances turn dire – there’s none I’d rather have standing with me.”

The drake managed a soft but earnest chuckle. “I do wish I could do something a little more… special, as a lover…”

“You are special,” Krall soothed. “What you do and how, your reactions to what I say and do – you don’t notice it because it’s so deep down, but trust me on that. You are like none other I’ve met, and not only in the sense that everyone has their unique quirks; If it’s a dash of the exotic and interesting I yearn for, you’d be the first I would seek out – just for how my actions reflect from you.”

“…Thank you, Krall. Most deeply. I’ll try to take your words to heart.” He shifted against the bear’s side, grinning up at him. “Meanwhile, though – it seems a body works hard to make this much of a mess. Perhaps I could fix us all something to eat?”

Now there was an art the drake was very skilled with; just thinking of his cooking made Krall feel hungry in turn. “That sounds lovely. Let’s see what I still have around, hmm?”

He exerted his will to get them both clean and dry, though his fur was still left somewhat dishevelled. And with one sort of hunger sated, they set about tending to another.