“It’s no good!”

The words barely rose over the howling wind. Allan turned his head, one fleece-gloved hand held up to shelter his cheek from the wind and snow, and stomped over to the one who’d spoken.

“This storm won’t show us any mercy,” she called – not quite as loudly, but she still needed to work to make herself heard. “We need to get out of the wind as best we can, and make some shelter – poor Raskin isn’t doing well out here.”

Allan craned his neck, and winced. The storm drake was putting on a brave face, but he was more slender than Allan himself, almost spindly, and even the cloak he had tugged around him couldn’t entirely keep his wings from shedding heat; he was hunched over, now, his movements halting. “I need to give him some heat,” he said. “We’ll need to get some shelter made. Can you and Krall lend Tabar your strength for that?”

Katia gave a sharp nod. Of their band of five, she was second only to their ursine healer in heft, stronger still; and her tough hands, especially with leather gloves on them, would scarcely feel the snow. She stomped off, waving the bear over.

Allan hustled over to the shivering drake as fast as he could. “We’re making camp,” he announced. “You’ll just need to hold on for a bit longer. Here, this should help.” He tugged off one glove and set his fingers to the drake’s jaw, closed his eyes, and concentrated. Blocked out the howl of the wind, the sting on his cheek, even the cold.

For a few moments, all he knew, all that filled his thoughts, was warmth. Warmth that rose to his will, warmth that flowed into his companion – a spell of heat, to sustain him for a few minutes. It wouldn’t last long, and it wouldn’t make the cold wind any more comfortable on exposed skin – or scales, in Raskin’s case – but it’d ensure that he didn’t suffer harm from the cold.

Raskin drew a breath, standing up a bit straighter. “Thanks, Allan.” The elementalist’s power was quicker by far to command than anything Allan could muster, and in a fight, far more directly potent – but it was much more focused as well, and there wasn’t much that command over lightning could do which wasn’t destructive. “Is there something I can do, now?”

“Just try to stay out of the wind,” Allan told him, pulling his glove back on and looking around. “I’d follow my advice, save that I should help reinforce our new home.” He gave the drake’s shoulder one last squeeze, and then trudged toward the remaining three.

As Allan trudged over toward the shelter-in-progress with the drake in tow, they came up to the fifth and final member of their little band, crouching down to stay out of the wind, but otherwise not looking particularly uncomfortable as he cut bricks from the wind-driven snow with a long knife, bricks that the bigger two moved into place.. Not that that was all that surprising; he was a snow cat, after all, and while being out in the storm unclad for a day would’ve overwhelmed even his dense, spotted pelt, the leather and fur he had over it, along with staying out of the worst of the wind, would keep him almost comfortable. Allan reached over to clasp his shoulder. “How’s our food stocks, Tabar?”

“We’ve preserves enough for five days,” the leopard replied. “We’d best hope the storm doesn’t last that long, though, because we’ll not be able to do any hunting in it. It shouldn’t, though. Two days, maybe three.”

“At least there’s enough snow on the ground to make a good shelter out of. It’ll be close quarters, though, if we want it up in good time.”

“There’s none I’d rather share a den with than the four of you,” the hunter said solemnly, inclining his head. “I should work.”

Allan wasn’t much surprised when Tabar dropped the subject and turned to oversee the work; it was the most the wizard had heard him say in some time. The cat’s expression offered little more in the way of clues, all vigilance and alertness even in the midst of this swirling maelstrom of snow. But he wasn’t one to hand out praise freely, and to hear that assessment fall so plainly from the cat’s muzzle… that could only be high praise. Allan smiled, gave the leopard’s fur-clad shoulder a squeeze, and stepped back to give him room.

This wasn’t the first time the lot of them had made a snow hut, though it was the first time they’d done so in the middle of a storm. Allan did what he could to turn the worst of the wind aside – partly to spare himself and Raskin, who respectively had only skin and scales under their clothing to shield them, from the winter’s worst, and partly to keep that wind from eroding the still-incomplete form of their shelter. With Tabar cutting the bricks and the two bigger folk laying them, the work proceeded swiftly; ring by ring, a domed structure rose into being, complete with a short crawlspace tunnel at the base, the top of which didn’t even rise above the pit that had been cut into the snow.

Inside a quarter hour, there was enough shelter for Raskin to huddle away. By the time half an hour had passed, Krall was easing the last block into place at the apex of the dome; with that done, he crawled in through the passageway, and Tabar hung a section of hide over the opening to keep the wind out.

With one last exertion, Allan channelled heat into the walls, then leached it away again, leaving a layer of ice all around.

“Fine, swift work, and for that I’m thankful,” Raskin observed, and let out a whistling sigh. “I wish there were something I could have done to help…”

There was an unaccustomed unsteadiness in his voice; Allan frowned, but Krall had noticed it too. The bear leaned over, touching thick fingertips to the drake’s scales. “You need to get warm,” he pronounced, and glanced over at Allan. “And our wizard is looking drained. I think all that snow stuck in your clothes is chilling you.”

The implication of that wasn’t hard to work out. A blush didn’t show through scales, but the way Raskin ducked his head and looked aside, the sudden widening of his eyes – the sentiment was clear enough. “I – oh.”

“Don’t fret, Raskin,” said Katia, thumping him on the shoulder. “It’s just us here.”

“Though that’s probably a good step for all of us,” Krall added. “It’ll warm up faster in here that way, anyway…” He flashed a friendly, if toothy, smile; but then he took a step toward Allan. “You’re looking very unsteady there, friend. I think you may have worked yourself a little too hard, there.”

“I’ll be fine,” Allan demurred, slipping his gloves off and fumbling with his cloak. “Besides, it needed to be done. I’ll replenish.” Elemental magic didn’t come easily to him, and it took a great deal more force than he was used to exerting for anything close to that length of time; he’d tapped his own reserves of mana and then some, and now his body was scrambling to rebuild those reserves. Nothing new, just somewhat uncomfortable.

“Mana-drained? Take some of mine,” Tabar suggested with a ghost of a smile. The leopard had already slipped out of his leathers and the furs that weren’t his actual pelt, leaving him in a breechcloth and a few knife-sheaths strapped here and there; he stepped forward to take Allan’s hand. The human did so willingly enough – it was true, even those without magical ability had some modest reserves of mana that they could share – but Tabar didn’t stop with that casual contact; he pulled right in close to Allan, hands sliding up under his jerkin, fur teasing over bare skin as he pulled Allan into a close embrace.

It wasn’t without merit; the closeness let mana pass from the cat to the human with that much less bleeding away, a thrill of power, of potential, leaving Allan with suddenly-renewed vigour. But when the touch parted, it was all Allan could do to stand and stare. He’d never known Tabar to be so physical with anyone. It hadn’t been a lover’s embrace, no, but he’d be dipped in tar if there hadn’t been some fondness to it.

“You’re still shivering,” the cat noted, just as though nothing had just happened; and with fingers whose shroud of plush grey fur belied their deftness, he quite casually took over loosening Allan’s clothing.

Allan half-expected to hear laughter; instead, he saw… surprise, yes, on the faces around him, but so far as he could tell, all that surprise was directed at Tabar’s sudden “outburst”. Indeed, Krall, still helping Raskin to strip down, said, “I didn’t know you had it in you, Tabar.”

The leopard shrugged. “Tomorrow marks five years together,” he observed, pausing in his efforts to sweep one hand around at all the others.

“If you can’t count someone a close friend after five years of good deeds together,” said Katia, somewhat muffled as she drew off her studded leather jerkin, “there’s something wrong.”

Now down to a breechcloth himself, showing much more in the way of shimmering blue scale than was his usual wont, Raskin sat cross-legged on the fur blankets that had been laid over the raised “shelf” of packed snow at the back of the hut. “I thought sharing a cup of wine now and then was how he showed we were good friends.”

Tabar said nothing; he just smiled, gave Allan’s newly-bared shoulder a squeeze, and found his own place to sit.

The shelter was surprisingly large for the time it had taken to make, and Tabar was good enough in his woodscraft that it’d probably last for well beyond the days they’d need to inhabit it; but with two people that cleared seven feet tall and were very broad of shoulder, and Tabar himself notably taller and a bit heavier-set than a human, the fact that Allan was slender for his race and Raskin, like most drakes, was slight of build, didn’t leave all that much room on their makeshift bed when they were all up there. Light came from a tiny oil-burning stove in the middle of the hut, in the lower section, as did some additional heat; Krall had just set a pot full of snow on that stove before climbing up to find room. It didn’t cast much light, but this was also more of each other than any of them had ever seen, to Allan’s knowledge – well, no, he had some notion that Krall and Katia had been lovers at some point in the past, but as for the rest…

Raskin was the only one who didn’t seem to be in any state to notice that; he was still hunched up a little, still quivering. “Stars above,” he muttered, “this cold goes right into your bones. I’ve no idea how all of you can stand it.”

“I’m not much better off, believe you me,” Allan said over Krall’s chuckle. “Here, let me work some heat into you; work it in properly, this time, rather than just heat the surface and call it done.”

Outwardly, what he needed to do resembled the early stages of a massage; in fact, tense as he was from the strain of shivering, Raskin could probably use one of those. Inwardly, it was another matter; the slow process of Allan’s hands over the now-prone drake’s scales was not to give Raskin’s muscles time to relax, or at least not only that, but to give time for the gentle heat that flowed from Allan’s hands to sink into his companion’s body, and to let him maintain his concentration.

Somewhere, his touch did drift into a proper massage. Those wings not only presented an obstacle to work around, they also meant that muscle didn’t lie quite the same way as he was used to; but it wasn’t an unpleasant experience, learning the lay of the drake’s body, teasing those knots of tension away. Allan wasn’t quite aware of just how in-depth he was getting until the drake let out a soft moan.

That arrested Allan’s attention; he froze. And then Raskin tensed anew under him, lifting his head, golden eyes going wide with sudden alarm. “Oh, stars, I’m sorry…”

“No, no,” Allan blurted, patting gently. He wasn’t entirely sure he’d been, well, proper, but he didn’t want Raskin to think he minded… “I’d rather you were feeling good than in pain.”

“I smell more interest than that on you both,” Tabar challenged, lifting his head where it had been resting on his crossed arms.

Oh, hells, why had the leopard broken his customary silence to share something like that? Allan felt a flush stealing over his cheeks. “Uh…”

“Oh, why be shy about it?” Krall challenged, the big white bear smiling broadly. “We’ll be stuck in here for the next several days. And as Tabar said, we’ve known each other five years. I might as well confess that I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been curious about each and every one of you over that time.”

“What?” Almost as one, Raskin and Allan looked the bear’s way. Allan swallowed, then blurted, “You have?”

“Well, sure,” Krall replied, leaning forward, arms crossed over his knees. “Might be nice to have a chance to get my hands on you when it isn’t to stop bleeding.”

“He’s right on that score,” Katia chimed in. “Besides, I grew up with more people than this living in the same space. If two dear friends of mine want to explore and enjoy each other, I’d only be happy for them.”

Feeling his blush grow, Allan nevertheless looked down at the drake. He’d never considered that, really – he knew all four of them too well, perhaps, to have thought there might be room for some new aspect to the close partnership they already shared. And yet… having the drake under his hands had felt… good. Good enough to make him eager for more…

And Raskin, craning his neck to look up at Allan, seemed… hopeful? Yet not exactly confident…

Tabar shifted, stretching out on his stomach, reaching over the ledge to the pack he’d left below; when he sat up again, it was with a skin of wine, the neck sealed with golden wax. Seeing it, Katia whistled. “You’ve been hiding a skin of Farnhold wine on us, Tabar?”

“Ice wine,” the leopard corrected gently.

It was Krall’s turn to whistle. “That’s quite a treasure. Why break it out all the way out here?”

“Five years gone, you came to Farnhold in search of a guide,” Tabar said, dragging a claw over the wax seal. “I was young, then; a hunter who’d only just come to his fifteenth winter. Yet you gave me a chance to prove myself.” With the wax broken, he wiggled the stopper free. “Tonight I’ve come to my twentieth nameday. With all we’ve been through, all we’ve done… I realized now that I can truly call myself a man.”

Katia blinked. “You were fifteen when we met? I’ve only met two other people who were anywhere near as good with a bow, and they couldn’t also hunt, track, and make snares and shelters!”

A wisp of a smile again graced the leopard’s muzzle; but then, he went on as though the badger hadn’t spoken. “So, since, as you say, we’ll be here for some time and should feel no shyness between us… I think I wish to give myself to you.” He reached over with the skin, easing the spout toward Allan’s mouth. “So for tonight, let us all be merry, mmm?”

Allan let a mouthful of the sweet, sweet wine flow over his tongue, closing his eyes with a shiver not born in the least from cold. It was good wine, no doubts there, but it was the way Tabar gave it to him, in conjunction with the things he’d just said, that sent a thrill through him.

Once he took the skin away, Tabar seemed to consider for a few moments, then turned to offer it to Katia next, before returning with it to the pair of smaller men. “Tabar?” Allan enquired at this. “Does it mean something in particular that you gave me the first sip?”

“So it does,” the leopard breathed, leaning in so the words washed over Allan’s cheek. “Just as it means something that I’ll not take any until all of you have.” When Allan might have protested that lack of detail, Tabar added, “Ask me later.

“Keeping us in suspense, are you?” Katia chuckled, as Krall took his own first mouthful. “Doesn’t seem fair. What if we get something wrong, ’cause you don’t tell us what’s going on?”

Tabar took a swig of the wine himself, and proceeded to hand her the skin and go for his pack again. “All the forms have been observed, now,” he replied over his shoulder. “You’d need to do me a grave and clear insult to offend me.”

When he sat up again, he was carrying two things. One of them was a carved and stoppered wooden flask; Allan wasn’t close enough to see the carvings in great detail, but he blushed as he made out that they were probably sexual in nature. The other…

The other was a pale beige object. In shape, it was flattened at one end, and from that base a spire rose – thick lower down, thinning as it followed a sweeping curve upward, one way, then the other. Near its tip, it flared a little thicker, then finally came to a blunt point. It looked… well, it looked like a male’s member, honestly. Not a human’s, but some male creature’s.

“What… is that?” Raskin asked, his voice breathy.

“Horn of a snow stalker,” Tabar purred, gliding his fingers along its surface. “Shaped and sealed by spells, in the form of the phallus of that same beast.” He grinned, now – not a subdued smile like usual, but an open, toothy grin – reaching down to undo the knots that held his breechcloth in place. “My people see them as a symbol of male fertility – a single male stalker might give rise to twenty, even thirty offspring each year, all conceived in the space of half a month.”

Krall blinked, leaning forward, almost absently passing the wineskin over to Allan. “And you…?”

“As I said, I wish to give myself to you,” Tabar reminded, pulling the stopper from the flask and pouring a small quantity of some clear oil or similar onto his fingers; these he ran over the horn, coating it. “All of you. I want you to know my pleasure – in turn, yes,” and here his emerald eyes seized on Allan’s brown ones with an intensity that made the human man blush all over again, “but first, I would share it with all of you equally.”

He stoppered the flask and set it down. As he lowered the phallus, the motion brought Allan’s attention to the leopard’s midsection, where pitch-black flesh rose from the thick fur – thick, lengthy, rigid; it was a surprise only in that Allan hadn’t noticed it up to that moment, but it was also moderately imposing. A good fit on the leopard’s larger frame, not unduly massive.

But that wasn’t what Tabar was doing with the carved phallus. No, that went lower, as the leopard rose onto his knees; the flattened base of the thing down against the blankets, the cat eased himself down toward it, bringing the tip in beneath the plush tail that bobbed now behind him.

At the moment of contact, Tabar paused, letting out a soft hiss; but then he continued lower still, and his head tilted back, eyes sliding shut, and a deep, throaty moan slid out of him as the phallus slid in at the other end.

Allan shuddered. He’d never known Tabar to have any inclination toward personal contact beyond a handshake or similar; to see him now indulge so openly in sex… it was a little bit jarring, and more than a little riveting.

Nobody spoke; Allan himself, and apparently the others, hardly dared breathe as the leopard rode that phallus, drew it all the way into him. Once his balls were down against the blanket, the leopard started rising and falling a few inches, panting, a soft gasp escaping him now and then as the phallus stirred inside him. One hand kept the phallus steady; the other chased along his arousal, leaving it slick with oil… and with the more natural slickness flowing from its head, only to be stroked along his black flesh by his pumping hand. Flesh that was not all that unlike a human’s in profile, really, except that on its head and just behind it, the skin was rough, marked by short, raised… spines? They bent under the leopard’s stroking fingers, only to spring back upright when those fingers moved on.

Allan swallowed, glancing around. All eyes were on the leopard, certainly… but Katia and Krall were idly fingering one another. Under Allan’s hands, Raskin fidgeted.

Swallowing again, Allan came to a quick decision, and started to move forward, closer to the leopard as he pleasured himself. Something about the cat’s scent… Allan hadn’t noticed it before, but now that it was heavy with sex, he found he wanted it, wanted more.

He bumped shoulders with Raskin on the way; they exchanged glances, the drake ducking his head in a bit of a bashful grin, but gesturing toward the cat. Allan wasn’t sure if he meant You first or Shall we?, but dearly hoped it was the latter – and not just because of what the now-moaning Tabar had said about sharing himself. He nodded and squeezed Raskin’s shoulder, nudging the drake toward one of Tabar’s sides, and with the other hand he stroked one of Raskin’s black, spiral horns as he’d seen partnered drakes do for one another.

Raskin leaned into the touch with a soft sigh, lifting a hand to rub over Allan’s brow in a fair approximation of the gesture; then they parted, each winding up on one side if the leopard. Tabar gasped as they came near, cracking his eyes open, glancing from one to the other; but after a moment he nodded, smiling, letting his eyes slip shut as he returned to his pleasure. Allan sat beside him, curling one arm around the taller man’s body; with the other hand he reached down to touch Tabar’s arousal, finding it almost shockingly hot.

This was more than he’d done with another man, already; but he didn’t let himself tarry. He wrapped his fingers around that warm flesh, stroking along it from base to tip, feeling those spines flex under his touch; slowly at first, but once he’d got a decent feel for the shape and the rhythm, speeding up a great deal. With the stroking taken over for him, Tabar let that arm gather around Allan’s shoulders, gathering the human right in close, his fingers leaving a bit of an oily smear on Allan’s arm; he pushed his snout in against the side of Allan’s neck, nuzzling there, then drew his head back to let another moan slip away unmuffled.

And Raskin… Raskin lay beside them, and his forked tongue darted forth to touch Tabar’s bare flesh. It teased along whatever Allan’s hand didn’t cover; the human slowed his strokes, giving the drake’s attentions a little more room. And all the while Tabar rocked beside him, shifting that carved phallus under his tail.

After a few moments of this stroking and licking, Tabar squeezed Allan’s shoulder, and brought his other hand up to run along Raskin’s jaw. “A moment,” he panted. “The first… is for all…” Nodding, Allan sat up a bit straighter, and let the cat take over the stroking once more; Raskin sat up on his knees, either heedless or uncaring of the bulge tenting up his own breechcloth.

They weren’t kept waiting long at all; a dozen breaths later, maybe, Tabar threw his head back and cried out, his body arching. Milky seed spattered the blanket in front of him, and flowed down over his flesh and his fingers; eight, nine, ten times his essence coursed forth before it subsided, and he sagged, panting, leaning on Allan a little more heavily and nuzzling into his hair.

“I have given you all that I am,” the leopard said after a moment. His voice was raspy from his exertion and heavy breathing, but still had a formal, almost ceremonial tone. “All that remained was to give you myself. Now that, too, is yours – all of you.”

Krall touched his fingers to his breast, then leaned forward to put them against Tabar’s, over the leopard’s heart. “Gladly accepted,” the white bear rumbled, “and offered in kind. We’ve been as close as any husband and wife, all five of us; why not live in kind?”

Raskin shuffled his wings in an anxious gesture, then looked Allan’s way. “I’ve… never been so close to another male, before,” he confessed, reaching out to touch Allan’s jaw. “But here, it feels…” He trailed into silence, his gaze dropping.

“Right,” Allan suggested, stroking over the drake’s fingers.

“Just so,” said Raskin; but then, a little anxious, he looked over at the leopard.

Tabar smiled, giving human and drake alike a squeeze to the shoulder. “Acquaint yourselves with each other,” he urged. “I’ve seen fondness between you. Now explore. I’ll need a few moments anyway, to be ready for more.”

Explore… that was a good word for it, wasn’t it? Allan couldn’t help but chuckle softly. “It’s not as though there’s much hidden at that point, is there?” he noted, casting aside his own decidedly-useless loincloth.

“That there isn’t,” the drake laughed, stripping down the rest of the way as well. But with that done, kneeling there with his wings slightly away from his back and his flesh jutting out from his groin, he looked suddenly uncertain.

Explore… Allan shuffled a little closer, gripping Raskin’s shoulders. “Relax,” he murmured, smiling. “I’m just as new to this as you are, and you don’t have to worry about impressing me.”

“Thank the stars for that.” Raskin leaned into his touch, snout nudging under Allan’s chin, tongue trailing along the human’s jaw.

That Allan couldn’t duplicate, not even close, but he moved his grip up to Raskin’s head, pulling the drake into the best approximation Allan could manage of a human kiss. Their mouths didn’t really fit together, but the sentiment was partly there, at least; and Raskin crooned into his mouth, leaning a little closer still.

Allan let him, and, in fact, leaned right on back until he was supine on the furs, pulling the drake with him all the way. When Raskin was fully atop him, flesh met firm, naked flesh, heat against heat, and Allan shivered, sliding his fingers down to explore that point of contact.

Raskin was of a size with him there, despite being a good head shorter and quite a bit more slender; but his crown came to more of a point than a human’s, and three ridges along his length paralleled the rim of that crown. On the underside, where their members met, there wasn’t much of a rise; but opposite, it was another matter. Much like Allan’s own, except… three times more. And as Allan’s fingers slid from one ridge to the next, Raskin shuddered atop him and let out a creeling moan.

It was a simple pleasure they shared, but a potent one; Allan was starting to feel a blissful haze rising in him, mere minutes later, when a big hand came to rest on his shoulder. “You two mind having a third in between you?” Katia growled, and the badger had as broad a grin on her as Allan had ever seen. “You won’t even need to pull apart down there – in fact,” somehow, that grin got still broader, “I’d rather you didn’t.”

Wait. So she wanted Allan and Raskin together… in her? The human shivered. “I… hope you don’t expect me to last very long,” he laughed, but lay back.

They did separate for a moment, and the sudden absence of that rigid heat against his filled Allan with more regret than he’d have suspected; so quickly, he’d grown fond of that touch. But then the big badger was settling over him, and he slid almost effortlessly into her wet, welcoming sex.

She growled, one massive hand cupping behind Allan’s head, the other bracing against the furs over it. “You’re warm, human,” she hissed. “Very warm. All over, but…” She tensed around him, and as he gasped, concluded, “Especially down there. I like it.”

Then she relaxed, hunkering down closer to him, the swell of her breasts right against his face; what could he do but nuzzle into them? There was plenty there to enjoy, after all – they might not look like much when bound and under her armour, but in the open, those were pleasantly plump mounds indeed, and her being face-down over him let them sway to great advantage. So occupied was he with them, it was almost a shock when the tip of Raskin’s manhood touched the base of his, by then well-slicked by the dew of his need and Katia’s honey.

And then, in the snug grip of the badger’s sex, Raskin’s spire slid right up alongside his own, and suddenly he felt… complete, in a way that he never had before. It went beyond the physical pleasure, intense though that was. These people were his companions, the people with whom he shared – and risked – his life; this was just… affirming that.

Pinned as he was, Allan couldn’t do much more than squirm, but that was plenty enough. Each motion shifted his member against Raskin’s, and both of them against the walls of Katia’s snug sex; each of the pair above him squirmed in turn, hips rolling against the human’s and adding their own notes to the welter of sensation.

Allan was aware of Katia shifting to one side, leaning out from between the two men, but wasn’t quite aware of why until Krall settled by his shoulder on the other side, resting on his hip, with the plump black swell of his own manhood jutting out between Allan’s face and Raskin’s muzzle. “Hey,” he rumbled, stroking along one of Raskin’s horns, then caressing Allan’s hair, all with even more than the usual tenderness in those thick, strong fingers; fingers that Allan was used to being gentle, by now, but there was something else to them in this moment. “Want something to share, you two?”

Well, he had been curious about Tabar’s… He grinned, took a breath, then swallowed his uncertainty and touched his tongue to one side of Krall’s length.

It was, aside from the colour that made it stand out so very much against the bear’s off-white fur, much like a particularly gifted human’s – much the same shape, though half again as long and an almost daunting twice as thick as Allan’s own. The musky taste of it was… very, very appealing; eager for more, he licked and kissed along it, the bear letting out a soft groan – a groan that grew rather louder as Raskin joined in the attentions, tongue coursing along the other side, curling around it, slipping now and then against Allan’s rather less nimble one.

Somewhere in the midst of that, Allan felt a sudden surge inside him, faltering, his breath catching as the rush of ecstasy swept through him. It had been so long since he’d last had a lover, not since he’d graduated from the Academy and first joined this band of roving protectors – but now it was happening, now his seed was pulsing out of him, now his pleasure peaked inside him and squeezed the breath out of him in a heavy moan.

And just as he was starting to descend from that peak, Raskin pushed down hard against him, letting out a keening cry, his manhood bucking against Allan’s in the unmistakeable rhythm of his own pleasure.

Allan turned his head, meaning to get back to his attentions to Krall; but the bear had largely taken over for himself, his massive hand stroking along his shaft in quick, sharp strokes, his chest heaving with his hoarse panting. His head tilted back, his breath caught, his hand came to a halt at the base of his length and left the plump head bare; and just as Allan and Raskin alike resumed licking at it, the bear pushed forward a finger’s width, and a generous streamer of sticky white seed spattered over Allan’s face.

The pungent taste was unfamiliar and hardly unpleasant; but it was the stickiness of it, on Allan’s tongue and in his throat, that truly caught him off guard. He swallowed a few times, but it didn’t quite seem to all go down his throat.

Krall let out a breathless chuckle, stroking his cheek. “You really haven’t known another man, have you, Allan?” he murmured, and smiled down at the human, hand cupping against cheek. “It takes getting used to. I think it’s worth it, though.”

“Same, here,” sighed Katya, giving a nudge to Raskin’s shoulder. The drake blinked, then pulled his softening length free with a groan; Allan shivered as it slid along his own, then again as the badger pulled off of him. “That was… splendid, both of you. Thank you.”

“We didn’t do much,” Allan protested. He was used to putting far more effort into pleasing a woman than a few minutes of uncoordinated wriggling…

“It was enough,” she insisted, flopping down beside him with a groan and casting him a grin. “Trust me on that.”

They all lay down together, silent save for their slowing breaths, and in that silence the wineskin made another round.

Then another hand touched the human’s shoulder.

“Allan…” Tabar gazed down at him, then looked aside, ears tilting back – embarrassed? Him? Allan sat up, reaching for the leopard’s shoulder in turn, but Tabar kept his eyes turned away. “There is… a custom, among my people. When we form a lasting hunting-band, we… lie with the one from that band of whom we are most fond. I… I wondered…”

Allan blinked. Again, it didn’t take a towering intellect to see what Tabar was getting at, but the conclusion was still surprising. “Me?” he whispered. He’d thought Tabar was closer to Krall or Raskin, honestly. He’d done little with the leopard but have a quiet drink in the evening, now and then…

Tabar nodded, still looking away. “I’ve… desired you since we met. Longed for this for two years. Now… tomorrow I start my twenty-first year. I am old, to have never been… formally welcomed to such a band. I…”

“Shh.” Allan reached forward, touching his fingers to Tabar’s muzzle. Two years… that, indeed, would be the first of the nights they’d sat together, sharing a bottle of wine as the moon rose. Close enough to feel each other’s heat – close enough to touch, though they hadn’t done so save the times their hands met passing the bottle back and forth. That was the first night he’d thought Tabar had truly considered him a friend… had it, in fact, meant more than that?


“I… hadn’t thought of it before tonight,” he admitted. “But thinking of it now… You’re very attractive, Tabar, a fine companion, and though I wish I knew more about you, what I do know tells me you’re a good friend.” He let his fingers slip along the cat’s jaw. “I just… don’t know how to do this. Do you have to be, well… in me?” Tabar’s manhood wasn’t much bigger than his – he wasn’t Krall, certainly – but, well, even that was intimidating enough, and that was without accounting for the shape of him.

“Either way would suffice. Or even neither, so long as each of us feels the other’s pleasure. But I’ve had more time to recover, so that might be easier, and…” His brilliant green eyes returned their focus to Allan’s own brown ones. “I would treasure it a great deal, personally.”

Allan nodded, swallowing. “Will it… hurt?”

“It should not,” Tabar replied, solemn. “If it does, you should tell me, that I can correct whatever is wrong… or stop, and not perform that act at all. At least not yet.”

Allan took a breath. This wasn’t just about the sex; gone was the hint of playfulness that Tabar had shown earlier, the uninhibited openness of his release, the easy pleasure with which he’d lain afterwards. This was something more.

And being the subject of that gaze, of the feelings behind it… Allan couldn’t help feel a bit intimidated. But honoured, too.

He wanted to make this man happy, wanted him to be… complete.

“I’ll try,” he promised.

“A moment,” Krall murmured from beside him. “I’ve had some experience in matters like this, and in the interests of making it as pleasant and straightforward as possible…” He laid his hand on Allan’s bare stomach, brows furrowing in a moment of concentration.

And suddenly, an urge to use a latrine, still so minor as to be below noticing, was just… gone. Allan blinked.

“Goes in the same place, after all,” Krall said with an apologetic smile, and gave his shoulder a pat. “But in all but the very unlucky, it can feel good.”

Well… that was a healer saying so, after all. Blushing, Allan nodded, and looked over to Tabar for some direction.

The leopard was rigid again, and had reclaimed that flask of oil; he was carefully applying some of it to his shaft, leaving it gleaming in the flickering firelight. Some of it slid lower, over the thin fuzz that blanketed his plump balls, matting it down, but he didn’t seem to care or even notice. He turned his gaze back up to Allan with a soft smile. “Lie down,” he suggested, “belly down. Best if I can keep full control at first, I think… once I am in, once you are ready, I’d rather arrange things differently, but that will wait for then.”

Swallowing, Allan nonetheless complied. Despite the assurances of the other two, he was nervous. What if he was one of those unlucky people? What if Tabar was just, well, too big for him? What if he panicked?

Then Tabar was settling into place atop him, and there was no time for what ifs – the head of his member nudged against Allan’s rear, working to spread him. It touched one particular place, and he shivered – stars, it really did feel nice. But Tabar wasn’t done, nor even close to it; he bore forward, and he… he spread Allan open and slid into him.

And the hells take him for a fool if it wasn’t bliss every inch of the way.

The snow leopard pressed down against him, legs outside Allan’s; from his toes up to the nape of his neck, thick fur slid over his skin, teasing it in a way that made the erotic sensations that much more intense. His breath was quick and hot, washing over Allan’s hair. His hips rolled against the human’s, and his member nudged against something inside Allan that was quickly making him almost delirious with pleasure; his own manhood was filling all over again, trapped against the furs to point down toward his toes, and the softness caressing his helm was almost unendurable. Those spines that had crowned the feline’s manhood, so intimidating to the sight, now teased Allan’s insides into a torrent of incredible bliss.

After maybe a minute of that intensity, Tabar’s hands pressed against the sheets by his shoulders and the leopard pushed himself up somewhat, though he stayed buried to the hilt inside his new lover. “Gently, now,” he breathed, leaning on one arm and sliding the other hand under Allan’s chest. “I want to bear you up, not press you down.”

After a good deal of squirming on both their parts, they wound up with Tabar sitting upright, Allan firmly in his lap, one of the snow leopard’s arms around him chest-high, the other hand drifting lower to caress his rampant arousal. Tabar crooned with delight, fingering the tip of it. “I need your pleasure,” Tabar breathed, and went on with some words in his native tongue that Allan did not know. Whether they were ceremonial or just reflexive, Allan couldn’t say – but he could feel the emotion, the affection, that lay under them. Maybe it wasn’t the sort of thing people usually meant when they spoke of “love”, the eternal bond of one soul to another… but what the cat was giving him now had to be something along those lines.

And by all the good gods, it was right, it was proper, and he wanted to give his own back to the hunter tenfold and more.

From his perch on Tabar’s thighs, he could see that Krall was… making tea; the sheer simplicity of the act, while Allan and Tabar were joined as lovers, was almost comical. But the weight of the moment kept him from laughing out loud; and as soon as Krall had poured out a few chalices and passed them around, and taken one more for himself, all of them watched the goings-on, not exactly solemnly, but with gravity. And all of them approved, and wished the pair well – individually and together.

That he knew, without another word spoken. And if they all thought this was right… there was nobody else in the world who mattered.

He leaned back against his partner, his lover. He let his head tilt back against Tabar’s shoulder, and he surrendered to the pleasure rising in him. A surge of tension gripped him, pulling his back into an arch, and he cried out as the cat’s strong hand coaxed a fresh climax out of him. A half-dozen times his seed issued forth, leaving pale streaks on the dark furs and damp, matted spots on the cat’s own hands.

And then Tabar’s arm tightened around him, and the cat moaned into his ear, “Allan…” and then the wet heat of his release was pumping deep into Allan’s body.

It was a strange feeling, unfamiliar. But it was a good feeling. Combined with how much he could feel Tabar had needed it, and not just as release, it was… indescribable.

At some point, they must have separated; Allan wasn’t exactly paying attention, too busy savouring the haze of their shared pleasure and the warmth of the larger man’s lush fur. But by the time Tabar was lying on his back with Allan face-down atop him, the feline was no longer in him; his own shaft, shrouded in the cat’s pelt and pressed between both their bellies, stubbornly refused to go entirely soft.

“Thank you,” Tabar whispered over his ear, trembling under him. He didn’t say for what; maybe because there was just too much of it. The pleasure, the closeness… and now, from what he’d said earlier, he could at last call himself a man. And only Tabar and the gods knew what else. It was all Allan could do to simply nod in response.

Raskin gave a pat to Allan’s shoulder, holding the wineskin in reach. “I think the two of you ought to finish this off,” he said. “That looked… amazing. And not only physically.”

“It was that,” Allan assured him, extricating an arm to reach for the wineskin. But it was Tabar’s mouth, not his own, into which he poured one of the remaining mouthfuls.

The hunter swallowed, sighed in contentment, and took the skin to give Allan a swallow in turn. Raskin waited a moment for him to swallow as well, then patted his shoulder. “I hope you can show me sometime soon,” he murmured, and then shifted a short distance away to lie down – if not to sleep, at least to doze.

Tabar and Allan drained the skin between them, and then their mouths met for a wine-scented kiss, as deep as their different shapes would allow. Tabar stroked his cheek, and his hair, and smiled up at him, his eyes sliding shut. Allan glanced over, and saw the other two sitting up, leaning against each other, each with a chalice of tea.

“I wonder if the gods sent us this storm,” Krall mused. “Not as a curse, but a blessing.”

Outside, yes, Allan was dimly aware that the snowstorm still raged. In here, though, all was peaceful; all he knew was warmth and contentment. And so, as he laid his cheek against Tabar’s shoulder and closed his eyes, he heard Katia’s reply: “Who can say? But there’s one thing I do know. However it came to pass that we came together like this…” She paused, taking a sip of her tea; and then, she spoke a simple conclusion.

“It’s good.”