Raking claws. Kitt's left arm shot out and swung hard to the left. Lashing tail. He swung his right leg high in the air. Dragon's breath. Grasping jaws.
Eventually even the training terms faded away, leaving only the white haze of perfect concentration, mind and body focused solely on movement, breathing, on becoming a living weapon that did the bloody. deeds to keep the Dragon's children safe from the darker elements of the world.
The brighter the light, the darker the shadows.
The darker the shadows, the brighter the light.
We fight in the shadows, we bleed in the dark.
We live in the night, we die for the light.
Kitt dipped, swung, spun, struck invisible foes, sliced nonexistent throats, kicked, punched, spun, dipped and started all over again.
By the time he'd finished his workout, a rigorous trial that all shadows must be capable of before they were allowed to move on to the final, often fatal, level of training, he was exhausted, sore, and soaked in sweat, hair plastered to his head, the loose pants he'd put on clinging to his skin.
He stood in the middle of the room in the finishing pose, chest heaving, heart pounding—and the restless, unhappy energy he'd been trying to expel still clinging.
Kitt sighed and dropped the finishing pose, stripped off his sweaty pants, and went over to the corner and pulled on the velvet cord that opened up a hatch and let cool water pour down over him. When he was mostly clean, he went over to the nearby bath and slipped into it, groaning as the much hotter water sank into his sore muscles.
Eventually he climbed out, and drank down nearly all the water that one of the guards must have been kind enough to request for him, since he hadn't been that smart himself.
Feeling refreshed if not better, he went over to the clean clothes he'd brought and pulled on the pants and skirt. But when he picked up the first piece of jewelry, he could not bring himself to put it on.
What people thought of him had never mattered. If he was doing his job right, people either didn't think about him at all, or swiftly forgot they'd ever seen him. So why was mindless, petty gossip bothering him so much now?
"Have you ever thought of dancing?"
Kitt jerked, turned sharply, prepared for a fight even as he registered both the fact only one person in the whole palace could move more quietly than him, and the voice belonged to that person. "Demir."
Demir smiled in that faint, sweet way of his, and if he took offense to Kitt's instinctive reaction to fight, it didn't show. "I suppose I should have started with 'hello', but I thought you must have seen me."
"No," Kitt said, which was troubling, but then again, he knew all the way down to his bones that Demir was trustworthy—safe. "How long were you watching me?"
"Almost the whole time. I almost joined you in the bath, but you seemed to want to space."
Kitt made a face. "Something like that."
Demir drew closer. "You move beautifully. Have you ever thought of learning to dance?"
"Me? Dance?" Kitt laughed, even as it felt like a knife was twisting in his gut. "I'm a snake, a killer, if retired. I don't dance. Such things are for people like you, Harem Master."
Shaking his head slightly at the teasingly used title, Demir drew closer still. He smelled like incense and rose-scented oil, the kind massaged into the skin to keep it soft and supple. He also had the flush of someone who'd bathed recently, his long, heavy hair still damp, though he'd woven it into an intricate braid.
Normally Demir dressed ornately, but right then his only decorations were the two pieces he always wore, save when he washed or slept: the collar with the key, and the delicate gold chain that connected to the piercing in his cock.
"As you say, you're retired," Demir said, and patience was another thing he had over Kitt. It might irritate him if it wasn't so enthralling. "So why do you cling to your skills in a form you no longer require, instead of modifying them to something you can use?"
Kitt blinked slowly at that. "I'm good at killing people. What in the world does that translate to?"
It certainly didn't translate to being a quiet, protective presence like Haluk.
Nor would he ever possess Sabah's courtly skills and political acumen. He could follow the intricate threads of a court well enough, but not the say Sabah and Ihsan did.
And he would certainly never be the perfect concubine that Demir was.
He was glaringly white in a place of gold and brown and black skin. He was a professional killer in a beautiful, decadent palace that had other people to do such things. He was too loud, too restless, too rough, too heathen.
The only thing that really made him worth keeping, outside of how deeply he loved all of them, was his talent in bed. Which was hardly a skill unique to him, even if he was what most would call the sluttiest about it.
Certainly everyone in the royal palace loved to pose that was the only reason Ihsan kept such an awkward, silly, far too casual and poorly trained heathen as a concubine.
Damn it, he should have brought his knives and practiced with those. That would keep—
Kitt's thoughts scattered at the soft, slow drag of fingers across his stomach, the touch featherlight but searing. Soft lips touched his shoulder, then dragged up his throat, teeth grazing his ear in that way Demir knew melted him. Demir knew things the rest of them didn't until they turned into puddles at his feet. Assassins, bah. The Shadow Temple should take up creating concubines as lethal as Demir. They'd achieve world peace within a decade. "Demir…"
Soft, husky chuckles filled his ear. "You move as fluidly as a bird in the sky. Like a dancer." Demir's fingers dipped into his pants, teasing along his cock before wrapping around it in a light, frustrating grip. Kitt hissed and pushed back against him. It had always been an asset in the field that he was small, slender. Being so made him light and quick, moreso than most of the people he faced. Where necessary, people also mistook him for weak, and that was infinitely useful.
He also didn't mind that it meant men like Haluk and Demir towered over him, enfolded him. Ihsan had been the first to kiss him like someone who could be loved. Sabah had kissed him like a friend, an equal—a confidant. Haluk had been the first to make him feel protected in a world where Kitt was used to protecting himself, had been taught never to trust someone else to do it.
He hadn't thought anyone else could affect him so, but he'd never forget that first kiss Demir had given him. Not the one Kitt had playfully stolen when they were thwarting that ass Baluk, but the one provoked by teasing, but which had been anything but. No, Demir had kissed with devotion exactly as threatened and left Kitt feeling something wholly new: precious. Every time Demir kissed him in that slow, intense, burning away, Kitt felt like something precious.
"No, don't stop, what are you doing," he whined as Demir pulled away, whirling around to pout. "You can't touch me like that then stop."
Demir merely chuckled again, though it wasn't hard to tell his mischief hadn't left him unaffected either. "You have all the grace and control, and the passion and fire, that are required for dancing. If you seek to do more as a concubine, I think that is a fine place for you to start."
Hating the flush he could feel on his cheeks, because he'd thought that an embarrassing trait he'd lost long ago, Kitt said, "Why do you always notice these things?"
"All of you constantly call me 'Harem Master' yet seem to forget what the means. Do you think you're the only concubine I've seen who felt uncertain of their place? Who felt they were not good enough, did not fit in, would never be 'as perfect' as all the others? You possess a hundred skills I never will, but you and I overlap a bit more than you've ever fully appreciated."
Kitt frowned. "I'm not a dancer."
"No?" Demir stepped in close again, taking one of his hands, his other arm sliding around Kitt's waist and pulling him not quite flush. "Move with me. Hold my gaze."
Huffing, Kitt obeyed, resting his free on Demir's shoulder, more than happy to stare at his ridiculously lovely face as they moved together around the room, following the music that Demir softly hummed. "What is the point of this nonsense? Is this what passes for dancing in Tavamara?"
Demir laughed loudly then, so beautiful Kitt ached to touch him, to lick and suck and bite at his lips, tug at the rings in his nipples and mouth his way down Demir's broad, well-muscled chest, rip away his clothes to indulge further, explore with his tongue before spreading his legs even wider and fucking him until he screamed Kitt's name. "This particular dance is actually Tritacian in origin, called a spinner, or at least a version of it. We're moving much slower than a traditional spinner, and there are many variations." He drew them to a halt and cupped Kitt's face, sending a shiver of anticipation down his spine right before Demir kissed. Slowly, deeply, as though nothing and no one else in the world existed, as though this was the only thing Demir was meant to do and he happily embraced that fate. His mouth was hot, his tongue possessive but not aggressive as it tangled with Kitt's and tasted every curve and crevice of his mouth, hands gentle where they still cradled his head.
Kitt moaned, sliding his arms around Demir's neck as Demir slid his own down to entwin Kitt's waist. He clung tightly, rubbed and grinded as best he could—and swore long and loud and creatively in Rittuen when Demir pulled away again. "Stop doing that! Get back here and finish what you started!"
"Catch," Demir said, and threw something at him.
Kitt caught it easily, and snapped the fan open without even thinking about. It was made of bamboo and black silk, painted with gold and red roses. "This is a Rittuen court fan." There was even a poem on the inside as was typical, though in Tavamaran rather than Rittuen. It was also erotic, which was not done with court fans, because for all the rest of the world considered them mindless, insatiable sluts, they didn't go around writing porn on items meant for cooling one's face when those items were to be taken to a fancy dinner or the royal palace or some such. Erotic fans were private gifts kept in private places. "How appropriate you give me a fan that discusses the merits of blowjobs. I'd rather you simply get down on your knees and suck my cock."
A fleeting, teasing smile. "Patience, little dragon. Mimic me."
"There had better be satisfaction at the end of all this nonsense," Kitt muttered, but obeyed because he liked making Demir happy and that was never a hard thing to do.
Also, it wasn't like Demir was making him do anything difficult, even if he wasn't quite certain why anyone danced with a silly fan.
After several repetitions of the dance, Demir added a second fan and several more moves, which at least made matters interesting, if not exactly challenging. All right, maybe it was interesting and a little fun anyway, although no small part of that fun was in watching Demir.
When they finally stopped, Kitt was panting and Demir looked entirely too pleased with himself. "What is that smirk all about?"
"You will make a very fine dancer. I will have a proper tutor brought, since you will rapidly surpass what I can teach you. I think you will be plenty capable of performing at Ihsan's birthday celebration."
"That's in three months."
"Yes." Demir took the fans and discarded them on the bench where Kitt's jewelry still lay. He hooked his fingers into the waist of Kitt's pants and tugged him close, mouth dropping over Kitt's all fire and heat and hunger.
Kitt clung to his arms, digging his nails into soft skin and hard muscle, moaning as Demir ate at his mouth, shuddering as a hand pushed into his pants and wrapped around his cock, nothing teasing or frustrating about it this time.
Tearing away, Kitt said, "Oh, no, you got what you wanted, Harem Master, and now I get what I want."
Demir dragged his tongue across Kitt's lips. "And what is that?"
"I want to fuck you."
A warm chuckle washed over him. "Then it's a good think I came prepared to indulge pretty, bossy dragons."
Kitt moaned, shivered, his head falling back at the image of Demir preparing himself, spurred on by the wet kisses that trailed down his throat and teased at the mark on his collarbone left by an overzealous Haluk the night before.
He managed to pull away enough to make quick work of their clothes, then spread Demir out on the floor and did all the licking and biting and sucking he'd been thinking about while Demir taught him how to dance. He tugged playfully on the chain, laughing delightedly at the shudder and groan that got him, the hot, needy look on Demir's face. Granting some mercy, he unhooked the chain from the piercing, but then wrapped it around his hand and pulled Demir up to kiss him, biting at those luscious lips, liking the way he left them wet and swollen.
Letting Demir sprawl on the floor again, Kitt shifted to get his mouth around Demir's cock—something they'd only been able to touch again recently, now that the tattoo was fully healed, a continuation of the beautiful flowers that covered so much of the rest of him. Speaking of things that could bring world peace—or nearly start another world—the sight of a naked Demir could bring kingdoms to their knees.
Thankfully, no one would ever know just how devastating he could be save the four of them, and maybe someday a fifth harem member.
Kitt took him deep, sucked hard, cheeks hollowed, tongue working the underside, doing his level best to return some of the thought-destroying madness Demir inflicted on the rest of them. He pulled off when Demir seemed close to coming, however, spreading Demir's thighs wider, sliding fingers back to find he was as slick and stretched as promised. Dipping low, he licked at Demir's hole with his tongue, enjoying the broken noise that got him. "All the things we've done, and I don't think we've done this. Remind me to do it properly tonight; Sabah and I can take turns, he always was unreasonably talented with that tongue of his." That got another lovely moan, and how had none of them known about this obvious weakness their lovely harem master possessed?
Well, that weakness would definitely be exploited later. For the present, Kitt sat up and shifted to line up his cock, staring at Demir's beautiful face, meeting those intense eyes, breath taken by the love and adoration he always found there. He thrust inside in one smooth motion, making them both shudder, and after a moment to catch his breath started moving, bracing his hands on the floor, fucking into Demir deep and hard, as heavy legs and arms clung to him, Demir moving with him, taking everything Kitt gave and returning it.
Kitt would have gladly fucked him for hours if that was a thing that was possible, but given how intoxicating Demir was, he was pleased he lasted as long as he did. Thrusting in deep one last time, kissing Demir hard, he finally let his climax consume him, and felt Demir spill between them.
After a moment, with a last parting kiss, Kitt rolled over and sprawled on the floor beside him. "I wish all my practice sessions ended this way."
"So will you consider taking up dancing? Have I proven you would excel at it? I think our king would be incapable of speech to see you so."
Kitt shook his head, but didn't voice his doubts. Dancing still felt like something other people did—people like Sabah, like Demir, like fine lords and ladies.
But in the beats between his doubts, he could admit he'd had fun, and Demir was right—the movements were not unlike those he used in his training, and it was infinitely more interesting to practice at something that was not meant for killing. "Why the fans?"
"They were something we absorbed from Rittuen visitors, and have created our own customs for. I thought it might appeal to you, something equal parts Rittuen and Tavamaran."
Kitt smiled, and rolled back over to drape himself along Demir's broad, beautiful body. "As ever, Harem Master, you know what you're about."
"I live to serve, little dragon," Demir replied, and drew him into another kiss.