December 15th, 2013
Daamon’s Choice

A hush descended on the crowd, the only sound the rustle and swish of wings above. His mother clutched at his hand. His father’s wing pressed to hers, her other hand caught between the two of his.

By the stars, by the will of the wandering god, let the news be good.

And the healer spoke simply, “Laith and Rykken will step outside momentarily to introduce their new daughters.”

Emotion charged through Daamon’s chest, swept upward, making his throat raw and his eyes wet. He turned toward his parents, hugging them and being hugged in return. Doing the same to those who stood near, Amato and Vesti alike, all of them caught in the wild surge of happiness. For the first time since the Hotaling virus had been let loose on their planet, children had been born.

Around him, males and females of both races wept openly, joyously, all the differences between the two races, the history that sometimes separated them into hostile camps set aside by hope for the future—though that hope was not yet fully realized.

His mother’s hand found its way back to his, the tremble there a reflection that even as they celebrated, they worried, anticipation colliding with fear as they imagined Laith, Rykken and Cyan placing the bands on their infants’ wrists.

He looked down at his own, crafted and put there by his parents, the silver locked onto his body and engraved with the device of their clan-house, sleek images of mongooses chosen by one of his father’s distant ancestors. But the Ylan stones embedded in the bands had been chosen by him, when he came of age.

Until then, his bands had contained both the diamond-hued crystals that had migrated at his birth from his mother bands, and the citrine-gold of his father’s bands.

The stones were necessary in order to survive on this planet, without them there was no entry to Belizair, no exit from Belizair, no life on Belizair. Even those who called it home did not fully understand the Ylan stones. They were a mystery never solved, wonder never ceasing, the study of a lifetime.

Minutes felt like the crush of hours as they waited for word that these children had been accepted by the planet. And then the door opened again.

Laith, with his feathery, gold-edged wings, stepped outside, accompanied by Rykken, his suede-textured wings as deep brown as his hair. Their faces were wet, their expressions holding the same joy and wonder as those gathered.

Each held an infant against his shoulder, their wings revealed. Laith’s daughter had feathers streaked with brown and gold. The leather-like wings of Rykken’s daughter were a dark chocolate.

“We present our daughters,” Laith said. “Asha and Amala. Both mean Hope.”

A woman in the crowd called out, “Which is Asha?”

Another yelled, “Which is Amala?”

Rykken and Laith shared broad smiles then carefully exchanged the little girls so they held babies whose wings differed from their own—for an instant.

Daamon heard his mother’s gasp above the rush and roar of his own heart. His hand tightened on his mother’s in equal measure to her returned grip, though he stood transfixed.

Instead of dark-chocolate suede, the daughter in Laith’s arms now had feathered wings of spun gold. Instead of feathers streaked with brown and gold, the daughter Rykken held had wings of solid black. And Belizair was forever changed not just by the humans who now called it home, but by the children who in small measure could do what their shapeshifter ancestors could once do.
Shocked awe became hundreds of voices, whispering at first then growing louder and louder, all of them saying, “The Fallon return.”

And Daamon saw the children on Belizair generations into the future, changing not just the shape and color of their wings, but their bodies. He saw them as the Fallon had once appeared to those on Earth, as mythological beasts and ancient deities.

Pride and pleasure coursed through him, that in some small measure he had played a part in saving their world. And this was just the beginning.

They hadn’t yet found an answer for those already mate-bonded, or for the single females of either race, but these births symbolized their ultimate victory over the virus that had so devastated their world. And he had more reason to believe in that victory than most, given his current assignment on Earth.

He was suddenly anxious to get back to his duties. He started to turn, intending to tell his parents goodbye—only to have the memory of every sexual encounter with a female washed from his mind like a beach returned to pristine order.

Miciah d’Vesti, one of the most powerful of the Council members, touched his mouth to his Amato co-mate’s in a passionate public kiss, in a sundering of deeply entrenched Vesti taboos forbidding same-sex liaisons.

Desire flooded Daamon in a tidal-wave rush with a solitary focus—Grayson, the human scientist he had been guarding for months. And the force of that desire plowed through his ability to deny his own needs and nature.

His mind filled with images of the things he wanted to do to and with Grayson, the ways he wanted to touch and be touched. Blood surged downward, filling his cock so it throbbed with each heartbeat, the thin loin covering doing nothing to hide the impact of the revelation.

His heart thundered, battering against ribs and muscle. Only his mother’s hand kept him from unfurling his wings and launching skyward.

He fought through the daze gripping him, at the depths of his desire for another male, allowed heightened color and heightened need to fade before turning toward his parents.

I need to return to Earth, he said, glad he didn’t have to press the words through a constricted throat or speak them with a dry mouth. Glad and guilty alike, at having a Council-sanctioned reason to leave Belizair so he could act on awakened desire. He could explore what it meant to be with another man on a world where duty required him to pretend to be human and where Vesti taboos didn’t apply, even if some of those on Earth held the same beliefs.

“Of course,” his father said, embracing him before his mother did, the pride shining in their eyes deepening the guilt that came with his intentions. How would they react if they knew the truth?