About an hour after sunset, he lay on his back, his head on the pillows, staring up at the pearly ceiling. He had let his eyes close when he heard the door slide open and shut again. He sat bolt upright.
He was here, that blond creature that he'd fought so fiercely against not even a full day ago at his mother's lagoon. He felt a tinge of hatred mixed with fear for himself.
"Leave me alone," was the first thing he said.
The creature didn't say anything. He didn't have his wings; he could make them solid or not whenever he chose, Dorian supposed. They were not truly material, but tangible nonetheless.
Dorian scrambled up against the headboard of the bed, drawing his knees up to his chest, making himself as small as possible. The Flyer looked at him quizzically, the light from the moon lighting one side of his beautiful face, piercing the stark blueness of his eyes.
"Don't be afraid of me," he said in a slightly accented voice. His eyes followed as Dorian scramble about to move away from him, though his expression did not change.
The mortal boy settled on the far corner of the bed and curled into a ball. "Why shouldn't I be? I don't know what you want!"
The creature wore only a robe made from the finest fabric Dorian had ever seen. It opened below his long throat and over his back and hid nothing of his slender waist or the curve of his legs and hips.
"You're not supposed to," the creature murmured. He advanced and crawled up on the bed, Dorian backed up as far as he could, straining away.
The creature did nothing else for the moment. Instead, he simply sat there, watching Dorian cower away from him like a bird of prey watching his victim from afar.
"Please," the Flyer said suddenly, his tone soft, almost sad. "Don't be afraid of me. I won't hurt you."
Dorian said nothing. He merely looked at the creature, frightened still.
The Flyer sighed and sat back in the position of a child, stretching his long legs in front of him. He raked his hand back through his hair.
"I've never done this before," he confessed as if it would make any difference to Dorian whether he had or not. "And I don't have to have your permission either. You already belong to me." There was no malice, no threat behind it. Just fact.
Belong to him? Permission? "Permission to do what?" Dorian growled as his courage heightened a bit from the pit into which it had fallen. This creature seemed as nervous as he was.
The Flyer looked at him for a long time, seeming to debate on whether he should speak or not. He took a breath. "To plant my seed within you. I have three days before the sanctity is no good and the child is not blessed."
Dorian emitted a little horrified squeak and leapt off the bed and made for the balcony. He would leap, he didn't care! These creatures wanted to...?!
The Flyer followed him with speed like lightning.
"Leave me alone!" Dorian hissed at him. "It's not possible!"
The creature shook his head. "I'll show you."
"Answer all my questions first, then," Dorian said, his eyes darting about in his struggle to bide time when he might form an escape plan. "I want to know what is happening to me!" He stopped for a breath to find that he was gasping. The creature looked at him again for a long time.
He sighed sadly again. "I don't want to force you," he said. "What kind of hostling would you be then? I'll send Ria to you and he'll answer your questions. He was in your place a long time ago."
Then the Flyer was gone.
Dorian slumped down against the balcony railing and cried for along time into his hands.
Ria came in silently and stood without a word as Dorian sensed his presence and wiped his face. The strange boy was dressed a little more modestly this time and his hair was braided down his back. He calmly pulled Dorian up by his arms and led him to the bed where they could sit.
Dorian regained his breath and shaking sanity. There was something in Ria's presence that was calming and subduing- much like the presence Dorian's mother had possessed when she was alive.
"What's to happen to me?" he asked finally.
Ria looked at him, his pretty eyes narrowing as if in appraisal. "Nothing that you couldn't benefit from," he said. "You were brought here for the sole purpose of bearing a child."
Dorian's tears began anew. "But I can't! It's not possible for me to do it. Why not use women? They're made for childbearing- use them!"
Ria shook his head. "It's been tried before, Dorian. They're bodies are too weak to hold a Flyer's seed; it's like poison to them. And these people cannot reproduce with each other, they weren't made for that. Through the ritual you've already gone through, a young human male's body can be manipulated to hold and birth a child. It's been done for hundreds of years." He sounded as if he were reciting a memorized lecture.
Dorian put his face in his hands and said nothing for a moment. "What must I do? Why is it only three days that he will wait?" he finally asked.
"To be able to bear the child, your body must go through three changes," Ria continued. "First is to purify you heart. Yours and his blood was exchanged into each other's bodies, which was done while you slept to ease the pain. To make your 'souls' mesh, you drank a mixture of each other's essence- your blood, which you did this morning." He paused, gauging Dorian's pale expression. "He didn't drink yours. You are the one who will change, not him."
He lifted Dorian's bandaged wrist. "This will leave a scar in proof of your bond." Then, Ria raised his own left wrist. A decorative bangles just covered the scar he revealed to Dorian. "The final union will be made by the siring of a child into your body." He paused dramatically again, perhaps to take a breath. "When the three days have gone and no child has been conceived, the blood union will be no good any longer and the child will not be blessed."
"If not, there is no telling if he is to be healthy and beautiful. It is cruel to let it be born that way." He looked around the resplendent room. "We live for beauty here, Dorian. You must learn that. Aesthetics are something you will come to know like second nature-"
The door swung open and Ria whipped his head around. Dorian instinctively hid behind the other boy and saw that the one who entered was not the blond one whom he feared most of all, but the blond's friend, the fiery-haired Flyer and he held a bundle in his arms. His magnificent wings were folded neatly at his back.
Ria relaxed and smiled, rising gracefully to go to him, letting the Flyer kiss his lips gently before laying the bundle in his arms. Dorian watched, speechless.
"He wanted you," the Flyer said softly, his eyes alighting on Dorian only for a moment. Dorian shied away, remembering Ria's earlier words.
"You should take him, he's driving Gabriel mad." Then the Flyer was gone, the door shut behind him.
Ria wandered back to the bed, smiling and cooing down into the folded blankets. Dorian couldn't help looking and he strained to see what lay in Ria's arms. The fledgling laughed childishly and reached for Ria's face.
"Forget what I said about Niko earlier today," he said apologetically as he sat back down on the bed. "I was angry. He wouldn't hurt a fly," Ria said, nuzzling the child's little nose. The fledgling laughed ecstatically.
"He's yours?" Dorian asked softly. The child was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
Ria, still playing gently with the child, nodded, smiling.
So that was supposed to happen to him, to become what Ria was. To bear that from his own body. To make love with that creature that he feared more than anything.
But watching Ria play with his young son made Dorian lose all fear of Ria himself.
"Who's son is he?" The answer was obvious enough.
Ria still didn't look away from the giggling child. "Niko's," he said. "The one who brought him in here just now."
So Ria had made love with that beautiful copper-haired Flyer. And here he was, playing with his pretty son, looking so very content. When Niko had come in, there was no malice with him towards Ria or Dorian. They had kissed for the gods' sake! So why is it that Dorian was still scared to death of the blond one?
As if to read his thoughts, Ria suddenly looked up at him. "Gabriel shouldn't be feared either," he said sternly. He was speaking of the blond one. "He, in fact, is the one you should be least afraid of."
Ria didn't convince him. "I don't fear you," Dorian said. "I don't fear your son. And I don't fear that one, Niko, either. But I do fear that one."
"But why?"
"Because of what he wants of me."
The boy's gold eyes darkened as they narrowed. "Should I fear Niko because he asks a child of me? Should I fear him because he keeps me safe here and keeps me happy and gives me whatever I desire?" He paused. "Dorian, are you a virgin?"
Dorian bowed his head. "I see how that has anything to do with it." Yes.
"That has everything to do with it," Ria said earnestly, ignoring for a moment the child pulling at his hair. "Anxiety," he said. "That's what it is."
"No, not anxiety," Dorian answered. "Terror."
Ria shook his head. The baby began to cry. "He's hungry," he said reasonably, pushing the tunic-like garment he wore off his shoulder. He let the child suckle on his nipple. Dorian couldn't turn his eyes away. There was no sign of breast on Ria's chest. How could he hold milk? He was morbidly fascinated, despite his everlasting fear.
"Dorian, you don't realize how lucky you are to be here." Ria continued as if it were a normal conversation; as if he didn't have an infant attached to his chest suckling as noisily and as contentedly as any human baby. "How old do you think I am?"
Dorian studied his face and body. "Fifteen? Sixteen?" he said.
Ria smiled. "I wish I was fifteen again. That's how old I was when I was brought here."
"Niko brought you here?"
Ria winced a little at the baby's content suckling. "No," he said, his voice a sigh. "I was brought here by a Flyer named Amebris. I had two sons by him."
"Where is he now?"
"He died."
"Oh." Dorian felt an awkward moment. "What about your sons?"
"The first died in infancy," Ria said. "The second son sired Sephria here."
"Niko?! He's your son, too?" He couldn't hide his shock. This was getting more obscene by the minute!
Ria nodded, looking down at the child. "When Amebris died, Niko was seven. He took me as his consort because it was his right and the law here."
"Only seven?" Dorian said, confused, a bit sickened and utterly fascinated.
The boy nodded again. "Not in human years, though. In human years he probably would have been-" he looked up, calculating. "Closer to sixteen. Fledglings grow very fast. Sephria here won't need my body any more but for a few more weeks."
"But why must fledglings take their own...hostlings as consorts?" This new terminology felt odd on his tongue. "Can't they take their own?"
"Not if their hostling still lives and the father dies. If both parents live, he will take his own. If both parents die, he will take his own. But if the hostling lives and the father dies, the son must take him as a consort."
"That's sick," Dorian said.
Ria glared at him. "We are their property, Dorian. That's all we are really. Niko and Gabriel don't see us as such- that is why I am lucky, as are you.
"The blood is not passed on like it is with people." He continued. "Flyer families always consist of a Flyer as sire, a human as a hostling and sons who are always Flyer when they come of age. Taking the hostling will keep the family intact and keep the hostling safe, since he cannot go back Down ever again after the change." He took a breath, changing tracks.
"You do not realize how prized you and I are in this place! Very few Flyers have the power to inseminate a human and those who can't, steal other's consorts because they wish to try. They cannot take one from the earth without certain permission. That is why it is dangerous for you to be celibate here. And you must never go walking in certain areas alone."
Dorian ignored that for a moment. "Then Gabriel's parents?"
"Both dead. That's why-"
"He took me," Dorian finished softly, looking at his hands in his lap. It was all so much more complicated that he could have imagined. But everything was so painfully clear to him.
He looked at Ria. This boy had been here long enough to sire at least two full grown sons, perhaps more. And yet he was so young still. His presence, as Dorian had surmised once before, was strangely a great comfort, added to whenever Ria looked at him with those soft gold eyes. He found that he could come to like Ria very much were he given the chance, and the thought of being in this room without Ria here was suddenly quite unbearable to him.
"Will you stay with me, tonight?" Dorian blurted out.
The door opened again and Niko entered. The fiery-haired Flyer only smiled, his hand coming up to gently stroke the back of Ria's neck. "Beautiful, isn't he?" he said.
The child or Ria? "Yes," Dorian whispered.
Niko lifted his son from his consort's arms and nuzzled the little child's cheek, whispering softly to him. He touched Ria's shoulder. "Are you ready?"
Ria looked from him to Dorian. "I'm going to stay with him tonight, I think," he answered softly. Niko didn't question him. He merely kissed Ria on the lips and let his consort kiss his child before he was gone again.
Wordlessly, Ria removed his clothes. Dorian did the same, blushing but also afraid he would affront Ria by not following his lead. He didn't lay his head on the pillow until Ria did, and then only very tentatively.
He lay there quietly, staring into gold eyes across the white expanse of the voluminous pillow. Ria was doing it again. He was studying Dorian as if he were some prize treasure to be scrutinized and then cherished.
Dorian was quite surprised when Ria suddenly huskily whispered, "Come here," and gathered Dorian to his chest, his chin resting on Dorian's head. Dorian had never been so close to anyone else but he found the embrace snug and warm. The feeling of naked flesh to naked flesh was both a mind-blowing shock and a pleasure. He winced when a shock of arousal shot through his body, causing him to shudder uncontrollably.
He heard Ria laugh into his hair. "I would if I could, you know," he whispered, hands tracing lightly over the tense muscles of Dorian's back. "But that would require someone's special permission and it's not yours to give."
Dorian didn't say anything. He felt his face flush, though, when he realized whose permission it had to be.

Gabriel was standing on the balcony of his own room, gazing out into the silent night with a heavy heart. It was so very late. He heard Niko come in, place the sleeping child in a portable crib beside Gabriel's bed and come out onto the terrace. He and Ria lived in the loft next door, but they came over so much because Gabriel lived alone that they just kept a crib there.
"Ria is staying with him tonight," he said.
Gabriel turned to look at him, about to speak but Niko covered his lips. "Don't protest. I trust him, and you know you do too," was all he said. Gabriel's eyes softened and the turned back around to the nighttime vista.
His eyes searched the sky blindly. "Niko, I don't understand why he has to put up such a fight," he said slowly. "It would be easier for both of us if he simply submits."
Niko put both his arms about Gabriel's neck, pressing his warm chest and belly pressed against Gabriel's bare back between the wings. "I know," he whispered, rubbing his cheek against the warm downy feathers. "Ria will make him see."
Gabriel sighed. "I don't want to hurt him," he said. "To see the fear in his eyes when he looks at me-"
He felt Niko kiss his cheek and then his neck and whisper, "He'll come around in time, I promise. Now, come to bed, you're lonely."
"Have you a remedy?" Gabriel asked seriously, turning as Niko led him back into the bedroom.
"Don't I always?"

When Dorian awoke, Ria was there dressed in a white silk garment that had to be the most revealing one he'd worn yet. It left his shoulders completely bare so that Dorian could see the delicate tendons of his neck and sculpted little collar bone sliding under the smooth skin. The fabric itself was so thin that Dorian could see both the bumps on his chest that were his nipples. The garment was open all down Ria's sides and only belted at his slender waist with tasseled sashes.
Ria gracefully sat on the bed to watch Dorian wake up. His hair was pinned up this time, revealing an elegantly long neck.
Dorian could feel the coolness of the morning on his skin. As he stretched and yawned, Ria pulled him up from the bed and made him stand. Going into a full body stretch, Dorian groaned comfortably as Ria draped him in something satin for clothing.
Ria had slept wrapped around him all night, his deep breathing as soothing to Dorian as one of his mother's old lullabies. With that one night came a familiarity, an intimacy that Dorian would never again feel complete without. It was a connection they'd made, though Dorian couldn't have put a name to it at the time.
"I don't think I've ever slept that soundly," he said shyly, studying the thing he wore that could only be described as a scrap of clothing covering just the right places.
Ria smiled and Dorian could swear the boy's cheeks flushed ever so slightly. He sobered and tugged Dorian's arm. "Come on, I need to get some things. You're coming with me."
Dorian was studying the satin strip that hung right over his private parts. "Does it have to be so...skimpy?" he asked.
"That's just how we dress. Revealing yet leaving enough for the imagination. Remember: we are really just the Flyer's playthings. Now come," he said, patting Dorian's buttocks softly to get him moving. Startled by the unexpected touch, Dorian jumped foreword and Ria nudged him out into the streets.
Dorian was distracted from pondering Ria's resigned attitude towards his status by the place he'd been pushed into. He walked slowly, wide-eyed, taking in everything he saw, forgetting for once to be afraid. Everywhere he saw Flyers holding hands with their consorts and a few stolen kisses every now and then. Others in dark alleyways as he and Ria passed them, were engaged in the more progressive acts of affection.
"Don't ever let go of my hand," Ria warned, snapping his attention back. "Remember what I told you about those Flyers that can't get their own consorts. They hang around the marketplace all the time."
Dorian nodded and gripped Ria's hand tightly. It was the same thing everywhere he looked-- never did he see a boy wandering alone. They were always in pairs or groups or with their seemingly over-protective Flyer mates. The most fascinating thing Dorian saw, though, was that many of the boys were sitting down in a shady corner nursing a fledgling and leaning on the Flyer who had sired it, whose eyes were constantly moving about in readiness to protect his consort who was in the defenseless, dazed state of nursing.
Ria carried with him a basket in which he loaded certain things from the stands after paying for them with several strange coins.
"But where does it all come from?" Dorian asked, his eyes sweeping the crowded square.
"The Flyers make raids down below every so often. It's luck of the draw who goes, though. It's very dangerous."
Dorian remembered now the stories told of such raids.
Ria pulled more coins from a pouch in his basket. To do this he had to let go of his charge's hand momentarily, but that was all it took.
Dorian turned around, startled by a brush of a hand against his rear and saw a blond boy smiling at him over his shoulder as he walked away. Dorian stared in return, his mouth having dropped open at the boy's audacity. And quite suddenly, Dorian found that the few steps he had taken had turned him about. He could not tell which stand he had left Ria at.
A stab of fear caught him up that he was alone in this strange place. All of Ria's warnings came hurtling back to him so that the marketplace was no more a bubbling place of activity and gaiety, but a dark place where danger lurked around every corner.
And that danger found him soon enough. Before he knew it he was swooped up into powerful arms causing the place to become a dizzying rush of color below him. Spinning about in the air, he felt feint until he was set down in a dark alleyway, all ways of escape blocked by a Flyer who stood towering over him, smiling.

Ria raced about frantically, dropping his supplies carelessly to the ground. He had turned his back only for a moment!
"Dorian!" he cried over the din of the crowd. Fear filled his heart with a choking sensation and a cold spot ground in his belly. It was no good, he's never find the boy in this. He instantly spun about and raced back to their common loft, his stomach cramping with the little one he was carrying in its earliest stage.
Their loft was empty. Where was that indolent Niko?! Growling in anguish, he ran next door into Gabriel's home and called out his name until the Flyer himself came out of his room, naked as he always slept. He was lazily rubbing his eyes. Niko must have kept him up late last night.
"Ria? Do you know what time it is?" Then, having a look at Ria's sweaty brow and realizing something was wrong, his face became quite serious. "Where's Dorian?" he demanded.
Ria could only shake his head, feeling the tears welling. "I only turned my back for a moment and he was gone!"
Gabriel came to him, shaking out his magnificent wings and he held Ria gently by the shoulders. "Where, Ria? Tell me where you left him." His voice was calm, but he could not hide the fear in it.
Ria let his tears fall. "In the marketplace," he mumbled, bowing his head. "Gabriel, I didn't mean to!" he said suddenly, looking up.
"It's okay, it's okay," Gabriel said, sparing a comforting kiss to the boy's forehead and then disappearing into his room and getting dressed. When he emerged, he took Ria in his arms and walked to the balcony, spreading his great wings. "What direction?"

"Let me go," Dorian said, his voice trembling like the rest of his body. He was backed against the wall with the Flyer advancing to match every step he took backwards.
"You must be new," he said slyly. The creature sneered and made to get a hold on him. Dorian managed to fight and get a good hit at the creature's jaw and scratch his face up a bit. He squirmed with all his strength but the Flyer's arms were like iron around him and he had no chance of escape.
The vile creature hungrily mouthed Dorian's face and throat, coming in for a kiss on the lips when Dorian gave him another blow, drawing blood this time from the corner of his mouth. The Flyer punished him for that by taking his arms and twisting them behind his back, making him strain to ease the pressure and turn his face to the stone behind him. He felt the clothes he wore ripping and the smarting touch of the Flyer's large hands.
He screamed and pleaded, frightened and angry beyond coherent thought. The only thing in his mind was how scared he'd been before this. That was nothing compared to this terror he felt. He struggled violently and cried out again.
Gods. Just kill me now! He prayed. This was the final humiliation he would go through, this violation would be the closure to this trip he'd been forced to take. He welcomed it with an open heart, pressing his forehead to the rough wall. Just let it be quick-
Then quite suddenly, he was left alone. All hands were off of him and he slid unattended down the wall, very close to faint.
Then Ria was beside him, bringing with him his comfort and presence with warm hands and a tight embrace. He was asking if he was all right while frantically smoothing Dorian's hair. But Dorian wasn't really registering anything but the two shadows that were thrown over them. One was the Flyer who'd just tried to rape him and the other was quite clearly the tall and powerful figure of Gabriel, his hair and white wings shining absolutely brilliantly.
The two Flyers were staring each other down like wild animals. Gabriel's were teeth bared, the other's face was twisted in an ugly sneer. They lunged at each other and what commenced then was unlike any fight that Dorian had ever seen. They got hits in whenever they could, yet most of it was directed at each other's wings in search of damaging them.
And Gabriel's wings were definitely stronger and bigger than the other's. He growled and kicked at the other's knees, knocking his legs out from under him and delivering his hard elbow to the nape of the other's neck. The assailant went down momentarily, but not before the blond had done some considerable damage to him.
Soon, after what seemed like an eternity, the other Flyer flew away, nursing a torn main stem feather. Gabriel paid him no more thought after he was out of sight. Breathing hard and glistening against the sun that crept into the alleyway and turned to where Dorian was crouched practically underneath Ria.
Gabriel moved Ria away with the slight, polite brush of the hand and squatted in front of Dorian, the scent from him being one of complete freshness, despite the fine sheen of sweat on his face and neck. He touched the torn satin on Dorian's thigh.
"Are you hurt?" he whispered.
Dorian shook his head, his eyes locked to those warm smoky blue ones. Trembling had overtaken his body but he paid it no mind. He couldn't stop staring at the Flyer before him, seeing over and over again the fight that had taken place over him.
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