Chapter 2: Winter Picnic
Jamie dreamed that he and Scott were together again, lying in bed. There was nothing sexual in the dream – they were just lying together in complete harmony with Jamie’s head nestled against Scott’s shoulder while they talked about the kinds of things people talk about in dreams. He could feel the flex and pull of Scott’s muscles as the other man gestured, and enjoyed the man’s musky scent. Even in his dream he knew that the two of them had just made love, but he didn’t desire more. This was enough for his dream: lying together in harmony, talking about nothing, being with each other. God, he missed Scott.
He woke up with a heavy heart and when he got in the shower, his mind wandered to what must have happened in the dream before they lay there together. His hand moved across his body as he imagined Scott pushing his legs up against his chest to get a better angle, then entering him so gently and sweetly, kissing him all the time. Jamie’s breaths grew shallow in the steam as his hand drifted lower and the vision continued, Scott thrusting against him as his head arched backward in pleasure and a moan escaped his lips. The vision was so real and Jamie was so hard. He stroked himself in the shower, wanting release, but wanting Scott even more.
In his mind, Scott’s thrusts were long and steady but in reality, Jamie’s hand moved quickly over his body, aching to get it finished and done with so he could move on to another day without Scott. He shut that thought out of his head and focused solely on what Scott must look like above him, kissing him on the lips, the cheeks, nibbling his neck and collarbone as he thrust, thrust. Jamie’s hand grew sporadic and his body clenched. His cock exploded against the tile and he let out a long moan. Then it was over and he was spent.
After he was dressed and headed into Marisol’s room to check on her, the warmth of his vision still lingered. He missed Scott more than he thought was possible and it was growing worse each day. Marisol said it was because they were a mated pair. She was suffering because she couldn’t see Narné but when Jamie had brought it up to Ashton, who was in charge of when they could see their lovers, the older man had dismissed their concerns. Jamie respected Ashton, but he was beginning to resent the man greatly for keeping him and Scott apart.
Marisol was starting to show her pregnancy when Jamie went to check on her and a grin broke across Jamie’s face. It was the first day he had been able to notice and the change was abrupt. She had assured him she was pregnant, but until there was visible proof the others wouldn’t believe it. Many of the council who stopped by to pay respects to the queen secretly hoped she wasn’t pregnant, Jamie knew, because if she wasn’t pregnant than the mating flight was void and Marisol would have another mating flight and one of them might win it. Jamie was still frightened by how close he and Marisol had come to choosing someone besides Narné and Scott. They would have to be extra careful in future mating flights, because it seemed like the entire campus was determined to sleep with Marisol.
After brushing Marisol’s scales to a sheen and giving her a kiss on the cheek, Jamie headed outside to meet up with his old roommate and best friend Amar and his girlfriend. Jamie still felt guilty about what he had put Amar through – during the mating flight, Jamie had summoned every dragon on campus to chase Marisol, including Amar’s dragon Tephis. Amar had found himself in the awkward position of being filled with lust for his best friend – his male best friend – and things had been a little strange between them ever since. But Amar was a good friend and did his best to understand why Jamie had done what he did, and he knew that Jamie hadn’t purposefully seduced him or even singled him out. Still, Jamie could appreciate how difficult it must be for a straight man to suddenly be lusting after his male friend for no apparent reason.
Amar’s girlfriend had gotten him through the chaos after Jamie’s mating flight. Jamie hadn’t realized how much his mating flight would affect the campus, but it was worth it, he had come to decide. It was the only way he and Scott could have been together. Jamie headed towards the field beyond the football field to meet up with his friends. They weren’t allowed near the dragon canyon and Jamie was still extremely curious what it looked like, but if he went any closer than this field one of the council members always seemed to appear out of thin air to stop him. He suspected it was because Scott was at the canyon and they were determined to keep the two of them apart, but he couldn’t figure out the purpose of the isolation.
Still, he spent a great deal of time in the field longing to walk the final half-mile and see Scott. When Amar and Nikki had invited him to lunch he had demurred until they suggested a winter picnic in the field, since they knew he spent his time there. The weather was clear and relatively warm – a brisk 45 degrees – and he had agreed.
Nikki spotted him first and waved. She had a blanket spread out and pita and hummus set up for their picnic. She was vegetarian and Jamie had been learning to appreciate vegetarian food ever since he had tasted her food. He spotted her dragon curled up with Amar’s dragon farther down the field and a flash of jealousy overtook him. Both dragons were deep blue, but Tephis, Amar’s dragon, was exceptionally beautiful with dark spots over his eyes that looked like eyelashes and an exquisite pattern of stripes along his back. Yanna, Nikki’s dragon, was an ordinary blue dragon and while beautiful, she couldn’t compete with Tephis for beauty.
Jamie waved at them and trudged over, eyes on the dragons weaving their necks sinuously together, sharing Marisol’s longing to do the same to Narné. It wasn’t fair. He hadn’t done anything wrong. The best dragon had won the mating flight, so how could the council complain? Shouldn’t they be rewarding him for being so bold and opening the flight to all dragons? Why couldn’t he see Scott? He grit his teeth together and forced a smile for his friends. Only a few more days, Ashton had assured him. Then he and Scott would be together again.
“How are you?” Amar asked. He was always sensitive to Jamie’s moods and had been more so since the flight.
“Fine,” Jamie said, trying to sound cool and casual. “You?”
Amar smiled uncertainly and Jamie wondered if it was residual emotions from the mating flight or if Amar was unsure how to treat such a vague comment. Either way, he must have decided that Jamie wasn’t in the mood to talk about his emotions so he switched topics.
“We found out Tephis’s talent today,” he said with an undercurrent of excitement in his voice. “It’ll revolutionize the campus!”
Jamie smiled sincerely. He doubted any dragon had the skill to fix the problems he had recently become aware of, but he wasn’t going to tell Amar that.
“Tephis can look at a person and see their bond, or their potential for a bond. That means when the potential students come to campus next week, he’ll be able to spot the ones who can bond with dragons and the ones that will die in the process. Councilmember Eric thinks we can cut casualties completely if we let Tephis into the student recruiting process.”
Each of the students who had dragons with special talents had been assigned a councilmember to try and determine what talents their dragons had, and Eric always sounded kind. Jamie was willing to bet he didn’t approve of keeping Jamie and Scott apart. Jamie thought about Tephis’s gift and wondered if Ashton would allow it to be used. Tephis would probably need to be near the students to tell if they were capable of forming bonds and he hadn’t mastered camouflage yet. Plus, what would happen with students like Jamie? When Jamie entered the academy, he had been a virgin and therefore unable to bond. Scott’s slow seduction was the only thing that had allowed him to form a bond with Marisol. Would Tephis have seen his potential, or would the dragon dismiss him because he wasn’t able to bond when he entered?
“That’s great,” Jamie said, knowing he had to say something.
“What’s wrong?” Amar said. “This might mean that we won’t lose anyone.”
“What about people like me? The- the difficult cases.”
It was the term the council used to describe virgins who didn’t easily give up their virginity. Scott had been a difficult case as well, Jamie thought. Ashton had mentioned it at one point, but he had never said who the person was who finally seduced Scott. Jamie couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of whoever that person was – he wanted Scott all to himself even though he hadn’t been at the academy then.
“I don’t know,” Amar said slowly. “I hadn’t thought of that. We’ll have to test it, I suppose. Still, anything that prevents us from dying is a good thing, right?”
Jamie nodded and forced a smile. He glanced over at Tephis and Yanna. Amar followed his gaze and a lightbulb seemed to go off.
“Oh, you’re missing Scott. I’m sorry. No wonder you’re not excited. I know how hard this is for you.”
“I only just got him back,” Jamie said. “And then he’s taken away again.”
Jamie and Scott had been fighting before the mating flight after Jamie had discovered that Scott was assigned to seduce him and it wasn’t a spontaneous act of love. Jamie had just forgiven him when the mating flight took place, and then they were separated for a month other than a brief reprieve on Christmas Eve. Jamie would forever be in Mike Ferrin’s debt for that one night – the man had insisted that they spend the holiday together even though Ashton had seemed dead set against it. Jamie didn’t know what strings Mike had pulled, but the memory of their time together Christmas Eve was one of the few things that kept him going.
And me, said an indignant voice in his head.
Jamie smiled. Marisol didn’t often butt into his thoughts but this was probably deserved. Taking care of her the past month was a blessing and kept him pleasantly distracted from his separation. And now that he knew for sure she was pregnant, the council would have to acknowledge Scott and Narné as her mate.
“You seem pretty okay with it today,” Amar said. There was a trace of guilt in his voice, because he was the one who instigated the fight between them. Jamie had since persuaded him that Scott was a good person, but Amar’s insistence on Scott’s guilt was one of the things that had prevented Jamie from forgiving Scott a lot earlier than he had.
“Marisol is pregnant,” Jamie said. “She’s showing.”
Nikki and Amar both brightened.
“That’s amazing!” Nikki said. Her dragon, though female, was infertile and unable to lay eggs.
“You’re sure?” Amar asked.
“Then we both got good news today,” he said with a satisfied smile. Tephis let out a happy snort that could be heard across the field.
“Yeah,” Jamie said. “I guess we did.”
“Have you told Ashton yet?”
“Not yet. I see him later today and I’ll let him figure it out for himself. It’s pretty obvious. They warned me that her belly would turn gold and it’s definitely changed colors.”
“How beautiful,” Nikki whispered.
Jamie often wondered if she was jealous of Marisol, or even jealous of Tephis. Jamie and Amar could both talk to their dragons using telepathy and their dragons had special abilities. But Yanna was an ordinary dragon and Nikki could only communicate with her verbally. Yanna had no special abilities, although being a dragon was special enough for most people. There had to be some element of jealousy, but she seemed perfectly content.
There is a stranger coming, Marisol said abruptly.
Jamie squinted at the woods. “Hey, Tephis and Yanna should hide. Marisol says a stranger is coming.”
“A stranger? How could anyone get onto the grounds?” Amar asked, but Tephis and Yanna were both vanishing quickly into the woods. They had all learned to hide in the woods, but Tephis had yet to master open fields. Most dragons were able to manipulate the minds of unbonded humans so that the humans didn’t notice them, but it took a lot of practice and experience. Plus, some humans were immune, like Jamie. He had been able to see Narné even when Narné was hiding from him.
When the dragons were gone, they looked around for the stranger. Then Nikki let out a startled cry and pointed to the sky. There was a large dragon approaching, and Jamie didn’t have to feel its mind to know that it didn’t belong.