The Care and Keeping of Harpies [Monstrous May 08: Monstrous Birds]

By the time Orien departs the council chambers he’s already thinking about supper, thoughts of grilled trout filling his head as he takes flight toward his home. He crosses the threshold and expects to hear Cole moving around in the kitchen, but the house beyond the front curtain is dark and quiet. The feathers on his neck bristle in alarm; then he sighs and vaults on his taloned feet back toward the approaching night.

He finds the village library as empty as his home, cutting through the maze of high shelves and round tables to a rear office where the entry curtains are parted to one side. The human seated inside doesn’t look up, his mouth moving silently as he reads from a scroll and transcribes something to his left.

Orien leans one shoulder against the archway, his agitation fading at the sight of his human mate so diligently absorbed in his research. “How is it you work later than me these days?”

Cole jumps, slapping one hand over his chest as he blinks furiously behind his silver-framed glasses. “It’s already dark?” he asks, glancing at the lone porthole window to answer his own question. “Ah. My apologies, Councilor. Time snuck away from me.” He rolls up the scroll before tucking it into a crosshatched shelf at his side.

“I am sure it did,” Orien mutters, though the last bit of his ire dwindles as the human rises to his feet and gracefully circles the desk.

“I hope you’re not upset with me,” Cole says pleasantly, clapping his heavy hands on Orien’s shoulders. “Oh!” he says, giving a little squeeze. “You’re so tense.”

“It has been a day,” Orien says, not bothering to hide the misery in his voice. “One I should like to put to bed.”

Cole drops his hands, then loops an arm around Orien’s. “I think I know what you need,” he murmurs, stroking the feathers on Orien’s arm.

“A hot meal,” Orien says. “Sleep.”

“Mm, yes.” Cole smiles. “That too.”

Orien’s throat tightens at the implication. As they walk through the library and step into the chilly evening, Orien wraps one of his black wings around Cole to keep him warm, delighting in the fact that it only encourages his companion to nestle closer to his side.

He tries to set Cole’s unspoken promise aside when they eventually sit down to eat—grilled fish and grapes and greens tossed with fresh figs. The table is low to the floor, both of them perched on plush cushions as they trade anecdotes about their day. Orien can only discuss so much regarding council matters, but he’s happy to listen to Cole recount his recent research topics.

After they’re both sated and full, Cole sweeps up their wooden dishes. “You should lie down,” he says. “I’ll clean up.”

“Are you sure?”

Cole peers earnestly at Orien over the top of his glasses, nearly a glare if not for his calm smile. “Go make yourself comfortable.” Or else, Orien hears, and he suppresses a smile of his own as he rises on his taloned feet.

Inside their sleep chamber, Orien removes the belted loincloth around his waist and crawls into his nest—a recessed circle cut into the floor, lined with a firm cushion and covered with scraps of linen and silk. He stretches his wings before lying on his stomach, his eyes already heavy. He dozes until he hears Cole’s footsteps, cracking open one eye to find his human standing over the nest with a glass bottle in hand.

“Did you get comfortable as I asked?”

Orien hums and shifts aside to give Cole room. “You are going to oil my wings?”


That’s almost as good as… what Orien had expected to happen, but he’s not in a state to argue, especially if he’ll still have Cole’s hands on his body. He bends his black wings to give Cole easier access and rests his chin on his folded arms.

The oil’s light scent fills the room as Cole works it into his wings, Orien’s mind buzzing as alertness fights exhaustion. Cole’s touch is more than clinical as he pauses to rub the tendons in Orien’s wings, whispering, That’s good; feels better, doesn’t it?

Cole moves on from his wings, working more oil into the feathers of Orien’s lower back. When Orien lets out an involuntary trill, he realizes he’d raised his hips at some point, that he’d started rocking against Cole’s motions. He stills, hiding his blush inside his folded arms.

“Worked you up, have I?” Cole laughs softly, caressing the base of Orien’s spine. “Suppose that’s fair. I’m very good with my hands, after all.”

“You are, yes,” Orien mumbles as his legs instinctively inch apart. “And so humble.”

Cole’s fingers move faster than Orien’s heavy thoughts, pulling a gasp from Orien as those fingers dip between his thighs. He’s used to being in control, but when Cole touches him like this, when he speaks in that soft, commanding voice, Orien feels a bit powerless and he likes it; likes that the human he lives to protect can take care of him, too. And Cole is good with his hands, his palms always warm and his fingers dexterous from scrawling notes with bone quills all day.

Cole pats and pets like he’s exploring Orien’s body for the first time, brushing his knuckles against the down feathers covering Orien’s cock. Orien’s wings tremble and twitch as he lets out a soft moan, his cheek brushing the scraps of his nest beneath his folded arms.

“There, that’s it,” Cole murmurs. “You work so hard, don’t you?”


“Use your words,” Cole chides.

“Yes,” Orien says, swallowing. “I work very hard.”

“It’s not easy, is it?” Cole continues, teasing Orien’s hole before he dips a fingertip inside. “Having to sit still for hours on end, listening to all those scouting reports and debriefings, making all those hard decisions—” Cole plunges his finger further, forcing Orien to clench and moan. “It takes an especially patient person to handle all that.”

Orien doesn’t exactly feel like being patient right now—he wants Cole to go faster, harder, until he can’t think about anything but coming on his thick, talented fingers.

“Look at you now, even,” Cole murmurs. “I’m sure you’d like to get this over with, wouldn’t you? But you’re letting me take my time, letting me take you apart bit by bit.”

Orien shuts his eyes, his voice adjacent to a whine when he pleads, “Cole…”

Cole only hums and slides his finger out. “Can you take another?”

Orien nods quickly, his eyes stinging from anticipation.

“Deep breaths,” Cole murmurs, and he waits for Orien to breathe deep two or three times before he smoothly pushes two fingers inside. Orien’s talons curl, hips tilting as his back arches—and Cole isn’t even moving yet, just letting his fingers rest while Orien adjusts to the girth of them, rubbing Orien’s spine with his other hand as he continues whispering, that’s it, so good darling, just relax.

The praise keeps the fire in Orien’s cheeks stoked, and he can’t help but move a little, rocking back against Cole’s fingers. “More,” he says.

Cole barely curls his fingers. “You know I’ll give you what you need, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Orien says. “Just, please…

Cole hums again, pulling his fingers out halfway before he pushes in again. He builds up to a concise rhythm that slowly rattles the air from Orien’s lungs, a small string of drool leaking from the corner of his mouth. He’s too blissed out to meet the thrust of Cole’s fingers, just holds his legs open and listens to the slick, wet sounds as his human works him apart.

When Cole pulls out altogether, Orien’s groan of protest is cut short as wet fingers circle his cock. “Please,” he repeats.

Cole only chuckles, arranging his fingers so they pinch Orien’s cock between them. “Just tell me what you want, my heart.”

“Make me come,” Orien whines, no longer caring how ill-composed he sounds. “Please.”

“There’s no need to beg.” The nest trappings rustle as Cole repositions himself, and Orien draws in an anxious breath when he adds, “Though I do enjoy how sweet and desperate you sound when you do.”

Two fingers slip inside Orien again, and Cole uses his other hand to stroke his cock. His motions are calculated, working in perfect tandem, and Orien can do nothing but squirm and groan as Cole fucks him. His wings quiver and flap overhead, raining down a few loosened feathers as he unfolds his arms and braces them against the side of the nest.

Panting, Orien uses the nest edge for leverage, rocking against Orien’s thick fingers and aiding the stroke on his cock. But after a few moments, he lets out a short, exasperated cry when his climax proves evasive.

“Shh, it’s alright,” Cole says. “So good for me, that’s it. Just breathe.”

The same second that Orien inhales deep, Cole’s fingers shift inside him and the pressure on his cock changes just so and his nerves light up. Orien squawks, falling hard onto one hand as he suddenly comes, wings drawing tight as they shake at his back.

And Cole’s voice is still soothing him, drawing his hand along his thigh as he slowly pulls out. “Perfect, darling,” he murmurs. “Just lie down for me, there you go.”

Orien has no thoughts left but to obey, sinking into the scraps of his nest with a drawn-out sigh. Cole crawls out of the nest, out of Orien’s peripheral, rummaging around their room while Orien fights sleep just a little longer.

His limbs are still gelatinous when Cole crawls alongside him, now wearing only linen sleep shorts. It takes the last of Orien’s energy to throw an arm and a leg over Cole’s round body and pull him close. He kisses the dark curls on top of Cole’s head, inhaling the scent of dust and ink.

Cole props his head on one hand, smiling softly. “Better?”

“Yes,” Orien says, clearing his dry throat. “Much.”

Cole slips an arm around his waist and palms Orien’s ass, tugging him closer. “You should consider taking a holiday, Councilor.”

Orien huffs. “Avian do not take time off.”

“Mm.” Cole squeezes hard enough for Orien’s breath to catch. “Perhaps you should start.”