"The Cold Wind II"




Hard Brit Lads



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Part 2

This is where there should be some sort of disclaimer, copyright, age-restriction and stuff. Let's just take that as a given, shall we? Excellent! Drop me a line if you like this, or hate it with a passion. Mmmm, passion. On with the story!

Back on the shuttle, Two-Talon laid the injured Vanguard on one of the hibernation couches and stripped the tattered uniform off the unconcious body. Running his talons lightly over the body he gently skirted the two worst wounds and closed his eyes, concentrating hard. Opening his eyes a couple of minutes later he reached for his medkit. It was going to be a close thing. The Vanguard - he wasn't sure of the rank or class as the remains of the uniform were unfamiliar to him - had lost a lot of blood. There were no internal injuries, just the two deep surface wounds and several other minor cuts and bruises.

With deft talons he cut away the burned skin and flesh, packing the wounds with fleshgel before applying a large patch of artificial skin which melted and adhered to the wounds, sealing them from further blood-loss. The fleshgel would be used by the body to replace missing tissue and blood-vessels over the next few days - assuming he had intervened in time.

Now that the worst had been fixed, Two-Talon started dealing with the minor damage. Closing his eyes again he ran his talons lightly over the injuries and concentrated hard. A reassuring tingle under his talons indicated that the body beneath him was reacting and repairing the damage, albeit sluggishly. Several minutes later, satisfied, he reached for a locker and grabbed a blanket to cover the unconcious body. Not much to do now but wait for the humans to return.

Rocking back onto his haunches, Two-Talon studied the face of his patient. The Vanguard appeared to be a few years younger than himself. A rather impressive scar marred the scales on one side of the snout and the tusk on that side had been sheared off approximately half-way along its length. They were however, old injuries.

Despite the scarring the young Vanguard was still quite attractive. Shaking his head, Two-Talon chided himself, it had not been that long since he had lost Tusker and given what lay ahead he would do well to avoid any potential future emotional entanglements. During the examination he had found quite a few other scars and signs of bones that had been broken but not properly set - the youth had lived a rough life by the looks of things.

His quiet contemplations were interrupted by an alarm ringing out from the cockpit. Grudgingly he got to his feet to investigate the source. When he got there he saw the proximity detection system had picked up another vessel inbound to their position at a great rate of speed. Looking out the viewport, he saw what looked like a fast-attack frigate fly past. With a sense of unease he watched as it slowed down and turned back in their direction, unease quickly turning to fear as the weapons-lock notification system started blaring out its warning.

Frantically Two-Talon started the engine ignition sequence and was leaping to disengage the docking mechanism when he was knocked off his feet, his head bouncing hard off the deck as the shuttle was hammered by a massive explosion. As he groggily staggered to his feet again he realized the shuttle was still in one piece, although fountains of sparks and smoke indicated some of the internal components had suffered substantial damage. It looked like the frigate had opened fire on the wreck itself, not noticing the much smaller shuttle docked to the side.

Huge sections of the already badly damaged battleship were blasted away as missles slammed into the superstructure, jets of escaping atmosphere and debris vented explosively into space as previously air-tight sections depressurized in the hard vacuum. The frigate was obviously under orders that there were to be no survivors and were running an effective mop-up campaign.

With a scream of rending metal and a shock that threw him to the deck again, the shuttle was violently shunted sideways, ragged sections of the other ship's docking port still attached to the airlock as the smaller vessel was punched sideways by another much larger explosion. Clinging desperately to the control console for support as the battered shuttle tumbled away from the scene of devastation, Two-Talon watched through the viewport with sick fascination as the battleship broke up under the assault, large sections twisting apart in an orgy of destruction as it was wracked by secondary internal explosions.

Tainui was surprised - heaven wasn't supposed to hurt. Heaven also wasn't supposed to have demons in it. Great big demons with dripping fangs, hissing and growling as they poked and prodded him with sharp claws. Damned annoying, that! Perhaps this wasn't heaven after all, maybe it was hell. He didn't think he'd been that much of a bad boy. As the blackness overtook him again he thought he saw a familar - and rather attractive - face. Smiling, he thought to himself that if hell had angels then it couldn't be that bad a place after all.

"Your mate recovers, needs rest. Come, need help repair shuttle." Two-Talon reached over and gently pulled a rather battered and dishevelled Andrej away from his unconscious friend. "It not going repair itself," The Vanguard medic huffed with amusement at his own joke. After pulling off some piloting that an experienced warrior would be proud of, Two-Talon had managed to snag the two humans in the open airlock as they had struggled and tumbled in the vacuum away from the exploding wreck. He would have boasted about his piloting skills to them if they had been in any sort of conscious state when he dragged their bodies into the main cabin.

The darker of the two humans - the one calling himself Tainui - had been quite severely injured aside from the usual damage sustained by being exposed to hard vacuum. Mostly deep cuts and several broken bones from impacts with large chunks of shredded metal debris it looked like. Knowing only a small amount about human physiology, Two-Talon struggled to keep the human alive and in fact Tainui had technically been dead for a short period of time. His guesswork had paid off and small electrical shocks administered to the injured human's blood pump had brought him back to life. Strange creatures, these humans!

He was somewhat surprised that his healing abilities worked with the humans and indeed seemed to do so more effectively than with a Vanguard. After setting the breaks and sealing the cuts, Two-Talon spent several hours working to fix the other damage.

Andrej had only sustained superficial injuries, lots of burst blood vessels and some severe bruising. All of which had been quickly dealt with by his healing ability, although the human did an awful lot of writhing around complaining that he was being tickled, whatever that was - he'd have to look it up in the language database later.

Several of the console screens were still flashing alarms when Two-Talon and Andrej got to the cockpit, but there was nothing critical demanding immediate attention.

"So, what needs fixing first?"

Two-Talon pointed at one of the screens. "Shuttle on emergency power, main power system needs repair. This one will attempt repair," he tapped himself on the chest while plucking one of the many small cylinders vaguely resembling a small fire extinguisher off a nearby bulkhead with one of his rear arms. "Atmosphere vents from small holes here, here, here." He handed the cylinder to Andrej while bringing up a schematic of the shuttle on another of the viewscreens with a forward arm. Andrej noticed that the Vanguard usually kept the two larger, stronger rear arms tucked close to his sides, so it was still a little unsettling to see the large alien waving all four of them around like some sort of scary Egyptian god.

One of the indicated trouble-spots was back in the hibernation chamber so Andrej made his way there and hunted for signs of a hull-breach. Several wall-panels had been knocked loose in the battle exposing conduits and wiring underneath. Some of the wiring had shorted out sending out a slight haze of burnt insulation smoke into the air. He noticed that the smoke near one of the bulkheads was drifting towards one of these exposed sections. Moving closer he could hear a shrill squeal almost at the limits of his hearing - he'd found one of the breaches.

Hefting the cylinder he pointed the business end at the gap in panelling and pressed the trigger, sending a bright blue glob of sealant jetting against the jumble of pipes and wiring. Weird stuff, Andrej thought to himself as it started spreading out and crawling in an almost alive manner all over the area, soon disappearing from view. However it seemed to do the job as the shriek of escaping air dwindled away to nothing.

Before Returning to the cockpit he quickly checked on Tainui again, running a hand gently across the artifical skin covering some of the worst injuries - there would be some impressive scars once he'd recovered. Back in the cockpit he checked the schematic to see where he had to go next. After tracking down and fixing a larger tear near the engine-bay hatch, he entered the mess area where the Vanguard they had found was recovering. Two-Talons had said he'd probably remain unconscious for quite some time while his body recovered from the trauma it had suffered. Turning his attentions to tracking down the last breach, a slight stirring of air indicated this last one was behind some food-storage lockers near the hatch.

Hunts-In-Grass opened his eyes slowly and surreptitiously glanced around the room he was in. It didn't look like the Sirius-Defender. The last thing he remembered was the fierce but short-lived battle, after they had been boarded by the Original Home invaders. Badly wounded by an energy weapon discharge he'd been left for dead. He also a dimly recalled an attack by some strange little alien creature. That was worrying as he wasn't aware of any other alien cultures within range of New Home.

Aware of noises behind him, Hunts-In-Grass slowly sat up and looked for the source. One of the strange looking aliens was busy emptying out a storage locker near a hatch with its back to him. Remembering the brief encounter on the Sirius-Defender he quietly flexed his arms and got a little unsteadily to his feet. Completely oblivious, the alien finished emptying the storage locker and started spraying the insides with a Breach-Sealant cylinder.

Steadying himself he crept up behind the alien and was about to strike when he felt a twinge. Hesitating, he looked down and noticed the patches of artificial skin covering what seemed to be large wounds. If these aliens wanted to kill him they could have just left him to die, why go to the bother of fixing him up? Backing off a bit he took a new look at his surroundings - it was a little battered and worn, but the ship he was in definitely appeared to be Vanguard built, not of alien construction. Curiouser and curiouser. It wasn't normal Vanguard behavior to have slaves or prisoners - enemy combatants were summarily executed, not used for forced labour. Aliens generally also fell under this category, or at least they did back on Original Home so he'd been told.

The alien turned around at the same moment and saw him crouching there in a combat position and jumped backwards in alarmed surprise, dropping the sealant cannister as it stumbled over the boxes littering the decking. Hissing menacingly, he raised all four of his arms and splayed out the talons on each of his hands. Moving its mouth the alien started making noises at him and edging towards the door holding its arms up in a defensive manner. Raising the volume of it's voice it called out to someone he couldn't see. He heard heavy footsteps approaching from down the corridor.

"What is wrong now?"

Hunts-In-Grass's ears perked up when he heard the voice - a Vanguard! Hang on, a Vanguard? His back to a bulkhead, he was now trapped. The newcomer who appeared filling up the only escape from the room was definitely Vanguard - a Warrior from Original Home judging by the uniform. Shit! The alien ducked in behind the newcomer and pointed at him babbling in its incomprehensible language.

"You are up and about a bit sooner than I expected," The newcomer didn't advance any further and with a small amount of cautious optimism Hunts-In-Grass noticed he didn't have any visible weapons, only a battered looking data-pad. Warriors never went anywhere without at least one weapon accompanying them, even if it was only a combat blade. He cringed as the Vanguard stepped forward, stopping abruptly. "Hey, I am not going to hurt you! I am a medic, patched you up but did not expect you recover to so quickly."

Suddenly feeling extremely weak and tired, Hunts-In-Grass slid to the decking, wrapping his tail around himself protectively. "Where am I? Are you with those Original Home bastards who attacked us? And just what is that thing?" Nodding towards the strange little alien peering at him from behind the Medic. "The others - were there any other survivors?"

Two-Talon hesitated before shaking his head. "You are on my shuttle and were the only survivor we could find before your attackers returned to finish off what they started." Gently encouraging Andrej out from behind him he put a rear arm around the young man's shoulders. "And this thing is a human, one of two aliens who agreed to join me on this trip - they are quite friendly and harmless. I have a lot of questions as probably do you, when you are feeling up for it."

Releasing Andrej, he moved and stood in front of the wary young Vanguard and offered him both of his rear arms, gently pulling Hunts-In-Grass to his feet and guiding him back to the table. Looking around, Two-Talon found some food packets and a water canister, which he handed to Hunts-In-Grass. "Take this - you lost a lot of blood, it will help you recover faster. I have some more repairs to do but will look in on you when I am finished." Two-Talon walked to the doorway before stopping and turning around again, looking suddenly nervous. "This planetary system, what is it called?"

Andrej meanwhile picked up the Breach-Sealant cylinder and made himself scarce. Hunts-In-Grass watched the alien squeeze past the medic and disappear down the corridor before regarding him with a suspicious look. "New Home."

Two-Talon closed his eyes and sighed. "I was afraid of that. To have travelled so far and sacrificed so much for nothing! Ancestors forgive me... Eat, rest, we shall talk more later."

Hunts-In-Grass waited until the medic left then ravenously tucked into the food and drink only stopping when he could hardly keep his eyes open anymore from weariness. There were so many questions he needed to ask, not the least the strange response the medic gave when he answered the question, but they would have to wait.

Nothing was stirring when Hunts-In-Grass next woke, the room dark. Once he was on his feet he ran his fore arms over his body to check things out - he was feeling considerably better than the last time he was awake. Padding quietly down the corridor he came out in the cockpit and froze when he saw the medic motionless at the controls. Sounds of deep breathing soon reassured him the Vanguard was dozing and unaware of his presence. Over the next few minutes he did a silent tour of the shuttle, which while more modern than he was used to, was at least familiar. Accessing a computer panel he did several quick checks.

The shuttle was registered to Victorious-Hunting, an old exploration vessel which had been destroyed several years back. Victorious-Hunting was registered to the Original Home military exploration section. Most recently it had been docked to his battleship, the Sirius-Defender. Plot thickens, he thought to himself.

According to sensor readings the Sirius-Defender had been badly damaged and then later destroyed by an Original Home frigate. So that part of the medic's story checked out at least. Other than those two strange human aliens the medic was the only other crew-member.

Taking care not to wake him, he stopped by the dozing medic and looked him over carefully. Each of the newcomer's fore hands bore two wickedly long and sharp talons, the other talons on those hands more resembling stubby fingers with large pads - all consistent with a healer or medic. His rear arms were more powerful and suited to grunt work, but not as massively muscled as a Warrior's rear arms would be. Hmmm, telling the truth about that as well it seems.

Studying his face, Hunts-In-Grass was surprised to see that the medic was not much older than himself. Not too bad looking either, he had to admit. Other parts of his anatomy also seemed to agree as his cock started swelling in its sheath. Almost with a mind of its own, one of his fore hands crept down and started gently stroking, encouraging. It was not long before his erection was jutting out proud and fully erect, already oozing strings of pre-cum which dripped to the decking in long ropy strands. Not exactly the best time or place to engage in such risky behavior, however Hunts-In-Grass was still young and more often than not, not in complete control of his raging hormones.

Stroking the ribbed length of his cock a bit faster, he closed his eyes in pleasure. When he felt another hand grip the base of his cock, Hunts-In-Grass froze in horror, opening his eyes to see the medic staring back at him with an intense expression on his face and one of his rear hands squeezing Hunts-In-Grass's throbbing cock. "I... I uh, was... I..."

Two-Talon hissed quietly at the panicked youth, before resuming his stroking with a slightly tighter grip, never letting his gaze drop. Releasing his breath in a rush, Hunts-In-Grass relaxed slightly and let the medic continue, feelings building rapidly towards an inevitable climax.

Two-Talon started gently stroking the sensitive skin under Hunts-In-Grass's jaw as he jacked the young Vanguard's dripping cock, knowing the best spots to stimulate for extra pleasure - it wasn't just healing knowledge he had learnt during his medical training.

"SssssssssssssssARRRGH!" Pent up for several days, the Vanguard youth blasted impressive jets of cum all over Two-Talon's hand, arm, thigh and shoulder, surprising them both with the ferocity and volume. Panting, Hunts-In-Grass surveyed the damage and ineffectually tried wiping off the worst of the mess off before the medic startled him yet again - with a delicious thrill he watched as the medic scooped up gobs of cum and started licking his hands clean of it.

Noticing that the medic was also sporting an impressive hard-on, he decided to return the favor and reached out an arm before the medic stopped him and took a few steps back, turning his back on the disappointed and confused warrior. "Did... Did I do something wrong?" Hunts-In-Grass stammered.

"No," the medic's voice was subdued and quiet as he stared at the starry vista outside the viewport. Two-Talon silently cursed himself for his moment of weakness. "It is nothing you have done. I am sorry, I should not have done that."

Hunts-In-Grass studied the taciturn medic thoughtfully. This was not exactly how he had expected things to turn out, life could be complicated sometimes.

Andrej stalked the bridge agitatedly. Worry about Tainui, concern at the sudden change in behavior of Two-Talon ever since the Vanguard they'd rescued woke up, boredom at nothing to do. He'd long since gotten tired of the unchanging view of the stars wheeling around outside the viewport. Picking up his data-pad he sighed and made his way quietly into the hibernation chamber to check on Tainui again for the umpteenth time.

The injured Vanguard had recovered sufficiently and was currently asleep in an adjoining couch next to that of the sleeping medic's - they'd all taken to using the hibernation couches as beds as they were considerably more comfortable than sleeping on the decking. Sitting on the edge of Tainui's couch he stroked his lovers forehead gently.

Suddenly sitting bolt upright giving Andrej the fright of his life, Tainui gasped and looked around in a panic before seeing Andrej and relaxing a little, his eyes still darting nervously around.

"It's OK Tai! Relax, everything's OK, we're safe now."

"What... What happened, the last thing I remember is, uh... Actually, not much."

"You were knocked around pretty bad but Two-Talon managed to fix you up. He said you might not remember much though. How're you feeling?" Tainui shook his head and looked blearily at Andrej who smiled timidly back. "I was worried about you, Tai."

"Thanks. How long have I been out?"

"Two days."

"Two? Shit, that must have been some party - did you get the number of that bus that ran me over? Man, is there something to drink around here?" He took the proferred water canister from Andrej and slugged most of it down before handing it back. As he did so he noticed a large grey patch on his arm and poked at it tentatively.

"Artificial skin. You've got a few patches on you but your real skin will eventually grow over it. Two-Talons changed some of the stuff he had so it would work on humans, but didn't have time to match the skin-colour."

"Huh, nifty." Swinging his legs around off the edge of the couch, he slid to the ground and slowly stood upright, swaying slightly. Andrej steadied him as he got accustomed to walking around again. There were several of the grey patches on various parts of his body, including a large one running from his ribcage to just above his groin. "Oh man, what happened to me? No wait, I don't wanna know," Tainui lightly ran a hand over the grey patch and shivered. "That story could have had a sad ending. Where are my clothes?"

Andrej smiled at him and passed over some new jeans and a t-shirt. "Your old ones were stuffed and had to be thrown out. At the rate you're going through clothes we're going to need to go shopping again soon. Although I have no objection to you wandering around naked, if you want."

"I wouldn't want our host to feel inadequate."

"Funny man! Don't think that's likely to be a problem. He's been acting kinda strange since the other one recovered."

Tainui finished getting dressed and pulled Andrej into a bear-hug. "Since when has Mr Lizard not acted strange, you silly bugger! He's an alien, by definition they're strange."

"Well, stranger than usual anyway. Dunno, moody and a little distracted I think. I get the impression he didn't expect to find trouble here."

"Neither did we! Hey, let's go get some grub, I'm so hungry I could eat the arse out of a dead horse."

"Although that sounds absolutely delicious, I'm pretty sure I didn't pack any dead horse-arse before we came on this trip. Although I'm sure Two-Talons could hunt you down something similar if you're that bent on it!" He laughed, breaking free of Tainui's embrace. "C'mon, let's get to the mess before you fade away to nothing."

Two-Talon and the other Vanguard entered the mess a few minutes later clutching some food packages and joined them at the table. The boys watched with interest as the two reptiles broke open the packages and consumed the contents, although it resembled more of a struggle than a meal. The food looked like some sort of dried meat which was tough and chewy, proving to be quite a battle even for sharp Vanguard teeth.

"Man, I think I've lost my appetite," Andrej put down a half-eaten sandwich and continued to watch with morbid curiosity. "What kind of meat is that, anyway?"

"Rank meat." Two-Talon replied around a mouthful of the leathery stuff.

Andrej wrinkled his nose with disgust. "I know it's rank, but what sort of animal is... err, was it?"

"Meat animal called Rank. Large, six legs, fun to hunt."

Tainui put down the water canister he was holding and looked at Two-Talon with a raised eyebrow. "You sound almost normal, you been reading a dictionary?"

Andrej looked away from the train-wreck-in-progress of the reptiles lunch and stared listlessly at his half-eaten sandwich. "While you were recovering I did some work with their translation system. Hey, gimme a break, I was bored. It's not perfect but is set to auto-update from our conversations." Andrej explained as Two-Talon appeared to be struggling with a particularly recalictrant bit of lunch and not in much of a position to answer him. He pointed to the small black disks hanging like earrings from each of the reptiles' ears. "We'll never be able to speak their language properly, and they'll never be able to speak anything recognisably human. So we'll always need translators to talk to each other."

"Ah right. Anyone ever tell you how clever you are?" Reaching over he mussed Andrej's hair playfully, causing the boy to blush and grin like an idiot.

Andrej liked it when Tainui touched him in such a familiar, friendly manner. Most of the touching he was used to was from frenzied teenaged girls trying to rip his clothes off during his concerts.

Having finished eating, Hunts-In-Grass extended a long forked tongue from his mouth and proceeded to lick up and down the length of the fangs and tusks at the front of his snout. Alternating his unblinking gaze between the two boys as he watched their interaction, Tainui got the distinct impression the creature was carefully appraising them as it cleaned its teeth. Apparently happy with the state of its teeth Hunts-In-Grass hunkered back, resting on his tail and continued to stare at Tainui, occasionally flicking his gaze to Andrej.

After another minute of awkward silence Tainui couldn't stand it any longer. "What," He asked pointedly "exactly is your problem? If you've got something to say, spit it out already."

Focusing his eyes on the darker coloured human, Hunts-In-Grass leaned forward, not breaking eye-contact. "This one did some study, asked questions. You two mate yet not capable to produce spawn. Some Vanguard also like this," Hunts-In-Grass shot Two-Talon a quick glance before continuing. "This one like this. Normal amongst your kind?"

Andrej spluttered, almost choking on the water he was drinking and blushed again while Tainui looked at the reptile, surprised. "You're gay? Uh, I mean... Well, no," He stopped and then glared at Hunts-In-Grass. "Hang on, how do you know we've had sex? We've hardly touched each other since you came along!"

"Watched recordings," The alien pointed at a small black box on the ceiling of the room next to one of the light-panels. Both the boys had noticed the fittings before but not taken any notice of them. "Also records from when you first captured. Informative."

Andrej - used to intense media attention and speculation from his 'old life' - burst out laughing, drawing a curious look from both of the creatures. Tainui wasn't quite so amused however. "That's an invasion of privacy, you should have told us we were being recorded!" He pointed an accusing finger at Two-Talon who just stared back at him, expression impossible to read on his craggy features. Glowering at Andrej he continued, "And I don't know what you're laughing at, he's seen us... Well, you know!"

"Don't be so grumpy, Tai - just think how popular our porn would be on earth. Lots of disappointed girls though I would imagine. Anyway it's not suprising that we were being recorded back on that mothership earlier."

Grumbling something Andrej couldn't quite make out, Tainui crossed his arms and sulked. Andrej got up and kissed his brooding Maori friend on the forehead before heading towards the cockpit. "Sounds like the translation database needs some more work. Could do with a hand when you're finished there."

Having successfully beaten his lunch into submission, Two-Talon tossed the empty food packages into the nearby recycler and rested all four of his arms on the table in front of him, slightly unsettled at the recent tone of conversation. He was going to have to have a long, awkward talk with the Vanguard youth. Reaching a talon over to Hunts-In-Grass he powered off the translation device hanging from his ear and did the same with his own. This was not really a conversation he felt like sharing with the humans. The remaining human appeared to get the hint and got up to follow his companion out of the room.

With a sigh he reached out and clasped one of Hunts-In-Grass's forward forearms. The young Vanguard looked at him expectantly. "Look, about what happened last night - I am sorry about that. I should never -"

"Do you not like me?" Hunts-In-Grass interrupted him mid-sentence.

"It is not that, there are just some things I need to work through."

"No, I understand perfectly. I am not attractive," Hunts-In-Grass pulled his arm from Two-Talon's grip and stood up, self-consciously rubbing the broken tusk and the scar beside it. "I know that. I would not want me either."

Shoulders slumped, he was turning to leave when Two-Talon jumped to his feet and stopped him, grabbing him hard using all four of his hands, talons digging in, roaring at him angrily. "Stop and listen to me! You are the first attractive thing I have seen in a very long time! You have no idea how badly I want you right now!"

Hunts-In-Grass stared wide-eyed into Two-Talon's eyes just centimetres from his own. "Then... Then what stops you? I would welcome that!"

"Hrrr... I cannot." Feeling defeated, Two-Talon closed his eyes to block out the hurt look on the youth's face while releasing his shoulders and sitting back at the table. "Please... Sit. I will explain."

Hunts-In-Grass hesitated momentarily before hunkering down beside the Medic, quietly waiting for him to continue.

"This is not easy for me. For you this happened three years ago, it has only been a few days for me. His name is... His name was Tusker. Headstrong young warrior - not that much older than you are now. Strong, loyal, loving. We had been together for eleven years, they were good years although we had our disagreements and fights like most couples." Two-Talon stopped momentarily, opening his eyes to look at Hunts-In-Grass with a strained smile on his face. "You remind me of the first time I met him, actually - he was a patient of mine also."

Two-Talon was sick of the heart-ache but in some strange way it seemed to lessen the pain a bit to share the story. It was in some small way helping to keep Tusker's memory alive - he had promised himself that Tusker's sacrifice wasn't going to be forgotten. Hunts-In-Grass moved closer till he was able to rest his head on the medic's shoulder, trying to comfort him. Quietly appreciative of the contact, Two-Talon wrapped one of his rear arms around the youth's shoulders.

"I was a junior medic stationed at some military academy on some shit-hole planet that I cannot even remember the name of anymore. There was an accident - a troop transport had crashed on take-off into another coming in to land, killing most of the poor bastards on both transports. Most of those that were not killed outright died over the next few hours from their injuries. Being a junior I was given responsibility for looking after one of the more severely injured warriors who was not expected to survive. He was the strangest looking guy I had ever seen, his tusks and fangs the largest I had ever seen on a Vanguard before, quite cute for all that though."

Pausing in his recollections, Two-Talon picked up a water canister and took a swig before glancing at Hunts-In-Grass who looked at him intently. Taking the silent cue he continued. "He was a real mess, one of the landing-struts had smashed through the armoured hull-plating and crushed him against a bulk-head. When I reached him he was still conscious, very quiet, confused, frightened and obviously in a terrible amount of pain. Never forget the look he gave me though, complete trust - but also complete resignation. Would not let go of my hand. Must have realized that the senior medics had pretty much given him up for dead.

"It took quite a few minutes for the engineers to cut the landing-strut free so he could be moved. I cannot imagine the amount of pain he felt when I got him out of the wreck, but he never made a sound the whole way. Took many hours to stop all the bleeding and fix the internal damage - thought he would never make it but he did. Still would not let go of my hand the entire time.

"Turned out that Tusker was a bit of a loner, he did not have any friends on the base so took to hanging around me as often as he could. He took quite a bit of flak from the other warriors, they thought he was a bit of a freak because of his over-sized teeth, but that was part of the charm for me. Still never really said a lot though, strong silent type.

"Over time I found myself becoming quite attracted to him, missing him when he was gone. Turns out he felt the same way about me but I did not realize this until a few months later. I was turning in after a long shift when he came to visit me in my quarters late at night. Usual small talk to start with, then he went all quiet. I was just about asleep by this time and it was then that he got up, came over and kissed me. He took off immediately without saying a word leaving me lying there stunned."

At this point Two-Talon laughed softly and looked at Hunts-In-Grass again. "Did not see him for a few days after that, I think he was afraid how I would react. When I finally managed to track him down he would not look me in the eyes anymore. We both had some leave coming up so I asked him to join me on a Rank-hunting trip back on my home colony. The change of scene would do us both good and besides - I now had ulterior motives. The hunt was successful despite the fact we never ended up catching any Rank beasts - but it did not matter as I had caught the beast I was after.

"Anyway, that is all history. A few weeks ago we were both selected to go on an exploration trip to check out some new alien species that had been discovered. Initially it was supposed to be a recon trip to scope them out and return with whatever information we were able to gather as to whether or not these aliens were a threat. Unfortunately the military decided to change the mission - they wanted samples. I had just about enough of the whole rankshit traditional Vanguard thing anyway.

"Tusker was still loyal to the military and tradtion thing however, he and I never really saw eye to eye about that. Things got complicated very quickly and I am responsible for making him have to choose between me and millenia of Vanguard traditions, society and his orders." Two-Talon stopped and sighed deeply, squeezing his eyes shut as the recent emotional wounds were ripped open afresh. Opening his eyes again, he stared blankly at the table in front of him. "It was a decision that got him killed. And that is my fault."

Hunts-In-Grass felt awful, he'd had no intention of hurting Two-Talon and seeing the medic in such a miserable state was breaking his heart. Never having been in love before he had only a vague idea what it was like to lose someone so close. He had lost a lot of friends in the recent attack but nobody really close to him. He had been selfish in pressing the medic for nothing more than sex when there was obviously a lot more involved and he suddenly felt horribly ashamed.

Licking Two-Talon's face, trying to offer a bit of comfort, he was surprised when the medic threw his arms around him and drew him into a tight embrace. Not so surprised when Two-Talon started sobbing uncontrollably on his shoulder.

Two-Talon Had managed to hold off the worst of the emotions since the funeral pyre back on the human's planet but now the floodgates had opened and the pent up feelings were not to be denied. Vanguard were generally loathe to show any form of weakness to others and usually kept their emotions tightly controlled, so Hunts-In-Grass wasn't quite sure how to deal with the devastated medic who was falling to pieces in his arms. Life could be ironic sometimes, it was not long ago that he had been rescued, now here he was playing the role of rescuer.

Continue to Part 3

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