Cheers for the reviews.

Short chapter, just to prove I'm actually going to keep working on this!

The bathhouses were almost empty. The Vazelki curfew was just an hour away, and all but the most foolhardy stayed out past curfew. Risk, though, was nothing new to Zabar, and he leant against the cave wall, drinking in the murky pools of water, forgotten clothing, and the lean figures of the remaining Vazelki bathers.

Zabar sighed. Fuck, Madrah. How long had he loved him? Too long. Far too long. His obsession was starting to become unhealthy.


Zabar turned to see Rico, an old friend. 'What?'

He hadn't realised Rico was here, but nor was he particularly surprised to see the blue-eyed man. Rico was almost - almost - as foolhardy as himself at times.

'He wouldn't be a good match for you, even if circumstances were different.' Rico offered sympathetically, accurately guessing his friend's thoughts.

'I'm not terribly interested in empty platitudes right now,' Zabar replied irritably. 'Nor am I interested in your assumptions on who you think I may or may not be suited to.'

Rico paused. He reached out and touched his companion's arm. 'I'm sorry.'

Zabar shrugged angrily. 'It doesn't matter. He has him now, I need to stop feeding the fantasy.'

His companion gave him a wry grin. Rico knew Zabar, and he knew the Vazelki well. He was prominent in the Vazelki movement, extremely intelligent yet with a mischievous streak a mile long, highly sexed, and terribly in love with an unattainable, fellow Vazelki.

'His idiot husband forgot he'd coated his wings and nearly gave the Innan a nice dose of powder,' Rico commented, hoping to interject some humour into the situation. 'I'm rather disappointed Madrah reminded him and made him wash it off first.'

'So I heard. God, why did he have to choose such an idiot? He's far from stupid, so why such a nitwit?'

Rico laughed. 'Why is it I'm actually happy that you're complaining?'

Zabar gave his friend a wicked grin, his anger slipping away. 'If you're happy that I'm sulking, I have plenty more to complain about,' he offered evilly.

'Spare me.'

They laughed, despite the oppressiveness they faced on a daily basis, the lack of understanding from the Innan community, and the fact that their respective loves had been stolen from them by archaic, highly conservative, legislation.

'Why does nothing ever change?' Zabar inquired plaintively when their laughter had died down. 'Why does nothing ever fucking change?'

Rico shrugged, suddenly solemn. 'Because we're not united?' he suggested. 'We need to be brave now, Zabar. You know that. You understand that. If only the rest of the group understood that.'

Zabar did indeed understand. He also understood that soon, perhaps, there was a chance that the Vazelki movement would start an aggressive recruitment campaign, targeting even Vazelki who hadn't previously shown an interest in advancing their people's cause.

They would be voting tonight; to attempt to recruit, and risk being exposed and imprisoned, tortured and possibly killed, or struggle on as a small group of activists, never achieving much, but not risking much either.

Zabar would be voting to recruit more members. So would Rico.

The Vazelki movement had always existed, but only two decades prior had it begin to experience 'real' growth. However, the new, constant – albeit slow – influx of members wasn't a sign of increased Vazelki self-awareness and pride, but more a natural progression aided by a small, but important, change in Innan legislation.

Traditionally the Innan had strictly supervised the Vazelki living quarters and bathhouses. Inspections occurred weekly, and the sheer number of Innan security patrols was considerable. So, unfortunately for the Innan, was the cost of undertaking such security checks. Faced with pressure from their own people to redirect public funds to more suitable activities, the senior government players had voted to lessen the control of the Vazelki. After all, everyone knew they were inbred, dense, creatures, how much control did they need?

The Vazelki movement estimated that approximately one percent of the total, local, Vazelki population, some seventeen hundred people, were now involved in the movement. But seventeen hundred people could only accomplish so much when the local Innan population exceeded half a million. Hence, in some activists' opinion, a greater activist base was required, even if increasing the group's size would probably result in the death of at least some Vazelki. They could only remain sufficiently 'under the Innan radar' for so long, before their sheer size made them noticeable.

Zabar, quite frankly, didn't care if the Innan noticed the Vazelki movement. How else would they achieve equality if the Innan weren't even aware that the majority of the Vazelki population were demanding change? Vazelki would need to stand up; some would have to die, others would be tortured, imprisoned, raped, and flayed. It wasn't pretty, but nor was the thought of an eternity spent as the dregs of society.

'People,' Lasann ordered. 'Are we settled?'

All thirty-seven division leaders nodded. Each was here tonight to vote on behalf of their divisions, with each division's size ranging from twenty, to two hundred and three, Vazelki activists.

Zabar and Rico, leaders of neighbouring divisions, exchanged worried looks. They needed this agenda item to pass. Without it, the Vazelki movement was destined for failure. Both had prayed desperately to Fenna, pleading with her to show their comrades the light, and the moment of truth was almost upon them.

They sat in uneasy silence as Lasann reiterated the rules of the ballot. She was their chairperson, as well as being an odd commodity in the Vazelki movement. She was Innan, but she was respectful towards the Vazelki people, and she was a constant provider of guidance on Innan customs, thoughts, attitudes, and law. The Innan, for their part, accepted the short, stocky, bossy woman with open arms.

Finally Lasann's directions drew to a close and she made her way around the group, handing out slips of paper. Zabar stared down at the paper, his hand shaking as he ticked the appropriate box on the ballot.

Madrah smiled sadly at his lover's sleeping form.Katarou's golden wings were wrapped protectively around his body, forming a cacoon of sorts, and his dark brown eyelashes cast shadows over his tanned cheeks.

Katarou was beautiful. He was sleeping naked, as both Vazelki and Innan were wont to do, leaving his lean, firm, body on display. Madrah observed the Innan's form with a mix of lust and admiration. Oh, to be that beautiful. To have men, women and Vazelki admire you for your looks, instead of turning their heads in disgust. To be able to flaunt who you were. To be able to have pride, instead of shame.

Katarou muttered something in his sleep before reaching down to his crotch and resting one hand on his flaccid penis.

Madrah stifled a laugh. Despite the sadness, despite his fears, despite the fact that he wasn't sure he and Katarou would ever truly 'settle', he had hope, and he still retained a sense of humour.

Katarou muttered something again, and twitched furiously. It was gorgeous. God, if only Katarou could love him. That would be wonderful.

If Katarou loved him, Madrah would never make another wish again. That was all he wanted. Katarou's love.