Tryst - A shard of Light on shattered Water

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Section 1

"I don't know, Chaeitch," I shook my head. "She said she cared."

"How can you be sure?" He raised his mug with both hands to sip, then lowered the mug and stared at the middle distance, his breath washing over the lip. "So many lies. One on top of another. I don't know how you can put stock in anything she said."

"I was with her. I knew her. . ." I trailed off. "I know how that sounds, but. . . even when she left. . . she was more than just a friend. Even with the lies."

He hissed slightly.

I knew he didn't understand. He just wasn't capable of it. Just as I wasn't capable of empthising with their relationships. But I thought back to those days when she'd laughed with me, when she'd touched me and not shied away, to those nights when we'd been as close as two souls can get. It hadn't been a lie. Surely it hadn't. Surely I'd have been able to tell?

I sipped at my own drink. Warm, spiced wine went down easily and left a tart aftertaste. I was actually developing a taste for the stuff.

"She was a very good liar," Chaeitch said. "Probably trained for it."

"We slept together. I mean. . . there would have been some sign. Wouldn't there?" I was uncomfortably aware of the pleading tone to that question.

He glanced at me, then away again. "You really want to believe it, don't you. I'm afraid I can't give you any easy answers."

"We talked. Just before she left, we talked."

He stiffened a bit. I hadn't told anybody about that. I'd never said what she told me. "Talked, a? About what?"

I shrugged. "It was just. . . I. . . She was open. They weren't lies. I know they weren't."

Another soft hiss of breath and he studied his drink. Beyond him, the grime across the windowpanes was turning salmon pink as the setting sun reddened the sky. "As I said," he rumbled, "she was a good liar. She fooled everyone."

And he was right; about everything. I was searching for justification, doing everything I could to bend reality to my beliefs. I didn't know what she'd really felt or what she'd really believed. The Maithris I'd seen hadn't been the real person: it'd been a mask, a persona constructed to take over some else's life. What was the person behind that really like? How had she really felt? How much had been real?

It was so difficult to accept that I might never find out. I took another slug of wine and felt it burn its way down. So many lies.

"I'm sorry," Chaeitch said. "I'm sure there'll be somebody else."

"Huh, Rris aren't usually that comfortable around me. She was. . . exceptional."

"Well put," he chittered a little. "Still, with that reputation she got you, I doubt you'll have trouble with bed partners."

Oh. That. I sighed and slung back another mouthful, which had the effect of making a thought click. "Chaeitch?"

"A?"

"That. . . reaction she had with me. You've never heard of that happening before?"

"Unique as far as I know," he said then cocked his head. "Why do you. . . huhnn. Oh. I see. You think she'd make that up as well?"

"I don't know anymore."

The industrialist leaned back in his cushion and regarded me with more than a trace of amusement. "It'd certainly be an odd thing to do. I mean, why that? And sticking her claws into you into the bargain, I can't fathom that out."

"She might've had some reason. But after everything. . . I wish I knew."

He hadn't taken his eyes off me. "The teacher, a? You'd like to know what to expect with her."

I felt the flush crawling up my neck. "I didn't . . . I didn't mean that."

"No, but you were thinking it, a?" He lolled his tongue.

I looked down into my mug which was getting dangerously low and swallowed. "Would she. . . I mean do you think we'd have chance. . . could it be like Mai and I?"

"You want that again?!"

"You know what I mean."

"No," he said promptly. "I mean, everyone is different. Of course she'll be different from the doctor. But that doesn't necessarily mean in a bad sense." He turned the mug around and around in his clawed fingers, seemingly watching the light playing across pewter. "I've never met her, so I can't really tell you more than that."

"No. Of course not."

"But, she knows you. She knows what you're like beyond that hide and face. That can't hurt."

That hide and face. . . I looked at my own hand, turning it over.

"Why do you do that?" he asked.

"Just. . . It still surprises me when I look at myself and I find I look so out of place. So wrong." I sighed and let my hand fall again. "I'm getting so used to your kind but I know so little about you. I mean, what Mai felt during sex with me: was that real? Was it just her? If Chihirae hears about that. . . I don't even know if it's true!"

He hesitated. "You know there are females available at the Palace. They could help you."

"I. . ." I started to tell him to forget it. But. . . but dammit, it was a rumor running rampant all over the Palace and even I didn't know if it was true. Chihirae. . . The sex with Mai had been pleasurable, had been fun, and at the time it'd been an affirmation of a companionship that'd helped keep me sane. But Chihirae, I had no idea if it would ever be possible. . .

Chaeitch leaned forward. "I'll make inquiries, shall I?" he gently offered.

I shuddered and nodded.

Section 2

I stepped out of the bath into the bite of the night air. Water splashed and dripped on tiles; I shivered a little, goosebumps pebbling my skin as my breath frosted in the twilight. A flickering candle threw a jittering shadow that mimicked my movements as I took up a towel from the stack and toweled off.

An. . . unusual day. A day spent trying to change things. A day spent doing what I could to set my own agendas that I still couldn't be sure would ever be followed through. So much depended upon luck; upon the goodwill of others. But I was doing something to try and put my fate back into my own hands, and that felt so much better than simply being flotsam on the tides of others' wills.

And the day wasn't over yet. I looked at the candle set over on the washbench, then at the dark window above it and shivered again. Night now. A night that filled me with a hollow tension and a trembling that was nothing to do with either that sort of fear or cold. I wrapped the towel and headed back to the warmth of the hearth.

A bed of glowing coals by now, the kind of fire with more heat than light. I sat huddled in the folds of a warm blanket and watched the few flames dancing above the red and black. Short-lived tongues writhing and curling and throwing a soft twilight that turned the rest of the room to shadow. I watched and felt the warmth on my face and it seemed a very long time until the scratch sounded at the door.

A brief fan of light across the floor and ceiling as the door opened and closed again. A single figure stood there, just a dim shadow against the dark wood of the door. A hesitation before a small voice from the dark ventured, "Sir?"

I swallowed and stood, holding the blanket around my shoulders. "Ah. . . hello."

"His lordship said you might be wanting companionship tonight."

I started to nod, then caught myself and gestured yes.

A duck of the head, then slow footsteps from out of the shadows. Step by step; eyes on the floor, not me. I shivered, watching as this Rris approached. Slightly built, with dark fur patched with swathes of black almost invisible in the shadows under a simple cloak. I saw her ears tremble, flicker up and down, then she stopped and the cloak dropped away.

I stared, then was unable to stifle the snort of astonished laughter.

She was wearing lingerie.

Things of white frills and pale lace were pure contrast to the darkness of her fur. Lace garters and suspenders and straps, small frivolous things on her arms, and a teddy. An actually teddy of white velvet and satin around her waist, pulling in here and accentuating there, fur tufting out around the edges. . . It all looked so absolutely preposterous.

"Sir?" she cast a glance up and shifted uncertainly. "Do you like it?"

"I'm. . ." I bit my lip, trying not to laugh out loud. "I'm not certain. Where on the face of the planet did you get that?"

She ducked her head, her hands rubbing down her hips and thighs: smoothing the fur where the suspenders ruffled it. "They gave it to me. They said. . . you liked this, Sir. They said this arouses you."

They did, did they? I swallowed my laughter as the humor died and I found myself feeling a little sorry for her. "I'm sorry. I do like it. It's just. . . unexpected. You look very striking."

That brought the head up a little. A dark hand stroked across silk that accentuated curves and hair no epilady could ever tame. She reached a decision then, visibly bolstered her courage and started a slow stalk through the night toward me, hips swaying, a motion that prey might have the honor of being final witness to. I felt muscles I had no control over tense, even more when she started growling, a low rumble as she stalked into my shadow; eyes flashed like yellow gems. A hand raised and claws came out. . .

I caught it: gently. "No. Not like that."

Confusion and a flash of alarm. "Sir?"

"Sometimes. Not tonight." God, what had they told her? That night with Mai. . . we'd been watched, I knew that, but what sort of ideas had they gleaned from that night; that aggresive seduction?

Whatever it was, she was looking uncertain again. That must've been her one move, and now I'd thwarted it she was lost. "Sir, I. . ." she trailed off, looking at my hand and her ears started to lay back before she caught herself.

"Just gently," I whispered and moved my other hand to touch her face where the fur was as velvet as Mai's had been. Her eyes were wide, black with amber circlets. A tiny reflection of the fire burned there, flickering as her pupils dilated and flitted here, there. Just resting on my face for a split second before darting aside again. Her hand moved down to touch the fabric of the blanket drapped over my shoulders, then down further to where my hand held it closed. A black fingertip stroked across my skin, touching lightly, curiously and the eyes flickered up to my face again.

There was something familiar there. Something in the features, the expression, the notched ears. . . "I know you," I whispered.

Another flinch in the eyes and the hand wavered. "A," she said quietly.

"Some time ago. You came to my rooms. You tried. . . this."

Again: "A."

"Hych," I recalled. That was the name that came back to me. A night a long time ago when a female'd been in my rooms; who'd been petrified of me even as she tried to come on to me. And her eyes then had been like her eyes now: afraid. "I remember. I remember you weren't exactly here of your own free will."

The hand moved, stroking up my arm. "They said you're a good person. After that last time. . . You didn't force me. You saw I. . . I. . ." her ears went down.

"You weren't very enthusiastic," I finished for her.

"Sir," she sounded small and her hand pulled back. Afraid? Afraid of how I'd react? She was a servant, no matter what her job. How were their servants treated here? Do what they were told and ask no questions? Be anything their employee wanted? Never offer an offence or an opinion?

"It's all right," I said in what I hoped were gentle tones. "I understand. I'm not angry."

She touched my hand again, as though trying to accustom herself to the sensation. "Sir. A lot of real people wouldn't do that. I mean, not that you're not a person. I mean. . ." She ducked her head lower, "I'm sorry sir."

"Don't be," I said and touched her again, just gently ruffling the fur of her shoulder. She glanced toward my arm, then away again. "If you don't want to do this. . ." I said.

A slight chitter. "I thought I should be asking you that."

I moved my hand through fur: coarse on the outside and softer toward the fell. A thick winter coat, not human, not someone I even knew. "I. . . "I swallowed hard. "I thought I did, but I don't know. . .

"I've been with a Rris woman. I mean one. I mean she was the only one I've ever been with. What we did. . . I don't know if I was doing the right things or if she was being polite. I'm not sure that I know what's right." I caught my runaway babble; shut up, swallowed hard, then said. "I suppose I'm a little nervous as well."

She tipped her head slightly, then reached up toward my face; freezing when I flinched, then touching gently and offered, "Sir, I can show you."

"My name's Michael," I said, meeting her eyes and this time they didn't flick away.

"Mikah," came the distorted echo and her hand shifted down, stroking down my neck and into the folds of the blanket.

I shivered again and moved my hand, mirroring her movements until my fingers were delving into the thicker fur of her chest ruff. I scratched lightly, tickling her ribs in those places that'd made Mai squirm. She sighed, her eyelids drooping as she rumbled gently. Her hands moved, scratched lightly and I gasped. "Carefully. Claws. My skin's not as thick as yours."

"Sorry, sir."

"Michael."

"Mikah."

My hands travelled lower, feeling the materials of that ridiculous teddy, the fur peeking through the lace. There were hooks: in the crotch and down the side. I fumbled with them, one after the other until the thing fell away. Standing there in dark fur and white garters she chirred softly and leaned forward, bowing her head against my chest as her hands went lower, between the folds of the blanket and touched against my reaction.

I felt her touch, hesitate, stroke gingerly and hiss softly. "I am different," I murmured.

"A," I heard. "A." A couple of pounding heartbeats before she moved again, hands moving up and apart, brushing the blanket from my shoulders. I felt the warmth of fire against bare skin and suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable: naked before the alien. Eyes blinked, evaluated, flickered up to meet mine, then down again. "You're. . . aroused? Just by this?"

"A," I said, the affirmative catching in my throat. "Very."

She glanced up, down again. Her hand brushed against engorged flesh and she chittered: amusement.

"What?" I asked.

She ducked her head lower between her shoulders. "I'm sorry, sir. I. . . just different," she said and her hand moved. I gasped, my abdominal muscles spasming as an inhuman grip closed gently around me. Another faint chitter from the courtesan, then a lower noise as I ran my hands down gentle curves.

Some time of just getting to know each other. A body like Mai's but with different likes and dislikes, different reactions, different sounds when I stroked here or there or licked gently elsewhere. Muscles tensing, sharp teeth nipping at my skin, an unfamiliar body shifting under my palms as we touched and explored and slowly worked our way down to the softness of the rug.

And she looked uncertain as I laid her back. Fear flickered in the eyes again and I retreated to gently stroke the fur of her stomach. The eyes blinked and relaxed again, a faint chitter as I leaned forward to lick at the dark leathery patch of a nipple, to touch, suckling, nibbling gently for a second before moving lower, into longer fur, strange folds of flesh, a well of alien musk and heat.

A moment of tension though her body as I gently nuzzled and licked. "All right?" I murmured into her heat.

Just a low noise and two hands laced in my hair and pulled me closer while warm thighs clamped around my ears. Deep rumbles sounded through the body. I took that as a yes and returned to my lapping and nuzzling.

And later I moved up again, stroking the curves of the limp body beneath me, breathing in the scents of warm fur on her chest, the warm juncture of her neck where pelt rippled as I exhaled and gently rose to look into her face.

Another flicker of uncertainty as I leaned over her, my hands taking hers and pressing them back to the mat, pinning any forgetful claws. Then I looked down into a wide eyes and gently moved my hips: forward and up and in. Jaws gaped in a gasp, black eclipsed amber and once again I was lost in a sensation that was so familiar and new and utterly different all at once.

Warmth, movement, blood and hearts moving and pounding as I took my time: slowly for a long while, faster, slow again. Breath gasped below me, a sensation of muscles tightening and fighting against my grip. A movement of life, a dance of organics; a union that by design and necessity was warm and moist and was shared by life across the world and across the worlds. Trembling, arching, muscles pulled hawser- tight below me as she bucked and a strangled mewling seeped into the night air, clawed hands clenching against mine as we joined those worlds.

Seconds frozen beneath me; a rigid arch of trembling tendons and locked muscles and bone and fur snarling at something I couldn't see while inside she spasmed and twitched around me. Then. . . a collapse with a gasp of escaping breath and a small, rapid babble I couldn't follow. Concerned, I forgot my own needs and stopped moving, left her, my hands leaving hers to gently touch her face. "Hych?"

"Huhnn?" she murmured, then focused glazed eyes on me. "Huhnn. A. I. . . Sir. . . I. . ." She trailed off, lifted her hands in front of her face and looked at them as though they belonged to someone else.

"You all right?" I whispered.

She jumped. "Sir. . . I'm sorry sir. I didn't mean to. . . I mean you didn't finish. I'm sorry."

I almost laughed and bowed my head against her cheek. "Don't be. I just found what I was looking for."

"Yes, sir," she said, still looking confused. Then blinked and lolled her head; hands lightly touched my back. "Sir?"

"If I may be so bold: What. . . what was that?"

I nuzzled her, "I thought that was all over the Palace by now."

"There was talk. They were saying sex with you was enjoyable. But that. . ." She trailed off with a quick shake of her head, like she was trying to shake it dry, then licked her lips. "I never expected anything like that."

"I'm flattered."

"Like my whole body sneezed," she rumbled, her eyes half-lidded and her hands ran ever so gently down my back. "Like nothing else mattered. My sex is still. . . Oh, rot. . ." Here eyes closed again and she licked her lips repeatedly. "Sir, I don't understand. . . I've never felt that. What was it?"

"My name?" I prodded.

"Sir. . . Mikah? What was that? Is it something to do with this?" she touched the lacy suspenders."

I had to control my grin. "You look good, but not that good. No, I'm not sure. I was told Rris males . . . ahh. . . finish a lot faster than I do. I just take a bit longer. Perhaps that just gives you enough time. . ." I trailed off and had to ask. "You've never heard of that before? It's never happened before?"

"No, sir."

I sighed and shook my head again. Then a light touch on my face made me look down into eyes that smiled back. "Sir? Mikah? If you wish, perhaps we could look again?"

And I was still in the mood. I gently took her hands again and she just went completely lax, a rumbling starting deep inside. "Perhaps we could," I murmured.