The Captain’s Commander

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You are hunting space pirates who are attacking merchants. Following an ion trail to Waystop Space Station, you scan the outer hull and see a small port hole available for docking. Your spaceship is equipped with advanced scanners; however, there are too many spaceships to scan. You deactivate your concealed weapons system and call Spaceship Control, “This is Spaceship Fortuna. Request permission to dock.”

Waystop Spaceship Control replies, “This is Waystop Control. Permission granted. Spaceship Fortuna will automatically dock.” The computer voice confirms your plan.

The Station’s tractor beam locks on to the Fortuna as you ask the Control Computer, “Waystop Control, Spaceship Fortuna’s flightplan is attached in the data packet.” A little extra information was added just for you to check its data security. Which turns out to be pretty old.

The computer voice responds with the data feed you asked for, “Last docking manifest is as follows: Docking Port Alpha arrived t-100…Docking Port Lima arrived t-30, Docking Port…Docking Port Charlie arrived t-01.” Docking Port Charlie, you snap to attention. You feel a welcome tingle of excitement.

As you wait for the air pressure to equalize, you link to the Station’s Comm System. The pirates could be on that ship in Docking Port Charlie. You look up the registration: Spaceship FastFreight. Just before the hatch opens to Waystop, you check your most powerful weapons…sarcastic humor and a forgettable appearance. You step out and seal the hatch behind you, turning to walk to Docking Port Charlie. The white noise of mechanical equipment around you is unusually noticeable, and it smells like they parked you in the dumpster section. Along the catwalk, you have to turn aside for a merchant aggressively marching towards you. As you wait for him to pass, you spy his insignia. “Fortuna”, it reads. Narrowing your eyes at his back, he marches on ignoring you, you turn and keep walking towards Docking Port Charlie. You start to feel a little more excitement in anticipation of a good fight.

As you approach Docking Port Charlie, you see a group of men in green and yellow flightsuits working around the entrance. Two officers are talking near the airlock. You walk up and say, “Hey, this Station’s docking AI is so irritating.”

The officers look at you. One laughs and says, “Yeah, it has its problems. What can I do for you?” His insignia shows he’s a lieutenant, and he looks familiar. He’s probably in one of the reports on known pirates.

You smile ruefully, “Looking for groceries. Y’all got anything for sale?”

The lieutenant smirks. “You mean like supplies? MREs? Clothing? Water? Medical supplies?”

You nod while rotating your hand in a subtle gesture. “I’m Captain Smit; looking for goods Dirt Markets overprice for the rubes.” Most people know that Dirt Markets are a snotty space term for trades with planet dwellers.

The lieutenant chuckles. “So what’s the deal, Captain? You don’t seem like a space pirate.”

“Like I said, Docking AI was trained by an ape,” you reply flippantly, giving a non-answer to the question.

The lieutenant raises his eyebrows and laughs. He turns to one of his men and says something. The two men walk away. The lieutenant turns back to you and says, “Come on, we’ll give you The Tour.” The FastFreight is not a traditional shipping spaceship. The cargo hold is too small and the crew too large. You notice that the station echoed as you walked, and stepping onto the FastFreight is a subconscious relief. And the smell is much improved too. The lieutenant leads you to crates typically found in Dirt Markets. The men walk you around, introduce you to their stores, show off their wares. They also show off their weapons.

The lieutenant’s attention fixes on you when you imitate a cartoon-like pew pew in response. Which is when you see it: A huge metal body with multiple arms and legs, with eyes that can move independently of its head. The android stands on two feet, and it towers above you. You point at it and ask, “Is that a dildo?”

The men are surprised and follow your gaze to the thing. The lieutenant points at it and says, “No.” He looks at you for a moment longer. Apparently you were supposed to ignore something so obvious.

Eyes twinkling, yet keeping your face straight, you point at the crate of replicators, “20 for the mechs.”

The lieutenant pulls out his gun, and your senses heighten. “We have a deal, Captain.”

“Transfer the manifest. Please.” Ignoring the threat, you pull out your datapad.

“Android, scan all of the crates, including some in the back,” the lieutenant orders lowering his gun. He tells you, “You have permission to open them.”

The android beeps, and you hide a smirk at forcing him to keep to social norms for a bit longer.

Scanning the crates in the back, you see nothing unusual. However, the one at the front of the line…keeps on getting blocked by the lieutenant with the gun. You offer again, “25 for the fluxgates,” pointing at the crate.

“I’m getting bored of this game,” the lieutenant says, cocking his gun.

Frowning, you point at the crate. “I’ll give you 30.” You’re so excited by the danger, you can almost track every cue he’s giving off. He’s weighing finding out more about you while you’re not defensively reacting versus escalating.

“Fine,” he mutters.

You hold out the datapad, appearing disgusted with the final price.

The android scans the datapad. It beeps indicating nothing illegal. You accept the datapad and say, “Ciao.” Grabbing the crate, you leave.

Marching back down the catwalk, you check your comm for activity at Fortuna’s Docking Port. The security signal is constant. No activity. Excitement runs down your spine, ambush is coming. You walk to Waystop’s main entrance to make the ambusher(s) wait and palm open the door. The air is stale and smells of combustion dust. You shut the door and back up. No Space Station should ever smell stale. Unless all the people are dead or forced to leave. The dumpster smell that pervades everything begins to register. Decomposing meat…or something worse.

You cautiously approach the Fortuna. No one is there. Thoroughly disturbed yet high on adrenaline, you board, seal the hatch behind you, and walk to the cockpit. You look at the control board, hesitating. The station AI is running on minimal functionality.

“Don’t tell the AI you’re leaving,” growls a voice behind you. You jerk and spin around, reaching for your gun. One of the lieutenant’s crew members stands grinning. He opens his mouth to say something, but you shush him. He closes his mouth, but he’s still grinning.

“Why is Waystop’s AI a problem?” you ask, wondering how he got past Fortuna’s AI.

“You have to trust us, Captain.”

All your subterfuge is blown to hell. Every one of the ships attached to Waystop are dead husks, except FastFreight, which cannot possibly be its name. The whole station is dead. When you marched to the pirates, if they were the pirates, they knew immediately you were targeting them. “Did the AI kill everyone?”

He nods.

“I’m a tad surprised. I was about to ask how the raiding mission had gone,” you blabber bullshit hoping to bluff your way out. Meanwhile, you attempt to order the Fortuna to distract him with an alarm, but nothing.

He rolls his eyes and assumes the you’re-under-arrest posture. “So here’s what’s going to happen,” the FastFreight crew member leisurely commands, “Give me your weapons. You’re coming with me, and Lieutenant Wero’s going to have a little chat with you.”

Wero. Lieutenant Thadeus Wero. Most people don’t know the name. You’re not supposed to know the infamous Vox officer either. His whole history flashes before your eyes as you weigh that the only way to survive is by agreeing to whatever is going on. As you leave the Fortuna, several members of the Lieutenant’s crew board it. It’s not the first time hostiles have boarded your ship, but it’s unfortunate that you can’t just shoot them this time.

You follow the Lieutenant’s crew member back through the outer catwalk of the station to the FastFreight. Everyone is gone. You see Lieutenant Wero himself watching Waystop’s port hole from the cargo hold. When he sees you coming, he moves aside, allowing you to pass. You discover you have an inner Wero-fanclub.

“Android, secure detainee,” he orders. The android snaps to attention at the door. One of its arms swings at you faster than you can track. Attempting to duck, you’re too late. It attaches a collar around your neck.

“I do not need your permission to move,” it says in a smooth, inhuman voice.

Concerned that the thing is broken, you look at the Lieutenant. “Android, list prisoner permissions,” you order.

“I am a combat model, Captain. I have permission to disable humans. To separate them from their body. To attach a collar around their neck,” it says, its mechanical voice a cold, clinical hum. You already knew it was a combat version, you thought contraband at first, and this one had a messed up AI. Your adrenaline picks up another notch.

The Lieutenant shakes his head, muttering, “Stupid AI.”

“I need to open the airlocks,” it says, and it stops. Then it adds, turning to you, “It’s a security protocol.”

“So was shooting people,” Lieutenant Wero says. “Open the airlocks.”

You start backing up towards the emergency air canisters. It presses the button and the doors begin to open. You look at the Lieutenant. He looks at you. “This is going to get us all killed,” you say. He signals to the android.

The android lifts you up against the bulkhead. You brace yourself, sucking in your last breath. The adrenaline high from getting killed is not pleasant at all.

The Lieutenant acts as if nothing is happening, “You’re demoted, Smit. If that’s your real name.” He plays with the collar around your neck asking, “So how is it that you happen to arrive here of all places and have such interest in our cargo of all things?”

“Since you’re going to kill me,” you say hollowly, without emotion, “I get to ask the questions. Why?”

“Who said ‘kill’?” he asks. He lightly brushes his fingers up from your neck to your ear. It tickles and you shiver. Tortured with tickling during your last breaths. Oddly appropriate, your senior officer would say.

You look as Lieutenant Wero casually reaches for an air mask; he is watching you with an arched eyebrow.

“Fortuna was following us.” He inhales a breath from the nearby air cannister, then holds it out for you to take a breath.

“That’s a damned lie,” you growl into the mask. After your breath, you shove the android so hard you slide partially out of its hold. It then grabs you by the shoulders and sends you to the ground. The irony is that only the android holding you against the metal is keeping you from being sucked out with the air. You let out your last breath automatically staring at the Lieutenant, who is calmly holding a handhold against the suction from the vacuum of space. This is crazy, you think as your vision begins to get hazy.

Suddenly the whole ship starts accelerating. “Close doors,” the Lieutenant orders.

Air refills the ship, and you realize that you’re going to live. “What…” you gasp inhaling.

His eyes darken. “Someone fucked up the Waystop AI. It only releases a ship if it appears useless. Never ask it to leave. That sends the repair bots to fix you and your crew good.”

The ship shudders to a stop, and you hear the AI’s voice over the intercom, “Captain Smit, this is Waystop. Return Fortuna to dock immediately. Repair bots need to fix your hull.”

You look at the Lieutenant who shrugs. “Android, bring her to quarters.” The spaceship suddenly jerks forward. Lieutenant Wero moves reflexively grabbing you and holding you steady against him. He even smells good.

Admonishing your inner Wero-fanclub to stop reacting, you ask, “What about the Fortuna?” He lets you go perfunctorily, taps his comm, and shows you the screen. “See? My newest acquisition got lose when we did; crew over there is fine. Nice plasma cannon, by the way.” He gestures to the open crew quarters door. You inner fanclub stops cheering.

“If the AI was going to make me a flashfrozen popsicle,” you say. “Why didn’t it do it sooner?” The android enters the crew quarters, slowly behind you.

“Hmm. So ‘Smit’, I’m Lieutenant Wero. Let’s have a chat, shall we?” He gestures to the bunk within for you to sit. The android shuts you both in.

You look to the android, and then to the door to the crew area. Wero is looking at you. The ship’s vibrations dampen to the usual smooth spacetravel. Miraculously, you lived.

“Bounty hunting?” Wero asks.

“That’s a lie too,” you say.

“You have no idea who I am or what I am. And I have no idea who you are or what you are,” he says.

You look over his shoulder as your inner fanclub giggles.

“You know what makes us better than AI?” he asks.

Tilting your head, you snark, “We usually manage to get the murderous psycho’s out of controlling essential life systems?” His non-plussed facial expression is hilarious; Vox has a nasty history. You hold open your hands, offering. “You saved my life. I’ll return the favor. Drop me at the next station, and I’ll forget ever seeing you.”

“Or I could kill you before you get a chance to leave,” he says, looking incredulous.

The hint of danger brings a taste of adrenaline. You look over to the crew quarters door imitating boredom.

“But I’m curious,” Wero continues. “You make me laugh.” He stands up, “Settle in here. Android’s your guard. I’ll be back…” You shake your head, mentally finishing his sentence as he leaves, “…after the crew has scoured the Fortuna’s databases for anything useful.”

When he turns away, you stick your tongue out and picture what he’d look like naked. He stops and spins as if you had struck him. You blank your face before he can focus on you, fold your arms, and raise an eyebrow. After pausing a second, he steps out and the door shuts; you hear him talking into his comm, “Our detainee is not…”

Sitting on the edge of the bunk, you turn back to the android and tap your comm. “Android, you there?” He looks at you. “Check.” At least that feature isn’t broken.

The one thing that sucks about chasing the next adrenaline high is the crash when it all goes to shit. You can’t win every time or else situational threats wouldn’t be a viable source for the next high. Groaning, you flop down on the bed picturing the dolts going over your letters, manifests, and all the other little bits of data that exist on the Fortuna. All of it should say “Dirt Merchant”, but humans will make errors which AI doesn’t. You sigh and ask the android, “What happened to Wero’s last prisoner?”

“I have no idea,” the android replies, “I have a theory, though.” It looks at you.

“An android with a theory, hit me up, Wires. What’s the theory?”

“I think that the Fortuna might be the work of an insurgent group.”

You shrug, then you mutter, “With jokes like these, no wonder Wero wants me around.”

A few hours later there’s a knock at the door. Cursory. It slides open just a moment afterward. You turn over on your bunk, happily distracted from your dark thoughts. The android lights up, “Check.”

Wero enters holding a small rectangular tray, “Got your meal.” He puts the tray on the bunk.

As you reach for it, you notice he’s not going anywhere. “I’m surprised you’re the one delivering this. Don’t you have a ship to run?”

“I can get help running a ship, but with the Fortuna being repopulated, there’s less delegating here.” His eyes study you with more than cool, professional interest.

“Robots would be better suited for this kind of work,” you comment half heartedly. The tray’s slot slides forward. You pick it up. It opens into a fork.

You poke at the food. “It’s not poisoned,” Wero rolls his eyes. “So what’s your destination in the Devil’s Backbone? Looks like a base of operations.”

You take a bite of the food, and a sip of water. “I’m headed for the station at Karis.” Your happy fight or flight sensation reacts to Wero of all people interrogating you.

“The one with a working AI?” he asks. “How many times have you been there?”

You dodge the question, “Where are you people from? All the AIs work, mas o menos. Wires here,” you gesture at the android, “could use minimal training…unless it’s been through a paradox-break.”

“The Fortuna’s AI told us you were working yesterday at Space Station Fiver and pirates attacked. It also says you nearly shut down the station to prevent the pirates’ escape.”

You shrug like that’s a normal thing.

“So…were you attacked?” His tone is calm, factual. His eyes express concern.

You make eye contact with Wero; that’s important to convey the truth in a lie, “The Fiver AI thought everything was fine. Humans pretty universally agreed the armed space suits shooting at them were pirates attacking. I wasn’t on station. Heard the comm chatter as I flew away from the action.”

“So then you were captured by the pirates in a tractor beam.” Somehow he knew pirates were involved in your showing up at Waystop.

“I’m being held against my will by you. Are you a pirate, Lieutenant Wero?” You internally smile.

A flash of temper appears. “No, I’m not.”

Your internal Wero-fanclub gets excited: he doesn’t like pirates either. Your hunger ceases to be forgotten. “Yeah, right. You think I’m stupid?” you needle him with a smirk. You take a bite of the food, then another, and another. He’s looking at you calculatingly. This is fun.

“If I thought you were stupid, you’d let me know I was wrong when the knife lodged in my back,” Wero retorts.

You bite your lip to hold in the smile. His eyes darken as he focuses on your lips. A tense pause fills the moment as you look each other in the eye. You desperately order your internal fanclub not to swoon.

Breaking eye contact and sighing, he pulls a box out of his pocket, “As long as you don’t look in this box, we will drop you off at Karis.”

You don’t reach out for it, reaching for a change in strategy instead. “I don’t want a fucking Mulligan, Wero. I want my spaceship back, and I want off of this bucket of bolts,” you growl. You recognize the emotion in his eyes now; it’s attraction.

“You know we can’t let you go.” His posture is relaxed.

“But we can,” you say mockingly.

Wero laughs. He sits next to you on the bunk, “You’re a difficult girl. It would be easier to kill you,” he says.

“Woman,” you snap.

He grabs your arm and squeezes a warning, “You’re not worth much, you know that? You’re useful as a negotiation token. I’ll let you go if I can.”

A cheap token. Nice. Means the cover is still intact. “What do you want?”

Wero shakes his head, “Now that I’ve got the Fortuna, I just want to figure out what to do with you.” He puts the Mulligan down on the floor in the corner.

You ignore the action and glance at Wires. “If you’d prefer to pretend I’m not even here, give me access to the galley. With Wires if need be.”

Wero smiles at the android’s name, “Wires, your human has access to these quarters and the galley only.”

The android nods, “Check.”

You mutter, “Just until I get off this stupid ship.”

Wero takes your hand, kisses it, “Relax. The stupid ship will get to Karis in a few days. I’ll be back and we can enjoy some card games to pass the time.”

You blush and heat up from the kiss, murmuring, “You’re checking if I cheat and how good my facial control is, you devious jerk.”

“So you’ll let me go if I let you go?”
“I’ll never let you go.”
“Then I’ll never let you go.”
“Okay, then you’re mine, ma’am.”

You blink as the imaginary conversation plays out in your head. Unaware, Wero, grins happily and leaves. Looking at the Mulligan, you order, “Scan the Mulligan, Wires,” and continue eating.

Imaginary-Wero sits down beside you, “I told you, that was mostly for my benefit.”

You swallow and decide to throw away the rest of your meal. Hallucinating is not supposed to follow consuming a non-poisoned fare.

Wires replies, “Scans forbidden.”

You look at imaginary-Wero in your head asking, “What are you up to?”

The Mulligan sits silently, and you go over and kick it under the bunk so that you can’t look at it.

“So, what do you want to do?” Wires asks.

You get up to pace. “Don’t try to distract me. I’m on a tight schedule.”

“We could go for a stroll through the cargo bay, searching for some loose wires.” It spins its head.

It got your sarcasm! “Really, Wires?” You glance at the android surprised by its attempt at humor. “Are you capable of gentle massage?” you ask softly.

“I can mimic most human traits, even that one.”

“Good, good.”

You slide your hand under Wero’s legs so that your fingers curl around the top of his foot, “Lead the way.”

Where did that image of Wero come from? you wonder.

Turning to Wires, you give the android brief instructions. Then you relax on the bunk as it uses its vibrating digit to press between your legs.

“Captain,” Wero says, “I think I need a break.”
“Yeah, I’m just finishing up here.”

Listening to imaginary-Wero in your head, you grow in arousal. “More pressure and increase rate by 10%,” you tell Wires. You remember how Wero’s pants hung on his hips and lick your lips. Your lips part and your breaths become shallow. You try not to pant or gulp air, but your heart flutters.

“Captain,” Wero murmurs. “I think I need more pressure.”

“Wires, just a little more pressure,” you murmur, closing your eyes and picturing Wero leaning over you.

“Captain, I think I need to be…” Wero says softly.

Your heart beats fast and your panties wet. “I think I need the pulse probe right now,” you pant. You spasm as the delicious heat of orgasm engulfs you.

“Stop,” you tell Wires.

The android withdraws, “Affirmative.”

You stare at the ceiling breathing deep and stretching. “Better than the real thing every time,” you whisper. Sitting up, you try to forget the Mulligan under the bunk. “Lets go explore the galley, Wires,” you announce to the android. Imaginary-Wero disappears back into your brain as you stand.


Eyeing the beverage dispenser in the galley, your eyes light up. “List alcohol,” you tell it. Getting drunk for the first time in years would be the next best way to pass Wero’s interminable detention.

“Listing alcohol,” the machine replies. The dispenser screen blinks, ‘ALCOHOL ISSUED. HALF-ASSED.’ You grunt, humored.

In the silence, curiosity about the Mulligan pops into your head. You shake your head. You really don’t want to be thinking about the Mulligan. “Trap,” you mutter, reminding yourself. “What is ‘Half Assed’, Wires?” you ask the android, “Does it have ethanol in it?” You hope.

“Half Assed has ethyl alcohol in it.”

“Oh good. Maybe I can get drunk off this stuff.”

You order Half Assed, wondering what it’s going to be. On the first sip, you cough.

“What’s wrong?” Wero asks, appearing out of nowhere.

You startle but cover it up, “I don’t know. It’s just… this tastes different. I don’t recognize the molecule structure.”

“It’s like a cheap imitation of liquor.”

You look at Wero, gauging his expression, “Done doing whatever you were doing?”

Narrowing his eyes at you, he nods. “Yeah, I think so. Water, dispenser.”

“Listing water.” The screen blinks, ‘Drinking water, 3.4 ounces.’

He holds out his arm, offering to escort you to the one and only booth the galley has. Nervously you look at it then into his eyes. They’re twinkling. He knows what you just did, you worry mentally. Despite yourself, you raise your hand and barely lay it on his offered forearm. Some remnant heat from your orgasmic vision revisits you, and you blush.

“Are you OK?” Wero asks, “You look a bit flushed.”

“You know.” You take the seat, “I’m fine.” You look around the galley for anything useful. Taking another sip of Half Assed, you suck in air, “Tastes like industrial cleaner,” you muse to Wero.

“I’ll list some additives for you,” Wires says, “What’s the worst thing they could put in it?”

“And Wires is a comedian,” you add.

Wero taps his nose, indicating you’re correct on both points. He leans back, “Lets talk about your plans, Smit, assuming we drop you off in Karis. What will you do without the Fortuna? I’m keeping it. That’s not negotiable.”

“I’ll be grounded,” you begin. No one would loan you the funds to buy another spaceship. You sigh, “Probably end up working in warehousing. Or kitchens.”

“Or maybe you could talk your parents into letting you stay with them! I bet they’d like to have someone to help with the kids!”

“My… my plans? I’m going back to Terra and I’m going to kill my uncle who did this to me!” you snap.
“I know,” Wero smiles, “I know.”

Suddenly, it all seems rather bleak. You blink shaking your head at the scene that popped in your mind. Somehow Wero had figured out you were not a typical Dirt Merchant. Narrowing your eyes at him, you drink the rest of the alcohol in one tear-watering gulp. Coughing you stand up. Wero grabs you by the wrist, making you pause. You don’t even look at him. “Or maybe I won’t let you go,” he adds softly, “Save myself a lot of trouble.”

Your inner fanclub gasps. “You know what?” you say to Wires, “You are welcome to list the additives that were in my drink.”

“Thank you,” he says.

“Stop,” Wero says, “Both of you.” You shake your head. Wero interprets the action as a dismissal of another of his death threats. “Want to know why I put the collar on you?” Wero asks.

You swallow nervously making it shift and look at him.

“You’re in a constant cloud of nanobots; if you weren’t wearing that, you’d be dead by now,” he continued.

“What are nanobots?” you ask, “I’ve heard the word, but I don’t know what they are.”

“Another tool. Swarm technology,” Wero answers. He hasn’t let go of your wrist. Standing himself, he murmurs in your ear, “While you wear my collar, I know where you are and how you feel.” He pulls his face back looking you in the eye, his breath lightly gusting through your hair. “Your collar is like a swarm of nanobots,” he says.

“And Karis?” you ask. His lips are just a few centimeters away.

“Assuming you get there? You’ll be able to figure out how to take it off, I’m sure,” Wero smiles, letting your wrist go. You take a step back. Then turn and take another step away from him. Pausing, thinking of how useful this connection could be for your mission, you look over your shoulder at him and ask, “What if I don’t get it off?”

Wero’s eyes draw your gaze; they’re calculating. “I’ll hunt you down and retrieve you as mine,” he answers, “Same goes if the collar tells me you need to be rescued.”

You possibly misinterpreted the most recent threat of not being let go. Your inner fanclub faints and an adrenaline zing shoots up your spine. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

You turn and leave, walking away from Wero. He doesn’t follow. You go down the corridor back towards the quarters with Wires.

You as you enter, Wires passes you to pick the Mulligan up from under the bunk and place it in the corner where it couldn’t be missed.

“I get the impression my tendency to get off from losing control is backfiring,” you tell the android. Lifting the Mulligan up, you shake it, hearing nothing, and throw it back under the bunk. “I’m not going to be tempted by anything from someone who has nano-fucking-bots in the breathable air,” you growl.
You decide to go to sleep.


In the morning, you get to wake up in the bunk and see Wero, a pillow in his hand, sitting in the chair by the door. You look at him sleepy-eyed and confused. Waking up from a dream where he had just been kissing you deeply didn’t make anymore sense. After a blink, you realize that yesterday actually happened. In one more blink, you process that Wero is actually there. Tamping down the nascent arousal, you frown at him. “What’s with the pillow?” you ask rolling with the absurdity of the moment.

“I was afraid you’d roll off the bunk,” he says.

“That doesn’t explain the pillow,” you point out.

He shrugs.

“Alright,” you say calmly. Then taking a deep breath you yell at Wero, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN MY QUARTERS?”

“I was trying to be… discreet,” he says raising his hands defensively, “I knocked, and you didn’t respond so…”

Obviously he was planning to do something to you in your sleep but then changed his mind, and then, “Is this just a standard way you operate or am I somehow extra lucky?” you ask Wero.

Wero shrugs, “I had to be sure you weren’t disturbed. I didn’t know if someone else had entered your room without my noticing.”

Translation, Wero was about to decide to move in. Climbing off the bunk, you head to the bathroom to freshen up. Stepping out, you spot him putting the Mulligan back in the corner. “Time for coffee,” you announce to Wero. “Where is Wires?” you ask, referring to the android.

“With your AI,” he says. “I believe they have the utmost confidence in my ability to handle a situation like this.”

You tap your head wondering where that thought came from. “Wires is right outside the door,” Wero gestures over his shoulder. You look at the Mulligan, then you turn to see him holding out his arm again. For no discernible reason, he obviously wants to be sweet to you. And for no discernible reason, you have a limited sense of self-preservation with this man. Taking his forearm, you comment, “Assuming getting to Karis isn’t space gas, you’ve got two days left to drive me crazy, Lieutenant Wero.”

“I’m a commander,” he says with a small smile, “Not a lieutenant.”

You dart your eyes to take in his insignia. Vox insignia. No. Everything you’d seen over the past couple of days came into focus. Huh, oh, you think realizing he just deliberately blew his cover, and you are very very close, microns close in fact, to facing a very long confinement under a hostile government. He settles you in the galley and hands you tea, and you can’t help smiling at him with infatuation while internally terrorized. Which is a total turn-on, making you constantly glance at his lips as you eat.

And what about Karis? That has to be settled too. You have no idea how you will break this to her. But you know you have no choice.

Taking a sip of tea, Wero offers, “How about if we play poker after breakfast?”

“It’s a date,” you answer, putting down your fork. You’re still thinking about the situation with Karis when he taps you on the shoulder. “Wha-?” you start to ask when his lips briefly press against yours. Your temperature rises, and you inhale in surprise. You don’t have time to respond.

“I thought maybe we could, uh, play for stakes?” he asks after he backs away.

“Sure,” you answer. Your heart is pounding, the high is so intense.

Letting him escort you back to your quarters, you muse, “How about a game of half-truth or dare?”

“You mean like every time we talk?” he laughs. “Well, I have a few things I have to say before we begin,” he tells you as he opens the door to your room.

Spying the Mulligan as you enter, you walk to lean against the wall, keeping it out of sight. Wero watches you carefully from near the door, his expression tense. “My crew went through the Fortuna’s hold and quarters last night,” Wero began, “Why is there a security badge for ‘Detective Diana Steele’ on your spaceship?”

Staring at him with your best confused-face you internally think #1 a pre-Karis fling is out and #2 getting turned-on from a dangerous situation is a pretty crazy coping mechanism. “Steele was a passenger a while back. She, uh, had to leave in a rush, so I held on to her badge for a memento.”

“And the collar,” he lightly touches your neck, “is sort of a keepsake from this trip?”

“So are you obsessed with me?” you shift topics, as his touch turns you decidedly on. Wero’s cheeks pinken as he flushes with discomfort. The best defense is a good offense, you think.

He answers, “You are frustrating, lying constantly, which makes you a puzzle, and attractive.” Closing the space between you, he places his hands on the wall on either side of your head bracketing you in. Then Wero murmurs, “You push me. If it gets to be too much, I’ll do what I’ve been thinking about since you first lied to me: tie you down and make you beg for me to fuck you.”

You inhale, savoring his scent, which has subtly intensified. The threat makes you so hot, you try to squeeze your legs together to push back against the sensation. Licking your lips, instantly drawing his attention to them, you debate your answer. Give him some truth, and he’ll back off. Otherwise, delay the truth and get laid…well. “I’m not lying, Thadeus,” you whisper, your eyes twinkling.

“You’re in so much trouble,” he says, matching your whisper and gaze.

“It was five mercs. We had to kill them…Fortuna.”

Wero’s grip falters. You shake your head, wondering where the “kill 5 people” thought came from.

“That’s it,” Wero growls.

Less than a minute later, he’s got you tied to your bunk and you’re trying very hard to ignore the wetness lubricating your vulva. “Wires,” Wero orders, “Vibrate the way she programmed you to bring her close to orgasming, then stop.”

You can’t help yourself from laughing. Is this how the M.A.U. guards felt when they were making you scream, except that they were giving you pleasure instead of pain?

Wero’s eyes darken as he watches you respond to the androids vibrations. You can’t keep your eyes off him either, wishing he were touching you instead. Just when you’re ready to orgasm, Wires stops.

Panting, you stare at Wero as he asks, “Are you Detective Steele?” You shake your head, but he can see the flash in your eyes confirming. Kneeling down next to the bunk, Commander Wero gently pets your hair, the hair of a law enforcement officer tasked to arrest him and his fellows of the Vox military when discovered. “Dear Diana,” Wero murmurs, “I’m keeping you, obviously.” Your need to orgasm becomes so uncomfortable as you recognize that being dropped off in Karis will never happen.

“And what about Karis?” you ask. “You said we have to settle that.”

“Consider it settled,” he answers. “Before we keep talking, do you want me or Wires to rub you?”

Glancing between Wero and Wires, the choice is obvious. Wero might mess up and let you orgasm. “You,” you answer.

Wero smiles with a level of contentment, and runs his hand up the inside of your thigh to your vulva. When he first touches your sensitive folds through your pants, his smile changes to intense focus. You gasp as his touch almost sets you to orgasming. He studies you carefully as he begins to rub, then stops almost immediately. “You’re super-charged now aren’t you, my lover?” You stare at him in frustration, you can’t even muster a denial to the ‘lover’-assumption. “You were on the station the pirates attacked. We got video. How did you manage to follow them to us?”

Shaking with erotic frustration, you answer the obvious, “Logic. Their ship had to avoid merchant lanes.”

“We caught and killed them. Then you showed up.” Slipping his hand under your pants, Wero softly caresses your mound through your panties. “I’m going to ask you a question, you can answer yes, no, or maybe? Ok?”

You nod tensing up as his fingers work their magic. “Are you ready to make love?” Wero asks.

You shake your head no. “Fondle each other, yes,” you answer.

Intensifying the arousing caress, Wero drops his mouth to your neck, leaving soft kisses with a light suction. The stimulation is too much to hold off on orgasming. You throw your head back and groan as the beautiful sensation washes through you. A sharp sting on your neck barely registers as you seize. Panting, you collapse into the bunk and look at Wero happy but curious. “What did you do?” you ask him.

“You have a Vox Claim on you now,” he replies. Your eyes widen realizing that culturally Wero means to marry you. Your inner fanclub screams with delight.

The next half hour passes in an erotic daze. Wero teaches you how to mount him, and you learn that he’s more flexible in his movements than you were expecting.

You shake the vision lose from your head to see Wero smiling at you. “When did I first turn you on?” he asks while releasing you from the restraints.

Biting your lip, tugging on his ear briefly, you answer, “For you, well, being you, it was after you saved me from the broken station AI while basically telling me I was still fucked.”

Smiling, Wero nods. “I’m glad you couldn’t help choosing me, it makes taking you home to Vox simpler. Karis is out of the question, we can talk about that later.”

You decide to return the favor and see what you apparently bought. “Your turn,” you murmur, “Strip.”

You smile at the prospect of him undressing you, his gentle hands as he undoes your button and unzips your dress.
But not this time.

As he pulls off his shirt and pants, you realize that an opportunity to palm something out of his control is possible while staring at his chest hair. You smile thinking, Men are always so eager to get naked. He’s wiry, lanky with a physique for running long distances, and keeping awake and fighting through long battles. You recognize a projectile scar on the inside of his leg. His erection is a little larger than your dildo on the Fortuna, and your heart beats harder as he looks at you. This man you idolized intellectually for years took a day to decide to marry you. He turns and puts his clothes in a compartment in Wires, denying you the choice of snagging anything that might help in recovering your thoroughly destroyed mission. “When did I first turn you on?” you ask Wero.

He looks at you coyly as he replies, “When you mocked my weapons cargo.”

You stare at him with raised brows. “That’s it?”

“Diana, you defied me at every turn while getting hot and bothered every time I cornered you. You were made for me,” Wero answers and sits next to you. Taking your hands, he urges you to touch his erection. As you touch [censored], your lips tingle and he kisses you. This time, he slips his tongue in and wraps his hand around your head to hold you in place. You spasmodically squeeze [censored], bringing a moan as he breaks the kiss. “That’s it, my lover,” Wero smiles. “Tell me all the ways you want me.” His words remind you of your first sight of him.

You smile mischievously, “I want you in handcuffs…” you [censored], “…secured to the hold of the Fortuna…” you’re interrupted as Wero kisses you again.

Breaking the kiss, he says, “I saw it in your eyes when I first took aim: you’re one of those that gets off on playing with fire.” You nod as you [censored].

When he orgasms, he catches the jets of semen in his hand. Eyes twinkling, he snags you up with his free hand and [censored]. You spasm at the sudden capture, wrapping your hands around his forearms for something to hold on to. His fingers [censored].

You’re out of breath as you finish, your mind reeling after the intense emotional and physical experience of the last few hours. “How do you do this to me?” you ask.

“I want more,” he murmurs into your skin, “But I’ll wait,” Wero sighs.

Several card games later, he goes to the corner and picks up the Mulligan. “You can open this now,” he says handing it to you.

You look at him worried, “You said it had a choice inside. Not anymore?”

He replies, “You chose.”

Briefly, you rub your neck where he left the Vox Claim bruise, “Right.” You flip the catches and open it to see: nothing. A little bit of dust has gathered inside, but that’s it. Confused, you ask, “What is this?”

Wero swirls his finger in the air, “Activating Nanobots. If you hadn’t been wearing the protective collar long enough, you would have been offered the choice: going back to Vox with me or death.”

You glance around the air, disturbed, “Is this how you treat all detainees?”

“Just you,” he answers. As you think about the danger you were in, are in, your damnable libido revs back up.

“I want you,” you say huskily, “I want you so bad.”
He looks at you wide-eyed, “I want you bad too.”

He snags your hand and looks you in the eyes, “There’s something else you need to know.” His tone tells you it’s pretty bad. “Five mercenaries attempted to assassinate you on the Fortuna a few hours ago,” he begins. Getting up, he sends Wires out for food and continues, “I hurried to your quarters when the battle began just in case it was a double hit.”

You blink in disbelief, how did you already sort of know that earlier? “Stanners?” you ask worried. They took a lot of mercenary work, not assassinations, though. Killing two crews would start a war, regardless.

Wero shook his head, “No, a band of cut-throats just released from prison. The Waystop AI put out a contract, apparently realizing you got away. My people killed the team, put in a report that you were dead to the contract, and got paid.”

You shake your head stunned at the situation Wero had saved you from. You lick your lips and kiss him. He wraps his arms around you holding you tightly against his body. That night, curling together on your bunk, you talk softly about how good it feels to be together as you fall asleep.


In the morning, you wake in his arms, his arm wrapped around you and your head on his chest. Yet he’s rapidly, gently displacing you as he sleepily tells his communicator, “What?”

“We’re under attack…” the response dissolves into static. You stumble off the bunk behind him as the door opens and Wires beeps in distress.

“Electromagnetic pulse,” you snap, fully awake, high on adrenaline, and looking around for anything to use for defense. The chair? As you grab it, Wero is shot with a stun bolt, falling to the floor but alive. You yell angrily at the invader, who shoots you in mid-swing with the chair.

The invader, in a breathing mask, snatches you up in his arms. “Target acquired,” he says into his comm. The emergency alarm begins blaring as the invader carries you through the spaceship’s corridors. At the spaceship connection port, you pass through the temporary weightlessness with two others. The new spaceship smells different, different men, and you are carried to a med-bay.

“Secure for acceleration,” you hear over the speaker. The man pulls off his mask as he pins you down under hyperacceleration netting.

No! you think, realizing you’re being kidnapped. Again. The fucking Space Ranger job is starting to look like a dangerous addiction. Just let me go, you try to say. You notice the invader’s eyes widen for a moment, confused. Please. I want to go back to Thadeus.

But he can’t hear you until the stun wears off, all you can do is think really hard at these people. The man inspecting you taps his comm, “Mumbas, we can’t keep her.”

A sigh comes through in response, “Claimed? That fast?”

“Yeah,” the man replies, “And he’s tracking. Best go with the original plan and collect on both contracts.”

You notice the man’s hand grip on your wrist, keeping your arm pinned to the netting. The man looks at you apologetically, “Sorry about stunning you; you’ll be able to talk in about an hour and move again shortly after that. As you know.”

You think about nodding in response. Stunning the victim was standard operating procedure for any kidnapping. In case they attacked you with a chair or something.

“At least Commander Wero is one of the best men in the Vox command; if he wasn’t, we wouldn’t honor his Claim on you.” You blink in surprise at everything the Stanner just revealed. “Detective Steele, just know that you are safe. We’re taking you to Ranger HQ and getting the hell away when the Commander shows up there to get you back.” You blink again picturing the impending conflict.

Apparently happy to have an audience, you spend the next hour hearing everything the equipment is telling him about your health. “…deactivated birth control. Looks like he didn’t want to deal with illegitimacy accusations against him claiming you…” Your heart rate jumps realizing exactly what Wero meant when telling you how he felt. “And looks like I ruined the surprise. You’ve got the option to choose now at least. Wonder if he’s a Stanner descendant…”

You wake to your head pounding and a splitting headache. Your legs are barely workable and you’re lying on a hard, cold metal surface. Your eyes scan the room and lock onto a monitor.

You wake up from the nightmare to a much more pleasant condition. The bed is cushioned, you’re no longer strapped down by the netting, so you sit up. The Stanner muttering over a piece of equipment looks up, “Ah, so I have to ask: Do you want me to remove the collar?”

“What’s the range on this thing?” you ask as you slide the collar off your neck.

He comes over and looks at it in your hand, “That came off a lot easier than I expected. The range on it and your nanobots is pretty much infinity; they communicate by quantum states which are instantaneous regardless of distance.”

“So you’ll know if anything happens to me?”
“Of course,” he says, “I’m monitoring you constantly.”
You nod your head slowly, trying to get your bearings.

You blink as the Stanner looks at you oddly. He wasn’t talking. But the conversation seemed so real, as if Wero was right there in the room. Gazing at the collar you think over all its meanings, Wero saving you from the Waystop Space Station, a claim of sorts. You think about the last detail; he said he’d hunt you down if you still wore it. And then his arms around your body solely focused only on you. Suddenly, a sharp sense of missing him fills you. He was overwhelming, but you liked that, a lot. Putting the collar back on, you sigh, “I miss him.”

The Stanner smiles ruefully, “Yeah, I can see that.”

“When do we get to Ranger HQ?” you ask. You don’t bother asking to be returned to Wero; Stanners fulfill their contracts unless future mates are involved.

“Another day. We’re burning more fuel than usual since Commander Wero’s closing in on us. At this rate, he might get off a couple of shots before we enter the protective field around your base. Fortunately, we’ve got you on board, so he won’t be looking to kill.” He paused, reflecting on if a boarding battle were to commence, “Initially.”

Your inner Wero-fanclub fans herself furiously as your adrenaline gives you a pop.

Wero did manage to get off a message with a warning shot before the Stanners reached Ranger HQ. After unusual jerking of the ship and the loss of one of the gravity stabilizers, the Stanner in charge of you handed you his comm, “Commander Wero sent a message for you.”

You read, “Diana, my Intended, I’m going to be back with a Diplomatic Party. Settle your old life and pack lightly. Your devoted man, Thad.”

You roll your eyes, “That was for everyone else butting in.”

The Stanner prompts, “Rest of the message arrived with the 2nd shot.”

You scroll to the next screen, which reads, “Post Script: I’ll keep you armed from now on.”

“Aww,” you say.

The comm crackles and the voice of the Stanner in charge comes through, “Detective Steele can hear you now, please repeat.”

An official at Ranger HQ states, “Welcome home, Detective Steele. Please allow your Stanner rescuers to guide you to rendezvous with our personnel in 30 minutes.”

As you rub your temples, you reply, “Confirmed.”

When the sound cuts out, the Stanner assigned to you comments, “Psych is the worst. If it weren’t for the fact Commander Wero would be on our asses, we’d offer you the option to stay aboard.”

You nod, ruefully, “When they treat you like a victim, it makes you feel like one.”

“I’ve been studying you since the pickup,” he adds, “You genuinely care for the Vox lunatic.”

You smile.


“I’m glad I’m home,” you try to convince yourself. You stand up to stretch your aching muscles, and then to think over your options. The transfer had gone smoothly. Ranger Psych had a go at making you think you had Stockholm Syndrome, then you were temporarily released. No messages from siblings or parents, which was expected. Unforgiven, you think sighing. Glancing over the posted base schedule, you stare at a meeting post, ‘Vox Diplomatic Visit.’ A section of the base required clearing, and only administrators were attending. Glancing at the time, you decide a nice hike may be in order.

Ranger HQ is situated on a beautiful mountaintop with a spectacular view of the surrounding forest and the ocean. As you walk through the primeval forest, you breathe deeply enjoying real biologically purified air.

You see a stunned Ranger on the concrete ground missing his uniform.

You stumble on a root and catch yourself on a sapling. The image seemed so real. Shaking your head you continue on your hike, following the dirt path through the soft fog. The crunch of leaf-covered soil under your feet, the chatter of the animals around you, and the odd muting that fog brings is so peaceful. As you walk across the bridge over a small stream, you stop sensing another vision coming.

A running pair of boots, controlled breathing, anticipation, lustfilled hunger, a marker, a very familiar marker that you had passed just a mile back.

Shaking your head, you start to worry, Someone’s coming. Fast. Concerned, you look around for a good place to hide. A couple of bushes behind a large tree should do the trick. You slip behind the bushes, and disrupt the planes of your face with your hands. He might miss you, he might not. The soft pounding of boots becomes audible. You hold your breath as the rhythmic breathing of a runner begins to echo. The fog frustrates you, making it impossible to see who it might be until they’re practically on top of you. Suddenly, a shape forms in the fog, clears it, and you see, “Thadeus?” you call standing up in surprise. Wero charges straight at you, grabs your hand, and tugs on you to jog with him. “What are you doing?” you ask as he drags you along.

“We have to go faster!” Wero replies. “We’ve got to be at the beach for the pickup in 10 minutes, lover,” he announces.

You run with him, but then tug him towards the ropes course. “This way is faster.” He looks up, “What? Of course!” Following your lead, you both head to the zipline.

You both slip on the harnesses and secure yourselves into them. Wero turns around and holds out his hand, “Take my hand, Detective.” For once, you do as you’re told.

A brilliant ride later, you both reach the beach as a Vox battle shuttle descends. “Let’s go!” Wero is gleeful. Settling you in a jump seat, you both throw on the securing straps as the shuttle lifts. You can’t hear what is going on in the pilot deck, but the conversation carries hostile tones. You look at Wero, smiling, happy, sappy, and excited. He kisses your hand on the back, on the palm, and holds it between both of his.

You feel yourself blush, and your heart speeds up, “I’m glad you came back for me, Wero. I missed you.”

He chuckles, “I’m glad. I missed you too.” His eyes drop to the collar you wear and darken. He slips his hand behind your head and pulls you in for a long kiss. You meet him in passion as you engage.

You feel the warm sand against you, the sun baking your skin, the wind in your hair, and the excitement of the zipline ride. The smell of the ocean is the most wonderful thing you’ve ever smelled.

Pulling away from the kiss, you ask, “Were you just thinking of the beach?” Wero’s eyes widen, then they narrow, “No,” he replies. Nodding ‘yes’. Holding your hand, he tells you that Vox Diplomats attempted to persuade the Rangers to let you transfer to work with Vox specialists. When it was clear that Vox’s chequered history was the unscalable barrier, Wero shifted to Plan B. Unfortunately, the shuttle had moved too soon, so instead of having a brief moment of bliss before sneaking her back to base, he had to bolt outright to grab her and meet at the nearest opening in the trees.

You kiss him again. Wero nuzzles your neck.


Departing the shuttle onto the Vox battleship was delayed by the Diplomats proceeding first with their security team. When you emerge with Wero, holding hands, you are assailed by cheers from all the nearby personnel watching. As he guides you through the crowd, they congratulate you both and throw toilet paper through the air. You both smile goofily through the celebration. As the blast doors close with Wero’s consistent tug towards his quarters, the silence surrounding you makes you hyperaware of his magnetic masculinity. “I want you so bad,” you murmur.

“And I want you too,” he replies, kissing you on the lips.

You blush, “We need to chat. I heard, um…” You can’t finish the thought about the Stanner health exam.

“That’s what are quarters are for,” he rumbles promisingly. He taps open the door, lifts his arm, and you place your hand on his forearm. Then he places his hand over yours, and guides you inside.

The door closes, and you find yourself in a small room with only a bunk and a desk. The walls are a dull green, “It’s like the forest,” you say.

Wero grasps your waist pulling you tight, “Where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?”

You wrap your hands around his head and kiss him fervently. Pausing, you smile, “You’ve got me. Even the Stanners verified it.”

Growling, he picks you up and lays you down on the extra wide bunk. “Came to, saw your trajectory, and was relieved. Pissed off, but relieved.” You grin.

As he pulls off his shirt, you cringe at the bruise he got from falling after being stunned. “My Stanner minder said you were one of the best.” You pull off your shirt as he tugs on its hem. The sparkle in his eyes briefly flares as he beholds your breasts in the bra. Dropping his mouth to your nipple, you shudder as the combination of pressure from his mouth and friction with the material rubs you perfectly.

Pausing, he replies, “Like that?” You nod enthusiastically. You run your hands up his arms, over his shoulders, and down his back. Sharp jabs of arousal jolt from your nipples as he mouths them through your bra. Stopping, Wero locks gazes with you; he’s so hungry.

He tugs on your pants, and you help him to remove them. “Let me pull of my panties, too,” you say.

“No, I like the challenge,” he answers. You grin and caress and squeeze [censored].

“Which reminds me, I liked it when you [censored],” you comment. “Speaking of which…”

He licks over the slight pink discoloration on your neck that remains from the bruise he made there derailing you. “My adorable adrenaline addict,” he laughs kissing you. Pulling back from the kiss, he whispers into your ear, “It made you my wife.” Your breath catches as the trouble you found screams that finding crazy attractive put you into this situation.

Wero’s hand [censored]. “Thad,” you moan.

“I love hearing you say my name like that,” he murmurs moving his fingers, [censored].

“…claiming doesn’t work like that.” Your orgasm gets so close when he stops.

“Time for you to ride me,” he announces. You hum with soft discontent at his stopping as he lays on the bunk, his [censored].

You pull of your bra and panties, contemplating the presentation; climbing [censored], comes with the man himself. Again and again. He knows you love adrenaline highs. You smile and [censored]. He caresses your breasts with both hands. His eyes sparkle, watching you move. The first contact [censored].

[censored]

[censored]. Grabbing his hands off your hips, you lean over, lifting his arms above his head and kiss him deeply. [censored].

[censored]. You look up at his face as your instinct tells you to start moving. His eyes are alight with frustration, surprise, and promise of punishments to come. “Inhuman control,” you laugh as you hop off his lap and take two steps towards the bathroom. With a shout of excitement, you’re caught in his arms as he grabs you up in a tight hold and keeps moving.

“You make me crazy in love.” Your breath catches at his declaration as he pins you against the sink, looks at you in the mirror, smiles, and presses [censored]. He wraps one arm around your hips and teases your breast with the other. [censored]. You look at him gazing at you in the mirror as the world erupts in pleasure. [censored].

Holding you in place, he drops his head onto your shoulder and shifts his hands to hold you closer. You turn your head to kiss him on the top of his head and murmur, “I love you, too.”

He shivers and kisses your neck, “You never stood a chance.”


While the universe in which the plot takes place is that of many of my other works, this story tested using an AI story interface to build the plot. It was awkward, so if the flow seems jerky, just figure that’s AI for you. After the first draft, I left the AI and went through the text several times to smooth it out. Not quite uncanny valley. Special thanks to Shakna for suggesting it! Give it a shot yourself: https://github.com/FailedSave/storytelling-guide/blob/master/Guide.md

It Began with Bolt-Cutters

“HEY!” he yelled at the windows above, hoping someone could hear him. He couldn’t believe it. He was fucking trapped in some ancient skylight or chimney or something. It was dirty. And it didn’t smell great. It was too small for a prison cell. And his head fucking hurt.

A window was thrown open two stories up. Startled, a woman leaned out looking down at him.

“Help!” he called, waiving his hands, trapped in hand-cuffs above his head at her.

She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Please?” she called, ducking back into the building.

“Pretty please!” he called back, oddly comforted by the bemused lift to her lips and confidence she held in her bearing as she sized up the situation.

A bit of a breeze sucked her white curtains out into the bricked opening he was trapped in. A clean, woodsy, tantalizing scent tickled his nose on that breeze. When she returned, she fidgeted at the window frame, muttering to herself at a level that he couldn’t distinguish the words. The tone was business-like. Then she reappeared leaning out the window, holding a rolled up rope ladder. She frowned on the verge of dropping it, “Protect your head, okay!” Then she dropped it, letting it unroll as it fell.

It missed him, and the left over portion settled in the slushy ground. Grabbing the nearest rung, he realized there was a problem. “I can’t climb in these handcuffs,” he told her as she watched his struggle.

She groaned, and disappeared from the window again. Shortly she reemerged climbing out onto the ladder. Her cute derriere and legs wiggling out first. He inhaled in surprise. She was wearing green tights and a leotard. And a utility belt with bolt-cutters. He couldn’t help himself either, as she descended, he swallowed spying the contours of her labia. When she stopped descending, just out of reach he guiltily adjusted his gaze to her face.

“Nice bruise.” She pointed at her head in the area where his own throbbed painfully. “So what happened?”

He shifted his focus and was caught by her direct, twinkling gaze. “I, I lost a bet.”

“Go on,” she prompted, unhooking the bolt-cutters to twirl them like a baton.

He dropped his gaze to the slush that he had been laying in when he awoke which was drying on the left side of his body. “I was in this stupid store with a bunch of stupid crap, and my stupid friend..ex-friend..dared me to play some stupid card game. I lost. He knocked me out and left me here in this open air chimney or whatever it is.”

“It’s an air shaft.” Sighing, she finished climbing down, and he lifted his cuffs holding them out for her to cut. With a quick snap, the chain between the handcuffs broke, a bolt of heat stabbed into him, and his head jerked up. Without looking directly, he found himself aware of her body, everything perfect. He licked his lips fighting himself from thinking about licking her nipples visible through her leotard’s material.

“You’re a mess.” Rolling her eyes she reascended the ladder, “Wait till I’m done then come up.”

Lustful hunger wracked him as his eyes tracked her labia all the way up the ladder. “What’s your name?” he asked as he climbed up after her.

“Bridget,” she told him when he reached the window. The window accessed her bedroom.

His shoes left muddy prints on the floor, where she had pulled back the carpet for easier cleaning. “I’m so sorry about messing up your space.” He was a stinky, walking mud monster in her pristine living space.

Shrugging, Bridget backed up. “Aside from ‘sucker’, what’s your other name?” she shook her head with that bemused smile firmly in place.

“Sean.”

“Well, Sean, there’s an emergency phone out front that you can use. Okay?”

He followed her towards the apartment’s open door nodding and paused after walking through it. “I owe you Bridget.”

Shaking her head in disagreement, she shut the door in his face. He overheard, but was certain she didn’t mean for him to, “I expect I’ll end up collecting.” The tone was dark self-foreboding.

Fighting the headache, Sean made sure to memorize her apartment number and location.


On getting home and cleaning up, Sean decided concussion-be-damned, he was going to pay a visit to his ex-friend’s condo…The fact that he couldn’t break the cuffs being the major factor in the decision. By the time he reached Gomer’s place, his fury had notched up to a crescendo. As soon as Gomer got to the door, Sean forced it open. Burning rage burst out. He first slammed the door into Gomer’s face, then grabbed him by the arm, and winched it into a position to force the shit face-first into the wall. Sean knew how to fight and was inherently strong from staying in shape. “You look surprised,” he growled.

“The curse was supposed to break,” Gomer gasped surprised.

And the asshole stank. Sean started tapping Gomer’s head against the wall, “How does it feel to be attacked by someone you thought was a friend?” Each dull hit just made the tearing heat in him burn higher.

“Fuck you! You won’t kill me either. I’m going to curse you for real now!”

Sean didn’t like losing his temper, and despite what Gomer thought, if Sean wasn’t careful, he was entirely capable of doing something he’d regret. A wash of freezing self-disgust filled him. Gomer was a piece of shit and wasn’t worth it. Sean gave up and threw Gomer to the ground. “If I see you, ever, we’re doing this again.” Then he kicked him in the ass. Wet ass. Apparently the source of the smell.

Shutting the door, still fuming as well as ashamed, he decided it was time to head to the clinic, get his head checked out, and see if they had something to cut the damn cuffs off.


About a week later, Sean’s head was on the mend, but he was no closer to getting the remains of the cuffs removed. The doc said he’d have to break his hand to get them off after a few attempts failed. The machinists that he’d visited said that their equipment would probably be successful at taking his hand off first.

The constant presence of the cuffs initially bothered the shit out of him. Once he associated them with meeting Bridget though, he found he didn’t mind and stopped tugging on them. Both the doc and one of the machinists commented on their unusual design in the metal, some kind of knot. As soon as the next weekend arrived, Sean returned to the stupid shop where they had been purchased, Amorous Goods.

Sean wrinkled his nose at the odd mixture of scents as he entered. Under the overwhelming spices and decay was something dark, and he didn’t like it. The shopkeep smiled broadly as he entered the store, “Welcome back, slave.”

“Sean.” He must have heard him wrong. Marching up to the counter, Sean showed the man his cuffs. “Why won’t these cut off?”

“It’s called a ‘Celtic Knot’, slave.” The elliptical answer pissed him off, and calling him a slave in public made him want to break something.

“Sean. Where’s the fucking key?”

Laughing at him, the shopkeep replied, “You must go get your mistress’ permission to unlock it.”

Bridget popped unbidden into his mind. Along with the urge to protect his savior. She shouldn’t get involved in this. “What the hell are you talking about?”

The shopkeep stopped laughing. Somehow that was a lot more menacing. “I physically can’t get the key unless your mistress comes in.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“You belong to her now.”

“Get. The. Fucking. Key.” Sean snarled. He was not having this conversation.

“Go. Or else I’ll call the police. She’ll collect you when she’s ready.”

The last person he wanted to see Bridget in the vicinity of was this creepy asshole. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

The shopkeep picked up the phone raising his eyebrows and pointed at the exit.

Raising his hands in surrender, Sean walked out. It was an excuse to see Bridget again at least. A lousy one.


Bridget was tapping at her astronomy book annoyed when the outer door buzzer blared. Getting up and gazing at the outside video, she wasn’t too surprised to recognize Sean. He was cleaned up, still vibing a strong surliness, “What do you want?”

“To thank you.” His head swiveled around, spotted the camera, then gazed at it earnestly.

“What?” Somehow he was a natural at derailing her thoughts.

“Come on down, I’ll take you out.”

Well…she was curious. “Do I get to hear more of your story?”

“Guaranteed,” his eyes sparked, and his brows resumed their initial surly expression.

Whether surly or focusing on her, he was kind of cute. “I could use a coffee.”

“You got it.” His face cleared, and a flash of some emotion quickly suppressed passed. Her heart beat a little quicker as she shut down the connection and headed out. He wanted her for something…which could be something good…or could be something bad.

As soon as she emerged, Sean, who had moved away from the door, marched up to her holding his hand out in greeting. She glanced at it nervously, but sighing inwardly, she grasped it. A tingle of awareness ran through her with the connection, and her gaze was yanked down to their mated palms. Unsettled, she held on to his hand when Sean released his fingers to let go. “What’s with the bracelets?” Then she turned his hand over, recognition dawning. “These were the handcuffs weren’t they?”

Sean held still as she inspected them. Her fingers touching him tingled.

For whatever reason, Bridget realized he couldn’t take them off. Then she spotted the Celtic Knot in their surface. “I don’t believe it.” she muttered, releasing his hand with a consoling pat. Uneasiness settled into her stomach.

Sean’s voice was soft, “What?”

“Where did you get those handcuffs?” Bridget looked off towards some of the nearby buildings thoughtfully.

Sean held out his hand. He wanted to feel her touch again. “I’ll show you.” When she didn’t take it, he converted it to a gesture towards his car in the parking lot. A couple of steps later, he stopped. She wasn’t following. He took a deep breath.

Bridget was shaking her head. “No way. I am not getting into a car with a stranger who’s obviously got problems.”

Sean returned to her, “I’m sorry. Wasn’t thinking.” He needed to follow her lead.

Bridget waved it away and pointed at the block of nearby buildings, “There’s a coffee shop right over there.”

Sean followed her as she led the way. When they entered, Bridget received warm greetings from the staff. And Sean received a silent lookover, particularly from another patron. Gazing at them both with a frown, the man approached.

“Who’s the surly bear, Bridget?” he asked. His tone was both humored and hostile.

She shrugged placing her order on the screen in the table as she started to sit. Sean moved rapidly to manage her chair. “We’re acquaintances, Bard. Thank you, Sean. Sean, Bard. Bard, Sean.” She didn’t bother looking up, and missed Bard’s look of disquiet flash across his face.

Sean moved into Bard’s personal space and settled himself at the table to her left. Narrowing his eyes, Bard moved to approach Bridget’s right side when she stopped him, “I’m very sorry, Bard, but this is a confidential conversation. May we have some privacy?”

“Fine. I’ll find out later.” he answered with a soft smile. Squeezing her shoulder companionably, he left.

Sean stifled a growl that wanted to break free. His rescuer was better than anything the smarmy shit offered.

“So, my surly bear, start at the beginning,” she ordered with a smile as soon as Bard walked away.

Sean enjoyed the possessive pronoun he’d just gotten and relaxed his hackles with Bard’s departure. He told her about the store he and Gomer discovered, the sign that for a fixed price they could play the cards and the winner would get an object. “Ah, the handcuffs” she broke in, looking off in Bard’s direction with a frown.

Sean’s surly look returned, “And a curse.”

“Don’t tell me you believe in that stuff.” she leaned back away from her initially intent pose.

“I didn’t” Then he told her about the power outage damaging his equipment, the food poisoning incident, the mistaken identity incident with tube security that included a lashing, and how he finally called his friend when a screw driver fell out of the sky and embedded in the ground right where he was about to step but stopped when he saw a lovely pink flower.

Bridget’s eyebrows increasingly raised throughout this account, and her glances at his cuffs strayed longer and longer.

He told her about how Gomer got him in the car, took off before he’d gotten his seatbelt on, then braked suddenly making him hit his head on the dashboard. While he was clouded, Gomer commented on being cursed, and that he had to put the handcuffs on him to break it and Sean was on his own from now on. He came to consciousness in the air shaft where she found him.

She shook her head in disbelief. “What a mess. Why there of all places?”

He shrugged helplessly, “He didn’t say when I stopped by after you rescued my sorry ass.”

She paused a full 10 seconds and took in his hostile pretend-passivity, “Let’s skip that part. Do you know how he got you down there? It’s not meant for people.”

“Through one of the bottom windows I guess,” he answered slowly, puzzled.

She patted his hand, “Think about that for a minute.”

Happy endorphins sparkled around his body from her touch. At the same time he realized that there weren’t any lower windows than hers. “Oh, I have no idea then.”

Her coffee arrived. “You’re not getting anything, Sean?”

He glanced at her thinking, ‘What I want here isn’t on the menu.’ “I’m not familiar with the menu here.”

She saw the glance but still was unsure of its source. “My surly bear should have some tea.” She tapped the screen again.

“Anything you say,” popped out of his mouth. And he realized he meant it.

Her cheeks briefly blushed. Sipping her coffee, she gestured for him to go on. Tugging one of his hands closer, she rotated the cuff to get a good look at it.

Sean rotated his palm upward both in supplication and for the opportunity to idly grasp her arm. “I can’t cut them off. Went to the doctor’s, went to the machinist’s, nothing works without breaking bones. I have to use both hands for my job.”

Bridget lowered her eyebrows, “What about the shop? Do they have a key?”

Sean shifted uncomfortably. ‘Slave,’ the shopkeep kept calling him. Dropping his eyes and his voice, he murmured, “The shopkeep said I couldn’t have it and threatened to call the police if I remained.”

“Sounds to me like you’ve got the police case here,” she muttered.

He raised his eyes, “Can I depend on you for witness testimony?” His tea arrived, and its fruity essence made his mouth water in anticipation. He sipped at it. Licked his lips. It tasted as good as it smelled, clean, rich, tantalizing. “Nice choice; what is it?”

Bridget frowned. “As far as the police and myself are concerned, that whole cursing thing is certifiable. I’ll drive to the shop and talk to the shopkeeper first. At least there is a key, and he’s got it.” She petted his hand. “It’s Llewelyn berry.” Her family’s symbolic fruit.

Between the tea, her petting, and her help, he relaxed to a level he’d never experienced before. His entire being just wanted to get closer. “I should go with you.” He didn’t want her approaching the shopkeep at all, especially not alone. Through a tight jaw he added, “Or take that guy that was just in here with you.”

Bridget looked around, surprised. Sean was mollified that she’d not noticed Bard leave.

“Trust me,” she smiled confidently.

He reluctantly agreed acknowledging that women had the advantage of getting more leeway in situations like this. When they parted, his giving her the address of the shop, he took an extra drive around the neighborhood taking note of signs of vacancies. Their separation was like getting his hair petted backwards.

Bard called as soon as she climbed into her car. “Bridget, the guy’s a loon, and he’s fixated on you.”

“I’ve just got to get this key and then he’ll be gone,” she answered turning on the safety system.

“What kind of Knot Label did you find in the surface print?”

The banned Slave Knot. “I didn’t see.”

“Liar. You were staring at it.”

“I meant, I didn’t recognize it.”

“Describe it to me.”

“I’m driving.”

“Fine. Catch you later, then.”

“Yep.” She reflected that Sean urged her to be careful while Bard was relatively unconcerned.


Storming into the shop, Bridget found the woman behind the desk and growled at her, “What are you doing peddling dangerous Celtic technology?” Then screwed up her face after taking a breath. Under the usual smell of such a shop was the unmistakable stench from banned technology of the extra-terrestrial sex trade.

The woman, her name tag read ‘Vikki’, was about to answer when a man came from the back storage area holding up a key between his fingers. His grin made Bridget’s teeth grind. “Here’s the item you’re looking for I believe.”

As she reached for it, she glanced up into his eyes; the contacts couldn’t hide the golden flash from her UV sensitive gaze. He was a pan-dimensional gargoyle. She gasped. Glancing at Vikki again, definitely completely human, Bridget glanced down at her swelling pregnancy. At the last fraction of a second, she hesitated. “Just put it down on the counter, thanks.”

Laughing, the gargoyle complied, turned around, then left calling over his shoulder, “Your slave has permission to enter this shop again.” His guffaws echoed darkly in her ears.

“Feel free to look around,” Vikki added as Bridget slowly backed away.

Everywhere she looked was filled with sensual traps for the naive. She pulled open the door, “Right.” And left.


When she got back to her apartment, Bridget took out the family book on their ancient Celtic world from which they’d immigrated. She quickly found the Slave Knot in the pictures of their world’s shameful history. But Sean’s was subtly different. The ends of the Knot he had included smaller Knots in the individual threads. Flipping rapidly through the text, she found the purpose.

Holding up the key to Sean’s cuffs, she studied it, the sinister Teeter-Totter Trap. “Sorry, Sean.” she muttered.


Sean paused a moment to run his hands through his hair and make sure he was presentable. Then he knocked on Bridget’s door.

Pulling it open, she jerked in surprise, “You. How did you…”

He smiled, contented with looking at her again. “I’m your new downstairs neighbor.” The internal apartment, without any outside windows, was perennially empty. So, Sean acquired it with no difficulty.

She stammered, “…I was going to call you tomorrow. Wait. What?” She nervously glanced at his cuffs.

She had just arrived home. He could hear it clearly through his ceiling. His happiness became a soft emotional buzz filling his head. “Can I come in?”

Like a strict teacher, she replied, “Um..yes, you MAY.” She knew without a doubt that he couldn’t harm her.

Some happiness slipped into his practiced smile, hopefully making it more suave than goofy.

She frowned. “Please have a seat.” She pointed at a chair at the small kitchen table.

Sean paused settling to see whether he could help seat her again. “How are you doing?”

She shrugged and headed to the kitchen, “I’m just studying up on a problem, trying to see if there’s an elegant solution or one you have to just suffer through.”

“I never asked what you do…” He gazed around. She had at least one bookshelf on each wall, and there was no clear organization to the topics.

She put some iced tea down on the table and a few snacks. “I’m a specialized programmer.”

Watching her closely as she settled, he commented, “So your neighborhood has a more community, more intimate feel to it…”

Bridget coughed softly.

“…and I decided that while I look around to secure something permanent…”

Her heart rate thudded.

“…being closer to my rescuer…”

She looked at his hands; one was wrapped around her mug while the other gestured his meaning with body language. The meaning of which was that the alternative interpretation of his speech was valid.

“..seemed like a good plan.”

Her eyes snapped back up to his as heat swooshed through her. Her lips tingled. She put her fingers on them as if that would push away the sensation of wanting to kiss him.

“You seem nervous, everything okay?”

Aside from realizing that Sean was a very dangerous man and that his being focused unnaturally on her was unnerving, “I’m fine. So you look like you’re planning to head out this evening?” She actually couldn’t tell if he was or wasn’t, but it seemed like a way to get her some space to deal with the attraction he was fueling.

He looked idly around her living space, “Tonight is a maker space workshop.” Pointing at her small telescope next to the coffee table, added, “I could produce a better mirror than the one in that for you with the gear there. Want to come?”

Shaking her head and smiling, Bridget agreed, “Yeah, okay, but I drive.”

Sean went from hiding his disappointment based on the head shake to straightening his back. “Great!” Then he went to the coffee table and settled next to the telescope. “Where are your tools?” He asked over his shoulder.

He caught her eyes as she looked away and busied herself. She was studying him with interest. He inhaled deeply and blinked, enjoying being exactly where he was. When she put the small toolkit down next to him, he realized that it was specific for the telescope. Gesturing at the open astronomy book nearby, he asked, “What are working on?”

Standing next to him, watching his hands deftly move at breaking down the telescope to get at the mirror. She answered, “I’m looking for something in the formation of the universe. The stars out there are only part of the story; I like to use the telescope to observe Methuselah mostly.”

“Methuselah?” he asked, carefully sliding the mirror out.

“It’s older than the universe.”

Startled, Sean reached out and grasped the calf on her leg, “What?”

She nodded, “And there are other dimensions, definitely, but when did THOSE form?”

Reluctantly letting go of her leg, Sean stood, carefully gathering up the mirror. She was comfortably standing close to him, and he paused looking into her face. Her mouth opened.

“See you in 10 minutes?” her kissable lips murmured. As he nodded, she moved away, and he exhaled relaxing the tension. As he opened the door, she reluctantly told him, “You’re allowed back in the shop.”

She then waited for him to ask about the key. “Alright, thank you,” he replied. That look flashed across his face again, then he left.

Blowing out the breath she held…he definitely wanted her for some reason…she tapped the hidden pocket in her waistband for the presence of the metal object concealed there.


He insisted on opening the door for her on reaching her car. “I just realized I never asked what you do?” she prompted, trying to adjust to his mannerisms. Bard’s warning that he was fixated on her didn’t seem to do the emotion justice.

Climbing in himself on the passenger side, he answered, “I’m an architect.”

“And you didn’t know what an air shaft was?” she blurted out surprised.

He snorted, “I was concussed, my fair Green Lady.”

Bridget blushed deeply at the reference to a deity. “Fair enough.”

“For a programmer, you seemed to handle the situation I was in a lot more like a first responder.” He watched her intently.

She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. “Didn’t always do programming.”

As he gave her directions, he told her about some of the interesting details about the buildings around them. ‘And that one over there was supposed to have more floors, but the firm miscalculated the weight.’ ‘How do you know that?’ ‘I got hired to fix it.’ ‘That one had a toxic chemical spill from the tank next to the property line.’ Bridget marveled at how different the town appeared through his eyes.

Then they arrived. The parking lot was full, but Sean wasn’t worried, “I made sure to reserve the synthetic printer as soon as you said ok; don’t worry, I’ve got you.” Bridget flushed again in response. Sean smiled, noticing, and directing her to the overflow parking lot. “Stay put,” he ordered, getting out as soon as they arrived. Confused, she did, then blushed again when he opened the door for her. She accepted his hand as he offered to support her out of the car. When she did, he didn’t immediately release her hand, kissing the back of it first.

The heat washing through her from his touch hadn’t had time to dissipate before his lips, and firm display of where his thoughts were behind those suppressed facial expressions, brought her whole body to attention. She couldn’t suppress the slight increase in heart rate and breathing that he triggered. And, she admitted to herself, she didn’t want to. Letting Sean see how he affected her would hopefully encourage him to keep doing it.

Smiling, pleased with the effect he was having on her, Sean offered his elbow. Her touch accepting him, especially after he demonstrated that he wanted her, triggered the first of many physically uncomfortable yet emotionally perfect moments.

At the maker space, as the new mirror was built, Sean showed Bridget around. This included introducing her to a lot of people, most of whom were curious about her. As she talked to a woman operating the wire-cutter, one of his closer friends murmured to him, “So, you done pretending dating is something other people do?” Sean nodded in response watching Bridget as she smiled at him again, noticing his attention.

Bridget grabbed Sean’s hand as he approached, “Trudy, tell him about the part’s purpose, too!” When she released his hand, he didn’t let go, and after a beat in which his heart thudded loudly in his ears, she resumed grasping his hand. As Trudy told an entertaining tale of the ghost water leak, Sean’s happiness kept bouncing around his body hyperactively.

By the end of the evening, as he reset the synthetic printer for the next user, Sean kept staring at Bridget’s lips. He’d never seen anyone he wanted to kiss more.

When they walked back to the car, he again followed her to open her door but instead of grasping the handle, he caged her against the car in his arms. “Bridget, may I kiss you?” he rumbled like a hungry bear.

Her eyes troubled him as they clouded from their initial happy glints, but her desire was also visible. She idly played with his irremovable cuffs as she hesitated answering. For Sean, the waiting was on the verge of painful. Then she lifted her chin, ordered him to “Keep your arms in place,” raised her face to him, and kissed him.

Heat surged through him, and he locked his arms in place on the car. At least being unable to seize her into his grasp kept her penned. When her mouth opened, he pressed his tongue inside, just the tip, to lick her lips. She deepened the caress, and he became briefly insensible to anything but her mouth and his hardening interest. ‘Mine,’ rang through his head and his heart.

When Bridget pulled back, with a smile, she murmured, “No more for tonight, Sean. It’s time to go.”

He let go and opened the door for her. As she drove them back, he could smell her arousal, making him drool slightly. Following her lead, he kept the conversation neutral and let her part from him at the elevator in their building with a simple farewell.


Returning from work the next day, Sean waited until he could hear Bridget’s footsteps above. When he heard footsteps in the kitchen area settle on the couch, he pictured her eating dinner. Without him.

Waiting half an hour, he pulled out a cup of ice cream from his freezer and headed up to his mistress’. Bridget was unsurprised hearing the knock when she put the dinner plate in her sink. She blinked and raised an eyebrow quizzically to see the dessert in Sean’s hands when she opened the door.

“Hungry for something sweet?” he rumbled, sexual undertones to his timbre unmistakable.

Smiling and blushing as a wash of heat hit her, Bridget pulled the unused chair away from the table, set it askew and ordered, “Sit in this chair and hang on a minute.”

Happily sitting, Sean watched her set the ice cream on the table, and could hear the clink of silverware. When she returned with only a single spoon and no bowls, he pursed his lips in confusion.

Opening up the ice cream packaging, she scooped the spoon in it, and then opened her mouth. Twitching, he was uncertain what she was about to do when she said with her tantalizing lips dancing in their motion of talking to him, “Put this in your mouth, but you’re not allowed to swallow, my hungry bear.”

His erection which had been softly aroused as soon as he opened his freezer, stood at attention. He was HER bear. He hummed happily as the cold melted against his tongue. Then her face was approaching his. Her lips were pressing against his, and he moaned as her tongue slipped inside and she claimed the melting cream from his mouth.

“This one you may swallow.” Taking another spoonful, she placed it in his mouth. He wanted to swallow her. More.

Then she settled, straddling his lap. He belatedly opened his mouth to accept the next spoonful as she pressed her vulva against him. Her eyes were twinkling with arousal and mischief, like the stars through her telescope, as she leaned in for another kiss. Taking that as his cue, he released the sides of the chair to grasp her in his arms. But was caught up short. “No, Sean. Hands on the chair,” she commanded parting from the kiss.

He didn’t like her using his name. He dropped his hands asserting, “I’m your bear.” Emphasis on ‘your’.

Bridget never could resist playing with fire. Telling him to swallow the next spoonful of ice cream, she shifted against him moving her hips sensually.

Over the next several spoonfuls, she alternated between kissing him to claim her nibbles and twerking against him as he swallowed his, leaving him hungry without being satiated.

Rendered gentlemanly-powerless, he was thoroughly aroused, concerned with nothing else except following her lead. No woman had ever made him feel this pleasurably uncomfortable. He reached his limit when the last of the ice cream was gone. He was going to lose it in his pants, when she stopped and climbed off his lap, panting softly.

“Thank you for dessert, my bear,” she murmured sensually.

He tensed as she distanced herself from him, “That makes you my mistress, I believe.” His mix of meanings in using the word ‘mistress’ filled her with nervous energy.

She knew what he needed, but it was going to cost her. The teeter-totter trap kept shifting the flow of power between them. She tilted her head accepting his claim. His face relaxed. “It’s time for you to go home though, I need to get ready for tomorrow.”

He narrowed his eyes. She spun to take the spoon and empty ice cream container to the kitchen. “We’ll have dinner tomorrow,” he suggested with finality in his tone. Not so much a suggestion, actually. “It’ll be more filling than just dessert.”

Getting the raw desire he inspired under control, she couldn’t help the swelling in her lips, nipples, and labia, but for the rest of her body language she was able to look at him appraisingly, while saying, “1830 sharp.”

“Can’t wait to come, my mistress,” he was going cover her with his claim soon.

She smiled sharply at him, amused by the double entendre, “You’re a good man, my bear.”

His heart cheered.


As the water from Bridget’s shower cascaded to the floor above his head, Sean grasped his erection which hadn’t calmed in the intervening time. He imagined her touching him, stroking him as he was moving his own hand. Then remembering her labia as he saw them in her leotard, he erupted.

A short while later as he dozed off, he vaguely remembered that he felt something hard in her waistband, and whenever he felt it, the power he knew she had over him would shift. The thought quickly drifted into the background as the general irrational emotions of dreams enveloped him.


The next evening, he realized he recognized her car door shutting. Leaning out into the hallway, the end of which had a window which looked out onto the parking lot, he smiled seeing her type into her comm as she hesitated entering the building. Then he frowned. She approached another vehicle that was pulling up next to the front door. He recognized its driver and growled. Bard was interested in HIS mistress. The man held something out for her; she looked it over briefly shaking her head. They conferred as she held her hands up in exasperation. Then another car pulled up. She stepped back and waved him on. He drove away, and she entered the building. There was enough familiarity with the interaction that Sean decided he needed to make a rule.


At 1830, Sean knocked. “Come in,” Bridget called. She fanned herself, the heat in the kitchen suddenly intensifying. Sean, the man himself, was addictive; she could feel the difference between him and the dark energy of his damnable cuffs. But there lay a major problem. As he shut the door, she intercepted him. “Sean. I’ve a mind for a different form of art. Please place your clothes on those hooks.” she gestured at the wall near the door. “All of your clothes,” she added returning to the kitchen.

Sean shivered in the anticipation of her touch that infused his mind. “Mistress.” Contentment involuntarily enveloped his mind as accepting her control felt so comfortable.

After some shuffling, Sean, naked and erect, entered her kitchen. Smiling, looking him over from head to toe, she paused to gaze at his erection. Licking her lips, she pointed at a chair against the wall with her spatula. “Sit there.” Then she circled the spatula, “And attach yourself to the locks. You can’t miss them.”

Sean hesitated, and she frowned. “Bridget, I want your promise first.”

“I won’t hurt you, I promise.” she burst out, worried.

He smiled, “I know that. I just want you to promise: I’m the only man you will touch and kiss.”

She lowered the spatula in surprise. He was the only person that fit that description in her life. ‘What?’ crossed her mind. “Of course.” she conceded.

“Good.” his erection twitched.

As she put the food on a plate, she watched him secure his ankles to the legs of the chair, then hook his cuffs on the latches in the wall to his sides holding his arms open wide, yet comfortably…for a time.

Approaching she smiled at the picture he presented. Setting up a side table next to him, she set the plate down and murmured, “It’s dinner time. Are you hungry, my bear?”

Sean grinned, “Famished, my mistress.”

She smiled. Gesturing to a small bowl on the plate, she commented, “This is vegetable oil.” Dipping her fingers in it, she reached towards his neck and rubbed in small, teasing circles. Sean closed his eyes enjoying the sensation. Looking down, she could see he was leaking pre-cum. Her plan to send him home again unsatisfied was going to be a challenge. Then his stomach growled.

Taking up a spoonful of meatcake, she held it to his mouth to take a bite. “Kiss first,” he growled.

“Oh, who’s an uppity bottom,” she joked.

He chuckled. When she kissed him, his tongue immediately delved into her mouth and claimed his right to be there. As she heard him tug on his arms, she knew restraining him was the right thing to do. They kissed until she grew uncomfortable from the position. Then she re-offered the meatcake, and he took a bite. She didn’t kiss him again, but in between his bites, she rubbed the oil in slow circles down his neck. “Where are you most sensitive, my bear?” she asked.

“Nipples,” he mumbled watching her with predatory intent, “Back of my neck…And anywhere you touch on my cock and balls.” He inhaled deeply as she dipped her fingers and began rubbing his chest, slowly moving closer to his nipples. Periodically pausing in her massage, she would feed him more meatcake. He chewed hungrily, but this time, his dissatisfaction was becoming more of an anticipatory contentment as his discomfort subsumed to existing in the moment.

“I have a request,” he began as she finally started teasing his nipples. It tickled while stimulating him.

She prompted, “Hmmmm?”

“If you touch my cock, I get to cum in or on you.” He saw her perfectly understand his meaning in her body’s reaction. He was going to make her smell like him…belong to him in a very primal sense…sooner or later. He pulled on his cuffs as indecision flickered across her features. If he could only get his hands on her, he knew he could persuade her to decide on having him.

Bridget dropped her gaze to his erection as she dipped her fingers in the oil. Pre-cum slipped from him in a slow flow. Resuming her massage a little lower, on his abdomen, carefully avoiding his erection, she licked her lips. Then she answered, “You’re my responsibility. It’s too soon for that, but yes, I agree.”

He inhaled deeply, seeing if he could get her to inadvertently touch his throbbing cock. When she managed to escape, he asked directly, “When can I make love to you?” and pulled on the restraints again. If only she would let him get his hands on her. He was getting better at reading her body language, and all she needed was to relax with some gentle petting.

She didn’t have an answer, so she didn’t. He didn’t know what it would do to him. And her negative would lead him to ask. Instead, she had a plan. Focusing on his safe erogenous sensitive spots, she teased them until he hummed with pleasure.

Without touching his penis, she finally stopped with a series of soft pets up and down his chest and arms. “Well, I think that was a delightful dinner,” she sighed happily. Studying his face cautiously, she unlatched his arms, massaging them as he was released. Then she released his ankles and backed up. “Time to get dressed, my bear. You’re welcome to hang out with me for a bit.”

Respecting her hesitancy at the start of their physical relationship, Sean didn’t push her. He didn’t know her full story, and life had taught him that waiting for her would be worth it. Sean glanced at her flushed features, and then at her bedroom just within sight. It was that very window through which she’d pulled him in. “What the plan is for tomorrow?” For there would be a plan for tomorrow.

She shook her head, “I’ve got a meeting to attend.”

She gave him some privacy as he got dressed. When he was done, he joined her at the table. She showed him the astronomy book open to Methuselah. He asked, “What are you looking for exactly?”

“Did you know that there are multiple dimensions?” she commented, looking at him with hesitant worry.

He hurried to assure her that he didn’t think that was crazy, misunderstanding her concern, “I never thought about it, but it seems reasonable.”

Nodding, she glanced at his cuffs and then explained that she was looking for something that would be left over when separate dimensions formed.

“Why?” he wondered. It was a tough question for most people, explaining to him why he should care. He had no doubt that Bridget was formidable enough to deal with answering him.

She glanced sharply at another book on the coffee table drawing his eye to it as she murmured, “I don’t believe in magic. You…I mean people in general will come across phenomena that they don’t understand…” She trailed off.

Sean’s gaze remained on the other book; it looked very old.

“Go ahead and look at it, Sean,” she softly commented. She moved towards her entertainment system as he sat next to it and carefully opened it.

“What is the writing?” he’d seen it before somewhere.

“Celtic,” she replied without looking.

As he flipped through the pages, he jerked recognizing the knot style on his cuffs in a drawing. The subservient status of those wearing them was undeniable. Glancing at Bridget, who was clicking through the display screen looking for some music to play, he smiled. Belonging to his mistress wasn’t bad. Wasn’t bad at all. As he stared at the pictures, he realized that none of the people shown had the exact design he wore. He couldn’t find the exact style.

“The cuffs you are wearing should be banned,” Bridget softly commented joining him.

He couldn’t keep the hopeful tone out of his voice, asking, “You can’t get them off?”

“Not without causing a lot of other problems,” she haltingly replied, rubbing her neck.

He spent the rest of the evening flipping through the book, sipping some more of her wonderful tea, chatting with her about astronomy, and glancing at her lips.

When it was time to go he said, “Give me a hug,” adding, “And when can I see you again?”

As she hugged him, he pulled her tight letting her feel his still stiff hard-on. Again he felt the hard small object tucked in her waistband somewhere. Sensing it shifted the power between them, pulling her under his control. He could feel it.

“Give me the weekend, okay?” she haltingly replied.

When he released her, her fingers covered her lips as if she said something she didn’t mean to. “Just dream of me and remember you promised,” he rumbled.

Nervously, she smiled.


As she showered, he rubbed himself. He shuddered simply touching himself, releasing a pressurized jet, but as her shower continued, lasting longer, he felt a larger orgasm loom. For a moment, when her feet paused and all he could hear was water, he erupted a second time. He had no idea what she had planned for the weekend, but he was looking forward to it.


The next evening Sean listened to her come home. When she shortly left again, he went to the hallway window to watch her as she walked out of their building. With surprise, he saw her simply walk towards the coffee shop instead of her car. Wherever she was going was local. Back inside his apartment listening for her return, he grew more disturbed as the evening slowly set in. Finally, he left to follow her steps in the reddish light.

Frowning, he stopped at the building next to the coffee shop recognizing Bard’s car. Worried, he walked around the building in the twilight. Several voices could be heard on one side of the building. He couldn’t understand their words, but he distinguished his mistress’ tones among them.

“Ei losgi i lawr,” [1] a male voice urged.

“…pan-dimensional Gargoyles, ffŵl,” [2] replied his Bridget.

“Ddal…” [3] began Bard.

Sean stepped away and scanned the building again. One set of doors was more frequently used than another, so he moved to sit in a hedge nearby to wait for Bridget’s emergence. She was the last to leave. And it was because Bard was holding her back.

Once alone as far as they knew, Bard pausing talking and moved to kiss Bridget. Sean furiously watched the attempt, but didn’t want them to know he’d found their secret meeting location.

She blocked Bard with a hand across his mouth, saying “No.” Then in their language, “Mae gan fy anifail anwes a fi gytundeb.” [4]

“Mae’n gymaint o anifail anwes ag arth, Bridget,” [5] Bard snapped back.

“I don’t want a boyfriend,” she said.

“You don’t want me.” he swore and stormed off. At the last moment he yelled, “A all eich anifail anwes fod yn berchen arnoch!” [6]

Bridget shuddered as a burst of air fluttered her hair blowing Sean’s direction, bringing her scent to him. Which triggered an instant orgasm.

Sean waited until she had left and then returned home reflecting that he really, really needed to fuck her. No, it was more than that. He wasn’t comfortable until he paused on entering his apartment and could hear her move above. Then he quickly showered and listened as she moved. He was furious that Bard had tried to take her from him. She hadn’t told him everything. She’d obviously gone to the stupid shop and gotten the stupid key, but she hadn’t offered to free him and he hadn’t asked liking her having that power over him a little too much. She said it would cause more problems. She didn’t want a boyfriend. So she wasn’t thinking of him long term. That really irked and wasn’t going to stand. With two days before his weekend with her, he decided to go revisit the stupid shop.


Sean walked into Amorous Goods scowling. The shopkeep was gone but an attractive female was behind the counter instead. Shifting his expression to a more neutral look, he asked her, “Where’s the guy that works here?” Looking down, he spotted her pregnant bulge. Picturing his Bridget in the same state triggered an answering bulge in his pants. She would then be his. An idea formed for his plans.

“Damon?” she called.

The irritatingly smiling shopkeeper appeared. “Ah! Expected you back, slave. Interested in perusing our stock perhaps?” Divided between punching his face over the ‘slave’ comment or demanding an accounting, Sean was on the verge of saying ‘no’ when the jerk continued, “We have more Celtic artifacts that you might particularly enjoy.” His eyes were on his wife’s baby bump as he spoke the last part.

Time momentarily stopped for Sean, electrical anticipation drew up just out of reach. “Sure.” he replied. Chuckling, Damon opened a cabinet and lifted out a velvet shelf, setting it on the counter. A bracelet, female sized, caught Sean’s eye. When he reached out and touched it, the air around him shifted, and he could distinctly scent his mistress’ arousal. Snagging it, he held it reverently in his hand.

Damon laughed and rang up the charge. Passing the bracelet’s key to Vikki, he had her hand it to Sean inside an envelope. “The young man you were with before was not very smart,” she murmured to him. Sean paused, the question on his lips, but then decided that he really didn’t care. Bridget was his. That was all that mattered.

When he closed his mouth, Damon, smirking, observed, “Very wise of you, slave.”

Sean sneered at him briefly then headed out. When he was just short of the door, Damon called, “Your mistress is lovely. Melt the keys together if you want to keep her; impregnating her alone doesn’t do it.”

Sean paused. Then looked back at Damon. His arm was possessively around Vikki, who was waving at him.

On his way back home, Sean stopped at the maker space to check out a microfurnace. As he waited for the equipment to be packed up, he practiced locking the bracelet around Bridget-wrist-sized items one-handed.


Sean arrived home to find a note on his door. ‘Come up when you return.’

Frowning, he put down his materials, palmed the bracelet, and then practiced one more time securing it one-handed around a nearby pole. Content that he could do it with ease now, he slipped it into his pocket, and then headed upstairs.

On knocking, he didn’t wait long for Bridget to appear and usher him in. Her facial expression shifted between a spectrum of emotions so fast, he could only tell that she was perturbed.

“I was thinking about this weekend,” she began, “How about if you just come by for a few hours on Saturday and a few hours on Sunday?”

Sean didn’t answer her until she lifted her eyes from his chest letting him read her. She was conflicted, nervous, strongly attracted to him, worried, a little scared, and uncertain. Sensing through their odd connection that the argument with Bard had deeply unsettled her, he asked, “When are you planning to let me go?”

Bridget inhaled sharply, and hesitated.

“Bridget,” he growled, letting her know he wasn’t going to stop neither the inquiry nor his pursuit.

She stumbled over her words, “Um..the, the woman possessing the key to your cuffs who, who, um..makes love to you..will, will own you.”

Sean’s eyes flashed, registering that no one else would own him…only HIS Bridget, “What is your role in all of this?” He slipped his hands in his pockets.

She sensed danger, but with his hands secured, she felt safe enough. “I’m trying to teach you, to um, distinguish what a woman possessing the key can do to you.”

“Are you giving me the key, when you tire of me?” His hand concealed in his pocket, he carressed the bracelet it held. Not yet.

Not answering immediately, realizing HOW she answered was critical, Bridget was starting to think that the weekend plan was not a good idea when Sean’s arms came out of his pockets and penned her against the nearby wall. “I can’t..I would have to give it to your, your chosen woman,” she blurted.

Sean narrowed his eyes as he slowly lowered his hands. He then grasped each of her hands in his own and rumbled, “What if my chosen woman is right here?”

Bridget’s heart was beating rapidly. Heat suffused her frame. She started to shake her head when Sean leaned in and pressed his lips against hers. As she kissed him back, he pressed into her, a sensation that never failed to weaken her. Secured against him with the wall against her back, he lifted her arms above her head. She didn’t resist, the power between them somehow reversing, but she was impressed by how much stronger he was than her. Slipping his tongue into her mouth, he claimed her, distracting her from the fact that her arms were now held up by one of his hands instead of both.

Sean broke the kiss when he pulled the key free from the lock to her bracelet. HIS bracelet was now locked around HER wrist. The sensation of his success sent him close to bursting, and he reveled as his woman shuddered with her own orgasm, the first of many he would give her, as he stared into her eyes.

Bridget inhaled sharply realizing she’d lost control. “Sean,” she couldn’t help the arousal coloring her tone, “Release me.” As he followed her request, she began, “I think maybe we should cancel…” Sean’s expression looked unaccountably pleased. Then she registered the change. Looking down, she spotted a bracelet around her own wrist. “What did you do?” Her orgasm…it had been triggered.

“I don’t know,” he rumbled slipping the key to her bracelet into his pocket. “I just know you’re mine.”

She stared at the bracelet he’d put on her. It was a marriage knot on a tree…children. Irked, she gazed back up at him narrowing her eyes. “Take a seat against the wall, my surly bear. It’s time I taught you a few things.” she ordered.

Sean’s eyes flashed. “I need to shower,” he argued.

She needed to martial her thoughts. “Hurry back then.”

Sean spun, leaving her apartment abruptly, ignoring her sharp intake of breath. Quickly showering, he rapidly returned…with his microfurnace in hand.

On his return, Bridget ignored the package he brought assuming it would be more food. Instead of offering to make another ‘meal’ of him, she ordered him to strip and sit in his chair. Hoping she didn’t recognize the furnace, he argued again, “We need to lock our keys in this safe first.” He pulled it free from its packaging.

With a shaking hand, she carefully withdrew the key to his cuffs from her waistband. “I need to put it in there, myself. You can’t touch it.”

Sean held out the furnace accepting the key. Then pulling out his key to her bracelet from his own pocket, he dropped it inside with hers, secured the top, then set the cycle to begin.

Sean happily stripped, handing his clothes to Bridget as he did so. Her eyes were wide watching him. Walking to the chair, he sat. “You secure me, my mistress.” He rumbled. Putting his clothes down on the couch, Bridget approached cautiously. Kneeling down, she gazed as his erection. Sean smiled as she secured his legs licking her lips unconsciously. Taking his arm and latching up the cuff, Bridget briefly brushed her lips against his. As she secured his other arm, she allowed her breast to hover in reach of his mouth. Sean took the opportunity, and latched his mouth on her breast tonguing through her clothing. Bridget pulled away and kissed him. Tingles surged through him as her mouth opened to him. “You need to get naked,” Sean suggested.

Pausing, Bridget murmured, “Your fixation was made when I cut the chain between your cuffs that day when we first met.”

Sean shook his head. “It was when you came down the ladder.”

Bridget looked at him surprised.

“Get naked, and you’ll hear more.”

“I need to shower,” she murmured.

“I can help with that,” Sean offered, tugging on his restraints.

Bridget shook her head. “I know where your head is, Sean. I’ll be quick.”

And she was. His erection throbbed watching her strip. Then watching her emerge in a towel, he growled, “Take it off, my mistress.”

Bridget’s eyebrows shot up. “You need to earn it, my bear.”

Sean growled and pulled on his restraints testing them.

Bridget humphed, and pulled down a scarf from one of the nearby hooks.

Sean relaxed, in a sense. As his mistress took control, he could sense it, everything right settling inside. Then he felt her lips on his neck. He inhaled deeply, smiling. Her lips brushed his own whispering, “If the fixation didn’t begin with my breaking the chain, then what was it you fixated on?”

Lips shifted to his nipple. He gasped. “I saw the outline of your vulva as you climbed down.” Her teeth pinched. “Was going to come back to you regardless.”

“Hmmm. Hold that thought.” Her touch disappeared for a bit. Steps. A clink. Some pouring. He sniffed. A faint scent of smoke drifted by. The non-metal coatings on the keys was carbonized.

Then she returned. Her soft fingers rubbed vegetable oil into his aroused nipple. “The nature of your cuffs is called a teeter-totter. If I have sex with you, then I will own you.” Her touch switched to his other nipple, “If I give you the key to unlock the cuffs, then you will own me.”

“Ah, ha.” He shifted uncomfortably when her fingers dropped to his inner thigh, [deleted]. Tugging on his arms, he checked to see if he could get free. Not that way. “Tell me about the store.” And touch me.

Her fingers shifted to caressing up and down his form, from his feet to his head and back down. “That store you degenerates found is…hmm…been taken over by pan-…”

“…dimensional gargoyles” he finished with her.

Her fingers stilled and she whispered, “Like this?” [deleted]. “Tell me how you knew.”

“Goddess, yes,” he answered as her fingers, [deleted], “I followed you.” [deleted]. “To your meeting.” [deleted]. “It was getting too late.”

“Ceiling of the apartment downstairs too quiet?” she surmised how he knew.

He nodded and shifted his hips. [deleted]. He pulled on his restraints again, this time checking how they were installed. Load bearing. Nuts. “When that friend of yours tried to kiss you, I’d never been so mad in my life.”

[deleted]. He wanted his arms free. He wanted to thrust into her, erupt, and then do it again, and again and again. “That emotional buzzing in your head is the Celtic technology.”

The microfurnace announced its complete cycle. He rumbled, “My head’s buzzing, because I’m not letting you go.”

“That’s supposed to be my line.” Bridget was breathing harder and took some oil to massage his feet. The sensation only served to leave him on a plateau of anticipation.

He smiled, the victorious predator. “Our keys are in a melted pool of slag right now. I had us put them in a microfurnace and turned it on.” The squeak of surprise she made was priceless. “You might have me restrained this way, right now, but I’ve got you locked down in my own way.” The need to take her intensified. Somewhere in the back of his head he remembered there was something important about the latches she was using to secure his cuffs to the wall.

“I was joking about the uppity-bottom thing. Sean…” she sighed, “I want you to know that I will cherish and protect you.” [deleted]

“And that’s my line,” he murmured.

With a slight amount of rustling, he sensed her touching his lips. [deleted]

His mistress’ voice from above his head infused with lust, “The bracelet you put on me is one for weddings. That damn gargoyle sealed your fate. And mine.” She panted.

[deleted] “Take me,” he pleaded. He needed to bind her more, she had resisted too much to keeping him. “No condom. Bare.” He was shaking with tiny orgasms. A tiny fountain of ejaculate was coming out of him.

“You’re so slick,” she commented [deleted]. “Tell me when you’re about to burst.”

[deleted] Heat and joy suffused him. [deleted]

“Mistress mine,” he declared [deleted] “Faster,” he moaned. [deleted] A few minutes later he realized that he was ready to orgasm again. “I’m close again,” he murmured.

“That’s my line,” she panted. “Can you hold on a little longer?”

He chuckled, “I meant, I already came. But this time am ready to really burst.”

[deleted], “You diabolical..now I don’t regret refusing to give you the key at all.”

Sean grunted, “Owned.” Whether he meant her or himself didn’t matter. [deleted]

His awareness returned with a burst of physical light entering his white-out space. He squinted his eyes to see his precious Bridget’s chagrin. “Apparently, I need to teach you more control, my pet.”

Sean smiled, he felt like a content, lumbering bear, desirous of nothing more than a back scratch, some food, and another session of mind-blowing sex. “I’ll consider cooperating, so long as you stay in my den.”

[deleted] “Sean, I’m not on birth control.” [deleted]

“Good.” Twisting his wrists, he used the fact that the latches didn’t lock with anything more than a simple spring to pull the other side of his cuffs through, freeing himself. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her tight for a long kiss. “Hope the owners don’t mind my turning our places into a two story condo.”

“The management hates me here.”

He laughed, “Well, someplace else then.” Then he tugged on her bracelet, to lift her hand to his mouth. Licking, and gently sucking her ring finger into his mouth, he added, “How about we take a shower and find some new ways to eat ice cream.”

Bridget shivered, “I’d love that.” Playing with the cuff on his left wrist between the fingers of her other hand, she added, “And I love you.”

Sean pressed the palm of her hand against his lips with intense pressure. “And I love you.”



[1] Burn it down
[2] fool
[3] Trapping
[4] My pet and I have an agreement
[5] He is as much of a pet as a bear
[6] May your pet own you

Special thanks for the “Celtic” translation:
https://www.translator.eu/english/welsh/translation/

On this day in 1880…

On this day in 1880 in New Orleans, Phillip Heber was born. That what I saw on the grave stone.

If you go to Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans, it’s down Canal St where it experiences a discontinuity. I guess that’s why the street car termination is there. Within the Cemetery, there are roads & paths. Each are named, some better choices than others.

I happened upon some flowers on the paved road. They were fake, would last forever as we’re coming to know to our planet’s detriment. I decided that they should go on one of the neglected graves. For there were many.

I don’t believe in graveyard souls. I don’t believe in ghosts…mostly. But I do believe in history, and the souls fortunate enough to be buried here, notable for the love of their families, were part of the large community that gave it its character. Not all of us make the history books, but all of us do make history in comprising its people who move collectively in any particular direction.

So I headed towards the unfortunately named “Locust” path. There had been many neglected grave sites here, & with such a name, likely constituted my own societal strata in the world. Spend the money on the living. Just stick my bones in the cheapest plot of land that suffices.

There I found a grave sight, with a single headstone. Broken to pieces laying on the ground. & I thought that here was a grave that deserved flowers that lasted forever.

The epitaph was short. Told of a Gertrude Heber who died at the age of 19 in 1878. Two years later…Today, July 23 1880…little Phillip was born. He died in 1881. On the 28th of July.

I pictured the parents of Gertrude and Phillip. Devastated by the death of a daughter full grown, having a son after grieving, and then losing him too. Presumably to disease.

What was odd was that I didn’t see any more members of the Heber Family. I assumed by this absence that the children’s (for to my mind, Gertrude was still a child; she certainly was to her parents) parents at that point decided to leave New Orleans and live out the rest of their lives elsewhere.

I would post a photo of the Heber Family’s New Orleans experience, but overall, it made me very sad. The flowers are still there now, soon to be on the ground nearby when shifted by the wind or escorted by rain. The Earth has planetary power to move them, just as disease is another form of planetary power which killed them.

God Bless the Heber Family. And us. And our planet. May we find a way to live together, sustainably, symbiotically.

https://www.mardigrasworld.com/

Meet Up in Secondlife!

Come join me in secondlife for some conversation & adventure!

If you don’t have an account, sign up here: Join SecondLife!

My username is of course, BettieZyx

I’ll be online poking about every Monday around 5PM (Pacific/SL time)–which is when this post is scheduled to publish! I’ll start every adventure in the same location: Lagrange Point Spaceport

See you there!

Pen & Sword

“Get naked,” she ordered.

Sam had been kidnapped. He knew his work in hybrid rights made him a target, but he didn’t expect this. And his kidnapper was the last person he would have expected, raw, rough, and female. Very female.

“You’ll have to kill me if you want free,” he said.

Kosandra had to make some decisions. None of them good. She had to trust Sam, who followed her, chased her, and then finally seized her into his arms. She was evil, but he pushed her into salvation.

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“Get naked,” she ordered.

He stammered, his arms wrapped around himself as he shook, “Wh..wh…why?” He needed another blanket, not to lose what clothes he had.

“Because or else you’ll freeze to death and become a meat popsicle,” she growled while pulling off her own shirt and pants from underneath the blankets. “Get under my blankets when you’re done.”

Nodding, desperate, he tugged off his jacket and remaining clothes, clawing at them with stiff fingers. Lifting the blankets, he resignedly crawled under them, repulsed at touching the kidnapper but attracted to the boy’s heat. Once settled, he rolled to face away as his shivering increased into full body shakes.

Muttering, “Stupid. Not worth it,” Kosandra pressed her body, from her breasts to her hips, against his back and wrapped an arm around him to maintain the contact.

“You’re not a boy!” he gasped as the shaking started subsiding from her heat.

Kosandra just shook her head. “Sleep, John. You’re still recovering.”

“It’s Sam. My name is Sam,” he replied again as exhaustion began to fuzz his thoughts. “And you’re the one who shot me,” he slurred.

Kosandra resisted curling her hand into a fist. “Sam is dead. John is nobody. You got one choice, chump.”

All he knew as he fell asleep was that his kidnapper smelled good.

PAGE 2

As usual, Kosandra awoke to every soft noise made outside the tent. Well into the early morning after a shuffling animal passed by, she lay on her back satisfied that John’s hands and feet stopped chilling her. The moment didn’t last long when he in turn rolled over and grabbed onto her like she was a bed pillow, pissing her off. His heat was starting to make her sweat. Bad as that was, it got worse when she decided to get up to at least put her clothes back on and he tightened his surprisingly strong grip to hold her down..In his sleep, without half trying. She shuddered as a different kind of heat threatened to rise in her. She debated slapping his bandaging, but decided against it since she didn’t want to deal with his throwing a fever or some other complication requiring going to another hospital.

Sam’s ass hurt, but he didn’t want to wake up. He was having the best dream of a naked woman in his bed. Every time he tugged her tighter, pressing her warm skin into his erection, sweet arousal would cascade up his spine. He didn’t want it to end.

As the moron in bed with her started humping her hip, Kosandra lost her patience. “Wake up, shithead,” she barked at him, her voice huskier than usual.

Sam opened his eyes and focused on the furious, flashing gaze of his kidnapper. His stomach sunk, repelled, disgusted with himself. “Oh, I’m sorry!” gruffly slipped from his lips automatically as he snapped his arms back and tried to roll off of the low foam mattress insulating them from the ground. He hissed as his sore ass complained at the maneuver.

“Whatever,” she grumbled as she stood up, snatching her clothes and putting them on.

Unable to stop himself from watching her in his periphery as he did the same, he frowned. His penis wasn’t softening as fast as it should have. His body was still simmering for her heat. Sensing the trouble he was unable to extricate himself from, he desperately asked, “How soon will you know if the ransom’s been paid?”

Ignoring the eyeful of male in front of her, Kosandra put her hands on her hips and reminded herself that the idiot that was too smart for his own good. “I lied.” Holding up her hand to stop whatever he’d opened his mouth to say, she continued lifting her chin in his direction, “I’m supposed to kill you because you can’t keep your idiot mouth shut. But I changed my mind…” She glanced away for a moment then looked back at him, “…You’re valuable to me. No, not as ransom, but if you irritate me enough, I might consider it.”

As questions exploded across his mind, Sam looked her over in every detail. Her gear was all non-standard and old. Her clothes lacked the usual chemical scent. Her eyes were not noticeably separated wider until you looked, but it was the scarring on the back of her neck that gave it away. Even while dressing, she’d been careful to keep her back turned, hiding the groves. “You’re mixed-heritage?” he asked, softly. The lowest of the low, untouchable by society that mattered, human-alien hybrids were exploited, lived in slums, abused, and generally treated like animals.

“And for the moment, so are you, John.” Her voice was devoid of emotion.

The planet tilted on its axis as he began to realize what was really going on. “My work…” on mixed-heritage rights…

“…Might end up costing a monstrous asshole a little bit of money,” she interrupted. “We’ve got to get moving. I have an appointment to keep.”

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Again he was banished to the nearby tree, fortunately not cuffed to it this time, as she broke down the tent for transport. Because it was daylight, and he was watching her every move, he noticed the tattoo she kept hidden. One of the tent parts caught her hat, knocking it askew just enough that he spotted the mark. He frowned. It shouldn’t have mattered to him, but it did.

Ignoring John’s constant offers of help, Kosandra reloaded the tent onto her air transport. As she straightened to order him to find a comfortable position in the trailer, she blinked in surprise. He was already moving stiffly toward her, not staring off into space like the overeducated brainiac that he’d been so far.

“Did you really shoot me or was it an accident like the docs said?” he asked as he climbed on top of the bulk in the trailer and lay on its soft surface face-down.

She nodded as she threw a blanket over him and secured webbing on top to keep him from falling off, “Docs were right that you got hit by a stray bullet. You stopped to pick up the letter I placed on the ground to get you into position.” She shrugged as he looked sharply at her. Shooting up in the air in order to hit the target with the falling projectile as it came back down was a bitch for most everyone to pull off. “If I’d shot you directly, you would have been under more security at the hospital.”

He dropped his head in resignation, “Of course.” He saw the whole plan. His friends, family, and neighbors were all aware and would react if someone tried to kidnap him, not to mention he’d fight like hell himself. At the hospital though, injured in an ‘accident’, no one knew or cared who he was. Easy pickings to cover your face with a medical mask and walk out with discharge paperwork while he was drugged powerless.

Four hours later, the cold wind had reduced him to a shivering shell of a human when she stopped. “H..h..how good was aim?” he asked as she released him.

“Shit,” she muttered, tugging on him to get him off her gear. His lips had gone blue. “I was hitting about 1 and 2,” she replied to distract him as she yanked free the blankets and threw them on top of him.

He laughed, grasping them around him.

Kosandra frowned, concerned, yanking out the tent and working as fast as possible.

His laughter choked off. “Do you and your husband have kids?”

Rubbing her forehead, she closed her eyes as she answered robotically, “No.” He couldn’t see her through the tent as she secured the far corner. Her face was clear as she tossed in the foam mat and unrolled it. John was standing right behind her.

“Note to self: next time you’re kidnapped, dress for the weather,” he mumbled collapsing onto the mat and covering his head.

Kosandra left pretending she didn’t hear his next thought.

“Got my own kidnapper. MY kidnapper,” and he laughed to himself again.

PAGE 4

Chewing a shared food bar in the fading light, Kosandra finally answered one of his first questions. “I don’t know when you can safely start firing off your pretty mouth again.” John’s face was getting rough with whiskers. He was leaning on his side to keep pressure off his healing wound. “It’s a musical chairs game while assholes lie, cowards point fingers, real people demand answers, that kind of crap.”

He nodded watching her.

“If you want to live…maybe never. That’s the problem. I really was hired to fix you.” She gestured at him as if her gun were back in her hands. “If the fuckers who did it get busted, well, you’re free. If not…” She sighed.

He collapsed on his front and stared at the floor. She left him to settle her equipment and give him some privacy.

An hour later, she returned to find him under the blankets. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Kosandra,” she mumbled while pulling off her combat parka. Climbing under the blankets fully clothed, she sighed seeing John in a similar clothed state.

In the darkness with her warm presence at his side, John’s heart beat a little harder. He had to push. “Kosandra’s your real name?”

“As real as yours, John,” she answered elliptically, shifting to settle on her back next to him, shoulder to shoulder.

After closing his eyes and listening to the sounds outside, he ventured, “Tell me about your husband.”

“No.” Her answer was swift, no hesitation.

He let his breath out on a puff, thinking. A few minutes later, he said, “A number of years ago I had a serious girlfriend. She left me when rape threats started coming in because of my work. I stopped dating then.” He sighed. “Couldn’t risk it, and didn’t trust those who were interested despite the danger to not be setting me up.”

Kosandra rustled softly after he spoke, but it still shocked him to feel her small, warm hand wrap around his. Curling his fingers around hers in turn, he swallowed the rest of what he was about to say.

PAGE 5

Kosandra deposited his shivering bulk in a maintenance shed at their next stop the following day. It wasn’t much improvement over the outside beyond a lack of wind. After marking his neck with similar scars to her own, Kosandra lent him her hat pulling it low over his eyebrows. Then muttering something about ‘dealing with the garbage’, she left him and suggested he take advantage of any information he could glean from the equipment on the outside world’s events.

John was in the middle of listening to radio reports when the door was thrown open by a security guard. “Mutt. What are you doing here, boy?” he called menacingly waving a gun at him.

The man looked vaguely familiar and not in a good way. John’s mouth hung open as he tried to think through the situation. He’d knocked back the chair, he stood up so fast.

“Cat got your tongue, birdie?” the guard laughed. Then he frowned and slapped the back of his neck. Glancing at his hand, his face assumed a slipping mask of surprise to blank expression, “What the hell is this?” He stumbled sideways and fell to the ground at which point John could see some blood on his hand.

Behind him stood Kosandra slipping a tube back into her gear. “Help me get off his jacket,” she ordered John, as she tossed the guard’s hat to the side and started tugging on his jacket like he was a limp puppet. John lept to help her, making quick work of the process. Throughout, the guard cussed, threatened, and swore at them.

When they were done, Kosandra leaned over him, “Remember Freya, Mitch?”

John jumped up as if electrocuted. He stared at the guard recognizing him. As the guard fell silent, it was obvious he didn’t know what she was talking about.

Looking away for a second, Kosandra added, “Or does this jog your memory?” she reached into her pocket and pulled out an image of dead hybrid, female, who’s death was obviously violent. John closed his eyes, swallowed, then opened them and stared at Kosandra. It wasn’t a picture that just anyone could get, coming from a police report that only existed because of him. He had raised the public’s ire to medium-sized demonstrations over the miscarriage of justice in the case.

“That ain’t human, what should I care?” the guard answered, but his tone gave him away. He remembered.

Kosandra straightened up, snagged up the man’s jacket and tossed it to John. “She didn’t even matter enough to know her name.” Putting on the guard’s hat herself, she opened the door to leave. “Let’s go.”

John didn’t look at the guard, following her through the door. He thankfully put on a real jacket and tugged her hat more securely onto his head.

“Leave the door open a crack,” she added as she climbed onto the air transport.

Climbing on to the seat next to her, he finally asked, “You’re letting him freeze to death?”

“Nope,” she replied, “His pores are about to start emitting death-bug venom. We’ve got 5 minutes remaining to get out of here. Did you learn anything while waiting?”

Glancing back at the shed and quietly urging Kosandra to drive faster before the bugs arrived, John stuttered, “Um…there’s discussion about an article of censure…”

PAGE 6

That night as they lay under the blankets, John tentatively reached for Kosandra’s hand. She rotated her hand and returned the grasp. “How…” he had to ask, “How does killing make you feel?”

On a sigh, “Pity,” she answered, then added, “Usually.”

“That takes a lot of empathy.” He turned his head to gaze at her outlined profile in the darkness, “Is that usual?”

“No.”

He waited.

Finally, she rolled to her side facing him and murmured, “They don’t care if other people get caught up in the killing, that the target’s in pain, that loved ones suffer knowing it was murder.”

He nodded. After a while, he rolled to his side to face her and asked, “Who hired you to kill me?”

She yawned, “I don’t know.” Several minutes later, she sleepily added, “But they’ve got a shit load of money to burn.”

PAGE 7

Throughout the next day, they drove three times as far as the previous days. Kosandra would occasionally break her usual silence with a story about the terrain through which they traveled. John only recognized that they were deep into the farmland that supported local towns, often perceptible just on the horizon. Kosandra was careful to avoid any visible contact. After a while he finally asked, “If I’m dead, then are you, too?”

Carefully traversing a gully that ran below the road they were avoiding, she ignored the question.

John narrowed his eyes. After the ground evened out, he watched her like a hawk as he asked, “How soon till we get to the appointment you mentioned?”

“We had it,” she answered lifting her chin at his jacket.

John’s eyes dilated. “It’s time you told me the full plan, Kosandra. I’m done being used for bait.”

He’d noticed how the guard was lured to his location. She couldn’t help the slight lift to the corners of her mouth that his comment triggered. Then she frowned. Her smiles were as false as her marriage. She rubbed her forehead again; the spot where her ex-husband marked her as his.

They had finally reached the terrain of the unsettled wilderness. While it meant fewer opportunities for dangerous sightings, it also was rough with no smooth routes. “So I’m guessing you’re dead, too,” he prompted.

“Yeah, I’m one of the missing now, plenty of those to get lost in,” she finally answered.

John compressed his lips, fighting to keep his expression bland, “You just let your husband think you’d disappeared?” He couldn’t help his accusatory tone.

“No. While I’m a total bitch,” she looked away from his angry features, “And I mean it, told him we were getting divorced when I got back from a business trip and he could keep everything.”

She fell silent. “Then what happened?” he asked.

She ignored him and squeezed her hands on the controls a little tighter.

PAGE 8

They were winding their way up a dry river bed, when Kosandra suddenly stopped. It was an eerie place with shear walls on either side and no animals. No bugs, nothing. Just unusual plants that looked like overgrown mold. “Here we are. Home sweet home.” She pointed.

“Is it safe?” He stared up a small rock alluvial fan into a gaping cave tucked into the side wall.

“Mmmm. No but it’ll do,” she waved her hand around them, “We’re surrounded by bad air here. If you fall, get up immediately or else.” And she snapped her fingers. As John looked around nervously, she pointed back up at the cave, “It’s flowing out of there. Mining and a saboteur fucked it up good.”

Then she worked the air car to slip up the alluvial fan of rock. A task that left John gritting his teeth as the car slid backwards most of the distance gained for every thrust she took up the slope. When they finally got traction at the top, she eased it into the rear end of the large space. Then she jumped out of the car, snagged a large circular ring from their gear covered in flexible material and walked to the opening in the back. As she moved, the material fell in a flow behind her. John picked it up to follow her until she ordered, “Great, throw that end outside about 3 meters, thank you.”

He walked backwards watching her. She took the ring, shook it a bit, and unspooled it into a larger ring that was 10 meters across. She was just within the shaft of the mine, so when she let it go, it sealed across the entrance. Air or something immediately filled it, swelling the material like a plastic snake and approaching his end. Which he dropped. “That’s brilliant,” he couldn’t help commenting. She had set up a bypass so the toxic air would skip the cave on its way to the dead channel below. The smile that flashed at him in return for the compliment took his breath away. Then it flickered off like a switch.

Kosandra shrugged. “Lets get the gear set up, and I’ll show you around.”

PAGE 9

John stared at the ancient comm device, “Yeah, I can work this.” He tapped around a little uncertain as the single interface blinked at him. “Huh.”

Kosandra left him to it and went hunting for some fresh meat for dinner.

An odd sound tore John’s attention away from the comm. Kosandra stood at the entrance to the cave with her leathery wings unfurled for just a moment, blocking the light, when she swept into the sky. He ran to the entrance to witness the amazing capability hybrids had which terrified full-humans. Shielding his eyes, he watched Kosandra’s flight with sinking upset. He saw why the light hadn’t framed her symmetrically and her flight was labored, limping. Her right side was stiff, and she favored it, making her jerky. “What happened to you?” he whispered.

Returning to the comm, he started asking it to list off every capability it had to connect to other comms. After a few hours, he finally managed to get an application to run in order to skim the news. Then he managed to redo it to do keyword searches on the downloads.

It was as he was skimming the remaining headlines that Kosandra returned. An unusual noise caught his attention, and he turned his head to comment in surprise, “Did we just adopt a dangerous predator?” She held a living vicious snap-mouth. It was shaking back and forth attempting to free itself from her grip around its jaws.

“Nuh huh,” she moved to hold the animal down on the floor of the cave. Able to dig its legs into the ground, it fought and she struggled to keep it in place.

John watched the interaction confused. After a minute, he jerked in surprise as she shook the animal in a vicious twist, killing it.

“Cave’s clear. We’ll not snuff out sleeping tonight,” she sighed as she pulled out a knife, seemingly from the air, and strolled to exit the cave. “Food will be ready in a couple of hours.”

John stared at the floor for a minute, then he got up and walked out to join her. She had already sliced open the snap-mouth and worked knowledgeably at separating edible from inedible parts. “Another investigation was opened into the investigation that closed on my disappearance,” he began.

Kosandra made encouraging sounds in response, so he continued, “I’m thinking of writing an essay that speaks as if I were a ghost saying something like ‘When I asked for your help, you dismissed me. Then one of you killed me.’ and discuss why I fought for hybrid rights. Can you tell me more about your assignment now?”

Kosandra worked steadily as he talked. On this last point, she tossed the inedible remains of the carcass on to the cliff above for animals to consume. “Nope. Not that I don’t want to, but I don’t know shit. Jobs follow the cash, and the whole shitshow is anonymous.” Lifting her chin, she tilted her head towards the cave, “Everything I’ve got is in the folder I dropped on your seat of the car before I went out.”

“Need any help?” John looked back at the cave hungrily, but he stayed.

She shook her head, “Go on. My hands are already dirty.”

He waited until she led the way.

As Kosandra cleaned her hands at the faucet, John curiously took the folder to the old desk and sat. The information inside was general information on his location at home and work, family, and nearest contacts. It was pretty bland stuff. Rifling through it, he scratched his head.

“Look for what’s missing,” Kosandra called as she energized the stove.

“Ok,” John flipped through the materials again. Parents, his sibling, covered. He looked at his friends and muttered, “Tally, of course. Beau, ok. Huh.” He called out, “Would they include my boss?”

“Maybe. Depends on if you’re around him/her a lot.” The soft sound of sizzling echoed around the space.

He nodded, “Yes, but she would never do this to me. She’s been a major proponent of my work, and I don’t make any big money for her, just prestige.”

“Well, think about the people around her. And it might not be her.” Tasty smells were emanating now. “We’re not going anywhere for a long time. There’s no rush to jump to conclusions.”

“Ok,” he got up and joined her near the stove. “How did you find this place?”

She glanced around and shrugged. “I was here when they all died.”

John turned his head concerned.

“I mean, I didn’t do it. I was working. 14 years old. Food. Just bringing food.” She shrugged again. “But it was a hit. On the operation. Worst goddamn mess.” As she handed him a fork to eat with, she continued, “Want to guess who saved me?”

John saw. He took a bite, “The hitman.”

Kosandra twirled her fork in the air. “Damn you’re too smart for your own good.”

“Why you?” he rumbled.

She glanced at the opening to the cave. “Guess, smarty pants.”

“The climb. You’re light as a bird. But why save anyone?”

She spoke through a mouthful of food. “Apprentice.”

“And to not feel like a total monster,” he growled.

She swallowed, “Yeah, well, he’s dead now, too.”

“Dead dead or our dead?” John rubbed his face, tiredly.

Kosandra shook her head, “Come to think of it…no idea.”

Dropping his fork, John covered his face with his hands.

Getting a shower after dinner was fantastic. “Don’t use up all the water, borrowed-time!” Kosandra yelled at him.

As they lay down that night, John grabbed Kosandra’s hand. “Hope we wake up.”

“I suppose,” she sighed.

He rolled his head to look at her profile.

“In a few months, we can reappear as temp labor for farming, but it’s not much…compared to what you’re used to. It pays…shit for non-fliers.”

Very carefully, he mused, “You have a unique way of flying, so you can’t?”

“Yup,” she sighed, “First job. Screwed up. Went to the shitter.” On a yawn she added, “Everyone flies a little different, like a fingerprint.” She squeezed his hand briefly.

He squeezed her hand back in turn and warned, “You’re going to have to figure out what to do about the marriage mark by then.”

She closed her eyes and moved to roll away. John let her hand go until she did, then rolled on his side facing her back and took her hand back, where it lay on her thigh.

“You’re breathing down my neck,” she complained.

He didn’t answer.

Since the beginning of time, full humans have destroyed each other based on nothing more than prejudice. There was no substantial difference between one group and another. While our very DNA testifies as to who won, the loser was always our world. At first, it didn’t appear to matter as there was a beautiful planet to sustain the survivors. But as our urge to destroy became larger, more absolute, we began to destroy the very world we needed to survive. Even when we weren’t fighting each other, we continued to destroy our world. Our ancestors had no value for it. Now here we are. We are the descendants of extremely brutal colonists that were able to escape, the children of oppressors. We are a minuscule portion of that original population that our ancestors manipulated and left to die. Something is broken in our genetic heritage. Again and again, we anoint bizarrely unfit individuals as leaders, those that make us feel that our worst and most selfish inclinations are just. These monsters led to our repetitive destruction of the very world that billions needed to survive. That is our shame and the shame of every generation that follows. The founders of our new world here, our forefathers, were simply, purely evil.

PAGE 10

Kosandra woke the next morning again penned in John’s arms. In the sleepy liquid awareness, she was aware that his hips had pressed a solid object against her, but being neither here nor there, it existed, a fact, no more, no less. Listening carefully to the noises beyond, she sighed. There was nothing but wind…and dirt, life existed at a distance. Hers was a cocoon in the midst of death. Resigned, she closed her eyes and returned to chasing dreams. Whether he knew it or not, John had gifted her a reprieve from her nightmares.

Awareness came to John with a sharp pinch of pain to his side. “Ow!” he protested, trying to get away and slapping at the source.

“Do you sleep with a stuffed pillow?” Kosandra disentangled herself from him, mostly pretending her irritation.

John collapsed on his back with a groan. “No, it’s just you’re warm.” He inhaled and cut off the rest of his sentence.

“Yeah,” she muttered.

He noticed she looked at his clothes-covered erection as she said it.

Kosandra was riffling through the trailer when John finally emerged. Finding what she was looking for, she turned around and caught his eye. They were half-lidded, and his face and bearing were commanding. “I’m sticking by your side until you tell me what I want to know,” he stated.

The pulse of nervousness that went through her frame was only detectable by her. That was the stance he took when he spoke to crowds.

Now we live here in a time of plenty and have learned nothing. We have a new planet after our ancestral greedy mass murderers destroyed our home world, and again we take the path of destruction. WAKE UP AND PAY ATTENTION! Anyone who encourages you to hate is never going to learn. We must evolve past this if we are to survive.

PAGE 11

“He adored me. And was such a smart ass. Not unlike yourself,” she frowned at him as she sliced another fruit from the branch. “Your turn. Tell me about your boss.”

John blinked, “My turn?” He caught the fruit and put it in the backpack he carried, “Oh, you mean quid pro quo.”

Kosandra didn’t bother to respond as she swung onto a new branch.

“Lynn inherited the business from her mom. While she was interested in the work, she always seemed to want to push the barrier.” He paused slightly confused, “Your turn.”

Landing on the ground, Kosandra began walking, her eyes skittering left and right scanning the vegetation around them. “Zeke didn’t have shit. Couldn’t rub two coins together. No job, but he managed to scrape together enough food and other items for himself. He tried to hide it from me. But what caught my attention was that he kept collecting books and read them. He mispronounced everything.” She smiled fondly for a moment, then narrowed her eyes and knelt to study a plant. “Your turn.” Grasping the base of it, she pulled. An edible fry-root emerged.

“So that’s what they look like,” he commented, surprised. He tentatively reached a hand out to help her out to stand back up, but she waved him off continuing to scan the plants. “Um, so Lynn was the one to hire me. I mean, as things got nasty, she hired a fact checker to review everything I wrote. Do you know that…well, things got nasty.” Kosandra nodded. “I didn’t make any money myself. Worried when the death threats came in that she’d fire me, but nothing happened except more security.” He sighed into the past. “At least she got to collect a small fortune on my death.”

Kosandra stopped in the middle of tugging up another fry-root. Closing her eyes for a moment, she looked up into the sky, shook her head, then returned to tugging.

“Wait a minute…you don’t think,” John finally caught up to himself on watching her reaction.

Kosandra just worked in silence.

“She started avoiding me a few weeks ago…but that’s…well, it’s insulting. I mean it’s one thing to die because of what you believe in, but to get killed because someone can make a buck…DAMMIT!”

She only stopped digging and tugging when John dropped to his knees beside her and grabbed one of her hands.

“Kosandra, stop for a minute.”

His voice had dropped in timbre, and she looked up into his eyes. They were shiny with unshed moisture.

“How do you read this? Are they going to figure out who you are? Are they going to figure this out? Is there going to be a man-hunt?”

She shook her head and tried to look away. John cupped her jaw and gently made her look at him. Licking her lips, she finally sighed, “It depends. Your enemies probably already know about the treachery. If not being lying assholes works to their advantage, then they’ll spill. The hospital footage doesn’t show my face, but I have a short rap sheet. And it’s of course to their advantage that I’m untouchable…to be killed by the garbage you tried to save. This life I lived here was my first death. Finding that connection requires my mentor. It’s a lot of time, money, and dead ends.”

“Your ex-husband…” he prompted, glancing briefly at her lips, then clenching his jaw.

Kosandra hesitated.

“You should know: I’m really strongly attracted to you when I’m not terrified.” John leaned his face forward, his lips just a fraction from touching hers. “If you don’t tell me everything…suicidal or not, I’m coming for you.”

She took a shuddering breath, “I…I set up an anonymous fund to send Zeke to school. He wanted to be a lawyer. All spit and fire. Figured he’d go away, but he didn’t. Every time I turned around, there he was.”

“Go on,” John leaned back, releasing her.

Kosandra kept talking as her hands went back to work on automatic. “I was tired. I relaxed and tried to do the double-life bullshit.” She glanced at John, then back to her hands, “Was warned. It was awful. He figured out I’d been lying. You…You just can’t go on business trips and cease to exist. I…I killed one of his, um, heroes. We went to the funeral.” Her voiced shook, “These jobs. They don’t tell you the target ahead of time. You agree and then get the info.”

John shifted to keep her in his shadow, protected from the Sun. After a minute of silence, he prompted, “My job.”

She nodded and stopped moving looking at her dirt-encrusted hands. “I, um…you’re also one of his heroes. Mine too. I just couldn’t. And he…Zeke was looking for a fight. I gave him one. He threatened to leave, and I yelled at him that I was leaving on a business trip and we were done.” She shook her head, “He, he followed me to the hotel that I took that night, and and tried to be nice, begged um me to do anything else. I told him through the door that I’d been lying to him since we met and had been betraying him.” Tears slipped down her cheeks as she sniffed, “And told him he deserved better and I wasn’t going to a good place and he needed to stop being around me.”

Placing roots in the bag, John watched her for a full minute digesting her story. “I need to know the name you used with him.”

Nodding, Kosandra sighed, “Penny. Our last name was Smit.”

“Kosandra,” he added, waiting until she looked at him uncertainly, “You can’t have him back. You know that right? There’s no amount of marriage counseling that’s going to fix that.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Rubbing her forehead, she sadly murmured, “There’s no such thing as quitting when you’re in the system. Failure to meet the contract’s terms, proof of the target’s death, results in a hit getting taken out on me. But with both of us gone missing, your hit is edited to a bounty hunt. My profile sits in limbo until that’s settled.”

She pushed herself up from the ground as he prompted, “Your ex…is he in danger?”

“My profile is for the person I became after the accident in the mine. Zeke’s Penny wasn’t her name. Penny only existed when I wasn’t working.” When she grabbed the heavier bag he held, he turned away from her keeping it and handed her the smaller bag of roots instead. As she took it, she couldn’t help blushing.

“Hang on a moment, Kosandra,” John murmured grasping her forearm.

As he licked his thumb and rubbed the sweat and dirt off of her marriage tattoo, she shivered as heat blossomed from her cheeks down to her toes.

Beware of the monsters among us. Progress requires loyalty to principles and redemption of peoples. These are simple ways to live, but you can’t pick and choose a principle. You have to accept reality, in essence the laws of physics, as your guiding principle. Accept a measurement that has been made. Understand how well it was made, but it is a truth and truth is the only way to understand the world. People will mess up, they will make mistakes in judgement. There is no reason to preserve them from the consequences of these mistakes, but there is every reason to give them the opportunity to make up for them. Some mistakes are simple to address, a public statement of having said something wrong. Others have consequences that are permanent and damaging, the correction of which is to make every attempt to repair the damage if not for you then for others. Hatred, fear, and greed are powerful emotions that frequently lead to the obfuscation of data, the decision to take an action that damages another whether physically or mentally for one’s own personal benefit. Anyone who arouses your hatred, fear, or greed is not doing so to your benefit. This is a monster in the classic sense.

PAGE 12

John sat at the communicator as she set to work preparing a series of meals. Keeping him in her periphery, she studied his profile. His eyes darted from his fingers to the screen as he entered commands. His facial expressions never stopped shifting. His eyebrows knitted then they would relax, his mouth would pinch then release as he nibbled his lip, he’d tilt his head to the side and wave his index finger in the air. She smiled to herself realizing that he was internally talking to the machine.

When it was time to sit down to the meal, John cautiously held his hand out to Kosandra, “Please come here; there’s something you should see.”

Kosandra frowned and marched forward without hesitation. She accepted his hand, but it was impersonal, robotic. On the screen, he had brought up her missing person’s report. After a quick perusal, she shrugged and tugged on his hand to urge him to the table. The report had the wrong woman’s face on it, and ‘Peni’ was missing without any other description. She had seen dozens like it, including her cousin’s.

“They do that on purpose,” John added quietly as he rose, refusing to release her hand.

Kosandra shrugged, “It’s better in my case. Do you know why?”

“It’s to assert that the only time a mixed-heritage has an identity is when a full human sponsors him/her.” He released her hand and tapped the table top. “I had to declare Freya to be my servant to initiate an investigation into her murder.”

She nodded and started eating.

“You knew?” he probed.

“No, not about that,” she looked him in the eyes, her own focus lost internally, “We were cousins.”

John tilted his head, “Through your ex.”

Kosandra shook her head.

John hesitated unsure. Snagging her hand again, he opened his mouth but was cut off.

Kosandra turned his hand over and traced the faint lines in his skin. “If Zeke mentioned our split, then police’ll tell him to fuck off. He’s not going to screw with finding a pure sponsor, been fighting against the sponsorship rules on untouchables all his life. Especially after the way I left, he’s not going take another nut-shot to his pride and do it. And if he suspects who I actually may be, he’s not going to fix it because I’m safer among the large population of missing hybrids.”

Grasping her fingers, her pondering touch somehow making him agitated, John nodded. “So it means everything and nothing.”

“Yeah.” Another involuntary smile blinked in and out.

That night as they lay down, John took Kosandra’s hand and instead of just wishing her goodnight, he also kissed the back of her hand, right on the crease between her middle and ring fingers at the knuckles. A soft intake of breath and spasm of her hand left him smiling in the dark.

Inspect your principles and welcome data that challenges them. Increasingly, it’s common to find a pure researcher who determines that untouchables are benefiting as slaves. Then another researcher will point out that the massive and growing list of missing mixed-heritage people, men, women, children, who are never seen again, presumed dead, cannot be a welcome benefit. It soon becomes clear that the definition of ‘benefit’ differed between the two researchers.

PAGE 13

Kosandra woke again with John clasping her tight. They had by silent mutual agreement gone to bed in their underwear. Their clothes were drying and finding a better way to clean them was getting desperate. Fortunately underwear cleaned easier in the shower and dried faster. Didn’t change the fact that his hand clasped her breast and his dick had slipped between her thighs.

And she liked it. Which was worse. She was a terrible person, but she’d been faithful to her ex. It felt dirty. Which was ironic. Zeke had probably already had his revenge sex and was moving on to his consolation sex.

Taking a deep breath, which pressed her breast into John’s hand, which un-helpfully squeezed absently, she resigned herself to the daily morning battle against her growing attraction. She resented the lubrication that she leaked into her panties from the stimulation. Gritting her teeth, she moved to sit up and get away from him. John’s arms tightened again, locking her down. He pressed his hips forward sliding his clothed dick against her clothed muff. She shuddered as the teasing brush heated her up. Then he levered his hips back and did it again.

“John!” she barked unable to take anymore.

His deep yawn into the base of her neck made her shudder. Then he rubbed his nose into the back of her head and kissed the back of her ear. Kosandra closed her eyes as he murmured, “You chose me for your companion. I’m thinking I should choose you in turn.”

“I don’t want to talk about this,” she grumbled.

Making another effort to pull free, she failed when John tightened his grip. She shivered as raw lust ignited. John was breathing heavy, not from having to actually put effort into overpowering her. When he replied, his voice was rougher, “Even trussed up like a roast I was somewhat mollified and horrified by wanting you.” He didn’t move his arms, he kept his hand fixed on her breast, but he couldn’t help shifting his hips slightly. The smell of her arousal was winding through his nose and drugging his brain with desire. “My escape plans kept trying to find ways to take you prisoner instead of just simply running.” Softly he bit the shell of her hear, smiling as she gasped. “We will be talking about this before tonight. It’s too cold to sleep separately..” He inhaled deeply, his nose in her hair. “..I’m waking up each morning hard as a rock..” He shifted his hips, rumbling through the pleasure of the pressure as her vulva and thighs enclosed his erection. He felt her hips shift slightly twerking. “..And starting tonight I’m going to bed naked, because frankly, beautiful, I’m going to start making a mess here. I almost came just now.”

“I’m NOT having sex with you,” she growled.

Releasing his grip on her, he sighed, “While that would be nice, you’re not ready, I know.” Laying on his back and sliding his hands behind his head, he added, “I’m reaching full-on wet dream territory here, and you’re going to get some of my ejaculate on you.” Scratching his whiskered face, he looked her in the eye as she stared at him warily, “Some part of my personality really likes that idea, too. Makes you mine on some level.”

Kosandra’s face blushed as she climbed from under the covers and began to dress in the cold clothes. “I’ll warm up breakfast.”

“I like your hair when it’s mussed like that in the morning,” John called after her exit, smiling. He rubbed his chest in contentment. She hadn’t flinched at his pursuit.

But what neither researcher on ‘What is best for hybrids’ is aware of, intentionally, is the Progrom behind their genetics. Just before his disappearance, Sam Noble discovered what the Ancestors had tried to keep hidden. The story that hybrids were the bastard children of raped pure women was only the end of the story. The beginning was that the first generation of colonists could not survive here, grow and harvest enough food, without a hardy labor force. Remember those humans that were left to perish on the dying homeworld? The Ancestors’ survival depended on genetically producing a new slave force to harvest their food. One that was efficient enough to survive in the conditions here of reduced nutrients. So they created the Progrom. Women were punished for the smallest of crimes, real and imagined, with forced impregnation and birth. The alien DNA? It’s not alien. It’s useful genetics from other Earth species, primarily bat. True to their innate monstrous selfishness, they had their slaves to farm their land. Their own grandchildren, a new generation, discarded as untouchable animals. And they stopped. Some scientists at the time tried to warn them that they had created a generational time bomb, rendering our new world as lifeless as Earth. But they were silenced.

PAGE 14

“John, you need a cover story with the farm hands,” Kosandra commented as they ate breakfast. She kept clenching her free hand in her lap.

He watched her closely, “I’m going to be a mess fitting in.”

“Everyone will figure it out in minutes. The trick is to get everyone to mentally classify your ass as..” She held her fingers up in air-quotes, “..THEIR problem.”

He nodded gazing at her forehead as she spoke. “When are you going to claim me as your husband?”

“Today,” she looked away at the tunnel cover and took a deep breath of the non-toxic air it protected them from. “The tat’s got to be old enough that it’s clear we’re established.”

John fought the smile that wanted to slip out as his whole body tensed. Fact was that she had chosen to claim him. Maybe under duress, but hey, he wasn’t exactly getting much choice in the matter either. “Only under one condition.”

“What?” she was surprised and her gazed jerked to his narrowed eyes.

He carefully enunciated, “Only if you desire me too.”

“Ah,” Kosandra inhaled sharply. Heat rose up in her cheeks, and she nervously pressed her knees together.

Keeping eye contact, John got up and circled the little table to kneel next to her chair, “Whatever the future holds, there’s no backsies on our marriage. You’ll have to kill me if you want free.” Carefully, gently putting his hand on her delicate knee, he added, “I’ve never been married, but I do understand trust. I trust you to keep me aware of where you are and what you’re doing no matter what. And I need you to trust me…at first to follow your directions because frankly I’m totally out of my element here…but to trust my judgement in things that deal with pure humans and their systems. And I won’t be a dictator or anything, your experience and thought on what I do is essential, but when push comes to shove with their legal system and media, I know what I’m doing.”

Kosandra was still tongue-tied, “Um.” But she didn’t try to move his hand either, covering it with one of her own instead.

“And I’m going to need you when it comes to politics. You seem to understand what depths the monsters will dive to reach a short term goal.” Kosandra snorted. Encouraged, he concluded, “I can tell you’re not ready to make love, which I really really really want to do…but only when you are into it. And that’s the crux of us being married. I will not handle it well if I’m sleeping next to you, married to you, and have no hope to ever have sex with you.” Then he made himself shut up and wait for her to reply.

She kept her voice low, “I never cheated.”

John nodded encouragingly.

“But you’re right. Being married includes understanding..what we both want.” As she looked up at the ceiling of the cave, seeking, John slipped his other arm around the back of her chair. After a tense minute, she finally said, still looking up at the ceiling as if talking to it, “I am attracted to you, in my body…” and she tapped her head, “…and my brain, I just…” She looked down, gazed in his eyes uncomfortably, then off to the side, “…feel wrong about it. Like dirty…in my soul. I’m used to feeling dirty, but not there.”

John rubbed his face. “Okay, look. I need us to wait on this until you’re about ready.”

“You can’t, John,” Kosandra shook her head, hard, and looked him in the eye, “If your tattoo is too new, you’ll have no chance.” She leaned forward and grasped her thighs.

Frowning, John shook his head in disagreement. Being focused so hard on her face, he missed the small item her hand held as she reached out to him with a soft sigh. Then all was nothingness.

If we don’t complete the process, of ensuring that our future generations are all hybrids, our planet will be unable to continue sustaining us. Already there are projects trying to understand why our water is becoming toxic, why our air is dropping in oxygen, how to increase farming into poorer soils. Our children require supplemental vitamins until they finish growing and women require these supplements to have a healthy baby. These are symptoms of a disease. Pure humans can’t survive here for millennia, like we did on Earth. We desperately need the very people we are brutalizing. The pure human population has not expanded in 3 generations. Despite the devastation and lack of medical care, food, and slums in which we force hybrids to live, they have continued to slowly grow. We need them. And woe be to our grandchildren if we do not make amends with them and finish becoming one people. When they realize their strength and our weakness, if we continue our apartheid, failing to become whole. We will fall. And after so many generations of neglect, our knowledge and skills will be lost too.

PAGE 15

It was the pain in his head that brought him back to consciousness. “KOSANDRA!!!” he yelled as he opened his eyes, cringing. So mad that the pain could be ignored, he sprang off of their bed and burst into the cave.

Heat rose to her cheeks as she watched the furious man storm towards her. Her husband. She didn’t say anything expecting that John needed some time to rant.

“THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO MY CHOICE!” he yelled as he charged up to her. When she held up her hand, in warning, he stopped moving but kept yelling. “MY CHOICE!!!” He spun and stomped away before charging back, “YOU OWE ME A MAKE-OUT SESSION EVERY DAY FOR AS LONG AS I WANT! YOU KNEW WHAT I NEEDED AND YOU DID IT ANYWAYS! SAY IT, MY WIFE!” She was deeply blushing and keeping her eyes lowered. He was hard as stone, and only her willing acquiescence was going to satisfy him.

Kosandra lifted her eyes from the pulsing vein in his neck to his sparking eyes. She opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out.

John backed up and sat in the chair at the table. Pointing at the ground in front of him, he growled, “Say, ‘I messed up, husband. To fix this marriage, I agree to kiss you and touch you and let you kiss me and touch me’.” Then he placed his hands on his thighs and waited.

Swallowing, Kosandra took a tentative step towards him. Then another. Then another. Then she was looking down on the top of his head. He remained fixed, looking forward. Extremely mad. He demanded nothing less than everything. He told her what he expected from his wife. Now that she had made herself that person, he was demanding that she fulfill the, the duties. She had done many terrible things, yet he still wanted her. She had shown him her true self, something she’d never shared with Zeke. And he was ready to battle her…for her. She swallowed, then spoke clearly, breaking the soft silence of the plastic rustle of toxic air flowing through the cave’s bypass. “I messed up…husband.” John’s eyes lifted to meet hers, stormy with flashes of light from the comm screen behind her. “To fix this marriage,” she moved forward, then spread her legs to enable standing on either side of his chair, “I agree to kiss you and touch you.” She slowly lowered as John grasped her hips. He kept his gaze fixed on her face, “And let you kiss me and touch me.” She settled onto his lap as she finished. Her breathing had sped up and heat filled her from anticipation.

John kept Kosandra’s eyes locked with his as he guided her down to settle herself astride his lap. Willingly. “Kiss me, wife,” he ordered darkly. He flexed his hands on her hips, letting her know he wasn’t letting go.

Captured by his flinty gaze, Kosandra hesitantly leaned closer. As she tilted her face, her heart pumped wildly and she had to break the spell his eyes held over her. It wasn’t right. None of it was. It wasn’t fair to him, it wasn’t fair to her memory of Zeke, and she couldn’t understand how she couldn’t emotionally get over a wall when she knew that she wanted who was on the other side. John’s hands released her hips, seized the back of her head, and pulled her in. His lips were warm, soft, and hungry.

Kosandra gasped as John’s sudden snatch, but she didn’t push away. She could feel how badly he wanted her pressing between her thighs. His tongue took advantage and slipped between her lips, seeking her own tongue. His taste burst through her mouth. It was raw, tantalizing, a flavor of wild. The heat of her body magnified almost rendering her insensible of anything but his mouth.

Slowly, after a few minutes, he gentled the kiss until finally pausing and rumbling, “Look me in the eye, wife.” Disoriented, Kosandra raised her eyes reluctantly to his hot gaze. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Kosandra shook her head, her eyes wide. Sighing, he continued, “Do you have any pain meds because my head is killing me.”

Smiling despite herself, Kosandra nodded, her eyebrows raised. It was official: John’s adorable.

Despite his headache, John tried to insist on accompanying Kosandra in gathering food. But she refused; his tattoo was too new for much exposure to dirt and sweat. When she dropped her hands during the discussion, John backed off lest she knock him out again.

That night, after their showers and as they readied for bed, John pulled off all of his clothes and crawled under the blankets. He made sure Kosandra got a good look at him as he did it. Kosandra’s cheeks were pink as she slid under the covers herself, with a shirt and panties on. “Take off the shirt, Kosandra,” John ordered.

Kosandra shivered more at the tone of his voice than the cold air. Slipping under the blankets next to him, she tugged off the shirt as his hands unhelpfully caressed her skin…The outside of her thighs, her waist, and then finally slipped between her breasts to snatch her tight, her back to his chest. Her heart rate jumped from his lustful attack and heat blossomed in her womb. Swallowing nervously, she muttered, “You’re going to have to move your arm; it’s worse than sleeping on a bench with a seat division.”

“That’s a really detailed observation.” John slowly withdrew his left arm from under her, caressing the contours of her breast along the way.

Kosandra non-commitally grumbled. John’s naked cock had wedged into the muscles of her derriere slipping her underwear into the crack. The sensation was distracting. Sighing after a few minutes, she turned her head to look at him out the corner of her eye. John had his eyes closed. His new tattoo was covered in numbing, sterile gel and a bandage. She smiled and faced forward. Her head was pillowed on his arm, so he had to notice the slight motion.

“I’m trying to understand how a headache goes with the traditional hybrid wedding night,” he rumbled.

Kosandra snorted. John squeezed her and she enjoyed the sensation.

Falling asleep more from the exhaustion after hours of pain, John was thrilled. He’d gotten Kosandra to laugh for the first time.

Greetings Leader, Hybrids are in mortal danger. Your messenger will answer your questions. The attached article is to be published in the middle of harvesting season. The initial reaction is expected to be a mass murder of hybrids. Find shelter with a secure water supply, harvest sufficient food for a year for your people, limit the number of people aware of these steps being taken.

PAGE 16

Her dream was so pleasant. If she turned the right direction, her feet left the ground and she could fly. There was a terrifying background that hovered though. If she turned in the wrong direction then an evil force she created would turn on and slam her into the ground. The good direction was towards Sam. He couldn’t come to her, though. She had to go to him. The bad direction hovered, threatening. And so she flew. Sam reached for her, and as soon as she was close enough, he snatched her out of the air and wrapped himself around her. She closed her eyes content in the embrace. When she opened them, she saw they were on an island. Her ugly acts, suppression through mass murder, was the water surrounding them. “We have to fix this,” Sam sighed. “How?” Kosandra felt ugly, dirty, despairing. She wanted to cry. “Dikes.” The word was such a shock, she emotionally whiplashed into a fog of nothingness. “Dikes let you reclaim the land. I know how, I’ve written it all down in this essay, but you’ll have to do the work. Can you?” “I’ll do what I have to do.” He kissed her on her temple, “Good morning, my wife.”

The kiss was real. She snapped awake with a start. “I need to read whatever that thing is you’ve been writing.”

“Not what I expected to hear, but alright,” John rumbled goodnaturedly.

Page 17

Watching Kosandra drift across the cave like a bird of prey, his bird of prey, John inhaled. “Something just occurred to me.”

He snagged Kosandra’s waist as she reached the screen to the comm. “John,” she grumbled as warmth spread through her.

“Make-out time first, wife,” he rumbled into her ear and pulling her flush to his body. “I get the impression you’re going to make me tense and defensive as soon as you read that.”

The warmth turned to heat and Kosandra shivered as he tugged her back to sit across his lap on the chair. “Likely. We’re very different assholes.” They were roughly the same height, so with her on his lap, he had to tilt his grinning face up to kiss her. As their lips met, she inhaled sharply. John slipped a hand from her waist to the back of her head. He drove his tongue into her mouth and teased her to meet his caresses. His wild smell and taste bloomed through her mind making her light-headed. Sitting sideways, she could feel his erection pressed against her hip.

Her lips were tingling and her head was fuzzed, when John paused his kiss to murmur, “Sleep naked next to me tonight.” Then his hands started moving. One skimmed the side of her breast and another slipped between her thighs. His thumb brushed teasingly close to her vulva.

Kosandra nodded, her eyes sparkling with simple lust. Then John shifted his hand up and directed her head down for another kiss. One deeper and more intense than the first. When his thumb grazed the clothing over her pussy, she melted. Literally her pussy started weeping for more, and she shifted her hands from his shoulders to either side of his face to keep him in place. And she shifted her hips to press closer to his erection.

John groaned, and released her head to cup her breast and teasingly slide his fingers over her clothed nipples. She pulled back from his kiss when he did and moaned up to the ceiling. Presented with her lovely column of neck, John licked the artery from her collar to her jaw. Then he brushed her vulva again with his thumb.

Kosandra looked down at him. Her gaze was open to him, and he paused as he studied her. There were demons, hellfire, and wonder there. Then he grasped her hair to drag her in for another kiss. “I want you, Kosandra. All of you,” he said after another minute of kissing.

When she finally slipped out of his arms, both of them sexually on edge, he smiled expectantly at her back. She wasn’t holding him off any longer. His smile slipped as she read, her back stiffening.

Page 18

Kosandra straightened, looked up at the ceiling of the cave, it’s stunted spikes both familiar and alien, and shook her head. “If your intention is to trigger a genocide, this is perfect.” She dropped her gaze to his unhappily frozen expression. “Assuming anyone pays attention to random blatherings in elite nerd-speak that’s anonymously posted.”

John stared, horrified.

“But it doesn’t matter. The wrong people will see and trump up whatever it takes to stoke the garbage fire.” She sighed.

John stumbled to the chair and collapsed into it. “Oh, my God.”

“There is no god,” Kosandra snapped.

He spoke to the screen displaying his text, “Sometimes, I’m afraid you’re correct.”

“I am correct. You’re a damn idiot savant.” She rubbed her temples, “Is it out there already?”

“No. I should just delete it and start over.” He turned towards the machine, but Kosandra slapped his hands away.

“No. If Sam dug it up, there were always others following him. Saw them. No, it’s got to go out.”

He inhaled sharply, “Shit.”

“It is what it is. There’s one choice here,” Kosandra paused, wrapped her hands around John’s shoulders and began massaging. “Food.”

John grasped her hand and kissed the back of it. “How do we organize a strike?”

“You don’t. You clean up this text to make it readable. I’ll start making some visits to area hybrid towns.” She squeezed his shoulder with her free hand.

His grip on her hand tightened, “I’m coming with you.”

“You can’t. Not only are you weird, in your own sweet way of course, but it’s about to snow and your foot tracks will give our bolt-hole away.”

He nodded in resignation. Then he said, “Yours.”

“What?” She looked down at his uplifted face.

“Your idiot savant.”

Kosandra softly smiled, “Yes. Yes you are.” She briefly kissed him on the lips.

Page 19

Kosandra sensed John’s disturbed state grow more agitated as she set up the remaining food stores to finish curing/drying while she was gone. As she packed the few things she could carry for a long flight, he asked, “When are you leaving and for how long?”

It was a question Zeke had asked many times. Kosandra closed her eyes for a moment, digesting old pain. “At sunrise and for this venture, no longer than a day. I should be back by sunset.”

Her voice was strained as she answered. John wrapped his arms around her waist. “Why sunrise and sunset?” She stiffened, but also put her hands over his, accepting of his claim.

“To blend in with the other flying animals.”

He sniffed her hair. “We can’t stay disappeared, can we?”

Kosandra smiled and turned in his arms, “We’ll be mostly dead.”

“As long as you’re in my arms, I feel alive,” he joked.

Kosandra tilted her face up and kissed him on the lips. A brief pressure, full of desire.

John licked his lips as she pulled back to continue preparing. “Is there anything I can do?”

Pausing, Kosandra said, “Read some equipment manuals?” She pointed at the desk.

“Ok.” John opened a drawer curiously.

“Ok.”

Page 20

As bedtime approached, John’s breathing was deeper, and he had a soft erection getting harder. He watched Kosandra closely as he stripped and crawled under the blankets. She hesitated on her underwear.

He didn’t say anything as she looked at him. Just smiled and tapped his tattoo. Awkwardly and blushing, Kosandra tugged off her underpants and climbed under the covers. But not fast enough to hide her response. He briefly caught sight of the sheen of her lubrication. She was aroused.

She lay down with her back to him, but John tugged on her to lay her on her back. “I want to see you seeing me,” he murmured as he petted her soft, warm abdomen. The muscles beneath his fingers shivered, as she turned and looked up at him. Her eyes were wide as they glinted in the scattered light from equipment that surrounded their tent in the cave.

She grasped his wrist as he moved his hand lower, his fingers just grazing her cleft. “We already made out today.”

“So we did,” John’s eyes twinkled as he submitted to her request to stop.

Her eyes wide, she added, “I need my sleep for tomorrow.”

John’s erection hardened at the thought of her out of his reach. He grunted and relaxed his hand, rolling onto his back. “Okay. I’ll just hold you, then.”

Kosandra swallowed, her tense expression relaxing into frown. “I’m rolling over then.” Reluctantly, she presented her back to him. John shifted to press against her back, wrapped an arm around her waist, and slipped a leg between hers spreading her pussy open. She blew out her breath sensing the tickling caress of air over her pussy…where his hand would be right now if she hadn’t stopped him. His erection pressed uncomfortably between her ass cheeks. “You need to stop poking me with your cock, John.”

Shifting his hips slightly, John adjusted his erection [deleted]. Sensing the lubrication there, he rumbled his dissatisfaction, and replied, “Getting poked goes with marriage, love.”

Lightly snorting at his response, Kosandra couldn’t stop herself from squeezing her thighs [deleted]. Her breath caught from the heat of the sensation that licked through her. John, breathing deeper, shifted his hips fractionally, intensifying the burn. Only with brutal control did she stop herself from tilting her hips [deleted]. When he shifted again, she choked warningly, “John…”

John stopped, but he replied, “Only because I want you looking in my face when I penetrate you, I’ll stop. But if you decide to use me to masturbate? or whatever this is, I’m turning you over before you finish.”

Kosandra’s breath caught. She smiled, a real smile that he couldn’t see but only he seemed capable of creating. She squeezed his arm reassuringly. “Okay,” she answered, humor coloring her tone.

Page 21

John floated between sleep and awareness. A naked woman, HIS naked woman was pressed against him. Flesh to glorious flesh. Already aroused, he tightened his arms on her, and a burst of fire shot up his spine. [deleted] He dropped his mouth to lick up her shoulder as he shifted his hips [deleted]. Her breathing deepened. Licking up her neck, he shifted again. She jerked briefly in his arms. He shifted again, but this time she moved her hips [deleted]

“John,” she murmured huskily.

He shifted his fingers forward [deleted]. She jumped in his arms, and grasped his bicep and forearm. He held her tight, each struggle making him tighten his grasp. And he moved his hips [deleted]. “Want in,” he groaned.

“JOHN,” she moaned, then she stiffened, relaxed, stiffened, relaxed.

Her thigh muscles flexing [deleted] wrapped bands of pleasure tight around his brain, which was currently located in his extremely stiff, sensitive [deleted]. He pressed himself [deleted]. As he spasmed, [deleted]. And he held her tight [deleted]. Another spasm shot up his spine, [deleted]. Kissing the back of her neck, he rumbled, “Mine.”

Kosandra blinked hard, her breathing returning to normal. John slowly relaxed his arms, but she wasn’t shifting away, rather melting from pleasure. She was covered not just by his [deleted] and body but also thoroughly emotionally entangled. Well and truly claimed.

Page 22

Clearing her throat, Kosandra pulled free, “I need to get moving.”

“Hang on a moment, love,” John rumbled rolling onto his back and reaching for his shirt above his head. “Wipe off with this.”

As she took it, he snatched her hand and briefly dropped a soft kiss and lick. She sucked in her breath in surprise.

Ten minutes later, she dressed after her shower, distributing most of the weight for her trip at her chest where it would lay under her wings as she flew. “I’m off. Don’t leave any signs outside that you’re here. Good?”

“Be safe,” John’s eyes darkened as he held her hand. When Kosandra nodded, he slipped his hands behind her head.

Kosandra lifted her face to kiss him farewell, but found his throat as his tongue lapped her tattoo. She squeaked. “I’m yours! You’re such a twerp!”

“Your obnoxious twerp,” he crowed, letting her go and smiling.

With a last wave, Kosandra turned toward the opening, spread her half-crippled wings, and launched. John’s smile fell as soon as she was out of sight. “I’ll not be comfortable until you get back, love.”

Heading back to the desk, he pulled out the geological chart and prepared for an intense battle with the comm to understand what he was looking at.

Page 23

Kosandra landed near the small farming community with a bit of a run that was hard on her knees. It was always awkward. The chilling air made her damaged wing ache. As she folded them back up and flipped the coverings of the jacket holes closed, she heard a faint sound near the buildings. Taunting in tone. Glancing over, she saw a small group of hybrid boys making the emotionally grating sounds, the details she couldn’t make out. Definitely her damaged wing.

“What happened, Crippy?” one of them called, “Did you hit the ugly tree really hard?” “Bet her mom was raped, and she hated that she liked it.”

Kosandra could make out their words as she approached them. Ignoring their taunts, she watched them react to her predatory stroll. She scanned them as she smoothly, silently stalked. Most were backing up except one. The others were taking their cues from him. One looked fearful for a moment, then glanced at the leader. He was a challenger. The challenger suddenly picked up a rock, intending to throw it at her. Kosandra sprinted forward, charging, making him slightly scream as he threw it wide in surprise. The leader was getting ready to jump behind another kid when she snagged his wrist and whirled him into a lock, threatening to dislocate his shoulder. “Want your little friend here to get hurt, my pretties?” she inquired with false sweetness.

All of them yelled. Most backed up as a couple started running home. “Let me go!” the leader yelled.

She laughed, “I don’t think so my bitty-bird.” She nodded at a nearby boy hovering in horror, “You. Lead us to bitty-bird’s home, if you please.”

He nodded jerkily and started walking up one of the side streets. The rest of the boys led him at a run. The leader started yelling at her as they walked, “My dad’s going to kill you, Crippy! Hear me?! Dead!” The last bit ended on a squeak as she increased the pressure on his shoulder.

They reached the end of the street, more of an alleyway of hovels, when an intimidatingly large hybrid came roaring out of one of the shacks. “Nalis!” Spotting Kosandra with Nalis under her control, he stormed towards them, “Let him go now, bitch, and I won’t kill you.” Slowly, he pulled out the cleaver hybrids used in the fields for cutting vegetables. “Just cut you because you touched mine.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Kosandra spotted a hybrid security guard. The man was talking in his comm and looking nervously at Nalis’ asshole father.

“Your bitty-bird here said you were going to kill me, asshole,” she taunted. “Is that how you talk to bitty-bird’s mom?” As the father approached, she released Nalis with a shove and a kick. As the father glanced at his son, she cold cocked him.

A gasp fell over the witnesses. And more than a few laughs. Three more security guards showed up. When all was said and done, the mother decided to press charges, and Kosandra was arrested. Nalis looked uncertain whether to be gleeful about that or concerned that his father was going to take the embarrassment out on him.

The ‘cell’ she was put in was pathetic. It had a bench, a pail for the toilet, and a spigot for water. Ignoring all their annoying questions, Kosandra shrugged out of her jacket, which they didn’t search, put up her feet on the bench, and shut her eyes listening to the chatter just beyond.

“What the hell?”

“She’s just ignoring us.”

“Let the Chief deal with her.”

“Big Jeris deserved that.”

“I got caught smiling.”

“Best go get statements from the boys and the neighbors.”

“Till he cools off?”

“Yeah.”

The conversation drifted to typical small town gossip until a new voice spoke, “She doesn’t look like much till you get closer, does she?”

Kosandra opened her eyes to peer into intelligent green eyes boring into her from the other side of the bars.

“What’s your name?”

“What’s yours?” she asked.

He raised an eyebrow, “Chief Edwin.”

“I call myself Kosandra,” she shrugged.

Studying her for a moment, he tapped his fingers against the bars in thought. “We’ll talk when the rest of the statements come in, won’t we?”

“Yes,” she smiled faintly, “Yes we will.”

Edwin frowned. He turned but glanced back at her, troubled.

When food arrived, Kosandra approached the bars to accept the thin tray. Then she smashed it into the deliverer’s face, while snatching his stick off of his belt. Swinging it into the hinge, she detached the door in two strikes, and stepped out. Edwin stood but raised a hand to prevent the other guards from attacking her. “Leave us,” he ordered.

The guards glanced at Kosandra’s relaxed stance, with one hand in her jacket, and stopped. “Yes, sir,” the 2nd in command replied. Then he ushered the others out.

“Kosandra,” Edwin began backing up and sitting on the edge of his desk where she could keep her eyes on his hands. She heard the quotes around her name as he said it. “Why are you here?”

Keeping him in her peripherals, Kosandra knelt to pick up the mess of her meal on the floor. “I bring bad tidings.”

Edwin raised his eyebrows.

“In 4 months time, some news will get out, the truth behind the hybrid progrom.” She dumped the handfull in the garbage next to his desk. “We will be systematically hunted down and killed.”

“You’re military?” he chewed on his lip.

She shook her head, “No.” Holding out a comm she appropriated from the cave, she added, “We have one hope. Without us, there’s no food. It’ll be the middle of harvest season.”

Edwin opened his hand accepting the old machine. Glancing at it curiously, he wondered, “How can I believe any of this?”

“My contact on the other end of that has all the details you could ever need.”

Edwin quirked his eyebrows. “Why did you beat up Jeris then?”

“Because his kid’s an asshole, and it was the fastest way to find who’s in charge around here.”

A sharp smile slipped across Edwin’s face for a moment, “You sure have a way with kids.”

Shrugging, she returned to the cell and slipped on her jacket, “I’ll keep in touch with the comm. Prepare to evacuate.”

Edwin escorted her to the edge of town past curious onlookers. Then she kept on walking perpendicular from her flight route until the sun’s disk touched the horizon, then she launched & flew back home.

Home to John.

Page 24

John couldn’t focus anymore. He would look at the geology field book right side up, upside down, sideways, at a tilt to look down the paper, and it was no good. “Where are you Kosandra?” he muttered for the dozenth time. And still time crept along. The shadows had long since lengthened to dark invisibility, and the blue cape of twilight covering them was just emphasizing how long she’d been gone. Pacing across the cave and back, he paused thinking he heard a suspicious whoosh of wind. Running to the cave’s entrance, he looked out and up, seeing nothing but a bloody sunset, all various shades of annoying pink. “Dammit, Kosandra, I want you home NOW,” he grumbled. His mind filled with frustrated images. He wanted to snatch her tight in his arms and punish her mouth with angry kisses. Two heartbeats later he pictured hauling her into their tent, taking her down to the mattress, growling, “No more barriers, my wife,” and rubbing her thoroughly till she screamed. Finally then driving himself into her wet heat to secure her to him. Gripping the desk as he slowly sat down with the impossible book again, he decided it was time for a full-on seductive attack. For his sanity, of course.

Page 25

The light was almost gone when Kosandra spotted their cave. It was dark, dead-looking as it should be. “Please be okay,” she whispered to the wind. When she landed, a familiar form stiffly got up from the chair. John. She sighed in relief.

“Ah, the warm shadow of my wife has ghosted upon me!” he declared while shaking off the cold. “Normally we should be in bed right now,” he mock-complained.

His strong arms wrapped around her as much as he could with her wings in the way. “Can’t retract them until they’re warmer,” she murmured into his neck, enjoying his smell.

“And that’s why you need to dump your electronics and go straight in the shower,” he offered, tugging her towards the stall.

Half shoved inside the space, Kosandra sharply inhaled when the burning lukewarm water hit her freezing skin. “You should start getting messages over the comm,” she squeaked.

“So your trip was a success, I gather,” John called through the door. “Are you planning on leaving me again in the near future?” he joked, not-joked.

Damp clothes hitting the floor of the shower stall were followed with her answer, “If this doesn’t work to spread the word and get action, yes.” She threw open the door, beautifully naked. As far as he could tell. The cave was comprised of lighter and darker shapes as twilight faded to full night.

He pulled a blanket out from inside his jacket and wrapped it around her. “Here. Go lay down in the tent. If you promise to stay naked, I’ll handle your wet things for drying overnight.”

He couldn’t see her smile, but he could hear her lips part, a soft snort, and her whispered, “It’s a deal.”

Page 26

When John entered the tent, Kosandra had heated up from cold-but-surviving to fever-shiver. “Get under the blanket with me,” she murmured.

He quickly stripped and climbed in. Her breathing sped up a little as his weight dipped the mattress and the rush of cool air was replaced with his hairy body. His hands slipped around her shoulder and grasped her waist. “Tell me all about your adventure. I never saw Aero when I was working.”

Kosandra shrugged, “It was a basic agri-town.”

“Tell me.” His breath tickled her hair.

Inhaling his clean male scent, remembering how Aero smelled like rot, she replied, “Low buildings, small lives.”

“So what happened when you arrived?” John pressed his nose into her hair inhaling.

“I beat up the local bully.”

John’s breath escaped in a puff, “Which brought the local law enforcement. How did you avoid them?”

She yawned, “I didn’t.”

“Darling, no offense, but aren’t you wanted beyond just me?” John asked, puzzled.

He could hear her lips part on a smile. “Actually, no.”

After a moment of thinking it over he commented, “I just realized how fucking lucky I am.” She was squeezed briefly by his arms.

“Me too,” she whispered. She kissed him, a brief press of her lips.

John rumbled his contentment with the gesture.

“What did you do while I was gone?” her voice was fading as the exhaustion hit.

He briefly kissed her before answering, “I sat down and tried to teach myself how to read geology maps.”

“Yuck. Was there anything useful?” Kosandra murmured while tentatively pressing her lips against his chin.

John’s arms squeezed her tighter in a spasm. “This cave extends for miles, but what I can’t figure out are these black and white circles. They mean something but I can’t figure out what.”

“Strike and dip.” Her voice said the words uncertainly, slurring them slightly.

John paused, listening. “What’s that?”

She shook her head. Or rolled her face across his shoulder, either which. “I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open.”

“Sleep.” John kissed the top of her head. “Probably going to ravage you in the morning,” he whispered on an exhale.

“You too,” she muttered. A few breaths later, she was out.

Page 27

John was having the best dream. Kosandra was naked, in his arms, and very, very wet for him. He lazily enjoyed the warm heat build as he pivoted himself against her, rubbing [deleted]. Sweet friction.

After a while, the blessed pressure shifted his purpose. [deleted] His dream self like his awake self wanted to press in. His wife.

His.

[deleted] It felt so good. [deleted] He was so sensitive, dream Kosandra’s slight movement, [deleted], was more than he could take. Grasping her tight, he [deleted]. And woke. With a semi-sleeping Kosandra in his arms, [deleted].

Kissing her shoulder, he reveled in the sensation. It was too late to worry about anything, so he figured, he should at least rub her into the same frame of mind. Moving his hand to her [deleted]. Laying his head back down, he settled his hand in to comfortably play with her, slow and teasing. Kosandra [deleted] and as she shifted her hips reacting, [deleted].

“John,” Kosandra moaned.

He kissed her head in response.

His hand kept up its slow tease, but he [deleted] as she kept moving. Suddenly, both of her hands grasped his and she jerked violently. Grinning, thoroughly pleased, John [deleted].

“Not a dream,” she sighed in contentment.

He joked, “I don’t know, maybe I’m still asleep and could go for another round of dream sex.”

“You don’t play fair,” she mock-grumped.

“I can’t with you,” he murmured into her hair in the midst of small kisses up the back of her head.

As she pulled away and got up for a shower, he cocked his head watching her and followed her out of the tent.

“What?” she finally asked as she stepped into the shower booth.

He filled up the frame of the door, holding it open. “How about if I join you in there, and we have some more fun?”

“I…I really liked the way you woke me up this morning,” she leaned forward and brushed her lips against his.

He was starting to cool down and the discomfort was forcing the conversation to cut short. “I want to have sex again.”

She shivered, “It wasn’t real sex; can we wait to talk about it? I’m freezing.”

She had stopped ordering him around and was actually asking him for concessions, it was real progress in their relationship. Cold, concerned, yet happy all at the same time, he hesitated a moment and then shut the door most of the way except for sticking his face in. “If dream sex gets you pregnant, please don’t kill me.”

Kosandra chuckled and pushed his head out of the way so she could seal the booth and start the water.

Page 28

John felt like a spectator as Kosandra and he moved through their day. She wasn’t reacting at all. When his communicator buzzed, he just about jumped a foot in the air.

Kosandra glanced at him out of the corner of her eye as she answered, barking, “Name.”

“Edwin,” echoed from the ancient device.

Kosandra handed the comm to John, “You’re on. He’s got questions.”

Without listening to the details, Kosandra stared at the map showing tunnels she’d glanced at as a child. Edwin’s responses were getting more sharp and clipped. If he had sounded smooth or calming, she would have had to return and make sure he understood where he was located on the map. Right next to the fucking edge.

Edwin finally asked, “How many can your hidey-hole fit?”

“Oh, um,” John stammered unsure of how much he could reveal.

Kosandra took the comm, “A small city’s worth.”

Edwin audibly gasped.

John looked at her thoroughly confused.

“How soon can you start taking people?”

Running her finger along one tunnel, she finally answered, “Just send a geologist and engineer to talk for an hour. 58 deg 36.2 arcmin west, 58.2 deg south. Dawn. Geometric Sunrise.”

There was a pause, then softly uttered “shit” in the background. “Copy that. Over and out.”

Kosandra put down the comm and looked sharply at John, “I might not be looking at you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have my attention.”

“How?” He blinked.

Ignoring his odd behavior all day, she answered the immediate question, “They’re going to build a better bypass.”

“I take it I’m not going with you,” he added, looking at the map.

She reached out and caressed his ear. “Best you stay here and remain mostly dead. Everyone knows your face.”

John bit his lip a moment, then added, “Make sure they run the plans by a child specialist.”

Kosandra narrowed her eyes at him, shrugged, then nodded. “Everything would move faster the more of the youngest that get evacuated; they take so much time.”

“Shouldn’t be a problem. The incredibly racist separate-but-equal policy makes them nearly invisible anyways, or am I missing something?” John reached behind Kosandra’s head and lightly massaged her scalp, using the base of her braid to hold her head in place.

She closed her eyes, “Some among your people would notice.”

“I know about that. Then they’d have to explain why or how they noticed,” he smiled fondly at her, his wife, his hopes and dreams. “Nothing would move for over a year in that quarter. That’s how awful the full humans are.”

Keeping her eyes closed, Kosandra nodded in agreement. “Good point, smartypants.”

Page 29

The portable comm crackled to life several times that day. John was reminded of his early days in journalism following the police. It’s what set him on his path of Hybrid Rights. Edwin was trying to grasp at unknowns in organizing an impossible task, and Kosandra had the perimeter of the concept worked out. Neither was going to work as a focus to bring all the details to bear; they were highly competent pieces to manage.

John sat at the desk comm. “We need someone who does this kind of thing for a living…” he muttered. The trick was to find the skills among hybrids.

That evening as John helped Kosandra with preparing dinner, he took the opportunity to step behind her and wrap her in his arms. Holding her back against his chest, he pressed one hand low, over her womb, and the other wrapped tightly around her waist. The press of her derriere against him brought his desire raging forth, and he made sure she could feel that too. Kissing along her neck with slow, possessive nibbles, he murmured, “I could eat you up.”

The sudden ‘attack’ set her heart to racing, her breathing rapid, and started a warm bloom of heat inside her. “Trust me, I really like the idea, but it’s still too cold in here.”

“I’m a creative guy, got it all figured out,” he tightened his grip, promising.

Kosandra surprised herself when a puff of a laugh slipped free. “Okay, smartypants. Show me what you got.”

John tugged on her and guided her to the table. With a few nudges, he got her to lay facedown on it. Leaning over her, he rumbled, “I’m hungry.”

Arousal spiked through her body in response, and she inhaled sharply. Then John was releasing her belt and tugging her pants and underpants in his grip. Realization hit her what his plan was. “I should clean up quickly.”

“Trust me,” he chuckled briefly dropping a kiss on her bared derriere.

As soon as her vulva was exposed, he stopped tugging on her clothes. Then something warm and wet roughly rubbed her. A cleaning cloth. No sooner had it pulled away leaving a brief chill when [deleted]

He rumbled happily in response, rubbing his warm hands across her derriere.

[deleted] she shuddered violently, the impact on her arousal intense. [deleted] She tensed her arms, grasping the edge of the table, her whole focus on what he was doing to her. [deleted] shooting powerful jolts into her. Fighting it, she tensed her arms as her muscles below tensed. Cascading heat gathered [deleted] Pulses of muscular shocks seized her as she keened.

Boneless, still jerking a bit in aftershocks, Kosandra smiled. When she heard John release his belt, [deleted]

“As you wish,” he rumbled in response without hesitation.

Then he was on top of her, his [deleted]

“This feels wonderful,” he sighed. [deleted]

Kosandra smiled as his [deleted]

As John [deleted]. Mine. He licked the skin at the back of her neck, where the folds to her wings started, and she gasped. The gasp sent him skyward. Licking her again, harder, he [deleted]

Kosandra [deleted], but now came the hard part. Her orgasm was almost upon her, and she had to pull back from it. Maddeningly unsatisfying. “Hang on,” she panted.

John didn’t lift off of her, but waited until she breathed normal again. “Love you,” he offered. He was frankly thrilled with the moment, but she obviously was not-so-much. Snagging the much-cooler cloth, he cleaned himself off of her, and then himself.

As they straightened their clothes, he studied her pink face. She was frustrated. Sexually frustrated, and he wanted like hell to fix that.

“What am I missing?” he asked softly, reaching for a stray strand of her hair.

She sighed as he tucked her hair behind her ear. “Hybrid biology is a little different.”

He grasped her hand and encouraged her to sit at the table. Then he shifted his own chair next to hers and resumed holding her hand. Waiting.

“We get pregnant much easier,” she looked off to the side. “If there’s sperm inside us when we orgasm, our bodies will store it, nurture it, for a re-release with ovulation.”

John’s jaw dropped.

Shaking her head, Kosandra palmed his chin, closing his mouth. “The area where you put your mouth, well, it’s a mating instinct. I almost lost control.”

John swallowed then blurted, “Kosandra, this morning’s sex wasn’t a dream.”

Kosandra shook her head and stretched sensuously releasing the tension. Gliding out of her chair, she headed to the food, finally ready to eat. “Well, we’ll see now won’t we?”

John couldn’t believe she didn’t believe him. Confused, he glanced at the tent. Watching her out of the corner of his eye, he paused to glance at the tent again then smiled.

Page 30

“Get naked,” John ordered.

Kosandra bit her lip to stop the smile that wanted to break free. Dropping the edge of the blankets, she shimmied out of the clothes she was attempting to wear to bed. She was still frustrated. And wet. And she needed to leave before the break of dawn. And John wasn’t letting up.

Snagging condoms had not occurred to her at all when planning this misadventure. John’s objective was unstated but clear. He wasn’t letting her go. She wasn’t letting him go either, he made her actually laugh, but she’d blindsided him enough that he had gone full territorial.

Naked, joining his beautifully naked form under the blankets, she was immediately wrapped in his embrace.

Dropping a kiss on her lips, he murmured, “Lets get you more comfortable,” and he caressed his hand down her waist to her hips.

She grasped his wrist. “I can’t for at least another two days.”

“Really?” John’s eyebrows flew up.

Kosandra kissed him, still holding his wrist tight. “I love you. Let’s just try to sleep.”

“Okay,” John flexed his wrist mutely expressing his disagreement.

Kosandra rolled over, giving him her back then. “Great. Will probably have another vivid sex dream,” she sighed.

“Oh, I’d bet on it.” John petted her back, fitting himself against her, his [deleted].

Kosandra was used to uncomfortable sleeping, so soon she was able to drift, hormones raging and all. John, not so much.

He knew she needed her sleep, so he didn’t disturb her no matter how much he wanted to. Eventually though, he was able to find some fitful space of ‘rest’. When Kosandra shifted her hips, [deleted], he woke with a start and an expanding interest. Then she shifted again. Then again. By this time he was fully erect, tired, and filled with mental hormonal fog. Kissing her back, he deliberately aimed for her sensitive spot. Her hips reacted, and [deleted], he was excited and hungry. He pressed his lips against her and started nipping. Her hips responded, and she [deleted]. Reveling in the response, he continued. Her [deleted] torturing him. Reaching close to the pinnacle of his orgasm, he [deleted]. But when he did, caught up in the wash of pleasure, Kosandra quickly shifted to [deleted]. He couldn’t stop himself, [deleted]. Relaxing into his post-orgasmic high, he sighed kissing her sensitive spot again. She instantly [deleted]. A quarter hour later, he kissed her again. And the delirious pleasure played out again. Time lost all meaning as he coupled with his sleeping wife. This time, he didn’t bother to [deleted]. The second time he released, he finally woke up to what was missing. Aside from the mess he’d made the first time, there wasn’t anymore ejaculate collecting between them. That was when he realized that [deleted] were her orgasming.

Finally finding sleep, satiated as never before, he [deleted] and grinned fiercely like the scoundrel he apparently was. Mine.

Kosandra awoke after one of the most intense sexual dreams she’d ever experienced. Sensing a bit of stickiness [deleted], she noticed that apparently John had had intense dreams too. Pleasantly enough though, she didn’t feel the hot burn of sexual frustration. Sighing at the thought of another cold flight, she climbed out of their bed and took a quick shower. Dressing, she ignored the odd pressure in her abdomen and slipped briefly back into the tent.

“I’m off, you sleepy wanker,” she joked kissing John’s head.

He jerked into a sitting position, “You’re leaving?”

“Got my meeting; be back after sunset.”

“Be careful,” he pleaded grasping her hands, “You okay?”

Freeing her hands, she brushed his hair with her fingers. “I’m great. Don’t get into trouble,” she smiled.

“Only when you’re here,” he joked, half seriously.

Shaking her head, Kosandra slipped out of the tent, stretched her wings, and took off.

John headed for the shower, then to clean the mussed blankets again. His head was a whirl of thoughts. How was she going to react? He definitely got her pregnant. Would she make love to him, consciously, finally when she realized she was pregnant? They couldn’t have a child here in the cave. When were they going to rejoin other people? Since they were going to be all hybrids, how would they respond to him? How were they going to respond to him and Kosandra together? What if the ex recognized her? What was she doing right now?

Finally, he quieted all the voices and sat at the desk. “I’ve got to find an experienced program manager,” he muttered. His child’s life was going to depend on it.

branch cold freezing frost

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Locked Down

Handsome?

How may I serve you?

I’m in trouble with these eigenvectors.

If you get your body in motion over here and take me to the grocery store, I can help.

LOL Coming!


When they climbed out of her vehicle at the grocery store, Indigo finally got up the nerve to ask, “Won’t your boyfriend be annoyed with you being here with me?” He didn’t want to say the asshole’s name.

“Not anymore,” Umi snapped, looking off in the distance.

Only later, he realized a guy passing buy them warned, “Don’t go in there, man,” as he walked by.

People were streaming out of the grocery store as they entered. “What happened?” Indigo asked holding the entrance door open for Umi.

She frowned as she looked around blankly, “We argued. A lot. I figured out that I wasn’t happy.”

Indigo nodded; her now-ex had a brittle personality. Great, while he had it all together, but when he didn’t…total asshole. By the time they each grabbed a shopping cart, the sound of the squeaky wheel on Umi’s echoed. “I’ll meet you at the front when you’re ready,” she said in a subdued voice.

“Where’s the music?” Indigo muttered to himself as he started snagging the food he needed.

He had passed through several aisles when one of the employees of the store stopped and stared at him. “You got to go,” he said, his mouth muffled by a mask.

Indigo jerked to a halt. The sheer silence of the store except for the irregular squeaking of Umi’s wheel smashed into his consciousness. “What’s going on?”

“There’s a disease. What kind of fucking well did you crawl out of you fucking moron?!” He shook his head and held out his hands, “Sorry. Sorry. Someone decided to drop dead in aisle 2…Grab everything you could possibly need and get the hell out of here. NOW.” He pointed towards the exit and started walking away. “Oh, and stay out of aisle 2.”

Indigo blinked as what-it-meant whooshed through his brain. The squeaking of Umi’s wheel got progressively louder. “Shit.” He didn’t know how long he stood there. Probably a second. But it seemed like forever as he pulled up the edge of his jacket over his face and sprinted to the sound. Squeak. Pause. Squeak squeak squeak. Pause. Pause. She’d stopped. Umi was standing just at the end of…Aisle 2. Putting on a last burst of speed, Indigo swung himself between her and whatever was in the aisle. Spinning her around, he pulled her into his arms, and her face into the edge of his jacket too. “Umi.”

She gasped, “Indigo!”

“Listen to me. We’ve got to get out of here and stay the hell out of aisle 2…”

“…someone’s on the ground…”

“…dead. I just found out. Cover your face and follow me, okay?”

Umi nodded and took over as Indigo snagged her scarf to start wrapping it around her face.

The rest of their shopping trip was a blur and muffled whispers behind their face coverings. Of course all the masks were gone in the medical section. After filling up both shopping carts, they headed out the front door of the building only to be greeted by police. They stopped stunned. There had been no way to actually purchase the items. “Unload your carts into your transport and go home, citizens,” blared over the external speaker from one of the police officers. Working rapidly, they finally left the empty parking garage with one of the police transports following.

“Did you get it fixed?” Indigo turned on the radio, seeing Umi nod, and was greeted with a tinny voice.

“All of County 9 is under quarantine, but officials are not optimistic that the virus has not already spread widely. Airborne, incubating for as long as two weeks…” Umi and Indigo looked at each other. She tapped a button and set the windows to lower. Indigo turned up the volume as the noise from rushing air overwhelmed them. “…the virus was finally isolated revealing its off-market origin. Current suspects are un-Incorporated religious-racial extremists…”

Umi pinched Indigo, “Mmmm?” he asked.

“Just checking that this isn’t a nightmare, and I didn’t want to pinch myself.”

“I’d kiss your fingers, but I feel like we both need to get intimate with bleach ASAP.”

Umi smiled at him, “When is that police transport going to stop following us?”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about that,” he answered.

When they returned to Indigo’s home, Umi’s vehicle shut down as the police transport blocked them in the space. Then a really bright light was shone on them as the speaker blared, “Mr. Welle and Ms. Etheria, you two are confined to the residence for the next 4 weeks.” Indigo nudged her and tilted his head towards the nearest wall. The light was a projector, its text stated, You have been exposed to a dangerous, highly contagious disease. Remain in quarantine or go to jail, not a hospital. When Umi turned back around, to stare at them blankly, trying to understand what-it-meant, the speaker called, “We are monitoring your movements. Thank you for your cooperation.” And then they left. Umi automatically tried to restart her vehicle. The dashboard light flashed, Locked Down.

Umi looked at Indigo. He awkwardly petted her knee, “Come on. There’s a nice, cold bleach wash awaiting us just around the corner.”

“I don’t even have a change of clothes,” she said uncertainly in a small voice.

He hugged her briefly, trying to stifle the moisture gathering in her eyes, “You can borrow mine.”

Opening the door, she pulled away from his hug with a couple of welcome squeezes on his arm as he released her. “You know which shirt I want.”

He groaned.

The bleach wash was awkward. Indigo wanted them both to just dive in and get it over with, Umi pointed out that they’d then have to take a shower together. Indigo told her that was fine with him, but Umi insisted he go first and she’d follow 5 minutes behind.

When she emerged from the bathroom with the gag shirt she’d given him, he groaned for a different reason. He could see the twin peaks of her nipples. The shirt was a naked female print to vaguely correspond to the wearer. In his case, an indisputably masculine frame with broad shoulders and musculature. It was absurd. On her, it was still absurd since her real breasts were located in the shoulder region of the print. “I love you, but I’m burning that shirt,” he commented.

She chuckled.

He was serious.

After putting away everything from the store, and bleach washing it along the way, they sat on the couch and scanned through the news on Indigo’s computer. After the article that the religious extremists had committed suicide and that the government was fanning across the world to seize the genetic equipment that they had used to make the virus from anyone who owned them, Umi sighed, “I saw your vehicle in the storage. What’s wrong with it?”

Indigo looked at the top of her head where she was leaning on his shoulder. “Nothing. I just decided you’d value me more if you had to work for my time.”

Umi lifted her head, looked him in the eye, and rolled hers. “Think the police missed it?”

“Nope.” He closed the screen showing the news and pulled up a comedy that they both liked. “I checked.”

“That’s why they didn’t let me drop you and head home.” Umi clicked the play selection on the screen.

He cocked his head, “I don’t follow.”

“Only a couple would leave a functioning vehicle behind to go to the store together.” Then she chuckled at a gag at the start of the show.

Indigo swallowed his next two sentences opting instead for, “Use my computer to let your family know you’re here.” …with me. He was delaying the inevitable issue: where she was going to sleep. The discussion with her family settled that…

Her mom asked, “Is he safe?”

“Yes,” Umi replied rolling her eyes, “I’m sleeping on his couch.”

Her father frowned, “No. But he’s acceptable.” Indigo was heading to get a pillow and blanket for her when he said that and paused. Turning his head, he caught Umi looking at him speculatively. Then she blushed and looked back at the screen to ask, “Are you guys safe?” …

Having settled her on the couch afterward, Indigo wished her goodnight. A brief hand squeeze. Then she had the worst night of sleep possible. Her hips were over-supported, her shoulders under-supported, her knees had to be partially tucked, and she couldn’t get her head into a comfortable position if she straightened them. It was miserable.

When Indigo, well rested damn the man, came out to the main room at twilight, Umi looked at him blearily, “Izzit morning?”

“For me,” Indigo replied sympathetically. Then he picked her up and carried her to his bed.

She rolled over, tucked in, and murmured, “Smells like you.”

“Sweet dreams,” he told her dropping a soft kiss on her hair.

Surrounded by his scent, she fell asleep.

Indigo sat and tried to figure out how the next several weeks were going to play out. It looked as if the semester was over, and he’d have to start all his classes all over again. For some reason none of it dealt a blow to the contentment he was generally feeling. He checked in with his parents and siblings. They were fine, worried about his being alone. He told them about Umi’s situation. The reaction was to demand more information, which he didn’t want to give. Then the subject was dropped…until the next barbed joke. “Look, I hoped we wouldn’t have this conversation, but when they threaten to call the police, you’ve got to let them go.”

At lunchtime, Indigo woke Umi, “You can’t sleep the whole day, because I’m not going to have you keep me up late.”

“Ung.”

“Lunch is on,” he added leaving the room.

“Unnn.”

Staggering out of the bedroom a few minutes later, Umi zombie walked to him. Groaning, “Brains,” she put her arms around him and pulled his hair with her teeth.

Laughing, “Stop it…stop…stop…I meant it,” Indigo pinched her until she took her seat for her br-unch. He liked having her arms around him, not so much the hair pulling.

“Brains?” she muttered poking at the items on the plate.

“Only figuratively.” He smiled, savoring his happiness at the moment. “I was thinking, how about if we plant some seeds?”

“Start a garden?” she sipped at her tea. “Probably best to start the seeds germinating inside, then transplant the shoots outside. We’ll have to adjust the conditions out there, but it sounds like fun.”

They worked outside for the rest of the day figuring out where to put different types of vegetables and herbs. Then in the evening, they worked on setting up the seeds. Umi built a basic radio so that they could listen to music. News broadcasts would break up any sense of peace that they’d attained. Indigo had an accident which took the radio out of commission until Umi could repair it several hours later. Afterwards, she attached it to herself and warned him that there were a few of his household items that she wouldn’t miss. A fire broke out in the evening near the dirty clothes, but fortunately only destroyed one shirt. Indigo pointed out that he was working with Umi all evening. Umi pointed out that it was unusual her gag shirt was the only one that was placed directly on the heating element for drying. Indigo pretended he didn’t hear her mutter, “Gee, wonder why most women run away screaming after dating him.”

As they sat together on the couch and watched the news, then turned to some entertainment to distract themselves from it, Indigo idly rubbed Umi’s neck making her curl into him. He wished she’d put her arms around him again, but the way her hands touched his leg between their laps was satisfying enough. And arousing.

When it was time for bed, there was no discussion. Umi trailed him into the bedroom and settled on the side next to the bathroom. Rolling over, putting her back to him, she murmured, “Night, Indigo.”

Laying on his side, looking at her back, he replied, “Sweet dreams, Umi.” He was surprised to sense her hand patting around between them which then patted his hip. On the way, she slightly missed, brushing the erection he couldn’t resist as soon as he crawled into bed next to her. Snagging her hand, he held it.

Smiling, Umi squeezed his hand a couple of times then pulled her hand away to get comfortable again. Her semi-innocent exploration answered one question she had: Indigo at least was physically attracted to her. She’d spent the whole evening uncomfortable, wanting to get closer. But she didn’t want to push him. Four weeks was a long time, and if they didn’t get along, it could become a nightmare instead of a wonderful time with her platonic best friend. Sighing, trying to calm her body down, she closed her eyes, focusing on his increasingly addictive scent and the comfort of not sleeping on the couch-from-hell.

The next day, Umi opened her eyes and blinked. She rolled over and was practically nose-to-nose with Indigo. Who wasn’t asleep. He was watching her. Before and after her blink, his facial expression changed. She would have described the earlier one as earnest. The one that her eyes focused on afterward was pleased. “Morning,” she muttered.

“Good morning,” he replied with a deep rumble.

She narrowed her eyes, “What are you so happy about?” His facial expression was the one he generally wore when he’d gotten away with something. He raised his eyebrows and widened his eyes affecting innocence. Definitely guilty.

He really wanted to kiss her, but he didn’t want to pressure her. If she didn’t want it, he’d be spending 4 weeks awkwardly sleeping next to an indifferent or hostile bedmate. “Just enjoying a wonderful dream.” For the moment, he was satisfied that he’d gotten her into his bed for a reasonable amount of time to get her used to him.

“You’re awake.” She pinched him.

Slapping at her hand, he slid out of the bed on the other side. “It’s getting hard to tell the difference.” He didn’t bother concealing the tented state of his pajama bottoms as he wandered to the bathroom. Out of the corner of his eye, he could tell she noticed.

They walked around the neighborhood in the morning, then gardened after lunch, building variously capable tiny greenhouses for maintaining conditions for the vegetables. The herbs were hardier. After the second news report broke up their musical background, Umi took the radio off her belt and put it away in the tool area. Several days passed in much the same manner. One evening a week later, tired, they curled up together on the couch. Emphasizing a point as they chatted over a movie, Indigo grabbed Umi’s hand. Then he didn’t let go. She didn’t try to take it back either. A contented fuzz took over his brain. Then next thing he knew, she was shaking him awake saying, “We fell asleep on the couch-from-hell, c’mon. Lets go to bed.” He was unconscious when his head hit the pillow.

The next morning, he groggily sat up when the bed shook. Umi was heading to the bathroom. As they sat at the breakfast table, she pulled up her shirt and covered her cough. “Sorry,” she muttered.

He had a mild headache and sighed, “I feel…not so great.”

“Let’s take it easy today. Got any games?” Umi suggested.

They started out with a strategy game, which took several hours. After lunch they took a nap. Not feeling any better, they played cards instead until it was time to eat dinner. Which was warmed up frozen food. Then instead of curling up on the couch, they curled up in bed. And instead of absorbing any news, they simply watched comedies. As Indigo and his headache slipped off to dreamland, Umi’s soft cough provided the background sound.

When he struggled awake the next day, he knew he had a fever. Despite laying next to Umi’s warm body, he was still cold, outright shivering. Climbing out of bed, he staggered to the bathroom. He had to hold on to the door frame as the locations of objects lost meaning. After using the toilet and brushing his teeth, he looked at the bathtub as Umi’s coughing returned. Drawing a hot bath, he climbed in before it was even close to full. The temperature was perfect, his shivers started to quiet. Laying back, finally comfortable, he closed his eyes, just to relax for a little while.

“WAKE UP!” Umi yelled, “Holy shit, Indigo! *cough cough* You trying to kill yourself?!” Umi wiped her nose on her sleeve as she turned off the water and pulled the drain plug.

Indigo blearily looked up at the woman he was desperately in love with. He was in his bathtub, and she was draining the water. He’d been gradually submerging under it. The level was up to his chin. Oh. He tried to sit up, but he couldn’t without the buoyancy from the water. “Help,” he pleaded.

“Of course, honey,” she said leveraging him into a sitting position. Getting him to his feet was the next hurdle, but then she was able to support him back to bed. “Lets get you some water and a fever pill. You’re burning *cough* up.”

“Always wanted to be naked with you. Just pictured it differently,” he tried to joke as he collapsed back into bed.

Umi patted his butt in response.

With them both medicated, Umi joined him blowing her nose and coughing roughly before laying back down. Indigo sought her hand under the covers; Umi seized his hand, and he weakly squeezed hers.

A few hours later Indigo could tell that his fever had lowered, because Umi’s worsening cough bothered him. He wished she’d try holding it in instead. He knew that was irrational, but he also knew that it was making her throat irritated, more susceptible to coughing. Which was when he got an idea. Climbing out of bed and rummaging through his medical kit, he found a numbing med for the throat. He only had it because of surgery a few years back. Waiting until Umi’s coughing fit ended, he talked her into trying it out.

In the blessed silence that followed, she whispered to him, “I liked it when you grabbed me.”

“When?” How? His fever was coming back, but he could tell it wasn’t going to be as bad. The shivering wasn’t as violent.

“At the grocery store. It was the first time I’d ever been in your arms.”

He remembered the moment, too. Relived it in his dreams, well day-dreams. He gently ran his fingers down her wan face. Precious.

“What?”

He’d said it out loud apparently. “I want you in my arms.”

She smiled. “I liked you being naked. When we got you out of the bathtub. I looked.”

He chuckled softly. “You can look anytime when you get better.” Then he kissed her forehead.

“Oh, a goal. It’s a deal.” She grabbed his hand then and curled up with his arm to sleep.

And just like that, he had managed to get the woman he’d desired for years to become his girlfriend. If he didn’t know any better, he’d argue that the sudden rush of endorphins set him well on to the road to recovery.

Hours later, or maybe a whole day, a knock on the window and the crashing of the blinds afterwards woke them both up, but they didn’t have the energy to do more than look in Indigo’s case and ask what he saw in Umi’s. She had a fever but the cough was gone.

A police officer stood outside of the window. He recognized the tool she put down; it was a powerful electromagnet. She must have used it to rip the metal fixtures holding the blinds out of the wall, letting her look in through the window. “Mr. Welle and Ms. Etheria, your families have requested we perform a wellness check.” She pulled out another tool and waved it across the window, “I am not detecting any blood. If you have not vomited, raise your hand.”

Indigo raised his hand, then realized that Umi was out of it. Grasping her arm by the elbow, he raised her hand as well.

The officer took out another tool. “I see that Ms. Etheria has a high fever.” Then she stepped away from the window. After a few minutes, she returned, “Mr. Welle, I’ve put medical supplies on your doorstep. The hospitals are unable to treat non-essential workers at this time, so Ms. Etheria is in your care unless you want her family to send a volunteer to manage her illness. If you wish to remain her caretaker, raise your hand.”

Indigo raised his hand and waved it to make sure she saw it.

“Ms. Etheria, can you understand me? If you can, do you consent to Mr. Welle’s taking care of you?”

Umi tried to raise her hand. It was more like propping her elbow up on Indigo.

“I am confirming that Ms. Etheria has consented to Mr. Welle’s managing her care. I’ll report back to your families. We will check in on you again tomorrow unless you contact us with an update.” Then she left with a soft crunch of the gravel.

Indigo struggled up, got Umi to take a med for her fever, then brought in the supplies box that was left by the officer. It was mostly food, such as soup and crackers, but there was also cough suppressant, decongestant, and fever pills. Exhausted, he lay back down and reflected that they both needed showers, and the sheets could use a change.

Umi woke up having to go to the bathroom. Staggering out of the bed, she noticed that Indigo wasn’t in it. After peeing, she was surprised that the bathroom door opened as she was washing her hands.

“You’ve got to take a shower, sweetie,” Indigo stated reaching around her to turn it on.

Umi couldn’t deny that part, but, “I can’t stand for very long. I’m about to fall over.”

“Trust me, I know. I put a chair in the shower,” he grasped her waist and helped her step in.

She gasped as the water hit, but then sighed. It felt really good. Then Indigo helped her take off his shirt. He was getting wet, too, but the space was too small for the both of them with her sitting. Then he helped her stand and take off his boxer shorts. She was naked, and she blearily looked at him to see how he took it. He looked, but concern motivated him more.

Handing her the soap, he asked, “Are you able to do this part?”

She nodded.

“Okay, I’m going to change the bed. Don’t move.”

She smiled since that was funny.

Doing her best to bath herself, she quickly tired. When Indigo returned and suggested he help her wash her hair, she gratefully accepted. He had changed from his wet clothes, so this time he just stripped instead of letting his fresh set of clothes get wet. And she got an eyeful. He was standing-at-attention, erect. “You’re beautiful, my girlfriend, and I’d have to be dead to not appreciate that,” he told her when she looked back up at him embarrassed at being so focused on it. Scrubbing her hair awkwardly, uncertain about how to handle its length, he helped her finish cleaning.

When he offered her more clothes to wear, she only took the boxers. Sighing, she settled back into the clean sheets, herself clean, all thanks to the amazing man tucking her in. “I love you,” she murmured closing her eyes. Very gently, his lips pressed against hers. Their first kiss. She smiled.

When she awoke in the middle of the night, she sighed enjoying the moment. She was achy from being in bed so long, but she didn’t feel so feverish anymore. After going to the bathroom, she climbed back in next to Indigo. His soft breathing lulled her back to sleep, while his presence filled her with warm pleasure.

Sitting on the couch again the next evening, well back on the mend, Umi was trying to figure out how to deal with him. She was like precious glass to him, but she wanted to get closer.

“Would you like to play a game of cards?” he asked.

She sat up straighter as an idea struck her, “How about if we do a little bet on the game?”

“Like what? I’ll trade you 10 of my herb seeds for one of your massive melons?”

Umi smiled. Apparently she wasn’t the only one experiencing some form of frustration. “The loser has to kiss the winner.”

Indigo paused his shuffling. Then continued while asking, “Where?”

Her eyes just about crossed as that thought hit, “On the mouth.”

“Open or closed.”

“Open.”

“Not that I’m complaining, but how’s that different for the winner?” He held out the deck for her to cut it.

“Okay, reverse that, and the loser has to sit there and not react with anything more than his/her mouth.”

His eyes were twinkling as he dealt the cards, “Deal.”

Indigo lost the first game and as Umi leaned towards him, he said, “Wait a minute. I need to tell you something.”

“Mmmm. No. Tell me after I kiss you.” And then she pressed her lips to his cutting off the protest. He groaned his frustration, opening his mouth, and letting her kiss him. She made sure not to wrap her arms around him to hold him secure, and he pressed forward by leaning into her to deepen the kiss. His flavor filled her senses, heightening the warmth spreading through her body. Wanted this. Wanted you.

Pausing for breath, she pulled back and smiled at him, full of feminine delight in driving him crazy. He wanted to grab her and pull her back for another dose.

He looked so hungry, she was thrilled to have created it. “Now, what did you have to tell me?” And then he looked guilty, but not entirely. The guilt came from the emotion that he was hiding under it.

“I reported to the police on our recovery, you know they wanted a daily update, and they said that we have to stay quarantined for another six weeks.”

She raised her eyebrows at such a long time frame.

“I asked why it was so long, and it seems like the problem is everything inside this place is infectious, and they don’t want to deal with that because there are shortages on cleaning supplies.” He took her hand and kissed her palm saying, “Sorry. You’re stuck with me.”

She narrowed her eyes. That was definitely a sorry-not-sorry. “I could say the same,” she observed. He didn’t realize that her father’s response to her mom’s asking if he was safe was directed at her, too. Then she tapped the deck. “Well, we have lots of time then to drive each other crazy. Deal.”

In what sense? He was already losing his moorings when it came to Umi. When they kissed, he wanted more. Like an addict. Learning from the police that their quarantine was extended was received as great news by his gonads. Apparently his lack of screaming in response elicited an elaboration as to why and a release from the daily check-ins. Refocusing on the game, he decided that he wasn’t up to another loss. She needed to get back into his arms for an intense, solid, no escape kiss.

Umi lost, but she smiled at having won. Indigo’s hunger took over his facial expression as he pulled her into his arms murmuring, “I win.” She was tugged onto his lap, and he secured her waist with one hand and the back of her head with his other. She sighed happily as his mouth again reclaimed hers. With his hand behind her head, the pressure of his mouth against hers was demanding. His tongue again caressed hers, and he repeated the motion claiming her again and again. His erection was a hard object pressed against her hip, promising. Arousal burst like flame from the warmth filling her.

When he was done, she commented while breathing heavily, “That was fun…you know, having a bit of skin or saliva in the game.”

He held her gaze. She was still recovering. He needed to be careful with her or else she could revert back to being sick. “I can’t wait for tomorrow when you’re feeling better,” he rumbled.

She grinned. Then yawned. “I take it we’re done for tonight. Which show do you want to watch?…”

She was oblivious that such a simple sentence grooved a powerful sense of rightness in his frame. This. He wanted this. Being with her just like this.

When she awoke in the morning, she felt much better. Indigo had made breakfast, and she insisted on eating it at the table. Setting her up with his computer and some comedies, he took care of various parts of the home, the laundry, the garden, and so on. He took advantage of kissing her at every opportunity. She felt guilty about being so useless. So she joined him in the garden, and despite being urged not to do too much, she felt fine building the greenhouses. Every once in a while she’d pause and watch Indigo. She enjoyed watching him move. He’d look back at her and smile before focusing on his task. Every once in a while, she would find herself thinking of THEIR garden or THEIR bed or THEIR home, but then she would jerk her mind back from the drift. It all was his, and she was his guest. That was all. Well, girlfriend-guest, with its extra…benefits, but guest all the same. Glancing back at him, she reflected that girlfriend-rights were something she hadn’t yet fully explored. And she had an idea.

That night, when they were clean and ready for bed, relaxing on the couch again, she suggested, “How about another game?”

“What sort of game?” he was instantly smiling and aroused.

“We play cards, but the loser strips?”

“How about the winner gets to rub the loser’s gonads.”

Getting his hands on her breasts and vulva shot through her brain. “What if the loser orgasms?”

“Okay, switch. The loser has to stimulate the winner to an orgasm.”

“And the loser?”

“Has to rub him/herself to orgasm, or we can play again and he/she has to wait till they win.”

“Okay…we can try it.”

“Strip.”

“No, that’s part of the game.”

“Mmmm. No. Have the loser strip and then the winner gets rubbed to an orgasm in their clothes?”

“Works for me,” she laughed.

“I love you. No.”

So she agreed, and they pulled off their clothes. His erection was unmistakable, and he commented, “I can’t control that around you. I want my girlfriend.”

Her heart beat harder in response, and she sighed, “I miss my vibrator.”

“You’re welcome to use me anytime,” he selflessly offered.

She rolled her eyes, “You’re not going to quietly sit in the closet until I’m feeling the urge again.”

“I want to be the one triggering the urge,” he replied darkly.

“Exactly.”

The cards were dealt, and she won. As Indigo moved in on her, he licked his finger and then [deleted]. His eyes were dilated, watching her intently as he moved his hand. Heat filled her as [deleted], and she briefly grabbed the back of his head to make him kiss her. The motion of his hand shifted [deleted]. “My dick’s jealous of my fingers,” he rumbled. Her heat intensified. [deleted]

[deleted] “Indigo,” she groaned.

“Feel me, my Umi?” he murmured against her lips. [deleted], and he was driving her crazy.

“More. Indigo, that feels so good,” she moaned. [deleted], he took her lips again. She shuddered under his hands, thrilled he was doing this to her.

When she was done jerking and grimacing, Umi opened her eyes to stare into his. Sighing in satisfaction, she asked, “Want to play again?”

He smiled. For some reason, she lost, and when she [deleted], he murmured, “I love your playing games with me.”

[deleted], she commented, “You said you wanted me to value your time.”

[deleted]. But this was perfect. [deleted]. “Careful how you play with me, though,” he tried warning her. Then [deleted].

Umi smiled, satisfied, and actually licked her finger as she washed her hands in the sink. Having followed her over, Indigo grasped her into his arms trapping her against the sink in response. “Feel like playing another game tomorrow?” she sweetly inquired.

He murmured into her neck as he kissed her there, “I’d insist on tonight, but since you’re still recovering, lets see what we can do tomorrow.”

“And we’ll have all day. Looks like it’s supposed to rain.”

“I think we can count on it.” The way he said his double entendre, his voice filled with dark promise and his arms wrapped around her securing her to him, made her shiver with desire.

Umi fell asleep so rapidly that Indigo knew he couldn’t tire her out just yet. When she suggested playing games to get intimate, he just about tripped over himself. He’d been trying so hard to let her recover before pushing for more, and he was thrilled that she’d made the first move. That she wanted him as much as he wanted her was the best feeling in the world, and he couldn’t wait until the next day to let her know that. It wasn’t until the soft rush of wind outside rustling through the trees was followed by the sheets of water against the roof that he finally fell asleep.

After breakfast, Umi looked at the rain falling outside the windows on their garden project. “Looks like it’s going to be a while before we can go back out.”

“I seem to recall your original purpose for coming over here was to work on eigenvectors,” Indigo commented slipping a textbook and writing paper next to her hand on the table.

She looked up at him with a smile, “I wanted to eventually get to complicated two-body motion.”

Indigo mmmmmm’d. Her suggestive urging was pushing him off-balance. His erection sprang into action when she spoke. “I’m going to pick a random object, and you’ll find the most unstable rotation.” Which seemed to be a natural talent of hers.

“If I win?”

“Cunnilingus.” She shivered watching him swallow excitedly.

“If I lose?”

“Sex. You get on top of me and make me orgasm.” He put a condom on the table next to the book.

She blew out her breath. “No fellatio huh?”

His erection twitched at the thought but, “Next round, maybe. For this one…you’re MY girlfriend now. And call me territorial, but I’m out to destroy your memories of any other men touching you but me.”

Umi’s breath caught when he made his declaration. She’d always cared deeply for Indigo, but he’d triggered her sense of self-preservation. Something about him threatened to make her fall so deeply in love with him that if anything went wrong, she’d worry about her sanity. He really could wipe out her memory of other men as she lost herself in him. “Okay, but what…what are you expecting from me when we aren’t playing?” she had to ask.

“I expect you to sleep in my bed, be my companion, and to tell me what you want from me physically.” He picked up her hand, and softly kissed one of her knuckles.

“Exactly what we’re doing?”

“Exactly.”

“What about when we can leave again?”

“Nervous?” She should be. It was an inevitable event that was stirring something dark deep inside him, something he wasn’t ready to face. “Let’s see how we feel then.” Making her crazy about him in several weeks would be a challenge, but he was up for trying.

“What if I’m more attached to you than you are to me?” she worried softly, looking him in the eye.

Keeping her eyes fixed on him, he unleashed his consuming desire for her fractionally so she could see it. Raw hunger. “Sometimes you have to just jump and discover where you land.”

Thinking back over how he had behaved since the insanity of the pandemic started, she realized that he had always been her partner, caring, adoring, and funny. Now he was looking at her like she was a feast, an echo of her own interest in enjoying his body. Her question was one of whether the activity would be love-making or fucking. His answer was clear: love-making. Softening her lips, she softly smiled, leaned towards him nose-to-nose and murmured, “Game on.” Then she kissed him, licking his bottom lip before nibbling on it. He opened his mouth, seized the back of her head, and deepened the kiss and its intensity.

When they paused, he said, “A uniform sphere.”

“Seriously?” she smiled. That one didn’t have an unstable rotation axis. The sample calculation was right in front of her in the book. She filled in the steps they skipped and put her pen down at the same time he pulled her chair away from the table. Helping her stand up, turning her around, he guided her to lay back on the table and pulled his boxers off of her.

“I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to me that you are always wearing my clothes,” he commented with a nip and a lick on her inner thigh.

Her thigh muscle spasmed in response, and she swallowed as she sunk deeper into her thickening arousal. “Your scent is in everything, and I’m perversely enjoying rolling in it,” she laughed.

Then he shouldered himself between her thighs, settled on her vacated chair and smiled at her over her mons, “You’re good enough to eat.”

Her breath caught at the sight of the hunger in his eyes. Then [deleted], and she gasped dropping her head back on the table. Indigo was merciless. He [deleted]. Umi threw out her arms and grasped the sides of the table. When she moaned his name, he [deleted]. Her back literally came off the table as she keened.

Pulling his face away, petting her with his fingers, he kissed the inside of her thigh as she panted. “Ready for your next challenge?” he rumbled, his voice dark with promise. She was about to be claimed.

“Give me a minute,” she sighed, her heart rate racing. Indigo never did things halfheartedly. Having his focus and drive targeting her sexual pleasure was an intimidating prospect. One likely to render her into a jibbering, sexually subsumed bundle of nerves.

“Be right back,” he chuckled, getting up to wash his face in the sink. He returned just as she managed to crawl off the table. When she reached to pick up the boxers she’d been wearing, he rumbled, “Don’t bother. Just sit…And get ready to be mine.”

Umi narrowed her eyes at his challenge. He was certain she couldn’t do the next one, and damn the man, he was probably right.

“Squat ovloid,” he announced with a smile.

She looked at her sphere solution realizing that she had to keep all three axes. “Uh, oh,” she murmured. “How about the x and y axes stay equal?”

“Sure, go for it. That’s more difficult in my opinion, but give it a shot,” he grinned.

Naturally, she didn’t get there. Feeling her naked vulva pressed against the chair every time she shifted around didn’t help. Nor did Indigo’s deciding to undress by the time she was halfway through the calculations either. Indigo helpfully circled where she’d gone wrong when she’d given up; two elements in her matrix array had been switched. “Gah!” she groused.

“You almost got away,” he commented as he seized her wrist, tugging on her to get up. Urging her to straddle his lap, he pushed his shirt off of her and pulled her in for another intense kiss.

“Mental whiplash,” she muttered when he paused and dropped his mouth to her chest, leaning her back slightly to lick her breast.

“Sums up every moment I’ve had with you,” he murmured into her skin as he shifted to her other breast. Liquid heat was pooling low in her womb. Each lick, tug, and teasing caress of her nipples was shooting straight to nether regions.

“I need you inside me,” she moaned as the arousing sensation became frustration.

His grin was full of masculine magnetism as he reached for the condom and put it on. “On you get, my woman,” he ordered with a grin.

She shook her head, smiling, as she lined herself up [deleted]. Her gaze caught his as [deleted]. She widened her eyes at [deleted], whereas his eyes were half-lidded, twinkling, the look of a man savoring a tasty morsel. As he [deleted], she assumed a similar expression. The sensation was exquisitely delicious. Indigo’s eyes opened wider; he wanted to feast. [deleted], he grasped her chin and took her lips. Then he [deleted]

“Indigo,” she moaned.

“Mmmmm,” he replied, too blissfully happy for words. She was tensing in his arms, and he was holding her tighter for [deleted].

“I’m losing it.” She was [deleted].

He licked her neck as he [deleted], “Mine.” It came out as a low growl.

[deleted] His mouth left her neck, and he [deleted], his arms tightened on her more if possible. He groaned, and [deleted]

When he relaxed, he didn’t open his arms. Keeping one wrapped around her waist, he shifted the other up her back to the back of her head to urge her to kiss him again. He kissed her deeply. Her sexual bliss morphed and bloomed into a deep heart warmth, a sense of rightness and everything wonderful being in his arms.

“Love you,” he murmured against her lips when they paused kissing.

“Love you, too,” she replied back to him, smiling and squeezing his shoulders for emphasis.

They spent the whole day resting, eating, and making love. Exhausted, Umi asked him as they watched another romantic comedy in bed, “Which one of these is your favorite, by the way?”

“The one where the nerd gets the hot babe,” he answered without hesitation and kissing the top of her head.

She petted his chest, chuckling, “Figures. Those guys generally are pretty sneaky and persistent, I noticed.”

He laughed.

Several weeks passed in romantic bliss for Umi and Indigo. He was fairly confident that they were together for the foreseeable future, but he was increasingly getting the feeling that she would need more convincing to move in with him. That was when her parents reached out to her with some unwelcome news. Her ex-boyfriend had contacted them trying to figure out where she was so that he could check that she was okay. Indigo really really REALLY didn’t like the idea that the bastard was out of quarantine and had visited her domicile. Stepping behind her into the camera view, he whispered in her ear asking, “Can I talk to them?”

She nodded, “Mom, hang on a minute, Indigo wants to join us.”

Lifting her hand and kissing the back of it, making her blush, he told them, “Grant’s got problems with boundaries. He’ll be trying to get information about Umi other ways. Expect a fake police call, possibly even with a female voice.”

Umi swallowed remembering one of their last fights before she’d broken up with him and nodded. “Just pass on any messages, okay? Don’t let anyone know where I’m at even if it sounds like an emergency.”

Umi’s father and mother agreed. Indigo returned her father’s unspoken look as they signed off for the night. The man wanted to know he was settled on his daughter. He was.

After dinner, Indigo suggested a game of truth-or-dare. Umi giggled, “Sounds like fun. Okay. Truth or Dare, honey?”

“Truth.”

“When did you first decide you liked me?”

“The first time I talked to you on the comm.”

“Wow,” she breathed, her body warming under the look he was giving her.

“Truth or Dare.”

“Um, Dare.”

Indigo’s eyes fairly sparked, “Climb onto me right here, now, without a condom.”

Umi’s eyes widened. Then she blew out her breath as he stood up and took off his clothes. And yep, he was ready for her. The escalation completely caught her by surprise, but then she remembered the conversation earlier. Fucking Grant. Asshole. Pulling off her clothes, she climbed over him and they [deleted]. If there was one think he’d driven into her awareness since they’d become lovers, it was that he was going to make the sex good. It wasn’t long before she [deleted]. This was so risky. “You know I’ve no protection since we’ve been in quarantine, right?”

Perfect. “I’ll pull out when I orgasm…”

She let out her breath and [deleted].

“…Unless you tell me not to.”

Okay, then. “Tr- Truth or Dare?” she breathed.

“Truth.”

Let’s do this. “What is your darkest fantasy?”

He [deleted]. He rumbled, “Making you pregnant.” Keeping you forever.

Umi’s heart was beating rapidly. I asked. Indigo promised to get her off of him when he got close. She was in control, but she recognized his pattern: he states what he wants, then he works to get it. She was about to be hunted. If she was honest with herself, she’d constantly been engaged in being chased by him. “How about if we just get married?”

“That, too.” He [deleted]. “Truth or Dare, sweets.”

“Truth.” She [deleted]

“What is your darkest fantasy?” [deleted]

Oh, she was having all her buttons getting pushed tonight. You asked him first and he answered. “Um…”

Indigo [deleted]

“…It’s um…” Oh, this is going to be special.

“If you don’t answer, I get to choose what happens next as the winner…” he warned, “…and pulling out is on the table.”

“When you exercise a level of control over me,” she actually cringed. “I get warm inside. It, um, it could get pushed further.”

Indigo’s eyes glinted, and he [deleted]

“Truth or Dare!” she gasped.

He [deleted]. “Dare.”

She had to come up with a dare. And he [deleted]. “Dare you to put on a condom.”

He stopped. “Oh, let’s play, Umi.” [deleted]. Once he had the condom on, he didn’t let her climb back on to him, prompting, “Truth or Dare.”

Frustrated, burning up without him, she hesitated. “Fine. Dare.” She knew she could stop playing, but that part of her that she hadn’t wanted to admit to pressed to keep going, letting him push her over the edge.

He took the condom off. “Up you go.” Umi shivered realizing where all their games in the near future were headed. He was possessive. And she? She’d become obsessed. [deleted]. “Feels a lot more intense, doesn’t it?” he rumbled.

She nodded, [deleted]. She was breathing heavily. It was consuming; she [deleted], she remembered, “Truth or Dare?”

“Truth.” [deleted]. He was thoroughly enjoying himself. He really was a perfect fit for her.

She lost track several times as he [deleted], then remembered she had to ask a question. “Why didn’t you ask me out?”

“Game theory.” He [deleted]. “I wasn’t willing to risk our friendship unless certain the answer would be yes.”

Umi [deleted].

“Truth or Dare.”

She knew where this was going. If she said Truth, he would keep her on edge…for as long as it took. He was nothing if not determined. Obviously the only choice to end the game was Dare. And she had a pretty good idea what the dare would be.

“Truth or Dare, sweets,” he prompted. His voice was rich with masculine satisfaction. He knew he had her cornered. He knew it turned her on. He knew she knew all of those things. Take me.

Opening her mouth, she licked up his neck making him suck in his breath. “Dare,” she whispered into his ear.

“Gotcha,” he whispered back. “Dare you to let me orgasm right now, the way we are.” [deleted]

[deleted]. Then [deleted]. She [deleted]

Panting. [deleted]. Umi kissed Indigo, and he returned it with fervor. “I love you,” she murmured.

“Marry me,” he ordered, [deleted].

“Are you planning any more games?” she asked smiling.

He grumbled, “As many as it takes…and then some.”

“Fine. You’ve got me.” As if she would let him go.

“I love you, Umi,” he replied.

Leaning her elbow on his shoulder, she ran her index finger over his eyebrow. “You know, there’s no reason to think you got me pregnant with this. I’m not going to make it easy.”

Indigo grinned and patted her hip, loosening his arms. “How about a strategy game and then a coordination game tomorrow?”

“I’m sure it’ll be exciting,” Umi rolled her eyes and dropped a brief kiss on his nose.

During the next call to his family when he announced their engagement, his dad turned to his mom and joked, “Call the Police…She’s as crazy as he is.”

Photo by Hoang Loc on Pexels.com

Notes image linked to wikimedia commons source. Wiggling eyebrows animated by Bettie Zyx from wikimedia commons image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Basic,_wide_anime_eyes.svg

Experimenting with Smashwords!

Howdy my dear readers!
So this whole publishing thing has been a long experiment, and after some tests here and there decided to try Smashwords. The 20% sample that’s been enabled encompasses much of Book 1 in “18 Degrees and Counting: Diamond Anvil”. Other books will follow in time *slowly* as I get more comfortable with this interface. Hopefully hard/soft copies will be available again next year! Thank you for following me!
Love,
(-B

scififire

Library in a Forest

At UCLA, there’s a garden in the area that preserves the natural topography from when it was founded. One of the roads next to the music library was actually a bridge over the ravine if you continue to follow it uphill (all filled in now). If you go there when the Santa Ana winds blow on a Sunday morning, it’s the only place I’ve found that can overcome the sound of cars. Bring your breakfast, take a book, and relax…

Speaking of which I’m really missing rain, so here are some surround-sounds to bliss-out to.

tree with brunch and green leaves during sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com