Blue knew one thing, and that was that she'd forgive Tamas everything. Like leaving her to return to her home planet at the call of her employer.
She'd do everything.
She'd come to her godforsaken forest planet following Tamas's trail. It was Tamas's homeworld after all, and god-forsaken was more than a florid descriptor. The peoples inhabiting the planet knew no gods, and no rules except their own, that excluded things like common human decency, hospitality, or anything that would persuade Blue to make her life there.
Except for Tamas.
They had power, also - some more, some less. Tamas had rather little for the standards of her people, but some others, the very powerful ones, might grant wishes, for some horrendous fee or other. It reminded Blue, for better or worse, of the Fae courts she had grown up hearing stories of on her grandmother's knee, and she was fairly sure that the same rules applied on Tamas's planet.
Don't eat anything they offer you, or you'll be trapped. Don't be so reckless as to give away your name, or they'll have power over you. Don't go under the Faery hill or you might just come back out and find a hundred mortal years have passed.
If you hang on to your lover long enough, you will free them.
She wasn't sure if it was really heartening. Or if it was really true, for that matter. She only knew that Tamas was in the employ of one of the very powerful ones, the closest to royalty it got, and when she had sought audience they had looked her over, rested one spindly hand - not that it was really that, but Blue had no better word - on her round belly, and the child kicked in her, and the light in the alien's eyes grew sharp and terrible and greedy.
Blue couldn't strike the bargain.
She couldn't shake the night on Earth that it had happened, against all expectations. Tamas had worn her Earth body then, one of the few glamours that she was capable of, until she shed it, revealing organs that were more like those of a plant, opening like petals, floral appendages, tentacles and a fine mist of pollen that robbed Blue of her inhibitions - if she'd still had any left at that point, which in retrospect she doubted, they vanished entirely at the burn of warmth throughout her body, and she gave in to the probing appendages, half like a tongue and half something else, a slide and a caress, wholly alien, but so, so good.
She'd not expected the pregnancy. Compatibility was something she was aware of, even between women of their two races, but it came as a surprise regardless. As it always did, she guessed, unless it was a planned thing. Not that she regretted it, in the aftermath.
The alien's touch on her belly only helped steel her resolve.
"I would free your lover. I could make you powerful. I could make you one of us, for but a little fee. Wouldn't you like that?" The voice was too beautiful to be true, the offer too good, the child in her too alive.
No, she wouldn't.
The alien's eyes flashed, and for the first time, standing in the crowded attendance hall, Blue felt terror spike through her, clawing her throat tight against the breath that she needed. Holding her head high, she walked down the steps from the dais and through the crowd that parted for her in an astonished hush.
It was a relief, after, to be out in the open air again. The door guards gave her concerned looks as the living wood of the gates merged into a whole again with snaps and crackles, and she almost laughed a little hysterically at the absurdity of alien doors. No way to slam these, although she felt like it was meant to be that.
Maybe the terror she'd just walked out of made her light-headed.
"Blue," said one of the masked door guards, and she nearly jumped out of her skin recognizing Tamas's voice. "Come to the crossroads at midnight, and hold on to me no matter what. Now go, before they come for the children."
Blue's feet, spurred by the urgency in Tamas's voice, were already in motion, but twisting to look back, she couldn't help notice the swell of Tamas's belly under her leaf-like ceremonial robes.
Midnight on Tamas's strange planet was bright with a riot of stars and flickering sky-lights between the trees, matched by the flowers everywhere below, releasing their scents into the cooling air.
Blue swallowed another of the almost-hysterical giggles that had wanted out all day at the thought of how lucky she was that these weren't Tamas's flowers. Terrified and horny probably made for a bad combination.
Blue rested her hands on her knees, breathed, and listened.
Among the flowers, the planet's nocturnal animals rustled and scavenged in the super-organism that was the forest, and as the bulk of something very large and dark passed her, blotting out the stars for a moment, Blue took comfort in the thought that she was an alien here, and not - emphatically not - part of the food chain. By Earth standards, all these creatures would be herbivores. By the planet's standards, they were vicious predators.
She hid herself at the crossroads waiting for the court procession to pass on one of their outings. None of the night creatures would assail them, knowing better than to anger the most vicious and vindictive predators on the planet.
They came eventually, with musicians among them, and the first thing that announced them among the sudden awed - afraid? - hush in the forest was a cloud of almost hypnotic sound - not quite music as Blue knew it, but she'd take the description. Starlight played on a riot of luminescent flowers adorning the procession and making them almost unrecognizable under all the decoration. It was some sort of sacred procession, rather than just a midnight stroll, Blue knew as much, but after giving the matter thought she also realized why Tamas had urged her to come at this point.
It was night. The planet's main suns had all three set, taking the major part of the aliens' powers with them. She supposed they still were powerful, but it was the only time she could give it a shot, if she could at all.
If you hang on to your lover long enough, you will free them.
When Tamas passed her, Blue seized her hand and tangled their fingers together. She could feel vines untwisting from Tamas's body, lashing their hands tighter together. She took a breath and waited for Tamas's employer to notice. If not - if they merely ran… that might not go well, in the aliens' far-reaching web of influences that had brought Tamas to Earth to begin with.
A shriek that made the trees around them shiver announced their discovery. Blue wrapped her arms around Tamas for good measure, as far as she could reach with two pregnant bellies between them, and heard Tamas suck in a breath, and her heart twisted painfully for Tamas.
She wasn't used to that much genuine tenderness, she was used to being used, but if anything, it made Blue even more determined to end it.
"Mine?" she managed to ask, motioning below, and Tamas had time for a nod before the storm of her employer's anger engulfed them. In her hold, Blue could feel Tamas's body shifting and changing.
One vicious animal after another twisted and thrashed in her grip - just because they were herbivores didn't mean they couldn't still be dangerous, and Blue nearly let go at this swipe at her belly or that, teeth snapping at her face.
Always, though, Tamas' pregnant belly. In whatever form.
Always, Blue's grip tightened again. Always, Tamas's vines around her wrist tightened again.
At last, Tamas shrank and shrank and shrank, and Blue scrabbled for her, terrified to lose and drop her and fail them both.
Her hand closed around something reassuringly solid.
A glowing seed, perhaps the size of a hazelnut, lay in her palm.
Blue dropped to her knees, feeling the astonished eyes of the company on her as the seed began to burn in her palm, radiating heat that might turn Blue to ash in an instant. She set her lips and cradled it against her breast, waiting for it to incinerate her and end it all.
She couldn't have opened her hand if she'd wanted to.
And then Tamas was herself again, sagging to the forest floor in Blue's hold.
The procession moved on as if on a signal. The music that, at some point beyond Blue's noticing, had stopped, resumed. It seemed that no one would even acknowledge her victory - if it was that at all - but finally they were left alone, and Blue sat with Tamas resting on her knees, even at rest tentatively leaning into her touch.
Eventually, the first of the suns rose, enormous and golden. The night-flowers closed in a whisper, and the day-flowers unfurled.
Tamas opened her eyes, and smiled.