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First Impressions

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Escaping the ruined tower was easier said than done with her slowly recovering as they climbed. Dodging the old traps and stopping long enough for Ray to grab a few more of the surviving books slowed them down further. Eventually they reached the final hallway and started to climb their way up the last flight of stairs into the early evening sun. Ray was never so grateful to see sunlight and trees as he was right then. Sari, however, was obviously uneasy as she urged them deeper into the woods. 

Watching as she stumbled through the underbrush, her red eyes glazed over, Ray realized she was pushing on toward a goal only she could see. “Sari… Sari we need to stop so you can rest.” Gently tugging on her arm to get her to look at him, Ray watched as she teetered off balance. “You have to rest so you can heal.”

Blinking at him a few times the satyxis eventually nodded and seemed to droop like a wilted plant. He helped her sit down on a log and propped her back against the remains of a tree before starting to change her bandages.

Where the specter’s claws had slashed her he found that the worst was along the base of the ribs and not the soft belly. The wound was closing, slowly, but it looked off, darkened, as if the skin was dead or dying. Not necrotic at least, but this isn’t going to heal as quickly as the gunshot. Pressing the bandage to the wound he looked up at her heavy lidded sunken eyes. She must be pretty weak though, she looks exhausted. I wonder if her body just immediately turns energy into healing? I bet she’s going to sleep a lot. 

“You’re not healing that quick. Too much damage I think. We should camp for a few days so you can sleep.” Carefully applying more ointment to the worst edges of the wound now that the bleeding stopped, Ray tried to think of which direction the river was. “Might want to go back to our last camp spot. That was well covered and safe. Had water nearby...”

Looking back up at her he chuckled softly as she was already half asleep leaning against the tree. One hand had gripped the sleeve of his coat and a part of him hoped that meant she was comfortable with him. That or she at least wanted him nearby. Either way she didn’t seem very responsive as her breathing slowed down as Sarith slipped into a deep sleep. “Or we can camp here. This works.” 

It didn’t take him long to set up her bedding and get a fire going once he convinced her to let go of his sleeve. Carrying the unconscious woman to the sleeping bag was the hard part since he wanted to make sure not to jostle her too much. Once she was stretched out with her coat as a blanket he went to see if there was a source of water nearby. She’d need to get cleaned up and he wanted hot water to wash the rest of her cuts with.

Finding the river again wasn’t too hard and Ray filled up as many containers as he could. What really surprised him were the wild berry bushes he spotted! He cut a few of the branches off to carry easier, hoping the sweet treat would perk the satyxis up. She saved me again. Those runeshots though … I’m glad she’s been sparing with that sort of ability because others are not going to be as … accepting. That green to the runes is hard to mistake and I don’t think I know anyone willing to work with a Cryxian will weaver. If she tells me she’s also a damned War Caster I’m going to lose my damn patience with her secrets. As it is, we’re going to have to talk about using those shots where there might be witnesses.

A heavy sigh as he broke through the final barrier of underbrush to reach their camp and some of his concerns melted away. She had woken up just enough to get his bed rolled out next to hers and a fire ring made but clearly fell asleep again before she could finish getting the fire going. Smoke curled up from the kindling and she was curled up on the dirt nearby. 

“Sari…” Chastising her just a little he also felt… grateful. And less worried. She was not the easiest person to get along with and they were going to have their arguments but she also clearly wanted to be here. “You should have stayed in bed…” Again he scooped her up, cradling her head on his shoulder and smiling softly down at her. “But thank you.” 

The fire going strong and water boiled to clean it, Ray used several cloths to clean off her more superficial cuts along her arms. Working her armor off was the harder part but eventually he got the chest plate off. Thankfully the woman was sleeping deeply enough that he barely got a grumble out of her as he handled her like a rag doll.

Getting off her boots was going to be his real challenge as they reached mid-way up her thigh and clipped with straps that connected under her shorts to one of her belts. “Like garters but armored… Interesting. Probably makes it easier to move though while you climb around a ship’s rigging.” 

The struggle was made worse when he found the blood had gotten inside the boot tops and dried. She actually did wake up at that point and weakly smacked him. “Buckles… You’re useless…” Turning her hip to show the buckles that ran down the back of the leather boots got a chuckle out of her as he started undoing them. “Never… undressed a woman?”

“Shush you. I have. Just not some with this much hardware.” Ray grinned and worked the first boot off before starting on the second. “There’s blood all over. Might just dunk you in the river in the morning except for the infection that’ll cause…”

Propping herself up on her elbows to watch him squirm the second boot off, she had an odd look to her face. “Worth it. Could go swimming together.” Her eyes followed the cloth as he scrubbed the dried and drying blood off her legs. The skin was unmarked from previous combat, dark tan colored with the same undertones of lavender that Ray had become to associate with her darker moods. 

“Well the river is full of bacteria that is going to fester in your wounds. I’d rather you not catch a disease or infection from swimming in it.” Wringing the cloth out again he glanced up at her face, carefully wiping away blood from her cheek and jaw. “I’d rather you work on healing.”

Something behind her eyes caught his attention and Ray realized that she was watching him back with a less predatory expression then usual. By now she was sitting up more, her hands behind her supporting her weight instead of the half-lounge from behind. Still moving slowly and without her usual grace, she lifted a hand to the side of his face. 

As close as those claws came to his eyes he didn’t flinch, the warmth coming off her hand to miss as her palm touched his cheek. Fingers through his hair she pulled her hand back to show a leaf and a small smirk. She’s testing the waters. How close can she get before I back away… How close do I want her to get. A part of him reminded him that it had been a very very long time since the last time he had a partner. That same part of him also reminded him that she was extremely easy on the eyes, full figured, and barely covered even if there was blood all over her.

A huge effort went into him breaking eye contact and leaning away from her, a hand gently pushing her shoulder so that she laid back down again. “Thanks. Now lay down and get some sleep. We’re going to camp here for a few days so you can rest and recover. I need you healed up so we can make it back to town.” Another exhale as if he was almost sighing in regret Ray pulled her blanket over her and added her coat on top as additional coverage.

Turning his back on her Ray worked to clean his med kit and take inventory on what he would need to replace when they got back to town. And then he would need to prepare their dinner. And move his bedding away from hers. Why is she in my head like this? I've worked with other women who were just as lovely and had no issues. Why this one? Because she’s dangerous? Because she’s different? Satyxis are like black widows. Sleeping with her might be fun, sure, and probably very exciting and different, but I have a feeling it’s going to also be painful.

That thought… Those claws, the shapely legs, the strength of her hands, the warmth of her skin… He -ached- and it was distracting. Dinner nearly burned because he wasn’t thinking of anything but the way she’d probably take control, her small form over his… 

“Ray … Get me water.” She was sitting up, those red eyes vibrant and sweat clinging to her face. “It’s hot … “ 

Her voice cut through the mental vision and he whipped around to look at her with a guilty expression that she hopefully didn’t notice. “Too many blankets. Sorry. I’m used to humans. We get cold when we lose too much blood.” Pulling her coat off of her and handing her a glass of water. “Are you hungry?”

A nod and she down the water to hold the cup out for another. “I want that … bread soup. What was it? I liked that.” She used both hands to demonstrate the bowl shape. “We had it at the inn. Bread, with the soup inside.”

“Oh! I know what you’re talking about. When we get back to town I’ll see if I can find some. You have to heal up before we can make that walk though.” The second glass of water was held out to her and he waited for her to down it as well before taking the cup and handing over the bowl of stew. “For tonight it’s just trail stew. Dehydrated meat and vegetables, some seasoning. No bread.”

“Going to make you bring bread more… And the cheese.” She ate with little complaint though it was clear sitting up was difficult. He helped support her by propping his backpack and hers behind her back. 

“Well, that’s harder to travel with. But most of my jobs only have me out in the woods for a few days and then in cities for the rest.” Ray chuckled some as she ate, his own soup more flavorful for the company. Now if I can just get my head out of the gutter… At least until she’s healed. Maybe then we can see how bad of an idea it is…

She ate half the bowl before it was obvious she was falling back asleep. Getting her comfy and waiting until she was fast asleep Ray resumed settling the campfire and cleaning up dinner before laying down himself. Sleep didn’t come easily though, his brain insistently following the same track as earlier even though he stubbornly tried to remind himself of all the reasons why he shouldn’t be thinking about his satyxis partner.

Eventually he slipped from his bed and went down toward the river again where he’d be well out of earshot and too far for the weakened satyxis to follow him. Stripping off his own clothes covered in dirt, sweat, and blood he slid into the water to wash off the grime from exploring. Feeling less filthy on the outside he leaned back against a large rock and let the after flow around him, cold but soothing as well. 

Thinking back on some of his last partners he realized Sarith was indeed different from them all. And not just because she wasn’t human, but because her personality and temperament made it hard to second guess what she would do, how she would react, even what she would say sometimes. But he liked that the most really. He was good at reading people, understanding them, and he wasn’t surprised very often.

But not with her. No, she was different. Surprising. Unexpected. If they were to act on their urges, would she start? Would she let him lead? He liked to take things a little slow at first, teasing and testing his partner’s reactions. Maybe that would surprise her though, a willing partner that wanted to please her. 

Leaning back against the rock with his eyes closed and his hand caressing the hardening desire, Ray tried to imagine what Sari would like. Did she enjoy having someone lick and tease at her most sensitive of places? Fingers tracing the opening until she was slick enough to admit a partner? Pinching and rolling nipples between fingers and kisses along the neck, inner thigh, crest of her hips. There was a lot Ray wanted to try with her to see what she liked most. 

Knowing Sari though she would want control eventually, her body sitting on his tantalizingly close. The tip just outside, sliding it back and forth between the lips before allowing him in. Was she someone that likes it hard and fast? Or agonizingly slow? Savoring the length of her partner? Would she wrap her small hands around him and tease that way? Those claws tracing lines down his chest and belly, her tongue and teeth teasing his neck and shoulders. He shivered at the idea even as he knew there would be blood drawn. 

He liked that idea, too. Trickles of blood and the sharp cold of her nail at his skin. A reminder that she could do so much more but chose not to. Sucking at his neck to leave marks, nibbling along his collar bone leaving little nicks from her teeth. The sharp smell of her sun-kissed skin mixing with the heady aroma of their mingled desire.

Aching even more as he thought about the warmth of her skin as she separated to let him inside her, the slick wet feeling of her body, the tightness of muscles contracting near climax. His breath caught as he realized that no, she’d be on top of him with those hands on his chest, breasts bouncing as she slid him in and out of her. Would she hold his arms down as she teased herself on him? Moving at her own pace to find just the right angle? He shuddered as his hand worked along the shaft, slow as he expected her to start. Faster as he thought about her needs, her flexible form shifting positions until she had him where she needed. His mind’s eye saw the way Sarith would gasp, her tangled auburn hair falling across bare shoulders as her head falls back, lips slightly parted as she reached her climax. Her body contracting around him tighter and tighter as he released inside her.

Or at least into the river as he thought about her. Tension eased out of his shoulders and neck, the cold water cooling him back down from the heat of desire. She had been such a tease and he knew it was his own selfishness thinking but the hope was there that she would be willing, once she was healed. His imagination was fine but he wanted to feel her skin against his instead just the hard rock behind him and cold river water.

Toweling off and dressing into his backup clothes Ray felt more relaxed even if a little guilty. He'd be able to sleep better now which was what he needed the most right now. Tomorrow he’d have to take care of Sari’s wounds and he’d much rather have clear focus for that and not be distracted by her bare skin under his hands.

Back in his bed he did indeed sleep well and if he dreamed he didn’t remember it by morning. Breakfast was made and he roused the sleeping woman with a cup of tea instead of coffee, honey drizzled in it to cover some of the medicine taste. She didn’t seem to react much but did ask for more water. Any food he placed in front of her was devoured with no real enthusiasm but more of a mechanical process as if Sari was only half awake.

Fed and given a third cup of water he finally got her to lay back down so he could check her injuries. As he had expected she was recovering quickly. “Tomorrow morning we can head back to town. You should be alright for the trek if we take it slow.”

She merely shrugged and watched him from behind long lashes. “You were worried.” 

As usual she said that as a statement, not a question, and he looked at her face for a moment while he decided how to answer. “Of course. We’re a team. If you’re hurt it’s my responsibility to look after you.” He wanted to say more but suspected she might not understand the emotional side. What little he knew of Satyxis made him wonder if they knew how to recognize emotional attachments.

“A team.” Her eyes closed for a moment while that thought filtered through her tired mind and the paranoia that colored every interaction. “I like that idea. Team. Means we split things evenly, right?” At the question she opened her eyes to gauge his reaction, curious if he could lie to her or not. She was pretty good at spotting lies.

“Of course. We’re a team. Since we’re working together we get rewarded together.” He finished applying the antiseptic to her wounds and started taping the bandages in place, not worried really about what she thought since he was confident in his answer.

“We’ll die together.” Her eyes were closed again, sleep beginning to claim her once more now that her belly was full and the ointment he used eased the pain of her injury. The words rang with the uncomfortable sound of prophesied truth though she didn’t realize it. Ray did though and his hands stopped moving for a few heartbeats while he stared at her.

We’ll die together. Well … I can’t say I’m surprised. Probably as traitors. But I can’t argue with that. Guess we’ll have to enjoy each other’s company while we have it. Exhaling slowly, he finished the bandages and sat back to watch her sleep. “When we get to town I think I want to celebrate our first job together.” Sarith either didn’t have anything to say or was too deep asleep to react but he didn’t mind. Tucking a few stray curls behind her ear he took a few more moments to admire her peaceful face before tucking the blanket around her again. 

Tomorrow would be the start of their trek back to town where he could send word of the jobs completion. That gave him just today to puzzle through the scroll he found, clean up his notes, and also write his report. The payment from this would be plenty to keep them situated for a few months if there wasn’t a lot of splurging and Ray was hoping they could get one of the hideouts to stay in rather than an inn room. A bit of normalcy for him and time for her to acclimate to city living. At least, city living until his employer had another job for them. Who knew where they’d be heading off to next and for what. Only now he had someone to travel with. Smiling a little as he wrote the report for his employer Ray couldn’t help but be excited for their next job, the next destination, the next new thing to show Sarith.