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Hand in Unlovable Hand

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Every now and then, the Royal Arctic Institute would host a luncheon honouring their visiting scholars. The luncheon would consist of a short speech by one of its members extolling the virtues of the scholar, followed by, well, lunch, and then a seminar presenting their work. It was all quite routine and tedious, Marisa tended to skip them, but sometimes a scholar would present an intriguing research or there would be an important person attending that Marisa needed to charm. Only then would Marisa deign attend these luncheons.

As it was, today’s luncheon was going to be attended by the Crown Prince of Kotte. He was a young man with a parrot daemon, still in Cambridge (horrors of horror), and with a great interest in Arctic studies. He hadn’t really done any significant scholarship but his wealth and influence allowed him to sit as a member of the Arctic Institute. Marisa thought it would be prudent to have his friendship, especially now that his father the King had been ill for some time.

She was having a pleasant lunch with him and his friend, a young chemist from Holland with a squirrel daemon, when the Crown Prince said, “have you heard that Lord Asriel has come back from Siberia, Mrs Coulter?”

Marisa gave him a tight smile. The Crown Prince and his friend, so young and being foreigners besides, couldn’t possibly know the sordid history of her and Asriel.

“Yes, I might have heard such a thing,” she said, obscuring her sneer by sipping on her chocolatl. Below her, her daemon had become quite agitated, as he was wont to do whenever Asriel was mentioned. Marisa gave him a kick to calm him down.

“He’s quite brilliant, isn’t he?” the young chemist said. “His monograph about Tartar society is probably the best source we have right now on politics of the Northern kingdoms. And his research on the cosmological composition of the aurora borealis is magnificent.”

The Crown Prince agreed with his friend. “He’s probably the only polymath left in Arctic studies,” he said. “One of the last true scientist-explorers. Now, the majority of the scientist would only leave for short intermittent expeditions. Their scholarship became quite shallow as a result, I found. But Lord Asriel actually stayed on for years, immersing himself in the environment, enabling him to get a true picture of the North. Don’t you think so, Mrs Coulter?”

And how would you know of the true picture of the North when you’ve never been there? Marisa thought. It was widely-known that part of the reason why the Crown Prince was so obsessed with the Arctic was his inability to tolerate extreme cold. The furthest north he’d been was to Tromsø, and he did not even last for a week there.

Still, it would not do to say such thoughts aloud. She needed all the help she can get. Marisa smiled brilliantly at them. “Lord Asriel certainly has a unique perspective of the North, although I do not share them myself.”

“Really? You’re both from Oxford, aren’t you? In Cambridge we like to joke that Oxonians tend to be, ah, uniform in their opinions.”

“If that were true, Your Highness, the annual budgetary meeting would go much more smoothly.” Marisa laughed.

The young scholars, no match for her charms, were mesmerised. After that it was easy for her to steer the conversation while getting them to feel like they had control of the situation.

Marisa was getting the Crown Prince to talk about the royal jewels of Kotte when she heard rumbling laughter behind her and an imperious voice saying,

“Well, well, what do we have here?”

The Crown Prince and his friend leapt to their feet. “Lord Asriel!”

Asriel stood, proud and erect as a tiger. He had aged slightly than the last time Marisa had seen him, though his eyes still glittered with that savage laughter that had attracted her to him in the first place. His mouth was curled to a rather cruel smile. It seemed to amuse him, seeing the three of them together.

“Your Highness.” He made a perfunctory bow to the Crown Prince, disregarding the young chemist altogether. Then he turned his fierce dark eyes to her. “Mrs. Coulter.” He held her hand and brought it to his lips.

The kiss was searing, a hot brand on her ice-cold skin. Marisa almost flinched. It had been years since they saw each other, years since he touched her, and still he managed to affect her this much.

“Lord Asriel.” She nodded slightly. Her daemon had leapt to her lap, trembling, and Marisa dug her nails to his fur to keep him from exposing them. Asriel had always managed to read her better than anyone.

“We were just talking about you, my lord,” the young chemist said, awestruck at Asriel.

“Oh, really?” Asriel raised his brows, though his eyes were still trained at Marisa. “Only good things I hope.”

“We were just talking about your work in the North—” the Crown Prince began excitedly.

And just like that her power was gone. They had completely taken in by Asriel, those young fools, and now act as if she didn’t exist. Asriel had an arresting presence. When he spoke, people, no matter how much they disliked him, would stand still and listen. Part of the excitement of their past relationship was this struggle for between his masculine charisma and her feminine grace.

But Marisa had no appetite for such games now. She waited until it was polite to excuse herself from the table. With the Crown Prince firmly in Asriel’s thrall, she would have nothing to do in this boring luncheon. Marisa was heading to the powder room to freshen up when she heard footsteps coming from behind her.

Marisa turned around and found Asriel following her, eyes blazing.

“What do you want?” she snapped at him. Gone was her polite smiles. With Asriel, she didn’t need to pretend.

“Seducing the youths, Marisa?” Asriel said, advancing to her, a leopard stalking his prey.

“Must you be so vulgar?” she hissed.

She turned on her heels, but Asriel caught at her shoulder and turned her forcibly to him. They were so close now; their faces were nearly touching.

“I’d thought they were a little bit young for your tastes.” His breath was hot against her skin, his dark eyes shining brilliantly. “But I forgot. You only ever care about power, don’t you?”

“Yes, which is why I don't want anything to do with you anymore--”

She couldn’t finish her sentence for Asriel claimed her mouth in a searing kiss. The kiss shocked her like anbaric current. Her body eagerly responded, never quite forgetting how good he felt. But Marisa finally caught herself and pushed him away.

Her daemon wailed as he let go of Stelmaria.

"Are you out of your mind?" she gasped, out of breath.

Asriel laughed. "Forgive me, I can't help myself," he said, caressing her cheek. "You look so delicious when you lie…"

"Somebody might see us!"

"In the powder room? You're the only female member attending this luncheon. And everyone here knows of our, ah, association."

"Well, I don't want to be associated with you." Marisa glared at him.

"Then why are you looking for Lyra?" He chuckled when he saw her face turned pale. "Yes, I know. The Master tells me everything about her. You came to Oxford and asked to see her. The Master refused, of course. I gave him strict orders not to let you anywhere near her."

"What's so wrong about a mother wanting to see his daughter?"

“You dare call yourself a mother after what you’ve done?” Asriel’s grip on her shoulder hardened. “You abandoned her, leaving her with those horrid nuns."

"As if you're different!" Marisa hissed. "You left her as soon as you can to gallivant across the North. How many times have you seen her since? One? Zero?"

"I kept her safe!" Asriel roared.

"You think that old coot can protect Lyra?" Marisa scoffed.

“Yet the Master refused you and you couldn’t do anything about it. The great Mrs Coulter, defeated by some old scholar who rarely left his college. It must’ve rankled you, didn’t it? To think that you spent all that time cultivating those disgusting old men to gain back a semblance of power and influence, and then finding out it didn’t matter after all.”

Marisa slapped him, just to see him flinch. He didn’t. He absorbed the blow like a great cliff weathering a violent wave. She never could win against him. Except in one thing.

“Do I detect a note of jealousy there, Asriel?” Marisa lowered her voice to a seductive purr. Her long fingers worked up and down his shoulder. “Are you mad I’ve made no time for you, like I did with the rest?”

“Jealous? No, I’m not jealous of them.” Asriel cupped her chin. “Would a lion be jealous of a fly? Of course not. Jealousy implies that they have something that I don’t have, which we both know it’s not true.”

“And what is it?”

Asriel’s grin was feral. “Your soul.” 

“Well then, let’s find out, shall we?”

Her golden monkey pounced on Stelmaria and Marisa crushed her mouth to his. They struggled a little bit, each wanting to have the upper hand, but it was Marisa who relented. Better to let him think he won at first. She’d have plenty of time to dominate him later.

Asriel opened the door to the powder room. Marisa stumbled, but he bore her up in his large powerful arms and carried her in, never breaking their kiss. Only after he locked the door did he pulled away to put her down on the sink counter. For a moment they both stared at each other, catching their breaths.

Then Marisa dug at Asriel’s calves with her stiletto heels and said, “Kneel.”

“Only for you, Marisa.” Asriel grinned, and knelt.

He bunched up her satin dress to her waist, roughly pushed her silk stockings down to her ankles, and tore her lace underwear with his teeth, never caring for the expensive materials. When he raised his head to confront her cunt, he took a moment to close his eyes and breathed in her scent before devouring her fully.

Marisa hitched a breath as she felt Asriel's hot tongue inside her. His teeth grazed her clit, sending shockwaves to her very being. He wrapped his hands on each of her thighs, squeezing harder and harder until bruises began to bloom on her skin. He always left marks on her every time they had sex, as if to remind her that he was here, that she was his, and she couldn't deny it.

Asriel took her nub to his mouth and sucked, hard. Marisa moaned, gripping his hair so tight that she could hear him hiss in pain. Their daemons clawed at each other, teeth bared, as if they were fighting.

With each lick, with each suck, Marisa felt herself getting closer and closer to her peak until finally, he bit her clit, and she burst into flames. Her whole being was on fire and she cried out in pain and pleasure. Asriel lapped up her juices eagerly until she was spent.

He got up, eyes gleaming and mouth slick with her juices. A little bit unsteady, he stumbled into her arms, resting his head on the crook of her neck.

"Marisa…" he said her name like a prayer. In one of their past encounters, he had confessed to her that he never quite believed that God existed, but fucking her was the closest thing he'd ever felt to experiencing the divine presence of God. She had smacked him for that blasphemy. Still, she couldn't help feeling a secret thrill in having this powerful man admit he'd worship her like a goddess. She’d never admit it to him, of course, but she suspected he knew anyway. 

His hands roamed on her back, slowly unzipping her dress. Marisa did the same to him, tearing at the buttons of his shirt with the same unnecessary roughness he inflicted on her underthings. Asriel pushed the straps of her dress down, peppering bites on the exposed flesh. He shrugged his shirt off and Marisa raked her long sharp nails across his chest. Unlike most men of his class, Asriel had a pleasing muscled body, toned by his toils in the North. In the past, she liked to caress and admire his chiselled chest as he slept. But when he's awake she preferred to leave red scratches on him, marking her territory.

Asriel unclasped her bra and tossed it aside. He fondled her breasts, the hard calluses of his hands rough against her sensitive nipples. His other hand slid down to her waist, palming her cunt. Then he lowered his mouth to her breast and inserted two fingers into her.

Marisa cried out, jerking her body. He bit and sucked on her tits, making sure to lavish attention on them both, until they're both equally, gloriously red. His roving fingers probed at her innermost core, touching a spot just there that he'd memorised from their past. These delicious sensations were too much for Marisa. She felt herself getting hotter and hotter until -

Asriel abruptly stopped. Marisa cried out at the loss of pleasure, hitting him on his chest and demanded him to continue. But he just laughed.

"You're a greedy little bitch, aren't you? Nearly coming twice while I haven't got even one," he said, but without a note of rancour.

That was one of the few things that unnerved Marisa about him. She had buried her true self underneath so many layers of deceit that sometimes she hardly believed there's still a person there. But Asriel saw through all of that. From the moment they first locked eyes at each other, he saw past her deceits and pretensions all the way to her true, rotten core, and instead of being repulsed, he revelled in it

And Marisa hated him for that.

She tore open his pants and his hard cock sprung free. Fixing her eyes to his, Marisa started to slid her hand up and down his cock, using his precum as lubrication. Asriel grunted, his hands gripping the edge of the sink counter. Marisa smirked. Men were so predictable. A little tug on their cock and they're putty in her hands. 

Asriel's cock began to twitch, a tell-tale sign that he was close. Perhaps they could end this tryst sooner than they'd expected. But then he smacked her hand away.

"That's enough," he said hoarsely. His cheek was flushed and his breathing was ragged. 

This time, it was Marisa's turn to laugh. "The great Lord Asriel, reduced to a lusting, panting beast. How exciting."

"Shut up." 

Asriel kissed her roughly, tugging her closer to him. He was tall enough that even with Marisa sitting down on the sink-counter, his cock was perfectly aligned with her cunt. Slowly, he began sliding into her. His cock in her cunt felt achingly familiar, a mixture of pain and pleasure that always drove her mad. To keep herself from screaming, she bit his lip so hard she could taste the iron tang of his blood. 

Finally, finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, he fully sheathed himself inside her. Then, he began to move. 

Marisa wrapped her arms and her legs around him to brace herself. Like everything about him, Asriel's thrusts were powerful, precise, and deliberate, striking deep to her core. Marisa was burning up. She raked her nails across his back, dug her heels to his calves, bit his shoulders. Anything that would stop her from screaming her pleasure. 

“Only I can make you feel this good, Marisa.” Asriel said, punctuating it with a particularly hard thrust.

“You think too highly of yourself,” Marisa lied. 

With her other lovers, she’s pliant, submissive. A perfect doll. With Asriel, she tears and bites and scratch, like a wild animal. Being with him made her feel things that she thought she had buried deep inside herself. 

Asriel looked incredulous, but for once he didn’t retort. Instead, he picked up his pace. 

Marisa saw her golden monkey on the floor, pinned by Stelmaria, an expression of pure bliss on his face. Of course. He had betrayed her. Any other times she could control him, but when it came to Stelmaria he was always so difficult. 

Asriel's thrusts became more and more urgent. He was close, she could tell. She too felt herself cresting closer to her edge and -

With a cry, they both reached their peak. Asriel bucked, spilling himself inside her. They were still for a minute, reckoning with what they had done. Then, Asriel leaned into Marisa, as if he wanted to nuzzle her. He often did that, before. 

But Marisa turned her head away. They were both past that. 

Asriel’s expression hardened and he let her go. Carefully, Marisa got off from her perch. In the mirror, she surveyed the damage. They both looked like they had been in a fight.  Her hair was all over the place, there were love bites along her shoulders and neck, and her dress was wrinkled. Asriel was in no better shape. He had a bloody split lip, red scratches across his back, and his shirt was missing a few buttons. Privately, she relished the effect she had on him, even after everything.

They cleaned up after themselves with the cold civility of strangers. Asriel went out first without saying a single word. Marisa stayed behind to fix her hair and makeup and dress. In the mirror, she caught her daemon’s reproachful gaze.

“Oh, hush,” she said to him. “At least we know now how much he still wants us.” 

With a last dab of her lipstick, Marisa went out. In the lobby, she saw the Crown Prince of Kotte and his friend.

“Your Royal Highness,” she said with a dazzling smile. "How lovely to see you again! Lord Asriel? I haven't the slightest idea where he may have run off to. Say, do you have any plans after this? No? Well, how about we catch that airship exhibition in Hyde Park?”