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Tissaia’s fingers twitched as she lay down the quill onto the wooden tray. A shaky breath rattled her shoulders, momentarily betraying her unease. Rita, sensing a scandalous reason for the unusual display, curiously crossed her legs in the armchair and leaned forward to place her elbow on the large oak desk. It prompted Tissaia to look up and roll her shoulders as though she’d rather roll her eyes. 

Rita, knowing her mentor – her friend – took her silent enquiry a step further into ridiculousness. With a raise of her eyebrow, she took a blind sip from her wine chalice, nearly spilling its contents. A singular droplet of Toussaint Red ran down from the rim of her glass, and she licked it off, smirking at the way Tissaia’s eyes darkened upon watching her. “Hm? Are you reconsidering not wanting my company tonight?”

She was satisfied to hear Tissaia huff a breath, the sound somewhere between amusement and fond exasperation. “As though it mattered. You seem to have made yourself at home.” Her hands motioned towards the wine that Rita had procured, a frustrated expression suggesting she’d rather never told Rita about her secret hiding spot. 

“You didn’t quite tell me to go away.” If Tissaia had actually wished for her to go, she wouldn’t have said ‘you’re a hopeless nuisance, Margarita’, she would have said ‘please leave’. “So I stayed.”

The dimples on her cheeks told Rita all about the smile Tissaia was trying to hide. “You are insufferable. Whyever do I teach my girls decorum when as soon as they leave my care, they throw it out of the window?” 

“So that at the very least you can claim it wasn’t your fault?”

Tissaia’s shoulders jumped in amusement, the smile now fully on her lips, and Rita couldn’t help but smile along. They looked at each other, secretively, privately, sharing a moment of understanding and companionship, before Tissaia slowly shook her head, her eyes scanning over the letter she just wrote.

“Philippa or Master Stregobor?”

“Hm?”

“The letter that has you so agitated.”

“I am not,” Tissaia insisted, a line forming between her eyebrows. “Far from.” 

“Right.” Rita took a meaningful sip of wine, her eyes not leaving Tissaia’s, who bristled at the obvious mockery. 

“You’re becoming sardonic. It doesn’t suit you.” 

“Apologies, arch-mistress. I’ve forgotten my place.”

“So it seems.” Fierce blue eyes narrowed to slits, but the dimples stayed, and the playfulness made a warmth spread through Rita’s abdomen. Only years of playing seductress kept her from giggling. In truth, she didn’t feel much like a seductress around Tissaia at all, whose power and poise often seemed to belittle her by sheer presence. It was easy to fall into the long-familiar role of the submissive pupil. However, not being an apprentice anymore came with the burden of having to hold her ground, and Rita had better plans for the night than being faced with yet another speech. She had already heard so many in her lifetime.

“And don’t call him Master Stregobor, for he’s not deserving of a title more respectful than pig.”

Rita’s eyebrows raised into her hairline. There it was. 

“Know that I don’t use those words lightly.”

“I know you’d never.” For all her visibly hidden anger and lack of understanding for the ways of new and old mages alike, Rita had never once heard Tissaia insult a colleague, no matter how well-deserved. Rita gave her former mentor a careful once-over before deciding to prod the issue. “What has he done?” 

Tissaia’s hand twitched as though to create a violent spell, before she curled it into a fist, schooling the outburst, schooling her face in the same breath. “A girl no older than thirteen. He called it an unpleasant necessity.” She scoffed out a sound masking as a laugh. “Vivisecting a cat is an unpleasant necessity. Vivisecting a human child for a mutation that is not sure to even exist is the work of a pig. The parents were in the room as she pleaded with him to just take her life, so he cut her vocal chords. To avoid them intervening. You know what he found?”

Rita couldn’t bring herself to guess. The fine wine in her mouth tasted sour all of the sudden and she let the chalice clink onto the desk.

“A healthy girl. No mutations.”

“What did he say to explain himself?”

“Not much. But I’ve decided to write to the parents, an apology in the name of the trade.” Tissaia reached over to pick up the wine glass, not even bothering to check in before emptying it in one gulp. “The council has decided that killing innocent girls is unwise.”

Rita, despite the seriousness of the situation, couldn’t help but snort. “That took them long enough.”

“With questions actually worth debating, it takes them even longer.”

“Maybe you should overthrow them.”

Tissaia’s eyes widened in warning, but the dimples returned, so Rita decided to push her luck.

“Become an Empress. Wear a crown. Rule the continent! You’d look fantastic. I could be your queen.”

Strangely enough, Tissaia humoured her. She swirled the empty wine chalice from side to side in playful contemplation, clicking her nails against the glass. “The lifestyle would suit you,” she agreed. “Wine and riches, beautiful dresses, and so much free time.” 

“I could conduct my research with pearl earrings.”

“Speaking of which…” 

With a meaningful sigh, Rita uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, pointing an elegant finger at the book on the desk. “No new findings, I must confess, but I found a book that could be of help. I forgot who it’s written from, wait, let me see,” she paused for dramatic effect, eyes not leaving Tissaia’s face, “oh right, it was you. But no matter, I found it without your recommendation.”

Tissaia, with a frown, turned the tome, squinting for a moment to read the faded title in the low candlelight. “I wasn’t aware of your academic interest in plants and ways to counteract their poisonous qualities in potions.”

“I’m not, but there’s a chapter about the poisonous plants used to break curses, and the subsequent mention of at least seven long-forgotten curses that don’t appear in any other encyclopedia I’ve studied.”

“I must have forgotten them as well, then.”

The dry statement made Rita laugh. “Age-related loss of memory? Maybe Philippa should become Empress in your stead. By the gods, she would love that.”

“Heavens, no,” Tissaia exclaimed, looking thoroughly scandalized by even the idea. “I’d much rather deal with the whole of the council than one out-of-control genius. Don’t tell her I called her that.”

“You know I have to.” She saw Tissaia’s frown deepening, and quickly talked on, not giving her the chance to reply. “Come on, she may be a megalomaniac, but surely she would never bring harm to the Continent, to you?”

“Do we know what she’s capable of? Oh, I made her this. I was too lenient with her.”

“As someone who spent most of her life under your wing, I cannot believe that.”

Tissaia let out a fond laugh, shaking her head in exasperation.

“Come," Rita said, keeping her voice decidedly cheerful, unwilling to lose this evening to sentimentality. She had better plans. "Let’s not talk about pigs, nor megalomaniacs. Drink some more wine.”

“I’d rather take a bath.”

“I shall draw you one then.” Rita was up and out of the room quickly enough not to give Tissaia the chance to protest.

 

When Tissaia entered, the smell of lavender was overpowering enough to make her forget the irritation she still carried, as well as the rebuff she was going to deliver. It was almost dizzying, but filing a complaint was impossible when she saw Rita, who had discarded the shawl that warmed her in the freezing halls, baring her arms and shoulders. The humidity made her skin gleam like a manifestation of a goddess, not quite real enough to be true. But she was, and she was smiling up upon noticing the presence in the room, so Tissaia settled on simply counting herself lucky she was allowed to touch her and kiss her whenever her heart desired. 

“M’lady,” Rita addressed her, exaggerating her Toussaint accent, eyes twinkling with soft mockery. “I hope the bath is to your liking.”

There was something about the lilt, about how it bounced off the consonants and settled on the vowels, the melodic quality of it, the flow like an upbeat song, that made Tissaia wish she could ask Rita to read poetry to her without it making her laugh. 

“Thank you,” she said instead, and stiffly walked towards the marble tub, testing the warmth of the water with her left hand, only then noticing how numb from the cold it was. She should see to keeping her chambers a bit warmer if she didn’t want stiff muscles plaguing her day. “Rita, you may wait in my chambers. Help yourself to some wine and cheese, but don’t fall asleep.”

“You wish for me to go?” Rita placed her hands above her chest in mock-offense, causing Tissaia’s eyes to momentarily get lost staring at the ample cleavage her dress provided. A sense of decorum was only implied by laces criss-crossing over the naked skin, and Tissaia couldn’t help but notice that this dress was supposed to be worn with a shirt underneath. She found herself secretly glad that it wasn’t. “My, would I be a distraction?”

In fact, she hadn’t even considered Rita might want to stay, but she discarded that thought. “A distraction and smug about it, no less.”

“Oh, you harm me,” Rita dramatically exclaimed, “proclaiming me a harlot!”

“I’d never.” Although it wasn’t too far from the truth. Tissaia huffed and began unlacing her corset and skirt, glad she wore one that opened in the front, carefully stepping out of the dress so as not to crinkle the velvet. 

“But you’re scared my wandering hands will make you forget to thoroughly clean behind your ears?” 

Tissaia’s lips quirked up into a smile. ‘Thoroughly’ might be her favourite word coming from Rita’s mouth. It sounded almost like she stumbled over it, lingering too long on the ‘r’, her tongue not fast enough to click back to form the ‘o’. She’d never been interested in linguistics before – they changed too quickly – but maybe the current Toussaint accent was worth studying. If it gave her an excuse to make Rita read to her, all the better. “I wish for a moment to relax before having to deal with your pestering.”

Just a few minutes in the hot water to forget the settling ache in her hips and the snarl on Stregobor’s face when she had yelled at him, unamused, unshaken in his beliefs, just angry that she had the courage to speak up. Oh, how she detested him. A girl of thirteen. Tissaia spent her days surrounded by girls of thirteen, knew how they were still children, full of vim, no matter how much evil they’ve witnessed. Their lively minds unguarded, their thoughts flying around the room, a mixture of claiming to be mature, but still being distracted by a pretty blue butterfly flying by the window. They made Tissaia’s head ache after a long day in class, but oh, the innocence, the playfulness, the childful glee. To harm such a child. 

“Tissaia?”

She blinked back into reality.

“You looked like you’re about to murder someone.” The humour was shaky, worried.

Tissaia took a deep breath, forcing her mind to clear and the lump in her chest to give. She brusquely moved to step into the water, only noticing she still wore her underdress by how it hindered her movement.

Rita’s eyed her with suspicion. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” Tissaia snapped, a tick in her eyelid doing nothing to underline her point. She pulled the dress over her head in one swift, angry motion, not even bothering to fold it, and then stepped into the water. It was hot, almost burning against clammy skin, but she lowered herself into it without hesitation, the pain clearing her mind. Keenly aware Rita was still watching her, she began unpinning her hair without looking up. 

“Let me help you.” Rita moved up behind her, softly removing Tissaia’s hands. “You look like you’re hurting yourself.”

She hadn’t – her scalp was numb from her hair being in an updo for so long – but for reason unbeknownst to herself, she let her arms sink into the water nonetheless. She hissed softly as the heavy braid fell and pulled on the hair roots, nerve endings coming back to life, and she couldn’t wait for it to be undone, almost impatient now to relax her scalp, but Rita had moved away to pull out the stool from under the vanity. 

The chair legs scratched over the edge of a stone, scrunching as they came to halt in a joint. As soon as it did, Rita’s fingers curled around the end of the braid. With nimble fingers, she began to undo the twist, pulling slightly, making Tissaia’s scalp tingle. The two smaller braids that had decorated the updo were undone just as quickly, Rita’s fingers detangling them carefully, fluffing them out, and Tissaia felt as though she was finally able to breathe. Her scalp was pleasantly sensitive as Rita ran her fingers through her hair over and over, removing knots that could be easily brushed out, but Tissaia didn’t feel like complaining. Eyes closed, she rested her shoulder blades against the marble, enjoying the needlessly long ministrations, not protesting when Rita reached over to the glass jug filled with clear water, magic prickling on Tissaia’s skin as she warmed it. “Lean forward, please.”

A thought about questioning what was just happening crossed her mind, but she decided to push it away, already weak, already lulled in despite her earlier protests. If Rita wanted to make this sexual now, Tissaia wasn’t going to stop her. But Rita didn’t.

The water was perfect, not too hot, but warm enough to create gooseflesh as it trickled down her back. Rita made sure not to let anything run down her face, shielding her forehead with her hand, and it made Tissaia smile at the thoughtfulness of it. It was easy to let go, inhale the overwhelming scent of lavender, and enjoy Rita’s fingernails scraping over her scalp. A hand softly enclosed around her shoulder, signaling for her to lean against the marble, and she didn’t need to be asked twice to move back into a more comfortable position. The scent of fresh soap mixed with the lavender and she sensed Rita moving behind her, probably wetting the block of soap to create bubbles. It didn’t take long before Rita’s hands were back in her hair once more and Tissaia couldn’t keep herself from sighing.

“Not wishing for me to go now, are you?”

“Don’t ruin it,” Tissaia mumbled, surprised by how her voice slurred, opening her eyes at once.

“You’re so pretty when you’re relaxed like this.”

“Don’t mock me.” 

“The most beautiful person I know lets me see her private and relaxed, apologies for being exuberant.” Her tone was playful, but with a sincerity laced through the words that left Tissaia speechless. Taking a deep breath, she readjusted her posture.

“Now you’re overthinking it,” Rita sing-songed. 

“Could you please, for the love of the gods, be quiet and continue? Or leave?” she quickly added. 

“Hm, what if I don’t? Will you fetch your schoolmistress cane and make me regret it?”

Tissaia didn’t want to be disappointed and much less did she want to let her disappointment show, but for a moment, it was an impossible feat. She sighed, trying to make it sound annoyed rather than sad, but from the way Rita paused, she assumed she wasn't doing a good job.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes.” No, but she couldn’t even explain what the problem was. Blinking, she tried to snap herself out of this strangely wistful thinking. 

“What’s the matter?” Rita asked, not one to take it at face value when someone clearly doesn’t wish to speak further. Tissaia would be repelled by her invasive nature if she didn’t already know her so well. “Come on. Tell me.”

“Stop this inquisitiveness. I am trying to relax.” 

"You could make me shut up very easily, you know that."

"And naturally, you're making this about yourself." It was meant as a jest, but Tissaia found she didn't even believe it herself.

For a long moment, Rita was very quiet. It was almost eery. “...Are you enjoying this?” 

What a strange question. Of course Tissaia was enjoying this. “Yes.”

“No, I mean, do you want me to… continue? Taking care of you, I mean? Making you feel good?"

 

Rita could tell Tissaia was incredibly confused about her questions and it only served to make her more nervous. She almost forgot how to breathe when Tissaia opened her mouth to speak.

"I would be delighted if you wish to."

"I do," Rita replied far too quickly, feeling like she used to in her first years of Aretuza. "Lean back. Let me rinse your hair."

That gave Rita a little time to gather herself, take a deep breath and think. Tissaia and she had made love before, but never on Rita's terms, with Tissaia deciding the when, the where, and giving exact directions. That structure had given Rita confidence, not in her skills, but in the steadiness of it. Being confronted with a new dynamic left her feeling out of her depths.

She wasn't even sure how they ended up here. The bath had been a spontaneous idea, and upon noticing Tissaia's longing gaze, Rita had only wanted to tease her, which somehow ended up being a head massage, but she wasn't sure how exactly, only that it had felt right to make Tissaia feel good. On any other day, she would have been sent away. 

Maybe Tissaia needed it today, after all that had happened, and if she did, it was most likely she wasn't aware of it herself. Never in her life had Rita seen her so pliable, not even after lovemaking, and it triggered a protective streak that Rita usually reserved for the youngest of students. 

The soft sighs and involuntary mewls were almost too fragile to arouse her. Tissaia was likely not aware she was making those sounds and part of Rita wanted to tease her about it, but that was only a nervous reaction. 

Without another word, Tissaia handed her an artfully crafted glass flask. Rita opened it curiously and found it full of a scented oil that made her almost gasp at the intensity. This oil was, in its essence, Tissaia's scent. The scent that stuck to Rita's dresses after a long day of working together, the scent signaling a power that made Rita feel like a pupil in awe of the great arch mistress when they stepped into Tissaia's study. Pinpointing it exactly had been impossible, not that Rita had ever tried, but now she could clearly smell the zesty scent of olive and thyme, with a very light note of feminine bergamot. If there had ever been a fragrance that was utterly Tissaia, this would be it. Not only from association, but from the essence itself. It was stern and straight-lined, powerful and overwhelming in a subtle way. 

It wasn't until Tissaia turned her head that Rita noticed how long she'd been staring, and it took a long glance into Tissaia's glazed-over eyes to remember her task for today. She knew she needed to do something, that waiting for longer would only deepen her fear of doing something wrong, but nonetheless, She found herself at an impasse. After the six times Tissaia and she had made love, she should know her body well enough, should be able to guess her likes and dislikes, but she couldn't. The directions she had been given had made her lazy and unthinking. With Tissaia telling her exactly what to do when, she had simply turned off her head and acted. 

Deeply in thought she massaged the oil into the length of Tissaia's waves. If only she remembered anything that her mentor enjoyed, a certain kind of touch. Tissaia always cared more about Rita's pleasure than her own, making sure Rita fell apart in her arms half a dozen times before ordering a rather spent blonde between her legs. Rita wasn’t even sure she ever witnessed her having an orgasm. It was no surprise that the arch mistress was quiet in her pleasure, yet Rita found herself dreading the lack of indirect directions.

With the ivory comb on the sill next to the tub, she began entangling the rest of knots. There weren't many tangles left, but it was an adequate action and better than pondering any longer. The oil made combing easy, the strands pliable and soft like their owner. In fact, Rita wasn't entirely sure Tissaia was awake. After the use of a drying spell because she couldn't be bothered to search for a towel, she watched the wet, almost black hair turn into the full chestnut brown. She braided it into one quick, thick plaid and then, for a moment, sat back and thought.

The easiest course of action would be to let Tissaia finish up and prepare the bedroom, lighting some candles to set the mood, then guiding her lover onto the mattress, kissing her and exploring her in a way that made it seem like she was teasing and drawing out the moment. That way, she didn't have to admit she had absolutely no idea what Tissaia would want her to do. Gods, she might faint from the nerves. 

"I'll set the mood, take your time," she said, failing to sound anything but nervous, before practically running out of the bathroom, leaving behind a very dumbfounded Tissaia.

 

It took Tissaia about two seconds to realise where the miscommunication had taken place. She had never meant to tell Rita to lead their lovemaking. All she had wanted was more of that pleasant massage, and in her befuddled state, it had taken her too long to comprehend what Rita was about to do. Now, she was alone in the bath, pondering her choices. Of course, she could tell Rita about the misunderstanding, but part of her didn't want to. How long had it been since someone had taken her to bed proper? With candles and time and the wish to court her? There was something almost nerve-wracking about it. 

Donning a robe of expensive red silk, she stepped out of the room barefoot, her feet longing for some warm fur under them as the cold stones made them freeze all over. Despite the temperature she couldn't help but stop dead in her tracks as she opened the door to her chamber. Rita had enchanted candles to float in the room, leaving it illuminated just well enough to see, with most of the candles centred around the bed, attracting Tissaia's glance right away. There must be fifty candles at the very least, their flames like fireflies on a late summer’s night.

"This is beautiful."

"Simple, but to great effect, don't you think?" Rita sounded smug, but Tissaia didn't let herself be fooled. She had heard the nervousness in Rita's voice. The hand grabbing hers a bit too forcefully only proved that point.

She was made to sit down on the bed, and normally, such a rough treatment would displease her, but Rita looked magnificent in the candlelight, edges softened, features young and angelic. It reminded her of the pictures of the fae in old books she used to own. Tissaia never believed in their existence, but maybe…

Her thread of thought was disrupted as Rita straddled her lap and kissed her with such vigour that time stood still. 

Tissaia, for all her years on the Continent, had learned that nothing could last forever, but gods, if she didn't wish for this to never end. If only she never had to remember these kisses, if only she could remind herself by coming home and walking up to Rita every day of her life. Oh, it had been selfish to offer Rita this position as lecturer and researcher at her side, dangling the title of arch mistress in reachable heights just to keep her here for a few more months or years.

She let Rita lead their dance, sighing when finally, a hand on the back of her head pulled her in to deepen the kiss. Gods, Tissaia was too impatient for this to continue at such a slow pace. As Rita pushed her down softly, more a guiding touch than with actual force, she opened the tie of her robe in the process, letting it fall open as though by accident to speed things along. It didn't have the intended effect, which was infuriating, and Tissaia would have been annoyed, but she realised quickly enough that Rita was just scared to move on. 

Oh. That made sense. Poor girl. She sometimes forgot how young she still was. 

It happened the exact moment Tissaia planned to sit up and act, as though destiny itself wanted to intervene with her taking control tonight. The sudden burning sensation made Tissaia hiss and twitch away before she could register what had happened. 

"Oh, heavens, I'm so sorry!" 

It was only when Rita quickly extinguished the candle closest to the bed that Tissaia comprehended what just happened, and a look down confirmed the dried drop of white wax on her thigh.

"I didn't think it would… I didn't consider… Gods!" Rita groaned loudly. 

Tissaia sat up. "What's the matter?" 

"I just… I have no idea what you like. And now I ruined it."

"My, are you fatalistic." She tried to sound light-hearted. If she didn’t wish for Rita to lose faith in herself, she had to be careful. In the end, if it didn’t work, she would have to turn the tables and make Rita forget about her failure. The prospect didn’t sound nearly as enticing as it should.

"I wanted to relax you, not hurt you!"

"You claim the two can't be interconnected?" It was supposed to be a joke, an allusion to the fact that sometimes, Rita liked to be bitten and scratched, or urged Tissaia on to use more force with her fingers until they were moving so hard and fast inside of her that Tissaia hurt in sympathy. 

Rita, however, seemed not to think about the same thing. "So you like candle wax?"

"Hm?"

"I know people who do."

"I fear I can't follow."

Rita giggled, and while Tissaia didn't know exactly what was going on, she found she liked that better than the dramatics. "Don't play coy. There's no need to be shy. We can try it out if you want to?"

"The candles, you mean?"

"Dripping some wax on you, yes."

Tissaia's first instinct was to say no. However, there was something about the way Rita smirked at her, confident and eager, that made her loath to disrupt the newfound energy flow. That, and a certain kind of scientific curiosity. Those kinds of experiments could, after all, have surprising results. "Why not?"

Rita seemed all but ready to shriek with joy. She kept it inside, but her bright smile told Tissaia all about it. "Lie down. Tell me when you want it to stop."

As Rita stretched to grab a candle mid-air, Tissaia found herself wondering what she'd got herself into. She didn't think she would be unable to take the pain, but how long would it take before it became annoying? It might completely ruin Rita's confidence if they had to stop.

The first drop surprised her when it landed on her thigh, and while she hadn’t expected it, it didn’t startle her as much as the first. The wax felt warm and almost not painful at all, forgotten before it could settle. 

She found her mind wandering, curious as to what would happen next, if it would hurt more on her stomach, if her ribs were more sensitive than flesh protected by fat and muscles. Her question was answered as the next drop fell onto her rib cage, running down her side before rigidifying. She squirmed. 

"Apologies, arch mistress." Rita did not sound sorry at all, and despite herself, Tissaia found herself giddy at the pretend-carelessness. She was loath to admit that she liked that cheeky version of Rita.

There was something about the wax, too. About how she had to look into the flame and the suspense of waiting for the drop to fall. When it landed on her sensitive areas, lower ribs, collarbones, the side of her hips, it made her squirm and gasp, but it left behind a pleasant tingling. She didn’t hate it, and she definitely liked the way Rita’s eyes were so firmly on her, how she smirked at particularly strong reactions. It made Tissaia almost willing to make more sounds than strictly necessary, just to see her lover’s face light up with soft sadistic glee. 

Eventually, Rita became more and more brazen, and when one drop landed on her nipple, Tissaia couldn't tell whether it was by accident or calculation. Her hands flew down to cover herself on instinct, only to be pulled right back up by magic. She looked at Rita in surprise, testing the magical bind to find it unrelenting. Her wrists didn't move an inch. Now that was interesting.

Rita grinned like a wolf hungry for its prey. The atmosphere had changed in a blink of an eye and Tissaia suddenly wasn't sure what she had got herself into anymore, but, oh, if she didn’t like being looked at like that. 

"Do you want me to tie your ankles too, so you can try to move and fight all you want?"

Tissaia, and she would later chalk it up to being overwhelmed instead of helplessly aroused, nodded and gasped as her legs were pulled to each side of the bed, leaving her open and vulnerable to whatever Rita planned to do. It should worry her, but all she could do was whimper.

Rita's eyes gleamed upon hearing that sound. "My, arch mistress, you wouldn't be this needy already? Oh, if I had known this, I would have tied you up long before today."

It wasn't the binds, Tissaia knew this much. Heavens, she had been tied up often enough. The atmosphere was what was getting to her. Maybe the candle wax played a part, too, although she couldn't say for sure. Her mind was a mess. Rita . It was mostly about Rita. But she couldn’t say that. 

"You know… There's a rather large quantity of molten wax in this candle now. What do you think? Should I cover your other nipple in it? Or that pretty cunt of yours?"

Tissaia hated that word. She was an arch mistress, not a common harlot, and she refused to use the same terms for her private parts. In fact, she blamed it entirely on Rita's accent that it didn't repel her, but make her moan. 

"You decide, my love, just remember the longer you wait, the more wax will gather." She sing-songed the threat, but Tissaia's mind was stuck on the term of endearment. Today's youth used that word more freely than it was coined during her prime, and she knew that it wasn't tantamount to a love confession anymore, but for a moment, she let herself believe. It was for the sake of the situation, she told herself, because she was doing Rita's sexual confidence a favour here and might benefit from that later. Not because, for a moment, she was weak enough to want to pretend. Definitely not because the thought of discarding it made her heart ache. 

It was helpful for the cause that she was getting uncomfortably wet with no chance of doing something about it, and the way her back arched almost dramatically when Rita caressed over her nipple with the back of her hand was only making it more believable. Oh, who was she kidding, her responsiveness was pathetic. Since when was she this easy? 

"Darling?" Rita raised a playful eyebrow at her and Tissaia at once remembered the question. 

"Uhm, half and half?"

She didn't realise what her reply entailed until Rita snorted. "Are you certain?"

"Yes." Her mind might be dreadfully chaotic, but she wouldn’t resort to cowardice.

The wax gushing over her nipple made her both regret her stubbornness and be glad that every sound she made would be attributed to pain, not helpless arousal. Gods, it was intense, and part of her wanted to whimper in distress, but she resisted in the same way she resisted breaking Rita’s spells to rub her legs together for some friction. She looked down to see a small plate of white covering the top of her breast, far less than what it had felt like. 

"My bad," Rita drawled, tipping the candle to show there was no more wax. "Seems like I misjudged the amount of liquid. Hm. As not to disappoint you, I shall wait until more wax has gathered."

Tissaia snorted, but happily, her abdomen clenching at the thought of wax there . Why she felt like she might combust just because she wanted to see how bad it might hurt, or if it might even be enjoyable, she couldn't fathom. Her body seemed very adamant about liking this, though, so maybe she should let her mind be convinced. It wasn't too bad altogether, she mused, the pain. Not with Rita smiling down at her with so much carefully hidden glee, while her fingernails drew lines all over her body. 

It was relaxing, very, very relaxing, to be forced to concentrate on nothing but Rita, tied up and unable to take action, helpless and safe and far, far away from political chaos and Stregobor, the pig. She blinked the thought away, looking at Rita who swished the candle back and forth like a fine wine. This time, she made sure to have Tissaia's attention before she tilted the candle over her mound, which was thoughtful and Tissaia would thank her if she wasn't so busy struggling for air. 

"Fuck," she exclaimed, shocking herself with the use of language, "heavens…"

"Which one now? Fuck or heavens."

"Both," Tissaia could only hiss out, her stomach clenching, her mind so impossibly blank she thought she might pass out. She needn’t have bothered trying to get Stregobor out of her thoughts, for right now, he was as far from her mind as he would go. When Rita pressed her finger onto the plate, the pressure translating onto her most sensitive parts, Tissaia didn't know whether to moan or groan in frustration. The layer kept the stimulation miniscule, and gods, did she want something to take her mind off the pain now. 

"More?"

Part of Tissaia wanted to say no, and please rub me in earnest , but all she did was nod desperately. She felt Rita spreading her, the wax pulling taut and loosening in chunks, quickly replaced by new drops in a constant flow that had Tissaia struggle to keep quiet. 

It wasn’t the pain. She dealt with worse on a daily basis. Treatments and injections, magical aids to restore her beauty, and she went through those without batting an eye. If she wanted to, she could lay perfectly still and let her mind wander off to research and schedules.

She just didn’t want to think about research and schedules in the same way she didn’t want to think about Stregobor or the Council’s stubbornness. All she wanted to do was watch Rita smile at her and not think at all – a goal that was usually unachievable, yet now so easy to reach. Not because of the wax, or the ties, or the atmosphere, but because of Rita being there and – it hit her in that particular moment – going out of her way just to make her feel better.

And she couldn’t remember anyone else ever doing that for her.

“Breathe, darling,” Rita reminded her, and if she hadn’t, Tissaia wouldn’t even have noticed the way her lungs ached. “I’ve got you.”

Tissaia could only smile, her grin so bright it hurt her cheeks, because she knew that now, and the knowledge made her feel impossibly safe.

The hand that had spread her open wandered, scratching residual wax from her abdomen and rib cage, sometimes lightly, often harder, and it meddled into a full body experience. Tissaia was so painfully aroused she felt light-headed, her peak surprisingly close without having been touched, and she didn’t want to have an orgasm from emotional turmoil and pain. The shame would kill her, and she was sure it wouldn’t be the same without something to cling to, without the physical sensation. 

Oh, what she would give for a finger inside of her!

When two fingers entered her roughly right away, her first thought was that she must have spoken aloud, and it didn't occur to her until a few moments later that she was projecting her thoughts instead. Too far in to care, she let them flow freely, her pleasure raising higher and higher, to the point where she could have come from penetration alone, but Rita didn't let her, instead managing to brush loose, brittle wax off enough to finally rub her clit.

"Yes!" she panted, unable to stop herself. "Yes, yes, yes!" 

Who would have thought she would like this so much? Oh, all her sexual experiences paled in comparison to the way her body felt now. She would be embarrassed if her head wasn’t so blissfully empty. Gods, Rita would be the end of her, and it would be a perfect ending. 

 

The power of Tissaia’s chaos had never been quite as palpable as in this moment, and if Rita’s mind had been any less one-tracked, she would have feared for the glass of the mirror shattering from the force. But Rita couldn’t think of anything but of how enthralling it was to witness Tissaia yelling out her orgasm into the night, her voice bouncing off the walls, her mind projecting my love, my love over and over until it was all Rita could hear. 

It sounded so different when it came from Tissaia, not empty or a joke, but almost like a confession. 

Gods, it was a confession. Rita knew it was, and yet she was looking for a double bottom, an explanation other than the obvious one. Her mind raced as Tissaia was reduced to whimpers, the thought transference abruptly cutting off, which was just another sign that Rita’s suspicion was right. It didn’t take long for Tissaia’s delayed anxiety to make the room feel stuffy. There was no need for thought transference, it was palpable in the air without mistake.

Tissaia loved her. And while Rita wished she could tell herself it surely was just sexual exuberance, she knew deep down Tissaia was not one to aggrandize. Oh, Rita felt as though she might faint. She didn’t know if the feelings were reciprocated, heavens, she hadn’t even considered it as an option, not with the way Tissaia had seemed so far removed from humanity, a statue, a symbol, hardly a person, but by the gods, was she human now, and Rita wanted to apologise for ever thinking otherwise. She felt stupid for it now. Stupid and selfish for not caring enough.

In spite of her panic, she couldn’t bear the thought of running off, not with the way Tissaia’s eyes darted towards her and away, unshed tears making her eyes seem even bluer. So she released the binds, and, in anticipation of Tissaia running off, quickly took hold of her arm, but she needn’t have bothered, for Tissaia was curling around her frame as soon as the binds let her.

“Oh dear,” Rita whispered, knowing at once she had decided well, no matter the way she still wasn’t certain she could love Tissaia back. Oh, part of her wanted to pretend to know now, call Tissaia her love, confess it in the next sentence just to reassure, but she knew it would be selfish if she couldn’t prove it even to herself. She wouldn’t get Tissaia’s hopes up, not when she wasn’t certain. And maybe, a little voice in her head suggested, that was proof enough.