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"You know, I can feel you there, Venat. Even if you are quiet." And Cid could. Even when the Occurian was not visible, not speaking, Cid could feel her. (He still wondered sometimes if he should say 'it.' Who knew how Occurians regarded gender. He likely was being overly romantic, but it was only in his own head, and if turning the tide of history was not a quest evident of a certain romantic outlook, then nothing was.)

It is necessary, regrettably.

"Oh?" Cid removed his heavy coat and hung it in his wardrobe. "Not that I regret your company, surely, but why?"

He could tell without looking when Venat shimmered into visibility by the frisson of energy across his skin.

I must stay attached. She spoke still as a direct manipulation of his senses, the voice missing the distinctive echoes or direction of a sound passed through the air. It was best, if anyone should overhear. Unlikely, here, but there was no need to broadcast when it was not necessary. And the voice excited him, every time, a reminder of what the being that spoke to him was, and the scale of their mission together.

I suppose... it is something like a haunting.

Cid turned to see Venat as his continued to remove his day regalia. "Is that so? You would put yourself so low?"

It is appropriate. We have no immediate power of our own; rather than gods, we are ghosts of ages gone, clinging to the world with invisible hands.

"And you? You cling to me with invisible hands, Venat?"

Yes. For the moment, you are my agent. My vessel.

"I am honored, as always."

You need not be. Our goals are the same.

Stripped now to his undertrousers, Cid selected one of his notebooks and progressed to his bed. Venat vanished as he moved.

He sat down and perched his reading glasses on his nose as he reclined back against his headboard. He had passed his eyes across a dozen words before a thought made him glance up and address the air.

"And yet you bring me knowledge faster than any of my contacts can. How is that possible, if you never leave my side?"

My senses may be spread wide. Venat said simply, shimmering again into visibility above the mattress. My body is not the extent of my being, as it is for you.

"That sort of omniscience is certainly a traditional marker of godhood, you know." It was a mark of how comfortable he had become with his Occurian companion that he was willing to do this, he thought. To argue for the sake of arguing, as with a close friend.

Venat disappeared again in a brief swirl of light. Cid blinked at the air for a brief moment. Then he gasped as the slight tingle that reminded him always of Venat's presence was suddenly amplified, a dance of dozens of warm fingers across his shoulders and arms.

The substance as humes is not the substance that composes me, Venat said, and her voice had changed; it sounded now like a whisper, not more than an inch away. But that does not in itself make me divine. I can focus, bring myself into you. Were I not careful, I could lose myself, either in the world or in you.

"Ah," Cid said, voice stuttering as the sensation moved down his skin like jumping sparks. "That would certainly be disheartening. Do be careful."

It is a simple task, Venat said, like a breath in his ear but without air. For centuries have I honed my focus, and I possess no hume sensation or emotion to distract me.

"An advantage over me, to be sure," said Cid, who could feel his flesh hardening between his legs. The feeling had spread, and now spanned most of his chest and back. It had also changed—or perhaps he had not felt it properly to start. Indeed, it seemed different with each comparison his mind provided. Like bathing in scraps of smooth silk, for a moment, and then, no—more like the feather-light touches of hundreds of blades. "Venat—"

No. Venat said, and it sent a bolt down his spine which overwhelmed everything else for a moment. His notebook fell out of his hands to one side. Not an advantage. Hume emotion is what this world needs. This... detachment. It is wrong.

There was a push, of sorts, and all at once the sensation skittered down the rest of his body, hips to toes and back again. Then it largely faded—or perhaps it was simply overwhelmed by the burning feeling of lust centered at his groin. The muslin cloth was becoming uncomfortable, and he undid his buttons without a thought.

Yes, Venat said, and now her voice seemed to be coming from his own skin, twisting and insinuating itself into his mind. This passion for the world. This is the way the future should move.

"Ah," Cid said, and found himself slouching, sheets bunching. He tried to keep some sliver of his composure intact. "This, though, is hardly for the world as a whole. At least not directly." His hand lifted from the bed, brushing across his hip. His own touch seemed half-alien, and it sent shivers through his body and bolts of pleasure to his cock.

Irrelevant. It is what it is. Venat's inflection was no different from always.

Cid was suddenly stroking himself, firmly and unhesitatingly, though he didn't recall making the decision to do it. His hand moved in familiar motions, but it felt nothing like it ever had before. He moaned and threw his head back. It hit the headboard with a resounding thunk, and the resulting jolt of pain made him yelp. But the feeling was soothed away instantly with a thrill of warmth that made his cock jump in his hand.

A few more strokes and he was shockingly close to the edge. "Venat, what—this—" Cid could no longer think of words to say.

We want the same things, the Occurian said, the sound hard to focus on through the haze of pleasure.

His hand twisted and pulled and suddenly his orgasm was upon him, like a solid wall. It seemed to overwhelm him as he spent himself over his hand, and yet a few seconds in he felt distinctly the rush of something else exiting him, and he blacked out.

When he came back to his senses, he sat up carefully. He removed his glasses from his nose, where they lay wildly askew, his hand shaking as he moved. But his body felt fully concrete again, the presence-feeling back to it's customary tingle.

Cid coughed. "In the morning, then, we will return to work. There is still much to be done." His voice shook only slightly.

Yes, said Venat, a glimmer of sparks betraying her position.