Okay. If this works, it’ll work, and if it doesn’t—
Don’t think about that.
The first time it happened it surprised us both.
Some necromantic mystery had riled you up one day, even before you stumbled upon my latest escape attempt, and you forgot, I guess, that as a rule we really didn’t fight physically anymore. (It wasn’t very fair that I had grown strong and cool and you would forever be scrawny and awful. It just wasn’t.) It was bad luck that you passed the tunnel right where I was making a mad dash for the supply drone that was taking off, bad luck that I heard you howl in rage through my carefully sealed haz suit, bad luck that I stumbled, bad luck that skeletons burst from the walls to slow me down on top of that (you really would decorate anything and everything with bone, you paranoid freak), bad luck that my two-hander was on my back and I couldn’t draw it quickly enough to fight back. Bad luck that I went down. Worst luck of all that this was apparently not enough for you: you were already pinning me to the tunnel floor with some skeletons, but you stalked over and did the dirty work of popping the seal on my helmet and pulling it off with your own little gremlin hands.
“Oh, Griddle, shirking your duties as usual,” you sneered into my face. “Why am I not surprised?”
The supply drone took off with a whine and a roar, and its sound faded into the distance along with all my hopes and dreams. I’d planned to cling to the underside of it on my way out, but now I was flat on my back on the tunnel floor with you for company.
“Why the fuck,” I managed to choke out, “do you care?”
“Fuck you,” you said.
“Fuck me yourself, you coward.”
It made the moment very weird. You might have been about to follow up your “Fuck you” with something actually intelligent, but I never found out, because of my dumb mouth. We both froze for a second, and then the sly light of some awful idea crawled into your eyes.
You ran a hand through my hair, fisted it, and pulled my head up. From here I had a spectacular view of your weird blown-out seething expression, like I was the worst thing you’d ever seen. Also a view up your blood-crusted nostrils. Choice.
“Maybe I will, Griddle,” you said. “Maybe I will stop fucking you over and start fucking you. Maybe the way through your thick skull is through your cunt.”
You’d never talked to me like that before. I laughed. “Like you’d even know where to start with that.” Who the fuck would you have practiced on?
You sniffed, an unpleasantly wet hlurk sound. “I have a body, same as you.”
“Yeah, and you probably take sonics with all your clothes on. And the bone jewellery. I would bet all the fusty coffers of this crumbling backwater that you couldn’t tell a titty from an elbow. Especially not on you .” Now I was just babbling, because the way you were looking at me seemed like you were serious.
Your lips twisted. “Come to my rooms and find out.”
“This isn’t happening,” I said. “This is not happening. Harrowhorrible Nonagesimustn’t isn’t seriously coming onto me, because it would literally kill her.”
“Maybe I hate you enough to occasionally compromise my own principles.” You got to your feet and had a few skeletons yank me to mine. “Come on.”
I stared. “Now?” You were already halfway down the hallway, and the skeletons were nudging me after you. “Oh, okay, now. This is fine.”
You had rooms and not just a cell—swank as fuck. But I didn’t get to look at the decor too long, because you were stripping my haz suit off me as though we were on a spaceship mid-battle and the oxygen levels were dropping fast and—wait a minute—
“I knew it. This was just a trick to steal my haz suit off me. You’re not actually going to—mmph— ”
You slammed your face into mine. What the fuck were you—oh, that was your mouth, you were trying to kiss me. Not how I imagined that happening, at all. “Less force,” I mumbled against you, and you realigned and tried again, gasping something that sounded like “Don’t tell me what to do.”
You didn’t kiss nicely. There were a lot of teeth and you might have bit me on purpose (wouldn’t put it past you). But dammit, something about it was effective—hot and bothered I certainly was.
Logically this should not have been possible. You tasted like blood and greasepaint and something faintly sweet but not in a good way, your fingers were really sharp on my jaw and at the back of my neck, and by the look on your face when you tripped me and slammed me down into the bed, I genuinely thought you had changed your mind and flipped from sex to cold bloody murder. I yanked you down on top of me before you could actually go for the murder, and then you—what were you doing? Gnawing on my neck?
“What are you doing? You said you’d fuck me,” I gasped, because there was no denying it, I was really wet.
“And I will,” you sexy-whispered, though you didn’t have sexy whispering down very well and it was pretty loud so close to my ear.
And you did keep your promise. You fucked me. Or, well, you tried.
You shoved your hand down my waistband without any sort of finesse whatsoever. You came at my clit with entirely too much gusto. You didn’t even try to take any of my clothes off first, or yours.
You had the spirit, and at that point I really wanted you to get me off. But it was all sort of painful. I knew how I liked it, technique-wise, but I couldn’t really explain it when you were hovering over me looking pissed off and I was equal parts scared and horny. It’s hard to come while someone’s frowning at you, I discovered that day. Look, I really did my best to enjoy it, but you weren’t going to get anywhere without a lot of redirection, and so nothing happened for a mortifyingly long time. You went from angry and determined to angry and frustrated, and eventually I grabbed your wrist and said, “You can stop.”
Your face went confused under the now-messy paint, like a sad kind of clown. “Did you—achieve orgasm?”
“No, you went at it too hard and now I’m oversensiti—stop that .” I winced as you tried to flick my clit again, and yanked your hand out of my pants. “You’re not gonna accomplish anything that way. It’s just uncomfortable now. It’s okay, don’t worry about it, I’d rather you just not.”
You scowled. You didn’t like losing, even if the game was one you’d never played before. Before I could roll away you’d wiped your wet hand off on my shirt in revenge and stood up from the bed, arranging your grisly bone accoutrements, none of which you’d actually bothered to take off. “Then leave,” you said.
“You don’t want me to return the favor?”
“No, why would I want that? I hate you.” You made a skeleton throw your door open. “Out.”
“What, you don’t cuddle?”
“Out,” you repeated, as dignifiedly as you could with definite traces of wet-ass pussy under your fingernails.
“Gladly,” I said, zipping my fly back up on the way toward the door. “Hey, where’s my haz—”
You smirked through your awful smeared paint. “You won’t be needing that anymore.”
As you slammed the door shut behind me, I caught sight of a skeleton scurrying away down the corridor with my haz suit.
“Nonagesimus, you sneaky bitch!”
Fuck’s sake. That had taken weeks to get ahold of.
The second time went like this:
I’d been given punishment by Crux, who sucks, for something stupid I don’t remember the what or the why of, and that punishment was going to work in one of the rows of skeletons in the leek fields, hoeing and hoeing and hoeing away. Not the kind of hoeing I imagined doing when I finally trounced puberty in glorious combat. And once you got wind from Crux of what he was having me do that day, you took the lift all the way to the surface to stand there and watch me and sneer.
“Gonna just stare with your mouth open like that?” I said.
You sniffed and rearranged your robes, and otherwise said nothing at all.
“Oh, no biting retort, no barbèd sting? Watching skeletons break up clods of dirt is really interesting for you, huh?”
You still didn’t talk. I might have thought you’d come up to enjoy all two of the sad rays of Dominicus that reached the surface, except that you’d never enjoyed anything in your life. Eventually you said, “I requested this disciplinary action for you. Specially. I thought you’d hate it, and that thought brought my cold shrivelled heart some marginal joy.”
I swung the hoe into the hard bad soil, imagining it was your face. “Don’t let having power over me make you all hot and bothered, dusky dictatrix.”
“You’re the hot and bothered one here, Griddle.” Your voice came out cold and loud in the gloom. You could afford to say shit like that up here, because I was the only other one around with eardrums.
“No, you,” I said. “I can sense it in the air. You’re thinking, ‘Gee, hope I don’t give away how turned on I am watching my indentured servant do tasks against her will. Hope no one knows I’m secretly a fucking sadist—”
“Griddle, that is patently untrue. Having power means nothing to me. It is the burden I must bear.”
The little smile on your face was as smug as a cat’s asshole. Lately you’d been atrocious, getting on my nerves more than usual, and hoeing wasn’t doing enough for all the steam I’d built up.
“Uh-huh,” I said. “Keep telling yourself that. You love it. Your whole life is one long power trip. ‘Oh, Anchorite Sepulchrian, kiss the toe of my dusty boot. Oh, Pilgrim Quintine, we don’t worship the Tomb here, we worship me , its keeper and mistress.’ I’d think you were addicted to it if I didn’t know you were really addicted to puppeting corpses around—”
You were stalking towards me then, five incandescent feet of rage. “You should be addicted to shutting the fuck up.”
“You wanna fuck me so bad it makes you look stupid,” I said, because you did look stupid, all glassy-eyed under your death’s-head paint. You never took kindly to being told you looked stupid—I knew that’d set you off, and honestly, I’d said it cause I wanted to set you off. Hey, it beat field work.
“Nav, you piteous peon,” you said chidingly, “you can’t say these things around your osseous brethren. They might get ideas.”
“Was that supposed to be scathing?” I said. “You might want to workshop that one. Even I know those shits can’t hear.”
You rolled your eyes. “I have always longed for someone to charm the pants off me. Alas, criticism doesn’t quite do the trick, I find.”
“Are you implying you want me to take your pants off?” There was just enough silence while you tried to think of something to say that I laughed. “You are. Make a proposition or leave, you umbral creep. I’ve got a field to hoe.”
God, what would be worse? Hoeing this field or hoeing your field? No, that wasn’t even a question. This shitty leek field could suck it.
You didn’t leave. You also didn’t say anything. I really had no idea where we stood after that one awkward day two weeks ago where I tried to escape and you tried to finger me and neither of us succeeded, so I ignored you and got back to the stupid hoeing. With you there I couldn’t skive off or Crux would hear about it and give me more days up here, so I did all the shit the skeletons were doing, nice and tidy in their little line. Occasionally I looked back at you: you were standing there, muttering to yourself, moving your fingers, and a couple times a skeleton would twitch or jerk or collapse entirely and reform itself with a few more bones attached. You really had come up to do maintenance. Weird, but fine.
I tossed my hoe down at the end of the hour for a break and said, because it was honestly eating at me, “So you really didn’t come up here to have me take your pants off?”
You steepled your fingers with great gravity and said, “Since you persist… I do find myself troubled. By thoughts of—”
You glared. “Hatred.”
“They’re not mutually exclusive,” I said. “I can hate you and be really excited to get in your pants at the same time.”
“I’m wearing skirts today, actually.”
“Whatever. Reason being,” I continued, “unlike you, I know how to get a girl off. And I can prove it.”
Your eyes narrowed. “Such confidence. I can’t wait to see you fail.”
I grinned, but—
“After you’ve finished with…” You gestured vaguely. “Whatever this is.”
“You really don’t want to wait that long, trust me.”
“I think you’ll find I can be very patient.”
I laughed, because of the memory of you rubbing my clit like you were trying to start a motor. “Don’t you have literally anything better to do?”
“I take pride in making sure my workforce is operating at its full capacity. This includes you. Get back to it.”
Holy fucking shit, you really did stand there while I hoed this whole field.
Once it was done, you walked around it, staring at the ground as though you knew what good hoeing looked like, and then you collapsed the skeletons one by one. They’d lie here in the dirt until someone reactivated them for the next phase of snow leek husbandry. Then you motioned me over to the lift. “Come on. Get on with it. Show me your incredible technique.”
“In the lift? Kinky.”
You produced an evil-looking key and wedged it into a little hole in the control panel as the doors groaned shut. “So no one else calls it,” you explained.
“Less exciting.” Great, now I was trapped in a tiny space with a witch from hell—but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t kind of amped to prove myself. “Hey, can I see your tits this time? I was serious, I do want to know if you can tell them from elbows.”
You sighed. “Griddle, your concupiscence is absolutely your worst quality.”
“Yes,” you interrupted. “You may.” You pulled up your shirt with so much ceremony I would have laughed at you except I really did want to see my first pair of tits in the flesh (that weren’t my own). They weren’t anything close to elbows. I might have apologised for saying that then if you hadn’t been glaring at me down your nose like I was a malevolent lichen.
“Can I touch—” I began, but before I even finished asking you’d grabbed my hand, relieved it of its work glove, and planted it on your tit.
Super non-elbowy. Fuck, they were satisfying. Soft and palmable. I could’ve stayed there all day, except you said, “Griddle. You said you knew what you were doing.”
“Shut up ,” I said, and kissed you to drive the point home. Not because I liked you, because who would, ever. This was fine until you bit my top lip and wriggled against me and said, “Get on with it.”
“Haven’t you ever heard of foreplay?”
“No,” you said, and horrifyingly enough, no, you wouldn’t have, would you. “Come on. Prove to me there’s some benefit from letting all your nasty magazines through.”
I had no good reply to that, because I was sort of busy with the problem of figuring out where the skirts ended and the relevant bits of you began. You hadn’t been lying: you were wearing skirts, plural. Under the floor-length drapey one was a knee-length wooley one, and under that was bare thigh, hot under my hand, and then a bit of hair, and then—
“Oh my god,” I said. “I thought you’d be wearing seven pairs of underwear, not none .”
“I dress strategically.”
“And you’re soaked.”
Your hips twitched into my hand. “Not relevant.”
What you’d said finally caught up to me. “Nonagesimus,” I said slowly, “did you plan ahead for this?”
I grinned. “Liar.”
I found your clit and got down to business. I swirled my middle finger around it in the way that I liked, which made you gasp, and then tried some creative up-and-down work, which made you moan. Neat. Your sharp little fingers were digging into the back of my neck and my shoulder, and I figured the more they tensed the better I was doing.
So this technique seemed to be paying off, and I was having a great time. Also, I got to squeeze your boobs when I could muster up enough dexterity to do different things with each hand, which was very fun for me. The upper part of your chest was flushing red and god, this was just so satisfying. Who knew I’d be so good at this? (Me. I knew. I’d always had faith I’d be a natural sex god.) Feeling bold, I slid a finger inside you.
“No, none of that,” you said, without opening your eyes.
I slid it back out and went back to your clit. “You realize that telling me things makes this easier for me, right?”
“Harder,” you said.
“No, it makes it easier because—”
Oh, that was a demand. I laughed into your neck. “Can’t believe you’re begging for it.”
You whined, actually whined, and ground yourself into my hand.
“Oh shit, you like that,” I said, and your breath came heavier in response. “You planned ahead for this and didn’t even wear any underwear. Fuck. That’s—that’s really hot, actually. Were you watching me that whole time, imagining me fucking you?”
You buried your face in my shoulder and your hips bucked into me as you shuddered and gasped, and yeah, if my personal experience is anything to go by, I would say you came. One point to Gideon Nav.
“Good?” I said, once your heartbeat and breathing had slowed down. “That seemed good.”
“I will grant it was certainly effective,” you said.
But now you were back to stony pissed-off-ness, and you did not offer to return the favor. You untangled yourself from me, put your skirts back down and fixed your shirt, and hauled the lift door back open. Then you made weird shooing motions until I got the idea that I was supposed to get out.
“Hey, I’m going back down too,” I said. “You can’t share a lift with me?”
“Questions are the last thing I need. I hate you,” you added, punching buttons on the control panel.
“Yeah, good, same,” I said, as the door creaked closed.
Then it was just me and the leek fields and a vicious pain near my neck. I’m pretty sure you bit my trapezius in half when you came. But I’d trade my whole right trap for the sense of satisfaction I got from making you come on the first try.
The third time went like this:
I had said something really stupid, possibly mean, in front of you and Aiglamene both. Aiglamene’s eyebrows went up, and your whole face went red and you said, “Griddle. In the hallway. Now.”
I followed you into the hallway and you laid into me immediately.
“Griddle, how dare you talk like that to me in front of one of my most trusted retainers?”
At that point I’d honestly forgotten what I’d said because I was too fixated on the fact that the last two times we’d been alone, something kind of like sex had happened. My blood was rushing south in a hurry and there was none left for brain function.
“You’ve said shit like that to me my whole life! Tit for tat, bitch,” I said. For that you grabbed my nipple and twisted. Your aim was amazingly accurate through the whole two jackets I had on. Joke’s on you, though. I liked it. “Hey, do that again.”
Your face moved through various shades of disgust before settling on evil glee. “You like this?” The gasp I let out should have been answer enough, but you said, “Words. Use them.”
“Yes I like it, holy shit—”
You let go then. I might have whimpered. You said, “Good to know. I won’t do it again,” like a fucking sadist, and flounced back into the training room to wrap up whatever horrible little gossip sesh you were having with Aiglamene. Aiglamene left after a few minutes of that, probably because she secretly couldn’t stand you. Then you turned to me and demanded, “Come to my rooms.”
“Why, so you can maim me atrociously again? Do you know how hard you bit me last time? Tell Aiglamene it’s your fault my overhead strikes are lopsided this week, so she’ll get off my case about it.”
“I’ve been doing research. You may benefit from it.”
“Weirdest sex proposition I’ve ever heard,” I muttered, but followed you anyway. “Wait, that is what you meant, right?”
You didn’t even have to look back for me to know you were sneering; somehow you’d trained the fabric of your cloak to do that for you. “You have nothing better to do right now. I made sure of it.”
“Creep,” I said. I was cautiously intrigued by the prospect of you looking up stuff to be better at sex. Was that why The Pussy-Eating Pentad, vol. XX had gone missing from under my mattress? It did have some really good pussy-eating tips in it.
Turns out yes, you’d gone and thieved PEP20. I could tell because you wiped your face free of paint and then immediately tried to write the whole alphabet on my clit with your tongue. Anyone with any taste (ha) knows it’s a dumb idea, but good for you for trying. And better for me, because this time I wasn’t having my clit attacked like it was an invasive virus and you were my immune system. You came at it with less fury than the other time. Still absolutely no foreplay, but that could be fixed. It blew my mind that I could look down and see a girl between my legs doing her best to eat me out. Even if it was you, and even if you were definitely only doing it to prove some kind of point, I’d take it.
It still took awhile, because clearly none of the magazine tips had been Don’t scowl. And right when you got me to the edge, you stopped and lifted your head back up, and I said, “What—no, don’t stop,” and you said, “Wasn’t that an orgasm?” and I said, “No, what the fuck, keep going,” so you did, and then I came, and it was pretty good actually, and when I got my breath back and opened my eyes again you were sitting above me looking smug.
“You see,” you said, “you aren’t the only one who can ‘get a girl off.’”
“Yeah. Okay. Point made. Good work.” I was feeling nice and dozy and possibly the faintest tinge of chivalrous. I was definitely going to return the favor, I decided. But first I had to clear up the situation. I said, “So are we ever gonna, you know.”
You stared at me flatly. “Words.”
Damn, not even successfully munching some of my secret sweetness could put a smile on your face. You looked like your parents had died all over again.
“You know.” I squirmed a little. “Talk about this? This situation? Like, what are we doing here?”
“There is nothing here to talk about.”
Okay, that sounded like a no, then. I let my head fall back against the pillow. “Cool. I hate you, you know. Even if you did finally make me come.”
“I hate you too. Get out of my sight.”
My head popped back up. “I thought I could eat you out in return, maybe.”
“No,” you said, as though you were refusing another helping of Drearburh porridge and not the opportunity to have a verified sex virtuoso (me) doing virtuoso things with a tongue (attached to me). “I grow weary.”
Weary. Honestly. You were so fucking weird sometimes.
The fourth time went like this:
“Nonagesimus!” I yelled. “Are you fucking avoiding me?”
There were too many dusty tomes in this mausoleum of a library for my voice to echo, but you sure heard me. Your head snapped up from your dictionary or whatever the fuck. Your paint looked meaner than usual.
You said, “You’ve been looking for me?”
“No!” I hadn’t been, actually. Why would I do that? I was just scouting the places you normally lurked to make sure you weren’t going to pop out of the shadows and give me a heart attack. But you were nowhere, so either you had shit to do or you were running away from me.
It had been like two weeks, and sure, I had shit to do too, but I was also thinking about sex absolutely all the goddamn time. My hand was not as satisfying as it used to be. It sucked.
You sighed. “Bold of you to think you command enough of my attention for me to avoid you, Griddle.”
“I sure commanded your attention when you had your mouth on my—”
“Shut up,” you groaned, flipping the book shut. “Do you hear yourself sometimes—”
“Make me,” I said. “Make me shut up.”
“That won’t work,” you sneered. “I know your game now. One says, ‘Shut up!’ and the other says, ‘Make me!’ and then they kiss. I’ve read all the magazines, you know. It’s incredible how many times that exact sequence of words app—what are you doing?”
I’d thrown myself down on the sofa beside you, very very close. But then I leaned away, because I hated having my strategy found out and made fun of. “ Not kissing you, that’s for sure,” I said. “You read the magazines? All of them?”
“I scan them for potentially heretical material,” you said primly.
“Ever found any?”
“Mentions of the Ninth House are frequently libelous, but not heretical. Then again, I would expect you to revel in anything that makes the Ninth look bad.” You sniffed. “No one believes it, surely. It’s all just a lot of postulants running around in robes that are far too small for them, substituting carnal relations for their holy vows, stuffing someone’s great-grandmother’s knucklebones into their rectal cavities.”
“That’s hot,” I said.
You looked at me, looked away, and then looked back at me and said, “Do you really find that—appealing?”
“Knucklebones in the ass? Don’t know. Never tried.”
“That’s obviously an invented activity for shock value,” you said authoritatively. “Bone is not an appropriate material for insertables.”
“What, you've never fucked yourself with a bone?”
Your eyes narrowed. “You have?”
“Ninth House girls make do.” At your look of shock I laughed. “No! But you’re a necromancer! What’s stopping you?”
You stared at me, and then you got that look on your face that said you'd just had a horrendous idea. The book you’d been reading thunked to the floor.
Some minutes later we were still mostly clothed, staring equally dubiously at a smooth bone about the length of my hand that you’d molded out of one of your ear studs. It was an unpleasant color, but hey. “That looks about right,” I said, and you said, “I am not putting this inside myself.”
“Can I put it inside you?”
“Do you wanna put it inside me?”
Your pointy little face twisted with some unreadable thrill. “Yes.”
That probably meant it wasn’t a good idea. But I did want a good story for when I ran away and joined the Cohort and had to impress a lot of hot ladies, so that’s how I wound up pantsless, with you crouched over me on that moth-eaten brocade sofa trying to stick a bone in my cunt, but in a way that suggested you’d always primly averted your eyes from the diagrams of reproductive systems in anatomy textbooks. And then you had the audacity to ask if it was good.
“Well?” you snapped, impatient.
“I’m figuring that out!”
You tried to wiggle it around.
“No, nah, nope,” I said, and you pulled it out.
We stared at that bone. It stared back, mulishly. I resolved never to tell anyone about this ever. Or if I did, to embellish the hell out of it.
You said, “This is the least appealing thing I’ve ever seen.”
“Same,” I said, “and I’ve seen your face. Wanna just take your pants off so I can eat you out?”
“Oh, I’m not done with you,” you said, which made me blink. You chucked the bone over your shoulder and went at me with fingers instead, which was better than the last time, even if you did still scowl like you were trying to work out some bone theorems. It was fine, I just shut my eyes and pretended you were a hot Cohort lady who was very impressed with me—only for a little bit, don’t get mad—and got jumpscared when I opened my eyes again and you were looking faintly impressed. Probably just with yourself, though.
"Now can I eat you out?" I said, feeling a little silly for asking again, because I did really want to try. You looked at me for several awful seconds as though I'd asked you to pull all my fingernails out, but then said, "If you want to."
Okay, not promising. But I was sure I could change your tune. I was gonna be fucking fantastic at this. Fantastic at fucking this. Whatever.
You were a little tense at first. "I'm not gonna bite you," I said, kissing your hip. "That's your thing, right?" You almost smiled, which was a big achievement. And then I put my head down and got to work. You wriggled around a lot, and one of your heels dug into my back, but I barely noticed. I was too busy realizing that my tongue stamina was not where I wanted it to be. At one point, I rested my head on your thigh and just looked at you, spread out over the sofa, pliant for once, waiting. You were breathing hard, gazing down at me through mostly-closed eyes. It was a nice moment—until you said, “What are you doing?”
“Enjoying myself,” I said. “Damn. Slow down.”
You frowned. “I never said you could enjoy yourself.”
“Can I try a finger inside?”
“You may,” you said, ostentatiously, so I did. You inhaled sharply.
“Yes.” Your eyes fluttered open. “Oh, your distal phalanges—”
“What about them?”
“The shape is—nice—”
“Aw. Did you just call my bones nice? Was that a compliment?”
“No!” you said. “ Nice in the ancient sense of the word, meaning—” You cut yourself off with a gasp. I’d just found a spot inside you that produced an arch in your back when I pressed into it.
“Meaning what?” I said. “I’m dying to know.” I wasn’t—I didn’t care, a compliment’s a compliment—but reducing you to speechlessness was very fun for me.
“Shut up,” you said, and pushed my head back down into your cunt.
You came twice while I was down there and I felt pretty smug about it. It was like all the bones had been melted from your body and you couldn't worry about them anymore. But I should’ve known that was dangerous. It was getting too comfortable, too easy. Like we were friends, or something. You looked peaceful for once. Your long black eyelashes fluttered against your cheeks as you yawned.
I sat up and rubbed the outside of your knee. “I like you when you’re like this.”
—Wow, wait, no. Fuck.
It was the worst thing I could have possibly said.
You froze. Then your eyes flashed open and you sat up so fast you would’ve bruised my forehead with your own if I hadn’t had the reflexes of someone extremely fast and cool.
“I meant—” I began, but you interrupted me.
“No you don’t,” you said, your eyes wide and black with hatred. “ No you don’t. I knew this was a mistake.” You started hunting around for your clothes but all you found was my shirt, which you threw in the general vicinity of my face. “I knew entanglements were unwise. I knew nothing good could come of—”
“I only meant that you’re less horrible than usual!” I said. “Don’t worry. You’re still tacky and I hate you.”
That seemed to reassure you; you settled back into your normal level of nastiness.
“Griddle,” you said, “if there were anyone else close to my age on this planet, no matter who they were or what they looked like, rest assured I would pick them over you. You would be my last choice, in any universe. You would be anyone’s last choice, in any universe!”
You said, “Do you think you’d have been left here in the first place if anyone really wanted you?”
I was already scrambling back into my clothes. “No wonder a whole generation of Drearburh kids died,” I said. “They knew you were on the way, and got the fuck out!”
I’d seen you yell before, but never naked. Your whole chest turned red and your body trembled like it was going to explode. Dunno what you said (blocked it out for my own good) but it sure was loud. For good measure you had a couple skeletons lay into me on my way out.
That was just so typically unfair of you. I didn’t even have my sword with me to smash them apart.
After that, it made no sense for me to ever go back to you.
But I did.
The fifth time went like this:
The heat had gone off in my cell, half an hour before I’d gotten back to it that night, judging by the way my breath puffed into the air. You’d done this before. I stomped down to your room to wait. When you finally came in, you barely blinked, even though I was sprawled out on your bed like a goddamn delight. You said, “How the hell did you get in?”
I sat up. “Charm and persuasion.” Really your door was just unlocked. Rookie mistake. “You turned the fucking heat off in my cell. So either you turn it back on, or I’ll hang around here and annoy you til morning.”
“I didn’t turn the heat off,” you said, because you were a lying liar who lied. “So strange. Must be a system malfunction.”
“Uh-huh. A system malfunction. Explains why the lock to the control panel had smears of bone dust all over it. Just give me the key and I’ll leave you alone.”
You yawned. “Maintenance issues really should be reported to Sister Taphophilia.” You moved over to your fussy little dresser and began working your rings and bracelets off one by one. They clanked as you tossed them to the surface.
Like hell I was going to go find Sister Taphophilia at this hour. “I know you still have that goddamn key around your neck, Nonagesimus.”
“Do I?” you remarked to thin air. “Is it around my neck? Or is it clipped to my waist? Or could I perhaps have tucked it into an obscure hidden pocket only I know the location of?” You met my eyes and one of your eyebrows quirked in challenge. “It would be such a shame if you were to go looking. You might have to take off most of my clothes before you found it.”
You had come all the way toward me and tipped your head to the side, like a seductress who’d forgotten about the seduction part. The skull you had on today was still perfect, even so late, and there was a darkness tugging at the corners of your eyes.
“You don’t have to give me proto-frostbite to get my attention,” I said. “If you want something all you have to do is ask.”
Your gaze flickered down to my lips. You were getting impatient.
“God, you’re the worst,” I said, and let you pull me up into a kiss.
You tasted like paint, and you were getting it all over my face. But your mouth was hot and soft on mine, and despite myself I wrapped my arms around you. For the warmth. Yeah, the warmth. But mainly to feel you up for keys. You had like five necklaces on but they were all bones, no keys. I tore them off you and tossed them on the floor. You didn’t seem to care; you were occupied with working my shirt off and then with my tits, mostly getting paint all over them although I’ll grant your nipple-squeezing technique was getting better and I temporarily forgot that I was groping your ass with one hand and going through your pockets with the other (no keys there). Then you slid both of your hands into my hair and climbed onto the bed, straddling me, and we toppled down in a gasping heap and I forgot about keys for a while. There was a whole lot of skin in front of me and I wanted to put my tongue on all of it, so I did, and the noises you made were just incredible. I loved it. I loved making your breathing stutter and hearing you moan when I kissed along your neck and watching your eyes flutter shut when I slid a hand beneath your waistband to see if you were wet.
Still didn’t like you, though.
I had relieved you of robes, hoods, necklaces galore, jackets, shirts, and a bandeau, none of which yielded any key whatsoever, and now you just had trousers remaining. I’d felt those up pretty thoroughly: no key. Knowing you, you’d chucked it into the leek fields to be lost forever, out of spite.
I propped myself up on my elbows. “If you don’t have that key on you, I might have to go ask someone else after all. How would Crux feel about this, do you think? His Lady getting freaky with Gideon Nav. The shock. The horror. The—”
“Shut up,” you said, and for once you looked a little queasy. “Do not tell anyone,” you added belatedly.
“Tell anyone what?” I said. “There’s nothing to tell. What would I tell him? That the Lady of Drearburh secretly likes having her butt grabbed? That Gideon Nav can fit both the Lady’s tits in the palm of one hand, volumetrically? That the Lady is slowly learning how to eat pussy like a champ—”
“Shut up,” you seethed, scrambling out of your trousers.
“Shut me up yourself,” I said absently, watching your skinny little legs emerge from black cloth, like some kind of horrible snake shedding its skin. “That the Lady’s legs are pretty much sticks, there’s so little muscle on th—mmph—”
You’d sat on my face with a vengeance.
I was gonna suffocate, but I was gonna be happy about it. Me, finally doing what I’d been born to do. I’d achieved total enlightenment. I could die happy, smothered by pussy.
I went slow, slow and soft. You hated it. Good. “More ,” you growled above me, and tried to grind your clit into my nose, but I held your hips still so you couldn’t, stroking little circles into your skin with my thumbs. “Come on, Nav, you said you knew what you were doing oh—” Your hands grasped at thin air before finally winding themselves into my hair. “Yes, that’s—yes—“ Then you swore a little—like the very prissy nun you were, which was to say not well at all—and that was just bad to listen to. I didn’t like being reminded of the King Undying as though he had any say in what my mouth was doing—which at that moment was taking a break, kissing the inside of one of your trembling thighs. “Griddle,” you gasped. “I’m going to—to—“
Oh, that was why your thighs were trembling. You had no muscle. I wriggled up and flipped us so you were on your back—and while I was up there I caught sight of something glinting on your dresser.
“Pay attention,” you snapped, and twisted one of my nipples to make sure I did.
“Ow. Bossy,” I muttered into your neck, and moved to spread your legs apart again, but you were rolling on top of me. Your hand had found its way down to my cunt and you were circling a finger around my clit like an awful tease. Yeah, that was distracting. I had other plans, but suddenly I couldn’t remember what they were. You slid a finger inside me and drew it out again, watching my face. “Yeah, that’s—yeah,” I said. “Add—more.”
You did not. Your thumb found my clit. “What was that?”
You were straddling my thigh, making it all slick, grinding into it, though that couldn’t have done much for you. Unfortunately it did do something for me, conceptually. No thoughts, just horny. I was supposed to be doing something. What was I supposed to be doing?
Clutching the sheets, apparently. Pulling you down into a kiss that turned into you biting me because of course it did, you asshole, so I rolled over and held you down by the wrists in revenge and you either moaned or yelled at me and then we were just a tangle of sweaty limbs and fingers wound into hair and breathlessness and motion and were we fighting? Was it sex? What’s the difference, when you get down to it? It only ended in a draw, when we were spent and too tired to move or talk. My hand brushed across your nipple and you made a noise of exhausted complaint.
Post-nut clarity hit me like a shovel. I was only here because you were a manipulative asshole who’d turned off my heat. I hated you, but I also kind of hated myself too.
“Thanks, skeleton queen. Fun distraction. But you still suck.”
I grabbed the key from where I’d noticed it sitting on your dresser, wrapped myself in my cloak, and bounced.
That’s when I decided, not for the first time or even for the eightieth, that I was leaving. This place was too cold for hell. Fuck the Ninth and fuck its drillshaft and its leek fields and its skeletons and its shitty heating. Fuck everyone in it, especially you. And not in the fun way.
And then there was the time we didn’t.
The summons arrived from the First House, my eighty-seventh escape attempt failed miserably, I became your cavalier officially not long after that, and then it all stopped.
All of it.
There was no more of you ogling me as I hoed fields, no more me riling you up intentionally so I could have the possibility of maybe grabbing your butt. The air between us stagnated and grew cold and all the tension shattered. It was a professional relationship now. Necromancer and cavalier. Nothing more allowed. Neither of us even had to say as much.
Fuck, I kind of missed it, though. You were still a nasty wicked bone witch who made my life hell, but once you’ve had a couple fingers inside someone and a mouth on their tit and watched their face while they come, you can’t help but feel a little soft toward them, you know? Even a nasty wicked bone witch with no redemptive qualities whatsoever.
Sex is weird like that.
We went to Canaan House. I tried my best to be a good cav. You tried your best to shake me. “I’ll handle this all myself, Griddle” my ass—you got yourself stuck in a bone cocoon. Dweeb.
It was fine. By which I mean, no it wasn’t. We were clearly the shittiest necro/cav pair at Canaan House even if no one else could tell apart from Sex Pal. (Haha, Sex Pal.) Even though I was now thinking about sex all the time, and about the way you smelled, and tasted, I tamped it down. Repression: successful. Until the one time we really blew up at each other, because emotions were running high, and people were dying, and you used that against me like an asshole, like a fucking sociopath, and I hated you so much in that moment, more than I ever had at Drearburh, that I wanted to betray you, I wanted to fight you, I wanted you to know how much you’d hurt me. I wanted you to bleed, I wanted you to cry out, and cry, and take it back, and moan, and I wanted—I wanted—
I wanted so many things but all of them were you and it was exactly like what we’d been like back at Drearburh turned up to eleven, so did what came naturally: I grabbed you by the front of your shirt and pushed you against the wall of the corridor. I stopped myself before I could actually go any further—but the sanctity of the necro/cav relationship! some tiny Aiglamene-shaped voice was crying in the back of my mind—but you surged into me anyway.
You howled in rage against my mouth. You kissed me with sheer searing fury, the worst kiss ever, all tongue and teeth like you were trying to scrape bits of me away. Your fingers clawed at my back and dug into my scalp and you clamped your legs around my waist and wouldn’t let go. You were shaking. We both were. Then I made the mistake of breaking away.
As long as we didn’t have to look at each other, this worked. No one had to confront their emotions if we both just pretended we did not see it. But the naked truth plain on your face that moment—it wasn't hate. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't hate on my face either.
“Do you really not need me?” I asked, and my voice broke in the middle of the sentence. “Harrow. Do you really not remember about me half the time?"
Your face crumpled. Your thumb stroked across my lip and I kissed it as it passed, and then after a paralyzing moment in which I swore I could hear our hearts beating, you closed your eyes and pressed your lips gently, so gently, to mine.
I knew what your hands felt like, scratching at the planes of my back. I knew what your body felt like, pressed hot and bony against mine. But though your teeth had cut against my lips, my shoulder, my thigh, and though your tongue had finally learned to treat a girl right, you had never actually kissed me with any kind of gentleness or care. Nor I you. That felt like a step too far, somehow. We could pretend it wasn’t real, didn’t mean anything, if we were never tender.
But that time, when we pulled back and stared at each other—you with horror, me with I’m sure something like amazement—you said, “Gideon,” in a choked little voice, and fuck, you were about to cry.
“Oh no,” I said, “no, what, what is it?” I could deal with pissed-off Harrow. I did not want to deal with crying Harrow. I wasn’t sure if it would embarrass me or totally shatter my heart or both.
"We can't do this," you said, and I knew you meant this, this tender thing. This thing that I suddenly very much wanted to do.
"Why not?" I searched your face. "Yes, we can. Why not?"
“You wouldn’t want to if you knew the truth. Hating me is safer. But you can’t—you can’t like me and not know the whole truth.”
“Yes I can,” I said, into your neck.
You squirmed down and away then; I let you go. “No, Griddle. You really can’t.” You were breathing hard and your face was all screwed up, wrinkling your paint so you looked like a very worried skull. “I can’t let you do that. It’s too much. It’s too big. It’s too—”
You squeezed your eyes shut and exhaled. “I need to think. Away from you.” You waved your hands vaguely in my direction. “Away from—this.”
“Okay,” I said, though really I wanted to scream.
“Okay,” you said, and you turned away and you stalked down the hallway. The shadows swallowed you up, you and your billowy cloak, and I put my head in my hands but I still did not scream.
And then when you took me to the pool down in the basement of Canaan House, and you told me everything, and I took you into my arms, and held you, and held you, and held you, I wasn’t thinking about hating you. I wasn't even thinking of getting back to what we'd been like on the Ninth. I was just trying to make everything better, so we could leave that all behind and have something good.
“Too many words. How about these—one flesh, one end, bitch.” I tilted your head up. “Say it, loser.”
“One flesh—one end,” you repeated.
And then you could say no more.
I knew then that together we could handle anything anyone wanted to throw at us. Anything at all.
And I know we can do it now.
So, that’s where we stand, Harrowhark my first, my flesh, my end. Let aught but death part thee and me. And honestly, death can go fuck itself too.
Come on, sugar lips. Come back.
We have hell to bring.