I love the ocean. I always have and always shall. And the fact that the Vinyare is something I had a hand in making doesn't mean it's any less interesting. When I made Pendor, the Vinyare was my organic soup-kitchen, the place where I dropped the initial Terran organics to establish the ecosystem. Now, millions of years later, It was still organic soup, but some of those organics had gotten pretty big. The fact that I temp-tripped past all the boring stuff in between is no big deal - Fawn and Halloran monitored the process and did the interventions for me.
I looked over to my right where Aaden had stopped to kneel down in the surf and examine something. I wandered over to him. "You're getting your tail wet."
"I found a crab," he said, looking up at me. "It seemed to be a lot braver than the usual crab - damn thing took a swipe at my toes."
I laughed and said, "Did he get one?"
Aaden shook his head, standing and clapping the sand off his paws. "Can I ask you a question?"
"When was the last time you talked to P'nyssa?"
"A few days ago," I replied, a little confused by the question.
He nodded again and said quietly, "This isn't going to work."
"What makes you say that?" I asked calmly. "Because we're both male?"
He gave me a slightly angered "You know better than that look" and said "No. Because we both have lives already. Usually people falling in love don't have people they're leaving behind. I have a life at Rhysh that's still important to me, and you have a coimelin that's important to you. You haven't forgotten her, have you?"
I smiled and said, "No, I haven't forgotten her."
"I've noticed something about you. You're really a one-person person, Ken. While you enjoy all your friends and lovers at the Castle and outside, I see that in the end what you really want is one special person to come home to."
"And you don't think you fill that role?" I asked, feeling a little hurt by his present line.
"I think I do, and I don't want to." He smiled gently and said "P'nyssa does just as good a job, doesn't she?"
I kicked at a pebble in the sand and said, "Yeah, she does."
"A lot," I said, a little confessionally.
"See?" he said. "I don't want to hurt her, if only because she's important to you."
"As important as you are!" I said.
He nodded. "I know. I talked to P'nyssa last night and she said something to me, something I found surprising. She said that if you and I both wanted, she would move out. No jealousy."
"But a lot of hurt. You know, I did the same thing the Ress a few centuries back. But that was kinda different. Ress and I slept in the same bed basically because we didn't know what else to do."
Aaden nodded. "But you and Nyss clicked."
"Yeah. So this is it, huh?"
"Not likely," he replied. "I still love you, that doesn't stop. Not because we say it does. There's no reason for us to stop."
"I love you, too. But you won't stay."
He shook his head and said, "I only live ten minutes away. And let me tell you, there are going to be a lot of days where the craving to be in your arms is going to be really hard to fight."
I laughed gently and said, "Same here."
"Speaking of which," he started. Speaking of what, I wondered. He continued, "I made a breakfast date at Rhysh with P'nyssa and Ally. They're going to meet us about one after light."
"Okay. But what does that have to do with the craving to be in your arms?" I said.
"Well, more like the opposite. I want your arm in me."
I blinked for a second and said, "Excuse me?"
"Tonight, I want to go back to my house, and I want you to handball me." He said it so simply and so matter-of-factly that I was taken aback.
"They teach you to be pretty straightforward in Rhysh, don't they?"
He smiled and said, "It's the only way to get what you want."
I nodded and said, "You know I've never done that before."
"You've been on the receiving end. And I trust you, Ken. Trust you enough." He smiled.
I nodded and said, "Nothing else?"
"Nothing else. No games, no top or bottom. Just you and me."
I put my arm around his waist and steered him around a half-circle, back towards the Castle. Walking arm-in-arm along the beach wasn't easy; the sands shifted, trying to force us apart, breaking up the cadence of our steps. But we fought it, and managed to make it to the more compressed sands of the stream leading out from the lagoon, leading back to the Castle. We didn't speak much, just held each other and enjoyed each other's company. We took the 'wet' SDisk up the roof.
Once in the small pool in the roof, I headed for the steps out, only to find Ress standing there with two huge towels. "Hi!" I said.
"Hiho," she said with a reserved sort of cheerfulness. "Dave said you two were coming back, so I got you towels."
"Thanks," I said, taking one to Aaden. He let me dry him off as well as I could, then retrieved the towel and used it himself. There was worry on Ress's face, her usually bright feline eyes seemed strained and tired, and I nodded her over to me while I dried off. "Need to talk?" I asked quietly. She nodded. "Now?" Another nod.
"Aaden, excuse me for a second."
"Sure thing," he replied.
Ress led me downstairs to her quarters. I took a look around - Place still looked pretty much like mine, only the colors were different and the artwork was more personal. She even had the same furniture layout, with the couch along the outside wall. "What's wrong?" I asked.
She pulled a high stool out from under the bar and sat down. "Are you going to kick P'nyssa out of the Castle?"
I smiled and said, "No."
"But she's leaving, isn't she?"
"What makes you say that?"
"Ken, I've never seen you like this before. That melMeph has got you completely wrapped up."
"Being in love does that."
"But it's not like you," she said, growling a little. Her tawny gold fur rippled slightly. "You two have been almost joined at the waist since he showed up a week ago."
"Ress," I said quietly. I walked over to her and put my hands down on her thighs, pausing to caress her fur before closing my hands around her legs. I looked her in the eyes and said, "P'nyssa's coming home tomorrow. Aaden is an old friend, and an old lover, and somehow something just came together. I needed to spend some time with him, to learn about him. That I love him is pretty clear, but I love you too, you know. What happened to that?"
She smiled and said, "It's still there."
"Do you remember," I said, "That first night, out on Abornia plain, six centuries ago, when you, well, took my virginity?"
She laughed and said, "You were no virgin."
"I think twenty years of celibacy was long enough for it to come back, don't you?"
She laughed again and said, "Maybe. You know what really bothers me though?"
"I like him."
"Why should that bother you?"
"Because I didn't want to. I mean, I know what Aaden is. I know how you met him because you insisted on telling me all the details, a complete blow-by-blow description. The games you both played at Rhysh, things like that. While P'nyssa may tolerate your games out there, I don't understand them at all, and I really don't like them.
"I had all these thoughts about what he was, and when I met him, I tried to fit them to him and they didn't work. I like him. I see what you see in him, and that scared me, for P'nyssa. You know, there's been a small civil war going on behind your back."
"There has?" I asked.
"A lot of Castle residents were talking about leaving if Nyss did."
I blinked. The ground felt shaky again, like it had on the beach. "What was the result?"
"It doesn't make a difference now, does it?"
"It certainly does," I said, getting just a little bit angry. "The fact that you all consider how I lead my personal life so important you make decisions based on it has always pissed me off just a little bit."
"How you lead you life is important to us. Beyond the fact that this place is called Castle Shardik, Ken, P'nyssa's family. I gave up my home to her because it felt right, okay? I gave up the privilege, yes the privilege, of sleeping with you every night because it felt right that she should. I love you and I always have. I thrill inside every time we end up in bed together, you know that. The fact that there's only one of you must frustrate you as much as it does your friends."
I laughed through my anger, and the combination was tears. Little ones at first, just at the corners of my eyes. "You're all so damned right all the time," I said. "All of you, so damned right. I love you, M'Ress."
She put her arms around me and I returned the hug. "The question is, what do we do with this wonderful mel you've found?"
"Have him move in?" I asked.
She shook her head. "This isn't his kind of place."
"Why don't you let me make that decision?" Aaden's voice made me turn around.
"When did you come in?"
"I've been standing in the doorway for a while now, listening to you two. You left the door open." He walked up behind me and pressed himself against me, hugging me, his arms extending to encompass both me and Ress. "I love you, Ken. But I'm not going to destroy a household because of it, certainly not the oldest and maybe most important household on all Pendor."
"Then I lose you," I said.
"Don't be silly," he said. "You don't lose me at all. I'll always be here."
"Aaden," Ress said quietly, "Do you like kids?"
Aaden backed away from us and we broke up, three individuals again. "I don't know. I've never had any."
"But do you think you could handle them?"
"Oh, easily. If they're anything like a few of the het neo's we get at Rhysh, easily."
"Good. Ken, I've got an announcement."
"You're pregnant again?" I asked with mock concern.
"Not that soon," she said, laughing. "But!" she said, waving a single finger in the air, claw extended, "But, Shalla is."
I sat there with open mouth and said, "Shalla? Little Combat Monster Shalla Sorens, preggers?"
Ress nodded. "And she's going to need someone for an extra set of hands when neither she nor Mark are quite able to deal with it."
"You're looking to set me up here as a baby-sitter?" Aaden asked, his voice indicating his obvious amusement.
"Why not? It's one of the more common tasks that need to be filled around here. And it'll help you decide if you want children of your own. How old are you, anyway?"
"I'm a Tleil, M'Ress."
The look on Ress's face was near shock. "You're five centuries old and you've never had children?"
"Never really thought about it. Had other things to worry about. Besides, despite the offers I've had, I've been erolie' since decanting."
M'Ress shook her head. "Never mind the offer then."
"No wait," Aaden said. "I didn't say I didn't accept. I do. I like the idea. It gives me a reason to stay here, try and be one of the folks. And if you-" he turned to me, "find a nice Mephit girl, well, send her my way."
"Aaden," I said, chiding.
"No, really. I'll do a stint as baby-sitter. It can't be any less exciting than gardening. Besides, some of the slopes around the bowl of the lagoon need trimming. And while I'm not interested in fems, if I find myself enjoying the children, well, I'm going to need one for all the usual reasons."
"But what if she wants to participate in raising the child?" Ress asked.
"Fine," he said. "That's great. It's not that I don't like women in general, Ress. I like you, after all. It's just that I don't feel sexually interested in them. No excitement there at all. Sorry," he said, shrugging.
"But if you can't perform with a femMeph, you have a problem," I said.
"There are ways around that," he said quietly. "Especially if you're there, Ken."
I smiled. "You want me to, well, midhusband."
He nodded. "Something like that." He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.
We retired later to Aaden's home. Back in the valley of Rhysh, his house is a little ways up on the Backwater hills, nestled against a hillside and raised up on stilts. It's also separated from the hillside by a meter-wide gap. "It's to keep the runoff from spilling into the house," he explained. "It also lets me keep a drawbridge." I laughed.
Inside, he put his vest and pants aside and padded about in all his naked glory. He disappeared into the bathroom for a while. "So," I shouted, "what do you think?"
"Of what?" he asked back as I rummaged through his kitchen, looking for the glassware. "Rowan," I asked patiently, "Where does Aaden keep his glasses?"
"Third cupboard from the right," the AI answered back. Aaden came out finally, disappeared out back, and then returned with an armful of wood, throwing some of the smaller ones onto the fireplace.
"Of the deal Ress made with you?" I asked.
"I think it's great. Somehow, though, we have to find a femMeph who one, likes me, two, likes you, three, loves children, and four, fits into Castle Shardik."
"The last one's the problem," I said. He laughed. I started to hand him a glass of wine, but stopped when I saw his paws. "You're a mess," I said, brushing the little bits of wood and bark out of his fur.
"I'll get it," he said, moving close and hugging me closer, holding me. I melted against him, feeling so wonderful in his arms.
"You really want me to do this?" I asked.
"What, tonight? Yes," he breathed. He let me go and wandered back to the living room to start the fire. Night was coming fast. I followed him, sitting next to him on the blanket he had laid out in front of the fireplace. I put his glass down on the marble sill the fireplace rested on and sipped from mine.
After a few minutes he had the kindling going and was starting to put on larger logs. I hadn't noticed when he had finished, because I barely heard him say, "Ken?"
"Hmm?" I asked, looking up.
"You're thinking again. You've been staring at that glass for almost ten minutes."
"Yeah," I said. I looked up into his face and said, "Do you think I'm duplicitous?"
"Do I think you're what?" he asked.
"I don't see why I should think that. What makes you ask?"
"Because I think I am. Do you remember the incident with the wine a few days ago?"
"You mean with that bottle of deSchane '49?"
I nodded. "What if I had meant for that scene to work the way it had?" He waited. "I mean, we know what happened. I offered you, a known oenophile, a glass of what some people consider the best wine on the Ring. And I confessed that I did it because I wanted you 'be in my power.'"
"To owe you something."
"Right. But what if I told you all that just to do what happened next, which is gain your sympathy."
"I don't think you did."
"But what if I did? It's not that complicated. It sounds like it is, but I knew enough about you that I could have done that. And it required no setup, just a second's flash of inspiration, the kind every really intelligent person has."
"Waste of a good epiphany," Aaden said.
I laughed. "Yeah, true. And listen to me now. What are you hearing?"
"I'm not sure. What am I hearing?"
"Well, I'm telling you that I have the capacity to be a really effective liar, cheat, and conniver. But the message you're getting is, 'Trust me because I'm being so very honest.'"
"And all that's just one more message in itself."
"Yeah," I said, frowning. "How do intelligent people trust each other with reasoning like that?"
"I'll tell you how," he said, leaning over and pushing me down to the blanket. He straddled me and kissed me on the neck, sending little shivers down my body. "Sometimes we have to trust. Otherwise we never find love, or even comfort. Even cynics need friends. And you're not a cynic, Ken."
"Trust me, then?" I said, smiling.
"Better than that. I love you." His kisses were hot on my throat, his strong body over mine. He stopped and rose, looking down at me. "Very few people can live entirely alone. I have to trust you, Ken, because I need you."
I smiled and reached up, putting my arms around his neck and pulling him down next to me, cuddling him close. "I'm glad."
"Let's get you out of these clothes," he said. I nodded, and we stripped off my clothes, throwing them aside. "Better," he pronounced.
"Why is it," I asked, "that furries find humans interesting?"
"For the same reason the opposite's true," he growled a little, leaning towards me and taking a nipple in his teeth. Little waves of pleasure shot through me. "Because I can do this without getting a mouthful of fur."
I chuckled and put my hand on the back of his head, holding him there. It isn't true that Aaden and I were completely without our usual SM background. We both knew that pain can be pleasure, can be built on, slowly, inexorably. His teeth were sharper, more forceful than I would usually try with a lover, and I hissed and shuddered as he nipped at me.
"You're being mean," I said. He chuckled gently, and I reached out to scratch his fur, finding his nipples by touch and pinching them slightly as he responded to mine. We both began moaning as we slowly and without much motion stroked and kissed and pinched. I kissed the top of his head, his ears flickering against my cheek. It felt good.
He broke away for a second and slid downwards, nuzzling his cold nose against my cock, sliding down further and taking my balls in his mouth. I felt his long tongue stroking against them, his teeth threatening them partly. I sighed again and he worked his way up to my cock, taking it in paw and stroking it. Rising to a sitting position, he put his other paw on my nipple and twisted it, then took one long scratch down my body and across my thigh. I'm very ticklish and screamed as the sensations shot through, arching my back.
"Don't," I breathed. "Please, don't do that."
He smiled and said, "Aw, if you want you can always call safeword."
"This isn't a session, Aaden," I said, smiling.
He shook his head. "So? Doesn't mean we can't enjoy it. And you don't really want me to stop, do you?" he asked as he scratched me again. I groaned loudly in response. Even though it was into his fingers, my back arched again involuntarily; it was the only way to go.
"You're mean," I said, rising and pushing him over, straddling his legs. It was my turn to lean over and bite his throat. I did get a mouthful of fur, but the feeling of long fur against my cheeks, my closed eyelids, is so luxurious that it has always been more than equal to any inconvenience. He sighed as I scratched his chest, his huge ribcage, tickling his sides. Under his armpits he's very ticklish and he squirmed as I scratched him and tugged at his fur.
His cock had hardened and was poking me in the backside, a gentle reminder. I reached behind me and stroked it gently. "Feel good?" I asked.
"You always feel good."
"I've gotten very used to this little toy," I said, closing my hand around his cock and stroking his strongly. "There's a lot of pleasure in you," I sighed. "I want it."
"Then go ahead," he said. I reached over and grabbed a small handful of lube, stroking it over his cock. With an easy rising of my hips, I sank down over him, feeling his cock enter my ass, filling me.
I sighed gently. "Aaden, I love the feeling of your cock inside me. I want you to be a part of me."
"Right now I am a part of you," he said. I held myself up by pressing my hands onto his chest, as I stroked slowly, up and down with my legs.
"Ken?" he asked.
"Yeah?" I said, opening my eyes.
"I don't want to come just yet. I want your hand first."
I nodded, slowly sliding off of him, feeling his cock drop out of me. I pouted a little, but then smiled. "I want you inside me forever."
"I know," he said. I reached for the small array of equipment he had brought out and laid down next to the fireplace. Along with the jar of water-based lubricant, he had brought a wide pillow, two big towels, and a small towel in a bowl of hot water he had set near the fireplace so it would stay warm. There was a faint scent of lemon from the bowl.
"Are you ready?" I asked.
"I was ready for a long time," he said. "Go ahead." I picked up the pillow and he raised his hips off the ground, giving me space to put it under him. I put a towel over the pillow, just for the cleanliness of it. I knelt between his legs, looking at his ass raised off the floor, his cock lying soft against his belly. I reached under his buttocks and gently pulled them apart, exposing his asshole to my sight and reach. I ran a finger down between his cheeks and over his anus, and he shivered. I smiled.
Wordlessly I applied some of the lubricant to my right hand, covering it completely. I slid more of the lube against his asshole and over his cheeks, mostly just to mat down his fur out of the way. "Ken," he whispered.
"There's a comb, over there, for that."
I chuckled and retrieved the comb. "You think of everything, don't you?"
"Years of experience," he sighed. I easily stroked the fur out of the way of his anus, which twitched in response to my motions. I dropped the comb and slid my hand against his asshole, sliding a single finger into him. He sighed. "That's one," I said.
"One's a good place to start," he replied. He raised his legs and I put them on my shoulders to keep them there. I slid in a second finger gently.
His ass felt warm, the heat penetrating my fingers. His butt twitched gently against my two fingers, and I pulled the hand out and slid in a third. I looked up at his face, and he was staring at me, just watching me intently. The smile on his face was beatific.
I slid my hand out and curled my pinky against the other fingers, my thumb against my palm. Slowly I pressed first my third and fourth fingers against his asshole, and they led the way in, followed by my index and pinky fingers. The four of them opened him up, making the passage of my thumb easy. I was glad I'd remembered to trim my fingernails.
But as we reached the wider part of my palm I paused for a second, then pushed a little harder. He reached down and put his paw on mine as it slid into him. "Something wrong?" I asked quickly.
"No, no," he said. "I just... just like feeling the, uhm, the junction, I guess, where you and I meet and become one."
I smiled and pressed a little harder, and his ass accepted me. My entire hand slid into him, and I curled my fingers into a fist.
Everything stopped. I think even the fire paused. I sat there between my love's thighs, my hand, my wrist inside him. Inside his gut he was warm and slick and soft. I had his life in my hands; a single wrong move could kill him. We were staring at each other, not even breathing, and the one thing that held my attention, the one thing, was his heartbeat, pulsing through his body and around my hand. I could feel it, and it was so strong I thought I could hear it. His one hand was around my forearm, touching me. His legs pressed against me. I put my other hand on his belly, gently caressing his fur and thinking, knowing that my hand was inside him, on the other side of that flesh.
I began stroking my hand back and forth slowly, caressing his gut with my hand, and he closed his eyes. "Yessss..." he sighed.
"Feel good?" I asked.
"Perfect," he sighed. "Love you."
"I wish I could kiss you. I want you, more than anything." I kept up the slow strokes, never moving more than two or three centimeters. I only had my hand and wrist inside him- I didn't want to go too far.
We lay there and slowly fucked each other, my hand to his ass, my hand on his fur, his hand on mine. It was a slow and gentle kind of lovemaking and I didn't want to come, and neither did he; his cock lay soft and unerect against his belly. After what seemed the right time I slowly pulled my hand out of him, feeling his ass grab for me as it slid out of him- it didn't want to let me go.
I reached over for the bowl and got the wet towel, using it to clean off first his ass, and then my hand. With the other dry towel I dried us off, then pulled the pillow away slowly, lowering him completely to the blanket.
I lay over him and said, "How was that?"
"Better than I could have imagined," he replied.
"You're crying," I said, seeing tears in his eyes.
"I... I have to," he said. "I love you, and what we just did, it was so much I don't know how I can... equal it."
"You don't have to," I said, lying down next to him by the fire, cuddling close to him, my hands on his chest, stroking his fur idly.
In the morning, I woke up in his bed, lying next to him. He was snoring ever-so-slightly, his eyes closed in peaceful dreams. I liked watching him, his head indenting the pillow, his nose flexing slightly with each breath. I eased myself out of bed and used the bathroom. Something I did must have been loud enough to wake him because he walked in just as I was tapping my dick dry. "Morning," I said, walking across to him and wrapping my arms around him.
"Good morning, Ken," he replied, kissing my cheek softly. "How do you feel?"
"I should ask you that - it's you we pushed last night. But I'm sad, because I know there's not enough of me for what I want."
"Can I tell you something?" he said. "Would you be upset if I told that part of the reason I enjoyed last night so much is because, well, my creator had his hand inside me?"
I pulled away from him a little and held him at arm's length. It was the first time I had ever heard Aaden refer to me as Vatare', even obliquely. Finally I shook my head. "Aaden, it never struck me as important. You don't know just how neat it was, for lack of a real word, to know that inside this hard body," and I tapped his broad and muscular chest, "you're as soft as I am."
"And up here too," he said, tapping his head. I laughed. "Come on," he said, "Your coimelin is waiting." I was surprised at how little it bothered me he said that, and how badly I wanted to see her.
"G'morning," P'nyssa said.
I still had not woken sufficiently and stretched, groaning. "Morning, yourself," I said, kissing her on the cheek, then walking around the table to hug Ally hello. "Hiya, kiddo," I said.
"Hi," she said quietly.
"Where's Aaden?" P'nyssa asked.
"Right here," he said, coming up through the door to the SDisk center.
"So what's up?" P'nyssa said.
"What do you mean, what's up?" I replied. I felt a little uneasy here.
"What's up," Aaden said, "is that vacation is over, P'nyssa, and you have a home to go to."
P'nyssa smiled patiently and said, "It wasn't a vacation. When I talked to you a week ago I didn't expect it turn out like this."
He looked up and said, "P'nyssa, the man who has stolen my heart is your coimelin, and I would never, ever want to do anything to hurt him, and that includes hurting you. I need you to accept me and what we are as much as I need him."
She shook her head and said, "It's okay, Aaden, really. I understand what's going on. I had a little time this myself."
"Except you and Tara didn't get along that well out of bed," I said.
"The other way around," P'nyssa replied. "We got along great out of bed. She was little fast for me, but after a while I preferred males, anyway."
I smiled and leaned over to kiss her cheek. She dodged the kiss to her cheek and turned to look at me, kissing me on the lips. As our lips met, the feeling between us coursed like electricity. I fell into P'nyssa the way I did with Aaden. As we broke I looked into her eyes and said "I love you."
She smiled and said, "And I love you. Here," she said, handing me a small box.
"What is it?" I asked.
"On Pendor, it means very little. But ultimately you were born on Terra, Ken, and you know what it means." I opened the box and inside was a ring. A gold ring, engraved with black tracing and inset with seven small diamonds. Inside the ring was engraved the phrase "Coimelin, Yanta Umetiel. P'nyssa." "Love of my life, a bridge never-ending." The last part made me smile; it may sound poetic, but it's also the mathematical description of a ringworld. Rings; ringworlds. Wheels within wheels. I looked up at her and said, "A wedding ring?"
She nodded. "Wear it?" she asked.
I picked it up and slid it over the fourth finger of my left hand. It slid on easily. "It fits," I said.
"But will you wear it?"
"Every day. What about you?"
"What about me?" she said, smiling.
"I didn't get you anything. And usually these come in sets of two, don't they?"
"I haven't got fingers," she said, holding up her mittens. "So I did the next best thing." She passed me a larger box. A bracelet. "I didn't know if you wanted to put something on it," she said.
Later that day I slipped it over P'nyssa's pad and onto her wrist. The engraving was very simple. "Atta cori sanyel atta meli. Shardik." "Two rings ruling two loves."