Sterlings: The Moment To Wait For

Erwer, Yavar 17, 6119

Three weeks into her recovery Rhiane was allowed to get out of bed. Her broken bones were showing as healed although her doctor insisted the repairs did not allow her to leave the hospital. A Pendorian team led by a Tindal had visited her one morning and the next day she could see with both eyes again. She was permitted to go down to the cafeteria and have a meal rather than have one brought to her room, a pleasure she was unwilling to measure but felt sure every other patient in the hospital understood.

She could use the bathroom on her own.

She spent most of her days either in bed or, when she had the energy, at the desk in her room reading through the reports she was receiving from Ambassador Tempany. She also ended up copy-editing Tempany's press releases and transactions with the Pendorians. Tempany's response to the Real Woman movement was mostly to ignore it. Rhiane had begun to understand her place in the world: she could never have come up with Tempany's ideas, but she knew how to refine them into plans that could be sold to those not necessarily willing to buy them.

Her most important task during her time in the hospital was the signing of the Letter of Intent, a document the Pendorians wanted filed before negotiating on the normalization of intergovernmental relationships. The LOI spelled out the rights and responsibilities of Pendorian citizens in Free World space, procedures if one should be accused of a crime, the basics of civil legal procedures, and access to Free World medical care in the event that a Pendorian should suffer illness, injury, or other debilitating condition. In one day Rhiane saw six different variations of that document and had to sign off that the Quen and Francaise versions agreed in intent.

Ilonca sent her flowers. They filled one half of the desk, a plastic vase overflowing with pink roses-- pink, virtuous desire. Love. Rhiane had not known that different colors meant different things. She had looked it up.

By the end of the sixth week she was ready to leave. She was fully mobile, could see and write. The doctors wanted to keep her longer but she knew she could take care of her own strength recovery just fine. She had already been through prisoner's frustration, walked across the street to a convenience store for a snack that couldn't be had at the hospital, and planned on stuffing her bed in the hopes of convincing the nursing staff that she was sleeping through the morning while she went on a shopping spree. The accumulated leave, medical, recovery and so on bonuses had given her a couple extra thousand francs to spend.

They let her check out without fanfare. She had to sign only one document and she was free to go. She stepped out onto the curb, took a deep breath, and looked at her authorization for leave.

She had spent six weeks without major human contact. Ilonca had visited regularly, as had Polly and Tempany and a string of others, but for the most part she had had her days to herself and, aside from the sterility of her surroundings and the ache of healing, she had enjoyed her time by herself.

She crumpled the authorization receipt in her hand and pocketed the ball of paper.

"Drop it into the sun," she swore. She pulled out her phone and scrolled an address. "Ambassador Tempany's office," a voice told her.

"Hello, this is Lieutenant Rhiane Rho. Please advise the Ambassador that her liaison is available immediately for a return to full duties."

She didn't know Tempany's personal secretary all that well. Yet the woman on the other end sounded absolutely sincere, even grateful, when she said, "Ambassador Tempany will be very pleased to hear that, Lieutenant Rho. I have standing orders to ask you back to the office as soon as you're capable."

Capable. Tempany had anticipated Rhiane's reaction. Tempany's job was to read people and determine their sincerity and flexibility and respond accordingly. Rhiane's job was to take Tempany's desires and turn them into actions. Actions that Ilonca, first among equals, would carry out.

"I'll be there as soon as I grab a cab."

She was escorted into Tempany's office directly. She regarded the older, slightly heavyset woman with care. Tempany had aged in the past six weeks. It showed in her eyes. "Rhiane. You look terrible."

"The bruises are gone. I haven't had a chance to visit my quarters." She paused. "Do I have quarters?"

"The Navy requires that you have quarters. But don't tell me you came straight here from the hospital?" Rhiane nodded. "That's not fair, Rhiane. You need time off."

"With all due respect, Ambassador, I've had six weeks off."

"In a hospital with broken bones, recovering. That's not time off. Not when you've written sixteen different press releases in that time, along with countless emails. I couldn't survive without you at this point. Which brings me to my next point. Like it or not, you and Ilonca and I are all going on an enforced vacation."

"What sort of vacation?"

"We're going to llerkin." Rhiane stared at her, not sure that she had heard that correctly. llerkin was the world the Pendorians had identified as the seat government for their sphere of influence. "I know, it sounds like a big deal, and it is. But it's the first opportunity we've had to see what the Home Country, so to speak, is still like. We'll be incommunicado with most of the universe for most of the transit time-- eighteen weeks, I understand-- so you will have plenty of time to recover from your injuries and get to know Miss Thavas better. Don't think I'm unaware of that relationship."

"No, Ma'am. I didn't think you were."

"Good. I anticipated your response." Tempany put her hands on the table, her fingers laced together. "You have become an indispensable part of my team. Finding someone as competent as you are would be a nightmare, Lieutenant. I don't expect your relationship with my steward to affect your professionalism, understood?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Good." And that was that. "Now, you have three days to put your affairs in order, make out your will-- the brass is insisting on that-- and send a note to your parents informing them of your new assignment." She looked up. "Oh, and in case you're curious, we're going back on the Einstein's Canvas.."

"That... should be interesting."

"You'll have plenty of opportunity to get to know the Pendorians better. The embassay staff number twenty, and the Marines will be sending a military crisis group of fifty. There will also be almost two hundred civilians-- academics, financial, industrial, science, that kind of thing. Senators San Clemens and Alfan will also be going as representatives of our government, and to participate in the negotiations."

Rhiane had seen both those names during the negotiation of the Letter of Intent. "How long is this trip expected to take, Ma'am?"

"At least a year."

Rhiane pondered what she was about to be dropped into. "Thank you, Ma'am. For your willingness to consider me vital to your team."

"Oh, you're not vital. Just very hard to replace. The Ambassadorial Service, like the Navy, doesn't like 'vital' people." Tempany smiled. "Let's just say that had you chosen to take your six months of leave, I would have had to find reasons for keeping the Einstein's Canvas around for all that time, and things for Lieutenant Thavas to do, and..."

"Yes, Ma'am," Rhiane said, smiling in return.

"Go get out of here. You have a long summer ahead of you, and I want you rested and relaxed. Your current orders are the same as when you were in the hospital-- you just keep reviewing the documents and returning them to me with your annotations-- with one additional one on where and when to report for our embarkation to the Einstein's Canvas. You should have no problem following those orders, correct?"

Rhiane nodded.

"Then get out of my office."

Rhiane sat in the lobby of the Ambassador's office and pulled up her laptop. Several emails had accumulated since this morning, including one specifying her assignment to the "allied vessel Einstein's Canvas," one with her release orders for the duration of the voyage, one specifying that her personal effects from the Victoria had already been stowed aboard the Canvas, and a request from the Canvas's AI that she specify whom, if anyone, she wished for a roommate. She was tempted to request Ilonca but regulations suggested that she take a room for herself.

The response from the AI came back almost as soon as she had hit the send for herself. "What kind of room? Formal? Friendly? Casual? Any special needs in terms of furniture or bathroom fixtures?"

She decided to try a direct route and opened up an audio channel to the address specified in the letter. "Thia here. Nice to see you again, Lieutenant Rho. I heard about your injuries. I'm happy you're healed."

"Thank you, Thia," Rhiane said. "I wanted to ask you about this email. Can I make changes after we're underway?"

"Of course you can. I wanted to make sure that the room met your personal needs before you arrived, however. A bed, a desk, a closet, a bath. But compared to your military vessels, I'm sure we can provide you with luxuries you've only dreamed of."

"Just the basics will be fine for now," Rhiane said.

"Fine," Thia said. "I'm just trying to make you comfortable."

Rhiane smiled. "I appreciate that. And I'll give you plenty of opportunities on the trip."

"Okay. Thanks for calling. You're one of the first."

"Really?"

"Yes. Most of your people find AIs a novelty to be avoided."

Rhiane found that surprising. But then she'd been dealing with Thia for the past four months. She'd gotten at least somewhat used to the idea of talking starships and robots and whatnots. Thia was just another voice at the other end of the connection. "Well, I won't do that."

"I didn't think you would," Thia said. "See you on board in a little while."

"Bye." She closed the connection.

She sent a letter to Ilonca with a single sentence: "I'm out."


Among the clinking of glasses and the murmur of other customers, Rhiane sat with her laptop open. Her fingers flew over the keyboard, writing an email to the Pendorian ambassador who would be leaving soon for Athens. He was pulling out of the system in just a few hours so she had to work quickly. She wasn't aware that anyone was standing next to her until she heard, "You should stop that."

Rhiane slipped out of the booth and gave Ilonca the hardest hug she could with her sore ribs. "Stop what? Working so hard?"

"Mmm," Ilonca agreed, giving Rhiane a friendly kiss that left Rhiane wishing for more. "You do work too hard, Rhiane. Tempany and I both agree that one of my jobs is to get you to relax more often. Fortunately, there's not going to be much work to do on the Canvas when we get going. You and I will have plenty of time to do what we want."

Rhiane's eyes flicked heavenward for a moment, then she indicated the other seat. Ilonca took it. "Something wrong?" Ilonca asked.

"I've never had 'plenty of time' to do anything. Not since I was a kid. Ever since, oh, upper school, I've been so busy with my career and such that I've never had 'plenty of time.'"

"Didn't you have summer off?"

"Do you know what I do in summer?" Rhiane asked. "More classes. More studying. More textbooks." She grinned, then the grin collapsed. "No more, though." She sighed and looked out the window at the rain coming down onto the streets of Sparta City. Women moved back and forth, umbrellas of yellow and black sliding past each other. It made her think of Hagan, the yellow and black dragon robot that had accompanied the Pendorians on their very first contact. "I know why they did it."

"Did what?" Ilonca said. "Are you having a conversation and not telling me?"

Rhiane nodded. "Sorry. Anyway, I was just thinking about why they sent Hagan, Hrlee, and Haylee over on the first contact. They wanted to make sure we could keep functioning even with that kind of shock."

"It didn't seem like a shock to you. I remember you kept acting as if talking to a four-meter long killing machine with teeth was no big deal."

Rhiane shrugged. "I think I'm used to dealing with stranger things in mathematics than Hagan."

"You are just going to keep doing this bobble back and forth thing about your career, aren't you?" Ilonca reached across the table. "I know it's hard. But you've got your whole life ahead of you. And you've got me."

"Do I?" Rhiane asked. "I know we were talking about it, but... I mean, don't let the fact that I nearly died-- did die, Polly said-- in the line of duty color your judgement. I did what I'm supposed to do, what I'm ordered to do. Before that we were talking about going out on our first date. Now, two months later I've gotten out of the hospital and this is our first date. I don't have you, Ilonca."

Ilonca smiled awkwardly. "I... " A waitress stood over them, handing them menus before departing quickly. Rhiane picked quickly and then scanned the restaurant. There were other couples there, some casual, some holding hands, some even closer. She saw beautiful women everywhere, holding hands. She saw two kiss, a chaste kiss just a touch risque' for public display. She wished she could do that with Ilonca. She wished she knew what to do with her life.

Ilonca put her menu down on top of Rhiane's, signalling to the waitress that they were ready. She reached across for Rhiane's hand and held it. "It may be our first date, but I'm hopeful it will be the first of many, Rhiane. Don't know why I feel the way I do about you but, there it is. I like you."

Rhiane lowered her gaze to where Ilonca's hands grasped her own. She wanted to respond. She didn't know how. She tried. "I like you, too, Ilonca."

Rhiane looked up and said, "But... we don't know anything about one another. Nothing at all. I know what you do and you know what I do professionally, but... I mean, do you have any friends? You had to have some on the Bones, right? I don't know any of those people. I was only on the Bones for three months, and I only got to know Polly, and I guess Commander San Scholace. But that was it. I don't make friends."

"You made one with me," Ilonca said, giving her a smile. "When you needed to reach out to someone for help, you asked me."

"Only because I knew you knew how to do it."

Ilonca grinned. "And now you've gone into places and done things that I could never do. So have I, but different things. You had the outsider's view." She growled. "You do know that you got the job not just because you spoke Quen but because you were considered expendable? Not part of the Bones's crew."

Rhiane nodded. "I figured it was something like that. Commander Scholace told me 'failure is an orphan.' It took me a while to figure out what that means."

Dinner arrived and their conversation dropped to muted mention of the quality of the food and the efficiency of the service. Rhiane kept watching Ilonca's long, beautiful fingers, her easy gestures, and wondered where she could learn that kind of grace. She and Ilonca met eyes once in a while as she watched, and she blushed each time.

After the plates had been cleared away and cups of coffee had been put in front of them, Ilonca smiled. "The first time I met you, the first thing I did was offer you coffee."

"It was good coffee, too."

"The same stuff you middies got."

"Only brewed by beautiful and attentive hands." Rhiane gulped, wondering if she should have said that.

Ilonca said with mock-serious tones, "Would you like these beautiful and attentive hands on you?"

"Yes, I think I would."

Rhiane reached for the bill before Ilonca could grab it. "I've been on medical leave, received hazard pay, and had two upgrades of my pay scale without promotion since being assigned to Tempany. Let me buy dinner."

"But it's my date," Ilonca said.

"No, I invited you, remember?" Rhiane felt a peculiar glow, a moment of happiness. She wondered, briefly, if it was because for that second she had had some control over the situation. She'd been the one delivering the lines. The thought made her falter. "I, um, just let me take care if it this once."

Ilonca nodded. Rhiane paid the bill with a wave of her pen and they were free to go. "I don't have a place," Rhiane said as they stepped out onto the street and into the rain.

"I do." Ilonca waved down a taxi and they got inside. "Marquida Naval base, please," she said to the driver.

Rhiane sat next to her, shaking the rain briefly out of her short hair with a wave of her hand. Ilonca's hand slipped under her military jacket and around her back, and she squirmed to give the other woman the room she was asking for. The squirming brought her closer to Ilonca, and when she looked into the beautiful blonde's eyes she knew that by the time they got to the base they'd be lucky to still have their clothes on.

Her lips met Ilonca's in a kiss that had waited months. Rhiane moaned into Ilonca's mouth, the intensity of the kiss sweeping away all of the rationalizations for why she didn't want this relationship. She did want it. Common sense barely entered into her equations. Her hands plunged into Ilonca's jacket, pulling the other woman even closer.

"Would you two like me to take the long route?" the driver asked.

"No!" they both said in chorus.

"Right. Just don't get too comfortable. The guards at the gate might not like it."

"Mmm..." Rhiane said. Ilonca giggled, and the two of them took a deep breath before parting and straightening out their clothes. The driver pulled up, Ilonca paid her, and the two of them approached the gate. They both flashed their duty cards and the guards waved them through with the obvious boredom of women too smart to waste their hours on guard duty, no matter what the regulations may have said.

It was trickier getting through the gate to the SDisk shuttlecraft the Pendorians had left. She understood that from the Pendorian point of view it was all software and they could have boarded any SDisk anywhere in the city-- there were a few civilian SDisks about already-- and been whisked up to the Canvas, but the Free Worlds military liked to know where its people were at all times and it was Rhiane and Illonca's duty to inform the powers that be that they were going to be up at the Canvas.

When they got inside, Ilonca took her hand and led her down a maze of carpeted hallways with expensive-looking paneled walls until she was quite lost in what Ilonca told her was now called "The Free Worlds Autonomous Zone." She led the way through a door that was indistinguishable from all the other doors they had passed and then announced, "This is my cabin. Like it?"

The bed was a huge, fluffy thing off the floor, four-posted, made of heavy, solid trunks of pale timber. The room itself was large enough for four back on the Bones, and other than the bed, dresser, and desk, it was empty. The floor was carpeted, with an oval rug with geometric shapes above that. "This is what the Pendorians gave you?"

"Uh-huh. Do you like it?"

"It's so big. I mean, how do you keep it clean?"

"The room keeps itself clean. I just have to pick up after myself. But there's an autovac for everything else. It's nice. And it'll spoil me for sure."

"What are we going to do for the whole time we're on this trip?" Rhiane asked. "It really seems to me that we're just... superfluous."

"I am sure your people will find ways to make you useful," said Thia's voice from the ceiling. "Believe me, I have no wish to take over your jobs, even if I felt I could perform them adequately. You are very professional women, and you have your mission. I do not assume that your mission includes vacuuming your own floors, however."

"Thia, gives us privacy, will you?" Ilonca asked.

"Immediately."

Ilonca turned to Rhiane. "She means it. She's asked my opinion on so many things regarding what to feed the VIPs this trip that I'm starting to write up menus in my sleep. It's driving me crazy. I can't believe that my job is to feed not just Tempany but heads of state and Pendorian representatives for the whole time that we're in hyperspace, then co-ordinate with the people on Pendor when we get there, too. Your job will be to help Tempany and the people she's advising understand what the Pendorians really want, and how to say it to them in the most diplomatic manner possible."

Rhiane looked down at her feet. "I'm not ready for it."

"Yes, you are!" Ilonca said. "You've been ready for it for a long time, Rhiane! Just as you're ready for this." Ilonca grabbed her by the shoulders and marched her, backwards, to the heavy-framed bed, dropping her to the mattress hard and kissing her on the mouth. "Know I've been ready for this since I offered you a date two months ago."

Rhiane looked up at her, then grabbed her by the head and pulled her down into another demanding, intense kiss. "Goddess, Ilonca, we should have done this..."

"Months ago."

"Yes."

Ilonca's mouth crushed against Rhiane's, their tongues intertwined and slid past each other. Rhiane learned what another woman's mouth tasted like, and she knew she wanted more of that. She felt the weight of another woman's body above hers and felt herself be taken over by a spirit of want, of need, of a willingness to be vulnerable with this yellow-haired goddess who hovered over her.

When Ilonca tried to move away, Rhiane whimpered and then grabbed Ilonca, pulling her back. "I like your kisses. I want more of them."

"Don't you want anything else?" Ilonca asked.

Rhiane smiled. "Yes, soon. But... more. Ilonca, I've never made out. Please?"

"How can I refuse?" Ilonca said. They lay on the bed together, kissing, their mouths getting wet and messy with each other's spit and neither one caring much. Rhiane could barely get enough of Ilonca, her hunger was so demanding. And when Ilonca's hand reached under her shirt and up along the skin of her belly to her breast, Rhiane knew she would explode soon. Ilonca's hand snuck under her bra and closed upon one nipple. "Oh, yes," Rhiane gasped. "Oh, Goddess. Now I want more."

Ilonca pushed herself back just a little bit, then began opening the buttons of Rhiane's shirt. "I get the feeling I've been here before."

"We weren't under gravity then," Rhiane said.

"It's still the same in some ways," Ilonca said. "You still wear a plain, white bra."

Rhiane didn't know what to say to that, so she said nothing as Ilonca pushed her shirt off her shoulders again, then reached behind her and unsnapped her bra. Ilonca lowered her head to Rhiane's exposed breasts and closed her mouth on the tiny, pink nipple that waited for her. When Ilonca's tongue found her skin Rhiane gasped with the pleasure. "Goddess, I like the way you feel," she said.

"I like the way you smell," Ilonca replied. "You smell so good. Clean. No funny scents. No perfumes. Just like a girl."

Rhiane inhaled deeply but didn't smell anything out of the ordinary. Shampoo, maybe, lemon scents from Ilonca's hair. Her body betrayed her, though, because even if she didn't think the scent was anything special her desire climbed ever higher. She knew it. She could feel it between her legs now. She could feel the wetness growing inside her.

She pulled Ilonca away from her nipples and back to her mouth. They rolled on the bed until Rhiane was on top, now, and she began opening Ilonca's uniform shirt again. Ilonca's lace bra was prettier than Rhiane's but no harder to take off and Rhiane feasted on her lover's small but almost perfectly hemispherical breasts.

It was Rhiane's turn to hear Ilonca's reactions. She kissed and played with Ilonca's nipples, larger and somehow softer-seeming than her own, and listened to the little growls and the soft gasps of pleasure that came from her lover's kissable mouth. She kissed Ilonca's breast, kissed the skin between her breasts, kissed the other breast, sucked as much of it as she could get into her mouth. She smelled what Ilonca had mentioned earlier, the clean scent of another woman's skin, the sweat and desire wafting off of her.

She wanted Ilonca, but she wanted Ilonca to go first, to show her what to do, how it was done to another woman, how it should be done to her. Rhiane kissed her away along Ilonca's neck to her chin, her mouth, kissed her hard. Ilonca gasped. "More?"

"I want you to make love to me," Rhiane said.

"I already have."

"I want more," Rhiane said. "Please?"

Ilonca's smile grew in Rhiane's vision until it blocked out everything, then became more kisses upon her lips, her cheeks. "Ah!" she gasped as she felt Ilonca's hands reaching up under her skirt, touching her thighs until they pressed against her mound through the thin material of her panties.

"Rhiane?"

"Yes, Ilonca?"

"Do you want this?"

"Yes," Rhiane gasped. "Yes, I do." She parted her legs a little, allowing Ilonca to run her fingers under the elastic and up against her pubic hair.

Ilonca murmured softly, "You're wet."

"I have been for a while," Rhiane said. "Is it okay?"

"Yes, it's okay," Ilonca replied. "It's what I want." She slipped one finger between Rhiane's swollen lower lips, her fingers plying wet inner folds until she found the opening into Rhiane's body. She paused for a second, then slowly pressed inwards. Rhiane stared up at Ilonca as, under her skirt, under her underwear, a lover penetrated her for the first time. She gave herself up to trusting Ilonca completely, to wanting her more.

There was one finger inside her body, touching her private places, caressing skin that wasn't really skin but was thinner, wetter, more delicate than all other skin but maybe her lips. It felt good.

Ilonca pulled that finger out and up, finding Rhiane's prominent clitoris and caressing it gently. Rhiane shuddered with the first intimate contact. Nobody had ever touched her there except herself, and she felt that she would explode if Ilonca kept touching her like that. "Oh, Goddess," she gasped.

"Let's get these clothes off," Ilonca said. Her hand retreated, and she looked at it in the low light of her bedroom. Her index finger glistened slightly. Rhiane watched her with disbelief as she licked her finger and smiled. "You taste as good as you smell."

"Oh, great Goddess, Ilonca... Don't excite on so much!"

Ilonca reached under Rhiane's waist and undid the button at the back of her skirt, then pulled at it. Rhiane helped and it came off easily, along with her panties. Now naked, Rhiane blushed. "I've never been like this with someone else."

"Then make it fair," Ilonca said. "Come take off my skirt."

Rhiane leaned over and opened Ilonca's skirt, pulling down the zipper with slow deliberation. The smell of Ilonca's hunger hit her as it had that time in the drift room, and she knew that by the end of the night she would not be satisfied if she had not tasted what she smelled, if she had not pressed her mouth between Ilonca's legs and put her lips and tongue into that blond tangle of hair and pink petals of skin. "I can't take these off like this."

Ilonca smiled and sat down, lifting her hips to let Rhiane pull the skirt down to her knees, then dropped down so she could finish the task.

Rhiane stared at Ilonca's legs, her beautiful breasts, her sheaf of blond hair, and compared the other girl's features to her own nearly flat chest, her black spiky impossible uncontrollable hair, her hated eyeglasses, and she sighed. She had no time to make a comment, though, because Ilonca was on her again, pressing her down to the bed, and then they were naked, their bodies meeting in heated need, and Rhiane decided that if she could have only one night with Ilonca, tonight would be that night. She kissed Ilonca hard, and Ilonca responded with a passion that made Rhiane's heart beat louder and harder than before. Then Ilonca's mouth was on her neck, her nipples. "I'm going to make love to you so hard it'll make your toes curl," the blond girl whispered, her only words until her mouth descended without pause onto Rhiane's wet, needful cunt.

Those lips on her cunt made Rhiane's body feel so good she started crying. She kept silent as her soul burst within her, as the action of Ilonca's mouth became almost a minor instrument in the symphony of pleasure and acceptance that was breaking forth within her. She couldn't hold back. Within minutes the pleasure was so great she was squirming, fighting to get away, wondering why she was fighting, wondering if maybe this was a pleasure she was not meant to know, and then she was coming, coming so hard she knew she was coming apart, the very fabric of her being coming undone in the pleasure of Ilonca's touch.

"Rhiane?" Ilonca sounded earnestly worried. "Rhiane?"

"Ilonca?" Rhiane looked up and saw that beautiful face above hers, and she pulled her down to her, held her. "Oh, Goddess, Ilonca, oh, Goddess, my Goddess, Ilonca..." She wasn't sure if her words were to thank the Goddess for Ilonca or confused Ilonca with the bringer of pleasure and life, and she didn't care.

"You're crying," Ilonca said. "Are you..."

"I'm sorry... I am. It was just so good, so... " She sobbed, suddenly aware of what else she had been feeling, sure that this was the only time she would ever have this opportunity, sure that once Ilonca discovered how unattractive she was under all those clothes, how incompetent and awkward she was, it would be all over. Like her career when Tempany figured out how truly lost she was when she was doing whatever it was Tempany asked her to do. She was never in control, never in command of the skills she was supposed to have.

"Rhiane?"

Rhiane turned her head away. "I'm sorry, Ilonca."

"Why?"

"I must... I must seem so ridiculous. I'm sorry."

"Rhiane, look at me."

Rhiane reluctantly turned her head to face the other woman. "I don't know what's going on in your head, but if you're having another one of those secret conversations with yourself, you'd better tell me."

"I can't, Ilonca. I know how silly, how sad I must be, to think that I could be your lover."

"What?"

"You're so beautiful, and so competent. And I'm not... not ready to be like you."

Ilonca grabbed her by the shoulders and surprised her by throwing her over onto her back, onto the bed. "You look at me for real, Rhiane. I don't want you to be like me. I want you to be like you. I want you because you're beautiful, and you're sexy, and you're competent, and because you're vulnerable and innocent and that's sexy too. But I do want you. I will want you for a long time, as long as you don't pull this sad self-respect oh-pity-me song stuff on me again."

"I'm just this moony-faced girl with glasses."

"Yeah, long after you were old enough to get surgery instead. I don't care. I think they're cute. I think you're cute. And I... I..." Ilonca smiled at her.

"What?" Rhiane said.

Ilonca curled over and sat up onto her knees. Without ceremony she straddled Rhiane's face, reached down with one hand under Rhiane's head, and said, "I want you to lick me."

Rhiane had been bewildered by the sudden change from Ilonca and the presence of Ilonca's cunt so close to her face stunned her. She stared at it, at it's pink folds and the curious diamond shape of her open inner lips. Her eyes focused and she looked for what she knew she should find, Ilonca's clitoris, and at the base of her vulva the opening, and behind that, the small, dark corner that hid Ilonca's other opening. The smell was overwhelming, a heavy smell that surrounded her and seemed to pull her closer. She couldn't imagine why she was so desperate, suddenly, so hungry for Ilonca's cunt. She could see a little thin trail of something whitish dripping from Ilonca's opening, a stream of juices that beckoned to her, sliding over her nether lips and down one thigh. "Rhiane," Ilonca whispered, "please."

Rhiane raised her mouth to the pink offering before her and touched Ilonca's lips with hers. The texture was smooth, soft, and then with her tongue she reached out and tasted Ilonca's inner flesh.

She was surprised that there wasn't more flavor to it. There was some, but it was like skin-- a little salt, a little savor, but nothing strong or unpleasant. It did not taste the way it smelled. Ilonca whimpered.

Rhiane explored for a moment, taking a taste where Ilonca's juices seemed to collect most, and found the flavor there sweet, complicated. She felt high. She had never heard that sex like this was supposed to be intoxicating. She tilted her head upwards, sliding her tongue up that ragged triangle of Ilonca's folded lips until she found Ilonca's clit, poking out bravely from under its own hiding place, and she kissed it.

"Yes." From Ilonca, it sounded like a sob. A good one, Rhiane decided. She licked with more concentration at Ilonca's clit, teasing it. She raised her hands and reached around for Ilonca's butt, holding it in her hands, and felt Ilonca's muscles there tense and relax. "Oh, Goddess, Rhiane. Lick me. Lick me."

Rhiane's neck grew tired as she held onto Ilonca's waist, holding herself to Ilonca's cunt, drinking from Ilonca as if she had been in a desert wasteland and this was her first drink in centuries. She pulled down and Ilonca spread her legs wider, exposing more of herself to Rhiane. "Yes," Ilonca cried gently, "Yes. Oh, yes, Rhiane, yes, yes, yes, please I need this I need you..." Her timbre rose with each flicker of Rhiane's tongue on her clit. Rhiane felt the little nub grow soft with her tongue and wondered if she were doing something wrong, but when she shifted Ilonca said, "Go back! So close!"

Rhiane's tongue flickered again as it had before, and under her hands Ilonca's butt tightened and strained and then Ilonca threw back her head, "Oh yes, Rhiane, yes! yes! oh... oh... oh..." Her voice trailed off as she collapsed against the bedroom wall before her, her cunt pressed down against Rhiane's mouth until Rhiane feared for her own breathing and her teeth pressed to Ilonca's tender flesh.

Ilonca eased off Rhiane's face and eased down beside her on the bed. "You're a natural."

"Thanks," Rhiane said.

"Oh, Rhiane," Ilonca sighed, rolling over Rhiane's body until their breasts were pressed together. "If you can do that again, you'll never have to worry about anything."

Rhiane smiled, then frowned. "We can never do that again. You can't have more than one first time. And all that frustration... was because of the hospital stay."

"Do you ever look at the bright side of things?" Ilonca said. She kissed Rhiane's mouth. "Mmm, you smell like me. Rhiane, I like you. I don't know you well enough to say that I love you, but maybe we can get to know each other better, and... I dunno. Fall in love?"

"Do you want to do that? Fall in love?"

"Doesn't everyone?"

"I never have," Rhiane said. "Wanted it, I mean."

Ilonca gave her a long, hard stare. "Well, maybe it's time you thought about wanting it. Because I want you. And I want to be wanted by you. And you just gave me the best damn come of my life and I'm not about to let you go because you want to have a pity party at my expense."

Rhiane giggled. "Okay, Ilonca. I'll think about it."

"You do that. Think about it a lot. Because I think you're one of the neatest people. Still want you in the worst way."

"But in a good way?"

"In a good way. Yeah." Ilonca kissed her again. This time, Rhiane kissed her back.

Sterlings: The Moment To Wait For
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is copyright © April 22, 2007 Elf Mathieu Sternberg and is available under a Creative Commons License.