Charles repeatedly reminded himself which hat he wore that night. Lucien's parties were for the geek elite, and over by the jukebox the Vulcan Bioperl nerds were arguing OS semantics with Microsofties, while on the couch the Merck Pharma IT guys were exchanging war stories with the G7Way ("The firewall before your g8way!") UI designers. He was here because he worked deep in the guts of databases, re-arranging them for the benefit of people with very strange storage needs or archaic languange requirements. Lucien was an overpaid software gun-for-hire, and he threw these parties, or so he said, to create links within the Seattle software community that would ultimately result in problems that only he could fix.
Lucien's typical crowd liked to dress in black, and lace, and gothy outfits with leather flourishes that sometimes made Charles wonder if should wear his other persona some of the time. He had business cards for both Deepchurn Data and Shibari Practice with him. The shibari card was printed on both sides; the back was inspired by a trip to the dentist's and read "You have an appointment with Charles at ___________ on ___________." A vast collection of tiny checkboxes filled out the rest of the card, describing in detail what anyone might want. It was his negotiating tool.
Even Lucien's house felt like the right kind of place. It was half-goth itself, a wreck of a Capitol Hill mansion that Lucien had bought with buyout money after the 2000 bubble burst. He'd been renovating ever since.
Charles was damn sure that half the people here had been to The Nook at least once, and he knew some of them were regulars. He just didn't know how to bring the subject up. Lucien had arranged a techie talk time, but Charles was burned out of geeking.
He circulated through the living room one more time, hearing a man dressed in a Tool t-shirt and bell-bottomed pants dripping with chains discussing geek vandalism: super-bright naked LEDs to which he'd taped a powerful magnet and a watch battery between the leads. Apparently, the game was to throw them places where maintenance would have a hard time getting them down, like ceiling pipes and ducts. Charles pushed through a small crowd into the dining room where an impressive array of liquor and Lucien's big crystal bowl of fortune cookies sat on the big table. He grabbed a Coke from one of the coolers on the floor.
As if to underscore his social discomfit, he heard Lucien's voice cry out, "Geena! So good to see you!" The short, stout man with the perfect black velvet vest trundled to the door and welcomed the small, beautiful, orange-haired woman into his atrium.
Charles had made the mistake, six months ago, of mouthing off to two acquaintances the opinion that Geena was one of those nekomimi furry freaks who pretended to be a Bastet. He had no doubt Lucien knew a lot of those.
He should have anticipated that Lucien would know a few real, live Bastet as well. Geena was especially beautiful for a Bastet, with delicate features and glittery eyes that always appeared on the verge of tears. She filled out the white corset she wore so well Charles thought he could hear every non-homosexual man and non-heterosexual woman in the room shift uncomfortably in acknowledgement.
Lucien made bubbly smalltalk, obviously at ease with this guest as he was with any other. Charles wished he could carry and shift context so easily.
Instead, he ended up mired in a conversation with a guy from Amazon about website engines and the way they handled databases; badly, in his opinion, and he held forth on ways to fix it all, ways he admitted he was too busy to take on himself.
He wandered back toward the food and drink and found himself next to the crystal bowl. Impulsively, he reached in and pulled out a cookie. Lucien apparently had five or six sources for fortune cookies, some wierder than others, and not all of his fortunes were good. At the last party Charles had picked one up that read, "Your next lover will turn out to be a gelatinous slime mold from Alpha Centauri. The illusory sex will still be great. You'll stay together."
That one hadn't been true. Not any part of it.
He held the cookie up and was about to crack it when a slim hand intercepted his. "You don't want that one," Geena said, taking it from him. She had a peculiarly nervous smile. "You want this one." She placed a new cookie in his hand.
Charles was surprised. He had spoken to Geena only rarely, and always with that lurking sense that she would never forgive him for his egregious faux pax. "Are you trying to guarantee I get a curse?"
She pouted. It was a remarkably pretty pout. "Charles, it was a mistake. An understandable one, too– there seem to be more of those damn nekomimis than there are of us these days, although Seattle's not nearly as bad as California. And we don't like them either."
"So, what's it say?"
The nervous Geena reappeared. "Open it and find out."
Charles tried not to look either eager or apprehensive as he tore open the cookie and pulled out the slip of paper. There had been a fortune on it, but it had been blacked out with a sharpie. On the other side was a handwritten note that read, "You will have good fortune if you tie up the Bastet nearest you."
He jerked his eyes toward her. "Are you serious?"
"It's not me," she said. "If the gods had wanted you to get a different message, you would have, right?" She cocked her head back toward the atrium. "That's what Lucien says."
"I thought you guys didn't believe in gods."
"What? We have the whole pantheon, Charles. Bast, Isis, Ra, Thoth, Zeus..."
"Zeus isn't an Egyptian god!" She was laughing now, and he wasn't sure if it was with him, at him, or just nervous release. He looked at the note again, and his training took over. "You're really serious. I think, maybe, we should go somewhere and talk about this." He nodded toward a set of stairs that led up to the second floor. A small dance of body language followed, each indicating to the other the direction and pace of their conversation. It wasn't until they were sitting on the top steps that Charles realized they had negotiated all of that without a single word, and he thought that maybe he could work with Geena. He mentally struck the word 'work' and replaced it with 'play'.
Charles harbored unhealthy fantasies about someday having a Bastet lover, which wasn't at all uncommon. It was such an incredibly rare occurence to even meet one, although Seattle had an overabundance of them compared to some places. He'd heard there wasn't a single Bastet living in South Dakota, for example. They all were all concentrated in the big cities, and more on the West coast than the East. Even so, he didn't believe such good luck would happen to him. Even with a fortune cookie. "So," he said quietly.
"Yeah," Geena said.
"Um," Charles began. He still held the slip in his hand. "Why this?" He looked at it again. "This takes planning. You came here tonight with this in your pocket."
Geena nodded. "I needed some way to get your attention."
He was touched by how much effort and planning she'd put into getting to this moment. Was she desperate? Was something wrong with her? "I have an email address, you know."
She laughed. "I know, but you wouldn't have believed it. You were too convinced a Bastet, especially one you'd insulted, was out of your reach. I needed to do something to get you to look at me." She paused. "I mean, not in a way that you would, um, undress me with your eyes."
"Do I do that?"
"Every guy does that. And not just to Bastet. To every woman."
"Oh." He put his hands between his knees to control them. Laughter trickled down the hallway from a bedroom where an impromptu LAN party had broken out with the laptop set. A cold metallic scent tickled Charles's nose: Lucien had broken out the liquid nitrogen and was making ice cream. Another favorite party trick of his, especially when topped with his brandy-flavored whipped cream. The man was a walking encyclopedia of ways to keep the fun moving. "I'm sorry."
She scooted closer to him. "We get used to it, I guess. It'll always be annoying. You're not as bad as most of them." She pointed to the slip. "I am serious about that."
He swallowed. "I assume at The Nook, or something?"
"No," she said, and he could see that she was nervous, even scared. "Someplace private. I don't want people to know about this. Not yet. Not until I–"
Charles stared at her as a stereotype fell into place in his head. He shook his head. "It can't be the same for Bastet. You're all so different. That's what we keep hearing. That's why the marriage laws are different for you, and adoption laws, and corporate regulations and all that crap. You guys get different forms for taxes and insurance."
"But it's what I want," she insisted. "At least to try." She touched his arm. "You can even blog about it, just don't let them know I'm a Bastet. At least not yet."
He laughed. "That'll be... an interesting writeup. I'll let you review it before I post it."
"You're a saint, Charles." She leaned forward, her hand traveling up his arm. "I've read so much about it, and I've seen your blog, and I think that you might actually know what to do."
He fumbled in his vest pocket for his business cards, opened the plastic case and fished one out from the back of the stack. He found his pen and wrote down, "When?"
She looked at her watch. "Now?"
"Are you busy this weekend?" she asked.
"No, but... Okay. Now." He wrote that on the card's appointment calendar. "Where?"
"My apartment," she said.
He scribbled that down, the handed the card to her. "You're lucky, because I've got a lot of my stuff in the car. Fill out the rest, please?" he said.
She peered at the card and giggled. "I've never seen one of these."
"I had them made specially for me. There's a four-page form that goes with them, but this handles the basics for me. Scratch out the ones that are absolute 'no's."
She quickly made a few marks and handed the card back to him. He looked at it closely. She hadn't marked the sex section at all. Under bondage, she'd ticked off 'ropes, tight'. She'd scratched out 'pain' and 'abuse'. Well, he could live with that, he wasn't very good as a sadist of either stripe. He smiled at her. "This looks... doable."
"I hope so."
"Scared?" he asked.
"A little," she said.
"No, you're not," she said.
"Yes, I am. But you've asked me for something. I have to look like I can deliver." He stood up. "Come on. Let's find Lucien."
"To tell him that we're leaving. Together. And that I'm giving you a ride home." She looked puzzled. "He doesn't have to know what we're up to. But rule one if you're going out to play with someone is that you always let someone else know where you went. And you let the person you're playing with know that there's someone else who knows. It's a promise we're making to each other: I'm not a psycho, and neither are you."
He watched the emotions flit across her face, grateful that those worked just the same. Concern, upset, realization, acceptance, gratitude, happiness. "Let's do it," she agreed.
After both of them thanked Lucien for the night and begged off the ice cream, they walked back to his car side-by-side. It wasn't the kind of relationship where they held hands. Charles wondered if it would ever be. If that even mattered. He had girlfriends with whom holding hands wasn't the right thing to do. He knew nothing about Geena.
Just watching her walk intimidated him, though. She was probably the most beautiful girl he'd ever known, and the way she took each step made the air vibrate against his own desire. Small but perfect, radiant, with hair an orange that almost never happened in humans, hair so fine and so dense it seemed solid but flowed over her shoulders like water. Her tail followed behind her, the same color, following the same sinuous frequency. Bastet were supposed to be alien to human beings, with a mindset so completely different from our own that any attempt to analogize was doomed to failure. Charles wondered if he had been mistaken before, accepting her invitation, thinking that she would be like many other newcomers before her. Maybe, maybe not. But he had made her a promise in the form of a little business card, and he wouldn't back out now.
He led her to his little Honda and opened her side for her.
They drove home with only his MP3 player to fill the silence between them. He wasn't even sure if his taste in music would turn her off, since Suzanne Vega wasn't exactly romantic music. Not that way. Geena gave him only directions, leading him to a squat, unremarkable apartment building on the freeway side of Broadway Avenue. He grabbed a gray duffel bag from his trunk and she led him a small second-floor apartment that was larger inside than it looked from the door. He saw the kitchen to his left, a bedroom before him, and the main room was a big space with only a white futon, a lounge chair, and a TV. "What should I do?" she asked as the door closed behind them.
"Let me take out what I've got and we'll see." He opened the duffel and took out several coils of rope, arranging them on the futon. "Come here."
She stepped close, and for the first time he could smell her. He liked it, she smelled fresh and ordinary. Nothing catlike there. "This is what I'm going to use," he said. He'd fallen into one of his favorite roles, and he decided he'd stay there until she told him to change. "I have mostly hemp which is kinda scratchy, and cotton which works well on bare skin."
"I know, I've read your blog. Hemp."
"Okay," he said, setting the black cotton aside. "Clothed or not?"
"Um," she said. "Hold on." She disappaeared into the bedroom, and came out a minute later wearing only a t-shirt. Charles froze, his eyes taking in her lithe, flawless figure, her long white belly, her strong thighs. Her toenails were painted pink. And they were ordinary toes, too, not claws. He could just barely see that she also had panties on, a thin patch of white cloth hiding her pussy out of sight just at the edge of her t-shirt.
She waited patiently for him to finish his survey. "Do you like what you see?" she asked.
Charles burst into a laugh. She looked puzzled. "What?"
He said, "Have you ever read Bored of the Rings? The old parody? That's the first line of the book. It's in the teaser, which isn't even in the book itself. Some evil elf-maiden tries to seduce Frodo. I mean, Frito. But you're no evil elf-maiden."
She smiled. "No, but I thought I should look confident."
"You look beautiful," he said. He held up an 80' strand. "Come here."
She came and stood beside him, pushing her hair back and out of the way. "Okay," he sighed. "Basics. Any health issues I should know about? Bad knees, circulatory problems, seizures or breathing problems?" She shook her head. He consulted the card. "Safeword?"
"Good, we won't forget that." He found the midpoint of the rope he held. "Here we go. And don't forget, Lucien knows I was the last person you were seen with."
She swallowed, and he draped the rope around the back of her neck and let it trail over her chest. A few simple cross-knots down the chest provided him with anchor points, between her legs for a fixture, and then criss-cross over her ass and back to the vertical line of knots, weaving back and forth, creating a harness, a framework from which to do other things.
Two shorter strands lashed each forearm to the bicep at a ninety-degree angle, a large knot preventing the rope from pressing on the arteries and veins of the inner elbow, and then the long rope pinned her arms behind her back. He secured her arms to her body with a longer rope wound around her torso, alternating above and below her breasts, making them stand out. His hands brushed against her nipples through the fabric and she moaned. "Sorry."
"It's okay," she said.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes," she breathed. "Yes, I'm fine." He could see that she was. Her face was flushed, her eyes jittery. She was a little panicked, he could see, but so far in a good way. Frightened by the restraint. Getting off on being afraid. He reached around her and touched her hands. Still warm.
"Legs?" he said.
"Everything." He could hear in her voice something deep. He'd heard it before with other women, but to hear it in a Bastet made it seem so different. It wasn't merely exotic. It was otherworldly.
"You'd have to sit down."
She did. He repeated what he'd done with her elbows on her knees. Four winds of six millimeter rope between thigh and calf, holding the knee bent, then more rope through the gap, wound into another big decorative knot that couldn't fall, again protecting vital arteries at the back of her knee. More rope down her calves held them almost together; he wound separators between them that would hold them apart. If he had enough rope and enough time he could almost have faked a spread bar. He didn't have enough rope.
Before he was done with the last wind around her calves, she was starting to struggle, shifting against the ropes around her arms. She mewled softly, a sound a human woman might have been able to make if she tried. It seemed natural for her. Her ears were trembling, her tail... her tail. How did one tie up a Bastet tail? What kind of blood supply did it have, could he hurt it with restraint? He wasn't sure he wanted to find out. It flickered violently beside her. "Geena?"
"Yeah?" Her face was flushed and her eyes had glazed over. Charles was uncomfortably aware of his full, heavy erection, waiting for him to do something, anything, with this beautiful victim. Her breathing was coming faster.
She moaned softly. "Touch me, then," she breathed.
Charles moved closer. He reached out and touched her face. She felt feverish, but he remembered that Bastet had wierd body temperatures and he shouldn't try to judge based on his experience with humans. "Yes," she breathed. "More."
Then he recognized another type about her. The one who wanted to feel, all over. There was a Japanese word for them, too. Zaiten? Something like that. Charles tried to put aside those simple-minded templates and concentrate on Geena. With both hands, her caressed her cheeks, then her hair. Her hair was so fine and soft, utterly unlike human hair. He could never have found the heart to restrain her by her hair.
She tossed her head to try and get as much sensation from his touch as she could. "Lower," she breathed.
"All the way?"
He ran his hands freely over her body then. The ropes were over her ribcage, framing her breasts which stood out, two sweet offerings under the stretched fabric of her t-shirt, and he slipped his hands over that fabric, felt the straining flesh underneath. She was panting hard now. Charles only hoped he was reading her right.
"Bast, yes," she moaned. "Bast, yes."
He took that as acknowledgement. She shuddered as his hands reached under the trip of her shirt and caressed her belly. Her stomach fluttered against his palm, and as he slipped down to her panties she shook so hard he was sure she had just come. "Done?" he asked.
He reached up and pressed his palm to her cheek. Her face was so warm she might have been on fire. He slid the fingers of his other hand over the fabric of her panties, feeling the geometry of her pussy muffled through the material, and she gasped. "Geena," he said softly. "Geena?"
Charles felt oddly divorced from his own body as his fingers plied about the elastic at one of her legs. He could hear his heart beating loud, he could feel the sweat building on his brow. He knew his cock was harder than steel. But none of that mattered to him because right now he was here to do what Geena wanted. No matter what happened, he'd have something wonderful to write about, even if he couldn't use her name, or even mention that she was a Bast. He might even have to wait a few days so that it would be harder to make the connection between his giving her a ride home from Lucien's party and "the unbelievable redhead" he'd write about. He might have to change her hair color.
She was as wet as a river down there, under her panties. He understood intellectually that the physical layout of Bastets' genitals were indistinguishable from those of human beings. He was curious now. He wanted to see.
She was struggling harder against the ropes. He could feel her breath falling across his bare arms as he sat before her, touching her pussy, feeling her fire. His other hand caressed her chest and belly absently. She moaned and against his hands he felt her shudder, felt a brief spurt of wetness in his palm. She moaned louder, and he rubbed at her full, heavy lips. His fingers found their way between his labia, and he smiled. A map of her vulva unfurled in his head; she had very large outer labia, one larger than the other. And she was soaked. His fingers slipped between her lips with no stickiness or hesitation, and then he slipped up a half-inch until he felt a small dot of complexity followed by the triangles of her hood. She moaned louder and began to struggle. "No," she groaned. "No, not that."
"Safeword?" he asked.
"No!" It was almost a snarl.
"Good," he said. He played her sex until she had come a few more times and was panting hard enough to worry him. He learned to tell when one climax ended and the rise to another had begun, signs that were more subtle on Geena than some women he'd known.
He still wanted to see her pussy.
He took his hand away and she sagged forward, her forehead against his shoulder. She caught her breath and began sobbing quietly. "It's time to come out," he said.
"Okay," she said. "Okay."
He steadied them both, kneeling on the floor as they were, and while she rested against his chest he undid the ropes around her torso, the ones holding her arms behind her back. He had quick-release knots on her elbows but still took time to unwind them completely. When she had one free, she put it to the floor to hold herself up and he untied her other arm.
Charles liked the come-down from a bondage scene. It was a time when neither had a choice in the task, and he had to time the bottom's reserves of patience so she'd have enough to enjoy this, too. He'd cut it close with Geena, but his judgement had been good. Soon he was able to lie her on her back while he untied her knees.
He stretched out beside her on the floor. She had one hand over her face, shielding her eyes. She didn't seem to be crying anymore, and Charles wasn't sure how much comfort he should be offering. He watched her, keeping his hands to himself. She turned and looked at him, wiped a tear from her eyes, sniffed. "You have such a smug expression right now." She grinned as she said it.
"I do?" he said. "I guess I earned it. Thank you. For trusting me."
"Thank you for agreeing to it."
"I'd have kicked myself for the rest of my life if I didn't." She didn't answer him. He said, "I don't know anything about you. I'd like to."
"Geena," he said. "You. Like why you asked me, specifically."
"Because you can keep it a secret. I know you don't want to. You want to brag about it on your blog. But you will." She took a deep breath. "I've fantasized about being tied up for so long, and then when I knew you were going to be at one of Lucien's parties, I knew I had to try and find my way into your attention. Guys are so dumb sometimes."
Charles chose not to debate her. He understood perfectly well that Bastet were already so widely desired as lovers, and one openly into a kink like bondage would be doubly overwhelmed with attention. "You're not..."
"Not what I expected. In a Bastet, or in a woman. It's nice."
She rolled once, closer to him. "I'm glad. Charles?" Her eyes were big now, he saw, with that feline glow behind them that only Bastet could manage. It made her seem magical, and inhuman. He wanted to kiss her, and he was afraid of his reactions to her. "Can I ask you for two– no, three– favors?"
"After a session like that, you can ask for anything you like, Geena. I'll do my best."
She touched his cheek, and then to his surprise she kissed him. It was a short kiss, but her tongue asked his to come out and play and he readily gave it. "Was that one of them?"
"No," she said. "That was just something I wanted right then. No, the favors I want are a backrub– " She hesitated.
She leaned close to his ear. "A fuck– "
His chest tightened suddenly with joy and his mouth went dry. "And?"
"And a place on your calender for later."
"I'll move heaven and earth for all three," he said, and kissed her cheek gently. "One at a time." He reached into his bag, looked at the bottle. "You're not allergic to peach oil, are you?"
She shook her head. "Oh, Charles, I think this is going to work."
"I think it will."