Jeff pounded on the door. "Goddammit, Lane, you told me to get you up!"
He paused his pounding long enough to hear a shuffling sound inside the apartment, followed by the click of a latchkey. The door swung halfway open. Lane looked up at him, her big Bastet ears folded over, black fine hair falling over sleepy eyes, and she smiled at him. "Thanks, Jeff."
"You're still in your bathrobe!"
"I'll change quick," she said. "Come on in." He watched her stumble into the bathroom, her tail peeking out from under the robe.
Jeff had been in Lane's apartment a few times. It was a tiny hovel of a place, barely big enough for one; the twin bed was crammed into a space no bigger than a closet, the kitchen consisted of a microwave, a two-burner range, and a toaster oven. Still, Jeff envied her; she had an apartment all to herself. He had to share his with two other guys and he couldn't stand either one of them.
There was a different smell to Lane's apartment. Every apartment smelled differently. Jeff had never noticed how his own home smelled and he'd gotten used to the way his few friends' houses had smelled differently whenever he'd visited. Every place had a distinct smell, different mixtures of carpet and paint, whether or not the owner cared to keep it clean or not, whether or not perfumes were used to cover up other, unpleasant odors.
Lane's apartment smell was musky, dense, and went straight to the deep middle of his brain seemingly without passing through the higher registers. Jeff took in a deep breath, flushed, and felt the warmth of that odor go straight down into his crotch. "Jesus," he sighed.
Lane stepped out of the bathroom wearing a dark blue dress, belted at the waist, with wide sash sleeves and a collar trimmed in lighter blue. "How do I look?"
"Fine. C'mon, I don't want you to miss chemistry." They hurried for his car. The dying Toyota was the best thing he could afford, and it got them to school on time. Jeff didn't mind paying for parking. Lane was paying. "What were you doing in there?" he asked.
The word caught Jeff so off-guard he nearly missed a red light. The wheels screeched as the car halted. "Jesus, Lane..."
"Is that your favorite curse word?"
"'Jesus'," she said with a breathy gasp.
"No, it's not." The light changed, and he pushed forward, taking the treacherous hills of Seattle carefully, one hand on the parking brake just in case. "You don't just say something like that... or do you?"
"The Internet says we do." She grinned mightily. "Then again, the Internet says a lot of stupid shit." She looked out the window. "Sorry, Jeff, you asked."
"You could have said something else, you know. Something a little more, I don't know. Less truthful."
"Why lie? I like doing it." She pasued. "Sometimes I think it's the only thing I like doing. Everyone else does it." She turned. "Do you ever think of me when you do it?"
"What the Hell's gotten into you?"
"I'm just curious, Jeff. Do you?"
"I did. Back when I was twelve. I got over it." Jeff's mind spun out all sorts of strange scenarios. What had gotten into her?
He'd known her since they were both ten or so, back when they'd first met. Her mother had lived in a big house on top of the hill overlooking the seaport and been related in some obscure legal way to a man who had a strong interest in international shipping. Jeff had lived three-quarters down the hill, his parent's duplex staring into the valley with the steel plant that hummed day and night with hydroelectric power, while the occasional crash of pre-recycled steel scrap and hiss of hot steam punctuated the plant's regular operation.
Now she was being strange. He'd never seen her like this, so distant and yet so... blunt. He knew that Bastet were different but he'd had the privilege of knowing her most of his childhood and she'd never seemed that different. After middle school she'd gone to a private school and he'd gone to Chief Sealth Public but they'd still seen each other regularly down at the coffee shop with the darkened interior, played card games together from time to time.
"You stopped? Why?"
"It didn't seem fair. Dishonest. You know, doing it with someone you knew. I had to keep two of you in my head. That got more complicated than it was worth." He glanced over at her. "Besides, it would just be weird... now. You don't look like you've changed much since I first met you."
"I've gained a few inches."
"I've gained a few feet," he said.
"Bastet don't get much bigger than this," she said. He was grateful she was silent for the rest of the ride, and when they got to the university, she headed off for her classes. Jeff watched her walk away.
Jeff caught back up with Lane at the cupcake-and-coffee joint up Broadway from the University. She grinned at him and seemed much less distant. "Hey," she said. "Sorry about this morning."
"Um..." He hesitated. "Yeah, you were a little weird." He sat down, putting his coffee on the table next to her drink. He knew it was mint tea. "Are you okay now?"
"Yeah. Sorry. How'd your day go?"
They exchanged stories. He commiserated with her on the volume of chemistry she had to take. She expressed sympathy for the thousands of words he'd been assigned to write for his Literature class. "Ready to go?" she said.
"Yeah." Jeff finished the last of his coffee.
He eased the car out into traffic. "Why are you even taking chemistry anyway?" he said. "I thought your major was pre-law."
"Mmmm," Lane said, looking out her window. "We have to take a couple of science classes. I decided I wanted to get into patent law and that track has a science and engineering specialty. Maybe I'll get to see more of you?" She sounded tired. Jeff tried to sympathize.
Jeff drove down 12th Avenue heading south. It was the quickest route to her apartment but at this hour no route through the city was going to be easy. They were quiet as they passed the old middle school, then the Pho shops, entering a neighboorhood entirely decorated in Chinese scripts and transliterated Vietnamese.
At the light crossing King Street, Jeff smelled something that wasn't the roast chickens and steam of Chinatown. He glanced over at Lane. She was still looking out the window but her left arm was between her thighs, moving fast. "Jesus. You're doing that now?"
"I like it," she murmured, not turning toward him. "It's comforting."
"In-- A-- " Her body shuddered. Jack watched as a climax rippled through her. He was stunned enough watching her chest rise and fall, her breath whistling through his car, he barely heard the horn blaring from the car behind them. This was Seattle: nobody hit their horn unless they were really mad. Or from California.
Jack recovered enough to start forward, crossed the intersection and headed up the hill toward where her apartments were hidden. They had actually been pricey once, before Amazon had decided to move downtown, but now the costs had crashed and the college kids were moving in: it was a straight shot down 15th to Seattle U.
"Why do you do that?"
"I like it. It's comforting. You don't have to understand it, Jeff."
"Bullshit. I don't buy it. Bastet aren't that different, Lane. I might, might, buy that shit that you're the product of weird alchemists from two thousand years ago doing weird things with human beings and cats. I have to buy, because the evidence says so, that you're genetically so different from me that you are another species. I know you guys die young, and have a different life cycle, but all that bullshit about sex is just that, bullshit."
"Not all of it," she said, and suddenly she changed from weirdly distant to desperately sad.
"Lane... I'm sorry."
"Don't be, Jeff," she said, grinning at him, but there was a tear loose on her cheek. "After all, I'm the one who embarassed you by doing it in your car while you were driving."
Jeff blushed again, swallowed hard, and drove up the hill. He was momentarily grateful he didn't drive a stick. He made the left turn and found her apartment complex, an eyesore of mid-70's architecture, black ironwork railings and faux-pebbled facings, rotting astroturf glued with exposed black felt to concrete walkways, and the indestructible eyesores of salal patches covering over the arsenic-contaminated dirt.
She opened the door, stretched her legs out, then turned to him and said, "Come inside."
"Just, come inside. Please?" Lane's eyes had more pleading in them than her voice.
Jeff was as eager to get laid as anyone but Lane wasn't just anyone. He'd grown up with her, known her for years. Thinking about her that way would be, well, rude, even if she wasn't a Bastet. One of them, those rare, beautiful, ephemeral creatures who lived among humans, but weren't of humans. Most churches railed against human-Bastet relationships, calling it bestiality. Most men thought about it, often in the privacy of the shower.
Grumbling, he took the keys from the ignition and got out of the car. She led him up the stairs, bounding up two at a time, her tail bouncing out from under the long skirt she wore.
She led him into her efficiency. Jeff had been here often enough. The odors he had encountered that morning had dissolved away into the background, but Lane brought with her the fresh pheromones of desire. He grimaced. "I am sorry, Jeff," she said. "I just can't seem to... stop myself." She kicked her shoes off to the corner by the front door and sat at the small, round table that filled most of the space not occupied by the kitchen.
"Maybe you should see a doctor." Jeff said, sliding into the other chair.
"Why? I like doing it."
"But if you do it like that you're obsessed."
"I think it'll go away. I just... need to do it. For a while."
"Bernie died Saturday."
It took a few heartbeats for him to retrieve the name and its context. "Jesus. Your mother's... um.... What was that relationship?"
"They hated each other." It came out as a hiss, a snarl, a sound so utterly animal Jeff wasn't sure it had just come from this girl he'd known for so long. Human beings didn't make sounds like that. "He was her keeper. It was a relationship they were familiar with. It was the old ways. He kept her in milk and silk, and she provided him with a never-ending source of pleasure. Apparently, when they did first meet, it was real. They loved each other, and it stuck. It lasted more than two, three, or seven years.
"And then I hit ten. Bastet, we, most of us anyway, liked to be petted. I was with him in the house while Mom was at a convention, and he... went too far. All the way."
"Told you that was your favorite curse word." A smile briefly flashed across her eyes. Jeff noticed that she had a hand in her lap again, and it was moving slowly. "He did it to me a couple of times. I didn't suffer, if that's what you're thinking. It wasn't that bad. It's something we Bastet are good at. I was still way too young. But he made it ugly, he acted like it was wrong. And when Mom found out, she acted like it was a betrayal of everything she had spent the last ten years being. It was, too, but... she wasn't angry for my sake. She was angry because he betrayed her. I was just the one who caused it.
"Both of them said they loved me. And both of them made my teenage years a living hell. Because neither really wanted anything to do with me anymore. Or with each other."
"Why didn't they break up?"
She sighed. "I don't know. I don't know any of the details. Nobody would tell me. They slept in separate bedrooms, but I know they were still having sex once in a while. Maybe it was hate sex. Fuck if I know." She swept her wispy hair out of her eyes. "But they had the deal. I never learned the details. I just knew that he would keep her, make sure I went to school, and she would never tell anyone he'd fucked a ten-year-old."
"You just did."
"Nobody told me not to tell," she said. "Oops."
He reached over and touched her arm. "So what's with... that?"
"After that time, when Bernie stopped fucking me, I never did it again with anyone else. Not even myself. Not alone. I was so away from myself, and angry about how far away from myself they had both pushed me, I didn't want it. I didn't feel it. And then... they died. Both of them."
"Your mother's dead too?"
"A couple of months ago. The deal is holding up though. He's still going to pay my way through college. Smile for me, Jeff, I'm a trust fund baby." Jeff scowled instead. "Jeff, c'mon." He gave her a jerked smile. It felt unnatural, as if cellophane cracked under his skin. "Ever since I knew they were both gone, it's all come back. Like I was saving it up. Like it meant something again, like life meant something. Like the stupid people were finally, oh, Bast, they're finally fucking gone!" She jerked her head back and Jeff saw her body go through the minor convulsions of another climax.
"Jesus," he said.
She lolled her head back, eyes lidded and mouth dreamy. "Hey, Jeff," she said softly. "Would your twelve-year-old self like to live out his fantasy?" She pulled her dress up, showing off unblemish thighs of milky skin until she had exposed her belly and the thatch of perfectly black fur between her legs.
She reached out with her hand, her fingers still glistening with her bodily fluids. "Tell me you don't want me, Jeff. You did."
"I did," he said. He'd given up wanting her a long time ago. Wanting a Bastet was a loser's game.
"You can," she said, and reached across the table with those fingers and smeared them on his face. He jerked away, but the smell was overwhelming, a deeply organic perfume of a woman in heat, fresh, magnificent. "C'mon, Jeff. It's not like I'm a virgin."
"Yes you are. That doesn't count."
"Then make yours count," she said. "Or are you a virgin?"
"No," he said. "Not for a while."
She opened her legs. "Tell me you don't want to lick me."
He nearly fell off the chair, getting to the floor. It clattered against the wall behind him. He knelt forward. "You're beautiful, Lane." He pressed his mouth to her belly, then downward.
"Oh, Bast, yes... " she gasped as he pressed his tongue between her labia. He'd seen enough pornography through the years. Down there, Lane was the same as the last girl. Her pubic fur was more downy than anything he'd ever felt before-- not that there had been that many. Her fluids ran clear, dribbling out toward his tongue. He lapped at it. He probed with his tongue, finding her inner lips, following them up to their apex, finding the little knot of her arousal.
He licked at that tough little point, and her whole body went rigid. "So good," she gasped. "I didn't realize it would be so good..." She spread her legs wider, her feet thumping the aged linoleoum floor. "Please don't stop, please don't stop..."
He could hardly have left her in this state. His three previous girlfriends had all appreciated him doing this, although he had no idea if he was good at it or not. He just did the best he could, following the guidance he'd gotten more from reading than from watching. Lane tasted sweet, special; her thighs were warm, her desire-matted fur soft, her fluids voluminous. He pressed into her with his tongue, deeper.
"Yes, yes!" Lane pounded the table with her fist, her whole body jerking again as she had another climax. Jeff felt a twinge of envy. He was lucky if he had one a day, two if he feeling especially physical. Still, he had a beautiful woman, no wait, Lane, under his mouth, and he couldn't believe just how wonderful she tasted, how much he wanted her.
He couldn't believe she was still asking for more. Better, she was actually purring. It stuttered in time with her breathing as his tongue slid along the guidance of her outer lips and found all the sweet places where he could tease her.
He stopped being so direct, turned his attention to her belly, her thighs, even her knees briefly, before sliding his mouth back up to her pussy, back to licking her earnestly. He though he might finally have gotten to the end of her climaxes. This one took a long time before she finally crested over the top, whistling and gasping. "Bast, Bast..." she gasped softly. "Ohhh..."
Jeff leaned back and looked up at her. One hand was still holding the cloth of her dress up away from her crotch. She let it go, and the cloth crumpled into a heap in her lap, obscuring her sexual charms from his eyes. "Done?" he asked.
"Maybe," she said. "Bast, I had no idea it was that good when you weren't being..."
"Not you. Me. When I wasn't being used." She lolled her head forward, her eyes dulled with temporarily exhausted lust. "Bast, Jeff, you must be in pain."
She maneuvered one foot between his legs and found his crotch. He yelped softly as she found his cock with her toes. "Doesn't that hurt?"
"What? No," Jeff said.
"Oh. I thought I read somewhere that guys' hardons hurt and they have to do something about it. I thought... that's what I was feeling when I felt the urge to come. Like, in your car. It was so strong it almost hurt. Are you sure you don't feel anything like that?"
His entire body was hot with desire, but he'd been taught to be a good man, to control himself, and to respect a woman when she said 'no.' "It doesn't hurt. It just wants. But it'll go away if I don't do anything about it," Jeff said.
"But you want me."
"Of course I do. But, Lane, it's... you."
Jeff opened his mouth to speak, but only an incoherent crackle of his voice emerged. There were so many reasons he shouldn't. She was a Bastet. She was nursing a deep and long-open wound about her molestation. She had been his friend through most of his teenage years, while she had lived with that wound, kept it hidden behind a simple facade while they and all their friends had played Fluxx and Gimme The Brain and Uno over coffee milkshakes and hot chocolate rents at the cafe. He'd never known. "Because you're hurting," he said.
"Jeff," she said, slipping out of the chair to kneel on the floor with him. "Everyone is hurting. You've never met somebody who didn't have something weighing them down." She smiled, a crooked smile that went all the way up to her ears. "This is how I want to reclaim myself. I want you to help. C'mon," she said. "Let's go fuck." She stood up, offered him her hand.
Too stunned to defy her, he took her hand and followed her into the tiny bedroom. She tossed away the belt and pulled the dress over her head in a single, fluid motion.
The difference between humans and Bastet was that Bastet didn't need airbrushing to look that pure. For all the hurt on her soul, there didn't seem to be a single thing out of place on Lane's body. Her breasts were small and barely wobbled; when she turned around to throw the dress to a corner of the room, he saw her tail at the top of her buttocks, the black fur surrounding it spreading less that half an inch from where her tail emerged from her body. The tail itself had black, medium-length fur. The tip whipped back and forth languidly. Her legs were thin, her ass softly rounded. As she turned back around, he saw that belly had a soft, feminine curve to it as well. If his cock had subsided at their brief, serious conversation, it soon came roaring back. "Lane..."
"Get naked, Jeff. I'm not going to give you a second chance."
He swallowed hard then stripped off his own clothing. Compared to her, he regarded his own body as a gawky, awkward tangle of arms and legs, curly mop hair and three-day-old scruff. "You're perfect," she said. She seized his hands and tugged him toward the bed. "Now." She fell back on it, spreading herself open, showing him under the brighter light of her sunlit bedroom the pinkness in which he'd just been indulging.
He eased between her legs until their bodies met. He was already sweating. So was she, a bright layer of glossiness that made her even more beautiful. From this angle he could entirely ignore her feline nature-- her ears were over the horizon of her face and her tail hidden somewhere under her ass. Now he felt his erection like a pain, the pain of too much denial, too much desire. He knew it would go away if he waited, but she didn't want him to wait.
He slid into her already slippery pussy with a straight plunge. Pleasure engulfed his cock, soared up his body so fast the tiny hairs all up his torso stood on end, reaching up until his scalp prickled. Her eyes went wide, her smile broadened into a flashing signal of welcome, and her arms flailed in the air. She was signaling him to come down.
They scooted onto the bed and into a more traditional position, him on top of her, his cock buried within her. "Jeff..." she whispered. "I'm glad it was you." Her voice was sweet and throaty.
He surprised the two of them by leaning over and kissing her. He had to bend his back and neck to do it since she was so much shorter, but he managed, and their lips touched and caressed. Lust and protectiveness surged simultaneously within Jeff, and he wrapped his arms around her shoulders as he slowly made love to her.
He liked the other girls he'd been to bed with, had even managed to convince himself that he respected them before, during, and afterward. Nothing had prepared himself for the tenderness he felt with Lane, for the sheer desire to make this act an honorable one.
She closed her legs around his waist, pulled him into her. Their bodies were now sliding against one another, sweat slickening their passage toward ectasy just as readily as all her arousal. He wouldn't last much longer. "Lane, I'm going to come..."
"Yeah," she said. It was all she said, a simple acknowledgement. He felt it surge inside him, deep inside where it mattered. He'd never felt anything quite like it, a growing wave of unexpected emotion, pleasure, and something very much like honor, that broke through him and he cried out at the surprising beauty of the moment.
He couldn't continue. His strength spent, he lay next to her, his body heaving gently, and he heard her sob. "Lane?"
"Why couldn't it have been like that the first time?" she said, her voice a sigh of frustration. "Why couldn't it ever have been like that before? Jeff?"
He lifted himself up to look down at her. She was so impossibly beautiful at that moment. The tears on her cheeks were outrageous stains it was his duty to relieve. "Maybe because... because you didn't get to pick the person."
"What's going to happen now?" she said.
"We should talk about this.... eventually."
She kissed his cheek. "You kissed me earlier. I didn't expect that."
"I thought kissing was where everyone started," he said. "I didn't expect you to want to start with something else. Not with my going down on you."
"It was what I wanted at that moment," she said. "Kiss me again."
He did, and this time he didn't have to hurt his back to reach her mouth. He felt overwhelmed by an urge to protect her, now that she no longer needed his protection. Maybe she never did. "Jeff," she said, "Let's do this again tomorrow."
He looked at her, and smiled. She smiled back. It was a wounded smile, but it would heal. "Okay," he said. "As long as it doesn't hurt."