Aldea, Narnya 10, 03198
A Pleasing Shape, Chapter 2: Peren
Darzi left behind another gruelling class day with Madame Quenilda and the silent jeering of his peers. While the critical art world cycled toward a preference for the abstract and the materially innovative, Darzi had the misfortune to be attracted to what was sometimes called the derriere garde. His peers were working with nanopaints, animatives buried in oils, colors outside of the normal ranges, canvasses that reacted to touch. The hot new craze was for paintings you could lick.
Instead, Darzi loved oil and acrylic and watercolor. He loved the smell of brush and the caress of fresh canvas hand-stretched onto a creaking wooden frame. The few pieces he had contributed to student shows had attracted little critical attention, being "the mere achievement of the merely achievable" as one wag had said, but his teachers continued to encourage him, Quenilda most of all. He kept at it, constantly trying to improve. They seemed to appreciate his willingness to swim against the stream, to keep the old forms alive. It frustrated him to think that he'd moved to this town, one built by an AI with a taste for the archaic, for brick and mortar and paper-lined windows, for unframed architecture and interior wainscots, only to find frustratingly modern sensibilities inhabiting the ateliers.
He had just walked under an old stone archway, a bridge between two older homes, when someone slapped his backpack right between his shoulder blades. "What the--?" There was no one around.
"Yo, tower. Look down!"
Darzi did. He looked on the bare meter-plus height of a gold-furred Mustela Frenata staring up at him from the brick-lain road, her glittery eyes and diminutive form filling his vision. She wore blousy jeans, a white faux labcoat, and a grey T-shirt with a word on it he couldn't quite make out. "Peren?"
"Who do you think? Fah, what does it take to get you people to remember to look down once in a while?"
"But you're so small."
"That's just an excuse. But I gave up a long time ago trying to get you giants to be careful." She smiled at him, her eyes so bright and glittery behind her glasses. She didn't need them for correctives but instead as her data access interface. He had met her at an informal derriere garde luncheon, where she had introduced herself said she was studying classical music composition. She said the glasses let her keep her mind free of all the electronic clutter that surrounded so many other people. They also made her face look older than she was. She pointed up at him and said, "I need to apologize to you." It didn't sound like an apology. Peren's brash voice made it sound more like she was about to deliver an order.
"For what?" he said.
"For not coming back, you fool! I never did let you finish that painting." She reached into the pocket of her coat and pulled out a box of something that looked like cigarettes, tapped one out and put it into her mouth. She didn't light it. Darzi suspected it was a drug delivery spliff of some kind, but he didn't know what. In the short time he'd known her she had never seemed particularly intoxicated. "Anyway, I want you to finish it."
The last time she had posed for him, Peren had complained about how long the painting had taken, so he was a little surprised to find her interested now. "Why?"
"Because I want to see what you do," she said. "My friend Gregori said you do really good work for a butt-coverer."
"You mean an ass shield, right?"
"Keister defender!" she offered. They both chuckled. Darzi knew their small contingent of classicists were the target (he tried not to use the word 'butt') of many jokes regarding their choice of name. He lived with it. Being a classic meant never going out of style. Everyone needed a butt. He knew all the come-backs. She said, "Can we make it a date?"
He said, "You mean, like, go out?"
"No. Boy, you're wired for stupidity today. Are you not getting enough sleep? You don't have a girlfriend, do you?" She sounded a bit disappointed.
"No, no, nothing like that. Just a lot of classes and work."
"A hear ya," she said with relief. "No, what I meant was, what time is good for you?"
He thought for a moment. "I dunno, Peren..."
"What's wrong? You were all ready to, the last time, Darzi. Maybe... Is it a boyfriend?"
"No, not that either. It's just... Okay. Five O'clock?"
She grinned. "I could do that. Will you be awake?"
"I'll take a nap. I'll wake up once I get my oils together," he said. He loved painting more than almost any other activity. And honestly, he liked looking at her, even if the mix was a little weird. Most Mustelakin fems didn't have prominent breasts. Breasts only became visible if the fem was nursing young, and that was so rare that few non-Mustels had ever even imagined, much less seen, a buxom fem-mustel. On Peren's 120-cm frame her twin-mounted hemispheres begged to be held. Darzi shook his head. It didn't help that she had broad, robust nipples that pushed out the fabric of her grey t-shirt, or that the lab coat she favored tended to get hung up on them, dragging them to his attention. He could read the word now. He said, "Why does your shirt say 'Illiterate' on it?"
"It's a joke, see? If you can read it..."
"Ha, ha," he said, not at all laughing.
"It gives guys an excuse when they look at my tits. They can ask about the shirt. No face lost, right?" Darzi blushed and she grinned. "Gotcha. I'll see you at five," she said. "I'll even bring dinner."
He looked at her. "What?"
"Take out. Shwarma okay?"
"Uh, yeah. I guess. Thanks."
Darzi woke to the sound of someone knocking. He stumbled to the door, still dressed in the clothes he'd worn that morning, and opened it. Peren grinned up at him, holding two cloth bags in her hands and a heavier day bag over her shoulder. "You said five."
"Yeah, yeah," he groaned, gesturing for her to come in. She looked around to take in the whole apartment as he backed up and went to the kitchen for a bottle of water. He rather liked his apartment. It was old, with wooden floors and plaster walls, but the floors were clean and polished, the rug he had in the living room faded but attractive. Only the carefully stacked pyramid of wide-topped beer cans next to a laptray on the floor betrayed his bachelor status. He had it that way mostly because he didn't have room for a real dining table.
While Peren put out the two dinners she'd brought, Darzi unpacked his paints in the bedroom, opening up his box of brushes, pulling out a freshly scraped and dried palette. He found the canvas on which he'd first drawn Peren, the lines of her body with her slightly turned hip and that expression that he'd never seen on another face, that beautiful look halfway between violent mischief and sensual dreaminess that he had barely managed to capture. He didn't know many Frenatas and he wondered if it was a look only they could achieve. "Yo, tower, you ready to get dinner-- What is that?" She stood at the door and pointed.
In his attention to get ready to paint Peren, Darzi had forgotten about Jouet. He blushed as he realized how awful it must look, and Peren's words echoed his own concerns: "That's some kind of fuck doll. That's why you didn't want me to come over, isn't it?" She turned on her heel, reached for the shoulder bag she'd dropped on the floor, and headed for the door.
He ran after her. He couldn't let her leave. Not now, not after he'd remembered the figure study he'd done of her. "Peren, wait! It's not like that! It's not my fuck doll. Do you want me to paint you or not?"
She whirled on him and he was sure she was more confused than angry. "Do you want to paint me?"
"Well, yeah," he said. "I mean, I thought you just didn't want to sit still that long."
Peren shook her head. "You thought what?" She said. She looked over his shoulder. "Fah, Darzi, do you even understand people?"
"Okay. I'm sorry." She re-entered the bedroom and hopped up onto the guest bed. She touched Jouet's mouth. "It's warm. And moist. Okay, I give up. What is it?"
"Claude called her a robot chassis. Its... owner, I guess, abandoned it when her companion moved to Gilligan. You don't need a body there. Claude gave me a program so I could use her as a posing mannequin for my painting. Otherwise, she's just a doll. There's nobody home."
Peren swung her fingers in front of Jouet's face. The blank stare confirmed his words. Peren stepped off the bed and stretched, and Darzi admired the lines of her body as she did. Peren said, "Seems to be in good shape. It's a shame she was just abandoned. Do you have to do anything to keep her like this?"
"I have this thick, white goopy stuff I have to squirt down her throat every week."
Peren looked up sharply. "I'll just bet you do."
Darzi tried to keep the stricken look off his face. He was tired of being suspect. He'd only actually had sex with Jouet once, and he'd done what he could to clean her off afterwards. It had just been an experiment. "There's a box of robot maintenance paste in the kitchen if you want to see it. And the plunger."
Peren's face mirrored his own for a moment. "I'm sorry, Darzi. She just looks... I mean, you could do her, couldn't you?"
Darzi thought for a moment how to word it so he wouldn't have to confess to having sex with his mannequin while at the same time answering Peren's question accurately. "Sure, I don't see why not. It's not why Claude thought I should have her. He just didn't want to have to send her for disposal. It would have been a waste. As long as I take care of her, I can use her for costume stagings."
"It's hard to know what an AI's thinking. That's why I avoid 'em," Peren said, taking off her glasses. Darzi was starting to like Peren because she shared life in the real world, and could take off the other worlds around her when she wanted. "All right, I believe you. Let's eat," she said.
Darzi had only begun to set up. He tossed the pale taupe sheet that he'd been carrying over the bed and joined Peren in the front room. They sat on the floor and shared the dinner she'd brought with chopsticks and curry. He liked looking at her, her sleek golden fur. He pulled up the photograph he'd taken of her last time. "This is the pose you had. Can you hold it again?"
She examined the image carefully. "Sure. But if you've got the photo, why did you say last time that I had to come back to get the painting done?"
Darzi knew the answer to that one. Every art student did. "Do you ever listen to recordings? It's not the same thing as watching the performance, is it?" She shook her head, a noodle dangling from her brief muzzle. "Painting from a live model is about what's happening between you and me. If I wanted to be photoreal I'd just paint from the photograph. But that's not what I want. I want to capture something else. Something special about you."
She looked up, a bit wide-eyed. "Is there something special about me?"
"I hope so. You're a living, breathing three-dimensional person. We have a relationship, as artist and model. Even if it's just that, I can put it into painting." He looked through the doorway. "I guess that's why she's just a mannequin."
Peren said, "A womannequin."
"Yeah, that too." Darzi grinned. "Ready?"
"I guess I am," she said. She stripped down to bare fur but put her glasses back on, just as in the photograph. Darzi told her to relax until he had his paints together, then they started.
He worked as fast as he dared, trying to get all of the colors just right, working the light along her flank and up her arm. He had her posed to cover most of her breasts and curled her tail over her hip. It would make for a modest but classical nude. From time to time he would stop and walk up to her, kneeling by the bed, peering. "What are you doing?" she said
"I know too much about anatomy. I have to look at you, or I might start making it up, filling it in with what I believe your musculature and fur should look like. I can't make it up. I have to get you right. I like the way you look. You deserve to be drawn right."
"It's a good thing that's not a come-on. It's a winner if it were."
Two hours later he said, "Okay. I think that's enough for one night." He smiled and said, "Not too bad. Come take a look."
She uncurled from the bed and wandered over. "Is that what you see?"
"It's what I want to see." Darzi liked the way this was coming together. The painting would be a good one. One of his better.
"Well, yeah," he said. "I thought you were."
Her gleefully sarcastic look was gone. "But I thought... after the last time... you didn't like me." She stepped closer to him, still naked, with her shoulders back in a kind of offering. She pressed herself up against him. Darzi felt his erection surge once more. "You didn't call me to ask me to come back."
Darzi's shock was all the more intense for it being honest. "I didn't call you because... I thought you didn't want to pose. I thought you just wanted to have sex."
"If you finish that," she said, pointing at the easel, "And it comes out as good as it looks now, I'll always be willing to pose for you, Darzi. But..." She looked up. "Do you think I'm really that beautiful?"
"Yeah, but that's not what I meant." She was rubbing herself against him. He felt his mouth go dry and his cock grow as hard as stone.
"Still, would you like... me?"
"Yes, but... I don't want to wreck this... thing. The painting. You."
She smiled up at him and undid the clasp on his pants. "You won't," she said. His erection bounced out, freed of their confines. She clasped his cock between her breasts and began sliding up and down along its length.
That made him wake up. And moan. "Peren," he gasped. Her fur was so smooth and silky. "Where did you get those..."
"I had a hormone imbalance in puberty. It's pretty rare. I didn't want it fixed, even though my Mom did." She kissed the head of his cock, opened her mouth with its tiny sharp teeth, and licked at it with every slide. "It makes guys look."
"Oh, fah!" he groaned as her actions became more insistent. He reached for the footboard of the guest bed to steady himself. He looked over at Jouet for a moment. It seemed as if her head and eyes had turned slightly, just enough to watch. "Even other Martens?"
"Yeah. The human genome is pretty tough that way."
His cock felt odd, and not in a good way. "I think... I think I'm getting rug burn."
Peren nodded. "Happens. I brought the cure." She leaned over for the leather bag she'd left by the bed, pulled out a rather large bottle of clear fluid, and drizzled some over the taught, rounded swell of her breasts. She started to glisten, then closed in on Darzi's cock once more. "There, how's that?"
"You've done this before," he gasped.
"Mmm, hmm," she said. "Once or twice."
"Fah!" he groaned. She was doing terrible things to him, making him groan with the need for release. She was beautiful. It shamed him to think that he needed her this way. He should have better self-control. The sweet slick feel of her soft breasts, the fluid lubricant she had used to make it so delightful, the cloudy pillows of her bosom welcoming him and the solid, warm swipe of her tongue with every thrust, were altogether more than he could bear. "Peren... gah!" He came. Semen sprayed over Peren's breasts, neck, and chin.
Peren stared at the floor, though, her face down. "I'm sorry," he gasped. "I'm sorry."
"No," she said. She fell to the floor, kneeling, hips to her ankles. "It's not that. I just... It's not working."
"What?" he said. "What do you mean?"
"I thought... Darzi, do you really like me?"
He sat down next to her, still a little winded. "Yes, I like you."
"I guess... I guess I wasn't that good."
Darzi felt stricken. "No, no. It was great."
"I just want you to like me," Peren said. "At first I thought you were just using a line, and then... you weren't. You really did want to paint. And then I started to hear more about you and I wanted to be in one of your paintings, and I wanted to-- Do you know the teachers talk about you? I mean, a lot. They think you've got real skills, not just, I don't know. You're always painting. You've got a studio in your bedroom. You practice more than anyone else."
She turned over on the floor. She opened her legs, exposing the golden fur and the pinker, brighter inside. "Darzi... would you fuck me?" She raised her eyes to his. "Come inside me?"
"But I want to paint you," he said. He pulled his shirt and pants off, and fell on top of her, his erection probing between her thighs. Her small size made him feel a touch more perverse than he should have, but he shrugged off the feeling as she guided his cock into her sweet tunnel and he plunged deep into her.
They slipped and slid along each other. Peren's pussy felt incredible as his cock slipped in and out, covered in the lubricant they were spreading everywhere. Peren gasped, her mouth open, her eyes wide with unforeseen emotions. Darzi moaned and leaned over, barely holding himself up, his hands occupying two barely dry spots on the cool, hard wooden floor.
Darzi felt the buildup of the past week rising, growing in ecstatic expectation. Peren arched her back once and cried out, "Yes, fah yes!" Darzi plunged into her again. He wanted to make her happy. He wanted her to come back. He made love to her with all determination he could muster, and when he came he cried more with relief than joy.
Darzi eased himself off her. "Are you okay?"
Peren nodded. She was still unhappy. "What's wrong?" he said.
"I wanted... something. Chemistry."
He smiled and touched her cheek. "I did too. Maybe... maybe we're trying too hard. I just wanted to make sure you'd come back."
"I want to make sure you'll invite me back," she said.
He shrugged. "So, come back tomorrow. I'll paint you. You don't have to fuck me to get me to paint you. I don't want to have to fuck you to have you come back." He felt strangely sad. They still weren't connecting. "Maybe we'll figure out how to make love because it's nice and fun."
She looked over at Jouet. "Maybe I'm not ready yet. To have sex because it's nice and fun. Are you?"
"I thought I was, once. I was wrong then." He stared at the opposite wall, still breathing hard. "I'd like to learn," he said. He stroked her arm with the back of his hand, fondling her fur.
"Everyone who matters likes your work. I want to get to know you. To understand what makes you so good."
"Everyone except the reviewers."
"Fuck them! Look at that." She pointed to the painting he was doing. "That's incredible. I will never be that beautiful in a million years."
"But you are that beautiful, Peren," Darzi said. "It's one of the things I'm supposed to learn, to recognize beauty. You are."
"How much longer would I need to pose?"
"Five or six more. I could do some filler. But I can't really paint you without you being here."
She nodded. "I'll do it."
Darzi stood up and offered her a hand. "Bath's over this way."
As they made their way to the bath, Darzi heard a thump behind him. He looked. Jouet had fallen over onto her side.