Gossip Between Friends
The only thing that might be more engaging than an evening of gossip between friends, might be gossip plus aruna. Contains an explicit description of aruna between Velaxis and Thiede. Thank you, Elfscribe, for the Beta. Any remaining errors or failings are my own. (Inspired by the recently closed Seel, Swift and Thiede challenge. Stands alone, but is set in the same time period and references events of my recent stories “Fated Obsession” and “What is This Thing Called Love.”)
Author’s Email: email@example.com
Web page: http://heartofoshun.livejournal.com/
Pairings: Velaxis/Thiede (Gossip includes references to Swift/Seel, Vaysh/Pellaz, Pellaz/Caeru, Velaxis/Ashmael; hope I haven’t forgotten anyone.)
Overall Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 3,404
Spoilers: The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure
Disclaimer: The characters, plot, and setting all belong to Storm Constantine.
Gossip Between Friends
Another beautiful night had descended upon Immanion. I left my Sedu at the stable and quickly made my way to Phaonica. As I walked, I realized that during the past several months spent in Imbrilium, I had grown to miss Immanion. None of the more obvious reasons that might immediately come to mind contributed to my longing. I had no particular attachment to the spectacular architecture, the luxury, the services, or the other amenities. Imbrilium provided for all of my needs and then some. The work I did in Imbrilium also might be considered more challenging than what I had been doing in Immanion. Since I had developed a more personal relationship with Ashmael, the General asked me more and more frequently to attend important meetings in Imbrilium, and increasingly sought my opinion on a whole variety of questions. I should have been happy with that development.
Strains of music wafted toward me from somewhere on the palace grounds. I recalled hearing that Rue was hosting a diplomatic party of some sort. I also had missed Rue in Imbrilium. For all of his frivolity and preoccupation with matters of less than world-shaking importance, Rue had a way of cutting through Gelaming pretensions that I always found refreshing. I hoped I would be able to visit with him at least briefly in the morning before I had to leave again.
After following the familiar maze of hallways and staircases through the palace that led to Thiede’s apartment, I rapped gently on the door. Since I had overheard Arahal mention that if anyone needed to reach Thiede he would be in Immanion that evening, I hoped I would find him in his rooms. The chances he would be there alone were excellent. Thiede was not likely to insert his awe-inspiring presence into a social event organized by Rue for the purpose of giving Pellaz an opportunity to develop his own unique relationship with visitors from an outlying tribe.
Thiede called out, “Come in.” I sensed him scrambling to telepathically identify me. There were few things much more satisfying to me than surprising Thiede.
His large, high-ceilinged room seemed particularly welcoming that night. The French windows had been thrown open to admit the cooler night breezes. The moisture-laden air of Immanion differed from the humidity of the inland climes of Megalithica in that it never oppressed, always exhilarated. I licked my lips tasting the faint tang of salt in the air, which forever will remain the flavor of Phaonica for me.
The midnight blue sky, visible through the wide window, with its accent of a sharp crescent moon and a smattering of stars, reminded me of Rue’s dramatic bedroom. Thiede’s parlor, however, could not have been more different. The amber glow of well-placed candles and lamps softened the pretentiousness of the furnishings and conveyed a restful ambience. The red, gold, and rust colors of the curtains, wall hangings, and upholstery were repeated in the thick Persian carpet. Despite its elegance, the furniture had been designed for comfort. Tall leafy plants in large pots of polished brass or fine ceramic completed the picture.
Thiede seductively crossed and uncrossed his legs propped on the long gleaming table in front of the wide, raised Turkish divan, sumptuously piled with pillows, upon which he lounged.
“Well, now. Isn’t this pleasant? How did you manage to get away tonight?” he asked, cocking his head to one side.
Sloughing off my boots and shedding my cloak, I walked straight to the closet. I could not hold back a smile at Thiede’s quick recovery, his immediate squashing of an initial expression of wide-eyed interest. After hanging up my cloak and light jacket, and placing my boots inside the closet, I turned to get a better look at him. Sighing with gratification, I thought that I had been right to decide to return to Immanion for the night. Imbrilium did not feel like home. Neither did Immanion, in and of itself, but the closest thing for me to being centered, entirely at ease, came when I spent evenings alone with Thiede. There were times I truly wished I could reveal who and what I am. I did not know if or when that would ever happen. In the meantime, I intended to settle for what I could have.
Thiede looked good. He had chosen his attire with his usual sense of the theatrical: a simple har spending a relaxing evening at home. A plain white robe of the finest cotton, crafted in a vaguely Japanese style and fastened only at the waist by a wide aquamarine sash, exposed a pale expanse of chest and long legs. It struck me, not for the first time, what pretty feet Thiede had, with their unexpectedly short, almost childlike toes.
I successfully controlled a grin at spotting an unfortunate fashion misstep on Thiede’s part. The nails of those delectable toes had been varnished black and veined with red in a plausible imitation of blood onyx. His fingernails were painted to match. Certainly Rue, or even that spoiled brat Pellaz-har-Aralis, could have told him that clear polish or at most a light pearlized pink would have been much more successful at achieving the effect of unstudied naturalness that he sought. I laughed softly, not at Thiede but at myself, at the aching tenderness that inevitably swept over me when confronted with the one of the imperious Thiede’s smaller imperfections.
Then I spotted a tray on the table holding a cut-glass decanter of alcohol, along with two glasses. I recognized the subtle but enticing scent of Thiede’s favorite incense. The blend of sandalwood, rose, and something else slightly piquant, reminded me of past arunic experiences in this same room. The entire atmosphere proclaimed Thiede in full seductive mode. I was, however, momentarily taken aback, when I realized that I should consider which har he might possibly have expected later. Surely not Pellaz, I wondered, fighting down a tinge of amorphous discomfort.
Thiede read my thought easily. “I sensed that you would come. You arrived a little sooner than I had expected. How did you escape Ashmael’s clutches?”
“Even I get a night off now and then. I thought I might entertain you with some gossip. Unlikely your reports from Arahal and Ashmael contained much, if any, of that,” I said, trying to rein in my sense of reprieve. “Curious?”
“I am always curious and gossip from you is unfailingly of the highest quality, my dear. Can I call a serving-har to bring you something to eat?”
“No, thank you. I ate before I left.” Pointing to the decanter at Thiede’s feet, I asked, “May I?”
“Please, help yourself. Sit down.” Thiede patted the cushions beside him, expansive and genuinely happy to see me. After pouring myself a drink, I eased back onto the divan. Glancing to the side I found Thiede’s face unexpectedly close to mine. His skin, as smooth and flawless as that of a newly hatched harling, entranced me. His intriguingly unpainted lips begged to be kissed. I took in his slight exhalation, not a true sharing of breath, yet holding within it a taste of vanilla, cool citrus, and promise.
My heart speeded up at the light touch of his lips and an insistent pulse throbbed in my ouana-lim. Thiede brushed a wayward lock of hair away from my face. “Well, speak to me. I’m riveted,” he said, his voice a drawn-out sigh that negated his words.
“You are deliberately distracting me. I thought you wanted to hear my Imbrilim gossip.” I gripped Thiede by the wrist hard, but tenderly kissed the palm of his hand. I was not sure which I wanted more: for him to listen to me or to desire me. “Tell me what you have already heard and I will fill in the details without having to bore you by repeating anything.”
Thiede grinned. “I heard from Arahal and Ashmael that the grissecon went well, far better than I even had dared to hope, that the combined essences of Swift and Seel produced a potent elixir, and that they have created a pearl.” I smiled at him, contented for the moment. Thiede rarely grinned for anyone but me.
Shifting to lean back into the pillows piled upon the divan, Thiede uncrossed his ankles and lifted one of his feet to run it up and down my thigh. I watched him mesmerized. His lacquered toes caressed me dangerously close to my rock hard ouana-lim. Suddenly, without warning, Thiede captured it with his toes and squeezed. I grunted, far from elegantly, and grabbed Thiede’s foot. Perhaps I had been wrong about Thiede’s choice of nail polish; it seemed compatible with the role of brazen seducer.
His lips pressed together into a determined line and the lack of focus in his eyes made me laugh. “Damn you, Thiede. Do you want to hear my story or not?”
“Hmm. I would almost believe you have not missed me, dear. Perhaps I need some reassurance first. Then I could give your ever-enthralling tittle-tattle the undivided attention it deserves. Or have your responsibilities to the Hegemony completely dampened your arunic sensibilities?”
“You know better.” It was a tired, old discussion, but invariably raised my hackles. The subject was aruna, the heartbeat of the body of Wraeththu. The dispute could be summarized as whether Thiede’s situation could be considered more difficult due to a paucity of suitable partners or harder for me, faced with a plethora of opportunities, with no har who satisfied me as he did.
“The entire lot of them are as dull as dishwater. Pretty, accomplished, and insipid to a har.” My voice sounded regrettably close to a whine.
“Now, now, you are cranky and judgmental tonight aren’t you? They must be working you too hard. So none of them tempt you?” Thiede asked, sounding more than a little smug.
“Of your chosen few, here or in Imbrilium, the only ones who intrigue me at all are Pellaz and Vaysh. Pellaz, despite what a supercilious tease he is.” I looked at Thiede who smirked, raising one eyebrow at me. “Do not look at me like that. Not for his appearance only either,” I stammered. “Then, the seductive, look-but-don’t-touch Vaysh. Such a fine mind and yet still so obtuse. I could do a great deal for him if he would only get over himself. What a pair the two of them are. Pellaz and Vaysh: pining away, each for his own true love, and interested only in a companionable, but no doubt tediously perfunctory, roon with one another. What a waste. Although, I have heard from an irrefutable source that on occasion Pellaz gets blind drunk and stumbles over to visit Rue . . .”
“Irrefutable source,” Thiede snorted. “But I already I knew that. Poor besotted little Caeru. Stubborn, oblivious Pell. Tragic Vaysh. They all bear heavy burdens, but I would presume their sporadic intimate encounters are a great deal more than merely perfunctory. They are each passionate har beneath the veneer of long-suffering endurance. You may know Caeru better than I do, but I assure you, I know Pell and Vaysh. Young Swift is a refreshing contrast to that entire generation isn’t he?”
“Humpf. More on that later,” I grumbled, before chuckling. “We were talking about my problem, weren’t we? Who I might possibly desire to take aruna with in Imbrilim? I shouldn’t forget, Seel, should I? He once had a certain appeal, with his intellectual rigor tempered by idealism, just a hint of darkness somewhere near the surface, and enough neurosis and guilt to make him a challenge. But now, due to the success of your latest project, any chance for me to explore him has been indefinitely postponed at best.”
“I am surprised you didn’t mention Ashmael. I have always thought you liked him?” Thiede’s deliberately widened eyes and a barely concealed smirk revealed to me that I was being had, but I could never control my tongue once I had begun to talk of how weary I was of being stuck in Imbrilium without any satisfying companionship.
“I’ve told you before that I do. Wonderfully arrogant and honest . . . and unselfconscious in bed.” It was impossible for me to hold back a grudging smile.
“So, every time we have taken aruna together I have had to initiate it. That gets tiresome quickly. I suspect the fact that he still considers me the Hegemony’s pet catamite overrides our mutually pleasant experiences for him.”
“Ah, poor Velaxis,” Thiede crooned. “Stuck with me then, are you?”
“Fuck you, Thiede,” I said, lunging at him, pushing him flat on the divan, fiercely kissing him and sharing breath. Wishing I could open my mind completely, I accepted that was impossible. I exposed nothing aside from my heightened perception of Thiede’s near-alien, patrician beauty and my own hot blood. I yanked at the sash on his robe revealing his magnificent body and a fully retracted ouana-lim, its petals arrayed like an exotic crimson blossom flush against the apex of his pelvis.
“Like what you see?” Thiede drawled, eyes gleaming with lust, red hair splayed out against the pillows.
“Variety is the spice of life, Thiede. I am delighted.” Trying to keep my voice level, I wondered if he noticed that I was all but salivating at the sight.
“Ah, dear heart. You are practically drooling. Well, don’t just look, as pleasant as that may be.” Thiede’s pupils had dilated, all but overcoming the silver-grey of his eyes, while his breathing grew shallower. “There now, let me help you,” he said, interrupting me from tugging ineffectually at the fastenings on my clothing. “I do adore watching my usually efficient Velaxis turned clumsy by desire for me, but it would be a shame to ruin such a lovely robe.”
Finally naked and pressed skin-to-skin against Thiede, relief swept over me. I had needed this. I stroked the outside of Thiede’s soume-lam languorously. It felt marvelous, swollen and weeping, tremulous against my fingers.
“That’s quite enough,” Thiede gasped frantically into my ear, before claiming my mouth and sharing breath again. A kaleidoscope of color and images overtook me as I entered Thiede with one long, deliberate thrust.
“So hot, so perfect,” I whispered. Nothing, no har ever felt anything remotely like Thiede.
We had played games before, trying to see how long we could hold out, but neither of us was in the mood for that. I began by rocking gently into him, knowing Thiede would grip me tightly with his legs and struggle to force me to move faster. Capitulating almost immediately, I pounded into him, panting and groaning in an ecstasy that bordered on pain.
“That’s it. That is exactly right,” Thiede moaned. The explosions of light behind my eyes might have been a physical or psychic response, or something else entirely, something closer to magic. Thiede slowed us down again, starting the cycle over, and then another time, before we both lost any interest or desire in doing anything other than simply letting our sensations guide our movements. Beyond deliberate thought, we shared breath, tasting only the responses of one another and a remarkable sense of rightness. The flicking tongue my ouana-lim reached out and stung Thiede not a moment too soon or too late for either of us.
“Yes. Perfect,” I whispered reverentially.
Thiede held my face in his hands, looking up at me with a heart-wrenching smile. At that moment Thiede seemed exactly what he had pretended to be earlier in the evening, just an ordinary har, although one who was extraordinarily pleased with himself and with his partner. I could only laugh with pure joy in reaction.
“We are good together,” Thiede said. He squirmed a bit to roll me off him, without dumping me from the divan onto the floor, and then to find a comfortable position in which to hold me in his arms. He released a satisfied sigh. “Do you want to tell me now whatever it was you were bursting to share?”
“Thiede, can I tell you something? I want you to promise you will not be angry or hurt.”
He wrinkled his forehead skeptically, but nodded. “Tell me.”
“You always speak too soon after . . .”
Thiede laughed and kissed me. “I know. I am sorry. I know I’m an impatient har. But I am getting better. I’ve learned a lot from you. Can’t you give me credit for small improvements?”
“I admit it.” It is nearly impossible not to be caught up in his energy and eagerness. “I am afraid you have quite taken the edge off my original urgency. Even though you are able to bounce back like a ball on an elastic string, I am not.”
“Now I would like you to admit something. You loved being distracted. It let you burn off some of the tension you brought here with you. Do not even pretend to pout.”
“Fine. I admit that too.” I snuggled my head down against his shoulder. At least I could keep him from sitting up for a while longer. With Thiede one must relish minute victories. “I’ll give you a shortened version.”
Thiede sighed again, relaxing just a shade, and wrapping his arms more tightly around me. I felt his smile against my forehead. “Thank you for humoring me,” he said.
I took a deep breath before beginning. “I feel like I have barely a bone in my body or a brain in my head. But I will tell you what I can manage now. Yes. Imbrilium. Seel is positively head-over-heels infatuated with Swift. And the young Varr cannot keep his hands off him, not even in the most public of settings. While the once so proper and tightly wound Seel can only smile vacuously at him and blush. It is quite the sight to see. Rather endearing really. Seel-watching has become the latest pastime of the representatives of the Hegemony and its chief military officers there. Despite some of their snide and disparaging comments about Seel’s quick and total capitulation, I am quite convinced they are all madly jealous of him.”
“They gloat over Seel’s loss of control, while envying him his good fortune. Rather immature. But not unpredictable.”
“Entertaining to scrutinize though. Swift and Seel, I mean, not the rest of them. Titillating really. Swift will merely glance at Seel, unconsciously run his tongue across that full lower lip of his, and Seel turns bright red and squirms in his chair, all too obviously trying to adjust the stricture of his clothing against his ouana-lim or soume-lam, whichever it may be. I haven’t really wanted to allow myself to imagine that level of detail.”
“But still the amount of detail you do give is tellingly observant. One must presume you are among those strongly affected by the sight of them.”
“Of course, I am. I would not deny that. I’m not dead after all.” From far below us through the open window a sharp bark of a laugh drifted up, then a fragment of softer conversation lost on night air, as the group of hara moved farther away, and finally silence again. Perhaps Rue’s party had ended.
“Ah, I see. I owe your visit tonight to Swift and Seel,” Thiede said, a glint of humor in his cat eyes, far from displeased.
“You could say that. In part at least.” I dipped my finger into our combined essences pooling between Thiede’s parted legs onto his robe trapped beneath him. Fascinated, I traced narrowing concentric circles with it around Thiede’s navel. It glistened in the candlelight, an iridescent rainbow of color. Then I held his gaze, while I licked my finger teasingly. He responded by pulling me into a wide open-mouthed kiss.
When he finally released me, I asked, “Have you ever considered a pale pink nail varnish?”
“That is the oddest question I have entertained in a long while. Why do you ask?”
“I’d like to see how it would look on you.”
“I am not at all convinced it would suit me. Do you truly think of me as the rosy pink type?” Thiede bent a knee, raising his foot up and wiggling his toes. “Frankly, I believe it would make me feel utterly naked.”
“You’re naked now, aren’t you? Would you try it once? Just for me?”
“For you, I will consider it.”
“You should be, my dear.”