Love The One You’re With

Challenge SubmissionLove The One You’re With
by Oshun

Story Notes

Takes place immediately after The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit. Written from the POV of Pell. I want to thank Elfscribe for Beta reading.

Any remaining or added errors are my own.

Author’s Email:

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Pairings: Pell/Vaysh

Overall Rating: R

Word Count: 1,553

Spoilers: The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit

Disclaimer: The characters, plot and setting all belong to Storm Constantine.

Love The One You’re With

That evening I watched Vaysh in his dressing-room mirror as he stood behind me, fiddling with my hair. It seemed to be taking him forever. I shifted in the chair, crossed and uncrossed my ankles, and rolled my shoulders, which had started to ache.

“Stop preening, Pellaz,” Vaysh said, yanking on a tiny braid. “No doubt, the Hegemony would be interested to know that their shiny new Tigron can’t even sit still long enough to have his hair combed.”

He pressed his lips together in an unguarded expression of concentration. Vaysh is awe-inspiring with his porcelain skin, grace of movement, and that bright hair, a garish unnatural red, yet somehow right on him. I thought of how I would still love to see him with his original hair color. He would not like that, because surely it would soften him, smudge the edges, and expose some of the vulnerability that he fights so hard to suppress.

I have never questioned why I find Vaysh so compelling. Everyhar will tell you that he is one of the most exquisite hara they have ever seen. And they are looking at him through his mask. Lately, more often than not, he drops that mask for me. Without it he is breathtaking: fire-wrought steel, power, and his own unique bittersweet wistfulness.

With his windows left open, the night air drifted in, cool, salty, and poignant, the signature scent of Thiede’s fair city by the sea. A cranky old machine–a tape player he called it–stuttered out a song, unfamiliar to me, for the second, maybe the third time since I had sought him out earlier. Vaysh had bought it from a street market in the lower levels of Immanion, which specialized in oddities salvaged from human homes.*

“If you’re down and confused,
and you don’t remember who you’re talkin’ to.
Concentration slip away, ’cause your baby is so far away.”*

“What is that song?” I asked, testy that I did not recognize it and leery of the effect the lyrics might have on him. Vaysh frightened me when he listened to songs of love and loss. But that evening he did not project the fragile look he often had on those occasions.

He also tended to patronize when I showed ignorance of what he determined were obvious cultural references from our human past, as though he were ages older than me and far more sophisticated. The annoying snob could not have more than a few years on me at most and I have always suspected that I am better read, although he reads a lot now.

“You have the attention span of a housefly. Let me play it again. Listen to the words this time.” He reached over and backed-up the tape a little.

“Well there’s a rose in the fisted glove
and the eagle flies with the dove,
and if you can’t be with the one you love, honey,
love the one you’re with,
love the one you’re with,
love the one you’re with . . .”

“That’s our song, Pell,” he sneered. “Yours and mine.”

I looked up at him to see if he was going to turn all frosty and stiff on me. Instead, he only glanced at me, with a sardonic smile.

Never one to let a moment like that slide, I asked, “Are you trying to seduce me again, Vaysh?”

“Again? Ha! In your delusional erotic fantasies maybe.” Cuffing me against the side of my head, affectionate, he took care not to disturb his handiwork. He had finally completed fastening a few strands of tiny seed pearls into my hair. I had a diplomatic function to attend that evening. When I had begged him to come with me, he had insisted that he had earned a night to himself, but caved into my pleas that he help me prepare.

He grimaced in a parody of imperiousness, before asking, “Now tell me why you need me to do this for you when you could have Cleis or Attica, or both at once, or any one of a fawning host of others?”

I met his eyes in the mirror. The corners of his mouth quirked up in silent self-deprecation, acknowledging his unintentional double entendre. Score one for me. I wanted to say, “Because you are an arunic wet dream and because you know that you require it.” But I figured I probably wanted it more than he did at the moment and had learned not to press my luck. That sort of remark had backlashed on me before. His hands rested briefly on my shoulders, but before he could snatch them both away I grabbed one and brought his knuckles to my lips.

“Don’t lie. You are trying to seduce me!” I tried a stupid, seductive smile to permit him to take it as a joke if he chose.

“All right then,” he drawled. “Just this one time, let’s assume that I am.” I released a pitiful sigh of relief, which made him laugh.

Vaysh makes me work to be permitted to touch him. It is like trying to unlock a door using a chronically malfunctioning key. You know that you have the right key, so you fiddle with it a little. Jiggle. It doesn’t work. Try to force it until you think you are going to break the key. Try again more gently. Repeat the whole process. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, everything tumbles into place and the door swings open.

That’s how it is with Vaysh–every single time. I am left holding the faulty key trying to remember what in world I had done that had made it work. Nothing he can say will ever convince me that he doesn’t love the power he holds over me. When I complain, he relishes in telling me in that cool, acerbic voice of his, “It isn’t always all about you, Pell.”

“Shall I come here when I’ve finished? Or will you wait for me in my room?” I asked, trying to tamp down my keenness at the idea. For once, he didn’t even pretend to play hard to get, but stroked my cheek with silken fingers, running a thumb across my lower lip. Our gazes locked in the mirror, each breathing a bit harder. Naturally, he couldn’t be bothered to control that smart mouth of his with me.

“Aww. You are such a needy, wanton, little slut, Pell,” he said, adding as an afterthought, “but so pretty.” He leaned down and jerked my head around by the chin to face him, covering my mouth and sharing breath with surprising force, all crystal light, warily maintained distance, unmistakable musky lust, and somewhere, behind it all, a hint of trust and affection.

“Bloody hell, Vaysh. How do you expect me to get through an entire boring evening of politics after that?” I squirmed in the chair, blessing and cursing him simultaneously.

“It’s really not so difficult if you’d learn not to allow yourself to be led around by your ‘lim.”

“You need some new lines,” was my pathetic response. The unfairness of his remark chaffed. I had rarely taken aruna with anyone but him since we had left Ferethia months before and he was damned miserly. To make up for my lack of a better comeback, I stood and pulled him against me. Offering no resistance, he rubbed his ouana-lim against my groin, as hard and ready as my own.

He thinks that he indulges me, but actually there are times when I feel like I am his whipping boy, that he punishes me for what he believes Thiede has done to him. But we understand each other, as no else possibly could. I can sum it up in two words: Cal and Ashmael.

“Don’t be angry, don’t be sad,
and don’t sit cryin’over good times you’ve had.
There’s someone right next to you,
and he’s just waitin’ for something to do.”

Writing about him right now makes me hard, makes me want to track him down and roon him until his eyes glaze over, until he shuts that snide, arrogant mouth of his, and only opens it to beg. It’s his own stubborn fault that he waits so long and then resents me when he begs. He knows that I am willing. Always, it is the second time when he turns into an arunic firestorm and I am the one who is writhing and pleading for my release.

“If you can’t be with the one you love, honey,
love the one you’re with . . .”

1. It’s canon: “Vaysh had mainly kept to his room, listening to endless tapes of mournful music on a battered machine that had been salvaged from some human home,” The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, Chapter 9.

2. Love The One You’re With, written by Stephen Stills, 1970, covered by dozens of artists and bands since then.



  1. elfscribe5 said,

    April 2, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I loved this just as much rereading it. You’ve done a great job showing Pell and Vaysh’s relationship, the song works in beautifully and unobtrusively, and it describes their situation to a t. I really love this description of Pell trying to get around Vaysh: “It is like trying to unlock a door using a chronically malfunctioning key. You know that you have the right key, so you fiddle with it a little. Jiggle. It doesn’t work. Try to force it until you think you are going to break the key. Try again more gently. Repeat the whole process. And then suddenly, unexpectedly, everything tumbles into place and the door swings open.” Beautiful analogy.

  2. fairjennet said,

    April 3, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Oh, this is lovely. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
    I’ll never be able to hear this song again without thinking of Pell and Vaysh. 🙂

  3. Oshun said,

    April 9, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you, Eflscribe and Fairjennet, for the lovely comments. You are terrific and so generous.

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