A Mare's Nest


Ann Marie Olson

Story © 2000 Ann Marie Olson

Chapter 1

      Aliana saw the flash of metal and leaped. What was he doing? Her hand clutched at the scissors. She couldn't believe it. Didn't he care about her anymore? "What's wrong?" If he no longer wanted to be with her, she couldn't understand it, but it was his choice. Her chin quivered as she fought back tears.
      Jarmin shook his stinging hand. Rarely did Aliana overreact to things, but still he turned slowly to face her. "I was only going to cut my hair," usually he used a form of shears, but he'd been ignoring his increasingly energetic hair since he met her.
      "You can't," her eyes widened so far he could see white all the way around them and her tentacles lashed from their sheathes. This wasn't the wisest thing with a pair of sharp scissors in her hands. Jarmin reached for them to be sure she didn't cut herself.
      "No!" She put them behind her back. "You can't!"
      "Sweetheart," he'd rarely seen her this agitated. One of his new bracelets banged against his wrist bones again, and he pushed it up out of the way. Her eyes tracked on the gesture with stomach churning fascination. Stomach churning for Jarmin, not for Aliana from the way she licked her lips.
      How she could enjoy his bracelets was utterly beyond Jarmin, but he was not going to make a big deal out of the issue. They'd already earned their place by warning off one renSime who'd actually grabbed at his arms before the jewelry blocked her laterals. A much better solution than shenning the poor girl as she was less than a month old and had been startled badly by Jarmin's field flaring out to get Aliana's attention.
      "You aren't cutting your hair, are you?"
      "I had planed on it," he blinked at her in astonishment. What was this all about? "Should I not?"
      "I'm being bossy again, aren't I?" Her hand trembled as she held out the scissors. A tear tracked down her cheek. He could never stand to see a grown Sime cry. With a whimper of his own, he put his arms around his lover.
      "It's fine, love," he nuzzled her silky black hair, like and unlike his own unruly mane. Alike in color, unalike in manageability. "If you don't want me to cut it, I won't." He thought for a bit. "None of the Sharm Lords cut their hair, do they." He blushed at his own idiocity. It wasn't as if the evidence hadn't been staring him in the face last winter. Staring him in the face, tangling his fingers, tickling his nose ...
      "Well, no," Aliana's fingers tangled in his curls. "It isn't right. A Sharm Lord's hair is their crowning glory. I don't think Arkay has cut his hair substantially in fifty years." A shiver ran through her body and he held her tighter. "It isn't right," she wailed, clutching at him.
      "Then do you have any suggestions on how I can keep it out of my way?"
      "No," her voice was so soft he could barely hear it. "Mat' would, or Arkay."
      "They aren't here right now, sweetheart," he sat with her on the edge of the bed, away from the mirror. "Besides, how would Arkay or your mother know, Aliana?"
      "Arkay knows everything," her midnight blue eyes blazed with conviction, even if he did tend to agree with her, this was a bit outre. "And of course mother would know, her mother had hair much like yours. Arkay mentioned it one morning when you were out shopping with Nashen." She shook her head.
      "What's so funny?" He shifted her weight so her seat bone no longer dug into his thigh.
      "Nashen and his shopping," she chuckled. "I swear he likes to shop as much as a Gen, and far more than Arkay."
      "What's odd about that?"
      She blinked at him for a moment. "Oh, yes, my own prejudices showing again, I'm afraid," her face burned even warmer against his neck. "Sometimes I miss the peace and calm of home." She sighed heavily.
      "Where everyone knows what they are to do and don't have any choice in the matter?"
      "Pretty much," her dark eyes saddened as she looked into his. "Anyway, I like your hair," and by that convenient handhold, she tugged his head back and kissed him. He hummed and gave himself over to her demands, thrilling yet again to the strength and heat of his very own Sime.
      There were times when Jarmin was utterly unintelligible to Aliana. Originally she'd thought this was because he was Gen and she was Sime. Now she didn't really know. Oh, admittedly she loved looking at him.
      Rich, dark skin like the best oak tanned leather flowed smoothly over long, slender muscles built up by hours of gymnastics and running. He'd never be as tall as his genes had tried to make him, but his slender grace fascinated Aliana all the same. She was actually a bit heavier than he, a fact which often caused him to stutter and stammer helplessly when she pointed it out.
      But his light frame had been built for running long distances and agilely avoiding trouble. Unlike Aliana whose ancestors had mostly been as solid as rocks, built for brute strength and power, whether Sime or Gen. She sighed and rested her chin on a network of tentacles. He'd not cut his hair, but she could see why he might want to.
      It got into everything. Right now it was standing straight out from his head like a demented, soot stained, dandelion. He ducked his head into what had once been a horse watering trough and now tried to be a fountain. Jarmin shook his head when he was done and water went everywhere.
      Aliana yelped. The water was cold up here in the mountains, even if it was the height of summer. She leaped to her feet and charged him, "I'm gonna get you!"
      "No, no," he took off running, even though they'd already run their klicks this morning. He'd finished his last assignment yesterday and they were both waiting to find out where the Techton wanted them next. His wet, white shorts and sorry excuse for a shirt did nothing to hide his beautiful body or nager. This was dreadfully distracting.
      Aliana took off after him, after nearly standing stock still and staring for seconds when he'd bolted. It was so distracting, she tried running through the water trough and ended up getting a face full of water. Jarmin's laughter rang through the tiny park. Prim, proper matrons with their regulation two children clutched their tentacles to their arms.
      She fished herself out of the water and promptly slipped on the tiles. "Look where you're going, not at his ass!" Aliana muttered to herself in Russian. Jarmin tripped on an exposed root he was laughing so hard at her. The bright gleams of his good humor made his nager glitter white hot over his normally sable warmth.
      "Stop!" Someone shouted. They sounded official. She turned to see a cop, tapping his truncheon on his off hand. Uh-oh, she swallowed back her trepidation. Other than Jarmin's near nudity, she couldn't think of a thing they'd done wrong. Feet squelching in the mud, Aliana sloshed her way over to the gentleman.
      "What can I do for you, renSime," she nodded her head a fraction. His frown deepened.
      "What are you doing chasing that Gen?" Suspicion made his nager crawl. "He doesn't seem scared ... but ..."
      "He's my partner," she smiled, a smile she well knew was backed by centuries of charismatic ancestors. "We were playing in the warm sun, officer."
      "What seems to be the problem, officer?" Jarmin's breath was coming easily, despite his obvious state of exertion. Aliana reveled in the feel of his nager sliding easily through his body and growing with good heath. The fact he smelled good was definite plus, but not one she thought the disturbed police officer cared about.
      "We don't have truck with ruffians and vagrants here in Mountain Pass." Jarmin's nager was reacting to the officer's threat with all the selyn it had left after their wonderful transfer the day before yesterday, which wasn't much. Aliana had stripped him out pretty well. She twined her tentacles through his bracelets. The officer's eyes widened. "Hajene?" He managed to choke out.
      "More or less," Jarmin was frantically trying to plaster his hair back down. It was sticking out in a grand, if rather messy, halo around his head. Aliana tucked herself even more firmly against his side. This was a good spot. The spicy, deep rich scent of him surrounded her as she burrowed into his armpit.
      "You're post!" The police officer sounded as if this were a felony.
      "Well, yes," Jarmin admitted, putting his arm around her where it belonged. "We are."
      "Shouldn't you be in the center?" He glared at her as if Jarmin didn't exist. He popped his field under the officer's nose to get his attention. He leaned back in surprise. It only worked for a second and then he was staring at her again, zlinning this time. Greasy little fingers of his unwanted attention made Aliana's skin crawl.
      "Jarmin, my partner, has the week off. I'm enjoying it with him," she didn't add her job was not in the center, but rather busking in parks very much like this one. "Again, what is the problem?" She was not going to waste the rest of the day with this officious idiot.
      "You're disturbing others, Hajene," he tipped his hat to her.
      "This is ridiculous. I am not a working Techton channel nor am I my partner's keeper," her voice kept rising until she was shouting in this idiot's face. As usual, Jarmin's hands on her shoulders kept her from clobbering someone. She snarled and turned to cuddle against Jarmin's broad chest to escape this yapping fool.
      "I think you should go," his sweet, low voice rumbled through his rib cage. She purred and nuzzled the curve of his pectoral muscle. "Lina," his voice dropped even lower. "If you don't stop that we're going to shock more than the nice officer."
      "As you can see, we're fine," his strong, long fingered hand pressed her even closer. "Now I think we'll be going."
      "You might want to think about investing in a pair of scissors, Gen," he sniffed and Aliana heard him stomp off.
      "I love you," Jarmin's breath ruffled her hair. His stiffening against her middle sent frissions of desire burning through her entire body. Her tentacles came out and twined through his curls. "I want you."
      "I can tell," she rocked her hips against him. He groaned and dug his strong fingers into her rear. Her mouth opened to his frantic kisses.
      "Lover," he nibbled his way down her neck.
      "Yes," her head fell back to give him better access.
      "We aren't private," but he didn't stop. His soft, gentle lips left kisses down across her collarbones. She didn't care, neatly managing to wrap her legs around his waist. "Nina," he leaned back. His harsh, deep breathing wrenched at what little was left of her self control.
      "I know," she bit back the list of curses she'd have much rather stated. "I want you," her heart was pounding frantically, as were other things. He twitched again, right against her. A moan escaped.
      "Five minutes," his dark eyes held hers. She didn't want to let go, but knew she had to. Reluctantly, she let her feet return to the ground. Jarmin scooped her up and headed for a nearby copse of trees.
      "We'll be zlinnable," she burrowed into his hair and nibbled on his ear. He quivered all over and sped up.
      "Trust me?"
      "Of course," she relaxed utterly, all but for the longing to love him with all her heart and soul.
      Jarmin had seen the tiny cavelet sheltered by huge pine trees earlier in the day. He'd originally thought it would be a beautiful place to sit and read. Now he headed there with an entirely different plan in mind.
      Brushing boughs out of his way, he ducked beneath a heavy branch. The cave was actually bigger than he'd thought. Dry sand lined the floor. Aliana's trust only spurred his desires to new heights. He could tell she wasn't zlinning their surroundings from the absolute attention she gave to insinuating her hands into his open sided shirt.
      "A bower for my love," he knelt, still holding her, as she'd taught him to do. Carrying another person wasn't difficult, if you knew what you were doing. Her tentacles reached the so very tender juncture where muscle gave way to ribs and he gasped.
      "I love you, Jarmin," her midnight eyes sparkled with mischief and desire. He could loose himself for hours in their fantastic depths and so missed her neatly divesting him of his shirt until it blocked his vision. "You are fantastically beautiful," her smile faded a bit as he cupped her breast in his hand. "Oh, my, yes," her fingers dug into the layer of muscle he'd put on lately.
      Unlike other Simes, Aliana had to wear a brassiere. Jarmin loved her wonderful breasts. He nuzzled them, wallowing in the softness where other Simes were harsh angles and planes. "You have infantile tendencies, my lover," she held him close.
      "You like it," he nipped gently at the perfect curves caressing his face. He pulled loose the cord lacing her into the tight garment and she sighed in relief. Jarmin knew why she had to wear it, otherwise she'd be in constant pain from bouncing, but he wished she didn't. Not because he wanted better access, even though that was a small part of it, but because it cut into her soft skin and left angry dark lines on her chest and shoulders.
      Jarmin eagerly took the place of the stiff, reinforced garment. She filled his hands perfectly. Trying not to slobber, he carefully, thoroughly licked and loved every inch of Aliana's beautiful, honey colored skin he could reach.
      There were few things in life Aliana enjoyed more than cuddling up with Jarmin after sex and dozing with him. Her entire body content, she purred as she pressed against him.
      "Happy?" Jarmin's unique lilt had returned to his voice.
      "Where does your family come from?" She asked, idly tracing patterns on Jarmin's chest. Aliana knew she herself had a very heavy accent in what was called Simelan here when she was relaxed. Jarmin did as well, but a radically different one.
      "Why d'ye be askin?" It took Aliana a moment to figure out what he'd said, on top of the fact his voice was so beautiful it took all thought away. "M'mama be speakin wit me like this," his lips brushed her ear.
      "It's beautiful," she sighed, resting her head on his arm. Would she ever come to the end of learning new and wonderful things about her love? Aliana truly hoped not.
      "She said my family was originally from off the coast of Gulf Territory," only his syntax returned to normal, the rhythmic patterns stayed those of his ancestors. "According to her grandmother, our family, along with a number of others, fled the islands when the Techton tried to take over. It was not well done," Aliana could feel him tremble. She could well guess what had happened and all she could do was hold his hands in hers.
      "Were your parents, well, Donors or Channels?"
      "In a way," his long fingers twined with hers. "I now know why they didn't want me to go to the Techton. When I was younger I thought I knew better."
      "Most youngsters do," Aliana sighed for her own youthful foolishness. She knew she was not over being young and foolish, but at least she knew better than to act on her foolishness. "Amazing how much smarter your parents get as you age, isn't it?"
      "True," he lipped the back of her neck. "I do wonder where they ended up."
      "You don't know?"
      "I know we moved every few months as a child. I didn't know why. Now I do," his nager glittered with unshed tears and unutterable loneliness. "They couldn't stay in place."
      "Like the Romany or the Tinkerfolk?"
      "Yes," he held her so tight she could barely breathe. "I didn't want that for my children and now look at me."
      "Traveling as they did," she supplied, now realizing how hard it must have been for Jarmin to give up even the minor security of having a guaranteed roof over his head and a table to eat at somewhere. Often as not they would stop half way between nowhere and the horizon on their journeys for days at a time. "If you wish to stay in one place ...?" She could somehow manage.
      "No, my love," his voice was blurred.
      "Then you do not wish for children?"
      He gasped and clutched at her. "Oh, Aliana, are you?"
      "No," she could feel the shock of startled joy fade to a rather bewildered dismay. "I am a bit young."
      "I know," his field trembled in a fantastic display of too many emotions for her to unravel one from another. Patiently, she waited. "How did I ever deserve you?"
      "Your patience, your kindness, your sweet voice and gentle hands, your sable nager and silken touch." She turned in his arms to face him. "Your loving-kindness, Jarmin." Aliana held his face. His dark eyes were wide with surprise. "I want your child, beloved."
      Jarmin's pulse thundered in his ears and his hand shook as he brushed Aliana's cheek with his fingertips. No one had ever, ever offered something so fantastic, so magnificent. His vision blurred with unshed tears. "Are you sure?" It was a stupid question and he wanted to kick himself for asking. He doubted she'd take it back, but still he honestly doubted she wanted an imbecile to father her child.
      "Yes," only such a simple answer could have reassured him. Her laughter rang from the walls of the little cave they'd hidden in. "You look as astonished as the first time Nashen took you."
      "How do you know?" He smiled, a bit sheepishly. Jarmin knew he must have looked utterly idiotic when Nashen had introduced him to the pleasures of being taken. Aliana's tentacles slid around and tickled him. He yelped and ended up even closer to her.
      "I like this," she murmured, tipping her chin. Jarmin took the unsubtle hint and gave her a long, soft, loving kiss. He tried to put every bit of his gratitude and wonder at her offer into the physical contact. "And insofar as how I knew, I know because I could tell how very good it felt from your reaction in me."
      "Oh," he brushed her lips with his own again. The taste of her never seemed to sate him in any way. With each breath, with each taste, touch and caress he loved her more. And now this. His heart felt as if it would burst. "Anything for you, my beloved."
      Some days Aliana wondered if Jarmin had meant anything which would annoy her! They'd been trying for four months now for her to get pregnant and nothing had gone right since they started. "Jarmin, calm down!" She shouted.
      "I'm not upset!" He waved his arms in the air. Was he trying to fly? Aliana could nearly see his selyn making his entire body ache with the desire to be relieved of it.
      "Then why are you yelling?" Aliana knew why she was, because it felt good. This was obvious. His upset wasn't.
      "Because I'm upset!"
      "I can zlin that," she tried waving her arms in the air and figured it was a Gen thing. He ran his fingers through his hair and cursed. Or at least he tried to run his fingers through his hair. "Come here, sweet," she fished a brush off the table and sat down. He gave her a look so like one of Dimitri's when he didn't want to do something she had to fight down a silly grin. "Sit," she spread her legs so he could sit between them.
      "All right," he even sounded like Dimitri in a mood. With a heavy sigh and a heavier thump, he planted his behind on the floor. She gave him a quick hug with her legs and got to work. And work it was. Every time she hit a snag he flinched and made it worse. Finally she gave up with the brush and worked out each snarl, one at a time, with her fingers and tentacles. "I must love you."
      "I've tried everything, lover," he wrapped his arms around his knees. "None of it works."
      She could well see why. With her fingers wrapped in his silky hair, it still went everywhere. She loved the feel of it and buried her face in the mass of curls. With a sigh, she gave in. "You can cut it," she brushed her cheek over his scalp, luxuriating in being surrounded by this very physical bit of her lover for the last time. "I won't stop you." She breathed deeply of the heavenly scent of him.
      Jarmin couldn't give up the attention Aliana laved on him every time she brushed his hair. He leaned back into her embrace and felt his field caress her in return. "No, I'll find something," he reached back and stroked her delicate hands.
      "No more goo," he could imagine her nose wrinkling. He hadn't much cared for it either, but it had kept his hair plastered down. "Scratchy."
      "Like it isn't now?" He sighed, wishing for an easy solution.
      "Silky," her fingers and tentacles massaged his scalp. His eyes rolled up in his head and he purred. "You like?"
      "Lots," he looked up into her face. It was shadowed by her own jet black hair. Her high, sharp cheekbones were outlined by shadow, turning her face mysterious and even more beautiful. "Ideas?"
      "You could braid it?" She began trying, and found the same problem he had. It resisted all efforts to be contained, spilling out of her hands as soon as she tried to gather more than a single handful. He snickered. "Quit," she gave him a big, fat raspberry. "Argh!"
      "Now you know what I feel like," he sighed. Reaching up, he pulled forward a lock and fiddled with it. He'd never let it get longer than a couple of inches before, and now it would have been down to his shoulder blades, if it didn't stick straight out! He twisted it around until it stayed. "There!"
      "It'll matt," Aliana reached around and carefully picked it out. "Then what will we do?"
      "It won't stick up," he pleaded with her. "Some of my brothers and sisters have done their hair that way."
      "But you can't get it back later if you don't like it," her lip quivered. "Besides, then I could never run my tentacles through it."
      "Good point," he stopped messing around. "I love you." He turned around and rested his chin on Aliana's knee. Her heart stopping beauty fascinated him as it had from the very first. Here, so close, he could forget about need and worry and simply enjoy the company of his mate. A partner such as he'd never dreamed of winning.
      "You are utterly gorgeous," her flattery, however, sometimes did upset his balance.
      "Indeed you are," he grinned up at her. She leaned down and the dark cloak of her own manageable hair created a curtain of shadow to bind them. His lips opened of their own accord to hers. With the contact, his need burned through him as the sun burned through the morning fog. He'd never kissed before transfer and it still took all his control not to loose his grip on his nager when he did so.
      At last the sweet, sharp pleasure returned to his rein. Trembling, he reached around and cupped the back of Aliana's neck. He had to pull her closer. He rose from his knees and slid into the chair with her. "You are high field, aren't you?" Her wondering question brought him part way back to his senses.
      He licked back roniplin and saliva before he drooled like an idiot. It took him a moment to catch his breath. "Yes, actually, I think so," his heart was pounding frantically beneath the choking weight of selyn in his body.
      "I'm not, quite in hard need," her eyes met his. They didn't share the same depth of desire he saw reflected in their depths.
      "I know," he tried to get a hold of his galloping wants. "I can wait."
      "No," she shook her head. "You need, Jarmin, just as I do," her hand echoed his own gesture and she pulled him down for another long, deep kiss. "Deeper, I think," she murmured against his lips. "How long have you been holding back?"
      Distracted by her nearness, "Since the end of spring."
      "No wonder I haven't gotten pregnant!"
      Aliana looked down into Jarmin's wide eyed, startled stare. "Don't you know that?"
      "Know what?" His eyes were blacker than her hair. She could zlin his need raging in his body, even as he tried to cram it down by will alone.
      "If you don't let go, I'm not going to get pregnant," she licked the corner of his mouth where need had visibly gotten the better of him. "You produce more selyn in a month than I can use without augmenting, Jarmin." She glared at him, "Which is a simple enough problem to solve."
      "Oh," he ducked his head. "I hadn't thought of that." It was plainly obvious he wasn't thinking of anything but need from the way he was fondling her arms. "We aren't due until tomorrow."
      "I don't care," Aliana unbuttoned his shirt. "Now, are you going to listen to me?"
      "Yes," he looked at her through dark, curly, lashes. "I will."
      "Good," she couldn't be mad at him. He'd only come to grips with his own need more recently than she had, after nearly twenty years of denial. Even though there were times when she wished he could be a bit more forward.
      "What about this month?" His breathing was rough and fast. Even though Aliana was barely ready, Jarmin was.
      "Don't worry about it. Let's get ourselves a bit more on cycle. If it happens, it happens," Aliana knew it was too early for her. She was still more than a day out. How had they gotten so out of synch? She knew their production and consumption rates were nearly identical.
      Her hands went around his chest and he dove into the world of selyn so fast, she was left behind. A blazing spike of selyn production scorched her nerves as she tried to catch up with him. He was overproducing!
      Dumping selyn into her public system as fast as she could, Aliana tried to set her laterals. He needed a transfer now! Selyn flared into the visible as she fought to do everything at once. Never before had her own ponderousness frustrated her so badly. Jarmin was ten times faster than she was.
      At last she managed to at least make the contacts. Instantly, selyn crashed through her systems. White hot, it burned through her arms and chest.
      Jarmin panicked as Aliana fell limp in his arms. Blinded to only the physical, he pulled loose. Her scream of pain echoed from the walls. "Lina, Alia, love," he tried to reach her. She thrashed in his arms, as if his touch burned.
      "I'm sorry," he didn't know if he should touch her or let her go. Fear gripped his heart in ice. She collapsed against him, sobbing. "Oh, lover," remorse and regret for having forced himself on her, unprepared, gnawed at him. His hands stroked her back. It was the only thing he could think of.
      After what seemed like forever, her sobs stilled. "Jarmin?"
      "Yes, beloved," he tucked her head beneath his chin. From his own countless bad transfers, he knew the last thing she would want was to be alone. "I'm here," for as long as she would have him. After this, he wondered how long it would be.
      "Don't go," she sniffled, "please?"
      "No, not for as long as you'll have me," shame for having invaded her without consent or mutual desire burned like acid.
      "Forever, then?" She leaned back and looked at him. Her eyes were red rimmed with weeping and her tears had left wet streaks down her cheeks. "I'm sorry."
      "You don't have to apologize," he shook his head. "I should have known. I should ..." she put a finger to his lips.
      "Should doesn't fulfill need, beloved," her unique, crooked smile lightened some of his guilt. "You needed, and I should have not spurred you past sense."
      "But need is an excuse, not a reason," his skin burned with his shame for her applying the excuse too many channels had used on him. "There is no valid excuse for rape."
      "I was not unwilling," her eyes held his. "It wasn't rape. It was an accident. I'm slow, Jarmin. Too slow."
      "No," this time he silenced her, but with his lips. Her mouth opened to his, but with only a shadow of her usual raging desire after transfer. His body was frantic with lust, but to him it was at a distance, as if through glass. He shifted his weight so as not to importune her in yet another way today.
      "Let me," her hand traced down his chest. His breath hissed between his teeth.
      "Not without you," he managed to open his eyes again. "Not again."
      "Let me enjoy what pleasures I can?" Her hand moved down between them. He moaned with the physical sensations overwhelming his sense. "Please?"
      He gave in.
      Aliana woke early, even before midnight. She'd hoped she could give Jarmin some release, but he was gone. The clink of glass on glass made her blood run cold. He'd turned to alcohol to dull his senses before they'd come together, and she feared he'd return to it ever since. His lean, dark form was outlined by the lights of the city through the thin blinds.
      He turned to her and sat on the edge of the bed. "Here," he offered her the glass.
      "Not fosebine," he'd tried to give that vile stuff to her once before. She'd thrown it back up before it could do any good.
      "No, something your father Arkay recommended if we were to have problems," his hand trembled.
      She sipped at it gingerly. It slid down her throat, warming and soothing her frayed nerves all the way down. The rest went down even more easily. Her eyes closed and the glass slid from her nerveless fingers.
      "He warned me about dropping the glass, too," Jarmin chuckled softly and she heard the click as he placed it on the bedside table. "Better?"
      "Much," the pounding headache had vanished, as had the faint sense of nausea accompanying it. She stretched out her arms and tentacles, trying to release the snarls left in them by all the trauma of the last day. Jarmin held out his own hands. He nodded yes. Careful not to grab too hard, she wrapped her tentacles around his cupped hands and pulled back.
      "Feel good?" He leaned back, pulling on them even harder.
      "Oh yes," she purred, luxuriating in the gentle traction stretching her tentacles all the way out of their sheathes. They never went as far without something pulling on them. Even though a rather strong musky, sharp scent reached her nose and she realized they were filthy. "Ugh, I have to get a shower."
      "Feel up to it?" His thumbs were brushing over her tentacles hooked around his fingers.
      "They itch," she grimaced, glaring at them. Now she could see where the dead skin and oil had collected at the base of each tentacle, forming a grimy ring of filth. "Yuck!"
      "You have gotten a bit strong," Jarmin winked at her. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you."
      "You wouldn't," she managed to wobble to her feet. They too were numb and seemed further way than merely to the floor. "What was that you gave me?"
      "I have no idea," he put his arm around her waist and led her to the tiny shower. "But Arkay said if you were to have problems with turnover or transfer, it would help you feel better."
      "A wise man, my father," she sighed as she wished for the huge showers and bathing pools of home yet again. In this one thing, the west would never be satisfactory. Even the lowest rens at home had access to huge bathing pools where they could relax, covered in hot water. Here she was lucky to be able to sluice off beneath the trickle of water from the low shower head before the hot water cut off.
      "I think we could both fit," he adjusted the water the way she liked it, nearly hot enough to scald his skin.
      "Turn it down, lover," she chided him as he flinched away from water which was to her, merely pleasantly warm.
      "No," his refusal made her abused body nearly abandon its protest over his inadvertent harsh treatment. He no longer hid his emotions, but he was still painfully deferent to her wishes. To have him jangle his bracelets at her was utterly fascinating. "You are wanting to be clean. I won't burn."
      Fearing saying anything would change his mind, she slid into the little cubicle with him. They were pressed together like two tentacles sharing a sheath, but she wasn't complaining. His long fingered hands were already soapy and they slid over her back. He knew exactly which muscles were still snarled in knots and deftly loosened them.
      "He gave me some other things as well," the tip of Jarmin's tongue peeked between his lips as he did something with his hands behind her back. "Close your eyes, and don't zlin."
      "OK," she'd not do anything to discourage his new forwardness. Deft fingers stroked the nerves controlling her tentacles. They extended at Jarmin's ministrations and draped themselves around his hands.
      "Limp," he chuckled.
      "Very," it felt so wonderful to have someone else manipulating her tentacles. His hands were slippery over the slight roughness of string callouses and the combination stroking her tentacles all the way to the base was more erotic than anything she could have imagined. When his fingertips brushed away the grime soiling the base of her tentacles, she moaned. He'd licked them before, but this was even more arousing.
      Then the full force of the shower, such as it was, reached her chest. He'd knelt. One at a time, Jarmin's mouth closed on each of her tentacles and washed them from tip to base with his dexterous tongue. Her knees shook. As he finished the last, she melted into his arms.
      Jarmin caught Aliana as she dissolved in the hot water. He adored being allowed to touch and lick her tentacles, but sometimes he forgot the effect it had on her. No other Sime had ever allowed him to indulge his fascination with what they thought were merely extra handling organs. To him they were utterly wonderful.
      She'd neatly landed straddling his knees. Unwilling to give up his indulgence, he flipped the shower to fill the tub and sat with Aliana in his lap. Her legs wrapped around his waist in mimicry of a desire she couldn't possibly be feeling.
      "Perhaps you require a bit of cleaning as well," her free hand caressed him. He came to attention immediately with her deft touch. He moaned around a mouthful of tentacle. Torn between not wanting to push her, and having to stop what he was doing, Jarmin was trapped. The tentacle he'd been licking, slid back into its sheath.
      "Go ahead," her voice was as husky and deep as when he'd managed to get her post, unlike this time. "No, really, there is more to desire than hormones. I love you, not just your selyn, Jarmin. I'd love you if you let me."
      "Even if?" He breathed on her damp arm and could see goose bumps trail up to her shoulder.
      "You'll just have to work harder is all," her chuckle was as sensuous as her velveteen tentacle sliding over his straining desire. Then the tip of it traced the line of protective skin covering all but the very top of his shaft. His groan shook water drops loose to drip down on them. "Like this do you?"
      "Oh my yes," he gasped and then got his revenge. He might not have tentacles, but the tip of his tongue fit quite neatly into the orifice of one dorsal sheath. She quivered all over, and clutched at him for a brief instant. He'd never been quite this forward with her before and now wondered why. "More," her pleading tone made him redouble his efforts.
      Then the damp, cooler air hit the delicate, protected surface of his desire. "More, more," he babbled, still teasing at and tempting her tentacles. One brushed the fragile skin and he howled with how good it felt. Before he could stop her to give himself a chance to breathe, she'd combined her twining tentacles with covering and then uncovering the head of his shaft.
      Earlier, he'd been unable to reach any release for his shame and guilt at having hurt her. Now all he knew was he had to have her. He left off teasing her arm and pulled her against him, stilling her hand. The hot water slowed his frantic desires, but still he burned to feel Aliana take him yet again. But this time he'd be certain.
      Aliana idly braided strands of Jarmin's hair and twined them about her fingers. "A penny for your thoughts?" She'd learned the archaic phrase from her mother and it tickled her fancy.
      So did Jarmin and she squealed, batting at his hand. They hadn't really ended up clean, but she felt much, much better. Their transfer might have been a disaster, but he'd certainly made up for it with his lovemaking, once she'd gotten him going. "How wonderful you are," he kissed her fingertips, still twined in his hair.
      "Flatterer," she scooted away from the rather soggy spot they'd both left in the bed when Jarmin had decided he required more leverage than he could get in the tub. Towels had been forgotten in their haste to find a soft, flat spot to continue their endeavors.
      "It's the truth," nose to nose, his grin was even more engaging. She licked his lips.
      "Love you too!" He licked her right back, but wet and sloppy. But then that could have described their lovemaking. "How did you do it?"
      "Do what?" She asked, stroking the dark skin covering his sleek flank. Ins'Allah how she loved touching him and zlinning the ambient play across the sable darkness of his bare skin.
      "You aren't post," his brows furrowed.
      "But I'm not in need, either," she shrugged. "I suppose if I were male, it would have been a bit tougher, but there is far more to love and sex than this bit of proud flesh." She gave said wonderful member a gentle nudge.
      "As you've shown me," his skin darkened even further in a blush.
      "Now that we both feel better, would you like to talk about it?" She decided to grab the nettle with her tentacles.
      "Yes," he took a deep breath and blew it out. "I think I'm doing something wrong." The single light in the corner gleamed on the gold of his bracelets. "But I have no idea what."
      "It's a start," she held him close, cosseting him in the face of his clearly zlinnable unease. "A very good one."
      "Are you sure," his words didn't match his body, which was melting into her arms. "No, You are." He sighed, relaxing further. "What do you suggest?"
      "When, before our transfer," now it was her turn to blush. She'd learned to talk more openly about such things, but not comfortably. "Well, your production shot up before you opened to me."
      "You think I'm, what would you call it, overproducing?" The last came out in Russian, as she had no idea of the West even could conceive of such a thing.
      "I think you're not used to being a Sharm Lord," her hands stroked his strong back, tracing the lines of muscle threatening to knot.
      "What I'm not used to is touching you so much before transfer," his admission zlinned painfully ashamed.
      "You don't have to be ashamed," she tangled her fingers in his hair, playing with it. "Hmmmm, two birds with one stone ... do you have the kador Arkay loaned you?"
      "What does that have to do with anything?" He leaned back, but his curiosity tickled her nager and made her giggle. "I like it when you laugh."
      "If you wear the hood, it'll train your hair to lie down ... and in the kador, your field won't be responding to every stray Sime who crosses your path."
      "That's why you people put Gens in insulating robes," he blinked.
      "Well, yes," she shrugged. "One of the reasons, anyway. Are you offended I find the idea utterly fascinating that no one but myself would be able to zlin you?"
      "No, not really," he shook his head. "But wouldn't that make it more unmanageable?"
      "Not at all," her tentacles came out and joined her fingers. "Then your body won't constantly be trying to serve every Sime it senses."
      "Does that make you jealous?"
      "Yes, some," she admitted, burying her face against Jarmin's shoulder. "Mine," she lipped the smooth, hairless skin. "Love you."
      "But you let me sleep with others?"
      "Of course," she blinked, trying to figure out what sex had to do with this. "Oh, cultural difference again, I think. I don't like being zlinned by strangers and I like it even less when they zlin you. I want your selyn. You can't give your selyn to me and to someone else at the same time, except for perhaps the occasional renSime." She lipped his neck as she thought. He tasted so good! "If you bed someone else, it doesn't take anything away from me. You can turn around and bed me right after, or at the same time."
      "Oh," he rubbed his face against her head. "I think I see. But I don't know about the hair. I'll look like an idiot."
      "You zlin tasty," she nipped him in play.
      "You are besotted, my love," he held her close.
      "As I hope you are, my beloved," she melted into his strong arms. How she adored this part of lovemaking, cuddling and talking. Some of his hair tried to get up her nose and she lipped at it.
      "Going to braid it with your tongue?"
      "Wouldn't be hard," she teased him right back, neatly twining a few strands around each other. "See?"
      "Not there."
      "You're serious?"
      "Yes," he shrugged. "You can braid hair with your tongue?"
      "Not much at a time ..." she stared at what she'd done. "Hold still," she leaned back and braided a bit of his hair with her hands this time. Amazingly enough, it stayed rather well.
      "What are you doing?"
      "Braiding your hair," she muttered, now working with all her fingers and tentacles. "There," she was still holding them.
      His look of astonishment was wonderful. "Do you think the kador will work as well?"
      "Lets try it and find out!"
      Jarmin was entirely unused to the beads Aliana had decorated his hair with. Even more than the heavy, stiff robes covering him from head to foot. "Could you explain what you meant about third order hesitation in commitment?"
      "Yes, there are two meanings," he turned back to the chalkboard at the front of the class. He had to be very careful not to get chalk dust on his black robes. Of course his nose itched again. What a pain.
      "Thank you, Sosu," only now did he realize the person he was talking with was Sime. "Neat clothes," he winked.
      "Thanks," he grinned. "Any other questions before we recess for lunch?" He saw a slender, fine boned hand raised in the back. "Yes, Hajene?"
      "It's Sosu Liza actually," a young woman stood. "Where did you find those clothes?"
      "My father in law gave them to me," this was the third time in as many days as someone had asked about his robes. "If you like, I can give you the number I and my wife are staying at in the city after class."
      "Please," her gratitude was plainly obvious in her voice, as well as by the reactions of nearby Simes. He closed his eyes in quiet sympathy as she got her field gathered up again. He dismissed the class and caught her on the way out the door.
      "Here," he put his arm around her shoulders. "You're a little one," he teased.
      "I hadn't realized you were so tall," she snuggled up against him. "Thanks," her green eyes met his. "How long have you been married?"
      "A bit more than a year," which meant he probably shouldn't be cuddling up to another woman like this. "Why don't we get something to eat and go listen to Aliana sing?" Perhaps with her near, he'd not be so aware of Liza's curvy little body next to his. He was only holding her so close to help shield her nager, after all.
      "In the park," he laughed, leading her to the sidewalk vender serving sweet roasted corn still in the husks. Another vendor was selling sweet cider and he bought three of each. "Your wife is Gen?"
      "Nope, she's my transfer partner," he knew he had a goofy look on his face. Next month he'd make up his error to Aliana, no matter what.
      "How'd you manage that?"
      "The best luck in the world," he told her honestly.
      "Oh, she's pretty lucky too," a dimple appeared in Liza's smooth looking cheek. Jarmin dropped his eyes, aware he was utterly fascinated by the accepting warmth in her gaze.
      "There she is!" Jarmin knew he'd look even more guilty if he let go of Liza now. Aliana had her head bent over her guitar, as if playing to herself. Nearly a dozen adults, not to mention an entire horde of children were surrounding her. He must have grumbled something about not being able to get close.
      Liza's unaffected laughter startled him.
      "She's beautiful, Jarmin."
      "One of us should be," he sighed, wishing he could get to her. But her work fed them as well. Jarmin carefully wrapped her corn so it would stay hot and sat with Liza beneath another tree.
      "Aren't you going to go to her?"
      "She's working," he dropped his veil, even though with the chill in the air he didn't bother with his hood.
      "You're not bad yourself," this young lady was looking for trouble. Her slender hand was resting on his thigh and even through his borrowed kador, the touch went right through his defenses. It hadn't been that long since his transfer with Aliana. "I wish I'd known you were married."
      "Why?" He couldn't think of anything even vaguely intelligent to say. All his blood was heading south at a rapid rate.
      "Because I'd have liked to get to know you better." One eyelid dropped in a wink.
      "We can," he had no idea what Liza was talking about not being able to.
      "Particularly as I'd worried you might be a bit lonely at first, all set apart in your black," her green eyes were as bottomless as the sea.
      "Sometimes," he shrugged, drinking a bit more of his cider to deal with his suddenly dry throat. "Did you come to my morning lecture just to ask about my robes?" He plucked at them.
      "Not entirely," she stiffened suddenly. Jarmin looked up to see Aliana smirking at him. His blush must have reached his toenails. Liza nearly jumped off his lap.
      "No, stay," from her expression, Jarmin knew she was fighting back laughter with every thing she had. "Have you been telling this young lady more lies, my love?"
      "Not at all," he tried to get Aliana to sit between him and temptation, in the form of Liza. Instead she sat on the opposite side from the other young woman and applied herself to her lunch.
      "What do you study, as I would guess you come from the school?" She waved her ear of corn towards the nearby buildings.
      "Mathematics," Liza's skin paled even further. Jarmin could sense her nager tremble. Maybe it was for the best he was between Aliana and Liza. "I'm on a scholarship."
      "You have the time to sit about in the sun and chat up the professors?"
      "Some times," her cheeks flushed, showing a rosy tint. "I'd though Jarmin might like some company for lunch. I didn't know he was married."
      "Actually, would you like to go out to dinner with us this evening?" It sounded like Aliana was asking for a date. Jarmin gulped and looked at her. She winked quickly and grinned.
      "Sure," Liza breathed. "Are you still hungry?" Aliana had finished off her snack and was preparing to go back to work.
      "I will be later," somehow she'd nudged Jarmin until he was nearly wrapped around her rival. "Do you like seafood?" Aliana licked her lips rather suggestively. Jarmin elbowed her in the ribs. This was a bit blatant. He knew quite well Aliana sometimes referred some of their loveplay as eating seafood.
      "Actually I know this wonderful bar and grill near where I work in the afternoon," Liza's hand squeezed his deftly. "They are also used to serving Simes."
      "As long as I can get a decent portion," Aliana winked.
      "We can share," Jarmin usually lost at least a quarter of his meals to Aliana's astounding appetite. No restaurant proprietor seemed to be able to serve any Sime enough in Aliana's opinion.
      "I share too," Aliana winked, the tip of her tongue peeking out suggestively.
      Aliana looked around, appreciating the riotous colors of the fall trees far more than she'd ever thought she could. For the first time since making the west her home, she felt at home. Even the earthy smells of animals made her feel welcome. Breathing deeply, she found herself dreadfully homesick.
      "I like it too," Liza was tucked under Jarmin's arm quite neatly. He still looked a bit dazed about the entire situation, but Aliana could clearly zlin the young woman's interest in Aliana's mate.
      "How did you find it?" The walked into a low ceilinged, dimly lit room. The cool comfort of stone walls was a balm to Aliana's weary mind. She sighed in relief.
      "I used to work at the stable down the hill," she nodded to a woman chatting with someone through a doorway. The rather plump lady bustled over to them.
      "Two Gens, one Sime?"
      "Table for three," Jarmin nearly snapped. Aliana had to hide her grin. He'd gotten a lot more forward since he'd began wearing a kador, as if he no longer expected to be ignored for his larity.
      "I'm not going to be puttin' you two in a cage," she snorted at him.
      "No, sorry," he grinned shyly. "Old habits."
      "He only meant I eat more than most Simes." Aliana tried to reassure the woman.
      "Don't I know it," she looked Aliana up and down as if she could zlin. "You don't look half-starved like so many we get in here. Now you sit yourselves down in the corner and let me get to work. Don't have much business on weekdays out here, we don't.
      "Let me be getting you something to drink. Wine, beer," she nodded to Aliana, "porstan, water?"
      "Do you have cider?" Jarmin asked.
      "Hard or sweet?"
      "Sweet please," he blinked a bit.
      "Hard cider," Aliana followed Liza's lead. She hadn't had hard cider in years. Alcoholic beverages were relatively rare at both Fatima and Mir, even though less so in some ways than here. Most people here rarely drank anything stronger than the sweet, unhopped small beer called porstan.
      A glitter of surprise came from their hostess at the request, but like any good servitor, she didn't say a word. "Would you like the special?" She pointed towards a blackboard.
      "Leave the shrimp off my salad, and I'll be happy," Aliana's mouth watered at the avocados listed as one of the ingredients. She loved the things with a passion ever since she'd first tasted them.
      "Extra avocado then?" Jarmin winked at her.
      "Sounds good," the woman nodded. "Any other special requests?"
      "Could I have the grilled chicken on my sandwich instead of the cheese?" Most restaurants only served vegetarian dishes here and Aliana was pleased to see this one served meat as well. Jarmin'd been running a bit hard of late. Her pride in her mate nearly overflowed its bounds at his request.
      "Certainly," she looked to Liza. "You too?" Liza gulped and glanced at Aliana. She nodded her approval.
      "Yes, please," she said quickly.
      "All done then, if there's anything else you'd like, don't hesitate to ask." She bustled off, her field glittering with curiosity about the odd trio, but otherwise far better mannered than anyone else Aliana had met in ages.
      "She's my mother," Liza wrinkled her nose.
      "Do you always bring your dates for approval?" Aliana teased her.
      "I do bring my dates here," her blush nearly matched her hair. "She knows Simes who work in the barns."
      "That's why she didn't try to talk me into the 'starvation diet special'." Aliana snorted in disgust. It was usually quite obvious which dishes were for Simes, they were a fifth the size and a quarter the cost of the others. She's have simple ordered half a dozen, if it wouldn't have meant being hit so badly on the price.
      Liza giggled behind her hand. "Yes, I've worked with them too," then Aliana saw the unique callouses on her hands. "They don't eat like fleas, as I've heard some of them say."
      "I bet not," Aliana could zlin Jarmin capture Liza's hand beneath the table. "Do you ride?"
      "Yes, very much so. I still have a horse," she sighed and rested her chin on her hand. "I don't get much of a chance to ride now though, with school and all."
      "What do you plan on doing with yourself?" Aliana took a draft of the cider as soon as it arrived. It was excellent, sharp with the perfect crisp bite of ripe apples.
      "I'd originally planned on racing," she grimaced. "But, as you can see, that didn't work out."
      "Why not?" She asked, even as Jarmin waved at her to let it pass.
      "I established," she took a drink of her own cider.
      "Simes don't let Gens do dangerous things," Jarmin's eyes narrowed. "They say it's because we're not strong enough."
      "That's stupid," Aliana snorted. "You're small, you look like you are strong enough. What's the problem?"
      "I don't want to go into it," her beautiful features seemed to close down.
      "As you say," she sighed. "What did they do before cars were brought back?"
      "Kept us in pens," Liza traced patterns on the surface of the table with a dampened forefinger. "It's better now, I suppose."
      "Some," Jarmin gave her a hug. "So, where are you going now?"
      "I have the capacity for Donor training, but I just don't know," her green eyes were distant and unfocused. "I like Simes, at least the ones I grew up with. I can't stay away from them, but it's hard."
      "Believe me, I understand," finally Jarmin turned his entire attention on Liza. "I can't either."
      "You're both firsts?" Her eyes widened.
      "More or less," Aliana gave her a wry grin. "Him more than I."
      "Well, anyway, I suppose I could support myself with donating and spend my time messing with horses, but that seems like such a cheat." Her fingers drummed the table.
      "Other than race horses, what do you want to do?"
      She blushed furiously again, looking up at Jarmin out of the corner of her eye. Now there was a young lady who know what she wanted. "Teach, I suppose," Aliana supposed not. Or at least so Liza's nager told her.
      "I'm afraid I have to get up for a moment," Aliana placed her napkin on the table. She caught Liza's eye. The other woman nodded.
      "If you'll excuse us," her hand shook a bit as she stood. Cider sloshed as she bumped the table. "Clumsy Gen."
      "Distracted," Jarmin kissed her hand, and then kissed Aliana's. He hadn't a clue what was going on, but his trust in her came through all of his confusion. "Come back," he winked at her.
      Liza finished washing her hands and turned to see Aliana take a swipe at her hair with a brush. "I wish I were beautiful," her instant envy of Aliana's raven black hair and sleek body had surprised her at first. But there was no way she could compete with the other woman's flawless skin or exotic accent.
      "You are," Aliana chuckled. "So, now that we've managed to get a few moments alone, is there anything you'd like to ask?"
      "Um, uh, hm, well, uh," her nerve broke into a million pieces.
      "I have no chain on him, Liza," Aliana winked. "If you want him, go for it. I'd have never guessed he was bilarital, but it seems he is."
      "Interested in both larities," her tanned, but still fair skin pinked. "Most aren't."
      "Oh," she fiddled with the tap. "I had been, before ..."
      "Before you knew he was married?"
      "Yes," she studied the worn porcelain. "My intentions have changed."
      "Why?" She shrugged, looking for more elegant than Liza could ever hope to emulate. "Go right ahead, if you still want."
      "But I want a child," fell out of her mouth.
      Aliana laughed. "I thought so," one tentacle came out and tapped her on the nose.
      "I'll find someone else," she went on quickly. The delicate touch had rattled her a bit.
      "Not if you don't want to," Aliana's winked at her. One ventral brushed her cheek. Liza gasped at the soft caress. She put her hand over it, pressing it to her face. "Do you?"
      Liza would have nodded if she weren't afraid her knees were going to give way on her at any moment. As it was, she leaned back against the sink.
      "You're as post as they get," Aliana winked. "I think he'll like."
      "What about you?" Her heart was pounding in her throat. Jarmin's touch earlier had tempted her, but Aliana's was like wildfire.
      "If you don't mind my being there?" Her eyes were intent on Liza's own.
      "He's your husband," she gulped.
      "He's not my slave."
      At times like these, Jarmin wished he hadn't given up drinking. Normally Aliana was fairly civilized, but he knew she was planning something. He took a sip of her cider and it went straight to his head.
      At last, the two reappeared. What women did in the bathroom together did not bear thinking about. Particularly as Jarmin knew Aliana thought bathrooms should be segregated by larity and not gender. They flanked him, as they had before, but this time both of them cuddled up to him like a couple of lonely cats!
      The rest of the dinner passed in a haze. No matter what he did, one or the other of them seemed entirely intent on driving him crazy. If it wasn't Liza rubbing her slender thigh against his, it was Aliana pressing her well developed bosom against his arm.
      He knew dinner had been tasty, the two of them had taken turns feeding him morsels from their own. At last it was over, and he hoped they could take Liza home. It had been a lot of fun, but he was not going to betray Aliana's trust. Particularly not when he would do anything to get into her pants right now.
      "Lets go take a walk," Aliana headed directly away from the car. The slight sway to her walk made Jarmin realize she'd had more to drink than had probably been wise. Liza giggled and ran after her. Needless to say, Jarmin had to follow. Liza was even more unsteady than his lady.
      He rearranged things so his arousal wouldn't be obvious to everyone in sight and gave a prayer of thanks for his kador keeping Simes from zlinning it. At last he caught up with them. Aliana took his shoulders and Liza took his waist. He was in trouble. As soon as they passed into the shadows beneath the trees, their hands began to wander.
      Liza couldn't do much, not knowing how to get her hands around the lacing at the sides of his kador, but Aliana knew quite well how much he liked having his neck nibbled on. Then a hot Sime hand tugged loose the ties and his kador gaped wide enough to admit most of Liza.
      "Can't be such a poor host as to keep our guest out in the cold," Aliana murmured in his ear.
      Now there was nothing between him and Liza but a very thin layer of cotton. "I know an old shed near here." Her voice was as breathy and harsh as he knew his own'd be if he dared speak.
      "Lead on," Aliana purred, leaving him no choice in the matter whatsoever. "No, you have none. You're our captive."
      "Don't hurt me," he pleaded, adding a bit of catch to his words.
      "Only a little," Aliana's nip made his knees shake.
      "I felt that," Liza's voice was muffled by a heavy layer of cloth.
      "I thought you were guiding us," Aliana chuckled.
      "Through those trees," he hand waved down the path.
      "You know I'm not going to want to stop," he warned Aliana as quietly as he could in Russian.
      "We don't want you to," she finished stripping him out of his kador. The night air was a shock and he gasped.
      "Oh my," Liza leaned back and blinked. "I can understand why you keep him bundled up."
      "Beautiful, isn't he," usually when a Sime referred to him in third person, in his presence he was offended. This time he felt a blush scorch his ears.
      "Very," Liza purred. "Particularly in white." Her hand slid a bit low. "Did you know these clothes become transparent when wet?"
      "Exactly so," Aliana's hand joined Liza's. His head was spinning with pure, unadulterated, lust. At last he spotted the shed Liza had mentioned, and praise anyone who was listening, it was up against a hill. Right now he'd perform with an audience of hundreds, but he'd much rather not.
      "Do you want this?" He made sure of Liza, his conscience nagging at him one last time.
      "Yes," she wrapped herself around him and kissed him for the first time.
      Aliana grinned at she saw Liza finally corner Jarmin. He could still be annoyingly diffident. She quickly organized a large pallet in the corner of the room, spreading a number of blankets over the clean straw left for bedding down horses in the attached leanto. This looked like some of the travel shelters she'd seen around home, but far more heavily insulated.
      Still liplocked, Jarmin steered his conquest in. A chuckle threatened her composure. He might have been a bit reluctant earlier, but no longer. If Liza'd been Sime, Aliana would have thought of one of her Gen ancestors bringing home another Sime slave.
      Wanting to be certain of things, Aliana zlinned Liza carefully. She hissed in shock. "A moment," she put her hand on Jarmin's broad shoulders. He broke off his attempts to devour Liza and gave her a hot look.
      "You didn't say you were a virgin," she gave Liza a hard look.
      "I didn't think it was important," she flushed even more, against her reddened lips the effect was startling.
      "Not that it'll make any difference, but you should have warned us," Aliana diverted Liza's next kiss. The young woman opened to her with nearly the fervor she'd given Jarmin.
      "I like this," Jarmin's arms came around both of them. His nibbling on her ear was dreadfully distracting. Her tentacles came out and tried to lace both Gens even closer to her. Liza moaned and squirmed on Jarmin's lap.
      Aliana chuckled and neatly stripped off Liza's loose pants. Jarmin didn't require any more of a hint. He slipped off her shirt. Aliana had to stare for a moment. "Don't let anyone say you aren't gorgeous," she lowered her head and flicked her tongue all around one of Liza's beautiful, delicate, hand-sized breasts.
      "I like this," the feel of cool Gen skin overrode any other consideration in Aliana's mind. Two of them together was even better. Slobbering like an utter fool, she wallowed in the delicious finenes

of Liza's soft little breasts. They were absolutely delightful.
      Her free hand slid down Liza's sleek flank. Other than her breasts and a tiny bit of padding on her belly, the young woman was all muscle. Soft, giving Gen muscle. Forgetting entirely about Jarmin for a moment, she had to trace the length of Liza's wonderful, strong legs.

rmin nibbled on her ear, making Aliana moan with delight. Of course this meant Aliana had to nibble on the thing closest to her mouth, Liza's amazing thighs. She squealed and bucked beneath Aliana's hands.
      "Oh, I think our mare is in season," she could smell Liza's arousal over everything else. Of course the fact her nose was nearly buried in Liza's short, red curls might have something to do with this.
      "Should we breed our little virgin mare?" She looked up at Jarmin and gave him a wink.
      "I think we should breed both our mares," there was a wicked twinkle in his dark eyes. "But is my Aliana in season?"
      "Perhaps you should tease her and find out?"
      "I've been teasing her all evening," he licked his lips in invitation.
      "You're teasing me right now," Liza tried to wiggle.
      "Want to make sure we don't get kicked," Aliana licked her way up the inside of Liza's thighs. And like a mare in season, they spread even as she brushed them. But there was still a bit of trembling. "Relax," she breathed, blowing on where she'd dampened the skin.
      "I want to," more of her muscles snarled up beneath her skin.
      Aliana slid her hands beneath Liza and let Jarmin get his pants off at last. As usual, she had to stop what she was doing and stare at him for a long moment. Then she took advantage of the break to get out of her own clothes, all but her bra.
      One of Liza's hands came up to brush over her breasts. "Yes," Aliana purred as the feather light contact went straight to her loins. Then one of Jarmin's hands stroked over her flank. Aliana forgot all about what she was doing again for their hands on her body.
      Two hands became four. She bit her lip against a desperate groan. This was all going way too fast. After sliding back from where she'd tried to take Liza's place, she arranged things to her satisfaction.
      "I liked you here," Liza met her eyes. Aliana didn't have to be asked twice. Trapping Liza between them, Aliana wrapped her legs around both Gens. Augmenting slightly, she managed to hold Jarmin up, creating a cradle for their new friend.
      Liza was as slippery as anyone could wish, sliding against Aliana with delicious abandon. It was awkward, but finally Aliana managed to get her hand down where it could do some good. Of course Jarmin wasn't helping a great deal in his attempts to insert himself anywhere he could.
      With only two tentacles available, Aliana couldn't keep Jarmin occupied at the same time she tried to make sure Liza wouldn't get hurt. Liza was moaning with abandon even before Aliana managed to enter her.
      "Soggy," Aliana noted with amusement as she deftly teased open Liza's hymen. The sensation of being surrounded by the softness of such very Gen flesh made Aliana realize how much she'd been missing with only Jarmin in her bed. Then he managed to get himself slid into place.
      He joined her tentacles in their exploration. Liza clamped down on both of them with nearly crushing strength. Her scream of pleasure in Aliana's ear was nigh until deafening. Teasing, she tickled the very end of Jarmin's shaft with one of her tentacles. His bellow was even louder.
      This had possibilities. Enjoying herself far too much to let this stop, Aliana used all her Sime strength to get the two of them far better situated. Now she could manage with all of her tentacles. She found if she tightened down on Jarmin she could make him stop when he was ready to spend.
      Humming her utter delight, Aliana found herself far too entertained by playing with them, than to want to stop any time in the near future, even for her own direct pleasures.
      There wasn't an ounce of strength left in Jarmin's arms as he left them wrapped around Liza's slender body. "Thank you," he murmured to his beloved, trying to put his heart into the simple words.
      "Like?" She gave him a soft, sweet kiss.
      "Yes," Liza became even more boneless. She'd nearly fainted when Aliana'd finally let them finish and now she lay sprawled on top of him like the world's most contented cat.
      "Very much," he told both of them. "And you?"
      "Oh yes," she nipped at his shoulder. He shuddered as another, impossible, wave of pleasure raised goose bumps all over his body. "You are quite good."
      "Flatterer," he realized he'd done very little for her.
      "No she's not," Liza nuzzled his collarbones. "Thank you both."
      "Have fun?" He asked, wanting to be certain in words.
      "Far more than I expected," she managed to look up at him. "Thanks to Aliana's tentacles. Speaking of which, I seem to have worn out your husband."
      "For now," Jarmin could feel Liza grasp him one last time as Aliana stroked Liza's side. "It will come back."
      "It had better," Aliana let him know she was teasing with a wink.
      "Always, beloved," he kissed her again, this time with all his heart and soul. She was the most generous, wonderful lover he could imagine.
      Aliana watched Jarmin stride across the quad. After last month with Liza, he'd become far more confident than she could have imagined. There was a solidity to him she'd never have thought he could manage.
      "I told the dean my Channel needed me," he winked as he took her arm.
      "Oh?" she put her hand over his.
      "Yup, an entire week. Said she'd been shorted for too long and needed me by her side." He brought her hand beneath his veil and kissed the back of it. "I'm not up to being civil and told him flat out he could expect me next Monday."
      "You didn't!" She did a little dance in place, only slightly hampered by her guitar case.
      "I sure did," his eyes were dead level. "And I found us a place to hole up."
      "Where?" They'd only been unpacked for a few days. The first place the school had tried to put them up had been a roach trap. The second had been where prostitutes brought their clients. Their current was on the shabby side of decrepit, but at least it was clean."
      "It's a secret," he tied a silk scarf around her eyes.
      "Jarmin!" She chided him. Then he tied a couple of soft pieces of the special cloth used for veils around her forearms. Unable to see or zlin, her desire ran rampant.
      Soft Gen lips met hers. She moaned and pulled him closer. "Yes, my beloved, this month I mean to take you and make you mine." He breathed against her lips. "I want to fill you with my child and show the world our love." Her knees gave way.
      "Yes, my Aliana, my beautiful Lina," he cooed in her ear as he picked her up. It must have been dreadfully awkward to carry her and her guitar, but Jarmin gave no sign. In the dark, shielded from light and selyn, her roniplin glands went into overload. They filled with moisture and it spilled over into the absorbent cloth.
      "Three days in which to tease you and love you and cherish you with everything I am," he continued murmuring in her ear. Aliana could hear and smell something dreadfully familiar. What was it?
      Then a horse stamped its shod feet against the roadway. Out here on the edge of civilization, many of the roads were still unpaved, perfect for horses, in her opinion. In her mind, she could see the beautiful trakhs used to pull carriages.
      The driver shifted his weight on the sprung seat before them and she braced against the movement. From the sounds, she could pick out three horses. What in the world was someone doing driving a troika here?
      The team trotted smartly down the road, obviously oblivious to the cars zooming past with their loudly irate drivers. Jarmin pulled her blindfold off after nearly twenty minutes and Aliana was shocked to see a renSime in Mir colors.
      "Good day, m'Lords," he tipped his hat to her. "We have another half hour until we arrive. Make yourself comfortable, if you so please." He was speaking High Simelan like a Lord!
      "Your Uncle Sevrin heard of our ill fortune," Jarmin rolled his eyes.
      "Ah," Aliana knew there was a matching twinkle in hers. Her uncle was not known for putting up with anything. "He found renSime ... uh," Jarmin cringed.
      "RenSime Lian, if you so please," his cultured accent was even stranger than his speaking a language absolutely barred to renSimes in Russia. "Your uncle found me after I'd made the mistake of telling the unvarnished truth one too many times."
      "Why would that be such a problem?"
      "Because he was a crook," Lian gave her a wry grin. "The people to whom I told the truth, were the police."
      "Why did he ever hire you in the first place?"
      "Because I was also a criminal," he sighed and one of the horses flicked back an ear. "Although when I find out my employer was not only a thief, but a gen runner, I went straight to the authorities."
      "Why didn't they protect you until they killed your employer?"
      "It was my employer the Sharm Lord found beating me up in an alley. He'd been released on bail," Lian's jaws clenched. "As far as I know, he's probably still free."
      "Idiots," Aliana growled. "So I take it Sevrin does not worry about you stealing from us?"
      "Why?" He laughed. "When all I have to do is buy it."
      "Oh?" Jarmin gave him an odd look.
      "I've always wanted a house in the country with horses to drive and books to read. Sharm Lord Kaon wanted someone to run a place like that. Suits me perfectly, even if I don't get to see any normal Gens anymore." His shrug was more eloquent than words. "I'd much rather not have to deal with them anyways," he flicked a bit of lint off his otherwise immaculate trousers with a tentacle.
      Aliana could only shake her head. Sometimes her uncle Sevrin didn't know how lucky he was. Even without being able to zlin, Lian looked as content as any Russian renSime she'd ever known. The fall air was a bit cool and Jarmin tugged her cloak a bit more firmly about her shoulders.
      She smiled up at him and caressed the side of his face.
      "Don't you two be worrying about anything. I always start up the boiler in the morning, and I'll be keeping it hot at all hours for you. The great tub Sharm Lord Kaon put in the basement was finished last week, so you'll get to break it in." He clucked to his horses. "Get on wit ye now," he sighed, pulling the lead animal back in line.
      "I love the way a unicorn hitch looks, but unfortunately it doesn't always work very well with a new team," he raised his whip and tapped the wheeler. "Get up there, you."
      Aliana relaxed back into Jarmin's arms. This was far more the sort of thing she was used to. Through the contact with his skin, Aliana could feel the life growing in him to match her own deepening need exactly. This was how things should be.
      Jarmin felt the tension drain out of Aliana with each stride the horses took from the city. He wasn't as secure in his ability to sense fields as the man who'd trained him, Mikal Tegue, now Sharm Lord Mikhail Fatima, but as far as he could tell, there was no one but Lian and Aliana for miles.
      Leather creaked as he rested against the back of the seat. Aliana rested her head against his chest with an absolute trust he'd never known from anyone. She sighed and her body relaxed against his even more.
      The steady jingle of harness and clopping sound of the horses' hooves soothed him further. He needed Aliana, but under the slow, steady beat, he could wait. It was as if without the press of people and necessity for speed, his field no longer felt the same anxiety.
      A chill breeze tugged at his veil. He'd nearly worn the garments Arkay had loaned him ragged, but he'd come to take comfort in them as well. They'd not last until he and Aliana went back to Kaon this winter in hopes of seeing him again, but they'd certainly served their purpose.
      One time he'd tried to wear his normal clothes to a lecture after turnover. When a very young first had flicked his nager, trying to get Jarmin's attention, he'd felt his own production spike in response. Now that he knew what was happening, he could probably prevent it. But he really didn't want to.
      Jarmin had grown up thinking he had to control his nager around Simes at all times. After that little experience, he found himself wishing Simes would be a bit more polite around him! Aliana never jabbed him like that, and the importunate young channel probably wished he hadn't as well.
      "What are you grinning about?"
      "About the fact I accidentally smacked a poor little first for tugging on my nager one day in class." He shook his head, beads rattling in protest. "He really hadn't meant to do it."
      "I doubt you meant to hit him, either," Aliana chuckled. "I take it he survived?"
      "Yes," he kissed her nose. "With a bit of a headache, but nothing more."
      "I would bet he's never going to tug on a Gen's nager to get their attention again."
      "Probably not," he chuckled. "Poor kid. He was hardly out of first year and still as green as grass."
      "Best to learn 'em up good young," her fingers were finding their way into the sleeves of his kador. "I do wonder why people do that here. I've gotten my nager pulled on, zlinned, prodded and invaded by utter strangers. I can understand zlinning during a musical performance, but not in a bakery! I'd never pull on someone's hair or clothes unless I knew them personally."
      "Different cultures," he remembered when he'd been shy about holding Aliana. Now he couldn't think of what life would be like without her touch. He sighed as her deft fingers massaged the muscles of his forearms.
      "We're here," Lian announced as they came to a huge brick fronted home. Jarmin hadn't realized quite what he'd gotten them into when he'd called Sevrin late one night and asked for advice.
      Even though if he'd know what an earful he'd get, Jarmin wasn't sure if he ever would have dared call. He and Sevrin had talked until Vanesa had quite pointedly asked for her husband back.
      Lian said over his shoulder, "I'm afraid I can't quite trust these three without a header yet."
      "No problem," Aliana slid out of his arms. He sighed mournfully. Jarmin loved having her snuggled up against him so closely. Then one of the horses leaned into the collar again. He quickly got them and their stuff out of the carriage.
      "It's a different pace," Aliana looked towards the carriage house where Lian had gone with the horses. Two grooms had dashed out to take the horses in hand.
      "Slower," he offered her his arm.
      "Not always," she pointed towards one of the horses who was trying to rub her head on Lian, who had to get out of the way quickly.
      "True," he remembered watching Aliana going out riding with Liza while he finished grading his last papers back in the barn. He'd wanted to go out with them, but he'd had work to do. "I wonder if there are any riding horses here."
      "I thought you didn't ride?"
      "I haven't in years," he dropped his veil as they stepped into the house. The thing was huge. Two renSimes stood at the foot of the stairs. They bowed deeply to both of them and waved towards the marble and gilt confection.
      The elder took Aliana's guitar case from his suddenly nerveless fingers. "We should go."
      "After transfer?"
      "Before if you like," she shrugged. "This," she waved towards the rest of the building, "feels like home to me, if a lot smaller."
      Jarmin wondered again if he could manage if he ever accompanied Aliana back to Russia. Their footsteps echoed from the beautifully paneled walls and high ceilings.
      "This way, if you please, my Lords," the younger renSime looked dreadfully nervous, his tentacles lashing out from their sheathes. The elder hissed at him to behave.
      "My son, my Lords," she smacked the back of the lad's hand. "Stop that."
      He ducked his head and turned away.
      "Not like that," she grabbed his collar and pulled him back. "So sorry." After a brief, loudly whispered conference the young man managed to get himself together.
      Jarmin was fighting not to giggle by the time they managed to get themselves settled. When their awkward servant finally left, after showing them the wrong room, a closet, managing to mistake a coat tree for a luggage rack and then showing them how the toilet worked ... three times, Aliana collapsed in hysterical laughter.
      "He tries," Jarmin sat on the floor with her, giggling too hard to stand up. "Sevrin said he had a hard time finding servants."
      "I would say," Aliana wiped her face. "So, do you want to go riding?"
      "Today?" He looked out the window.
      "Sure," she shrugged. "We can see in the dark, as can the horses. Besides, it isn't so late as all that."
      "Great idea," he reached over to tug off Aliana's shielding.
      "Leave it," she bit at her lower lip.
      "A bit soggy?" He winked, rubbing his hands over her shoulders.
      "Just a bit, yes," her admission was the most flattering he'd ever heard.
      "I'll bring a few handkerchiefs," he slid his fingers beneath the soft material he'd wrapped around her arms. The slick wetness of roniplin greeted his touch immediately. "Although I can't smell it for the roniplin in my mouth," he leaned over and kissed her.
      Aliana wondered yet again at how she'd gotten so lucky. Finding someone here who rode at all was amazing. Jarmin was actually quite good, if out of practice. There had been three horses in the barn who'd been trained to bear a rider, mostly because they were also excellent driving horses.
      Lian had pointed them out and then gone about his business. One was a lanky, rafter hipped, long backed animal far more suited to speed than comfort. The other two were shorter, stockier animals than she was used to, but looked as if they would be a better bet.
      "Actually I think I'd like our thin friend here," Jarmin scratched the lad beneath the chin. Dark brown eyes closed in utter bliss. "I've known horses like him before."
      "Good enough," Aliana took the more pleasant looking of the two mares. She looked a little nervy, but not like anything she couldn't handle. By the time she was mounted, she knew Jarmin had taken the smartest route, as usual.
      Her mare, Trila was a butterfly brain. When she wasn't jumping at shadows, she was jittering all over the place. Admittedly she had wonderful gaits, but her brain left something to be desired.
      Whereas Jarmin's gelding, Hanne, seemed to be of the opinion that jumping around was a great waste of effort. He watched Trila as she danced around as if to say, "What a little fool.".
      After half an hour though, they both settled down to work. Jarmin was a skilled enough rider, they could trot side by side down the old lumber tracks. The cool evening breeze in her hair felt like heaven. It held none of the stink of industry, even so close to the city. At last they stopped at the top of a hill and she could see down into the valley.
      The first lights of dusk were coming on along the streets. They were harsh compared to the soft oil or gaslamps of home. Trila lipped at the dried grass beneath her feet when Aliana slipped her the reins.
      Jarmin sighed again, his field relaxing even more. She'd never seen or zlinned him so calm before, and he was calming as she watched. It was amazing. As the stars came out above, Aliana could zlin the diamond chip glitter of health she'd only read about appear in Jarmin's sable nager.
      He leaned down to stroke his gelding's neck. The animal wasn't at all beautiful, but he was certainly kind. "It's so different out here." He let his horse try to graze a bit as well. "I wonder what it looks like to you sometimes."
      "Do you really want to know?" She knew her own opinion of most of what she'd seen was extremely low, and not unbiased.
      "Yes, actually, I do," he rested his hand on her wrist. Even this light touch brought forth another trickle of overenthusiasm. Jarmin only chuckled and wiped it up with a soft cloth.
      "It's so cold," the blue white lights seemed to mock the wonderful violet glory of the darkening sky. As if the night were any less beautiful than the day and had to be banished.
      "I thought Moskva was much further north."
      "Oh, not in temperature," she shivered in memory. "That is one thing I love about living here. It never gets cold, physically."
      "At least where we've been."
      "More than a meter of snow on the ground from December through March?"
      "Well, maybe not," he chuckled, wrinkling his nose at her. "Which is why Arkay and Nashen come here then."
      "Exactly," her grandfather was the neatest person she'd ever met, in some ways even more than Jarmin. Not that she was going to tell him as much.
      "I like Arkay a lot," his field, now unbounded by kador or too many people, stretched out towards the heavens. "And not just because he saved my life. Diomid could probably have done it himself."
      "True enough," Aliana knew her uncle Diomid was one of the best healers in the world, if not the best. But there was something about Arkay which made him particularly special.
      "You're a lot like your grandfather, you know," Jarmin's observation was quite disarming after his earlier comment. "You both have an inner strength which is utterly amazing."
      "My father is like that as well," she colored a bit. "Which is some of why he had a hard time with Arkay as an adolescent." The story he'd told of his growing up had curled her hair. She'd come so close to loosing him before even being born.
      "Which might explain why he let me go rather than try to change my mind when I'd said I wanted to come here."
      "Perhaps," Jarmin shifted his weight on his saddle, making the leather creak. "Or perhaps he knew children do have to find their own way in the world."
      "I'm just glad I found my way to you," she kissed the back of his hand, binding it to hers with her tentacles. Even a bit soggy with roniplin, she couldn't pass up the opportunity to hold him so close.
      Not since he'd established had Jarmin ever felt so at ease. And now he could sense his own field swirling around him as so many Simes had described. He focused on it and watched eddies form in the smooth flow.
      "Masturbating, my love?" Aliana's question broke him out of his fascination.
      "In a way, I suppose," he grinned, feeling a bit like a boy having been caught doing the same by a parent. "But here I can really see it," he tickled her with a tendril. Her mare skittered at Aliana's yelp. It was a few minutes before she got Trila settled again.
      "Sorry, my love," he took her hand back.
      "Not your fault I picked beauty over brains," she gave Trila an exasperated look. "Only goes to show why Gens run the household."
      "Oh, because we're not as easily distracted by a pretty nager?"
      "Exactly," her tentacles bound them together again. The most wonderful symbol of Sime and Gen unity, and it'd gotten them scolded by more defenders of public morality than anything short of the time he'd nearly taken her in front of everyone.
      "Ah, but I'm amazingly distracted by your tentacles," he lifted their joined hands to his face and brushed the back of her hand with his lips. One dorsal investigated his cheek and he gave it a lick. The velvet touch seemed to go right to his arms.
      "Three days of this," her eyes were the color of the sky, and as bright as the stars in it.
      "And I'm looking forward to every moment of it," he promised.
      By the time they got home, Jarmin remembered the other reason Simes didn't like it when Gens rode horses. Particularly out of shape Gens. He put his hand on his back and forced himself upright.
      "Into a hot bath, with you," Aliana flinched at an injudicious movement of her own.
      "Let me get those two for you," Lian saved Jarmin's life.
      "Thank you," he breathed, absolutely worshipful for his rescue.
      "Yes, thank you," Aliana took his arm. "It's been too long since I've ridden and Trila is not a fun ride for someone who's out of shape."
      "At least yer Gen here had some sense." Lian winked. "Hanne may not look like much, but he has a great mind."
      "But it's been nearly twenty years since I rode." Jarmin rolled his eyes. "No matter how good, I'm going to feel it in the morning."
      "Go take a long, hot soak. I'll tell Cook to bring you both dinner in the hot tub." He quickly untracked Trila first and then started on Hanne. "Go on, I get paid for this. You're supposed to be on vacation."
      "Wise man," Jarmin patted him on the back as he would another Donor. Then blinked in astonishment at himself. He'd been trained to never, ever touch a Sime without their permission, much less any renSime.
      "I'm a person too, m'Lord," he looked away suddenly. "Sharm Lord Kaon told me about himself and his kind. I would never, ever think of trying to get through those bracelets." Lian flicked a tentacle towards Jarmin's. "And you know something?"
      "Hmmmm?" Jarmin wasn't entirely sure he liked where this was going.
      "I like it like this," he grabbed a brush and got to work. "No worries, no hassles. Me and my horses. This is the life. Once a month I go downtown and get my transfer and I couldn't be happier to be away from all of it."
      There was nothing Jarmin could do but take Lian at his word. It was certainly unusual, but then again he could see it. Something like the way some Gen religious groups would form communities of one gender or the other.
      Aliana leaned back in the tub with a great, gusting sigh of relief. The water lifting up her tired body was wonderful. Jarmin eased himself in with another, matching sigh. "This is incredible." His nager seemed to sparkle with its freedom from bondage.
      "I like it," she scooted over so she was right next to him. It wasn't as warm as she preferred, but it was plenty warm all the same. But then this way she could cuddle up with Jarmin comfortably. Then she smelled the food.
      "I knew my uncle would hire a good cook," she reached over her lover to pull off the cover. "Perfect!" She snagged a cheese puff and fed it to him.
      "Good," he raised his eyebrows and began investigating dinner. There was quite a bit, and Aliana wondered if they'd be able to go through all of it, as close to transfer as they were. But all of it was so tasty, she soon forgot about worrying it was too much, and wondered if it were enough.
      There was also a carafe of fairly sweet, almost aggressively fruity white wine to go along with dinner. At first Jarmin waved it away, but when he discovered the spicy tomato fritters, he stole her glass.
      She laughed and poured another. Together they managed to entirely demolish the tray of goodies. Down to a few stray walnuts and a couple of olives left, she leaned back. Jarmin conclusively finished the destruction and then took another sip of what had been Aliana's wine.
      "This is good," he looked at it closely for the first time. There wasn't really enough light to get a good idea of the color, but she guessed it was fairly yellow like many of the wines from around the Middle Sea. Or possibly like those to the north and west of the passage from the Black Sea to the Middle Sea. Both regions tended towards sweeter whites that still had a lot of body to them.
      "I doubt Sevrin would ever short his stomach," Aliana refilled her glass with the last of it. Jarmin gave her a mournful look and she fed him a bit from her glass. His eyes lit with a grin as he had to lick up a few spilled drops.
      "Much less Vanesa's," he pointed out.
      "Even more true," she rested her head on his shoulder. There was a steady dripping sound from moisture condensing on the walls and then falling back into the water. Her glass clicked loudly on the tiles as she put it down.
      Jarmin cocked his head at her in question and she silenced him with a kiss. Then, one at a time, she undid his braids. The beads she'd used to finish off the ends eventually formed a considerable pile. When she was done, Jarmin reached up and ruffled all of it. She giggled.
      "You look like a bird," it was dreadfully cute, even though it felt wonderful. Her fingers itched to join his. Relenting to their urging, she massaged his scalp. His soft murmurs of appreciation were even more wonderful than the hot water. His eyes closed in what zlinned like utter bliss.
      As usual, Jarmin woke up as a soon as the sun reached the horizon. This time of year, it wasn't so early as to be disgusting, even though Aliana made horribly rude noises. "Get back here," she wrapped her arms around his waist.
      "Um, I have to get up for a moment," he tried to tug loose as gently as he could. "Please, lover."
      "Only a few," her eyes were slitted open a tiny fraction. He scampered into the bathroom and then hoped he could get away with sitting by her side until she went back to sleep. The instant his rear end touched the bed, however, she dragged him back under the covers.
      "Mine," her voice was muffled against his shoulder blade. "Hrmph," her arms clutched at his middle. He wasn't going anywhere. Her warmth cut through the morning chill with amazing effectiveness. Then she completed her conquest by locking his thighs down with one of her own.
      "Love you," he settled himself down into the unusually deeply padded mattress. This must be one of the featherbeds Aliana had been going on about at such great length. Now that he'd experienced one, he knew exactly why she'd been pining for one.
      "Good," she rubbed her nose against his spine. "Love you. My Gen. My very own Gen. Yup," her yawn punctuated her silliness.
      "And you are my Sime," he reassured her, feeling a bit drowsy with all the warmth. One of her arms released him and flicked the bed curtains closed. Now it was dark again. Oh, this was wonderful! Even before her arm returned to his side, he fell back into the darkness of sleep.
      Aliana watched with an amused smile as Jarmin slithered out of bed for the second time this morning. His habit of waking with the dawn had bothered her for the entire time she'd known him. Only this morning had she figured out why.
      "Feel better?" She asked, putting down her book.
      "Much," he stretched. Her mouth watered as his nager pulsed with life coursing through his body. It was nearly spilling through his skin and glittered in the late morning sun like gold on black velvet. In another couple of days, she'd take his wonderful warmth into herself, but for right now she basked in anticipation.
      "You should sleep in more often," she moved her legs over so he could sit on the couch.
      "I get up to get more things done," he accepted it and sipped. His look of dismay made her giggle again. "Strong." He sounded strangled.
      "Here," she poured a bit more hot water into the mixture.
      "Better," he blinked after another sip. "Nashen did that to me once too."
      "I always forget to water yours more than mine," she shrugged. Again she scratched at the healing lines where her bra had cut into her yesterday. Jarmin's hands joined hers, holding up her breasts. "That feels good."
      "Even when you aren't post," his field sparkled with amusement.
      "Even when," she kissed him on the nose. "Just different and no where near as intense. Did you like Liza's?"
      "Very much," his skin darkened a bit more. "Different."
      "There you go," she cupped his face in her hand. The rough stubble made her fingertips yearn for more contact.
      "I should go shave," he lowered his eyes.
      "Or not," she shrugged. Oh that felt good with him holding up her breasts. She tried it again for good measure. "You're good at that."
      "So glad I can be of assistance," he shook his head. "Guess I can't shave and keep holding up your tits, can I?"
      "Then you have to stay here." The laughter in his dark eyes was wonderful to behold. The last few months he'd tensed up so badly before transfer, she feared for his sanity. "Here," she fed him some of his own tea.
      "Do you expect me to stay here all day?"
      "I wouldn't mind," she grinned at him. "But seriously, shave or not as you wish. I don't mind either way."
      "Which do you prefer?"
      "Don't know, really," she shrugged again, still enjoying the sensation. "You've never let your beard grow out since I've known you."
      "Because it itches!" His vehemence was so surprising she bounced out of his hold. "So sorry." He put his hands back in place.
      "Then keep it shaved," she brushed her thumbs along his jaw. "You have a beautiful face."
      "You are besotted," he leaned against the couch.
      "As I would hope you are," she looked into his eyes. "At least until the end of the week."
      "You are bad, Aliana," coruscating rainbows sprayed across his nager with his amusement. "I love thee, my most incredible partner."
      "As I love thee with all my soul," she held his face in her hands. "Even if you haven't shaved yet this morning."
      "Complaints, complaints," he rolled his eyes. "Here I am, acting as her bra, and all she can do is complain. What is life as a poor, lowly Gen coming to?"
      "Getting your wonderful, lascivious hands all over my poor tired, need worn out body," she batted her eyelashes at him and fed him some more of his tea.
      Jarmin never did manage to really get dressed. The rooms they shared were warmed to the heat of mid-summer and quite honestly, he didn't want to. The threadbare pants he'd found worked well enough.
      "What do you want to do today?" Normally he was running from one project to another every moment he was awake.
      "Not a whole lot," Aliana looked as if she'd grown the couch she was sitting on out of her backside. "Sit here, drink some tea, maybe get something to eat. If we decide we're really feeling energetic, maybe play a game or two."
      "Like what?" Not since he was a child had he played games. The idea sounded utterly delightful.
      "Cards, dice, maybe there are some board games around here," she shrugged again, a gesture he enjoyed greatly at the moment. It was as if by holding the softest part of her in his hands, he held her heart as well. "Do you have any hobbies?"
      "I used to ride," he gazed out at the gauzy clouds high overhead through the window. "My mother used to knit, but she didn't teach any of us boys." He'd seen Arkay knitting last winter, but he hadn't thought to ask him to teach Jarmin how. "What did you do?"
      "Read," she chuckled softly. "My mother isn't very Geninine when it comes to her hobbies, I'm afraid. She tends to hole up with a book when she's looking for something to do."
      "What sort of hobbies are Geninine?" He stumbled over the unfamiliar word, even though its meaning was obvious.
      "All of the fiber arts," then she wrinkled her nose. "Even though Nashen has taken up bobbin lace in his dotage."
      "He's not so old as all that!"
      "He'll only live as long as Arkay," she sighed heavily. "I do love both of them, Jarmin."
      "Then maybe they'll live a good, long time more," Jarmin well knew Arkay was not a young man, and nearly crippled at times with arthritis. "Is that why they go to Kaon in the winters?"
      "Exactly," she nodded. "Arkay's father succumbed to pain when he was not much older than Arkay is now. Riana gave Nashen the gift of winters here for the birth of their daughter. So of course where Nashen goes, Arkay goes as well. They are inseparable."
      "As are we," he leaned over and kissed the soft skin between her breasts. The heat of her body was as intoxicating as the wine they were drinking last night, and he stayed in that warm valley for a while. Her hand came up and pressed him close.
      For once he didn't mind his hair blocking out all the rest of his vision. He didn't have to see when he could hear her heartbeat beneath his ear and feel the slow, falling steps of her selyn consumption beneath his hands. "As are we, my beloved." She kissed the top of his head in benediction.
      Aliana did not want to move, and it seemed neither did Jarmin. This was good. He was in a pretty good spot, too. His life spilled over her hands with nearly the same enthusiasm as his hair. Freed of its confinement, it seemed to be trying to make up for lost time.
      Finally she tugged him up onto the couch with her and tossed a cover over both of them. He nuzzled her breast again and promptly fell back asleep. This was good. If he was dozing off so easily, he'd run himself ragged.
      She yawned as well, even though her body was being a bit edgy still with the nearness of transfer. Not feeling much like reading again, she cuddled Jarmin even closer and dozed off as well. It wasn't true sleep, but she rested, safe in his warmth.
      At last the waiting was over, and Jarmin had never looked more healthy or alive. Even as the hardest need loomed, his composure reassured Aliana all would be well.
      This was a definite improvement. She'd opened one of the windows a crack, wanting to cool off the room so she'd have an excuse to burrow under the blankets. Jarmin laughed at her and burrowed with her.
      Soon they were entwined in a ball of limbs beneath the light wool covers. She kissed every cent of skin she could reach with her mouth, and caressed those she couldn't. Even before the peak, she brought out Jarmin's need so they could enjoy it together.
      His field had nearly stopped growing, only rising the smallest of increments at a time. Warm murmurs of encouragement spurred on her efforts. Within herself, she could feel her own need yawn beneath her feet, nearly swallowing her in its darkness.
      At last she turned to face him. His eyes were now truly black as he fell headlong into his body's demands for transfer. This time she was ready for it. Setting herself, she wrapped her arms and legs both around him.
      He struck, demanding she open with his insistent lips trying to devour her. Giving over her very soul to his life, she opened to him. White hot selyn drove through her systems, bringing behind it new life and a warmth greater than the sun.
      Then it slowed for a beat. Aliana yanked at the sudden resistance. Selyn flared and sprayed free to bath her soul in new life. A shiver passed through her body as the world of selyn retreated into the darkness. Jarmin groaned. For an instant, she worried she'd hurt him.
      His kisses dispelled all worry. Soft, very wet lips traced down her neck. It was her turn to groan as he teased her mercilessly. Aliana was having none of this. With a shove, she got him on his back.
      "So eager," he nipped at her shoulder.
      "Yes," she dug her fingers into his. "Oh, yes, Jarmin," she purred as she took him into her body physically.
      "Talkative," he then shut up as she grabbed him. His eyes rolled up in his head and she thought he was about to faint. Then she felt him give over to her.
      "So quick, my love," she murmured against his neck. Her whole body tingled with the joy of being alive.
      "I'm not done yet, my pretty," he chuckled wickedly and flipped her on her back. She yelped at the suddenness of it and grabbed him. "Yes, I like it when you hold me." He rocked his hips against her. All she could do was moan, mindlessly.
      "So you like this, do you?" his stroking movements quickened, driving her nearly mad with wanting some sort of conclusion. "We waited for three days for transfer, perhaps we should wait three days for this?"
      "NO!" She writhed beneath him, trying to get that last little bit of contact she wanted.
      "No, you don't want me?" He pulled out most of the way. Her whimpers must have gotten through. "You do want me?" His sudden thrust drove all thought from what was left of her brain. "Or do you?" He stopped and looked at her.
      "Do me!" She couldn't come up with anything more specific. Then he leaned on one elbow and began tracing little designs on her chest with an opposite forefinger. Her whole body tingled from head to foot with wanting him. She struggled beneath him to move! Somehow he'd managed to pin her completely.
      He wet his finger and retraced his designs. Then he blew on them and she shivered all over. "You are an evil, cruel person, Jarmin," she managed to pant. "Making me wait."
      "You made me come," he raised one eyebrow and wiggled. She melted into the bed. "You're just going to have to wait for seconds."
      "Seconds, thirds, don't care," she tried moving him on top of her. "Mine!"
      "Yes," his sweet voice lowered even more. "Yours," he rested his weight on her and began to move again. Aliana was lost to his sleek body on her and in her. Great shimmering waves of pleasure washed through her with each stroke. "But is Aliana mine?"
      "Yes!" She dug her heels into him, trying to be sure he didn't stop.
      He chuckled so very softly it only came out as a breath against her ear, "My beautiful Aliana." His little nips along her ears were driving her up a wall. Putting all her effort into it, she managed to get him right where she wanted him. Then of course he stopped again.
      Her wail of frustration must have nearly shattered the windows.
      "Such upset," he reached down and caressed her between them. She bucked frantically against his hand, but he stopped just before she could reach release. "I might not have tentacles, but I do have fingers," he winked, "and you showed me with Liza a lot of things I'd like to try." Aliana knew she should have been less inventive.
      "Like this, perhaps," he reached around her and teased her from behind as well. "I might not have tentacles, but perhaps fingers might work as well."
      "Shut up, Jarmin," she managed to get out before her world dissolved back into pure pleasure at his touch.
      "I think not," he murmured just before he bit her neck again. She howled her desires.
      Unwilling to let him get the best of her entirely, Aliana wet a couple of tentacles and took him. He shivered on top of her as she managed to reach the one spot she was looking for. "Yes, more," he breathed against her skin. "Oh my, yes," with each little stroke he drove into her harder.
      At last he gave up entirely on teasing her and began moving her against him. This was what she'd wanted. Now hard and demanding, he took of her body as he'd taken of her field.
      "Yes," she bit at his shoulder as yet another wave of pleasure crested in her body. Higher and higher he drove it, until she writhed with each stroke. Wide open to him, she reveled in his demands.
      Then he came to her, clutching at her with all his strength as he filled her. She screamed as the sudden movement drove her own pleasures white hot.
      "My beloved," Jarmin brushed away a stray lock of Aliana's hair from her face. She actually fainted as they'd found release together.
      "Hmmmm?" Her whole body was a study in utter contentment. He couldn't help but caress her sleek lines with one trembling hand. Even if they never found such perfection again, he'd remember this one time forever.
      "Just wanting to hear your voice," he lipped away a few strands of sweat dampened hair from her ear. "It's nearly as beautiful as you are."
      "Flatterer," somehow she found the energy to tighten her grip even more. "Next to you, no one is more than a pale shadow."
      "Now you flatter me," he let out his breath and let himself melt completely on top of her. "Good?"
      "Nearly too good," her attention turned inwards, as it always had after they'd made love.
      "I thought," he cut off what he was going to say.
      "Checking only, this time," her wonderful chuckle seemed far more satisfied than he would have expected, nearly smug, as a matter of fact. "And yes, most likely."
      His pulse raced again. It was really happening. Fear and love and desire all twined in an impossible knot behind his breast bone. He laughed and cried together as he tried to smother her in kisses. His very own Sime, and now a child. He hugged her until he could feel her ribs creak.
      "Greedy," her kisses matched his own until they found themselves more amorous than playful again. Oh how he loved loving her. He never tired of her warmth in his arms or her impetuous, untiring enthusiasm. '
      It was as if, by virtue of her upbringing, she'd been freed of the desire to be anything other than Sime. Her unforced gaiety somehow seemed so perfectly tied to the quicksilver nature of her larity, she was the epitome of Simeness to him and so desirable beyond measure.
      "You're probably going to think I'm mad," Aliana murmured against his collarbones when they'd finished. She licked a bit of salt from his skin and he shivered all over.
      "Hmmmm?" His gentle twitches only accented the limpness of his lanky body on hers.
      "I'm hungry," she nipped him.
      "Hey!" He tried to get up and fell back with a thump. "Oh, my," he mumbled, wiping his face against her head. "I'm not going anywhere."
      "This is why we have servants," she reached out an pulled on the tug. It wasn't attached to anything but the ceiling. "Oh hell," she muttered, glaring at it.
      "I'm glad that's not my eyebrows." He slithered sideways and fell off her. She giggled at his silliness. His arm rested over her waist, as if to keep her from going anywhere. Then her stomach grumbled about the fact it hadn't been feed since sometime yesterday.
      "Um, me too," he nuzzled her ear, his softness edging her towards sleep even as her belly cramped with hunger. What to do? Then his stomach growled. She gave it a look.
      "Sorry," his lipping her ear did not feel particularly apologetic. Then he pinned her down with a leg thrown over her thighs.
      "I'm not going to be able to get us fed if you don't let me up," not that she wanted to get up at the moment. Jarmin was not the only flaccid object around here.
      "Yell," he mumbled.
      "We did," she was rewarded by his face burning against her skin in a fantastic blush. "Takes a lot of noise to make a baby."
      "Is that why you were shouting in my ear," he tickled her.
      This was entirely unfair. He wasn't ticklish. Not that she hadn't tried and she tried again! He just laughed and danced his fingers over her ribs again. Now she could get up. Laughing she hit him over the head with a pillow.
      "Alas, a mortal wounde you've struck me!" He put the back of his hand to his forehead and fell back into the featherbed. "Oh, I'm dying, I'm dying. Do you have any care for your dying husband!"
      "He's a lousy actor," she stuck her tongue in his ear. He yelped and nearly fell off the bed.
      "Yuck, slimy," he rubbed at it and then swatted her with another pillow. "Sime slime!"
      "That's on your arms now," she flicked out a tentacle at him. He hesitated long enough at the sight for her to smack him over the head again.
      "Not fair," his pout was atrocious. She reached out and played with his lip sticking out. The sound of the resulting raspberry made her laugh.
      "Never said I played fair," she winked and temporarily fortified, she managed to stagger to the door. "Food?" The young man, Haris was his name, looked up from his illustrated book.
      "What kind?" He dashed forward, only his being Sime saving him from slipping on the unmounted runner. "Oh, sorry, m'Lord."
      "Better," she couldn't manage to get up any serious irritation with the young man. He was as cute as a puppy, and about as well trained as one. Oh well, in time he'd get himself together. "Lots, whatever the cook has on."
      "I'll be right back," he took the stairs four at a time, flying down them with reckless disregard for life or limb. But at least someone'd managed to beat into his head augmentation restrictions, for he didn't. Her knees wobbled as she made her way back to the bed. Jarmin had managed to pry himself upright as well.
      The sound of running water in the bathroom reminded her of other things. Staggering, she stomped her way in to join him. Toothbrush in mouth and still pissing, he was a sight. "So this is domesticity?"
      "Afraid so," he must have only now realized what he was doing. "I really had to go."
      "I guess so," she laughed, watching him try to decide what to do to save the situation. It was hopeless, but she wasn't going to tell him that. Her snickers fell on deaf ears.
      "My turn," she brushed her tongue over her teeth. Actually he'd had a great idea. Something small and fuzzy had left little footprints all over them. Good thing they'd both been very post. She was utterly filthy. Even though looking at Jarmin's hair going every which way, she realized they both were.
      "Food first, then shower," she grabbed for her toothbrush.
      "No, hair first," he wet a comb and plastered down the worst of his mare's nest of hair. "Ugh," he scratched at his scalp. "Why is it I never realize how filthy I get before transfer now?"
      "Because you, like me, are only interested in transfer. The niceties of grooming and other civilized behavior tend to get forgotten," she then concentrated on banishing her unwanted tenants. Jarmin's gentle swat on her rear made her squeal around a mouthful of toothpaste.
      Aliana cringed as he took a damp washcloth and cleaned up the worst of the mess she'd left on him. Then he did the same to her as she bent over the sink. This time she kicked at him.
      "My mare," he leaned over and nipped at her shoulder. She moaned and wiggled against him. "Your stallion is worn out."
      "Old man," she teased.
      "Yup, just like Arkay."
      "He doesn't say no to Nashen," she felt so much better now. Grabbing the bedraggled wash cloth, she swiped at her pits as well. It didn't help much. She still smelled like a whore on the second of the month.
      Then the dratted phone rang!
      "Who in hell is calling on the private line?" Aliana would bet only a handful of people would have the number. Unfortunately the first of which would be her uncle.
      "Hello, Aliana Fatimanova speaking."
      Of course it was her uncle on the other end, "Yes, I have a young lady by the name of Lizabet Smitson here who says she knows you two reprobates."
      "No, no, not like that," Liza's voice in the background rang out loud and clear. "I only wanted to talk with Jarmin."
      "As you can hear, the young lady has a penetrating voice. She won't tell me a blessed thing." Aliana did not wonder at all why. Sevrin could be rather intimidating on first meeting. "Of course the fact she's pregnant, by Jarmin if I ..."
      "I'm going to die of embarrassment," there was the sound of footsteps and then Liza came on the line. "I'm so sorry to drag you into this Aliana. I told your uncle I wanted to talk with your husband about a mare he'd been interested in."
      Aliana remembered no such conversation, but could well fill in the gaps. "Instead he noticed your pregnancy, did a gene scan and determined your child's paternity without even asking for permission." She sighed. Sevrin could be the most insensitive ass ever born. "I'm so sorry to have dragged you into this mess. Kick him out of the room and we'll talk."
      Of course Jarmin had turned a rather alarming shade of gray at overhearing this. "Go get the other line," she told him before he fainted. As if he'd been raised in Russia, he ran to do her bidding.
      "OK, he's gone, pouting all the way."
      "I'm sure," Aliana rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Now, how did you end up at Kaon?"
      "Well, since you'd left me the number of your relatives and recommended I move down there so if anything went wrong, I could ask for help, I did." Even over the electronic connection, Aliana could hear her sniffle.
      "It's all right, Liza. No one is angry with you, really," she wished Jarmin would pick up the second line.
      "I wouldn't bet on it," a trace of her old humor came back for a moment. Then there was a click.
      "Welcome to the discussion, Jarmin my love."
      "You're pregnant!" Were the first words out of his mouth.
      "Well, yes, what did you expect?" Aliana didn't bother to hide her exasperation.
      "Don't get into a fight over us," in her mind's eye, Aliana could see Liza lay her hand protectively over her belly. "As soon as I can placate your uncle, I'll be on my way again."
      "No you won't," Aliana warned her. "Sevrin has all the tenacity of a Sime in hard need." Liza giggled at the sally. "He'll have you cossetted and pampered to the point where you don't know which end is up if you aren't careful."
      "I know!" Her wail was heartbreaking. "I made the singular mistake of applying for work as a riding instructor at Kaon itself, figuring I might as well start at the top. Surprisingly, I got the job straight off. Your two nieces are adorable, by the way."
      "I know," Aliana couldn't believe they were already big enough to be ready for their first ponies, but adding up the months on her fingers, she realized they were. Where did the time go? "So, you were teaching Sivaya and Viasha to ride, and then what?"
      "Well, I was also training their ponies, as both of them are a bit young still," her breathing was steadying down finally. "We were all doing fine until nearly a week ago, when I felt this strange falling sensation, while cleaning up some tack." Aliana closed her eyes and sighed. The rest of the story held all the inevitability of an anvil falling.
      "To make a long story short, Sevrin somehow spotted this and ran over asking if I were alright. Of course I was. I had no idea what had happened. Then he ran his hands over my entire body and dragged me in here. I held out as long as I could, but I finally told him to call you, since I didn't know where you were!"
      "Relax, Liza," Jarmin's sweet voice held all of it's old hypnotic qualities. "What you felt was turnover, Gen style. Most Simes here don't believe in it, but it does feel a bit like stepping off a very tall stair."
      "It felt like the instant a horse threatens to refuse a fence!" Liza snapped. "Awful. Why didn't anyone warn me?"
      "Because western Simes don't believe in it," Aliana couldn't keep the exasperation out of her tone. "Only sharm lords with a lot of potential ever feel it. It's natural. There's nothing wrong with you or your baby."
      The sigh of relief on the other end was huge. "Thank you. I was almost sure I was pregnant when I missed my period, but I was afraid that weird sensation was just my own nerves acting weirdly with my body and it was only mimicking pregnancy. Thank you."
      "So, this is the first I've heard of any of this," Jarmin clicked his tongue against his teeth in exasperation. "Aliana and I had transfer less than a few hours ago. We're still pretty unraveled and in desperate desire of a bath."
      Liza giggled, sounding as young and carefree as she should. "Honestly, if your uncle hadn't forced my hand, I would have never said anything."
      Jarmin sucked in a deep breath, "I'm not going to say I'm not unpleased he told me."
      "But I didn't want you to feel trapped by my decision," Liza's voice held all the breathy uncertainty of someone about to cry.
      Aliana stepped in before Jarmin could make even more of a hash of things than her uncle had, "Liza, by our customs, this child is yours. If you wish to share him or her with us, we'd be enormously flattered, but it's your choice. We won't do anything if you so choose."
      "But what do I do about your uncle?"
      "Tell him to fuck off!"
      "I can't say that. He's my employer!"
      She counted to ten in her head, "I would guess you are under Danyel Ferris, as part of the facilities budget, correct?"
      "Yes," she said slowly. "He signs my checks."
      "Good, my uncle is a brilliant man, but a twit. Tell him to go to hell and if he has problems with your professional performance, tell him to talk it over with Danyel." She waited again as Liza thought this over.
      "But he was so sweet and gentle to me too," her tone took on more than a bit of hero worship.
      "He can be, but you have to stand up to him or he'll run right over the top of you. His lady is nearly as bad, if a great deal more socially apt."
      "Now there's the understatement of the century, my loves," Jarmin seemed to be recovering his wits rather quickly. "What would you like to do, Liza?"
      "Raise my child and work here," her voice was soft, as if she didn't think she expected any such thing to happen.
      "Well, my family is known for getting what they want," Aliana said firmly. "Get my uncle back on this phone and go on back to what you want to be doing. Scoot!"
      "Thank you, Aliana," she chirped happily, even as she sniffled one last time. "I don't want to be charity or dependant. I like teaching the little ones. Thank you, thank you."
      "Oh, I'll expect you to teach our little ones to ride someday too," she chuckled.
      "Yes," Aliana laughed wholeheartedly. "Really. I should know if it's a boy or a girl in a few days."
      "Congratulations," she laughed with her. "Oh, now I'm crying again. You are a wonderful person, both of you."
      "Thank you, Liza," Jarmin's voice was still sounding a bit strangled, but better. "I'm glad you're happy with the way things turned out."
      "Considering the fact I'd planned on it," she laughed again, with just a tinge of wickedness. "Thank you. I'll go get Sevrin again. I think I can hear him fuming outside the door."
      Eventually Aliana got everything straightened out with her uncle. He was not entirely happy with the situation, but conceded Liza had the right to choose to bear a child, and to whom. It wasn't as if she couldn't take care of herself or a child, particularly as the primary riding instructor at Kaon. And she was an excellent rider, Sevrin reassured her. She hadn't been hired because of her ties to Aliana and Jarmin.
      Greatly relieved, Aliana finally managed to get Sevrin to let her off the phone. He was horrible about talking for hours on the shenned thing. Or at least gossiping. "We'll both be there about a month, uncle. We can stay up late talking then."
      "But I want to stay up late talking now!"
      "Go see if you can mend your fences with Liza. I get the feeling she might like someone to chat with," Aliana had gotten more than a few glimmers of loneliness in the young woman when they'd first met, and doubted that would improve any with such a long move.
      "Good idea," she could hear the gears turn over in his head. "Good night, Aliana."
      "Good night, uncle Sevrin."
      "Good night, uncle," Jarmin added on. There was a soft chuckle and he finally hanged up the phone. Jarmin sighed and there was a second click. Aliana braced herself. She knew Jarmin was still a bit upset by finding out he'd gotten Liza pregnant.
      Jarmin's head was in an absolute whirl and he couldn't face Aliana just yet. He'd enjoyed his time with Liza tremendously, but had thought nothing more than pleasure would ever come of it. His skin felt tight all over, as if something had shrunk it to his bones.
      Embarrassed, afraid, scared, he didn't know quite what he was feeling. Before he'd met Aliana he'd never thought of children. Only rarely did Donors manage to either bear or sire children, unless they'd gotten themselves into a dependency that was.
      His breath escaped explosively. Still fuddled, he wandered into the guest shower and started sluicing off. Maybe something so normal would settle him.
      At last he admitted to himself he hadn't thought of the possible consequences of his actions with Liza because Aliana hadn't said anything. She'd taken care of all their prior arrangements regarding contraception because he'd never been taught anything at all about the matter. But would he have if he'd thought of it?
      Somehow he didn't know. Some primitive inner part of his soul was capering in mad glee at the current state of affairs. Obviously Aliana wasn't mad at him, or Liza for that much matter. Actually, they'd probably been in on it together.
      The smack of his fist hammering the tiles was shockingly loud in the tiny space. A sudden wash of fury at having been used washed away with the water rinsing his body. No, no one was to blame. He'd much rather have known, but it wasn't as if he didn't have all the information.
      He looked down at his now fully functional genitals. They hadn't been for most of the last twenty years and to think of how very easy it had been to create new life had been was utterly frightening. He shivered in the warm water, hugging his arms to his chest and looking up into the water pouring from the shower head.
      A soft knock on the glass interrupted his introspection. As his attention shifted, Aliana asked, "May I come in?"
      "Yes, of course," he pulled aside the shower door. Her ski

held a sickly gray cast as she stepped in next to him. He put his arm around her and she shrank down until she hid her face against his chest. To see her so small scared him spitless. "I love thee," he lipped at her hair.
      "I love thee," her lower lip quivered as she looked up at him. He leaned down and kissed it gently, tugging at it. Finally he managed to kiss the tension from her lips.
      "Stand up straight, please," he tried to straighten her backbone.
      "If you like," her eyes were still lowered.
      "Aliana," he held her chin in his fingertips.
      "Yes, Jarmin," her smile trembled.
      "Will you braid my hair for me?" He put all his hopes for their future into the question. For while he might have loved another to the point where he gave them a child, never would he let anyone but Aliana tame his mare's nest of hair, or by implication, he now realized, touch his selyn.
      "Yes," and she was both laughing and crying as she kissed him with all her heart.

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