Episode 24: Moonrise

They ate their meal in silence. Rhade watched as Kasei practically inhaled her meal, silently taking a second and third helping from the pot. Yuki ate his meal slower than Kasei, but also had seconds, leaving just enough left for Rhade to have more if he wanted it. Yuki offered to clean up afterwards and wouldn’t let Rhade talk him out of it, insisting that it was his job anyways.

When they finished, Yuki didn’t immediately whisk the dishes away. He stacked them and set them aside. “So,” he said, looking Kasei and Rhade in the eye. “If you two are going to go through with Rhade’s plan, you’re going to have to start now.”

“Now? Why?”

“Well, if the two of you were actually married, you’d share a shelter, right? I can guarantee that mother will ask about that. If Rhade isn’t at least a little familiar with how you sleep, Kasei, then this will fall apart as soon as the questions start being asked. Second, details of the ceremony will also be asked. Rhade, you’ll need to fill her in on that. Got it?”

Kasei looked as if she wanted to throttle her brother, but simply nodded, standing. “You have a point, Yuki,” she said, heading for the shelters.

“Well?” he asked Rhade. “Go after her.”

He needed no further encouraging. He scrambled up to his feet and followed. When he reached the shelters, he saw her sitting on the top of a dune not far from the larger shelter. He took a deep breath before joining her. “Kasei?”

She didn’t even look at him. “Is this even a good idea?”

“I’m not even sure of that,” he said sitting beside her. “It’ll be hard for both of us, but I think it’ll be worth it in the long run.”

“Hard? How could this be hard for you?”

“Hard to remember that this is only pretend, that you’re only wearing the double helix to escape something worse than me.”

She turned to glance at him briefly. “Remind me when we get back to the palace to give you the thing that I keep in my secret drawer.”

“What would that be?”

“You’ll find out when we get back. It’s not something discussed in the open. Yuki doesn’t even know about this. Men aren’t supposed to unless…Unless they’re married.”

“Ah.”

“Don’t say anything more about it. I really don’t want to.”

“Would it be alright with you if I gave you this now?” he asked, pulling the smaller of his two double helix bands out of the pocket of his jacket and holding it out for her to see.

She looked at it. “It’s lovely.”

“Take your jacket off and I’ll show you how it’s worn,” he said, taking his own off.

She slid her jacket off and turned to face him. He took her arm and clasped the cool metal around her arm. “Now, you put this one around my arm the same way I put it on you.” As she did so, he said, “Normally, the female puts the band around her arm and then puts another on the arm of her male.”

“That’s it?”

“Pretty much. What happens afterwards…I think you can guess.”

“I have a good idea, yes,” she said, looking at the arm band. “It’s a little uncomfortable. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.”

“Hopefully, this won’t take long. After we leave Nomaie, you can give it back.”

“And gladly, too.”

Rhade turned away to hide his disappointment. “Hey, Kasei. Remember when we were looking at the moon on Callien? You said then that you’d show me a Nomaien moonrise. Would you?”

“Wait a little bit. The moons should be coming out shortly after the sunlight fades away. There’s nothing I’ve seen more beautiful that the twin moons over the desert at night. I’ve been around a long time and nothing compares.”

Rhade sat and waited with her for the last of the sunlight to fade to blackness. One by one the stars appeared overhead. Slowly, the smaller of the two moons began to appear followed shortly by the larger. “Most cultures have myths about their moons. Does yours?”

She nodded. “The old legends tell of the first queen and her daughters. The youngest was called Kaikou. She was loved by a man named Aori and he desired to have her with him always as his very own to share with no other. Such things were forbidden then. Though at first, she didn’t love him, she grew fond enough of him to want the same thing. Outraged, her mother called down a curse on their heads. She turned Kaikou into the smaller moon, the one we call Shanshe, and Aori into the larger moon, Kaivashe. Though they would always seen each other, they would never be able to touch out of embarrassment , for all of Nomaie would see it if they did. So they were doomed to forever wander the skies.”

“Tragic.”

“Most tales of moons are. It’s odd how that works out.”

The moons were fully in view now. The smaller was only a half moon, but the larger one was full. “It’s more impressive when they’re both full. It only happens once a year, though.”

The moons shone their pale light down on the ground, turning the formerly golden desert sands into fields of silver. Rhade turned to Kasei to agree with her on the beauty of the sight, but lost all ability to speak. The silver light caressed her pale skin and added a silver glow to her jet black hair. Her eyes sparkled as if they had stars in them.

She turned to see him staring wide-eyed at her. “What? Do I have something on my face?”

Rhade reached out a hand to caress her moonlight kissed cheek. “I’m afraid I can’t agree with you on you opinion of the beauty of the sight before us. I rank it as the second most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen with the sight of you fast asleep as the third most,” he said hoarsely.

“What do you think is better?”

He moved in closer. “Seeing you in this moonlight,” he whispered softly into her ear, kissing her cheek. She didn’t pull away, so he wrapped his arms around her shoulders and pulled her closer. She smelled of sweat and something sweet and spicy. It was a scent he’d smelled on her once before, but he had no idea what it was. Whatever it was, it was very pleasant. Emboldened by her lack of resistance, he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her, letting her have the full force of his feelings for her.

He jumped in surprise as he felt a pair of hands on his chest, resting lightly. He pulled back and looked at her. She simply raised an eyebrow, but didn’t pull away or make any effort to get him to let go. Cautiously, Rhade stroked her cheek. Closing her eyes, she leaned into it.

“I’d love to hate you right now,” she whispered. “But how can I hate you when you’re doing that?”

“Doing this?” As he stroked her cheek, she nodded. “I’m hardly doing anything.”

“Tactile addiction,” she reminded him.

“So what you said earlier today about there not having been enough for a strong addiction? That was false?”

“No, it had been true up until you kissed me in the bath. That was the point of no return.”

“So you can’t hate me while I’m doing this? Remind me to never stop.”

“I doubt you’d need much of a reminder as I’m sure you’d do this every chance if you could get if you though you could get away with it.”

“That’s true.” He paused. “So...you’re addicted to my touch?”

“In simplest terms, I’d have to say yes. I spent the entire trip here arguing with myself, trying to figure out how I’d deal with it if you ever touched me again. Or, for that matter, how I’d cope if I you never did. The thing with this is that if, from this moment on, you didn’t touch me for a very long period of time, I would still want it. I’d eventually get over it, but once I’d gotten over it and you touched me again, even just a brief touch, I’d be back to square one.” She laughed. “In a sense, I need you as much as you want me.”

“But you don’t want me?”

“Physically, I crave you. Mentally, I’m still coping with this. Head verses heart. I’m pretty sure the heart will win out in the long run and will reign supreme over the other, but will my head ever feel the same?”

“Let’s find out,” he suggested.

“I’m not sure it’s a good idea,” she said cautiously.

“What Yuki said earlier about the questions we’d be asked upon our return got me thinking. He’s right about the sleeping thing. Take that a step further. Since, to their knowledge, we’re married, we’re each bound to be asked private questions about that. I know for a fact that men tend to talk about their conquests. Since the gender roles here are the opposite of what I’m familiar with, I can only assume that the women here do the same.”

Kasei stared at him in shock. “Having never done so, that wouldn’t have occurred to me, but Hihana does that all the time. Tenshi, Okami, and Yumeko have more tact that to ask. Those kinds of things aren’t discussed in private on Kinshei, so Yumeko would never dream of asking, but Hihana is bound to, especially given her interest in you.” A thought dawned on her. “She’s going to be furious that you’re mine and not hers.”

“You consider me to be yours now?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Not in the sense that these bands imply, but since you have all these feelings for me, you don’t have eyes for anyone else. I need your help getting off this planet and need you physically more than I’ve needed anyone since Seikou. In almost every sense, you’re mine. Ask Yuki. We’re very possessive, we Nomaien women.”

“So are you likely to snarl at other women who come near me?”

“Possibly. We’ll see how I feel when we get around other women.”

On impulse, Rhade took her hand and kissed the inside of her wrist, just above her pulse point, drawing a very unexpected moan from Kasei.

“What? What did I do?” he asked, alarmed.

“Just don’t stop. I’ll explain later.”

Puzzled, but happy to oblige, he kissed her soft skin, making his way up the inside of her arm. She leaned her head back, lips parted slightly. The more he kissed, the more aware of that sweet spicy smell he became. Up at her shoulder, he toyed with the thin strap of her top as he nibbled gently up to her neck. He almost went fro her throat, but a low warning growl from her made him think better of it. He went up to her earlobe instead, tracing his way down her jaw line from there to her chin and up to her lips.

The instant his lips met hers she reacted, matching the passion of his kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck and tangling her fingers in his hair. The scent was very strong now, strong enough that Rhade was certain that what he had been smelling was arousal. The shock was lessened by her earlier confessions about her addiction to him, but it was still a surprise. He slid his hands down to her lower back and pulled her as close to him as he could, considering their sitting postures. He dared to slide his hands up under her top. Her response was to do the same, avoiding the still raw skin on his back from the sunburns. Her hands felt hot as did her back. Her skin was getting slick with sweat even though it wasn’t very warm out.

She stopped him from trying to get her shirt off. “If you’re going to do that, we should head for the shelters. I love the desert, but I don’t relish having sand in certain vulnerable places.”

He laughed, understanding. “Then let’s go down to the shelter and see where things go from there.” He got up and pulled her to her feet. She stumbled, catching her balance by grabbing onto his arms. “Careful,” he teased.

Gripping his arms, she stared up at him for a moment. “Let’s go before I loose all ability to walk under my own power.”

“If you did, I’d carry you.”

Inside the shelter, Kasei closed the side flaps to keep the wind and prying eyes out, never mind that Yuki was the only other person there and would never peek in on this. Watching them at the bath was one thing. Nothing really happened. This was something else entirely.

It was dark with the flaps closed, but a little moonlight peeked in. They could clearly see each other’s shapes. Rhade’s enhanced Nietzschean eyes could pick out a little more detail than Kasei’s could. She joined him over by their bed rolls, unsure what to do now. It was difficult to make out her expression in the dark, but he figured she was probably a little shy, possibly nervous. Understandable, he commented to himself, reaching out to pull her towards him. He held her in his arms, enjoying her scent.

Trembling fingers reached up touch his cheek, cautiously at first, but gradually with more confidence. She brought her head up to look him in the eye, sliding her hand down to his lips, down his chin to the base of his throat and around to the back of his neck. He brushed her lips with his encouragingly, trying to keep from overwhelming Kasei with his need for her. He caressed her lower back as he pulled her in closer, their bodies pressing tightly together. It wasn’t as nice as it had been in the bath, but it still felt wonderful to him. He nibbled the tip of her ear, kissed her along the length of her jaw before heading back to her lips, brushing them gently again. Tentatively, he placed a light kiss at the corner of her mouth. When she didn’t pull away, he went for her lips. She tasted of the spices from supper, a taste he found very pleasant. It was odd how much more enticing a woman could be when she tasted of a meal of his own making.

Pushing herself up on her toes, Kasei took his face in her hands and kissed him back, her craving for him breaking loose. She dug her nails into his shoulders as she had before. Not because she was trying to push him away, but because she was trying to keep him where he was. Rhade ran his hands up under the back of her shirt again, enjoying the smoothness of her skin, daring to run them up higher and not caring that he was moving her shirt up at the same time.

She explored his body with her hands, going from his shoulders down his arms and to his sides, teasing his skin as she went, kneading and caressing. When she got to his sides, she remembered that his shirt was in her way. Snarling, she pulled away from him and pulled it over his head, standing back to look at him. She well remembered what he looked like from earlier that day, but the limited moonlight made him look just that little bit more appealing. It highlighted some areas, leaving others in shadow, daring one to come closer and see what it really looked like.

Smiling, Rhade walked up to her. “Well? Like what you see?”

“How dare you look the way you do? It’s not fair.”

“Why don’t you some closer and tell me just how unfair it is?”

She turned away from him. “Even if I did, I wouldn’t have the faintest clue what to do with you.”

He placed his hands on her shoulders, caressing her upper arms. “Don’t worry, Kasei. I can help you there. Just don’t think too much about what you’re doing. Relax. Breathe. Go with your instincts.” He slid his hands down to her waist and under her shirt. “Trust me.”

“That’s a lot to ask.”

He hiked her shirt up a little more. “I know. I’ll be as patient as I can, but the way you’re reacting to me makes it difficult.” The shirt was up just at the bottom of her breasts now.

She turned to face him. “Head verses heart.”

“Let your heart tell you what to do.” Before she could protest, he had the shirt off and tossed it to the ground. “What do you want?”

She placed her hands on his bare chest. “What I want? I want to leave here. I want to be free of the pressure my mother has placed on me, of the restrictions on my life. I want to be free of the life debt, but not at the same time.”

“Why wouldn’t you? It’s all you’ve talked about since it happened.”

“If I’m never free of it, I can always be near you. I can always touch you.”

“Even free, you’re always welcome to be with me. The helix on your arm can be for real if you want.”

Kasei shook her head. “I don’t know if I really want to be married to you. I need you, but I’m not really sure if I like you. I don’t dislike you, but…”

He nodded. “I understand. Are you ok with pretending, though?”

“I’m a little more comfortable with the idea now,” she said, shivering as he ran his hands up her sides, brushing the side of her breasts. “If only because it gives me a cultural excuse to stay near you. My main problem right now will be the taboos on physical contact in public. You, on the other hand, get to deal with the hoards of jealous women. You know, the ones who’ve sought after me since I was old enough to know about such things.”

“I think I can handle that.”

Her lips twitched in amusement. “We’ll see about that,” she said, pulling his face to hers to kiss him soundly, her tongue exploring the inside of his mouth. Startled by the ferocity of her attack, it took Rhade a moment to respond to her.

He took her hands and sank slowly to the bedrolls, pulling her with him. He lay her down on the ground, running a hand up her flat stomach to her breasts. Her skin was covered with a thin film of perspiration. With one hand, she fingered the length of the bone blades on that arm, running her fingers long the insides, stroking their length. He helped her slide the bracer off. Once it was gone, she ran her fingers across the smooth skin in between the blades, causing Rhade’s eyes to close in pleasure. He stopped moving so that she couldn’t accidentally hurt herself on them. Kasei took his hand in her smaller ones and brought it to her face. Gently with increasing need, she kissed the inside of his wrist, the same place he’d gotten that deep reaction from earlier. Her hot lips felt good on his skin. The smell of her arousal was nearly overwhelming. He freed his hand and sat up to pull her leggings off. Her legs free, she pushed him over onto his back to do the same, growling low in her throat. She straddled his chest and twined her fingers through his hair.

“Mine,” she snarled, kissing him.

“Yes, yours,” he confirmed, rolling her onto her back, mounting her. She looked surprised, but let him. Rhade kissed ever inch of skin he could get his lips on, tangling his fingers in her long hair, trying not to pull it out of the ponytail. Some had already come loose.

Kasei spread her legs a little to make things a little more comfortable for both of them. He let himself sit inside her until she was ready for more. She ran her nails down his back. It felt unexpectedly good, prompting him to thrust a little more roughly than he’d intended to. She arched her back at the sudden movement, her head tilting back and lips parting. Her hands clasped around his back, pulling him towards her. Aware of her need, he continued, increasing the strength of his thrust, gasping at the sensation of finally being with the woman he loved, his mind reeling at the fact that she was letting him, that she needed him to touch her.

Before he knew it, it was all over. He collapsed on top of her, gasping for breath. Gently, she wrapped her arms around his head, holding him to her chest, kissing his forehead. She stroked his sweat dampened hair. “I’m sure this is comfortable for you,” she whispered in his ear, “but I can’t breathe properly.”

“Sorry,” he apologized, lifting himself off and moving to the side. He lay down on his side and Kasei rolled around to lie against him after pulling a blanket up to keep their damp skin from getting too cold. “How do you feel?”

“Exhausted,” she said sleepily. “Relaxed.”

“I’m glad,” he said smiling. “Get some sleep Kasei. It’s a long journey back to the city tomorrow.”

“G’night, ‘Lemachus,” she said, yawning before she fell asleep cradled in his arms.