Entries tagged with “M/F”.

“She wasn’t pleased that I chose to bring it up,” Rima said, pushing the door shut. “However, with that already done and well-received, she is in favour of going ahead with it.”

“So what will ‘it’ entail?” Jisarr asked. “I don’t know how much of it I’ll be able to understand, but I am curious.” He was sitting on the cushioned seat he’d used for reading, now placed in the middle of the room rather than at the wall.


It was still a mercenary camp; there was a fundamental order to the place that the bivouacs of larger units lacked. And with several bands in the same space, far from succumbing to the disorder of those larger units, the divisions were only strengthened. Stepping from one band’s section of the camp to another’s brought a distinction as plain as that between night and day, even more so than that between the inside of the camp and the world beyond its border.

Gone, though, was the expectant tension. The work they’d been mustered for was done, and done well, by gods and ancestors and whatever else the disparate fighters held dear. None of these bands would never truly relax their discipline, not while they were still mustered – that discipline was part of what had made them the best, the most-esteemed, the most-sought-for warriors in the land. Sentries still watched the camp, looking outward, keeping an eye on the interior, even minding the skies. Officers and small cadres of armed fighters still roamed the camp and kept the peace.

But the mood in the camp was one of celebration. Freed captives, brought in for assessment and treatment by the mercenaries’ healers, now rested with their rescuers, and those who had not greatly suffered for their ordeal celebrated with them. Bands that had been wary and distrustful of one another had worked together and come to respect each other, and now, though each band had its district, the mercenaries all roamed freely between those districts, whether as residents or welcome guests.


For the few minutes it took to walk back to his apartment, Damien Collier kept half-expecting the wolf next to him to disappear – to turn out to have never have been there after all; just a daydream, a figment of an overactive imagination.

Seriously, what were the odds? Naomi Peltier had been his great high school sweetheart – maybe not the first girl he’d dated, but the first one he’d really clicked with. They’d given each other their virginity – anxious to do it right, he’d studied up, thanks in large part to a guide he’d found online that had been targeted at curious teens and somehow not been shut down for “providing pornography to minors;” he thought it had gone okay, a positive experience for both of them, even if it had involved more giggling than actual passion. That had come later, as they got used to each other, and they’d had it in spades. Neither of them had been plagued by the jealousy that seemed to break apart so many of their fellow dating students. They’d compared notes about their attractive peers; Damien rather suspected that Naomi had a touch of the bi, too, whether or not it was enough to actually act on like his had turned out to be.

Then, with their passion still burning ever-brighter, he’d been dragged across the country by Dad’s promotion. He hadn’t had any means of contact that wouldn’t be lost in the move; she’d given him her email – but apparently her family had recently changed providers and she’d given him the old one. All he got in response to his “here I am” mail had been a bounce. He’d got permission for a long-distance call, only for that to be a wrong number. And with Naomi’s dad a teacher who’d rather not be pestered in off-hours by random students – or the irate parents of same – their number wasn’t in the phone book.

That had been hard. He’d tried not to show it to anyone, but suddenly being without even that distant connection to her had left him reeling and off balance. School had been a struggle; teachers and parents alike had chalked it up to just getting used to the different expectations of a new school, but the truth was that for a little, he just couldn’t be bothered to care enough to put in his best work.


Talen took a deep breath, leaned back, and surveyed his work.

He’d put as much effort and art into the little figurine as he had into anything else, even his master-work – and he’d had years of experience since that. Silver set with jet, it wasn’t the most intrinsically valuable piece he’d produced, but the work itself was as good as he’d ever done. He could call it one of his best without reservation.

Which, considering its intended recipient, was as it should be.


Dusty stone had given way to bare under Alron’s feet; his frantic footfalls no longer kicked up great choking clouds. On the other hand, he’d been running long enough to make every breath an urgent matter, his heart felt fit to burst, and his legs were on fire from strain. He had to stop.

Somewhat to his surprise, he found that he could. The preternatural terror had faded; how long ago, he couldn’t say – had it been just this moment, perhaps shaken loose by physical demands? Or had it been gone for minutes already, only the echoes of it spurring his flight?

The bear slowed to an unsteady walk for a few steps, then gave up and leaned against a support beam, panting hard. His waterskin was about half-full; half of what was left, he swallowed hurriedly, anxious to chase away the hoarse dryness in his throat. A few swallows later, and he didn’t exactly feel healthy, but at least it no longer felt like there was a rasp twisting in there with each breath.


It had been a reasonable request. When a student who missed school – through no fault of her own, at that; sickness happened whether it was convenient timing or not – wanted some extra coaching to catch up, that was initiative that Matthew Zweigart wanted to reward and encourage. So it took some extra time after school; for a worthwhile cause like that, he’d make time. And the student in question was a decent student; he’d never regretted juggling those hours around to make those sessions happen.

The way the dog lit up under his direct attention didn’t hurt, and while it might not have been just the look of an eager student getting the instruction she needed, there was enough of that to disregard the possibly-lurking less-proper things.

So, once again, that brought them to his classroom for the hour after school. Jessie-Belle had put in good work between sessions, and he had no problem telling her so. Especially not with the way it made her smile.


Coming back to consciousness was a struggle – like swimming through tar.

Before he was quite able to make sense of anything around him, Varon remembered the fire – racing through the village, surrounding it. He remembered digging his way into the quarry pit, hoping against hope that there’d be nothing the fire could burn to follow him. He remembered the dizziness, the screams fading…

But now, all was silent and still. Even the weight of his own limbs felt barely-there.


Jeff turned over, trying to catch the soft breath of the fan on a little bit more of himself.

Damn this heat; he hadn’t been able to get a good night’s sleep for days. His little room with its one window didn’t have nearly enough air movement to keep comfortable at night. He was already sleeping on top of the covers; there wasn’t much more he could do.

At length, either some shift outside let the air cool down a bit, or fatigue finally won out. At long last, he drifted into fitful slumber.


As chance meetings went, this one had turned out pretty good.

Jenny had been walking down Denton Street, keeping an eye out for one of the many lonely men in the city with more money than charm who might be in need of some company, and trying to keep out of the wind and rain without sacrificing that, when she’d met him. Tall, fit, good-looking, nice smile – not her usual sort of client; she’d smiled back, waved, said hello, and started to go on her way.

“Rough night to be out,” he’d said. “Want to duck inside for a coffee or something? My treat.”

She’d been surprised; she’d laughed. “You know, hon, if you’re looking for company you don’t need to go through all that fancy stuff.”

“Oh, I know,” he’d said, and smiled even wider. “That’s not what I’m after. Call it professional courtesy. I won’t keep you long.”


The first light of dawn found Arlic at the hot springs, soaking in the steaming pool. Once he emerged, the two robed acolytes who had taken away his clothing now rubbed him dry with clean cloths, from head to hooves, then brushed him, leaving his snow-white coat shining and smooth; and then they guided him into the circle of stones, to the altar stone at the centre.

He’d known for weeks that this was coming, but being so close to the altar made it real in a way it hadn’t been before, and his heart hammered in his chest as the acolytes laid a patterned, woven blanket over the stone, arranging it just so, doubled over itself. And with that modest padding in place, it was his turn to settle gingerly onto the altar. A beaded leather cuff was wrapped around each of his limbs, padding the thongs that then lashed him to the four posts around the stone, leaving only his head and tail free. Thus secured, they gave his hooves a thorough polish, ridding them of what little dirt had clung to them between the spring and the stone.

And then, while one departed to continue preparations, the other sat with him. As the sun rose higher into the sky, she shifted a small awning to shade him. It was necessary that he remain there for all of Sowing Day, but it was not necessary or at all desired that he be uncomfortable through it; so she kept the light out of his eyes, shifted his bonds when he found they chafed, and brought him food and drink – sometimes water, sometimes wine.


It’s hard to put aside the habits of a lifetime.

I’ve made a good living for myself largely by taking advantage of the habits of others, but even my own habits make themselves felt. I try to guard against them, to avoid being outwitted in my own trade; sometimes, though, it seems safe enough to indulge.

Not personally, not this time. But there was a certain nostalgic thrill in sending a group of juniors to raid one particular warehouse, where certain goods from one specific formerly-wealthy home had wound up. The prize was certainly unusual for us, but it had sentimental value for me, and besides, sometimes it does the junior thieves good to shake up their expectations a little.


It was supposed to be a nice, straightforward job. Go in, get the prize, get out.

Anyone who tells you it was simple doesn’t know a blasted thing. That place had a small army of guards, the best locks money could by, and despite our best efforts, nobody was sure what other tricks might be there. But that’s why they sent me. Maybe some others can open those fancy locks a little faster, or know a bit more about this or that sort of trap, but I had the softest step in the Silken Glove bar Tarvenarr herself, and she’s no locksplitter. I haven’t met a lock yet that I couldn’t open in time or a trap that I couldn’t figure out, and I’ve got just enough magic that even those traps I can deal with. And it isn’t all that long ago that I was lifting purses in the market, and doing quite a good job of it.

So, while the Chancellor was out of the city on business, I went in – ideally to get the job done, since it was the best opportunity we had, but failing that, to case the place. With the Chancellor gone, the guards gone complacent, and the Festival pouring a little more booze into them than normal, if I couldn’t pull it off now, it just might be impossible.


John had thought he’d missed Kelly, while the cougar was out west on site, as much as she’d missed him. When he’d picked her up at the airport, he’d seen a twin to his own longing in her wide, intent eyes; in the way her hands had slid over him when they embraced, so like his own roving touch, he’d felt it. Neither of them had really wanted to go to a picnic on a cloudy, windy day like this, and it wasn’t because of the weather – the otter hardly felt it through his fur – or because Kelly’s coworkers were unpleasant people. No, they’d just had other things they’d both wished could be higher priority.

Maybe she’d missed him a little more after all, or maybe she was just more adventurous. But when he first caught a whiff of masculine arousal, he pushed down his own desire, saving it for later, when he could give her a proper welcome home.


It was not, by most standards, a perfect day for a picnic. It was rather on the windy side, and cool when clouds blocked the sun as they frequently did. But company picnics were ponderous things to schedule, and it had been decided to go ahead and have the picnic anyway. After all, so long as the clouds stayed light and didn’t bring rain with them, it wasn’t a bad day for a picnic.

In fact, Kelly found that there were some advantages to it. Namely, when the sun went behind a cloud and the wind picked up, it was a prime excuse for the cougar to cuddle in against John under the blanket they shared, and the otter was quite happy to gather her in close. If this hadn’t been her first chance to see him since her departure on a two-week trip for that same company, she’d actually have thought it was a pretty good day for a picnic after all.


From the coast, it had looked like just another stretch of shoreline – unbroken save by the mouth of a minor river, emerging from the dense trees. Follow that “river” inward, though, past the dense undergrowth and vicious thorn bushes, and one came here: to a minor paradise, a sparkling lagoon nestled in a cleft in the hills, screened and half-shaded by the canopy of leaves, with one stretch of white sand laid bare to the noontime sun.

“This is my haven,” said Tasven’s companion. “No other two-legged being has seen it in five years. Do you like it?”