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    version 22: awakening


    OCEANE -- Year 208


    "Because if she had not met him, she knew she would have been searching her whole life for the piece that he filled her heart with." -- Eva, written by Shelbi

    She sells seashells by the sea shore // kahzie
    Aquaria fits against him snugly and Pteron holds her all the closer for it, unwilling to shift his wing even for the warmth that friction might bring.

    She’s only grateful to be warm, Pteron knows, and yet her moan of relief followed by the girlish giggle is enough for him to bury his blue face in the silky strands of her mane  just beneath her ears. The edges of her sea stars tickle along the edge of his jaw, but he is reluctant to pull away. Her skin is cold against his, though as Aquaria tells him that ‘this just about makes up for it’ he does his best to warm it with slow exhales. They’ve a purpose for him as well, slow deep breaths to remind himself that she is a friend. A friend who is tucked quite close, one who is suddenly asking him about his mother, and her intentions regarding his love life.

    “My mother needs to mind her own business,” he tells Aquaria, though his olive eyes dart toward the trees through which she had left as though to be sure she is really gone. Lepis has made no secret of what she wants for her children, but she has been equally as open that their lives are their own to choose. There are no arranged marriages waiting for them, and no thrones either. They must work for what they want, though he suspects that the Comtesse is not above guiding him with invisible hands. He is overly suspicious, she would say, but if that awareness kept him in line: all the better.

    “She wants grandchildren, I think,” he adds, tucking a white strand of hair behind Aquaria’s ear. “But I’m not ready to settle down, and she knows that too.” That the two are synonymous for Pteron are obvious in the way he says them. When he marries there will be children, and none before that. Still, he thinks as Aquaria’s curious lips brush against his sensitive neck, there is no harm in practicing.

    What happened here, she asks, and his chest tightens uncomfortably. Practice, he thinks wryly to himself; but not the enjoyable kind. The saltwater has cleansed him of physical reminders, but there is no easy eraser for his mind. His hesitation in answering is softened by the way she reaches forward, presses her lips against the tender skin of his throat. His breath catches as he bends his neck to meet his friend’s eye. As gentle as she had been, he returns the gesture, though he lingers a breath longer and pulls back more slowly.

    His olive eyes meet for her violet ones, and there is a question in them that he can’t quite find the words to ask.

    “It was an accident,” he tells her instead, his voice oddly breathless. Truthful though, at least he hopes. Some part of him knows that Reia will crook her finger again now that she knows how easily he’ll jump, yet it is easy to forget that as he reaches forward a second, less hesitant time, to press his blue muzzle along the line of Aquaria’s soft jaw.


    -- pteron --

    It's distracting, the way his breath warms her skin. It's in such contrast the chill of the rest out her that she can't help but to focus on that one patch of skin. He's thawed it and more besides with his airy ministrations. 

    A delicate hmmph! of sympathy vibrated her throat at his comment. So perhaps this was how Lepis treated all of his acquaintances when they made themselves known. Too stern by half for the boy who lived with so much freedom under his wings. But then again, that was what parents did. They guided and suggested and hoped that their children might survive to adulthood with some semblance of a happy life. 

    Aquaria's own parents loved her dearly, it was something she'd never had cause to question. And while they raised her, it was with that love in mind. As much as Pteron grumbled, and Lepis rebuked, surely their meanings were based in similar care as her own family's. They showed their love differently, was all. 

    Her mind dwelled on that word, love, as the painted boy brushed the hair from her face. It was as simple and as complicated an idea as she'd ever come across, and one she felt a light zing of fear from when she considered its power. To let anything or anyone have that kind of control over her felt as dizzying as a maelstrom. So she laughed the feelings away, and inhaled deeper than she had since Pteron had appeared. They were on the same page, at least. She hoped. 

    "I should feel lucky, then, not to have that pressure. My sister has taken to motherhood like a heron to fishing. If her brood doesn't satisfy our mother, I don't know what could." Not that she thought she'd never have her own family. It might be nice, some day, to know that she had someone to curl up against when the nights were especially dark. To someone to help her sort out the ever changing world, and to bring her back when she lost her place in it. 

    And children. Well. Not that she had any clue what to do with a baby, but Adria made it look easy. Natural. If she and whoever filled in that blurry space in her image of the future ever ended up reproducing, she was certain it would work out and be wonderful. How could any child made in love not be? 

    Her impulsive gesture was not a lingering one. The gentle pressure of her lips against the smooth curve of his throat an experimental thing, one she knew by sight far more than feeling. What was a kiss but a sign of affection? An expression of caring between family and friends. She did not know why then it felt so strange to have him repeat her action, to brush his own mouth against the fragile skin that hid her now too-fast pulse. Too fast, and then for a eternal second, it stopped.  

    His eyes, how had she never realized exactly how lovely his eyes were? They were rich moss and new leaves, the glassy sea and the vivid edge of mussel shells. They were beautiful, despite her being unable to place the emotion behind them. For all that she had been thinking, and for all that they had and hadn't said, she found herself lost in the moment their eyes met. She barely heard him when he breathed of an accident, and surely it couldn't have been more than that. Not with him standing here with her now, so whole and perfect. 

    His lips decended on her once more, and this time it is her cream jaw where he bestows his kiss. There is a burning feeling inside her now, the half-mad idea that his mother must be cackling behind some bush now, her plot all but come to fruition. That, or the woman would be mad enough to spit if she realized Aquaria hadn't been entirely honest in their so recent conversation. How could she be angry though, when Aquaria herself had only just fallen into the connection the older mare had so astutely seen from so far off. 

    He lingered at her pulse, and it seemed that she had warmed rather thoroughly in the brief moments that had passed. From her head to her hooves, all tingled with pleasantly hot awareness, every shift in his feathers across her shoulders and back a keenly noted touch. So she did what felt natural, and slid her jaw along his lips until her mouth met his. Her kiss was tender, uncertain, but honest in its delight. A smile pulled at her lips where they stayed against his blue ones. 

    "Don't go falling in love with me, Pteron of Taiga. Don't you dare." She teased in a whispered melody, feeling their breath mingle on the cold air. Love, marriage, babies. All of that could wait for another day. Today was for them, and them alone. No questions about the unknown future nagging at their heels when all that had to exist was right now. 

    The sympathy Pteron hears in Aquaria’s soft exhales softens the lines of his face, pressed against the side of her neck and curling in a smile she can’t yet see. The nereid’s remarkable ability to say – or not say – exactly what he needs to hear is one of her qualities he holds the most dear. He thinks of that, and of her other qualities as she speaks.

    No pressure from her parents, she says, and Pteron wonders what they might be like. She has a sister too, it sounds like, who has made Aquaria an aunt several times over. Do they all live in the sea, he wonders? Would Aquaria’s children be as aquatic as she? The image of a fish he had once seen, hovering over a divot in the sand that Pteron’s father explained was a nest, flashes across the young stallion’s mind. Would there be hundreds? Or are nereids like horses, as her mention of a single sibling might suggest, and tend toward one at a time?

    The humorous image of Aquaria hovering over an underwater nest was still tugging at the corner of his mouth when she’d asked about his neck.

    After, he thinks only of the present.

    She is gentle and cautious, the chill of her lips a vivid contrast to her warm breath. Pteron, for whom kisses are no stranger than hugs, exchanged in some level with most everyone, finds it utterly darling. The uncertainty, the tentative way she meets his gaze with her mouth against his. ‘Don’t fall in love with me,’ she warns, and his laugh shakes even the wing he has wrapped against her.

    “I will do my best,” he tells her, pulling away with another kiss, this one quick but no less gentle, along her brow. She teases, but Pteron realizes would be easy to play along, easy to fall writhing into pleasure and only find out after how dreadfully they had knotted their friendship. That is not worth losing, even if it means sacrificing the steamy future he’d seen playing out when Aquaria had pressed her lips to his.

    “I will do my best to not fall in love with you,” is punctuated with another kiss, this one lower – on the bridge of her news. “And you remember I’ve no intentions of settling down.” (oh, if only he knew what was being planned in a shadowy corner of the woods). This kiss lands on her lips, and though he remains attentive to her reaction to his words, his attention is also on the line of kisses that he marches across her cheek and then against her jaw. She tastes of salt, even this far from the sea, salt and that strange sweet fruit she’d shown him on one of his visits to Ischia.

    He holds back to desire to add teeth to his kisses, cognizant of the endearing hesitance of their first embrace. Pressed against him, looking up, she seems somehow delicate. The desire to keep her safe rises for the first time, twining in a strange way with the heat that rushes through him at their nearness. “We should get out of the meadow,” he says finally against her throat, his voice unexpectedly ragged. Yet he is smiling when he meets her amethyst gaze. “I might get carried away, and surely you came here to see Taiga?” He does his best to make the last a question, reminding himself just as much as asking.

    Aquaria hadn’t come here for what he is thinking of doing to her. He repeats this, yet is perpetually optimistic in the way that young men are. She hadn’t, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t.                                                                                                 


    -- pteron --

    It's wonderful to lose herself to the heady intoxication of his kissed, her soft laughter punctuating the thrilling trail he'd been tracing along her face. And when she speaks, he laughs in return. She loved that she could do that, bring so much joy to the fellow who lit her up from inside. She meant it though, her warning. 

    If they could be like this forever, she wouldn't change a thing. Let them be friends, best friends, who brightened each other's days endlessly. How long had they know each other? Something more than a year. Not so long, really. But she wouldn't mind knowing him more. To prove to him and his mother that she could be as good as her word, and to be as true a friend as she knew how. Surely only good could come from a friendship like that. 

    So she drank in his hot and cold kisses, savored them. Memorized every scent and sound and sensation the moment had to offer. Something to treasure in darker days ahead. Her pearl white head rested against the cloud of his mane when the kisses stopped coming, took a steadying breath. "Deal," she agreed, her tone lighthearted and yet still carrying just a touch of reality. "I won't tie you down as long as you don't fall in love with me. Sounds fair." And then it was her turn to hesitate, an unformed question hovering on her tongue only to be swallowed again. 

    One more kiss, cool as rain on his cheek, and the nereid stepped delicately from the shelter of his embrace. Too much, too fast, and the knowledge that more could destroy the fragile balance they had struck here. Her curious swimming gait took her a short ways from him before she realized she had no clear idea of where she was going. "Ah... Yes. I suppose that is why I came. What would you like to show me?" She said over her shoulder with a taste of chargrin. How easy would it be to get "carried away"? And would it really be such a bad thing?

    Unbidden in her mind's eye rose an image overlaying the winter scene. Pteron, looking at her warm enough to make her forget the frosty air. Her smiling sweetly back. And between them, some perfect child, every bit the balance between their sea and sky. 

    Such a child would know nothing but love, she had no doubt. Her promise, so recently spoken, hung heavy on her tongue. Naive, she was so, stupidly naive to let such an image in. It was shoved harshly back to the far depths of her mind, where she hoped it would stay. Let it be enough that he was here now, and her friend. He clearly was content with such an agreement, she could be as well. 

    Cold rushes into the hollow that she leaves, stepping so deftly away from him that he must catch himself lest he lose his balance. Pteron hadn’t realized how much he has been leaning on her until she is suddenly not there, and his wing holds nothing. Tucking it back, he smooths the feathers with his blue nose before looking to see how far away she has gotten. Not far at all, and already looking back at him over her with those depthless violet eyes. Pteron’s mouth goes stone dry, and only the note of chagrin in her voice and the memory of her earlier hesitance convinces him that she does not stand that way on purpose, drawing his eye to her hip.

    “I do want to show you Taiga,” he admits as he follows after her, his hooves finding the hollows that her own had made, at least until he steps around her. His shoulder brushes against her as he does so, and the cold slide of his feathers against the warm side of her that had just been tucked against him is not accidental. He enjoys touching her, had enjoyed kissing her, and is quite sure that she had liked it too. Quite, but not entirely.

    And he needs to be sure, if only because his first encounter with consent has been one full of smoke and haze and blurred lines.

    “I want to show you other things, too.” Pteron says against her withers, pressing a kiss there. “Consider it an addendum to our deal, if you will.” The formality almost makes him laugh, but he does not want Aquaria – delicate Aquaria, still timid and shy – to think that he does not mean what he says. He brushes aside the long hair of her mane, exposing where her neck has not been scoured by the winter wind. “Tell me if it is too much,” he says between soft, brine-flavored pecks, “and I will listen. I am not saint” - at that he does laugh, a soft thing pressed against her white neck - “but I won’t risk losing you for my own selfish needs. I want to make you happy, too.”

    There are others who will, and as his kisses cross her withers and travel down the opposite shoulder, her pulls her nearer as though to shield her from those intangible others. There are things that cut more deeply than physical pain, the memory of them sends a quiver across the chest that he has pressed against her side. It dims the fire in his blood as readily as the idea of being in the open had only moments earlier. The thought of Aquaria being used in such a way inspires that same odd sensation of protectiveness, and the next kiss he presses to her cheek as he pulls away is more tender than the ones before.

    “I would show you the most beautiful thing in the woods,” he adds against her ear, “But the Mirror Pond has frozen over. Will you settle for my second favorite?”


    -- pteron --

    Eyes met across the snowy expanse, olive and amethyst drawn together irrevocably. Appreciative looks and glances were not unknown to the nereid, not when she wore her supernaturally beautiful guise. Not much changed really, between her scaled and furred skins. Same long legs, same smooth arch to her neck and the straight symmetry of her face. Pretty, but not exceptional. That came from the magic of the sea. 

    She'd shed her magic today, but the way he was looking at her, she had to double take. No, no scales, no undulating fins. Just her unaltered self; and still he looked as though she were the sea itself. Her eyes crinkled as he returned to her side, her stomach flip flopping as he brushed against her. The smooth, cold slide of feathers against her thin skin set of a volley of shivers that began somewhere south of her belly and worked their way to every corner of her body. 

    He wanted to show her things. Things beyond the sights his home offered, and the way he laid kisses and promises against her skin made her certain of what he meant. His kindness, his consideration, the tender way he caressed her. It was wonderful, and she liked him all the more for his gentle ways. It was tempting to give him everything. Tempting, but too easy. 

    It was physically painful to feel him pull away, but it was good. It was. She could breath again. Her thoughts cleared somewhat, even if her blood still throbbed in distracting places. She grinned drunkenly at her feathered friend, head shaking. "You're a silver tongued nightingale, you know that?" She laughed, pressing her own kiss into the bridge of his nose. "If there is anything more beautiful than you in these woods, I'll be shocked. As for your addendum..." 

    Her tongue clicked against the roof of her mouth, as she feigned consideration. She knew what she wanted. And she knew it wasn't hers to have. "I want you to show me everything. I want to share every touch and every moan of pleasure with you. But..." And here her face fell into sweet, aching wishing. "I'd worry. You want your grass and to eat it too. You're my friend, maybe my best friend. I don't want to risk that if I know I'll be alone again if-if something happened." She shrugged, looking him in the eyes, begging silently that he'd understand. Let him respect their friendship enough to accept what she was saying. 

    Adria had her children, and raised them more or less on her own. Adria was strong like that, and Aquaria wasn't certain she had that kind of strength. If Pteron wanted more... Well, he couldn't have her half way. Just a two shadows pulsing in the night and pretending nothing had happened in the dawn's light. That wasn't her. And she hoped that wasn't what he thought of her. 

    finger trips across my cheek----------------
    ----------------kiss me until i can't speak

    Distance from the sea had pulled away her scales and fins, Pteron assumes, a sure sign that the nereid is far from her natural habitat. A tropical creature in a snowy forest, she is out of place. Her features seem clearer in Taiga, Pteron has noticed as he kissed his way along them. Less perfection, and yet more Aquaria. At the thought he presses another kiss to her jaw, fixing the feel of it in his mind even as he pulls away to watch her from a distance.

    A nightingale, she calls him, and Pteron tilts his head in strikingly realistic imitation of a bird, just as she calls him beautiful. He’d preen, if she hadn’t brought up the addendum and some of his bright laughter softens as she considers. It might be feigned, but Pteron waits exactly as he would if it were real; this is not something for her to rush. He knows he wants her agreement, of course, and though he does think of kissing her till she was breathless and agreeing, he does not dare. There will be no regrets, not for Aquaria. He won’t let that happen.

    I want you to show me everything, she says, and if Pteron’s mouth were dry before it has now become Pangea.

    Share every touch, she croons, and Pteron halves the distance between them.

    Every moan of pleasure, she adds, and Pteron is a moment from embracing her when she adds:


    He is still, perhaps not as still as he might be if she sounded less like she were teasing him. He’d wanted her to know he was serious, and here she is accusing him wanting to eat grass. Well, of course he wants to eat his grass. Why bother having it if he cannot eat it? By the time he puts together that she is speaking of children, she has already fallen quiet. Her amethyst eyes pin his wings like crystal spears, and the silent worry in them is so sweet that he feels an ache. Aquaria, who he considers his merriest friend, a carefree girl from a carefree world. Aquaria worried about consequences.

    “Oh little fish,” Pteron breathes into the soft wave of her hair, having moved close the moment he realized her single concern is so easily overcome. “I don’t know how you do things in the water, but that is not a year-round concern here on land.” He does not mean to minimize her worries, but there is a bemused smile on his face as he turns his lips from the silky strands of her hair so that he might press his cheek against them instead. Out of her sight, fortunately,

    “We need to be more careful come fall, but there is no risk of that now.” The absence of her scales is noticeable against his cheek, and Pteron kisses the white and soft gold skin tenderly. First her neck, where his cheek had rest, and then along her shoulder, and then her ribs. Sure of his knowledge of the seasons, Pteron’s confidence in the impossibility of the scenario gives him the courage to add: “You are my best friend too,” he tells her, “No matter what.”


    -- pteron --

    It's dry here, so very dry, and she can feel her skin beginning to itch even without the scales. The cold makes it worse, and she missed the soothing warmth of Pteron enveloping her. The kisses float between them as easily as breathing, and she knows it would be just as effortless to give in. The way he cocks his head in response to her teasing name broadened the smile that never seemed far from her lips when he was near. 

    The way his face shifts with such utter focus a she speaks, so very very interested in what she had to say. It was a power she was only just realizing she held. Even without magic behind her, he listened.

    He listened, and for a moment silence hung between them. How certain she is, that she had ruined things, had torn whatever interest he'd expressed and let it fall to the ground. She was not historically a one to worry. She didn't wear it well, let it roll from her scales as carelessly as water. This seemed a worthy introduction to caution, however. 

    She sighed softly, his little fish, and listened in her turn. Her quiet worry shifted quickly into rueful attention as he once again held the answers. Of course, of course, things should have their season above as below. Sharks and rays migrated annually, the massive sea turtles landed on the shores, the sea birds to their nests. Not year round, but seasonally. And Autumn was so far away. 

    He was so confident that she can't help but know he is right. If he were to lie to her, there would be a reckoning, make no mistake. He had done nothing to give her reason to doubt him, though. He was her friend, her playmate. And his kisses flowed like wine across her lips, her throat, her shoulders. Further now, along the smooth white and gold dappled skin that clothed her ribs. 

    Another sigh fluttered past her lips, and she felt a loosening in her belly. The release of worry and fear that bloomed into something hungry. "No matter what." She repeated, breathy. It was no question, but an answer. The one she'd been looking for. Her hip leaned into where his shoulder met, the rustle of feathered wings a reassuring presence. "Show me, then," she twisted to catch his eye again. 

    Soft faith emanated from the pearl mare, faith in him. She had promised his mother that she would never hurt the son. She believed that he would not hurt her either. Not in any way that didn't please more than it stung. Not in any way that would damage the strength of the connection between them. 

    Her body moved instinctively, light friction warming and stimulating the patches of skin that met between them. "Show me how to fly, and I'll show you what it means to make love to a nereid." Her timidity melted away like snowflakes on her nose, now that consequences seemed far away. If her sister and niece were anything to go by, it would come as easy as swimming to the nymph. She was willing to find out.

    finger trips across my cheek----------------
    ----------------kiss me until i can't speak

    His kisses slow at her quiet sigh, hesitant despite the verbal affirmation Aquaria given. But it is only preceding a breathy repetition of his own words, and a meeting of their gaze. He’s following her direction before she even gives it, pressing back against the firm shape of her hip, feeling the give of his feathered wing against it. She slips against him effortlessly, speaking words that set his own pulse flying. “I’ve heard you say that in my dreams before,” he says against her ear, doing his best to not simply groan and submit to the rising heat within him.

    The restraint is a battle he had not been prepared for, but as Aquaria twirls around him, he is never anything but gentle and slow and sweet. Rushing is for Reia, who always more than he can give, but he swears to himself that Aquaria’s first time will not be like his. Wordless murmurs, the hitch of her breath, way her pale skin gives beneath his hot breath. These are his guides on his journey to showing her how to fly. Once, with his neck twined around hers from above, the pale length of her throat bare beneath his kisses, he thinks perhaps they might really be flying. He certainly sees stars a time or two, and he is sure to point out the real things to her from the hollow where they finally lie down in to sleep for the night, curled tight and facing opposite directions.

    Pteron falls asleep drawing gentle shapes along her gold-marked rump, the rest of her wrapped with his wing against the chill of the night. When they wake in the morning, he thinks, she can keep her half of the promise. "Goodnight little fish," he says to her sleeping face. Pteron falls asleep with a quiet sigh of his own, the gentle yellow of happiness seeping out of him and coloring both of their dreams.


    -- pteron --


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