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Black Ribbon

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Mal has the ribbon to show for her temperance; Polly sees it whenever Mal meets someone new, brought out to show that Mal abstains from blood. She's had to step in herself a few times, just to make it clear that in this person's army, what matters is the fact that they've all kissed the Duchess, and piddly little matters of species can just go hang. They've all mostly got better things to worry about, anyway.


It's late now. Camp has mostly quieted down for the night, though it's never what you might call quiet. Polly's used to that now, hardly ever pays it any mind except in passing. They've extinguished the lamp for the night and are in the process of committing an Abomination Unto Nuggan. At least, Polly supposes that it's an Abomination, though she's never seen or heard of any specific admonition against letting Mal's clever fingers undo her uniform and slip it off her body, or against laying back on her cot and drawing Mal down over her, cool against the fever heat of her own skin. But then, sometimes Nuggan's Abominations are strangely vague about the sins they describe. Either that, or the priests have the specific versions and are too embarrassed—or selfish—to do more than skim over the details for their congregations.

Not that Polly minds. That vagueness had just left her and Mal the fun of figuring out all the abominable possibilities themselves.

This, though. This is new.

"Mal," Polly says, staring into the murky darkness above them. Her hands are tight on Mal's bare shoulders, gripping them hard enough that they would be bruising anyone else. But Mal isn't anyone else. Mal is a vampire, and if Polly hadn't already known that, the sharpness of the teeth set against her throat would tell her so.

Mal's teeth leave her skin and her lips brush the place where they'd held Polly, shockingly soft in contrast to the edge of her fangs. "Black Ribbon." Her lips move against Polly's skin, soft as petals, and her voice has a self-satisfied huskiness to it that puts Polly in mind of a cat basking in the sun. She only ever hears that note in Mal's voice like this, late at night and alone with her. Hearing it now puts a shiver down her spine and a heat between her legs, just like always.

And then Mal says, "Will you trust me?"

Polly closes her eyes, because this is Mal and there's only one possible answer to that. "With my life."

The sound that Mal makes then could very nearly pass for a purr.

Polly still gasps when Mal's teeth close on her throat again, so very sharp, holding her right where her pulse is pounding. But Mal doesn't break her skin and holds herself still as Polly pants for breath. One set of Polly's instincts has her tense with the need to find something, anything, to use as a weapon against the predator kneeling over her. Another set says that she may as well tilt her chin further back and let Mal have her way, whatever that ends up being, because one does not tell a vampire no.

But there's a third option. When Polly's mastered herself enough, she takes it.

She has to uncurl her fingers from Mal's shoulders one by one, relaxing them from their white-knuckled grip through sheer force of will, before she can slide her hands down the curve of Mal's back. She feels Mal's lips move against her throat when she does. Then Mal's tongue strokes against her skin and Polly has to swallow hard. It would be easy, so easy, for Mal to forget about that stupid little ribbon and hold her down to take what she wants. And that thought shouldn't make heat throb through her like this, but it does, especially when Mal bites her again and again, mouth moving up and down Polly's throat until she's squirming under Mal, skin tingling where Mal's teeth has scraped it raw. "Mal," she breathes, barely more than the air that passes between her lips—canvas is so thin—and Mal...

Mal growls.

The subtle harmonics of it run through Polly like an order, snapping her taut and trembling under Mal as she clutches at Mal's hips. The cot creaks under them as she tries to wrap a leg around Mal's hip, seeking some kind of friction, some way to ease the need and want that has her aching. Mal doesn't let her. She just catches Polly's hips and holds them with inhumanly easy strength as her mouth moves down Polly's throat, over her collarbones and between her breasts.

Then she turns her head and her teeth graze over Polly's breast. Polly has to bite down on her own lip to keep from crying out as sensation jolts through her and Mal hums something soft and pleased. Polly has just enough time to cram a fist against her mouth before Mal traces the tip of a fang over the slope and peak of her breast, scraping over it slowly. "Mal," she says again, when she can manage it. Some of what she means by that must come through, because Mal's laughter ghosts across her skin, nearly silent, and the cot creaks again as she slides down it.

Mal's hands on her hips hold them still; that doesn't keep Polly's back from coming off the cot when Mal bites her way up the inside of her thigh, hard enough that Polly knows there will be bruises later, bruises that only they know about and that will remind her of this tomorrow morning and every morning after until they fade. She muffles the sound that those slow bites draw out of her against her fist. Then Mal's tongue strokes against her, dissolving Polly's thoughts altogether as Mal's slender, clever fingers press into her. Polly clutches the blankets with her other hand, panting for breath as sensation rolls through her, building with every flick of Mal's tongue and every curl of her fingers. Then Mal's mouth shifts just so and Polly feels the delicate edge of a fang sliding against her and comes unstrung.

The cot creaks alarmingly as she shakes, pleasure scything through her until she thinks she might lose herself in it completely. It leaves her limp and stunned when it finally releases her; she's barely conscious of Mal's cool weight settling over her and gathering her up and the feel of Mal's hands smoothing over her skin.

When she can, Polly turns in Mal's arms to press her mouth against Mal's, silently. But Mal doesn't need any translation for that, and neither does the way her lips curl under Polly's in response.