Stahma steps into the NeedWant and blinks, letting her eyes adjust. It's not the dim light that affects her, but the colours. Even muted as they are by the lighting, their depth startle her each time she walks in the door.
A blue light shines behind the bar, sending dark rays across the room. It reminds her of Alak's hair when he first dyed it. He walked in with his jaw set, the blue as loud as a shout in their home. Datak had been... displeased.
Even after repeated dousings in the bath, the colour stayed in Alak's hair, straggling wetly over his face like ink on paper. Datak held him down longer, one hand pulling, trying to rip the colour from his head manually until Stahma splashed in behind them.
"Datak, leave him!" she pleaded.
"He dishonours his heritage!" Datak spat, whirling to face her. Behind him, Alak floundered, coughing.
"He adapts," Stahma said, gliding nearer to Datak. "He is born on a human world, Datak. He blends! The humans will see him as closer to them – "
"Exactly! No true Castithan would defile himself with that shtako." Datak made to turn again, but Stahma placed one hand on his arm lightly.
"And more people will trust him," Stahma insisted. She tilted her head, gazing up at Datak intently. "He will seem more approachable. Less remote. It is a clever move," she said. "He can go places we cannot. Unnoticed. And then he can report back to you." She placed her hands on Datak's chest. "Clever son of a clever father."
Datak paused for a moment, then huffed, slicking back his hair angrily. "Get him dry," he ordered, clambering out of the bath and deliberately ignoring Alak. "We’ll see if he can deliver on this promise of yours."
Stahma watched Datak leave as Alak hauled himself out of the bath. She looked over sorrowfully as he stood, unsteady on his feet. He avoided her eyes guiltily. "You will push too hard," she said. "Take care."
The colour has faded and fades more every day, but only part of Stahma's prediction has come true: Alak's ties to the human world are more pronounced than ever. Still, they brought her here in the first place, even if Alak is no longer the reason she keeps returning.
The dimness of the lights gives the patrons of the NeedWant only the illusion of privacy, but Stahma has little fear as she passes through the room. With her cowl up, few humans will be able to tell her from her Castithan sisters. Those that can are not the type who concern her. She enters Kenya's quarters unnoticed, but only then does she let her cowl fall.
"Stahma, hello." Kenya greets her with a cup of tea and a kiss, just brushing the corner of her mouth, promising greater delights to come. The heat of the cup and Kenya's touch tingles through Stahma and she smiles back with real affection.
Kenya is composed of vibrant colours, even more so than her brothel. Her hair is unbound; it frames her face and the soft swell of her breasts where her robe gapes open. Her dark brows and the bold, artificial red of her lips make her skin look pale for a human, but against Stahma's whiteness she is pink and gold. Stahma studies her eyes – such a different blue than the light outside! Framed with thick lashes and outlined in shades that match her robe, they watch Stahma guilelessly.
"You look very... pretty... today," Stahma says, setting the tea aside. She draws her fingers through the dark fall of Kenya's hair, marvelling at the contrast. Kenya's skin is warm; her cheeks flush pinker at Stahma's words.
"Pretty for a human?" Kenya asks, drawing Stahma back with her towards the bedchamber.
"Simply... pretty," Stahma murmurs. She unties Kenya's robe, letting it fall open down the front. Kenya starts to let it slide off her shoulders, but Stahma stops her. "Wait," she says, urging Kenya to lie back on the bed. "Please."
Kenya has largely taken the lead in their encounters thus far, but she smiles at Stahma with every evidence of eagerness and beckons her up onto the bed as well.
Stahma doesn't have words for all the colours in Kenya's bedchamber. They all seem to coalesce down to the sight of Kenya, palely naked amongst the reds and blues and purples, laid out for Stahma's pleasure.
She places a hand against Kenya's stomach, just to see. Her own flesh looks insubstantial against Kenya's gilded warmth; for the first time, Stahma understands why the humans call them haunts.
Kenya squirms, trying to shift Stahma's hand lower, but Stahma will not be rushed. "Hush," she says, placing a finger against Kenya's lips. She smears the red lipstick with a thumb, rubbing it off roughly. It looks like human blood on her fingers; she kisses the last of it from Kenya's mouth fiercely, one hand fisted in Kenya's hair to keep her immobile. She can taste the wax in her own mouth when she lifts her head. She scrubs it away with the back of her hand and smiles.
Kenya's eyes are dark, the pupils wide in the dim light so that the rim of blue around them shrinks thinner as Stahma watches. The pink on her cheeks is spreading downwards as her pulse flutters in her neck. Her breasts rise and fall with her breathing and Stahma transfers her attentions to them, following the delicate tracery of veins with her fingers.
"Tell me what you want," Kenya says, curling Stahma's hair around her fingers. She reaches up to cup the back of Stahma's head, trying to draw her in for another kiss, but Stahma ducks away.
"I want to... learn you," Stahma says, brushing her thumb over one of Kenya's nipples. It stiffens; a darker pink than the rest of her skin, but lighter than her kiss-swollen lips, all the colours in perfect harmony. "I want to watch."
"To watch me?" Kenya props herself up on her elbows. The robe slides down her arms with a soft whisper. She cups her own breast with one hand, trapping the nipple between thumb and forefinger. Stahma sees the skin whiten under pressure.
"No," she says, pulling Kenya's fingers away and watching as the blood floods back. "I want to." She wants to see the difference between herself and this human, but she wants to see it by her own hand. Perhaps then she can understand what draws Datak back here; perhaps she can understand why she too returns.
Kenya smiles, pleased. "I'm not going to complain," she says, lifting her face to Stahma's for another kiss.
Stahma complies. This time she is gentle, kissing Kenya like she is as fragile as her exposed skin suggests, and Kenya allows it, staying passive even as her fingers clutch at Stahma's shoulder. Her breathing quickens and her body shifts, swaying towards Stahma irresistible.
The skin on Kenya's belly is softer than that almost anywhere else on her body, Stahma learns. Kenya is soft there too, the gently rounding curve of her hips fitting perfectly into the sweep of Stahma's palm. Stahma tugs and Kenya's legs splay open.
She is pink between her legs as well, coarse black curls hiding the most delicate shades that blend into a red the colour of her heart's blood. Stahma cups her hand and slides her fingers inside, feeling Kenya's pulse beat. Here is the core of her being; she gives it to Stahma without reserve. Stahma takes it without question, setting a rhythm that drives her own blood through her veins faster. The colours of Kenya's body make it impossible for her to lie. She is on display for Stahma to study as closely as she wants; the freedom is as intoxicating as the sounds of Kenya's pleasure.
From between Kenya's legs, Stahma watches avidly. She watches the lines that Kenya makes, pale against the vibrant sheets and she curls and stretches unselfconsciously; she watches as Kenya pales, then pinkens, a flush of heat spreading up her entire body as she clenches against Stahma's fingers.
As Kenya calms, Stahma slides back up the bed, studying her face curiously. Kenya opens her eyes drowsily; they are bright and clear. "Was that what you wanted?" she asks softly, caressing Stahma's jawline.
"Do I get what I want now?" Kenya asks coyly. Her fingers are already working at the fastening of Stahma's gown, defter even than her attendants. Still, she pauses, waiting for Stahma's signal before continuing.
"And what would that be?" Stahma asks, covering Kenya's hand with her own and easing it under the folds of her clothing. There's no need for her to undress, and she finds she loves that too; Kenya's nakedness, open and vulnerable, and her own presence in Kenya's bed, fully clothed and pristine despite her actions. She will have to be certain no colour transfers itself before she leaves, but otherwise she could be here on legitimate business.
"It's a secret," Kenya whispers, kissing her as her fingers find Stahma's heat. Kenya's eyeshadow is smeared across her cheek, dark purple and blue disappearing into the shadows of her hair. Stahma rubs the mark away with the ball of her thumb, erasing her mark on Kenya even as she shuts her eyes and loses herself in the black.