Ross winces visibly while Catalina carefully undos the myriad of harnesses biting into her flesh, and though the former makes absolutely no noise, Catalina can see the faint tremble in her lover’s lower lip, as if she were biting down on her tongue to keep from revealing the pain. As Catalina lifts away each strap of leather, she inhales sharply at the streak of red dug into Ross’s skin. Like an angry army of welts pricked up and down Ross’s arms, back, torso, thighs, belly. Ross breathes, somehow.
“I’m fine,” she tries, her voice quiet, and Catalina shakes her head. Gently starts to wipe the wounds with disinfectant. Refusing to curl inwards on herself, Ross indicates discomfort in her white knuckles and jerky movements, the latter wholly unintentional and almost inhuman in the rapid-fired-ness of the reactions.
Hawkeye returns with two cups of coffee and one of tea. The cream-and-sugar affair that swirls a light off-white shaded slightly with a hint of cinnamon, she hands to Catalina. The tea, rich and dark with thick rings of greyed steam wisping off of the surface, she sets on the nightstand beside Ross’s left side. Placing the quivering saucer of her stark black coffee onto the nightstand as well, Hawkeye salutes Catalina and Ross before sinking to her knees.
“I’m sorry.” Her forehead nearly touches the floor. Ross makes a sort of noise in her throat. Catalina’s gaze darts from one woman to another: Hawkeye’s make-up has smeared beneath her eyes, more so on the left side than on the right. “I shouldn’t have insisted.”
From her current position, Ross can only wriggle forward slightly, but she nudges Hawkeye’s chin with her foot. “Riza, we all messed up. It’s all right. It won’t hurt at all in a jiffy; just you wait.”
Catalina, normally the loudest of the three, the one to beat silence over a chair and chuck quiet out a chair, struggles to put tongue to word.
In the meantime Hawkeye straightens the slope of her spine to kneel before the bed, spine erect. “Next time, you can call the shots, Maria. I will say nothing whatsoever if you do or don’t want to try that again.”
“That’s why we have a safe word.” Ross wipes her forehead with her right hand and crosses her legs. Or attempts to, because she winces again. Returns to sitting normally. “It was my fault that I didn’t think to open my damn mouth.” She offers her lovers a smile. I have one for a reason, you know.”
Hawkeye narrows her eyes. “And yet, Maria . . .”
Now Catalina finds her tongue, or at least some semblance thereof: “Riza. Maria. You’re both being dumb here. Riza, check the straps next time and don’t assume like a dipshit that the girl who’s never done this sort of thing before knows how much is too tight.” She grabs Ross’s hand. Ross blinks, but her smile does not so much as waver. “Maria. If you ever, ever feel any kind of discomfort, you fuckin’ say something, okay? No matter what. You promise me?”
Exchanging glances, Ross and Hawkeye nod in tandem. Hawkeye proffers Ross her Xingese-style tea while she perches, then relaxes, on her other side. Catalina swings an arm over both pairs of shoulders, stretching to reach Hawkeye’s as well.
Ross dips her head. “I promise, Becca.”
“Me too.” Hawkeye exhales in relief, and a hint of steam curls upwards from her breath.
“Now, we’re all gonna discuss this the mature adults we are, all right?” Catalina presses a quick kiss to Ross’s cheek; she chuckles under her breath and returns the favour to Hawkeye. “Good. And, Maria?”
Catalina flicks Hawkeye’s shoulder. “Riza’n I’ll be on kitchen duty for a week.”
Hawkeye shakes her head, and Catalina glares sharply at her. “Of course not for a week.” Hawkeye sips her coffee. “For a month.”