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”Now for the vexing question that might, indeed, be a serious contestant for the position of ultimate riddle,” Rose says after turning on the tap to the bathtub. “Bath salt, -pearls, -bombs, -petals or -foam?”

You study the many jars, boxes and candy colored bundles of wrapping tissue in Rose’s bathroom cabinet. There sure is a lot of stuff in there! It’s a good thing you’re both immortal now, because there is just no way anyone could use this up in the lifespan of a regular person.

“I don’t see why we can’t have all of those,” you say, inquisitively dipping your pointer finger into a small glass bowl filled with lavender bath pearls shaped like hearts.  They clink softly against each other as you stir them around.

“Because in order to enjoy a bubble bath worth its name we need to add our chemical cocktail of choice to the water in the early stages of filling the tub, while the other alternatives are best added when it’s already filled,” Rose says, coming up to stand beside you, her arms crossed. “A decision must be made.”

“Wow, boring!”

Rose looks at you and quirks her lips into a smile, small and almost hidden, like a violet pushing tender petals through thick moss.

“There will be other baths, you know.”

“Unless the world ends again,” you say. “It could happen.”

“I don’t think-“ Rose tries, but you interrupt.

“It has happened! At least twice.”

 You’ve put on your most serious, super intense expression, furrowed brows and pursed lips and ears angled back. Your mouth is twitching, however, and you know your eyes are bright with mirth. Rose’s eyes are also alight beneath multiple layers of smoky eye shadow and mascara. She nods, slowly and sagely.   

“I see.” In a few measured steps she walks over to the tub, turning the tap off. “Then we had better strike while the water is hot.”

When she returns to your side you put an arm around her. Rose is much shorter than you, almost a whole head by now, and she fits snugly under your chin.

“You are the best friend,” you say, and fail to resist the urge to close your teeth around a lock of her hair and tug. She sighs a little dramatically, but lets you do it. Her hands are small and warm on yours.

After a couple of minutes of consideration you decide to choose what bathbubblethingies to go for based on scent. It’s really amazing how much becoming part dog has changed the way you perceive the world – and, at the same time, how little. Your nose matters so much more now, it’s an instrument of precision and you find smells in places you never knew even could smell. But you can rarely figure out what they mean. It’s like walking through long passages with writing in neon colors all over the walls in a language you don’t understand. Your hearing is better, but weird, as if you’re catching every radio signal at once and the tuning button is broken, drowning you in static. You get impulses to woof and chase and lick (and sometimes pee on people and things, unfortunately) but you can’t control it and you don’t know what you want with it outside of the need to do it right that very moment no matter what! When the other dog senses got as muted as they did, you think it sucks pretty bad that all of that stuff remained perfectly alert.

But whatever inconveniences there are to Bec’s legacy, they still come in handy for things like sniffing out bath products. Carefully picking through the bath products in the cabinet, you line up your selection on the counter below.

“What’s the theme?” Rose asks, and you beam at her.

“Roses!” You lower your voice and make it sultry. You have practiced together with John and the last time you could high five over leveling up to Seductamasters Sextraordinaire. “Even if they’re nothing compared to the most intoxicating petal congregation of all…”

“Ah. ’Two Young Greenbloods Meet A Mysterious Individual Of Unknown Blood Caste And Phosphorescent Complexion Upon Which Fatal Seduction Ensues. Contains Two Orgies, Five Character Deaths And Countless Mixed Metaphors,’ page 612, if I’m not mistaken?” She raises a brow, adding: “I warned you about rainbow drinker novels. I told you, dog,” and you can’t help gigglebarking. It’s embarrassing how that keeps happening.

The bathroom on the bottom floor of Rose’s house is large and spacious, with a lot more empty, shiny surfaces than you think is strictly necessary. It makes you want to make a nice, cozy mess of things. Bring in your toy chest and empty it out on the spotless ceramic tiles, hang potted plants from the ceiling and let them wind their slender vines up and down the transparent sliding doors jutting out at weird angles, paint the light gray and creamy white walls with broad streaks of cheery red and green and blue. Dave once said the room looked like a cement mixer and an iceberg had a baby, and you’re inclined to agree.

The shell-shaped tub is really, really good though. It isn’t so big it’s skirting swimming pool territory, but it’s definitely bigger than average. Or so you think. You’re not an expert on tubs! Back home on the island you would either shower or swim in the ponds. Bubble baths are still a bit of a novelty for you and you doubt the excitement over submerging yourself in fluffy drifts of foam is going to wear off anytime soon.

Together, the two of you kneel on the step leading up to the tub. You start with the petals. They’re quite brittle and you accidentally break two of them in the process of taking them out of the packaging. Rose is much safer on the hand, placing them carefully on the surface, raking her hand through the water, making them swirl. It’s pretty – pale pink flower-boats against a white ocean. It reminds you of Rose’s land and the same might be true for her because she grows quiet and still, eyes glazing over with thought.

Hoping to break the pensive mood you reach for the bath bombs, giving her two and keeping two for yourself.

“Four? That’s overkill,” Rose says, but she doesn’t put them away, just like you knew she wouldn’t. She doesn’t like to admit it, but Rose is all about overkill.

You drop them simultaneously, on the count of three. With only six inches of water you’re rewarded with less of a splash and more of a clonk, but the delightfully aggressive fizz when the bombs start dissipating makes up for it.

Next up is the bath salt, packaged in a pink taffeta pouch. You pour in the entirety of its contents in one go, to Rose’s mild horror. Apparently you’re not supposed to put in that much at once? Whatever! Less isn’t more, you explain to her, as you scatter bath pearls into the now cloudy water. She stands corrected, and you move on to agree that bath pearls are extremely uninteresting

By now the air is heavy with prickly sweet perfume scent, tingling in your nostrils. Rose turns the tap on and pours bath foam into the tub, and soon the room is filled with steam that slinks under your clothes to run its damp tongue over your skin and tease the sweat from your pores. It gets uncomfortable fast, so you decide not to stall on the stripping any longer. You pull your dress over your head, shimmy out of your leggings, and don’t hesitate a second to let your panties join them on the floor.

Rose takes it slow. She folds her cardigan and her skirt and her shirt and her socks and puts them on the lid to the laundry box, bundling up her bra and placing it right on top of the pile. She’s making a show of her neatness and it doesn’t fool you for a second. You’ve seen her room, and it’s not always pretty.

Jumping up to sit on the counter, you watch her while she undresses and then busies herself around the bathroom: laying out bath robes for later, searching for a bath cap and opening one of the windows huddling close to the ceiling a crack to let out some of the steam. At one point she reaches for a towel to wrap around herself, and you whine loudly.

“I take it you’re enjoying the show, then?” she says, wryly, and you nod because you are. You don’t get to see her naked nearly as often as you want. She curves so prettily and interestingly. Her shoulders are narrow and she slouches a bit - just like Dave, only without the tense angles – but beneath her waist her hips swell out all nice and wide, and her belly is round, bunching up in soft folds when she crouches down. Her butt is also really round and you’re pretty sure you’d like to snuggle your face up against it even if you weren’t part dog. It’s a really good butt! And you really like butts, you’ve always liked butts, and Rose’s isn’t just at the top of your list, it is your list.

The tub is full. When you turn the tap off, the room feels as naked as the two of you without the sound of purling water covering the silence. The foam rises like a mountain chain, with high tops and low valleys, all equally inviting and brilliantly white.

“You won’t put your hair up?” Rose asks as she adjusts the crème colored bath cap on her head. You shrug, because you haven’t really thought about it, and she continues: “You’ll regret it.”

She’s tilting her head the way she does when she just knows she’s right and is annoyingly smug about it, so you cock your head and pout in defiance.

“If you’re scared of getting wet maybe you shouldn’t bathe!” and with that you swiftly dunk yourself in the tub, hair and all, eyes squeezed shut against the foam so it won’t sting in your eyes.

 The scent is immediately overwhelming and when you resurface, snorting bubbles out of your nose, it takes several seconds for your senses to adjust. Once you’ve rubbed your eyes dry enough that you open them without risk, you’re surprised to find Rose still hasn’t submerged herself, sitting daintily on the edge with only part of her legs in the water.

“It’s very hot,” she mumbles.

She’s right – you can feel the heat like a thousand tiny needles in your feet and under your nails, and your face feels taut, a size too small for your skull. But the sensation is already giving way to pleasure, while Rose keeps pursing her lips, her knees glowing an angry, violent red. You’re reminded of the time you’ve spent curled up in her lap tracing the veins on her forearms and how clearly visible the net of thin blue lines was compared to yours. Maybe her blood runs closer to the surface or something?

“I think it’s better to just go in all at once.” You nudge her leg, smiling up at her. “Come on, I want to cuddle already!”

Slowly, she sinks herself down, hissing through her teeth when her hips disappear into the foam. You splash encouragingly and she splashes back with precision, aiming for your ears. Her movements are tense for a while, but soon she relaxes. That’s when you call it quits. A truce is negotiated. You sculpt a foamy wizard hat on top of Rose’s head as a peace offer, and it is graciously accepted as well as completed with a beard of her own making. You assure her she is dashing and she blushes and chokes on suppressed laughter until the magical attributes collapse.

Letting out a long sigh, Rose reclines in a corner. You scoot over to crouch in front of her, legs tangling with hers.

“Better?”

“Better.”

Amidst the rolling foam-hills her head and shoulders tower magnificently like a monument, an aquatic queen crowned with fluffy plastic. Everything about her is adorable, from her domed forehead where the sweat is beading, to the dip in her chin. Her nose is tiny, upturned, and her eyes are large, flaking mascara powdering her cheeks like the dust from moth wings. Without her hair framing it, her face seems open, laid bare, and without a coating of lipstick her mouth looks smaller, the edges of her smirk less harsh.

Your gaze travels downward to rest on her breasts. Water laps lazily at their shores, droplets take their time making tracks down their glistening slope. They are big, too big to fit in your cupped hand, full and heavy, decorated with pale stretch marks forming delicate stripes on their sides. You find yourself grinning, dizzy with joy over knowing someone as pretty as this, over being allowed to look at them and touch them and love them with your entire being.

“I am going to kiss you,” you say. “I am going to kiss you right on the nipple.”

Rose sits up straighter to give you better access.

“Be my guest.”

First you press your lips to her, then your tongue. The taste is bitter with bath water, covering up her usual sour-salty flavor, but her skin is silky smooth and lovely, yielding to the slightest pressure. Beyond the borders of her areola the texture is coarser. Only by degree, but enough that you’re soon licking wider and wider circles, savoring the contrast. Rose is combing her fingers through your hair, untangling the soaked tresses best as she can. Her nails occasionally scratch your scalp. When she scratches right behind your ears where you’re the most sensitive you moan, laying your head down on her chest and hugging her tight. She wraps her legs around you to keep your body, limp with pleasure, from sliding down. Her heels dig into your thighs and you’re convinced she’s brought magic into this somehow, because the way her fingertips are making you feel is absolutely unnaturally amazing. The endlessness of every universe buzzes insistently just outside the tangibility of physical sensations, prodding at you for attention, but you swat it away. Space may be endless, but you are not. Eternity has no center, but you calibrate your own reality and the compass always points back to this. You don’t have to be anywhere but here.

Once you are out of the tub with all the foam showered off and each of you bundled up in a big, fluffy bathrobe, Rose pecks you quickly on the cheek, a little stiff and self-conscious, put perfectly sweet.

“And now?” she says. “The night is young. Any plans?”

“Oh, yeah. You bet I have.” You meet her eyes, turn the intensity up to smolder and almost manage not to giggle. “I have lots of plans that involve you, me, your bed…” You lean in. “…and Squiddles, the complete series.”

Rose flutters her lashes.

“Does that include the specials? The movies?”

“Of course!”

“Oh, be still my heart.”

You take Rose’s hand and set out through the long corridor leading to the living room. Before ascending to the second floor, you stop and turn to her.

 “Last up is a buttfrog!”

“Yes, please, let’s race. I do enjoy the exercise in futility that is competing with a person who can-“she starts, but before she can say “teleport” you have poofed to her bedroom.

You stand there, bare feet on carpet, listening to her steps coming up the stairs, closer and closer until her hands are warm on yours once again.