“No, it's fine.” I say, as I'm pacing back and forth in my living room. “I'm sure we can do this another time.” I stop before I trip over the cat, who looks up at me with owlish eyes, even though it's the middle of the day. Pulling on the hem of the skirt I'm wearing, I slip the nice flats off my feet. “We can do this 'double dating' thing when you're all feeling better, okay?” I'm trying not to grind my teeth as I talk to my roommate. “Yeah. See you later. Bye.”
I clench my jaw as I press the 'end call' button on my phone's touchscreen. Food poisoning and a cold. Of course.
It takes all my energy not to scream and hurl my phone against a wall. Said phone makes a beep as I squeeze it, alerting me to the fact that, with the last call, I was running out of battery life. With an apathetic curse, I go to grab the phone's charging cable and plug.
“Where is it?” I mutter, digging around in my backpack for the plug. “C'mon! Where?” I demand, shoving my hand into the bag's multiple pockets and hide-holes. I don't find it, even with all the forceful rifling. I sigh, trying to let go of the frustration of both the loss of the plug, and the loss of the date. “Maybe I can just charge it on the laptop,” I say to myself, and my cat meows, as I look at her. “You think that'd be a good idea, huh?” She only blinks slowly at me, looking away and showing me the profile of her face. “Love you too, Kitty,” I say, not entirely sarcastic, and move to get my laptop.
With one last rueful glance in the bedroom mirror, I accept that I'm going to be messing around on the computer in date clothes. The cat couldn't be happier with my decision; she gets to cuddle next to a heat source and her person.
As I yank the computer and its cable out from under my bed, I also grab the small lap desk that my roommate had gotten me last year. It had been a gift, as a sort of anniversary of us being roommates. I'd just purchased a coffee thermos and stuck a dollar-store bow on it, handing it to her after I'd gotten home.
I sigh, frowning a bit. Granted, my roommate has been nothing but supportive of me, and I shouldn't feel this resentment at her for getting sick at a work function (alongside everyone else who works there—including the person she'd wanted to set me up with), but I can't help it. I need to take my mind off of this whole thing; it'd be better than stewing around in this negativity. Maybe check the internet for anything new?
The computer's just about done turning on when I hear a knock at the door. I jolt forward, looking up. There's a delivery truck outside, and the driver's at the door. I put the laptop to the side, on the other couch cushion, and get up to answer. A medium-sized box is shoved in my face, with an electronic signature pad and stylus on top. I put the box inside the house.
“Sign here, please,” the man says, and I scribble my name on the pad. “Thanks. Enjoy your day,” the man retrieves the pad and stylus from my hands, and turns back to embark in his truck.
“Ah, um, thanks...” I mutter, the man already long gone by the time the words come out. The Spring breeze pushes through the fabric of my tank top, and I shiver despite the overall warmth of the season.
My cat's meow reminds me to close the door. “He was really cute, don't you think?” I ask my cat, who just tilts her head and slow-blinks at me. I roll my eyes.
The single life is starting to get to me. I'm almost twenty-five, barely even kissed anyone, and I'm still dressed for a cancelled date.
At least my roommate had called me before.
I look down at the cardboard box with my mailing info, and then the logo of the company. “Oh!” I exclaim, and start to scrabble to open it. “It's here.” Pulling my keys from the pocket in my bag, I run the serrated edge along the packing tape. As I dig through the packing slip, bubble wrap, and my own impatience, I finally get to the insides. I lift the slim box out, and smile.
I'd placed the order weeks ago, but with school and life, I'd forgotten all about it.
No time like the present.
It's a headset with a visor, usually meant for the more recent first-person-styled games, billed as a full-immersion experience, but... What would I use it with?
At least I was here to get the delivery, I think, fishing out the assembly instructions of the headset. It's better that way.
A lightbulb moment.
I glance at the RPG game's icon in my downloads. I plug in the headset, following the IKEA-esque directions, while my cat helps by laying on the cord.
I've got a replacement date, all right. One with a video game, and a baseball player.
I settle down with a glass of water, and click on the icon for OFF. I'd seen others play it, from videos online, and post screen shots of silly glitches that sometimes happen in these older games, but I've only now gotten around to downloading it. I'm almost done with it, though; Spring break is a great time frame for playing it.
Hesitation curdles in my stomach as the game loads.
I don't know if I can face the last parts of the game, I think, remembering the climax of the storyline. Clicking on the only save file, I take a sip of water. What choice can I make, when any and all of them are so—
A crack of thunder sounds in the distance—
I jump without meaning to—
My water glass goes flying—
The game loads, and—
There's a sound of lapping water, and whispering, yet roaring, ocean. I open my eyes to a sea of bright white water and yellowed grass. Wait a moment—grass? Water?
I live inland; there's no water near me for at least a mile. Did I... Did I black out, or something...? I start to shake, anxiety coming over me, and I put my hands on the ground to steady myself.
What I feel under my hands... well, it's not grass at all. It feels like temperate metal, with some kind of plastic-based paint coating it. At least it's a solid ground. I take a deep breath, and feel better soon enough.
Am I strong enough to stand, though, is the question. I test that by first getting to my knees. When it seems like I can support that, I pull myself up to my feet. Focusing my eyes, I see that there's no grass, but just the pristine yellow paint over metal. A yard or so past me is a large red cube with what seems to be a button.
What... What the hell is this place...? It looks like—
There's laughter behind me. I frown automatically, recognizing the tone. However, I can't see the person that laugh is from, so I go toward the similarly-yellow building. My footsteps make a dull noise on the ground, and at this point I don't care. Without a door, I catch a glimpse of the inside of the structure, and a person.
I knock on the wall outside the building, the paint's texture like rubber against my knuckles. That laughter again, along with an overly-suave “Come in, please,” grates at my ears. I enter anyway.
“Bonjour, ma cherie,” Zacharie says, a text box mirroring his words under my nose. He's wearing the first mask, the one I mistook for a surgeon's, or a particle filterer, when I'd started getting into the game.
“...Hello, Zacharie,” I say, attempting an even tone. No text box blooms into view with my words. Clearly, I'm an outsider in this.
Zacharie tilts his head, a hand on his hip. “I know what you're thinking,” he says, “and I ought to let you know, that I don't blame you one bit. Or byte,” he adds, and laughs. I blink, confused.
“Bits and bytes, you get it?” Zacharie's voice gets flat. “Like, computers? Data, bits, trilobites? Wait, no, that's not part of a computer at all...”
“Oh,” I say, “you were making a pun.” Cold relief sweeps through me as a small part of my discomfort wafts away.
“Yes,” Zacharie nods, trademark laughter echoing from behind the mask. “Ah, but, as I was saying, I know what's on your mind.”
“Do you, now?”
“But of course. 'Oh no, I'm swept into a fictional realm full of weirdos! Whatever shall I do?'” Here, he clasps his hands and pops up a foot, looking every bit the damsel in distress. It looks utterly bizarre with the dialogue box hovering next to him.
“So... this is...” I begin, pausing to give Zacharie time to respond.
“Zone Zero, yes,” Zacharie answers. “So, would you like to make a purchase?”
“Purchase?” I say, repeating his words. Then it dawns on me. Oh, my gosh, no. No, I'm not ready to buy the Aries card. I'm even less ready to purchase the friggin' Ashley Bat. No, I'm not ready to face anybody at this point.
“No,” I say, voice as small as it can be while still being audible. “But... but thanks for offering.”
“There, there!” Zacharie shrugs. “Your loss, then.” He doesn't seem too upset. There's a smiling tone to his voice, even. “I suppose I ought to send you on your way.”
Silence, except for the sounds of the waves outside, and the soft breeze whistling through the open doors and windows of the building.
I stare at Zacharie.
He stares back, I presume, through the eye-holes in his mask.
“Go on, shoo,” he says, making selfsame shoo-ing motions with his hands. “Go find your Batter.”
I balk, looking at him as if he's sprouted two heads (if he did, the second would probably have the cat mask, naturally). “Can I even leave?” I ask, in disbelief.
“Only one way to find out,” Zacharie laughs, and gestures to the way that I'd originally came in. I incline my head to the side, acknowledging the truth of his statement. I wave as I walk away. Zacharie salutes, holding two fingers to the top edge of his mask, while the ring and little fingers are closed into his hand.
Music seems to announce my departure, but it's quiet, as if coming from another part of the building. It sounds like something from a music box, with a tinny, halting tune. I shrug. Even though I'd known how to find the read-me file, I'd still given the box to Zacharie during the last time I played.
As I pass through the archway, I hear girlish laughter, and coughing. My heart hurts, and I wince. My resolve to maybe talk to Batter, if I could find him, strengthens.
Once I reach the red cube, I tap the button, and wait. The box makes no noise at first, and I sneer a bit. “Of course,” I say, under my breath, before I see several white rings rise from around me, and the sound of the rings activating fills my ears.
I open my eyes; I hadn't realized I'd closed them. It's cold, and I feel the chill in the air as I breathe. The faint hint of smoke arrives on the heels of the sound of whispering; I shiver, but not from the low temperature of the new surroundings. It reminds me of when I can't sleep. The rest of the world is a matte black color, except for the faint glow of the group of smudged chalk drawings to my right.
Disgust floods my stomach, and I have to look away. If I could nope out of something, I'd do it right now, desire to have a civil conversation with Batter be damned. A sudden warmth, like a cup of hot coffee on a Winter day, washes across me.
I pull my gaze from the fading light of Zones One through Three, and see the bright red-white of the last area. “Time to see where this takes me,” I say, and the words reverberate into the darkness. A few steps, and I'm there. I step on the red chalk circle, and in the upper corner of the nothingness, a few feet away, the words The Room blink into existence.
“Here goes,” I mutter, as the warp function activates.
I close my eyes (can't help it at this point), and wait for the sound of touching down on solid earth—or metal, in this case. Instead, my feet hit short, clean carpet. I dig my toes into it, for just a moment, and breathe. Opening my eyes, I look at the dark gray carpet and walls of the foyer, and the dull sheen of water at the sides of the room. Small, almost ineffective lights dot the sides of the water's edge, giving the foyer a hazy visibility. Glancing upward, I see the same gray color on the ceiling.
What do you think you'll accomplish, anyway?
The thought comes as I exhale, coughing a bit at the residual smoke I took with me on my travel. How are you going to defend yourself if it goes bad? I bite at the edge of my lower lip, stress and anxiousness tensing my muscles. I force them to relax; first my shoulders, then my arms and back, and the rest of me follows suit. I breathe easily once more.
What if Batter doesn't want to talk to me?
I purse my mouth, looking off to the side of the pathway. The water feature laps quietly at the edges, and I know that I'd never see its end, even if I could dive. I take a fortifying breath, and make the first step forward.
Only one way to find out.
Right. I keep moving my legs, one step at a time, in the direction of the hallway's end. As I walk, there's an... itch in my chest, that mimics the sensation of wanting to cry. I stop walking in order to catch my breath, and the sensation pulls at me, trying to tug me forward. “Batter...?” I whisper. My voice comes out hoarse from my throat. The itch continues, and I have no choice but to keep going.
I pass through the hallway, and toward what feels like Batter. A light flashes, as if a door's been opened to a bright, beautiful day. In front of me is a staircase; not particularly steep, exactly, but long. The pull in my heart becomes insistent, and I can't help but follow. The air starts to clear as I ascend. By the time I reach the top, I can breathe freely.
The floor is gray, with patterns in the masonry, while the windows are rising up, up, from the floor to the ceiling, and only end when they touch the skylights. Outside, beyond the windows, is the suddenly-blue sky, and clouds unadorned in smoke. Above me, a large whale floats by, and it looks at me. A small, mournful song leaks from the whale to the inside, and I feel the breeze as it floats past the building. I shiver, listening to the song get harder and harder to hear.
There's a small, susserating laugh, like leaves in the wind, and I flinch. I peek past the curtain, and what I see... Well, it's... confusing.
Inside the room with the long windows and large skylights is a spindly, black cafe table and two matching chairs. Seated in the chairs are The Batter and... and The Queen. Her back is to me, but Batter's face is almost visible to me.
The Queen says something, her head tilting as she speaks. This gives me a better, but still far-away view of his face. The Batter opens his mouth to respond; he's smiling. After he answers, he takes a sip from the mug on his side of the table. Silverware makes little clanging sounds as they partake in a small meal. The two of them are only a few yards away, but I feel like... like I'm further away from them by several miles. Even though I know I'd have to face either one of them, I didn't count on them being together like this.
Still, I can't control the sense of impropriety the scene gives me. Why? Why are they talking, laughing, eating, together? I thought that... that The Queen was... Batter smiles, again, and I hear a small, pattering laugh come from The Queen. She sounds beautiful, pops into my head. My face goes warm as The Queen's voice wafts to me.
This is... no. Discomfort floods my body as I keep watching. This is a private moment, for the both of them, and, like when I was talking with Zacharie, it's obvious that I don't belong here. I'm the intruder... not The Queen, nor The Batter.
Sheesh... even in my escapism, I can't win. I pinch the bridge of my nose, squeezing my eyes closed. Leaning against the door frame, a small whine escapes my throat before I can think of the consequences.
I stop breathing as I hear the sounds of conversation and the rasp of ceramic on metal die a soft, small death. Batter says something, and I press my lips together, hiding behind the only foot-long panel that isn't a window.
“You may show yourself, now.”
It sounds less like a command, and more like a suggestion.
“Please?” The low, husky voice of The Queen affects my heart in more than one way.
Hang on. Did... that really just happen? I ask myself. I feel drawn to both of them. I steel my nerves, and walk through the curtain into the ever-sunlit room.
“Ah,” Batter says, “there you are.” His voice is warm and genial. “Come here, please.” I can't even look him in the eye as I acquiesce to his request. Who's the puppet, and who's the puppeteer, here? I wonder, as I finally reach the table at which The Batter and The Queen are seated.
“Hello, Van,” Batter says, his French-tinged English doing funny things to me inside and out. I'm sure there's a clicking noise when I gulp, trying to moisten my suddenly-dry throat. I know, instinctively, that this Batter is my Batter. Neither tall nor short, but taller than me—I can tell that just by a glance; mock turtleneck mostly hidden under a gray-striped tunic, with both shirts tucked into plain white baseball pants and black socks.
His face appears to naturally fall into that of an upset expression; his eyebrows are furrowed, but he's not forcing them that way, and the corners of his full lips casually tilt down. Huh. The Batter has resting b-tch face. Batter's eyes have deep gray irises, and dark pupils. At a glance, it's as if his eyes are nothing but sclera. They're not cold, per se... but I can't read him.
“You—you know who I am...?” I ask. The pounding in my heart increases, and I think I'm shaking a bit.
“But of course.” Batter says, as if that's all there is to it. “You are the puppeteer, and I am The Batter, and this is The Queen.”
“But I thought you hated each other,” I blurt, and then I blush, embarrassment making it hard for me to say anything more.
“Hate is a strong word, dearest puppeteer,” The Queen says, taking a sip from her teacup. I look at her. “After all, as I'm sure you know, this is merely a game.” She pauses, making sure that I'm following where she's going. “Consider the scenes you're presented with, during the game, as a sort of... theatrical performance, if you will. We play our roles when the curtain rises. When the game is over, we are finished with our role. The words we say to each other during the game have no bearing on how we interact in our off hours.” She blinks, and laughs behind a hand. “You should hear the profane sentiments some of our Elsen speak when their role is spent. It's quite amusing. I've never considered some of the words they string together.”
I blink at her, and for the first time, I really look at The Queen. She's taller than The Batter, and obviously taller than me. Her dress is much more simple than I anticipated: strapless, with a vertical ruched pattern at the bodice, and a plain A-line skirt. It complements her deep gray skin tone, and highlights the natural, soft lavender color that her full, smiling lips and high cheeks fade into. The Queen's deep-set, lavender-gray eyes are kind as we regard one another, and I stammer out a thank you.
“It's nothing,” she says. “You deserve a clarification of the inner workings of this world, outside of braving the constructed elements.”
The Batter snorts. “I knew spending time with Zacharie would have a bad influence on you, Vader.” There's no actual malice in his words, only amusement.
“If I'm going to speak to the poor woman, she may as well be entertained,” The Queen responds, just as lightly.
“More puns?” I ask, and Batter inclines his head once. I groan, and The Queen smiles.
“I take it you've seen Zacharie, then?” She asks, and brushes a platinum lock of hair behind her ear. I nod. “He told me to find this guy—” at this, I point to Batter, who looks down his straight, long nose at my finger with a familiar frown.
“But not how to get back to where you're from,” The Queen finishes for me. Again, I nod. “Ah, that is Zacharie, for what he's worth.” She shrugs, and it looks as elegant as a curtsey, coming from her. “Well, while I would have been perfectly happy meeting you the usual way through the game, this way is also acceptable.” At this, she leans on one arm, and I can't help but notice the small smile she's giving me. “Goodness, Batter had been talking about you, and voila, you visit.”
“B-Batter... talked about me...?” Heat rises in my face, and I can't get enough air. I look at The Batter. “You... talked about me?” I squeak.
Batter nods once, and shrugs. “You are my puppeteer,” he says simply. “Is it unnatural for me to discuss you with Vader?” Batter's tone is nonchalant, but his face shows signs of concern. It gives me pause.
“No.” I say, after a moment. “No, I don't think so. It just... surprised me, is all.” I mimic his shrugging, looking off to the side. The clouds outside pass by in the afternoon sky. There's a definite increase in the heat of my face.
“It was nothing bad,” The Queen comments mildly, observing the two of us. “Regardless, would you like some coffee?”
That one fairytale rule popped into my head: don't eat anything there, or you're stuck forever.
“Ah... thanks, but, um, I'm fine,” I say. “I had a big lunch.” To be honest, I'm also still a little woozy from the revelation that Batter was talking about me—favorably, even, if I take what The Queen says at face value.
The Queen smiles, and gives me a small nod, understanding in her eyes. There's another look in her eyes that says something else, but, like with The Batter, I can't read her that well. I realize I'm staring. I blush all over again, and look down at my feet.
“If you are in no need of sustenance, then perhaps we could assist you with attempting to return to your original residence,” says The Queen.
“Perhaps.” The Batter agrees, his broad hands at his wide-spread knees, and a contemplative look on his face.
I can't help it: I steal a lingering glance at the juncture of Batter's thighs. Those pants leave almost nothing to the imagination, truth be told. There's a flip in my stomach, and a small shiver wracks its way through me. My mouth is dry, and—
Batter clears his throat.
I look up, mortified, my eyes wide. What am I doing? Am I so damn desperate that I'd ogle a married man?
“If there's something you're more ...interested in, Van—” Batter begins.
“I... I'm—I'm sorry,” I choke out, interrupting him as tears threaten the corners of my eyes. “I'll just... I'll just go, a-and find my own way out.” By now the first few tears are leaking down to my jaw. “...I'm sorry,” I mumble again, and turn to leave, shame and guilt rising up in my chest. I can't even look at The Queen right now. I hope they can forgive me.
“Van.” Batter says, and I can't move because there's a large hand wrapped gently around my right wrist. I regard the paper-white hand at my arm. It doesn't hurt, but the contrast of colors takes me aback.
“What...?” I say, scrunching up my face. “You're... you're not going to—to purify me, are you?”
Batter's face takes a mournful expression, and I hear The Queen gasp lightly. “No, no... of course not,” Batter says, voice soft and low. “Please, come here.”
I hesitate, then comply, taking halting steps to Batter's side as he drops my wrist from his grasp. His hands cover my shoulders as he places them there. In the back of my mind, the warmth of his palms on my bare skin registers.
“Van,” Batter begins, looking at me square in the face. “I am not upset with you.”
“Nor I with you,” The Queen says.
One of Batter's hands come up to my face, and he uses his thumb to wipe away the now-drying tears. “You are my puppeteer,” Batter continues, in that same soft and gentle tone. “Nothing will change that.”
“But...” I start, and I realize that I have nothing to say to that. An inquiring expression crosses Batter's face, and he nods to me, seemingly encouraging me to go on. I'm blinking faster, trying to brush the tears away. “But what... what do you mean by that?” I ask, staring The Batter in his nigh-blank-looking eyes.
“I trust you.” He says, simply.
I want to be sick from guilt. “You trust me...? Even after I...” I gesture vaguely at his lower half.
Batter raises an eyebrow. “Of course.”
“But you're married!” I hiss, snapping my hand out to indicate The Queen. “And—and I—”
“Puppeteer,” The Queen's voice cuts through my words, and there's a small bite to her tone that seems to cross from sound to actual physical presence. It crackles across my face, like static electricity. It feels like I've been booped on the nose, to be honest.
“Yes?” I ask, lifting my gaze to her face. She doesn't appear angry, but amused.
“Do you understand what an open relationship is?”
I do a double-take. “...Yes...?”
The Queen has a smile on her face, and it reaches up to her eyes in a genuine display of encouragement.
“So...” I say, my voice coming out pinched, “that's... what you and Batter... have, I take it...?”
“Indeed,” answers The Queen, and she takes a sip from her coffee. The Batter nods when I look at him, the corners of his mouth turning upward into a semblance of a smile. “Therefore,” continues The Queen, “self-flagellation is unnecessary.”
I flinch, and my face heats up, guilt giving way to less-severe embarrassment. I blink several times, the few remaining tears at the corners of my eyes abating. At the left of my vision, a small, dark gray square appears, with 'quit game' at the bottom. “Ah...?” I blink, shaking my head to clear it. I blink in rapid succession, hoping to recreate the incident.
The 'quit game' square pops up again, highlighted in black. I gasp.
“Van...?” Batter's voice pulls me back. Blinking to clear the option menu from my vision, I look at The Batter and The Queen.
“I... I can get back,” I say, dazedly. “I can get home.”
The Queen smiles, first at me, then at Batter. “How relieving,” she says, tone warm.
“Congratulations, Van,” Batter says, grinning. His teeth are sharp-looking, but the grin is sincere.
I forget myself in my relief, and fling my arms around Batter's shoulders. The Batter freezes up for just a moment. “Oh, jeez, sorry,” I mutter, and I start to pull away. That's when Batter returns the gesture, wrapping his arms around my middle. He holds me close.
The Batter—this Batter, my Batter—smells like Earl Grey tea. It's soothing, and he's warm. I sigh, and look up at him. At this short distance, I see the different layers of his eyes, and how the white and gray intermingle. Instead of pink or black or brown, his lips are light gray, just like the tip of his nose, and the edges of his ears. I want to touch them all.
Those same lips quirk up in a wry smile, a hint of sharp teeth as white as his face flashing at me. “Hello, there,” Batter says, voice low and soft again as he looks at my face. His breath is warm on my forehead, and reminds me that I'm in a skirt and tank top. I mean, they're nice clothes, but I dressed for a date during a warm Spring day, not a... a... whatever-this-is, during a rather cold time in the moment.
I shiver, and swallow hard as I see his view leisurely travel down to my mouth and back to my eyes.
“Stay,” he whispers, and his hands hold hard to my waist as his fingertips dig into my clothes. “Please.” Batter continues, dark gray tongue darting out to wet his parted lips. My mouth goes dry, and before I can answer, before I can decide, a long shadow falls across my vision. The Queen has left her seat, and stands tall beside me. Perching on the edge of the table, The Queen holds out a hand, hovering at my shoulder. I nod, and her arms flow around my upper torso, brushing against my collar bone. I catch the barely-there scent of coffee and early mornings on her. The Queen's layered white hair grazes my shoulders and tickles my face as she leans forward.
“You're welcome to stay as long as you like,” she murmurs in my ear, her breath warm against me; my body, pinned between the two of them, is wracked with a shudder. The Batter and The Queen maintain their grips, keeping me from falling out from under my own shaking legs. I feel my body heat up in more places than one, willing me to agree.
I have to make a decision, but it's a little difficult with all of this warmth and, well, sweetness enveloping me in a heady, intoxicating embrace.
“We won't do anything you don't want to, Van,” says Batter, voice rough. It shoots straight through my heart, and floods downward.
“We promise,” The Queen says, her voice soothing and calm. “Before you agree, though,” she adds, in that same gentle tone, “please know that we use protection. You are not allergic to anything, yes?” It takes me a moment to process what she's saying.
“Ah... no...” I respond, “I... I'm not...” I try not to whine when I sense her lips curving in a smile against my ear.
“Thank goodness,” she answers, nuzzling the side of my face with hers. I close my eyes tightly, and see the phantom 'quit game' pop-up in my vision. I let out an open-mouthed sigh, and make my choice.
Blinking away the pop-up, I open my eyes to the pair. “W-well, with such a... an eager welcome committee,” I gasp, smiling, “I suh... suppose I could stay a l-little longer.”
Batter looks into my eyes as he trails a hand up my arm. He stops at my jaw. “May I?” He asks, his blunt nails at the cusp of the back of my neck. I nod, minutely. I don't trust myself to speak without sounding out of breath. “Thank you,” he murmurs, and buries his fingers in my hair. The warmth from his hand is soothing, and I lean into it. His other arm, still wrapped around my waist, clings to me. On the opposite side of me, The Queen moves her hands to allow Batter more room. Instead, she tilts my head with a free hand, making me face her. The hand Batter has tangled in my hair follows.
“Our usual safeword is 'coffee'. Is that acceptable?” The Queen asks.
My answer is obvious.
“Uh... uh-huh,” I gasp, and a grin splits across The Queen's face. Her teeth are sharper-looking than The Batter's, and I flush from wondering what they'd feel like. It seems like I can't get enough air, especially when Batter starts running his fingertips down from my head to my jaw, but I think I'm managing.
The Queen kisses my cheek, and I feel a flush spread from there to the rest of my face. “You're so cute,” she whispers, and her lips continue to trail down on my neck. I bite my lip, trying to stifle the sounds that want to come out of me. She kisses under my jaw and I coo, my lower lip popping out from between my teeth. “There we go,” says The Queen, who's backing away for now. Again, I make a noise, but it's between a groan and a grumble this time. I purse my lips into a line, embarrassed at how I must sound to them.
The Batter smooths a broad thumb across my lower lip, and looks at me. “I'd very much like to kiss you,” he says. “May I kiss you?”
Oh. I... I have no idea how to kiss whatsoever. What if I'm terrible at it? What if he thinks I can't? I flex my fingers, scrunching up the fabric of The Batter's jersey. At least I brushed my teeth. My thoughts must show on my face, because when I look back to The Batter, he has a concerned expression worrying his features. I want to kiss him... but... what if I'm bad at it? I take in a steadying breath. I'll never learn if I never try.
“Of course,” I answer, smiling despite my nerves. He smiles in return, and leans toward me. I pop up on my toes, and meet him the rest of the way, lips first.
His lips are soft, dry, and warm.
He doesn't press, but fits himself alongside of me, and I smooth my hands against his lower back. Batter pulls back a fraction of an inch. “You're allowed to breathe, you know,” he says, and I hear the smile in his voice alongside of the good-natured teasing.
“R-right,” I say, and go back to kissing him. My arms are still caught around The Batter, and I move them to rest on his sides. He blinks, and grins through the kiss.
It's then that The Queen's voice filters through the haze of the moment. “You needn't worry about impressing us,” she says, a kind tone to her words.
“But, I—” I say, after pulling away from the kiss, only to find Batter leaving small kisses on my neck. “—I want... to do well... by you...” I manage, biting back a groan.
“You're doing just fine, Van,” The Queen says, and my name on her lips sounds like falling into bed after a long day. I fail to keep the groan from spilling out of me, as Batter's lips and tongue find my neck's pulse point.
Heat flushes from that small contact, and winds itself through me like smoke through air. “Buh-Bah-... Batter,” I stammer out, putting my hands on his upper arms.
“Mm?” He says, looking up at me with those gray eyes. “Something wrong?”
“No, no,” I shake my head. “Too much of a, of a good thing.” I smile shyly.
“Overstimulated?” Batter asks, raising an eyebrow as he smirks.
“Just a bit,” I answer, and his expression softens. “Give me a moment.” I take a few breaths, inhaling through my nose, and sighing off to the side. I know I brushed my teeth, but I don't want to blow into Batter's face. In the corner of my eye, I see The Queen, sitting on the cafe table, dishes and silverware pushed to one side. She's propped her right leg over her left, ankle resting on thigh, while she leans backward on the heels of her hands. A small, fond smile plays at her face as she watches us. Her dress has hiked up, showing off her long legs and silver-painted toenails.
I gulp, trying not to stare again. I tear my eyes away, and focus on The Batter.
“Shall we continue?” Batter asks, a hint of dry humor to his voice.
“Yeah,” I say, and press my mouth to his. A spark of arousal dances up my spine as I feel the gaze of The Queen on me at the same time Batter's lips pull at mine. I squeeze The Batter's sides, and he jumps a bit, scraping his nails down my bare arms. They leave small, almost invisible white marks that fade just as fast as they arrive. I sigh through my nose, and his hands hold steady at my hips, above the waistband of my skirt.
As he's petting the meeting of my skirt and my top with his fingertips, I cradle his jaw with my hands, my thumbs at the corner of his lips. There's a hint of close-cropped hair where sideburns would be, but it's not something I can see. Batter's mouth opens, and he runs the tip of his tongue along my lower lip with a small, satisfied hum.
The Batter latches onto my lower lip with both of his, and my hips move forward of their own accord. He leaves a light nip with those sharp teeth, drawing no blood, but forcing it elsewhere. Not fair. I run my hands up the sides of his face, nails first, stopping at the brim of the black baseball cap. He leans into the touch and allows me to remove the hat. It falls behind him, landing out of my vision and onto the floor with a small sound. I feel that same short hair under my fingertips.
My hands graze over his ears on their way down, and I fold my arms around his shoulders afterward. A sigh passes through his nose, brushing against my cheek. Batter's tongue taps my lip again, and I nod into the kiss, my mouth opening to his.
“Mm-hmm,” I murmur, and The Batter licks my upper lip as his mouth parts for me. His tongue passes by mine to taste the roof of my mouth with small, teasing strokes. I close my lips and tongue around his tongue, lightly sucking at it. A tiny, stuttering groan comes out of The Batter, and I shiver as the sound he makes nudges something deep in my belly. Batter's thumbs press into my sides, his warmth leaking through my shirt. Through the excitement in my body, I smile. After all, who am I to deny the poor Batter? I take my hands away from around his shoulders, and take his palms in mine.
His eyes open, brows furrowed as I change the dynamic. I kiss the corners of his lips while I squeeze his hands. I move his fingers under my blouse, and pat the backs of his hands, encouraging him. The Batter smiles back, and goes about getting as acquainted with my body as he is with my lips. The Batter's fingers, then palms, brush against my stomach, and I feel my heart start pounding anew. He peppers little kisses at my neck as he explores the (admittedly kind of) squishy new territory.
It's when he places his lips at the collar of my top, and his fingertips bump against the underside of the cups of my thin bra, that I dig my nails into his forearms.
The Batter looks up at me from half-lidded eyes, black pupils edging out the gray of his irises. “Is this okay, Van?” His voice is muffled from his mouth's proximity to my cleavage, but I hear him well enough.
“It's m-more than okay,” I answer, a huffing laugh hacking itself out of me. “Please... please keep going,” I ask with a plaintive tone. I feel his face split in a smile, and his hands make a slow slide up to the sides of my breasts, cupping each at the side. Oh dear lord. My mouth parts open in a sigh. Batter hasn't even touched all that much of me, but I'm sure I'm shaking. I bring my hands up to the back of his head, encouraging him as he leaves light kisses along the edge of my blouse's neckline.
The Batter's touch is gentle, much more than I expect from seeing the events of the actual game. So gentle, in fact, that I barely register his thumbnails tracing the seam of the bra I'm wearing—at least until those nails pass across my breasts. My back arches of its own accord, and my mouth opens in pleased surprise. “Batter,” I murmur the word with breathlessness.
“Mm-hm?” He responds, his thumbs moving back to their original position.
“Mmph... feels good,” I say, and my voice comes out small and happy-sounding. I'd be embarrassed if I weren't so turned on.
A small, content sigh catches my attention. I blink, starting. Batter looks up, his neck arching to let him see over my shoulder. His thumbs maintain position under my aereola.
I turn a bit, facing the same direction as Batter's gaze. The Queen is still on the table, a hand covering her mouth as a small blush rises in her face. There's mirth in her eyes, as if she's amused by herself. “Ah... was that... out loud?” She asks, her tone light but brittle.
I give her a small smile, and clear my throat. “Would... would you like to... join in?” I ask, my own voice a little breathy and soft.
“I thought you'd never ask,” The Queen answers, smiling back at me. She moves to sit up, leaning forward. The Queen towers over me, even with her body hunching over in a fluid arc.
“Van?” Batter asks, and I look back to him. “Mind if I help you out?” He removes his hands from under my shirt, and holds them out to me, palms upward. I miss the warmth.
“Okay,” I acquiesce, after a moment of contemplation. I place my hands in his, and he pulls me toward him. The Batter turns me around so I'm looking at The Queen once more.
“Please,” Batter says in my ear, words as soft as his touch, “have a seat.” From behind me, I hear him pat his lap with one hand.
My eyes go wide, and my jaw slackens. The Queen catches sight of my expression, and a tiny smile glides up her face. I snap out of my surprise, glancing back at The Batter. He grins, teeth bared, and makes a beckoning gesture with his unoccupied hand.
I nod, and retreat a bit until the sensitive backs of my knees hit the fabric of The Batter's uniform-clad legs. He squeezes my other hand, letting go. He moves both of his hands to rest on my hips in order to guide me into his lap. If I'd thought a spontaneous hug felt strange, it was nothing out of the ordinary when compared with the visceral experience of being seated on Batter's thighs.
My bare feet dangle and I feel the cold air of the room tickle the soles. I move to press them against Batter's shins, but stop short, remembering the tromp through the nothingness. Sighing, I settle for flexing my toes. I don't feel any grit or mess, but—
The Queen is now incredibly close to me; I can can hear her breathing, and catch the scent of her on the air. Coffee, fresh air, and a bit of something sharply floral glide to my nose, and I breathe it in so as to appreciate it properly. She is beautiful, yes, but there's a warmth behind her beauty that I'd never be able to see except for myself. The Queen smiles, and the warmth is encapsulated in that expression. I return the smile, albeit a rather watery version.
She places a long finger under my chin, and tilts my head up minutely. She looks me in the eye, her own deep-set eyes half-lidded and focused. “Van,” she says, her voice doing very interesting things to my body and mind. While I'd come to terms a while ago with the fact that I... wasn't exclusively attracted to men, I also hadn't really had the chance to explore any options regarding that. Sure, pictures of pretty people online were nice, but it wasn't as immediate as what I'm experiencing now. I can feel my heart beat a bit faster, and I can't help but glance down to The Queen's lips. I look up, wrenching my eyes from her mouth.
“Y-Yes...?” I manage to say.
“I'm going to kiss you,” she says, soft and gentle. “Is that acceptable?”
I blink, and then I nod. “Yes,” I say, “yes, your highness.”
The Queen laughs, while a small blush is accented by a smile on her face. “Please, Van, you may call me by my name, not title.”
I smile back to her. “Yes, Miss Eloha, you can kiss me.”
“Thank you,” she says, and tilts her head as she leans down to press her lips to mine. Those lips are just as soft, if not softer than Batter's, and I melt. I melt into the kiss, as sure as I'm sitting on The Batter's lap, and as sure as I'm sucking face with his wife.
Speaking of The Batter, I feel him shift ever so slightly under my rear, and, uh, something is now prodding at me that hadn't exactly been there before. So, I do what any other person in my, er, position would: I press back into The Batter—gently, so I don't break him—and listen to the stuttering gasp that shakes itself loose from his throat.
The Queen, Vader Eloha, retreats from the kiss to look over my shoulder. She has a wry grin on her face and a raised eyebrow. “Something the matter, my love?” Eloha asks, amusement in her tone.
“Nothing wrong,” Batter's voice, rough yet soft, breathes out from behind me, “it's just that...” he pauses, and there's a throb from underneath me, “you two... put on a... good display.”
“Do we, now?” I ask, dryly. Eloha snickers under her breath.
“Uh-huh,” Batter asserts, and his hands move up from my hips to my middle. I squirm from the light, tickling touch. Batter stops short of my chest, his fingertips just under the cups of my bra. “And,” Batter says, lips brushing my ear and breath teasing my jaw, “I think that...” he trails off for a moment. He's whispering now, and I can't keep the small shiver from thrashing down my body, all the way to my toes.
“...Yes...?” I ask, prompting him even as I'm getting a little dazed with excitement. The Batter kisses my cheek, and I feel the smile curving his mouth as he does so. I can also feel Eloha's eyes on Batter and me, watching.
“You should probably be... compensated... for such hard work,” he says lightly. “That's all.”
“Oh?” Eloha says, and I look back to her. “What sort of “compensation” did you have in mind?” Batter must have given her a look over my head, because her wry grin turns into a toothy smile.
“Mind if I try something, Van?” Batter murmurs in my ear.
“S-sure,” I answer, gulping. I'm not scared, but... anticipatory. I'm looking forward to this.
“All right,” Batter says, and his hands start moving upward. I watch as his fingertips brush against my nipples, and now it's me who's gasping into the heated space between the three of us.
I am both ecstatic about and regretting my earlier decision to wear an unlined bra.
“Good?” The Batter asks, and all I can do right now is nod. I expect him to go back to where he started, but his hands keep going up, and as they do, Batter lifts my arms along with his. As he reaches my fingers, Batter laces them with his, and the heat of his palms press into the heels of my hands. This new position has me sitting more upright, with my rear pressing firmly into Batter's lap, and my chest jutting out—almost as if I'm being... presented to Eloha. The thought thrills me. My body reacts in multiple ways; I swear I can feel myself leaking through my skirt, and I'm pretty sure my clitoris is going the same way as my nipples by now: firm and aching to be touched. “This all right?” he checks in with me.
“Y-yeah,” I say, almost breathless. “Yeah.”
“That's great.” I hear the smile in his voice. It's genuine, and just serves to bother me all the more. I steal a glance at Eloha, and do a double take. She's looking at me, but not at my face. Her gaze is focused... lower, and has an air of concentration.
The Batter shifts both my hands to one of his, and it easily encircles my wrists. It's his left hand that comes down to my side, and strokes up to my left breast. I shiver into the touch. “Please,” I can't keep myself from whining, even if it's just a whisper, and Batter laughs a little.
“'Please', what?” He asks, and there's a smug, self-satisfied tone to his words that I hear through the dizzy, heady arousal I'm experiencing.
“Touch me,” I almost growl, and then, I can tell by the heat in my face, I'm blushing. I glance away, and see that Eloha's eyes are on Batter's hand at my side. Hm?
Batter follows my line of sight, it seems, and makes a sound of acknowledgment.
“What's got you so distracted, hm, my queen?” Batter asks, mock curiosity heavy in his voice. Eloha snaps out of her thoughts, and a bright lavender blush rises in her cheeks. She bites her lip. I have to admit, I am curious as to what's got her so wound up and tight-lipped. Before I can ask in earnest, thought, I feel Batter's hand move to cradle the underside of my breast, his thumb only half an inch from the area I wish he'd touch, and the idea of speech evaporates from my brain. Batter holds my arms up a little higher, wrapping his free arm around my middle.
“Ah...” I murmur, as Batter props up my chest with his forearm. I feel the fabric press against me, as if urging my breasts to escape from the cotton and underwire encasing them.
“Is this what's preoccupying you?” Batter says, and lovingly runs a thumb across my right nipple through the material of my clothes. I jerk into the contact, a small groan forcing itself out of my mouth. The next time he does it, I feel his erection rub against my rear end, so close to where it ought to be, but not quite. I squeeze my legs together, trying to get some relief from the self-induced friction.
“Ah, ah, ah,” Batter says, chastising, and before I can say something, he slips his free hand between my knees. “This all right?” He asks, and I press a sloppy, gasping kiss to the corner of his lips in agreement.
“Yes,” I answer, nodding. I think I know what he's planning, but at this point, I'm just about ready for anything.
“All right,” Batter says, and quick as a home run, his knees are between mine, and he spreads my legs along with his, keeping them from closing, or moving almost at all. My skirt, originally falling just above my knees, is now at mid-thigh and tight against my legs. The moisture at the apex of my legs begins to ooze freely, and the air of the room is cold against all of me.
“Do you like this, Van?” Batter murmurs into my ear, and makes me shiver.
“Hngh,” I respond intelligently. I incline my head in a weak facsimile of a nod, and Batter kisses my neck in response. I sigh, tilting my head to allow better access for him. A small sliver of sweat slides down my temple, mimicking the newest drop of moisture slicking up my vulva.
Everything's too much, but, at the same time, I feel like something is missing. No. Wait. Someone is missing.
“Buh-Batter,” I say, though the gasps for air. Batter pauses mid-kiss between my neck and shoulder.
“Yes, Van?” His voice is beginning to sound much softer than I've heard it before. “Something the matter?”
“No,” I smile, and I feel his body relax behind me. “It's just that... we're forgetting someone.” I motion with my head to indicate Vader Eloha.
“Maybe you should invite her over, then,” Batter says coyly.
“I'm right here, you know,” Eloha says, good-naturedly.
“But you really ought to be right here,” I say, trying to give her my best come-hither look. I can't help but wonder if it's ruined or enhanced by my current position. That question, however, is answered when I see Vader Eloha sizing me up like she's enjoying what's in front of her. I notice a small change in her expression, though, when her gaze passes by my chest.
“What is it?” I ask, almost too loud in the wake of the small and quiet gasps from all of us.
Eloha looks embarrassed. “Ah, um... Well, you see, Van,” Eloha says, composure crumbling, “It's, er...”
I remember Batter's words as Eloha trails off—something about how some part of me was... preoccupying her...? I shiver as I recall the feeling of Batter's hands passing by my...
Eloha stops, frozen. “Yes?”
“Is it... are you...” I mentally clamor for the right words to ask the question properly. I glance downward at my body, the only gesture I have left. “Are you upset that I'm... bigger than you?”
Queen Vader Eloha looks both relieved and uncomfortable as the words pass my lips. A small, minute nod comes from her, and it makes her hair fall around her shoulders. To my dismay, it hides the lavender blush at her nose and cheeks.
I feel The Batter's torso shift as he looks over my shoulder and between my arm. He stays silent as he appears to observe the laid-bare scene between the three of us.
“Well, um... there's, uh, really no reason to...” I start, and then pause. What do I say? “What I'm trying to say is... you're fine the way you are, y'know?” I attempt to shrug nonchalantly, a movement I'm not afforded in this current position.
“Thank you, Van,” Eloha says, after a second. Her mouth twitches with amusement. Suddenly, she is looming again on the table, her eyes alight despite the flush at her face. “However,” she says, holding up a finger, “that... is not the only concern I have with you and your... assets, so to speak.”
My throat, dry as it is, ekes out a small “Ah?”
“You see, I simply must ask you something.”
I smile, attempting to seem encouraging. “Yes?”
“I notice my darling husband has only been giving you attention, and then asking how you like it,” she begins, and the faint tensing from The Batter really, really doesn't help the sensations sparking anew from The Queen's voice.
“I'm, um, I'm not exactly complaining, here,” I respond.
“Understood,” she answers, and she leans in close to me. “In regard to you, however, do you have a preferred touch?”
“P-Pardon?” I ask.
“Is there a particular way you would want us to touch your breasts?” Eloha asks, blunt.
I consider her question, after taking a moment to recover from the honest way she's phrased it. “'Gently' is preferred,” I say, “but, please, in all seriousness, just touch me.” I blanch internally when I hear how desperate I sound.
The two of them laugh, but without any hint of mockery. “Thank you, Van, for answering my question,” Eloha says, hiding her smile behind a hand.
“Yeah,” I say, a half-smile on my face, “you're, uh, you're welcome.”
“Now, where was I?” she says, leaning on one hand while the other supported her elbow. Eloha looks up and to the side, pursing her lips and wrinkling her brow, looking for all intent and purpose like she's lost in her own thoughts.
“I believe you were about to give Van here some much-needed attention,” The Batter supplies, and I jump at hearing his voice so close to my ear. His tone is gentle, but with an undercurrent of mirth.
“Ah, yes, of course,” Eloha says, snapping her fingers. “Thank you, Batter.” She sends a kind, soft look to him.
“Much obliged, ma reine,” Batter says. I know enough French to be aware that he called her his queen, and... I feel surprised in that neither jealousy nor discomfort invade me; I just think they're being cute. For as much as I felt like a third wheel upon arrival, I realize that I now feel as welcomed as can be.
“Ah, poor Van, we've left you out,” Eloha says, leaning in to my personal space—granted, not that I mind. She moves closer, and I see the world reflected in the black and gray of her eyes. Her hand cups my face. I lean into the contact, my eyelids half-closed. “May I resume kissing you?” She asks. There's a soft puff of air from Eloha's mouth as she whispers.
“Mm-hm,” I murmur, and straighten my posture to ease her access to my lips. Batter adjusts under me as I move, but keeps my hands to himself. My eyes close completely as Eloha finally deigns to kiss me once more.
It starts out softly, a simple press of her lips to mine. I breathe out, through my nose, sighing in relief. Eloha smiles into the kiss, and I shyly offer a return expression. She withdraws, only to reaffirm her current claim to my mouth at a different angle. I follow her direction, moving my head to parallel hers. Eloha shifts her lower lip, in order to put my upper lip between hers, and the glide of her mouth sets a small part of me aflame. Chasing the feeling, an idea skitters through my mind. This time, I pull back and push my mouth up to hers, earning me a small, pleased-sounding “Mmph!” from Eloha.
I fit her lower lip alongside of mine, and cradle it in my own lips. Her breath comes out as a sharp exhale from her nose, skimming my cheek.
A smile, more smug than anything, crosses my currently-engaged face. Up 'til now, I've been the one gasping and unraveling. It's a wonder to see Eloha react to what I can do. Emboldened by the sounds escaping her, I pull at the Queen's lower lip with both of mine, heat and suction doubling the satisfaction of making Eloha come undone with a kiss. She hums into it, and lets me attend to her.
There are hands on my hips, and I can tell from the different size that they're not Batter's. My eyes blink open, and I see that Eloha has a soft grip on my sides, while one of her knees rests in the space between Batter's legs and mine. After a moment of processing this new change, I realize I'm not particularly bothered by it. All I really want right now is to keep going.
So I do. My hands might be otherwise preoccupied, but my lips are free to explore, and explore they shall—if that's all right with Eloha, of course. Testing the waters, I tap her lower lip with my tongue. Her mouth opens above me, her tongue reaching out to meet mine. Eloha's lips line up along mine, and she licks my tongue with hers. She tastes of coffee, and of warmth. I close my mouth around her tongue, sucking at it with my lips. I don't think I'll be able to have coffee ever again without thinking of this. Her hands clench around my hip, anchoring itself in fabric and flesh. Letting go of her tongue, I gasp, and dive back into the kiss. I swipe at the roof of her mouth, and she responds by darting her tongue to slide against the sides of mine. All too soon, though, Eloha backs off, and I can't keep the look of frustration out of my face.
Eloha smiles at me, a small, half-curve of her lips—ones that had just been on mine, and I blush—and she laughs once. “Van,” she says, “Pardon me, but I do believe Batter has an idea.” With that, I find Batter's hand, paper-white as always, slipping into view.
The Batter passes his free hand under the hem of my blouse, resting his palm on my belly. The touch, gentle and warm as it is, makes me jump a bit. The gap created by his fingers between my shirt and stomach allows a small breeze to temper the heat of Batter's hand. “This all right?” Batter asks, lifting the shirt a bit more. I nod, saying yes for good measure. “Can I move it up?” He asks, his voice velvet and warm in my ear.
“Ungh, as... as much as... y-you want,” I manage to breathe out. I watch as he begins to do as he asked. Slow as can be, The Batter pulls my shirtfront up my body. My heart's pounding as I see more and more of myself revealed—not just to Batter, but to Eloha as well.
I hope they like what they see.
As he reaches my bra, however, his hand retreats, moving to curl his fingers at the hem of my blouse. He doesn't touch me himself, instead allowing my shirt to do the job of opening the curtain. I gulp as the last of my blouse's hem brushes past my chest, the soft material skimming my nipples along the way. The mix of the cold air and a lost layer of insulation in the form of my shirt sends a chill directly down my spine. It pools in my clitoris before making my vaginal walls flex and grip at nothing.
I sigh both in relief and frustration.
“Great view from up here,” The Batter says casually. I arch my neck to give him an incredulous look. He has a contemplative expression, both eyebrows raised in consideration of, uh, me. Well, er, technically... “No, really,” Batter says, a half-smile on his face, “I'm serious.”
“Agreed,” Eloha says, and I look back at her, blinking.
“Well, uh, you two aren't so bad to look at, either,” I say, as the blush I feel creeping over my face climbs to my forehead. I look down, and I'm caught in the sight of the entanglement of all of our limbs. The blush my face is cultivating spreads to the edges of my ears. Still, I want to continue.
“Eloha, can... can I...” My words stumble over my own desire and nervousness. Eloha nods, encouraging me to keep talking. “...Can I... keep kissing you...?”
“Of course.” With that, the kiss begins anew. This time, though, there's a heat to it, one that I don't anticipate. A small part of my mind, one that isn't preoccupied with the current goings-on, catches that The Queen's hand has moved from its place on my hip.
For a brief moment, I wonder where it's headed—
Eloha's short, oval nails graze upward against my breasts and stiffened nipples.
I break the kiss, jerking my head away as a low, whimpering moan ricochets out of my throat and into the rest of the air.
“Oh my,” Eloha coos, eyebrows raising as she grins, “do you have anything on your mind, Van?” Her teasing is light in tone.
“More, please,” I answer, pressing my legs against their restraints. Batter's thighs hold strong.
Eloha laughs behind her hand. “Just a moment, Van,” she says, before easing away. I sag back against Batter's chest and lap, and I can feel our hearts pounding out a complimentary beat.
“Is it time to get... 'supplies', Vader?” Batter's voice rumbles from behind me. His tone around the word supplies makes it clear he means prophylactics.
“I think so, yes,” she says. “What say you, Van?”
Nodding my head, I say, “That sounds wonderful.”
“Pardon me,” Batter says, and he lets go of my hands. He closes his legs, allowing me to do the same. I slip off of his lap, my legs shaking as I do so. Eloha's arm wraps around my shoulder, holding me steady. I smile at her in silent thanks. The Batter stands, and I realize that he's got at least a good foot of height on me. “Be back soon,” Batter says, lacing his fingers and stretching his arms over his head. I catch a glimpse of his stomach between his shirt hem and pants. It's as paper-white as the rest of him, with faint gray fuzz descending from his—huh. Batter doesn't have a navel. I tear my gaze away as he lowers his arms. “Hey, Van? Vader?” Batter says, over his shoulder, as he's walking to the back of the room, “Take care of each other 'til I get back, all right?” He chuckles, and, as he walks away, rings of white light envelop him, taking him somewhere else.