They are kissing in Pippa’s study, pressed up against the lip of the desk. She can feel the long, hot line of Hecate’s body through black and pink fabric wherever they touch, and every time Hecate shifts her hand on Pippa’s neck – scratches into her hair, cups her cheek, caresses her jaw – Pippa feels it like a burn that makes her gasp.
She had hoped that they would reach this point one day, the two of them, but had tried to be conscious of the reality that Hecate is, deep down, terribly shy and self-conscious; that she often resists being touched; that she is inexperienced in matters of physical intimacy, and has grown up with the conservative but pervasive belief that such matters ought not to be discussed. Pippa has been trying to change that, a little. Over the last three months, she has carefully chosen her moments: to raise the subject when Hecate is secure enough to engage with it, to assure her that she expects nothing from her that she isn’t willing to give, to promise that she will not desire her companionship any less if sexuality makes her uncomfortable. To swear that she will accept and embrace whatever Hecate sees fit to offer her, and that she will be happy.
It is on the final occasion, the two of them playing a leisurely game of chess in Hecate’s rooms with the safety of table and board between them, that Pippa realises she may have neglected a rather important point. She takes a breath and reaches out, fingers hovering between bishop and pawn. ‘You know I only want you to be comfortable,’ she says. Hecate’s face is carefully blank, but Pippa knows that that is merely a defence against the embarrassment, and so is undeterred by the lack of response. Should she risk it, she wonders? She moves the bishop, looks up. ‘I want you to be comfortable, but please don’t misunderstand me, Hecate – I want you very much. All of you, if you’ll have me.’
An hour later, it slides into place with a speed even Pippa hadn’t predicted: Hecate, who has been trying not to stare at her all evening, stands abruptly, banishes the chessboard, and kisses her, trembling with the intensity of having held back so long—
—and now they are here, weeks later, and Hecate is doing an exceptional job of proving to Pippa that she had been wise to clarify. How typical of Hecate, she thinks, gasping as Hecate’s lips leave her own to detour over her jaw, down her neck; how typical of her to think that Pippa wouldn’t want her, Pippa who has grown steadily more desperate to kiss her, to touch her, since their reunion. Pippa who has tossed and turned alone in her bed, assaulted by the vision of Hecate’s smile, her soft eyes, the warm pressure of their bodies as they hugged. The way Hecate’s hand had lingered on her own when they said goodbye. Her figure, still and dark against the green of the Cackle’s lawn, watching as Pippa flew away.
Pippa whimpers at the memory of how she has touched herself, thinking of this, and feels the curve of Hecate’s smile against her neck. Her hands are grasping at Hecate’s waist through the impossibly dense black dress, and she makes a noise of frustration, tries to press closer; ends up pushing her thigh between Hecate’s and revels in the gasp it provokes.
‘It’s a wonder you can feel it at all through that blasted material,’ Pippa laughs. She trails a hand up Hecate’s body, comes to rest on her chest. ‘Though I don’t suppose mine’s much better.’
‘Certainly not,’ Hecate mutters, and she’s smirking with delicious promise when she runs her hands up Pippa’s sides, over her shoulders and down her back. Pippa arches into the drag of her fingernails, slides her arms around Hecate’s neck and pulls her down, kisses her again. When Hecate manoeuvres her onto the desk, Pippa’s automatic response is to wrap her legs around her hips – or at least to try, since she is thwarted by her own wretched dress. But she has no time for manual fiddling, not now: with a flick of her fingers, Pippa forms a split in the fabric up to her thighs and pulls her in. Hecate falls forward against her, hands braced on either side of Pippa’s body, stark pale against the wood, and Pippa smiles innocently up at her. ‘Now,’ she says, ‘where were we?’
Hecate looks vaguely like she’s been hit with a broomstick, but her eyes are very dark, and after a moment, she swallows and rasps out, ‘Pippa, I… if we continue, I must ask you – I must be sure that you…’ she sighs the words into silence, the working of her self-control evident in her tight jaw, in the way her hands have formed fists where they rest.
Pippa shuffles forward on the desk, slides one hand up her neck to cup her cheek, to coax Hecate’s eyes to meet hers. ‘Are you asking for my consent?’ she asks softly. Hecate nods once, jerky but definitive. Pippa’s hand drifts up to Hecate’s hair, to the strict bun that has already suffered a little at the hands of her enthusiasm, and starts to unpin it. ‘Are you asking if I want you to take me to bed?’
Hecate nods again, her eyes falling closed against the words or the sensation or both, Pippa doesn’t know, but the lapse in control curls itself hot and low and quick in her gut. She leans forward, presses her lips to Hecate’s ear and murmurs, ‘You want to undress me, Hecate? You want to touch me?’ She nips at her earlobe and Hecate shudders, fists still clenched. ‘You want to see all of me? Let me see all of you? You want to find out what we’ve been missing all these years?’
‘Yes,’ Hecate hisses. She turns her head until their foreheads are pressed together, until they are breathing the same breath, and glares as she catches sight of Pippa’s smirk. ‘Now.’
It’s all the encouragement Pippa needs: in a moment, she has transferred them to her bedroom, to her bed, and dragged Hecate down on top of her, and Hecate cracks a smile, moves in to kiss her, and stops. Looks down at the sparkly magenta bedspread. Looks up again and says, ‘You cannot be serious.’
Pippa flutters her eyelashes. ‘Would you prefer we return to the study?’
‘No need for such drastic measures,’ Hecate says, tilting an eyebrow, and waves a hand to charm the bedspread black.
Pippa laughs and charms it purple. ‘A compromise,’ she explains.
Hecate sighs but says, ‘Very well, I suppose I can live with that,’ and kisses her. And oh, Pippa has imagined this – she has imagined it fifty, a hundred times over, in exquisite, inventive detail that left her arching up off her mattress and stifling her cries although she was alone – but there is nothing like the real, honest, sharp-hot feeling of having Hecate Hardbroom’s body against her own, horizontal, on a bed, in a blessedly empty building, a thirty-year-old fantasy made flesh but even better because they’ve waited, they’ve earned this. And because if Hecate was lovely as a girl, she is stunning, breathtaking as a woman.
A few muttered words when they landed on the bed had taken care of their shoes, but much as Pippa wants desperately to see Hecate’s hair, to see that dark length loose and untamed against her pillow, she doesn’t want to get there by magical means. No, she wants to do this herself, wants to take out each pin holding the bun together, bury her hands in that hair and unwind its strands, let it fall. She wants to watch as it slowly alters the shape of Hecate’s face, as it frames and softens.
She wants to drive Hecate crazy while she does.
Hecate is patient, at first, allowing it, but as Pippa’s ministrations continue, she starts to sigh and shift, to swallow, forcing herself to remain in control even as Pippa keeps kissing her, long and languid and deep, her fingers combing all the while through Hecate’s hair. Pippa arcs her body upwards, brushes their breasts together, rubs her bare foot up and down the length of Hecate’s calf. She releases her mouth and begins to pepper kisses down Hecate’s neck, to nip and suck at her collarbone, to pull aside the cumbersome collar of her dress.
‘Pippa,’ Hecate says, voice shaky, tilting her neck to better facilitate Pippa’s exploration. Pippa slides her foot further up Hecate’s leg beneath her dress. ‘Pippa, I… I want to…’ One of Hecate’s hands is on her thigh, fingers toying at the split, not quite daring to venture in; the other drifts up to Pippa’s face, to her hair, and Hecate whispers, ‘May I?’
Pippa nods and feels her hair go slack as Hecate removes the clips, sending all of them, her own included, to land in an orderly pile on the bedside table. She smiles at the sight of it, this evidence of their togetherness, then turns back to find Hecate staring at her with an indecipherable expression. She feels suddenly self-conscious, pushes her hair behind her ear uncertainly. ‘What is it? Am I too blond for my age?’
‘Never,’ Hecate murmurs. ‘It’s just been so long since I’ve seen you like this, and I… I never thought I’d do so again.’ She loops a lock of hair around her finger, tugs gently. ‘You are more beautiful than ever.’
Her raw honesty is almost more than Pippa’s heart can bear, so she says nothing, just keeps her eyes on Hecate’s as she slides slowly up the bed, reaches around her back, and unzips her dress. She could strip it off with a spell, of course, but this is the first time; this is the first time they’ve done this together (and the first time Pippa has done this in a very, very long time), and she wants to savour the look in Hecate’s eyes as she unveils her skin – the look like Hecate has just been given a gift she loves but can’t quite believe is intended for her.
She gets the dress off, banishes it to a hanger on the back of the door, leans back against the pillows in her under-things, and smirks. ‘Well?’
Hecate looks as though she is expending a great deal of energy in not letting her gaze drop below Pippa’s mouth.
‘You’re allowed to look, you know, Hiccup.’ She stretches exaggeratedly, winks at her. ‘In fact, I’d be rather disappointed if you didn’t.’
So Hecate looks. Her dark, dark eyes roam all the way down Pippa’s shoulders and arms to her hands and back up again, over her chest (she lingers only briefly on Pippa’s breasts, but they’ll work on that), her ribs and stomach and hips and down. Hecate makes a choked-off sound when she reaches her knickers, simple dark silk, and then launches herself at Pippa, rolls them until she is pinning her down, the scratchy fabric of her dress creating wonderful friction against Pippa’s sensitised skin.
‘Do take this off,’ Pippa says, patting the fabric. ‘Next time, I’ll take my time figuring out just how one can remove this complicated garment without the aid of magic,’ she says, and feels a flush of pleasure when Hecate smiles at the next time, ‘but right now I—’
Before she can even finish the sentence, Hecate has sent her own dress flying across the room to join Pippa’s, and is smirking down at her with a knowing smugness quite astonishing for a woman who had been blushing, moments earlier, at the sight of a half-naked woman trying to seduce her. ‘Much… ah, much better,’ Pippa teases, or tries to, because her own mouth has gone suddenly arid at the sight of Hecate: straightforward black bra, straightforward black knickers, and oh, so much lovely pale skin. ‘Oh, Hiccup,’ she murmurs. ‘You’re so…’
Hecate arches an eyebrow. ‘White?’ she asks drily.
‘No,’ Pippa laughs, ‘I meant gorgeous,’ and she reaches out to touch, to finally touch, and feels the first contact of skin on skin like fresh air after hours underground. Hecate lets out a sound that is part-sigh, part-moan, and Pippa guides her to lie back and moves above her, runs her hands over all those glorious places she is now allowed to explore: her shoulders, her chest, her ribs, her waist, her hips and stomach and thighs and back up, three fingers curling deliberately, experimentally, against one covered breast to test her reaction, and—
Hecate gasps, ‘Oh, Pip—’ and bows up into her hand, and Pippa stares in joyous wonderment. Can she really be so sensitive, even through the bra? Hecate closes her eyes, seems embarrassed by the slip, but Pippa has never heard or seen anything more appealing in her life. She does it again, her whole hand this time, cupping gently and squeezing, rubbing over her nipple, adjusting the pressure according to Hecate’s whimpers.
Her responsiveness is a thing of beauty, and Pippa wants to see her, wants to touch her unencumbered – she strokes a finger over a strap and says, ‘Hecate, please, may I – may I take this off?’
Hecate nods, and Pippa slides gentle hands around her back to unclasp it, draw it off, toss it aside. Hecate raises an eyebrow at her carelessness, but how can she care what happens to a piece of fabric when Hecate Hardbroom is lying near-naked in her bed? Hecate is lovelier than she could ever have imagined, and when Pippa fits her breasts into her hands, so full and so soft, she nearly whimpers herself. She experiments with what Hecate likes – the most enjoyable kind of experiment there is, she thinks wickedly – massages gently and then more firmly, brushes across her nipple with thumb and finger in turn, tugs lightly (that’s too much, so she doesn’t do it again), scratches lightly (that makes Hecate cry out in pleasure, so she definitely does it again), and then, when Hecate has relaxed into the touch enough to forget to be embarrassed, she lowers her watering mouth and starts to suck.
Hecate’s back arcs up off the bed and her hands fly to Pippa’s hair, tangling, as she releases a stream of curse words Pippa would never have expected her to know. She swipes her tongue in a long, luxurious stripe around a taut nipple and wants to laugh at the perfect impossibility of this moment, this situation – how can she be here, in bed with Hecate Hardbroom, after thirty years? Or rather, how could she not be? Why only now? Right now, this seems the most natural, logical place for them both to be – why has she not been here every day of her life?
Pippa can’t help it; she slides back up Hecate’s body and kisses her, revels in the softness of her tongue, in the way she opens her mouth right away to draw Pippa in. She licks along Hecate’s bottom lip and murmurs, ‘All right, darling?’ and Hecate nods, arms tight around her. ‘Good,’ Pippa says, and sets about providing due attention to Hecate’s other breast. Pippa is thoroughly enjoying herself – she has always found this particular activity most pleasurable, but to do it with Hecate, for Hecate, to have Hecate’s breathless noises spurring her on, is a whole new level of delight – when Hecate makes a strained sound and Pippa pulls back, concerned. ‘Did I hurt you?’ she asks.
‘You didn’t,’ Hecate says, and, with a great deal more strength that she would have guessed, flips them over until Pippa is lying back on the pillows, Hecate hovering above her. Hecate gives her a conspiratorial smirk that is almost a smile, and the heated intention in her eyes makes Pippa’s heart race. ‘I am just tired of not being able to touch you, and so I shall.’
‘You won’t hear any arguments from me,’ Pippa says, and then gasps out a laugh as Hecate vanishes her bra. She brushes her fingers over Pippa’s breasts with gentle reverence, biting her lip, and says nothing but doesn’t need to; it’s all right there in her eyes, in the way they flick up now and then to her own, in the way the tops of her cheekbones are dusted pink. Pippa hooks a leg around Hecate’s thighs and pulls her in until they are touching, and oh – she had meant it to tease, to fluster Hecate even further, but the sensation overwhelms her, stomachs and chests and breasts together so silky-warm, and her eyes flutter closed. She feels Hecate move above her, feels that long dark hair fall in a curtain around their faces, sealing them in, and then Hecate leans in and whispers, ‘I want to see all of you. Please.’
Pippa nods, and it is through the joint effort of Hecate’s hands and her own hips that they slide off her underwear – so wet already from Hecate’s touch, from touching Hecate – and then she is lying there, bare to Hecate’s wandering eyes and hands, and her self-consciousness dissipates in the way Hecate breathes her name.
Hecate may not have a great deal of experience, but she is as attentive and enthusiastic a study in this as in everything. She watches Pippa’s responses, hears Pippa’s breathless words, and her cautious touches (fingers soft on hipbones and stomach, lips soft on breasts and neck) soon grow more confident, until Pippa is writhing against her and trying hard not to pull her hair. Hecate’s fingers are dancing over the damp curls at Pippa’s thighs when she looks at her almost shyly, requesting permission, and Pippa says, ‘Please.’ She tries not to twitch with impatience, but doesn’t have to wait long; Hecate, focus etched into her features, slips one questing finger inside her and then deeper when Pippa cants her hips up in encouragement. She is so wet, she can feel the ease with which Hecate’s finger slides in; she hisses, ‘Another,’ and just catches sight of Hecate’s smirk before she feels it enter, and then – something has shifted. ‘What was that?’ she asks.
Hecate blushes. ‘I… I shortened my nails. I ought to have done it earlier, but I didn’t—’
Pippa cuts her off with a finger against her kiss-swollen lips, smiles fondly at her. ‘Thank you,’ she says. ‘That was very thoughtful. In fact, I’ll just…’ and she shortens her own with a thought. Hecate ducks her head, still blushing, and returns to her exploration, nudges Pippa’s thighs apart and slips a third finger in, pauses when Pippa whimpers with the stretch of it.
‘Too much?’ Hecate asks, frowning, but Pippa shakes her head vigorously.
‘No, no, it’s perfect. Just adjusting.’
Fingers patient, Hecate leans down and takes Pippa’s nipple into her mouth, sucks so delicately that Pippa moans. She lifts her hips again, insistent, as close as she can get to speaking right now, and Hecate understands – she starts to move her fingers in and out, jerky and uncertain at first before finding a rhythm, Pippa pushing down to meet her on every thrust. The speed is increasing; Pippa’s breathing is growing shallower, Hecate’s fingers firmer in relation to Pippa’s gasps, and then she touches her thumb to Pippa’s swollen clit and Pippa bucks up, crying out. ‘Oh,’ she says, ‘oh, Hiccup, I need—’
‘Just… just keep going,’ she says, and Hecate does. She moves her fingers with greater urgency and smiles, the truest, loveliest smile Pippa has ever seen, and then kisses Pippa’s answering smile off her face. She brushes her clit again, and then again, the other hand still pinching a nipple, and then all the sensation and emotion – this is Hecate, finally Hecate – slams together and Pippa peaks, shatters, clenching around Hecate’s fingers, gasping into her neck.
Hecate’s hair is everywhere – in her mouth, in her eyes, tickling her skin – and Pippa laughs and knots her fingers through it, pulls Hecate down to kiss her. When she draws back, she can see Hecate fighting not to look smug, and Pippa laughs, strokes a finger lovingly down her cheek and over her lips. ‘Go on,’ she teases, ‘you earned it,’ and there it is: Hecate’s smirk in full force. It is only Hecate, she thinks, who could somehow make smugness at giving her an orgasm endearing. She supposes it’s because she knows Hecate so well; she knows that Hecate was terribly nervous about this working out, and is likely now as relieved as Pippa is that it seems to have done so. She doesn’t say so, though – this isn’t over, after all.
‘Now,’ Pippa murmurs, before her bliss can tip into drowsiness, ‘I would very much like to return the favour.’
Hecate purses her lips, eyes flicking away in awkwardness, and says, ‘You don’t have to do that.’
‘I know that,’ Pippa says. She runs a hand down Hecate’s spine, down the bumps of her vertebrae, and stops at the small of her back, fingers splayed. ‘It isn’t a matter of what I have to do, it’s a matter of what I want to do – and what you want, of course.’ She smiles at her, hopes it comes out reassuring, hopes Hecate can see that she’s telling the truth. ‘Is that what you want?’
Eyes dark, Hecate nods.
‘Then our first step must be to get rid of these,’ Pippa says, stroking over the back of Hecate’s underwear, ‘lovely as you are in them. If I may?’ Hecate nods again, and their bodies press flush together as Pippa eases the material over her hips and off, and then Hecate is naked, they both are, and Pippa flexes all her muscles along Hecate’s just to feel the touch of their skin everywhere she can. She revels in it, the softness and the heat and the perspiration, the dampness that comes from something else entirely, and she pushes a thigh between Hecate’s and wriggles at the luscious feel of it, of Hecate’s evident arousal. Hecate follows her hint to move onto her back, and Pippa leans over her, shivers as her nerve endings sizzle with the contact, and grins. ‘I want to touch you, Hecate,’ she says, in her ear, and kisses down her neck to her collarbones. ‘I want to feel you around my fingers.’ She flicks her tongue over one breast and then the other. ‘I want, if you’ll let me, to taste you. Would you like that?’
Hecate jerks and lets out a sound that Pippa will never, ever forget, mutters, ‘Yes.’
Pippa flushes all over with desire, with anticipation, with her own good fortune at having won Hecate Hardbroom’s trust, and licks her lips. She kisses down Hecate’s stomach via her ribs and hipbones and finally settles between her legs, urges her a little further up the bed. She looks up at her, at her blown pupils, bit lip, near-disbelieving expression, and says, ‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes.’ Hecate stretches one long, quivering arm down to caress Pippa’s face, nods. ‘I’m sure.’
Pippa starts slow, pressing gentle, encouraging kisses to her soft inner thighs, extending her tongue now and then to taste the glistening moisture there. It’s musky and heady and wonderful and she closes her mouth on a moan, leans in instead to take her first taste, her second. Though she is gentle, Hecate still quivers, her entire body tensing against the feeling before she relaxes, nods for Pippa to continue. Pippa uses a little more pressure, now; Hecate is sensitive, prefers an indirect touch, so Pippa slides her tongue into her, licks a line up that stops at her clit.
Hecate rarely speaks, makes little noise at all beyond the occasional involuntary hitch of breath, but her body is as responsive as any sound, and Pippa learns to read the twitch of her muscles or the pressure of her hand on her hair as encouragement or the request to ease back. When she has slipped two fingers into Hecate’s wet warmth and started to move them, to curl them, to build her up to a point that has her panting, eyes wrenched closed, Pippa bends her head, touches her tongue very lightly to Hecate’s clit—
—and is almost shocked when she comes, just like that, spasming wildly against Pippa’s fingers, her own hands digging hard into Pippa’s shoulders. She might laugh, were this anyone else, but she can’t; it’s too glorious to see, Hecate flushed from cheek to chest, dotted with sweat from the exertion, one arm thrown over her eyes as her breathing steadies, her hair a mess. Pippa gently withdraws her fingers and slides up the bed to lie beside her, touches her hip. ‘Hiccup?’ she asks. ‘Was that… are you all right?’
She is struck with the sudden fear that this may have been too much, too soon (though the part of her that has wanted this for decades snorts at that), that Hecate is intense but unused to this kind of intensity, that maybe she shouldn’t have—
But then Hecate is peering up at her from under her arm and she is smiling, shy and pink-cheeked but smiling, and Pippa smiles back as relief settles warm in her chest. ‘I’m fine,’ Hecate murmurs. Then she arches an eyebrow and adds, ‘Rather better than fine, I should say,’ and Pippa knows it’s going to be all right.
She murmurs a spell to clean and clothe them in their night-things, and is glad to have done so when Hecate seems to relax still more; ease in her own nakedness will come with time, Pippa is sure, but until then, there’s no need to push it. Or, she thinks, as she slips between the sheets beneath her once-again-magenta bedspread, no need for either of them to be cold. Hecate secures part of her hair back with a clip from the bedside table, and then hesitates, half out of the bed as Pippa is half-in. ‘Do you want to…’ Hecate starts, ‘that is, would you prefer if I—’
‘Get in bed, Hecate,’ Pippa says sternly. ‘Please?’ And Hecate huffs out a self-conscious laugh but obeys. Pippa has to womanhandle her a little to get her to cuddle – she is stiff and uncertain, insecure of her boundaries, all limbs and sharp bones – but Pippa eventually assures her that it’s perfectly acceptable, encouraged, even, to curl an arm around her shoulders and slip a leg between her knees. Once the lights are out and they are lying there in sleepy, contended silence, Pippa says, ‘You will just roll me over to the other side of the bed, won’t you, if you can’t sleep like this?’
And Hecate chuckles and says, ‘Yes,’ and then, ‘I love you.’ She stills immediately after she’s said it, as though she hadn’t intended to say it all, but Pippa shifts, finds her mouth in the dark, and tells her just how much she loves her back.