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She wished she would have shot him dead the second she saw him. She had become too used to the company of heroes, too used to the disciples of Chiron. She had bested them before, so she did not feel threatened when he arrived. He was a cowardly man, too pathetic to win his own battles. She should’ve shot him, and killed him when she retrieved the first apple, but her mind was jumbled. Her body was weak.

Oaths had to be kept. Despite herself, despite his scheme, she was agreed to him. She had never liked the smell of men. She never liked the way they felt. She hated the way his hands showed no patience or kindness. How frivolous he thought her vows were, how much dominion he felt he had over her. The goddess Cybele did not spare her any mercy, waiting until the lust induced Hippomenes had finished with her. She would never forget the taste of him in her teeth as she tried to fight him off. But Aphrodite had made him strong and desired her to be weak.

Servants did not need to sleep, but it helped pass the time. Atalanta opened her eyes and waited as they adjusted. Based on the sky, it was the dark before morning. Not yet enough for the suns rays to spill into the sky, but too bright to be complete night time. It would be an opportune time to hunt, that was her first instinct. As she shifted, she felt the weight on both sides of her body and stopped.

Beneath her arm, the young Nursery Rhyme had fallen asleep. She remembered that part clearly. The child had sneezed a few times the previous night, and Atalanta had decided to share her warmth. Seeing Caster snooze softly and happily changed her mind on any course of action. At least until it was time, she decided, she would stay in place. Luckily, her slight movement did not break Nursery Rhyme’s slumber – softly, the child nuzzled in closer to Atalanta’s side.

On the other side was her Master. Ritsuka snored lightly, her head leaned onto Atalanta’s shoulder. Only after some thinking, she remembered inviting the contact late the previous night. Archer sighed, staring at the woman. Dreams of Hippomenes – it was probably because Ritsuka was so close to her. When she thought of being so close to a person, she could only think of the bad. Her Master mumbled something incomprehensible, and she nudged closer. The movement, unlike Nursery Rhyme’s, left Atalanta’s heart leaping into her throat. She couldn’t place the emotion though. It was fear or affection; they both felt the same when Ritsuka was near.

– It wasn’t fair of her. Atalanta knew this. Even though Ritsuka had accepted her in so many ways. Accepted her fears, accepted her dreams. She had accepted Atalanta’s vows fully. Yet, even in these situations, Archer still felt unease in her stomach. She closed her eyes and brought her lips to the top of Ritsuka’s head. She didn’t smell like him at all. Like that, it was easy to ground herself. Easier to say the feelings she wanted to admit, but felt unable to do so. If it was Ritsuka, who was patient and accepting, even Artemis would agree.

Ugh, actually, she tried not to think of the woman accompanying Orion at all.

Looking up, she could see Hercules’ silhouette just beyond the first line of trees. Motionless but totally aware. The perfect guard in an imperfect state. Atalanta was thankful for his company. Even though he was like this, he was still a cherished friend. Among all of those on the Argo, no one could replace him. His head shifted slightly, so that he could see her from the corner of his eye.

With the both of them, it felt comfortable. Familiar. In the best times of her life, hunting boars and chasing monsters. When she had a life of adventure, free from pushy men. She didn’t have to worry about falling in love or what that would entail. She never did. She never wanted to. Ritsuka shifted at her side.

That was some time ago, wasn’t it? Atalanta would never had believed herself. If she went to the Argonaut in the past and said that she would willingly fall in love, willingly give herself and be accepted as she was – that Atalanta would call her liar. The lioness would bite at her throat. To be who she was today, in that moment, was far different than she could’ve been when she was alive.

“Do you always wake up this early?” Ritsuka asked quietly, so as not to disturb Nursery Rhyme. She lifted her head from Atalanta’s shoulder, wiping her eyes. Their shoulders rubbed together affectionately. “Actually, wait,” she yawned, “this would be the best time to hunt, right?”

A soft laughter rumbled in Atalanta’s throat. She tried to quell it to keep the quiet, but it came out anyway. “Yes, these hours suit me.” She answered, closing her eyes. She focused on their point of contact, enjoying the gentle warmth of Ritsuka’s body. “Did you get enough sleep? You were sleep talking for a moment.”

“Ah,” Her cheeks blushed nearly as red as her hair. “I just had some strange dreams.” Her eyes brought up to Atalanta and stared for a moment before rubbing the back of her neck. “You know, just being with you makes me happy. I don’t want to do anything you don’t want to.”

Their hands sat on top of each other, fingers lacing. How rude of her to share a dream of something so ugly – Atalanta thought, and this time she leaned her head onto Ritsuka’s shoulder. It must be hard to be a Master, having pieces of a Servants memories invade her dreams. She breathed deeply and enjoyed her scent. Beyond the superficial scent of soap, her body was strangely sweet.

Whether it was under the moon or sun, she would be watched. Artemis or Apollo – her dignity would be carefully monitored. Her actions focused on. That was her life when she was on the Argo with Hercules and Jason. It never bothered her then, because she never thought of anything more than the hunt. But now, she had so many things to think about. Nursery Rhyme buried her face against Atalanta’s body as the sun began to rise, trying to avoid the light.

Ritsuka tilted her head to the side, resting it on top of Atalanta’s. It was something she would’ve never allowed anyone to do, but Archer felt strangely comfortable with the contact. She knew the reason, though. She kept it at the very front of her mind.

Her Master was special. Ritsuka’s fingers squeezed her hand gently, and Atalanta couldn’t resist the flutter of her heart. Such simple expressions were quite large in her eyes. Gentle, patient – the kind that no man could ever be. Not one that Atalanta had ever seen, not one that she would ever know.

She listened as Ritsuka fell back asleep, and slowly, withdrew a single item from her pouch. Fresh and supple, the golden apple was as perfect as the first time she laid eyes on it. It was bizarre – as much grief as the object caused her, it was only something that she could obtain through her bond with Ritsuka. She turned it, admiring the flawlessness of it. It was her ruin, and yet her eyes could not part from it.

“I won’t give this to you,” she said, so quietly it strained her throat. “You won’t need it, right?”

Atalanta looked up at Hercules, who held her stare for a moment, before returning his head forward.

Upon returning to Chaldea, everyone went their separate ways. Nursery Rhyme sought after her friend Jack, Hercules went some place to be at rest and Ritsuka went straight for the bath. Atalanta knew that such would be the case, but she always found it terribly frustrating. After sweating and bleeding, one needed to clean themselves. This applied to Atalanta as much as Ritsuka. But there was the obvious issue.

“I’ll find you when I’m done,” Ritsuka said with a smile. Inwardly, Atalanta was equal parts disappointed and thankful. Despite her appearance, she had typical appetites. It would please her to see her Master in the nude, and in return, have her body exposed as well. They were connected in such a way, after all. But emotionally, she could not part with her vows. Seeing was no evil act, and being seen by a woman more so.

But – to her, Master was the golden apple in her pouch. A disaster waiting to happen.

Before Ritsuka could walk away, Atalanta grasped her sleeve. She couldn’t meet her Master’s gaze, her ears pinned back. “Could I – watch?”

They had done something like this before, but never so direct. Not in the same room, not so close. Atalanta’s breath quickened. She didn’t know if her Master was undressing provocatively intentionally, but it still made her weak. The gentle steam of the bath did not hide her features, pretty, feminine and smooth a bit. Seated on her knees, Atalanta indulged in something terribly forbidden.

“Ah – h, I’m sorry, Master,” Atalanta apologized meekly, her hand pressed between her legs. Her cheeks burned with embarrassment, knowing that her shame was being exposed so clearly.

This was, of course, the only way she could sate her desires. She could not touch, nor be touched. But with her own hands – she could do that. On a previous time, she had requested a private recording of her Master’s voice for the issue. It was enough at the time. But there was a piece that left her wanting.

Ritsuka’s hands cupped water and brought it over her pert breasts. Slowly, purposefully, she rubbed the water in, stimulating herself for Atalanta’s need. If she could imagine hard enough, it was her own hands on Master’s body. Her hips twitched in response, her fingers running rough over her slit. She whimpered slightly, seeing the sweating blush on Ritsuka’s face. How she would love to be the cause of that – Atalanta moaned softly, her fingers not slowing in the slightest.

“You want me, right? Then I’m happy,” Ritsuka replied, her voice hot and sultry. “You can have all of me, even if it’s just your eyes.”

Sitting on the edge of the tub, she spread her legs to expose her flower for Atalanta. Her mouth watered, and even at a distance, Atalanta could smell Ritsuka’s sex. She could not part her eyes from Ritsuka’s red swollen lips, engorged with arousal. She had feared her Master would be a golden apple, but the sight was far more obsessive. Atalanta inched closer, despite herself, fingers slipping against her pussy in search of release.

Ritsuka’s hand rested on her head, holding her at a distance. “No, you wouldn’t want this,” she said low, her free hand sinking between her legs. She rubbed herself, and sank her fingers into her body. It was torture, but Atalanta couldn’t help but stare in awe. “Good, that’s right. You want to watch.”

Atalanta choked back a sob because it was the truth. Such a lewd thing to admit to herself, but she nearly came from the sight. Ritsuka’s fingers buried in her pussy to the knuckle – Atalanta shuddered. She wished. She wanted to have Ritsuka inside her, she wanted to be inside Ritsuka.

That her Master would perform a show for her so willingly, without prompting.

Her tongue hung out of her mouth, as if hoping to get a taste. Her body was so fully and completely focused. She hardly even noticed the first time she came, or the second. Only when Ritsuka came for the first time did Atalanta’s body give out, the third orgasm drew every ounce of strength from her.

She lied there in shame for a moment until she felt Ritsuka kiss the top of her head. “Let’s finish bathing and take a nap.” She said, and took Atalanta’s come soaked hand. She looked up to her Master’s smiling face. “I love you, Atalanta.”

Archer blushed. Her golden apple was impossible to resist. “I love you too, Master.”