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ran to the river, it was boiling

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She stops him with a hand light on his arm. “We’re finished here, I suppose?”

A beat.

“You’re not serious. I don’t have time,” he points out. Reasonably, he thinks, and with none of the venom the statement deserves. Even his voice is exhausted, rusty with disuse.

“Indulge me,” she says, incongruously soft. Cups his cheek, and it hasn’t been so long since someone touched him like this — since the wake — but he still twitches, anticipating the strike. Considers: there’s no part of his body that doesn’t hurt and he’s wet through, chilled to the bone. Blood under his fingernails, of questionable provenance. He’s tired. And really, is this any more strange than anything else that’s happened lately? What difference does it make? He might laugh if he remembered how.

He drops to his knees and the wound on his thigh starts bleeding afresh; bites the inside of his cheek and his mouth floods. She smiles like unsheathing a knife. It’s only when she’s bared herself from the waist that his brain chugs into gear, laboriously connecting the dots: yes, this is what that means. Not sex, just currency. Divested of her shoes and the layers and layers of dark, heavy fabric she usually swathes herself in, she’s smaller than John remembers. 

He runs a hand up her thigh and she shifts impatiently like she’s the one in a hurry; it’s not his hands she wants, he knows. Spreads her delicately with the other and she’s wet already so he’s not surprised when she pushes her hips up to his open mouth.

She’s quiet (always has been: he’d forgotten he knew that). The whole room is quiet, save for the fire and the muffled conversation in the hallway beyond, the soft obscene sound of his tongue on her clit, his own breathing, ragged like an animal. He’s very aware of her man in the corner, still holding the cooling brand. Shifts his weight and John’s head snaps up, reflex, but he stays impassive.

Marcus said once that sometimes, if he was lucky, work would pull him somewhere else, outside of his body. John’s never known such mercy. This is like that, like killing: he’s hyperaware. Her hand, heavy with gold, slides into his wet hair to cradle the back of his head like she’s trying to feel out the contours of his skull. Presses his nose to her for a moment to catch his breath, exhales harsh, can feel her eyes on him. “Good?” he rasps, and it sounds like he’s been swallowing knives.

She says nothing, but hums, noncommittal, unimpressed, which means she doesn’t want to say yes. Her fingers twitch and then tighten slowly at the roots of his hair, trying to draw out a wince.

Something snaps in him then and he grabs at her, reaches for her hips with both hands, yanking her forward and almost off the chair to take in the whole sweet wet mouthful of her cunt. Sound of surprise rips from her throat guttural and ugly and he answers in kind. Offers her the tip of a finger and then two and hears the dull thump of her fist against the table and she grits out a yes and he’s pulling out every trick his body remembers to make her come, teeth and the seal of a hard suck at her clit and hot, wet press around his fingers —

She comes quietly, breath caught, and he fucks her through it. 

He stands, feeling a few strands of hair part company with his scalp in the process. Both his knees crack audibly. The pain in his shoulder has spread out and down, a dull ache. He’s pretty sure at least one of his toes is broken. “We’re finished here?” It’s not meant to be a question.

“Go now, Jardani,” she tells him; the way she says it, he might once have taken it for tenderness. “I’ve done what I can for you.” Flushed and sweating she makes no move to stand or get dressed again but pulls him down to her, kisses his cheek. 

He can still taste her long after, bittersweet.