I laid, sweltering with the peak of another kemmer, across the small, warm tent from where Genly sat alone. The human sat with his legs drawn up underneath him and was stiff with silence. Beneath his eyes that darted away each time I returned his stare, there was a question, a wondering. His hands sought out the fabric of his trousers, his fingers curling into the fabric as he wondered how to politely fill the quiet tent with his question. I watched his not-quite-frost-bitten hands move and imagined how they might cool my flushed, bare skin.
No, these thoughts were not productive to my fast. I turned my head away from Genly and raised my arm to casually lay upon my forehead, all at once obscuring my vision of him and revealing more of my flesh to him. My torso was exposed atop the sheets of my sleeping bag; the heat of the tent required to keep Genly warm during my kemmer proved to be unbearable, & I laid stretched out without any top on. Out of politeness for the human, I had wrapped a thin length of fabric around my breasts. They had developed slightly out of my kemmer, but still remained flat enough to be obscured by the wrap.
"Are... are you alright?" He asked me aloud and inched closer. Although I am frustrated with my ineptitude for mindspeech, I found myself grateful that he could not hear how I thought about him during these moments.
"Do not worry about me," I answered, but could feel his dissatisfaction with the answer. Always curious. Always wanting to understand more, he was. I lifted my forearm from my brow and met his eyes. "Yes, I will be alright, but you should not come near me."
"Oh," he breathed with understanding, but in the sound there was a void. He looked away from me, as he often did to those in kemmer. Did he know that he did this? I believed it was because the alien nature of our kemmer made him uncomfortable. It was strange to me that he was made prude by our becoming like him. But where his withdrawn gaze usually held his prudish discomfort, there was something I had not seen in him before. A different kind of discomfort.
He spoke again, softly. "Are you in Kemmer once more?"
I felt no shyness about answering a question he already knew the answer to, but I wished he would let me be. "I am."
His eyes flickered toward me, down to my sweating torso. In those nights, I would often pull him toward me as he shivered, sharing my warmth to lull him to sleep. I would not have him die of cold in the night. He understood this and never complained, only pressed his face into my neck where he found heat. But there would be no such comfort this night, not as I restrained myself and my kemmer from seeking him out.
Why did he not look away from me? It was clear that he wanted something, but could not bring himself to speak, and just stared with his lips parted. I could not understand his awkward, enigmatic nature. There was nothing of him I had not seen on this journey, no question I would not answer.
I raised myself a little on my elbows and turned to him. "What is it, Ai?"
He stirred a little at my use of his name and shifted. "Well, it is just that..." He raked a hand through his dense hair and his voice broke away. I was tiring of this, but wanted to know what drove his curious stare.
"It is only that..." he continued and looked at the ground in front of his knees, "I could help you." The last string of words fell out quickly and mumbled, and though I could hear, their meaning eluded me. Help me? I could not imagine what solution he had in mind, beyond the one I knew he could not mean.
"What do you mean?"
He breathed and repeated himself, with renewed vigor. "I could help you, if possible," his eyes sought out an answer in my raised eyebrows, and I understood what he was offering. Before I could manage any response, he went on again. "I do not wish for you to suffer on this journey, more than you need."
For a moment I only gawked at his words. I had not anticipated his empathy for my kemmer.
"That is, of course, only if you would want me."
I did want him, but I could not see how he would want me, the alien he distrusted during his two years as envoy.
"I would not ask that of you, Ai."
"You need not ask," with this, he moved closer to me, "I am offering." There was an eagerness in his voice.
I sat up and faced him fully. "Do you truly mean what you offer?"
He nodded, and a lock of hair fell between his eyes, but he did not move to brush it away. He waited without breath for me to reject or accept his offer.
His wide eyes widened further as I crawled towards him, closing the space between us. I took his face in both of my hands and the contact shot through my aching body. I saw now, with his dark face inches from mine, that this gesture was not borne out of comradery, but in his eyes, I saw that his distrust for me had faded and the empty space had filled with hunger.
"Genry Ai," I spoke to him in quiet words, needing to know that this night would not ruin the bond I had finally found between us, "you who are always and never in kemmer, do you want this? If it were that you want me, as I want you, I would share my kemmer with you."
"Yes," he breathed, and a world tension left his expression, "I want you."
Estraven, in their always-direct manner, wasted no time. As soon as the confession had left my lips, the hands on my face were pulling me toward them, almost desperately. I could feel days of tension, built up from suppressed kemmer, release as my cracked lips fell against theirs. One of their hands slid up into my mess of hair and the other wrapped around me, both pulling me closer, into them. I was still unsure as to how "alien" this encounter would truly be, but any apprehension was forgotten when I touched Estraven for the first time, my hands around their waist, and they groaned softly into my mouth. The groan was not light like a woman's groan, but did not have the gruff nature of a man's either. It was deep and melodic, and the sound traveled through me like a song, warming me through. I was quickly learning that despite the binary nature of kemmer, Therem was always something in between, never someone I could define.
Their warm mouth dragged itself from mine and sucked the tender skin beneath my jaw, making me gasp. I felt for their thighs, still clothed, and coaxed Estraven into my lap, where they straddled and shifted atop me. Their thighs were soft through the thick layers of their breeches and they groaned once more as I grabbed at their buttocks, rutting into my lap.
Pulling back from me just slightly, they slid their hands up my heib. "Will you be too cold if I remove this?"
I shook my head and helped them to remove the top layers of my clothing, leaving just the thin undershirt covering my frame. Their hands took me by the shoulders and pushed forward until I was laying against the floor and Therem was suspended over me. Long locks of black hair hung between us and I raised one hand cup their face. Flush and grime colored their dark face, and their long eyelashes moved slowly as they looked me over. Maybe this is why I distrusted Estraven for so long. The man suspended above me wasn't like anything I was supposed to want, but I wanted him nonetheless.
"You're beautiful," I breathed, and their eyelashes fluttered with slight surprise at the praise. I raised myself just enough to meet their mouth, and kissed them again, more gentle this time, but just as desperate.
Estraven reached behind themself to undo the cord constricting their breasts. It fell away, and I was surprised to see the kemmer change for the first time with my own eyes. It wasn't like human female breasts, it was that their androgynous chest had suddenly gained just enough tissue to hang off their frame. Perhaps their breasts were still small from the nature of our cold starvation. My hand slid down to cup the soft swelling and found that it didn't fill my palm. They were warm in my hands. I wanted badly to taste Estraven, wherever I could.
Ai panted beneath me as he fondled my breasts with tender care. Fascination was etched across his features as he examined my changed bosom and passed his thumb over my dark nipple. I hummed with pleasure at the sensation and felt him harden beneath me. The patience he took with touching me was surprising, and I wondered if this was human nature, or if Ai was a considerate lover. His consideration had my impatient body crying out with the need to be touched. From the moment I first touched him, my restraint was forgotten.
I shifted into him, pressing my aching groin against his through layers of trousers. He whimpered at the friction and ground into me in return, grabbing at my legs. I fell against him, panting as we rutted against one another. His arms wrapped around me and he flipped us over, leaving me on the ground and him above me.
He lowered his face to my breast and dragged his teeth across the nipple. I gasped as he took me in his mouth and used his tongue to send shocks down my torso. His long hair brushed against my sensitive, bare skin. My impatient sounds were not lost on his ears. While his mouth worked, one of his hands slid between my legs and pulled a low whimper from my mouth. His eyes found mine and asked some kind of permission. I simply nodded, he could touch me however he wanted, I just needed touched.
Genly pulled my breeches down and carefully removed them. I spread my legs to him, expecting him to fuck me, but watched as took my thighs in his large hands and lowered his face between them.
Quietly, I cried out, when he put his soft mouth on me and licked my swollen clitoris. This was new to me, and I threaded my hands in his thick curls as he swiped his tongue across the slick skin between my legs. The nature of kemmer was so desperate that partners raced to pound into one another, rather than indulge in singular pleasure. I raised myself onto my elbows and my head fell forward. Sensation saturated my skin in waves, making me squirm under his mouth and hands. My breathing was reduced to quick pants between keening moans that the alien pulled out of me with his tongue. Genly Ai, despite his indirect, foreign manner of communication, had spoken with undeniable truth when he said he could help me.
My eyes flew open when I felt him press two fingers inside me, curling to make me cry out again. My body flooded with pleasure and my legs pressed into the sides of his head. Tears threatened to spill from my eyes, as they always did, just before. I would be embarrassed to finish before I ever touched him, but knew I would be helpless if his mouth did not stop soon.
"Genry," I breathed, and pulled his head away from me. I whimpered when his mouth left my flesh. He looked up, breathlessly, with confusion.
"Are you okay?" he asked, looking sheepish, afraid that I made him stop out of distaste.
"No one has ever touched me like that. With their mouth, as you do."
I pulled him toward me and tasted myself on his tongue.
The corners of his mouth twisted upwards, "So, it was good?"
"I stopped you," I pressed my hand to his breast, "because I was going to finish before you ever fucked me."
He beamed at me now, clearly proud of himself. "That is what I was going for."
I growled at him and pulled his last tunic off, raking my hand across his chest. He was quite hairy, I'd never seen another person with coarse hair across his chest. It thinned toward his navel and a trail led beneath his waistband. I dragged one fingernail down the trail, making him catch his breath, and slipped my hand beneath, to find his hard length waiting. I tugged at him and he gasped. Had anyone touched him in his two years on our planet? Surely not.
His mouth opened against mine as he pressed his length inside me.
"Harth-" he choked my name, the name I had given him yet he rarely used, as he moved against me, inside me. My legs wrapped around him, edging him further in and he pressed his face into the familiar crook of my neck.
I moaned his name in return and wished I had a kemmering to swear to him, to this alien man I would follow through ice and stars. Tears filled my eyes and I knew I couldn't promise any future to him, let alone mine or one where I joined him in the endless stars. All I could give him was this endless ice, and hope that he found his stars without me.
I am glad I have lived to love him.