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From Death to Life, with Sex and Cheesecake

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Admiral Oliver Jole stood by the entrance to one of the transfer station's flex-tubes holding a hand-blown vase with three roses in it. The roses were at that perfect stage between bud and bloom, yellow tips shading down to creamy pink centers. He remembered the talk he'd given to Lieutenant Vorrinis a few days earlier—red roses for passion, gardenias for hope—what did the yellow ones say? It wasn't so much what they said as the scent they produced. This was an old Earth rose named Peace. It had been modified only by increasing and manipulating the perfume diffused until it was a perfect blend for reducing anxiety and misery. One couldn't be miserable with those glorious roses near. And three roses—well, reason enough for that.

Although he wasn't expecting to be miserable was he? Or why would he have invited an old friend to spend a week's vacation with him, and at the unromantic Escobaran shuttle dock, at that. It was unfamiliar, mostly new, something he hadn't done since his third tour out. His groin still ached pleasurably in memory.

Ah, this was the one he expected. A trim figure which could be a bit masculine for a woman, with sharply defined arm and shoulder muscles, and a little soft for a man, with mischievous lips and curly brown hair, an half centimeter below regulation in the military. Not that this one was in the military—there was the lowest cut sarong, and flowers in the hair. Also attractive red trousers tucking into bright red boots which he was sure were as utilitarian and strong as they were stylish. It wasn't that he was afraid of not recognizing, it was that his memories somehow demanded flowers.

“Admiral Jole,” an alto voice cooed in a carrying voice. “So good to see you again. I hope to be seeing all of you soon.”

More than one person turned at this announcement, and Jole closed the distance and muttered, “Bel, you wretched person, did you have to announce that to all the staff and passengers?”

Bel Thorne waved its hand, conveying to listening ears that this was all a joke, then advanced closer to Jole and gave him a firmly muscled hand to shake. He had never, never approved of the way herms had chosen “it” to refer to themselves. Herms were the least “it” people he'd ever known. There were more pronouns now, much better pronouns, but herms couldn't be bothered to change. Too stodgy and stuck in their ways, or too entrenched in keeping the rest of the Nexus anxious about making awkward mistakes? He could guess which one.

“Wouldn't have said it if I didn't know you couldn't handle it. Speaking of which, I assume you have a room somewhere—not too near the Vicereine, I trust?”

“Cordelia is back in Vorbarr Sultana, doing Winterfair with the grandkids under the auspices of submitting an annual report to the Emperor. I'm sure she's putting it all on an expense list somewhere.”

He took Bel firmly by the elbow and hustled the Betan away to dimmer and dingier passageways, unattractive and utilitarian.

Bel glared. “So, what, we're going to some awful brothel? Not to a nice hotel with a view? Is this what you think of me, just a vice to exploit?”

“Shh. It's fine. It's more guarded than the rest of the transfer station, less visible, that's all.”

“Here.” Jole quickly unlocked an unmarked door and ushered Bel into the suite. It was a suite, nicer than many he'd stayed in for travel. Bel looked around curiously. The colors were blue, white, and brown, with several variations on the intensity of the colors. The walls were light blue, with darker trim around the oak-colored cabinet doors of a open plan kitchenette.

The kitchenette opened onto a dining nook large enough for six people. The cabinets had dinner service for six, salad and soup bowls included with the proper silverware. There were water glasses, wine glasses, champagne flutes, coffee mugs—the coffeemaker was small but elegant, and coffee pods were neatly arranged beside it. Also tea, in the flavors Jole remembered Bel liking the most.

The herm raised eyes at the lavish space, amazed. Space was a sharply rationed quantity on any transfer station. Wasn't everything given to utility here with the military? Bel continued to investigate.

“I thought all you could manage on a station was those sleep-coffin tubes. Or lavish 8 by 10 rooms for 2 bunkbeds. Wouldn't all your dignitaries and ambassadors be more comfortable planet-side?”

“More comfortable, once they've settled their insides. Some people get so jump-sick they've got to recuperate for a few hours or a day, and if you're important enough, you get this place.”

Jole grinned. “We've even had ghem-lords, although it isn't for nausea that they come here. It's for a chance to sleep, get their facepaint on straight, and strategize about how to bamboozle the Barrayarans.”

“So every inch of this place is bugged. I don't really fancy being seen by bored video monitors, you know.” There was a challenging glint, not quite serious.

“Ah, but I know the man who can turn the bugs off—quite well, actually, since it's me.” Jole grinned. “Trust me, Bel, I don't want anyone to see me far more urgently than you don't—right?”

“Oh, but you'd look fantastic on vids. I would pay to watch you.”

Jole's smile slipped a bit, although Bel couldn't see why. They progressed with the tour.

The sofa was a softly inviting blue and brown plaid and quite wide enough for two to cuddle on. Several plump sofa cushions and an attendant quilt clustered at one end. A short hallway gave onto a bedroom with the same tones again. A warm chocolate-brown duvet covered the king-sized bed, blue and brown pillows in an abstract print, and a soft quilt of the same print at the foot of the bed.

There were large entertainment centers in both the living room and the bedroom, but the cabinet doors were locked. Bel pouted.

“You're not showing my favorite kinky movies? Don't you like—”

Jole reached to pull Bel into a tight hug, then a full embrace, one hand sliding up to the back of the head, gently tugging at the pink orchid spay, the other sweeping down Bel's back to cup the buttocks.

“I don't need movies when I've got my favorite kinky Betan right here.”

“You have more than one kinky Betan? I'm hurt”—and Bel's mouth was closed by a firm kiss. More than firm, a little anxious, teeth bumping, Jole's tongue hesitating along the other's lips, not sure if it was welcome inside.

“You beautiful idiot.” Thorne tried to push Jole onto the large bed, found Jole instinctively resisting, then removing his hand from Bel's ass to yank open the sheets.

They were sprawling together, each trying to get their own clothes off while pulling off the others. It was awkward and clumsy until Bel gave up, easing onto the opened sheets and giving up all control for Jole to strip away trousers, boots, all. Jole gazed at Bel with eyes already going dark, and kicked away his own pants and boots.

“Give me some room and lie down. Let me look at everything. Oh, sexy bra, red and black lace and—what is this?”

It was a red and black male G-string, silk, with a pouch for the cock, which was—actually, it was just peeping out of the black lace at the top.

“Oh, god Bel! You're a demon!”

“Haven't you ever seen cock-lace before?”

Jole responded with a squeeze over the naughty bit, then lowered himself down, still stroking.

The herm complied, opening thighs as Jole fell on top, kissing from the neck down to the clavicle, then letting his tongue draw down to the small breasts. Bel made a soft groaning sound, and Jole smiled. He didn't take his hand away, rubbing the black lace slowly.

“You will get all you want, all you want everywhere. Everywhere on this beautiful complex body of yours, you fascinate me.”

He kissed the other breast, tweaking the nipple of the first.

“You like it hard here, don't you? For days I've been trying to remember everything you like.”

A laugh quivered the taut body beneath him.

“Did you think I wouldn't tell you what I wanted?”

“No, but I wanted it to be right, wanted you to know I remembered you. I remember everything about that week.”

“But you never came back.”

“You made that clear from the first words. 'I'll give you one week, but then the ship has to leave. Just enjoy ourselves for now.'”

“You could have tried.”

Jole stopped kissing, stopped rubbing. “Don't. Don't start. Yes, about then was when I found Aral, and yes, I never looked back after that.”

“I'm sorry. I did know you had Aral”—

“How? Does everyone know Aral and I—I don't think it's common knowledge even here on Sergyar.” Jole's mood was rapidly darkening. He did not want to think of Aral, this whole week was to get Aral out of his sexual memories just long enough to build new ones.

“I'm sorry,” Bel said again.”You forget I was there when it happened. I was with the Dendarii in the Ariel, and as soon as I saw you look at Aral, Admiral, Ex-Regent, Count Vorkosigan, commander of all forces in the Vervani conflict, the—”

Jole pushed himself up and off, and turned to sit on the side of the bed.

“Don't, please, don't talk about Aral. It's him I don't want to think about. Maybe later, maybe, but for once in your life could you shut up being sardonic and catty and witty—”

Bel sat up also, scooted over to him. Sat kneeling on the bed behind him, running fingers gently up and down his back. Said nothing.

“I'm sorry, too,” Jole said. “The whole time I was making arrangements here, thinking about how I could sneak a whole week away from my job, getting you here and naked. The time I was with you, it was the only time in my life no one's ever asked me for my preferences. I've imagined for weeks how you'd look under me, holding your cock next to mine, kissing your breasts...honestly, I wasn't thinking of you as a person, but just as someone I could climb into, and let climb into me long enough to get the ghosts out. Maybe we need to talk first, but I don't...” He waved his hand helplessly.

Bel caught it and kissed it. “No. We don't need to talk. We need cheesecake.”

Jole's mood rebounded. “You peeked!”

Bel looked at him provocatively through lowered eyes framed by dark eyelashes.

“I did not peek. I reconnoitered. I saw that the silver service had dessert spoons and plates, and two were missing. Then I quickly opened the refrigerator when you turned your head, and saw...” A loud sigh ensued.

“Stay here, I'll bring some,” Jole said.

“No, I absolutely will not have crumbs in bed. Besides, I think there are probably robes in the closets here—just speculating, no peeking, and we can sit at the table in the dining nook.”

Jole opened the refrigerator, starting to remove the cheesecake sampler platter, dessert dishes and spoons, looking to balance them. “I want coffee with this, how about you?”

“I drink tea unless there's not a choice. And I see there are nice choices here, mighty nice choices.”

A warm palm unexpectedly caught Jole's ass and cupped it.

“Don't make me drop this, you'll be sorry.”

“I'm never sorry about sex. Other things, yes, including relationships. I don't do well with those. Later.” Bel kissed the back of Jole's neck and took the platter out of his hands, setting it on the table in the dining nook.

The cheesecake platter was huge, with eight different types to sample, including mango-peach, with real fruit slices layered in, tangy lime with a sour-cream topping, strawberry, with piles of fresh-sliced strawberries decorating the tops, four different types of chocolate—swirled with white chocolate, mixed with raspberry swirls, a dark mousse, a light creamy color, and two absolutely mundane slices of cheesecake with no extras.

They looked at it, wondering where to breach such beauty. Bel took a spoonful of the chocolate mousse and fed it to Jole. He closed his eyes, his mouth around the cool spoon and soft creaminess. He fed the next spoonful, the tangy lime, to Bel and then opened Bel's mouth with his tongue, tasting cheesecake and a warm mouth. Bel pulled Jole close, fed him the raspberry swirl, and then it was Bel who brought the cheesecake platter to the coffee table by the sofa and dabbed Jole's nipples with the plain cheesecake. Jole groaned as Bel slowly removed the cream with swirling licks, and then looked at the other with eyes already blown.

"Lie down. Now."

Bel stretched out on the couch, long, lean, aroused. This time Jole showed Bel exactly how much he cared for and wanted the herm. He looked at the beautiful, lightly muscled body under him. “I will never, ever, get tired of looking at you. Hope you don't mind staring, but you know you're unique.”

“Hush, soldier-boy, and show me.” Bel's languid hands went behind its own neck, arching up to show the small perfect breasts, and the just-the-right-size cock, which was now arching up on its own, even further out of the lace..

Jole kissed the neck, licked and nuzzled and sucked, give all this and tiny nibbles as well to the breasts, after he'd deftly removed the bra, then moved further down again to give the cock the same attention. In the mean time his own cock had responded to all this, and he moved back up Bel's body, hesitating a moment when their groins touched. What to do next? So much possibility with a herm! He slipped off Bel's g-string, then paused.

Bel noticed his indecision, and smiled, stroking soft hands down to catch Jole's increasingly sensitive cock. “I'm good every way, take your choice.”

“Actually—I was thinking this is pretty good.” Jole's voice was rough. “Put your hand around both of us.”

“Like this? To frot, you mean?”

“Exactly like that. Oh, yes...”

They moved, trying to fit bodies together, slicker now, Bel enjoying an unexpected role as Jole slammed their combined cocks into into the herm's palm. The sensation was great, but a little crowded; Bel let go of its own cock, and concentrated on giving Jole everything he needed. The herm's versatile cock obediently sank down to give them more room. Bel gave a flick of a thumb over Jole's delicate tip, up and around, again, pulling up moisture and rubbing it, changing positions and speeds, until Jole was completely driven. Bel watched under heavy eyelids as Jole essentially fucked himself against Bel's hand. Harder, harder, now automatic jerks, and now he was gone, finished.

Except for the sobbing.

Jole collapsed onto his side, reaching out to grab Bel even closer and cried in huge, shaking gulps.

“Shh. Shh. You're okay now. You're okay. It will be alright. You're here with me.” Bel wasn't quite sure what had caused the explosion, but knew a partner must be comforted, then questioned, gently. First, keep him out of shock, let him feel arms holding and keeping him safe. Bel reached for the quilt and pulled it down.

After some time Jole subsided into quieter weeping, and then was finally silent. He turned on his back, pulling his arm over his swollen eyes to hide them.

“Here. Let me tuck this in.” Bel drew down the reluctant arm, tucked the quilt up higher around Jole's neck, and then gently dropped kisses on his eyelids, forehead, cheeks, mouth until he fell asleep. Bel pulled the quilt around until comfortable, then also slept.

When Bel woke up, Jole was still on the couch, but turned away. Bel pulled Jole closer and said, “Let me guess. You haven't had sex in three years.”

“No. I hadn't.” Jole shook his head. “But that's not the only thing. I—I haven't told anyone. Wasn't anyone to tell.”

“Cordelia? Wouldn't she help?”

“It's about that. We—we tried to make love after Aral died. Tried very hard. But we couldn't. We could not. It's—it was only then that we realized that we'd only made love to or for Aral.”

“'To or for Aral?' Not to each other? It's what, twenty years. Not in the whole time?” Bel was alarmed and the Good Sex lectures of school years surged back. People in polyamories had difficulties about shifts of power and control, certainly, but not to make love to one partner of a longstanding poly relationship was highly unusual. And it seemed quite unfair.

“No, that's not it, I've had sex with Cordelia. I don't know how many times. But it was for Aral or to Aral instead of for each other.That's how it was. wasn't like this when we started, but he was so much younger them—late fifties? We were at each other every time schedules aligned. Cordelia sometimes, too. She scared me to bits at first. I kept thinking my head was going to end up in a bag! But even then, and more when he got older—even aphrodisiacs can only do so much—he started wanting—-to watch, a lot. They have—the Viceroy's Palace has a lovely bedroom, large, every modern convenience and toy. But they also have a very private den with a huge fireplace. The furniture is also large, a five piece sofa, and it wraps around in front of the fireplace. But it's not just floor or carpet, they have a low bed in there. Very low, but huge, huger even than the bed in the bedroom. And that was where we went most of the time.”

Jole closed his eyes, remembering lying beside Aral with Cordelia underneath him, her red hair splayed above her head. Aral watched everything stroking himself, dark heavy body with eyes slitted for pleasure. Sometimes he would come before they did, which made everyone laugh, and then—Aral was quick to respond again, and would take one of them or the other, always by Aral's choice. Always.

Times when they all three scrambled together happened less often. Each of them had ended up as the meat in the sandwich, many times, all ways, and it was all good. There were also times when he and Aral had sneaked off for sex together in his apartment. It was always great, but he felt a bit guilty. Not enough to stop him from screwing Aral, though, not enough to ask Aral if he always told Cordelia.

But then there were the...what he thought of as Aral's dominance-asserting times, Aral getting older and older and feeling aches and pains that the younger Jole and Betan Cordelia did not. It hadn't slowed him down as Viceroy, but—age changed him. So. Aral would lie back in the huge low mattress before the fire, one hand behind his head, slicking his own shaft up and down as they literally lay at his feet, curling around each other, clinging to each other, in essence having sex because he wanted it. They might not have had any mutual interest when he gently pushed them into the room and locked the door, but what were aphrodisiacs for? It was—he couldn't describe it, but it might have been coercion—was it truly coercion when he and Cordelia knew what was going to happen, that they had to perform for him? They weren't going to refuse him. They'd never refused him, and he would be shocked if they did. They would perform, and he always decided when. And it was both appalling and exciting to know this control.

Jole realized that he was saying this out loud to Bel, who was studying him..

“That's...not nearly the worst thing about a polyamory I've heard. Actually it's not unusual. In most situations people do care more for one partner than the other, and it would be strange if three people always want sex at the same time. And one partner may be dominant over the others, although roles change sometimes. If they respect each other and make sure no one is left out sexually, even if it's never, or almost never, that all three are together, and everyone ends up with the skin touches they need, that may be the best that that group can do. It always helps to talk to other polys, to check out how they handle things.” Bel smiled, happy to remember the Good Sex classes. Elementary, but lasting lessons.

Jole said coldly. “I doubt there are many polys on Sergyar. It's not that long since homosexuality in the military was grounds for dishonorable discharge. Besides, even if there were others, how could we have talked to them?” He got louder and louder, shouting. “They were the Viceroy and Vicereine of the whole planet! I'm the Admiral of the Sergyaran Fleet! Not too many like us.”

Now Bel said coolly, “There's a whole planet a few jumps down the Nexus. We have clinics for the poorest prole to the highest CEO's.”

“Don't start with me about Beta. Cordelia tried over and over again to tell us, but we just hadn't—we didn't—grow up on a planet where every sexual kink was normal.”

“I am from Beta, Oliver, and my body was designed possibly to create even more sexual kinks. As I thought I was going to get to do when I came here.”

Then Bel felt guilty. The man had lost his partner, and his partner's partner in the bargain, and had been alone for three years. He rubbed Jole's neck. “I'm sorry. I've been all over the Nexus more times than I can count, and—Betans do act very much as if we have a monopoly on sexual wisdom. Please forgive me. You've been so alone.”

Oliver's shoulders started shaking again. Bel held him tightly.

When Jole stopped crying the second time, Bel said, “You—Barrayarans—other planets—anyway, Betans do have more tolerance for kinks, as you say. But I'm not the one to disparage others' arrangements, and certainly not others' griefs. I've never had such a long relationship—marriage, yes? That you had. I don't know how you're feeling. There's no way I could know.

“I've never had—only one time, one situation in my life even a little similar to yours. I was—you know, maybe, about all the things that happened with Miles when he went off on that awful trip to Jackson's Whole where he died?”

“I thought he was just cryofrozen. He came back.”

“I know, but—not exactly whole, with the seizures that he lied to Illyan about. That Illyan fired him for. The entire fiasco was mostly my fault. I recognized that it was not Miles, but his clone, fairly early on. I could easily have stopped Mark. But I let him go on—as a completely unqualified commander!” Bel stopped, and now was also trembling. It was such a relief when Oliver turned to and began reciprocating in the gentling rubs on his shoulders.

“I let Mark go, and then Miles came, and because of me, Miles died from the needle grenade. He was cryofrozen, dead, resurrected by the Duronas—”

From nowhere he could remember, Jole murmured, “was crucified, dead, descended into hell, arisen on the thi—”

Now Bel's body clenched. “Yes, that. He died because I betrayed him. When he finally came back to life, he fired me. He had to. 'Captain Thorne, I must request your resignation.'”

Oliver was trying to keep up here. This was a military situation, mutiny in the heat, how could Thorne have hoped for anything less? Bel would have been hanged on Barrayar, and before Aral, there would have been flaying first. Oliver would have had to arrange all of that.

“And you—wanted to keep your job, your ship, even after all you'd done?” He knew he shouldn't be disgusted, it was many years ago, still...

He'd heard a few bits from Cordelia and Aral, but tiny, and only about Miles, and not this—traitor—he'd just fucked.

“No, I knew I was through, and yes, I was glad to my core to be only a mercenary and not a proper soldier.” Bel sighed. “That's only the beginning of the story I was going to tell you. Except that I need to add that I loved Admiral Naismith—Miles Vorkosigan to you people, but always the little Admiral to me—I loved him from the time I first met him. He was seventeen, and he stunned me.”

“You thought Miles was stunning? You really loved the way he looked?”

Body-perfect Barrayaran-born Oliver, Bel thought, though he was nearly fifty years old, could not imagine Miles as a desirable sexual partner, even now. Well, that wasn't the story Bel was telling.

“No, I mean he literally stunned me. With a military stunner. Well, told Arde Mayhew to do it, but same thing. I was the mercenary, he was the kid, he'd just gotten the drop on me, and I loved him forever after that. He never, ever let me near him, never even kiss him, even though he screwed two other officers...women...I could be a woman, too...”

Jole shook his head, wondering what he was doing in bed with a mutineer with a fetish for fraternizing hunch-backed dwarfs, Aral's son or no. He hadn't known that much about Bel before. They'd mostly locked themselves in a tiny room and only came up for air.

“...Still not the story I'm trying to tell you,” Bel plunged on. “I knocked around after my justly deserved dismissal, hated myself probably as much as you're hating me—if I hadn't wanted to go after those clones more than anything else, I'd never have done it—”

“Wait, you lost your captaincy trying to save those clones? The brain-transplant clones? I didn't realize that was the same trip. Why don't I remember all this from before? I'm sure you told me. And that's still no excuse for a mutiny, sorry.”

Bel sneered at him. “Maybe not to you. But my mutiny, yes, I know it was, and I've regretted it many times, we lost good people that day, but we saved fifty children who would have had their brains crisp-fried and discarded. It seemed like a fair exchange to me.”

Bel tried to think of the Barrayaran thing to say. “I lost my honor, but I also regained it by saving those lives.”

Oliver's face was scrunched up, thinking, but it wasn't the 'hating the traitor' face of a few minutes ago.

“You and I were together over twenty years ago,” Bel said, “that history was very recent for me, and honestly, I don't think we did much but screw the whole time. I don't remember talking very much. Still not telling you the story..”

“So tell it already, Thorne! I have no idea what you're going to say, and I'm tired.” Oliver gave up and looked up at the ceiling, not at Bel.

“Well—I beat around the Nexus for several years, had no idea what to do with myself, having betrayed and lost the man I loved, when I drifted into the Union of Free Habitats. Graf Station, the quaddies—you do know them, right? I got hired as the harbormaster."

“Yes, a little, but I've only seen vids of quaddies—ah, very striking. They have hands on their legs instead of feet, yes? Although why someone thought that was a good day's work, I don't know.”

Body-perfect Barrayarans, again. Well.

“They don't have legs at all, they have two sets of arms, and that's not the same. They were engineered for null-gee environments.”

Bel decided to ignore Jole's tiny wince. “Anyway, I fell in love with one of them. Nicol. I'd actually met her on Jackson's Whole years before, and helped her escape slavery there. She went home, and I finally found her again.” Bel's eyes closed, and now there were tears here, too. Oliver could notice or not. Oliver could give a damn or not, Bel was going to leave as soon as possible.

“I fell in love just as hard as I think a human can possibly do. We were this close to becoming life partners. We had begun to design our children—I carried that cube with me for years. But I woke up one day and realized, when I—when she was—and I, I, caught her looking at the cube and glaring, and she was—she was—it was at the picture of the little herm. The innocent baby herm.” Bel's tears were falling harshly, Oliver wasn't the only one who couldn't cry pretty.

Oliver rolled over and cuddled Bel to him. Now he was the one administering comfort in the circle of his warm arms. He kissed Bel's shoulder.

Bel finally controlled the gulps. “I confronted her with it, and she said, yes, she knew she should understand, she knew I was a wonderful person, and it didn't matter to her that I had different bits, but that she could not possibly consider designing a child with those kinds of—she came this close to saying birth defects.I asked her whether she thought she'd ever change her mind, and she hesitated, and finally said she didn't think so, and I grabbed my uniform, my duffel bag out of the closet, put in as many clothes as would fit, and left. Didn't take anything else. Never went back. I might have been lucky, as it turned out, they had a horrible mess at the Union a few months later, and that harbormaster died." A pause for breath. “I did call her, a year or so later, and she was partnered and having twins. So I lost her.”

“I have no idea where I was going when I started telling this, (Bel could tell Oliver was nodding his head I didn't think you did) but I—and I shouldn't be making comparisons, but what I was trying to say was that I knew a little bit about losing people you loved, who maybe couldn't love you as much as you loved them, even though they had before. I know it wasn't for twenty years, except for loving Miles that long, even thought I never actually had him in bed, I loved him...well...”

“Damn Vorkosigans anyway.” Oliver was seconds away from crying, too. Bel made an extreme effort.

“I'm hungry, Oliver, do you have anything else to eat or drink around here, cheesecake is great, but not real food. Guess you didn't think of that, okay, I'll be getting dressed now...” Bel started pushing back the quilt, acting brisk, but hoping Oliver would twig that the herm was teasing again, and if he didn't, Bel was really going to leave. This minute.

You, Bel, you are going nowhere, I went through a lot of trouble to get this place, and we've both gone to a lot of trouble listening to each other's troubles. I think we deserve to get back to the big bed right now." Oliver pulled Bel up and started dragging the herm into the bedroom. Bel laughed throatily, pretending to pout.

"But we're sticky."

"I'll wash you. I have not even begun to count all the ways I want to have you, and you're not getting away."

Never one to miss an opening line, Bel said huskily, “How many ways did you want to have me?"

Oliver didn't miss the opening either, and pushed Bel down, firmly, climbing on top.

“I wanted to have you like this, straight, with your little slit so wet, and your cock getting attention too, and seeing you come both ways—you know, it shocked me when I realized herms could come both ways after being made love to—have an orgasm from your lovely little clitoris, once I could actually find it, points to me since it's even smaller than a regular woman's—" “It is not!” Bel bit his shoulder, and Oliver said, eyes smiling, “Still a little harder to find in the middle of everything. So I was happy to have hit the button there, so to speak, and then I find you can come here, too!”

Now Oliver was holding the body part as if to interrogate it, then closing his hand around it, and very slowly shrugging it up and down, Bel biting his shoulder again to say 'hurry up, more!'

“I want to suck you off, and have you suck me, ummm, with that smart beautiful mouth you have, then I want you to take me, spread me open with that lubricant I put over here, yes, spread me, finger me, get inside—”

Bel was beginning to work talented fingers and mouth up and down his body now, stopping at every possible sensitive site—found the ear lobe, found the nipples, separated the buttocks and slowly pushed them open with deft fingers.
Oliver continued, “Aral would do that to me sometimes, and I loved it, he would take those big fingers and just rub a little, back and forth around the edge, along the peri, although that's wonderful, too, get enough lube on his fingers to get me open and go a little, little bit at a time, till I would almost scream, and then, then, would just push himself in right there, just exactly right, opening me up, barely moving, and god, I'm going to love you pushing me there, too, lovely Bel, and then he would say, Oliver's voice going gruffer, “Do you want it easy, or do you want it now?"

“I would lose it then, just lose it. He was—you know, I'll never stop missing him, don't know who could take his place, although Cordelia used to do the same thing with that—there's a kind of toy, you know, oh right, you're from Beta, and she used to do and say the same thing. And it was funny. But actually, it did work when she did that."

Bel heard another kind of opening, one which could possibly give Oliver real happiness.
“So, what about giving her another chance? You said you'd tried it right after Aral died? Not since?"

Oliver paused for a second, and Bel could feel him breathe in deeply.
“It didn't work. We really couldn't—couple. All the times with Aral, even all three of us touching—it wasn't the same. Wasn't the same at all as the times he watched us...She said it seemed like two eunuchs trying to mate.”

“Maybe you've both healed some now.”

“Possibly. You might have a point there. But she's even busier than before, and I'm the Admiral of the Sergyar fleet, I could go a couple of weeks, more, if I didn't make time to see her sooner. Even if all we do is drink wine and not-talk about Aral.

“But right now, I'm here with you, and I haven't even stopped counting all the ways I'm going to have you, and you're going to have me, and we're not going to open that door for a week. Or put clothes on.”

“Not even to let the delivery person in? Thought you were pretty well known here, it's not everyone's favorite idea to see their boss naked. Maybe it is, you're gorgeous enough.” Bel's hand slipped back up Oliver's back, rubbing the firm muscles.

“Then you're going to the door naked.”

“Uh-uh, one of those wonderfully fleecy robes.”
“Hmm. I might let you put one on if you take it off as soon as you can.”

They both stopped talking as they began to move against each other. Later that night, at the appropriate time, Bel reached down into the lowest voice register and said, “Oliver—do you want it easy, or do you want it now?”