Cromwell straightened his tie for the fifth time and brushed an imaginary piece of lint from his jacket lapels. He told himself he wasn’t nervous, he was only trying to smooth things between himself and Caligari for the sake of the project. He never knew what to expect when he spoke to Emily and that was both exciting and infuriating.
He shifted the fruit basket into the crook of his arm and then knocked on the door. He tried not to fidget as he waited for Emily to answer the door. Cromwell wondered if should have worn something a little more casual for a personal visit.
He was just about to knock again when the door slid open and an annoyed Doctor Emily Caligari glared at him. Her hair was disheveled and her face was pale. Her usually crisp white lab coat was wrinkled and stained with unknown chemicals. The usually no-nonsense and in-control scientist looked frustrated and tired.
Cromwell found her incredibly beautiful.
Emily noticed the basket and frowned. “A little late for a visit, don’t you think?” She glared up at him, her face haughty and regal. “Or is this a personal summons? I said all I needed to say yesterday. If the Board wants consistent results from this project, I’ll need more that a day to modify the fungus. I’m working as hard as I can, no need to bribe me. Tell the Directors-”
The Senior Assistant to the Board laughed and noticed this upset her. He felt a childish need to provoke her. “I’ve missed you too, Emmy. So sorry to disappoint you, but the Directors didn‘t send me. They don‘t even know I‘m here.”
She cocked her head and looked him over. “Sure they don’t.” Her eyes slid over the fruit in the basket and she looked away, but not before he noticed her hunger. “What’s with the enticement? Afraid I’ll toss you out on your fundament before you can bore me to sleep?”
“It’s a peace offering, Emily,” he smiled ingratiatingly at her, knowing it would tick her off. “We…got off on the wrong foot the other day when you came to see the Directors and I want us to have a good working relationship.” He reached in the basket and pulled out a ripe pear. The skin was golden with a faint flush of pink. “I remembered your favorites.”
She snatched the fruit out of his hand before he could put it back in the basket, her nails raking him slightly as she did so. He willed himself not to flinch. Caligari looked past him into the hallway. “Well, come in before anyone sees you.”
The door slid closed behind Cromwell and he followed Caligari to the kitchenette of her suite. She rooted around in a drawer before pulling out a small knife and cutting the fruit in half crosswise. She offered him a portion. “Here.”
Cromwell set the basket on the counter and bit into the juicy white flesh. He chewed thoughtfully, maintaining eye contact with the scientist.
Emily watched him for a few minutes and when he didn’t keel over from poison she eagerly sunk her sharp white teeth into the fruit. She was a messy eater and he watched the juice run down her lips and on to her chin.
He offered her his handkerchief and she wiped her face. Glancing at the basket she selected a peach and cut it in half. This time she didn’t offer him a portion as she pulled out the pit and devoured the fruit.
Emily licked the clear juice off her fingers and then stared at him, almost surprised he was still there. “That was…delicious, actually. Algae bars are all right but can’t really replicate the taste of real fruit. Not without side effects, anyway. Well, apology accepted, Oliver. You can leave now.” She glanced pointedly at the door and then back at him before turning away.
“Oh come now, Emmy,” he spun her around to face him again. She flinched at his touch but he didn’t let go. “Is that any way to treat a childhood friend? I want us to catch up, talk about old times, and discuss what’s going on in our lives. As I said, I’ve missed you. Haven‘t you missed me?”
Caligari knocked his hands aside and sat down and he joined her on the small couch uninvited. She frowned as she remembered the way he’d taunted her about her so-called “friends”. “Missed me my foot. Besides, how could I miss you when your voice is all over the city? You always were a glutton for attention…Ollie.”
“So, you noticed.”
Cromwell laughed. “I rather like the idea of being the first voice you hear in the morning and the last you hear before bed.”
He smirked at her. She was fidgeting, arms crossed, and scowling at him. It was clear she was exhausted and wanted him gone. Her polite façade was wearing thin and she looked as if she would dearly like to punch him. It wouldn‘t take much to needle her into exploding. “We never really talk any more, not unless it’s company related,“ he told her. “I thought we could reminisce, maybe over a drink at Al’s. I’ve never been ‘slumming’ before. You seem to enjoy it, so I thought it might be fun.”
Caligari scoffed. “At eleven o’clock at night, you suddenly got the urge to visit the woman you nearly strangled earlier this week.” She peered into his eyes. Her face was very close to his now, almost close enough to kiss.
“Why not?” He’d always enjoyed provoking her until she was angry enough to attack. Lucky for him, she had a short fuse where he was concerned. “We could talk about all the games we played or…how you betrayed not just me, but your father and your destiny… On the other hand, maybe you‘d prefer to talk about your little doomed friends? Street Safe surely has them by now. I don‘t think poor little Andrew can take much torture. He‘s a bit like your mother was that way.”
Bringing her mother into their little discussion might have been a mistake.
Cromwell’s voice cut off with a gurgle as anger and sleep deprivation caused Caligari to snap. “Don’t you ever mention her to me again. Betrayed you?! I trusted you with my innermost secret; that I wanted to be a scientist like my mother and you ratted me out to my father! How the hell did I betray you?” Her fingers were around his throat and she pushed him off the couch onto the floor. He gasped as she straddled him, face flushed and panting.
Her fingers tightened and flexed around his throat as she spoke and her shapely little rump was causing all sorts of lovely friction against his nethers. Cromwell clenched his teeth to silence a groan.
Oliver felt warm all over as he looked up into his former best friend’s enraged face. Founders, she was magnificent, even regal, right now. He found himself remembering the past; the shy unsure way she indulged his fantasies when they were teenagers and the angry, domineering way she subjugated him when they were young adults.
He began to feel light-headed as spots exploded before his eyes and the familiar euphoria spread all throughout his body. Oh, it had been too long! Just a little while longer…
The pressure at his throat stopped and Caligari leaned away from him. She looked shocked that she had nearly strangled him unconscious, then livid when she realized he’d goaded her into it. “You bastard!”
Cromwell laughed despite his sore throat. He loosened his tie and then pulled it off before unbuttoning the first three buttons of his shirt. He lifted his neck so she could see the circle of half-moon scars and deep gouges that nearly circled his pale flesh.
He smiled as she glowered down at him. Emily may not enjoy remembering their shared past, but he did. “See these? You made them all with your own nails, my sweet Emmy. You told me you were going to make a collar around my neck so everyone would know who I belonged to.” He arched his lower body into her pelvic region, smiling when she gasped in surprise. “I still belong to you, Emily. You only have to claim me.”
Oliver finally gave in to the impulse to touch her. His hands skimmed over her hair, then the sensitive skin of her throat before ghosting over her breasts. She shuddered and whether it was with revulsion or desire, he didn’t care. Emily was looking at him, paying attention to him.
Finally, he let his hands rest on her hips and gazed up at her. He thought by now he’d be her consort, father of her children and nightly plaything. It wasn’t too late. Now that she was separated from her horrible “friends” and back in the Tower where she belonged, perhaps she could be…reasoned with.
Caligari stared down at him for a long time. She seemed dazed and he wondered if he dared unbutton her shirt or slip her lab coat off her shoulders. He was still thinking of what to do when she surprised him by laughing.
“Ah…I see what you missed about me.” Emily leaned down, removed his tie, and used it to bind his hands above his head. She then put her hands around his neck, squeezed tightly, and then let him go. “Relations technicians aren’t doing it for you?”
Cromwell shook his head. “None of them can hurt me like you can, Emmy, even the…specialists are too gentle to suit me.”
“I’m flattered.” She made a purring sound in the back of her throat and then smirked down at him. She still didn’t return her beautifully strong hands to his neck and he wanted to whimper in frustration. Clearly, Emily was going to make him work for it.
He loved it when she made him work for it.
Caligari shifted her hips ever so slightly to the left and to the right, brushing against his sensitive area but not providing any relief. He knew what she wanted him to say.
“I’m not telling you anything, Emmy.” he told her.
She growled and clenched her fingers around his throat, gently at first and then gradually applied pressure. Her nails dug into the tender flesh and he hoped he‘d have new scars in the morning. “ We both know that’s not true,“ she mocked. “You’ll give me anything I damn please and you’ll do it now. And don’t call me Emmy. Call me ‘Doctor’”
Caligari slowly rubbed herself against him, never easing her grip on his neck. “What does the Board plan to do with the ants?”
“They’re assembling…an army. The fungus…will control them. Your translation matrix will ease…communication.”
Emily rubbed harder and Cromwell wished they were both naked so he could be inside her as she conquered and strangled him. It had been too long since she’d had him under her control like this. Perhaps now she was back where she belonged she would make time to discipline him properly. Oliver had been sincere when he’d said he’d missed her. Yes, he did miss the friendship they’d once had but more than anything he’d missed her small strong hands around his throat. He missed being ordered about by her, commanded into submission. And then the pleased look on her face when he complied, the smug satisfaction as she hurt and dominated him.
Oliver felt his pulse speed up and his panting breaths had nothing to do with being garroted. She was using her knowledge of anatomy against him; carefully calculating how to punish him without causing him to lose consciousness. Her friction beside his lower half was just enough to arouse and frustrate.
No ordinary policy could compete with Emily Caligari and it was foolish of him to think otherwise.
“One more question and you get your reward,” she told him softly. “Who are they planning on using the ants against? What do they know?”
Oliver tried to resist her, to make the sensation last a little longer. He held out until he saw the edges of his vision blur and then choked out. “Other! Cities! Southwest…former United States…north! Some place called Canada. With the thaw, they’ll emerge. We’ll have to be ready.”
Emily smiled at him and he nearly forgot himself. Then the pressure on his neck increased until he couldn’t hold back and he climaxed, blacking out as he did so.
When he came to he was fully dressed once again and Caligari sat on her couch and gazed down at him. Her stare was so cool and detached it was hard to believe she wasn’t just dry humping him on the floor of her living quarters.
“Oh good,” she told him. “You’re awake.”
Cromwell scrambled to his feet and smiled shyly at her. If the night followed their old pattern, she’d order him to take a shower. She would later join him and he would go down in his knees before her. They would dry off and then she’d take him to bed and then ravish him until he could barely walk the next day.
He blinked, disbelieving. “I…beg your pardon?”
She turned away and scribbled something on a notepad. “You got what you came for. You used me to get yourself off. Now, you’re done. Leave.”
Cromwell approached her warily and put a hand on her shoulder. “But…don’t you want me to please you? Don’t you want to….?”
Caligari glanced in his direction. “What? Copulate with you?” Her tone could have frozen lava. “Thanks for the offer. I’ll keep it in mind for the future, in case I get bored or desperate.” She glanced down at the growing stain on his crotch. “Take a bath, would you? Unless you want my father to see you like that.”
Cromwell’s vision misted slightly. He wanted to tell her he’d missed her. She needed to know he still loved her and wanted a family with her. He wanted to scream how much he hated her, how she made him feel inferior and jealous. More than anything, he wanted her to look at him with something other than contempt.
Emily finally noticed his miserable expression and stood. “Oh, fine. Here.” She grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him in for a firm but gentle kiss. She pulled away and looked at him. Cromwell could not read her expression but her lips were delicious.
“Thanks for the fruit. Now, leave,” she told him.
He inclined his head respectfully. “As you wish, Doctor Caligari.”
She sat down again and swiveled away from him. He left the room with many a backward glance.
Once the door closed behind him, he allowed himself the luxury of one tear and then licked the taste of her mouth off his lips.