I was in the kitchen eating biscuits with butter and honey slathered all over them. The biscuits were good, but the show was Gregory. He was still in leopardman form, but he was eating biscuits. Have you ever watched someone eat bread with teeth that are designed for tearing out the throats of gazelles? It was interesting. If he'd just put the whole biscuit in his mouth at once it would have been okay, but he didn't. He ate the rounds of bread dripping with butter and red-currant jelly in pieces, delicately. Except that his jaws weren't made for delicate, so his fur was spotted with reddish jelly, and he kept licking it off with an impossibly long tongue. It was disturbing, distracting, and vaguely fascinating. Like a combination of Animal Planet and Food Network.
It was good that I had something to amuse me, because Nathaniel was being very unamused. I'd known he would be upset about me marking Micah's neck, when he'd practically begged me to do it to him, and I'd refused, but I had no real clue how upset. He'd been banging things around the kitchen. A cabinet door didn't just close, it slammed. Opening the refrigerator was a chorus of bangs, slaps, etc...I didn't even know that plastic food containers could make that much noise.
In between slamming things around, he was agreeing with everything Gregory said, but his tone of voice sounded like he was fighting. "We've been advertising a leopard for tonight, if they can't have me, you're it," Gregory said, then licked that long pink tongue all the way around his 'muzzle.'
"Fine, it's not like I'll be doing anything else tonight." Somehow I thought that last was directed at me.
Micah was giving me the look, the once that said as clearly as if he'd spoken, fix this. Why was it always me that had to fix it? Because I was usually the one who screwed it up in the first place. Oh, that was why.
My teeth marks were imprinted in Micah's neck, the edges had been smeared with neosporin, but he hadn't had to bandage it. Good for him, and for me. I'd stopped before I'd hurt him too badly. It was actually less bloody than the one and only time I'd let myself mark Nathaniel. It had been when the arduer was new and I was still trying to find ways to feed it that didn't involve intercourse. Silly me.
The last straw was when Nathaniel took the butter dish off the table before everybody was finished with it. Gregory grabbed for it, and claws are wrong for grabbing china. The plate fell and broke all over the floor. The butter slid across the floor in a long yellow line, like a really nasty snail trail. I don't know what I would have said, probably something not very helpful, but the phone rang.
"Someone else get that," Nathaniel said from the floor where he was wiping up the mess, "I'm a little busy."
Micah just kept eating his breakfast, I think because he was upset with me for not saying something to help things with Nathaniel. Problem was I didn't know what to say. So I got the phone.
"Anita, it's Ronnie."
"Ronnie, hi," and I was thinking furiously. Oh, yeah, I wasn't the only one having personal problems. I still couldn't believe that Ronnie had turned down Louie's proposal. Out loud I said, "How ya doing?"
"Louie left a message on my phone, so I know you know." She sounded defensive.
"Okay, you want to talk about it?" I didn't take offense. It wasn't me she was mad at.
She blew out a loud breath. "Yes, no, I don't know."
"You can come here, or I'll meet you somewhere." I was using that careful voice, sort of the one Micah used so much with me.
"I'll bring bagels," she said.
"How about you can have homemade biscuits when you get here?" I said.
"Homemade biscuits? You didn't make them, did you?"
"No, Nathaniel did."
"Can he cook?"
I could almost feel her doubt wafting over the phone.
"Honest, he's really good at the baking stuff."
"If you say so."
"Well, we'd starve if they waited for me to cook."
She laughed then. "Well, that is the God's honest truth. Okay, I'll be there soon, save some biscuits for me."
We hung up.
I stayed by the phone for a second or two, watching Nathaniel's angry back at the garbage can where he was disposing of the broken dish and dead butter. I'd never realized that a pony-tail could bob angrily.
Micah looked at me, and the look was eloquent, fix this, fix this or I'll be mad at you too. There are a few downsides to having two men living with you, when they both get pissed at you at the same time is one of them.
Nathaniel stayed by the cabinet, hands on the edge of it, his entire body radiating anger. I'd never seen him this angry. It should have made me angry, but it didn't. He could be angry if he wanted to be, I guess.
I tried to think of something useful to say. He'd gone from being happy as a domestic lark to being pissed as I'd ever seen him. The only thing that had changed was the mark on Micah's neck. He'd lived through Micah getting intercourse, orgasm, while he, Nathaniel, got almost nothing. So why was that one over-enthusiastic hickey the breaking point for him? I thought and thought until I could feel a headache beginning just between my eyes. Then I had a thought, a good one, it was almost insightful. I don't usually get to insightful without talking to smarter and wiser friends. But suddenly there it was, the truth, I think.
I walked over to him, and touched his shoulder. He jerked away from me. He'd never done that before. It scared me. I didn't want him that angry at me, ever. Micah was right, I had to fix this. But how?
"Nathaniel..." and it was as if saying his name opened the flood gates.
"I can't live like this. You give me an inch and then you take it away. Orgasm today, but only because of some metaphysical shit. You'll find an excuse not to do it again. You always do. He gets intercourse, and orgasm, and I get nothing. But you'd marked me, me, not him, me!" He was still staring at the cabinet, while he ranted louder and louder. "It was all I had. All I had!" He had to pause to take a breath and I rushed into that small silence.
"I'm sorry." I said fast before he could catch his breath.
"I don't know why I keep hoping..." He hesitated, stopped, then turned to me slowly. "What did you say?"
"I said, I'm sorry."
His face softened for a second, then hardened, and he narrowed his eyes at me. He looked positively suspicious. "What exactly are you sorry about?"
"I'm sorry you're upset."
"Oh..." and he was off again, ranting.
I touched his arm, and he didn't jerk away this time, but he kept listing all the things I wouldn't do for him, or with him. It might have been embarrassing if I hadn't been more worried about stopping the fight than almost anything else. "You have to go to work tonight," I said.
That stopped him because I think it made no sense, considering what we were talking about. "What? Yes, what about it?"
"If you didn't have to work tonight, I'd take you into the bedroom now and mark you, if that's what you wanted."
He pulled away again. "I don't want you to do it just because I'm mad. I want you to do it because you want to, because you'd enjoy it too."
God, he could be so demanding. I actually had to stop and count slowly in my head, because this whole dominant submission thing hit my buttons badly. I'd done enough research to understand that the world of dom and sub was a lot bigger and more varied than I'd believed. That there were people out there that considered my love of nails and teeth during sex and foreplay to be perverted. That even that was bondage to them. I liked teeth and nails during foreplay and sex, I really did. It wasn't pretend, and it wasn't just for Nathaniel's sake. Once I thought it through to that point, I wasn't angry with him. The anger came not from what he wanted, but from my discomfort that I would enjoy it. I knew that now, embracing it all the way through my head--well, I wasn't quite there yet.
I tried for honesty, with him, and myself. "I'd love the feel of your neck under my teeth. I'd love to sink my mouth around all the meaty parts of you, and bite down until I was afraid I'd hurt you." I felt heat rush up my face, and I had to close my eyes, to finish it. "I loved the feel of you in my mouth. I loved marking you, but I wasn't ready to admit it. And it still makes me uncomfortable, but it's not because it's you, it's because it just seems so...so, I don't know..."
"Perverted," Gregory suggested.
I opened my eyes to glare at him. "Don't help me, Gregory, okay."
"Do you mean what you just said?" Nathaniel asked, and his voice was oddly empty, as if he were trying very hard not to be angry or hopeful.
I met his face, and even his eyes were being careful. I hated to see him managing me that hard, as if he were afraid if he appeared too eager I'd run. And he might have been right. The thing was, I'd been doing my own version of what Richard was doing. I wasn't running from as much of myself, but if I hadn't had the arduer to push me, I might have been. If I could have pretended as cleanly as Richard could, I would have. That I could admit at least to myself. The arduer had made that impossible. But this wasn't about the arduer. This was about Nathaniel and me, and the happy little domestic arrangement that we had.
I'd waited too long to answer. Nathaniel's eyes filled with such sorrow, and he turned away. Oh, hell. I grabbed his face between my hands, and went up on tip-toes for that three inch height difference. I'd startled him so that he stumbled back into the cabinets. I plastered myself against the front of his body, and kissed him. I kissed him as if I were eating him. I set my teeth into that lovely lower lip and bit down, not enough to mark, but enough to draw a small sound from his throat. I leaned back from the kiss enough to see his eyes wide and unfocused. His hands gripped the cabinet behind him so tight his hands were mottled, as if he was afraid he'd fall.
I was breathing a little hard myself. My voice was shaky when I said, "That wasn't metaphysical shit. That was just me, just you."
His eyes closed, and a shudder ran through him from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. He swayed, and if I hadn't caught him around the waist, I think he'd have fallen. His arms slid around me, and he laid his head on my shoulder. He hadn't exactly fainted, but he was limp in my arms. I realized he was totally passive. I knew in that moment I could do anything I wanted to him. The thought didn't excite me, it scared me. I had enough trouble running my own life, I didn't want someone else's. But I kept my doubts to myself. He had enough of his own without me sharing.
"You promise," he whispered, "promise you'll mark me tonight."
He'd said the 'p' word. Shit. "I promise," I whispered it into the vanilla warmth of his hair.
He drew a deep breath that moved his bare chest up and down along my covered one. My body reacted to it, whether I wanted it to or not. Nipples hardening from the brush of him.
He drew back enough to see my face, and the look in his eyes was all male, and brought heat in a rush up my face again. It sped my pulse in my throat. He was submissive, but underneath all that was something that could have been very dangerous, and it was there in his eyes now, that promise of disaster.
"Come to the club tonight, see my act, please."
I shook my head. "I work tonight."
"Please." The please was more than just a word, it filled his eyes. He wanted me to see him on stage, surrounded by screaming fans. Maybe he wanted to impress on me that even if I didn't want him, others did. I guess I'd earned it, having my face rubbed in it.
"What time do you go on?"
He told me.
"I can catch some of your act, but probably not all."
He kissed me, hard and strangely chaste, and bounced towards the door. "I'll need to see if my costume is ready for tonight." He turned at the door with that eager look still on his face. "What if I turn furry, will you still mark me?"
"I don't do furry," I said.
He poked his lip out at me, like an imitation of a child.
"You are so damn pushy, you do know that, right?"
"I don't do furry."
"But if I'm not furry, you'll do it?" He asked it, and something about the way he said it made me suspicious, but I nodded. "Yes."
He vanished into the dimness of the living room. "I'll see you tonight at the club."
I yelled after him. "If there's another murder all bets are off. Murder takes precedence over watching my boyfriend strip." There was that word again, boyfriend.
I heard Nathaniel's laugh trail down the stairs. It reminded me of another man in my life, who'd left me with a laugh this morning. I was just amusing the hell out of everybody today.
--from Incubus Dreams by Laurell K. Hamilton, Copyright © 2004 Laurell K. Hamilton, published by the Berkley Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.