Actions

Work Header

Sa Sekhem Sahu

Chapter Text

The rhythmic ticking of the fan started to feel like it was imprinting on my consciousness, and my pointer finger tapped the same tempo against the mattress as I stared at the ceiling.

whir tic tic tic tic
whir tic tic tic tic
whir tic tic tic tic

The sheep staged a rebellion, refusing to come in from the pasture to be counted, and I kicked off my sheets with a frustrated huff when I realized sleep simply wasn't coming.

"Really? Nothing at all? I don't even get a nap?" I asked aloud to my empty bedroom.

The cliche box-store watercolor on the wall seemed to mock my restlessness and I stuck my tongue out at it.

Finally, I resolved to go do some quiet mediation, slipping on jean shorts over my panties and a long-sleeve cardigan over my tanktop.

I hoped that repetitive prayer would ease my excitement for the coming day and allow me to get some rest, knowing if it didn't, I had an awful lot of caffeine in my immediate future.

I padded to the kitchen and put a mug full of water into the microwave, stopping it a few seconds before zero so the loud beeping wouldn't interrupt the silence of the house and wake the other three people sleeping down the hall.

One cherry blossom chamomile tea bag later, I opened the glass sliding door and stepped out into the fresh night air.

The ocean breeze immediately tugged at the loose strands of hair not pulled into the mass of silver waves piled on top of my head, blowing them across my face as my eyes closed to breathe in the silence and scent of the water before I crossed to the railing and leaned my elbows against the top weather-worn plank.

There was something so consistently calming about the sound of the ocean at night. Everywhere there was coastline, the gentle whooshing sounded the same - over shells, over pink sand, over black sand, over rocks, it didn't matter. The rhythmic lap of the tide always seemed to make my all-consuming stresses seem trivial.

I closed my eyes and inhaled the deep salinity of the ocean air, humming at the way it mingled with the sweet flavors in my tea and starting to feel the pull of relaxation deep in my limbs.

"Sa Sekhem Sahu...Sa Sekhem Sahu..." I whispered, reaching out to the divine energy that animated me, whispering to my goddess, concentrating on turning the chaos of my scattered thoughts into the harmony of restful sleep.

I was made to be near the water - oceans, lakes, rivers, puddles, I didn't care as long as I could get my feet wet.

And I was considering heading down the steps and doing just that when a quiet voice interrupted my thoughts, making me gasp and jump as my silence was shattered.

"Can't sleep either?"

I turned, one hand over my thundering heart, which almost stopped dead when I realized who had spoken to me.

He was so much taller in person than I'd imagined, standing at the opposite end of the deck. His hair was loose, cascading in pitch black strands down his back over his tshirt, which seemed to almost glow white in comparison.

The beach house we were in was a single structure divided into two separate sides, with a low wall partitioning one half of the deck from the other so for all intents and purposes it was two independent halves that shared a roof.

I'd been out all afternoon laying in the sun with May, and no one had made so much as a peep from the other half, so I had just assumed it was empty, not having been rented out for the week.

But now, as I realized I was clearly wrong, I was having a hard time wrangling my inner fangirl into submission.

GODS BUT HE'S HANDSOME ISN'T HE. LOOK HOW TALL HE IS.

"Ah, no, not really," I mumbled, pulling my sweater closer around me and setting my mug firmly on the railing before it fell from my shaking hands and shattered across the deck.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he apologized, smiling over at me for a brief moment.

"Oh, no its okay. I just uhm... I didn't realize there was anyone else staying here. Did you get here tonight?"

He nodded, and turned back to the ocean.

Welp, so much for turning chaos into harmony. We're definitely wide the hell awake now...

I quietly grumbled at her that that was quite enough of her lip for one night.

"Yeah late though, they wouldn't let me sleep out on the beach. Threat of bodily harm or drowning or something like that," he joked.

I laughed, inhaling a shaky breath and smiling softly, trying to meet myself halfway between shrieking with delight and being overly coy.

"Well at least you can sleep, even if its not on the sand."

"Like a baby, clearly, as I'm out here in the middle of the night, same as you," he scoffed with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh...right..." We both looked out at the waves again, watching the white foam break up the endless blackness, stretching beyond the dark horizon.

"I'm Johannes, by the way," his head turned slightly towards me as the breeze floated his hair across his chest.

We know.

"Triste," I smiled, and my hand moved away from the rail, so used to being extended for a handshake that it automatically did it now, and by the time I caught myself, I didn't have any way to play it off.

"Shit. Sorry. Habit," I murmured, wanting to jump over the side of the deck and disappear as he laughed and grinned over at me.

The thought crossed my mind again with more gusto when he crossed to the low partition and extended his hand over it.

"Nice to meet you, Triste," he winked.

I felt like I was floating as my feet padded across the wooden beams of the deck floor. Did I imagine the electric shock that zinged up my arm as my hand touched his?

"I like your name," he said quietly after a moment, letting my hand go when he realized he was still holding onto it, "its...unusual. Sorry, ah, not in a bad way, I mean, not like weird unusual--"

"No, its fine, you just owe me a nickel."

"I what?"

"I've decided that I'm going to start charging five cents every time someone says my name is unusual or weird. Call it a side hustle."

He paused, then grinned, patting his pockets dramatically. "Do you take credit cards?"

"Uh-uh, we're a cash-only operation," I laughed, marveling internally at how comfortable I felt talking to him. My natural social anxiety seemed to melt away.  Perhaps my brief moment of meditation had done something after all.

"And how many nickels do you have so far?"

"Once you pay up? One. And about a thousand IOUs."

He threw his head back and laughed, and I wanted to melt into a puddle on the floor at the sound - rich and happy, filling the salty air with warmth.

"Well I'll have to get it to you later," he grinned, "so consider this another official IOU."

"Don't worry, I'll be here all week," I giggled, "and eventually I'll be a very rich woman off this, I promise."

"All week? Are you here on vacation?"

"Kinda sorta? I'm...I..." I paused, wondering if it was going to ruin everything if I revealed that I recognized him, but eventually settled on the truth.  If it ruined it, then it did, and I'd always remember meeting him here for a brief moment in the middle of the night.

"I'm working one of the bars at the festival tomorrow. Well both days, actually, for your set and Ghost's..." I tensed as I said it and started fidgeting with a loose thread on my sweater when he didn't immediately respond.

"You're a bartender?"

Ha! Didn't scare him away yet!

"Ah, not really. Well, I guess I am for a few days. But normally I'm a teacher."

"What do you teach?" He sat on the low wall, wide enough that I could do the same and cross my legs under me. I trotted back to grab my mug then sat across from him once more and took a sip of my tea.

"Alcohol."

I laughed when his head cocked to the side slightly with confusion and he blinked slowly.

"I definitely missed that class."

I found myself smiling sweetly at him as I laughed, enjoying his company and forgetting that he was famous and I was a silly fangirl.

"No, its not really a public school kind of program," I giggled, "I teach private classes about wine and stuff."

"And stuff?"

He glanced down at my mug and I held it out to him, still laughing.

"Just tea, I swear!"

He leaned down and sniffed it, making a playful narrow-eyed face at me like he was skeptical.

"But I can work magic too."

"Oh you can, can you? So you're a teacher, a professional collector of IOU's and you can do magic?" He indulged, leaning back on his hands and smiling at me.

My heart started to beat fractionally faster as the wind blew through his hair again.

"I can. See that door?" I nodded towards the door into the kitchen on my side of the deck.

"I do see that door."

"Its a magic portal. I take this mug full of tea through it, and I come back out with a cocktail!" 

He laughed loudly again, his broad mouth curving up at the corners as he shook his head at me.

"That's quite a trick for someone who doesn't look an awful lot like a witch."

"You don't have to be a witch to do magic, Johannes," I smiled softly at him, wishing for the briefest of moments that he could understand what I meant.

I curved my arm behind my back, touching the tattoo in the center through my sweater, though to him it just looked like I was brushing something away.

I wasn't a witch, but I also wasn't lying to him when I said I could do magic.

Tricks far better than pulling rabbits out of hats or making coins disappear into thin air.

I'd been born into my first life in Upper Egypt thirteen hundred and fifty years before the start of the common era and had entered into the Temple of Sekhmet, training as a novice then living as a Priestess with all the rites and privileges that that lifestyle entailed. When the eventual downfall came, we found that we were reborn each time we perished, as a reward for remaining loyal to our goddess.

Johannes looked curiously at me, a hint of a smile curving one side of his mouth up a little higher than the other.

"What if I tell you I don't believe you?"

I feigned offense, pressing a hand to my chest and dropping my jaw.

"Oh, Johannes I'm wounded! Would I lie to you?!"

"I don't know, would you?" He grinned, immediately liking the way that I teased him playfully and more than liking the way his name sounded leaving my lips.

"Fine, then, I'll prove it to you," I smirked.

I stood, and paused as I looked down at him, the sudden, potent urge to kiss him almost overwhelming, and my fingers twitched against my leg, wanting to card through his hair.

"Why are you looking at me like that," he said, internally fighting the exact same urge as me and equally as surprised by it.

"I'm trying to decipher what kind of cocktail to make...uh, make magically appear, I mean..."

No you're not.

He kept his mouth shut and I hummed, stretching up for a moment, lifting myself onto my toes and sighing as the tension further ebbed away.

Damned if he wasn't actually making me relax.

I was glad for the deep steadying breath, because when I glanced back down at him, he was looking up to meet my eyes with a very very interested expression.

I turned for the door with an exaggerated huff, "fine then, don't help. I'm good at surprises anyways!"

A hand on my arm whirled me back as I took another step and I was suddenly face to face with him. Well more face to chest, as I had to tilt my head to actually look him in the eye when he stood to his full height and towered over me.

One of his fingers brushed a stray lock of hair out of my face as he looked down at me, really looking carefully for the first time.

"I like surprises," he said softly, shocking himself too at the boldness of his words as his hand fell back to his side after whispering over my cheek.

"Uhm...b--...be right back then..." I mumbled, mentally bashing my palm into my forehead.

That was your chance, you idiot.

I slid the door shut behind me quietly, taking a deep, shaking breath and pinching the bridge of my nose, willing myself to just go with it for the night.

What was the harm in seeing where it went?

At the worst, I got to have a drink with one of my favorite musicians, at the best...

I shivered hard.

Don't even go there, Triste.

I pulled down a muddler and a shaker and paused at the fridge door, unsure what to fish out.

I settled on peach, rose, and basil, digging the fruit and herbs out of their drawers and glancing over my shoulder before swirling my wrist and producing a fat, lush apricot colored rose from thin air.

"Witch, my ass," I laughed softly to myself as I plucked off the best petals and dumped them into the glass with the peach slices and basil leaves. I muffled the quiet squelching sounds as much as possible, lifting the glass to my nose to inhale the heady aroma of the macerated petals.

Every time I was reborn, I had the same powers. All of ours were different, but in my first life, as a child in her temple, I'd always brought my goddess offerings of lotus blossoms and papyrus reeds, bound together with little strands of grass from the shallows of the river. She loved them as much as I did, and as a reward for my faithfulness and loyalty when her cult was dissolved, I was given the ability to summon at will the greener elements of nature - plants, shrubs, flowers, vines. It was rare that I had occasion to use my gift in the twenty first century, but instances like this one sent a wave of adoration through me, and as an offering, I closed my eyes, centering for a moment before weaving a perfect blue lotus blossom with my hands, and leaving it on the counter with a whispered prayer.

*Thank you, my daughter*

I broke out in sharp goosebumps at the sound of her voice inside my head.

"Mother," I whispered, pressing my forehead to the counter in acknowledgement, feeling her presence, letting it steel me with a quiet confidence.

I spooned my muddled concoction into a shaker, dumping a healthy amount of my favorite gin in too. One of the botanicals in it was the butterfly pea blossom, which made it a lovely royal blue except for when it was mixed with tonic water, when it turned pink.

I turned the shaker end over end quietly until I felt it ice up, opening then straining the drink into two glasses, finishing each with a dash of edible glitter that made the whole thing shimmer like the galaxy, and a floated rose petal on top.

I poured tonic water into two smaller glasses and took a deep breath before carrying all four outside.

Johannes had settled back into one of the couches on my side of the deck, his long arms stretched out over the back, his face tilted up to the sky, eyes closed.

I worried for a moment that he may have fallen asleep, but his head lifted when he heard the quiet whoosh of the sliding door.

I smiled softly, glad that he seemed to feel as relaxed as me, and crossed to sit next to him.

"Wait," I tucked my legs underneath me, facing him and sitting as close as I dared without actually touching him.

I motioned for him to slowly pour the tonic into his cocktail, and he mimicked my movements, laughing when the whole thing turned pink in his hand.

"Ta Da! Told you I can do magic," I grinned, clinking my drink against his and setting our empty tonic glasses on the deck floor.

"I'm sorry I doubted you," he laughed with me, looking approvingly down into his glass and glancing at me over the rim as he sniffed its contents.

I buzzed with anticipation as he took a sip. His eyes were a beautiful clear blue - that kind of bottomless color that you want to drown in - and they closed as he took another sip, humming his approval.

"Damn, that's good. What is this?" He swirled it slower, watching the glitter shimmer and sniffing at it again.

"Oh your basic gin and tonic."

"This is not a basic gin and tonic," he laughed, rolling his eyes at me.

"Hmm, then take a guess." I settled back against the cushions in my corner, letting my sweater fall open slowly, almost casually.

He adjusted his angle too so he could relax and look over at me, watching the moonlight illuminate the swells of my breasts and the way my lips curved up at the corner in a perfect, teasing little smirk.

"Teach me, Triste," he said lowly, countering my comment with a teasing one of his own and making me shiver hard in the process. He cocked an eyebrow at me, seeing the movement for what it was and I buried my face in my glass, taking a big drink.

Somehow, as electrically aware of him as I was, I missed the subtle way his stare traveled up the lengths of my legs, lighting over my waist, my delicate fingers wrapped around my glass, the exposed tops of my breasts, moving with every breath of sea air I took.

When his gaze met mine there was heat in it, and I involuntarily bit my lip, pressing my legs a little tighter together.

"Do you want me to just tell you?"

Johannes shook his head slowly.

"No, I want you to teach me," he let his gaze lock onto mine, keeping my eyes trained on him as he bit his bottom lip a little too.

The breeze off the ocean blew my bangs into my face and made my light floral scent that I'd always naturally had waft towards him. I nearly missed the tiny sharp exhale as it swirled around him, igniting his senses.

"Its only three steps really...the first one is always to look," I said, glancing up from my fingers knotted into the fabric of my sweater.

I was drowning in his stare and somehow also burning from the heat it held.

"I'm looking..." and he was, just not at his glass.

He wasn't smirking, he wasn't grinning, he was simply looking, watching, learning every detail of my face and my voice, unable to stop himself.

"It can tell you all sorts of stuff about...about what to expect."

"Mmhm?"

"And...and then you smell it. N-not like a super deep inhale," I realized I was starting to babble but was powerless to stop it. My nerves were back, and they had returned with a vengeance.

"I-its more like just trying to get familiar with it, you know? Just looking for things that you recognize - flowers, fruits, spices, that kind of thing, and, and..."

He raised both eyebrows at me. "Are you okay?"

"Ahem. Yes. Sorry, yeah. All good," I took another big drink, feeling the gin starting to do its thing and touching a hand to my cheek, trying to figure out if the warmth was from the booze or me blushing.

He smiled, seeing that I was lying and was obviously nervous, and wanting me to go back to being teasing and relaxed.

Johannes sniffed cautiously at his glass, swirling what was left around so the ice clinked against the sides.

"Tell me what you're experiencing," I said softly, watching his mind start to work, running through different scents, trying to pin the familiar one. I instantly loved the little lines that ran between his eyebrows when he was concentrating, staring at the far wall of the house.

He glanced at me again.

"Roses."

"Well, that was the easy one."

He sniffed again, "fruit..."

"What kind of fruit?"

"Nektarin...ah..."

"Same in English," I smiled, slightly taken aback by how much I liked the sound of him speaking to me in a language I didn't know.

"Do you speak Swedish?" He asked with both eyebrows raised.

"Uh-uh, its French or English with me, sorry pet," I giggled, feeling tipsy and a little more playful as I relaxed once more.

He gave me another once over, waiting for my answer.

"Oh, no sorry, nectarine isn't right," I teased.

He made a dramatic motion, pressing the back of his hand to his forehead, "I think I need extra help after class," he laughed.

"Give it another try, you were close," I urged, scooting a little closer to him.

The couch was wide, more like a daybed than a couch really, designed to lounge comfortably under the lasting rays of the southern sun.

I loved watching people put real thought into what they were tasting or smelling, picking apart their sensory memory and trying to land on the right thing.

"Peach?" He guessed, without taking his eyes off me, and I nodded with a grin.

"Very good. So roses, peaches...what else? There's one more thing."

"I don't know," he said, "tell me."

I let a sigh full of mock-resignation slide from my lips, "I think that's cheating...guess you'll have to try harder on the next one then."

I stood, reaching a hand out for his now-empty glass with a little smirk.

"Ready for round two?"

He considered me for a moment, not bothering to hide the way his eyes roamed over me again, and he stood slowly, looming over me.

"What was the last step."

My brain was stalling out at how intimidating and domineering and just fucking tall he was.

"S-sorry?"

"The last step." he moved closer towards me, until our bodies were so near one another I could feel his heat, "tell me what it is."

"T-taste," I stuttered on a whisper.

"Taste," he repeated, his voice low and raspy, still a whisper but full of something wild as he tipped one knuckle under my chin, keeping my face turned up to him.

His mouth brushed mine at the exact same moment that my lips opened fractionally in a little gasp, making them settle together in an impossibly delicious way against each other.

Johannes kept it brief, trying to control the sudden overwhelming urge to pick me up and collapse backwards onto the couch with me on top of him as his brain went haywire.

"Hmmm...rosemary?" He breathed into my lips when he pulled back, still keeping his knuckle under my chin, neither of us opening our eyes yet.

"Uh-uh," I whispered, "try again."

Two giant hands cupped my cheeks and he kissed me again, meeting me as readily as I met him, and moving his lips to pull me into his kiss.

I couldn't stop the sigh of pleasure that left me any more than I could stop the changing of the seasons, and my back arched as his tongue gently traced my lower lip, asking permission.

I tangled my fingers into his hair, drowning in the softness, breathing a little gasp as his tongue slid between my opened lips, gliding against mine as his arm hooked low around my waist, pulling me close, still cupping my cheek with the other hand.

I'd never been kissed my a stranger and found the entire experience perfectly intoxicating as I pressed closer, wanting more of the softness of his mouth, tasting faintly like the quinine in his drink.

He pulled back with a soft groan, pressing his forehead down against mine and clenching his jaw tight as he kept his eyes closed and listened to the sound of my ragged breathing as my fingers slipped out of his hair, resting against his chest.

His heart was beating faster than normal.

"Its basil."

I opened my eyes and blinked hard up at him when he said it, reading the telltale smirk that spread across his face as his hand lingered hotly at my waist for another moment, giving it a little squeeze before disappearing.

"Did...did y--did you know that the whole time?"

He threw his head back laughing, "possibly."

Johannes smiled down at me, as I put a hand on my hip and quipped back with a sassy smirk, "if you wanted to kiss me, you just had to ask, Johannes."

I dramatically high-fived my inner fangirl at both my snark and the way I all but purred his name, but we both started to cower at the look that crossed his face and I felt myself clench as I took one step back, then another, each one followed by him as he started to stalk me like prey.

"Triste," he said my name on a soft growl that was so nearly my undoing, taking another step and smirking when I backed myself straight into the wall rather than the door like I'd meant to.

He moved right up against me, daring to be bold, to risk rejection if I didn't want more.

"Will you let me kiss you again," he whispered, his lips hovering over mine as he leaned in. I immediately stood up on my toes to close the distance between our mouths and was greeted by a low moan from him that almost made my knees buckle as his hips pressed forward against mine, pinning me to the wall as his fingers curled against the sideboards of the house, searching for something to grip that wasn't my skin.

Our tongues danced along each other, tangling and fighting for dominance as he started pressing me harder into the wall until I could feel the way his body was reacting.

He finally pulled back with a gasp, fighting himself for control, challenging the inner voice that was telling him to tear my sweater back off my shoulders and run his hands all over my skin.

We breathed for a moment, coming back to reality, getting acquainted with the new side of the line we'd just hurtled ourselves over together.

"You taste nice," he whispered, leaning his head down to me again, gently parting my lips with his tongue, tasting me purposefully, more slowly, making me whimper.

I reached back up for more, hardly able to believe the current situation I was in, but also unable to stop.

"Mmm, sorry, do you want any help with glasses?" He asked between kisses as he pressed me back into the wall gently and the glass cups in my hand clinked against the siding.

The small part of my brain not completely drowning in lust and impossible want was thankful that he didn't make any assumptions about where this was going.

I'd always imagined that he was sweet and reserved, and he was proving to be no different; the cheeky streak was unexpected, but I loved it.

I touched his face softly, loving the shaky little laugh I got in response.

"No, I've got it thank you. Are--are you going back to bed?"

He shook his head maybe a little too quick.

"I--I mean, I don't want to keep you up if you're tired," he backtracked, "if I'm distracting you from meditating or whatever, I'm sorry, I--" I smiled softly as he babbled, finally touching a finger to his lips.

"I think I'm wide awake now."

"Me too," he smiled shyly as he took a step back, letting me make my break for the door, and watching as I opened it with a shaking hand.

"Be right back," I said over my shoulder as even as I could manage.

I disappeared inside and collapsed back against the kitchen wall just as Johannes collapsed backwards into the couch cushions, throwing an arm over his eyes and trying to will the beginnings of his erection away.

He could feel the effects of the first cocktail, but it was only serving to make him more adventurous, to stoke the low fire that he was already feeling for me.

I tasted sweet, like fruit, and my lips...he took a deep breath. They were just as soft as he'd wondered if they would be.

None of those thoughts helped make his half-hard cock anything less, so he just shifted and pulled a pillow over his lap, twining his fingers into the fringe and thinking about tomorrow as he listened to the lapping of the waves.

I immediately shed my sweater and dropped it on the floor, feeling more than hot and bothered by those kisses - damn, but he did know what to do with that tongue.

I shivered hard, rubbing both hands over my face as I realized that in addition to being completely flushed, I was also very very wet.

"Christ," I mumbled, wondering if I should go change but not wanting to take a risk and stay inside too long, lest he think that I was escaping for good.

I tried to pick recognizable flavors again, sticking with gin after a moment's consideration.

We both were going to have a long day tomorrow as it was, and mixing liquors didn't seem like a wise addition to that already daunting prospect.

I quickly washed my used tools, drying them and loading my glass with rosemary leaves, lavender buds, and a splash of gin, dancing around kitchen silently on my toes to the music in my head as I macerated them with a wooden muddler.

I dumped the contents into my clean shaker, giving it a squirt of lavender simple syrup, a splash of grapefruit juice, and a healthy pour of gin before turning it over, end over end, quietly.

One giant square icecube sat in the center of each glass, and I strained the mixture over top, appreciating my handiwork and pausing by the door as I looked at the material on the floor.

Sweater?

I bit my lip as I remembered the way he moaned at the feel of his tongue slipping into my mouth.

No sweater.

For good measure, I set both glasses down and shook my hair out of the bun on top of my head, letting my silver curls fall down over one shoulder, standing out starkly against my black tanktop.

I took a deep breath and stepped back outside, shutting the door with my foot before turning to him. He was watching me with that little smile again, and I felt perfectly drawn towards him, like I was on a leash.

I settled closer to him than before, so my knee touched his thigh when I curled my feet underneath me again and handed him his glass.

"Hey," I smiled.

"Hey...I wasn't sure you were going to come back out," he smiled softly too.

"Yeah? How long were you going to wait?" I clinked the rim of my glass against his.

"All night," he said lowly, making me almost choke as I sipped my drink and caught the flash of desire on his face.

Gods but there's a lot of gin in this.

We stared at each other and I could feel the tension ramping up, like one of us was turning a volume dial.

"Are you going to give me honest guesses this time?" I teased, trying to alleviate some of the intense heat of his stare.

He lifted the glass to his nose without looking away from me.

"Grapefruit and Lavender."

I nodded, thoroughly impressed. Clearly he'd been exaggerating his ignorance before, and I got a little thrill at the idea that maybe he'd done it to get to the point where he could make his move.

"And?" I asked with a cocky little smirk, "there's always a third."

He sipped it, grinning at me with a little shake of his head as he laughed.

"Rosemary."

I clapped and he made a mock bow, closing his eyes and humming as he took another, larger sip.

"Woah," he blinked hard, pausing for a moment, "gin...lotta gin...are you trying to get me drunk so you can take advantage of me, Miss Triste?"

I settled back against the cushions comfortably, quirking an eyebrow at him over the rim of my glass.

Where was this confidence coming from?

"Do you want me to?"

He snorted a laugh, but didn't reply otherwise, though his brain was screaming one word on repeat.

We sipped in silence for several minutes, and I laid my head back, looking up at the stars. They were hard to come by usually with all the lights from the beach town, and this night sky was no different from the countless others I'd seen - a dull, matte black with just the moon and Venus, everything else too obscured to shine.

Johannes was surveying me as I drifted away with my scattered thoughts, watching me stretch one leg out at a lazy angle, resting my toes on the deck floor, and leaving the other tucked underneath as my hands absentmindedly twirled my glass, tilting it this way and that to make the ice cube melt and water it down.

He moved a little closer, mimicking my position, feeling his want for me growing.

Why?
I was a perfect stranger.

"What are you thinking about?" He asked softly, drawing my attention as I lifted my head up for a moment, and laid it down against the back of the couch sideways, so I could look at him.

"How strange life is sometimes. You?"

One corner of his mouth twisted up into a little smile as he chuckled, looking down into his glass. It was like he kept volleying back and forth between wanting to push things further and wanting to stay out all night just talking and learning everything about me.

"I won't argue with you on that."

I hummed, looking back up with a sigh.

"So you're going to the festival tomorrow? Did you go today?"

"Mmm, working," I corrected, taking another sip of my drink, "no, I took today to just..." I gestured around us, "be here."

"And you're serving these?" He swirled his glass, receiving a nod from me.

"Well I imagine you'll be very popular."

It wasn't a big festival like the European ones, and there were only three places to get drinks. In order to keep the lines moving, the organizers separated the beer and wine and cocktails.

"We'll see - they're strong, but they're expensive," I laughed, smiling over at him, letting our gazes lock again.

I wondered where he imagined this going, if anywhere. I certainly had no idea, but I'd committed myself to just going with the flow, so I tried not to make plans in my head.

"Its just these two?"

"No," I stretched out both legs, flexing my muscles, and taking a deep breath at the pleasant stretch, "we've got two more. The event staff said they want choices, so choices they're getting. Plus there are strange creatures out there that really really hate gin," I joked.

"We?"

"Hmm? Oh. Yeah...uhm..."

Great.
Big mouth 1, getting laid 0.

"My friend May is going to help me. Well her and Van. They don't have insomnia though, so they're all probably dead to the world. And I'm sure Mat's reading if he's up...though I doubt he is either."

I didn't miss the way his face shifted into an impassive mask as he hummed noncommittally.

After a moment of not saying anything and me mentally bashing the heel of my hand into my face, he spoke again.

"This is all a lot of work I imagine...getting all the stuff ready, I mean," he shook his glass.

"Ugh," I groaned, "gods, you have no idea. That's probably what I should be doing right now," I said on a laugh, swallowing the rest of my drink as he did the same, "but you're very distracting, do you know that?"

I didn't want him to get the wrong impression about my situation, and I was trying to figure out how to tactfully tell him that Matt was gay as the day was long and Van was an asshole without sounding like I was expecting him to make some sort of move on me again.

I'd meant my comment as a harmless joke, but the look he gave me almost set me on fire as he slowly turned his face towards me, pulling his hair down over one shoulder.

"Am I," he said lowly, setting his glass down on the deck and shifting, suddenly moving closer, looming over me, one hand on the back of the couch behind my head, the other on the armrest, effectively blocking me in.

He dropped his lips closer, not touching me, but speaking lowly, sending a hard shiver through my entire body and drawing a tiny gasp from my lips.

"Perhaps I should let you get back to it, then...so much to do, Triste..."

I tried not to pant for breath, but my brain felt like it wasn't getting enough oxygen and my fingers involuntarily gripped the cushion I was angled against, my back pressed into the pillows as I found myself laying back underneath him.

"Or..." he said just as softly, looking down at me, watching my pupils dilate and my lips part in anticipation.

"Or?" I whispered.

Johannes leaned in further, his lips almost touching mine, the ends of his hair trailing over my breast.

"Something entirely less productive?" he breathed, wanting my consent before he lost control altogether.

"Yes," I gasped, grabbing the front of his shirt and yanking him down to me.

His tongue immediately filled my mouth as our lips crashed together and his hair fell around us like a curtain, silky and dark like raven feathers as he shifted and settled between my legs, kissing me deeply, slowly, making me whimper under the intensity of his attentions.

I lost all track of time, of everything really that wasn't him slowly lowering his hips into me, pressing against my core, seeking friction as he got harder with each burning kiss.

My fingers slid through his hair, down his shoulders to his torso, running my palms down his back until they reached the hem of his shirt, already pushed up a few inches by the angle that he was holding himself up on.

I started working it up his back, touching his skin, trying desperately to hold myself back and not give into the familiar burning need just yet.

As temple priestesses, we'd communed with Sekhmet through sex rites, using the sudden endorphin rush that accompanied an orgasm to thrust ourselves into her divine presence. As a result, even in our lives millennia later, we had a sex drive which could politely be called ravenous when triggered.

Johannes' lips left mine as he pushed himself up, tearing his shirt off over his head and tossing it over the back of the couch before looking down at me, breathing heavily but running just the pads of his fingers on his right hand up the outside of my thigh, still spread apart to accommodate his hips.

He growled lowly, breathing through parted lips as his eyes rested on my breasts and those fingers still worked a slow, torturous trail up my side, so soft they almost tickled my skin.

They danced over the side of my breast, just missing my nipple which I was sure was clearly visible, and landing at the strap of my tanktop.

Johannes teasingly hooked one finger underneath and pulled, letting it snap back against my skin.

"Fairs fair," he said lowly.

Everything was on fire, and I was doing my best not to explode into an atomic bomb of an orgasm just from his bare caresses as I sat up to meet him and his hands immediately dropped to the bottom hem, working the material up my torso, running the heated flats of both palms over my skin, exploring, touching the goosebumps that raised under his hands.

Him thumbs worked over the bottoms of my breasts as he lifted the soft cotton further, and a low, sharp exhale left his lips as he finally just gave in and pulled it off over my upstretched arms.

His eyes roamed over my body, my exposed breasts, my skin pale and almost blue in the lingering light of the moon.

But Johannes paused when he saw my tattoo - six symbols in a line a couple inches below my left breast.

Five alchemical and one grucifix.

"I expect he would like knowing you have that if he ever found out," he chuckled, and I was thinking about squeaking something like 'don't you fucking dare' when his lips crashed against mine and he threw himself down on top of me, moaning heavily into my mouth and grinding his hips against my core, drawing a sharp cry from me as I felt his erection.

My fingers dug into the skin of his back, soft and smooth like silk as he started pressing heated open-mouthed kisses down my jaw and my neck, slowly slipping his knees towards the floor the further he went, pulling me so my hips were at the edge of the couch as his tongue swirled around each of my nipples.

I gasped his name as my fingers tangled into his hair and he flicked his tongue over each one, glancing up at me and catching my gaze.

Giving me an idea of what was coming.

My fingers clamped shut over my mouth, trying to keep in mind that there were three other people sleeping just inside as my other hand gripped his hair down to the roots, holding him to me as he got rougher and teethed at each nipple.

"Your skin smells like lavender," he murmured, trailing kisses down my torso, and running his nose in a sensual line back up, chuckling lowly when he watched the goosebumps break out over my skin as he breathed softly across it.

"I-its my--my favorite f-flower," I stammered, and he pulled back with a hint of concern furrowing his forehead.

"You're stuttering...if you don't want to--"

I shook my head with a breathless laugh, "I do, you just make me nervous..."

"Don't be nervous, Triste," he said softly with a reassuring smile as he ran his hands up and down my sides, reaching up to press another kiss to my lips, "we don't have to do anything you don't want to..."

"Gods, I do though," I moaned, sitting up to follow his movement and kiss him hard, pushing his hair back from his face with both hands as he settled on his knees on the deck floor and wrapped his arms around my back, running his hands all over my bare skin and sliding me further to the edge, closer to him, so my legs squeezed both sides of his hips.

He pulled back with a low moan full of desire as his index finger traced my raised tattoo in the center of my back and he gave me a questioning look.

"Is this a brand?"

I shook my head, "tell you later," and I surged forward again, anchoring his lips to mine, tasting every part of his mouth, slowly, carefully until I was crazed with need.

"Ohh, gods, lay back," he groaned into my lips, cupping both breasts and rubbing the pads of his thumbs across my nipples.

I followed his instruction, leaving my hips where they were and settling my shoulders back into the pillows, propped up at an angle so I could watch him.

"You look so good like this," he smiled tenderly at me, running his hands up my shins to my thighs, "you're like a painting..."

My mouth twitched with a smile that quickly devolved into a gasp as his deft fingers smoothly pulled the button of my shorts, slipping the denim over my hips, down my legs, and off over my feet, never dropping my gaze.

Johannes dipped his face, kissing up the top of my thigh, feeling the way my muscles quivered and twitched under his lips and breathing a low laugh as he repeated on the other side, inhaling my scent, smirking up at me when he reached my core.

"Well well well," he purred, smoothing his hands over the navy blue lace band covering my hips, "aren't these pretty..."

The look he shot me was intimidating and his eyes dropped to the base of my throat, watching my pulse hammer.

"Almost too pretty to take off..."

I felt like a lit firework as his tongue slithered from his mouth, sliding forward from that menacing grin as he bowed his head forward, keeping eye contact with me as he ran just the tip of it over my clit, lightly flicking at me and I stifled my shriek into my hair when his whole mouth covered me, running the flat of his tongue over the delicate material, tasting me through the soaked lace, and pressing his forehead hard against my hip when he pulled back, almost as overwhelmed as I was.

"Almost," he growled to himself, not giving me any time to respond before dipping his head and gently taking the lace between his teeth, sitting back and pulling it away from my body.

The way his hair framed his face and his lust reached his eyes sent another surge of wetness between my legs, and I started to feel like I might not survive what was coming as I gasped for air.

He paused halfway down my thighs, looking up at me and silently drinking me in before using his hands to slide my panties down and off my feet.

His heartbeat was thundering in his ears.

Why was he so drawn to me?
He'd met thousands of Americans just like me.
But not just like me at all.
What was it?
That draw, that connection, the overwhelming need he had to touch me and feel my hands on him.

He wanted my orgasm more than he wanted his own.

"Triste," he moaned lowly, unable to wait any longer as he leaned forward and buried his face in my pussy, not caring if he was putting on enough of a show for me or not, running his tongue through my folds and crying out against me as my flavor exploded across his senses.

I was more intoxicating than the drinks, and Johannes found himself becoming more and more desperate for my release, using every trick he knew to drive my pleasure further, the friction of his cock against his pants almost too much to stand.

He wrapped his arms underneath my legs, tilting my hips up a little and spreading me open with his hands and he rapidly flicked his tongue over my exposed clit, growling as my hips both bucked into his face and shrank from the potent sensation.

"Johannes, Johannes Johannes Johannes," I cried out his name over and over again, pulling my hair across my mouth to stifle the sobs of pleasure that I could no longer control.

His mouth was perfect and I pushed harder into his face, chasing my high, sinking into the pleasure that threatened to overwhelm me.

The sound of his name leaving my lips as my eyes screwed shut drove him crazy and he plunged his tongue inside me, growling as my back arched off the cushions, my mouth open in a silent scream, smothering him into my core, needing everything he was giving me.

His mouth covered me, licking and sucking at my folds, my clit, drowning in my taste and my warmth, feeling like he could happily spend the rest of the night between my legs, sleep be damned.

"Ahh, gods don't stop," I begged, rapidly approaching the edge, my release so close I could taste it as my fingers dove into his hair, the soft strands spilling over my thighs making everything more erotic.

He slid one long finger into my pussy, effectively shattering me as my body went taut with the potent heat of my orgasm and he all but snarled as he watching my pleasure unfold, blooming through my body like a lily unfolding in the sun, latching his lips around my clit and sucking hard as his finger fucked into me, curling to explore where I was most sensitive.

Black spots danced at the corners of my vision as I gasped for breath and he finally tore his mouth away from me and slowly pulled his finger out, listening to the sounds it created slipping out of my pussy.

My whole body was trembling when he lifted off the floor and gathered me up into his arms, pulling me to stand on my feet against his body as he kissed me slowly, in an almost familiar way now, the taste of me still on his lips, his face wet with my arousal.

I hooked both arms up around his neck, half to hold him closer and half to hold myself up as his hands roamed down over my hips, gripping my ass hard as he pushed his tongue further into my mouth.

"All of you tastes nice," he murmured on a low chuckle and I laughed breathlessly, still shaking with the endorphin rush.

We stayed that way as long as we could, until my body started to flare up again and I met his gaze as I worked his pants down off his hips, biting my lip as I glanced down at his generous arousal.

"Fairs fair," I smirked, pushing him hard until he fell back onto the couch with a surprised look.

I dropped slowly to my knees, mimicking his position just a few minutes earlier, running my hands up his thighs and feeling myself start to drip at the prospect of tasting him too.

To say Johannes was proportionate to his height would have been an understatement, and he watched me bite my lip as his cock twitched.

His breaths were uneven, shallow as my head bent, my hair spilling down over his hips, the soft floral scent of my shampoo overwhelming his senses.

"Triste," he moaned softly, threading his fingers through my hair, throwing his head back and crying out into the early dawn light as I teased my tongue against the head of his cock.

He panted through parted lips, eyes laser focused on every movement I made as I wrapped my lips around him and played with varying degrees of pressure.

"Oh fuck," he gasped, "oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck," his hand on my head pressed fractionally harder, and I let him push me down onto his cock, taking him back into my throat and loving the raspy moan I got that was his surprise that I could take all of him.

I closed my eyes and concentrated for a moment, doing my best not to choke as I held him there and then pulled back, moaning softly at his taste and bobbing my head slowly up and down.

He pulsed against my tongue.

"Ahh, please, Triste," he pulled sharply on my hair until I released him, licking my lips slowly with a little grin when I looked up at him and he let go of me.

The look on his face told me everything he wanted.

"Please," he whispered again, sitting up to kiss me hard, letting the taste of each other mingle between our mouths.

His hands gripped both my hips, so large that they wrapped around to my back, and he pulled until I rose and settled down into his lap, one leg on either side of his hips.

His tongue teased against mine and I cupped his face with both hands, angling it up as I dominated our kiss and lowered my hips to slick back against him.

I was all but panting with need, the thought of him inside me sending wave after wave of wetness to my entrance, and I braced my hands back against his knees, keeping up the slow rock of my hips against his as he lavished both my nipples with heated attention and my head fell back with a pleasured gasp.

I tugged hard on his hair and he released my nipple with a wet pop before devouring my mouth, growling lowly into me as I started to slide harder against him.

"So wet," he murmured into my lips, drinking down every sharp gasp and sound of pleasure as he gripped both my hips, setting our rhythm.

"Please," it was my turn to gasp the word into his lips, nearly overcome with pleasure already as one of his hands reached around to squeeze my ass.

"Whenever you're ready, little witch," he breathed.

"Ohh, that mouth is going to get you into trouble," I nipped at his bottom lip, still slicking back and forth against his cock, letting him feel how ready I was for him.

"I didn't hear you complaining when my mouth was getting into you," he growled back, sucking a mark into the base of my neck, moving my hips fractionally faster as I braced one hand against the back of the couch, "I'm sorry, unless those were complaints you were screaming, I was a little distracted."

His smirk was cocky, and I looked down at him with one of my own as I shook my head a little.

"Speaking of," I whispered down into his ear, quickly shifting back and letting him split me open as I slammed my hips back onto him.

His cry of mingled pleasure and surprise was so sharp, his voice almost gave out as his fingers dug into my ass, pushing me down harder as he yelled and gasped at the sudden overwhelming tightness and heat that surrounded him, grinding his forehead into my collarbone.

"Oh fuck, oh you feel so good," he gasped, rolling his hips into me as I fought for breath, feeling almost torn apart.

Our lips crashed together, my fingers tangled into his hair and his in mine, both of us trying to share oxygen and breathe, but unable to stop the movement of our bodies, the desperate search for more friction, more contact, until finally I couldn't take it anymore and lifted off him before taking him back inside me and gasping at the sensation of being filled again.

The sun was barely approaching, turning the black ocean waters gray with the anticipation of dawn.

Our sounds were muffled into each others lips, and I felt like I couldn't stop kissing him, couldn't stop feeling his tongue sliding against mine as he started working my hips on and off his cock.

"So fucking tight," he moaned, rolling his hips up to meet me every time, trying to last longer, to feel me longer, to make me come over and over again, but unable to withstand the overwhelming waves of pleasure wracking his entire body to the point that his toes were curling against the deck floor.

"You...you need to come again," he moaned, slipping one hand between our bodies to rub his middle finger against my clit, "come for me again..."

An exhausted final cry left my lips at I buckled forward against him, my pussy almost suffocating him as I came hard, dragging him with me, forcing my name to fall from his lips as he fought for each gasping breath, moving my hips up and down for me now that I was incapable.

I collapsed against his chest, wrapping my arms around his neck as his snaked around my waist and he held me to him tightly, silently, absorbing my warmth and inhaling my scent as we caught our breath together, processing what just happened.

I kissed his cheek softly, trailing my lips down to his, feeling sated and overwhelmed and exhausted as he kissed me slowly, no longer urgent or filled with a need he didn't understand.

"Hi there," he smiled, meeting my eyes.

"Hi," I whispered back.

"You're shaking...are...are you okay?" His concern touched me, and I couldn't help but kiss him softly again as I nodded.

"Yeah...I am, I think."

"That was very convincing," he teased.

"I am, I promise," I laughed softly, "I just...didn't expect that."

"What, you didn't expect to fuck a perfect stranger in the middle of the night?" his tone was only half joking.

"Well no, I mean...I mean no...I was just planning on coming out and meditating and...ah..."

I glanced down at where we were still joined.

He shifted me off his lap and groaned lowly as he slid out of me.

"If it makes you feel any better," he said, collapsing onto his side and stretching his legs out along the couch with another pleasured groan before beckoning to me, "I'm glad I rudely interrupted your meditations."

I took pause, looking at his outstretched hand for a moment, before glancing back to his face, chewing my lip to hide my smile.

"I see that look for exactly what it is, Miss Triste, get down here."

I settled next to him, letting him adjust us until he was satisfied that enough of my skin was touching his and our bodies were comfortably intertwined.

My brain had a hard time keeping up - I hadn't expected any of what had just happened, and now on top of it all, I was on the receiving end of one of the tenderest looks I'd ever seen one human give another.

Johannes seemed to be studying my face, the soft curve of his lips drawing me in repeatedly, like I couldn't stop myself from kissing him.

"You don't have to stay," I whispered, hoping like hell that he would though, "i-if its weird, or whatever."

"It is weird," he laughed softly, reaching over to kiss me again and lingering this time, letting his tongue separate my lips slowly until I was pressing closer to him.

"But you know what else is weird?"

"Hmm," I hummed.

"You. And me, also, but mostly you," he teased, chuckling at the blush that flamed my cheeks, and running a reassuring hand down my side.

His skin was softer than I'd ever imagined, and he seemed to radiate warmth as the cool night air wrapped around us.

"But good weird. Interesting weird."

"I think that we're up to a quarter now," I giggled, and he rolled his eyes with a laugh, shaking his head down at me and pausing again with a contented sigh.

"You're so pretty," he murmured, using the tip of one finger to brush my hair back off my face before dropping his hand down the center of my back, spreading his fingers wide to feel as much of my skin as possible, and to pull me closer.

"Will you tell me what this is now," he said between kisses, brushing his fingers over the lines of my tattoo.

"Its a cartouche. A name."

"Whose name?"

I smiled at him, propping my face up on my hand as I leaned up on my elbow and he laid back flat so he was looking up at me.

"You're not going to tell me, are you."

I giggled quietly and shook my head, letting him pull me into his arms as he adjusted us so I was nestled comfortably against his chest and one of my legs slipped through his involuntarily.

"Uh-uh. But if you figure it out, I'll tell you why I have it," I chuckled.

"Such a little tease," he growled with a hot, lingering kiss, a suggestion of more that was only ruined by my gaping yawn.

"Oh my gods. Fuck, I'm so sorry," I covered my face with my hands, pressing them there tighter when I felt his body shaking with a silent laugh.

"I'm, ah, actually kind of thankful, because I'm fucking exhausted," he chuckled.

I took it the wrong way and tried not to sound sad when I shifted and sat up, telling him that I should let him get back to bed anyhow, and it was almost morning.

As soon as I stood, there was a hand on my arm, pulling me back down, yanking me against him, two eyes staring into mine without any reservation or worry about the way his thoughts would sound out loud.

"No no no, don't go...please...stay with me..."

The dawn was announcing itself more fully by the time he pressed his lips to my forehead and drew me closer, wrapping me up in his embrace and thanking all the gods he could think of that insomnia was a real thing.

Chapter Text

I awoke hours later under the sun, slowly coming to consciousness with a thought tickling my brain that I'd just had the most delicious dream.

But as my awareness manifested more fully, I felt the warm body pressed against mine, felt the soft exhales of his even breathing, and my eyes snapped wide open.

woah.

Johannes was still fast asleep, one arm around my back holding me to his body, one arm low over my hips, a tiny natural curve at the corner of his lips as he rested.

I watched him sleep for a moment, wondering what language he dreamed in, but my blissful wonderings were rudely cut short by a curt "ah-ahem" just behind my back.

I turned slowly, like I'd been caught, and May was standing, hands on hips with a barely-contained smile, cocking one eyebrow down at me.

"Allo," she said softly, "nuit occupee?"

I pressed one finger to my lips, looking back at Johannes to make sure she hadn't woken him.

She shot me a knowing look and a little wink, scooping up our discarded glasses and bending to drop a tiny kiss to the side of my head before retreating back inside to wrangle the boys for the day.

Johannes inhaled deeply, humming a little as he felt me there still, but keeping his eyes closed.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up," I apologized softly.

"Did I ruin your escape?"

"Hardly," I giggled, shifting my leg a tiny bit to remind him that it was still thoroughly trapped between his.

"Mmm, good morning," he finally opened his eyes and smiled sleepily at me, leaning forward to touch his lips to mine.

"Hiya," I breathed, chasing his kiss for just a little more, unable to help myself.

"You know," he murmured, not pulling back but rather talking against my lips inbetween kisses, "in my country we say good morning in a different way..."

"I know for a fact that you're lying, but do tell me, Johannes, how do these strange foreign people in your country say good morning," I giggled, loving that he woke up just as playful as I did.

For someone with bad insomnia, I was a morning person through and through. The first chirp of the first bird always made me feel rejuvenated, eager to get up and shake off the darkness.

"Well, first you take off all your clothes. But...oh..." he glanced down with a cheeky smirk, "well I guess we'll skip that part."

"Mmhm?" I smiled indulgently after rolling my eyes, "are we going to skip through the flowers next?"

He snorted a laugh, "no there's no frolicking until the third step. Don't get ahead of me now, Triste."

"Sorry, sorry, and whats step number two?" I asked, gently tugging at his bottom lip with my teeth.

"Mmm...this."

His arm held me against his body like a steel trap as he rolled us over and off the couch. We weren't very high off the ground to begin with, and he largely broke our fall, but didn't seem to mind much, as his entire brain was bent on one thing.

The wood of the deck was warm underneath my back, and the body pressing me hard into it was equally so, making me feel like I was surrounded by fire.

Not that I had a chance to voice that thought, as his tongue immediately parted my lips and stroked against mine, tearing a gasp from me as he growled with pleasure and settled between my legs, pressing his cock against my core so hard I actually whimpered.

His intensity took me by surprise, a part of him knowing we were almost out of time...that I would have to go about my day and he would have to go about his...

Triste, whats going to happen?
Tell me you'll be here tonight.
I have to see you again.

But what came out of his mouth was something entirely different.

"You're a fucking goddess in the sunlight..."

I froze, staring up at him for a moment.

Not a goddess, but a priestess...

"Oh, and good morning," he growled with that same cheeky smirk as he started pushing into me, going slower than I had last night thankfully, but making my back arch sharply all the same.

"Gods you feel good," he breathed, gritting his teeth, drinking in the image of me stretched out in the sun under him.

"Fuck me, Johannes," I gasped, wrapping my legs around the back of his hips and pushing my fingers into his hair, desperate to have him closer to me, to fill me, to experience the same terrifying emotional need that I was experiencing.

He didn't make me say it twice, starting to thrust against me, into me, nearly knocking the breath from my lungs with the intensity of each one.

Our hands gripped and scrabbled across each others' skin in a frenzied attempt to get more contact, to stop the coming of the moment that was rapidly approaching where our chance meeting would come to an end.

"Oh, fuck, come with me," he cried into my lips, grabbing one of my legs from around his waist and shoving it up over his shoulder, making me tighter around him, and I cried out at the intensity of the new angle.

My whimpers and cries of 'don't stop' felt both too loud and extremely breathless at the same time as he balanced his weight on one palm and reached the other between us to rapidly rub four fingers back and forth across my clit.

I promptly exploded, gushing hard around him as I clapped a hand over my mouth to stifle the screams I couldn't stop if I'd tried.

The single moment of watching my release again and feeling my fluids gushing across his hips hurtled Johannes over the precipice of his own orgasm, and he lost his posture as his hips still bucked into me so hard that he physically moved my body several inches across the floor, drawing another sharp cry from me.

We were both rendered speechless, staring at each other with wide eyes, gasping for air, but even keeping the same pace with each other in that.

Johannes' hand was shaking when he touched it to mine, gently prying it away from my lips as he still looked down at me like I was the eighth wonder.

I realized with a start that I was shaking too as I pushed his hair back off his face, pushing it around his opposite shoulder so I could lay my hand flat against his face as he gazed down at me. 

We stayed like that for a long moment before he slipped out of me and immediately pulled me up against him into his arms as he leaned back against the couch we'd just tumbled off of.

"Thank you," he murmured, pressing little kisses into my hair, clutching me to him.

"For what?"

A low laugh rumbled through his chest, "calming my frazzled nerves, plying me with drinks, a couple earth-shattering orgasms? Hows that for a list?"

I giggled, pulling back from him enough that I could wrap my arms around his neck and kiss him.

"Earth shattering, huh?" I teased, receiving precisely one gigantic eye roll and a hard pinch against my ass.

He tilted his face up to the sun, closing his eyes and relishing the warmth against his skin.

"I have to go," he sighed, frowning down at me.

"I know," I knotted my fingers together before getting to my feet and offering two hands to help him up.

He grabbed me up in one more hug before gathering our scattered clothes from around the couch, handing me mine and stepping into his pants.

Johannes stretched his arms up languidly in the sun, the entire movement somewhat cat-like.

"Gods, but I do think todays gonna be a good day," he sighed, rolling his shoulders and cracking his neck.

"I'll say," I chuckled, "can't imagine much of a better way to start it."

I turned in a slow circle after slipping my shorts on and settling my tank over them.

"Ahem?"

"Yes?" He looked down at me with an impassive expression that was far too calculated.

"I seem to be missing something."

"Are you?"

"I am," I propped my hands on my hips and quirked an eyebrow at him.

His tan canvas pants were thin and I could see the blue lace peaking out of his pocket.

"I need those back you know."

"Oh, I'm sure they'll turn up," he grinned.

I was on the verge of making a thoroughly impolite comment about the kind of men who stole panties, when we were interrupted by the sound of the sliding door, and Mat appeared, a sleepy look on his handsome features as he rubbed a hand across his face.

I turned around slowly with a grimace, shooting him an exasperated glance.

I'd told Johannes last night that May and Mat and Van were all staying here with me, but he couldn't stop the intense, sudden wave of possessiveness that nearly knocked him back as he was now face to face with this person who felt like an intruder on the few moments he had left with me as his hand involuntarily pulled me closer.

He glared at Mat over my shoulder, making him take a step back and bump against the glass door as the shock and recognition registered on his face.

"Fuck," I grumbled, running a hand back over my hair and looking up at Johannes, "I--I promise he won't say anything, I'll talk to him. Ah..."

"I...I don't think I care."

"Wha--?"

I was swept into a bruising kiss that was as intense as it was brief as all ten of his fingers pushed into my hair for one fleeting moment, lifting it off my neck and his lips seared mine with a low moan, and my head was left spinning as he turned for his side of the house.

"Hey," I called and he looked back to me.

"Uhm...g-good luck today," I chewed my lip with a shy smile and got one in return before he climbed back over the barrier and disappeared inside.

I watched the space where he'd been for several moments, wondering if I'd just made the whole damn encounter up.

But the slight soreness between my legs when I shifted on my feet told me otherwise, and I didn't bother to hide my grin as I turned to the ocean for a moment, checking in with myself.

I turned back and collapsed into one of the oversize deck chairs when I heard the door slide again and May appeared with Van in tow, and mercifully, two mugs in her hands.

I greedily reached for one and she kissed me on both cheeks, pressing the coffee between my palms before settling in her own chair, both boys following suit.

"Good morning, Tr--"

"So that w--" Mat interrupted her, and I held up my pointer finger to silence him with a brief shake of my head, bringing a disappointed pout to his lips.

With something like perfect timing, Van's phone rang from inside and he got up to answer.

I had invited him in the first place to help with the festival because, as much as it begrudged me to say it, he was a great bartender, and I had very little experience. I could make a thousand different cocktails from memory, but speed was still something I was having trouble with, and I'd been told from the start that the faster the drinks moved, the happier everyone would be.

We'd almost been friends once, and I still wasn't sure what exactly had soured it, but he suddenly became a colossal jerk in that way that was still a little irritatingly charming.

I'd hoped he hadn't taken my invitation as a loaded offer, but the way his fingers brushed against my arm as he moved inside told me otherwise, and I smacked my forehead with a groan when the door slid closed behind him.

Mat jumped right back to the inquisition in his absence.

"Right, so I have some questions for you, missy."

"Ugh, gods, of course you do," I groaned, tilting my face up to the sun after taking a drink from my mug.

"There better be some serious uppers in this or I am not gonna get through this day," I giggled over at May, who made a silly face in response.

"That was who I think it was, right?" Mat wasn't about to be deterred.

"Ah...yeah..."

He waited for a moment for me to shed more light on just how I'd gotten myself into such a situation, but I just kept my eyes closed and tried to absorb as much sunlight as possible.

"And? What did you sneak him up here after dark?"

"No, he's staying over there," I vaguely gestured to the other half of the house.

"Oui? Not empty then," May mused.

"No. He said he got in late though. I don't know. It wasn't on purpose, its not like I hunted him down or something. It was...I don't think accidental is the right word. Serendipitous?" I glanced over at May, "don't your people have words for concepts like this?"

She snorted a laugh but didn't offer any suggestions.

"Hmpf, did you both trip and accidentally fall out of your clothes, kitten?" he teased, nearly as excited as I was.

"Something like that," I shifted in my seat, and was momentarily reminded that I had no underwear on.

"Well when you see him again, tell him to give Tim my number."

"I highly doubt that'll happen honey," I giggled.

Mat had the obnoxious hots for Tim, and I hardly blamed him, though I'd never really found myself attracted to mustaches personally.

"Why not?" The pouting face was back.

"Because I don't think Tim rocks that way, love," I giggled, "besides, I'll probably never see him again."

"See who again?"

In something like not perfect timing, Van reappeared onto the deck with the coffee carafe, refilling everyone's mugs and spending longer than he needed to staring down at me.

"See who again?' He asked once more.

"No one...thanks," I mumbled, pulling my hair around my shoulder to hide the little purple mark at the base of my neck.

He cocked an eyebrow at me, and I realized suddenly that there was quite a lot of noise coming from vacationers gathered down on the beach. The day seemed to be well underway already.

I jumped up with a start, "shit, what time is it?"

"Still early, cherie, not even ten," May said, motioning for me to sit back down and relax.

I ran a hand over my face and yawned, "well I may go get a shower before we start prep, okay? I don't think we have to be there for a while yet but there's no harm in being early."

"Bah, one of these days, you won't worry about everything so much, pluie," she smiled.

"But not today," I countered with a smile and a peck on her cheek, whispering in her ear, "thanks babe, je t'aime."

She smiled fondly up at me, giving my hand a squeeze, "good. You should."

"Don't be too long washing, I'll put something on for breakfast," Mat followed me inside, "and maybe more coffee...you do look tired, my kitten."

"You're a hero amongst men, Matty," I turned and cupped his cheek, kissing the opposite one before heading for the bathroom, not bothering to even object and lie.

The bathroom door opened only a moment after I closed it and I met the curious gaze of a very interested Frenchwoman in the mirror as I carded the fingers of both hands through my hair and started to undress.

"Fire away," I sighed, flipping on the tap.

"Well...I suppose for starters, how--ahem, where are your panties?"

I froze with one foot in the shower, glancing back at her with a fire engine blush as she looked down at the only two garments on the floor.

"...missing."

"Mmm, oui, I see that."

She leaned her shoulders back against the door and grinned at me with a quirked eyebrow.

"Un souvenir?"

I sighed and beckoned for her to sit on the counter while I showered so I wouldn't have to shout the details of my midnight tryst loud enough for Mat to hear, as I was sure he would be listening outside the door.

"Look, I couldn't sleep and I honestly was just meditating, and then there he was."

"Mmhm..." she emphasized the last syllable like she didn't believe me.

"No really. I couldn't sleep and I was out on the deck talking to Her, and--"

"Bons dieux, Triste, did he hear you?!"

"No! Well, actually..." I paused, wondering if he'd heard my murmured recitations before making his presence known.

Even if he had, he'd hardly know what to make of them unless he had a proclivity for ancient ritual practices.

"I don't think so. He asked about the tattoo though."

"...Did you tell him?"

I opened the door wide enough so she could see my exasperated eyeroll.

"No, May, I didn't tell him, I'm not an idiot, nor do I have a desire to be institutionalized at the moment."

Nedjem was a few years older than me when I'd entered the temple, but she was the closest to my age out of all of us and we made fast friends.

In every life since, our goddess brought us together and we were always within a few years of each other still, and best friends to boot.

"Did you tell him I have one too?"

"Nope."

"Ah, but I suppose you were busy doing other things avec votre bouche."

I abruptly dropped the shampoo bottle in my hand and made an unnecessary show of picking it up as she giggled.

"Crude. So crude."

She made that particularly French dismissive noise in her throat, "but you did not say that I was wrong, non?"

"You...aren't wrong."

She giggled and clapped and I was glad no one could see how hard I blushed at the memory of feeling him pulse against my tongue.

"Come, cherie," she tossed me a towel when I opened the door again after several deep calming breaths, "we have work to do."

Chapter Text

The concert felt like a dream, and the three of us sank into a rhythm of moving around each other, dropping little 'behind you's and calling for shakers and measuring tools.

I found that actually once I got the hang of it, I hardly had to think about what I was doing, and a good thing too, as I was repeatedly finding myself very very distracted by the five men onstage.

"Gods, they're all so pretty, aren't they," I said dreamily to May, resting my chin on her shoulder when we had a moment of downtime and could watch the show.

We were on Henrik's side of the stage, unable to leave our small bar area, but as I said it, even though I knew he couldn't hear me, we locked eyes for one tiny second before I blushed and looked away.

She nodded, laying her cheek against my temple, listening to the music that she wasn't familiar with, but seemed to like just fine.

"The ehm, the..." she made a motion with her hand like she was squeezing something against her palm with the tips of her fingers, "on their chaussettes...I don't like them."

I snorted a laugh - I didn't like them either, but I quickly forgot about them anyways, watching Johannes flip his hair and move around the stage.

He was perfectly in his element - lively and getting every reaction from the crowd that he sought, and I found myself absentmindedly touching the smile that was plastered onto my face.

Henrik and John and Tim and Jonas were fabulous too, as they always were - a perfect blend of musical genius and showmanship, moving effortlessly around the stage, interacting with each other to the crowd's delight.

At one point, I nearly dropped the shaker in my hand when I glanced up and Tim was at our side of the stage, still playing perfectly, but staring straight down at me with a knowing smirk as his fingers flew.

His expression changed for the briefest second when our gazes met.

"Look out, bebe," May giggled, waggling her fingers at him and making him chuckle before turning and going back to his mic, "someones got eyes for you."

"Did that just happen?" I was holding a hand to my heart, looking at her with wide eyes but she was still grinning.

"You didn't feel that?"

"Feel what?" She cocked her head to the side, her frown giving way to confusion.

"Nothing, nevermind..."

I was probably over-caffeinated and sleep deprived, but I could have sworn that there was something electric, like an energy current that moved between where he was and where I was, but it only lasted that one second that we held eye contact.

"Losing it. I'm losing it, I swear," I murmured with a shake of my head, going back to my muddling and shaking and straining, making a bigger deal out of checking ingredient stores than I needed to so I had an excuse not to turn around and watch him again.

Their set seemed too short. It was over before I really had a chance to enjoy it, but I could only be so upset, knowing that Ghost would be on after the set change.

The hordes started to move our way and we steeled ourselves for another wave of activity.

--

"Salut."

"Cheers," Van and I said in unison, the three of us clinking our plastic cups containing a well-earned double shot just as the lights went down.

Papa was a dream, as always. He dripped sex and swagger and seemed to be giving me everything that I needed as his vibrato echoed in my very soul.

May and I danced and sang, twirling around each other as we mixed drinks in a way that made our patrons clap and laugh with glee.

I was so laser focused on him that I nearly missed the subtle way Van repeatedly brushed against me, or bumped into my hip, gauging my interest, looking for someone to play with to alleviate some of the sexual tension that Papa created simply by being Papa.

The heavy guitar intro to Per Aspera Ad Inferi started, and it was the barest caress, but it was perfectly timed and sent fire down my spine, as much as I didn't want it to.

Just as Papa sang about unholy lust and the word blasphemy being insufficient, two fingers gently ran down the center of my back, from between my shoulder blades down to the top of my shorts.

My shirt was all black, attached at the top and at the bottom, but the material was left open and loose inbetween so that my tattoo and most of my back showed while keeping my front completely covered.

I froze, glancing around as Van turned away from me, apparently pretending like it hadn't just happened.

May was too enraptured with what was happening on stage to be paying any attention.

No one saw it but the owner of a sharp ice blue pair of eyes, staring at me from the darkness of sidestage before turning on his heel and disappearing with a frustrated huff.

The lights went down and my heart seemed to jump into my throat as the first notes of Cirice sounded through the night.

May grabbed my hand and held it tightly, both of us reveling in the darkness and the sexy rhythm. It just begged for swaying hips and stolen touches in the dark, though I'd had quite enough of the latter for one night from Van.

Papa sauntered back onstage and started singing about the how I couldn't hide in the darkness, and I believed every word as I went back to making drinks for people eager to return to their places in the crowd.

I couldn't wait to see who got Cirice'd, though we were far enough off to the side that I wasn't sure I'd even be able to see her.

Her? I assume it'll be a her...he doesn't Cirice men, right?

I immediately thought of Mat and how he'd drop dead of an orgasmic overload on the spot if Three even looked straight at him. I giggled as I voiced the thought out loud to May and she heartily agreed.

My back was turned as Alpha and Omega's heavier guitar interlude shattered the evening.

But when the unmistakable sound of ladies shrieking overpowered even that, I turned with a shaker in my hand, not wanting to miss anything.

Papa was making his way through the crowd, something unusual for even his vanity, but my heart stopped beating for moments untold when he looked at me and kept moving forward while there was an extended interlude onstage to fill the time gap.

A group of security personnel far larger than him made sure he had a clear path, but he never broke eye contact with me once he had it.

I felt like cornered prey, and the way he moved like he was prowling hardly helped, carefully stepping one foot in front of the other, looking straight at me, rolling his hips when he walked.

I groped beside me for May's hand, but she was too far away, and in the next moment I was alone looking up to him as two men built like redwoods hoisted him up to the bar effortlessly and he gracefully bent one knee to kneel above me.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!

I tuned my subconscious out as she continued to scream the word like a broken record, and Papa began to sing to me.

He gracefully dropped down beside me, inside the bar, and my brain stopped working altogether as his two-toned stare pinned me where I was standing.

I flinched when his gloved hand touched mine, gripping it surprisingly tight as he looked down at our hands before he caught my gaze again and sang that we now saw eye to eye.

Why did all of this feel like it had a double meaning?

"Can you hear the thunder?" His vibrato at the close was so beautiful I wanted to cry, but instead found myself involuntarily nodding my head, panting for breath as he sang, feeling somewhat mesmerized and drowning in the gorgeous sea-foam of his naturally-colored eye.

I'd seen every video that existed on the internet of young girls and mature women being reduced to puddles under his unrelenting two-toned stare, but experiencing it in person was something totally different and I could feel myself getting wet, though we were hardly touching.

He broke from the normal routine and pressed his hand to my chest with mine on top, right over the thundering organ in question as he sang about how there was nothing between us. He wasn't groping me or even touching my breast, but rather letting his fingertips press into the skin just below my collarbone.

I wanted to die happily right in that moment, and partially thought I was going to, but he started to move then, releasing my hand and letting his white glove clad palm travel around my waist in a further departure from his usual routine.

His fingertips played with varying degrees of pressure and I felt like mortal clay in his divine hands.

Papa seemed to move in slow motion as the rest of the world disappeared, trailing his hand along my waist, touching me purposefully through the fabric of my shirt, savoring the warmth of my blood beating hotly beneath the surface of my skin, able to feel it through the spotless cotton gloves.

He sang into my ear, the microphone touching the back of my shoulder, and I had to fight to keep myself upright.

It was like every fantasy I'd ever had about him were coming true all at the same time, and I desperately tried not to turn my head and meet his lips there.

I didn't notice him looking over me at Van as he sang the words, angling his face towards me, and softly running his nose in a sensual line up the side of my neck as his fingers dropped a feather-light caress down the exposed skin of my back.

That same touch twice in one night...what the hell was happening?

Van looked halfway like he wanted to take a swing and halfway like the wanted to be in my place, but he may as well have been invisible for all that I noticed any of it.

The only thing that mattered on the whole planet was Papa standing pressed against me, touching me, breathing over my skin and serenading me in a way that the word 'erotic' simply didn't cover.

I moaned softly - I couldn't help it, being caressed that way by a man I'd literally and figuratively dreamed of for years, but it almost turned into a yelp when his lips were back at my ear as his hand pointed to the stage, turning people's attention away from us.

His opposite hand traveled down my bare skin again, going further than Van had until it slid into my back pocket.

"I'm told that these belong to you," he rasped into my ear, holding the microphone down by his hip and out of range of his voice, making me shiver hard.

He hummed at my reaction and gave my ass a little squeeze before removing his hand and giving Van one more glaring look over my shoulder that made him take a step back.

Papa moved back to my front, resuming his character, and took my hand once more, pressing it to his chest as he finished the song.

I could feel his heartbeat under the suit, and it was all I could do to not tear the material from his body right there, but he seemed to catch an echo of my thoughts and leaned in to press a lingering kiss to my cheek, rather than to my knuckles.

The rubber lips of the mask felt unnatural, but the heat of his breath broke out across my skin and my knees threatened to give way under me once more.

"Papa," I whispered, dying at the sound of his name.

I could swear he smirked as his eyes burned into me and I had to remind myself that the mask was rubber, and didn't move that way.

"Goodbye, for now," he whispered before pulling back.

Papa disappeared with one last lingering look, and I collapsed back to brace myself against the counter as I watched him move back towards the stage with his escort, still feeling very much under his spell.

May descended on me in the next moment as all but a few curious stares turned their attention back to Air as he played the gentle intro to Ghuleh/Zombie Queen under a burning spotlight.

My mind and body were reeling from Papa's touches and the general onslaught of heat as I looked over to her, her face about to crack in half from the grin she wore.

"Oh. Mon. Dieu.," she giggled, pulling me in tight for a hug with a squeal as I started to come back to reality, but was still speechless, gasping for breath.

I pulled back slightly and ran a hand through my hair as I put my other against the back of my hip, but I clapped a hand over my lips to stop the scream as my hand shot into my back pocket.

May cocked her head to the side and looked at me appraisingly, waiting for me to spill.

"Yes?"

I turned my back on Van, whose eyes I could feel wandering over me jealously, and held out my clutched fist to May, the blue lace barely peaking through my fingers.

She puzzled out after a moment that the panties that Johannes had taken that morning had suddenly reappeared in my possession via Papa Emeritus and the beautifully rouged lips moved without making a sound as she looked from the lace up to me, and back down to them with eyes the size of saucers.

"Ah-ahem," someone said at the bar, waiting to order a drink.

May went to attend to her as I ducked away and stuffed the lace into my purse, my mind still reeling.

What the hell what the hell what the fucking fuck fuck is going on?!

When Johannes had casually waved off his theft with an "oh I'm sure they'll turn up" that morning, I certainly hadn't anticipated anything like this, and I wanted to bash my palm into my face when the followup thought to that was that now he had no reason to see me again.

Papa didn't pay us any more attention, and all too soon, their set was over too.

I should have known that Mat would be waiting impatiently, and he all but launched himself over the bar at me as people started to trickle out to their cars and the evening came to an end.

"YOU," he pointed accusingly at me, but he couldn't wipe the smile off his face, "you just got fucking Cirice'd!! And then some! Good gods, girl, I do not want to know whats going on between your legs right now."

"No, you probably don't," I giggled.

He wasn't wrong - I was drenched and I could feel it every time I took a step, like a reminder.

"Lets get this shit packed up so we can get going please," another voice grumbled behind me, drawing my attention as Mat turned to May and they proceeded to freak out together.

"Why don't you head back, we'll take care of this," I replied coolly, wanting to say something more along the lines of 'oh, we're talking now, are we?'.

He huffed something unintelligible and I put my hands on my hips, having none of whatever he was grumbling about, still flying high from the entire last 24 hours of madness that had been my life and not about to have it ruined by this grump.

"Go home, Van," I said again, "we're all having a good time and no one wants to be around you if you're going to be like this."

He rounded on me, and in an instant I could see everything that he'd been thinking before he closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"You only fucking like him because he's famous."

I rolled my eyes both at him and at myself as I suddenly had to figure out which man he was talking about.

"No I like him because he's Papa."

"Whatever," he made a dismissive gesture in my direction and huffed off.

"Whats his problem?" I groaned.

Mat barely moved in time to miss Van's shoulder knocking into his own.

May shook her head, "I told you inviting him was a bad idea, Triste, but you never listen to me. And you did not see the way that Papa looked at him."

"What?"

"Yes, kitten, our little May here is full of advice and suggestions that she wouldn't ever follow herself. Why don't you listen to her?"

May playfully swatted at him, but he jumped back, wagging a finger at her.

"Ooh, I always heard you French girls were feisty! Lets dance, sweetness."

They collapsed into giggles and she said something decidedly sassy about him being one step away from being a French girl so he should know.

"What did she just say!" he laughed at me and I threw my hands up in mock exasperation as I giggled too, knowing that his French was bare at best.

"She said that you're her absolute best friend and she loves you madly, sweetheart."

"You're a little liar! Just for that, I'm not going to help you two with any of this," he gestured dramatically to the disaster that was the bar before crossing to me and pressing a kiss to my cheek, and doing the same to May, "laters, babies."

"Wait! You're really not going to help?!" She called, and he turned after slipping out the side door, shrugging his shoulders as he kept walking backwards, blowing us a dramatic kiss with both hands.

"No kittens, I'll see you at home! Let it be a lesson in telling the truth!" He yelled loudly, winking at us before turning and following the departing crowd.

"Wow...he really isn't going to help..."

I couldn't help but shake my head and shrug as May looked at me with an over-exaggerated angry face.

"Just you and me, I guess." I hoisted a box onto the bar to start packing up.

"Jusqu'à la fin des temps, bébé," she laughed.

Chapter Text

"Hello there, Masika..."

I froze as her voice penetrated my reveries and my head cocked slightly to the side as I turned around and stared at her for a moment, standing in the doorway of the bar, waiting like she needed to be invited in.

"No way..."

"Oh, yes way, darling."

I shrieked and ran to her, almost bowling her over with with the force of our collision, and throwing all cares for dignity out the window.

My fingers roamed over her face before I hugged her tightly to me again like she might slip away.

"Na'eemah! Gods its been years!"

She laughed and smoothed my hair back, reaching for May with her other hand.

"Masika. Nedjem. My beautiful girls. Oh I'm so happy to see you, you're exactly what I need right now!"

"What are you doing here? Did you come for the festival? I can't believe its really you!!" May giggled and kissed Na'eemah on both cheeks.

We remained locked together, the three of us clutching each other for what seemed like an eternity before May finally broke away.

"Here, here, let me help," Na'eemah offered, bending to scoop up another empty box from under the bar and clearing plastic cups into it.

Na'eemah was the High Priestess in our goddess' temple in. She'd taught us the stories of our diety, and oversaw our offerings, reassuring us in a motherly way when it came time for our first communion with the divine and we balked, unsure what our bodies were going to go through.

It had been she who had led us through the aftermath of the fall, praying for guidance and becoming effectively our shepherd through the years, through the lifetimes. It fell to her to find us when we returned each rebirth, assuring us that we weren't mad, and re-familiarizing us with our rites and rituals.

Our happy reunion continued as we set to work packing up shakers and strainers, muddlers and spoons. We'd take those and leave the booze locked in the cabinet for the next set tomorrow night when we were to return.

I stopped with a gasp when the thought crossed my mind of getting Cirice'd twice in two days.

No...he wouldn't. The whole thing was clearly Johannes' doing in the first place.

"Girls, tell me what you've been doing since last I saw you! Its been so long, I apologize. Though I assume you're still stuck to each others' sides like glue as you always have been, regardless of my guidance or not," she laughed.

"Well, Triste has found herself a hot new rockstar copain," May teased, bringing Na'eemah's attention around to me as she tucked a bar mop into one of the boxes.

"Oh?" She quirked an eyebrow and laughed as I rolled my eyes exasperatedly at May.

"He's not my boyfriend. We slept together one time! Okay, twice," I said with my hands up, "but it was a fluke thing and I'll probably never see him again!"

"Bah," she dismissed me with a wave of her hand, turning back to Na'eemah, "he stole her panties and made Papa Emeritus return them during the concert. It was..." she sighed dramatically.

"If you say romantic, I may actually barf," I warned, my cheeks flushing red again at the memory of Papa touching me.

Na'eemah laughed at our antics, shaking her hair back out of her face.

"Stealing panties, huh, gods what century is this?" She laughed, "who is he then? This new rockstar boyfriend-not-boyfriend?"

At my hesitance to answer, May jumped in again. "Johannes, from Avatar. You know them, oui? No? Here, look," she pulled out her phone and searched for a picture of the band, "the tall one with the dark hair. Though personnellement I like the one with les cheveux blonds."

"Who, Jonas?" I asked to clarify, looking over her shoulder as she pointed.

"Mmhm, yes...Jonas..." she rolled his name over her lips in a way that I was absolutely sure would undo him if they ever met.

"Gods, sometimes you're just so FRENCH," I giggled, pinching her side as she drifted off with some fantasy in her brain.

"Well you can hardly blame me. Hair like that? It just begs to be pulled," she shrugged, turning back to hoist a box of half-full bottles onto the bar.

We continued filling her in this way on the recent events in our lives, and remembering the events of past lives together, laughing until we all were wiping tears of mirth from our cheeks and gasping for relief.

"Na'eemah, we are going dancing tonight, please come!" May begged, turning to the older woman who somehow never looked her age and giving her the best puppy-dog-eyed smile she could muster.

"We're going where?" I choked, coughing on my drink.

Na'eemah laughed, taking May's hands in her own.

"Oh I wish I could, precious, but I just have so much work to be done!"

"Non! No work can be so important!" May countered, waving off her comment, "not when we are now together again!"

"Well, in fact it can be. My dears," she looked at both of us and dropped her voice so low that we both had to step towards her to hear, and she took our hands once more, "I've been planning something glorious. Something that will change the world as we now know it."

"Ooh, and we are colonizing quelle planete?" May giggled in response, moving around behind Na'eemah and starting to weave a braid into her chestnut locks, "I like the gray that is coming in at your roots," she said as her deft fingers worked.

Na'eemah took a quick glance around and lifted her chin proudly, "restoration, my girls."

The moment she said the word, a creeping sense of unease seemed to work its way up my spine. May and I paused and exchanged a frown before looking back at our high priestess.

"Like...restoration restoration or like donating money to have our temples excavated and restored back in the old land..."

Her scoff told me what she thought of my need for clarification and I couldn't help but scrunch my face up into a grimace.

"Na'eemah...have you, have you...consulted with Her? I don't know that we should--"

The flash in her eyes could have melted steel and I took a step back.

May crossed over to me and took my hand when she saw the momentary look of uncertainty cross my features.

"I can hardly see how that is of any concern to either of you, being lower-ranking than myself. Especially you, Masika. A mother's desperate plea, if I remember correctly, is why you ended up coming to serve our Lady in the first place..."

The sudden shift in her demeanor unnerved me, and I found myself almost cowering when I spoke again.

"My apologies, High Priestess, I meant no offense." I was hurt by the bite in her tone and I looked at her sadly as some of the memories of the aftermath of the thing she spoke of flitted through my mind.

"Its just...restoration. Na'eemah, thats...I mean now? After all this time? Its--" I ran a hand back through my hair.

"Insane? Pointless? Dangerous?" May offered, cutting me off, and I winced as she continued, "it would never work. Not now, its been too long. No one even remembers who She is, and those that do think she was seulement un mythe, or are like us." She threw her hands up like it was obvious what a terrible idea this was.

Literal heat began to radiate off the woman before us as her she barely kept the lid on her sudden anger, and I wondered just how hard she had been working towards this thing.

"All the more reason to bring her cult into modernity, Nedjem. I need you both to be on my side for this. I cannot do it without you," she said through gritted teeth, and my own anger flared in response.

I hated feeling used.

"That's why you're here, isn't it? After all this time, you only came because you need something?! You're charged with watching us, and keeping us together and making sure we remember and keep Her alive in our perpetual rebirth! Not to hatch some hare-brained scheme that will only end with you in a fucking madhouse, Na'eemah!"

"You will not speak to me so disrespectfully, little girl," she snapped, "I require your gifts for this and I will have them."

"Na'eemah...we need to talk to Her about this before we do anything," May reasoned, placing herself physically between us as we glared at each other, "Triste and I will commune with her tonight.  The creator god gave these gifts to our goddess to bestow on us as rewards for remaining faithful. We cannot just...donnez-les...let us all speak to her together, how about that? Then we will help you."

"No. I forbid you both from speaking to Her of this. The time is not yet right. You will not commune with her without my permission."

I couldn't understand why she was so hostile, and my pulse beat rapidly in my throat, making me flushed and irritable - she'd been a lot of things to us over the centuries - confidant, mother, friend, teacher, but she'd never taken away our permission to speak with our goddess when we needed to.

There was an easy solution to this entire situation, yet Na'eemah was hellbent on avoiding that route, it seemed.

What is going on?!

"Then we have nothing more to say to you either, and I think it would be best if you left right now," I said as levelly as I could manage, feeling my energy begin to tumble underneath the surface of my skin, seeking release.

She looked at me and for a moment, nothing about her was familiar. Her aura was dark, her energy turbulent like violent weather.

I took another step back from her, bumping into the counter.

"Na'eemah, we cannot help you in this blindly," May said quietly, placing her hand on the other woman's shoulder, "not without speaking to Her first...and if you forbid it..."

She was roughly shaken off as our high priestess and adoptive mother straightened her blouse and glared back and for between us, her eyes swirling a dangerous, electric green that were not their normal color.

"I will not forget this betrayal from either of you...and I will have what I seek. You'll see."

Before we could respond, she stalked off, disappearing into the last vestiges of the crowd still milling about and slamming the door behind her.

May and I stood frozen to the spot and looked at each other with a mixture of confusion and pain.

"This. This that she wants to do, it ends très mal," she whispered, and I nodded after a moment. The entire encounter had been bizarre and unexpected, and we stood motionless for several more minutes until she took my hand.

"Come. Lets go for tonight. We are going to go dance. It will be good to blow off some air, yes?"

I snorted a laugh, "steam. The phrase is 'blow off steam'."

"Yes, yes," she said, already distracted by something else now, "come on, I know what dress we're going to put you in."

--

She hauled me up the stairs by the hand, announcing our arrival as I turned to shut and lock the front door behind us.

"Bonjour kittens," Mat grinned sitting at the counter, "I thought you two might have gotten dragged onto a tour bus and ravaged or something. What took you so long?"

"Oh, like you don't know," I laughed.

"We bumped into an old friend," May replied smoothly right after, not a single hint of worry on her face, though I knew it was there, just under the surface.

She and I were incapable of hiding anything from each other after this many years together.

"Old friend...or new friend?" He raised an eyebrow at me with my favorite smile.

May and I looked at each other for a moment before we responded in unison.

"Old."

He shook his head, always amused by the two of us together.

"Mat, we are going dancing, will you come?" May asked sweetly as she turned her back to his front and pulled her silk neck scarf around his neck, making him tilt his head down as he grinned.

He kissed her cheek quickly, "you two, I swear your energy comes from a bottomless pit. No, kittens, I'm washed, sorry. Maybe Van...?" he looked around for a moment, failing to find the other man.

I almost groaned -- I'd forgotten about him for a brief hour.

"He's in the shower, I think. But I'm sure he'd go with you two if you need a chaperone, delicate dames as you are."

"Ah, no, I think we're good to go solo," I said quickly, grabbing May's hand and planting a kiss on his cheek before heading for her bedroom.

"And don't think that when you get back, you, me and this bottle of tequila aren't gonna talk more about that thing with Three, Triste!" he called after us just before the door shut and a cacophony of girlish laughter erupted behind it, making him smile as he went back to the email on his phone.

--

"Here," May said, fussing about the dress that I'd snugged into. She stood behind me in the mirror, a few inches taller, and reached to dip her hands under the material to adjust my breasts as she looked around over my shoulder.

"I can do that, you know," I grumbled, shying away from her indelicate grip.

"Non, my dress, my rules about these," she giggled, grabbing both my breasts and giving them one final adjustment.

"I feel like a pillow being fluffed," I complained as she disappeared to find a pair of shoes for me.

As I stepped into them, I looked at myself in the mirror and took pause.

"Are you sure you're just a nurse and not some miracle worker?" I asked, mesmerized by my own figure - the accentuated swells of each breast, the way the line of my waist sank into the natural curve of my hips, the material of the dress clinging down my thighs and stopping just above my knees.

"Are they not the same? You do look délicieux, my sweet," she purred in my ear, slicking one perfumed finger down behind each ear before dabbing a drop at the center of my clavicle, "Johannes will think so..."

"Look, I don't want to talk about Johannes any more..."

May's eyes met mine in the mirror silently.

"I feel...I just feel gross about it, you know? Like a groupie. I...I thought we connected but now I think I just...I dunno, convinced myself that something was there when it wasn't."

She scoffed and dismissed my comment, gripping my shoulders and forcing me to face her. Her heels were shorter than mine, but she still stood a few inches taller than me.

"Did you come?"

"What? Come where?"

"Did you come. With Johannes."

I shuffled my feet and looked awkwardly at the floor.

"Dieux, don't be so American, oie. Being shy about sex is not who you are."

I looked up at her and lifted my chin a little.

She was right - why was I being so precious about it? Sex was wonderful and beautiful when it was done right. It was what had allowed us to bask in our goddess' presence. And after all, wasn't sex the only thing that even allowed our species to progenerate?

She lifted one eyebrow, waiting.

"Yes," I finally sighed, answering her questions.

"Ah-hah, and did he?"

"Uhm, yes," I mumbled, remembering the warmth of him spilling inside of me and shivering a little.

"And you enjoyed his company? You did not want him to go away this morning?"

I nodded slowly, also affirming when she asked that he seemed to enjoy my company as well.

"Bah, then why are you being such a sad-bag? You overthink too much, little goose. Perhaps he will stay here one more night...but for now, we are leaving, okay?"

She put one knuckle under my chin and kissed me quickly as I nodded and turned for the door.

"Sack."

She paused with the straps of her dress halfway down her arms and peered over at me.

"Quoi?"

"Its sad-sack, not sad-bag."

"Pffft. Tomate."

--

I wandered out onto the deck as May fixed her makeup and changed outfits a dozen more times.

My eyes darted over to Johannes' half of the house, finding it dark and trying to stop the sinking disappointment that I immediately felt. He was probably out having a great time somewhere, and I reminded myself that I was about to be doing the same.

I turned back to the sea, closing my eyes and breathing its heady perfume deep into my lungs as I willed myself not to think any more of him for the night.

No more thoughts of Johannes. No more thoughts of Na'eemah. No more thoughts of Van.

The rest of the night was to celebrate the smashing success that had been my first night of the festival.

"Triste, allons-y!" I looked up at the moon one more time before taking a deep breath and lifting my chin, laughing at the absurd state I'd worked myself into.

"Come on, sad-bag," I muttered to myself and turned to head inside, fishing in my clutch for my keys.

Chapter Text

The flashing lights immediately overwhelmed my senses in the best way as May pulled me by the hand towards the bar.

She ordered us each drinks and we downed them before turning to join the throng of pulsing bodies on the dance floor.

May was an unparalleled partner, expertly moving her hips and grinding against me, looking teasingly through her lashes, immediately picking up the rhythm of each new song.

I finally started to unwind, to relax, enjoying the high of the day, giving myself permission to be mindless for a few hours.

I didn't feel the eyes roaming over us at first, but then a sensation like something creeping up my spine made me turn subtly, seeking the source.

At the exact same moment, May pulled me in, turning me so my back was pressed to her front and continuing to move my hips to the thumping bass.

"Mmm, I think I want the one on la gauche," she whispered into my ear, letting herself get carried away by the music and the attention from afar.

It didn't matter as it turned out, since he broke for her and pulled her into him anyways as his friend approached me.

He was handsome by conventional standards - tall, clean-shaven, with short naturally blonde hair that was the tiniest bit longer in the front, falling into his face in a tragically handsome way.

"I've been watching you dance," he said lowly, putting his hands on my hips as I continued to sway, feeling unable to stop, almost drunk on the rhythm.

He leaned down to speak into my ear with a voice that made me shiver, "can I buy you a drink?"

I was annoyed that Johannes' face immediately flashed through my brain, and in retaliation against my subconscious for it, I smiled coquettishly at him, closer to a smirk really, pulling one side of my mouth up and leaning into him to respond.

"Absolutely, but you'll have to guess what I drink first."

He grinned and took my hand, leading me towards the bar as I glanced back over my shoulder at May, whose hand was tangled back into the chestnut shock of hair that came with her new partner who had his hands full it seemed.

I laughed to myself, shaking my head.

"I'm Mark," my new companion said, his hand drifting back to my waist under the guise of pulling me forward so someone could squeeze past behind me at the bar.

It lingered there, and I didn't immediately move to shift away. His cologne was pleasant, like moss and sandalwood, and I found myself rather enjoying it as his hazel eyes drifted over my features, lingering at my lips.

"Triste," I smiled.

He considered me for a moment, squinting his eyes and smirking before turning to the bartender and ordering himself a Vesper and me an Aviation.

"Very good!" I clapped, laughing as he took a mock bow in the limited space available to us, which ended up being more of an inclination of his head.

"Everything about you says gin and flowers," he winked, and I looked up at him through my lashes.

"Am I that predictable then, Mark?" I said his name softly, teasingly, thoroughly enjoying the attention after the smashing success of the rest of the day; plus it was keeping my mind off the tall, dark-haired man who had claimed my body in the early morning sun and the entire encounter with Na'eemah earlier.

I just needed enough of a distraction until I could get out of there for the night and crawl into bed.

Mark's voice snapped me out of my train of thought.

"No, I think you're probably quite mysterious. There's more to you than meets the eye..."

There was something unnerving in the way he said it, but just as our drinks came someone grabbed my attention and I turned away.

"Hey weren't you the bartender at the Ghost show?"

The speaker was a small woman, close to my age, I guessed, with flushed cheeks and metallic teal lipstick.

The shade was exquisite, and it made me remember her from earlier. She'd frequented my bar several times during the show and always ordered the same thing. After the third pass, when it seemed still in perfect condition, I'd asked her where she got her lip paint from, and the name of the shade was now on a sticky note somewhere in the dark depths of my purse.

"One of them, yeah," I answered, "I remember you! Gods, is that still the same coat of lipstick?!" 

"Yes!" She almost squealed with excitement, "you have to get some, it literally stays on all day. Gods, do you know Papa? I would fucking kill to have him touch me that way! What a rush!"

"Ah. No. Uhm, no, I don't. It was kind of a...fluke thing...I was as surprised as everyone else, honestly."

"Uh-huh," she winked companionably and I thought in that moment that I really would like her if we got to know each other, "all I'm saying is I would literally drop dead if I ever got Cirice'd!"

She laughed and said goodnight, putting a warm hand on my arm.

A flash of heat rushed through my core remembering the way Papa had traced his gloved hand over my waist, letting the soft cotton run a tantalizing line down the middle of my back.

She had distracted me purposefully, holding my attention long enough for Mark to complete his task behind my back.

I didn't see anything as I answered her question.

The bartender didn't see anything as he stooped to find an open bottle.

His timing truly was almost perfect.

Only the owner of those same ice-blue eyes watching me from the crowd saw his lightning-fast movement over my untouched glass.

The white powder quickly sank into the lavender liquid of my cocktail, and I turned back to Mark with an apology on my lips, having seen none of it.

He scooted my glass towards me over the polished wood of the bar, and raised his own delicate stemware.

"To the Protector of the Kings," he said, staring deeply into my gaze in a way that was positively chilling.

It felt like someone else looking at me through his stare.

I faltered for a moment, almost dropping my drink into my lap as our glasses clinked.

"What did you just say?"

He only grinned at me and took a sip, savoring the sharp bite of the alcohol and licking his lips.

As I raised my glass towards my lips, thinking I maybe hadn't heard him right, a hand clamped down and stayed the movement of my arm.

"Don't drink that."

My head whipped to the side in shock and I looked up to meet the gaze of a very tall, very pissed-off-looking Swede.

"Johannes?! What are you doing here?"

His attention wandered over to my new friend, and he was glaring daggers, making the other man pale and involuntarily shrink towards the bar.

Johannes was sparsely built, but he was huge, looming over the other and topping him by an easy five inches at least.

As my brain processed the only reason why I shouldn't drink a cocktail from a more-or-less complete stranger, I glanced down at the liquid to confirm as the pit of my stomach dropped.

The bartender was too shitty to even put a cherry in the glass, so I could see where the undissolved portion of the drug had sunken into the small depression where the triangular bowl of my martini glass met the stem.

"Oh, You. Fucking. Asshole!" I yelled as the liquid left my glass and doused Mark's lovely blonde hair, leaving him sputtering and sticky as it dripped down the front of his shirt.

I turned to stomp away, intending to find May and get her away from his friend then get the hell out of there.

"Come back here, you stupid cunt!" was all I heard, then a shout accompanied by a dull crunching sound and a commotion at the bar.

When I turned back, Jonas was moving away from the bar towards me, alternately shaking his hand and massaging his knuckles with a scowl.

Johannes grabbed my hand and moved us deeper into the crowd as the club's security team descended on Mark, who was clutching his nose as blood streamed through his fingers.

His eyes desperately searched the room for me, and when they locked onto mine, Johannes stepped between us, moving me behind him and shielding me from view. He glared at Mark until he was taken away, grinning and laughing madly.

"This isn't over!" He shouted, cackling, uncaring that the blood was streaming across his lips.

Johannes turned back around to me as soon as he was out of sight, clutching my face between his palms and looking me over thoroughly.

"Are you okay??"

I looked up at him, the flashing lights around us back lighting his eyes and making them glow. It was so distracting that I didn't answer for a moment, only able to nod my head as I swallowed hard and my brain desperately tried to keep up.

"Th-thank you," I stammered, hardly able to believe he was here and touching me again, "how did you know?"

Everything seemed like it had happened in a flash, and I turned to Jonas when Johannes didn't answer, a white-hot streak of anxiety coursing through my veins as he looked at me, an unreadable expression across his features.

His facial piercings glinted in the lights and I thought for a moment that I was going to fall flat on my face.

I'd watched every video and interview, and I knew every song and stalked his social media like any neurotic fangirl worth her salt would. And now, I was face-to-face with him, and he'd just broken my would-be-assailant's nose.

As I opened my mouth to babble an incoherent statement of gratitude, a cloud of floral perfume enveloped me and May was suddenly turning me around and gripping my shoulders tight.

She touched my cheeks, assuring herself that I was uninjured as she ran her hands down my arms and brushed my bangs back away from my face.

"Are you okay? I just saw security dragging that guy out yelling and bleeding! What happened?" Her English disappeared when she got frazzled, and she spoke so rapidly to me, I had to read her lips and translate in my head for a moment before I could answer.

"I'm okay, I'm okay," I said reassuringly to her in English, "he put something in my drink, but...uhm. Johannes stopped me from drinking it, and then..." I looked back at Jonas, who was still rubbing his knuckles, watching us.

She hadn't even noticed them until then.

The air suddenly felt electric as he and May locked eyes and he stopped rubbing his hand as his lips parted slightly with a gasp, the metal ring catching the light again. They stared at each other without saying anything, and I wasn't really even sure they were still breathing, but I saw the pulse flutter in May's throat, and Johannes and I looked back and forth between our friends.

She crossed to him and took both his hands in her own, rubbing a thumb across his reddened knuckles gently.

"You did this for my Triste?" she said, looking back and forth between Jonas and Johannes, whose arm snaked around my waist, further distracting me as his fingers absentmindedly traced little circles over my hip.

Jonas shrugged, chalking it up to a reflex. "He reached for Triste and said something rude, and...it's not a big deal."

My knees almost buckled hearing him say my name as I realized we hadn't actually been introduced but he still knew who I was.

I gave Johannes my most subtle exasperated glare out of the side of my eye, and I felt him shake with silent laughter as his mouth worked like he was trying to hide a smile and he pulled me closer, but didn't look down at me.

My brain was having a hard time processing everything and I blinked hard and shook my head.

Johannes was here and he was touching me.
I narrowly escaped being drugged and then who knows what else.
Jonas knew my name.

I thought for a moment at the house out on the deck that I had dreamed the whole thing. But he was here. He had stopped me from drinking God-knows-what in that cocktail, and now his fingers were pressing into my skin an a way that was both thrilling and subtly familiar.

May was still rubbing her thumb over Jonas' knuckles, searching his face for any sign of discomfort, but he placed his other hand under her much smaller, more delicate one and held her gaze, pulling her fractionally closer.

I knew what she was doing.

May's gift was always healing. She'd learned some during our time in the Temple from Na'eemah, and in every lifetime since, she'd been blessed with the ability to heal through energy.

She managed to use it here and there, working as a nurse, but the farther we got from our origins, the more skeptical humanity became about the existence of real magic, so she had to be exceedingly careful.

Somehow though, I expected Jonas didn't have the slightest clue what was happening to his hand as she let her perfect lilac curls fall into her face a little and smiled up at him through her lashes, mending the small fractures and reducing the swelling under the guise of simply holding onto him.

"Thank you...Jonas," she whispered, saying his name the way she had behind the bar as we were cleaning up. My earlier suspicions were confirmed as I watched his pupils dilate and a slow, curious smile spread across his lips.

"Who are you?"

"May. Like the month," she smiled, feeling immensely thrilled at having him within her grasp.

"Dance with me, May like the month," he said lowly, already moving backwards towards the huddled masses of people who were largely oblivious to what had just happened. though some cast curious glances towards the two men.

May followed, leaving her hand in his, and she never looked back as they disappeared into the crowd.

I froze when Johannes moving through the same path as Jonas, and pulled me with him.

"What, don't you like me anymore?" he teased, sensing my hesitation and pulling harder on my hand.

"Uhm, no, I mean yes, I do, I...ahem...shall we?"

I had to stop myself from physically bashing my palm into my face as I stammered a response that didn't even make sense.

Johannes laughed, the sound lost in the bass that seemed to run from the floor straight up through my bones, but I saw the way his eyes crinkled at the corners and his teeth glowed in the lights before he turned me, applying pressure to my hips to maneuver me back against him.

My shock at finding him here of all places, and then feeling him grind against me must have been evident in my body language, because he pulled me back harder against him and bent his head to nip lightly at my ear.

May, in a stroke of brilliance, had decided that we needed to pin my hair back from my face for the evening, and I mentally gave her a big fat kiss on the cheek as he had unbridled access to the patches of skin he seemed suddenly very interested in.

His touch and his scent and everything about him seemed to intoxicate me as I tangled my hand back into his hair, figuring if he wasn't going to let me get assaulted by a stranger, he probably wouldn't mind this. He returned my affections touch for touch, and I reveled in the fact that somehow the unexpected connection we'd made last night and this morning hadn't seemed to wear off with the passing of the day.

"I've been thinking about you all day, Triste," he growled in my ear, so closed it made me shiver, and his fingers pressed harder into the flesh of my hips.

"Did you get my little gift?"

YES. YES. YES.

"Hmm. I did. You know, I hardly find stealing an attractive quality, Johannes. And I just bought those, too. I might even be mad at you," I tried to keep the smile out of my voice, but it was impossible. The slightest tinge of annoyance did creep in though when I continued, "but having Papa Cirice me was a little much. I think I stared like a moron. Ugh, gods everyone fucking saw me basically drooling over him."

He laughed against me, the sound lush and rich and causing the waterworks to start full-force in my nether regions as it vibrated against my back.

"Isn't staring like a moron the entire reason he Cirices women to being with? I think it feeds his ego."

I put my hands over his and pressed his fingers harder against me, reveling in the warmth of his skin and mentally replaying him pulling the garment in question off with his teeth.

A tiny moan escaped my lips as my eyes closed.

"Plus," he continued, not having heard me, "I told you this morning they would show up, didn't I?"

"You did, indeed."

"I had another idea, but roping him into it was kind of a spur of the moment decision when I saw that guy putting his hand on you and--fuck..."

He quickly shut up and I heard my pulse suddenly thundering in my ears as I whipped around and stared up at him, neither of us moving with the music any longer.

"How could you possibly even see that..."

He looked worried for a brief moment and took my hand, leading me out of the dense crowd to a place where we could talk, or at least try and yell over the music until we heard each other.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said anything...we're not...you're...it isn't any of my business, I'm sorry...forget I said anything."

Johannes watched with a little frown, trying to interpret how I was feeling about what he'd said as I chewed my lip and my eyes darted around the room.

Triste, I don't want him to touch you because I want you for myself.
I can't get enough of you.
Meeting you was the best accident that's ever happened to me.
You're all I've thought about today.
Please, Triste...

My brain felt like mush as I looked up at him with a thousand questions in my eyes, but I couldn't make any of them come out of my mouth.

He cares that someone else wanted me.
I mean okay yes it was kind of fucking obnoxious alpha male posturing nonsense, but...
But maybe we're not just a one night stand, are we?

"Are you angry with me," he murmured, shuffling his shoe to kick at a piece of trash on the floor.

"Johannes," I pressed one hand to his cheek and he leaned into my palm in a way that made me shiver, "don't worry about him. I tried to be friendly and invite him to help with the bar because he listens to both you all and Ghost, but...but he's not...don't worry about him."

"I'm sorry."

"Please...you don't have to be sorry."

"I just. I saw him touch you and I got jealous and it was a split second decision because I thought of your tattoo, and..."

Before my rational brain could approve of the decision, I grabbed his face, pulling a slightly startled expression to his features as I stood on my toes and pressed my lips up to his, wrapping my arms around his neck.

I felt his low hum more than heard it out loud. He sank into my kiss, immediately pulling me against him with one long arm around my waist, and keeping his head bent just enough that I had to reach a little to chase his tongue back into his mouth.

Johannes' hands were firm and hot as they gripped my hips, both pulling me to him and squeezing me.

The camera flashes around us blended in with the pulsing spotlights, and we didn't pay them any mind. He was used to being recognized after shows now, and he pulled away from me finally with a soft moan.

"Johannes," I sighed, hardly able to stand not kissing him again, "why would you be jealous after what happened last night? I mean he and I were almost friends once but...now he's basically a stranger."

"Because," he growled, breathing against my lips before crushing them under his once more for a brief but impossibly hot kiss, "I'm a stranger too but you were mine for a brief few hours...too brief."

"You have seen a lot more of me and known a lot more about me than anyone in a long, long time, including Van," I countered.

"Really? I...so you and him...I didn't ruin anything? Because I have to admit, that was kind of my intention, and its shitty but true."

"No," I laughed, still holding onto him, glad he was being honest now that the cat was out of the bag, "but no more posturing. If you want something from me, just ask."

"Then we need to get out of here, right now," he growled into my lips, plunging his tongue between then and drawing me even closer to his body until I could feel his physiological reaction to the way he drowned in my kiss.

I looked up at him, slightly startled at his statement.

"What's the matter? What did I say?"

His blue eyes stared down at my steely gray ones and seemed to form a direct line to my pussy, making the sensation burning between my legs more and more potent the longer he breathed through gritted teeth and pinned me.

"Nothing is wrong. But...I wasn't lying when I said I've been thinking about you all day, Triste. Your taste, your body, the way you gasp and bit your lip when you come...I need to have you under my hands again."

His words set me on fire, and I felt like all my limbs were suddenly made of rubber as I clung to him in order to stay upright.

I glanced around for any sign of May and Jonas, seeking blonde dreads and lilac curls in a sea of black hair and dark clothes, but I couldn't find them.

A small part of my brain wondered if they had snuck off somewhere to have each other, but I immediately dismissed it, knowing May better. She was nothing if not dramatic, and everything had to be to her liking and satisfaction. A back room in a sketchy club hardly seemed to play to her tastes.

I turned back to Johannes, leaning up into him as he bowed his head so I could speak into his ear.

"I think they're lost out there somewhere."

He, being many inches taller than me, glanced towards the mass of bodies grinding together under the heat of the spotlights, and groaned a little.

"I don't see them."

"Well keep looking, and give me two minutes to straighten up and I'll meet you at the bar," I said with a little kiss to his cheek then headed off towards the ladies room.

--

I shut the door behind myself and screwed my eyes shut as my knees wobbled and I leaned heavily against the wood, thankful beyond words that there was no one else with me in the lavish restroom.

Is Mercury in fucking retrograde or something?

I stared at my reflection, reaching into my clutch, but then deciding that putting on more lipstick was probably a poor decision after the plans Johannes had just laid out for the rest of our night.

I blotted what was left of my first coat off on a paper towel, pleasantly surprised to find that my lips were still stained enough that no one would really be able to tell in the dark that I didn't have anything on.

Stained...or bruised?

"Probably both," I said aloud, answering her snark with my own before fixing my hair and stepping back outside.

My eyes searched for him for only a few seconds before landing on his back. Six foot four with long black hair was hard to miss.

A sudden wave of intense possessiveness shot through me as I watched the girl slinging drinks let her gaze linger on him for far too long, giving him a teasing smile and brushing his fingers with hers as she slid two drinks forward.

I sidled up next to him, running a soft touch up his side, and he beamed down at me before pressing a cocktail into my hand.

Another Aviation.

I quirked an eyebrow at him before looking carefully down into the liquid and he grinned.

"I didn't think that was necessary to get you to come home with me," he said and I rolled my eyes.

Someone cleared their throat behind me and I looked to the side at the man seated there as he stared at me with a smirk.  He had dark brown hair, kept short but combed back, and the way his lips curved naturally accentuated their fullness.

"I hear you have another tattoo that I should see," he said, looking at me still, his eyes becoming over-familiar.

"Fuck off, creep," I muttered, turning back to Johannes and stepping closer. I'd had enough of the weirdos for one day.

"Come on lets get out of here, I have no clue who that guy is," I said, reaching for his hand.

"Are you sure you don't know him?" Johannes asked, and I paused, thoroughly confused when I saw the telltale grin spread across his face.

"Uhm...I'm sure."

The presence at my back ran a soft hand down my spine over the fabric of my dress, just the tips of his fingers, and I turned, ready to give him a truly impolite talking-to.

Once in one day was fiery and a shock, twice in one day was surprising and unexpectedly arousing, but three times? Not the charm in this case, and he was about to know it.

But his eyes caught me off guard somehow as I whirled around.

There was something familiar there.

I'd seen that shade before, but where?

I wracked my brain, trying to come up with an answer as we stared at each other and I knew my head was cocking to the side but I also couldn't stop it.

He leaned in until his lips were almost touching my ear and he rasped, "I think you do know me..."

That voice.
When he spoke softly, whispering to me it was different from his speaking voice.
Lower. Raspier.

My immediate reaction was to shriek, and I did my best to swallow it and stifle the residual squeak of surprise with a cough as I backed up hard into Johannes and clamped my eyes shut.

I looked up again, just a peak, with one hand over my lips in case my screams snuck up on me and escaped.

"Papa?"

The sound was muffled by my hand, and I prayed that he hadn't heard as I screwed my eyes shut again.

He reached for the hand at my lips and took it, never dropping my eyes when I opened them as he brushed his lips across my knuckles.

"Hello again, lovely..."

He held my gaze for another moment and one corner of his mouth curved up in a heavenly smirk, "Johannes, would you mind if I ask this beautiful flower to dance with me?" he looked up at the one behind me.

The taller man had the good sense to reach around and pry the drink out of my hand before I dropped it to the floor and he snorted a laugh at the obvious state I'd worked myself into, running a hand down over my hip.

"Fine, but behave yourself! I don't want to have to find you later."

"Oh, don't make me clutch my pearls," he snarked, pulling me by the hand towards the dance floor.

I followed like I was in a dream, hardly able to believe what was happening to me.

The man pulled me close, wrapping one arm around my torso as his other sought my waist, tracing the line of it and moving me against his hips to the rhythm of the music.

I was too starstruck to think of anything to say, so I just pressed back harder against him, savoring the opportunity to touch and be touched by him.

How many nights had I laid in my bed thinking about what his hands would feel like traveling over my skin, gloved or not?

What they would feel like caressing me, squeezing me, pressing those fingers inside me...

The sigh that escaped my lips at the thought didn't go unnoticed.

"You know, Triste--" oh my god he knows your name!! "--that's the second time today that you've made that beautiful sound for me, and a man with less self control than I may get the wrong impression..."

His hands tightened their grip, holding me against his body as he ran his nose in a line up the side of my neck.

I gasped at the contact, immediately overwhelmed with arousal, and carded my fingers back through his dark hair, turning my face away as he pressed one hot, open-mouthed kiss to my neck, feeling unable to stop himself as he swirled his tongue lightly against my skin.

I made the sound for him again without realizing it.

Those lips felt like perfection incarnate, lightly sucking at my neck, breathing hotly across my skin.

My fingers laced through his at my hip; I desperately wanted to just push his hand under my dress in the middle of a very crowded dance floor, but that seemed like a faux pas.

"So about that tattoo..." he said lowly against me as the song changed, the taste of my skin on his tongue and my perfume igniting his senses.

I untangled my fingers from his perfect hair and took his left hand that was pressed against the middle of my abdomen, tracing a heated line with it up my body until his index finger settled just under my left breast.

Following my wordless guidance, he traced one finger over the spot, almost reading the alchemic symbols through my clothes.

He chuckled darkly into my ear, his finger still moving over that spot, flooding me again with an overwhelming need.

The words he started to whisper to me were horribly, deliciously obscene -- asking if it made me wet to have his mark on me, to know I was branded for him and on an intimate, physical level was his already and would be forever;

I was losing focus, absorbed into the rhythm of the song, the heat from his hands, the way his breath raised every goosebump across my skin that I had as he whispered my name against my neck over and over again in between heated kisses to my skin.

I felt eyes on me and looked up to see May, dancing face-to-face with Jonas, whose shirt had managed to become halfway unbuttoned, creating a contrast of glowing white cotton and sun-bronzed tattooed skin. Her eyebrows shot up, seeing my dance partner was not Johannes, and I winked at her, but she continued to stare at me over Jonas' shoulder while his lips worked her neck, almost mimicking those that were working mine.

She grinned suddenly, tangling her fingers in his dreads and pulling. I wanted to laugh out loud, remembering her saying earlier that hair like that was just begging to be pulled, but he raised his head and they turned with the music until they were both perpendicular to me.

I knew she wanted me to watch, and I did, drinking in the scene before me. She licked her lips invitingly at him, leaning back a little, and he crushed her mouth under his, immediately plunging his tongue between her lips as she wrapped her arms around his neck and his hands closed around her narrow waist with a bruising grip, pulling her closer into his hips.

It was hot to watch, and I pushed back to grind harder against the owner of the hands that started tracing the lace outline of my panties through my dress, feeling nearly desperate for more.

I was impossibly turned on, knowing the thin material was already drenched between my legs.

"This dress is great on you," he growled into the skin of my neck, just where it met my shoulder, before moving his lips to my ear, "and I like what you're wearing under it...tsk tsk tsk, thinking about you in lace is very distracting, do you know that, Triste?"

"Ohh...thank you...what do I call you?" I gasped, as his hands got closer and closer to where I wanted them, but stopped before they got there.

He didn't respond to my question for a moment, taking the opportunity to gently worry my earlobe between his teeth as I pressed my ass harder into his hips. He turned me quickly, and suddenly I was face to face with those eyes again, glowing under the lights.

"What do you want to call me, Triste?" he asked softly, his eyes lingering at my lips.

I took a page from May's book and licked them slowly, pulling the bottom one between my teeth. I leaned in until we were only a hair's breadth apart, still swaying to the music, and he tilted his head to the side, anticipating my kiss as his eyes fluttered shut.

"Papa," I whispered, my lips barely brushing his as I spoke.

One of his hands moved up and down the line of my back, tracing my spine and feeling my muscles as I moved.

His eyes moved back down to my lips and he leaned in slowly, so slowly, and took my mouth under his own, making me want to scream with arousal and desire as he pulled our bodies closer together and his lips worked mine, moaning softly.

He was deliciously thorough, and my head was already spinning by the time his tongue traced the curve of my bottom lip. I readily opened my lips to him, sinking into the passion of his kiss as his groan vibrated through my entire body when his tongue slid along mine.

His lips were full and lush -- the kind made for kissing and whispering, and I'd never kissed a mouth like his before.

One that created such beautiful music, and whispered such obscene poetry.

He'd spend the last several minutes wondering what my lips must taste like, so he wasted no time in pressing closer, wanting me to feel the reaction of his body to me.

To touching me. Scenting me. Kissing me...

And indeed, I could feel his arousal pressing against my hips. I thought for a moment I was going to drop dead.

"Mmm," he shifted his head so his lips were at my ear, "I would love to hear you screaming that with my face between those beautiful legs."

He felt against his skin more than heard my breathy moan as his lips went back to my neck and I let my face fall to the side to give him better access as they sucked a small mark into the curve where it met my shoulder. "

You like that? Have you imagined that before? Calling my name into the darkness while I devour you, not letting up until you come for me? What a delicious little girl you are, Triste..."

I couldn't respond right away. My brain was too overloaded to try, so I kept pressing into him, grinding against his erection, feeling wave after wave of wetness flooding my entrance.

"Have you touched yourself thinking about me, Triste," he purred, loving the dominance I gave him willingly, "did you make yourself come wishing it was me..."

I pressed my forehead down to his shoulder, his words all but making me buckle.

He pressed his lips to mine again as one hand moved down over my ass and his mouth found mine once more, moaning into me, taking advantage of the limited time we had left together.

The song ended then and he stepped back, taking my hand.

"Come on, lets return you to Johannes before my hands find their way under that dress right here and I make you forget about him completely..."

"Oh, gods, please don't go, not yet," I pulled on his hand and he abruptly turned back to me, anchoring his arm around my waist and almost pulling me off my feet with how hard he held me against him, bending me back and taking my mouth with a feral growl.

"If I don't get you back right this second, I'm going to fuck you, Triste. Right here. In front of all these people."

I made a sound that was something like a gasp and a moan, and he started pulling me back towards the bar once more, but I didn't miss the way he tugged his shirt down to cover his now incredibly-obvious want for me.

He stopped when we reached Johannes, who was wearing a smirk that almost made my heart stop.

"Have fun?" he asked, eyeing the fresh mark on my neck and the way I couldn't catch my breath.

I simply nodded as the blush crept up my throat.

Papa smirked, pressing one more kiss to my cheek before looking up at Johannes and laughing good-naturedly.

"Take this lovely girl home right now and make her scream, or I'm going to beat you to it."

Johannes grinned back at him while pulling me closer to his body, "and here I was thinking I'd told you to behave yourself!"

Papa's eyes were wandering back down the length of my body though, getting distracted once more.

"Mmhm...a difficult task, to be sure," he muttered.

I was so flushed and worked up that I stopped listening to their exchange when they switched to Swedish.

I was beyond flooded with need and hot burning lust, and lost in thinking of everything I wanted to do to Johannes when we got a second alone again.

"Goodbye, for now, beautiful," he growled in my ear, nipping at the sensitive skin of my neck just behind it and making me shiver hard as I turned.

"Goodbye, Papa," I whispered, pressing a hand to his cheek, "and thank you for Cirice'ing me today, I...it was a dream come true..." I said shyly, feeling my blush burning my cheeks as I looked at the floor and chewed my lip.

His smile turned sweet and he brushed his hand across my cheek.

"Oh, my child...it was my pleasure."

I smiled softly, "will you tell me your name?"

Papa gently tipped his fingers under my chin, making me meet those perfectly green eyes again.

Greener than normal.

Wait.

"In another lifetime, perhaps, my ghuleh..."

My head cocked slightly to the side.

His eyes didn't just...did they?

I shook my head at him, whispering into his ear as I leaned forward and murmured in the old language.

At worst, he thought I was nuts and we already made out, at best...

"I am the servant of the Mistress of Dread... I will have my answers...Papa," I finished with a sweet little smile at him, and his smirk told me everything I needed to know.

He looked from me to Johannes.

"Don't you ever let this one go because I will be there to sweep her away," he said, and then turned and disappeared into the crowd. I turned back to Johannes and leaned up to kiss him.

His tongue collided with mine instantly as his hands held a punishing grip on my hips.

"Time to go. Now." he growled lowly, jealously, into my lips.

"Mmm, and why is that?" I asked teasingly, not caring that there were people around us watching our lust for each other unfold again.

He dipped his lips to my ear, and his hair brushed against me, enveloping me in his scent again.

"Because I was watching you. And the sooner we leave and get back to the house, the sooner I get you out of that dress, and the sooner those panties come off and the sooner you come around my cock again and forget all about him...does that sound fair?"

My mouth worked soundlessly as I collapsed into him, though we were already standing so close together that it didn't make much of a difference.

When he pulled his face back to look at me, his pupils were dilated, barely showing any iris in the flashing club lights.

Just then, May approached us from behind him with Jonas in tow.

"Allo," she chimed, kissing me on the cheek.

Hers were flushed with exertion and something else that I assumed was due to the numerous little marks peppering her neck that hadn't been there before.

We gripped each others' hands for a moment, grounding ourselves and checking in wordlessly.

"Il vient avec nous?" I asked, trying not to look at Jonas as I said it.

He was wonderfully attractive with his top buttons undone and his dreads now pulled back into an elastic band that let the blonde ropes of hair cascade down his back. His jeans were tight and the perfect shade of acid-washed blue.

I realized that I was in fact staring at him, despite my best efforts, and he grinned at me, raising one eyebrow.

"Bien sur, pluie...j'ai besoin de plus..."

"Uh huh," I giggled, "then lets get going, yes?"

The wetness between my own legs was distracting enough, and thinking about Jonas naked wasn't helping matters.

Chapter Text

I took a considerable gasp of the fresh night air, letting the cool breeze settle the flush under my skin and blow through the tangles in my thoughts.

May led Jonas by the hand towards my Jeep and I clicked the unlock button twice to let them in. His hands wrapped around her waist and lifted her up into the car, and he quickly moved in after, accompanied by a shriek and cacophony of girlish giggles, quickly muffled as he pressed her back down flat onto the seats and devoured her mouth, not even bothering to close to door behind him.

I decided to give them a moment, fishing in my clutch for my phone as I crossed to the driver's side door.

Johannes was already there, and I when I smiled up at him I was unprepared for the guarded look that suddenly held his emotions back from me as his walls went up.

My brow creased and I was about to ask him what was the matter when I was suddenly slammed hard back against the door as his tongue filled my mouth.

I'd hardly seen him move in the first place until his heat was pressing me against the cool metal of the frame.

One of his hands tangled into my hair, tearing the pins out that had kept the mass of wavy curls in place, and the other pinned my arms up against the window, my keys clattering against the glass.

Johannes moaned heavily into my lips, sliding his tongue between them and fighting mine for dominance.

He couldn't kiss me deep enough, get enough of me, tell me what he was feeling in that moment. He could only relish the gasps and sounds of desire that he drew from me as I kissed him back with an equal amount of passion.

It was unexpected and very public, but I wasn't about to complain either.

He broke our kiss, but didn't release me or pull back his hips that had me pinned.

Johannes simply stared down at me as we both tried to regain our breath.

Then, as if trying to clear out cobwebs, he blinked hard twice and shook his head back and forth slowly, staring at the ground as he heaved a sigh.

"Triste...what are you doing to me..."

I was silent for a beat, wondering the same question myself.

I'd never had an experience like this with someone before - meeting by chance and almost immediately feeling what I felt for him now.

But I'd been so careful with him.

Nothing I had done had given him any indication of what I was...tears prickled my eyes and I looked away, pulling on my arms until he let me have control of them again; he looked at me as he released them from his grip and I wrapped them around myself.

"I-I'm sorry if I've made you uncomfortable. I don't...I don't want you to feel p-pressured or anything, like you need to-to spend time with me or whatever after last night...you don't owe me anything...I didn't mean to get attached to you. I'm sorry."

He looked down at me when I finished murmuring the last word, and I was still staring at the asphalt, focusing on one reflective, glistening speck that was blurring anyways as my tears refused to be reabsorbed.

Everything in his mind was on flatlining, stalling out on one word.

Attached.
Attached.
She said she's attached.
To me.

"Triste. Triste look at me."

I couldn't - not with tears in my eyes, and I shook my head.

Johannes physically turned my face up to look at him, holding my chin between his thumb and forefinger, and I tried to blink them away rapidly, but it only made them fall down my cheeks.

"I don't get attached to people, Triste," he said softly.

My heart wanted to fall to the ground and shatter into a million pieces, and he saw me screw my eyes shut for the quickest moment before resuming, realizing how I'd taken what he said.

"Not normally. That's why I asked what you're doing to me..."

My eyes opened again, searching his for clarification -- for anything.

"I--I'm not used to...this. Not after just meeting someone. I meet so many people, they all just become kind of a blur. But you...Triste you're burned into my brain. Like you're in my head, and under my skin, and I constantly want more of you...I guess I-I'm...I think I'm attached to you too," he finished with his hands stuffed in his pockets, and I couldn't do anything but stand up on my tiptoes and wrap my arms around his shoulders, laying my head against one of them and pulling him close.

His embrace was comforting and at this point his body felt familiar pressed against mine, though still thrilling and indescribably delicious.

"I'm not going to hurt you, Johannes," I whispered, wanting to gather him to me and comfort and reassure him for the rest of the night.

He held onto me like I might disappear and I felt more connected to him than we had even a minute earlier.

"Then maybe we just...maybe we just go with it," his eyes lit up a little as he pulled back to give me a tentative, nervous smile.

"I like that plan," I nodded, laughing at my own state as I wiped my tears from my cheeks, and he leaned down to kiss me again, slowly this time, letting his lips caress mine rather than devour.

"I-if you want to go slower, we can," I murmured into his kiss, "I don't want you to think that I like...expect anything."

He growled lowly in my ear as one huge, heated hand slid over my waist, "but I already told you what to expect tonight, didn't I baby..."

My knees gave, but luckily I was still pinned to the car and his hips held me up. He needed me as badly as I needed him.

The window opened behind me a crack and May's voice floated out of the crack.

"Come on, oie, let's go!" I knew she was impatiently waiting, and I didn't blame her for the rush as I remembered watching her dance with Jonas and seeing his tongue pass her lips. A shiver went through me as I looked up at Johannes, unadulterated lust coloring my gaze.

"I hope you know what you're in for," I teased, and he smirked down at me.

"I've known and wanted more all damn day, Triste, now up you go...goose," he said with a wink as he pulled the door open and boosted me into the seat.

My brain caught up and I realized when I buckled my seatbelt that he'd understood her pet name for me.

When he settled in the passenger side, I leaned my head back against the headrest and looked over at him.

"Parlez-vous?" I asked softly and he smirked and nodded.

"Damn, how many languages do you speak?"

He held up five fingers and I stared open-mouthed.

"Whats the fifth?"

Johannes smirked at me again and shook his head.

"Not telling."

"Bah, fine, keep your secrets if you think you're so clever."

I turned to look back at May and Jonas. She was halfway in his lap, and his hand had disappeared under the neckline of her dress, palming her breast beneath the material.

"Hey, buckle up, lovebirds. I am not getting a ticket so you two can make out more comfortably in my backseat," I grinned, and his eyes opened to meet mine, making me take pause in the wake of their intensity as he continued to kiss May deeply and stare at me.

I watched his mouth work hers, delving his tongue in and then making her chase him with a soft moan as her fingers tangled themselves in his dreads.

Damn. Well okay, then.

I cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Buckle."

He smirked at me as he pulled back and they maneuvered their belts across their laps then resumed devouring each other loudly.

I looked over at Johannes and held out my hand to take his as we pulled out and sped down the road, back towards the house.

The sounds coming from Jonas and May were becoming downright distracting though, and I released his hand to push the radio button.

"No, leave it," Johannes chuckled, " I like this song."

I shook my head, liking only a little that he was enjoying watching me squirm as Cirice played over my speakers.

"You're a jerk," I giggled.

"No, I just like playing with my food before I eat it..."

I coughed, trying to not moan out loud into the car, but Johannes' hand wandered into my lap.

"Don't crash, please," he laughed lowly, stroking up my leg and dipping his fingers beneath my dress.

"Y-you m-might want to stop then," I gasped, as one long finger brushed over the soaked lace covering my pussy.

I looked furtively at him, trying to weigh whether or not I was embarrassed at him doing this in front of May and Jonas, who weren't even paying attention anyways.

But his finger kept exploring, kept brushing over my core and I moaned softly.

"Johannes," I whispered, the feel of his fingers mingled with that familiar voice through my speakers now almost too much to bear.

"You know, I should punish you for kissing him when I told you both to behave," he leaned over and breathed in my ear, "as hot as it was to watch. I think a spanking or something is in order, Miss Triste..."

--

We pulled into the parking spot behind the house then and I looked over at him with heated eyes, ready to take him there in the front seat of my car, and he grinned back at me before glancing into the back seat behind us, where Jonas' hand had disappeared under May's dress between her legs and she was gasping into his mouth.

The sound became incredibly loud as the stereo shut off and the engine died.

"Kungen, let the poor girl breathe," he laughed, as his friend stopped his physical onslaught and May grinned up at him, opening and slipping out of the door after adjusting her dress.

He followed suit and then she led him around the front of the car, disappearing around the corner with a mischievous grin that I knew would get her in as much trouble as that dress had.

Johannes opened his door and got out, and I took a deep breath, closing my eyes and leaning back into my seat for a moment.

I needed to keep a hold on my energy.

My door opened and I looked over softly at him, but his eyes were dark and everything about the way he looked at me made me wetter.

I breathed his name as his hand crossed my lap and unbuckled me. Those beautiful fingers brushed my thighs as the buckle zipped across my waist and back into its holster, and I grabbed them, stopping their movement away from where I desperately needed them.

He looked at me and bit his lip, as they worked forward again and underneath my dress, dipping between my legs, and I whimpered when they brushed over my pussy again, maneuvering the soaked fabric aside as two of them suddenly pressed inside me together down to the last knuckle.

My back arched off the seat as he pushed all the way into me, scissoring his fingers and massaging my inner walls with a soft moan of his own.

"Well, look who's all ready to go..." he murmured, leaning in to kiss me as his thumb brushed over my clit and I clenched hard around him.

I was already so geared up from that interaction with Papa, then Jonas' stare, that I was about to come from his bare caress.

He knew so too, and immediately pulled his fingers from me, coated in my slick.

I whined for more and he smirked at me, admiring the way his fingers glistened with my fluids, and I wrapped my hand around his wrist as he pushed his fingers to my mouth.

"Fuck yes," he whispered, feeling my tongue slide along his fingers, gathering my juices and moaning softly as I reached down to palm his erection over his pants.

He growled and pulled his hand from my lips, lifting me out of the car with a yank and all but throwing me down on the hood, still warm from the drive home.

My feet never touched the ground as he shoved my dress up to my hips and pushed his hair back off his shoulders with a delicious smirk.

"Tell me you want more, Triste."

"Johannes..."

"Tell me that you've been remembering all day how I feel inside you, Triste."

A sharp gasp left my lips.

"Gods, I've been thinking about making you come for hours now," he said desperately, barely getting the words out before burying his face into my pussy, that long tongue immediately filling me.

I arched hard off the metal of the hood and planted my heels so I could press harder into his questing mouth.

He devoured me, moving his tongue in every way I'd thought possible and I was lost in a swirling haze of bliss.

I came almost immediately, reaching down to grab onto his hair as I whined and writhed and he responded likewise into my center, loving my taste and getting lost in the way I pulsed against him as he lapped up my cum.

My fingers pulled hard on his dark locks when it became too much, and yanked his face up so I could kiss him when I sat up. I gasped for breath, cupping his face with both hands and drowning in endorphins and happiness that he was here and wanted to be with me.

He reached between us and straightened my panties and my dress without ever interrupting our kiss, then lifted me off the hood and settled me down on my feet, keeping me close to him, bending me backwards with the force of his mouth against mine.

"Your bed or mine?" He laughed lowly, and I was about to tell him that I didn't fucking care as long as it happened right this second when a cry reached both our ears.

"Merde! How did I not know there was a pool?! Triste come here!"

Chapter Text

I grinned at Johannes and took his hand, leading him as I followed her voice.

He let go of me to say something to Jonas as I crossed to May and she pulled me close to her, the obvious happiness written across her features.

"Tu sais nager?" She asked with a wicked grin.

"You know I can," I rolled my eyes with a laugh, kicking out of my shoes and groaning at the relief of being flat on the ground again.

"He watches you, you know," she whispered, sweeping my hair back from my cheeks and cupping them, "when you are not looking...you are happy? With Johannes? You are, I see it, cherie, the way you look at him."

"I am, but its still...uncertain. Everything feels like it might just slip away if I turn around for a second..." I said, pressing my forehead to hers, "but I do like him."

“Mmm, where is your trust, pêche? Does our goddess not always provide?"

I frowned a little, realizing that she was right. From one lifetime to the next, our goddess provided us with family, lovers, friends, children, work that we reveled in... and underneath it all was the passion for the one we served. 

"For one time, Triste," she murmured to me, gripping my cheeks tightly so my gray eyes would meet her perfect blue ones, "do not try to always have the control, hmm? Just go with the current."

"The flow," I bumped her forehead with mine, "but you're right...je t'aime, my dove," I sighed, reveling in the warmth and love that was our relationship. She'd been my partner for millennia - the people changed, society changed, rules changed. The only certain things were Nedjem and our goddess, and the unshakable love I had for both.

I leaned in to kiss her, as we'd done hundreds of times before, getting lost in the softness of her lips and the closeness of our bond.

Kissing women was always different than kissing men - we knew instinctually what to give because we knew what we wanted to receive.

We pulled each other closer without thinking and our kiss deepened, until May's hands came around my back and slid the zipper of my dress down, and I reciprocated, shrugging out of the material as she turned and I untied the fastening at the back of her dress, planting a soft kiss on her neck.

Both men growled lowly as we caught their attention and they watched.

I looked at Johannes and Jonas as I slowly slid the material down off her shoulders, and she stepped out of her heels before letting the dress fall down and off her hips, landing in a pile around her feet that she effortlessly kicked to the side.

Every move she made was expert and calculated, like a spider weaving her web, one strand at a time.

I glanced at the fly she had in mind, but he was too enraptured with staring at her exposed skin to notice that anyone else existed.

I was thankful that she'd insisted on dressing me head to toe as she stood in her slate gray lace, and me in my black, waiting to see who would make the next move.

Jonas took a step closer towards her, but something in her stare stopped him, and he stood rooted to the spot.

"Patience..." she breathed, with a saucy little smirk.

May pulled my face gently over her shoulder so she could kiss me again and I knew exactly what she was doing as I heard him growl lowly.

I smirked into her lips and indulged her with a soft moan, running my fingers down the length of her throat for a little extra flare as we let our boys watch our tongues sliding together.

She felt like a drug every time we did this as she turned so we were perpendicular to them.

"Who was that man that you were kissing?” she whispered into my ear, running a hand over my waist to keep Jonas and Johannes from listening too hard when she turned back to me.

I stifled a giggle - everything had been moving so quickly, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t told her and a thrill of excitement ran through me as I grabbed her for a hard kiss, before pressing my lips back to her ear.

“Papa,” I whispered.

Her jaw dropped and I could see the millions of questions zipping through her brain.

"Non...h-he's so...ses lèvres..." she bit her lip, stuttering through her English, and sucked in a deep breath.

“Not tonight, my dove,” I laughed softly, "its rude to keep them waiting...and I'm fucking dying over here," I finished quietly with a grin and a wink.

“Mmm, always the manners. And I thought Americans were supposed to be rude and brash! But we talk about this later, you and me."

May flicked her eyes back to Jonas, looking him up and down, but spoke to me still.

Tu sais quoi? Je pense que c'est percé," she giggled, taking my hand to pull me towards the pool.

She crooked one finger at him as we stepped in to the shallow end, the water chilly in the night air.

"It is," Johannes smirked at her, drawing a look that involved both eyebrows moving up her forehead in surprise that he'd understood her.

Her eyes flicked down to Jonas' waist and the erection that we could both see through his jeans, and she licked her lips invitingly at him.

"Quelle excitation," she said quietly.

The shorter man shed his shirt, shoes, and jeans, and I had to admit that Jonas was a sight to behold, standing almost naked, the breeze picking up the shorter dreadlocks and blowing them over his shoulder as the lights in the pool sent a water patterns dancing across his skin.

The dark array of tattoos that covered both arms joined his chestpiece just at his shoulders, and I found my eyes tracing every curve and ridge of each muscle, watching them flex and relax as they shifted.

He looked from May over to me, and I felt his heated stare traveling over my body, taking in the swells of my breasts, the curve of my waist, the way my palms floated gently on the surface tension of the pool.

I gave him a cheeky little wave, but when Johannes caught my gaze, I forgot all about him.

His dark hair blew over his shoulders, long enough that it it reached down his chest, as he slowly undid one shirt button at a time, forbidding me from looking anywhere else as he slid the material down off his arms and tossed it carelessly to the side before slipping out of his shoes and slowly pushing his jeans down and off his hips.

He was the kind of pale that made some of the veins visible just under the surface of his skin, and his blue eyes seemed like depthless pits of want and unbending need as he watched me take him in.

The anticipation of his hands on my body again made me bite my lip as he stepped into the water and advanced towards me as I took a step further back, luring him in like we were dancing.

The movement made the water lap at my stomach and I shivered both from the chill and something else.

Jonas grabbed May around the waist, wrapping his hands around her hips as he pulled her into the deeper water, wasting precisely no time, everything he wanted written plainly across his face.

The sounds they made together were delicious and intimate, and I found myself watching them once more. His hands moved down to her ass as his shoulders leaned back and hit the wall with a splash when she wrapped her legs around his waist, moaning softly against his lips before devouring him in a rough kiss that left her grinding against his erection.

The sound of him groaning into her hit me like an electric shock across the pool and I fought the desire to move towards them, though my feet still took a step.

I watched Jonas’ hands reach around her back, but Johannes filled my vision then, looming over me and looking down with black eyes.

“Triste,” he said softly, laying his palms along the curve of my hips and pulling until I stepped closer to him.

He bent his head and kissed me in a way that made me forget we hadn’t been doing it forever, and I could feel the moans vibrating through his chest as his fingers closed around my back and he started pulling me into the deeper end of the pool on our side, keeping me flush against him.

He explored my body, reaching those long arms down to play with my ass, and I was rendered incapable of moving or thinking as he gripped me and moved his hands over the lace.

"Is this all you ever wear?" he murmured with a half-laugh, and I gasped as he palmed my ass harder for a moment before abruptly spinning me so my back was pressed to his chest.

My feet didn’t reach the bottom where we were, so he leaned back against the wall and pulled me up around my middle until I was settled against his erection, and he tipped my chin back to ravage my lips again.

His tongue danced along mine in an intoxicating way, making me shiver and moan with the need that was steadily growing as the wetness gathered once more between my legs.

Johannes laughed softly into my ear before softly pulling at my earlobe.

I thought quietly for a moment, taking the seconds to check in with myself and be present in all the sensations I was experiencing - the hard muscle of his legs holding me up, though they were still thin and lean, the warmth of his chest pressed into my back and how his breaths were slow and even, the ends of his hair, lazily trailing through the water and drifting around to tickle at my skin.

He held my face with his left hand, his thumb just behind my ear and his fingers long enough to wrap down my neck, keeping my head where he wanted it as he kissed a line of fire up the other side.

"Are you watching closely," he murmured into me ear, the other arm shifting to still hold me up, but dropping lower to run his fingers over my pussy again.

I was.

Something made of slate gray lace floated away from the intertwined tangle of limbs at the far end of the pool, and the movement of their bodies sent rhythmic waves across the length of it, making the water gently lap at my half-exposed breasts, chilling them in the cool evening breeze.

"Does it turn you on to watch, Triste..." he rasped in my ear.

"I wonder if she's wet like you are..."

His fingers slid more firmly over my entrance, but stayed decidedly far from my clit, making me writhe against him, trying to get more friction, more contact.

The hand holding my face dropped move like lightning down around my neck.

"What did I tell you in the car, Triste."

"I--I don't--"

"I told you," his words dripped dominance and he pressed one finger against my opening, still over top of the lace, just teasing me, "that you deserved a punishment."

"But--but I-" I wanted to scream at the thought that he wasn't going to let me come, and he chuckled darkly as he watched the understanding unfold across my face.

"Coming is for good girls," he reminded, giving my throat a light squeeze before turning my head back to watch Jonas and May.

She cried out against his mouth as he worked her hips with his hands, grinding his cock against her but not fucking her yet. His hands moved like lightning and undid the clap of her bra so she could shrug out of that too before they dropped back down under the water. 

She made a thoroughly indecent comment en français and I heard Johannes chuckling lowly behind me.

"She's mouthy that one, isn't she?" As he murmured to me, he lifted my hips off of his, pushing my panties down off my hips and doing the same the same to his boxers before pulling me back flush against him, skin on skin.

"I wonder what else that mouth does...hmm..." he mused, licking up the shell of my ear and relishing my shivers as I tangled a wet hand back into his hair to hold myself up while his own started working over my body, up and down my waist, my hips, my legs, but never between them.

"Is the inside of her mouth soft like yours, Triste?" he growled, unable to stop from rolling his hips against me at the memory of watching me take his cock into my throat.

The frenzied movements at the other end of the pool stopped, leaving only breathy gasps and a sudden sharper cry as Jonas shifted her just enough to start pressing into her, stretching her open and leaving her a pliable mass of lilac curls and soft skin in his capable hands.

One quick glance at my face made up Johannes' mind, and he moved my hips to start doing the same. He wanted to tease me and make me beg, but he couldn't stand not being inside me while we witnessed the erotic scene. 

"Oh, god, fuuuuck," he groaned, holding my waist with an iron grip so I couldn't maneuver myself further back onto him as he thoroughly broke my concentration.

"Please, please please please please," I babbled, begging anyways at this point for any even accidental brush against my clit.

"You are still not allowed to come yet," he snarled in my ear, making my back arch.

The waves from the other end started anew, and the sound of Jonas growling very nearly undid me on the spot, making Johannes grind his teeth with how hard I clenched around him.

"Goddamn, baby, you do like to watch don't you," he said darkly, still holding himself bottomed out inside me, rolling his hips.

"Is May tight like you are, Triste," he started again, "I wonder if she tastes good like you do..."

"Johannes," I exhaled, overstimulated and overworked and full and so close to the edge but unable to get there.

"Can I tell you a secret," he growled, not bothering to wait for my answer before he started moving, keeping my face forward so I could watch May tug at Jonas' nipple ring with her teeth, "I like to watch too..." his fingers danced over my clit.

My mouth opened in a scream that was soundless at first, my body writhing, completely under his control.

A breathy groan left Jonas' lips and then May disappeared under the water, settling on her knees on the bottom of the pool and his eyes snapped up to mine as he yelled, his fingers curling into her hair as he panted.

"Fuck fuck fuck," he growled, glancing down to watch the way the water distorted her image, making her movements seem exaggerated but still graceful at the same time.

Johannes' fingers brushed over my clit again, more firmly, finally giving me some of the contact I needed so badly, and Jonas' eyes snapped up to mine, the heat in them promptly hurtling me over the edge of an orgasm so intense, the corners of my vision went black.

It set off something like a chain reaction, and Johannes moaned into my ear as his hips stuttered against my ass, his breaths uneven and shallow as he spilled inside me, growling obscenities and jerking my hips back against him harder.

Jonas came too, throwing his head back and crying his pleasure out into the sky in a way that instantly made me want to go again.

"You," he growled when May resurfaced with a cocky smirk, licking her lips. He grabbed her waist and lifted her out of the pool roughly, but with enough care not to scrape her delicate skin against the rough edge of the concrete as he pulled her legs to the edge and buried his face between them.

The sound of his name filled the air, the words swept out to the ocean by the wind.

But I didn't see anymore when Johannes pulled me off his cock and turned me to face him as he panted.

The unbridled lust was gone, the threat of punishment was gone.

There was only that look.

That same look he'd given me last night.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked quietly after several moments, leaning forward to kiss me softly, cupping one hand around the back of my neck, "because if you want it to be just sex, it can be...I think...maybe..."

I smiled at him, brushing a strand of hair away from his face and watching the drop of water from my fingertip slide down over his skin.

"Its not just sex though," I whispered, "I feel...connected to you."

My heart palpitated at the curve of the happy smiling mouth that collided with mine.

"Are you going to be at the festival tomorrow too?"

"Mmhm, same deal as today," I let my legs float behind me as my arms wrapped around his neck.

"Then what?"

"Then...I'm not sure. Then just vacation I guess."

"Are you staying here?"

I nodded, "for the rest of the week."

"Do you...do you want to come stay with me?"

He shocked both of us with the request, and I honestly hadn't even thought about it until that moment, but I laughed when I recovered after a second of looking surprised.

"Are you asking me to move in with you already, Johannes?" I teased, kissing his nose and he chuckled and rolled his eyes.

"I just want you in my bed, Triste. Call it whatever you want."

My response was cut off by a searing kiss, only made hotter by the sound of May's screams of pleasure and the wet sounds of Jonas thrusting his fingers into her, growling 'come for me' over and over again into her core.

"Ohh," I gasped as two of Johannes' fingers found my entrance and I pressed my forehead hard against his cheek.

"Again," he said, but he went slower with me this time, letting his fingers slip gently inside me and rolling the pad of his thumb over my clit.

"Come stay with me," he whispered again, nipping at my earlobe, "wake up with me, baby..."

I whimpered and clenched around his fingers which started fluttering inside me, pressing on that one spot he'd found that was so sensitive.

"Please don't stop that feels so good," I whispered, clinging onto him like he was the only thing keeping me upright as my head dipped below the surface of the sea of pleasure and my whole body stiffened with my release.

"Ohh, that's it," he cooed into my ear, keeping me upright and covering me with soothing touches from his opposite hand, "such a good girl..."

He held my exhausted body against his, murmuring little nothings to me, tipping my chin up to kiss me softly every minute or so.

I shivered in the wind as it picked up off the ocean, just beyond the confines of our little pool area.

"Are you cold?"

"Yes, but I don't want to get out yet."

"You're falling asleep, Triste," he laughed softly, wanting to make a sarcastic joke, but finding rather that he wanted nothing more than to feel me sleeping happily in his arms again.

"Not my fault," I murmured with a slow smile, "someone...someone used up all my energy."

"Well then, I'd say the sooner we get you to bed, the sooner those energy stores are full," he teethed at the back corner of my jaw lightly, "and the sooner we can work on depleting them again..."

"Gods, you're insatiable," I giggled, but kissed him hungrily.

"I've been called worse," he shrugged with a grin, pushing off the wall and drifting slowly towards the stairs.

"Woah, wait!"

He gave me a questioning glance as I searched around the pool, finally spotting black lace at the bottom and diving for it. I resurfaced as I adjusted my panties back up on my hips and he held a hand out to me, "lets go, Ariel."

Chapter Text

Jonas and May had disappeared somewhere without her dress or her shoes, and I scooped up both plus my own as I shivered in the night air.

We made our way up the steps slowly, one at a time, stopping every few for a lingering kiss like we were horny, handsy teenagers.

"Come sneak into my bed," I giggled into his lips, wrapping my arms around his shoulders, unable to even think about stopping though I was exhausted.

"Mmm, I can't," he sighed pressing his forehead against mine, "gotta check in with everyone."

"Everyone?"

"...I didn't rent a house by myself for a week..."

"Right. Of course. Duh."

He cocked his head for a moment, watching me before his mouth curved into a little smirk.

"Come meet them."

"NO. What? I mean. Ahem. I can't i'm...not dressed appropriately."

"Hardly dressed at all, if you ask me, but still wearing too much," he chuckled, swallowing my sarcastic reply as his tongue filled my mouth.

"Are you nervous," he purred, doing that thing where he took a step towards me and I took a step back until I was trapped against the side of the house again, clutching my dress against my mostly naked body but still too wet from the pool to even think of squeezing into it.

"Of-of meeting them? N-no, of course I'm not -- pfft. Of course I'm not n-nervous."

"Are you sure?" he licked up the side of my neck, just the tip of his tongue, making my back bow into him, "because you're stuttering, Triste. And you only stutter when you're nervous."

"Johannes..."

"Gods, I want you again," he growled when my only real defense was to curl my fingers against his skin.

Someone called his name from the other side of the deck then, and we both froze as he shifted us to shield me from view.

"That would be my cue, I think," he groaned, halfway looking like he was thinking about ignoring whoever it was.

"Right...well...off you go then..."

"Will I see you tomorrow?"

"Of course you will," I nodded, breathing a little sigh before resigning myself to saying goodbye.

"And the day after?"

"I told you, I'm here for the whole week," I smiled, "and you can see me every day, if you want to...since we'll be staying together..." I looked down at my knotted fingers as I mumbled the last part, and he paused for a moment.

"Yeah?"

"I-if you want, I mean...we don't...have to..."

His parting kiss was rough, hungry and my own arousal flared up under the heat of his caress.

"Gods, you should be exhausted," I moaned into his lips, gripping his erection through his pants as he pressed against me, and eliciting a low growl, "how are you not?"

"The thought of doing this again is very much keeping me awake..."

He slammed me back hard against the side of the house, muffling my gasp of surprise with one huge hand as the other tore my dress from my fingers and threw it to the deck floor.

In one quick movement he shoved his fingers underneath the lace of my panties, drawing a wide-eyed but mostly silent gasp from me.

"Gotta be quiet, baby," he grinned menacingly, pressing all his weight against me, "don't wanna wake the neighbors..."

His fingers moved fast, almost impossibly so, plunging in and out of me, fucking me hard and grinding his thumb against my clit as my knees started to buckle, but the hand across my mouth all but silenced my moans.

"Give me one more," he growled lowly, panting in my ear, "gush for me, cover me, Triste."

I was so keyed up from the entire night, that he didn't have to work very long for the desired result.

"That's right," he breathed hotly into my ear as he felt my pussy squeezing his digits and my cum gushing across his palm as my hips bucked wildly, "you fucking love how my fingers feel inside you. Its all you're gonna be able to fucking think about tomorrow. Watch me onstage and know that I'll be thinking of you just.like.this."

He slammed his fingers into me one more time, uncovering my mouth so he could swallow my throaty cry and taste me one last time, and then he was gone, slipping his fingers into his mouth as he adjusted himself and crossed the deck, and I barely kept my feet under me as my hands grasped the wall for support.

Tim's face was briefly illuminated orange as he bent his head to light his cigarette and I dashed inside with a squeak when he glanced my way.

--

I slipped into my room unnoticed thankfully, the rest of the house quiet and asleep in the lateness of the hour.

My sheets were warm and inviting, but I took a moment to stand at my window, staring out across the deck at the ocean, praying silently to Her in my mind, thanking her for such a perfect day and for the returned affections of the man I couldn't seem to get out of my brain.

I wanted to express my concerns about Na'eemah's behavior and her unspecified plans, but the sharpness of her words cut off my attempt.

With one last whispered incantation, I undressed, donning a clean tshirt and shorts and collapsing into the warm embrace of much-needed sleep.

--

When the bed dipped behind me hours later and partially awakened me, I assumed it was May, finally resurfacing from wherever she'd disappeared to with Jonas.

But it wasn't.

His hair was dark enough that I knew it wasn't her when I caught a sleepy glimpse of it, my eyes flying open with the realization as I jolted awake.

"What are you doing here?" I whispered, but he pressed me back into the pillows, and the breeze from the open window informed me just how he'd gotten past my locked door.

"Maybe I missed you," he chuckled, kissing me again, nudging me back so he could get under the blankets with me, and pulling me immediately into his arms so I was facing him and dropping another kiss to my lips.

"Stealing panties and sneaking in bedroom windows, tsk tsk tsk, I think you're escalating, Johannes," I teased, whispering so we wouldn't wake anyone else up, though I was sure they were all dead asleep.

"Well I guess I'll just go then," he moved like he was going to get up.

"No!"

Even in the dark, I could see the smirk curving his mouth as he slowly turned back to me

"Stay with me..." I pulled him back down, laying my arm around his back so he couldn't escape again and he hummed a little laugh, wrapping his own arms around me and dipping his fingers under my tshirt to run lazy lines up and down my back.

"May has the same tattoo as you."

"Mmhm...oh, speaking of--"

"Do not even get me started. Its half the reason I'm here," he chuckled, "that girls got some serious stamina."

I buried my face in his chest to muffle my hysterical laughter.

He wasn't lying - May was like me, but even with the pronounced uptick in my own sex drive, which was currently yelling at me from the back of my mind, I'd never been able to keep up with her.

"Good, well at least I know where she is."

"Oh, I highly doubt they'll be leaving his room any time in the near future," he chuckled in response, and I was glad he didn't say anything more about the tattoo.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up," he said quietly. The backs of his fingers ran down my face and sent a little thrill through my entire body.

"Yes you did."

"Okay maybe just for a minute," he laughed.

"I'm never going to get any sleep around you, am I?"

"Mmm," he kissed me deeply, relishing the way my lips slowly opened to him, "maybe not...but sleep also sounds nice."

I took a deep breath, feeling the relaxation that seemed to naturally fill me now when we were together.

"Then goodnight," I pressed one more kiss to his lips and settled comfortably against his shoulder, the warmth from his hands seeming to make my very bones glow.

"Goodnight, älskling," he whispered.

I wanted to ask what it meant, but I was out like a light before the thought fully formed itself. Johannes found himself staring at the ceiling for several quiet minutes, listening to my even breathing, feeling it across his skin, before sleep pulled him away too.

--

My bed was empty when I woke up, but my bedroom window was still open and the sunshine was streaming through.

"Ah, you're up!" Mat peaked his head in when I sat up and ran a hand back through my hair with a loud yawn, "well, sorry but you just missed him. Not that sorry though."

My stomach dropped.

"Mat...please tell me you didn't harass him."

"Why would I even look twice at that loser, Triste. You're gonna be a very unhappy girl in a moment, so please don't yell at me. I'm far too hungover for yelling today."

He quirked an eyebrow at me when my head cocked to the side in confusion.

"Sorry, who are you talking about?"

The only thing that changed on his face was the slow, knowing curve of his mouth that turned up at one corner as he glanced at the open window.

"I dont know, Triste, who are we talking about? Also, no offense, kitten, but that's not your sexiest bedroom garb..."

I rolled my eyes and swung my feet over onto the floor.

"Up and at 'em, Abbey Road," he smiled as I stood and stretched, absorbing the morning sun.

Something on my windowsill caught my eye, and I crossed to pick it up.

It was a nickel.

"Clever boy," I smiled to myself before turning back to Mat, "Abbey Road? What happened to kitten? I think I like kitten better."

"Yeah, you know, like the Beatles."

"Yes, Matty, I know who made that album."

"She Came in Through the Bathroom Window? Well...He Came in Through the Bedroom Window is I guess a little less midnight rendez-vous and a little more sexual assault, now that I say it out loud..."

I closed my eyes and shook my head, trying my best not to laugh but doing it anyways.

"Don't tell the others please," I said, the smile in my voice evident, giving away how much I loved that we were sneaking about like kids.

How could I not?

It was thrilling.

"Afraid its just you and me this morning, kitten."

That stopped me cold and I whirled towards him.

"Where's Van?"

"Its telling, darling, that you didn't ask where May is."

"I already know where May is, where's Van?"

"Gone. Just huffed out after a rather...ah..."

"A rather what," I groaned through gritted teeth.

"Shall we call it an exchange?"

"Christ," I muttered, moving past him and bolting for the door, hoping I could catch up with him.

I didn't owe him anything, but I did need his help today - the crowd expected for the final day of the festival was supposed to be significantly larger than the other two.

"Van!" I called, catching sight of him just as he angrily tossed his bag in the back seat of his car.

"Fuck off, Triste."

I dashed down the steps, uncaring that I was in my pajamas.

"What the hell, man? You're leaving?"

"Yes, I'm leaving," he hissed when he turned around.

"Why? If this is about the thing at the show yesterday, I'm not mad at you about that, it wasn't a big deal."

"Its not."

"Well...come on, you can't just leave! What the hell's going on?"

"I fucking can!" he yelled, making me take an involuntary step back as he seethed, "I thought that you invited me here because you wanted to start something, but then you two both just -just..."

He could hardly get the words out, and neither of us noticed the extra presence moving down the stairs quietly, listening and watching.

"Everyone knows that May will fuck anything that moves--"

"Hey, watch it," I snapped right back. What he'd said was both unfair and untrue, but he carried on anyways.

"But you, I never expected you to-to...to whore yourself out, Triste," he yelled, advancing a step closer, and I paused as the blood pounded in my ears, everything starting to move in slow motion.

"What did you just say to me?"

He felt the heat of my energy and it was his turn to take a step back.

"Is there a problem here?" someone asked.

I whirled around and my heart rate went through the roof.

"What are you sleeping with her too?" Van growled, thoroughly losing his temper and starting to shake.

Tim was perfectly cool, taking a drag off his cigarette and watching Van with narrowed eyes as he answered, leaning back against one of the support beams holding up the deck.

"Not the last time I checked."

"Get in the fucking car and drive before you say something else you're going to regret," I breathed through bared teeth, my face a snarling mask of disdain as I turned back to Van.

"Done and fucking done," he countered, slamming the door and nearly taking out a group of people walking down to the beach as he whipped out of the parking lot.

I watched his car disappear, the frustration radiating off me as I stood rooted to the spot, trying to be reasonable but unable to think about anything except wanting to grind him into the dust and scream in his ear that he was a stupid jerk.

"Smoke?" A voice broke through my tumbling thoughts and I turned around again.

"What?" In the adrenaline of the moment, I'd completely forgotten that Tim appeared and my pulse crept up again as we were face to face now.

"Do you want a cigarette?" He watched me scrub both hands over my face, already knowing who I was and having seen me yesterday from stage, but surprised at how pretty I was up close.

"Uhm. Sure, thanks..."

He moved closer to me and frowned as my hand shook when I accepted the offered cigarette.

"Hey, forget about that guy, he's a dick."

I snorted a half-amused laugh, "done and fucking done, thank you," I said again when he flicked his lighter and cupped the flame as I bent down to ignite the end, taking a deep drag and sighing as the nicotine swirled through my brain.

"Sorry you had to see that," I muttered, shuffling my feet and kicking at the sand that covered the asphalt as I watched it blow around.

"No worries, Triste," he smiled and I coughed on my next inhale as he said my name, looking over at him with wide eyes.

"Oh yeah," he grinned, "I know who you are."

"Fuck," I muttered, running a hand over my face, and Tim found himself instantly liking the way my cheeks colored when I got embarrassed.

He chuckled, turning his face up to the sun and humming as it warmed his skin.

I mumbled an incoherent afterthought, my brain still stuttering on the sound of my name leaving his lips as I took another pull.

He glanced down, watching the smoke curl from my lips as my eyebrows knitted together and I stared at the ground, trying to figure out how the hell I was supposed to get through the hordes of people today with one less set of hands.

"I should go back inside and shower and, sorry you didn't need to know that," I muttered, "I should go back inside."

His laugh was perfect - comical and happy, the way a laugh should always sound, and I couldn't help but smile at him.

"I'm a hopeless mess," I shrugged, and he shook his head with another one of those laughs that made me instantly like him.

"Not from what I've heard."

"Oh..." I blushed again, curling my hair behind my ear and looking away, "well, thanks for intervening before I killed him...and thanks for the..." I held up my cigarette before I took one last drag and extinguished it on the ground.

I turned for the house and caught myself about to say "see you later", quickly swallowing the words.

"Hey," I turned at the sound of his voice as he watched me climb the stairs, "see you later," he smirked, and I grabbed the railing before booking it inside to find Matty, wondering how he'd known exactly what I wanted to say.

--

"Bonjour, darling!" May's face was aglow and she descended on me the minute I walked into the room.

"Welcome back," I grumbled, annoyed that now I had to tell her about Van and all the extra work we were going to have to do.

"Ah?"

"Van's gone."

"Yes, Mat told me."

"Did he say what happened? I didn't let him finish before I ran out of here."

"Something about Van being angry that you are sleeping with Johannes, and Mat telling him it wasn't his business."

"How would he even know that?!" I said exasperatedly. I'd been mad as hell about his whoring myself out comment, but I hadn't really even put two and two together that it meant he knew.

She waved a dismissive hand, "n'a pas d'importance."

"Well...just you and me then today, babe."

"Come, Triste, such a sad face, it will be okay," she tipped my chin up and pecked her lips against mine, "fuck that guy, he's just being a...ah..."

"Dick," I finished for her and she snapped her fingers.

"Oui. He's just being a dick."

"That's what Tim said," I mumbled almost falling over right after as I shrieked with excitement, "oh my gods, th--May, I just met--" I gestured to the door, taking an excited breath and pumping my fist in the air with a squeal.

"He's so good looking up close, oh my gods," I giggled, "and he came out all 'is there a problem here?', gods, fucking swoon," I babbled, and she grinned at me.

"See? Much better now. You had better get used to the swooning if we are staying there, hmm?"

"We?"

"Oh yes, pluie," she swept her hair off her neck revealing a series of dark purple marks, "we."

I cracked up, taking her hand and spinning around the kitchen.

She was right. Fuck him.

Rather than telling me he was pissed at feeling like he received mixed signals, he'd just bailed, leaving us with what was a hell of a lot of work for three people, and a near impossible amount for two.

"There's my happy girls," Mat laughed, emerging from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist and leaning against the doorframe, "gods I feel like a human again, but I'll be pissing pure tequila for a week, I'm sure."

"Bummer, because I was gonna ask if you wanted to help on bar today," I snickered, and he turned a little green.

"Do not even speak of such atrocities to me, Triste," he said dramatically as he made a face like he wanted to be sick.

"Fine! Triste and I will do it ourselves then," May chimed, twirling me around once before expertly dipping me back, and I threw my leg up in the air for a little added pizzazz.

"As its been for thousands of years!" I yelled, wrapping an arm around her waist as she jumped and whirling her in a circle. It was comical, since she was taller than I was, but it still felt good.

Everything felt good. Like some sort of dark cloud looming on the horizon had departed, and I didn't have to watch what I said or walk on eggshells anymore.

"You two," he chuckled, "make me very very sad that I'll be leaving tonight."

"You're leaving too?" I frowned.

"Yes, kitten, I have an early flight to catch tomorrow so it'll be a long sober drive for me tonight."

I made a sad face at him and he scooped me up, showering my cheeks with kisses and making me squeal with laughter as his towel fell to the floor and he strutted across the length of the house to his room, giving his own ass a smack as he disappeared and yelling, "and you better have told Johannes to give Tim my number!!"

I snorted and collapsed onto a stool, gratefully receiving a mug from May's hand across the counter top as we started to game plan our day.

--

I unlocked the door to our booth, flipping on the lights inside and was shocked to find a vase on the countertop.

May set down the box in her hands and wiped them on the back of her shorts.

"For you?" I asked, and she shrugged.

"One way to find out, oie."

The roses were a beautiful, pitch black, and there were nearly two dozen of them - big, lush things with a heavenly aroma that permeated the air. But interspersed were lavender sprigs, and I immediately let out a tiny gasp, pressing a hand to my heart.

He'd remembered.

Somehow, in the throes of passion, he'd remembered me stuttering and stammering that lavender was my favorite flower.

May cocked an eyebrow at me with a grin.

"Cherie, regardez la carte."

I pulled the envelope from the plastic holder and flicked it open with my thumbnail.

"Oh...my...gods..."

I clutched it to my chest.

It was hand-written.

And it wasn't from Johannes.

To the most delicious little bloom that I have ever had the pleasure of caressing
Thank you for those brief few moments of consummate bliss -- the sound of you whispering my name under the lights rang in my ears for hours
Perhaps we will meet again, in this life or another...

Forever yours,
Papa.

P.S. continue to think of me when those pretty fingers start to wander, my dear.

The alchemical symbols were at the bottom, and a tiny series of hieroglyphs were in the bottom corner.

That motherfucker.

I fucking knew it.

I started to hyperventilate as my inner fangirl did that thing where you take a massive breath before you scream at the top of your lungs.

May all but tore the paper from my hands, her eyes scanning quicker than her brain could translate, and she had to read it twice before she looked at me making that same face like she was about to scream too.

Her mouth moved soundlessly though, and she looked back down at the paper, her face immediately changing as the little glyphs caught her eye and she looked like she'd been punched in the gut.

"Ihy?"

"Gotta be," I said breathlessly. My translation skills weren't great anymore, but that had been my guess too. "Music, lust, fertility? Its gotta be him - that's basically Three's epitaph."

"Wow..."

We were both thunderstruck and stared at the roses.

"I didn't know that anyone else did this--" she gestured around vaguely and I assumed she meant 'I didn't know anyone else experienced perpetual rebirth', "how does he know?!"

"The tattoo I guess? He must have known right then, or at least suspected because his eyes changed color last night when we were...saying goodbye..."

"Is that un euphémisme?" 

"No, I mean like we were actually parting ways, and his eyes turned this really intense green, like ours do...and I ah...I may have said one or two things about...ah..."

She cocked an unimpressed eyebrow at me.

"About serving the Mistress of Dread and...you know... 'I'll have my answers', and stuff..."

She wagged a finger at me, "you are going to get us in big trouble with your mouth, Katrine Triste."

"Hey, woah with the first name!" I put both hands up and she rolled her eyes but couldn't stop her smile as she picked up the vase and whirled around with it like they were dancing.

--

We left the roses on the bar, both of us caressing the soft petals every time we walked by them.

As it turned out we hit a solid rhythm, managing the flurries of patrons with more speed than I expected as we twirled and danced, singing at the tops of our lungs when May knew the songs and flipping our hair about when she didn't.

I knew Jonas saw us as his face lit up with a laugh and he shook his head a little back and forth, grinning at May who blew him a kiss dramatically.

I watched Johannes onstage, wondering every time we locked eyes if he was thinking about what he'd said he would be.

He certainly hadn't been wrong about me, and I found myself more than once pressing my legs together hard at the memory of him tearing the last orgasm from me, taking what he wanted, and feeling the way he got off on it almost as much as I had.

The girl with the metallic lip paint appeared halfway through the set as I was loudly singing Henrik's backing vocal line in Bloody Angel, and she failed to hide the shock on her face when I turned and she caught sight of me.

I was surprised too, but quickly replaced the look with something significantly more smug.

"Sorry, love, were you expecting someone else?" I asked sweetly.

I knew what she'd done, and she instantly knew so, turning crimson and glancing around like she wanted to flee.

I made her drink, the same as yesterday though she hadn't had to ask, and I was sure it was going to be dumped as soon as she was out of sight.

I turned to her again.

"Watch that carefully, little girl, no telling what strangers will try to do while you look away..."

I purposefully let some of the green bleed into my steely gray irises as I gripped the cup tight, not letting her take it just yet, "and if I ever find out that you willingly let someone get drugged, I will find you..."

She squeaked and ran away without her drink.

I glanced up and Tim was staring at me from stage with both eyebrows raised.

I tossed my hair back over my shoulder and tipped the cup towards him before taking a sip and turning back to the next person in line.

--

I got that same thrill all over again when the crowd quieted down just before Ghost's set started, and I hoped Papa would be able to see the flowers still adorning the bar.

In theory he would be, since the whole thing would be shutting down while it was still daylight hours.

He appeared onstage, graceful and practically floating from place to place, and I giggled and shrieked, grasping May's hands hard.

"Sa boutonnière!" She squealed over the music! She'd seen it too - a perfect little black rose with a sprig of lavender on each side, pinned to the lapel of his suit.

"I'm gonna pass out. Honestly, I'm going to just fall flat on the fucking ground," I giggled, feeling like I was high, soaring through the clouds.

The feeling lasted the entire time he was onstage, and I felt pure, unadulterated happiness in his presence.

He hummed lowly into the microphone when he caught sight of his gift and his opposite hand traveled to caress the flower pinned against him, inclining his head towards us slightly as we both raised our cups to toast him.

I was dazed and dreamlike as we packed up the bar, leaving most of the half-full bottles for the venue staff if they wanted them.

Mat appeared, and I noticed with a laugh that he was keeping a few feet of distance between himself and the bar.

"Come kiss me goodbye, kittens, I've gotta run," he called, beckoning us out of the booth and wrapping us both up in his arms as we descended on him.

"I'll only be gone for a month, my pet, I promise I'll send pictures," he murmured into my hair.

"You better," I poked him in the side, "and we'll throw you a big party when you come home. Lots and lots of tequila."

He almost gagged and shot me a warning look as I giggled.

"You are a wicked little girl, Triste, and I hope Johannes puts you over his knee and spanks you for it."

I punched my arm against his shoulder as I gasped and blushed hard. "Your modesty would fool the Holy Father, my darling. Kiss kiss."

He pecked us each on both cheeks and we watched him go.

"What now?"

May shrugged, hoisting a box on her hip from the bar counter.

"Now we go home and see nos garçons."

I shivered with anticipation.

Chapter Text

The house seemed quiet without Mat or Van, and I winced at the clang when I set the box of equipment down on the counter a little louder than I meant to.

May glanced over at me, pulling her hair into a high pony on top of her head after setting the vase of roses on the counter.

"Wanna meditate for a minute with me?" I asked, reaching for her hand and leading her out to the deck when she rolled her shoulders and relaxed into a smile.

The sun was starting to set, painting the ocean a dizzying array of orange and pink as it disappeared behind us and we both hopped up onto the railing, balancing on the top plank.

I tried to focus and ignore the sudden thrill that shot up my spine when I spotted Johannes standing ankle-deep out in the water, hands in his pockets staring out at the vast expanse of ocean, and I put one finger to my lips when May glanced sideways at me and opened her mouth to make a comment.

She took my right hand in her left and we both closed our eyes, silently reciting and repeating, thanking our goddess, asking for her divine guidance in the coming days, and finally May breathed a deep sigh, giving my hand a little squeeze so I would open mine too as she hopped off the railing, landing gracefully on her feet.

Johannes had noticed our presence sometime during the last quiet minutes and he smiled at me from the water, nodding his head for me to come join him.

I climbed down off my perch, turning to search for May, but she was in the process of disappearing over the wall, no doubt intending to find Jonas and pick up where they left off, so I shrugged to myself and hit the stairs, kicking off my shoes and sinking my toes into the sand that was going cool with the coming of the evening.

"Hey pretty girl," he smiled down at me, "come here often?"

I chuckled and took his offered hand, thinking to myself that he was more beautiful than I'd ever seen him, bathed in the soft glow of the sunset.

It softened his somewhat angular features, and the breeze pulled hair hair up off his shoulders.

The sight made me catch my breath as he took both my hands and took a few steps backwards into the water, until the waves were lapping halfway up his calves.

My feet stopped moving as I tried to still the sudden frantic beating of my heart when he looked down fondly at me, running his thumbs over the backs of both my hands.

"I wish I could take a picture of you right now," I sighed, drinking in the image of his hair blowing around his shoulders and the ocean kissing at his skin.

I tried my best to commit every detail to memory and sealed it with a kiss, leaning up into him and giggling against his lips as the water tickled at my legs.

He pressed his forehead to mine but didn't open his eyes.

"Where the hell did you come from, Triste..." he whispered.

I didn't answer because I wasn't sure what to tell him.

We could tell him...

The thought was unbidden, and insane, but as soon as it surfaced, I couldn't make it go away.

A torrent of white-hot anxiety shot through my whole body and I stiffened involuntarily with fear.

But there was something else there too... I searched deep down, chewing on my lip and trying to put a name to this second emotion that was barely peaking its head over the fear.

Exhilaration.

A small shaky laugh left my lips when I realized that was it, and I pulled back fractionally to look up at Johannes.

His blue eyes weren't guarded against me anymore, and I saw in his gaze that he trusted me, even though we really hardly knew each other.

"If you really want to know, I'll tell you, Johannes..."

His head cocked slightly to the side and he opened his mouth to reply when someone called his name and his eyes flicked over my left shoulder briefly before lighting up.

"Come with me, Triste," he smiled and took my hands again.

"Where are we go--" I turned and the words died on my lips.

Henrik was only a little taller than me, dressed casually in shorts and a gray tshirt that looked so soft my fingers fidgeted with the urge to touch it. He bent to remove his shoes before advancing on us.

I took a deep breath to steel myself.

okay okay okay okay you can do this. Just a person. He's just a person.

"This is Hen--"

"Hi," Henrik interrupted, with a slightly startled look on his face as he extended his hand to me automatically and I took it without looking away from him out of habit as well.

His palm was warm and soft as his hand held mine, and I was aware that we should probably have let go of each other after a moment, but we continued to stare in silence as the seconds ticked by.

His eyes were a darker blue than Johannes', and everything about him radiated comfort and tenderness, just like I'd always thought it would, and I felt emotionally pulled to him in a way that surprised me.

But after the last few days, I wasn't about to question anything that happened in my life.

"Hi...i-its nice to m-meet you, Henrik," I choked out with one hard mental facepalm.

He squeezed my hand lightly and his lips curled up at one side into a little smile as he finally let it go.

Gods, he's even more beautiful up close.

"Likewise...uhm..."

"Hmm? Oh, Triste, I'm Triste. God. Sorry, I'm such a lunatic," I said shaking my head and running my hands over my face.

Henrik snorted a laugh and I peeked up at him through my fingers.

"Triste..." he repeated, his lips curving into that same slow smile as he said my name again and caught my gaze.

I was more than surprised at what that did to my insides, and I reached blindly for the hand of the man standing next to me, who seemed to be beyond tickled by the entire interaction.

Johannes laced his fingers through my own automatically now, and I felt grounded by it, taking a moment to smile back over at Henrik before my sanity left me all together and I lost the capability to do anything but stare and babble on about nothing.

His lips parted slightly and we got sucked into each others' stares again.

His hair was pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck, but the sunset made the loose tendrils shine like copper, blowing around in the breeze.

"Wow, your hair is so beautiful...oh my g--I'm so sorry, please just ignore me," I said, shaking my head and turning fire engine red as he threw his head back and laughed.

"I promise I'm not usually like this!" I whined into my hands, blushing harder at the sound of his laugh.

"Yeah, he would ignore it, but he gets told that at least twice a day by strangers, and I think he gets off on it," Johannes snickered as he pulled me closer to him, wrapping a hand around my waist as he raised an eyebrow at his friend, who was looking at me once more, his eyes traveling over my own hair as it blew around my face.

He caught Johannes' gaze when he tactfully cleared his throat after several moments of complete silence.

"Huh?"

"Did you need something?"

"Oh right. Uh, John was uhm, John was looking for you."

They switched to Swedish for a moment and I let go of Johannes' hand to wander a little further away into the surf, turning my back to give them a moment to talk.

I didn't feel Henrik's eyes following me, and I didn't notice when Johannes headed back up the sand towards the house.

I watched the sinking sun paint the ocean and closed my eyes to breathe deeply of her rich, life-giving aroma as I wrapped my arms around myself and let my thoughts do the same.

There was no escaping the idea now -- I'd told Johannes that I would answer his question, even though I knew he didn't mean it that way. And I found that I honestly wanted to, but why? I'd never told anyone in all my lifetimes.

But what happens when he knows? Hmm? Did you even think that far ahead? He's going to run for the fucking hills, Triste.

"Ugh. Shut up for once, would you?" I muttered.

"What? I didn't say anything." My head whipped to the side, where Henrik was standing three feet behind me with his hands in his pockets.

I clamped my lips shut to stop the groan that threatened to embarrass me further.

"Sorry, not you...I mean...just...my brain sometimes doesn't uhm...doesn't stop...chattering...fuck, I'm so sorry, I promise I'm not this weird."

Henrik snorted a laugh but didn't respond otherwise.

When he noticed me hug my arms tighter around myself as the chilly wind picked up, he reached out a hand and hesitated only a moment before putting it on my shoulder.

"Come on, lets go inside, dinners almost ready."

His touch was gentle, but I felt it down to the tips of my toes.

I didn't have to be told twice, and I smiled at him softly before we headed up the beach and climbed the steps to the house, making idle small talk.

The sounds of laughter filled my senses before we even got inside, and I couldn't stop the grin the crossed my lips at the sound as I trotted up the steps.

Henrik pressed his hand to my lower back as we moved up the last stair and I shivered hard involuntarily again at the touch.

He apologized quickly and removed it but I shook my head in dismissal, trying to keep the ear-to-ear grin to an absolute minimum.

"No, it's okay," I turned to look at him and his eyes met mine as I found myself touching his cheek softly, not wanting him to worry. He involuntarily leaned into my touch even as his eyes went fractionally wider, and I now found that I was the one apologizing.

"Sorry I'm touchy, its a southern thing," I shrugged, blushing when I pulled my hand back, feeling the heat from his face stay on my palm as I pulled away and fought not to press it to my own cheek.

"Oh I think you and I are gonna get along just fine," he smiled back, curling a loose strand of hair behind his ear.

"Hey babe, come here," a voice said from just inside the screen door behind me and I winked at Henrik quickly before crossing the deck to the house.

Johannes stepped outside to meet me where I was, quickly grabbing my hand and spinning me around in a circle. A gay laugh bubbled from my lips as my heart felt like it was going to explode from happiness, and I let myself be pulled in to his kiss when his arm encircled my waist.

Henrik chuckled to himself with a shake of his head and slid the door shut behind him, seeing that we were otherwise occupied for the moment as our figures entwined.

My back hit the side of the house as Johannes deepened our kiss, sliding his tongue along my own and pulling soft moans and sighs from my lips as my fingers tangled into the darkness of his hair.

"This is not --ohh -- not very inconspicuous," I gasped as his lips felt like pure flame whispering down the side of my throat, nipping and sucking at the skin there.

My hips involuntarily pressed forward, seeking his, and his breath was warm as he laughed into the creamy skin of my neck.

"What about us ever is, Triste?"

I knew it was absurd, but hearing the word 'us' leave his lips made my toes curl and I pulled his face up to kiss him passionately, filling his mouth with my tongue and moaning at the way he tasted - perfect and wild.

Johannes groaned into my lips, pinning me harder to the wall and grinding his hips into mine before breaking away and biting his lower lip between his teeth as he stared at me, warring with himself over the propriety of fucking me against the side of the house in clear sight and earshot of everyone else.

"We'll finish this later," I whispered lowly, deciding for him and pressing my fingernails into the soft skin at the side of his neck just hard enough to make him shiver again.

"Just tell me if its too much okay? I don't want you to..." he searched for the words, "just remember we're people okay?"

"Just people," I nodded, promising myself I would relax and just take everything in stride.

He gently butted my forehead with his own and I pushed myself off the wall after one more kiss, heading for the door.

I glanced back over my shoulder at him with a smile as I opened it and took a step, only to run smack into someone's chest.

"Oh, shit, sorry!" I stuttered, looking up at the owner of the warm hands that suddenly gripped my waist to steady me, who turned out to be John.

"Oh...hello..." I said again when I realized who it was.

Gods, do all these boys have fire in their veins?

"Are you okay?" he asked, biting back a laugh at my fierce blush and letting go of me, "you must be Triste."

I nodded my head and he reached down for my hand, giving it a little squeeze like I had to Henrik's. His hair was down, covering one of the shaved sides of his head and his smile was nothing but kind, his broad mouth curving in a perfectly friendly, almost dangerously alluring way.

"I'm glad you're here. Henrik just told us all about you," he smirked over his shoulder at his friend inside who yelled something in Swedish that made everyone laugh but me.

I awkwardly fidgeted with my fingers, unsure what to make of that comment, until Johannes pushed me in through the door with a firm pinch against my ass.

I yelped and jumped inside, making everyone laugh again, and bringing another crimson blush to my cheeks as I turned to glare at him.

Take everything in stride, huh...

"That just leaves me then, I guess," the last of them said, and I turned to Tim, who shocked the hell out of me by pressing a kiss to my cheek in greeting as his hand warmly pressed against my hip.

"Hi again," he smiled.  His whiskers tickled my skin, but I found myself loving the way his eyes twinkled when he smiled, and that same electric rush that I'd experienced the day before happened again.

My hand instinctively went to the spot where his lips had brushed me and my mouth moved soundlessly for a moment as my brain caught up the fact that his lips had just touched my skin.

"I...I...its nice to meet all of you...uhm...ah...t-thanks for having me over...I mean..."

Jonas' shoulders started shaking with silent laughter and I threw him a slightly exasperated glance, which only made the laughter tumble aloud from his lips.

"Sorry!" he shook his head, still laughing and May swatted him on the arm.

"Oh, be nice, mon cher! She is a delicate little flower."

He turned and growled playfully before lunging forward and showering her with kisses, making her shriek with delighted laughter.

Everyone else watched and seemed to relax where they were, leaning back against counters or sitting in chairs.

Johannes slid the door shut behind himself and settled his shoulders back against the wooden frame, pulling me against him and wrapping me up in his arms.

The smiles on everyone's faces made the atmosphere feel warm and light, and Henrik pressed a glass of wine into my hand with that smile that reached his eyes before crossing back to the stove to stir something that smelled heavenly.

As I thanked Henrik, Johannes leaned down to whisper into my ear, "doing okay? That wasn't so bad, right?"

"I'm good, its just a little overwhelming to meet everyone at once I think. Only because I know your music and felt like I know you all in a weird way through it, but don't...know you. Does that make any sense?"

I leaned back further into him, and his arms tightened like a haven around me as he hummed agreement.

I was sure it was weird for him that we found ourselves in this situation, me being a fan and all, but he didn't seem outwardly affected by it.

Maybe I was doing a better job than I thought at keeping the fangirling to a minimum...

I instinctively swirled and sniffed at my wine without noticing I was doing it as my eyes traveled around the room, and my brain began subconsciously running through all the elements of my training as I watched everyone laughing and chatting.

White peach, golden apple, limestone, some oak, but it smells French - vanilla, not dill. Not stony enough to be Sancerre, a little more rounded out.

I closed my eyes as I inhaled the heady aroma more purposefully to confirm my suspicions before lowering my glass and humming happily.

"God, I love white Burgundy."

A movement from the corner of my vision caught my eye and I looked over to where Tim was leaning back comfortably against the countertop, his beer frozen halfway to his lips, staring at me with his head cocked to the side.

"How did you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Did you just guess that without trying it?"

"Erm...its...I just know it because its my favorite..."

"Oh, nonsense, mon tendre," May turned her attention from me over to Tim after she said it, "Triste knows French wine better than les français. Her palate is...hmm...how in English...sans precedent..."

"Se comportez, vous!" I giggled, wagging my finger at her.

She made an utterly French sound in her throat and dismissed my own dismissal with a wink, turning to Jonas, who dipped his head to whisper something in her ear that I was sure wasn't appropriate for present company.

She giggled and tugged on his hair till he bent his lips to hers with a little growl.

They didn't pull apart and continued to make out loudly in the middle of the kitchen, but no one seemed to mind, and I tried to stop the heat that bloomed in my core as Tim caught my gaze again.

Henrik was the one who broke the silence, looking over his shoulder and rolling his eyes, "if you two are gonna disappear, do it now, because dinners in fifteen."

May pulled back with a sigh and brushed her thumb across Jonas' lower lip.

"Pas assez de temps, je pense..."

He took the tip of her thumb between his teeth and bit down slightly, pulling a breathy sigh from her lips as his eyes bored holed into hers.

I knew his French wasn't great, but he seemed to get her meaning anyways.

I rolled my own eyes towards the ceiling and shook my head at her, unable to help but laugh as I took my first sip of wine.

"Mmm, I definitely was right though, wasn't I?" I smirked at Tim, who shrugged.

John held up the bottle in confirmation and I tipped my glass towards him with a smile.

Henrik was doing a hundred things at once and I was fascinated watching him move, completely in his own world, like everyone else ceased to exist. I moved out of Johannes' grasp and touched his arm softly.

"Can I help?"

"What? Oh, hi," he smiled, confirming what I'd just been thinking, "actually, yeah can you get plates down?"

"I can," I stood on my tip toes to reach into the cabinet and I heard Tim mumble something before clearing his throat and leaving the room. 

"Thanks," Henrik took them from my hands and set them on the other side of the stove, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye as he put the finishing touches on dinner and I watched intently. 

We all served ourselves at the stove, and the warmth of both the camaraderie and the wine drove me to press a little kiss to Henrik's cheek as I thanked him for cooking. His entire face lit up and he smiled at me with a tenderness that made my heart melt.

"Eat before it gets cold, älskling," he said, squeezing my hand.

"What is that? That word." I remembered Johannes saying it to the night before as I was halfway asleep.

"Its a term of endearment," John said behind my shoulder, nudging me forward just a little with his hip playfully so I would move along, and answering for Henrik when his cheeks turned pink and he couldn't figure out how to tell me that he'd just called me sweetheart.

It was such a beautiful night, we decided to eat out on the deck, and everyone pulled chairs and couches around the firepit, which was soon blazing and radiating warmth to combat the cool breeze.

"Come sit next to me," Tim urged when he reappeared seeming somewhat more collected, pulling me by the hand towards him on the couch.

I glanced over at Johannes who threw his hands up in surrender with a grin and a look that said I'd answer for it later. I looked back with a smile of my own before settling next to Tim, close enough that my knee rested against his thigh when I crossed my legs under me and we all dug into our food.

He asked questions about what I did, and made silly jokes that I couldn't help but giggle at. Every time I laughed, his eyes softened and soon he was resting his hand on my knee, gently stroking his thumb back and forth every so often, reveling in the smoothness of my skin, subconsciously attracted to the energy just underneath the surface.

I glanced at Johannes, who was watching me with a contented smile, loving that his friends seemed to warm up to me just as he had, and not seeming too concerned with Tim touching me that way. He hadn't seemed concerned with Henrik doing so either, and I was glad for it, as I rather enjoyed their little shows of attention and friendly affection once I got over the initial jolt of being around them at all.

Henrik sat on my other side, close as well, and I was enveloped in warmth and happiness and the soft glow of the friendships that had existed for more than a decade.

He leaned over every so often when someone would make a saucy retort in Swedish to another's comment and whispered to me what they'd said, always grinning like we were sharing a secret.

The firelight gleamed off his hair, making it shine, and I found myself more than once clenching my fist around my fork so I wouldn't reach out and touch it.

He pretended not to notice with a little smile.

I set my empty plate on the ground as I shivered in the breeze and wrapped my arms across my torso, thankful for the two bodies on either side of me that seemed to radiate heat, but thinking I might need to go in and find a jacket anyways.

I was about to excuse myself to do so when a cotton zip-up landed in my lap and I looked up to see John smiling over at me from his seat near Johannes.

"Did you just read my mind?"

"Definitely. That and your teeth are almost chattering," he laughed quietly with a wink.

"Thanks," I pulled the material up my arms, still warm from his body heat and rich with his scent. The sleeves were far too long on me and I fussed with them for a moment until my hands finally found the ends, and his broad mouth twitched with a soft smile.

--

May leaned into the corner of the loveseat on the opposite side of the fire and stretched her legs out over Jonas' lap. She put her plate on the deck floor when she finished eating and leaned back to look up at the sky, a soft contented smile curving her lips slightly as her eyes moved over the vast expanse of blurred darkness.

She sat up after a moment and whispered into Jonas' ear.

A smile twisted his lips as he spoke slowly to her in response.

"Henrik?" she said sweetly, dropping the 'H'.

"Yes?" he answered, glancing away from my hand buried in the sleeve of John's jacket that he'd been watching drift back and forth absently over my leg as I looked up at the moon too.

She leaned forward into Jonas one more time, giggling as he whispered into her ear and she repeated slowly, mimicking his accent to perfection.

"Det...var...gott...tack..."

Henrik threw his head back laughing, trying to stifle it with his hand, but it was infectious and we soon were all laughing.

"YOU!" she glared at Jonas, swatting his arm again, "you made me say something sale!"

"No, no," Henrik laughed again, the sound making my heart ring, "he didn't. You're very welcome, May..." he continued to chuckle as he finished his food.

I watched her talk animatedly with Jonas, leaning in for a kiss every so often as they melted into each others' company. She shifted to lay her head in his lap and his deft fingers moved through her hair in a repetitive way that was almost hypnotic to watch as the firelight glinted off the ring on his middle finger, smoothing over her lilac curls that settled nearly down to his ankles.

"Are you still cold?" the voice next to me asked, and I slowly nodded, still enraptured in the couple across from me.

"Come here..." Tim settled his arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer to himself with a smile as I leaned into his side and put my head on his shoulder.

I didn't feel encroached upon - rather the opposite. He felt my draw, as I had felt his, and I instinctually leaned into him further until his hand rested around my shoulder and he looked down at me with a contented smile.

I was quite sure in that moment that literally nothing could make me happier, and rather than sending my pulse fluttering, I felt my entire body relax into his touch - perfectly trusting a stranger again. But he didn't feel like a stranger. He felt familiar in a way I didn't understand, but wasn't going to question as I stole as much of his body heat as I could. 

"I like the color of your hair," he murmured, suddenly wanting nothing more than to lace his fingers through my own and pull me closer.

"Thank you, its been this way since I was sixteen. It was bright red before then if you can believe it - it used to look like John's. But the color just faded," I finished with a little shrug.

Everyone always thought my hair was dyed and I was used to explaining it.

"Excuse me? I don't know what you're talking about, my hair is naturally this gorgeous shade of black," John coughed, trying to get the words out without laughing as he flipped it dramatically with the backs of his fingers.

"Yes, of course, my bad," I answered with an eyeroll as I giggled.

Henrik laid his hand on my calf and I tucked my legs sideways under me, leaning further into Tim, and we all settled in that way, the boys laughing and chatting as I simply listened and enjoyed the mingled sounds, closing my eyes after a few minutes.

Johannes looked over at me and caught my gaze when they opened, nodding his head to the side in an invitation to come sit with him.

"No, don't get up yet," Tim snuggled me closer for a moment.

"Got to, I've been summoned," I giggled, fighting the sudden urge to shift in his arms and plant a kiss on his lips.

Best get up then.

I shifted out from under Henrik and Tim's hands and Johannes caught me around the waist, pulling me into his lap as I laughed, the sound quickly turning into a playful shriek as my feet left the ground and he pulled me down into a possessive kiss.

"I was enjoying that, you know," I teased, tapping my finger against the end of his nose once like I was scolding him.

"I needed to feel you under my hands again," he growled playfully, "just in case you were getting any ideas about letting Tim steal you away from me," he kissing me heartily and tightening his grip on me as I laughed helplessly.

"I don't know, Tim what do you think? Are you plotting to steal me away?" I scoffed, looking over my shoulder at the other man with a grin as I sat sideways on Johannes' knees.

I didn't expect or miss the brief flash in his gaze, but he tactfully made a joke everyone laughed at as we both recovered.

I got up to take the dishes back to the kitchen and dropped a swift kiss on top of Henrik's curls and repeated May's newly-learned phrase in Swedish.

He rubbed my arm fondly in response.

"You're very welcome," he smiled, looking a little surprised at my gesture, but happy, "you don't have to do this, I'll get them."

"Nonsense, you cooked!"

"You helped!"

"Please, getting down the only dishes I can probably reach in that kitchen is not helping," I giggled and danced out of his reach before he could take the plates from my hands and his eyes followed me to the door as he wondered if he'd stopped smiling even for a minute since we'd met.

May stood and gathered the dishes I couldn't carry and followed me inside.

As I dropped them in the sink and ran the water, she reached over across me to shut it off, sensing something off in my body language.

"Mmm?" She searched my face, "what is it cherie?"

I tried to turn away, but her thumb and forefinger caught my chin and forced me to turn towards her unrelenting stare.

She searched my eyes for a moment once more.

"Ah...ma cherie, tu l'aime..."

"What? Non...non...je le connais à peine..."

"Not Tim, oie."

"Oh...look I need to do these dishes...ah..."

"Pfft, suit yourself mon amour, mais je te connais le mieux."

"I...I just...I can't, not yet...we don't even know each other!"

I was so lost in my denial of the obvious that I didn't hear Johannes slip inside.

Neither of us did.

I ran my hands back through my hair and rolled my shoulders.

"Nedjem...comment puis-je avoir des milliers d'années et...et...and he's affecting me like this...its freaking me out...I should know better by now."

She sighed, pressing her forehead to my shoulder and whispered lowly in French still, "because you're not even 30 yet in this life, little goose, you have a lot to learn...we always do this, hmm? We learn these lessons each time."

I nodded and opened my eyes to press my lips to May's cheek.

She pulled me close and wrapped her arms around me, her embrace comforting and familiar.

"Trust, pêche," she breathed, "it all works out."

"Come on, they'll wonder what we've gotten into here alone, I'll finish these later," I reached for her hand and laced our fingers together for a brief moment, giving them a squeeze.

When I turned, I saw Johannes standing frozen near the door with several empty glasses in his hands and a puzzled look on his face that made my stomach drop into the pit of the floor and keep going.

May squeezed my hand fractionally tighter, sensing my immediate anxiety and discomfort, and doing her best to smooth over the situation.

"Johannes...il est impoli d'écouter..."

She spoke rapidly, testing his French, trying to see what all he may have heard.

"Je suis desole..." he mumbled, moving past us to refill everyone's glasses.

I started to shake with panic and I wanted nothing more than to bolt out the door and tear down the beach, but May was having none of it. She frowned at me and shook her head, knowing exactly what I was about to do.

"Would you like any help?" she asked Johannes, physically stepping between us so I could have a moment to collect myself as my eyes darted around the room like I was in immediate danger.

"Uhm. No, I've got it. Thanks," he mumbled, glancing over his shoulder.

His hand shook as he poured the wine, and May pulled me back out onto the deck, leading me over to the couch where I'd been before and depositing me once more between Tim and Henrik.

"Do not let her move from here," May said sternly to them, and Tim raised his eyebrows in response but didn't argue.

He could feel the shift in my mood and glanced warily over at me, chewing my lip so much I was going to wear a hole in it eventually. He gathered me into his side again, and I willingly put my head back down on his shoulder as my thoughts tangled themselves into a Gordian knot that Alexander himself would have been proud of.

"What's got you turned inside out all of a sudden?" Henrik gently asked, leaning over to speak lowly to me with a little frown pulling at his mouth, but I didn't hear him.

All I could think about was the look on Johannes' face and how I'd just blown the only really good thing I had going.

That's it. Its done. He's going to think you're insane and he won't ever want to see you again, Triste.

A thumb gently pulled at the skin just beneath my lower lip, and I blinked quickly several times as I came back to my senses and looked up to see Johannes, gently gripping my chin and holding my glass out to me.

His eyes were uncertain, but he took my hand and pulled me up to my feet.

"Come sit with me now," he said, and it didn't sound very much like I had a choice.

My movements were stiff, almost wooden, and I glanced over at May with something between mild concern and abject terror in my gaze. Her almost imperceptible nod didn't instill much confidence and I resigned myself to just getting through the evening until I could make my escape.

I'd pack all my shit and be gone before the sun even had a chance to think about rising.

"Relax, Triste," he whispered into my ear when I was firmly seated next to him, "you're going to give yourself a stroke if you keep clenching your jaw that way."

Enough amusement colored his tone that I looked at him with surprise, not even bothering to hide it.

"You--you're not..."

He gripped my chin again to stop me chewing on my lip so he could lean over and kiss me softly.

"Relax," he repeated.

Maybe he isn't mad at all. Maybe he didn't understand anything. Fucking hell, Triste, a little more caution moving forward, you idiot.

I did relax, curling up in Johannes' embrace as he drank and laughed with everyone.

I gave May a little shrug when she leaned back into Jonas and looked over at me.

Whatever he'd heard, he obviously didn't understand enough to be upset.

Everything seemed like it was going to be okay, and I promised to myself that I'd be more careful in the future. That was simply too close of a call. I mentally chastised myself for my foolishness, trying to recall the feeling I had been so consumed with earlier on the beach -- the desire to share with Johannes my deepest secret.

It was there when I searched for it, but I simply couldn't tell him now...

Henrik passed by where we were sitting to step inside, and he looked down at me as he patted my knee to get my attention, letting his hands rest there and squeeze when I didn't immediately notice.

"You're a thousand miles away, aren't you," he smiled when I glanced up at him with a start.

"I'm sorry, I'm here, I promise. What's up?"

"Do you want another drink?" I was feeling pretty tipsy at it was, but I moved to get up and help when I accepted his offer.

"Uh-uh," the hand around my waist pulled harder, "you're staying with me," he growled lowly into my ear before pressing his lips to my hair.

I shivered and looked up at Henrik helplessly.

"I think I'm stuck."

"It would seem so," he laughed, taking my glass and grinning at me one more time before disappearing inside.

Johannes shifted me and his fingers started to wander as he kept up with every conversation happening with everyone, flawlessly toggling back and forth between three languages.

I was incapable of doing anything after several minutes except stare into the fire and think about getting him away and back into his bedroom as quickly as possible.

I finally sat up and downed the last sip of wine in my glass before looking over at him. He glanced at me then did a double take when he caught the heat in my stare.

"I think that's my cue," he said to everyone else without taking his eyes off me.

Chapter Text

I stood from our couch and put one finger up to keep him where he was for a moment. My near-brush with fate was driving me to take advantage of the connections I'd made with everyone over the course of the evening, and I could hardly stop myself once the idea crossed my mind.

"Just let me say goodnight first," I breathed.

Johannes was staring at me like he could make my clothes disappear if he just tried hard enough, and I tried to stifle a smirk as I reached my arms up and stretched, staring up at the night sky.

*My child, proceed, but with caution...*

Her call in my head startled and pleasured me and I smiled up at the sky, heeding her words before turning to everyone and starting with the closest one.

"Thank you again for a wonderful dinner, Henrik," I said softly as I cupped my hand to his cheek and leaned down to him. He gasped softly in surprise as I pressed my lips to his in a gentle, chaste kiss that only lasted a moment. The sound of it breaking sent a torrent of heat through me and I brushed my thumbs across his face before I moved over to Tim.

"Goodnight, Tim."

He anticipated my kiss and parted his lips a fraction of an inch to capture mine in an embrace that was somehow deliciously intimate, but kosher at the same time, brief as it was.

An almost silent groan left his lips as his fingers dared to curl my hair behind my ear, shaking only a little when he did so.

When I pulled back and his eyes opened, the irises were alight and the color there seemed to swirl like water, drawing me in and I had to fight not to press my lips right back to his.

I crossed to kiss John next, unzipping the borrowed jacket and pressing it into his hands as his lips curved into a smile under mine.

"That was nice, thank you," he whispered, and my fingers brushed across his cheek.

"Goodnight," I sighed, leaning in to kiss him one more time briefly, aware that Johannes was watching me.

I broke away from him and looked over at Jonas.

"No, cherie, me first," May laughed, as I moved towards their intertwined forms.

She grasped my face with both hands and I chuckled when her tongue passed my lips as she pulled me in, reaffirming that everything was okay.

I kissed her back fervently, my whole body worked up to the point that I felt like I was buzzing with sex energy and consuming need, and the air around us seemed to get thicker the longer our lips remained locked.

"Ils ne peuvent pas t'embrasser comme je le peux..."

"Aucun, mais un," I whispered as I tipped her on the nose before looking back over at my shoulder over Johannes.

"Triste," he growled, holding the 'i' for just a little longer than usual.

"Just one more," I held his gaze for a moment, daring him to tell me to stop. I knew he wouldn't. I knew he enjoyed it more than he would ever say.

"Come here, you," Jonas growled playfully, pulling me down into his lap and pressing my lips hard to his for only a second.

"I think you both need to come to bed with me tonight," he murmured, his mouth so close to mine that his beard brushed my skin.

"You need to behave, and I hardly think you would survive the two of us," I giggled as his hand stroked over my thigh, his grip firming like maybe he wasn't going to let me say no.

"No fun," he whispered at me with a grin that made the smile lines on his face more pronounced, and I laughed with him, tracing the lines around his eyes with my fingers.

"I like these on you," I said softly.

"Ah, they make me look old," he groaned, patting me to move up and off his lap.

"They make you look happy," I corrected, gently pushing a cord of hair back from his face when I was standing. He reached for May's hand, and I knew he was thinking that he was in fact happy.

My heart skipped a beat at the tenderness in his expression as he regarded the beautiful woman next to him.

I crossed back to Johannes, who stood and pulled me in for a kiss far more intimate than I figured he would want anyone else to see as he swept my hair back off my shoulders and tangled all of his fingers into it, lifting it off my neck.

"Bed," he growled quietly into my lips before nearly dragging me to the door.

Johannes kissed me hard and thew the sliding door shut behind us with a crash; my arms reflexively wrapped around his neck and he lifted me until my feet left the floor, half pulling, half dragging me back towards his bedroom, and a wave of arousal coursed through my whole body at this new rougher side of him I hadn't seen before.

"Mmm, I've been wanting to get you alone all day," I moaned into his lips.

My back hit the wall hard at the same moment my feet hit the floor, and I felt his hand at my throat when the bedroom door slammed behind us.

"Who are you," he snarled, his face only an inch from mine. 

What kind of question was that?

"I..." I gasped for air and pulled at his hand, but it wouldn't budge, "what? Johannes..."

"Who. Are. You."

My eyes bored into his as I felt my panic rising and my air continued to be cut off.

"I heard what you said to her. 'Milliers', Triste? Thousands??"

"Johannes," I gasped again, "wh-what are you doing?" 

He paused for a moment and then let go of me and backed away, running a hand back through his hair and looking like he wanted to kick something.

"I'm Triste...Johannes, you know me," I said, rubbing a hand over my throat and trying to stay calm.

Okay, so maybe he had understood and now we're double fucked because he thinks we're crazy and he's pissed...

"Obviously I don't," he scoffed.

"Hey," I snapped, feeling my own temper flaring unexpectedly at his tone, "you're the one who asked me earlier where I came from, okay? I wasn't even gonna tell you."

His face collapsed into a mask of frustration and anxiety at the cryptic nature of what I'd said.

"Tell me-...what the fuck is going on, who are you?!" he repeated, starting to freak out in a very real way now.

"Johannes. Sit down please. I promise I'll tell you, but I need you to be calm, okay? I promise I'm not bad, and I'm not going to hurt you..."

He sat at the edge of the bed and started breathing faster and shallower, beginning to hyperventilate, and I captured his face between my palms and pressed a kiss to his lips, knowing there was no going back now.

This was it. The deep breath before the plunge.

"Do you trust me," I asked as I sat next to him.

He pulled away slightly so we weren't touching.

"I shouldn't, I hardly know you..."

"I think you probably know me better than most other people in my life," I responded honestly. 

"Having sex with someone doesn't mean you know them," he said, his voice sharp and his words barbed, making me wince.

"Was that it then? Just sex?" I tried to keep my disappointment out of my tone and stay patient.

He didn't answer me and I just sighed, closing my eyes, weighing what I had decided to do next.

Goddess. Please. Let him still want me.

I took a slow breath in through my nose and exhaled through my lips as I opened my eyes and focused on a knot in the wood of the floor off to the side of the bed.

When I looked up at him several moments later, his jaw dropped and his mouth moved without forming any words.

"H-how? What? How did you do that?" he finally choked out. But to his credit, he didn't get up and leave. He ran a hand back through his hair and tried to stay calm as he scrubbed both hands over his face and I realized we were fighting the same battle. He wanted to understand, and I equally wanted him to.

"Johannes, please look at me," I whispered, tears gathering in my eyes despite my best efforts to remain firm.

"You're scaring me, Triste," he said, his voice shaking.

"No, no no baby, please don't be afraid of me," I reached to touch him and he flinched. It was the last thing on earth I wanted and my heart beat in my throat, choking me, "I won't hurt you...I would never hurt you..."

Johannes' hand tore back through his hair again.

"I don't understand whats happening. Why do your eyes change colors like that? Why are you talking to May about being thousands of years old?!"

"Because I am, darling," I said simply, holding my hand out in a silent request for his. He took it and pressed it to his cheek, closing his eyes and huffing a sigh across my wrist.

My heart swelled at his sudden patience and I brushed that same hand down over his hair, curling it behind his ear.

"Can I tell you? You can say no, if you want to, and we'll drop it."

He chewed his lip but nodded, taking my hand and tracing my fingers as I shifted my hips so I was facing him on the bed, straightening my back and lifting my chin.

This was it.

"My name is Triste. I was born in Charleston. I love spicy Thai food and old silent films. I'm fluent in French. I was raised Catholic. When I was 13 I dyed my hair the color of the sky and my mom grounded me for a month."

The smile that pulled one corner of his mouth up drew me in and I leaned forward to kiss him, letting my lips linger there.

"And?" he whispered into them, knowing there was more coming.

"And...my name is Masika. I was born thirteen hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ, in Lower Egypt. I served as a priestess in the temple of Sekhmet. And since then, every time I've died, I have come back at Her pleasure to continue to serve Her. That's who I am, Johannes. That's where I come from."

It felt like a physical weight was lifted off my shoulders when I finished saying the words, and I sat up a little straighter, waiting for Johannes to say something or bolt from me forever.

"Are...are you crazy?" He asked quietly like it was a legitimate question that I could say yes or not to, and I couldn't help but laugh.

He'd taken that better than I could have dreamed, but we weren't all the way there yet.

"No, I'm not crazy," I said, still chuckling, "do you believe me?"

"I feel like you should be crazy. I mean. People don't come back when they die...I'm dreaming this right? No. No wait. Did Tim put you up to this? Christ, I'm gonna kill him. Okay, very funny Triste, jokes over."

He made to get up and I grabbed his wrist, yanking him back down and receiving a surprised glance.

I cocked an eyebrow at him.

"So you don't believe me."

Alright, maybe not as well as we thought...

"No, I don't. I don't even understand why you're doing this, its not funny..."

I debated what to do next and there really only seemed to be one option.

"Its not a joke. Hold out your hand, Johannes."

"What? Why?"

"Just do it, please. If you won't take my word, then I have to show you."

He cautiously opened his palm and held it out.

"Good. Now close your eyes and stay still."

"You're not going to stab me or something are you?"

"What?! No...I'm not going to uhm. I'm not going to s-stab you," I said, my face turning red from the effort it took to not burst out laughing. I took a moment to compose myself, thankful for the relative darkness in his bedroom.

"Do you remember what my favorite flower is?"

"Lavender."

My eyes roamed over his face as he chewed his lip, but still kept his eyes closed, hand extended and open to me.

I centered for a moment and envisioned a perfect sprig, fragrant and delicate, weaving it from the air.

His eyes flew open when he felt it in his palm.

Johannes carefully turned the sprig over, studying it for a moment and rubbing the buds between his fingers until the scent of them filled the room.

I couldn't help but inhale deeply and sigh.

"Very elaborate," he said, rolling his eyes and tossing it onto the bed behind us, "are you done making me look like an idiot?"

I was caught off guard by his response, and cocked my head when I looked over at him slowly.

"Really? Still nothing?"

I heaved a sigh, "you're not an idiot, and this isn't a joke. Fine, you know what? Keep your eyes open. Name a flower or a leaf or a shrub, I don't care, just please not a tree and nothing too big."

"Triste, this is absurd."

"Its not absurd," I said forcefully and he raised both eyebrows at my tone.

I'd never yelled at him before.

"You were the one who asked, so just name a fucking flower, Johannes."

*Easy, child.*

"This isn't fucking funny, but whatever. Rose."

"What color?"

"...Apricot..."

"Okay. Do not look away from your hand."

He shook his head but looked down anyways as I mentally pictured the biggest, fattest, most lush apricot rose I could summon.

The scent was unmistakable as it appeared in his palm.

"WHAT THE FUCK," he yelled and was up and on the other side of the room in less than one second, still holding the bloom clutched in his fist as his back hit the wall.

"That's it. I'm insane. I'm dreaming or I've gone fucking insane. Fuck fuck FUCK!"

"Johannes. You're not insane. And I'm not insane. I told you that already."

"None of this is possible!!"

"And yet you just saw it with your own eyes. My goddess gave me this ability Johannes. To bring certain elements of nature forth...we both have been given gifts. Well, everyone like us has."

"We?"

"What? Oh. Fucking hell...yes...we..."

He pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head back and forth, "if you say May I'm going to pass out."

I hadn't intended to say anything about May, but the cat was out of the bag now.

I got up and crossed the room cautiously, slowly, trying to not spook him, and when I reached his side, I ran a gentle hand over his arm.

"Will you look at me?"

He didn't look anywhere but the flower in his hand, which was trembling violently.

"Johannes?"

He shuddered when I said his name and shrank from me.

"Oh. I see. I--I'm sorry. This was too much to put on you, I shouldn't have said anything..."

He took one deep breath, then another, but my emotions were already roiling under the surface of my skin, making me flushed and angry with no one but myself, but I lashed out at him anyways.

"Maybe in the future don't fucking eavesdrop then get upset about what you hear."

I yanked the bedroom door open and stormed out, not bothering to shut the sliding glass door behind me as I stomped out onto the deck.

Everyone looked up at me, slightly startled by my abrupt entrance, and I crooked one finger at May.

"I need to talk to you."

She stared at me silently for a moment and one of her eyes twitched.

"Tim, can I please borrow a cigarette?" she asked, untangling herself from Jonas and getting to her feet.

"She doesn't mean borrow," I grumbled and she gave me an annoyed look.

"Uhm...yeah...is everything okay Triste?"

"Just fucking peachy," I muttered, "thank you."

Henrik gave me a doubtful look, and John simply watched me silently over steepled fingers.

May handed the cigarette to me, and I slipped it between my lips, turning back after taking a step towards the stairs.

"No light," I sighed, tapping my front and back pockets.

"I've got you, come here," Tim said, and I crossed to him, leaning down and lighting the end off the flame he held up to me. Our eyes met for only a second as I exhaled through my nose.

"Thanks," I said before turning and handing it to May, then taking off down the stairs, yelling at myself internally for being such a stupid idiot and telling Johannes.

You should have just let him think you were bonkers. Then you summoned for him, you moron. Now he knows. You probably just fucking broke his brain.

May appeared beside me as I ducked under the wooden crossbeams supporting the deck above us.

"I told him," I said after accepting the cigarette she offered back to me and taking a long, slow pull.

"...told him what?"

"I told him then I showed him. And I don't think it went very well."

She looked over at me in shock as she put my meaning together.

"Triste, what??"

"Oh, and to boot, I also accidentally told him what you are too, so I'm on some kind of fucking winning streak. Fuck me, I'm going to have to go home now."

"Cherie, cherie, stop. You think too much. What did he say?"

"He didn't say anything except basically it's not possible."

"Oui, but you showed him? What did you do?"

I closed my eyes and laid back onto the cold sand, feeling tears prickling under my eyelids as I held the cigarette out to her and she took it.

"May I asked him what my favorite flower was, and he remembered right away," I sniffled as my tears started to fall, sliding into my hair, "and I made it appear in his palm and he thought it was some elaborate joke, so I told him to watch and I did it again."

She listened silently as I started crying.

"And he was afraid of me," I sobbed quietly, feeling my heart breaking in my chest, "he understood what we said in the kitchen, and knew I said I was thousands of years old. And I imagined this big, lush, apricot-colored rose and it appeared and...and he ran from me. Like I'm some kind of fucking monster!"

"Non, non, bebe," she whispered, gathering me against her breast and rocking me back and forth.

"Maybe Johannes just needs time...tout comprendre..."

"I'm such an idiot, he won't understand! How could he?!" I gasped, running both hands back through my hair and pulling hard, trying to keep myself together.

"What if I broke his brain? What if I damaged him? Fuck, I have to get out of here."

Someone cleared their throat from next to us, and I almost screamed as I jumped up, riddled with anxiety and nervous energy.

He was standing silently holding one hand out to me, the other rested against the wooden supports of the stairs, holding the rose still.

A sad look pulled one corner of his mouth down.

"Come here, baby," he said softly.

"I...I...I..." my brain refused to form words.

"Go on, oie," May said, nudging me towards him.

I reached out one trembling hand and placed it in his, faintly surprised that it didn't burn my skin, and Johannes pulled gently until I followed him and ducked out from under the crossbeams.

"Walk with me?"

I didn't respond, but fell into step beside him as we moved down towards the water.

The moon shone off his hair and my heart palpitated at the sight.

Gods, but he was beautiful.

I wanted to run my hands through his tresses and hold him to me, apologizing a thousand times until he'd forgotten what I'd just showed him.

"Triste...look, I'm sorry I freaked out in there...my brain just refused to process what I saw, but..." he looked down at the bloom clutched in his hand, the heat from his palm making the petals slightly wilt, "its real...I don't understand it, but its real somehow."

I nodded, staring out at the ocean as I stuffed my hands in my pockets and suffered internally for what I was about to say.

"Its my fault. I shouldn't have told you in the first place. I'm sorry, Johannes. I--I'll be gone in the morning. I should go back home anyways."

"What?" he physically turned me towards him and stared down at me, his brow furrowed as the rose fell into the sand, forgotten, "you're leaving?"

Another nod.

"I think its best. Just...I don't know. Try to forget what you saw. Fuck. Johannes, I'm so sorry," I sniffed, turning back towards the house and shaking my head as I reached one hand up to wipe my tears away from my eyes.

He caught my hand with one of his own and stopped me from going any further.

"Please don't go," he whispered, "don't leave..." he pulled me back towards him so hard we physically collided, and he crushed my face against his chest, fingers grasping at my hair.

His heartbeat was thundering under my ear and I closed my eyes tight, trying to process what was happening.

In one quick movement he pulled my face up to look into his eyes.

“Don’t leave me, Triste...please,” he whispered again, and I watched one tear drop down his cheek.

My heart belonged to him in that moment and I started to gasp for breath as my own tears soaked my face, dropping unnoticed as his stare held mine.

He kissed me softly at first, gently, just brushing his lips against mine over and over again.

"Stay," he sniffed, still holding me to him tightly like he would keep me there either way. The ice-blue eyes that stared down at me were swimming with tears and consumed with emotion -- desire, confusion, lust, worry.

"I don't understand," I whined, trying to take a step back, "you should want to be a thousand miles away from me by now, Johannes."  The night swallowed his name as I said it, the wind picking up off the black waters lapping at the shore.

He firmed his grip again, "I don't want to be a thousand miles away from you. I don't want you to go home -- I don't want you to be anywhere that I'm not. Christ, Triste, I'm confused as hell and terrified, but that doesn't change how I feel about you, which is fucking terrifying!"

My response never made it past my lips.

He pulled on my hair hard with an iron grip until I stared up at him and there was fire in the look he gave me before crushing my mouth under his own.

We held onto each other as tightly as we could, a passionate embrace born out of a gut-wrenching fear of loss.

His tongue was intoxicating like the sea air itself, swirling along mine and drawing little moans and gasps from me as my need for him grew and I ran my fingers through his hair, tangling them down to the roots and keeping him pressed hard against me.

I whispered his name a thousand times, trying to reach more of him, to touch more of his skin, taste more of his mouth.

"I need you, Triste," he said when he pulled back panting for breath, looking down at me.

I pulled him down hard and kissed him as deeply as I could, wrapping my arms around his neck and trying to desperately let him know with a physical touch that he was in my head too, but also my heart.

May had been right.

We dropped onto the sand together, never breaking our kiss as his fingers roughly pulled at the button of my shorts.

I was freezing but I didn't care, I pushed the material of his pants down his hips just far enough to free his cock as he pulled my shorts down my legs and shoved my panties to the side, our movements frenzied and desperate.

There was no teasing or taunting, no playful touches or quick kisses to drive the other crazy.

His tongue passed my lips again and he immediately thrusted his cock inside me fully with a shout, bottoming out hard and my back arched off the sand in response, not caring that it would be in my hair and down the back of my shirt.

I pulsed around him and we broke away from each other to gasp, but the impact of his lips hitting mine again forced my head back into the sand as our tongues danced together and we gripped each other hard enough to leave bruises, taking everything the other gave and needing more.

He moaned my name over and over again as his hips started to move, pistoning in and out of me, pressing my legs further apart with each thrust.

I'd never taken such a beating, but I couldn't stand for him to stop. His passion was what I loved about him, and being on the receiving end of the unbridled physical onslaught made me respond in kind.

We were all lips and tongue and teeth, biting and sucking and feverishly moving against each other.

"Don't go, Triste, please don't fucking go," he whispered, his tears dropping onto my skin as he pinned one of my hands above my head into the sand and laced our fingers together.

He pushed his weight into it to thrust harder, deeper, and I felt the coil of heat deep down building, rapidly becoming an inferno that was going to explode and set the sky on fire.

My nails dragged across his back underneath his shirt, making him shout as the deep red lines raised into welts.

"I won't," I gasped, the crashing of his hips into mine making my words almost stutter, "I promise. Fuck, Johannes!" I screamed, my body flailing and twitching as I gave him everything I had and came undone, lifting my hips off the sand to meet his final thrusts.

He came in the same moment, and we cried into the night together, heaving for breath and unable to look away from each other as our mutual release wracked our bodies with pleasure.

The roughness of the sand and the chill of the air were forgotten about.

There was only Johannes.

And there was only me.

Our tears didn't stop with our climaxes, and he gasped for breath as he looked down at me through eyes that were blurred.

"I...I can't lose you, Triste..." he whispered as he slipped out of me with a soft groan.

"Ohh," I wiped one sandy hand against my shirt and reached up to brush the tears away from his cheeks.

He was statuesque, like the granite angels in botanical gardens, and I leaned up on my elbows to press a kiss to his mouth.

"Johannes," I spoke in a hushed tone, and our eyes met again.

His bored holes into me, but I pressed one hand to his lips as he made to speak again.

"I'm not going anywhere...if you're sure you w...want me, then I'll stay."

--

Everyone had gone inside and to bed when we finally righted our clothes and made our way up to the house.

A faint crashing and a guttural growl told me that at least May and Jonas were still up, but the rest of the house was silent and dark.

Johannes never took his hand away from me, keeping it around my shoulders or intertwining his fingers through mine.

"Come on, you're covered in sand," he said quietly, pulling me into the bathroom.

"I...I can do this," I offered.

He looked down at me with one corner of his mouth curved up in something like a smirk.

"My mess. I should clean it up."

I pressed a hand over my lips to stifle my laughter, but I let him do it anyways, throwing my hands up in mock exasperation.

He chuckled lowly, but quickly became absorbed in his task, lifting my shirt off over my head and running his hands over the smooth skin of my shoulders and my arms.

He hummed quietly while he worked, and I closed my eyes, absorbing the notes that resonated quietly in the bathroom, bouncing off the tile walls.

"Can you...can you tell me more?" He finally asked, so softly I almost asked him to repeat his question.

My shorts dropped down my legs and I stepped gingerly out of them, moving them with my foot to the side with my sandy shirt.

I stole a peek up at Johannes. I didn't want him to feel like he needed to ask questions to make me stay.

"Do you really want to know?" I responded, reaching up to touch his face before dropping my fingers to the buttons of his shirt as I stood in nothing but my bra and panties.

"I don't know what I want, Triste. I'm trying not to freak out," he sighed, seeming a little frustrated, but not with me. I couldn't imagine the internal struggle he must have been having, so I vowed to be patient and nodded, trying to focus all my attention on each individual button while I let him gather his thoughts.

"Well," I pushed the material off his shoulders and he let it fall down and off the ends of his long arms, before returning his hands to me, "as I said. I'm not...well I'm not immortal, per se. But I come back as someone else when I die."

"Like reincarnation?"

"Mmm, sort of. Same principle I guess, but I can remember my original life, and a lot of the details of the ones I've lived since then..."

I tried to keep everything I said as general as possible so I wouldn't overwhelm him.

"H-how...ohh," he trailed off as I pushed his pants off his hips again, slowly this time, and he reached a hand behind me to unclasp my bra in one graceful motion.

My panties dropped down my legs as his hands roamed over my skin, gently running the pads of his fingers along my nipples and making me shiver hard and sigh with pleasure.

His soft and slow rivaled his brutal and fast in an almost incomprehensible way, and I leaned up to kiss him, gently, reassuringly.

My inner monologue yelled at me to just answer his questions later and drag him into the shower now, but I was concerned that it wouldn't come up again if we shied away.

I took his hands and kissed the tops of both, then stepped back under the running water, shivering briefly under the warm deluge, but it was only a moment before a feverishly hot body drew me in and wrapped his arms around me, kissing me soundly.

"How does your brain store all of that?" He asked when he broke away, kissing me again before I could answer as his mind tried to do the math on how many times I would have lived by now.

"Mmm, babe you have to let me breathe to tell you," I giggled, pushing his soaked locks back from his face and cupping his cheek, "I have...I guess a system to compartmentalize. I get really bad deja vu once in a while, but that's rare. Mostly it just gets stored in the back of my brain and I don't really remember things until I purposefully access those memories."

I turned my back to the water, letting it run in warm rivulets down my skin and wash the sand away as my eyes closed and I waited for the next question.

"What was your name again?"

My lips twitched with a fleeting smile as I kept my eyes closed and tilted my head back further.

"Triste."

"Not that one," he said, half annoyed.

I snorted, "sorry! Masika. I was called Masika when I was brought into the temple since it was raining."

The scene flashed before my eyes and my knees shook as a bolt of terror cut through me like a knife for the briefest of moments, and my arms wrapped around myself.

Maybe we'll skip that part...

"What does rain have to do with it?"

"Its my name. Masika. It means born during the rain."

His lips brushed along my jaw as his hands pulled me closer, spreading out over my skin and tracing the lines of my tattoo again.

"Is that why May calls you pluie?" he asked between gentle kisses.

I laid my head against his chest as I nodded, letting the shelter and comfort of his arms envelop and shield me.

"You still can call me Triste though, baby," I smiled softly, "I...I guess its kind of like I live a dual life. I'm Masika, and always have been, but I live my life as Triste. I went to school, and I have likes and dislikes about books and food and movies. I'm way too attached to my cell phone. My cats have an Instagram. That kind of normal 21st century stuff. I don't have crazy superpowers or know the future. I just...live."

He rinsed off in silence as I let him process, then he shut off the water and stepped out, reappearing a moment later with two towels.

He shook his head hard back and forth and I squealed as the water droplets showered over me, though I was still soaked too.

"Ugh there's the downside to being involved with a man who has long hair!" I joked, rolling my eyes, "you know, girls never do that!"

His grin was childlike and he pulled me to him, helping me step over the ledge of the shower before gathering me into his arms.

"So we're involved now, are we?"  He smiled, cocking an eyebrow down at me before giving me a quick peck on the cheek.

"What do you want to call it?" I giggled, "I just told you I'm an Egyptian priestess and am thousands of years old, and you still like me!"

He shook his head, grinning down at me indulgently, "quite a lot to be honest, although the cats having an Instagram almost tipped the scales out of your favor."

I swatted his arm and giggled, and he grabbed me tighter, growling playfully down at me in response and laughing.

The sound made my heart skip a beat, and I leaned up to press a kiss to his jaw.

"Instagram," he muttered, still chuckling, but pressing kisses down the side of my neck, "you're the fucking weirdest, you know that right?"

I burst out laughing, clapping a hand over my lips as the sound rang out through the small bathroom.

"Yeah, I know, babe," I laughed.

His hands moved down over my waist and started pulling my towel away, tossing it carelessly onto the counter as he took my lips in a breathless kiss, continuing to move them down my jaw then the line of my neck.

"Do you care though?" I asked quietly.

"Not presently." He mumbled, moving back up to kiss me thoroughly, gently, pressing his lips against my own in a way that made me forget my name.

"Gods, I love the way you laugh," he murmured into my mouth, nipping at my bottom lip as he turned my back towards the sink and his own towel dropped to the floor.

His skin was warm and soft, pressing against mine.

"I love the way you kiss me," he said as my ass hit the cool countertop, and he pushed me back until I was seated on the edge, opening my legs to make room for his hips.

His thickness slid against me and I gasped a soft moan into his lips.

"I love the way you bite your lip when you're coming," he growled into my ear quietly, carding his fingers through my wet hair, and watching the drops of water slide down my back and down over my ass, "damn..."

I shifted my hips to grind against him, bracing my hands back against the countertop. His lips sought mine again, and he kissed me slowly, thoroughly, tasting every part of my mouth and making me shiver with need.

"I love that you were so brave and so patient, telling me everything," he whispered, his kisses slowing down and his lips lingering at mine for seconds at a time as he remained nestled against my core for several more moments.

"Oh, Triste..." he moaned softly as he moved and pressed the head of his cock inside me; I melted into his embrace, reaching out one hand to run it over his hip.

He rocked into me slowly, stretching me open and drawing moans and tiny gasps out of me until he was bottomed out, unable to go any further.

"Thank you," I gasped, trying to order my thoughts, "for not -- oh, that feels so good -- f-for not thinking I was crazy."

He chuckled softly, and it made me laugh too. Everything inside me rhythmically tightened with the motion, and he dropped his forehead to mine with a gasp at the sensation.

"Gods, how do you feel better every time I'm inside you," he groaned, slowly starting to pull out of me.

"Just kiss me, Johannes," I gasped, almost undone by the entire situation to begin with, let alone feeling him sliding so slowly against my inner walls.

He hung over me until his hands were pressed to the counter top behind me and I was leaning back on my elbows, wondering vaguely how I hadn't smacked my head on the mirror yet.

But all coherent thoughts slipped away when he started to roll his hips into me, slowly, purposefully, drinking in every sound and expression.

"Everything about you...fuck, oh move your hips like that again...everything about you is so beautiful, Triste...oh, gods, please don't ever leave."

His rhythm started to increase as he felt his orgasm building.

--

In the room next door, someone was still awake.

Tim laid on his back, staring at the ceiling, trying to tune out the soft sounds of pleasure coming through the wall and will his erection away as his fingers absentmindedly moved over the phantom frets, playing music in his mind.

His brain was swirling with thoughts of me.

It had felt so good when I leaned into his arms, trusting him and reveling in the newness of it all.

Gods, but I was soft, and my hair smelled like flowers.

And the way I kissed him gently when saying goodnight.

Even my lips were divine.

He'd barely caught himself when I looked over my shoulder teasingly asking if he was going to steal me away from Johannes.

"Fuck," he sighed, rolling over and trying not to think about what else he'd heard me telling Johannes since then.

But it became too much.

The sound of me moaning still came through the wall, louder now, and all he could imagine was having me naked and under him, making those same sounds.

Crying out into his lips.

He palmed himself, stifling a quiet groan through bitten lips as his hand worked slowly in time with my sounds.

"Triste," he whispered, not aware that he'd even spoken as he pumped himself, "oh, god, Triste..."

--

"Come with me, Johannes," I pleaded, lifting my hips up to angle them against him and wrapping my legs around his hips.

He moaned my name heavily as he tipped over the edge and spilled into me, barely having the presence of mind to reach between us and rub my clit hard, sending me flying even higher.

Our bodies worked each other nearly to the point of exhaustion as I clenched repeatedly around him and he filled me.

We finally stopped coming, and drifted down from the intense high together, a gasping pile of tangled limbs.

He pulled out of me and tugged me off the counter and up to him, holding me against his body so his pounding heart was under my cheek.

I tipped my face up to smile at him, still not used to the acceptance that I felt, but loving it all the same.

"Bed?" he asked softly into my lips, caressing them with his own, not pushing for more.

"Mmm," I hummed, "bed sounds good."

We picked up towels and cleaned up before he peaked his head out of the bathroom, checking to make sure the coast was clear like we were teenagers sneaking out.

I giggled quietly but he took my hand and we slipped into his room for the night.

--

Tim waited until he heard the quiet click of the bedroom door across the hall before getting out of bed to clean himself up.

Chapter Text

I fell almost immediately into a blissful, dreamless sleep.

That kind where you relax so much you almost feel like you have a nap hangover when you awaken, and for the first time in years, I slept without stirring every hour.

I still couldn't make it through the night, though I felt far more rested than usual when my eyes fluttered open in the darkness.

Our bodies were still bare and our limbs interwoven as I watched Johannes sleep peacefully, his hair spread like dark feathers against the white pillow, and I wondered if I could slip out to the deck without waking him up.

He was so lovely when he slept, it would be a shame to make him stir.

I carefully untangled myself, stretching in the moonlight that was streaming through the window, smiling at the way it illuminated my pale skin.

What a fascinating thing, light.

I fished a sports bra out of my bag and slipped into shorts and an oversize sweater before silently cracking open the door, glancing up and down the hallway to make sure I was alone.

Everything was silent and I hummed softly - apparently even May and Jonas needed sleep too sometimes.

I slipped out onto the deck and took a deep breath of fresh air.

For a moment, I could recall the silty smell of the Nile during the inundation, and could hear the turbulent waters breaking their banks.

But I opened my eyes and I was Triste again.

Not the same Triste I had woken up that morning as, but close.

A fuller, happier version of Triste - more trusting, more willing to feel affection and show it without fear.

I crossed to the railing and hoisted myself up, standing on the lowest rung for a moment, stretching my arms out and closing my eyes like I could take flight if I tried hard enough.

Both feet, to my great dismay, stayed planted and I sighed and swung one leg over the railing, then the other, sitting firmly on the weather-worn top plank and folding both underneath me before turning to face the ocean.

I pulled my sweater off over my head, draping it next to me, and took my hair down, sitting up straight and opening my palms face up on my knees, shivering in the breeze, but soon tuning it out as I sat motionless.

I had felt a need to give thanks ever since Johannes had asked me not to leave, and I gave myself over to the night to do so.

The darkness was full of sounds when I opened my mind enough to hear things that weren't my own thoughts tumbling through my brain.

The rustling of the sea grasses, the crashing of the waves further out in the surf, harmonizing with the gurgling of those lapping at the shore. There were no people sounds, no city, no cars, the only other humans near me were those asleep soundly inside.

I reveled in my solitude, mentally reaching out to my goddess, whispering the prayers I had learned in the temple.

No response resounded in my ears, but that was just as well, and the silence was blissful.

I didn't feel cold, despite the breeze whispering over my exposed palms.

I heard the gentle clanking of the artists' chisels, carving intricate scenes in relief across the temple walls. The symphony of childish laughs from the street, the sounds of the market. Wheels turning. Cattle lowing. Men bartering.

I longed so deeply for my home then -- the smells and the sounds, the family of women in the temple, the fierce nature of my goddess like the heat of the sun itself.

Her mighty statue was the focal point of my formative years and I could see it so clearly in my mind's eye, like I was sitting before her again.

She had always loved when I sang songs that told stories of Her greatness, from the time I was a child until I became a mature young woman.

My voice was quiet and smooth, and it was my greatest pleasure to sing to Her, of Her.

The way she destroyed her enemies and the ungrateful. How she rode with the pharaohs in their chariots, a phantom surging forth into the battle and shielding them from injury.

In every life since, I'd been blessed with a lovely voice.

Music was the gift She always gave me that didn't involve powers or energy manipulation. No matter who I was reborn as, or where on the planet I returned, I always had a deep appreciation for music.

I had fallen head over heels for Bach and Sinatra in my previous years, but in this life, my tastes edged towards the heavier. My heart soared with the screaming guitar chords and gravelly vocals, but the sensation was the same as it had always been.

I hummed Beyond the Sea softly to myself now, my eyes still closed as I centered within myself where I was, weaving a tiny bouquet of lotus blossoms and papyrus reeds, winding a long blade of grass around the stems and bowing my forehead to the offering as I returned to my consciousness and let it slip from my fingers down into the dune grass below.

It was jarring to come back sometimes if it was done improperly, and a temporary fit of madness was the last thing I needed at the moment, so I was slow and careful, letting my thoughts wash over me in gentle waves, smiling as I remembered where I was.

Things with Johannes were going to be okay, and my heart was the fullest it had ever felt in my present life.

For a few days more at least, we would be together by choice. A fleeting thought of the days beyond tried to enter my mind, but I blocked it, unwilling to dwell on what lay ahead, and the interruption of the flow through my consciousness of thoughts and memories made me open my eyes as I blinked.

I didn't want to think of what would happen when we parted ways, and there was no need to burden my heart with those thoughts at the moment. 

As I fully came to, I sensed him.

He was silent, leaning back against the house watching me, an unlit cigarette between his fingers.

My hair dropped down my back, nearly reaching my hips in a tousled mass of waves that he felt an overwhelming urge to brush his fingers through as he watched the wind gently lift and release them, like it was realizing his own want, running invisible fingers through my tresses.

The white of my sports bra seemed almost fluorescent against my skin, pale as it was, reflecting the moonlight, my posture perfect, my entire being serene.

I opened my eyes all the way, remaining still but looking out at the water, taking in my surroundings and waiting for a moment before I spoke.

"Are you just going to stand there all night, Tim?" I asked softly, not looking away from the way the moon reflected off the water in front of me, but smiling when I felt the air stiffen for a moment.

"How did you know it was me?" he asked quietly, slightly embarrassed that he'd been caught staring at me again as he crossed the deck to stand by me.

I looked at him out of the corner of my eye when he approached the rail next to me and rested his forearms on it, but I didn't answer.

My eyes closed instead and I stretched my arms over my head, rolling my shoulders back and relishing the pull of relaxed muscles.

A soft groan left my lips as my back arched.

Tim's natural energy was already a little more turbulent than Johannes', Henrik's, Jonas' or John's when he was calm, but as he watched me it spiked suddenly in a way that almost made me tumble backwards off the railing, and I gripped the wood tight to steady myself with a gasp as one of his hands instinctively shot out to catch me from falling and laid flat against the middle of my back over my tattoo.

It lingered for a moment, and what felt like a small shock wave pulsed through me as his fingertips pressed into my skin.

He immediately pulled back from me, muttering an apology, and I reached for my sweater, quickly pulling it on over my head to try and cover my intense blush.

When that didn't suffice, I pulled my hair over my shoulder, creating a curtain between us as I fussed with the ends and chewed my lip.

What the hell was that? First from the stage, then in the kitchen, and now...he'd touched me before, several times as we all sat out under the stars and ate dinner, and he had sank into my kiss in a way the others hadn't when I said goodnight.

But that pulse of energy was something else entirely.

"That's okay. Thank you for catching me," I murmured peaking down at him and curling my hair behind my ear.

What was he even doing up?

"Is that a Ghost tattoo?" he asked, looking over at me as he offered me a cigarette, his brain trying desperately to think of anything to say to keep me here with him and talking.

He gave me a tentative smile, having felt our connection too but unsure what to do.

I touched the spot under my breast, "yeah, it hurt like hell too, so I hope he appreciated it."

"Who?" I paused for a moment, snorting at the memory.

Ihy.

"Nevermind," I said with a mischievous grin.

He chuckled under his breath, reaching up to light my cigarette.

"Careful," he murmured as I leaned at an angle down to light the end, then pulled back up, inhaling deeply and closing my eyes as the smoke left my lips.

"Mmm, thank you."

"You still didn't answer how you knew it was me," he said, watching me, drinking my movements in, remembering all my sounds coming through the walls, "a-and I wasn't trying to be creepy. I just didn't want to startle you."

I shifted so I was sitting on the railing facing the house, my legs swung over to the deck side. He looked back and forth between my eyes, and I chewed the inside of my lip for a moment, considering what to say.

"You didn't startle me, you just have a pretty heated stare," I said, and he rolled his eyes at me.

"I don't even know what that means."

I reached for his chin with one hand, brushing my thumb over one side of his mustache as his cigarette hung between his fingers, momentarily forgotten.

I sought his eyes, his energy, and when our gazes locked, I let him feel the tiniest, barest hint of me there. If I hadn't been waiting for it, I wouldn't have heard the soft moan that left his lips that so nearly drove me mad.

"A heated stare, Tim," I said softly, quietly so he had to lean in to hear me, "is that way someone looks at you that makes goosebumps break out on your skin, even if you can’t see them looking at you...it makes you feel hot, even in the cold...flushed, even in the dark. Like they're touching you, even if they aren't..."

He swallowed hard as he continued to look up at me, not daring to blink, acutely aware of my fingers touching his face, of my lips forming words that seemed to pass in one ear and out the other.

"Plus your energy is very...unique. Your presence feels different from most people's,” I said, letting go of him and turning my torso so I was perpendicular to the shore, looking back out at the water as I inhaled one more drag, watching the way the smoke swirled away on the breeze and folding one leg underneath me.

He took a long pull on his cigarette as I extinguished mine, and we both looked at the ocean for several minutes without speaking.

The barest suggestion of dawn was approaching and a sea bird's call added to the crashing of the waves.

"Is that a priestess thing then? Being able to feel energy?"

My head whipped back to look at him and the movement threw off my balance, making me actually tumble over the railing this time and fall towards the deck. He caught me halfway through my descent and hauled me to my feet, still keeping both hands firmly planted on me even when I was upright.

I felt thunderstruck as those eyes stared down at me, looking inside me, looking through me.

"What did you just say?!" I finally choked out, gripping his forearms when his hands moved to my elbows.

My fight or flight was kicking in hard, and it was taking a Herculean effort just to wrangle my own energy and keep it in check.

"Tim. what . the fuck . did . you . just . say."

"That's what you are, right? Isn't that what you were telling Johannes?" His expression wasn't worried or afraid of what he was saying, and it only made me more anxious.

"And how would you know that" I asked, fighting to keep my voice level but mentally bashing my head repeatedly into the wooden railing.

He took his hands from my elbows and looked me over for a moment, stepping back.

"Well, my...my room is on the other side of the bathroom wall..." he didn't elaborate further, only shrugged a little and stuffed his hands in his pockets.

"Oh, Christ, really Tim? Fuck me..." I murmured, turning to the rail and burying my face into my arms, feeling mortified and fearful and altogether unsettled by how well he seemed to be doing with all of this information, on top of apparently hearing my cries of pleasure.

I had to admit, part of me enjoyed the knowledge that he'd heard me, and I wondered vaguely if he'd touched himself as he listened.

Tim cleared his throat and a tremor ran up my spine when his hand started rubbing up and down my back.

"Look, its not like I was listening at the keyhole, Triste...you two aren't very quiet in the first place, and the walls are thin and..." he stepped away and ran a hand back through his hair, wondering if he should have just kept his mouth shut in the first place.

"I'm not...I'm not going to like tell anyone...not that I would really know what to say anyways."

I peeked up at him for a moment before pushing off the rail and straightening up, the surprise I felt plain across my features.

"Wait...you believe me? Don't you think I'm insane or something?"

He laughed and the sound was rich and low and seemed to shatter some of the anxiety I felt, though by rights it should have only made me more cautious.

"Sweetheart, what the hell am I supposed to say to that?"

"I...I mean there are lots of options!" I said exasperatedly, "you're nuts, you crazy bitch, stay as far the fuck away from me as possible?!"

"Oh don't do that," he laughed again, wanting to ask me a thousand questions, but unsure where to start.

I carded a hand back through my hair and pulled it around one shoulder, "damn...I wasn't planning on telling the rest of you. I--I don't even really know you."

"You kissed me like you knew me," he said softly, meeting my eyes with something that looked suspiciously like lust in his gaze as he took a step closer to me.

Everything he did seemed to catch me off guard, and all I could do was shrug my shoulders and chew at the inside of my lip, wondering if I'd gone to far with the kiss then.

If he hadn't liked it, he'd done a very bad job of showing it at the time.

My temper started to flare in response to my anxiety and I knew that I should put a little more effort into staying calm, but I glared at Tim, making him take a step back.

"Does everyone fucking eavesdrop around here? Doesn't anyone ever just fucking mind their own business? And I'm sorry I kissed you goodnight if you didn't like it, I won't do it anymore."

He snapped right back at me, matching my temper with the fire in his own.

"Hey maybe you're just really fucking loud and not very careful for someone with such a big secret, did you every consider that?"

He closed the gap between us, and I rapidly backed up until the railing dug into my lower back as he stared at me, leaning in until his lips were an inch from mine, the material of his shorts brushing against my thighs.

"And I didn't fucking say anything about not enjoying it."

My breaths came in short shallow gasps, and I was almost overwhelmed with the sudden, intense wave of want that I felt. It pulsed between us, around us, matching our heartbeats and the flicker in his gaze.

But Tim knew himself well enough to pull back at that moment, just before hurtling himself past the point of no return. He turned away from me and lit another cigarette, fighting for his self control.

I felt like I needed to go run ten miles and scream into the abyss for a little while, but I stood where I was, only turning to look back out at the ocean, letting myself get lulled into an almost hypnotic calm by the lapping sound of the waves.

He came and stood next to me, leaning forward against the railing on the heels of his hands.

"I'm sorry I snapped at you," I said after a couple minutes of silence, chancing a glance over in his direction.

His face remained stoic, his hair lifting off his shoulders with each breath of wind as he stared hard at the water, warring with himself over what he was feeling.

He didn't respond, and I started to worry that maybe my mouth really had gotten me into trouble this time, and that he actually disliked me now.

I stepped closer and touched his hand, using one finger to trace the lines and little veins that ran up the back of it towards his forearm, getting his attention as he stretched out his fingers, letting me continue down the length of each one, flipping it over so I could touch his calloused fingertips.

"You should let someone draw your hands sometime," I said quietly, giving voice to a thought I'd had since the first time I saw a picture of them up close, "they're so beautiful."

"Do you want to?"

I smiled softly, breathing a laugh, "I would, but I'm literally the worst artist in the world, so they wouldn't end up looking like hands."

At first, I didn't see his eyes light over my face, his mouth curving up into a tender smile under his mustache, but after a moment, I looked up at him and did a double take when I saw the look resting across his features.

There wasn't anger or frustration or lust - Tim looked happy and calm, and absolutely sure of what he was doing when he reached up one hand and brushed my hair away from my face, seeming to get lost for a moment as he ran his fingers through the silver strands with a soft, shaky exhale.

"I think I feel drawn to you..." the tips of his fingers barely brushed my cheek, "don't get me wrong, you're beautiful and smart and you're funny..." he continued to touch my hair for a moment as I took more rapid shallow breaths, feeling consumed with heat from his caress, "and I don't know. A thousand other things. But, there's something else. I...you pull me in. Like I have to be near you."

I wasn't sure if he knew which words were leaving his lips or not as he was watching his fingers drift through my hair.

"Tim," I sighed, finally catching his hand and opening it in front of me.

The darkness still obscured the lines on his palm, but I raised it and pressed a kiss to the center.

I didn't know what else to do or say, so I just pulled him to me and held on tight to him around his waist.

His body stiffened at first, surprised at my reaction, but he quickly shifted gears and enveloped me in his arms, wrapping his jacket around us both as my face pressed into his shoulder, angled towards his neck.

"You feel good," I sighed, relief washing over me that he didn't think I was nuts, and wasn't angry with me.

"You too...so good," he whispered, clutching me tighter.

I yawned sleepily, relaxing into his embrace.

"Mmm," I hummed when I finally pulled back several minutes later, my eyelids feeling heavy, "thank you for being understanding, Tim. And for not...I don't know...thinking I'm a fucking freak?" I laughed softly with a shrug.

He smiled tenderly at me, cupping my cheek. "You're not a freak, Triste...I really don't know you very well, and I realize that, but I think you're the most amazing woman I'm ever going to meet..."

I expected him to pull back and second guess himself after he said it, but he didn't.

He just held my gaze and rubbed his thumb over my cheek again.

Damn, he really meant that...

"You have a lot of life left to live, don't be too hasty, Tim," I bit my lip and looked at the floor to hide my blush, the smile curving my lips unmistakable as I let his comment sink in.

"Ohh, sweetheart that look will get you in trouble," he muttered, and my eyes shot up to his.

"I mean...good night..." he stared at me wide-eyed like he'd been caught in the act for several moments, until we broke down into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

"Oh, gods," I clutched my sides, giggling, "you are going to get me into trouble, Tim."

He looked at me, "any time you want, you know where to find me. I..." he snorted a laugh and looked at me with a grin that made me laugh harder, "I-I like older w-women..." he could hardly get the words out he was laughing so hard, his face turning red from it.

I rolled my eyes, and couldn't resist when I stepped closer and suddenly fisted my hand into his hair.

"You're a ridiculous human being," I chuckled before slowly pressing my lips to his, and letting them linger as I held eye contact with him.

He didn't drop my gaze as my mouth brushed his one final time, though his hand crept along my waist.

"Goodnight...älskling," I whispered, practicing the new word I'd learned then pulled back, a smirk curving my lips when I caught the look on his face.

"Such a tease," he groaned, swatting me on the ass lightly as I turned towards the house, grinning.

"Older women," I muttered, shaking my head and giggling to myself.

I reached the door, about to pull the handle when my heart got the better of my head and I spun around.

He was leaning against the railing, one bare foot crossed lazily over the other ankle, facing away from me. The wind off the ocean danced through the ends of his hair, gathered down around one shoulder.

"Hey Tim?" I said quietly, and he turned, leaning his back to the rail.

"Hold still please," I closed my eyes and centered for a brief moment, and when I opened them a delicate green vine with purple flowers started to wind its way up around his calf, smoothing against his skin, climbing up towards his knee.

He stood, mouth agape, staring at the sensation that I had created; Tim's eyes slowly shifted from it over to me, and I stood with my back to the door, watching.

"Wh-wh-...Triste..."

"Thank you for believing me and being so nice...sweet dreams," I said softly with my best smile before slipping inside and returning to Johannes' room.

He stirred when I slipped under the covers next to him, my chilled skin pressing against his back.

"Mmm. Hey. Where have you been?" he mumbled sleepily.

I leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to the corner of his jaw, "meditating. Go back to sleep, darling."

And he did, drifting immediately back into his dreams.

Chapter Text

I was up with the virgin sunrise a couple hours later, back out on the deck in the exact same place with a mug of tea, seated on the railing and feeling more rested and happy than I had in years.

Sunrise was my favorite time of the day, when my goddess was reborn and fresh, her divine father starting a new journey across the sky in his barge; but being near the water made everything so much better.

I firmly believed that saltwater could cure all ailments, whether through sweat, tears, or the sea, and I longed to start running, sinking my feet into the sand and breathing in the thick salty air.

I set my mug down and started trying to wrangle my hair into a submissive ponytail, turning when I heard the sliding door open behind me, surprised not to be the only one up.

"Oh, hi..." he said, obviously not expecting anyone else to be awake either.

"Morning," I smiled over my shoulder at Henrik, pulling my hair through one last loop of the elastic.

I glanced down at his attire - running shoes and shorts...it seemed we had the same idea.

"What are you doing up? Usually I'm the only early-riser," he said, crossing to the railing and standing next to me as I twisted to face him.

I held up my wireless earbuds around my neck.

"Great minds."

"Hmm," he hummed, reaching up to tie his hair back. I tried to keep my mind focused on my mental preparation, but I was becoming rather distracted by the way his skin moved over his frame -- he was lean, but still muscular. I tried to tear my eyes away from the darker skin of his birthmark and turn back to the water, but my face wouldn't cooperate.

"Anyways...morning," he grinned, having noticed my wandering gaze and leaning in to kiss me quickly on the cheek.

I scrunched my nose up at him sarcastically, "you call that a greeting? And May tells me Americans are stingy," I giggled, hopping down off the railing and rolling my shoulders.

I wondered vaguely whether we were now supposed to run together or if it was rude to go our original planned ways.

Henrik laughed, shaking his head at me, "sorry, how's this?" he asked before moving like lightning and grabbing me around the waist with one arm and cupping the back of my head with the other, dipping me back far until I was bent backwards into a perfect right angle and slowly pressing his lips down against mine as he braced for both our weights on his front leg.

I gasped against his mouth, my hands instinctively grabbing onto his bare shoulders to hold myself up as my eyes fluttered shut, though he very clearly had no trouble supporting me.

He pulled his lips back after a second, letting them hover over mine, and looked back and forth between my eyes when they slowly slid open.

"Well?"

"B-better," I stuttered, my mind reeling and at the same time not working at all.

Still he held me bent back, staring at me...

"Run with me," he breathed, and I nodded before I knew what the hell I was doing; I hated running with other people - they always wanted to chat and it made me lose focus.

Henrik hauled us both up and let go of me once I was on my feet, though I was left slightly breathless, blinking several times and trying to remember what I'd been doing before. and more than a little concerned that my knees weren't going to hold if I took a step.

He pushed his earphones into his ears and then looked up from his phone, "I hate talking when I run," he said with a shrug and then his mouth twitched and he doubled back, "oh...did you want to talk?"

The grimace in his tone was obvious.

"Of course I don't want to talk to you, Henrik," I giggled, "I don't even like you very much."

He laughed loudly and shook his head at me, but didn't hide the look that told me he very much knew I was lying, quirking one perfect eyebrow at me instead.

And I was. Big time.

I threw my hands up in the air with a wide grin.

"Okay, maybe we will get along just fine," I said, holding the button to turn my own earbuds on, "wanna go to the pier and watch the sun come all the way up?"

He nodded and I turned back to my phone, missing the way his eyes moved over me as I shuffled through my playlists and trotted down the steps.

We took off at a brisk pace down the beach, both getting lost in our music, and I found that I actually didn't mind having Henrik as a running partner, because the more I wanted to stop, the more I kept going only because I wanted to watch the sweat dripping down his bare skin.

Not the worst motivation in the world...

We hit the pier and jogged to the end just at the right moment, when the sea turned orange and the contrast of lightness and dark almost brought tears to my eyes.

Neither of us said anything, but we stood shoulder to shoulder, leaning our arms on the weather-worn railing until the sun was up above the ocean and warming our faces.

Henrik turned and nodded his head back towards the beach as he put his earphones back in, laying his hand against the center of my back for a moment before we set off again.

I stopped my music periodically to listen to the sound of his panting, heavier as we went further, until we were only a quarter mile from the house.

I pulled out one earbud and looked over at him, praying I didn't trip over anything while my eyes were off the ground.

"Race you home," I grinned, and he pulled one earphone out.

"What did you say?"

But it was too late, I'd already taken off, half laughing half gasping for breath.

He caught up to me, and we were both sprinting towards the house, getting closer and closer.

I taunted him over my shoulder when he got closer to me, but ultimately I won by a few steps - he was a little taller than I was, but I had longer legs.

"Ha!" I turned, putting my hands on my hips and working to catch my breath, giggling through each jab I made.

"You had a head start, you little cheater!" he teased, indulging me with a grin as he rested his arms on top of his head, lacing his fingers together.

I watched the beads of sweat drip down his chest, glistening in the morning light, and tried not to focus on them, but my stupid sex drive would not be silenced as we both caught our breath.

I couldn't stop the sudden mental image of what it would be like if I pulling him into the sand and rolled on top of him before licking the sweat from his skin and tearing the shorts from his slender hips...

"Shall we?" I said, clearing my throat as I started to climb the steps, not waiting for an answer.

We climbed up to the deck and the enticing scent of his sweating body hit me like a truck as he tugged my ponytail when he walked by me and then reached up and stretched his arms above his head again.

I closed my eyes tight, trying to will my brain to shut up.

"Oh, man that felt good, its been days since I've been able to get out and go," he sighed, grinning at me as he pulled his damp hair out of the elastic and shook it down over his shoulders, "thanks for keeping such a good pace!"

"What? Oh, mmhm, no problem," I mumbled, taking my own hair down and pulling one leg behind me to stretch my quad before propping it up on the railing and groaning at the delicious pull in my hamstring as I bent forward to wrap my hands around my shoe, brushing the sand off.

"Wow, you're really flexible," he mumbled, looking up from my legs to my eyes and shrugging with an adorable little grin when I raised my eyebrows, and I wasn't sure if he meant to say it out loud.

"What the hell am I going to do with you guys," I giggled, pulling my leg off the railing and propping a hand on my hip like I was trying to be hard, or was even capable of being stern with him at all.

He laughed, shaking his head and turning back towards the water, but didn't reply.

"Gods, that was a beautiful sunrise," he said quietly to himself after a few minutes.

The salty air lifted his hair off his neck and dried the sweat on his body as he braced his palms against the rail and rolled his shoulders, closing his eyes in pleasure as his tired muscles stretched.

I watched with silent appreciation, admiring the sleekness of his build, and his beautiful bone structure, feeling lucky that someone like him wanted to be my friend.

"Hey," I said softly, crossing over to where he was and standing next to him. My fingers touched his upper arm and his eyes opened to look over at me, the expression there sweet and tender and somehow so iconically Henrik.

"Want to grab a shower and then get coffee and breakfast for everyone with me?" it seemed like twelve hours ago, I was petrified of even speaking to him, but now I found his presence comforting and I happily extended the offer.

His eyes widened for a fraction of a second before his brain parced out my request, "you need to work on your phrasing, little one," he grinned before kissing my cheek and turning to go inside, "yeah I'll meet you back out here in twenty."

I rolled my eyes with a smirk, turning to catch his attention, "look, honey when I want you in my shower, I'm just going to ask, and/or possibly drag you in with me against your will."

Henrik bit his lip slightly, a smile toying with the corner, and I felt myself clench a little at the thought.

Why was he such an annoyingly enticing combination of hot and adorable?

"I think you have to be unwilling in the first place for it to be against your will, Triste," he said, then turned and disappeared inside, wanting it to be the last word on the matter before he started to think any harder on it.

I stood listening to the waves and the calling of the gulls for several minutes before chuckling to myself and turning to head inside.

The door closed behind me and I stood against it, listening to the silence for a moment.

A shower started up down the hall, but there were no other sounds, and I pulled my shirt off over my head and headed for the bathroom, kicking my shorts off as I went and bending to scoop them up.

A tiny cough caught my attention and a gasp tore through my chest as I stumbled a step and turned towards the seating area with a hand pressed to my thundering heart.

John was so quiet and so still that I hadn't even noticed him reading the book in his lap, leaning back into the corner of the couch, like he was part of the fucking scenery or something.

He half-raised both eyebrows at me as his stare drifted slowly down my body, lingering at my waist where the black cotton of my panties broke up the pale skin of my hips, not bothering with trying to be subtle.

"Morning," he said softly, as I held my shirt close to me, and he flicked his eyes back down to the text.

"Mmhm, m-morning," I dashed to the bathroom and shut myself in with a little gasp and a physical facepalm.

I showered quickly and then dressed in Johannes' room. I was tempted to crawl back into bed with him and really get my day started right, but I was the one who had offered to go get coffee and breakfast, and he looked like he had barely moved since I got up over an hour ago.

I silently closed the door behind me as I pulled my shirt down over my bra and spread lipbalm across both lips with one finger. I leaned back against the wooden frame, smoothing the softness between my lips, staring at the broad strokes in the painting on the opposite wall and listening to the silence of the house, which was suddenly broken up by a very distinct moan, just down the hall from me.

A series of muffled French expletives reached my ears, and I giggled softly to myself - those two were going to wear each other out sooner or later.

I stood and listened for another minute, feeling a bit like an unwelcome voyeur, but it was too hot to stop now, as Jonas' moans joined hers, sending a tremor up my spine as the hair on my arms raised with goosebumps.

My legs pressed closer together with arousal, and I started wondering if I should crawl back into bed with my own Swede and let him do something about it.

I glanced down the hall as I shook my head and saw Henrik standing with his back pressed to his door, same as me. He caught my eyes and we simply stared at each other, listening to what was happening between us.

I didn't realize I was biting my lip at first, but I shifted it when I watched his lips part slightly.

May cried out Jonas' name and I cleared my throat softly and nodded my head sideways to Henrik, motioning towards the door and he followed me.

I glanced over at the living room, but John had disappeared, and I shrugged, continuing towards the deck and pulling my bag across my body. Somehow the sea air was always exactly as good as each time before when I stepped out into it.

"Mmm," I stretched in the stronger sunlight, running both hands back through my wet hair. The scent of my conditioner hit Henrik straight on, and he took an involuntary step closer to me before he knew what he was doing.

I didn't notice though since my back was turned, and I made my way down the steps and around to the parking spots.

With a double click I unlocked both doors and climbed in, letting all the windows down and the throwing the sunroof open after starting up the engine.

"Buckle up buttercup," I grinned at Henrik as he shut the passenger side door, dropping my mirrored aviators down over my eyes as he looked over at me and pulled his shades on too.

The dark tint in them stopped me from seeing the way his eyes moved over the slender curve of my shoulder, down to my hand, resting on the gear shift. We stayed there for a second, looking at each other, and I could feel his stare, even if I couldn't see it, aware that he could probably feel mine too...

I could feel the simple bond we'd formed even in just the last few hours, like we would have become friends no matter where we'd met, and I drank in the beauty of his face, the small rings in his ears glinting in the sunlight, the subtle colors of the tattoos on his arm weaving together to form a larger image.

My heart started beating faster in my chest when I lifted my sunglasses slowly as we continued to watch each other, getting sucked into the moment like we had yesterday, like I couldn't look at anything but Henrik.

"Hey...come here," I said, reaching over to him and slowly curling my fingers into the front of his shirt as he pushed his shades up on top of his head.

I pulled him towards me as he shifted in his seat and we both leaned in.

Our lips met over my center console, a gentle soft kiss. But I felt my core clench, and Henrik took a deep breath through his nose, willing his own body not to react as he inhaled the soft floral scent that surrounded me like a cloud and pushed his fingers into my hair to hold me there longer, hesitant to let me go just yet.

For all intents and purposes, I'd meant it to be a short, chaste kiss just like the others, but something in our dynamic shifted -- the buildup of tension between him dipping me back this morning to kiss me, the sound of his panting as we ran and pushed each other to quicken the pace, and the look on his face as I joked about inviting him into the shower with me. Listening to Jonas and May tumbling through a rather lively round of morning sex seemed to be the proverbial straw, and we gave in, our lips slowly parting.

I sighed softly as Henrik's tongue slid slowly between my lips, even as my whole body seemed to simultaneously stiffen and turn to jelly, and I let go of his shirt to press my hand to his skin, my fingers wrapping around the back of his neck, feeling overwhelmed in the best possible way as I pulled him closer to me and we sank in to the feel of each other.

My tongue met his and I shivered when his hand touched my neck then threaded back into my wet hair, pulling only a little as a soft moan escaped his lips that drove me crazy.

Our lips pulled and caressed at each other, drawing more sounds, and more passion, until I pressed harder into his kiss and he pulled back.

"I'm sorry...I shouldn't have done that, Triste...I'm sorry..." He looked at me with uncertainty in his eyes, and I laid my head against the seat back, looking over at him, watching him bite his lip, still tasting me there.

"Don't be sorry," I said, trusting this new side of myself that was okay with physical affection and pushing boundaries, of being interested in someone and letting them know so. Plus, what harm was a kiss? 

More like what the hell is it about these boys that just draws you in like a moth, you crazy bitch?

"Henrik," I said softly, wanting to stop the the frown that pulled at his lovely face, "stop worrying so much..." I reached over to press my hand to his cheek, just as I'd done the day before when he'd worried about touching me.

His eyes closed when I said his name, and he inhaled a deep breath as he ran a hand back through his hair that was slowly drying under the morning sun, thick as it was, and I put my hand back in my lap, still watching him chew his lip for a moment.

When he looked back over at me, his eyes were so plainly full of want that I almost crawled into his lap, but I tried to look as reassuring as possible and he seemed to relax after several moments, even chancing a smile.

I was glad that I was convincing enough, since that look was going to be burned into my brain for the rest of eternity.

"That was..." he didn't finish the thought for a moment, but a slow blush crept up his throat, "your lips taste like coconut."

It was all I could do not to crush him to me and hug him forever for the sweetness of what he'd said, but I just smiled back at him and lowered my sunglasses.

"Are you always such a worrywart?" I asked, leaning over to give him a quick peck on the cheek with a grin.

"I am not, a worrywart," he said firmly, trying to look cross and unconcerned at the same time as he put his glasses back on too.

I giggled, throwing the car into reverse.

"Whatever you say. Okay now are we ready?" I quirked an eyebrow at him and he looked over at me with a mischievous grin, seeming more relaxed now, playful even.

"Don't give me a choice..."

A tiny squeak escaped my lips and I clenched hard around nothing at the thought.

He chuckled lowly to himself at my response before turning his face up to the sun, and I bent all my focus onto making it out of the parking spot, which had suddenly become an incredibly difficult thing to do.

I pulled out onto the main road and we cruised as I let my mind wander and think more about the way Henrik's tongue felt sliding along mine, teasing my lips, the heat from his hand tangled into my hair.

My own hand absently wandered over to turn on the speakers, letting it pick up over the Bluetooth connection whatever was on my playlist.

'Before I Forget' blared loudly over the speakers and I gasped, immediately reaching to turn the volume down as it started on full blast.

"Shit sorry!" I apologized, glancing over at my passenger, who was looking over at me with his head cocked to the side, grinning.

"Don't be, I love this song!" He reached to turn it up and started laughing, "no wonder you beat me home, if this is what was in your ears."

"Henrik, the universe meant for us to find each other or something, I swear," I giggled.  We proceeded to sing loudly and jam out until I pulled into the parking lot outside the small coffee shop in town and killed the stereo.

He crossed around the front of the car to meet me before we walked in to the dim little store and ordered coffees and breakfast bites for everyone.

I eyed the dog in the corner, who was curled up in a tight ball, warily glancing back and forth between us and the child that was snuggled into the corner with him, flipping through a picture book upside down and pretending like she was reading to him as she laid back against his haunches

I added an extra little biscuit to the order and asked the girl behind the counter if she minded. 

She shrugged like it was the last thing in the world she cared about, and I gave her a lingering, assessing look that made her squirm a little. 

The little girl couldn't have been more than three or so, but dawdled off as soon as we approached, happily clapping her book open and closed and settling into a patch of sunlight closer to the windows. 

The dog was a massive German shepherd, and he glanced away from the child to me when I approached, seeming to shrink in on himself, not growling but rather whining lowly, afraid of me, trying to make himself small as he scooted back a foot.

"Hey," I looked down at him, holding out the little treat, "don't do that, I'm your friend," I didn't know who could hear me, but I continued, concerned at having any animal shrink from me.

He continued to look at me warily, eyes darting around the room and a low growl rumbling through his throat.

I sat down slowly, cautiously, so I was more at eye level with him and I showed him what I'd brought.

"Such a good boy, " I said quietly, not wanting to spook him with too much movement or speech. 

*Hi there, don't be afraid of me please...*

His ears perked up and he cocked his head at me as I inched closer, though still keeping a wary distance.

I was barely aware that Henrik and the shop girl were watching me as I tore a piece of the biscuit and held out my hand flat, the treat free for him to take.

*Are you okay? You seem...skittish*

Something on his face changed when he heard me there again, in his mind. 

I rarely used this gift, to the point that I was surprised every lifetime that I still had it. It only worked on cats and dogs - only the animals that had lurked around our temple.

My goddess being leonine herself, it also worked for most big cats, but I never really encountered them anymore, so I was limited to domesticated house pets.

But she was generous, and remembered the way I was with animals from the day I could get out of my sickbed and kneel before her granite likeness.

I'd never met one I didn't like, and they seemed to gravitate towards me as well - dogs, cats, birds, calves, I got on better together with them than I did with most people. 

The dog stretched his neck out and sniffed my fingertips cautiously, his eyes still darting back and forth in a way that made me think he'd been kicked too many times.

He didn't expect anything for free.

*It's okay, I promise I'm not going to hurt you*

"Here you go, love," I crooned out loud, holding it out towards him.

He took it from my palm, his teeth barely brushing my fingers as he pulled away and chewed it, still watching Henrik over my shoulder.

"See? Not so bad, right?" I smiled happily at his dark irises, handing him another piece, which he took cautiously, though with a little less hesitation than the first.

Henrik was kneeling beside me in the next moment, his lips curving with that gentle smile that was so impossibly inviting and serene.

I handed him the rest of the biscuit and he tore it into small pieces.

The dog's ears fell back against his head, unsure about this new person and upset that his treat was going away, but Henrik didn't startle; he just mimicked my seated position and held out a hand for him to smell before turning it over slowly and revealing the small bite in his palm.

*He's okay too.*

I giggled as the dog's ears perked up and his head turned to the side in a comical expression before he took the piece of bread gingerly.

He looked so much like the dogs that had roamed our cemeteries, and the relief carvings on my temple walls - a thicker version of the black-headed, sharp-featured protector of our dead.

"Christ, he's huge," Henrik whispered to me, "we have wolves this size back home."

I leaned in to rub a hand back over one big ear, the fur like silk under my fingers as I reaching out to him again mentally.

*What is your name?*

He looked up at me with those deep intelligent eyes, the dark fur above them almost like raised a little like eyebrows.

*Khufu*

I gave him with a tiny smile as I nodded.

*A worthy name. My goddess knows your Master well.*

He bowed his head a fraction of an inch before leaning over to accept another bite from Henrik's palm.

I touched his fur again as he chewed, and he shifted to lay his head in my lap, and I heard a little gasp from behind the counter.

*What are they doing to you here, Khufu*  I asked as my fingers stroked over his face.

"See? Not so mean at all, are you?" Henrik laughed, moving towards me until I could feel he heat from his skin, and reaching out his hand to scratch behind one massive ear, chuckling when Khufu leaned into it and closed his eyes, obviously blissed out at the double attention.

*The child is under my protection*

I paused, squeezing him a little tighter, appreciating the way that animals were just so much fucking better than people all the time.

*Why do they kick you?*

*Not they. Just one...because I don't let him pass me to get into her room in the dead of night, priestess...*

After one more bite from me, he'd finished the whole biscuit, and he looked at me before getting to his feet and stretching. I was again floored at how big he was, far taller than me when I was seated.

Henrik and I sat in quiet appreciation for another moment before he got up and held out two hands to haul me to my feet.

"Here's your uhm. Your food and coffee..." I turned towards the counter, and she took an involuntary step back.

It thrilled me that she felt my power and some of my anger.

"No more kicking," I said with a firm look, pointing a finger at her, "he's a living breathing creature, just like your husband. No one likes to be kicked. Tell him so."

--

When we walked back out, donning our sunglasses, and Henrik threw his arm around my neck as he fell into step beside me.

I leaned in closer, enjoying the friendly touch and he pressed a kiss to my temple.

"How did you know that about the dog?"

"I...I'm good with animals..."

"No one's that good with animals, Triste."

I heard a catcall that took my brain a moment to register as Henrik let me go and I crossed to my side of the Jeep, and we both put the coffee trays and breakfast bags on the hood.

"Hey baby, didn't your mama ever teach you that you're a lot prettier when you smile?"

A cacophony of obnoxious male laughter followed the remark, and I turned my face to the sound of the source, only giving them a glance before fishing in my bag for my keys.

“Hey, princess, didn’t you hear what I said? Come on, smile for me, don't leave daddy waiting, now.”

“Knock it off, please,” I said loud enough for them to hear, still looking for my keys and thinking the world was indeed a sad place if that man had procreated and was anyone's daddy.

I needed a lot more caffeine before I interacted with a lowlife like this, so I ignored him and his friends, seated around a table outside the shop, clearly not partaking in coffee.

"Hey, no need to get upset, we're just having a little bit of fun. You know what fun is, don't you? I'd be happy to give you a lesson if you wanna come on over here and sit on my lap."

He grabbed himself in an obscene gesture and I ground my teeth to bite back my retort. 

Leave it be. He wont even remember it in an hour. 

“Hey,” snapped Henrik from the other side of the car, drawing their attention, “the lady said knock it off.”

I finally found my keys and unlocked both doors, throwing the bags and trays in behind my seat. I was about to step up into the driver's seat and leave those losers in the dust.

I was so close, but he kept pushing.

“I’m sorry, sunshine, is the sheepdog with you?” he asked, turning his head back to me wearing a smirk.

Another irritating group laugh.

I sighed, looking at Henrik over the hood with my mouth in a flat line before closing the door and giving my own reflection in the window a little shrug.

We did say please.

“Oh, I get it!” I said, turning to him with a sweet smile, “it’s a joke because he has long hair, right?” I slapped my knee and fake laughed loudly, "you know, you’re almost as funny as you are charming, you inbred fuck.”

That did it.

He was up and out of his seat, advancing on me in the next second.

I wasn't much of a fighter, and I'd been through thousands of years of catcalls and taunting, but something snapped when he brought Henrik into it.

No one was thoughtful and selfless like Henrik was, and even though it was hardly an insult, I immediately felt defensive of my new friend.

I hadn't really realized how big he was though until he was standing, advancing towards me with rage plain on his face.

Guess 'inbred' strikes a nerve with him...

OKAY NOT HELPFUL RIGHT NOW.

My hands balled into fists, ready to defend myself as best I could, but Henrik was immediately around the car and in his direct path, and I was reminded briefly of how fast he moved as he grabbed my arm and shoved me behind his body, shielding me.

"I know you're not thinking about hitting a woman, but if you touch her I will break every finger on that hand...” he snarled, one hand behind him gripping my right arm, the other reaching back down to my waist to make me stay where I was.

The man leaned down, quite a bit larger than Henrik, who, to his credit, didn't shrink away for a moment.

"Will you now," he laughed, the smell of liquor on his breath almost overpowering.

Henrik didn't look away, "back off..."

Quick as he was, by the time he saw the punch coming, his hands were still gripping me and it was too late to move as it crashed into his face, making a horrible dull crunching sound against his nose.

Henrik flew sideways against the car, doubled over in pain and clutching his nose which was now streaming blood, a string of curses in at least two languages leaving his lips.

My anger exploded as I rounded on the other.

"Oh, that was a fucking mistake,” I said, so lowly that the words seemed to rumble through the ground rather than leave my lips as my irises swirled, the green bleeding in.

He took a step back from me and one of his eyes twitched for a brief, uncertain second, unsure if what he was seeing in my gaze was because of adrenaline or booze.

But after half a moment's consideration, he realized how much smaller than him I was.

“You ought to keep your pets in check, sweetheart, that was just me defending myself against a mutt, we all saw it, right boys?” he laughed, and reached for me.

I ducked away and he turned, slightly confused, but getting angrier.

"Oh, we gon' dance, are we?" he sneered.

"I dunno, you don't seem like the graceful dancing type," I made a face and he lunged at me, almost catching a fistful of my hair before I ducked.

He circled me, and I moved likewise to keep in in front of me, stupidly turning my back to one of his companions who caught me around the waist.

One got several toes broken as I stomped as hard as I could, and threw my head back into someone else's face, pulling a shout from him.

"HEY, what did I fucking tell you asshole," Henrik said from behind the ringleader, who turned only to receive a hard punch to his jaw, sending him staggering back and spitting blood from his lacerated lip.

Henrik shook his hand in pain, yelling something to nobody in particular that was punctuated with "motherfucker" quite a lot but still snarling at the other man.

"I'm gonna kill you, you fuckin' mutt," he spat, "right after you watch me with your little girlfriend," he started towards me once he got his feet under him again, wiping his mouth against his hand, but I was already trying to get to Henrik, everything moving in slow motion.

A hand fisted into my hair and my air was suddenly cut off by the thick fingers around my windpipe as he yanked me back and I was slammed hard against the door of the Jeep, smacking my head back against the window and making stars dance across my vision.

I looked defiantly into his half-lidded eyes. As drunk as he was, he had a lot of weight to throw around, and he kept squeezing the air from my lungs the more pressure he put against me.

The green of my eyes became electric, glowing, daring him to make another move as I did my best to stay calm, not caring if I had to use my gifts in front of Henrik if it meant ending this whole thing.

"That busted lip is really going to improve your good looks," I choked out, feeling the fingers tighten further, and black spots started to dance around the outside corners of my vision.

Oh HELL NO, we are not going to die at the hands of some trailer prince white trash asshole!

I shifted my feet just enough that I could slam my knee up and knock his testicles into his throat, but a guttural snarl interrupted my plans, tearing through the air.

Everything happened in a second.

The dog lunged at the man pinning me against the car, sinking his teeth into one beefy forearm and drawing a high pitched scream from the victim as he immediately released me and I gasped for air and coughed violently.

He shook Khufu off with some difficulty, whimpering and clutching his arm, and turned back to look at me and Henrik for a moment, eyes wide with terror as Khufu came to sit at our sides.

Henrik slowly stood up straight, pulling his hands from his face, the bottom half of which was now covered in blood, and there was blazing fire in his gaze as he grinned at my would-be attacker.

"Woof..."

He ran for it, his arm dripping blood from the deep bite marks, and I watched as a root lifted at my order from under the pavement and his foot caught, sending him sprawling face first into the pavement several feet further, to the great amusement of his cadre of uninjured friends, who guffawed and ambled drunkenly after him, apparently not worried about anything they'd just seen or the fact that their friend's arm was probably badly broken, in addition to the other two who had received injuries as well.

I looked back at Henrik, the unfamiliar savage grin on his face as he watched them flee deeply and consumingly arousing in my current adrenaline-addled state, and I took a step closer, drawn to the fierceness of his energy, the flame...

"Henrik..." I whispered.

Khufu barked at me and licked the blood from his chops as my attention wandered slowly away from Henrik.

*Oh, you've got it bad for that one, priestess*

"You're correct...oh. Thank you," I said breathlessly to the dog, my adrenaline still pumping through my body as I ran both hands back through my hair.

I heard a groan and saw Henrik leaning against the side of my Jeep, tilting his head back as the blood continued to flow down his face.

The scent was coppery and bright, and I was instantly reminded for only one second of a hundred other battlefields, other attacks, other protectors.

"Henrik!” I pulled his hands away to touch his face, and he winced when I touched the right one, where his knuckles were red and starting to bruise already.

“Your nose is broken, and I'm not sure about your hand. Fuck I'm so sorry, that was all my fault! I should have just ignored him...” I said, guiding him to the passengers side and shutting the door once he climbed up into the seat.

Tears threatened to spill down my cheeks in my over-adrenalized state as I dashed back to my side and opened the back door, looking down at Khufu with a sniffle.

“Do you want to get the hell out of here, or what? You know what they'll do to you after that, and I refuse to be responsible for both of you getting hurt."

With a loud bark, he launched himself off the pavement and up onto the seat, immediately turning to Henrik and resting his massive head on his shoulder, reaching up to lick at the blood on his face.

I whipped out of the parking lot just as the shop girl came running out, looking for the dog that I was currently in the process of helping to escape.

My breaths came slowly one after the other eventually as my shaking subsided and Khufu gave the back corner of my jaw a tentative lick, sensing my almost-calm.

"Khufu, that tickles," I said and his tongue lolled out of his mouth as that big dog grin spread across his face.

"How are you doing, love?" I asked, putting a hand on Henrik's thigh and rubbing back and forth soothingly as we sped towards the house.

"I'll live," the muffled reply came from behind a towel that he found in the door panel which was helping to staunch the flow of blood, "what did you just call him?"

There was a smear of blood across the bridge of his nose covering a deep cut, but Henrik's eyes had lost none of their potency in his injured state.

"Khufu," I answered honestly, "its his name. Isn't that right?" I took my hand from his leg and reached back to bop Khufu lightly on the top of the head when I heard him rummaging through the breakfast bags, "hey! You have to wait patiently till we get home, like everyone else!"

As if in agreement to my first question, the creature in question let out a loud bark and then stuck his head out the window.

"What are you not telling me, Triste," Henrik asked, cocking his head and staring hard over at me. 

Chapter Text

Henrik didn't need my help climbing the steps, but I still felt awful so I kept my hand in his the whole way up to the house, rubbing my thumb up and down across the back of his own and giving it a gentle squeeze.

I was so angry at myself.

Why didn't I just fucking let it go? I'd been called every taunt in the book, had every comment made about my body in every century I'd lived, and had accepted a long time ago that it was just something that was going to happen, and giving it airtime only made it worse. So why did I give in? 

Tim was on the couch out on the deck, his head leaned back and angled up towards the sun that glinted off his green-reflective sunglasses as a lit cigarette dangled from his lips.

The fingers of his left hand drifted over the frets of a beautiful amber-colored acoustic guitar, creating a soft disjointed melody that he seemed to feel more than purposefully construct as his right hand brushed across the strings.

I paused to watch him for a moment, listening to the combination of notes that was wondrously nothing and everything, woven together.

Khufu, however, didn't share my silent appreciation for the fine art that was Tim's music, and bounded up the stairs, bursting between me and Henrik and almost knocking us over as he barked loudly and startled the other man, making him bolt upright and look over at us as he put his cigarette out.

I realized he'd probably had his eyes closed, and felt bad for the interruption.

"Who's this handsome devil, huh? Hey, boy," he said, losing himself in the attentions of the dog who barked happily and wagged his tail, and not immediately noticing the towel hiding Henrik's bloodied face.

After properly indulging the panting, grinning canine, Tim looked up at both of us, then lifted his glasses in surprise as he did a double take.

"Fucking hell, what happened to you?!"

"Me and my big mouth did," I groaned, pushing Henrik inside.

Tim was immediately on his feet, laying the guitar against the arm of the couch and following us inside, Khufu hot on his heels.

I shepherded Henrik into the bathroom, mumbling another good morning to John, and pausing for just a moment to kiss Johannes, appreciating the way that his hair was slightly tousled from sleep.  I loved the way he looked in his glasses - relaxed and casual.

"Woah, what happened babe?" he made a movement to stop me and I put one hand up to keep them all outside the bathroom door.

"Stay," I said, before closing the door in their faces and moving back towards Henrik.

He leaned back against the counter with a groan and I pried his fingers away from his face, removing the blood-soaked towel.

"Oh, Henrik...its broken."

"Yeah, you said that already," he groaned again, "fuck. I'll have to bail on the radio thing today."

I paused, staring at him wide eyed, feeling the pit of my stomach drop into my feet.

"W-what radio thing?"

He went to push a hand back through his curls, but stopped midway, seeing the dried blood on it.

"We were supposed to go in and do a couple acoustic songs for a local station around here this afternoon. But its filmed, so..." he gestured to his face.

I could see that in addition to the crooked angle, there was a deep cut in the skin across the bridge of his nose.

He gasped in pain and shut his eyes as he tried to flex the fingers on his right hand and couldn't.

"Fuck, Henrik I'm so sorry," I whined, rubbing both my hands over my face as my tears welled up again and started to slip down my cheeks.

He reached over with his left hand to pull both of mine down, and the intensity of his gaze drew me in as I took a step closer and sucked in a shaky breath.

"No, don't be sorry. I wasn't going to let him hit you, and I'd do the exact same thing if it happened again..."

There was something different about his voice when he said the words - it was deeper, but softer, full of something that I couldn't put my finger on.

We silently stared at each other for another minute as he let the words hang in the air between us, meaning them with every fiber of his being, and not shying away from it.

Henrik whispered my name at the exact same moment in time that his own fell from my lips and he stood suddenly, pushing off the counter and wrapping his left arm around my waist to pull me to him, enraptured in the electricity flowing between us and disregarding the pain.

He pushed his uninjured fingers up into my hair and used his hips to rapidly turn us so I was backed against the sink, and he crushed his body to me, both of us breathing heavily and unable to look away from each other as we leaned in and the lights flickered.

Our lips were almost touching and I could feel his physical reaction to our closeness as his hips pressed against me, both of us breathing hard before anything had even happened.

The metallic, unmistakable smell of the dried blood covering his lips and chin drove something primal inside me into high gear and I remembered the savage grin that had twisted his lovely face earlier.

How could someone so tender and soft have such an unbridled feral streak inside them?

Henrik's voice pulled me from my thoughts.

"Nothing bad will ever happen to you when you're with me, Triste" he whispered, eyes looking back and forth between mine.

I closed my eyes and a soft sound of pleasure left my lips hearing him say my name that intimately as his fingers curled tighter into my hair and his hips pressed harder into mine, neither of us giving our bodies permission to be doing what they were.

"I won't let anything hurt you...I can't..."

The stirring of male voices outside the door seemed to shake us back into the present, and Henrik let go of my hair as he suddenly looked like he'd been caught in the act, realizing how his body was reacting to me and to the way we were pressed together.

I reached up, careful not to touch his nose, and kissed his lips, lingering for a moment too long, driving myself insane as I thought about having to take him to the hospital to get his nose set and thoroughly ruining any relaxation time he'd earned.

But I pulled back as a sudden idea sparked through my brain and I looked up at him sideways as I moved out of his grasp and he collapsed against the sink where I'd just been.

"I actually have an idea. Can...can you stay here for just a sec? Are you okay to stay here by yourself? I won't be long."

Henrik closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, "yeah, I doubt I'll be by myself though so uhm just...give me a second. Sorry..." he rubbed a hand over his forehead, looking slightly embarrassed.  The burning arousal left him and he softened as he continued to breathe, trying to think about anything but pulling me back into his arms and finding out if my lips still tasted like coconut.

"I'll be right back, okay?"

He mumbled a response I didn't catch as I opened the bathroom door, biting my bottom lip once more and pausing when I tasted his blood there.

A piece of me screamed at my legs to turn around, to give in, to take him.

But I couldn't. Not now, not while he was like this.

In another life, my sweet Henrik.

--

I slipped outside the bathroom door and almost ran face first in Johannes, who took a step back, pulling me with him.

"Triste, whats going on?"

I held up one finger, "give me just a second and meet me on the deck, okay?"

I leaned in to press a kiss to Tim's cheek, having forgotten to say good morning in the chaos of our arrival earlier, "hi, sorry we interrupted you...I liked whatever song you were playing...and a third good morning to you," I smiled at John, touching his hand.

He pushed his hair back off his face for a moment before placing his pointer finger under my chin and tilting my head up so he could kiss my lips softly with a little smile.

"Personally, I preferred the first one," he whispered, pulling back only far enough to look down into my eyes.

"Of course you did," I giggled, rolling mine, "you could have announced yourself you know, and saved me some embarrassment."

"But you turn such pretty colors when you're embarrassed," he said softly, brushing the backs of his finger against my cheeks which were now flaming with said pretty colors.

I simply shook my head and smiled at him, "gods, what am I gonna do with you?"

He opened his mouth to respond and I held up a hand, "oh that was so so rhetorical, John. So rhetorical...listen, we need to chat about something, " I motioned to Johannes who was still waiting patiently on the deck, "can you two keep an eye on Henrik? He's got a badly broken nose and a pretty deep cut."

"What the hell happened, Triste?" Tim asked, reaching out to grab my hand as I turned away, "we have to go do a studio session today."

"I know, I know!" I groaned, "that's why I'm trying to fix this. He...long story short he took a right hook that was meant for me, and I feel like an asshole because it was all avoidable, but I opened my big fat mouth and made it fucking worse."

They both considered me for a moment, then looked at each other.

"That sounds like our Henrik," John said with a soft smile for his friend before turning and knocking on the bathroom door, followed by Tim.

--

I stopped for a moment and watched Johannes standing outside in the sun, tying his hair up in a loose bun and stretching his long arms back.

His sensitive ears picked up the sound of me sliding the door open, but the almost-silence was again shattered by my new canine friend as Khufu bounded out ahead of me.

"Hey!" I called to the dog and he looked back at me, halfway to Johannes already, "stop doing that, you're gonna knock me on my ass one of these times."

He wagged his tail and barked and I crouched down onto the wooden floorboards as he darted back towards me, tackling me backwards and smothering my face with sloppy kisses.

I screamed in delight and tried to stop the onslaught of wet nose and sandy fur, but I was helplessly trapped, laughing until my sides hurt.

"Okay okay! Message received, Khufu, I got it!" I giggled, and he leapt off me, taking off down the stairs to tear along the beach, happily crashing through the surf.

I took one look down at myself and realized I was covered now in a mixture of dog slobber and blood.

"Gross," I muttered, pulling my shirt over my head and checking my tank top underneath.

No blood, no slobber. Excellent.

"Morning," Johannes smirked from the railing as I crossed over to him, running a hand through my hair.

"Is it still morning? Ugh it feels like its been two days since I woke up and went for a run."

"I know, I woke up to an empty bed for the second time in one night," he teased, pulling me close and savoring the warmth of my body so close to his again.

I was about to tell him my idea but he put one finger over my lips and pulled me closer, "aren't you going to say good morning to me like you say it to everyone else now?" he growled softly, bending his head to kiss me.

It wasn't ravaging, though there was lust and hunger behind it. His tongue slid against mine and I pressed up further into him, wrapping my forearms around his neck and suddenly just so overwhelmingly grateful for him as his arms wrapped around me. We stood there, simply content to just feel each other for a little while, until the door opened and Tim joined us, fishing in his pockets for a lighter.

"Mmm," I pressed one more kiss to Johannes' lips, "that was a nicer way to start the morning, I'll have to remember that next time."

"You do that, maybe it'll keep you in my bed instead of running off on adventures," he grinned and I playfully swatted him on the arm.

"Does it--...are you upset that I kissed them?" I asked honestly, "I didn't mean to upset you...I didn't to it to be--"

He kissed me again, softly, smiling against my lips, "I'm not upset about anything that makes you happy, Triste," he whispered, "I'm not your parent and I'm not your boss, its not my job to tell you what to do and what not to do. If you want to kiss them then kiss them. It doesn't make a difference to me as long as it makes you happy," he pulled me closer and dipped his tongue into my mouth again, rolling his hips against me as his arm wrapped more firmly around my waist. I moaned quietly into his kiss before breaking away and taking a deep steadying breath.

"So, now that that's settled, are you going to tell me who punched our bass player in the face? And why we have a dog that isn't ours in the house?"

"Uhm..." I glanced over at Tim, but he was looking down at his phone, apparently not listening, "s-so we went out this morning to get coffee and breakfast and stuff, which...oh, right. Tim? Hon, can you grab that stuff out of the car? It should be down on the floor behind the driver's seat. You get first pick of breakfast," I tossed him the keys and he whistled loudly for Khufu, who raced to meet him at the bottom of the steps, soaked and covered in sand.

"Come on, you heard the lady, lets go, my dude."

I watched them depart with a little smile.

"So there we were, and we stayed there for a little while and I bought Khufu a biscuit and talked to him and--"

"Khufu?"

"That's his name. Probably not what they call him, but that's what he says his name is anyways."

"Wh--I feel like you're leaving something out here, babe..."

"Oh...yeah...its a thing I can do, but only for like housepets. Well, no nevermind, that's not important right now," I shook my head. 

I looked up at him with a little grimace, "am I freaking you out again?"

To my surprise, he shook his head, cupping my cheek and kissing my forehead briefly.

"Just warn me next time, okay? Its a little jarring."

"Right, yeah, sorry about that," I chewed my lip before continuing, "so we were leaving and there were these stupid drunk rednecks that were being rude and I was going to ignore them but then they said something about Henrik and I got mad and I called the biggest one an inbred fuck, which, of course I did because I can't keep my mouth shut, and anyways he got up and was probably going to kick my ass and Henrik stepped in his way and by the time I think he realized he was actually going to throw a punch it was too late to move and it broke his nose and then I got even more mad and taunted him and his friends grabbed me and Henrik punched him and hurt his hand but he gave the other guy a big split in his lip, but it didn't really matter much because I mean really babe this guy was huge, and he pushed me against the car and had his hand around my throat and I was literally just thinking about making his body reabsorb his testicles when Khufu ran out and bit him and honestly his arm was probably broken I mean you've seen how big he is and well he ended up bolting and I couldn't let Khufu stay there because they shoot dogs who bite people down here and so I brought him with me and uhm...uhm..."

I took a breath as I started to cry, realizing I'd said most of that as one run-on thought, and when I looked up at Johannes, he was turning bright red with the effort it was taking to not burst out laughing.

"You call him a what?" he choked out before he doubled over laughing, grabbing his sides and gasping for air.

I'd never seen him laugh like this, and I stood speechless, watching.

"Johannes, its not funny!" I finally said, swatting his arm, though his laugh was infectious and starting to make me giggle too, even as I cried.

"Oh, fuck, I'm sorry," he gasped, wiping his own tears away as he still laughed, "oh shh shh shh, come here baby," he said, still shaking with laughter as he wrapped his arms around me.

"Its not funny," I sniffled, "he can't go to the thing today because of me, and I don't even know when he can play again, with his hand like that!"

Johannes pressed my face into his chest, carding his fingers through my hair and murmuring little words to me until I calmed down.

"He'll be okay. We can go without him today, Triste, it won't be that big of a deal. We've played without him on stage before, this won't be any different than that."

"He should have just let me get pummeled," I groaned miserably, shaking my head.

That didn't go over so well.

"Hey," he said sharply, scowling down at me as he gripped my chin and turned it up to face him, "we all have mothers, and sisters, and friends who are women that we would do the exact same for. I'm fully aware that you can take care of yourself, but that doesn't mean any one of us would stand by and watch anything happen to you or May...got it?"

I nodded, and his mention of her reminded me of my purpose in the first place.

Tim opened and slid the screen door shut behind him with his foot, carrying trays and bags.

"So uhm. Remember how I told you last night about what I can do w-with flowers and plants and stuff? That its one of my gifts given to me by my goddess?"

He nodded, and I searched his eyes for discomfort, finding none.

"And you do you remember when I said that we could both do stuff like that? Well, not the plant thing, but stuff."

His nod was slower as he wondered what I was getting at.

"Well...May's thing...her thing is healing. Its why she's a nurse. She can mend broken bones and heal injuries and cuts and scrapes and...stuff."

"...Stuff like setting broken noses and fixing fucked up hands?"

"Uhm, yeah, that stuff," I chewed the inside of my cheek. It was a bad habit I'd had since I was a kid.

"So what, are you asking permission, or...? I don't think I understand what you want from me here, babe."

"I...I just. He'll know. Its not that she can just set the bones, Johannes, I mean she can make it like it never happened. There won't be scars or soreness, or anything. So, we'll have to tell him w-what we are."

"'Who'," he mumbled, and I looked at him confusedly.

"Henrik..."

"No, not as in 'tell who'. You said 'tell him what we are', and I said 'who'. You're not a what, Triste. You're not a creature or an abhorration. You're a beautiful, wonderful, caring woman, who also happens to be a--"

He stopped short as Tim opened the door for Khufu to come in and glanced out at us.

I looked up and saw he was the reason Johannes didn't finish his thought.

"Oh. Tim you can come out, its okay," I looked back up at Johannes and screwed my eyes shut for a moment, taking a deep breath before mumbling something.

"What did you say?" he leaned his head down to me.

One perfectly heaved sigh later, I repeated myself a little louder.

Johannes looked down at me and backed up a step involuntarily, startled.

"You told him?!"

"Uhm. Well, no. Not really. He...overheard..."

The taller man paused and I blushed crimson.

"The...the uhm..."

Tim, who rarely felt embarrassment about anything, pinched my ear softly, adoring the bright red flush that lingered under my skin and the way I buried my face in my hands, mortified.

"Don't be so precious about it, Triste," he teased, "we've all seen Johannes naked before."  He turned to the other, "and what she's so adorably avoiding saying is that neither of you are very quiet when you're fucking."

"Oh, come on," Johannes groaned, pressing a hand to his forehead as he understood.

"Hey, fuck off! Its not my fault you two go at it like fucking rabbits and don't care that people might hear you talking about one of you being some kind of crazy supernatural being or something..."

"Okay, to be fair, I'm not supernatural," I said exasperatedly at Tim as my blush started to fade. They both looked down at me with the exact same expression, eyebrows raised and all.

"Fine. Maybe a tiny bit...okay whatever! Its beside the point right now! What are we gonna do about Henrik?"

Tim chuckled and shook his head, curling a stray lock of hair back behind my ear before putting his hand on Johannes' shoulder, "sorry I snapped, man."

"Me too," I watched them make up for a moment, feeling my heart swell with appreciation for their friendship, and they turned on me together.

"So what are you going to tell him?" Johannes asked.

My mouth moved without making any sound for a moment, "you're sure you're cool with this? Both of you?"

"Look," said Johannes, "if its a matter of having Henrik or not having him, I'd rather we do what we can and fix him up. But only if you're okay with him knowing. Although, honestly, I can't imagine a person who can keep a secret better than Henrik. He doesn't even spoil movie endings."

"Wait, hang on, I'm missing something," Tim said, looking confusedly back and forth between us, "don't we need to take him to a hospital?"

"Oh. Sorry. Uhm so the flowers thing?" Tim felt his hands start to shake as he remembered, and stuffed them in his pockets to hide the tremors as he nodded at me, his mouth suddenly too dry to speak, "its a gift I have. And May is like me, we serve the same goddess, but she can do healing instead."

I wanted to bring him up to speed as quickly as possible so I could get back to Henrik.

"Are you fucking serious?? Does Jonas know?" his jaw dropped.

I took pause for a moment, "uhm, I don't think so. And he doesn't need to right now, okay?" I said firmly, looking back and forth between them until they nodded that they understood.

"Peachy, okay lets do this." I leaned up to kiss both their cheeks and darted back to the house.

The bathroom door was open and I poked my head in to check on Henrik, who was listening to John with a half-interested expression.

"You doing okay babe?"

He nodded, though he looked a little pale under his blood-smeared visage.

"Whats going on? We need to get him to a doctor," said John, following me out into the hall.

"He'll be fine. I promise I'll explain, but we're in a bit of a time crunch, so just keep an eye on him for one more minute," I responded, heading down the hall to Jonas' room.

--

I knocked softly on the bedroom door but no one answered, so I opened it and slipped inside.

"May? Cherie? Can I borrow you for a minute?"

No one answered again and I advanced towards the tangled pile of limbs on the bed, closing the door behind me and giving my eyes a moment to adjust to the dim lighting.

Of course they're naked.

I bit my lip and called May's name again to no avail, so I shrugged and climbed into bed with them.

"May? Wake up, love," I said softly, rubbing a hand up and down her shoulder, "I need your help with something."

She groaned softly, not quite awakened by my nudge, and stirred in Jonas' arms.

He responded by pulled her closer, his lips pressing a soft kiss to her forehead, even as they both slept.

The scene made my heart swell, and I pressed a hand over my lips, letting them snuggle closer for a minute.

Finally I couldn't resist and I crawled over behind Jonas, lifting the comforter and slipping in behind him.

His skin was mercifully warm, and I softly traced the lines of the Avatar tattoo that stretched across his shoulders.

The fangirl part of me couldn't believe I was doing this, and I reveled in the body heat and affection of the two other people in the bed, but bit my lip hard to stifle my laughter as one hand snaked down Jonas' side, inching closer to his ass.

I just wanted one quick touch.

My fingers slowly, gently explored the ridges of his abdomen, and the delicious curve of his pelvic muscles that dropped down towards his cock.

"Better be ready to get out of what you have on if those fingers keep going, little one," he mumbled sleepily, and I froze as he turned over onto his back and looked up at me, the deep blue of his eyes glinting as he blinked slowly up at me.

After a moment, I couldn't help the laughter that shook my whole body.

"Good morning," I giggled, pressing a kiss to the side of his cheek, "I need to borrow your ladyfriend."

"Then I think you've got the wrong body," his mustache twitched with a grin as his eyes closed again and he laid his cheek against May's forehead.

I turned his face with one finger and pressed my lips to his as it then wandered in a lazy line down his throat and the muscles of his chest, drawing a soft groan from him.

I pressed my hand flat against the lower part of his sternum, letting my thumb play with his nipple ring.

"I assure you, I don't," I whispered, not lifting my mouth from his, "but I couldn't make her wake up."

"Don't blame you, she sleeps like the dead unless she wants something," he chuckled.

"You both..." I heard a muffled voice say from within his arms, "are perturbateur, and interrupting a very nice dream I was having."

A hand brushed over mine and wandered further south, drawing a soft groan from the man under my lips.

"Mmm, perhaps not a dream then," she mumbled, wrapping her hand around him and stroking softly as he hardened. He groaned louder and bucked his hips a little, one arm wrapping tightly around my waist, and the other tipping her face up so he could kiss her soundly.

"Come on, sweetness," I giggled, wriggling out of his grasp, "I need your help."

He reached up and swatted my ass as I crawled out of their bed and he broke their kiss, "or you could both stay put and let me find out if I can survive the two of you at once..." his voice sounded full of promise.

I seriously considered it for half a second, a fleeting image running through my mind of both of us pleasuring him.

"I truly can't tell you how honestly appealing that is," I said, crossing back to May's side of the bed, "but I need her to take a look at Henrik for a minute."

May pressed her forehead to his shoulder. I could still see the slow movement of her hand under their covers, caressing him, and I watched her tongue disappear between his lips again and he moved to roll on top of her.

She put her hand on his chest to stop him with a sigh, "continue this later, you and me, yes?"

He paused before resigning himself to the fact that she was actually going to go.

"Count on it."

I held out my hand and she grasped it and got up, beautiful and drowsy, her naked body elongating as she reached her arms above her head and stretched.

"Mmm, quelle heure est'il?"

"Early-ish still, ten AM?"

"This better be good, oie," she mumbled as she reached for her clothes, "tu n'as aucune idée ce que cet homme peut faire avec sa langue..."

"I'm sure," I smirked, opening the door when she was dressed.

We paused in the hallway and she turned to me, "why am I looking at Henrik? Is he sick?"

"Uhm you'll see. I need to ask a favor. Its a big one..."

She raised one eyebrow at me, waiting as she pulled her hair back into a high ponytail.

I opened the bathroom door so she could look in and she gasped.

Henrik was still on the counter where I'd left him, and he glanced up at us with the ghost of a smile when we entered.

I knew his broken nose must have been uncomfortable, and the fingers quite painful, so I tried to move as quickly as possible.

I pulled May back out into the hallway, whispering, "can you fix it?"

"Cherie, you cannot be serious..."

"I am. It was my fault, and they have a thing this afternoon they have to play at, and his fingers are hurt too because for the second time in a week someone has thrown a punch on my behalf, and I feel a lot like an asshole because of it."

She scrubbed both hands over her face, looking at me over the tops after a moment, "cherie, you will have to tell him, they won't be broken anymore..."

"I know. But Johannes knows, and as it turns out Tim knows too, whats the harm in one more at this point?"

She froze, hands still over her cheeks as she waited for me to answer her unasked question about how Tim knew.

"Ugh, its a long story... Well. Actually... I guess it isn't. After we came back in last night--"

"From fucking on the beach."

"...yyyyes..."

"Mmhm?"

"Ah, uhm we came inside and showered off and I was answering his questions, and one thing let to another and we--"

"Discussed and fucked loudly in the other bathroom that's right next to my room. Where I was already awake anyways, by the way, and I'd like to clarify that," Tim added, wrapping an arm around my waist and kissing my cheek before moving towards Jonas' room to open the door and yell something in Swedish.

"Tim. Not helping." I groaned, feeling my blush rising again.

"Comme lapins," May said quietly with a sigh, unsure what to do about my request.

"Hello? Pot? Its kettle," I said, pursing my lips and settling my hands on my hips at the exact same time Tim responded to her with "that's what I said!"

"Uhm, ladies? Hi, sorry to interrupt," John said, his eyes getting a little wider as we both rounded on him, "I think we need to get him to a doctor, he's looking kind of bad."

I pushed around John as he added "well, worse than the usual, anyways," and Henrik flipped him a middle finger.

"Hey," I said moving closer and running a hand over his thigh. He was fully seated on the counter now, cradling the injured hand in the other and holding it close to his body.

"We're gonna get you all patched up, I promise." I looked up as Johannes leaned against the doorway, speaking over his shoulder to Jonas in Swedish, I assumed filling him in on the lively events of the morning.

Soon all seven of us were crowded into the bathroom, and I was starting to feel extremely claustrophobic, and knew the extra bodies weren't helping Henrik at all as he started to look rather green.

"Okay, if you're not injured or don't have functional nipples, please wait outside," I said, shooing everyone out again and ignoring the protests, questions, and comments about nipples.

Even Khufu had the audacity to look affronted, and I finally caved and nodded my head in towards the tiny bathroom with an eye roll, "in, but be careful. Don't bump his right hand, and no jumping."

He sat dutifully next the Henrik's dangling legs on his left side, and watched silently as he laid his head against his knee.

*What are you going to do, priestess?*

"Ahem?" May looked at me with an unimpressed glance, and I realized I'd forgotten to explain to her the sudden presence of our new friend.

"Oh. Yes. Right, again, long story, this is Khufu. May - Khufu, Khufu - May. Great, everyone knows everyone else now? Splendid."

I realized I was wringing my hands and she waited for me to say something else.

"Look, its not my fault, I couldn't leave him there, he bit someone and they were probably going to put him down for it!"

Khufu gave a low whine for added effect, and she shook her head at him, pinching the bridge of her nose.

"Of course you would find him in the first place, wouldn't you?" she said with slight exasperation before turning to Henrik, who was somewhere between wanting to ask a million questions and wanting to pitch face first onto the floor.

"Henrik," she said softly, the 'H' dropped in the most charming way, "what happened to you?"

She spoke soothingly as she touched his face, gingerly exploring the broken nose and assessing the damage.

"Nothing," he muttered, not meeting her gaze, wincing every so often.

She tipped his chin up, "you know I will find out from one of you, yes?"

He grumbled something then told her what happened as she ran her fingers over his skin repeatedly.

"Mmm, well I suppose you are owed some thank you then," she smiled softly at him, and the corner of his mouth twitched at her mistake.

"D'accord, Triste, are you ready?" She looked at me and I nodded, steeling myself and doing my best to will away the shaking of my hands.

What if he felt differently about me once he knew?

My logical brain countered that that was extremely unlike Henrik, but I couldn't help but worry as I gently pushed his knees apart and cupped his cheeks, standing between his legs.

"Please trust me. And please don't be scared."

He looked warily at me for a moment, "scared of what, pain?"

"Uhm."

"Okay, Henrik, please hold out your hand and try not to move. This might hurt a tiny bit but it will all be better soon, oui?"

I wrapped my arms around his torso just under his, half just holding him and half holding him upright. His good arm laid heavily around my waist and his knees squeezed my hips a little as his chin rested on my shoulder, watching May touch his fingers.

Without knowing it, his eyes closed and he nuzzled his cheek into my hair, inhaling the smell of my conditioner and smiling a little.

"You smell nice," he murmured, "like lilacs or something."

"Jasmine," I corrected softly, moving his hair to lay my chin to his neck just where it met his shoulder. I kept him talking for a little while as May felt out the fractures, drawing little gasps and grunts from the patient.

"Just try to relax, Henrik," she smiled at him, and I felt some of the tension leave his body as my fingers brushed through his hair and I hummed softly, still holding on to him, wanting him to know how sorry I was for making all this happen in the first place.

"Is that Tom Petty?" he said quietly as I hummed Wildflowers and May massaged the knuckles of his injured hand.

I knew it took a lot of energy and I was going to owe her big time.

"Yeah. My dad used to play me his albums when I was a kid," I smiled at the memory again gently carding my fingers through his hair and trying to absorb as much of his tension as he'd give up.

"I don't know what you do with all this hair, honestly," I chuckled, loving the soft fullness of it. Gods, but everything about Henrik seemed to be perfect and soft.

"Its a pain in the ass," he mumbled into my own tresses.

"Aaaaand, fini! Henrik, please bend your fingers."

I pulled back a little bit to watch his expression as he squeezed his hand into a fist and then wiggled the fingers.

"How did you do that? Holy shit, May, they don't even hurt any more! What did you just do?" His smile melted me a tiny bit, but I knew the real work was coming as she looked at me with pursed lips and a cocked eyebrow.

"We need to fix his nose, its swelling," she said as I chewed my lip for a moment, considering whether what we were doing was wise after all.

"Are you angry with me for asking you to do this?" I said quietly, reaching out my hands to take hers.

She sighed heavily, "no. But you need to tell him. Now, or I won't do it for you."

"I know, I know, I'm just trying to figure out my delivery..."

"Hi, hello, 'he' is sitting right here and can hear you," Henrik said through a little scowl and he looked back and forth between us as we switched to French for a moment and I finally turned back to him, taking a deep breath.

I stepped back between his knees, taking a moment to run my hands up his thighs in a way that made the tiniest groan escape between his lips.

"I'm going to tell you something while May fixes your nose, and I need you to just let me say it and not interrupt, okay?"

He looked suspiciously at me even as he turned his face so May could touch it over my shoulder.

"Henrik...we can kind of...May can heal people. Injuries and sickness, and that kind of thing..."

"Obviously, she totally just fixed my hand. I thought it was broken but I guess just knocked out of place or something, right?"

He looked to her for confirmation.

"Lots of little os cassés."

"Broken bones," I translated for him, drawing his gaze back to mine, and knowing he was going to ask a million questions anyways whether I asked him to shut up or not.

"But...then why doesn't it hurt anymore? Why can I move them? No offense, May, they feel way better, and thank you, but if they're broken then I need to go get them set so I can play and not end up with a permanently fucked up hand..."

"They are not broken anymore, Henrik," she said softly.

His eyebrows lifted faintly as he waited for me to explain, and I could see his pulse starting to beat a little more rapidly.

I placed my hands on his cheeks.

"Henrik, do you believe in God?"

"No."

His response was immediate, though he seemed confused that I'd asked in the first place.

"Right, okay...what about other deities? Greek and Roman and such?"

"Or Egyptian," May added, pressing two fingers to the bend in his nose, gently feeling where it needed to be put back straight as her eyes closed and she mapped it in her mind's eye.

"What?" The face he made shifted his nose and May tutted at him as he winced in pain.

"Stay still."

"Sorry. Sorry...why are you asking me that?" He looked back to me.

"I'm gonna take that as a firm 'no'..."

"Of course its a no, its called mythology for a reason...none of its real."

"What if I could change your mind about that?" I asked quietly, using the majority of my brain to pray for guidance so I wouldn't make this whole thing worse.

I glanced at May and could see her watching me out of the side of her eye as she worked.

"What the hell are you talking about? Are you feeling okay? Am I okay? Is this some weird delusion? Oh, Christ, I'm not in a coma am I?"

May and I both bit our lips and I looked at the floor until I regained my composure as I tried not to giggle.

"Ah, no you're not in a coma. And you're not crazy. And you're gonna think we're crazy, too, but I assure you we're not."

"Don't crazy people always say they're not crazy?"

My mouth opened to respond, and then closed.

I had no idea how to counter that point so I just shrugged.

He didn't say anything else, but his breathing was starting to increase, his breaths more shallow, and my concern for him overtook any worry that I had about whether he was going to still like me in five second, or still look at me the way he'd looked at me before, like he wanted to devour me where I stood.

I put my hands back on his thighs and started rhythmically rubbing them back and forth slowly.

"Hey, hey hey, look at me Henrik," his eyes were a tad wider than normal and I could tell he was getting freaked out by my lack of clarity, "breathe, honey, you need to remember to breathe, okay? Everything's okay..."

He did, mimicking my deeper breaths and getting lost in my stare as his fingers found mine and laced through them without knowing it.

"I've never met anyone with gray eyes," he mumbled, breathing fine, but now not blinking, I realized, "they look like the sea when there's a storm..."

"Blink, Henrik."

"Turbulent..."

I sighed softly, and leaned in to kiss him, brushing his lips quickly with my own so his eyes would close and he'd snap out of it, just as May pulled her hands back and took a deep, tired breath, crossing her arms and leaning against the wall.

Healing always took a lot of energy out of her, but she knew my heart was in the right place on this. She'd watched Henrik watch me last night. May knew the reputation she had - the slutty French girl, willing to take a ride on anything with two feet, but she never let it bother her. She was smart and she was shrewd, and saw a hell of a lot more than people realized.

She watched silently when Henrik didn't let me pull back, squeezing my hips between his knees and threading both hands through my hair, keeping my lips against his.

It didn't surprise her - he had extra energy in his system now, and for a few hours he'd feel a little...more. More energy, more intense reactions, more intense feelings...just more. 

Henrik slid his tongue between my lips and I was suddenly glad that he was gripping me so tightly with his legs, because my own threatened to not hold me up as his tongue danced along my own, filling me with want.

When I didn't pull back he kissed me harder, more intensely, and May simply watched, biting her lip and wondering if she should slip out and go find Jonas.

She cocked an eyebrow down at Khufu and he came to stand at her side, pressing his massive head up under her fingers until they scratched back and forth.

As Henrik's fingers tangled into my hair and cupped the back of my head, he pushed his tongue further into my mouth and grabbed me closer, scooting to the edge of the counter and holding me against him as one hand hooked low around my waist, grabbing at my skin under my shirt and pulling a low moan full of desire from his lips.

His nose pressed against my cheek and he reflexively pulled back with a gasp, leaving us both panting and staring at each other with wide eyes.

I couldn't help it when I tore out of his grasp and turned to face the wall, laying my hands flat against it and taking a deep breath before propping my them on my hips.

"Triste? I'm sorry...I didn't mean to get carried away..."

Tell him.

When I finally got control over myself, I turned and he was touching his nose, no longer swollen or broken, and looking back and forth between me and May with unbridled fear in his gaze.

"We're not normal, Henrik." I said plainly, now completely out of time to figure out how to be diplomatic or tactful in my delivery.

"We...fuck..." I looked to May for help and she shook her head. This was my idea, the burden was mine.

I hadn't wanted to tell him the same way I'd told Johannes, but I wasn't exactly drowning in choices, so I looked at him and held his gaze as the green bled into my irises, and I was suddenly filled with a sensation like being high.

It was like breathing the purest oxygen and drinking the finest wine, and my shoulders relaxed as the familiar feeling started to slide through my veins, filling my limbs with warmth and energy.

I stepped towards him and he stiffened, glancing towards the door, eyes freezing on May as she let hers do the same.

Her smile was soft, reassuring, "it's okay, Henrik. You don't have to be afraid of things you don't understand."

"And please don't run," I said quietly, gently touching his knee, and drawing his attention back to me. "I want you to understand...although I wasn't planning on telling you in the first place. If I'd just kept my mouth shut back there none of this would be happening," my eyes dropped to the floor as my brow furrowed and I kept rambling, "and you would just go and live the rest of your life not knowing any of this, but now you have to and I'm sorry that you do because of me, but I didn't want you to have to go to the hospital and get your nose set and then spend the rest of your time off with a broken nose, and--"

Two fingers tipped my chin up and my lips snapped shut as he stood over me, feet on the floor now.

"Breathe, little one," he said quietly, and suddenly he came back to me, "you have to remember to breathe..."

There was no more fear, no more worry, and neither of us noticed when May slipped out the door, taking Khufu with her.

"Henrik, I need to tell you --oof--" I found my face crushed into Henrik's shoulder as he gripped me so tightly, I couldn't breathe, one arm around my middle, one pressing on the back of my head, cupping it with his fingers.

"Henrik," I said again, muffled into his shoulder, "Henrik? I haven't even told you yet, whats wrong?"

Oh, that's rich.

"Nothing is wrong. I have no idea whats going on," he said, his lips pressed against the skin of my shoulder, taking deep breaths, inhaling the light floral smell that I'd always had and trying to pull me closer, "I just need this for a second...just...I'm sorry but nothing else matters right now," he whispered as my arms wrapped around his narrow waist and held on tight.

It seemed like the longer we clung to each other, the more calm we felt, the closer we felt. 

For a relative stranger, even if we had passionately kissed twice, I trusted Henrik more than I trusted almost anyone.

"I'm so sorry that asshole almost hurt you. I just...the things he said made me so angry and when he..." Henrik's shudder was almost violent and my brain somehow figured that holding him closer to me would solve everything.

"Thank you for doing that...you didn't have to..."

"Yes I did," he said simply, "I'm sorry if this is a lot...I know that we don't really, you know, like know each other. But you're so nice, and so happy, and you're so good, Triste...I can't stand the idea of something bad happening to you..."

"Shh, shh, shh," I whispered, trying to blink back the tears in my eyes. 

"Why do your eyes do that?" he whispered back, still breathing unevenly, but he'd straightened enough that his cheek rested against the top of my head now and he was petting my hair slowly. 

"Because my goddess made it that way. When I channel my true nature, my eyes turn green. May's do too, like you saw."

"What does that mean?"

I mentally fell to the floor on my knees, prostrated before my goddess, crying my thanks that he was being so gentle and willing to listen. How could I ever have thought he'd be anything else"

"I serve the goddess Sekhmet, Henrik. I was raised as a priestess in Her temple in Egypt."

"I thought you were American."

"I am, baby, that was a long time ago..."

"Are you a lot older than me?"

"Yes...I am a lot older than you, Henrik..."

We took these small baby steps, holding onto each other and evening our breathing until it felt like we were one being, one heartbeat, one big, conjoined system of inhales and exhales. 

"So you're an Egyptian priestess in an American girl's body?" he asked, pulling back a little, and I nodded, "its a little bit more complicated than that, but yes that's basically the idea."

"Do you promise I'm not crazy, and that you're actually telling me this?" He looked uncertain for a moment, glancing around the bathroom like he was trying to spot something familiar to convince himself he hadn't stroked out and died.

"No," I said quietly, "you're not crazy. Johannes and Tim both know also, so you're not alone. Its a long story, but I can tell you the TL;DR version while we get you cleaned up, if that's okay."

Henrik only looked at me.

It wasn't even a stare, he just looked.

"You still seem like you're you. Can I..." he reached a hand to touch my face and paused in midair until I gently pushed it forward to my skin.

I had no clue what he was doing, but his fingers stopped shaking when they swept my hair back out of the way and gently touched the skin around my eyes.

"They're so green, so pretty," he said, almost childlike in his wonder as a tear slid unnoticed down his cheek, cutting a track through the dried blood there, and I was so sure in that moment that there was no one on the planet who had a better heart than Henrik - not my Johannes, not any of the other boys, not me, not May.

No one.

His palm pressed to my cheek and my eyes fluttered shut as I leaned into it.

He continued to look at me, committing to memory every little freckle that peppered my nose, the natural pink that bloomed across my cheeks when I wasn't blushing, the fullness of my lips that seemed to curve into a smile even when I wasn't laughing.  The paleness of my skin that disappeared into the silver roots of my hair, interwoven with darker strands.

Henrik's lips pressed to my forehead and a soft whimper left my lips.

I opened my eyes when he finally pulled back, looking up at him with no more walls and my biggest secret out in the open, not surprised in the slightest by the strong feelings for him that seemed to flood all my senses.

"They're gray again," he said, repeating the way he'd traced them before, "can you control that?"

I nodded, "come on, baby, lets get you cleaned up," I said, nudging him back against the sink, and he seemed to snap out of it, blinking several times and reaching up to touch his nose again, but noticing the blood on his hands.

"So--" he said, stopping as he turned to the sink to wash and noticed the blood that ran down the front of his shirt. He reflexively crossed his arms to pull it off and then paused again.

"Are you...do you mind if I..."

"Hmm? Oh, no not at all, mine had blood on it too. Do you uhm," my mouth twitched as I bit the inside of my lip, "do you want me to turn around?"

He froze with his arms crossed, his shirt halfway up his torso and met my eyes in the mirror before we both dissolved into emotionally overloaded, exhausted, hysterical laughter at the thought of modesty now after we'd just kissed that way a few minutes earlier.

Henrik pulled his shirt the rest of the way off and tossed it onto the floor before washing his hands off, stretching and flexing the newly healed joints and bones.

I desperately wished I could stop time as I watched his skin move over his thin frame. He wasn't overly-muscled, but he was solid, and stronger than he looked, I was sure.

"Here, let me," I said, turning him to sit back against the counter top before I grabbed a clean washcloth and a bar of soap.

He shivered when I touched his bare skin, and I playfully knocked one of my knees against the inside of his own, telling him to spread them apart so I could stand between them and clean off his face.

He did and one of his fingers on each hand toyed with the belt loops on my shorts as I moved to press the warm cotton cloth to his face then thought twice.

"This is going to sound like an insane request, but...can I put your hair up? I don't want to drip soap or blood in it."

An amused smile curved his lips on one side as he gave me a knowing look and he silently handed me his hairband as I reached behind him to finger-comb his tresses.

He groaned and laid his face against my collarbone, "that feels so nice," he murmured, the soft repeated touch of my hands doing wonders to calm his frazzled nerves. I kept it up for a while longer, enjoying the texture and healthy thickness of his curls as they passed between my fingers.

"Triste?"

"Yes, Henrik?"

"Why isn't my nose broken anymore?"

I nuzzled my cheek against his hair and pulled it into a ponytail at the nape of his neck before wrapping my arms around his shoulders and just hugging him for a moment.

"May fixed it. Our goddess made her like that," I pulled back to look at him, searching his eyes for discomfort as I had Johannes' not long before, "she's always been a healer. She was in ancient times, when we were in the temple. And when we became...well, like we are, Sekhmet gave us gifts. Abilities, kind of."

"Like super powers?"

I snorted a laugh, and Henrik grinned at me.

"Not really. Well, actually, sort of...in a way I guess. May can heal people, she's always a nurse or a witch or something like that."

His eyebrows shot up.

"Can you do that too?"

"Oh, no, I would have fixed you the second we got in the car if I could heal, honey."

He leaned in and kissed my lips softly. 

"Well then what's yours?"

I pressed the warm washcloth against the bridge of his nose, cleaning the blood off before leaning over to rinse it out and repeating until his face was clean and fresh again and I finally answered him wordlessly, creating a delicate daisy with baby-pink petals, and tucking it behind his ear.

"Oh my good god, that's adorable," I giggled, but Henrik was speechless, his mouth opening and closing like he was going to say something, but no words leaving his lips.

He finally stuttered out a 'wow', and pulled me in close, "I--I'm sorry, I don't know what to say, this is all kind of mind-blowing..."

"I know, and I like I said, I didn't really have any intention of telling you all in the first place, but the ball is rolling now. Henrik you...you know you can't tell anyone this stuff that I'm saying to you, right?"

He put his hands on my hips and turned me so my back was to him as he scooted off the counter and pulled me close, the bare skin of his chest warm against my shoulders. 

"Can you do that again? That was so cool," he whispered, honestly just interested and enraptured in what I had shown him. 

"What do you want to see?"

He paused for a moment, wrapping his arms around my waist and nuzzling into my hair.

"Do you know what a Smörboll is?"

I searched my brain, but couldn't recall ever having heard the term. 

"Describe it to me...and take a deep breath, I don't want you to pass out and crack your head open. I already owe May for this as is," I giggled, and he butted his head sideways against mine softly. 

"They're these yellow flower that grow up in the mountains..."

I closed my eyes.

"Big or small?"

"Mmm..." he considered, "medium."

"Okay. What are the petals like?"

I held my hands out in front of me weaving from thin air as we talked, both our eyes closing as he nuzzled his nose against my hair.

"They're not like a daisy...not like they come out a central point...they wrap, kind of like a tulip or a rose..."

I moved my fingers, creating the physical image reflective of what I pictured in my brain, changing little features here and there as he instructed, all the while his hands held me tight, my head resting back against him, trusting this feeling of security, still so new and fresh.

"That's it," he whispered, the sound almost a whimper, watching the workings of my hands, "that's it."

I opened my eyes and looked at the flower cupped in my palms. 

"Its my favorite," he murmured, "it grows in these big patches in the mountains, stretching up the hillsides."

"What does it smell like?" I wondered aloud, looking back to him to answer me.

"Oh, really really bad," he laughed, giving into the moment and letting the sound fill the whole room, "oh my god, they reek, but they're so beautiful. Bees won't go anywhere near them, they have to be pollinated by flies," he almost giggled and it set my heart on fire. 

I took a deep breath, kissing the scentless petals, letting them brush over my lips, committing them to memory so I would always be able to recreate them in the future.

"Are you okay?" I asked, leaning back into his embrace, trusting him to tell me honestly.

"I...actually I think I am...I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I knew you weren't normal, I just didn't know how."

I turned, surprised by what he'd said.

"Why? What do you mean?"

"I..." he blushed, "I just mean...I hardly stopped smiling yesterday when you showed up and...I dunno...I guess I'm just really glad we met."

I sighed softly, looking up at him, "I'm glad we met too, Henrik..."

He flexed the fingers on his right hand, holding them out in front of him so he could watch the bones moving under his tan skin.

"So I can go today? They won't like slip out of place or anything?" he asked, still watching his hand.

"Nope, you're all good, love. Her healing fixes pretty perfectly every time I've seen it."

"Wow," he said softly, "this is all so crazy...can I..." he looked at me shyly, "can I please kiss you again? I know you're with Johannes, but I feel like I can't not..." he pulled me in, cupping my cheek, turning my face up to him.

"Henrik," I breathed, sinking into his lips, letting him hold me up as he pressed his lips down to mine, just letting them linger there for several seconds until I moaned softly and pulled back. 

"You're so wonderful," I breathed, "thank you for listening and trusting me."

"I...I'm sure I'll have more questions when I can think..."

"Ask me and I'll tell you what I can, baby," I whispered and he crumbled a little at the word.

"I like you calling me that," he murmured, kissing me quickly again.

"Come on," I tugged on his hand, pulling him towards the door, "I think everyone is waiting."

"Just...hang on," he pulled me to face him again, standing flush together, pulling my head against his chest and just holding me there, savoring the warmth of my skin, the power of the energy he could feel rolling just beneath it. 

"Your hearts beating really fast," I said softly, the organ in question practically thundering under my cheek.

"Can you blame me?" he smiled into my hair, "you're kind of intense."

"What me?" I giggled, looking up at him, and tracing one cheekbone with my fingertip,"you know my inner fangirl is doing cartwheels right about now, right?"

"Yeah, I can see that," he chuckled, then was silent for a moment, considering me..."don't tell her about this," he said lowly, and suddenly my back was to the wall and my arms were pinned above my head, both wrists held in his left hand as his right tipped my chin up towards him and his knee pressed between my thighs, separating them.

I bit my lip and looked at him head-on, watching his beautiful eyes darken as he took in just how much he appreciated me in this position.

More than he'd thought he would.

"What are you thinking of doing, Henrik," I asked, experimenting with the way I said his name, and almost dying at the result as he leaned in and let his lips hover close to mine while his opposite hand wandered, his fingertips barely whispering against the now-exposed skin of my midriff.

"Lots of things I shouldn't," he growled, leaning forward and gently taking my lower lip between his teeth and pulling a little before letting go.

I was stunned and wet, and almost too overloaded to be sarcastic, but my mouth filled in for me anyways.

"Yeah I'm the intense one, Henrik, oh-kay," I said as I shook my head and he let my arms go.

He reached for the door with a grin and held it open for me to walk out first.

I expecting to be greeted by one dog and five other people, but no one was there and I froze in the doorway.

Henrik pushed on my lower back until I moved out of the small room, and he ducked into his bedroom to find a new shirt.

I yawned and stretched, feeling the toll the morning had taken on my energy stores, going up and down and up and down, and I resolved to go find breakfast and coffee as he rejoined me, seemingly back to normal with a little smile and gentle touch to my waist.

As I entered the living room, I was greeted by two sets of eyes who looked at me with mild surprise, two more who looked flabbergasted, and one set that was full of amusement...

I hadn't realized May was planning on telling Jonas and John, too...

"Oh...hello..."

They both looked back and forth from me to Henrik, and as Tim opened his mouth to say something, I held up one finger.

"Oh no, oh no no no, I can not do this again before coffee, honey, spare me please," I turned to flee to the safety of the kitchen, and Johannes got up from the armchair he was in, taking my hands and walking backwards.

As soon as we were out of sight of everyone else around the corner, he crushed me against his body and kissed me hard, delving his tongue into my mouth and grabbing my ass with both hands, my gasp of surprised getting lost into his lips.

"I have no idea why this whole thing turns me on so much, but I'm just going with it at this point," he growled before kissing me again and doing something with his tongue that made my head start to spin as I tangled my fingers into his hair.

"Coffee," I said, "then sex. But first coffee..."

He bent his head to kiss me again, his insistence refusing to be silenced.

I had to admit, even for my own increased sex drive, Johannes' appetite was a handful to keep up with.

"What if we multi-task?" he growled, forcing me back into the corner of the counter and pulling the button on my shorts as he shielded me from view with his body and reached behind me to press the ON button for the coffeepot, which I'd set up the night before.

In truth, I'd forgotten all about it when I offered to go out with Henrik earlier.

Johannes' fingers worked under under the soft cotton of my panties and slid through my folds.

"Oh, my dirty little girl, what have you been up to behind that closed door..." he purred, laughing lowly into my ear and growling as his fingers easily slipped into me as I gasped sharply, " god I love how wet you get when you're worked up..."

 

His breathing matched the pulses of his fingers, long enough that even at the awkward angle they pressed far enough inside me to make me gasp and buck my hips forward.

He wasn't wrong in his suspicions, and I felt my orgasm building almost immediately as his grip on my pussy physically pulled my hips up until I was bracing my hands back against the counter.

Johannes didn't miss a beat, kissing me breathless and rubbing quick circles around my clit with his thumb as both fingers pushed farther inside me, his whole body moving against me to adjust the angle.

"You know, babygirl, I'll never mind if you kiss anyone else...hell, you can fuck anyone you want to...but I'll always be able to do this..."

"Oh...gods, wh-what are you -- oh -- what?"

He dipped his lips to my ear, maneuvering his fingers inside me to find that one particular spot, "you come for me right this second, Triste...fucking come," he ordered lowly, and I buried my face into his gray cotton zip-up and did as he said, clenching around his fingers and feeling the endorphin rush nearly lift me off the ground.

I gasped for breath, loving the way he was so much bigger than I was to the point that he almost loomed over me.

He pulled his fingers from me  when I finally stopped clenching hard and slipped them into his mouth with a growl that instantly made me ready to go again.

I fought for each breath as I watched him suck me off his fingers, swirling his tongue to clean them thoroughly with a low moan.

"Bed," I said, not caring in the slightest when the coffee pot behind us pinged loudly, announcing the successful completion of its task as the rich aroma filled the air.

"Coffee," he countered, barely lifting his lips from my own as my face tilted back, wanting more.

I made an exasperated face at him and he laughed, but grabbed my hand and pressed it to his cock, moaning lowly and rolling his hips into me.

"Or..."

"Coffee can wait," I dipped my own hand under his cotton pajama pants, wrapping my fingers around his erection and pumping him.

He pressed his forehead down against my own with a dangerous growl as his hands splayed out flat on the counter behind me, blocking me in, and he screwed his eyes shut as he moved his hips in time with my hand.

"Oh, don't stop, don'tstopdon'tstop," he moaned into my lips as I tangled my tongue with his and gripped him harder, moving my hand faster until he was gasping for breath, and stopped breathing altogether when he came, coating my hand as his body shook and his fingers curled against the counter top, clawing at the smooth surface for traction that it didn't give.

He finally took a shaky gasping breath against my lips and kissed me as I pulled my hand away, and he anticipated my next move.

"Oh my god, do not put that hand anywhere near your lips or I'm going to lose the small bit of sanity I have left," he said lowly.

"No fun," I whispered as he pulled back to place a kiss to my forehead.

"Oh, my girl, you're something else, hmm? " he hummed, and I looked up at him with a soft smile, happy that he had decided to accept who I was.

He reached behind me to grab a mug from the cabinet as I shifted out of his grasp towards the sink to wash my hands.

"There," he smacked the mug down loudly against the counter, sloshing hot coffee over the sides but not caring as he looked over at me with a grin, "drink your coffee and stop trying to take advantage of me and make me late, woman!"

"Oh take advantage of you?!" I laughed, but he was already gone, ducking to avoid the dish towel I launched at him and heading to take a shower and actually wash off this time.

Chapter Text

I padded back into the sitting room with my mug clutched between my palms like it was the holy grail and glanced around - there was limited seating available.

May had settled into Jonas' lap in the chair Johannes had been occupying up until recently, John was in the other free armchair, and Tim and Henrik were on the couch, a particularly small-looking space in between them.

Henrik raised one eyebrow at me and softly patted the empty seat.

"Oh hell no," I giggled, "you've gotten me into enough trouble as is."

"What because you just got fucked in the kitchen? We have different definitions of trouble, kiddo."

I choked on the hot liquid, doubling over and trying to recover as the room erupted into laughter at my sudden and very very bright red cheeks.

"Right, so can I ask a question?" John looked genuinely unsettled and I was surprised to see such a face on him. Typically he was calm and cool and thoroughly collected.

"Ask away," I settled on the floor, looking up at him, "and please don't worry about being offensive of whatever. I guess if you're all gonna know, it may as well be out in the open."

"So you're a..." he scrunched up his face like he wasn't sure what to call me.

"Priestess," I added, "well we were. Both of us, and thanks by the way, fucking tattle tale," I turned on May, but she was busy, and I looked back at Henrik, John, and Tim, "we don't have a Temple anymore, so I guess technically-...actually I'm not sure..."

"So you're not human?" John asked warily.

"Ooh, right to the point, I like it," I teased with a little smile, "we're human. Well, call us something like human plus. We can get hurt and bleed and die like regular people, the thing is just that we come back when that happens. Perpetual rebirth. That's all our goddess though, its nothing we do ourselves."

"So you're like a zombie?"

"What? Not at all!"

"I dunno, I think you'd made a pretty zombie," Tim chuckled.

"Not a zombie," I added.

I took a sip of my coffee and John looked like he was trying to think of a which question to ask next when Johannes peaked his head into the room.

"Not to interrupt, Zombie Queen, but we're gonna be late."

"What? Not a zombie!"

Henrik glanced at the clock on his phone and yelled as he jumped up.

"The time to inform us of that shouldn't be ten minutes before we're supposed to be there!" he called, and everyone else followed scrambled to follow suit as Johannes yelled back.

"Look its not my fault you two were shacked up in there for so long!"

Jonas lifted May off his lap with one more kiss.

"Gotta go."

"You could stay with me," she said sweetly, gazing up at him through her eyelashes.

"No he can not, these songs will sound like shit with one guitar," John yelled, already halfway down the hall, tearing off his shirt to find something else to wear.

"What do I get if I stay?" he played along with her, and she giggled as she whispered into his ear, and I watched his pupils explode as he shivered, "you can do that?"

She nodded with a cocky smirk.

Tim yelled his name, and Jonas fidgeted with his lip ring, looking like he really was considering staying.

"Perhaps later, mmm?" May kissed him on the cheek softly then danced out of his reach, heading out to the deck with her coffee mug.

The boys all eventually managed to get themselves together enough to grab their gear and get out of the house with record time.

Johannes dropped a kiss on top of my hair, tipping my chin up.

"Promise you'll be here when I get back? No more dangerous adventures today."

"Promise," I smiled, "I told you I'm not going anywhere if you want me to stay."

"I do want you," he breathed, brushing his lips against mine before disappearing out the door.

The house seemed deafeningly quiet with just the two of us, so we threw on bathing suits and decided to spend the day cooking under the sun.

--

Hours later May and I were out by the pool, singing along with the shuffled songs that played over the wireless speakers between our chairs. I stretched out under the sun, soaking up all the Vitamin D I could, with a contented smile curving my lips as I sang along with everyone from Billie Holiday to the Clash.

Neither of us heard the boys unloading their things into the house, but the plotting commenced when Tim spied us both from up on the deck, defenselessly lounging by the pool.

They snuck down the stairs silently and stood at the edge of the pool area for a moment, watching us splayed out on chairs, all smooth legs and tiny bathing suits.

"I have an idea," John whispered, motioning for Jonas to come closer so he could whisper his plan.

Khufu's head raised up from his paws when the two silently crept around the water. John looked at him, putting one finger to his lips, and the dog seemed to grin at him, readily complying and lolling back over onto his side.

Henrik, Tim, and Johannes pulled out their phones, doing their best to stay quiet as they filmed.

Jonas approached May from the opposite side, tying his hair back and crouching slightly; he help up a hand and counted down from three fingers, signaling to John, who nodded with a wicked grin.

When the last went down, John shoved one arm under my legs and one around my shoulders and I shrieked in surprise as he picked me up and threw me into the pool.

May suffered the same fate, and we resurfaced sputtering and gasping at the sudden temperature change as all five men laughed hysterically, doubled over, and Khufu barked with them then took a running start before leaping into the water behind us, sending fresh waves over us both.

I pushed my sunglasses on top of my head and rounded on the culprit.

"Fuck you! That was so rude, John, I can't believe you just did that!!" I shouted.

He stopped laughing and looked taken aback, his mouth hanging open, "I--I'm sorry, I didn't realize it would make you mad...you're wearing a bathing suit...shit...here let me help you up."

"Well you were fucking wrong, weren't you," my voice was cold steel.

I help up one hand so he could haul me out of the pool, and at the last second I planted my feet against the wall and pulled hard.

"No no no!!" he yelled, but pitched face-first into the pool with me, creating another wave of raucous laughter from everyone, including me.

He came up and gasped for air.

"TRISTE!!"

"Ha! Gotcha!!" I said, high fiving May before she turned to Jonas.

"No, little girl," he said, holding up one long index finger to her and backing away from the edge with a grin as she swam towards him, her hair trailing behind her like a sheet of creamy lilac silk.

Tim, Henrik and Johannes all made their way closer, perching on chairs and laughing, enjoying the sunshine as much as we had.

John grabbed me around the waist and pulled me back against him, whispering in my ear that I was in trouble now and making me shiver hard at the lowness of his voice.

"Well, to be fair, we're even now, technically."

"Uh-huh," he said as he put one hand on top of my head and dunked me.

"Buhhh!!" I yelled when I came up again, swimming a few feet away from him.

He threw his head back and laughed, the sound echoing off our concrete surroundings, "don't make me come get you!"

I glanced back at May, who was still waiting patiently for Jonas to make a mistake and come closer.

"You'll have to catch me first," I grinned, disappearing under the water. John went down a second later, throwing his sunglasses over to Henrik, who caught them smoothly.

I looked around under water, and swam quickly down to the deepest end of the pool, taking a moment to pinch May's ass under the water first.

"She swims like une sirene, John, you won't catch her," May giggled, yelping as I pinched her, then twisting and shifting to block him from following me as she laughed.

He surfaced and grabbed her around the waist with a playful growl, picking her up and turning, physically moving her out of the way.

"I'm bigger than you, remember?" he grinned, pressing a quick kiss to her cheek before searching for me again. My head broke the surface just long enough to suck in a quick breath, then I was down at the very bottom of the deep end, seated on the white bottom of the pool, waiting.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed watching his even the blurred movement of his hair floating about under the water as he moved. John was built like a swimmer, all arms and legs, and I finally let him reach me there at the bottom after wiggling my fingers cheekily in greeting.

I smirked at him under the water, running a hand through his hair, and he picked me up, setting me against the side wall of the pool and laying a rather intimate kiss to my lips as his hand traced the line of my waist and his body pinned me to the wall.

Kissing was hard under water, but he let his lips linger and pressed his knee between my thighs, holding me there for one more moment before gripping my waist with both hands and launching me towards the surface, following me up in the next second as he kicked hard off the bottom.

I swam to the edge of the pool where I could touch the bottom again and half-lifted out of the water, my palms flat on the warm concrete.

I pushed my sunglasses on, and crooked one finger at Johannes, "come here, I have something to tell you.”

"Bullshit," he laughed, "you are not pulling me in."

"I won't, I promise!"

He emptied his pockets, just to be safe, then crouched down by the pool near me. I kissed him, pushing my tongue between his lips and moaning a little when he returned my caress, running a hand over my wet hair and pulling me a little closer as my legs kicked under the water.

Tim was suddenly thankful for the darkness of his sunglasses as he watched the muscles of my arms flex to hold me up, and the water drops sliding down my skin, my lips opening as Johannes pressed his tongue between them...

Johannes broke away from me with a soft groan, his eyes hidden behind shades, but I knew they would be dark and lust-filled as his fingers danced softly down over the back of my shoulder, inching towards the string that tied the two sides of my bikini top together.

"Mmm, hello. I hope what you wanted to tell me was 'Johannes, I would very much like to go inside and spend the rest of the day naked in your bed with your face between my legs'", he growled lowly, kissing me again.

The thought was extremely enticing, I had to admit, but I loved swimming and wanted to stay out for just a little longer. There wasn't a pool where I lived, let alone a private one that I got to share with my friends.

"Naked in your bed does sound awfully appealing," I said, reaching up to gently bite his lower lip and his hand crept towards the string again, "but, if you pull that, you get nothing for the rest of forever," I added, trying to sound stern and failing horribly.

"Pull it! Pull it!" Henrik and Tim chanted together, laughing.

"What I was going to say in the first place was that uhm, this," I bit my lip trying to force down my laughter, "this shirt is uhm, v-very sexy."

He snorted a laugh and rolled his eyes, standing up and backing cautiously away from the edge, keeping a wary eye on both my hands.

I glanced around and noticed they were all wearing variations of them -- classic tacky tourist Hawaiian floral shirts.

"What...what the fuck are you guys wearing?! Did you play in those?"

"Hey! This is my favorite shirt!" Tim yelled, flipping me the finger. I stuck my tongue out at him in response and he laughed as I lifted myself all the way out of the pool and back-dived off the side, swimming back towards John, who pulled me up to the surface and against him.

"This shirt is so horrible," I giggled, turning and wrapping my hands around the back of his neck and letting my feet float off the bottom as he turned us around in lazy circles like a dance and reached behind his head to tie his hair into a ponytail.

"Oh yeah?" he said quietly, pulling me closer as my sunglasses fell down on my face and I reached to adjust them. He put his hand on my arm at my elbow and guided it up further around his neck, making my face move closer towards his.

"Yeah," I challenged, peeking back at Johannes over my shoulder and giving him a little smile before returning to mock John's shirt some more.

"Maybe its just your taste, sweetheart," Henrik snickered, adjusting the chair's back so he could still watch me in the pool, but get some sun too as he opened the rest of the buttons on his shirt.

He looked at me head on while his fingers slowly slipped each button through the fabric, and I watched with silent appreciation.

For all the reputation Henrik had for being soft and quiet, there was flame under the passive exterior.

"The DJ seemed to think we looked pretty good," he added with a grin.

"Not all of us, just the tall one whose name she couldn't remember," Jonas corrected, smirking over at Johannes and then looking at me, "she ask--" his sentence was interrupted by a shout and a splash as he fell forward into the water.

Jonas had let his guard down for only a moment and May jumped at the opportunity, having been waiting and circling like a shark.

He growled and pulled her back under with him when he surfaced to take a deep breath, and her feet kicked at the surface as he dragged her to the bottom, no doubt getting handsy in the process.

"Oh, is that so?" I cocked an eyebrow at Johannes, who blushed like a delicate flower.

"Where were we?" I asked, turning back to John with a grin, and twirling his ponytail around my fingers as my forearms rested on his shoulders, "ah, yes, the shirt".

"I think you were saying something about how me having all these clothes on offends your delicate sensibilities, and that I should lose them," he laughed.

"Mmm, just the Hawaiian-themed ones."

"Careful, have you seen the pattern on my shorts?"

"Oh, Christ you didn't," I muttered, pinching the bridge of my nose and drawing laughter from everyone else. He reached back and untangled my arms from around his neck so he could unbutton the tacky shirt and shrug out of it, but he missed one button at the bottom and I reached down between us to undo it without thinking.

The slightest growl rumbled through his throat as my fingers brushed his torso, and I looked up at him with a little smile, even as I felt myself clench.

His eyes darkened fractionally as I experimentally reached down again to do it, letting my fingers linger a little longer than before, brushing across his skin, dangerously close to his hips.

"Don't start something you won't finish, precious," he whispered before pulling me into him again.

His chest was sparsely covered with hair and I gingerly touched it, letting my fingers explore the texture, "I simply don't know what you're talking about, John," I whispered, looking back and forth between his eyes as he tossed the shirt carelessly behind him and pulled my arms back up around his neck, rolling his eyes.

"Has anyone ever told you that you're really bossy?" He pressed a tiny, quick kiss to my nose with a smile crossing his broad mouth.

"Only a hundred times a day," May called, standing on Jonas' shoulders and flipping backwards off them perfectly when he stood.

"Hey, do that again May," Henrik called, pulling out his phone to record it as Jonas ducked under the water and May climbed back onto his shoulders.

John turned us sideways so we could watch and I pressed my cheek against his as I wrapped my arms tighter around his neck and he held onto me too, pulling me closer to his body until my legs wrapped tentatively around his hips and he sighed happily.

"I'm so happy I got to meet all of you," I said quietly, twisting his ponytail around my hand again and watching as everyone laughed and clapped as May held Jonas' hands tight and stayed standing on his shoulders when he surfaced.

He hummed quietly, but didn't say anything as the fingers of one hand traced the lines of my tattoo over the center of my back.

Jonas shuffled his feet for a moment before he went dead still and a scheming grin crossed his lips as he looked straight at the camera on Henrik's phone.

"Mon cherí, do not do what you're thi--aahh!!" Another splash as Jonas quickly pulled his hands away and May lost her balance and crashed into the water. She splashed him as she came back up.

"Insolent!

I chuckled and John put his lips to my ear asking what she'd said. I shivered hard at his voice being so close, and he pulled me fractionally harder against him, my breasts pressing against his chest.

" 'Insolent' means rude," I laughed, "same as in English, just pronounced differently. Rude sort of like when you get thrown into a pool unexpectedly while you're enjoying an afternoon in the sun?"

"I'm sorry about that," he chuckled, shaking his head, "I just couldn't resist...Plus," he growled, lowly, whispering so only I could hear his words as he started turning us in circles again, "I was kind of dying to touch your skin..." his lips started pressing against my ear, moving along my jaw, down my neck as he whispered my name.

I bit my lip and looked at him again, his stare penetrating and hot and his grip on me getting tighter.

I leaned in to kiss him and his tongue traced the bottom curve of my lip; he smirked and laughed lowly when he felt all my muscles tighten in response.

I glanced up as Johannes pulled his shirt back off his arms, saying something to Henrik, who was now completely shirtless and leaning back in my chair again, his hair tied up on top of his head the way I liked it best. Tim yelled something loudly in Swedish from the balcony before disappearing inside and everyone collapsed into laughter.

"Fuck off I know I'm pale!" Johannes yelled back through his own laughter.

I sighed as I watched him interact with his friends; he was so wondrously beautiful when he laughed and I felt impossibly lucky to be in my current situation.

I looked back at John, whose fingers were drifting up and down the center of my back slowly and I traced the sharp outlines of his facial hair, brushing one finger across his lips as I unhooked my legs from around his waist and floated them behind me.

He had such beautiful lips, a mouth that perfectly fit his face and his smile. I wondered to myself if he was a good kisser.

Gotta be with a cocky smirk like that.

"I am."

I glanced up from his lips to his eyes.

"What?"

"I said," he leaned forward, kissing the corner of my mouth, "I am...and you're thinking out loud little one."

I froze solid, all my joints immediately cemented where they were and all my muscles tensing.

"Or at least, I've been told so...but don't you want to find out for yourself?" He was enjoying this far too much. "Come closer, pretty little thing..."

He turned my face towards him and that ridiculously attractive smirk twisted the corner of his mouth up before he bit his lower lip, and I knew he was doing it for me.

I scowled and tried to squirm out of his grasp but he held me tighter, chuckling at my discomfort.

His lips brushed along my cheek and I shivered hard against him, my breath leaving my lips on a sharp exhale as his fingers pressed harder into my skin.

I whispered his name without meaning to as he looked me squarely in the eyes and kissed me, daring me to open my lips to him and find out if my speculations were true.

Even through my dark sunglasses, he stared straight at me, like he was telling me that I couldn't hide.

Just then Johannes stepped into the water and complained loudly about the cold, "fuck, John, I'd be pissed if I got thrown into this, too."

John pulled back and looked at me for a moment, watching my body under the water.

"Guess you're safe...for now, little one..." he growled, watching my pulse beat rapidly at the base of my throat, and I wasn't sure how playfully he meant it, but I clenched hard again.

"Off you go," he said, his entire demeanor shifting to relaxed and carefree as he pushed me slightly towards Johannes with a grin like nothing had happened.

I wasn't done with him though and I swam circles around his legs under the water before stopping behind him and wrapping my arms over his shoulders, clasping them down around the front of his chest.

"The water is pretty cold at first, but you'll get used to it in a minute," I said, looking at Johannes with an innocent smile, "plus, we've already had a chat about being rude, haven't we, John?" I purred, running my index finger over the back corner of his jaw and making him shiver.

Johannes turned to answer something Tim asked from up on the deck, and they yelled questions and answers back and forth for a moment.

I moved my lips closer to John's ear and whispered, "especially because after laying in the sun my skin was so warm, wasn't it," as I brushed the shell of his ear with my nose then pressed a kiss to his neck just below it, gently swirling my tongue over the skin and breathing softly down the back of his neck, half-sighing.

He jumped a little and a groan left his lips as he turned his head, involuntarily seeking my mouth with a smoldering look that almost undid me. He whispered my name, his hands pulling at my arms, trying to move me around to his front.

"Paybacks a bitch, babe," I grinned, dropping back under water and swimming towards the other. John's hand reached out to brush down my leg as I swam towards Johannes, twirling under the water and surfacing to make little splashes at him.

He ducked under the surface to wet his hair and caught my hand, pulling me closer.

"You're so pretty when you swim," he said, keeping us submerged up to the shoulders, and watching as our hair seemed for form a ring around us -- dark and light, yin and yang.

"Thanks," I smiled softly, "you're pretty all the time."

He laughed, butting his forehead against mine, "you too, smartass."

I was feeling a little more than worked up after that interaction with John, and I wrapped my legs around Johannes' waist as he laced our fingers together under the water.

"Kiss me," I whispered.

He smiled softly and pressed his lips to mine, letting go of my hands to lay his flat against my back, holding me to him and letting me take when I needed as my legs tightened and drew him harder against my center.

"Johannes?" I murmured and he groaned softly. He always did when I said his name that way, and it thrilled me the same each time, "I would very much like the spend the rest of the day naked in your bed with your face between my legs."

And I sincerely meant it.

"Ohh, get upstairs then," his tongue slid along mine in response and I could feel him getting hard between my legs as he moaned softly, his hips pressing into mine and drawing me in.

"Mmm, do you like that idea? Eating me over and over again? Making me come for you until I can't scream any more and I can only lay there and feel your tongue inside me?"

"What has gotten into you, dirty girl," he laughed lowly, but I could tell he did. I kissed him again, grinding against his cock.

John watched out of the side of his eye as he and Henrik idly chatted about something from the studio session earlier.

"Fuck, I want you, Triste," Johannes groaned into me, "why can't I ever get enough of you?"

His hands drifted over my ass underwater, his long arms slipping down and underneath my bathing suit until his fingers were sliding through my folds, pressing against my entrance and making me sharply exhale as I pushed back against them.

"Because you're the one thing I'll always want more of," I whispered, using one finger to gently push a wet lock of hair back off his forehead, "...always."

"Triste...I--"

"Triste! Come here, oie," May called, swimming over towards us, "do you want to play poulet?" I turned to Johannes and he pulled his fingers away from my slit before bending to growl into my ear so only I could hear him.

"Tell her no, and we can go upstairs and finish this. I'm dying to feel those beautiful lips around my cock again..."

I buckled a little at his words and the thought of him filling my mouth, but I also knew that May wouldn't take no for an answer. She'd tell me that we had all night for sex, and only a few hours of daylight left to play.

"Hmm, I promise we'll continue this later, okay?" I said quietly with one more kiss, "come on."

"No no, not Johannes, he is too tall! C'est tricher." May said over her shoulder when we moved closer.

Johannes let his jaw drop in mock offense at her, and pressed a hand to his chest like he'd been wounded by her comment, "mais ce n'est pas ma faute!"

She clapped her hands and leaned up to wrap her arms around his neck as he spun them both around in fast circles and she laughed like a child at the water splashing around them.

"I like that you speak my language," she purred indulgently, brushing his lips with her index finger before peaking back over her shoulder at me.

I smiled happily, enjoying watching two of my favorite people together, and gave her a little wink as Jonas came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, pressing his cheek to mine and enveloping me in the feverish warmth of his body.

May grinned for a moment before turning back to Johannes and leaning up to press a kiss to his mouth. He was surprised for a moment, but opened his eyes to look at me over her shoulder, his lips still pressed against hers.

I was biting my bottom lip, beyond aroused just watching, and he knew it.

Johannes wrapped one arm down low around May's narrow waist, gripping just a little tightly as the other slid into her hair, and he opened his lips to her. She responded in kind, gliding her tongue along his and pressing her breasts against his chest until after a moment it stopped being just for show and they earnestly kissed each other.

As I checked back into reality, I felt lips at my own neck as Jonas brushed my hair out of the way and around my opposite shoulder.

"Sometimes its fun to trade places, isn't it," he whispered lowly as his hands started to wander under the water and his lips returned to my neck. His fingers teased at the waist of my bathing suit, barely dipping beneath to brush across my skin, but not going further.

His tongue swirled against my neck, and I was a single second away from shoving his hand all the way down to give me some of the contact I was increasingly desperate for when Johannes and May broke apart with one more little kiss and May giggled, brushing a hand tenderly against Johannes' cheek.

"Sweet Johannes, you are good for my Triste," she said quietly before swimming over towards me and pulling me from Jonas' grasp.

She held me tight and pressed her lips to my ear, "bons dieux, sa bite..." she giggled.

I responded with a tiny smirk that made her roll her eyes and she motioned to John to join us as he pushed off the side of the pool.

"Yes?"

"Let Triste get on your shoulders," she called over her own as she turned back to Jonas, who was unbuttoning his soaked shirt and watching me quietly.

John looked at me as Johannes settled back against the wall, leaning his head back against the ground and tilting his face up to the sun as his long arms spread out on the concrete to hold him up.

"Oh, you're in trouble now, little one," he growled.

"No no no! I'm s-sorry I teased you," I squeaked as he turned darkened eyes on me and pulled my sunglasses slowly off my face.

One big hand brushed from my chin down the length of my throat.

"Such pretty colors," he said softly, his mouth so close to mine, I could feel his breath.

My heart was pounding in my throat as his lips brushed along my jaw, settling at my ear, "up you go now, lets beat these bossy assholes," he laughed with a tiny nip at my earlobe that made me yelp.

Everyone watching laughed as I tossed my sunglasses to Johannes and he set them on the ground behind his head.

"You're all jerks," I huffed as John ducked under the water and took both of my hands, maneuvering me onto his shoulders and then standing slowly.

We let go of each others' hands and I moved mine to the top of his head as he gripped both my thighs, a little harder than was strictly necessary, rubbing his thumbs back and forth over the skin there.

"Behave, John," I lightly flicked the top of his ear as I said it and he tilted his head to look back up at me.

"Or what?" He grinned.

We swam around, playing and teasing for a while longer, everyone simply relaxed and happy and enjoying each others company.

Tim reappeared with a guitar just as I was getting tackled backwards off of John's shoulders by May and settled back into a lounge chair, softly playing a melody that had been bouncing around his head.

Something happened to his music as he watched me - it seemed to require less thought and just flow from his fingers.

Disjointed thoughts passed through his mind, none of them really grabbing his attention as he watched the length of each of my legs kicking gracefully under the water until my face broke the surface.

Khufu whined quietly and laid his head on Tim's knee, drawing his attention for a moment away from me.

He looked down at the dog, who was watching his left hand move over the frets.

"You like this song?" he grinned and received a sloppy dog kiss in response. He laughed and went back to watching me for a moment before laying his head back and turning his face up to the sun, letting the notes write themselves one after the other.

"Are you guys coming in or what?" I asked, turning to Henrik and Tim.

"No, I think I need a drink or five after what all has happened today," Henrik laughed, standing and stretching before turning to go inside, "c'mon Khufu, lets go," he called as an afterthought and the dog raced up the stairs.

Tim stood and rolled his shoulders before following both of them up to the house, guitar in hand.

Jonas lifted May into his arms, their lips pressed together, and climbed the steps out of the pool, whispering something that made her squeal. They headed towards the house without another word, I assumed to finish what they’d started earlier that morning, and John swam to the stairs and got out too, leaving us alone.

“Don’t drown,” he called over his shoulder and Johannes and I uniformly flipped him off with four middle fingers.

Chapter Text

I ducked under the water again and swam around his legs, trailing my hands over the skin there before coming back to the surface.

“You’re a good swimmer, like a fish or something,” he said with a smile before taking a deep breath and putting his head under, pushing his hair out of his face when he came back up and wiped the water away from his eyes.

“Come here, you,” I purred, wrapping my arms around his neck like I had John’s and letting him pull us around through the water as we talked.

“Mmm, how did the radio thing go?” I asked between little kisses, "was Henrik's hand okay?"

“It was good overall, other than the DJ trying to pick me up twice on air,” he said with a shake of his head an eye roll.

I snorted a laugh, “Jonas wasn't kidding then. What did you say?”

“Obviously not yes,” he murmured, pulling me a little closer to him and kissing me a little harder than the last time.

“Well that’s good, because you may not know this, but I can get very jealous,” I joked.

“Is that so,” he said quietly, his hands starting to wander over me under the water, touching and squeezing.

“It-ohh-it is,” I sighed, closing my eyes and gasping softly as his fingers slipped under the cups of my bathing suit and started pinching and rolling my nipples.

“And what happens when you get jealous, Triste,” he asked lowly, moving towards the stairs.

"Mmm, then I have to remind you why you should stay with me and not run off with the radio DJ who can't remember what your name is," I said, a tiny smirk curving my lips as I wrapped my legs around his waist.

His hands went to my ass and pulled me harder against him, grinding his erection against my core.

"I think I need a reminder, I'm very forgetful," he whispered, laying me back down against the stairs and devouring my mouth as he pressed his palms flat on either side of me.

I moaned up into his lips, consumed with fire and unbearable heat, and pressed harder into his cock.

"Oh you look so good, let me fuck you like this, Triste," he groaned into my ear, pushing my hair out of the way so he could press kisses down the side of my neck.

I could hardly say no to an offer like that, but I did, pulling on his hair until he lifted his head and looked down at me.

"Turn over. Lay on your back."

He didn't ask any questions, just shifted us until he was leaning back against the steps in the shallow water, watching me.

"Up one more."

He scooted back up one step so his hips were out of the water, and I pushed his knees apart, holding eye contact, loving the way he bit his lip in anticipation and groaned when I ran one finger over him through the soaked fabric of his shorts.

I pulled them down his hips slightly, enough to free his cock and pushed myself up onto the steps far enough to kiss him deeply.

He anchored my face to his and tasted every part of my mouth, making me gasp and cry out and his hand dropped down to cup my breast, squeezing and rolling my nipple again.

"Johannes," I sighed, "what the hell did I ever do without you?" I meant to say it more to myself, but I knew he heard me.

My tongue worked its way down his chest, nipping at the skin and swirling down his hairless torso as his fingers pushed into my hair, getting a good grip.

I lived for each sound he made for me as I teased the head of his cock with my tongue, licking tiny circles and more than enjoying the taste of him.

"Triste...baby..." he groaned, dropping his head back and reveling in the sensational sensory combination of the sun on his face and my lips around his cock.

My mouth wrapped around him as my tongue caressed the sensitive groove in the underside of the head, drawing a gasp and a low cry from him as his fingers tightened in my hair, his grip almost painful.

I dropped further down his length, taking him into my throat, mulling over just how much I felt unsettled by the idea of Johannes being approached by another woman. He'd obviously not been interested in her, but now I couldn't shy away from confronting exactly what I felt for him.

I tried to put all thinking aside, and bent my focus to pleasuring him. I wanted it almost as much as he did, and his cock hit the back of my throat as I worked up and down, playing with varying degrees of pressure, hollowing my cheeks and gripping his thighs with my nails when my nose rested against his skin.

His breaths became quicker and more shallow, and I knew he was getting close and his hips started to buck into my face.

"Fuck fuck fuck fuck," he moaned, his hand in my hair pressing my head down until he was fucking my mouth.

I sucked him harder and took him to the back of my throat, needing to taste him.

"Fuck, I'm gonna come," he yelled and exploded into my mouth when I pulled up slightly, throwing his head back and giving my name up to the ocean air.

I swallowed him eagerly, my nails sinking into his skin and my eyes screwing shut to focus on not choking as he pumped wave after wave of salty warmth against my tongue until he softened between my lips and gasped for relief.

"Oh...my...god...fucking...what...fuck..." he said between gasps for air.

I lifted my head and waited patiently with a little smile, licking my lips when he finally opened his eyes and glanced down at me.

"You," he said, pushing his shorts down his legs and off over his feet before pressing me back into the water, "are...you're..." he looked at me so tenderly, so softly, that it took my breath away.

My brain tried to think of something snarky out of habit, but nothing came to me and Johannes pulled us back into the pool, letting me wrap my legs around his naked waist.

We weren't consumed by lust or want anymore, just beautiful, tender affection as our lips moved together, both of us hesitant to stop kissing the other.

His deft fingers immediately pulled at the strings on my bathing suit, letting the material float away from my body as both halves came undone on the top and bottom and then we were naked, skin on skin.

"You're everything, Triste," he whispered into my lips, looking so deeply into my gaze, I felt like he was looking into my soul, and my eyes filled with tears.

I blinked hard to try and make them go away but they betrayed me and fell instead.

"Why are you crying?" he asked softly, brushing the backs of his fingers down the side of my face. Everything he said was soft and quiet and I clung harder to him, tangling my fingers into his hair, terrified suddenly that in just a few days we might have to say goodbye.

"I'm not. I'm just. I'm a little overwhelmed I think," I sniffled, pressing my forehead to his, "I...I didn't ever expect...this. Whatever this is. I didn't realize that when we met the other night it was going to turn into...well, anything I guess. And now here we are, and you're too good for me, and I don't know how to go back to normal life after this...Johannes, I..." I stuttered, trying to find the words.

I'm terrified of losing you.
I'm so afraid that I've trusted you and that you'll go back to your life and I'll have to go back to mine and I'll fall apart.
Johannes.
I'm so stupid in love with you.

"Hey hey hey," he tipped my chin up to look into his eyes, full of sudden concern, "where's all this coming from?"

I blinked rapidly, looking down into the water.

The sun was starting to sink and the temperature had dropped a few degrees.

"I've never told anyone before. Did I tell you that?"

He shook his head, waiting for me to continue.

"In all my years...I've never told anyone what I am."

" 'Who', Triste."

"Who. Right."

He paused for a moment, pulling us through the water and watching the ends of my hair trail alongside us.

"Well, I'd imagine there was some self-preservation in there somewhere, à la 'burning heretics', right?"

I smiled a little, "there was some of that, yeah. But mostly, its always been about trust. Fear really, I guess, on my part."

My eyes got lost in the light playing off the water, distorting the angles beneath the surface.

"I never wanted to tell someone until I met you all."

He pressed kisses all over my cheeks and my eyes, finally stopping at my forehead and closing his eyes as his lips rested there for a moment.

"And do you trust me, Triste?"

We both pulled back and I looked at him honestly, all my walls down, "completely. Without doubt or reservation..."

When he leaned in to kiss me, he moved slowly, cupping my cheek and tilting his head gently like he had the first time we'd kissed.

His lips caressed mine, softly moving over them repeatedly until his tongue whispered against my bottom lip, just barely touching me, and mine opened slowly to him, granting him entry and wanting to die from hearing the moan that left his lips when his tongue slid against mine.

Johannes was getting hard between my legs again, and his hands gripped my ass, pressing my pussy harder against him so he could rub the tip of his cock over my clit as I cried out his name into his lips, keeping quiet but needing him desperately.

I wanted to tell him right there that I loved him and wanted him forever, but my mouth wouldn't form the words as my breath hitched in my chest.

"I need you," I finally whispered, looking back and forth between his eyes, such a lovely shade of blue, "Johannes, please, I need you."

He didn't say anything or drop my gaze as he shifted us under water slightly so that the tip of his cock pressed against my entrance. It was such an unusual feeling, the duality of the water surrounding him and my own wetness feeling so different.

Every move he made was slow and deliberate, but not overthought. He just barely teased me open, gasping at the tightness of the ring of muscle that was my entrance.

We held each other close, not gripping too tightly, not clawing with passion, just simply holding the other against ourselves.

I used my grip around his waist to sink further onto his cock, little gasps and sighs sounding into the evening air from us both until he filled me and I pulsed around him, feeling stretched and almost overstimulated.

My name drifted from his lips like a song and I closed my eyes when he pressed his forehead to mine and started moving me on and off his cock, never shifting his hips and hardly stirring the water around us.

"Triste, you feel so good," he whispered softly as I took over, gripping his waist with my legs and tilting my hips back and forth, "I'm never going to get enough of you," he gasped as the new angle dragged his cock against my inner walls harder.

Our eyes met as we moved together, gasping quietly for more and pulling each other closer until we came together.

Neither of us cried out or screamed, he wrapped his arms tighter around my back and I pulled his hips closer into mine under the water, feeling the warmth of him as he filled me with his own release.

He held my gaze as he whispered something in Swedish I didn't understand, but he clamped his lips shut after he'd said it, like it wasn't something he'd meant for me to hear, even though he was well aware I had none of the language whatsoever.

"We should go inside and get dried off," I sighed, not making any move to untangle myself from him.

He slipped out of me with a groan and stood up, towering over me as he normally did.

"I don't...I don't think I can be away from you."

"Well that's why you're coming with me," I smiled, taking his hand, "I'm not going to leave you in the pool."

"That's not what I meant."

I stopped breathing and chewed my bottom lip, pinned by the intensity of his stare and unable to think for myself for several moments. I finally brushed one shaking hand over his abdomen, running it up to his chest and over the soaked ends of his hair until I could press it flat against his heart.

"Who says I want you to be away from me?" my lips whispered into his, my hand still pressed against his chest, feeling his heart beat a little faster as he sighed into my kiss.

Chapter Text

The next two days passed without much in the way of eventfulness.

We drank and laughed and relaxed and just got to know each other better, basking in the warm glow of new friendships and the unshakable connections of brothers, spending most of both days lazing around out in the sun.

No one brought up the inevitable end that was coming, and it was just as well because we could hardly stand to think about going back to our normal lives after days like these.

--

My eyes fluttered open as the sounds started to register and I inhaled a deep breath, waking up from the peaceful nap I'd dozed off to, stretching and sighing happily.

Johannes was humming with a slightly furrowed brow, watching Jonas' fingers move over his guitar and trying to follow the melody.

"One more time," he said, watching more intently, and I turned my head sideways on the pillow in Tim's lap to watch his concentration.  His somewhat lean and angular features gave him a hard look when he was focusing intently like that, but I found everything about him marvelously beautiful.

All of them were.

I leaned my head back to watch Jonas play upside down, eyes closed, head moving every once in a while, as if it guided the rhythm of his hands, his hair pulled into a loose tail that spilled down over one shoulder.

"Nice of you to join us," Tim chuckled, running a hand back over my hair, smoothing it off my forehead as I yawned and looked up at him.

"Mmm, how long was I out for?"

"Hour, hour and a half?"

"Christ, sorry, are your legs both completely asleep?"

"Yes," he laughed, stretching them both out once I sat up, "but you looked like you were sleeping well so I didn't want to move you," he shrugged, "and Johannes tells me it would have been rude to just dump you on the floor and call it an accident."

His eyes lit up as me smiled and leaned over to press a quick kiss to my cheek as May appeared on the deck with a piece of paper in her hand.

She silently handed it to me and I glanced down, reading through what appeared to be a list of ingredients.

"Mushrooms?" She gestured broadly to everyone else, slightly exasperated, "they won't eat meat!"

I glanced back down at the list and cocked my head to the side, putting them all together.

"I didn't know you could make bourguignon vegan," I looked up questioningly at her and May sighed, running a hand back through her hair, but her stern face was no match for Jonas' grin and she finally caved.

"Well I promised I would try...once," she wagged her finger at him and he dragged her down onto his knees with a laugh.

"You may just be surprised, love."

"Oh," as my brain fully woke up, I realized why she'd handed me the list, and I looked around both boys over at her, "am I going to the store?"

"Oui, it is by the bar where Gabriel is, I thought you would...ah...jump by?"

"Pop by. Why?"

"Say hello, merci, see you soon, all of that."

Gabriel was someone I knew tangentially through a series of former coworkers, and he'd been a big part of why I got the bar bid in the first place for the festival.

"I was just going to send him a card and something nice..."

May waved her had like it simply wasn't acceptable and I sighed, not terribly in the mood to socialize or leave the house. It had started to feel like a haven in a way, like the real world was lurking out there, but just beyond the safe confines of warm hands and little shows of affection, but couldn't reach me here.

"Do you want some company?" Tim offered, twirling his fingers into the fringe around the edge of the pillow in his lap.

I was halfway into the house, intending to find my keys and make it fast, but nodded, "yeah that sounds great," then paused and looked back over my shoulder with a grin, "let me take you out and buy you a drink like a real lady, Timmy," I giggled, and managed to jump out of the way just as the throw pillow sailed through the open door.

I grabbed my keys and pulled a brush through my hair, figuring a quick coat of mascara couldn't hurt anyone, then slipped into a pair of flip flops and headed back out to gather up my passenger.

"Anyone else wanna go?"

"I think we'll stay if thats okay, babe, we're really close with this new riff," Johannes said, the words slightly mumbled into my hair as his lips found my ear under the thick mass of silver waves, "don't get yourself into too much trouble," he chuckled.

I looked at John and made an exasperated face, "where did we come to the conclusion that I'm the bossy one again?!"

Everyone laughed and Johannes tipped my chin back for a quick kiss that lasted a little longer than he'd originally planned as I sank into the feel of his lips.

It was going to be our last night together, and the discomfort caused by that thought made him pull me in closer, holding me tighter against his body.

"See ya soon, baby," he finally released me with a little kiss on my nose.

"Don't I get one too?" Tim joked, hands on his hips like he was all offended.

Johannes puckered his lips with his eyes screwed shut and crooked a finger at Tim, sending us both retreating down the stairs cackling as Tim wrapped his arm around my shoulders.

"Let me see the list," he reached for the paper in my hand, squinting at the small circular letters that was May's obscenely perfect handwriting, "oh, nevermind."

The ingredient names were in French, but some of them were close to English and it became a game as we pulled out onto the main road.

"Champignons?...Champagne? No, that would just be champagne," he muttered to himself.

"Main ingredient," I hinted.

"Porcini and Cremini? ...oh, mushrooms?"

I thumbs up-ed his guess, "can't have mushroom bourguignon without mushrooms."

"Ail...oil?"

"Comes in cloves."

"Garlic."

"Très bien!"

We continued to play our little game until our cheeks were both pink from laughing at his absurd guesses, items that would never be included in a food dish to begin with, and we pulled up in front of the store. I felt the tiniest bit awkward, doing something mundane like grocery shopping with him, but he didn't seem to have any issues and fell into step beside me, grabbing this and that, holding up one in each hand when he had options and waiting for my instruction.

"Why are there so many different kinds of mushrooms, good god..." he surveyed the baskets brimming with soft caps and dried, shriveled slices.

"Different flavors, different uses, you can eat those raw," I pointed, "those are best fresh, but you can just rehydrate these and get basically the same flavor, so they keep longer."

He looked sideways at me with a curious expression.

"Don't worry, we'll make a domestic housewife out of you, yet," I giggled, pointing to the right kind of mushroom and holding up the basket for him to drop the little carton in.

We finished up our shopping, continuing a version of our game where I would point to something and tell him the French name and he'd tell me the Swedish equivalent, always having to say it at least twice and sometimes spell it out for me as I giggled.  It was fascinating to learn how many words were similar, and how many were quite different.

I pointed to one last item before we left, and he looked over my shoulder as he scooped up bags.

"Tuggummi."

"Tu-what?"

"Tuggummi," he said again, slower.

"Bless you," I giggled as we threw the bags into the back seat and he coughed a laugh.

"Why what is it in French?"

I put my hand on the back of his seat and leaned over to kiss his cheek before backing out of the parking spot and looked at him with a little shrug, "...bubble gum."

The bar we sought was only a few blocks away, and I whipped into the parking spot.

"What do you want?" I asked over the loud music, searching for the tall, fair-haired bartender.

"Surprise me," he said, pressing a quick kiss to my fingers before turning to find us a place to sit, or even just somewhere we could squeeze in together between the hordes of people.

I found Gabriel and managed to squeeze up to the bar, giving him a friendly wave when he caught sight of me and did a double take.

"Hey, Miss Triste, you're still here!"

He'd called me Miss Triste from the moment we met, though we were nearly the same age I guessed, him being maybe one or two years younger than myself.

"I'm still here," I confirmed, "I just wanted to stop by and say thank you again. We had a lot of success this weekend and I owe you about a million favors for it."

"I heard you got a little more than you bargained for," he grinned at me, leaning his elbows against the bar like he was waiting for a story, and I chewed my lip with a little shrug and a shy smile.

Somehow, in the wake of everything else happened, it kept slipping my mind that I'd gotten Cirice'd.

Ihy...that little devil.

"So what'll it be, Miss Triste?"

"Uhm, can I have a Ward Eight and a Rosita please?"

"Is May with you?"

"No...different friend," I mumbled, suddenly not sure if he knew who Tim was and not sure if I should tell him anything that would open up the can of questions.

He slid both drinks my way, and I tipped him a little extra with a wink and another thank you before heading off to find wherever Tim had decided to perch.

I wandered around for a moment trying to spot him, looking for neon sunglasses in long brown hair as I took a sip of his drink after trying mine, trying to figure out who was going to get which one.

The ward eight was stronger and I claimed it for myself.  Plus the image of Tim sipping pretty tequila drinks made me giggle and I suddenly wished I had asked Gabriel for a tiny umbrella to perch on the side.

When I finally pushed through the crowd and found him he was talking to a woman who I thought looked near our age and was standing rather close to him. Her hair was short and an unnatural shade of yellowish-blonde, curled into tight ringlets that stopped at different lengths above her shoulders rather fashionably.

She leaned one elbow against the bar in a way that made her opposite hip cock out to the side. At first I thought he knew her, or wanted to know her at the very least, but when I caught a glimpse of his face, Tim looked beyond uncomfortable.

I grabbed a place at the bar close to the other side of her, listening to their conversation with a smug look on my face, and smirking at him over her shoulder as I sipped my drink, then took another sip of his.

"I just looove your music," she drawled on, oblivious to how uncomfortable she was making him. To his credit though, he smiled and nodded and thanked her in a gracious way like he always did, but every time he shifted back on his stool, she stepped forward a little, until he had no more room to escape, and he just glared at me over her shoulder.

She turned and propped both her elbows back onto the bar, facing the room and leaning back so her breasts were accentuated, nearly exposed to the entire room.

"So...are you here alone then?" the hopeful tone in her voice was rather obvious.

I covered my mouth, pretending to wipe it with a napkin, but really just needing something to stifle the uncontrollable fit of laughter that threatened to exposed me as I used every fiber of self control I possessed, staring hard at the ceiling for several moments and shaking.

Tim's cheeks turned pink and he shot me a pleading look when I finally glanced back over and our eyes met just over the swells of her breasts.

Absolutely nothing about the entire situation could have been more comical.

"Uhm, well--"

Finally I took some pity on him, feigning surprise, "Tim?! Is that you?!" I picked up both drinks and moved around to wedge myself between them.

I acted as if I hadn't seen her at first as I set the glasses on the bar and turned my back to her for a moment, winking quickly at him so he'd follow my lead.

"Ahem... Excuse me... Excuse me," she said a little louder, tapping me on the shoulder and I turned to her finally.

"Yes?"

"We were kinda in the middle of something when you just butted in..."

"I don't think he's interested."

"Well, why don't you let him decide that for himself?"

I was surprised at how irritated I got just by her insistence and I cocked an eyebrow at her, knowing what I was about to do was dickish at best but deciding to do it anyways.

"Okay...well I'll let you two get back to it then."

"Triste," he warned, as I made to grab my drink and depart. 

"Sorry, what was that?" I looked back at him, giving him the best 'come and get me' look I had.

He immediately pulled me closer, both hands around my waist as he shifted slightly so we were perpendicular to her and he made me step closer until I was standing between his legs, having forgotten all about the other woman entirely five seconds ago.

Clear frustration broke out across her store-bought tan features, and I relished her immediate dislike of me as I cocked my head a little to the side and gave her the iciest stare I could muster, aware that I was being a jerk, but feeling too good to stop. 

"I don't think he's interested," I said again, looking at her for another moment until I felt Tim's hands creep up the sides of my legs, drawing my gaze, and I watched his eyes widen as he drew in a sharp breath and his pupils exploded at the look on my face.

He was about to respond with something snarky but I dipped my head and pressed my lips to his, making an unnecessary show of kissing him as my fingers slid back over his cheeks into his hair, curling around the chestnut locks and mentally dying from the softness.

Tim reciprocated immediately, moaning lowly into my lips and I gasped as his hands gripped my waist hard and one slid down over my ass, pushing his luck, but going just far enough that I allowed it as I pressed further into him, standing between his legs but leaning heavily into him and inhaling the smell of tobacco and the salty beach air that clung to his clothes.

I was going to break away right there and make idle dull conversation until our companion got the message if she hadn't already after being told twice, but his tongue teased at my lips and I found myself readily opening them to him instead, wanting to taste his kiss, wanting to know what his tongue felt like sliding against mine.

I used my grip on his hair to angle his face back just a little so I could top and his facial hair brushed against my skin as his mouth opened and he kissed me again, tasting faintly smoky like cigarettes, but also indescribably sweet.

Everything inside me was on fire and all my muscles clenched each time I felt his tongue swirling against mine. Every time he groaned in pleasure into my lips and pulled me closer, squeezing my hips with his knees to keep me right where I was between them, I felt another delicious surge of wetness between my legs.

For all that Johannes knew exactly what to do with that long, dexterous tongue, and Henrik's lips were like a dream come true, I'd never been kissed this way before...

I liked to think that I was a good, practiced balance of lips and tongue and teeth, but I was a shot in the dark compared to Tim. He devoured my mouth, taking what he wanted, but in return delivered searing torrents of pleasure that surged through my body, making all the right sounds and nipping at my lips in exactly the right way, making me feel like I was on fire even as I was almost dripping wet already, and we both knew it.

I wasn't even aware of the other woman anymore, I was too enraptured in the sighs and little noises that Tim seemed to draw from my very soul as his tongue passed my lips and he deepened our kiss again, the hand on my ass now dipping into my back pocket and squeezing, pulling me harder against him, groaning as I pulled his hair reflexively.

I thought it might take an act of the gods to stop us right then, but it turns out it only took one disgruntled blonde, knocking into me as she stormed by us, muttering something like "get a room", and I finally broke our kiss, pressing my forehead to his and gasping for air as I collapsed into him and he leaned back against the bar, gathering me against his body.

His hand moved over my ass and pulled my legs up until I was firmly seated in his lap, my side pressed to his chest as my arm crooked around his neck.

"Good.god.damn.woman." he breathed, still tilting his head down towards me, seeking more of the softness of my lips.

His index finger turned my face so he could look at me with pupils so blown out, there was hardly any visible iris left.

He licked his lips, tasting our kiss again, trying to breathe.

"Hey, a little thanks are in order, mister! I just saved you from an encounter that would have ended with you naked tied to a bed somewhere in Dollywood," I laughed, still trying to recover, my brain whirling away with a million half-coherent thoughts, most of them involving curiosity as to what his mustache would feel like brushing down my bare skin, over my nipples, between my legs...

We were silent for a moment, just breathing and electrically aware of each other as he shifted me on his lap to look at him more fully.

Tim kept his eyes on mine and pressed his lips to my own softly, carefully, as my legs dangled above the floor, and he let them linger near my mouth as he whispered into my skin, lightly nudging me with his nose.

"Triste..." he said my name softly and in a tone that made me crumble a little further into him.

He felt my reaction and his lips twisted at the corner, not a full smile, but a cocky smirk, "are you listening to me carefully Triste?"

I shivered hard but nodded.

"Good girl. Because if you ever pull my hair like that again... I don't care who we're with. I don't care where we are. I will tear your clothes off, I will throw you against the closest wall, and I will fuck you until you forget what your name is, and that anyone else in the world exists that isn't me."

PULL IT AGAIN. PULL IT AGAIN. PULL IT AGAIN.

I was floored, and stammered a few incoherent syllables so the moan behind my lips wouldn't escape, "I...wh-...but you...she...I..."

He stood up, his arm hooked around my waist so I wouldn't fall as I slid off his lap, and he looked down at me, shifting me as my feet hit the floor so I could feel his erection pressed into my hip.

There was passion in his eyes that I felt pulled towards, but I realized it wasn't me moving. His eyes were getting closer and closer, no longer looking into mine, but settling at my lips. They closed and I felt his mustache brushing my mouth as he kissed me again and I sank into it, pressing my hands to his chest so they wouldn't reflexively tangle into his hair and finally moaning quietly into his caress.

A low growl in response vibrated through me and into the floor, like I was the lightening rod and he was the lightening as his hands closed around my waist, gripping tightly and pulling me in.

I was almost desperate for more, but the last non-sex-crazed vestige of my highly-evolved brain at that moment yelled at me loudly enough that I remembered we were in public, and if she had recognized him, others would too.

He pulled back with one more soft brush of his mouth to my cheek and his eyes were dilated once more when they met mine.

We stared at each other for a moment, wondering what we were supposed to do, neither of us making heads or tails of our situation now.

"Finish your drink, Triste," he said finally, maneuvering me to sit on the bar stool next to his before he sat down again.

I was still speechless, and did as I was told without any backtalk for once.

My cocktail sat sweating on the bar and I looked at it sympathetically before picking it up and pressing it to my forehead for a moment, feeling grounded by the frigid condensation as Tim watched with an appreciative eye.

"And just so you know," he said, reaching over to brush the backs of his fingers down my arm and humming when I shivered a little, "being tied up isn't my thing."

I nearly choked and my head turned slowly, the tiny straw still between my lips, frozen for a moment.

" 'Not your thing' as in its someone else's?"

"I'll never tell," he laughed, taking a big drink from his glass.

"Oh come on! Who is it? You know I'll find out, I'm nosy as hell! Is it John? I bet its John, its always the quiet ones that love that stuff. I'll ask, you know I will!"

He grinned, "you let me know when you do find out, I'd love to see the surprise on your face."

"You can't tell me something like that and then not reveal who it is. Come on, everyone has kinks!"

"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," he growled, and I realized he wasn't joking.

"You already showed yours, Tim, you don't have any cards left to play," I smirked after a moment, and he laughed at me.

"The cards I hold are that I know everyone else's kinks and you don't."

"Ugh, fair," I buried my face in my glass again, blaming the flush in my cheeks on the alcohol as it warmed me from the inside out and the ice in my glass rattled as I emptied it, lost in a sudden deluge of images of the boys with their arms and legs tied up in my bed back home.

My legs squeezed tighter together and I sputtered a little as the ice hit my nose.

"Another?" Gabriel asked, reaching for my Collins glass when I set it down on the bar.

"Please."

He disappeared down the bar, returning a minute later with a fresh drink, taking Tim's empty for a refill as well. I moved to pay him and he waved a hand.

"On the house, Miss Triste. Honestly, that girl's been a thorn in my side for the last month, hanging around like that all the time annoying people, so I applaud your clever ruse. Drink up my friends."

I grinned at him before grabbing Tim's hand on the bar next to me dramatically and slapping it down on my knee.

"How do you know its a ruse? Maybe we're madly in love!"

Tim scoffed and Gabriel laughed loudly, neither of which I appreciated as Tim patted my knee twice and removed his hand.

"Look Miss Triste, I know a first real kiss when I see it, and I dare say that one was good enough to almost make me blush."

He winked companionably as I snorted a laugh and he paused to look at Tim, letting his eyes linger on those beautiful lips.

"You sure you're not gay?"

"Last I checked."

A gorgeous, I was sure thoroughly-seasoned smirk crossed Gabriel's lips, "shame. Call me if you ever see the light."

He turned with one last smile for us both and I couldn't help the small laugh that lifted my heart.

I took a sip and blinked hard at the amount of bourbon in my drink.

"Do people ask you that a lot?"

"What?"

"If you're gay."

He cocked his head to the side and stared at me with one eye a little more narrowed than the other, "not that I can recall...why?"

"No reason," I giggled into my drink, thinking of what Matty would say if he could see what had just happened. 

"Where the hell did you learn how to kiss like that?" I asked, swiveling to face Tim as I absentmindedly chewed on the end of my straw.

He glanced at me out of the corner of his eye before turning to face me fully again, looking down the lengths of my crossed legs and reaching one finger out to brush up the very front of my shin.

"Lots of...practice," he said lowly, as his tongue darted out of his mouth to catch a stray drop down the side of his glass, and I nearly fell out of my chair when his eyes met mine while he did it.

--

We climbed back into my Jeep and I took my time rolling all the windows down and opening the sunroof.

"Dollywood," he muttered with a laugh as he pulled his seat belt across his lap and reached over to take my hand, lacing our fingers together.

He pulled my knuckles up and brushed his lips against them with a smile, leaning his head to the opposite side and enjoying his buzz.

"I need that hand to drive you know."

Tim rolled his head back against the seat and shook it back and forth as his eyes closed, "mine for the drive home. Call it your penance, priestess," he laughed and continued to hold onto it, using his opposite hand to trace circles over my knuckles.

I pulled the tangled mess of fingers over towards the gear shift, and rested it on top.

"You can help then," I giggled, "or we can't get home."

He waved a hand and kept his eyes closed, taking a deep breath of the evening air before fishing in his pocked for a lighter and placing a cigarette between his lips, "thats probably something we should do. Best get you back to Johannes before I make you pull over so I can drag you into the back seat and ravage you."

I scoffed, the wind blowing my hair around my shoulders as I pulled up to the intersection to get back onto the main road and checked for oncoming traffic, shifting gears with his hand over top of mine. 

I realized I didn't say no as Tim looked over at me with both eyebrows raised, but I pulled my hand away and cranked the volume on the stereo so he couldn't say anything more about it.

His lips moved to form the word 'penance' one more time as he took my hand again, brushing his lips over my fingers.

I wanted to tell him you needed to repent for your sins first in order to have to do penance, but I figured my mouth had already gotten me into enough trouble for one vacation.

Chapter Text

I pulled into the parking spot outside the house and killed the engine, rolling the windows up and glancing over at Tim with a smile as the silence became almost deafening after a few moments.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly, chewing nervously at his lip, concerned that he'd crossed a line with me at the bar. It wasn't that he'd meant to, he just couldn't help himself - not after I'd spend an hour sleeping peacefully in his lap then having the whole afternoon out laughing and smiling so sweetly at him...

"I'm okay," I said, reaching for his hand, "are you?"

"Better than okay," he breathed a sigh of relief, pressing one more kiss to my knuckles and letting his eyes sear into mine, just holding me there, pinned under his stare, hoping I was intuiting from it everything he wanted me to know that was going on inside his head.

I finally sucked in a shaky breath, making a joke to break the silence, "you really aren't going to tell me who likes to be tied up, are you?"

Tim snorted a laugh, the moment thoroughly ruined now, and shook his head as he opened the passenger side door.

"Fine. I bet Henrik will tell me."

"Oh, I highly doubt that babygirl," he chuckled, gathering bags from the backseat and motioning for me to go upstairs first, making a teasing comment about how he hated to see me go.

May was in Jonas' lap, more or less where we'd left her before out on the deck, but the way her hips rocked forwards against his and he gasped quietly into her lips as his hands gripped her waist gave us both some indication as to what was happening under the material of her sundress.

"Do you think they ever sleep?" Tim groaned, nudging me to step inside when my feet froze.

"Doesn't seem like it," Henrik answered for me, taking the bag from my hand and pressing a soft kiss to my lips with a smile before laying out our purchases on the counter.

"She didn't rope you into cooking so she could get laid did she?"

"Me? No, I'm planning on being far too drunk to help cook," he chuckled, "although," he glanced out the door "if they don't hurry it up, I imagine I will be the one making dinner. And then you're all shit out of luck."

"Because you're such an awful cook, right?" I rolled my eyes and went to find Johannes, who was curled up into the corner of the couch, his long legs hanging off the back as he flipped the page in his book.

"Hiya," I curled a leg underneath me, as I sat next to him and pulled his legs down over my lap, "what are you reading?"

He shifted so there was enough room next to him for me to snuggle up into the crook is his shoulder and I nuzzled his cheek with my nose.

"Poems."

"Poems about what?"

"Pretty girls by the sea," he smiled, tilting his head over to lay a kiss to my lips. I sighed softly, threading my fingers into his hair and pulling him back when he broke away.

"Mmm, hey baby," he smiled, kissing me over and over again, just letting his lips brush mine, "how was your outing?"

"It was fun, I learned how to say bubble gum in Swedish," I grinned, "but I can't remember how to say it."

Johannes chuckled softly, shifting so we were pressed together and I was sandwiched between his body and the back of the couch; he laid the open book face down on my hip to keep his place before cupping the side of my face and drowning me in his kiss.

"Tuggummi," he murmured into my lips.

"Bless you," I giggled at the reprisal of my own stupid joke and he shook his head with an eye roll, smiling down at me like I was the cutest thing he'd ever seen.

"Silly girl," he whispered with another kiss, and we were interrupted by a wet-nosed four-legged intruder, who butted his head into Johannes' back with a dramatic whine, making him quickly roll over with an exasperated huff.

"Fine, come on then," he nodded his head to the side and shifted so that I was still laying against the back of the couch, and Khufu was up and in a second curled into a ball at the other end as Johannes again draped his legs over the high back.

"This things gonna collapse," I laughed, feeling squished but not complaining about it.

"One can only hope since such good things seem to happen with you and me on the floor," he growled playfully, nipping at my bottom lip before slipping his tongue between my them and thoroughly making me melt.

"Will you read one of the poems to me?" I breathed into his kiss, running my fingers over his lips softly as they curved into a smile and he nodded, picking up the book where he'd left off and laying his cheek against my forehead.

The poems were all in Swedish, and I didn't have enough sense of the language to intuit any meaning whatsoever, but I fell madly in love with the sound of his voice drifting over my skin, the words soft and barely more than a breath sometimes.

When there was no inherent value associated with sounds as words, I felt that I could appreciate each sound more - the way his lips formed them, how fluid one was into the next, the soft rhythm that they had.

I drifted in and out, checking back into reality every minute or so, pressing closer to the warm body that was holding me tight.

"Triste," he finally murmured, tipping my face up and guiding my mouth over to meet his, shifting his legs off the back of the couch and carelessly booting Khufu off the end so he could comfortably stretch out and wrap me in his arms as he kissed me deeply.

"I can't believe you're real," he murmured into my lips, dancing his tongue along mine, "you're so perfect..."

"I can't believe you didn't run screaming for the hills," I laughed softly.

"Never," he gathered me into his side again and we stayed that way for several more minutes, his fingers tracing the outline of my hand, before lacing ours together.

He wore a ring on the index finger of his left hand, it was simple and black, matte in the middle and polished at the outsides. I'd noticed it before, but I pulled it off his finger to look closely at it, silently appreciating the craftsmanship before slipping it back onto his finger and leaning up to kiss him.

"Come on, I'm gonna help May with dinner."

"Stay here with me," he whispered, pulling me on top of him and yanking me down into a deep kiss, "let me show you how much I don't want to run screaming for the hills."

His laugh vibrated through his body and I giggled at the sensation of it passing up into me.

"You're the best," I smiled, feeling the other words pulling at my lips but keeping them back.

He took a deep breath, lifting me on his chest in the process, and grabbing at me when I squirmed away, making my break for the kitchen.

The aromas drifting from the stove were heavenly, and May was staring down into a pan, waiting patiently for something while she chattered with Henrik, whose face lit up with a smile when he caught sight of me leaning against the doorway watching.

"I thought you were going to be too drunk to help," I teased as he gathered me into his arms and spun us around the kitchen, narrowly missing May's wooden spoon.

"Non! You will mess me up!" She called, but we weren't listening.

"I'm working on it," he laughed, pressing a little kiss to my cheek and lingering like he wanted more.

"Hmm," I hummed, "well I think we should all go watch the sun set."

"Will it make you happy?" he asked softly, running a hand back over my hair and looking down at me like I was the only thing that mattered.

"Yes," I breathed, stretching up to softly kiss his lips.

"Then out, shoo shoo," May waved her hands, sending Henrik backtracking like he was cowering from her, and they both disappeared with a laugh out the door until it was just me in the whole house.

I leaned back against the counter, silently closing my eyes, reaching out to my goddess.

*Mother, I don't think 'thank you' is enough. It will never be enough. I am blessed beyond words to be your servant, and I hope you will keep me so for all eternity...*

John watched through the glass door as I kept my eyes closed and wove a little bouquet of blue lotus flowers and papyrus fans, kissing them before laying them on the counter and opening my eyes with a soft smile.

He was gone before I ever knew he'd been there, leaning back against the side of the house with a hand pressed against his thundering heart, his brain trying to rationalize something it couldn't.

I poured myself a glass of wine and headed out onto the deck, glancing up at the clouds, painted a watercolor array of pinks and blues, fiery oranges and purples.

--

We ate dinner out on the deck like we had the first night, everyone taking turns teasing May about what a great vegan cook she made, to which she took great offense.

"You need beurre!" she said indignantly, "you can't live off of les plantes!"

"Hey, I live off plants, missy," Jonas said, laughing.

"Me too!" Henrik added, pinching her side.

"Whats wrong with living off plants?" John chimed in her ear.

"Maybe you should try it some time," Johannes murmured in her other.

She looked at me to rescue her and I bit my lip trying to stifle my grin as a perfect, green crown of leaves suddenly appeared an inch above her head before dropping atop her lilac hair.

"Traîtresse!" she howled at me, though she was laughing so hard she could barely get the word out as she pulled the crown off and hurtled it at me playfully, chasing me inside when I got to my feet and dashed through the door.

--

Hours later we were all sitting in the living room, drinking and talking idly, multiple conversations happening at once, when the lights flickered and everyone paused.

All of our eyes turned towards the ceiling lights and the lamps as they dimmed significantly, then died, and we were cast into pitch blackness as the power went out.

"Fuse?" I asked out loud, and John got up to investigate as he started up the flashlight app on his phone, being the handiest one out of all of us.

He glanced out the window and shook his head, remembering after a moment that we couldn't see him.

“I don’t think so, the powers out all the way down the beach it looks like.”

I felt a pair of hands tightening around me almost immediately and Johannes took advantage of the darkness to curl his arm around my neck, tipping my chin up and guiding my mouth to meet his.

We'd kissed in front of everyone before, but there was just something intimate and different about doing it in the dark. He kissed me heartily, tasting the wine on my lips and pressing his hand to my cheek as I leaned in closer to his body and he palmed my breast through my shirt, stealing a touch and making me gasp as I playfully swatted him away.

"Triste..." he whispered, but I wiggled out of his grasp, laughing when I realized that I would finally get to see the stars as they were meant to be once more.

"Wait, babe where are you going?"

"I'll be back!" I called as I stood and bolted for the door, laughing gaily and reveling in the crisp air when it hit my lungs.

The night wrapped her arms around me as I flew down the steps, guided only by moonlight, and took off down the beach, running and flipping cartwheels over the sand.

"Khufu!" I yelled, calling for the dog to join me, and was answered by a loud bark and an "ouch!" as he stepped on someone in his haste to follow me outside.

I ran down the beach, unconcerned about tripping over anything or getting lost. I was finally flying, enveloped in the night and the wine and the friendships I'd made.

Tomorrow didn't matter. Parting didn't matter. Nothing could touch me when I was under the stars.

I collapsed into the sand and stared at the night sky, calling out to my goddess aloud.

"Mother! Oh, mother, how can I possibly express my gratitude? My heart is so full. He's beyond wonderful, my goddess, my queen! They all are. So thoughtful, and kind, and passionate."

*Your pleasure gives me great happiness, my daughter. You've spoken well of me to them*

I arched off the sand, everything about the grains against my skin and in my hair feeling erotic in my current state, and tears of beautiful delight slid down my cheeks.

"I will love you until time itself ends. And I will always be thankful for the gifts which you have bestowed upon me, and I will do anything you ask, Mother."

*Don't forget that, little Masika, for I shall not...*

I nodded, but remained silent, wondering if she'd spoken to May as well while we were here.

My head got lost in the beauty of the stars, unadulterated by man's artificial light.

The universe was so much bigger than anyone realized when the lights went out completely, and the wine haze wrapped me in a soft cloud, making me feel like I could reach up a hand and slide the stars around in the sky, rearranging them to my heart's content.

I tentatively reached up a hand to try, giggling when nothing happened and letting it fall back down to my side.

I sensed his energy before I could see him, the feel of it becoming more familiar the longer I spent near him. And after that kiss this afternoon, I figured I'd be able to feel him from quite a distance if I tried hard enough.

I laid absolutely still, waiting for him to come to me, like an angler watching her intended catch.

He was finally within reach and I bolted upright from the sand, grabbing his hand and giggling as he startled and gasped loudly.

"JESUS CHRIST, TRISTE," he yelled, pressing a hand to his heart as I pulled him down into the sand with me.

"Gotcha!" I laughed, laying back down flat and staring up at the stars as I buried my toes into the cool sand, "aren't they wonderful, Tim? Just look at all of them. So far away that some of them are dead by now, but their light is still traveling to reach us."

"So beautiful," he murmured, but wasn't looking at the sky. The moonlight illuminated my skin, casting shadows down the beach in relief behind my legs and my breasts as I laughed softly.

He leaned up on one elbow and put a hand on my hip to get my attention. His face was hidden in shadow when I turned to him, my eyes shining with happiness and an intense sense of wholeness.

"You're radiant when you smile that way, love. Like the sun," he said softly, leaning down to kiss me and pressing his hand a little harder into my skin.

I hummed quietly into his kiss, loving the way his lips moved against mine and the deep affection he held for me that I was beginning to think perfectly matched my own for him.

We both wanted to give in to the night air and the wine, to the physical sensation and emotional connection, but we didn't.

He just laid there, halfway over top of me, brushing his lips against mine over and over again, feeling like he'd never be able to get enough of me and desiring more every time the sound of our kiss breaking drifted up to his ears.

Finally, he lightly nipped at my bottom lip, asking permission to taste me again.

But it didn't come.

"Tim, you have to stop," I finally gasped with a deep sigh.

"Why? I don't want to stop, I want to kiss you forever," he murmured, pressing one last kiss to my cheek before pulling back and looking down at me.

"Because..." I chewed my lip, "because our time isn't right now.."

I had no idea why I'd said it, or what the hell it meant, but I was beginning to think that the words weren't of my own devising as my energy roiled under my skin.

He rolled onto his back and I reached for his hand next to me, the both of us just staring up into the sky.

"I'm sorry," he said softly several minutes later, and I looked over at him.

"For what?"

"For kissing you like that today at the bar. It was inappropriate and I just lost my head a little bit I think. I know you're with Johannes, and I don't want to mess that up because I've never seen him this way with anyone before, Triste...he's--he's so happy with you."

I smiled softly as he turned his face to the side to look at me, the moonlight shining on our cheeks and casting half our faces into shadow.

"Don't apologize. I like kissing you. I love your passion for everything. Its why I'm so attracted to your music, I think. You've got this wonderful gift that I've never seen in anyone else before, and watching you play," I took a deep breath, shaking my head and trying to find the words, "its a privilege, Tim..."

"That's...thank you." His mouth formed the words as his brain stalled.

"I'm happy with Johannes, too. I'm happy with all of you. But--..."

"But what?"

But I want you so fucking badly.

"Nothing, nevermind."

He cocked one eyebrow at me as he raised a cigarette to his lips and lit it, handing it over to me after a moment.

I took a pull off of it, immediately gasping and sputtering on the smoke.

"Not a cigarette," I coughed, "a little warning would be nice next time."

"My bad," he said innocently, and I nudged him in the ribs and I took a second hit, prepared this time.

"Mmm..."

"You know...you're a really bad liar," he said, leaning up on one elbow over me again and grinning as he pocketed his lighter then laid back down, accepting the joint back from me.

I feigned offense, "I'll have you know that that was an Oscar-worthy performance I put on at the bar today! I even got us free drinks!"

He laughed loudly into the night, "Sorry to break it to you babe, but shoving your tongue down someone's throat isn't lying, you're not disproving my point."

"Come on! We were brilliant! That crazy girl totally believed we were about to fuck right on that bar!"

"Well, to be fair," he rolled over again and was suddenly looming over me.

My head swirled with the high and the saline breeze that whispering across my limbs.

"I believed it too for a minute," he whispered, pressing the paper back between my lips and watching me with darkened eyes.

I held the smoke between my lips as he flicked the roach without looking away from me, then leaned down to my lips.

The fragrant smoke swirled from them, gently parted, and his mouth brushed mine as he inhaled it between his lips, holding it for a moment as we looked at each other.

One of my hands brushed over his hair, wanting so badly to have him and experience his passion on a physical level, but a reminder zinged through my brain -- now is not our time.

I leaned up to kiss him one time, gently brushing my tongue over his lips before breaking away and laying back into the sand.

"You're too much for me sometimes, Tim. Honestly," I giggled, feeling drunk and aroused and happy.

"Join the fucking club," he laughed with me, lighting something else and handing it to me.

I paused.

"Its a cigarette this time, I promise," he said with a smile, sensing my hesitation even though his eyes were closed.

I blew a raspberry at him and accepted it, pressing the filter between my lips.

"You know these things are going to kill us, right?"

He grinned at me, "oh for sure. Smoking is bad, and we're very very dumb to do so. Now give that back," he said with a laugh, "you're disrupting my crippling addiction."

We smoked in silence, reveling in the body high and the obscene sense of happiness that had permeated our existences.

"Tim?"

"Mmhm," he answered, his hands folded across his stomach and his ankles crossed.

"I'm glad you're my friend."

He peeked over at me, cracking one eye, "me too, priestess...me too."

"You don't have to call me that, you know, its not really an accepted title anymore."

"I know, but as nicknames go, its not bad. A lot better than some of mine."

I snickered, remembering one particular interview I'd watched with him and Jonas.

"Mmmmmhm."

"I know exactly what you're thinking, Triste. And if you say it out loud, I will pick you up and throw you into the ocean right now."

I grinned over at him, watching his mustache twitch as he smiled, but he kept his eyes closed.

"Please don't do that. I think I'm too drunk to swim right now," I chuckled.

"Pffft, please, woman, you swim like a mermaid. May said so herself. You'd be fine."

I snorted a laugh, looking up at the fullness of the moon. It seemed to almost glow of its own accord it was so bright.

"Can...can I ask you a couple questions? About you."

"What about me?"

"I mean, about you you..."

"Oh. Sure," I said, a little surprised, "what did you have in mind?"

"Well...can you remember everything? Is every lifetime back to back? Like do you remember dying?"

I sat up and looked down at him with two eyebrows raised as I crossed my legs under me.

"Are you serious?"

Tim looked up at me and paused, "I'm sorry if that was...I didn't mean to offend you."

"No no, honey you didn't, I'm just surprised is all. I expected like 'have you ever been famous', 'how were the pyramids built’, which by the way was LONG before me."

He stayed silent, waiting for me to finish.

"Uhm...ohh, hold on one second." I sighed as I inhaled deeply when the breeze picked up, bringing not only the smell of the ocean, but the flowering trees from further upwind.

The wind stirred both of our hair, and he pressed one hand to his chest, feeling like the breath was knocked from his lungs when he watched my silver tresses blow across my face as my eyes closed in soft sensory pleasure.

Triste.
Baby, I want you.
I need you.
You're beyond my wildest dream of what any woman could be like.

"Mmm, sorry," I smiled softly down at him as I apologized.

He could only shake his head, still laying in the sand and wishing desperately that I was on top of him, kissing him the way he needed me to, touching him, pressing closer.

"Anyways," I said, pausing when he held out his arms.

"Please. Just one minute," he asked softly, "I just want to feel you here for a moment."

I considered the fact that there was no 'just for a moment' with me and Tim, and I leaned down to press a slow kiss to his lips, savoring the taste of him and how he felt perfectly satisfying in my current state -- the wild to my calm, the intense to my mellow.

"Mmm, you know, you never told me what exactly 'practice' for this ensued," I said, getting lost in the softness of his lips and the coarse brush of his mustache as I pressed my mouth back down against his, finally just giving in and opening my lips to him.

He gasped as my tongue slid against his, and his hands immediately sank into my hair, moving with me as I shifted my legs between his and leaned down on top of him, pressing close to his chest.

I lost track of time, until he finally broke away, but didn't stop holding me close.

"I can't tell you but god, I want to show you, Triste," he whispered into my lips, hands tracing the lines of my waist then dropping to brush his fingertips up each side of my leg.

I softly kissed him one more time, letting every thought I had about the matter show plainly in my eyes for him to read.

"But our time isn't right now..." he repeated, his voice barely audible above the waves, and I nodded, shifting off of him, though it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

"There's a reason for it, Tim. I'll be fucked if I know what it is," I sighed, "but Shes always got a reason."

He nodded, accepting my decision, "that's good enough for me..."

Tim pulled me back down against his side and I laid my head on his shoulder.

"Just stay with me like this then, sweetheart, I promise I'll behave," he smiled into my hair as I leaned down and buried my face in his shoulder and settled into his side, lacing my fingers with his across his stomach.

His breathing was even, his chest moving up and down with each inhale and exhale, and I tried to focus on the rhythm of it as I gathered my thoughts.

"I come back at Her pleasure, Tim, so it...its not an exact science, or whatever. When I die its, I assume, like everyone else in that it isn't the same thing every time. I've seen what people talk about with the white light, and I've stared into an abyss that was just...depthless, formless dark. Its always a little different. But usually, when I come back, its within a couple decades, if not immediate."

I raised my head to look up at him, checking if what I was saying was too much for his psyche to handle.

"Don't stop, I'm okay," he whispered, giving my hand a little squeeze.

"Right. Are you sure?"

He kissed my forehead briefly when I laid back down on his chest and his arm that was around me shifted a little so he could brush his fingers through my hair.

"Mmm. That feels so good, I love when people play with my hair...Okay. Its a little bit complicated, I guess, so just stop me if you have questions. We have a High Priestess, Na'eemah, who oversees all of us and tells us what to do, and...gods Tim I wish you could meet her. She's just the fucking best," I tried not to think of her fierce an unexpected anger when May and I had refused her request that was unreasonable in the first place.

"Na...one more time?"

"Na-ee-mah" I repeated, and he mimicked my pronunciation.

"She was our high priestess when our temple was...well, when everything shifted, and now that we're in this circle of death and rebirth, she has stayed in that role. And now, she's like our shepherd I guess. We usually manifest in someone who is about 16 or 17, near sexual maturity--"

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why that age? Why not like younger kids or adults?"

"Oh...well...its the right age for us because then you're usually able to understand sex but in theory haven't experienced an awful lot of it yet. You're typically finished going through puberty too. And when we would uhm commune with the divine, when we were still in the temple. We would use...well we used sex," I murmured.

He stiffened a little and I could almost hear the questions bouncing around his brain.

"I-its more about the endorphins and the state of mind that we enter with them flooding our systems. So sex is kind of a tool...means, if you will, not really the end in itself. But it kind of flips a switch in our brains and...fuck, I can't believe I'm telling you this."

"Well you have to now, I'm beyond curious," he growled playfully into my ear.

"Ugh, look, I'm not celibate, okay? But I do have to be...careful, I guess, because once its triggered, my sex drive is a lot higher than most normal people."

We were both silent for a little while, and I felt my blush creeping up to the tips of my ears as the body next to me started shaking with silent laughter that after a moment escaped his lips and sounded into the darkness around us.

"Is it wrong that I'm getting incredibly turned on by all of this?" Tim laughed, the sound rumbling under my cheek and making me smile.

"Well I'm glad, because you're the first person I've ever told this stuff to, and I really didn't know what to expect."

I turned onto my stomach and looked at him as he raised his head and pushed the hood off his hair.

"You didn't tell Johannes?"

I shrugged a little, "he didn't ask. So somehow my brain thinks that instead, I should tell you, a perfect stranger, all about my sex life and the wiring of my brain."

He played like he was horribly offended, "a stranger?! Didn't we talk about this already? Our first kiss, maybe. But definitely not now."

I giggled and pressed my lips up to his, moaning teasingly into his touch before pulling back.

"You basically are still a stranger."

"I am not!"

"Tim, whats my middle name?"

At that moment, we heard someone holler both our names from the deck, as the lights flickered back on all around us, and he was saved.

My forehead fell into his shoulder and I shook it back and forth for a moment before I pulled back and stood, pushing myself off the sand and reaching down to brush it off my bare legs.

"Its Triste, by the way," I smiled.

Jonas whistled for Khufu from the deck, and a sandy mass of fur darted forward from the darkness, racing by us with the speed of the wind.

I hauled Tim up and put an arm around his waist to steady him when he didn't quite catch his balance at first. He turned to me and the darkness hid most of his expression, but nothing hid the laughter in his voice.

"Your parents named you Triste Triste?"

I snorted a laugh and grinned up at him, rolling my eyes.

"No, my middle name is Triste. My first name is Katherine. Or Katrine if you're May and your mouth refuses to pronounce the 'h'."

"Katherine," he said it softly, feeling the way I shivered and wanting more.

"Oh...again," I whispered, leaning into his chest.

"Katherine," he whispered, tilting my face up with his hand until his mouth could brush mine and his tongue slid briefly between my lips, making me melt.

"Where have you been all this time, priestess..." his fingers gently brushed through my hair, starting at the roots and working down to the ends, letting his hand rest at my lower back.

I wrapped my arms around his waist as he pulled his jacket around towards the back of my shoulders, enveloping us both in his warmth and scent.

"I don't want tomorrow to come," I mumbled into his t shirt.

"Then I'll stop time," he smiled into my hair.

--

He held my hand as we made our way back to the house and I answered his questions, which only made him think of more.

"No, we're never men, always women. Gods, I couldn't even imagine being a dude...are you this curious about everything?" I asked, propping up on the railing as he pressed a cigarette between his lips and ran a hand up and down the top of my thigh.

"No, not really, sorry am I asking too many questions?"

"Not at all," I squeezed his hand, and we fell into silence, staring out at the dark ocean.

I yawned and rolled my shoulders, wishing I could stay up all night but knowing I had a long drive ahead tomorrow.

"I think I'm gonna call it a night, I'm already gonna be a hungover zombie tomorrow as is," I said rubbing a hand over my face.

"Oh, okay, sleep well..."

As I hopped down off the railing and started towards the door, I realized what I was forgetting and turned to look up at Tim with a little frown.

"Last one, I guess" I said quietly, moving closer to him and caressing his cheek with the backs of my fingers.

The thought made me inexplicably sad, and I tried desperately one more time to stop the forward movement of history.

"Don't you say that to me," he whispered into my lips as he leaned in and captured mine in a kiss so beautiful, it nearly stole the breath from my lungs. His arms encircled me, holding me against him as he pulled his mouth from mine and laid his cheek against the top of my head.

"Come home with me," he whispered, lifting my face with his finger to kiss me again after several minutes of silence.

I pulled back with a sigh and a little smile that he returned.

"I can't," I said, not looking away from his eyes.

"You can," he moved closer, pulling me in again and sweeping my hair back off my shoulders so he could gently push his fingers into it on each side of my head, running his thumbs down along my jawline and thoroughly making me melt, "just quit your job and get a passport and learn a new language. You've got a whole," he checked his watch, "twelve hours until we take off. I believe in you. You can do this."

I scoffed and rolled my eyes, indulging him with a wide grin.

"Best go get started then, huh," I laughed, "guess I can cross off bubble gum."

He shooed me inside after a soft kiss against my forehead, and he turned back out to the ocean so no one would see the way his face collapsed.

Chapter Text

I laid in bed tossing and turning, a small part of my brain appreciating the symmetry of starting and ending my trip with a restless night.

I was tempted to go back out to the deck and meditate in the night air, but knew that between the weed and the booze I stood a good chance of pitching face-first over the railing into the sand below.

The bedroom door opened and I rolled over to greet who I assumed was Johannes.

"Mmm, not who I expected, but I'm not complaining," I said, lifting the covers so May could crawl into bed with me, "wheres Johannes?"

"I think just making sure everything for them is good for tomorrow's trip," she said, pulling me close to her.

We held onto each other tightly, silently, reconnecting after a whirlwind week of adventure and surprise and romance.

"What are you and Jonas going to do?" I asked quietly, breaking the silence.

"Tonight? More of the same. Tomorrow?" She shrugged a little.

I raised up on one elbow and looked down at her, a little surprised, "you're not going to try at all?"

"Ah, Triste, come now. You feel everything so deeply, cherie, sometimes you just leave things where they are and don't try to make them...étiré?"

"Stretched? Oh, long-distance."

"Oui, thank you. Sometimes it just makes things more difficult."

"So you're both okay with just letting it go? You seem like you get on well."

"We do, cherie. But it is sex and company. Not like you and Johannes where there is more. And if he is at his home and I am with you or back at my home, there is not either one. I am sure we'll see each other again at some point..."

"Right but Sweden to France isn't that far. There isn't an entire ocean to cross there. You're both EU..."

"Yes, but only then if I am home and he is home dans la même temps. Oie why do you push at me on this?"

I chewed my lip and turned to look at her, our faces resting on the same pillow and our fingers laced between them.

"I'm scared."

She searched my face with a practiced eye, "because you want to work with Johannes?"

I nodded after a moment, "I don't know what he wants though. I guess its something we have to talk about but...fuck I don't want our last night here to be discussing future plans. What if he doesn't care? What if I'm here head over heels and he has the same attitude you do?"

She frowned at me, "Triste. You are a fool if you really think that."

I chewed my lip and twirled a lock of lilac hair around one of my fingers as I considered... really considered what she'd said.

I remembered our passionate encounter in the sands, and in the kitchen and the pool...but hadn't he said himself that sex doesn't mean you know someone?

Soft lips brushed mine and brought me out of my mental torture chamber.

"Stop that. What you are doing in there. Tonight, you just be thankful that you have time together. You face tomorrow tomorrow, yes?"

I leaned over to kiss her on the nose.

"I love you. Thank you," I smiled, receiving one in return.

"No fear," she whispered as a tall shadow darkened the doorway.

"May, I can't believe I'm actually saying these words, but I'm officially kicking you out of my bed."

"No fun, Johannes!" she chimed teasingly, rolling over to look up at him, "what if its my turn with Triste tonight? I knew her first!" she giggled the last words.

"In that case, you're more than welcome to stay, but you'll have to share her with me," he growled, moving into the bedroom and kicking off his shoes.

"Oh she is not staying in here tonight," Jonas said from the doorway with a half-laugh, holding out one hand, "come, darling, I have plans for you..."

"Mmm...perhaps a rain slip for this then?" She grinned looking back at Johannes as she slid out from under the covers.

"Check," we both corrected at the same time and she threw up her hands in mock exasperation with a dismissive noise.

"Are you sure you don't want to join us, Kungen?" I asked sweetly, pushing myself up to sit against the headboard as Johannes gathered me to him, dropping his lips to my ear and making me shiver as they brushed against my skin.

"No no, little one. I have plans for you as well..." he whispered lowly.

"OH. Nevermind, rain check on that too," I said to the others, smiling into May's kiss when she leaned in.

"Sans peur," she whispered to me and then she was leaning over to kiss Johannes softly on the lips before flouncing off to meet Jonas in the doorway.

He looked back over his shoulder at me as Johannes' lips dropped to my neck and our eyes met, burning in the dark.

"Don't think I wouldn't say yes in a heartbeat."

And then they were both gone, closing the door behind them.

In less than a second Johannes rolled me under him and was devouring my mouth, grinding into me and pressing his hands under my clothes.

"Why are you still wearing these?" he asked, shoving his hand under my panties and pressing one long middle finger inside me with a groan as I arched into him and moved my hips against his hand, grinding my clit against the heel of it, loving how fast he was moving, how badly he wanted me.

Johannes growled into my lips, reveling in the way I took my pleasure against him.

"You're still clothed too, to be fair," I gasped as he crooked his finger inside me.

"Then I'd say we both need to get naked right now."

He worked my clothes off, almost tearing them from my body in his haste to return his hands to their previous work, but he stood at the edge of the bed and paused for a moment, looking down at me and drinking in the moonlight against my skin as I stretched my arms above my head and my legs down along the length of the bed.

I smiled up at him, feeling his eyes roaming over me and watching me as I moved to sit up then knelt in front of him, slowly undressing him and never dropping eye contact.

"You're so special, Triste," he whispered, the sound choked like there were tears behind it, "I just don't understand how any of this is happening."

My heart swelled and I pulled him down with me onto the bed until the lengths of our bodies were pressed along each other, our limbs tangling together and our hands starting to wander.

"Where were we?" his hand pressed between my legs, groaning at how wet I was as two of his fingers immediately slipped into me.

"I can't decide how I want to make you come first," he growled into the skin of my breasts as he flicked my nipple with his tongue and my fingers tangled into his hair.

"Just fuck me," I gasped, feeling almost painfully aroused, "Johannes, please."

"Hmm, I do like when you beg," his tone was dark and I clenched hard as he removed his fingers and rolled on top of me, slamming his lips down onto mine hard enough to bruise and I cried out, writhing in the sheets, shifting my hips up to slick along his length.

Every noise that left his lips seemed to make my world turn a little faster.

"Actually, you know what? Its your turn to fuck me," he suddenly said with a wicked grin and rolled us again so I was straddling his hips, still sliding against his cock.

"Fuck, you're so wet. You feel so good," he moaned as his hands gripped my hips, working them back and forth over his length.

I leaned back and braced my palms against his thighs, feeling sexy and wanted and impossibly powerful as I rolled my hips.

"Ride me...Triste, please, I need to be inside you. I need to feel you again..."

I leaned down to his lips, biting at them and teasing him, pressing kisses over his jaw and down the length of his throat. I sucked a small mark into the pale skin there, loving the colors it turned under my attentions, and I gripped his face tightly with one hand, forcing him to look up at me as my eyes shifted and I pressed the head of his cock inside me with a barely stifled cry.

But I stopped there, just teasing him at my entrance and making a show of it.

"More," he gasped, like he was putty in my hands, "fuck, please..."

I took him bit by bit inside me, taking my time and pulling off of him before sinking further.

Ten beautiful, long fingers roamed over my body, pinching and squeezing, caressing and scratching, and when he bottomed out inside me and I remembered May's last words to me.

Sans peur.

I lifted off of Johannes and then slammed my hips back down onto his, hard enough to make him shout and grip my ass with both hands.

I did it again and didn't stop, needing to feel like I was in control of something if I couldn't control the coming day.

"YES, yesyesyes," he growled, watching me ride him, feeling too aroused to form any other words.

I felt myself tightening, the heat starting to build, and Johannes caught an echo of my thoughts, pressing his thumb to my clit hard and rubbing rough circles over it, in time with my movements on and off his cock.

I gasped louder and louder, feeling the crescendo building like we were making actual music, and when I opened my eyes to look down at him the look on his face undid me.

I cried out his name as my inner walls gripped him and I gushed across his hips, which were moving off the bed now to thrust harder into me and drive my pleasure further.

Johannes bent all his attention on not coming just from feeling my juices flooding across his skin, and he quickly pulled me off his cock and threw me under him as I gasped for breath.

"I can't. Get enough of you. You're everything. You're just fucking everything, Triste. Come for me again, baby," and with no further talk, he covered my pussy with his mouth, roughly shoving his tongue inside me and making me grab at the sheets, my hands desperately scrabbling for anything to hold on to as I screamed.

My flavor consumed his senses and he lost himself, getting drunk on the sensation of me grinding into his face.

I was still riding the wave of pleasure from the first orgasm when Johannes ripped a second from me, gripping and biting at my tortured body until I gave into him.

"I have to fuck you," he moaned, pulling me up to meet him in a rough kiss that made my already-spinning head rotate a little faster. My fingernails sank into his back and I lifted my hips up to him as he threw me back down onto the bed.

He was deliciously rough with me, grabbing my legs and jerking me until my ass was flush with his thighs.

Johannes didn't wait -- couldn't wait -- any longer, and immediately sank into me, roughly shoving his cock home and making me shriek with renewedpleasure as my head thrashed back and forth on the pillow.

"That's right," he growled, "scream for me."

I gasped every time he filled me, walking a fine line between pleasure and pain, an exquisite torture that was driving me further and further towards the waiting arms of a mindblowing, lights-out orgasm.

My hands grabbed at the sheets, balling them in my fists as I soared through the night sky and came beautifully undone, crying my rapturous pleasure into his mouth when he bent to kiss me, his thrusts becoming shorter to compensate, but remaining equally as intense and rough.

"Come with me," I gasped opening my hips just a little more to him until he cried out into me with the force of his own climax, filling me with himself until my body couldn't take anymore and he leaked out over my thighs as I shook in his arms.

Hair the color of raven feathers dropped around us like a curtain, and I whimpered as tears streamed down my face and Johannes kissed them away, tasting the saltiness between his lips and laughing softly as he caught his breath.

He lifted on his arms and looked down at me with a smile, "I've never met anyone else who has every single emotion wired directly to their tear ducts," he teased, joining me when I started laughing at the absurdity of it.

"I can't help it!" I sniffled, "I'm easily overwhelmed! And kind of exhausted. And still a little stoned."

"Look, I'm not judging, if I came that many times in a row, I'd cry too," he chuckled as he leaned down and kissed me again, lingering and opening his lips to me as his cock twitched inside me.

His tongue was slow and thorough as it explored my mouth, dancing along mine and tasting my natural sweetness.

Rather than pulling back and settling beside me, as I expected him to, Johannes stayed where he was, deepening our kiss and carefully stoking the fire he knew never really went out.

"One more?" he murmured quietly into my lips, pressing his hips fractionally harder between my legs as his cock started to stiffen inside me again.

I kissed him back deeply, slowly, simply turning my brain off for this one and letting our passion take over.

Johannes gathered me to him and rolled onto his side, keeping his cock inside me as we laid there face to face, and he snugged my leg a little tighter over his hip.

"You feel so perfect," he sighed into my kiss, gently nipping at my bottom lip as his hand traced down my side, over my ass, and back up to tangle into my hair as I moaned softly into him, arching further against his body, reveling in the warmth of his skin.

We stayed that way for what felt like days, just kissing and gently rocking our hips against each other, sighing and softly moaning for as we gave the other an experience to remember us by, unsure what the morning would bring.

"I have to move, baby," he finally groaned into my lips, the sound nearly a gasp as he pulled out slowly, once inch at a time, then slid back home equally as slow, drawing a breathy sigh from me.

"Don't stop. Gods, please Johannes," I whispered, gripping his hair between my fingers and pressing my forehead hard to his, "don't ever stop."

"Not in this lifetime," he whispered back, making my toes curl.

He kept our pace slow, even as I moaned softly into his lips that I was going to come, as I reached for my ephemeral high. Johannes pulled me closer, until our souls were as intertwined as our bodies, feeling my walls tightening, gripping him as my body burned with an ecstasy of his own making.

He came too, moaning loudly against my skin as he filled me again, dissolving into shivers and tiny gasps as his heart threatened to quit on him altogether.

He kissed me again, desperate for a moment then sweet before he pulled back to admire the beautiful way I shattered for him.

I could hardly open my eyes, and he smiled softly at my effort to stay awake as he cradled me to his chest and hummed softly, knowing he was falling more in love with me with every moment I spent in his arms.

One long finger brushed my damp hair back off my face as he bent his head to kiss me one more time.

I was almost asleep, that kind of partial-awake where sounds register, but no reactions come, and he held me in silence as he watched me, until he couldn't hold back any longer.

The sun would be up in a few short hours and everything would become uncertain again.

His breath was soft across my lips as he whispered to me in the dark, telling me his heart's secret.

"I love you, Triste. I don't know how we've gotten ourselves here, but gods I'm so impossibly in love with you..."

Johannes fell asleep with me curled into his chest, my lips resting against the warmth of his skin, and neither of us stirred until long after the sun had begun to rise.

I watched him sleep for several minutes, drinking in the softness of his face, the little lines and grooves that punctuated the beautiful pale expanse of his skin.

I brushed my lips against his, feeling them curve into a telling smile.

"Good morning," I said softly, untangling myself as his eyelids cracked open and he smiled sleepily at me.

I rolled to the side of the bed until my feel touched the floor, and looked back over my shoulder at him as I hooked my bra behind my back.

His eyes were lighting over my skin, resting on the tattoo in the center of my spine as his index finger absently traced the same lines into the sheets tangled across his hips.

"I'm gonna hate not waking up next to you when I get home," he whispered and I paused midway through pulling my shorts up my legs.

Now that the unavoidable tomorrow had come, we couldn't put off the discussion any longer.

But before I got a chance to respond, he stretched and got up, searching for his own clothes and dropped a kiss on my forehead before moving out of the bedroom.

Had I imagined him saying it? Those words under the cover of darkness?

Chapter Text

Everyone moved around each other all morning, packing bags and making last-minute preparations to leave, double checking passports and playlists.

I found Henrik out on the deck, watching the ocean quietly with his hands on the railing. He glanced at me over his shoulder with a smile when I approached silently, not wanting to interrupt his thoughts that he was obviously neck-deep in.

"I think if I had to spend all my time in one place, it would be at the beach, or near the water somewhere," he said quietly after we stood shoulder by shoulder silently for several minutes.

I nodded, agreeing wholeheartedly, but not saying anything else.

"You're driving home today?"

Another nod from me as I chewed my lip and watched a seagull float effortlessly on the salty breeze.

"Is May going back with you?"

I nodded, and Henrik saw that I was only half listening, obviously a million miles away mentally.

"And you're going to commit that mass murder like we talked about once you get back home?"

I started to silently answer in the affirmative, and caught myself, "wait, what?"

I turned to Henrik, confused and he laughed at the expression on my face.

"There she is. Welcome back, sweetheart," he continued to laugh as he pulled me to him and hugged me close, teasingly pulling on a lock of my hair until I tilted my face up and he pressed his lips down to mine.

"Sorry, I was just...thinking," I sighed into his lips. Somehow they were always softer than the time before.

"Its okay, stop apologizing."

"Can't help it, its what I do best," I giggled.

"There are a lot of things I'd imagine that you do better than apologize," he said, his tone holding the slightest hint of a growl as he kissed me a little harder.

I hummed in response and wrapped my arms back around him as Henrik held onto me tightly, intuiting what I needed and willingly giving it to me.

"You're going to come see me, aren't you?" he whispered in between little brushes of his lips against my cheeks and my forehead as he continued to kiss me, "there are so many places I want to show you back home."

"Make a list and we'll see them all," I smiled into his gentle caress, knowing that somehow Henrik shared my exact same level of appreciation for nature and everything he wanted to show me was probably exquisitely beautiful.

"Good," he grinned and kissed me on the nose before releasing me and moving inside to grab his bag from the living room.

"Hey!" I called to his retreating form, and stood with my hands on my hips when he turned around, "you call that a goodbye?" I smiled at him, halfway laughing.

His eyes darkened for just one moment, and in the next I was literally almost swept off my feet as both of his arms ensnared my waist and he dropped me backwards, dipping me almost to the deck floor in one masterful stoke.

Henrik's eyes rested on my lips, parted and waiting for his kiss.

"How's this?" he breathed, not bothering to wait for my reply before sliding his tongue between them and drawing a soft moan from me at the way he tasted. His fingers dug into my skin a little more with each sound as he possessed me for a brief moment in time and my fingers sank into his curls.

It was over before I knew it, and I found myself upright and staring up into two cerulean-colored eyes.

"Th-that was better," I stuttered and that brilliant smirk that was so attractive on him curved his mouth up on one side.

"Good," he repeated, kissing my nose again just as John and Jonas came out onto the deck to say goodbye to me, both holding bags and instrument cases.

Henrik disappeared inside, closing the door behind him and John caught me first, setting everything down so he could wrap his arms around my waist and hug me close.

"Long drive today?"

"Mmhm."

"Promise you'll be safe?"

I promised I would and his arms tightened around me as I tilted my face up, expecting a goodbye kiss but one didn't come right away. John looked back and forth between my eyes, taking in and trying to memorize every detail of my face.

"You're somehow unbelievably wonderful and surprisingly normal at the same time," he said, with the hint of a smile.

"Its the fine line I have to walk, babes," I laughed, and he finally bent his head and kissed me with a little chuckle. His kisses were always brief, and this one was no different, but his lips brushed over my cheek afterwards in a way that made me shiver and he felt the tremors run down my back into his hands, cocking one eyebrow at me in response.

"That was your fault," I said quickly and his lips pressed into a firm line to contain the laugh that threatened behind them.

He didn't say anything else, he just kissed me a second time and then let me go with another little smile before picking up his bags and heading down the steps.

When I turned from watching him go, Jonas was right behind me and I jumped a little, startled by his sudden closeness.

His hands traced my waist around to my back as my arms encircled his neck and I watched his face closely.

His eyes weren't their usual bright, cheery blue, and there were hints of dark circles under them.

"You look tired love," I said softly, "did she let you get any sleep?"

He laughed lowly and shook his head at me, "no, that ones got some serious insomnia or something," he laughed again.

"Gods, you know I don't actually think I've ever met anyone before who can keep up with her," I said honestly, feeling a little surprised that he was upright after what I was sure was a lively night, "I feel like you should get a ribbon or something..."

"I'll settle for a nap on the plane," he groaned, though he was still smiling at me.

My fingers roamed over the smile lines at the corners of his eyes before drifting back to run over his dreads, taking a moment to experience how each cord of hair felt between my fingers.

"When are you guys coming back?" I asked quietly, my fingers still weaving through his hair.

"I'm not sure, I th--..." Jonas paused and looked at me in that moment like he knew everything about me - every secret, every want, every need.

"Triste, don't make him wait that long to see you again," was all he said before softly kissing me goodbye then butting his forehead against mine.

His hands stayed at my waist for another minute as he kept his eyes closed and savored the feel of me under his skin.

"Goodbye, gorgeous," he murmured, and then he was gone, following the same route John had taken down the stairs and around the side of the house to the van waiting to take them to the airport.

I ran a hand back through my hair and stood at the railing for a moment, donning my sunglasses against the brilliant glare of the sun off the water before turning to step inside to find the last of my boys.

--

"Shit! TRISTE?"

His voice was almost panicked when he heard the door open and close.

"Tim? Whats wrong?!" I rounded the corner and moved towards the sound.

"Oh, nothing, you're still here. Good, I just thought I might have missed you!" Tim said, stepping out of his room with a duffel bag in his hand, which he tossed it into the waning pile in the living room as I pushed my sunglasses up on my head.

"Tim, you know I wouldn't leave without saying goodbye to you."

He looked me over once, up and down, and his eyebrows raised fractionally. He'd spent all morning in his room with the door closed.

"What! We're going to be in the car all day, I want to be comfortable."

"Those shorts are just...damn, girl."

I indulged him with a sweet smile and little spin on my toes as he moved toward me, catching me and swaying to music we could only hear in our heads as his arm wrapped around my back and his opposite hand cupped mine.

I loved the way his eyes softened when he smiled -- not a full grin, just a happy curve of his lips.

He hummed a little song as we slow-danced around the kitchen, and I giggled as he finally let me go and spun me once.

"Honestly, I don't know how you guys get anything done with those reptile brains taking up so much space in your heads," I laughed, tapping his forehead with one finger.

"Well we're heading back to the studio when we get home, so hopefully we'll figure it out between here and there," he grinned, "and before you go, I have something for you."

"For me?"

He disappeared back into his room and I heard a piece of paper tearing.

Tim started speaking before he was back out into the living room, mumbling as he looked down at the paper in his hand, "its not really anything, just a stupid little sketch, you don't even have to keep it," he started to ramble more as he handed me the paper, suddenly self-conscious and worried he'd been presumptuous.

I glanced down at the paper and my jaw dropped as I looked over the fine lines, drawn with a common pen I'd use simply to jot down stupid notes or make shapeless doodles with.

It was a naked portrait of me.

My body was stretched out on the beach like we'd been the night before, my arms resting above my head lazily as I looked at the artist. My fingers were at rest, curving naturally, but gracefully in a way I never thought I could make happen in reality.

But as the lines of my waist dropped towards my hips, there were scales instead of skin, fins instead of feet.

He'd sketched water hues into the narrow diamonds, and my eyes were a beautifully piercing green.

I regarded the drawing with nothing even close to a practiced eye, but I realized there was wetness on my cheeks and quickly held the paper back from me before I ruined it.

"Y-you made me into a mermaid?" I sniffled, realizing it was silly to cry but feeling moved to tears anyways by what was in my hands.

"You swim like one," he said, drinking in my expression and the shaking of my hands, knowing he'd done well by me.

"Ohh, Tim. It--its wonderful!" he caught me as I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly, gripping the drawing in one hand and burying my face into his hair as he clutched me.

His arms wrapped around my back as his hands traced the curve of my waist, one moving up and down to quiet me.

"Oh, I feel so bad, I don't have anything for you," I said, finally pulling back and wiping my cheeks as I set the sketch down on the counter, unable to take my eyes off of it, and he sat in one of the big armchairs, watching me as I gazed adoringly at something that for him was a work of passion, but a simple effort, nonetheless.

Tim watched the muscles of my legs shifting and moving. The way my tears made my gray irises shine like gunmetal. How I bit my bottom lip without realizing it as I finally tore my eyes away and looked at him.

He just smiled softly, enamored, "you never have to give me anything...but you know what I'll always want, Triste..."

It was only an honest statement on his part, but it rocked me to the core.

My breath caught in my chest when I realized that this was it. I wouldn't wake up anymore and wander out to the deck only to have him find me there in the early hours of the morning because he couldn't sleep either. I wasn't going to see him quickly glance away when I caught him staring at me. We wouldn't wake up in the same space - there would be no more teasing, no more little kisses...

I was overcome by a desperate sadness that he might move on tomorrow and I would become just a pleasant memory.

I found myself moving towards him, standing over him, kneeling into his lap until one of my legs was on either side of his and I hovered over his knees, straddling him as each of my hands settled on the chair back behind his head.

"Tell me what you want, Tim."

He was silent, unable to speak in the wake of my stare — somehow so soft, but steely. Tender and loving, but hard like iron. The stare that was the product of thousands of years of struggle and hardship and love and loss and worship.

One of his hands lifted to run over my hair, touching my silver tresses, remembering the first moment he'd seen me, standing starstruck behind the bar.

"A kiss," he finally whispered, "j-just one last kiss. Please..."

I smiled softly at him as my fingers wandered over his face and combed through his hair in return, drawing a soft groan from him at how good and relaxing it felt, even as all his senses were hyper-aware of everything I did.

Tim turned his face into my hand, breathing softly across my palm in a way that made my toes curl as his whiskers brushed across the tender skin just below my thumb.

"Then take this as my goodbye gift, älskling," I said, softly, gently, cupping his face with both hands as his eyes closed and I took a second to run my thumbs over his cheeks, savoring the moment.

"English," he sighed, "I want to remember you saying it to me in English."

"Hmm...darling. My sweet," I pressed a kiss to one cheek, "thoughtful," a kiss to the other, "wonderful--" I watched his mouth open a little, his lips barely moving as he waited for me, "Tim," I barely breathed as I pressed my lips down to his and settled into his lap so we were pressed together.

Calloused fingertips brushed up and down my legs, gripping into the muscle, dragging across my skin as we opened to each other and sank into our goodbye wholeheartedly.

Our lips moved against each other like we'd been doing it forever, a physical manifestation of the beautiful emotional bond we'd formed, and as the kiss got rougher, Tim bit my bottom lip and pulled my hips down harder against him, desperately wanting me as he moaned my name into my lips, gasping and losing himself as our tongues battled for dominance and he held onto me tightly.

Those long, beautiful fingers gripped my waist and touched everywhere he was allowed to as he kissed me like his life depended on it, and finally I broke away with a gasp, knowing my fingers would find their way down to the button of his shorts if we didn't stop.

"Don't forget about me, Tim," I said quietly, another tear dropping down my cheek.

It dripped down off my skin and on to his as we fought to control the impulses we felt so strongly.

I was drawn to Tim in a way that I didn't understand, but I also clearly remembered my goddess' words in my head.

Surely she had some kind of plan.

When I finally met his eyes, they were darkened, the pupils dilated, and I realized then where his color scheme for my mermaid half had come from.

All my boys had beautiful eyes, but Tim's were blue swirled with green, and the colors seemed to move of their own accord when he got worked up.

I brushed my fingertips over the very corners and they closed.

"Not possible, priestess," he whispered, ignoring his own inner voice and reaching up with an open mouth to kiss me again as my fingers pushed back into his hair and I leaned in against him.

Tim's right hand locked against his opposite forearm behind my hips, holding me in his lap with a vice-like grip, crushing me against him, desperate in every way to drink in as much of me as he could in the few moments we had left.

He inhaled deeply as the flower petals rained down on us, swirling in a tornado of softness and saccharine scent. It was every bloom I could think of with the small portion of my brain that wasn't consumed with the way he tasted and how his tongue felt passing my lips over and over again.

Tim kissed me slowly this time, no hint of roughness or lust, just a passionate, deep, thorough goodbye kiss.

"Oh god Triste, why do I have to let go of you," he sighed into my lips, "why won't you just get on the plane and come home with me..."

I didn't open my eyes for a moment, listening to the divine whispers in my head.

*No my daughter. Do not forget my words. A man with a gentle heart, ready to listen, but your time is not now. Take comfort in knowing that he has sought you for longer than you know...*

I shifted back further onto his knees, keeping my eyes closed, and brushed one hand over his face, tracing the sharp line of his cheek, the straight bridge of his nose, the soft lips made for smiling, committing them to memory.

Tim's eyes were watery as he regarded me, wondering what was passing through my mind, and he leaned into my touch, feeling like his heart was going to jump from his chest - it hardly mattered if it did because he gave it willingly to me the moment I slowly opened my eyes and the corner of my lips curved up into his favorite smile as I looked at him.

His exhaled laugh was shaky as he drew me back down to him until my forehead rested against his.

Triste, just say you'll come with me.
Don't make me say goodbye to you.
Please, just give me a chance to give you the world...

I pressed my lips to his forehead as I got to my feet.

"Tim? When you get home and you find a quiet place outside to play your guitar, do me a favor - look up at the eye of the sun and think of her servant and remember me...just for a moment."

I leaned down to press one more whisper of a kiss to his lips before standing and pushing my sunglasses down over my eyes to hide my tears from him as I headed out to the beach quickly, unable to say the word "goodbye".

Tim watched me go, starting to hyperventilate a little as he remembered the words of a small, frail old woman in a dimly lit shop, tucked into the back corner of a strip of businesses in a town that looked just like all the others.

Chapter Text

My arms were wrapped around myself and I was lost in the movement of the water, staring out at the ocean and wondering what was under her surface. Long dark hair danced on the wind at the corner of my peripheral vision, and I turned to meet Johannes, walking the last few steps towards me.

He didn't say anything, only laced his fingers through mine and rubbed his thumb back and forth over my hand as we turned back towards the water.

I felt a sudden and overwhelming sense of awkwardness as we stood on the beach together, watching the waves roll in and lap at the sand. I had no idea how to say goodbye - it wasn't really something I'd ever expected in the first place and now parting just felt wrong.

How do I say goodbye to someone who I just fell in love with, when neither of us want to go, but we can't stay?
What do I say -- I can't wait for the next album?
Gods, this is weird.
And hard.
And weird.

The same train of thought was running through Johannes' mind.

How do I make this last?
How can I tell her that she's changing my life every second that she's in it?
When can I see her again -- do I go to her or does she come to me?
Or maybe we meet in the middle?
I can't let go of you, Triste. I love you too much for that now.
My darling, everything I am belongs to you.

He watched my eyes narrow and open again, repeating the motion and biting at the inside of my lip as I weighed my options, trying to make each second last as long as possible while I figured out what to say.

Finally I just turned to him and buried my face in his chest, seeking the comfort of his arms around me, of his heartbeat under my ear.

"I don't know how to do this," I whined, the distress I felt bleeding into my tone, "I don't want to do this."

Johannes pressed his cheek against the top of my head, holding me to him with one hand and gently petting my hair with the other.

His heart pounded under my cheek, fear and dread and a sense of loss rendering him speechless.

"Well...it doesn't have to be goodbye," he finally managed to say, and I looked up at him as the first tear dropped down my cheek.

"Hey, none of that now," he said softly, brushing it away with his thumb, "we'll see each other again, Triste. I promise. This...this is too good for us to just let go of it and not try."

It was good enough for me, and I hugged him closer, laying my head back against the cotton of his tshirt.

He started to laugh unexpectedly, shaking his head, and pulling me away from his body.

"You know what I just realized? I was thinking 'no big deal, I'll just call her when our flight lands and we'll do what normal long-distance people do', and then I realized that I don't even have your phone number. After all of this," he motioned generally around us.

It wasn't really that funny, but he snorted another laugh, and it made me giggle too as I held out my hand for his phone.

"Hand it over at your own peril," I grinned, typing my name and number in as a new contact when he placed it in my palm.

I hit save and handed it back, watching it disappear down into his pocket.

"You'll call me when you land though? Just so I know you made it okay. I think I'll beat you home unless we get sidetracked on an adventure or something."

"Of course, baby."

"Good..." I shuffled my feet a little, staring at the sand as it blew across my ankles.

"Johannes, lets go!" someone called from around the side of the house, "we're gonna be late!"

"Off you go, don't wanna miss your flight," I sniffled, shooing him in the direction of the stairs back up to the lot.

He took a few steps, then turned and closed the gap between us quickly, picking me off of my feet and whirling me around in circles as my arms wrapped around his neck.

He kissed me breathless, momentarily making me forget how sad I was as his arms crushed me against him until he let go with one hand, holding it up to me.

"Will you keep this?"

I looked down at the ring cradled in his palm -- it was the same one he always wore that I'd been toying with yesterday.

My fingers shook a little as I picked it up, sliding it over my thumb.

It was too big on me, so I reached behind me and pulled the delicate chain up and over my head. His ring slipped to the end next to my locket and I latched it back around my neck, letting it settle at my breasts over my shirt.

He touched it with one finger, sighing.

"Keep it close, love, and I'll always be with you," he smiled so tenderly when he said it, I worried my knees might give and I gave him a tiny smile in return.

"Always," I whispered, leaning up to kiss him goodbye one more time.

He hit the top of the stairs and turned one more time, just as the wind picked up, and blew me a kiss, and then he was gone.

I sat down in the sand hard, laying back and whispering my prayers into the wind as the sun kissed my exposed skin.

May joined me several minutes later, sitting silently then laying on her back next to me.

"What a week," she said after a couple more moments.

"Fucking tell me about it."

--

I half expected to hear Jonas and Tim ribbing each other as I slid the door open from the deck, but there was only silence.

I stood in the threshold for a full minute, letting my eyes wander around the room as my heart tried to figure out what to feel.

At precisely the sixty-first second, Khufu lost his patience with my ruminations and butted his head hard against my ass until I stumbled inside, turning to glare at him.

"Hey! Oh..."

I hadn't even gotten as far as thinking about what we were going to do with him.

"Are--are you coming home with me?"

Khufu looked at me with the big doggy grin spread across his massive jaws as he shook his head back and forth.

*My master wishes me to stay with the child*

His eyes were unmistakably canine, but they seemed to convey emotions like a person, matching the expressiveness of his face.

*Don't worry for me priestess, my Master has a plan*

"Well...if you're sure...I'll drop you back there on the way out of town..." I glanced around the room and May was watching me with dark sunglasses covering her eyes.

"You know, I really never do get used to that cherie," she laughed, turning to make sure we hadn't left anything throughout the house.

I turned to Khufu and shrugged before sitting cross-legged on the floor and wrapping my arms around him.

"Thank you again, for everything," I said aloud into his fur. He didn't, respond, only flopped down into my lap, resting his head on my leg.

May appeared after doing her last sweep of the house and I looked up with a smile, my heart finally deciding to settle on an absurd sense of happiness.

"I can't believe any of that just happened..."

She paused and pushed her sunglasses up on her head before sitting down next to me and grinning widely.

"I know," she peered down at the ring, still sitting against my shirt, "I am glad that you and Johannes are going to still see each other."

I nodded, "me too. We'll see how it goes...but at least he's willing to try."

May got to her feet, then offered me two hands to haul me up, "lets go or we'll be driving in the dark, oie."

I gave the house one more look.

The corner of the kitchen counter where Johannes and I had claimed each other a few mornings ago. The big comfy armchair where Tim and I had said goodbye. I could almost see Henrik doing five things at once over the stove, like he had extra arms. Jonas kissing May as she swung her feet back and forth, seated on a high barstool. John reading silently, tucked into a corner of the couch and completely lost in this own world as his eyes zipped across the page so quickly, I was sure he couldn't be reading every word.

My heart started to feel heavy, and I found myself clutching Johannes' ring, a gentle smile touching my lips as I started to feel better.

Keep this close and I'll always be with you.

Chapter Text

I awoke with a start.

It was that kind of awakening where you're never really sure what caused it.

The last ghostly remnants of a bad dream I couldn't remember slipped through the cracks as consciousness fully settled in my mind, and I stretched in the warm morning sunlight streaming through my bedroom window, reaching my arms up and flexing my leg muscles with a long sigh.

The softness of my sheets was a simple pleasure I loved to wake up to each day, and I was tempted to burrow back under them if only for the sake of my body temperature.

Running a hand through my hair and rolling my shoulders, I finally decided against it, and swung my feet to get out of bed, immediately greeted by a cacophony of chirps and meows from one tiny mouth.

"I know, I know, I hear you. When's the last time I let you starve, you wee beastie?" I asked Babyboy incredulously as he ran towards his food dish mewling loudly.

I could hear the words in his vocalizations.

Just incase you forgot...to feed us...like you feed us every morning...just incase though...food...

Fresh coffee was waiting in the pot for me, programmed the night before to greet my arrival into the new day at 7:30AM prompt, the same time I had risen every morning for the last several months as part of a routine I'd developed to keep me busy for as many hours of the day as possible.

The more exhausted I was when I went to bed, the less time I spent thinking about the festival and everything about the week after that had changed my life.

Despite my best efforts, my mind began to wander as I bent to deposit a fresh can of wet food onto Babyboy's plate.

I nudged gently him with my foot as he lurched forward to dig in, "uh uh, you know the rules, go find your brother first," I said with a nod of my head towards the living room.

He looked up at me with a slightly affronted glare before going to find the other cat, who was born deaf and would sleep the day away without eating if neither of us roused him.

He trotted off to the little bed by the heater and licked Red's forehead until he woke up. They got along like a dream for two male cats who weren't from the same litter, and I watched them socialize briefly with a little smile.

I loved this part of the morning ritual, when everyone was fresh and heading into a new day.

As both boys sauntered back to their food dish and then ravenously partook in their morning meal, I settled onto a stool with a cup of coffee between my hands, basking in the morning sun and watching them, but my thoughts were now far away at the seaside.

It had been a little over six months since that weekend of the festival.

I'd gotten the bar bid partly by luck, and a little by having good connections -- the prime spot the last two days when Avatar would play, followed by Ghost, the double-headliner all weekend.

The thought of Johannes made me draw in a deep breath through my nose, and I tried to will the shaking of my hands away and clasped them more tightly around my mug until the heat radiating from the ceramic started to distract me.

Our intimacy was more than I ever could have dreamed of, and had all started rather serendipitously, but the emotional connection between us was something I had never expected in the aftermath of it.

I closed my eyes and remembered in quick succession the feel of stepping out on the balcony into the night air, the way the wind off the sea blew through my hair and softly across my skin.

How Johannes' lips felt moving everywhere the wind had touched me, his own hair a feather-light caress across my breasts.

I walked the length of my new apartment to open my curtains and watch the traffic pass below.

Johannes Johannes Johannes...

Shaking my head to stop my train of thought, I set my coffee cup down and stretched again in the warm rays and took a deep breath.

I didn't want to let my heart go to that place of hurt on such a beautiful morning, but my mind was still going there anyways, whether or not I gave it permission.

He never called you.
He never tried to find you.
He didn't care like he said he did...

I had tried to be as fair to him as I could manage when those thoughts first surfaced after I got home and experienced radio silence.

He was probably far more exhausted than I was and needed some time to recoup, I told myself over and over again.

Plus a cross-continental situation was inherently complicated, maybe he just wanted to avoid a relationship that would probably end in broken hearts all around.

We'd gotten so sucked into each others' company after the three days of the festival and work were over, that I hadn't even thought about what we would do next until we were parting ways.

'Keep this close and I'll always be with you...'

My hand curled around the ring hidden beneath my shirt - I'd never taken it off.

By the time the first month passed with no word, I tried to make myself realize that I had just gotten swept away in what apparently was a whirlwind romance - an interruption in life. Or at least it seemed that I was an interruption in his, but either way I had to carry on and live my own life.

I finished my coffee and dropped my clothes to the floor in the bathroom before stepping under the hot water and letting it wash away the tainted thoughts of the morning.

"Alexa," I called, hearing the answering chime from my home system, "play Sixx AM Modern Vintage album, please".

The first notes of 'Stars' swirled around my head as I worked shampoo through my hair and continued to let the water relax me.

Nothing matters ever since the day you pulled the pin in my heart like a hand grenade...

I heaved a sigh, but took a moment to appreciate all the work I had put into picking up my pieces and moving on from something I'd never expected to happen in the first place.

When my feet hit the terrycloth bathmat fifteen minutes later, I was feeling much more centered and myself. I gave my reflection a soft smile in the mirror after wiping away the condensation with my towel.

You're doing great, babe.
Keep that chin up.
Just another day.
One foot in front of the other, just like yesterday.

Babyboy was perched on the sink waiting expectantly and chirped at me.

It was a routine I should never have indulged him with in the first place, but now I couldn't deny his sweet little face.

I bent my knees slightly so he could leap up onto my shoulders, where he settled around my neck, complaining momentarily about how much water on my skin I had missed with the towel, but then quieting down to soft purrs and reaching around to nuzzle his cheek against my own.

We crossed through the doorway into my bedroom and I deposited him on the bed where he promptly curled up and settled in for a post-breakfast nap as I headed for the dresser.

I pulled on a mismatched bra and panties and stood before the mirror, thinking about my coming day.

In the heart wrenching aftermath of everything that happened after our brief dalliance, I gave myself permission to be a workaholic - to move far away for a great job and find the slightly-too-big apartment that had all the amenities I wanted.

The generous salary that came with the new position covered my low-maintenance lifestyle and allowed me to live comfortably with my few needs met.

Coming here had been a hard transition, but I knew that it was the right thing to do, regardless of my motives.

It distracted you and made you think you were happy after Johannes didn't find you like he said he would.

"That's enough," I said aloud in an attempt to silence my inner monologue.

It was true to a degree, and I didn't need the reminder that I wasn't happy.

My heart had been broken, and I felt like a foolish groupie fangirl after he failed to contact me and I didn't know how to get a hold of him.

The thought to ask for his phone number in return simply hadn't crossed my mind that day - I trusted him enough and had just assumed he'd reach out to me like he said he would...

You know what they say about assuming.

"Yeah, yeah...will you put a sock in it already?"

One night after several glasses of wine, I had tossed around the idea of messaging him through social media; I'd never been one for Twitter, but I made an account anyways and opened and closed my DM a dozen times before pushing back from my desk with a frustrated huff.

I told myself that he probably was so flooded with random messages he didn't even bother opening them, and didn't it seem a little desperate on my part?

What would I say to him anyways? 

'Hey its me, Triste, remember me? We met accidentally in the throes of insomnia and ended up fucking on the deck floor? And the hood of my car? And the pool? And then we accidentally fell for each other and you fucking forgot about me? How have you been? I desperately miss you and I think about you all the time.'

I passed into a grudging acceptance that he wasn't going to come sweep me off my feet and rescue me, though it felt an awful lot like I was tearing my own heart from my chest to do so, and I closed my laptop with a sigh.

Then I resolved to do what I had always done best - run away.

As I was listening to my Spotify library on shuffle and drunkenly unpacking my dishes into my new kitchen hundreds of miles away from the weathered deck where he kissed me goodbye, I congratulated myself on handling my non-breakup-breakup like an adult, rather than losing my mind and dying my hair the colors of the rainbow.

In something like perfect timing, Fiddler's Farewell started playing through my Bluetooth speaker, accompanied by the crashing of a glass that shattered across the floor.

There goes the summer
There goes the summer
There goes the summer
I'm so cold, I never thought we'd end it like this...

I collapsed to the floor in a fit of hysterical laughter that quickly turned to heaving sobs.

Now, in a pained moment as I stood alone and half naked in my new apartment in a new city, with no idea why I was feeling everything so hard this morning, I met my own reflection in the mirror and heard it replay in my mind.

His voice was low as he whispered to me, thinking me already asleep, wrapped securely in his arms on our last night together.

I love you, Triste. I don't know how we've gotten ourselves here, but I'm so impossibly in love with you...

The memory of his words made a sharp sound of despair escape my lips as my hands clenched at my sides.

Stop it. You know you're not helping anyone by pining this way. You were doing so well.

Now, the bitter, sad truth of it was that I had managed to build a wall around those memories, and keep my days full enough to distract me.

And on those occasions that he crept into my thoughts, I had almost mastered the art of keeping him mentally at an arm's length, like he was a stranger still.

I brushed my hair and scrunched my mousse through it, watching the curls fall down my shoulders and trying to think only about what I had planned out ahead at the shop -- deliveries, meetings, tastings, paperwork. It was all there.

I snugged into a pair of dark blue, form-fitting jeans that accentuated the gentle curves of my hips, and a starched white button up shirt.

A smart pair of gray tweed pumps and a silver necklace completed the look, and with one last glance in the mirror, I headed out the door, feeling ready to take it all on and leaving all thoughts of Johannes behind in my apartment.

Chapter Text

Hours later, I was filling an order that had been placed online, lost in my own world thinking about my budget, when they saw me.

The doors were all propped open slightly to let the crisp winter breeze in, and the fresh air made me feel more clear-headed as my natural optimism returned.

In my mindless trotting around the shop, grabbing this bottle and that, I had failed to see them initially pass by the floor-to-ceiling windows that faced the sidewalk...but he had seen me.

Henrik stopped dead in his tracks, staring in disbelief for a moment as his jaw dropped.

He watched as I thoughtfully tapped the pencil against my darkened lips, glancing up over my reading glasses to check the shelf for the bottle of wine that I sought.

"What--Tim!!"

"Huh?" the other man turned in confusion, noticing his friend no longer walking with him, but Henrik was already gone, heading back toward the open front door of the shop.

Mike looked over, thinking it was a customer and reflexively moved to greet him, "hi--oh...oh uh, uh hi there...how...hello..." he stumbled over his words in surprise, recognizing Henrik after a moment from the countless music videos and interviews he'd watched.

Henrik didn't hear him over the pounding heartbeat in his ears, nor did Tim who followed him through the door, eyes fixed on my retreating form heading to the back room to find the last bottle of wine for the order.

My heels clicked gently along the wood floor, and I hummed the tune of some song coming through the stereo I halfway knew.

"Triste?" I heard a half-whispered, almost unbelieving voice utter, and I felt a spike of ice run up my spine that froze me to the floor as my head snapped up and I stared at the back wall for a moment.

I know that voice...

I turned slowly, seeing him there, his beautiful curls pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck, his cheeks pink from the wind, making his eyes seem like endless topaz pools, and I took a split second to take him in as my brain caught up to my eyes.

"...Henrik?"

The pad of paper in my hands fell to the floor, and he moved forward, seeing that I was rooted to the spot, and caught me around the waist, spinning me in circles as my feet left the floor until I laughed helplessly and wrapped my arms around his neck, realizing it really was him.

He seemed as surprised as I was that we were in the same place again, but equally as glad.

"Henrik!! What are you doing here? My God, its so good to see you!" I gushed against his chest when he lowered me to the floor, inhaling the smell of the crisp air on him and savoring the way him arms crushed me against his torso as I looked up and brushed my fingers across his face.

He pulled me back from his body and before I could ask any more questions, his blue eyes glittered with a smile and he pressed his lips to mine in a quick, soft kiss.

"Oh min blomma, how is this possible? What are you doing here?"

Mike's jaw dropped when he saw Henrik kiss me, but I wasn't paying any attention to him.

Neither of us were.

"I live here! Only recently though, I moved a few months back and..." I gestured around us and said with a grin "this is my shop now!"

Someone cleared their throat behind me, and I'd been so absorbed in Henrik's sudden arrival that I hadn't noticed anyone else, but I turned to see Tim then.

He was hanging back though there was a look spreading across his face that drew me in as his mouth split into a broad grin.

Henrik's hands lingered warmly at my waist for only a moment as I let go of him and moved away slowly like I was in a dream.

"Tim?" I whispered, my shaking voice betraying my relief at seeing him again as he held his arms out to me and when I reached him, he enveloped me in the way I had learned only he could as I slipped my arms under his unzipped coat, noticing the faint smell of tobacco clinging to him as I buried my face in the collar and something between a gasp and a sob left my lips.

He pressed one hand against the back of my head, keeping me there for a moment and savoring the feel of me in his arms again before pulling my face up gently and pressing his lips against mine, as Henrik had. His thumbs traced the lines of my cheekbones and I melted into him, feeling his mouth twist up at the corners, unable to keep himself from smiling at my reaction as his lips lingered a moment longer and his mustache tickled against my skin.

"I thought I was never going to see you again, priestess," he murmured, pressing his forehead to mine as his hand cupped the back of my head briefly and he fought the tears that stung his eyes.

I did my best too to keep the tears of joy at bay when he released me and I stepped back, holding a hand out to each of them.

"What are you guys doing here? I didn't know you were touring right now, but I haven't really been keeping up... Is J--..." I didn't finish my thought, not wanting to give into my secret hope that Johannes had somehow found me after all.

My cheeks immediately started to burn with a fierce blush as the two men looked at me with an indescribable expression, understanding the remainder of my unasked question.

At seeing the look of glee on my face start to fade, Henrik sighed, and Tim's features quickly shifted to a mask of discomfort.

I looked to Henrik, not understanding, but his eyes were closed and his head was tilted down as he pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, his opposite hand propped against his hip.

I was thinking they were going to tell me Johannes had fallen off a cliff and was dead by the way they were fidgeting and avoiding my gaze, and after a moment Henrik met my eyes and glanced over at Mike, and I remembered suddenly that we weren't alone.

"Oh...Mike, why don't you take off? I'll comp you the rest of the day."

He didn't acknowledge my words, still enraptured in what had just happened, and he continued to stare unabashedly at our guests.

"Mike ... hello ... ground control to Mike ... Mikkael."

He shook his head like he was coming out of a daze and looked at me finally, blinking owlishly. He'd told me when I first started and was reviewing his payroll paperwork that no one ever called him that, but I thought it was a beautiful name.

"What? What did you say? Sorry, I was..."

I held my hands up with a soft smile, understanding better than he knew what was going on in his brain at that moment and nodded my head towards the door as I repeated myself.

"Take off for the day, I've got everything here."

Mike moved like he was in a daze, and pressed a hand to my arm briefly. He didn't usually touch me, nor I him, and I was momentarily surprised, raising one eyebrow at him.

"Hey, call if you need anything..." he stopped, grinning childishly at me, "coolest. boss. ever."

And I couldn't help but laugh as my brief discomfort evaporated and I pressed one hand to his, barely keeping a lid on my emotions, "yeah, definitely, and don't forget it when I magically remember to ask you to do inventory next week," I smiled and shook my head at his retreating form, then glanced back to the two men before me who had so suddenly reappeared in my nearly-put-together life.

"Oh, shit sorry, I'm the rudest person ever. I should have introduced you guys to Mi--..." I started, then immediately stopped when I saw the look still lingering across both their faces.

"Okay somebody just say whatever it is you're both thinking, please, you're freaking me out..." I said, starting to feel anxious as I clasped my hands together.

"Erm...Johannes is here with us. In town, I mean, not here here, obviously..."

The way he said it made me know there was more coming, but I breathed a sigh of relief all the same, pressing a hand to my thundering heart, "Jesus, Henrik, I thought you were going to tell me he was dead or something," I laughed, my mind already starting to run away without me again thinking about seeing Johannes after all these months.

But the troubled frown was still lingering on his lovely features, marring them slightly, "he didn't...call you?"

"About you guys coming back stateside? No, I...I haven't..." I cleared my throat, trying to maintain my dignity and not sound like I had been forcing myself to not think of him for the last several months, "I haven't talked to him since we left the beach. I'm sure he's been busy, and I just moved and..."

A sound left Henrik's lips that I recognized as my heart dropped into my feet.

It was anguish.

I had made the same sound to myself that morning in the mirror thinking about Johannes whispering how he felt about me.

Telling me he loved me for the first time.

Accepting me, even though he knew what I was.

Who I was.

"So he didn't ever tell you...I fucking knew it,"  it wasn't really a question, more of a statement that Tim left hanging in the air.

When I shook my head slowly he spun on his heel and ran his fingers aggressively through his hair, walking a few steps to cool his frustration before turning back towards Henrik, "that motherfucker..."

I felt panic start to rise in my chest as my eyes darted back and forth between them, and my fingers reached behind me to grip the wooden countertop.

"What...w-what didn't he tell me..."

I looked back to Henrik when he advanced a step towards me and reached a gentle hand to my face to quell my panic. His palm was warm, and his eyes such a wonderful shade of blue, I couldn't help but lean into his touch as I waited for him to answer me as I started to tremble.

When he didn't, I cradled his cheeks in my own palms, and he turned to press a gentle kiss into one wrist before taking both my hands in his own and lowering them between us.

"Henrik, whats going on?"

He sighed deeply, "Triste...Johannes is...he's...he got married...I'm so sorry, I thought you knew..."

Chapter Text

The world swirled around me, a blur of colors and muted sounds, and I felt like the wind was knocked out of my lungs as I struggled to get enough oxygen.

"W-what? Married?" I collapsed back against the counter as my knees finally just failed me altogether, and Tim was immediately there, holding me as I dropped to the floor, muttering to himself what I assumed was an intense string of profanities in Swedish.

He looked up to Henrik and they had a brief heated exchange over my head as I stared at the floor, trying to concentrate on the grains of wood in one single plank.

Don't pass out. Don't pass out. Oh God please don't pass out.

"When--"

They both looked at me as I interrupted their discussion and my voice cracked as I finished my question when I could speak again, "when did he get married?"

Their expressions clearly said that neither wanted to answer me and they both stayed silent for several more deafening moments.

"Goddammit, somebody just fucking tell me!" I yelled, louder than I meant to, and the emotion in my voice brought Henrik down next to me and Tim on the floor.

He sighed, once again taking the responsibility of the ugly task at hand, "Johannes' phone got broken on the way back home. It just stopped working and wouldn't turn on at all when we landed, and he had to wait for a couple days to get a new one, but while he was without he...disappeared, I guess...we didn't hear much from him for about a month. I mean we were borderline thinking he might have been dead. Then he came back, and there was a ring on his finger, and he was...Triste, he was just..." he ran a distressed hand back through his hair, pulling it loose from the hair tie.

"He was different..." Tim said, to my left. "Johannes wasn't the same person that you met, or the one we've known all these years. Now he's basically stopped writing music, and doesn't want to spend time with anyone but h-..." he trailed off.

The first tear spilled down my cheek when I raised my eyes to meet Tim's, feeling the temporary patch I'd stitched over my heart over the last several months get brutally ripped off.

"Oh, fuck, please don't...I can't handle you crying, sweetheart," he gathered me against his side as I sobbed, unable to do anything but and his heart burned with a dangerous flame, a simmering anger that was quickly blooming into pure hatred.

"I...I thought..." I stammered when I could...but in truth, I couldn't think of anything. How many nights had I spent laying in my bed staring at the ceiling desperately wishing more than anything that he could be there with me, then getting annoyed at myself for wanting that?

I had craved his touch against my skin in a way I couldn't describe. How many times had that been followed by a thought of the first time he kissed me, with the moonlight making his hair glisten like the midnight water of the ocean?

And all that time, or most of it, I had to assume, he had probably been with her...not thinking of me at all.

I looked back down at the floor for a few more moments, letting this information settle inside me, then moved to get up, taking a deep breath to steady myself.

Tim was on his feet first and offered me two hands to pull me up; his palms were soft when I took them, but I could feel the callouses on the fingertips of his left hand against my wrist, hard from being pressed against the strings for years. He didn't let go of me when I was upright, he just pulled me close and I couldn't look at him as I slipped my arms around his waist under his coat once more, savoring the warmth of his body now that I felt like nothing but ice.

I wasn't aware of how long I stood there listening to the rhythm of his heartbeat through his shirt until Henrik pressed a soft kiss to my hair, his hand running down the length of my back. My button-up was thin, and I could feel the heat from his palm through the material, making me involuntarily shiver as Tim pulled me closer.

Finally, I pulled away, steeling myself and stepping out of both mens grasps.

"Thank you f-for telling me. I'm sure that was..." I cleared my throat, "...unpleasant." It wasn't the word I had wanted to use and the anguish in Henrik's stare told me that it was indeed insufficient as my hands ran back through my hair as I sniffed and then smoothed my shirt and stood up straight.

I flipped to my professional voice that I used for customers and other people who I wanted to keep at arms length, and my heart saddened thinking that now these two had to fit into that category, but I couldn't see them and not think of Johannes now, and that just hurt too much.

"Ahem. It was so good to see you both again...I hope you have an awesome show, and--"

Tim cut me off abruptly, "don't do this, Triste."

I looked at him, trying not to let him see in my eyes the deep wound their news had re-opened. It had taken me too long to get over that whole encounter already, and now my brain was flooded with memories and fresh waves of pain.

"Don't do what?" I lifted my chin to remind myself to stand up tall and not crumble to the floor like I wanted to.

"Just pretend you're fine like that to make us go away. Why are you brushing this off like it doesn't matter to you?" Henrik piped up as his brow furrowed.

I was dumbfounded for a moment.

"Doesn't...matter?"

Henrik opened his mouth to say something else, but my steely glare cut him short as I felt the hysteria bubbling to the surface and fought to keep it suppressed when I reached down into my shirt and angrily snatched the chain from my neck, pulling its contents out from underneath and holding it up so they could see.

"Tell me again it doesn't matter to me..." I said lowly, trying not to bare my teeth. It wasn't Henrik's fault.

He wasn't looking at me though as I sought his eyes. His and Tim's gazes were trained on the piece of metal dangling from the delicate chain clutched in my hand.

It was a man's ring, too big to wear on any of my fingers though Johannes' were so beautiful and slender. Made of simple black tungsten, it was polished around the edges and matte around the middle, without any ornamentation.

Both men instantly recognized it and exchanged a brief pained look.

John had remarked on its absence after Johannes returned from what they later learned was some sort of elopement. He'd had it since he was a teenager, since they started the band, and he never took it off. Everywhere he went, he wore it on the index finger of his left hand, even under the gloves on stage.

When he simply said "huh... must have lost it..." without any worry, they knew something was wrong.

But by then he'd gotten a different ring on a different finger and didn't want to talk any more about it.

Tim closed his hands around mine, and pressed the piece of metal to his heart with a deep sigh, "Oh, babe I can't believe you have this. I'm sorry he's done this to you. We know...you of all people do care. It does matter..."

I was trying so hard to stay calm that I started to hyperventilate, the ring dangling from my hand still pressed between Tim's.

Both men embraced me between them as a strangled cry left my lips. I was heartsick and wanted to be alone, but I also never wanted them to let go of me, and between their soothing words and calming touches, eventually I got control over my breathing.

"My calm is only going to last so long, please just tell me," I whined into the fabric of Henrik's coat, sniffling and keeping my eyes shut tight.

"Tell you what?"

"I'm not fucking stupid, Henrik, I saw that look you two just gave each other."

His arms wrapped tighter around me. So tight that I had a hard time breathing, but I didn't care; he was so warm and safe, and worried about me, I thought I could be okay there for now.

But all too soon, Henrik pulled me from his arms again, looking down into my eyes with a piercing blue stare, different from Johannes', but equally mesmerizing.

I couldn't help it when I reached up and ran my hand through his hair, stretching his curls between my fingers. It was thick and soft, and he caught his breath at my tender caress.

"You hair is darker now than I remember it," I mumbled, getting lost in the softness of his locks between my fingertips.

"It gets lighter in the sun," he breathed, leaning down and pressing his forehead to mine before turning and walking away to look out the front window of the shop. Dusk had fallen though it was still early in the day. Come December, it was always dark by 5 here, and January was the worst month - cold and dark and snowy without the excitement of any holidays.

It was Tim's turn to press his hands to my face, and I sighed at his touch, looking up into his eyes - they were concerned for me, but there was something else there too, that I assumed was concern for Johannes.

I remembered being surprised at how different he looked without the dark eye makeup when we first met right after I got done confronting Van.

He was beautiful, as they all were, and I felt a pang of longing in my heart as I absentmindedly brushed a lock of hair out of his face.

My boys.

They weren't my boys, I had to remind myself, but it felt that way now with Tim and Henrik, like it had that week at the beach when we were all free and happy, and giving of ourselves.

"This is too much. I need a cigarette," I muttered after taking a deep breath and looking at the floor.

Chapter Text

"I believe that's something I can help with," Tim took me by the hand, lacing our fingers together, and led me to the door as he pulled a pack of smokes from his coat pocket, "you gonna want a coat."

"I'm okay," I mumbled. Couldn't get much colder than I already felt.

He wasn't much taller than I was in my heels, but I kicked out of them on the way to the door, and as a last minute thought when I remembered Henrik didn't smoke and wasn't going to follow us outside, I grabbed my keys off the counter to lock up and told him to pick a bottle of something and open it.

I figured we could all probably use a drink.

Tim and I stepped out on the sidewalk into the evening. The street was empty and the shop lights were casting a faint glow onto the sidewalk as I locked the doors, leaving one propped open an inch so we could re-enter before slumping down on the step and leaning back against the painted wood.

I reached to take the cigarette from Tim, but he pushed my hand away and bent to place it between my lips as I opened them for him, holding his gaze. His thumb lingered, brushing slowly against my burgundy lipstick, and I finally closed my eyes with a sigh at the intimate touch.

It was so much for one day - waking up thinking about Johannes, then by pure happenstance having Henrik and Tim walk into my shop, and them telling me he was married now...

"Oh. That makes sense. Of course..." I muttered to myself.

"Hmm?"

"Nothing. I just. I was thinking about him this morning and I couldn't figure out why I was feeling so bad, but I guess I sensed you all being here."

Exhaustion started to settle in my body, pulling on me like a physical weight and I kept my eyes shut as Tim sat next to me on the step and I leaned heavily into him, resting my head on his shoulder when he didn't respond.

I heard the click of a lighter, followed by his voice telling me to inhale and I did so, tasting the sweetness of the smoke between my lips as I held it.

We were silent for a minute, basking both in each others' company and the nicotine rush before I opened my eyes and looked up. Stars were hard to come by in the city and the sky remained a featureless expanse of black.

"Remember laying on the beach and staring up at the stars?" I asked him softly, still looking at the night sky. He took a drag and looked over at me, his eyes moving down to my lips, watching the smoke curl as it escaped between them.

"Mmhm. As soon as the power went out you bolted outside and took off down the beach," he said with a low laugh, "I kinda thought you were gone for good."

"In hindsight, I should have said something other than 'I'll be back' probably. But I did say I'll be back...the stars without light pollution are so much better than most people think though, and I got excited to see them again. Plus you found me, right? I mean I didn't go that far." I chuckled.

"Yeah only because I almost tripped over you laying on the ground."

I felt his shoulders shake with laughter again. I had taken his hand and pulled him down to me until we were both laying flat on our backs together on the cool sand. He had leaned over to look down at me, and when he kissed me his lips lingered and moved against mine. I remembered leaning up into his kiss and wanting to open my lips to him, to taste his tongue under the night breeze.

Tim had whispered words to me that were lost in the white noise of the ocean just beyond our feet. Something about the water brought us closer and I held onto his hand as we laughed and talked and I answered his questions...we had been perfectly content then, but it felt like a million years had passed as I sat next to the same man on the steps now in a far different place.

"My heart hurts, Tim," I confessed, finally letting the pain enter my voice, "I thought that he had forgotten about me. I didn't consider that he had...found someone instead."

I felt tears stinging my eyes again and sternly reprimanded myself internally.

Don't you cry. Not for him. Not after what he's done.

I took another deep breath, something I had gotten rather good at doing to calm myself these last few months.

"Okay. Just tell me," I groaned, closing my eyes again, bracing myself and sitting up so I could look at him, "whatever you guys were thinking in there that nobody wanted to say."

There was a pause - it wasn't uncomfortable, only heavy.

"God, I just don't want to," he breathed, finally meeting my gaze, "it was so good to see you smiling when you first saw us, hearing you laugh, it was like...I don't know," he sighed and looked back out at the street as he took another drag from his cigarette, exhaling slowly through his nose, "I don't want you to hate us for this. Johannes has gotten himself into some shit, and its unlike him, but..." his eyes flicked back to mine, "just don't hate me for being the one to tell you...please I won't be able to stand it."

He sounded defeated as he whispered his final words and the hardness in my heart I had worked so hard on in the last few minutes started to crumble as he looked at me with the same pained expression for the second time in an hour.

"Christ, Tim," I moaned as I took another pull on my cigarette, looking away from his intense gaze. The lights from the shop and the street were illuminating half his face in a way that cast the other part of it into shadow.

"How could you think I'd ever hate you? You're...I..." I sighed, preparing myself to just say it.

"After that week getting to know everyone, I think I connected with you all, each in our own ways, and...gods Tim I lov--..." I swallowed hard but couldn't finish my thought and I felt a sharp pain in my chest, unsure whether it was physical or mental, but my hand fisted into my shirt over my heart all the same.

"I know..." Tim said after a moment, scooting closer to me on the step until his leg was pressed against mine, and pulling that hand from my chest.

He pressed a kiss to my fingers, "everyone knew when we saw you both together, Triste... I had never seen Johannes like that with anyone before. That's why we were so surprised when he resurfaced and told us he'd gotten married. I think at first we..." he cleared his throat in a way that made me know he was wishing he'd stopped while he was ahead.

"At first we what..."

He looked at me and I knew he didn't want to say the words.

"Tim...he's already gone from me. Just say it."

He sighed heavily, and I could see he was uncomfortable, "we thought, maybe at first that it was to you...I mean it was sudden, but I think we were all happy when we thought that...and then..."

My tears slipped down my cheeks hearing his words.

"I'm sorry, baby, I didn't mean to make you cry again. Fuck. I'm sorry."

"No, it's okay," I sniffled, giving his fingers a squeeze and leaning back into him until he let go of my hand and wrapped an arm around my shoulders, "it wasn't you, I promise...I'm happy you're here. I...I missed you."

He sighed heavily, "I missed you too, love. So so much...but something is wrong Triste. I know you're probably mad as hell at him, and you have every right to be, but this behavior isn't normal for Johannes. He doesn't do things like run off without a word and marry the first crazy bitch he meets," anger seeped into his voice as he spat out the last words, "and that ring around your neck? I've never seen him without it. Ever. The other guys maybe, but he's never taken it off since I've known him, that's for sure. And instead of telling us the truth, he lied. To all of us -- right to our faces. He acted like he hadn't even noticed it was gone when John asked, then told us he must have lost it wherever the hell he'd been with her... And you know how protective of you Henrik is; fuck, you should have seen him yelling at Johannes when she came to the studio with him and he told us who she was. I've never seen him that fired up and honestly I thought he was gonna quit the band right there."

I didn't know what to say. Part of me was viscerally angry at Johannes, and thought I'd kill him if I ever saw him again, but the other part of me longed so deeply for him, even now that I knew all of this.

"You're right, I am mad at him. But at the end of the day, I'm sure he had his reasons to get married and I just want J-...Johannes to be happy..."

It was the first time I'd uttered his name, and it felt good in the way that hitting yourself in the head with a hammer repeatedly feels good when you finally stop.

The other words tasted like ash in my mouth but I did my best to mean them as I stood and flicked my cigarette into the street.

"Jesus, Triste. You were a horrible liar when I met you, and you're still bad," he muttered, getting to his feet.

Despite my heartache, I couldn't help but admire the way his hair blew gently in the breeze, and my head was feeling a little fuzzy with the nicotine rush.

"Damn..." I said softly, mostly to myself as I reached out to touch it, but I immediately clapped my hand over my mouth and murmured an apology behind it, shaking my head back and forth.

He barked a laugh and stepped closer to me grinning, several inches taller now that I was barefoot, and he slipped a hand around my waist to pull me against him and spent several seconds looking down at me. As we had on the sand that night at the beach, he pressed his cigarette to my lips for me to take one last drag.  My gaze didn't leave his as the burning ember illuminated our faces, and he flicked the butt away into the street after he pulled it from my mouth, still not looking away from me.

Rather than breathing it in, I let the smoke drift softly from my parted lips and he leaned down to inhale it, his mouth nearly touching mine.

Neither of us said anything for a moment, and I found myself wishing that he would kiss me. As if he'd caught an echo of my thoughts, his eyes flicked down to my lips and he leaned in. He whispered my name and pressed a kiss to the very corner of my mouth before taking my hand.

"Oh, babe, you're shaking," he gasped as he quickly let go of me and shrugged out of his jacket before placing it around my shoulders and leading me quickly back inside as I mumbled a non-committal "am I?".

I hadn't realized how cold it was out until we stepped back into the shop and I heard the heat kick on. I stood shivering under the vent for a few moments, letting the warm airflow bring my temperature back up as Tim held me close until the shaking subsided, leaning his cheek against the top of my head and staring at the wall, lost in thought.

Chapter Text

Henrik was sitting at the counter and smiled at me as I picked up my shoes from the floor and moved further inside, brushing one hand across his shoulder.

I dropped my heels in my back office and slipped on a pair of flats I'd stashed there before killing most of the shop lights and taking one quick moment to write down a reminder for next week on my ever-growing to-do list.

When I went back out to the counter, Henrik and Tim were seated, talking quietly and nodding their heads together. Despite the sad news they had brought me, my heart was glad to see them again, and I walked up behind Henrik and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, resting my chin on one and smiling softly over at Tim.

"I still can't believe you're both here," I murmured, allowing myself to get lost again in his smell and the softness of his hair as I nuzzled my cheek into it. He rubbed my arm in agreement before taking one of my hands and pressing a soft kiss to the knuckles, glad that I was at least seeming a bit more like myself, even if I was sad.

I picked up the bottle he'd chosen and examined it briefly before leaning down and planting a soft, lingering kiss on the very back corner of his jaw.

White Burgundy - my favorite. He'd remembered from the first day we met.

I opened it and poured three glasses before settling down on a stool on the opposite side of the counter from them and raising my glass. I didn't offer a suggestion -- there wasn't anything I wanted to toast at the moment, and truthfully I just wanted to get blind drunk and scream at the top of my lungs into the abyss, but I had company.

I lowered my glass after a moment and Henrik frowned, hating the sadness that I was so clearly feeling.

"Hey," he said, catching my eyes, and not dropping my gaze, "cheers. To the way your smile lights up a room, and for the wonderful, kind woman you are...and to being together again..."

I smiled down into my lap for a moment, feeling the blush creep across my cheeks.

"Skål," I lifted my glass and looked up at him.

We sipped our wine in silence for a moment as I got lost in my own thoughts until it was me who broke it finally.

"How are Jonas and John doing?" I couldn't believe I was making stupid small talk, but the weight of knowing I'd permanently lost Johannes made me want to sit and be silent and alone and wallow in my misery, not have in-depth conversation about anything.

"They're fine..." Henrik eyed me over the rim of his glass as he took another drink, "Triste, look, I'm really sorry you had to hear this from us. When he came back, and of course after the initial shock wore off, we all asked if he'd talked to you before making the decision. None of us knows anything about how it happened or where they met even. And honestly..." he ran a hand back through his hair and I watched how the low lighting shone off his curls, "honestly, its scaring the shit out of me."

"I know, Tim told me about that. And the ring." I found that before I'd even said the word my hand had circled around the metal, exposed now outside my shirt.

"Its worrying all of us," Tim corrected, "he's so angry now, and secretive, and I can't shake this feeling that something is really wrong. Its like when you look at him, he's not totally there."

"That's why we were so surprised when we ran into you here," Henrik said, taking my hand in his own across the counter, "as soon as we found out we were coming back to America, we had all wondered if maybe seeing you again wouldn't... I don't know, like snap him out of it or something...and then there you were today in the window, right at the end. Little one, we've looked everywhere for you, and we thought we were out of time."

I sat and finished my glass of wine without saying anything, and both men started to look nervously at each other until finally I looked up.

"I don't know that that's such a good idea guys, me seeing him," I said quietly, "what good would it do to snap him out of it and break them up if it will only make him more angry? I mean I'm not totally sure how the process works in Sweden, but from what I've seen here, divorce is really really unpleasant for everyone, even if both parties want it, which it doesn't sound like is the case either though. Why would that be better?"

My eyes rested on my hands in my lap, trying to remind myself of what all I had gotten done over the last months without him.

Don't go crawling ba--

Henrik slammed his palm down on the wooden countertop then, startling me, and he met my wide-eyed expression with depthless pain in his own, but also anger that I'd only ever seen once before.

"Damnit Triste, because he's our friend, and we love him, and because you love him! Don't fucking sit there and pretend like you don't!"

I immediately felt defensive and angry at him, both for yelling at me and forcing me to confront something I'd tried so hard to suppress.

"OF COURSE I FUCKING LOVE HIM," I yelled back, rising from my stool, "you don't have the slightest idea what the last six months have been like for me. He abandoned me after I told him the truth, told all of you the truth! He wasn't there when I needed him the most, Henrik, when she--..."

The lights flickered as my rage simmered to the surface, but I couldn't say the words.

Not as angry as I was.

I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose before continuing, "I expected him to at least fucking call. He made a stupid joke about it when we were saying goodbye, and I hadn't even thought that far ahead, but...he had my phone number. He said he'd call..."

I took a shaky breath as another piece of my heart shattered.

"But he didn't, and then everything went to shit and I ran away and ended up here," I gestured around us, "where it gets fucking dark at 4:30 in the winter and snows all the fucking time and, Henrik I don't understand what I did to make him not love me anymore..."

My tears were flowing freely down my cheeks now, but I didn't wipe them away. The force of my anger and my sudden confrontation of emotions I'd wanted to put away in a box under the bed for the rest of forever was powerful and had fueled me to tell them the absolute truth about what I felt for Johannes.

Tears slowly slid down Henrik's cheeks too as his anger dissipated and he flung himself off his stool, reaching me before I could blink. He crushed me against his shoulder, one hand pressing hard on the back of my head as I sobbed uncontrollably, collapsing into his embrace and trusting him to hold me up.

"Shh...shhh..." he whispered soothingly against my hair, "you're okay, you're okay...Triste, don't you see that that's why we're so worried? This isn't like him. This isn't Johannes..."

As my wracking sobs subsided I looked up at Henrik, my eyes red and still brimming with tears, "Henrik, what did I do...why did he forget about me," I whispered.

A pang of nearly-physical pain shot through him, and he couldn't help himself in that moment, seeing me so distraught as he leaned down with a soft "please, don't ever..." and pressed his lips to mine, moving them after a moment to pull me into his kiss. It was the only thing he could think to do to show me how badly he wanted to protect me and give me comfort.

His hands were warm at my waist, and one wrapped around my back as the other cupped my face, holding me to him as his thumb moved to brush away the tracks my tears had left down my cheek. I sank into him, feeling warm and loved and wanted for the first time in months, the familiarity of his kiss resonating in my mind as my lips slowly opened to him.

His tongue softly caressed mine as it slid between my parted lips, drawing a sigh from me as I returned his gentle affection, gliding my own along his, chasing it back between his own lips. Henrik still tasted like a dream after all these months, the lingering hint of French oak from the wine still apparent on his tongue, and I pressed into him, wanting, needing, desiring more of the softness of his mouth, and he gave it to me.

My fingers pushed through his hair, anchoring him to me and I stood up on my toes to get closer, feeling his body react as his arms held me tightly against him and his kiss got more urgent.

He finally pulled away with a soft moan, and when I opened my eyes he looked momentarily unsure about what he'd just done.

Some things never changed, I guess.

"I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean...I..."

I pressed a soft hand to his mouth to stop his babbling before leaning my head against his chest.

His heart was thundering.

"No no. Don't worry. It's okay." I whispered before leaning up to brush his lips with mine once more to reassure him. He leaned down into my kiss, needing me to feel something he couldn't express and I couldn't help the sad smile that crossed my lips.

"Are you still going to do that every time then? Apologize?"

He pressed his forehead to mine and shook his head, "I didn't mean for that to happen...you just...babe, my goddamn hearts breaking here, and I don't know what to do."

I sniffled, leaning against his chest, "you know, sometimes you're just too good for this horrid world, Henrik..."

His arms wrapped tighter around me for a second, before releasing me as I continued, "I don't know if I can see him again now. I'm afraid...I'm afraid of the pain and," I swallowed hard, "rejection..."

Tim moved around me and ran a soft hand down my back as my arms wrapped protectively across myself.

"We wouldn't want anything that would hurt you, Triste. We had to try, though," he sounded defeated.

"I need...I need some time to think," I managed to say.

My head was still foggy from Henrik's kiss... I'd nearly forgotten what it felt like in my time alone.

"You guys probably need to get going now too, I would guess," I glanced outside at the settled darkness and moved out of their reach, looking back and forth between them, "don't you?"

Henrik looked at the floor, suddenly fidgeting with a loose thread in his jacket, but I watched him bite his bottom lip for a moment, tasting our kiss still.

"Do you still want us to go then? I thought...maybe you were just saying that," he spoke quietly, not looking at me.

"I...I...I don't ever want you to go..." I whispered back, blinking away my tears, "I'm sorry I dismissed you like that before, I was trying not to lose it... I've hated being away from you both this long."

It felt good to tell them the truth, after lying to myself about being fine without Johannes for half a year. I sniffled and straightened my blouse, "but I know that you kind of, uhm, randomly happened upon me here on your way somewhere else today...and you're probably busy with rehearsals and...stuff...and...and..." I was babbling, trying to focus as Tim turned the full force of his eyes on me and caught my gaze like a steel trap.

He closed the gap between us with two strides and grabbed my face between his palms, tilting it up and taking one quick second to look deep into my eyes and make sure he had all of my attention now.

"Stop being so fucking accommodating, Triste," and with a swift bow of his head he crushed his lips to mine and moved one arm to pull me against him roughly as I let out a small gasp of surprise. Tim's mouth was insistent against my own, his tongue seeking entry as I opened for him with a soft cry, and found that my fingers were grabbing onto him, pulling him closer, desiring to feel him pressed harder against me.

My brain went haywire, swirling with thoughts of all our times together. The lingering looks, the lasting touches. The way his lips still sent electrical currents straight down my spine.

His tongue was slick and hot, utterly delicious in my current state, and I forgot that Henrik was standing there watching us as I devoured his kiss, pulling him harder to me, drowning in his touch as his hands roamed over my back and through my hair. He bent my head back slightly so he could let his mouth hover over mine when he pulled back.

"I really can't tell you how badly I've wanted to do that again," he whispered, still lost with me in our own lust-filled world.

"Tim, don't stop," I moaned quietly into his lips, the near-sinful pleasure in my voice evident even to my own ears. He kissed me again and his tongue plundered my mouth as I leaned into him heavily, feeling some of the exhaustion and sadness of the day remediated by his expert kiss, the sound of our lips moving together echoing through the empty expanse of the shop.

I broke away finally with a gasp and looked at him, then to Henrik, who I saw was biting his lip and clutching the counter, watching me with darkened eyes. I looked away and back at Tim, whose eyes seemed to swirl blue and green like the movement of water. I knew that look.

We stood looking at each other for a long time, until my breathing evened out and I cleared my throat, "I-I do need to go through my closing stuff a-and probably get home soon. Where are you staying?"

"Ahh, well, uh..." Tim sighed heavily, "I don't really know. I might have...might have stormed out this morning...It's too much now to stay in the same place as Johannes and...her..." he shrugged sheepishly at me and stuffed his hands in his pockets.

"You can say her name out loud, Tim, I'm a big girl..." I rolled my eyes at him.

"No, I won't speak that bitches name, not in front of you." he snarled.

"Okay okay, I'm sorry," I held my hands up and he shook his head as a frown pulled the corners of his mouth down.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to snap."

"Is she really that bad? And is it normal for...I thought that, ah...partners usually didn't come with...I mean I guess, just on tour, or whatever..." I said quietly, trailing off before I could ask why he had brought her along.

Johannes had seemed happy with me. We were all happy together, but now I was being convinced from Henrik and Tim's behavior that whoever this woman was, she was bad news.

"So, you're not staying with everyone else?" I inquired when he didn't answer me, still unsure of where to find him if I decided to confront Johannes after all.

"I haven't booked a room anywhere yet. I more or less walked out this morning and...well...we explored the city while I cooled down then bumped into you and..." his hand gestured in a vague motion that made me understand that he hadn't exactly been mulling it over since getting here.

"Well...I mean I have a spare bedroom and a really comfortable couch if you want to stay with me. Y-you can both stay if you want...no pressure, of course. If that's too weird, I can drop you off at a hotel or something. I don't want it to be weird," I babbled and Tim and Henrik looked at each other, then back at me.

"Thank you, we'll stay with you if you're sure that's okay" Henrik said with a gentle smile that made me want to crawl into his arms and stay there forever. It warmed a part of my sad heart to see his tenderness towards me.

"Of course its okay. But I have just a couple things to do around here first, if you don't mind waiting a few minutes, or I can pick you up somewhere else later, if you want to go out or whatever. There are a few good bars around here."

"Take your time, we can wait," Tim said as he stepped forward and curled my hair behind my ear. His hand lingered and his index finger brushed the shell of it, making me shudder.

He bit his bottom lip slightly as he smiled at me and the sight made me almost forget my name.

"Won't be but a few minutes," I mumbled, ducking out of his grasp and heading off in the direction of the back storage room before I embarrassed myself.

When the door closed behind me I collapsed to the floor and took several deep breaths. I closed my eyes and centered, trying in that moment to be as honest with myself as possible - both Henrik's and Tim's kisses had awakened in me a hot desire that I thought wouldn't ever resurface, and I was left wanting more. A lot more. And Johannes was in some kind of bad situation with this woman, who sounded like a right terror, that may or may not have been his own fault.

Ah fuck - this is gonna hurt.

I sighed and answered my internal monologue aloud as my eyes reopened and I stared at the ceiling.

"Affirmative, captain."

But in some way, I felt better being prepared to be hurt rather than having it blindside me again, and I emerged from the storage room with a few bottles to restock the shelves and smiled at my boys, still sitting at the counter sipping.

Henrik watched the way my hips rolled as I crossed the shop floor, his head feeling a little hazy from the strong wine, and his grip on the stem of his glass tightened.

"Hey, put some music on, would you? The acoustics in this place make me feel like everyone can hear me thinking when its quiet," I said over my shoulder, and he picked his phone up off the counter.

"Want to hear one of our new songs? Unless you've heard them already..."

"Ah, no I...I haven't...I'd love to hear one," I said with my back still towards them, biting my lip and preparing myself to hear Johannes' voice. Tim had told me they were going into the studio when they got back home, and I assumed they were here touring for a new album, but I hadn't been able to play any of their music without breaking down since that night in my kitchen.

The song was soft as he turned the volume up and I stood rooted to the floor, waiting for Johannes voice, but it didn't come. The melody was so familiar, but I couldn't place it as the slow, hollow-sounding notes traveled through the floorboards, filling my soul with each ringing pulse, and I walked dazedly back to the storeroom as memories of blue eyes swirled through my brain.

My heart ached for my loss, but I couldn't deny that I was glad to know their music hadn't suffered, and in fact it seemed as good as ever. Apparently Johannes hadn't lost that much of himself to his--

I stopped cold as the brief wave of happiness left me.

His wife.

I snarled like an animal at a can of beer on my storage shelf and watched the seam stretch then burst until it exploded and fizzed onto the floor. As my sudden fit of rage subsided, I picked up the mangled can and slowly made my way out to the sink to get some paper towels.

"What happened?" Tim asked, seeing both my expression and the dripping beverage in my hands.

"I..." I cleared my throat, "maybe something else for music, yeah? I have to clean this up real quick, then I'll be ready to go."

Henrik shot Tim a troubled glance over his shoulder as he tossed the other his phone to change the song then followed me to the back room. He took the wad of paper towels from my hand and started to wipe up the amber liquid on the floor.

"That was thoughtless of me to play that, I'm sorry."

I slumped down on a case of wine and ran my hand through my hair, "no, it...that was beautiful. It sounds familiar, but I don't remember why," I murmured, watching as the paper towels soaked up the mess.

Henrik smiled softly as he knelt down in front of me, tipping my chin up out of my hands.

"Tim wrote it for you."

I blinked slowly,"f-for me?"

"Do you remember that afternoon we were all there at the pool after we had to go do that radio session? Tim brought his guitar down while you were all in the water?"

I nodded, biting my lip as my eyes blurred again.

"He said his fingers just played it as he watched you swimming and laughing. Its called Winter Comes When the King Dreams of Snow."

I didn't know what that meant, but part of my fractured heart mended at the gesture, "Henrik. He...he has...a- a wife," I snarled the last word again, then took a breath in through my nose and exhaled through my mouth, "how did this happen? What am I supposed to do?"

I collapsed forward into him, needing to just be touched and shushed and reassured.

He held me close, whispering quietly to me until he pulled back and pressed a hand over mine in my lap, still kneeling before me, "you just take each second one at a time. And you remember that its okay to be angry and hurt right now."

I sighed and we stood together, "yeah. This has been...a lot..."

His forehead pressed down against my own before he led me back out into the shop and disposed of the soaked paper towels.

"See? No harm done," he smiled at me.

"Yeah, except for my pride and my inventory," I muttered and they both laughed. I couldn't help but chuckle with them as I shook my head and crossed to Tim, still seated on his stool, and pressed a hand to his face.

A tiny smile turned one corner of my lips up as I pressed a kiss to his, and his hands gently touched my cheeks.

"Thank you," I whispered.

"For what?"

"You know what," I kissed him again and he smiled into my lips, understanding as he wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me to stand between his legs then resting his head against my breast and murmuring something I didn't catch.

"What did you say?"

He pulled back to look at me, his heart wrenching at my reddened eyes, the tear tracks down my cheeks, "do you still have the picture?"

I huffed a little laugh as I nodded, and his entire face lit up.

"You do?"

I tilted his head up again, letting my lips linger for another moment, "of course I do. It was my goodbye present, remember?"

His hands tightened around my waist at the memory of what I'd given him, and we stared at each other, standing that way for several more moments until I hummed and kissed the top of his head before pulling away and looking back and forth between them.

"Okay, ready to go?"

They gathered up their coats as I placed our glasses in the sink and shut off the remainder of the lights. In the sudden dark, their eyes seemed to illuminate on me, and I felt my core clench slightly.

It made me feel powerful.

You are powerful, don't forget what you are, my subconscious reminded me.

'Who', I corrected before shaking her off and turning to them with my best smile, "Time to go home, boys," I said and they both took a step towards me.

"Shotgun," Tim immediately responded with a broad grin that made us all laugh again.

I climbed into the seat behind the wheel of my Jeep and immediately felt calmer. This was my place. I'd spent hours driving back and forth across the state, trying to clear my head when I moved here.

"Do you mind if we open the windows a little? Will you be too cold?" I asked them both, looking to Tim then up to Henrik in the rear view.

He cocked an eyebrow at me in the mirror, "we're Swedes, sweetheart, I don't think you and us even have the same definition of cold," he smirked.

I snorted at that remark as I pressed the buttons for the windows and the moon roof and cranked the stereo. The cool night air gave me a quiet calm, and driving home was comforting. It was routine. The same route to and from work. Day in and day out.

But something was stirring in me. I could feel the energy in the car from the two men with me. The fire behind the urge to save their friend from this mistake.

But there was something else.

Chapter Text

When I pulled into the street spot out front they both looked up at the building to our right quietly while I killed the engine and shut off the lights, the mechanical whirring of the moonroof automatically closing breaking the silence.

"You live here?" Tim asked quietly.

"Salary, baby," I smirked at him, unbuckling my seat belt and hopping out.

We entered the elevator and I pressed the button for the 8th floor, almost painfully aware of their heated presence right behind me, and wondering what I'd gotten myself into by bringing them home with me.

--

They hung their coats on the rack behind my front door when we got inside, and I flipped the lights on,  a small part of my brain momentarily wanting to leave them off and find out what would happen in the dark, but I gave my inner monologue a good talking to and we decided to meet in the middle. I plugged in my string of fairy lights and turned off the ones overhead so we were bathed in a soft glow.

"The spare room is there," I said, motioning, "I'll make up the bed in a second, and everything else is pretty much self explanatory -- bathroom, kitchen, my room," I pointed to each, "please feel free to make yourselves at home."

"Alexa?" I asked, once again hearing her answering chime, "play Raising Sand album, please".

I thanked her and hummed along as I set my work bag down near my desk and put my sample bottles into my wine cabinet. I pulled out my notebook and started jotting down what I'd tasted with who that day, and a few quick thoughts on each. Following this simple routine seemed imperative to me surviving the rest of the evening.

"Only you would ask an electronic system something and say 'please and thank you' at the end," laughed Tim, and I shot him a smile over my shoulder.

"Do you guys want something to drink?" I asked, "water, tea, wine? I don't have a lot of food, but you're welcome to anything here - it should all be stuff you can eat."

I had to admit that it made me unbelievably happy to have them in my home; it added a vibrancy and warmth that I didn't get often, living alone, though admittedly, I'd gotten used to the silence and solitude.

"Where are your glasses? I'll throw something together while you get changed."

"Top cabinet to the right of the sink, lets use the fancy ones since I never have company," I called to Henrik as I ducked into my bedroom, unbuttoning my blouse and tossing it into my hamper.

He peaked his head around the corner and immediately apologized and looked down at the floor, "sorry! Do you have a preference red or white?" he asked, still looking at the floor.

"Oh Henrik, you don't get to kiss me like that and then go all shy when I take you home with me," I teased, walking over to where he was with a shirt in my hand. He looked cautiously up from the floor at me, standing in front of him in shorts and a bra.

"See? Not so scary," I laughed.

He didn't respond, but his breath seemed to come fractionally quicker, and I pulled the tanktop on over my head and adjusted the material before leaning up to kiss him quickly on the cheek.

"Lets stick with white," I said, taking his hand and pulling him back into the kitchen with me.

I tried not think about Johannes, or the sad news that they had brought, not wanting to waste the limited time I had with them being a mope. There would be plenty of time after their departure to feel sorry for myself and wallow in my misery alone.

--

Several hours later, I was curled up into the corner of the couch, comfortably tipsy and we were all chatting idly, about nothing really. They asked questions about my job and filled me in on the details of what they had done back in Sweden since the last time I saw them.

I felt a deep sense of contentment settle in me at having them near again, and hearing them laugh and make jabs at each other made me feel like no time at all had passed.

An electronic chiming interrupted us, "that's me, I think."

Tim wandered over to my bookshelf, idly scanning titles and sipping his wine as Henrik rose to go answer his ringing phone, then disappeared into the spare room speaking rapidly in Swedish. I watched Tim select a book and open to a random page, flipping to another after a few moments. His forehead furrowed, and I patiently awaited the question that I knew was coming.

"Can you read this?" he looked over at me.

I nodded and he raised his eyebrows at me, "its still something we know every lifetime without being taught, but my translations kind of slow these days."

He looked back down at the open page at the columns of hieroglyphs, "they don't really make any sense to me. I'm not sure I even know what direction to read in."

I smiled at him, rising to select another bottle of wine from my temperature-controlled cabinet next to him, "you start wherever the faces point. See the kneeling figures and the birds? They all face the beginning of the text. That whole books a collection of creation stories and stuff," I waved my hand, ducking down to read a label on a bottle I selected.

When he didn't respond, I turned and he looked like he might hit the deck if I said "boo". I stood and advanced a step, "shit. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to just overwhelm you, sometimes I forget that its not normal. I-I don't want you to be afraid of me, Tim..."

My hands fell to my sides and he shook his head and put the book back on the shelf before crossing to me and running a warm hand over my cheek, curling my hair behind my ear.

I shuddered under his touch and he knew exactly why.

"I am so not afraid of you," he whispered, kissing my forehead, and I shuddered again.

In the next moment Henrik emerged from the spare room with a giant grin on his face as he held his phone up to me, and I shrieked with surprise and delight when Jonas and John appeared on Facetime together beaming at the camera and I snatched the phone from his hand.

"Hi gorgeous!" Jonas laughed, seeing my expression light up, and John waved from behind him, always the slightly more shy one, "listen, I just talked to Henrik and he sort of...ah...filled us in. And I know you're still unsure, so I don't want to pressure you. But I do want to apologize for Johannes' behavior. He's been a royal asshole to everyone, but you especially never deserved any of this."

I gave him a sad smile and looked away. I didn't want to talk about Johannes anymore.

"Thank you, that's...nice of you. I appreciate it."

"We're gonna swing by and pick up those two in the morning and go check out the city before sound check, but...can we see you? Just for a minute?" John sounded hopeful and I nodded my head as he breathed a sigh of relief and smiled.

"Yeah, I would like that a lot," I smiled back, "gods its so good to see you both!"

John blew me a kiss from behind Jonas' head as we said goodbye and I handed the phone back to Henrik, who disappeared once more, switching back to Swedish.

I sat down and leaned back against Tim, who was sitting angled into the corner of my couch. He wrapped his arms around my waist and held me against him as we enjoyed the blessed silence for a few minutes and I idly twirled the ends of his hair around my fingers as he looked down, watching me with a soft contented smile.

"It feels so good to have you here again," he said quietly, pressing a kiss to my temple and squeezing me a little tighter.

I smiled in response, but sat up with a groan when I felt a dull headache start to throb behind my eyes several minutes later. I rolled my shoulders that ached from the stress carried in them throughout in the day.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, my head hurts. Just stress I think."

Tim pulled me back down against him as his fingers started to press gently against my aching muscles before moving up to rub my temples.

"Mmm, that's helping, thank you," I murmured.

Henrik stuck his head around the doorway and saw my eyes closed as Tim tried to soothe my headache. He disappeared into the bathroom and I heard the water running, and ten minutes later he emerged. I'd assumed he had decided to shower, but a puzzled look crossed my face when I looked up and he was still clothed and dry.

"Baths run," he smiled at me, and held a hand up to stop my protest.

"What? You didn't have to..."

The hand that silenced my response reached out to pull me up from the couch and his fingertips moved to my shoulders and in towards my neck, pressing lightly along the muscles but making me inhale sharply at the tension.

"Just trust me," he smiled, stepping towards the doorway to the bathroom, and I smiled back at him, feeling my heart beat tenderly for this man who was so kind to me beyond necessity.

Truly too good for this world.

In the safety and security of my own home, I suddenly felt a silly urge and gave in, swirling my hand, making a delicate pink flower appear in mid air, floating it until it tucked into his curls behind his ear just like I had at the beach.

"Thank you, Henrik," I said, trying to stifle my laughter as he blushed like the bobble-head hula girl he suddenly resembled and his eyes went wide.

"Christ, I'll never get used to that..."

Tim was howling with laughter, leaning back into the couch cushions and I turned to look at him, laughing and raising an eyebrow in his direction, making tiny white flowers appear at each end of his mustache.

He startled, batting them away and Henrik wrapped his hands around my waist from behind, pulling me towards the bathroom, shaking with his own laughter.

"Very funny," he whispered low in my ear, sending a shiver down my spine, "whatever will we do with you..."

When I turned the flower was gone and he was beaming down at me; I pressed a hand to his cheek and leaned up to kiss him softly. His lips pressed back against mine and I felt them curve into an unmistakable smile.

"Well, first, you can let me get undressed and get in the bath."

"That sounds like a good start," he laughed as he backed out the door with a wink and shut me in the bathroom.

I dropped my clothes into the hamper and brushed my fingers through the bubbles before stepping up into the claw-foot tub. The bathtub in my apartment was big and luxurious with a high enough back that I could rest my head without hurting my neck. I'd signed the paperwork right there with the realtor when I saw it the first time.

My movement down into the water made the fragrant steam drift up around my face and I bit my lip to keep from dissolving into exhausted, emotional tears. Henrik had put some combination of oils and salts in the water that made me feel like the bad energy was being sucked out of me, and I sighed and closed my eyes as I let my mind wander.

Johannes. Henrik. Tim. Jonas. John. May. They were all there in my head.

I found myself drifting from one to the other, weaving those lovely yellow flowers that Henrik liked and floating them in the bubbles, or tossing the up into the sink.

A few minutes later, a soft knock at the door pulled me from my reveries.

"Come in," I responded, sinking a little lower into the water.

Both men appeared as they opened the door a crack then more fully and entered, and I looked down to double check that I was shielded by bubbles before beamed at them, visibly relaxed.

"Hows the water?" Henrik asked softly, drinking in my blissful look with that soft smile that was so fitting for him.

"Its perfect, thank you. What did you put in here? Its working some kind of black magic on me."

He laughed but didn't tell me as Tim advanced and pressed a glass of sparkling wine into my hand.

"I found this in the fridge."

"Thank you! Its leftover but still really good if you want to try it. Please, I told you guys my home is your home - you're welcome to anything you can find. Plus, I hide all the really good shit," I toasted him briefly with a wink before taking a sip and leaning back into the water, loving the sound of his laugh.

I handed the glass to him so we could share as Henrik settled behind my head and I felt his fingers gathering my hair up over the back rim of the tub, starting to brush through my curls as Tim and I chatted.

He pressed a little kiss to the top of my head and I leaned to the side so I could look at him.

"I'm glad you remember what the flowers look like," he smiled softly, and I could tell that it genuinely did make him happy that I'd remembered something he loved. He motioned for me to turn back around and stopped combing through my hair briefly as I heard the clink of glass and he pulled a vial from the basket sitting beside one of the clawed feet.

I smelled rose oil as his fingers resumed their work, and he massaged the fragrant oil into my scalp as he finger-combed my hair more and I couldn't help but close my eyes and sigh in pleasure at the sensation as my fingers drifted mindlessly through the bubbles and I sipped my wine before handing it back to Tim so he could finish it.

"Where on earth did you learn to do all this? Do you run a spa I don't know about?" I said, vaguely gesturing with one hand, and I could hear him chuckle as he plaited my hair into one long braid and wound his hairband around the end.

"Growing up with sisters is a wonderful thing...well, sometimes," I could hear the smile in his voice, "speaking of, how is May doing? Is she back in France? I have to admit, I kind of expected her to be sitting in your living room when we got here," he laughed.

I froze, feeling suddenly like the pit of my stomach had dropped out, and I pulled out of his grasp and cleared my throat, trying to shake if off before they noticed something was wrong.

"I-I think I'm ready to get out, if you'll give me a second to get dressed."

But Tim's eyes had seen my face crumble for a moment before I pulled away from Henrik, who frowned in response.

"Triste? What did I say?"

"Ah, ahem. Nothing. It--"

Oh, May. My poor girl.

"You're lying," Tim pushed himself off the sink and knelt down next to the tub as he set our wine glass down on the ledge beside it, and I subsequently wrapped my arms around my knees, clutching them to my chest as I felt for the second time in one day like my heart was going to fail me.

He gently gripped my chin between his thumb and forefinger and forced me to look at him,  "don't lie to us, Triste. Remember when I said earlier that you were a terrible liar when I met you? Its because everything you think immediately shows on your face. So just don't."

He was clearly becoming frustrated with me now, and I whispered an apology as Henrik moved around the side of the tub and knelt next to Tim.

"I'm sorry, I...I...it hits me sideways sometimes. It wasn't anything you did."

They both looked at me, clearly not understanding and I sighed and looked down at the bubbles which were starting to dissipate.

"M-May died a couple months ago...it's part of why I moved here. Part of why I was running from...well from everything I guess," I willed myself not to cry, but a single tear escaped and slipped down my cheek as I took a shaky breath and stared down into the bubbles.

It felt like the air got sucked out of the room and when I looked up they were both staring at me with pained expressions.

"What happened?"

"It was apparently random. A guy with a knife in Reims is kind of all her family were told. She went back to take care of her mom when she got sick, and she was out one night going to l'epicerie and...he just...it was random. Dragged her into an alley and she bled out on the ground there before anyone found her. Ironically, the healing thing doesn't work on herself, never has... The French police called it a robbery gone wrong, but...she was like me. And she--if she'd known he was trying to take her purse or her jewelry or something, she would have stopped him easily, so, I don't think it was a robbery. But that doesn't do much good now..."

"Oh, Triste..." Henrik seemed nearly as upset as me, but it was Tim who got angry.

"That's what you meant earlier when you were saying that when you needed Johannes the most, he wasn't there. He wasn't fucking there. None of us were..." he was visibly shaking with rage at the idea that his friend had abandoned me through a trauma like that, and that in some way, Tim not knowing and not being able to be with me was his fault too.

I nodded my head, eyes drifting back down into the bath as Henrik put a calming hand on Tim's arm.

"Does Jonas know?"

"I'm not sure. I don't know that they kept up with each other either, though I think that was on purpose. And unless Johannes saw it on the news, which seems unlikely, there would be no way he'd know either. A-and even if he had, its not like he could come since he's mar--..." I trailed off, unsure why I was suddenly trying to make something I had desperately needed at the time not matter now.

They both threw themselves against me in the next second, disregarding the fact that their shirts were getting soaked or that I was naked. Henrik grasped the back of my head, clutching the braid he had so lovingly woven into my hair, splashing water and flowers out of the tub.

"Oh love, I'm so sorry. I can't imagine..." he didn't say anymore, and the three of us just held each other as I felt my heart being torn by the memories.

After a few moments, they let go of me and I realized the bubbles had more or less gone.

I reflexively pulled my legs up tighter and hid what I could of my body from view, and they both noticed and moved to get up and go before I got uncomfortable.

"Wait," I insisted, suddenly not wanting them to be away from me.

They stopped and turned back, each kneeling next to the tub again, willing themselves to not look down at my body being revealed under the water.

I shifted and sat up, kneeling against the side of the tub, suddenly not caring that my breasts were exposed. I'd lived through all the ages of women hiding their bodies at a man's order, and I realized with these two, there was no pressure or judgment.

I reached up and gripped Henrik's face between my palms, making the lights flare up as the intensity of my eyes trapped his gaze.

"Henrik. My sweet Henrik," the sound of my voice changed and was soft like the wind as my inner nature inched closer to the surface.

"I'm here, darling," he whispered, closing his eyes and turning his face into one of my hands as his breath left his body.

"I've lived dozens of lives Henrik. You know this... And of all the masses of people I've met, you have one of the kindest hearts. You're good and you're selfless and its all without a second thought, and that is an impossibly valuable thing. Don't lose that."

I pressed my lips to his and the water from my hands dripped down his face, running in lines down the length of his throat as he moved into my kiss, his hands spreading over my bare back, desperate to bring me closer to him, and he gasped into my lips when my wave of energy passed through him.

I pulled away and pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead, sealing him under my protection, unable to stop the breathy little laugh that left my lips as I felt like I was wrapping him up with a neat little bow.

He didn't speak, but stared at me with wide eyes as he sat back on his heels.

I looked at Tim then.

His eyes momentarily dropped to my breasts and watched the water move in small rivulets down my skin as I broke out in goosebumps under his stare.

I could see his pulse racing at his throat as he tried not to stop breathing.

"Tim. Come here."

Henrik moved out of the way as the other man took his place, his eyes now firmly meeting mine.

"Tim," I whispered, placing my hands on his face as I had on Henrik's, my thumbs gently brushing along his jaw, "you're a good man, Tim. You're kind, and thoughtful, and your impulse is to fight for others and give them your protection..."

I pulled him in so my lips brushed his, and felt them open to me, though I didn't lean in any further yet.

"And now you're under mine," I whispered, and as he tried to pull back to look at me, not understanding what I meant, I pulled his lips against mine and refused to let go as I pushed a wave of energy through him also.

He threw his arms around me, fingertips pressing into my skin, crushing my breasts painfully against his chest as my fingers moved to tangle through his hair. The soft cotton of his zip-up was warm from his body heat and I melted into his embrace as my lips opened to him, feeling my core clenching at his insistent kiss as he moaned heavily into my mouth and drew my tongue in against his.

When I pulled back, his eyes were dark with lust and he pressed his fingers more firmly into me, not wanting me to leave his embrace yet, but I sat back on my heels and pressed my palms to my thighs under the water.

I gathered myself into my center and whispered something they couldn't quite understand, unsure whether it was because of the lowness of my voice or the language that I spoke.

One hand absently rubbed my lips as I watched a flower bob along the surface of the water.

"Just trust me," I smiled softly up at them, "let me get dressed and I'll do my best to answer your questions then, okay?"

They stood, and Henrik draped a towel over the sink within my reach before pressing a soft kiss to my forehead and following Tim out the door.

I slumped back into the tub for a moment, running a hand back over my hair and scooping up a scentless bloom.

Now at least if something bad happened to them in the way that it apparently had to Johannes, I would feel it.

Johannes...

My heart beat heavily for him as I stood and let the water drip off of my body before stepping out on the soft bathmat, kicking myself for not performing the same ritual on him before we parted.

I emerged from the bathroom feeling refreshed and calm and ducked into my bedroom to change into pair of cotton shorts and a fresh tanktop.

Henrik was shedding his dampened shirt when I moved back to the doorway and I stood in the darkness and watched as his back was to me and he pulled the garment over his head before draping it over the door to the bathroom to dry. I realized that I was biting my lip and clenching my hands at my sides as he reached back to pull his hair through the tie that was usually around his wrist.

He held his hair with one hand and then the other as he searched his wrists for the band that was now securing the end of my braid, and the muscles of his back flexed and moved under his skin as he switched hands again and reached back with the opposite to touch his wrist.

"Where did I..."

I stepped silently behind him and ran a hand down his back. When I felt the natural heat of his skin under my fingertips, a surge of arousal coursed through me that made me clamp my lips shut.

He took a sharp breath under my hand, and I could feel his lungs expand against his back, which was suddenly covered in goosebumps, before he turned to me. I tried to keep the want from my eyes, but instead found myself biting my bottom lip again as I looked up to him and held up an extra hairtie.

"Spin," I instructed, trying to buy myself time to calm down as he smiled and reached for the elastic band and I held it back.

"Hmm, I forgot you liked this," he hummed and turned his back to me again so I could finger comb his hair softly, listening to him sigh under my attentions.

I imagined his eyes closing in soft pleasure, which didn't help the sudden wetness between my legs at having him under my hands again.

Get a fucking grip, Triste.

There was something sensual about running my hands through his curls, and I finally gathered them at the nape of his neck and twisted the tie around his ponytail, giving it a playful tug, and before I could stop myself, I pressed my hands against the back of his ribs and smoothed them around his body, under his arms, following the lines of his bones. They settled just below his chest and I gently spread my fingers along his skin, enjoying the softness and warmth that seemed to radiate from him.

I pressed my forehead between his shoulder blades and his head dipped back when I breathed softly against his skin down his back, then pressed my lips to the same spot my forehead had been.

He turned and wrapped his arms around me as I apologized.

"Sorry," I whispered, laying my head against his chest, but I kind of wasn't.

I could feel him suddenly shaking with laughter and I pulled back in surprise, but he wouldn't let go of me. He simply laid his cheek down against my hair and whispered back, "its fine little one...but if you do it again, you're going to get yourself into trouble because I don't think I can hold back from your lips on my skin twice."

I gasped and squeezed my eyes shut as I felt myself clench and he pressed a soft kiss to my hair, still grinning.

I glanced at Tim, who was already fast asleep in the armchair, and I couldn't help but smile - his face looked so peaceful in his sleep, with Babyboy curled up in his lap, and his brother sleeping just above Tim's head on the back of the chair.

Henrik pulled me over to the couch and leaned into the corner of the sectional, moving his legs to one side, and I stood and observed his shirtless form for only a moment before I sat crosslegged facing him and folded my hands in my lap.

I stifled a yawn as best I could, and he smiled tenderly at me, curling a stray lock of hair behind my ear. When I looked down sleepily at him with a soft curve at the corners of my lips, he leaned in to press a kiss to them, unable to help himself.

Even in my exhausted state, I had a hard time not pushing my luck when his lips brushed mine, and I sighed softly into the warmth of his entire being.

"Hmm. No questions tonight, you should get some sleep, little one..."

"Mmhm. I want to make sure you're both settled first," I mumbled with my eyes closed, nearly falling asleep sitting where I was.

What was in that bath?

"Just give me a minute and I'll make up the bed in the spare room. Tim will hurt his neck if he sleeps in that chair. Or he can sleep here and we can, I mean you can sleep in the guest room. Sorry. Sleepy."

Henrik hummed softly, stifling a laugh at my drowsy state, and pulled me forward into his arms facing him so I could lay across his chest. I willingly collapsed sideways into him, secretly grateful that I didn't need to go through the tedious process of making up a bed right now, and my arm curled around his torso.

"Tim is fine where he is. And I think you should stay right here with me tonight, sleepy girl," he whispered in a voice that made me melt.

"Do you want a blanket?"

"Uh-uh. You're warm enough," I said with a contented sigh, "and you smell good," I turned my face and pressed a chaste kiss to his skin, just to the right of his sternum, before laying my head back down again and closing my eyes.  "I always knew you'd be soft and warm, even before I met you..."

Henrik cradled me to him with one arm and stroked my hair with the other hand, lulling me to sleep as he looked adoringly down at me.

I was out in less than a minute, my breath soft and even across his skin, and he couldn't help but wrap both arms securely around me as he drifted off after pressing one more kiss to my hair.

"Sweet dreams, beautiful," he whispered, resting his head against the back of the sofa as he drifted off, one hand still resting in my hair.

"Better not be talking to me," Tim mumbled from the armchair.

Chapter Text

Several hours later I awoke with a start again, as I had the previous morning, and it took me a moment to realize where I was, and whose arms were wrapped around me.

On the other side of town, Johannes bolted upright in bed too.

"TRISTE!!" he yelled, "wh--...Triste?"

A long-nailed hand settled on his bare chest and pulled him back down into bed, and he fell into a troubled sleep.

I couldn't go back to sleep however, and after laying as long as I could against Henrik's sleeping form listening to his breathing and the rhythm of his heartbeat, I gently pulled away from him and stood. The smile that curved my lips lingered as I tucked a pillow under Henrik's head and draped a blanket across him.

I crossed to Tim and did the same, pressing a soft kiss to his forehead and loving that we were in the same place again. In some ways he'd been the hardest to part with. As much as Johannes and I fell for each other, I just connected with Tim in a different way. Not better, just different.

The way his face relaxed in his sleep pulled at something tender inside me and I gently touched his hair, brushing it out of his face. He was the youngest by only a few years, but he carried so much worry for someone his age, even as he tried to play if off like he didn't.

Tim took a deep breath like he was going to wake up, but his head settled to the side against the pillow I tucked there and he was immediately back into his dreams.

I walked to the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea and stood at the window, letting my mind wander as I stared down at the street. My clock said it wasn't far past 3 AM, and there wasn't much traffic, but the red tail lights and the scratch of the tires over the pavement every so often lulled me into an almost hypnotic state.

I tried to remember my dream, but Johannes' face was the only thing I could recall.

Why was he screaming? What was screaming?

I pressed my forehead to the cool glass, and the longer I stood there the more lost I felt.

Why wouldn't he just call?

What if he was in trouble?

But how often do people meet trouble and then marry it? Johannes was a lot of things, but he wasn't impulsive with big decisions.

"Oh my love, what have you done," I whispered to the darkness as the first tear slid down my cheek. I set my mug down and wrapped my arms around myself like a shield, shivering in the draft.

Henrik woke up and looked down with a smile that quickly faltered when he realized I wasn't sleeping happily curled against his chest anymore, and he looked around and saw me standing motionless by the window, staring into the empty space.

I was so torn - what if Johannes was in trouble? What if he was threatened or somehow blackmailed into it? Or maybe he was punishing himself for something? But what...

Maybe I could help. Maybe Henrik was right and seeing me would snap him out of this fog he was in.

But maybe not.

The cynical part of my brain reminded me that he'd had time to reach out, to find me, that he was really only without a phone for a couple of days, and the very real probability existed that he would see me and still go home to her.

No, not to her. With her. Because he'd brought her with him. 

Another tear dropped down my cheek and a slow terror crept through my veins as I pressed a hand against my mouth to stop a sob from escaping.

He's never coming back to me.

"Triste?"

I jumped and turned at the sound of his voice though it was barely above a whisper, and his hands went immediately to my shoulders to calm me.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, its okay, its just me."

I looked down, trying to collect myself and not wanting to meet his gaze again with tears in my eyes.

"S'okay," I mumbled.

"Are you crying?" he tipped my chin up to look at him, "whats wrong?"

"No, nothing, you just startled me is all," I sniffled.

He pursed his lips and didn't say anything, knowing that I was aware he knew I was lying. I stared at the floor trying to get a grip, but it really only seemed to make the opposite happen.

"Henrik, he's gone," I gasped, feeling like I was circling the drain and I'd never come back, "I don't understand."

"Shh, shh, oh its okay, baby," he pulled me against him and cupped the back of my head with one hand, the other running up and down my back. I shivered against the warmth of his skin and wrapped my arms around his waist, pressing my hands against his back.

"What am I supposed to do?" I sighed, still trying to collect myself and my thoughts, "what if I do see him, and he doesn't want me and my heart breaks all over again? Or, or what if he does want me? I'm not a homewrecker, a-and he made a promise, even if--"

"Hey," he tipped my chin up, "no one thinks you're a homewrecker. And I...just...this woman is so bad for him, Triste... she's not--she's not you," he finally sighed, and I laid my cheek against his chest again as his arms pulled me harder to him, his frustration with the entire situation palpable.

"Fuck. I'll never forgive him for doing this. Not to you. He should never have let you go in the first place, damn him..."

I looked up at him as my tears finally stopped and there was a moment where our eyes locked and something clicked into place.  The last cog, and the wheels started to turn.  My pulse began to race, and I could feel him taking shorter, shallower breaths as his heart rate skyrocketed too.

"Henrik," I whispered, and he sharply inhaled at the sound of his name falling from my lips.

Henrik...love me.
Need me.
Want me right now like I want you...

I turned my face and pressed a gentle, open-mouthed kiss to his skin, barely grazing it with my tongue and he broke out in sharp goosebumps and sighed softly as I continued my attentions across his chest. My tongue swirled around his nipple lightly, drawing a slightly louder moan from his lips that made me crazy, and I could feel him getting hard against my hips, and finally looked up to meet his gaze.

"Henrik..." I breathed, differently than I had before as I looked back and forth between his eyes, so full of want and unspoken desire. His hand brushed my cheek softly and worked slowly down my neck, stopping at the swells of my breasts as he touched each one, his fingers barely grazing my skin. My eyes reflexively closed and I sighed at his gentle caress.

"I'm here," he whispered in a voice so low and thick with lust that it seemed to rasp through his chest more than leave his lips. He leaned down to kiss me and I didn't hold back, eagerly meeting his lips. I tangled my fingers in his hair and pressed hard against him as our tongues danced together and his hands returned to my waist, gripping me tightly.

When he pulled back, his eyes were dilated and the look on his face made me clench hard as he bit his lip and looked down at what parts of my body he could see, drinking me in.

"Trouble..." he growled, more to himself than to me and grabbed the backs of both my legs, lifting me off the floor. I gasped as I took his mouth again and wrapped both legs around his waist when he turned to walk us into my bedroom.

My feet touched the cool hardwood of the floor as Henrik set me down, not letting his lips leave mine as he closed the door behind us. His hands were warm against my waist, pushing my shirt up so he could touch my bare skin as his tongue stroked mine and he pressed further into me. I leaned up and chased his kiss with a soft moan when he finally pulled back and our gazes locked together as I felt his cock twitch against me and I bit my lip, settling back on my feet.

"I've wanted this since the moment you looked at me, Triste," he whispered after a pause. I smiled softly and touched his hair, cascading in dark ringlets down his shoulders and over his chest, and I let my fingers brush across the expanse of his bared skin, reveling in the way his eyes closed and he relaxed into my touch.

My Henrik.
Kind, caring, thoughtful.
Exactly what I wanted.
Utterly what I needed.

He pressed his hands flat against my skin, and used the movement of caressing them along my torso to push my shirt up until his thumbs were skimming the bottoms of my breasts as his hands followed the lines of my ribcage around my back.

His gaze was dark and I felt drawn in, like he had a gravitational pull.

"Don't stop touching me, Henrik," I sighed, needing more as I stood up on my tiptoes to kiss him and wrapped my arms around his neck. He hummed into my lips as his tongue passed them and he got harder still.

"Touching you like this?" I could hear the tease in his voice as his mouth split into a crooked smirk against mine and his thumbs traced the curves of my breasts up to my nipples, pressing the pads across them and drawing a hiss of pleasure from me.

"Ohh..."

His tongue was insistent against mine as he continued to caress me and work my shirt up to my shoulders until I broke away from him so he could lift it over my head and up off my arms.

He caught his breath at the sight of me standing half naked, simply wanting him. Those eyes, like endless pools of rain, stared down at me, roaming over my body, following the path of his hands until they settled at my hips. My cotton shorts dropped down my legs, and he looked me in the eyes when he slipped his thumbs under the band of my panties, waiting for me to tell him no if I didn't want to go further.

When I leaned up into his kiss again, my fingers gently pressed against his hands, guiding him until they pushed the thin material down and they fell to the floor too. I stepped out of both and he stood back and looked me up and down.

My breath seemed trapped in my chest when I caught his gaze and there were tears in his eyes.

"Triste...good god. I can't...I can't even express the way that I want you right now," he whispered, the words almost choked.

I opened my mouth to respond, but he pressed a finger over my lips.

"I've wanted you...been attracted to you...I think needed you, since the moment I saw you...”

My pulse jumped as I exhaled sharply, and a slow smile pulled at the corner of his mouth as his hands roamed over my naked waist, taking in the softness of my skin and the way it broke out into goosebumps under his touch.

"Do you remember, Triste? That moment when we met for the first time? The sun was setting and the ocean and sky behind you were endless and so colorful, and it was like..." he paused, uncertain about finishing his thought.

"Like what," I asked softly, leaning up to kiss him. His lips pressed harder against mine, drawing me to him and savoring the fact that he could kiss me the way he wanted to now...he took his time doing so.

"It was like you were this beautiful force of nature that the sun had to compete with."

"Oh Henrik," I sighed, as my heart jumped again and he wrapped his hands around my waist, pulling me closer.

I didn't know what to do but lean up and kiss him again, and I deepened it, tasting him and pressing my breasts to his bare chest as I moaned into his mouth and he returned my kiss passionately. He was impossibly close to me as we devoured each other, one arm hooked around my waist, holding me to him, the other grabbing against my skin, wanting to touch me everywhere at once.

He pulled back again after several moments, leaving my mouth with a deep groan and meeting my gaze, "I was drawn to your beauty, Triste..." he started to move around my body, trailing one hand along my torso gently, exploring me, "your laugh..." I moaned quietly and dipped my head back against his shoulder as he moved behind me and drifted his fingers across my nipples. His mouth moved to my neck, pressing open-mouthed kisses up and down the line of it and sucking little marks into my skin as I leaned my head to the side.

"The way your hair fell around your shoulders in just the right way..." He pulled the tie from my braid and unraveled it roughly until my hair hung in waves that dropped down my back. A feral growl vibrated against me. I felt the material of his jeans brush against the backs of my thighs as they dropped to the floor.

He stepped back around the front of my body and his erection pressed against me, rock hard, and I couldn't help but lean in, impressed by the size of him.

"Your charm...Your charisma...Your power, Triste..." as he groaned the words, he reached down between us and cupped me, one finger sliding through my folds, feeling how wet I was for him, and I gasped as my muscles tightened and pressed my head forward into his shoulder as he dropped his lips to my ear.

"Ohh, you're so wet for me, baby," he whispered, fisting his opposite hand into my hair as his middle finger slid repeatedly over my entrance, but never moved up to my clit. My eyes squeezed shut as I tried to focus through my gasping breaths, but the movement of his finger was so distracting.

Henrik pulled his hand from my pussy as the other moved from my hair down to my waist, sensing in my response and the way that I gasped that something wasn't quite right. One knuckle gently tipped my chin up to look at him.

"Karlek?"

This is it.
Here goes nothing, or everything.

When I looked up at him through my lashes, my gaze was a brilliant, glowing green, and his breath caught as I watched him take pause for a moment, unsure what to do.

My heart dropped. I knew Henrik had seen this once before, when I'd showed him what I was, but mortals always had trouble accepting the unexplainable, no matter how many times they encountered it.

Trouble accepting things like me...

"Shit, I'm so sorry," I pulled from his grasp and moved to get my clothes, looking at the floor and fighting to get myself under control.

I suddenly found my back slammed hard against the wall and his face was an inch from mine as he pinned both my arms above my head.

"Don't," he said lowly, pausing for a moment, "not with me..."

"I-I'm trying, I'm sorry," I apologized again, looking away from his piercing stare. He shook his head and sighed for moment before slamming his mouth down to mine and forcing his tongue between my lips. His hips pinned me to the wall as much as his hands did, and I realized with a sharp cry that I had completely misunderstood.

"I mean," he kissed me passionately again, "don't. fight. your nature. I want you," he punctuated his words with sharp bites down my neck and across my breasts that had me gasping and writhing under his touch. He raised his head, and was only a hair's breadth from me when his tongue traced the curve of my bottom lip and I opened them to him with a soft exhale, wanting to taste his kiss again.

"You can let go with me, Triste. I love you as you are m--" I stole his words with a searing kiss, moaning for more when he pulled back again, "I love you as you are, my priestess..." he whispered.

The fire coursing through my veins had me feeling like I was about to drop into sensory overload from just his foreplay, but then he dipped his hand and started sliding it overme, pressing his cock against my hip as his fingers explored me and I started to worry that I might actually spontaneously combust.

Gods, I may not actually survive this...

"Henrik, please," I sighed when he pulled his tongue from my mouth and nipped at my bottom lip again.

"I should have fucking done this months ago," he growled as he started to trail kisses down my body, worrying each of my nipples between his teeth until I arched off the wall and into his mouth. I could feel his breath hot across my flushed skin when he dropped down and laughed darkly against my squirming hips, administering quick sharp bites to each before looking up at me, his electric blue irises meeting my green ones.

My eyes roamed down over his form, doing my best to take a mental picture for later.

"Do you like me on my knees in front of you, älskling,” he smirked as he tied his hair back out of the way.

"I like you better on your knees in front of me with your hair down," I said, cocking an eyebrow and pulling the tie from his hair with a little more roughness than necessary, making him gasp and then grin up at me.

He parted my lips with one finger, sliding it through my folds and barely pressing inside me before hooking it back towards him, never dropping my gaze. It was only the slightest amount of stimulation, but he was somehow giving me everything I needed as he put his finger to his lips and licked me off of it.

"Oh, fuck you taste good...”

My breathing turned into a gasp at his words. I’d never expected this from Henrik, but now I felt like I couldn’t get enough. I tangled one hand into his hair and braced myself against the wall with the other.

His cock was rock hard and leaking, but he seemed too absorbed in what he was doing to take notice as he pressed his finger into me again, inserting it farther and tearing a cry from my lips. When he pulled it from me, Henrik traced intricate patterns across one of my hips with his fingertip before following with his tongue, licking my essence off of my skin.

“Please...” the word was barely a breath leaving my lips, and I was so turned on, I was surprised I wasn't dripping down my own legs, the anticipation of what his mouth was going to feel like was killing me after the way he'd kissed me.

His hand lifted one of my legs up over his shoulder and Henrik leaned into me, pressing his mouth to my pussy with a soft cry. I choked down my scream into a sharp gasp and used my grip on his hair to push him harder into my core. His tongue was slick and hot and I again found myself surprised at how skilled he was with it as I bucked my hips into his face.

"Triste," he moaned into me, the sound muffled slightly. His mouth caressed me and covered me, alternating between licking and sucking, and I felt a surge of wetness when I realized he was using his mouth on my pussy the way he'd used it on my lips. As if he could hear my thoughts, he looked up at me and grinned before pressing the soft kiss of a lover to my clit and then resuming.

We hit a steady rhythm as he ran his tongue through my folds before sucking my clit and then moving back down. I was getting lost in my ecstasy when two warm hands wrapped around my hips and grabbed my ass, lifting me off the wall and pressing me harder into his mouth until I was smothering him and we couldn't possibly be any closer. He pushed his tongue inside me and I screamed as I clenched hard, one small part of my brain reminding me that there was in fact another sleeping person in the other room, forcing me to quiet down to whimpered moans as my head thrashed back and forth against the wall.

The sound that left Henrik's lips as he felt me clench around his tongue was barely human, and he lost touch with reality. The only thing that mattered was my taste filling his mouth, flooding his senses.

More, more, more.
Come for me.
Lose yourself to me, Triste.

I knew I was oversensitive and about to come hard as I was hurtled towards the edge.

"Henrik, oh fuck, please don't stop. don't stop, don't stop, Henrik..." I gasped his name over and over again grabbing harder onto his hair and digging the nails of my free hand into his arm as he squeezed my ass hard and moaned into me deeply.

My orgasm hit me like the force of nature Henrik thought I was and my leg curled around his head, keeping him there and pushing him in harder as I cried out and gasped and he attentively licked me through each shuddering aftershock, wanting to drive my pleasure on forever. I was left shaking and gasping, thankful I had the wall at my back to keep me from collapsing into an overstimulated puddle at his knees.

I couldn't tell if time sped up or Henrik was just extremely quick, but one moment he was looking up at me with wide eyes and an almost innocent expression, and the next my head was slammed back against the wall and his tongue filled my mouth as his cock pressed hard against my hips and he gripped the sides of my face with both hands.

My fingers grabbed onto his shoulders, trying to both pull him closer and make sure my legs would hold me up, and I moaned into his lips, pulling back after a moment to run my tongue lightly along his jaw, still glistening from being pressed between my legs. He hummed in satisfaction as I kissed and licked him, gathering my fluid off his skin.

"Dirty little girl," he laughed lowly, his chest vibrating with the sensation, "do you like the way you taste on my lips, Triste..."

I pulled back and made a point of slowly licking my lips and smiling, making his cock twitch with interest as he stared at my mouth, still chuckling darkly. His laugh abruptly stopped though when I pushed him hard back onto my bed, but he recovered quickly and scooted up to lay his head against my pillows. One hand beckoned to me, but I had other plans.

I climbed up and straddled his legs, running the tip of one finger lightly over his cock, which twitched again under my feather-light caress.

Perhaps I'm not the only over-sensitive one after all...

A sudden idea rocketed through my brain, and my lips curved up at one corner into a dark smirk.

Don't torture the poor boy... Oh, but its so much fun...

I leaned my head back and moaned prettily for him, letting one hand tangle itself into my hair while the other slowly traveled down my body, caressing my breast and tracing the line of my waist down to my pussy. I pressed my middle finger between my folds, mirroring Henrik's movements from earlier, and pressed my hips into my own hand. I stole a glance down at him as I sighed again and pushed inside myself with a high pitched moan.

"Oh, fuck, baby," he whispered as his hands gripped my hips, and I wasn't sure he even knew the words left his lips.

His gaze was locked on my hand, watching my finger delve into my drenched heat. I gathered as much of myself as I could when I removed my finger, and caught his gaze with a mischievous grin as I started to trace delicate geometric patterns along his cock. The noises that fell from his lips only spurred me on as he bucked against my soft touch.

"Do you like when I'm on my knees, Henrik," I purred, grinning at him before lowering my head and tracing the same patterns with the tip of my tongue before sucking a mark into the skin of his hip. His answering shout gave me everything I needed to know as one hand threaded into my hair and I gently shook my head to tell him to release me. He didn't, and curled his fingers into my locks harder when I swirled my tongue around the head of his cock and took it between my lips.

"Henrik, stay still," I commanded, looking up and pinning him with my stare.

"Sorry, sorry," he gasped, fisting his hand into the fabric of my comforter as I resumed tasting him. Every noise that he made drove my own pleasure further, and I had to resist touching myself again as I took his cock deeper into my mouth.

"Fucking hell, TRISTE," he yelled when his tip hit the back of my throat and I smoothed my hands up over his thighs, flexing and relaxing under my stimulation as his hips bucked and he went farther into my throat. Henrik reflexively grabbed my hair again, and I promptly pulled off, sucking him hard until I released him and making him almost scream with pleasure.

"Don't make me tie that hand down," I said lowly, and I didn't expect or miss the answering spark of interest in his eyes.

A devious laugh bubbled from my lips, "ohh Henrik...so its you then...hmm, as you wish," I purred, not giving him a chance to voice his confusion. I closed my eyes and imagined a tangle of vines, verdant and bursting with blooms, across my headboard, encircling his wrists and holding him there. They materialized just as I had envisioned, and Henrik's eyes held a look that was something like shock when I opened my own and gazed down at him.

"I did warn you, baby," I smirked, before bending my head and taking his length into my mouth again, controlling my gag reflex and closing my throat around him. His taste was intoxicating and I felt him get almost impossibly harder against my tongue. I worked up and down his cock, savoring both the taste of him and the way he cried out for me as his pleasure became my own and another torrent of wetness flooded my entrance, making me drip.

"No, no no no, stop," he said urgently and I immediately pulled off him again, concerned that I'd hurt him. He gasped at the loss of stimulation and pulled at his bindings, the movement making his arms and abs flex, and showering him with petals.

"Are they too tight?" I asked, moving up his body to check that they weren't cutting off his circulation. The movement drew my breasts close to his face and he reached up to flick his tongue against one of my nipples before closing his lips and laving over it.

"Ohh," I sighed, letting the hand that was checking his wrists drop to his face, encouraging the way his mouth was suddenly kissing and licking me. Henrik planted his feet and lifted his hips to slide his cock through my folds, drawing a loud cry from us both as he felt my renewed slickness. His tip moved over my clit and I bowed my head involuntarily, almost overcome at the sensation, and nearly begging for more.

"I want to be inside you, Triste," he groaned, pressing against me again, "I want to feel you come around my cock..." His lips worked mine, caressing me before opening and I pressed my tongue against his own. Every thought in my brain since he'd effortlessly picked me up in the kitchen had begun and ended with him inside me, and I caught his gaze to make sure he meant it.

"Are you sure you want this," I whispered, pressing back down against him, and letting him feel again how wet I was for him.

"I need you baby, please," he groaned, leaning up to kiss me again, and not holding back. I equally needed to feel his touch, and as soon as I let the vines release him and they disappeared, one hand was at my hips, and the other was at my breast, scraping his thumb across my nipple. A thin cry of need escaped from my lips into his, and both his hands moved to my hips, securing us in a steady rhythm, grinding against each other.

"Please fuck me," I gasped, moving my hips to impale myself on him as I kissed him hungrily.

The head of his cock pressed against my entrance, slowly parting me as I dropped my face against his chest and cried out at the feeling of being stretched along his length as he lifted his hips and pushed deeper into me. When he bottomed out, he lifted my chin up up until I looked at him, and there were tears in both our eyes.

"Oh, my beautiful girl," he whispered, as he captured my lips in a soft kiss. We stayed like that for several moments, just kissing each other and getting used to this new level of intimacy we'd entered together. But I clenched hard around him when he sucked a mark into my neck and he groaned against my skin.

"I have to move," he moaned.

"Wait," I gasped, sitting up; the movement pushed me farther down onto his cock and I yelled as I clenched hard, feeling almost torn apart by him.

"Shit, did I hurt you? I'm sorry," he said, trying to sit up, but I pushed him down, digging my nails into his chest, and staring into his eyes.

There was a place I wanted to share with him as we did this, somewhere I knew he'd love the way I did.

"Henrik, do you trust me," I moaned, moving up and down him, unable to stop.

Fuck but he feels so good.

"Yes," he said, "Triste, oh god, yes I trust you."

I reached down to my hips to take his hands and laced our fingers together and lifted off him one more time.

"Close your eyes," I whispered, pressing myself down onto him until he was absolutely bottomed out, and then I transported us.

He jumped when he felt grass under his back and not my soft bedspread.

"What the fuck!" he gasped sitting up suddenly, but subconsciously one arm hooked around my waist to keep me where I was as I tried to control my breathing, and stopped moving on and off of him.

"Shh, no no, easy baby," I said softly, placing one hand against his chest to calm him, and he met my gaze. His heartbeat thundered under my palm.

"We're still in my bedroom, still in the city. This is a...a memory. My memory. From a different lifetime, but still my own."

"Wh--where are we?" he asked as his head whipped from side to side, taking in our surroundings - the grassy bank, the soft babble of the creek nearby, how the trees cast gentle dappled shadows across our skin, moving with the breeze.

"Henrik. Henrik, darling look at me, eyes here," I said, and his traveled slowly back to my own. I suddenly worried that this might be too much, and reached for his hand to take him back to our own time, "we're in Scotland. Or, I guess whats now Scotland. Up in the highlands..."

He pulled his hand from mine, instinctively knowing it would make us stay.

"Triste..."

I looked down at him, not understanding what he wanted if not to go home.

"I'm sorry, Henrik, I should have thought about how hard this would be for you to take in. Let's go back..."

"No," he pulled his hand from mine again, "why are we here? When are we here?" His lips moved like he wanted to ask more questions, and his heartbeat still roared in his ears. I cupped his face with both hands and gently kissed his lips until he calmed against me.

"We're in the middle of nowhere in the Scottish Highlands, Henrik. This place doesn't exist anymore, and..." I wasn't sure what more I should divulge on that point.

"W-w-...what do you mean it doesn't exist anymore, you just said we're in Scotland!"

"No no, baby, shh, listen," I pressed one finger to his lips to quell the coming hysterics, "this land isn't untouched like this anymore," I motioned around us at the lush, verdant landscape, teaming with life and glowing with a beautiful green virginity.

"Then when are we?!"

"Ahh. Uhm. Well..."

"Look you brought us here, you can't not answer my questions."

I chewed my lip, "well as far as uhm. As timelines go...I mean...so ah, Jesus hasn't uhm. hasn't..." I gestured around but he shook his head and I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, "Jesus hasn't quite...happened yet?"

I cracked one eye open to gauge his reaction. His jaw dropped for a moment, then a hysterical laughter bubbled up from his lips, and he threw his head back and gave in to it until the sound was ringing off the landscape around us.

Well, there you go, you've gone and broken his brain now, happy?

"Henrik, maybe we should go back," I said, suddenly afraid that I in fact had damaged him.

"No. Why are we here?" His question caught me off guard, though I should have known he'd ask.

"Why are we here? If you didn't want to..." he paused and looked down at me, straddling his hips, still holding him inside me.

"Have sex with you?" I asked gently. His hesitance to name the activity we were taking part in almost made me blush.

"Well, yeah...you should have just said something."

I sighed and stared at a flowering tree over his right shoulder. It was one of my favorites from this memory, and I shifted my hips into him, drawing a groan from deep in his chest as his arm around my waist gripped me harder.

"Did I seem unenthusiastic to you?" I asked, looking back down at him, "this is...its a memory, love, like I said. Its. Ah...from quite a while ago...pre-Jesus and all...but, I took a deep breath, "Henrik, twice since you showed up, I've thought that you're too damn good for this stupid cruel world that we live in now, where people just think of themselves and getting ahead."

His gaze was firmly trained on my own.

"And...so...I-I wanted to bring you to a world that no one, other than me and a few others like me have known. Henrik, no one left on this planet but us knows a time like this. The glen we're in has been built up and over as the world has continued to be used and destroyed. But, I guess..." I sighed as a tear dropped down my cheek and his hand reached up to brush it away,"you deserve more than our world has to offer, and I wanted to try and give that to you..."

"Why? Why would you do that for me?"

"Because I love you, Henrik. Because you're sweet and kind and protective and just... just shut up and kiss me," I grabbed his face with both hands and desperately kissed him, like he was going to disappear if I stopped, and he got harder inside me as I did so, now back to focusing all our attention on the unnameable task.

"Will you have me here, baby," he whispered into my lips before moving his down to my neck and pressing open-mouthed, but still sweet kisses to my throat and gently rocking his hips into mine, one hand returning there to gently press me further onto his cock.

"Why do you think we're here in the first place," I gasped as he laved one of my nipples with his tongue, and his grip on my hips got a bit harder.

"Then hold on tight."

"Wh--" He flipped us so fast, I didn't even have time to register the movement until the grass of the bank was under my back and he pressed himself down into me, stretching me further open with a cry as his weight settled between my legs. The movement made me arch my back off the ground, and a growl of approval left his lips as he slowly pulled out of me and dipped his hips to run his cock through my folds.

I knew we could make as much noise here as we wanted, so I closed my eyes and sighed encouragingly, tilting my hips up to meet his slow, deliberate strokes. We were both more than ready for each other, and Henrik's eyes met mine when I opened them as he pressed into me, stretching me again, and we both cried out into each other as I clenched hard around him. He didn't wait before he started to move faster, fucking into me with all the passion that I loved about him.

"You're...so...tight...fuck..." his words left his lips on a growl as it rolled through his chest, and his hips started moving faster, punctuating his words with harder thrusts into me. I tightened again and the coil of heat between my legs was getting so hot, it almost felt dangerous. But Henrik couldn't stop, seeing on my face how close I was getting.

The birds around us never stopped singing and chirping, and the water added a soft babbling undertone to our shouts of pleasure as we gave into our most base instincts and drove each other further and further into the clouds. He shifted to hold his weight on one palm and used his free hand to wrap my right leg around his waist, securing it there before reaching between us and pressing his fingers to my clit, rubbing in hard circles.

"Oh, please come with me," he cried into my lips.

My back arched off the ground and we both came together, gasping and crying out, desperately trying to get closer to each other as we experienced a potent high. He looked down at me as we gasped for breath, and his lips crashed into mine as he felt my clit still pulsing against his fingers.

"Oh my god," he whispered into my lips, unable to say anything else in the wake of such an earth-shattering experience. I held him there, keeping him inside me as we calmed against each other, exchanging soft kisses and gentle looks, as countless lovers in this glen had done over the millennia.

Minutes went by with neither of us moving from the other's grasp, save for me releasing my leg from around his waist, and him laying his head against my panting breast. When he finally raised his face again, his eyes were swimming with tears, though none spilled down his cheeks.

"Thank you," he sighed, kissing the skin just under my collarbone. I ran my fingers through his hair and gasped when he moved his hips and slipped out of me, feeling the warmth of his seed dripping out after him. Henrik pushed himself up on his palms and moved to settle on his back close beside me on the grass, leaning his head to the side to look over in my direction.

"How do you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Move us like that. Like in the way that we're in your apartment, but also here," he gestured around and I was beyond pleased when he looked up at the cloudless expanse of the sky and smiled as the sunlight warmed his naked body, "which doesn't exist anymore? I have questions about that. Gods the sun feels good, I'm tired of winter already."

I wasn't sure what to tell him, and I thought for a moment as my eyes took in his naked body, peppered with the delicate shadows of the leaves waving around us in the breeze.

"I just...its like having a file cabinet full of memories in my brain. You know I'm...old...and I don't have all the memories of the people I've been in the past, but I do have the really good ones. And the bad ones...but I don't really touch those." I was monitoring his face closely as I told him this - narrowly avoiding breaking his brain bringing him here in the first place was not something I cared to tempt twice.

"I can more or less, umm...I guess just mentally bring your consciousness here with me when I revisit. I honestly wasn't sure it was going to work so, I'm glad it did," I chuckled.

"So what about other people? Are there people here? Can anyone see us?" he suddenly glanced down at his naked body and a crimson blush crept up his throat. I laughed at his modesty and rolled over to run a gentle hand over his hip.

"This memory doesn't have other people, Henrik. That's...I think that's why I like it so much. Its just..." I sat up and pulled my knees against my chest, resting my head on my arms and listening to the quiet solitude of untouched nature,"its just natural, you know? No complications, no technology..."

"No Jesus," he said and I turned to see a smile toying with the corner of his mouth.

"Not yet," I grinned.

He sighed and laced his fingers behind his head, looking up at the sky. I loved the way the motion made his arms flex and elongated his body, still so young and firm. I sighed with happiness at the sight.

"You're so beautiful, Henrik, I know people tell you that all the time, but its so true," I looked over at him with a smile that nearly made his heart stop. He reached for me, needing to feel my skin under his fingertips again, and I laid back down into his arms, resting my head against his shoulder as his lips brushed my forehead.

"I love that you're here with me now. That you're in my arms finally. This is where I've wanted you to be since the second you kissed me that first night," he sighed, staring up into the trees, "do you remember?" One hand traced the line of my waist up from my hips, until his fingers were exploring the curve of my breast, his thumb gently caressing my nipple, feeling it harden under his touch. A small sigh of pleasure left my lips and I watched his eyes slightly darken again.

"How could I not?" I sighed, looking up and drinking in his expression and the way his features changed as his eyes flicked down to my lips momentarily before he lifted his head and took my mouth in a kiss that rivaled the passion of our first real one. I willingly gave myself fully to him, but something tickled at my subconscious and I pulled back.

"Oh, and uhm. I guess before we...you know..go again...I should tell you that we're still...ah...we didn't...I mean mentally I guess...hmm..."

"Babe, spit it out," he grinned at me, as I leaned further into his side, "you can't possibly surprise me now."

Are you sure about that?

I paused and looked at him, figuring just getting it out would be best at this point.

"We're still in my bedroom, like I said. We haven't really moved. We're...we're on a different plane of reality now, Henrik, where even though we can talk and, and..."

"Fuck?" He supplied with a cheeky grin when I paused.

"Mmhm, yes, ah, and fuck. But we're still exactly like we were when we left. Like literally, we haven't moved."

The expression that crossed his face told me that I was indeed able to surprise him, and I didn't miss the way he subtly moved his hips to test if what I told him was true.

"Are you serious?! God I can't even believe it. It felt so real...how is that even possible?"

"It is real here, Henrik, reality is...not concrete like we think," I touched him again and leaned up to press my lips gently to his as I let my fingers trail down his body, caressing and stimulating him until they reached his cock. He was hard again, and I wrapped my fingers around his girth, slowly pumping him and drawing a strangled gasp from his lips.

"Oh, fuck, don't stop, that feels so good," he groaned.

"Doesn't this feel like its real," I whispered, trying to keep the obscene confidence out of my voice as his hips bucked up into my hand. His answer was a searing kiss, and his tongue filled my mouth as I moaned softly against him, arching into his body. He laid his forehead against mine when I let him go.

"Is it wrong that I just want to have you over and over again now? I don't feel like I can get enough of you..."

"Why exactly would having me over and over again be wrong, Henrik”, I moaned as I pushed him back into the grass and rolled on top of him, kissing him deeply and pressing my breasts against the muscles of his chest as both hands moved to grip my ass. His cock twitched between my legs and I lowered myself to grind against him encouragingly.

He stopped for a moment, still too full of questions to go again, "wait, but so what if Tim walked into your room right now? I don't know if anyone has ever told you this, but you're definitely a screamer, so we might have woken him up. Does time pass the same way here? Like can you still talk to people on the other side or is it like you're asleep? Because I don't need him thinking I fell asleep midway through fuc--"

I had forgotten all about Tim, and grabbed Henrik's wrist with a gasp, immediately sending us back into my bedroom.

"—king you..." I heard the last part of his sentence and I lept off the bed, and all but slid across the living room floor.

Chapter Text

Tim was still sleeping soundly under the blanket where I'd left him. I sighed and placed a hand over my thundering heart before walking to him and gently kissing his forehead, intending to make sure he was fine and then sneak back into bed with Henrik.  But he stirred and lifted his face to move his mouth up to mine.

"Mmm, hello," he hummed with his eyes still closed, hands appearing from under the blanket to settle at my waist. Feeling my bare skin under his fingertips, his eyes flew open in shock and he pulled back as if I'd burned him.

"Am I dreaming?" His eyes, try as he might, wandered down my body, and I suddenly got the impression from the way that he shifted that he was glad for the blanket draped across his lap.

"Jesus..." he whispered, drinking me in.

Shit. Naked. I'd forgotten about that part in my haste to make sure he was still okay and not panicking trying to get the attention of two people who were otherwise occupied.

"Mmhm, yes, you're dreaming, back you go now," I breathed, leaning in to kiss him again and trying my very best not to collapse into a giggling fit in his lap.

Who cared if I was naked? Hadn't he asked me to come home with him twice the last time we saw each other? After what had just happened with Henrik and how well he'd taken it, I took a leap of faith. 

Because what did I have left to lose.

His answering smile against my lips made me know that he wasn't buying it.

"Such a terrible liar," he whispered, as he pressed the blanket into my hands. I wrapped it around myself as he looked down at the floor, and then glanced up and pulled me down into his lap with a tender kiss to my forehead. I rested my head against the crook of his neck, and his hand settled on the blanket over my thigh, slowly stroking back and forth as his other wrapped around my waist, holding me to him.

"Sorry I fell asleep, long day all around," he said softly into my hair as he turned his head and tipped my chin up to kiss me. I settled into his lips, tracing the line of his jaw with my fingertip, and he gently deepened the kiss, feeling free to do so now, as he curled my hair back behind my ear, touching the loose tendrils with his hand. His tongue moved over mine, caressing it and making me press closer to him.

"What happened to the braid?"

"Henrik did," I giggled, leaning up to kiss him again, loving the way he embraced me and leveled with me when we were like this. He pressed closer, lifting his knees a little so I was tilted further against him and I could feel the curve of his smile.

"Your lips taste just like I remembered from the beach," he whispered, and I smiled at his remark, pulling him harder into my own kiss for just a moment longer, "gods you're fucking intoxicating..."

I raised my head for a moment and looked him in the eyes before pressing a little kiss to his nose. He looked at me with unbridled happiness in his gaze, and my lips twitched as I butted my forehead against his, "you're awfully happy for being rudely awakened in the middle of the night," I teased, making him chuckle.

"I just still can't believe you're here, priestess. Or that we're here, rather...and also why are you naked?" he asked, sounding somewhat hopeful.

I stifled a grin, then looked up as movement caught my eye. Henrik leaned against the doorframe of my bedroom, watching me in nothing but boxer shorts, his form bathed in the blue moonlight in a way that made my heart stop beating. A contented smile curved his lips and he held a hand out to me, looking like someone straight off a romance novel cover.

"Come find out," I nudged Tim's hand and he released me, momentarily confused. I moved up and out of his lap, but kept the blanket wrapped around me as I crossed the living room, meeting Henrik in the doorway. He pulled me into his arms, kissing me soundly, but not aggressively, letting me open my lips to him first as I leaned in. His lips were warm and inviting and I reached up to wrap the blanket around him so it enveloped us both as his mouth continued to caress mine, drawing soft sounds of pleasure and heartfelt contentment from my lips. He pressed kisses to my forehead, eyelids, and both cheeks before gently kissing my lips once more and pulling me in to lay my head against his chest.

One arm moved out from under the blanket and idly ran his fingers through my hair as he looked down at me; the soft touch had me threatening to drift off again as his other hand gently traveled up and down my bare back underneath the warm fleece.

I looked back over at Tim with a drowsy smile, and saw that his knuckles were white with how hard he was gripping the arms of the chair, watching. I kissed Henrik one more time before leaning up to whisper in his ear. He dipped his head to listen, then nodded as I stepped out of his embrace.

"Will you come to bed with us, Tim..." I asked softly. He slowly rose, eyes never leaving mine as he crossed to take my hand when I stretched it out to him. He glanced down at it, tracing the outlines of my fingers, and I could see his hand was shaking as I pulled him into my embrace, wrapping the blanket around the back of his shoulders like I had with Henrik, and his hands enclosed my bare waist.  I shivered at the coolness of his touch and he stiffened and apologized quickly.

I pulled back from him slightly and looked into his eyes, frowning a little and unsure why he suddenly seemed so wary of touching me when I knew he'd wanted this before.

"If you don't want to, I can make up the couch or you can sleep in the guest room. I'd never ask you to do something you don't want to do, Tim, you know that right?"

If I was being honest with myself, I could hardly think of anything I wanted more at the moment than to wake up with Henrik and Tim in my bed, all lustful thoughts aside. They were comforting and warm and radiated a sense of acceptance and contentment that I could hardly say get enough of.

"No, no I do. I just...I don't know if I can...control myself," he shook his head slightly and looked at a spot on the wall over my shoulder, chewing on his lip.

"Tim. Hey. Tim, look at me," I physically turned his face back towards me and his eyes were uncertain, guarded.

"But She said...we couldn't..."

"Our time wasn't then, but maybe its now...being brought together by chance has to mean something," I whispered as I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him, pulling the blanket tighter around his shoulders and pressing my breasts to his chest. He moaned softly against me, remembering the words and sinking into my warm embrace as his hands once more traced the line of my waist, down the side of my hips, touching the lines of each muscle down to my thighs.

I shivered hard, though the inside of our blanket haven was blissfully warm, and I felt that familiar spark of need begin to bloom as I opened my lips to him and he kissed me slowly. Tim was a master kisser and I let him work out whatever concerns he had about self control into my lips before breaking away.

"If I wanted you to fight for self control, I wouldn't invite you into my bed," I whispered into his ear softly.

He pressed his temple to mine and took a deep breath, eyes still closed, "gods I just want you so badly, Triste." And it was true, I could feel the way our kiss had aroused him as well as he pressed forward against my hips.

"Hmm," I hummed into his hair, fully prepared to indulge him, "then come and get me," I kissed his cheek as he yawned deeply, though I could tell he tried to stifle it, "but maybe you need to sleep first," I teased and felt his answering laugh vibrate through his body. I pressed another kiss to his lips before I led him into the bedroom and pulled back the comforter and sheets so I could slide in beneath the blankets.

I smiled as Henrik slid in behind me, resting a soft hand on my hip and I continued to look up at Tim, standing next to my bed.

"Triste, you're shivering," Henrik said with a hint of concern as he pulled me closer to him and I reveled in his body heat as he smothered me and leaned over to press a kiss to my jaw. Tim took off his shoes and his shirt and slipped into bed with us, facing me, still a little unsure. I moved towards him and took his lips in a chaste goodnight kiss, and a contented sigh left him as he wrapped an arm around me and I rested my head against his chest, caressing my hand softly across his skin, running my fingers through the hair that covered his chest.

"See? Not so bad," I whispered as my eyelids felt heavier. Henrik molded his body around mine and Tim leaned his cheek against my head, feeling sleep pulling at him though he desperately wanted to lay awake for the rest of the night so he could simply watch me sleeping where he'd needed me to be so badly for months.

"Not so bad at all," he murmured, the last thought passing through his head that my hair still smelled like roses.

We all drifted off that way, and for the first time in six months, I went to bed with my heart overflowing with something that wasn't hurt.

--

I dreamed of my glen on a summer day. Butterflies and ladybugs crawled across my naked skin as I stretched languidly on the grass and I felt a sublime sense of contentment settle within me as the sun beat down. The water babbled over the rocks nearby, and the sunlight through the leaves cast a dappled pattern over my pale naked skin. The tiny hair-like feet of the butterflies tickled and I laughed gaily as they landed on me in a plethora of colors. But as they took off once more in flight and their paper-like wings brushed across my bared nipples, my laugh turned to a soft gasp at the sensation.

As I started to awaken, I realized the erotic caress of my dream wasn't the feather-light brush of butterfly wings -  it was Tim's mustache as he pressed kisses to my breasts and swirled his tongue lightly around my nipples. When he felt my sharp inhale under his mouth indicating that I was awake and enjoying his attentions, he shifted and pressed his lips up to mine until I opened my mouth to him and he moved, forcing me back into the pillows as he tasted me.

"Mmm. Not tired anymore?" I asked in a low voice, very much hoping he wasn't as I brushed my fingers back through his hair.

"I'm very well-rested," he smirked as he kissed down my neck. The lowness of his voice seemed to vibrate through my body as his fingers drifted across my thighs and I couldn't help but moan softly at the sensation as I yielded my mouth to him again and let him push the covers back off of us. He hummed at the way the chilly air hardened my nipples further as he brushed the pad of his index finger over one then the other, silent for a moment as he stared down at me.

"You're so beautiful," he whispered, "like something from a dream...are you sure you want this?"

He asked like either of us were even capable of stopping at that point.
As if we hadn't wanted to give into these exact impulses so many times before.
As if we hadn't both secretly laid in bed in the months since we parted ways, touching ourselves and thinking about it.

Tim moved tortuously slow, taking in the softness of my skin, the way my breath caught as he moved his fingers further down my legs, pushing my knees apart.

"Gods, I --Tim-- I d-don't think I can live without it any longer..."

Satisfied with my answer, Tim bent his head down to me and drew my tongue into his mouth, and I reveled in his kiss as he artfully moved his lips against mine. Suddenly his fingers slid up to my center and glided through my folds and he released my mouth to moan softly as I cried out and bucked against him.

"I can feel how ready you are, babe. How badly you need me. Were you wet like this when you would kiss me before, Triste...when you kissed me on the beach...” his tone made me writhe, pressing myself against his exploring fingers.

"Its not my fault, someone interrupted a very nice dream I was having," I groaned, ignoring his last comments, though we both knew the answer was a hard yes. His answering crooked smile pressed against my lips.

"Mmm, tell me what you were dreaming about," his skilled fingers put pressure on my entrance without ever moving inside me as he traced the ring of muscle with slow, torturous circles.

"Please..." I gasped, and he continued to stroke up and down my pussy as I carded my fingers through his hair, soft and smooth like silk.

"Tell me."

I silently laughed to myself in between gasps at his caresses as he played with varying degrees of pressure. His eyes were intense, burning into me even in the dark, and I could tell from his tone that he wanted me to divulge every explicit detail of what he thought I was dreaming about. The corner of my mouth curved up in a smirk as my fingers brushed one side of his mustache.

"Butterflies..."

My hand latched on to the side of his face to pull him down again and he kissed me forcefully as my breasts crushed against his chest until it was almost painful.

The sounds of our soft chatter and pleasure woke Henrik, who had rolled onto his other side in his sleep. When he turned, a soft moan escaped his mouth at seeing my lips locked with Tim's and his hand moving between my legs as my hips bucked for him. He pushed himself to my side as his cock swelled, and I wrapped one arm around his neck, sinking my fingers into his curls when his lips closed around my nipple.

"Will you finally let me taste you, Triste...after all this time. Let me show you how I learned to kiss you like this," Tim whispered against my neck, already working his way down my body, hanging over top of me. The ends of his hair trailed over my breasts, making me groan at the sensation and the memory of the last time he'd made the same offer. I drew one leg up against his as he fell between mine, caressing and encouraging him as he dropped kisses down my torso, sliding his knees down my bed until his face was at my hips.

He kissed one of my hip bones and then the other before he gathered and pulled his hair around to one side and out of the way, and then caught my gaze as he pressed an open-mouthed kiss to my clit, nearly making me jump off the bed. The laugh that spilled from his lips was dark and low, and his eyes flicked down to my dripping pussy for a moment and I watched him bite his lip before he looked back at me.

"Are you ready for me?"

"Tim..."

He didn't wait for a different answer and I screamed and arched my back sharply at the feel of his tongue sliding through my folds, tasting me, and when I looked down, his eyes were fixed on me as his tongue danced over and then pressed into my entrance. I couldn't look away as he tongue-fucked me, moving the muscle with masterful strokes, drawing every cry and little gasp out of me just as he wanted them.

Tim groaned into my core over and over again, punctuating each thrust as his pace quickened, feeling his cock throb every time my opening clenched around the questing muscle, gifting him with more of me. He pulled back to spread my lips with his fingers, flicking the tip of his tongue rapidly over my clit and sending electric currents of pure sensation through every nerve ending I had as I shrieked with pleasure.

I looked over at Henrik with hot desire written across my features. He was stroking himself, watching me cry out and writhe for Tim.

"Kiss me, Henrik," my voice was barely above a whisper, but it was all I could choke out now as I reached for him, tangling my fingers in his dark hair. He shifted and took my mouth in a rough kiss as he pulled my hand from his locks and wrapped it around his cock, covering it with his and we stroked him together. He was smooth and hard and so wonderfully, deliciously close to me.

"Oh fuck, just like that," he moaned, letting go of my hand before kissing me again as I continued. His tongue tasted every part of my mouth, and I gripped him harder, ripping a groan from his throat that I drank it down as everything swirled around me and I cried out at the double stimulation, pressing my pussy harder into Tim's face while pulling Henrik closer to my lips as his fingers pinched and rolled one nipple then the other.

Tim covered my pussy with his mouth, doing everything he could think of to pleasure me as he bucked his hips into the mattress, desperate for friction and living for each sound that he tore from my lips.

"Fuck fuck fuck, TIM" I yelled as I broke away from Henrik's mouth and my hips snapped against his face as he let out a guttural growl into my core at the way I screamed his name, the vibrations increasing my pleasure. His hands moved like lightning up around my legs until he had a vice-like grip around my thighs, keeping me exactly where he wanted me as he sucked my clit between his lips.

"Give me everything, Triste..." he snarled into me as he pulled one arm away from my thigh. Two of his fingers dipped into me, stretching me a little more, and pumping in and out of me as his mouth latched back onto my clit, swirling his tongue as he sucked to make me come harder.

His thrusting fingers ripped my orgasm from me as my free hand clawed at my sheets and I got wetter and wetter, dripping down his arm and his face as I gushed against him and he kept me coming as long as he could, loving the way I tasted and surrendered to him.

He looked slightly dazed when he finally lifted his face from between my legs, his mouth hanging open as he panted for air and felt my juices dripping down his face.

But it only lasted for a moment before I released Henrik and launched myself up to pull Tim down on top of me, grabbing his shoulders with both hands. I was crazed with pleasure and need, and having both Tim and Henrik there with me was nearly too much.

I slammed my mouth against his, tasting my cum on his lips and his tongue, all but tearing the pants off his hips; he kicked them off down over his feet and responded to my intensity in kind, roughly thrusting all the way into me with one stroke, burying his face into my neck and shouting with pleasure.

He held his weight on his palms on either side of my head, and the position made the muscles of his back flex deliciously as I ran my hands up and down his body. He didn't give me time to adjust to being stretched around him. He dragged his cock along my inner walls and reveled in every noise he brought from my lips as he fucked me the way he'd always wanted to.

"Fuck. Babe. You feel. So. Fucking. Good," we weren't slow or gentle with each other, as Henrik and I had been. We tore and clawed with nails and teeth as his hips slammed into mine hard enough to leave bruises, but still my own lifted to meet each thrust, the sound of flesh against flesh and animal growls filling my bedroom.

He stopped moving suddenly and dropped to take my mouth, hips crushing me into the mattress, his cock bottomed out inside me as my legs wrapped around his waist. Our tongues tangled together, and I closed my teeth around his lower lip when he pulled away, making him shout in a combination of pain and pleasure as I clenched hard when he shifted and I rocked my hips against him.

He looked down at me with an indescribable expression for a moment, keeping almost perfectly still and simply feeling me pulse around him as he sharply inhaled.

"How many times have I wondered what you would look like under me," he said softly as I panted, my breasts moving in the early dawn light coming through my window.

"Please don't stop, Tim, I'm so close," I begged, wanting more of him, needing more now that I finally had him and knowing he'd imagined it probably as many times as I had. He indulged me and I tangled my fingers into his hair as he started thrusting in and out of me again, moving his hips in an intoxicating rhythm that matched his kiss, everything planned, everything perfectly orchestrated to maximize my pleasure.

My inner walls gripped him hard as I writhed under his attentions, making sounds of pleasure that undid him as he drove me higher.

"Triste, Triste I can't last like this, fuck!" he shouted as he started moving faster, and his whole body went taut as he yelled with the force of his climax, every muscle flexed.

"COME," he commanded, and reached between us to slap my clit hard once, pressing firmly after. The exquisite intertwining of pain and pleasure hurtled me over the edge of another orgasm, and I closed my eyes and arched off the bed, half-lifting him with me as I gasped simultaneously for more and for relief, my body unsure of which it wanted.

We laid there gasping and twitching in the aftershocks as he pressed his body into mine and leaned in to kiss me, groaning into my lips and breathing for us both.

"Its always been you, hasn't it?" he finally asked quietly as he lifted up on shaking arms, his hips staying flush with mine, keeping his cock inside me. My mind was too overloaded and flooded with endorphins to think of a response, so I just brushed a trembling hand over his cheek and combed his damp hair back off his sweating forehead. We looked at each other for several moments, our eyes searching for answers and trying to read questions until Henrik brought me back to reality, realizing that I wasn't breathing.

"Triste," he whispered in that way that immediately drew my gaze, "look at me, love, right here..."

I looked at him and finally drew in a shaking breath as I calmed down for a moment, my arm falling to my side, and Tim slowly pulled out of me with a groan, shifting back onto his knees to watch his cum drip from me. He mumbled something I didn't quite catch, then moved out from between my legs as Henrik pressed a soft kiss to my swollen lips.

"You have to remember to breathe, little one," he laughed softly, kissing me again and pressing his forehead to mine with a sigh, "somehow, you're just beyond what I'd ever imagined," he whispered before rolling off the bed and disappearing to the bathroom to clean up.

"I'd say that goes for us both, priestess," Tim sighed, gathering me to himself and disregarding for the moment that we both also needed to wash off.

Henrik gave us space, disappearing into the kitchen to clean up our glasses from earlier once he'd cleaned himself off, and I looked up at Tim and couldn't stop myself from kissing him again, drawing him closer to me.

"Worth the wait?" he chuckled into my lips, running his hand back through my hair. I blinked slowly at him with a sleepy smile before nestling back against his chest.

"Definitely," I sighed, catching sight of something that made me take pause. I traced the tattoo on the left side of his chest with one finger, the delicate outlines nearly hidden by the hair that had grown back in the months since he'd gotten it done right over his heart.

I could feel it beating as I touched the small tattoo, the pace more normal now as the intense high faded, giving way to a softer, fuller glow.

"This is new..." I said quietly, and I ran my finger over the lines I'd known by heart for millennia, as his index finger traced the same lines in the middle of my back. He didn't respond, just looked down at me.

"Why?" I whispered, unable to stop the touching it.

"Because it was the only way I had to to get you right where you belong, priestess," as he said it, he pressed my hand down over his heart.

A tear slid down my cheek and I bent to kiss the tiny hieroglyphs, burying my face in his shoulder after and wanting to dissolve into exhausted emotional sobs, but Tim shifted, holding me to his chest and shushing me softly, until the tears I wanted to cry simply went away and I was almost immediately asleep once more.

Henrik stood in the doorway and watched for a moment, one hand pressed to his heart before climbing into bed behind me and pulling a blanket over mine and Tim's sleeping forms. He laid there smiling until he fell asleep, and I rolled over without waking, subconsciously seeking the warmth of his embrace.

Chapter Text

I awoke tangled in Swedes.

Looking from one to the other, I smiled and happily rolled over to press a kiss to each of their foreheads before carefully climbing out of bed. The motion woke Tim, who reached for my hand and caught me as I walked towards the closet. His eyes were soft with sleep as he smiled and pulled me back to him across the cool floorboards and back under the covers so I could lay flush against his body.

"Just stay here with me a few more minutes before you run off again," he breathed into my lips with a kiss and I was content to snuggle against him in the warm haven of blankets. I listened to his heartbeat and smiled softly to myself before I drifted off again to the comforting sound.

An hour later I woke again, looking around, and Henrik was gone.

I blinked slowly in the sun, realizing that the bed was only half full with a slight start, and Tim's hand that was securing me against him pulled tighter around my middle.

"You're not going anywhere, he's just in the living room. Always the first one up," he mumbled, his hair splayed out over the pillow and tousled from sleep. He cracked one eye open at me as his mustache twitched with his slow, sleepy smile that only pulled me in closer as I kissed him softly.

"Couple more of those, and you're not getting out of bed today," he warned playfully as his eyes closed again.

"Oh yeah? And what if I have to go to work?"

He shrugged a little, but his arm pulled me closer to him and shifted me so I was halfway pinned under his body and looked down at me with interest as his hair spilled down around one shoulder.

"Do you still want to get up?"

"Uhm...I'm uhm. I could stay for a little bit."

"Mmhm, how about now?" he brushed his lips in a whisper-soft line over my shoulder as his hand drifted over my skin.

"I could call in sick," I sighed, gasping a tiny bit when his lips brushed over my nipple.

"You do seem a little flushed, sweetheart," he smirked, finally landing at my lips and gently kissing them. His desire for me was at once sated and inflamed by our union only a few hours earlier, and he felt his cock stirring between his legs.

"Tim?" I asked as his lips worked down my neck slowly, his breath warm across my skin, "what did you mean when you said 'its always been you'?"

"Hmm?" his lips continued to caress my skin.

"You said last night after we...well...you said 'its always been you, hasn't it'..."

He froze for a moment pulling back and looking down at me as he shifted away, only keeping one hand on my hip, and even that began to shrink away from me too.

"Oh...it--it isn't a big deal, I was just curious," I said, a little unsettled by how he seemed to pull back from me so quickly, "do you want coffee? I'm going to go make coffee and find Henrik."

I rolled over and swung my feet over the side of the bed, a small part of my brain marveling at the fact that I'd started yesterday this exact same way, and the thought of how much had changed in 24 hours gave me momentary pause as my mind began to drift away from Tim.

"Don't--don't go yet," a voice behind me said, and I turned to see him sitting up, his hair falling around his shoulders, still a little messy, and the sheets covering his hips. He looked at me with an unsure expression for a few seconds before holding his hand out, beckoning to me ans I crawled back towards him, keeping a little distance between us, waiting for him to touch me.

He gathered me forward into his arms and laid back against the pillows in the center of the bed, looking down at me as I propped my chin on the heel of my hand and laid next to him on my stomach. He smiled down at me, relaxing a little, "you're adorable, do you know that?"

"Hmm. So I've been told," I grinned, kicking my legs back and forth childishly for effect as he laughed and brushed his fingers across my cheek, letting them drift down my neck, following the path of his stare.

"You have marks on your neck now, I'm sorry..." he said quietly, simply stating a fact.

"I know. Its okay, I'll cover them up before I go to work, whats going on in there?" I tapped his forehead once.

He chewed his lip for a moment, not responding, and I knew he was trying to figure out how to phrase whatever it was he hadn't wanted to tell me a few minutes earlier.

"Hey, babe look at me," I said softly, drawing his attention again to my eyes as the tips of his fingers rubbed up and down the center of my back, "you don't have to explain anything, its okay."

He smiled softly at the little name took a deep breath, "I'm sorry, you just took me by surprise. I don't remember saying that to you..." he ran a hand back over his hair, lifting his head so he could gather it down around one shoulder.

"I don't remember where we were, now, but we were out wandering before a gig and Kungen convinced me to go into this stupid spiritualist medium whatever kind of shop that we passed. I'm not really into the crystals and card shit, but he basically put me in the chair and thought it'd be funny as hell to get my palm read, and I honestly don't even know what that crazy woman did - she just took my hand and traced the lines on my palm and told me a bunch of general nonsense about my health and money and how I should quit smoking..."

I nodded, waiting for him to continue and loving the feel of his calloused fingertips dancing over my skin as he looked at the ceiling, remembering.

"At one point, she looked up at me and did a double take. We weren't very popular yet over here, but I thought maybe she might have recognized me because she just stared for a while, and it was like I couldn't look away. Like she just pinned me there, you know?"

"Hmm."

"And...she grabbed my hand and wasn't looking at my palm or anything anymore and she just held it and said 'the one you seek serves the eye of the sun'. And that was is. She let me go and I got the hell out of there..."

I stared at him with my mouth hanging open.

"Serves the of the eye of the sun," I repeated, slowly, carefully saying each word, "you're sure?" and he nodded.

"I had no fucking clue what she meant, obviously, and wasn't really looking for anyone in particular at the time. We were just touring and writing and partying and..." he trailed off.

I laid my head down on his chest over his heart, tracing the lines of the bigger tattoo on the opposite side, and I knew we were both thinking about the same moment - a goodbye showered in flower petals with a reminder to look up at the sun while he played.

Tim cleared his throat and looked away, fidgeting with the edge of the flat sheet that covered his hips.

"Tim?"

His eyes shifted around the room, landing on a small figurine in a wall shrine in the corner, and his breath seemed to catch in his chest, making it hard to inhale. I followed his gaze and we wordlessly embraced for several more moments, feeling Her sudden presence. It dissipated and he took a deep breath, pressing a hand to his chest as if he needed to confirm the oxygen in his lungs.

"Woah...Triste, I'm sorry...I- that's why I wasn't sure what to tell you...I feel like we showed up and dropped a bomb on your head last night, and I didn't--"

I rolled over on top of him quickly, moving the sheet so his cock was nestled between my legs, and he gasped my name, his hands flying to my hips reflexively. I fell forward against him, devouring his mouth, thrusting my tongue between his lips and moaning lowly when I felt him hardening between my legs.

"W-what are you doing," Tim gasped as I tilted my hips to grind back against him, "ohh, babe..."

"Should I draw you a picture?" I asked, kissing down his neck and slicking back and forth over his cock.

"Fuck I love how hard you get for me," I moaned into his skin, swirling my tongue across his nipple and feeling his energy roiling beneath the surface of his skin, just like mine. This was it. Proof that I wasn't misunderstanding it all. That the energy between us has happened, it had been real. For whatever reason, he was meant to find me.

He pulled my chin up to kiss me, growling lowly into my lips at my sarcastic remark, "you're one to talk," he moved his hips to press harder into my folds as I kissed him again, "you're fucking dripping already."

"You're such a good kisser, it's not really my fault," I laughed lowly, "mmm, you should have seen me after you kissed me that night at the bar."

"If memory serves, you kissed me first," he replied, slipping his hands between us to cup both of my breasts, dragging his thumbs across my nipples and growling at my gasp of pleasure. He did something with his tongue that made me arch into his body and he moved one hand from my breast down to my ass, touching and squeezing my skin.

"God, I wanted to just take you right there. I was so close to just throwing you to the floor, tearing your shorts off and shoving my cock into you in front of everyone."

"I know, I remember," I gasped as his grip on my ass shifted my hips so his cockhead teased at my entrance and I gripped his hair hard with both hands, easing myself back onto his length with a growl of my own as he sat up against me, wrapping both arms around my waist as I lowered myself down onto his cock.

"Ahh, fuck," I groaned, gripping into his beautiful locks hard and closing my eyes at being filled this way as my head tilted back.

He felt so good, like a combination of always too much and never nearly enough.

His snarl was almost feral as he froze, but his chest moved rapidly, betraying just how aroused he was as he watched my pulse beat in my throat, "then you'll remember what I told you about pulling my hair like that," he said lowly, the words deathly serious.

I didn't have time to react - in a flash, he rolled and my back hit the wall a half second after his feet hit the floorboards. His cock bottomed out inside me and his pubic bone ground into my clit as he held me there.

"You'll. Remember," he bit out the words through gritted teeth, punctuating each with thrusts that made me see stars, "that I told you. I would fuck you. Just. Like. This."

I gripped his shoulders tight, my fingers still tangled into his mass of hair around them and he grunted with the force of each thrust, using the reverberation of us crashing into the wall to further stimulate me until I was screaming for more from him.

"YES, Triste, fucking scream my name."

I couldn't even hear him anymore - the only thing in the universe I was aware of was his cock scraping against my inner walls, repeatedly filling me to my absolute limit until it was almost painful. My fingernails raked down his back as his hands gripped my thighs and my ass hard enough to leave bruises. He threw his head back and shouted my name as his skin tore, and his hand came up around my throat, his hips pinning me to the wall as I wrapped my legs tightly around him to compensate for the loss of support.

He growled as his hand tightened around my neck, not cutting off my air, but adding enough pressure that I had to work a little harder to draw in each gasping breath as I clenched around him and he pushed me harder into the wall with his hips.

"You're so fucking hot like this," he started to move again, and each thrust almost knocked the breath from my lungs with its intensity. My hips screamed for relief from the physical onslaught that was Tim, but I couldn't stop, not when I was so close.

"Fuck, Tim, I'm gonna--" he drank my last cries down with a kiss that was a thousand degrees Fahrenheit as he crashed me into the wall one more time, so hard that the picture hanging a few feet away clattered to the floor, and I came undone when his pubic bone pressed into my clit hard again, writhing and spasming in his arms, clinging to him for dear life as my entire mind bent almost to the breaking point.

I unknowingly shifted my hips to take him further as he gave into the high, succumbing to the force of my release as it strangled his cock until he couldn't hold back any more, spilling himself into me as I gushed around him, and biting down hard on the skin just above my breast to muffle his cries as he came hard, feeling my grip on his hair tighten as I pulled it.

A string of what I assumed were expletives fell from his lips as he panted and moaned deeply at the feeling of our mingled fluids spilling out of me and across his hips, dripping down his thighs. I leaned off the wall as we both gasped for air, not sure we'd ever catch our breath again, and I kissed him hard, needing to ground myself as I wrapped my arms around his neck.

He reciprocated for only a moment before pulling back and searching my eyes.

"Whats your name?"

"No idea," I gasped with a smile, closing my eyes and leaning back against the wall.

"Mmhm, that's my good girl," he smirked into my neck, licking a drop of sweat off the skin there and making me shiver, "and how many people exist in the whole world right now?"

"Just...us..." I gasped again, my limbs shaking with exertion and euphoric overload.

He collapsed backwards to sit on the edge of the bed, keeping me firmly nestled in his lap, one leg on either side of his.

"Very good," he whispered, knowing he'd done well by me as he drank in the way I trembled when I leaned down to kiss him again, softly this time, his mustache brushing my lips. The corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled at me as I traced the silver ring that pierced his nose with one finger.

"I didn't...I didn't ever take what she said seriously, so I just kind of forgot about it," he said, drawing my gaze back to his eyes as he picked up where he'd left off minutes earlier, "but I told you that night out on the deck, from the moment I met you I've been drawn to you. Attracted to you, obviously," he glanced down at where we were still joined, "but it was like I needed to be near you, close enough to touch you..."

I brushed my fingers back through his hair as he spoke, gently untangling the knots I'd just made. His eyes closed in soft bliss and I made a mental note to dig out a comb for him later.

"Anyways..." he cleared his throat and looked at me with eyes that were a little misty if I wasn't mistaken.

"And here we are," I said softly.

"Here we are," he repeated, cupping my cheek and kissing me lovingly, trying to convey with a touch everything he couldn't figure out how to put into words.

I finally lifted off of him, my hips protesting in pain, and he caught me when I almost fell as I got my feet under me.

"Woah. Oh, please tell me you can't walk now. Please just say it once," he laughed, more than liking the state I was in now after taking him like that.

"Christ, I thought the fucking apocalypse was about to come through the shower wall," another voice added, and turned to see Henrik standing in my doorway with a smirk on his lips and a towel wrapped around his waist, searching the floor for wherever his clothes had landed last night.

"Sorry," I grinned, though the blush that flushed my cheeks told him I wasn't being totally sarcastic. Tim stood right behind me and stretched, groaning at the pull of muscles that had just been used and abused in a way they hadn't in some time as Henrik stooped to gather his clothes and when he dropped the towel he pulled me into his arms, holding my face to his chest with one hand cupping the back of my head.

"Good morning," I mumbled into the skin there as I wrapped my arms around his waist, "you smell nice."

"Thank you," he chuckled, "I've literally never met someone who has so many kinds of soap."

His chest shook with his laugh and I looked up at him, my heart melting a little at what his smile did to his face.

"It's kind of an addiction."

"Hmm, they have programs for people like you, you know," he laughed, running his hands up and down my back, tracing the lines of each long muscle that ran up and down the length of it.

"Yes, but unfortunately, they're membership programs and I get points that give me more soap so..." I shrugged and Henrik shook his head as we both laughed and he looked down at me with such a loving expression, I couldn't help when I leaned into him, pressing against his chest and absorbing his warm aura.

"Hmm," I smiled and stood on tiptoes to kiss his lips softly, "do you want some coffee?"

"Why don't you jump in the shower and I'll make it, since you have to go to work today, and you can't go in smelling like sex," he said, a cheeky smirk twisting his lips as his eyes glittered.

"Henrik! Are you telling me I smell bad?" I teased, stepping back and putting my hands on my hips and frowning at him. He jerked me forward again until we collided and his lips were immediately at my ear, brushing the shell of it with his nose.

"I didn't say you smelled bad, I said you smell like sex," he growled, his hands starting to wander, "and it wasn't a complaint..."

I heard Tim's laugh from the other room as he cleaned himself up, and Henrik's lips started to work down my neck, tracing little lines with the tip of his tongue that made me gasp as the need that Tim had just sated started to rear its head again.

"Damn, I have got to get you guy out of here or I'm never going to go to work again," I laughed as he pulled away and stepped into his jeans and stuck his arms through his shirt.

"I don't know about 'never'," he retorted, but when he looked at me his blue eyes were charged and I knew if I went any closer I'd get seriously shocked, "but I have enough ideas to keep you busy for at least the next couple of weeks..."

I squeaked and backed away towards the door, feeling the heat from his gaze like it was leaving actual scorch marks across my skin. He followed me, not blinking, almost prowling, and laughed when he broke and turned for the kitchen.

"Off you go," he shooed me towards the bathroom.

"You know, you're making me look like a bad hostess," I said with another frown, "running me a bath last night and making coffee in the morning? I can do that stuff myself you know."

"Not to mention the screaming orgasms," Tim called from around the corner as Henrik pulled the coffee pot from the warmer and flipped on the tap.

"I can do those myself too!" I replied sarcastically and the sound of a spoon clattering across the floor accompanied a mumbled 'goddamnit'. 

"Men," I muttered to myself with a smile as I turned on the hot water in the shower and stepped in.

--

Tim and Henrik were standing in the kitchen fully dressed and sipping coffee when I emerged from the bathroom twenty minutes later wrapped in a towel, finger-combing leave-in conditioner through my hair. They fell silent for a moment and eyed both me and the minuscule sheet of cotton that was my only defense, and I looked up to smile at them, but it died on my lips with a gasp as I watched Henrik approach me, looking every bit the hungry predator again.

Uh oh.

Moments later, I was flat on my back at the edge of my bed with my towel flung onto the other side of the room, and Henrik was on his knees on the floor, face buried in my pussy with both of my legs draped over his shoulders. His tongue lapped and flicked and covered every inch of me as his fingertips dug into my hips, sending searing torrents of pleasure through my body until I came for him with a delicious cry.

His mouth continued to cover me, moaning into my core and working me through my orgasm until I gasped for relief and pulled sharply on his hair, yanking his face from my pussy and he looked up, his lips and the bottom half of his face glistening with me.

"Fuck, I could do this all day," he muttered, holding my gaze and licking his lips before glancing back down and running his fingers over me, spreading my cum and feeling his own heart beat faster and faster. He slipped my legs off his shoulders and pulled me up till I was seated and I bent down to kiss him, tasting my own sultriness on his lips, sighing happily as his hands moved all over my skin.

"Don't tell me that or I'll be tempted to let you," I smiled, the endorphins pumping through my brain making me feel high. His lips brushed mine again, and his tongue gently asked permission for entry, stroking against my bottom lip.

I pressed both hands to his face and held him to me as we kissed passionately, but still gently, tenderly, that way that only Henrik ever kissed me.

"If I had it my way, you'd never stop coming," he whispered, "your release is so beautiful, I could just watch you forever."

I smiled into his lips and kissed him one more time, "how do you come up with things like that to say? Gods, you're just so wonderful, Henrik."

"I'm not... I just love you," he replied, and my heart felt like it stopped beating altogether. I pulled his face against my chest and wrapped my legs around him as he rested his cheek there, pressing a sweet kiss to Tim's red bite mark that made me sigh.

"I love you too," I said quietly, running one hand over the beautiful curly head nestled between my arms, "always have, I think."

He looked up at me as one tear dropped down his cheek, unable to believe what he'd heard, though I'd said it once before.

"Always will," he sighed into my lips, gathering me to him as he stood, my feet leaving the floor. Henrik held me that way, kissing me over and over again until I asked to be put down and he dropped one more kiss on top of my hair and headed for the door, looking back over his shoulder with a little smile.

"Christ, you're just so beautiful," he murmured, shaking his head in disbelief as I stood naked and smiling at him, my hair uncombed and half-dry, but more gorgeous than he'd ever seen it.

I pulled an outfit from my closet, going casual today, and grabbed clothes to change into for later before I went to hang my towel up in the bathroom.

I walked into the kitchen and Henrik pressed a cup of coffee into my hands with a quick kiss, and I thanked him as I inhaled the strong aroma. We sipped in silence for a few minutes.

"So...I decided I'll do it..."

They both looked at me for a moment.

"Your shows tonight?"

"Yeah..."

"I'll be there...I have to check on tickets and stuff but I-I'll be there," I said again, "I don't know whats gonna happen, and I don't want you to get your hopes up...but...you both seem worried for him and I need to try for the both of you, if not f-for myself..."

"Don't worry about the ticket, we can leave one for you. Triste, are you sure? Nobody wants you to do anything that you aren't comfortable with. If it'll hurt too much to see him, we can find another way..." Tim asked with a serious, worried expression in his eyes.

I sighed heavily and ran a hand back through my hair, making the scent of my conditioner waft through the kitchen as I took another sip of coffee.

"Whats the worst that can happen? He stays married and I come back to my life here alone again? That's the status quo now, babe," I realized what I said was catty, but along with that realization came the acceptance that I was really pissed off at Johannes. And if he did have anything to say to me, he'd get a good solid piece of my mind first.

Tim winced a little as I said "alone", and I watched him chew his lip as he stared down into the dark liquid that only mirrored his expression back up at him.

I sighed and set my cup down on the counter, moving towards him as he did the same. I wrapped my arms around his middle and he held me to him as he kissed my hair.

"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that," I said quietly.

"Its okay, I get it," his fingers combed through my hair as he held me there for a few more moments.

"Not alone," I said looking up at him and fighting the urge to kiss him and never stop.

"Not anymore," Henrik's voice sounded from right behind me as he ran a hand over my hip, tilting my chin back to kiss me briefly.

I glanced back and forth between them, wondering how my life had taken this turn, and we all seemed absorbed into one moment together, sucked into the tension and the comfort and the mutual need.

Henrik took a step closer, pressing against my back as Tim pulled me harder against his front, and I wasn't going to complain about the looks either of them were wearing.

Nobody even blinked until Tim's phone rang loudly and we all snapped out of it as he pushed off the counter to go answer, glancing back at me for a moment and looking like he wanted to let it go to voicemail.

"Go," I laughed, heading to the mirror to put on my makeup, and I heard Henrik make a call about leaving a ticket for me.

Tim walked up behind me as he hung up and kissed the top of my head, meeting my reflection's gaze.

"Thank you," was all he said.

Chapter Text

I was putting on a fresh pot of coffee an hour later when Tim appeared in the doorway of the kitchen.

"Jonas and John are here, I'm gonna run downstairs and let them in, okay?"

"No. Absolutely not okay," I tried to give him my most stern frown, but the twitching corners of my mouth gave me away and he rolled his eyes from the other end of the room.

"You know, you're lucky you're as wonderful as you are, because you've got a seriously smart mouth on you..."

I stuck my tongue out at him as a retort and realized immediately it was a mistake when he was suddenly across the kitchen and looming over me, his hand applying pressure against my throat and his hips pressing my ass back into the counter. His other hand pushed between us and settled on my pussy, slipping his middle and ring fingers between my legs and pressing hard against my entrance. I gasped at the sudden pressure as my hands grasped his arms and his eyes burned into mine while he tutted softly at me, in such contrast with the insistence of his fingers.

He knew exactly where I was sore from earlier and he pressed on those spots, making me suck in a sharp breath.

"Tsk tsk tsk. Do we need to have a discussion about not being rude, my darling? If you do that again, you're gonna find yourself on your knees with my cock fucking that beautiful mouth until you learn your lesson," he growled, though I couldn't tell if that would really be a punishment for either of us, "so I'd suggest you keep that tongue behind your lips if you don't plan on using it."

He pressed me back harder and leaned down a little closer so I could feel his heat as he ever so slightly rolled his hips against mine, his cock already half hard at the thought of filling my mouth, and I closed my eyes tight, fighting the urge to push my luck and find out if he meant it.

Tim hummed with something between disappointment and satisfaction when I kept my mouth shut, and pressed his lips to mine, releasing my throat.

"Mmm, suit yourself," he breathed against them, and then was gone.

I took a deep breath when his fingers left me and I heard my apartment door open and close as he disappeared downstairs, shaking my head as my fingers touched my throat.

Focus.

I hadn't gotten any time to prepare myself to see Henrik and Tim, as they had just stumbled upon my workplace, but now as I came back to myself I realized I felt quite nervous about seeing Jonas and John again.

Jonas especially...

I had a sudden, very vivid flashback of watching him and May at the other end of the pool as Johannes fucked into me roughly with my back to his chest, whispering horribly dirty things in my ear. I heard the noise that left Jonas' lips as May pulled on his nipple ring with her teeth, felt the way his eyes had burned into me as he watched me come around Johannes' cock while she dropped under the water to attend to him.

The spoon full of coffee grounds dropped from my hand and scattered across the floor tiles.

"Shit," I muttered, now feeling like re-opening the active-sex-drive door with Henrik and Tim last night may not have been my brightest idea after all.

I grabbed a broom to sweep the coffee grounds up and was just putting everything back into the corner when my front door opened and a blonde-dreadlocked Swede stepped in and grinned at me. John was right behind him, smiling too. I couldn't help the laughter that passed my lips as I stood the broom in the corner, smoothed my shirt, and crossed to greet them.

Jonas caught me first, his blue eyes twinkling with mirth as his arms crushed me against him for a few moments before pulling me back and holding me at arms length, looking me up and down.

"Damn, you look good," he laughed low again as he pulled me in to press a kiss to my lips. His metal lip ring was still cold from the air outside, and I pressed both hands to his face and looked at him. The smile lines at the corners of his eyes made him look older than he was, but they were my favorite part about him, and I lightly ran my thumbs over them with a smile of my own.

"You do too," I said quietly, pressing one more kiss to his lips, "you're still so tan! How are you always so tan?!"

I hugged and kissed John hello too, brushing the outline of his beard around his mouth when his lips pressed briefly to my own before he crushed me to him.

"Its so good to see you again," he murmured into my hair as my arms wrapped around his waist and he held me there.

"Hi babes," I said softly into his shoulder, "I missed you."

I was feeling slightly overwhelmed at having them all here with me in my apartment, and I held onto John's hands as I stepped back and looked around the room.

"Do you all need to go now? I mean...do you want to stay for a few minutes?" I asked, trying to not sound too much like I was considering locking them in my linen closet so they could never leave me again, "I just put on coffee," I let go of John's hands but starting to fidget when they didn't answer me.

Everyone just stared.

"Or not, I mean, its really not a big deal, I just thought I'd offer...ahem...ah...nevermind then...t-thanks for stopping by?" I could see Jonas was fighting a smile that pulled at the corner of his mouth before he snorted a laugh and everyone broke character.

"I'm sorry, you're just so damn adorable when you blush and babble on like that. Of course we'll stay for a while," he grinned and I opened my mouth to say something snarky when Tim cleared his throat with one eyebrow cocked at me and I felt myself clench, remembering his threat.

A small part of me wondered if he'd make good on it with all the others here, and I considered taunting him to find out. I settled for flicking my eyes down to his waist, licking my lips at him with a little smile, and I could see his pulse jump in response as his lips parted with a sharp inhale. His fingers brushed mine as I passed by him, asking Jonas how the trip over had been.

"Driving in this city is a fucking nightmare, I don't know how you do it."

They followed me into the kitchen, leaning against the table and counter and sitting on stools. Henrik leaned his shoulder against the refrigerator, watching me silently. I pulled six mugs down and then blinked as I recounted....not six...five.

We only needed five.

Johannes.

I sighed and felt my shoulders sag a little when I placed one back into my cabinet, and Henrik still watched, his heart feeling heavy too as he watched me sadly replace the extra mug and he moved to my side, running a reassuring hand across my shoulders and pressing a kiss into my hair.

"It's okay baby," he whispered into the silver strands, "we're going to figure this out, I promise. We'll do whatever we can to help."

I looked up at him and nodded, closing my eyes as he kissed my forehead, both of us unaware that Jonas was watching and putting the pieces together as Henrik pulled me close and held onto me for one more moment.

After pouring coffee and shepherding everyone back to the living room, I sat quietly for a moment, listening to the boys chatter amongst themselves in Swedish and some English for my benefit. Tim occasionally glanced over at me staring at the floor, lost in thought as one of my fingers traced the rim of my mug repeatedly.

I had already made the decision to do what I could within reason to help Johannes, or at least see him and feel him out to make sure he was okay. But now I was worried about what that whole interaction would look like. I tried to firmly tell myself that him being with someone like me was probably more complication than he needed in his life.

I wasn't normal, and he needed normal.

Okay, but what good does lying to yourself do?

I'm not lying...

But saving Johannes the trouble by not being involved with him was the exact opposite of what I wanted. Difficult or not, I wanted every bit of him, forever.

So only lying a little. Half lying. White lie? Fuck.

I shook my head to clear my thoughts, and realized that they were all staring at me.

"Hmm? What?" I asked, coming out of my distracted state, "did someone say something?"

"Yeah, I was just asking if you want to come backstage and say hi before the show starts, because they'll need to leave you a pass with your ticket," John said with a worried frown, "are you okay?"

"I'm totally fine... Okay, I'm nervous. But fine, really." I held my hands up to stop him when he moved to get out of his seat. He settled back into the chair, but didn't stop looking at me with that worried frown.

"Triste...if its going to be too much for you to go, please don't worry about upsetting any of us. Its been...Johannes has been a handful for the last six months, and no one wants to see you get hurt."

"I'll be fine. Thank you though. I think I need to go for myself too...and like I said to Tim before you guys got here - the worst that can happen is that things stay the way they are now. And my life's not so bad now," I looked over at Henrik, who smiled down into his coffee for a moment before looking up at me and I could see exactly what he was feeling, it was almost written in words across his face.

You won't ever be without me.

Tim's face said pretty much the same and I smiled at them both with a little nod.

Jonas and John didn't look convinced about any of what I'd said and I was only feeling halfway there myself, but I had made up my mind to do this. The longer we spent talking about it, the more opportunities I had to give myself an out, and I knew I'd regret not trying if things never changed.

I glanced at my watch and gasped.

"Oh shit, I have to go to work, I'm super late!" I jumped up and set my cup down on the table.

"Wait, you're leaving?"

I dropped a swift kiss on the top of Jonas' head as I passed by his chair at a trot, "yeah, I was supposed to leave like 45 minutes ago. I'm gonna be hellishly late and that means I owe Mike lunch."

Everyone stood and made ready to leave with me.

"No no no, please feel free to stay as long as you want, or leave stuff here or nap or shower or whatever. There is food and beer in the fridge that you're welcome to. My home is your home. There's a spare key in a book on the bookshelf that will get you into the front door and open mine, if you need it. Tim knows which book... And, and I guess I'll see you all tonight?"

"Wait, I know which book?" "The one you can't read, Tim. The green one."

"Oh. There's a key in there?"

"Just flip to the back panel and feel for it, its there," I called over my shoulder as I bent to grab my work bag from behind my desk. I dashed to my room to find shoes and slipped into a pair of black wedges. When I got back to the living room, I did a quick turn to look at myself in the mirror, making sure I was in decent enough shape to go to work.

"Do I look okay?" I asked as I pulled a brush through my hair, trying to make it cover all the little marks on my neck, courtesy of Henrik.

"You look fine, go! You're late, remember?" someone laughed. They got up to say goodbye to me as I made for the door, and Henrik pulled me into a tight embrace, putting a momentary calm on my frantic movement.

"Easy, little one, breathe for a second or you're gonna run someone over..." I followed his advice, taking a deep breath in through my nose and slowly exhaling through my lips.

I whispered into his chest, so that only he could hear me, and the ends of his hair brushed against my cheek as he bent his head to hear my voice, "this is totally your fault, you're too distracting. Can't a girl just get a shower and go to work without ending up on her back in between?"

One soft, short kiss to his chest later, I was grinning up at him as he retorted back, "not you, and by the way, you were gone in under two minutes, and that's like a personal best," and he stuck his tongue out at me. I giggled against him and rolled my eyes.

"Careful, Tim doesn't like when we do that, he thinks its rude," and I turned my head to the other man. Safely in Henrik's grasp, I made a face at him, still laughing, but I didn't miss the way his eyes flashed as he cocked an eyebrow at me again.

Thin ice, his expression said.

I kissed Henrik goodbye and his lips lingered at mine for only a moment longer than usual as his arms encircled me. But I felt the ways his fingertips pressed into my skin and his thoughts were almost loud enough for me to hear.

Don't make me let you go. Not yet. Stay.

"See you later," I smiled up at him, hoping he knew I didn't want to go.

I crossed to Jonas and John, kissing John quickly as he pulled me in with a smile and a compliment on my choice of shoes. He was always so quick to build other people up, and it was one of the things I loved best about him. I didn't miss the momentary question in Jonas' eyes before he pressed his lips to mine. He kissed me harder than I was used to from him, testing where our boundaries were now, and part of me knew he'd figured out the course of events from last night.

Especially when his thumb stroked across one of the hickeys on my neck and I hissed slightly. His mouth was soft and warm in response and I suddenly doubted if I really needed to go to work after all.

FUCKING GO, NOW.

"I'm so happy you're all here," I said, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the torrent of emotion suddenly coursing through me.

"Wouldn't miss seeing you for the world, love," Jonas grinned, kissing my forehead as his hand cupped the back of my head.

I moved to say goodbye to the last of them, and my breath caught in my chest when I was a foot away and saw the look in his eyes, but I was too close to stop. Tim took my hand, pulling hard to crush me against him, and a soft groan that I was sure everyone else heard left his lips as the length of my body was firmly held against his.

"Stop worrying, you look just fine, Triste. Good enough to eat in fact..." he let his eyes linger at my lips for far too long, licking his own before he kissed me, and I had to fight not to open my mouth to him when he looked up and kept our gazes locked as his lips worked mine.

Henrik had let his lips linger for only a second too long. Tim didn't seem to remember that time existed at all. His whiskers tickled my face, making me giggle a little, but all I really wanted right then was to drag him into my bedroom and fuck him senseless for the rest of the day, disregarding all adult responsibilities.

"I'll see you later then," he breathed, his mouth a fraction of an inch from mine, and I had to work to remember how to do that for a moment, hearing the dark promise in his voice.

'Very subtle, nice job Tim', my brain thought. But what came out of my mouth was less clear.

"Oh...Yeah, ah, yes. Yeah. Yes. Okay. Babbling, right, and I'm going now!" My cheeks were on fire when I closed the door behind me and heard their laughter.

"Men," I muttered to myself for the second time in one morning as I headed down the stairs and heard a muffled version of Jonas' voice yell "what the fuck was that Tim?"

Chapter Text

I whipped into my parking spot outside the shop and dashed through the door a minute before my first distributor was scheduled to show up.

Mike looked appraisingly at me in my half-flustered state, "Whats up, boss lady? Good night?" he asked with a grin.

"Ahh, nothing outside...ahem...nothing outside the usual..." I heard Tim's voice in my head telling me what a bad liar I was and tried to shake him off. I needed to be professional right now, but my brain instead supplied me with the memory of locking eyes with him as he ate my pussy, and the way he'd looked with me dripping down his face and soaking his mustache before he fucked me.

I coughed to stifle the gasp that left my lips, and my legs pressed tighter together.

Right on cue, Mike said, "so...you know the guys from Avatar..." and I shot him a slightly exasperated look. Between Mike's questions and my sex-crazed brain I was going to get next to no work done today.

My phone pinged and I grabbed it, thankful for the momentary distraction from Mike's question -- it was my first meeting cancelling on me two minutes after it was supposed to start and I rolled my eyes and tossed the device onto the counter, turning back to him.

"Yeah, I guess I do. I'm sorry I didn't introduce you yesterday, I didn't know they were gonna be here so I was...taken a little by surprise."

"They're playing here tonight, aren't you going? Also, I am the tiniest bit mad at you for not making an intro, but you'll just have to do it tonight," he grinned and I knew that was basically his way of begging for me to take him backstage.

"Mike..."

"What? Are you not going tonight?"

"Well, I am now it seems," I muttered.

"Huh?"

I waved my hand to dismiss my underhanded comment, "yes, I'm going tonight."

"Can I ride with you from here then? It'll be easier to leave my car and then I'll just catch a lift home in a cab or something."

"Wait, you're actually going?"

"Yeah, duh, I wouldn't miss this, those guys are awesome and they almost never make it here on tour! I've never seen them live, but I've watched all the videos and interviews online so I'm pretty pumped. Johannes has this massive stage presence that is supposed to just be unreal in person. Oh, but you probably know that. Sorry, I'm rambling. Didn't you see my request to be off early tonight? I'm almost positive I put it on the schedule..."

I groaned and pinched the bridge of my nose as he babbled on about leaving early. Everything about Johannes seemed unreal sometimes.

When I glanced out over the side of my hand, Mike was fidgeting and staring at me.

"Okay," I sighed, "you get three questions, and I get to shoot down any of them I don't want to answer".

His face lit up with glee.

"But," I said, holding up a hand to stop the inquisition coming like the proverbial flood, "first you have to go get me a cup of coffee..." I barely saw him as he flew past me and out the door. He returned less than five minutes later with a double espresso out of breath like he'd been running, and I couldn't help but laugh at his excitement as I settled on the same stool I'd sat on the night before, on my side of the counter from Henrik and Tim and crossed my legs, doing my best not to wince at the slight soreness between them. I was suddenly thankful that I was the only one with access to the security feed from the cameras - those kisses were not something Mike needed to see.

"Alright, sweetness, hit me," I sighed, steeling myself.

"Okay, where did you meet them? All together or one at a time?"

"At a festival I worked over the summer before I moved here, when they headlined with Ghost. I met...ahem. I met Johannes first by accident, and then everyone else later. Next?"

"And now you're friends with all of them? How does that happen? I mean not that you aren't friendly or anything!"

"Is that two questions, Mike?"

"NO, NO WAIT..."

I giggled and his answering grin was almost child-like and made me feel a friendly affection for this person who worked so hard with me day in and day out to keep the shop running, "yes we're...we're friends now, I guess...and its a long story that takes up more than one question. Next?"

Yes, but do you remember when Henrik slammed you back into the wall and pinned your arms above your head before making you come all over his face? Very friendly, indeed...

"Hang on...I...oh, wait, you're just friends? Seriously?"

The look I gave him strongly suggested he avoid that line of questioning.

"Sorry. Its just...they kissed you...Tim and Henrik kissed you...both of them."

"Mike," I warned. I was surprised how much it thrilled me to hear him say both of their names and I mentally facepalmed.

Ugh, get it together Triste.

"Its just a way of saying hello."

"Uh-huh...Okay last one -- are you sure only three? okay, okay fine -- hmm...okay, got it. Whats Johannes like? Is he really as tall as he looks in the videos and pictures and stuff? No wait, that was a bad question..."

I stood and turned towards him, with my hands on my hips. Somehow I'd just known he was going to ask me about Johannes. The universe simply wouldn't let it go.

"He's six foot four, Mike. He doesn't magically shrink off camera," I snapped, then took a breath, "but...but I think a lot of times when there are clips and pictures of just him, its hard to tell how tall he is. Six four is...very imposing in person."

I saw Mike suddenly, and in a very obvious way, appraise my own height, and I snapped at him again to stop his train of thought, holding up my hand.

"Do not go there, Mikkael."

I didn't mean to turn on my heel as abruptly as I did, and I stopped halfway to my office door, turning around to look at him again with a frown, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped like that. I didn't sleep well last night, I don't mean to be an ass."

He smiled and shrugged in his good nature, shooing me off to my office so he could accept a delivery that was coming through the door.

"You can make it up to me with a beer later," he called, "oh and you were late with no notice so you owe me lunch! And I have more questions!!"

I shut the door behind me and leaned heavily against it, thoughts of Johannes filling my brain now. Mike wasn't on the wrong track in appraising how tall I was - I'd always had to stand on my tip-toes to kiss Johannes, even as he bent down. What was I going to do if he saw me and suddenly wanted me and not the woman he was married to?

No matter how hard I tried to suppress it, a thrill went through me at the thought of being with him again -- of kissing his lips and laying against his chest, stroking his hair, listening to the way my name fell from his lips when he came, buried deep inside me...

I cleared my throat at the last thought.

Stop it. Stop Stop Stop.

Shaking my head again, I sat down at my desk and got what work I could done.

--

Two hours later, I got up and stretched, cracking my neck and rolling my shoulders, and as I opened my office door I heard a familiar voice.

"Is Triste here?"

I'd know Jonas' voice anywhere and I was sure Mike was about to drop into a fanboy fit at seeing him walk in the front door. I peaked my head around the corner, remaining unseen, and admired him for a moment. His dreads were pulled back with a black elastic band, and his jacket looked thick and soft over his tight jeans and boots. The gold earrings stretched his earlobes down a little, but I couldn't imagine him without them now.

Damn, he's fucking handsome.

I ducked back into my office and silently latched the door, waiting and grinning to myself.

"Ah. Ahh, yes, she's uh, she's in her office. I can go get her? No. Wait. Yes. No. Just...ah shit..."

Jonas was staring at him with his head slightly cocked to the side, trying to figure out whether he was supposed to wait for me to come out or go find me himself.

"Ohh, you must be Mike..." Jonas tried to stifle the grin that threatened to split his face at Mike's frazzled state.

He extended his hand, "Jonas."

Mike took the offered hand like he was afraid it might burn him, eyes like saucers, and Jonas snorted a laugh, "oh I like you," and he let Mike's hand go after pressing his other over top of it, "so, will you tell me where she is now?" he grinned.

"H-her office is around there," he finally got out, motioning around the corner and shaking his head to himself as another customer came in. I was sitting on the edge of my desk, flipping through a file full of invoices to be paid when he knocked.

"Entrez," I answered, doing my level best to keep my voice casual and seem surprised as I looked up at him when he poked his head in, then entered.

"Hi! What are you doing here?" I breathed with a smile, setting the folder down next to my crossed legs and looking at him over my reading glasses.

"I brought you something," he said, handing me a cup of coffee and pressing a kiss to my cheek. His beard tickled against my skin, and his lips lingered again. His smell was so warm and natural, I felt like it drew me in and I rocked back on my hips, still seated on my desk, to prevent myself from physically leaning into him.

"My savior, thank you!" I curled my hands around the warm cup and took a sip, closing my eyes to savor the rich coffee as he stepped away from me.

"You're welcome. I figured you might need it after such a long night..."

"Hmm," I hummed in agreement before pausing mid-sip and looking up at him. His eyes were twinkling with mirth and he raised one eyebrow as a crooked grin pulled one corner of his mouth up. The beauty of his entire expression nearly took my breath away.

"Oh Jesus Christ, can any of you boys keep your mouths shut?! Honestly, you're worse than schoolgirls, you fucking gossips!"

He threw his head back and laughed as I blushed, "oh like you don't know by now that we don't have secrets," he chuckled, "plus, it was obvious watching Tim kiss you goodbye this morning. Well... that and you look very very fucked."

I ran a hand back through my hair, shaking my head, "that's not very nice," I mumbled, half-wondering what 'very very fucked' looked like, and if everyone I had meetings with today was going to be able to tell.

He laughed quietly, shrugging his shoulders, "its not a bad look on you."

"I didn't plan it, if it makes any difference. Not like I had time to anyways, they just sort of turned up on my doorstep yesterday."

He advanced towards me, taking the coffee from my hands and setting it down on my desk. His hands were warm when he took both of mine and pulled me to my feet, considering me for a moment.

He tapped the bridge of my reading glasses twice with a small grin, "I like you in these."

"Ah, shit," I said, quickly removing the electric frames I'd been unintentionally looking at him over, "I dont. I have to wear them or I can't read some of the numbers on the forms. I swear this job is making me blind. I'm so not cut out for...uhm...f-for p-paperwork..."

His eyes were such a beautiful dark blue that I was losing my concentration. Watching them flick down to my lips and stay there wasn't helping. I could see his mouth fidgeting with his lip ring like he did so often when he was lost in thought, drifting away with the images in his mind.

"Ah, ahem. So. Wait, are you here by yourself? Where's everyone else? Oh, lord they're not out in the shop torturing Mike are they?"

His eyes met mine as he took my hands again, "no, they're finding some place to eat, but I wanted to stop in and check on you. You were being a little bit quiet this morning." I sighed and ran my thumbs over his fingers as he held my hands in his own.

"I'm just nervous. Its stupid," I said shaking my head. A knock on the door interrupted me, and I let go of Jonas' hands.

"Come in."

Mike poked his head in, and his eyes snapped back and forth between the two of us for the briefest of moments before landing on me. I raised an eyebrow at him.

"Hi, sorry to interrupt, but your 2:00 appointment is here."

I checked the clock on my phone - they were early.

"Super, thank you, I'll be out in a moment."

The door closed behind him, and as soon as the latch clicked loudly, I was crushed into a kiss that startled me. Jonas' eyes closed as his mouth moved against mine with a soft groan, and his arms pulled me back closer to him. Mine closed too as I sighed back into his lips and softly ran my fingertips down his face before wrapping my arms around his neck, seeing that he didn't mean to release me.

"I'm sorry, but good God I can't tell you how long I've wanted to kiss you like that," he whispered against me, laying his forehead to mine.

"Like what, sorry my memory isn't the best," I whispered, pressing my lips back to his, needing more of him. I wanted to drop dead from sudden flaming arousal when his tongue stroked my lower lip, asking permission. I gave it wholeheartedly, and I felt myself being pulled impossibly closer to him as he groaned against my mouth, pressing his tongue through my parted lips and tasting me.

He continued to deepen the kiss, pushing me back the few feet until my legs hit the edge of my desk. His tongue was intoxicating and his kiss was just rough enough to make me start to forget about my waiting appointment as my fingers tangled into his tawny dreadlocks and I tried to keep my vocal responses restrained. Jonas pressed his hips against mine, and after several more brushes of his lips, and a nip at my lower one, he released me with a soft kiss on my nose.

My knees shook, and I held onto him for one more moment, before bracing myself against my desk.

He didn't miss the movement for what it was, and his eyes darkened seeing what his kiss did to me. He stepped back to look me up and down, and I held up my index finger towards him when he took a step closer.

"Don't you dare. Whatever you're thinking, don't you do it, I have a meeting..."

He disregarded me with a grin, knowing part of me didn't want him to stop. Another step, and he bent his head till his lips were at my ear. He brushed the shell with his nose, making me shudder hard as the metal of his septum piercing followed the same line.

"Mmm, I think I like making you shake..."

A soft moan left my lips and my fingers curled into the material of his jacket as I felt almost flooded with need, "I...I have...I have a distributor waiting for me...w-with a South African producer..."

"I hope he's very important," he said lowly, running one finger tantalizingly up and down my neck until I was almost purring under his touch.

"Its a she...and, fuck...I do have to go..." the words were the exact opposite of what I wanted, but I couldn't behave that unprofessionally.

"Well, in that case, I hope you don't get too...distracted," as he said the words, his fingertips ran softly from my knee up my thigh, his pinky finger just barely brushing over my pussy before he pulled his hand away. I almost yelped in surprise, but managed to clear my throat instead and looked up at him as I ran a hand back through my hair.

"So what, you don't care that there might be a room full of strangers on the other side of that wall?" I asked, now too curious not to as he backed towards the door.

"I was just out there, and can tell you that there isn't...but even so, do you remember me being particularly shy, beautiful," he growled lowly, his voice dropping until it was a low vibration between us as he sized me up.

"Fuck," I whispered, "that's your thing?" I was glad I got the words out as I started to combust under his gaze the closer we got until he leaned down and slowly, perfectly, pressed his mouth to mine in a kiss that only promised more. 

"No," he murmured, "but if you keep guessing I'll tell you..."

I couldn't even bear the idea of having a conversation with Jonas about fetishes and kinks - the thought alone made my legs press closer together. 

"You boys and your kinks," I murmured, aware that I was only making a joke to stop myself from throwing him down on my desk and having him, though it did nothing to stop the mental image from playing through my brain, and I found myself absently running my fingers over the wood when he didn't respond. 

"Oh my god," I laughed, "speaking of kinks, did you know Henrik likes to be tied up??"

I laughed again. Sweet, soft, thoughtful Henrik. Who knew?

Jonas raised both eyebrows in my direction, clearly saying that he didn't.

"Okay, so some secrets," I smirked.

"Did you t-- no, nevermind, I don't want to know."

An image flashed through my mind of Henrik's wrists bound above his head, his body stretched out and at my mercy. I took a sharp breath through my nose and looked back to Jonas, who was wearing an expression which could plainly be called lustful.

"Anyways. See you tonight then," I grinned, and I couldn't help the sassy smirk that curved my lips. He pulled me in and kissed me one more time, opening his lips to me and loving the way I sank into his kiss, so new and exciting to both of us as our tongues tangled together once more.

When he broke away with a soft moan, he pressed a feather light kiss to my cheek and squeezed my hand, back to his normal self.

"Have a good rest of your day, I'll see you later."

"That you will," I smiled back. I expected him to turn to leave then, but he slowly drew me in once more.

"Sorry, just one more," he said softly as he pressed his lips to mine, cupping my cheeks with his hands and tenderly kissing me. My arms wrapped around his waist and I willingly sank into him, drowning in his lips and the sensations coursing through my already-overloaded brain.

"I have to go back to work," I sighed inbetween little kisses, and he kissed my forehead once before tilting my face up to look at him.

"Thank you for being open to the idea of talking to Johannes. I can't say I'd do the same if I was in your place."

I nodded and looked at the floor, "I don't know whats going to happen. But...I mean...no, I don't know..."

He pulled me in again, and I pressed my face to his shoulder, giving myself permission for a moment to be vulnerable and seek comfort. Jonas felt my subtle shift and smothered me with his body as best he could, wrapping me in his arms and pressing kisses to my hair.

"We'll be right there with you if you need us, Triste...you don't have to do this by yourself."

I hadn't thought about that, and felt a little better knowing as I pulled back and leaned up to kiss him one more time, nodding, "that's helpful, thank you."

"Okay, I'll share now, I guess, if I have to," he laughed as he tipped me on the nose and headed for the door, leaving it open as I composed myself for a moment before heading out to meet my appointment.

Chapter Text

When I stepped out of my office later, Mike was locking the doors and shutting off the lights. I kept my coat wrapped tightly around my body when he turned and looked more appraisingly at me than one should at their boss.

"Wow..."

I knew he was curious about my relationship with Tim and Henrik, and now doubtless with Jonas, but if I was being honest, I didn't have an answer for him, or myself.

We slid into my Jeep and turned on the heat, heading for downtown as Mike blasted Avatar Country through my stereo. The only song I knew was the one Tim wrote for me, and I patiently waited for it. Bits from other songs stood out to me, and I had little flashbacks to Tim and Jonas sitting on the deck with their guitars trying to suss out a riff back and forth that was bouncing around inside one of their brains. I braked at a red light and thought about all that had happened since last night.

The one you seek serves the eye of the sun...

I shivered hard at the memory. It was me he was supposed to find. Damned if I knew why, but Tim ignited in me a fire that I'd never known existed.

I loved Johannes, and I loved Henrik, but I burned for Tim.

And he worships you.

"Hmm, that he does," I sighed in response, pressing my legs a little closer together at the thought.

"Who does?"

"What? Oh nothing...What the fuck is with all the 'king' stuff on this album?" I muttered, more to myself than to him but his head turned slowly to me and cocked to the side as a string of holiday lights illuminated his face for a moment.

"...JJJJJJonas...?" he held the 'j' like he wasn't sure he even needed to finish the word, but decided to when I obviously had no clue what he was talking about.

"Wh--because his nickname is Kungen? You know he picked that for himself right?" I said, still not really understanding and shaking my head a little bit at him as a particularly clown-like grin broke out across his face.

"Oh my God, you have no idea what you're in for, do you?"

"No idea about what?"

"Oh I am not spoiling it. Uh-uh. Lips zipped."

"Mike what the hell are you talking about?"

"Mm-mmm," he shook his head, staring straight ahead at the tail lights of the car in front of us and practically bouncing in his seat. I found that somehow listening to Johannes' voice was steeling me to see him in person.

There had to be something he wanted to say to me. I had no idea what I was going to say in response, and I just hoped I wouldn't collapse to the floor in a crying heap. Other than that, I was going to totally wing it.

--

I asked for my ticket at the box office amidst a sea of black hair and facial piercings and was again on the receiving end of an all-too-appraising look as the young man behind the counter handed me a ticket and a laminated pass on a lanyard. I raised an eyebrow at him, having thoroughly had enough of those looks today, and he quickly averted his eyes.

"Oh..." was all Mike said when he saw both in my hand, "I guess I'll see you later then? We can meet up for a beer or something after." He sounded heartbroken, the poor lamb.

"Wait," we heard, and I turned back to the kid behind the ticket counter, but he wasn't looking at me, "are you with her?"

Mike opened his mouth to answer, and something half-coherent came out about not being with me with me, but we came together and stuff. I checked the smile threatening at my lips.

"Yeah, he's with me, why?"

"I fucked up, somebody called and left a second one of those --he nodded at the pass in my hand-- this afternoon for someone coming with you. I just saw the note, sorry about that."

I thought Mike was going to drop dead at my feet when he took the offered pass, "did you do this??"

“In what time? Between my visitors and all the meetings? You know who left it,” I said softly, remembering one visitor in particular and warming at the thought as I felt a ghost of his kiss brush my lips.

“Jonas?! But wh-why??”

I wasn’t sure, so I shrugged my shoulders and motioned him towards the doors. I suddenly felt like my stomach was in my feet at the idea that Johannes was here, once again in the same space I was.

And, damnit, why did Jonas feel like Mike needed to be a part of this? It was going to be uncomfortable enough for me as it was.

--

We wound our way through the crowd, and were escorted backstage to the door marked 'Avatar' by one of the venue staff members. The door opened when I knocked softly, starting to feel more and more anxious. My shaking fingers fidgeted with my coat, and I could practically hear Mike's pulse thundering next to me.

I found myself looking at the floor when John appeared in the doorway.

I couldn't breathe.
What was I going to even say to Johannes?
What if he rejected me and my heart broke all over again?
I can't see him with a ring on his finger.
Run. Run right now.

"Hey you," John said softly, taking my hand and pulling me into the room, dashing any sudden plans I had to bolt. Mike followed and shut the door behind us with a metallic click. I drew in a few rapid, shallow breaths, and he tipped my chin up.

"Deep breaths, little one, you're okay," his gaze held mine, smoldering in its intensity, but full of care still. I took a few steadying breaths, finally getting control over my breathing and feeling my pulse start to level as my brain stopped bouncing back and forth between fight or flight.

"Hi, John" I smiled, suddenly feeling absurdly shy seeing him in his dark eye makeup, with his hair up and sectioned and I felt my cheeks go red. He smiled down at me, and pulled me to him, pressing my head to his chest with one hand and moving it into my hair to keep me where I was.

"Much better," he whispered.

I took another deep breath as my eyes finally scanned the room.

Johannes wasn't there.

"Oh. I thought. Oh..." I couldn't help my sigh of relief, even as my heart sank. John seemed to read my mind - something that he had gotten remarkably, annoyingly good at during our week together.

"He'll be here just before we go on...Johannes doesn't ever stay after soundcheck anymore. Sorry, I should have told you this morning," his voice held a hint of sadness.

Mike cleared his throat and shot me a look that involved both his eyebrows moving up his forehead, clearly saying 'and just what happened this morning?'

"Oh. Right. Ah, this is Mikkael. Mike. And Mike, this is John, and you remember Henrik and T-Tim?"

Now he's really gonna hit the deck.

I moved away from John and touched Mike's arm when he didn't say anything as they all shook hands.

"HI," he finally squeaked out, making all of us laugh. I was glad when Mike joined in, flaming red though he was, and he seemed to relax.

Everyone else crowded around us in attire identical to John's.

"Hang your coat up and stay for a minute," Henrik whispered playfully in my ear from behind me and I looked over my shoulder with a smile. The oil he added to his hair made it hang a little heavier down his shoulders, pulling the curls straighter, but he was still perfect and despite my nerves, there was something so comforting about him, like I was coming home. 

When I undid the buttons and slipped my pea coat down off my arms, a silence descended on the room. I'd given into my own vanity for once, and knew I looked amazing, even hot. The front of my black top dipped just below my collar bone before clinging in a flattering line down my waist, and the reverse scooped far down to expose the creamy skin of my back and shoulders. I couldn't wear anything that would expose the bite mark that was still clearly visible, though Tim hadn't broken the skin. My jeans were the darkest blue I owned, and did the curves of my waist all kinds of favors, accentuating the lines of each leg before clinging to my ankles just above the tops of my most comfortable deep burgundy pumps. I'd even taken the time to perfect a dark, smokey palette of black and purple on my eyes that made my irises look like shining gunmetal.

Everyone's eyes were on me, and I noticed with a small smile to myself that Henrik's hands were shaking as he gripped the gray wool of my coat. My eyes passed from one man to another, settling on Tim's last, feeling the slightest bit nervous about what I would find there because I knew my self control was shit around him.

Everything about his gaze was feral, hungry, and predatory, and his chest moved with rapid, shallow breaths.

Oh, I know that look.

I wished desperately that Mike wasn't there, but he was looking at me too, no doubt now definitely confused as to how I was involved with them, dressed like this. But the truth was that it was mostly for the benefit of the only man that wasn’t there.

No, wait. Not the only man.

“Where’s Jonas?”

“Fixing his mustache or something,” replied John, as his eyes traveled down the curves of my thighs. I took a step back from everyone, out of reach of the grasp of six different hands that wanted to do god-knows what to me at that moment.

"So, so ah, uhm, h-have you guys played here before?" I asked, trying to indicate to them that ravaging me in front of my employee was a no-no.

It was Tim who finally answered me, and everyone seemed to snap out of it hearing him speak, "no, not here specifically. But it seems like a decent venue. Good sound, big stage, that kind of thing."

I didn't really care if they'd played there or not, not when Tim was looking at me that way, eyes resting on my hips. I knew from the way he licked his lips that he was imagining my flavor on his tongue again, and it made me squirm as we locked eyes and my pulse jumped when a wicked little grin twisted the his mouth under his waxed mustache.

"Behave," I pointed a finger at him and he grinned wider and turned for the mirror, searching for a comb.

The rest of the boys started to move back into making their final adjustments to their eye makeup and outfits too, and Mike and I fell into conversation about what to order for next week, killing time until we had to leave. Talking about work gave me something to concentrate on that wasn't Tim's stare meeting mine in the mirror or Johannes’ absence.

But still he kept staring, and my brain couldn't stop thinking about exactly what he was remembering.

Maybe just for a moment or two, things are getting rather calm and quiet in here...

I tuned Mike out while doing my best to maintain the proper airs of paying attention, punctuating responses with the appropriate amounts of 'ah's and 'mhmm's.

My consciousness reached out to Tim mentally, and once we were linked, I watched him devour me, myy hips thrusting into his face as he shoved his tongue into my pussy. I remembered how he growled against me, drinking me down when he made me gush, and I was frankly a little surprised that the heat of our connection didn't crack the mirror.

Tim's mouth moved but no sound left, and I knew that he felt me there. I hadn't told any of them about his part. It was similar to what I'd done with Henrik, but less involved. More a glimpse of the memory rather than a full re-witnessing of it. 

A crooked smile pulled at my lips, and I let one more thought of him pass between us before I let him go- how he'd looked slamming me into the wall this morning, sinking his teeth into my breast as he came hard, filling me with himself even as my own fluids dripped down his thighs...

"Jesus Christ, TRISTE!"

"Hmm? Sorry, one second, Mike. Is everything okay, Tim?" My smile was perfectly innocent as our eyes burned into each other and he kept taking those short shallow breaths.

"Ahh. Uhh, yes. Yeah. Yes...nevermind, I forgot."

I winked and glanced down at my watch -- we needed to get back out there soon or we'd end up at the very back.

Henrik looked at Tim sideways in a curious glance and Tim just shook his head, going back to his reflection with the kohl pencil in hand.

"I think I'm gonna go find a beer," Mike said, interrupting my observations.

"Alright, you okay?" I checked, and he smiled shyly at me and nodded.

"Its just excitement. I'm gonna go outside and smoke for a minute I think, actually. Yes. Nicotine. Then beer. Then so much beer."

"I'll be out in just a minute, grab me a beer too" I responded, pushing a twenty dollar bill into his hand before I shut the door behind him.

When it closed, I pressed my forehead against the cool metal, taking a deep breath before turning around. Henrik patted the spot on the couch next to him, and I gladly crossed to settle there, collapsing down into the worn material and snuggling against him. He put his arm around me, pulling so that I leaned into him before his pointer finger crooked and pulled my chin up, and he kissed my lips, humming softly. I didn't let him pull back for several seconds - I needed something but I wasn't quite sure what it was, though the softness of his mouth seemed to be doing a fine job sating it either way. 

"You look amazing," he said softly, and when I opened my eyes, his weren't lust-filled or appraising, they were simply my kind, loving Henrik, "I’ve missed the way your lips taste..." he kissed me a little harder, teasing his tongue against my own as his hand ran up and down my arm.

"Hmm," I hummed as I kissed him again, "I wasn't really sure what to wear, but I'm glad you like it."

"I definitely do," he whispered lowly, pressing a kiss to the back corner of my jaw.

I sat up and looked around the room as John and Tim watched me.

Another glance at my watch.

"You go on at 9 right? I probably need to go back out and find Mike then, its quarter till."

John crossed the room and pulled me to my feet, leaning down to kiss me briefly, "its fine. Stay another minute," he breathed, pulling me with him as he stepped further away from the couch. His hands started to wander in a way that made me forget about the time, brushing up and down the bare expanse of my back.

"I remember this," his eyes burned holes into mine as he blindly traced my raised hieroglyphic tattoo with one finger, touching the lines and remembering the last time he had gotten to put his hands on my bare skin.

Jonas came up behind me and ran one hand over my hair, touching my waist with the other and I jumped slightly - I hadn't heard him come in from wherever he'd been for the last half hour.

"Well, look at you..." he rasped. The lowness of his voice sent a shiver up my spine, and a gasp left my lips as he swept my hair around one side of my neck and kissed the opposite side. His hands started to travel too, and I looked up at John, who was still standing in front of me. The dark makeup around his eyes seemed to make them glow, even under the fluorescent lights, and the end of his ponytail hung down over his left shoulder.

Still nobody spoke.

John ran his hands over my waist picking up on the other man's rhythm that has just ceased, and Jonas resumed kissing the back and side of my neck, growling a little at the scent of my perfume as he pushed his fingers into my hair.

I couldn't stop the sigh that escaped my lips if I had tried, which I didn't.

"D-don't you have to go on now? Or soon? Is this wise?"

No one responded.

"Somebody say something, please..." I begged, trying to buy time to collect my thoughts and not drop to the floor from sensory overload.

"Mmm," Jonas hummed against my shoulder, pulling the material of my shirt an inch to the side as I felt his tongue lightly caress my skin, "what are we supposed to say? 'You look damn good with a bite mark'?"

I gasped and quickly backed out of their reach, pressing my hand over the spot in question.

"You can't possibly know about that..."

"Oh, please," Jonas laughed, "didn't we talk about this earlier?"

He advanced and curled my hair back around my ear, pressing a sensual, lingering kiss to my lips that made me whimper a little. "thoroughly, deliciously, fucked," he looked at me with those beautiful smile lines around his eyes before he leaned in to whisper low and hot into my ear, "I'm still just getting a little distracted still by thinking about whats underneath..." and his fingertips skimmed the outer edges of my breasts before dropping down to my waist.

Jonas loomed over me, powerful and a force to be reckoned with, even slight as he was, and I felt myself bend backwards as he held me to him, leaning further and further as one of my arms wrapped around his neck like a reflex. He had me almost fully dipped by the time he kissed me, and I didn't protest as his lips worked mine and he bit my bottom one softly as he chuckled at my lack of resistance, pulling me back upright. He released me and I backed away from them with a hand pressed to my chest, trying to keep my most vital organ from escaping as I looked back and forth between Jonas and John and Henrik.

I backed straight into Tim and yelped as his arm shot out and held me around my middle with a vice-like grip.

"You," he growled, running his nose in a line up my neck, "are a wicked, wicked woman...tell me how you did that."

"I...I..."

Just then, a knock happened on the outside of the door and I was saved.

"Five minutes, guys," a voice sounded from outside.

Tim turned my face and kissed me hard, sucking all the oxygen out of the room and devouring my mouth as he groaned heavily, no longer caring if anyone saw us or of the world itself burned.

"Its going to be difficult to play when all I can think about is you pouring yourself into my mouth," he whispered into my ear, making me shiver hard with need as his cock pressed against my ass.

I didn't envy him in the slightest, I was worked up to the point that another five minutes would have seen my carefully-chosen outfit in a heap on the floor.

He nudged me to move away and took a few deep breaths as he propped his hands on his hips, trying to will his erection away.

"You're going to be the death of me, woman, I swear," he muttered, and I stifled a laugh and looked back at all of them, pressing my hands to my lips, kissing them and extending them to everyone.

"My boys..." I whispered.

They all smiled at me, but only John spoke, "don’t go too far after the show. We're not finished with you yet, Triste..."

I squeaked and backed out of the room as they laughed together. The door latched behind me and one of the venue staff gestured for me to follow.

As I was being escorted back to the awaiting crowd, I saw him at the other end of the hallway, facing away from me.

His dark hair hung straight down his back, and he was settling his hat on top of his head, the skull-topped cane in his opposite hand.

I froze and heard my heartbeat in my ears.

"Johannes?" My voice was hardly more than a whisper.

He paused, but didn't turn around, and I wasn't sure if I imagined the way his head cocked slightly to the side, but he never turned to see me. Rather he continued forward and disappeared around to side stage.

--

I left the bar and found Mike, pressing a fresh beer into his hand with a smile.

"Hey! You looked low."

"Yeah, I guess I am. I got you a beer, but I drank it...is everything okay?"

I could see from his eyes that he was feeling a little tipsy already and I nodded, shaken after seeing Johannes, but excited for the show.

When the lights dropped, my pulse jumped and beat rapidly in my throat.

Glory To Our King started over the speakers, and Jonas entered first under a spotlight. My jaw dropped and I couldn't help but giggle at the vision of him in full regalia with a crown on his head, as he moved to center-stage and sat on a golden throne. It was only made funnier by me thinking about him grumbling and still half-hard, trying to tangle himself into mass of chains and velvet as I departed unknowingly down the hall.

I turned to Mike, a little shocked.

"What the fuck," I mouthed, and he cracked up, everything about my reaction exactly what he'd hoped for.

"Kungen," he reminded.

"Yah. Got that."

As the king in question settled in his seat and someone handed him his guitar, his eyes scanned the crowd and after a few passes he found me. The corner of his mouth twitched under the waxed mustache and I smiled back and saluted him with my beer before taking another sip.

One barely perceptible nod later, he strummed a single chord and the room became dead silent. His fingers moved unbelievably fast over the frets then, and I felt absorbed into his music, the sound pulsing through me in waves. Tim, Henrik, and John joined him onstage, and the energy from the crowd livened me.

Watching them play was a privilege, and I cheered loudly, almost forgetting for the moment about Johannes. But the sound of everyone screaming filled the air as he appeared and slowly, deliberately, stalked his way to Jonas' left side, looking extraordinarily wolf-like, and bent to one knee before lifting the microphone to his mouth.

His voice was as good as ever, and my heart palpitated. Here he was, after all this time. I'd imagined that he'd become some dry, shriveled shell of himself from what Henrik and Tim told me, but he was full of energy on stage, as he had been all weekend that first time I'd seen him perform live.

Mike whooped and cheered, throwing horns in the air with his empty hand, nearly spilling his beer, and I couldn't help but laugh and cheer with him. He was such an infectious soul, and my heart suddenly ached for May, who I'd shared this experience with last time.

I watched Johannes carefully, waiting for him to see me so I could feel him out. That was all I intended to do, and we would figure out the rest later.

Mike and I were close enough to the stage that I knew he would be able to see me in certain lighting. I watched him move and scream and work the crowd, and everything started to feel normal again.

He was here. He was okay. Healthy enough, it seemed, and obviously still as talented as ever...

We were only a couple minutes into the show, but I was unable to resist when he glanced at me and I reached out mentally - I'd been planning on waiting until a little later in the show, but I was too close not to, and overwhelmed by memories to boot.

I closed my eyes quickly and connected with him, imagining a soft hand pressed to his cheek months ago as he sang of flames and sorrow now. It was my hand caressing his face. After that night when we had claimed each other for the first time, unexpectedly giving every part of ourselves to a stranger. The sun was filling the sky over top of us as my back pressed into the warm wood of the deck floor. Johannes hung over me, looking down with a smile and telling me I was a goddess in the sunlight.

Not a goddess, but a priestess.

How little he knew then, but still...

I could feel his skin underneath my fingertips, and I clamped my lips shut to swallow the cry that threatened to escape them as I relived the memory.

When I looked up again, he was staring at me with a hand pressed to his cheek right where I'd touched him. Our gazes locked, and I gave him a relieved smile.

There he was.
My Johannes.
The one who my entire existence pulsed for, day in and day out.
Why did you ever go away from me, my love...

 

But something wasn't quite right.

As he looked at me, his head cocked awkwardly in confusion and his hand fell back to his side, though he didn't miss a single word of the song. He looked at me still, and my empty cup fell from my hand when he slightly shrugged and looked away.

The startled realization nearly knocked me down.

 

He didn't know me.

 

Everything began to swirl around me, and I thought I was going to pass out as I fought to keep a hold on my energy when every fear and worry and terror tried to surface all at once. I stumbled back a step and met Mike with wild eyes when he reached to catch me. His hand was warm around my waist, and his eyes were full of concern as his other reached to steady me.

I backed out of his grasp, "I have to go. I--I can't. I can't. I'm sorry."

"What? Triste where are you going?"

I looked back at the stage one time and locked eyes with Henrik as I started to back away, panicked, bumping into the people behind me and stepping on toes.

His lips formed my name, but I turned and fled, moving through the crowd and bursting through the front doors, taking a great gasp of the freezing night air.

I ran to my car and locked myself in, trying to swallow the scream at my lips as I sobbed.

How could he not know me.
After everything.
Was I really that passive of an experience for him?

I turned my key in the ignition, trying to stay calm and rational as I turned onto the highway.

--

The show ended and the band took their bows before disappearing backstage.

Mike worked his way through the crowd, trying to get around to the side of the stage, and a firm hand stopped his progress any further when he got there as a man built like a Sequoia wearing a security shirt stepped in his path.

Mike held up his pass to him, frantically trying to move past, "please, I need to talk to them!"

"That's only good for before the show, kid, you're gonna have to wait by the bus like everyone else for an autograph."

"I don't give a shit about autographs, I need to talk to them, its important!"

The look on the larger man's face said in no uncertain terms 'fat fucking chance, but go ahead and try...'

Mike retreated, running a hand through his hair and pushed his way outside, following the crowds towards the bus. He was taller than average, at least six feet, and when Henrik, John, Jonas, Tim, and Johannes made their way outside an hour later, he put a hand up to get their attention.

Henrik was already searching for him the minute he stepped outside, and his sharp eyes caught the movement right away. He nudged Tim, who stepped away to grin for a selfie with a fan, and beelined for Mike.

"Where is she, what happened?"

"I don't know, she just freaked out all of a sudden and bailed. I thought she'd come back but she didn't and she's not answering her phone or her texts. She just kept saying 'I can't I can't I can't'."

Henrik pinched the bridge of his nose as a string of profanities flew from his lips and he turned to motion to Tim and Jonas, who grabbed John and made their way over.

"She didn't come back, something is wrong. We need to go."

Everyone looked at Mike, who repeated what he'd told Henrik.

"I just...I don't know. Like her look was just straight up panic and then she apologized and basically ran away. I texted her four or five times and called."

"Fuck," Tim groaned, "we have to be here for a little bit longer, then we'll check on her."

Mike chewed his lip for a moment, the awkwardness creeping in.

"What," Jonas said, a little more of a snap than he'd meant for.

"Nothing...nothing. Just. What's going on?"

John looked at him wordlessly for a moment, unsure how much he knew already.

"You know what? Nevermind. Just tell her to call me or something when you see her. Shits freaking me out now."

Tim and Jonas got pulled away to sign pieces of fan art, and John sighed and nodded, "I will. Thanks."

He held his hand out to Mike, who paused for a moment then shook it.

Chapter Text

I drove home faster than I should have, and slammed the door behind me when I got into my apartment, finally giving way to the sob that had been building in my chest as I sank down against the sturdy wood and angrily threw my heels across the room.

"Why?!?" I choked out to no one, weeping bitterly into my hands as the wracking sobs overtook my body.

"Why would he forget about me?! He loved me!!"

When the immediate anguish subsided, I rose and made myself a stiff drink before crossing to the bathroom to take off my makeup. Tonight I was going to get good and wasted.

I rarely gave myself the permission, but I felt the urge to commune face-to- face with my goddess, and needed to remove all boundaries. It had been lifetimes since I'd seen Her face to face, and I needed nothing more than Her presence tonight.

Swallowing the rest of the whisky, I headed towards my bedroom and shed my clothes along the way, dropping them carelessly on the floor. I knew that in the morning I would find a way to pick up and carry on, as I had when Johannes had failed to contact me the first time, but now I was going to wallow and fucking enjoy it.

I had one hell of a wall to put back up.

I threw on a long-sleeve shirt over my sports bra and running shorts, and tied my feet into neon tennis shoes.

Fuck him. This is why you became a priestess in the first place.
Because of men.
That man.
Remember how he beat you when he thought you were barren.
His fists and his feet colliding with your fragile little bones.
Oh yes. All those centuries ago. I know you remember, Masika...
But now you're here and he's less than nothing. You know who you are, so let it out.
Why are you allowing some mortal to affect you, someone who you could so easily bend to your will...
Restoration, Masika...

"Stop it Na'eemah!" I yelled out loud, again to no one but myself. Her shit was the last fucking thing I couldn't handle tonight and I shook my head and grabbed my keys, forcing my earbuds as far in as they would go and locking the door behind me before heading down the stairs.

The night air hit my lungs like arctic water, but I needed nothing more than a good, jarring shock of reality right now. I put on the angriest music I could find and took off down the sidewalk at a brisk pace, letting the rhythmic pounding of my feet against the pavement lull me into not thinking anymore. I kept one eye out for danger, but there was a huge piece of me that just wanted to get into a fight and release some of my anger and frustration.

--

When I got back, I was heaving and covered in sweat, but feeling somewhat better with the endorphins running through my system.

Who needed sex for those after all?

You do.

"No, I do not," I sternly said aloud, aware that anyone who heard me might think me mad as a hatter.

I headed for the bathroom, tossing my sweaty clothes into the hamper, and then paused when I looked at my reflection. The only thing left was my necklace. I stared at it, feeling another piece of my heart break.

He's gone, it doesn't mean anything now.

I tore it off over my head and flung it onto the bathroom counter, never wanting to see it again and wishing I had just given it to Henrik to give back.

I showered, shaved, and then scrubbed my skin with an abrasive loofah until it was red and fresh, mulling over what I was going to say to Her and trying to tamp down my nerves. When I emerged from the bathroom purified and ready, covered in fragrant oil, I let Babyboy climb onto my shoulders, and walked naked into the living room to pour myself another drink.

I downed it without a fuss and lifted the glass to the feline on my shoulders, who gave the rim a test lick before happily lapping up the last drops. He mewled a tiny thank you at me, rubbing his cheek against mine.

"Can't drink alone, my love...and we're doing this tonight. Tell your brother, he needs to be up and he won't hear Her come." 

He promptly lept off my shoulders and headed to find the other.

I gazed at myself in the mirror, lifting my chin and tracing the faint red teeth marks on my breast, letting my mind linger for a moment on the unbridled passion of last night and this morning as I looked over each line and curve of my reflection.

I was glorious naked. Firm, fit, and in my prime. The water was still beaded on my skin and I shook my head, flinging droplets from my hair across the mirror before I met my own gaze when I re-centered and my crystal tumbler and I went to my bedroom to dig through my closet.

There was one garment in particular that I sought, neat the back, still on the same hanger as when I'd bought it, and I was pretty sure it still had a tag too. 

I slipped into a pair of panties and donned my sheer white gown. It was light and flowy, the kind of material that billowed when you walked in the wind, like people wore for beach weddings, and I buttoned it up my front slowly, one at a time, preparing myself.

I heard her voice in my ears, speaking to me as a pre-teen who thought this strange beautiful woman needed to be committed to an institution somewhere.

She was obviously mad.

"There will perhaps come a day in this life when you speak to our Divine, and you had best be clad appropriately. She asks little of us, Masika, and gives us much. Always sheer. Always white. Repeat it back to me."

"Always sheer. Always white."

The thought of her further inflamed my anger. Was the entire world just going to shit? Restoration.

I wanted nothing more, but I also knew it was impossible. A hundred generations removed from our temple, no one would know what to make of Her.

"Always sheer. Always white," I murmured to myself as I hooked the last button, watching my eyes change. They were still bloodshot from crying.

Red and green, how seasonally appropriate.

I wandered around my apartment, shutting the lights off and lighting every candle I could find before igniting a stick of incense and settling onto the open hardwood floor of my living room, kneeling.

I tried not to think about the fact that it was right where Henrik had told me I'd get myself into trouble if I kept touching him, but the thought forced itself on me anyways.

Gods, but he fucks just like I always thought he would. Passionate and slow. Carefully...

"No. Stop. Focus."

Is that what we told him? No, we told him don't stop.
We took everything he gave us and wanted more.
Nothing to be ashamed of, little girl...

"ENOUGH." I put a firm stop to these thoughts, pushing Henrik and Tim and John and Jonas and Johannes out of my mind, and picking up the vial before me. 

Sex wasn't really enough anymore to get me and the other women like me all the way into Her presence. It was close, and a spiritual experience for sure when it was good, but there was that last little edge to fall over that required a chemical nudge these days. 

I didn't ever ask Na'eemah what it was or where she got it, but every time I fully manifested and accepted who I was, she appeared within a few days, a week at the max, wielding this tiny glass vial with a medicine dropper. 

One drop, darling, that's all it takes. Do not forget about it, do not lose it, do not use it frivolously. Our Lady is kind, but do not forget who She is - trivialities are worthless to the one who created the very desert itself, Masika.

Carefully I let one single, glistening amber bead drop into my glass, and gave it a swirl.

Glancing over at Babyboy and Red, I toasted in their direction and nodded my head to them with a shrug of my shoulders.

"Bottoms up..."

In the old days we'd used honey wine, but I figured for the way my evening had gone thus far, whiskey was as good a choice as any, so I tipped the glass back and swallowed, laying down on my back and staring at the ceiling.

Now for the hard part.

I tried to think of nameless, faceless people having sex, watching the way they moved, listening to the sounds they made, but it did nothing for me as I desperately tried to get myself off before I lost my nerve to do this altogether. 

"Fuck," I finally muttered when nothing worked, pulling my hand away and rolling over to get to my feet so I could go dig in my bedside table drawer and find my vibrator. 

I returned to my spot on the living room floor, trying to get comfortable on an uncomfortable surface, squirming and muttering to myself before I paused.

What the fuck was I doing? Going to meet my goddess for the first time in several centuries, grumbling about how uncomfortable my hardwoods were? With a scattered mind and unsure heart? No. 

Several deep breaths saw my focus return. Another saw me working myself open, giving over to sensation and accepting that this needed to happen to get me where I needed to be tonight. Her temple. Luxor. I could see the statues of Her. More than sixty in number. Powerful and strong, like the granite carved into her likeness. 

"Masika," She called me softly, and I burned for the sound of her voice, switching the frequency up higher, letting all the thoughts of Henrik and Tim swirl through my brain, keeping Johannes at arm's length for the moment.

I remembered Henrik telling me to hold on tight before he flipped us over into the grass, giving me everything he had, rolling those perfect hips against me. 
I remembered that one moment where Tim buried himself inside me in one smooth push, stretching me to my limits and bending me to his will. 
I remembered the taste of Jonas' mouth, the course brush of his beard against my skin, the feel of his lips whispering over my shoulder.
I remembered the way John had purred at me to come closer, to find out if what I wondered about him being a good kisser was true...

I was so close, writhing on the living room floor, moving closer and closer to the edge.

It was all I needed. That last little bit.

Papa...

My mind exploded with sensation as my head snapped up towards the ceiling, my eyes wide and unseeing.

I passed through centuries of thought and time, and all the lives I had lived over thousands of years swirled in technicolor before me, their edges blurring together.

I saw my parents, my husbands and wives, my children, my siblings.

A force pinned me down, and I writhed on the floor, feeling the delicious age-old familiar warmth between my legs.

My hips reflexively thrusted upwards, trying to meet the temple boy who wasn't there.

Then I felt the sandstone under my shoulders, the thin material of my gown doing nothing to shield me from the rough kiss of the temple floor.

Gold and lapis-lazuli surrounded me, and the smell of burning offerings filled my nose.

The sounds of my fellow priestesses filled the air - whispering, imploring, praising our goddess.

The whites of my eyes showed as I screamed, deep and raw, letting every sensation run through me.

The pressure and coil of heat in my belly became unbearable and I came undone with a primal scream to match the first.

Or was it one continuous sound?

I didn't know. I didn't care.

My spirit left my body for moments untold, and then with the deep gasp of life being breathed back into me, I bolted upright in my living room and my palms smacked against my hardwood as I was on my knees, kneeling.

A lioness sat before me, massive and majestic. Larger than anything I could ever imagine a real lion taking form as and I instinctively bowed my head and prostrated myself, tossing my sex toy aside and immediately forgetting about it.

"Goddess," I whispered, "I am blessed by your presence".

I began to feel more and more like the temple priestess from millienia before as the seconds ticked by, and less like Triste.

"Little fool..." She hummed.

I sat up and was unabashedly forgetting even my manners now, staring at her, "what?"

"Masika...you forget yourself," She cautioned.

"I apologize, goddess...I am...out of practice with this part."

"By several lifetimes, I'd say. Why have you called to me now? After all this time. How I have missed seeing you, little Masika."

I was suddenly unsure what to say, but I figured honesty was best.

"I went into a situation tonight, mistress, and I got hurt. I knew it was a possibility going into it, but it caused me pain more than I thought possible when it actually happened...forgive me for troubling you with mortal trivialities."

"Hush with your apologies."

I bowed my head, staring at the floor.

Sekhmet's tone softened, "dear child. I remember when you came to me. You were so young, so afraid. Covered in bruises. Your bones broken. They thought you would die...your pain was great then too."

"Yes mother," I choked on a sob, reliving what she spoke of and I looked up with tears in my eyes, wincing, feeling the blows again. She stood and advanced towards me, her paws silent on my floorboards.

Stopping less than a foot away, she pressed her massive forehead to mine, and I felt her fur, soft and so, so familiar.

"I am sorry I've been away so long, Mother," I whispered, trying not to give into my all-consuming impulse to grab onto her and never let go again.

"Tell me more of your troubles, my child," her voice was kind, and I remembered now why I'd devoted my life to her. It wasn't because she had saved me. It wasn't because I cried out with satisfaction as they buried my husband in the sand after he was struck down in the middle of the night by an assassin that was never captured. It was her kindness towards me - how she made me feel both like her cub as a young child and a huntress of her pride as I got older.

"Mother. My heart is broken. I trusted and loved a man who forgot about me. I shared with him what I am, and who you are, and I saw no memory of it in his eyes tonight. He didn't recognize me or know my touch..."

"Why did you do this thing if you knew you could get hurt?"

"I...they asked me to."

"So it was not done for yourself."

"I mean...kind of. I, ahem...I thought Johannes had given up on me. And then Henrik and Tim showed up and were convinced that if he saw me again, everything would go back to normal, but...I think I secretly wanted that too..."

I didn't know how to continue, and I looked up. Her eyes were brown, like the waters of the Nile, and the pupils dark like the fertile earth of its banks.

"Speak, Masika."

I couldn't look away from her.

"I want to run again, goddess. This life...i-it hurts too much," I told her truthfully, "May...Nedjem is gone and now Johannes...well I supposed he was gone long before today, but I didn't know it. Or I didn't believe it."

She scoffed as well as she could with a feline mouth, "and? My child you know Nedjem will come back. Na'eemah will find her, as she's done for centuries. And though you want to run away, you're here somehow. You called on me, rather than slitting your wrists in that bathtub you adore so much."

"How do you know about my bathtub? Sorry! Sorry, not important!"

She looked down at me with an exasperated sigh.

"I...there are still...the rest of them. Henrik and Tim, and John and Jonas. I...I love them too, Mother. They're in my heart too..."

"I should say so, by the thoughts that have been filling your head of late," she chuckled. I blushed deeply.

"Do not be ashamed, daughter. These people now are so uncomfortable with sex, as if it weren't their own beginnings. Do not fall prey to those prejudices, Masika. Do not forget the way you used to come to me, in the throes of passion, a euphoric haze..." she eyed the vibrator that had landed several feet off to the side.

I sat silently, feeling like I could listen to her forever.

"Have I not always provided you with a companion? Or more than one? Have I not always indulged your needs, Masika..."

I reached up to run a hand back through my hair at the suggestion of having more than one companion, and her massive paw pressed my arm gently back to my side as she smirked down at me, holding my eyes right there as the tumblers of my lock started to turn.

Still I stared, completely still, completely silent, with no idea what to do. 

Then four tired-looking, residual-smeared-eyemakeup-wearing Swedes tumbled into my apartment, one after the other. They gasped almost in unison, and it would have been undeniably comical in any other situation as everything they held dropped from their hands at the same time and it all landed on my floor with a thud.

I held up a hand to silence them as they all opened their mouths to speak at once.

"Goddess," I looked back to her as I spoke, before dropping my gaze respectfully to the floor. She nodded her head to me before looking at each man individually.

Look down. Look down. Look down, I mentally implored them.

Tim did, the others simply stared.

I wasn't sure if they'd ever seen a lion before, let alone something like her. Let alone in a living room. In the middle of the city.

Ah, shit.

She glanced at me with a sigh.

"Sorry," I said with a shrug and a little smile, having forgotten she could hear my thoughts. I was almost sure she rolled her eyes, but I kept my own eyes on the floor and when her gaze rested on me, I turned my full attention back to Sekhmet, meeting her amber stare with my green one and pressing both hands to my heart.

"Mother, what am I to do? I need help. Guidance. Anything...how can I help him when he doesn't know me? Do I have to try again? I...I don't know if I can."

"You will know what to do when the time is right, as you've known in lifetimes past Masika..." she leaned her face to mine, and pressed her cheek against the side of my head. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tim turn towards the window, looking for something.

I sighed, tears sliding down my cheeks at the feel of her warmth.

"I'm so afraid," I whispered as I gave in to my impulse and my arms wrapped around her massive neck, feeling like a child clutching her mother.

After all, are you not?

She rubbed her cheek to mine once more, then lifted her head and looked into my eyes. Her gaze seemed to pierce me and root me to the floor.

"Do not be, for love is a gift. We love the lost as we love those who are not. And love them well, little Masika...all of them," she breathed, and I bowed my head once more.

"Thank you, Mother."

"And do not go so long without calling on me again." She sat down on her haunches, and was gone in the next moment.

Chapter Text

I blinked several times, and only came back to my senses when Babyboy climbed into my lap, purring loudly.

A gasp left my lips as I remembered the men in my foyer standing behind me.

"Shit!" I rocketed to my feet and spun around to see them all standing exactly where they'd come in, as Babyboy landed on all fours with a disgruntled meow. They were staring at me with wide, unbelieving eyes.

"Ahh...hi...okay, I am seriously not strong enough to drag any of you into the shower, so please sit down before you pass out..."

No one spoke.

"O-or maybe change first. I'm sure you have questions...?" I chewed my lip, trying to keep my laughter from bubbling up as I realized that I was quite drunk.

Apparently, the sheerness of my gown was also distracting, as four sets of eyes rested on my breasts.

"Hello...hello??" I was starting to feel like maybe I was destined to break their brains no matter what I tried.

"That...that was...did I just hallucinate that?? I mean that was a lion right?!"

"A lioness, John."

He shook his head and looked at me in a way that said 'does it even matter?'

"It does matter. Guys, seriously. Do something. Say something. You're all just staring at me..."

"Its probably because you didn't have those the last time we saw you," Henrik said, gesturing vaguely towards me. I looked down at myself in my sheer gown and my body was covered in panel after panel of tiny blue hieroglyphs.

"Ahh...okay, right. Those will go away tomorrow, it happens every time I..." I gestured towards where my goddess had stood moments earlier.

"Tim, are you going to fall down? Please don't fall down." He swayed on his feet but shook his head and I reached to touch his hand, just to make sure. His fingers traced mine gently and I smiled at him.

"I'm, ah, a little surprised you're all here, actually, after I uhm. I kind of...ah, fled in a panic..."

"We noticed," they all said almost in unison.

Henrik took a step towards me and placed a hand on my face, running his thumb along my cheekbone, "what happened, Triste? Mike said you just freaked out and ran."

I sighed and shook my head, considering what to say for a moment.

"I think you guys need to change and shower or wash up, then I'll answer all the questions I can. It might...it might take a while."

--

I moved towards my bedroom to change and Henrik grabbed my hand when I was in the doorway, pulling me back against him as everyone else headed to the spare room to change or the bathroom to wash.

"You're not thinking of changing out of this, I hope," he said into my ear, making me bite my lip and lean into him as he ran one hand down over my waist.

"Well, I was going to p--" my words were cut off with a kiss that made my toes curl and Henrik moaned into my lips as he crushed me to him, letting his hands draw me closer. The residual adrenaline from playing a sold-out show and seeing my body mostly revealed again made him half-hard, and his tongue passed my lips, seeking mine as he got rougher for only a moment.

"I think you should leave it on," the dark promise in his voice made me press harder against him, but he released me after another searing kiss and headed towards the spare room to put on more comfortable clothes, turning halfway and very obviously looking me up and down, "well, for now, at least..."

My breath caught in my chest and my heart started beating triple time when he turned back and disappeared.

I headed to the sideboard to make five drinks and half an hour later, we were all seated in the living room drinking and eating what few bites I had in my fridge that were suitable. Jonas sat closest to me, and I leaned comfortably back into the pillows covering my sofa, legs curled underneath me to the side.

"So I guess we start with the obvious?"

Everyone nodded, and I took a deep breath.

"I need you to tell me if it starts to get overwhelming, please."

Another group nod.

Jonas' hand wandered across the space between us and began brushing his fingers distractingly along my knee.

"Well...I'm...I was...as I said, ahem...communing. Talking, if you like, with my goddess. Sekhmet. She's the one who made me what I am. I needed to talk to her about J-J..." I took a deep breath, "Johannes".

"And your goddess is a lion?" John asked.

"A lioness," Henrik and I said in unison. Our gazes met and I smiled softly at him. He still had faint traces of makeup around his eyes.

"She's anthropomorphic. A woman and a lioness. But its...less jarring now to come just as the latter I think. The further we get from the temple, the more difficult all of this becomes to keep going."

They looked thoughtfully into their drinks and I was surprised at how well they seemed to be taking everything, considering what they'd just walked in on.

Jonas' fingers were slowly traveling further up away from my knee, and my eyes dropped momentarily to my lap to watch their procession, feeling my pulse start to creep up. I looked up and met his eyes, their pupils dilated and the want that he felt plain in his features. A sudden and unbidden thought of the look on his face when I told him earlier about Henrik's kink darted through my mind and I snorted and broke into a fit of laughter, throwing myself back against the pillows and clamping my hand over my lips to stifle the sound, though it only made everything funnier.

John looked over at me with a cocked eyebrow and a grin, "are you drunk?"

"Who? Me? No. Ahem. Certainly not."

Tim scoffed at me at the same time Jonas suddenly leaned over and captured my lips in a delicious, sensual kiss that pulled a gasp from me. His hand reached around my side and gripped my calf, pulling my leg swiftly out from under me and stretching it across his lap so he could run his hand up my smooth shin, and I followed suit with the other.

"Mmhm, says the girl whose lips taste like whisky," he breathed against my mouth before thrusting his tongue back in and kissing me slowly, thoroughly. His hand started traveling away from my shins, slowly pushing the material of my gown up my legs until he released me, softly trailing his fingers over my thighs, looking down.

My head spun and I tried to remember what we were just saying.

Damn but he's a good kisser. No, wait, that wasn't it...what were we talking about?

Oh, right.

"Okay well to be fair, the whole process works better with alcohol. And...I think...well... I didn't know what else to do. I just bolted and then came home and went for a run and then decided to," I gestured to the floor where they'd walked in on me, "and being drunk does tend to limit your...ah...inhibitions...?"

"What did you talk to her about? Why did you leave, Triste?" Jonas asked quietly as his hand settled warmly on my leg, and his thumb stroked back and forth over my skin, knowing I needed to not be too distracted to answer. I closed my eyes and leaned my face against the back of the couch as I answered.

"So Mike and I were there, and I saw Johannes and I...I...I touched him. Not physically, obviously. More like--..." I looked at Tim for a beat and shrugged my shoulders, and his eyebrows shot up so far I thought they were going to depart from his face.

"Okay well no, not like that either. But, well, actually, I mean. I guess? Same concept," I couldn't help but bite my lip and squeeze my legs tighter together as he looked back at me and we both remembered what happened backstage before the show. His glance dropped to my breasts, and I knew my nipples gave me away, soI crossed my arms in an attempt to keep myself on track and he shot me a lascivious smile.

"I just, I couldn't not touch him. Just his face," I clarified, "and he looked at me. I mean right at me. I thought for a moment you and Henrik were right and that everything was going back to normal. But then..." I dropped Tim's gaze and stared at the flickering flame of one of my candles.

Can you even say it?

Shaking my head in response to myself, I moved to get up and find fresh drinks for everyone. Henrik beat me to it, and took my empty glass from my fingers after kissing the top of my head and telling me to stay put. Jonas pulled my legs back into his lap where they were before and I thanked Henrik when he pressed the tumbler back into my hand and got everyone else another round, and I settled back into the cushions once more.

"But then what," he asked, moving back to his seat at the other end of the couch after stooping to kiss my cheek softly.

"He...Johannes didn't...he didn't kn-know me," I finished simply.

After all, what more could I say? The look in his eyes was perfectly clear - confusion and total disconnect.

"Wait, what? Of course he knows you, what are you talking about?" John asked with a questioning look on his face as his brow furrowed.

I shook my head, "he had no idea who I was, John. I can't explain it, I just...I dunno. I guess he forgot. Anyways, that's why I couldn't stay. I was worried that I was going to lose my shit and make a tree grow out of the stage or something."

"I still don't understand," Henrik said when I finished, "how can you touch without actually touching?"

I looked at him and figured I'd demonstrate - he'd understand best after what I'd showed him last night.

I closed my eyes for a brief moment and remembered taking his cock in my mouth as he was bound to the wrought iron bars of my headboard- the way his skin tasted, the heat pulsating from his hardened body, the way his tip hit the back of my throat as he bucked his hips.

Something like a yelp resounded in my living room as he felt me there and my drunkenness did nothing to help the situation as I again tumbled back against the cushions giggling.

Tim snorted a laugh too, but everyone else looked confused.

Henrik glanced over at Tim, who was silently shaking, trying to keep himself under wraps, "shit, is that what happened to you earlier backstage?!" Henrik ran a hand back through his hair, "I was wondering why you suddenly yelled her name out of nowhere, but, fuck..."

"Well if we're being fair," I said cryptically, drawing Henrik's attention back to me, "it was more the other way around".

I quirked one eyebrow in his direction before looking over at the other man when Henrik didn't seem to understand. Tim did though, and licked his lips as our eyes met, mentally tasting me there once more.

His stare was pure, unadulterated heat.

Gods so much heat. We were gonna tear each other apart if we got another chance.

"Okay, now I'm confused..."

I smiled at John and explained what I had shown Tim and Henrik, disregarding the explicit details or what we'd actually experienced together, but he still seemed unsure.

"Remember that day when we were at the pool and May insisted that we play chicken? She wouldn't let Johannes carry me because he's so tall and it was an unfair advantage, and I got on your shoulders instead? Even though you're still way taller than Jonas."

"HEY."

I giggled and leaned in to kiss Jonas, whispering a horribly insincere apology.

John nodded his head as a little smile pulled at his lips, and it warmed my heart fractionally.

"Remember that..." I closed my eyes for a moment before locking gazes with him, refusing to let him look away. All of a sudden we were there again, and he understood. One hand reached up next to his head, where he could feel my legs draped over his shoulders, hanging down his chest as he gripped my thighs to try and keep me in place when I screamed as May splashed me and then tackled me back into the water.

"Woah...how..."

I let him process at his own speed.

"So you can, what, just like relive memories?"

I glanced at Henrik, whose face broke out into my favorite grin.

"Something like that, yeah," I laughed.

Jonas looked confused and utterly left out, so I took one of his hands from my lap and pressed a kiss to the palm.

"Do you want to know?" I asked, leaving the choice up to him.

He whispered a yes, and looked over at me with a tiny bit of apprehension in his eyes as I sat quietly, trying to think of the best possible memory to share with him.

"Don't look away from me, darling," I said softly, "keep your eyes right here," I brushed my fingers down his face.

We were outside, under the stars the first night I'd met them all together. He and May were sitting on their own loveseat, their limbs tangled together, exchanging soft kisses and touches as we all settled in. May leaned up and whispered in his ear, asking how to thank Henrik for making dinner in Swedish. He murmured the words to her and she repeated them slowly and I could hear Henrik laughing, as if the one sitting in my living room were actually doing it, and Jonas brushed the side of his arm where she had swatted him, accusing him laughingly of making her say something dirty instead of thank you.

The corners of his eyes crinkled with a smile as he continued to hold my gaze and I released him. The tears that filled both our eyes surprised me and he shifted to pull me closer.

I resisted and pulled his face close to mine with both hands instead.

"Don't forget that. Hold on to that memory...promise me you will."

He nodded his head, and looked at me sadly as I leaned in to kiss him, "I promise," he whispered and I brushed my lips across both his cheeks and his eyelids before laying my forehead against his silently for a moment.

I looked down into my lap, remembering what else I needed to say before everything disappeared from my brain altogether.

"And I'm sorry. I owe you guys a huge apology for making a scene like that. Running away wasn't the correct response. I should have just stayed and listened and been suppo--"

"Oh Christ, knock it off, would you?”

I was surprised to hear Tim snap at me that way after the look we'd just exchanged a minute before, and I leaned to the side to peer around Jonas at him, my expression clearly challenging.

"One more time?"

Jonas and Henrik exchanged an uncomfortable glance.

"I said knock it off. God, Triste, you're always so worried about everyone else. Sometimes its okay to be fucking selfish. It's okay to have something shitty happen to you and not immediately have your concern be how you're going to make everyone else comfortable or feel better, even at your own expense!"

My eyebrows shot up, but he was already on his way out the door, shaking his head and reaching into his pocket for his cigarettes as he muttered to himself. Part of me knew he was mad at Johannes and taking it out on me, but that part got snuffed immediately as I rose to go after him, wanting nothing more than to argue with someone. My heart was cold and broken and sad from thinking about Johannes and remembering May, and he was about to learn all the fuck about it.

Henrik caught my hand halfway to the door, "ahh, leave him be, Triste. He shouldn't have spoken to you that way, but he's right. Plus. It's pretty cold out and..." he gestured to my sheer garment, eyes traveling down my body for several moments before suddenly pulling me in towards him as he stood up.  One hand wrapped around the small of my back, and he leaned down until his face was an inch from mine.

"You've gotta stop worrying about everyone else, babe," he whispered, but my head was spinning and I stopped listening when his other hand traced the curve of my ass.

"Mmhm, okay," I hummed, wrapping my arms around his neck and he smirked down at me. It was such a wonderful expression on him, where one corner of his mouth curved up, and I found myself staring at his lips.

A laugh vibrated through his body and I gasped when his hand smacked hard against my ass.

"Totally drunk," he laughed, and pressed his mouth to mine. I kissed him hungrily and he pulled me closer into him, immediately sliding his tongue against mine as I tangled my fingers into his lovely hair and he gripped the sheer fabric that covered me in his fist, the motion drawing it several inches up my leg.

I halfway heard John and Jonas softly groan as they watched Henrik devour me, and a deliciously sinful thought filled my head about having them all naked in my bed for the rest of the night. I gasped against Henrik as he rolled his hips against mine, hooking his arm more firmly around the back of my waist so I could feel him when he did it.

And I thought She was the only one who could hear my thoughts sometimes...

He took the opportunity of my lips releasing his to press kisses down my jaw and the line of my throat, but he pulled back with a grimace.

"Gah, whats all over you?"

"What? The markings? I told you they'll go away..."

"No," he made a face, "not those, whats on your skin? It tastes bitter."

"Oh...jasmine oil. Its part of the ritual. Sorry, give me two minutes to shower and wash it off." I kissed his lips and could taste the bitterness of the fragrant oil there that covered my entire body. His hands didn't release me though, and he looked like he was considering just throwing me to the floor and dealing with the taste instead.

I placed my hands over his and gently moved them off my hips.

"Two minutes," I whispered. I turned around and ran smack into John's chest.  His hand immediately gripped my hair and pulled my head back so I was looking up at him as the other circled low around my waist.

"Don't be too much longer than that, little one, because I do remember someone telling you earlier that we weren't through with you yet..." he growled against my lips before taking them in what was arguably one of the most passionate kisses I'd ever experienced. I didn't expect it from him and I felt myself melting between that and the whisky as his tongue delved into my mouth and I cried out against him, excited by this new side I'd never seen of John.

But if we were going to do this, I didn't want my boys to be making faces and grimacing every time they kissed or licked my skin.

The thought alone of them all touching my body made me clench hard and I quickly stepped out of John's grasp and backed into the bathroom, leaving the door cracked behind me.

I stared at my body in the mirror as I let the sheer garment drop to the floor. The panels of minuscule glyphs ran from the tops of my feet all the way to my hairline behind my ears.

I'd read them over and over again when I entered the temple, committing them to memory, knowing them by heart.

They were what I lived for.

Chapter Text

The steam rose in the shower, and I stepped in, suddenly flaming mad at Tim. He'd just snapped and then stalked away from me after I tried to apologize!

"Just being an asshole," I muttered under my breath after rubbing a washcloth up and down my body and stewing on it for a few minutes. I wasn't trying to be accommodating at my own expense, I genuinely felt bad for missing their show. I loved watching them play, and it only made me angrier at Johannes for causing me to miss basically the whole thing. 

"Maybe so. Doesn't mean I'm wrong, though," I heard a low voice say and I whipped around, instinctually covering my breasts. Tim was leaning back against the closed door, watching me and idly unbuckling his belt with one hand.

"You don't have to cover yourself, Triste, I haven't forgotten what you look like naked..."

I didn't respond - I was still too angry, and I turned my back on him, pulling my hair around one shoulder and for good measure throwing the finger over the other.

After a few minutes passed I assumed he'd left until I was forcefully spun and slammed against the wall. The irises that scowled at me were a mesmerizing swirl of blue and green, and his hair hung long and straight down his naked back as the water beat down on us. The quickest of glances told me that it wasn't just his shirt he'd lost, and we continued to glare at each other, neither speaking.

"Let go," I finally growled, lowly, dangerously.

Finally he shook his head and let go of my wrists that he'd been pinning above me, mumbling, "I'm sorry for snapping at you out there, I--"

He didn't get a chance to finish because I spun him around rapidly and shoved his back into the wall where I'd just been; his head smacked against the tile and he grunted at the impact.

My pulse was thundering in my ears, drowning everything else out.

"Tim, you don't fucking know what I've done to protect the people I care about all these years, so don't tell me to stop now like its going to matter or make a difference."

"Why are you trying to protect us? Nothing is going to happen and if it does, we're fucking adults, Triste, we can deal with it!"

The more we growled at each other, the harder I felt him get against me, and my brain was flooded with a heady combination of intoxication and anger and want, remembering for the umpteenth time that day what his tongue felt like as he devoured my pussy the night before.

"I'm so fucking mad at you!" I yelled before I slammed my lips against his, thrusting my tongue into his mouth. not giving him a choice whether he wanted to kiss me or not, but he moaned heavily in response and I pressed my breasts into his chest, dragging my nipples over his skin.

Tim groaned again into my kiss, and his hands roamed everywhere he could reach, desperately pulling me tighter to him so I could feel how hard he was, grabbing my ass with an almost painful grip, our bodies slick and easily sliding against each other.

He spun us again, and the cool wall against my back made me arch further into him as he roughly grabbed the back of one of my legs and pulled it up around his waist, dragging his cock through my folds in the process.

I cried out in frustration and arousal and he took my mouth in a deep kiss, snarling against me as our tongues tangled with each other and he pushed all his weight against me until I was pressed flat against the wall as his cock sought my core.

I took his tongue into my mouth and sucked on it hard, pulling a feral growl from his lips as he pulled back. 

"Damnit woman, when will you learn," he snarled into my lips when I released him. I wanted to spit a retort, but I bit his lower lip instead, pulling something between a moan and a yelp from him.

"Not everything is your job to make better," he growled when I released him again.

"You don't care," I said lowly, staring at him with anger in my gaze, "you just stormed off without even listening to me! You didn't even let me finish!"

He became deathly still, and I wasn't sure he was even breathing anymore as I started to crumble under his stare,

The sound of the water hitting the tile floor became deafening, but still he held my leg wrapped around his hip tightly, his fingers pressing hard into the muscle of my calf.

Without looking away, he bared his teeth at me with a low growl, almost more animal than man.

"I. Don't. Care?!"

As he said it, his cock pressed into my entrance and he sheathed himself inside me as I screamed in pleasure and clenched hard, my other leg giving out, but he was holding me against the wall with so much force it didn't matter - I wasn't going anywhere.

"Goddamnit, Triste! How can you say that when you fucking know I'm in love with you!" he yelled forcefully, his face a hair's breadth from my own as he pushed harder against me, his irises burning holes into my own as his hips pinned me.

I couldn't speak. The feel of him stretching me made my head start to spin again.

"Well?? Don't you have anything to say now? Or is that smart fucking mouth finally betraying you with silence?" His anger was boiling over now, mingling with his fiery passion as he pulled out and thrusted into me again with enough roughness to make me scream as I was slammed back into the wall once more.

"Fuck you, Tim! Why are you being such a fucking asshole!" I yelled back, mad as hell at his condescending tone but at the same time still desperate to feel him further inside me, and I pushed my hips down onto him and grabbed his shoulders harder.

He went completely still again.

"I think I warned you this morning about what would happen if you mouthed off to me again," his tone wasn't quite even, but it was deadly serious in a way that made me shudder as he scowled at me.

I continued to ignore my verbal filter but couldn't, however, ignore the way he moved inside me, and I shifted to press further onto him as a strangled moan left my lips at the way he filled me.

"No, you said that would happen if I was rude to you again, and you were fucking rude to me first, so you can just go fu--"

"Well I'm changing the rules because you're pissing me off."

Before I could so much as finish my sentence or even blink, he pulled out of me and spun us again so his back was to the wall, and he threw me down so my knees hit the floor hard. I cried out at the impact as it reverberated up through my body, and it only inflamed my anger further until I closed my eyes momentarily and pinned him. 

Fucking suck on that, dickhead. You have no idea who I am and what I can do.

He gasped and struggled against the invisible ropes that suddenly bound his hands and ankles against the wall as I sat back on my knees and glared up at him, trying to stay mad.

He was a fucking sight to behold, stretched out against the wall of my shower and struggling. The water beat down on us, dripping down the length of his twitching cock, so near my lips...

I turned my bright green gaze up at him and he went still, as I finally calmed too.

"Tell me you love me again, Tim," I said, moving my index finger over the head of his cock, lightly caressing him. My mouth watered in anticipation as my gaze settled back to the normal steely gray.

"Triste..." he, growled, struggling against the invisible bonds holding his wrists to the wall, "Triste, I love you. Goddamn woman do I love you," he gasped, laying his head back against the wall and closing his eyes as he gave himself over to pure sensation.

I rewarded him with a tiny lick, fluttering my tongue a little, and a strangled yell caught in his throat as he again pulled against the restraints I held him with, glaring down at me.

"Let me go, and you and I will fucking do this right," he growled again, full of threat and promise.

I snapped my eyes up to his biting at my bottom lip as I considered his demand.

"Haven't learned my lesson yet.,," I held his gaze as I watched him pant before pressing the head of his cock between my lips, swirling my tongue and tasting him purposefully as he yelled and bucked his hips as best he could considering he couldn't move any of his limbs.

His cock was impressive to say the least. I'd been so worked up last night and this morning when we'd taken each other that I hadn't paid proper attention, but now I was solely on the giving end, consumed with his taste, my senses maxed out by everything - his flavor, his scent, the delicious noises he was making...

My mouth closed around him and I took him one inch at a time into my throat, then pulled back.

"Tell me again, Tim."

"TRISTE," he yelled, desperate to feel the inside of my mouth once more.

"Tell. Me. Again."

I wasn't sure where this desire was coming from to have him speak the words, but after hearing him say it once, I never wanted him to stop.

"Triste. I love you... babe how can you not know that by now, after everything..."

I ran my tongue over his length again before taking him to the back of my throat and humming as my nose pressed against his skin. The noise that left his lips was barely human, and I felt myself start to drip onto the shower floor.

One of my hands wandered down and started to rub my clit, slowly at first, but with increasing intensity as my mouth continued to move up and down him and he moaned louder for me, getting lost in the slide of my tongue over his length, the softness that was the inside of my mouth.

His eyes flicked down and watched one hand move between my legs as my other closed around the base of his cock.

"Ohh, is choking on my cock making you wet, Triste," he almost purred my name, his voice so low it was nearly lost in the din of the water streaming over us and dripping to the floor.

"Mmm," I moaned around him, suddenly very, very intrigued by what else he had to say.

"Answer me, little girl," he barked with a surprising amount of authority considering he was still completely immobile. Desire overruled my sense of self preservation and I released my unseen hold on him, looking up at him with his cock in my mouth as I did so, and I felt him pulse against my tongue as I slid off him.

He moved his hands into my hair and the feeling was pleasure like sin itself.

"Yes," I answered before lowering my head again, running my tongue up his length before pressing my mouth to the skin of his hips, swirling my tongue with each one. I made a show of moaning against him as I continued to touch myself, exploring how wet I was as I pulled back, then took him into my throat again.

He consumed my senses - his velvet skin filling my mouth, the smell of him mingled with the last of the jasmine oil on my body, the way his hands tangled in my hair, pressing me harder onto his cock until I was doing almost none of the work. 

"Fuck, babe...fuck," he growled as he held onto my hair and started moving faster on his own. I moaned encouragingly as I rubbed my clit, giving myself pleasure as I gave him his.

"Are you fingering your pretty little pussy, Triste," he continued, seeing the effect his dirty talk was having on me as I closed my eyes and sucked him harder, humming around him.

"Can you feel how tight you are? You felt so good coming around my cock this morning -- fuck -- if you're a good girl and swallow me, I'll make you squirt all over me again..."

His words were becoming more choked and guttural as I took him all the way into my mouth again and closed my throat. He let me take over and I held him there, glancing up at him so we locked eyes, me on my knees before him with my hand buried in my pussy, his back against the wall of my shower, bucking his hips into my face.

Silence descended for the briefest of moments before I pulled off of him and licked my lips.

"Promise?" I smirked with one eyebrow cocked, and he yelled my name as I took all of him again and he came in my mouth, gripping my hair hard down to the roots. His seed was hot against my tongue and I eagerly drank him down, sinking my nails into his thighs as he spasmed and cried out, filling the small tile room with sound until he softened in my mouth and I pulled off of him as he quieted, releasing him from my lips, and he slowly dropped down to the floor before gathering me to him as he tried to catch his breath.

I leaned against his side, trailing my fingers softly over his middle as we calmed down together. Several minutes passed in silence while our breathing slowed and our heartbeats synced.

"Tim?"

He turned his face and hummed into my hair, watching my pale, slender fingers drift across his skin.

"I love you too."

He tensed momentarily and looked down at me, almost unbelieving, but his mouth spread into a broad grin as he pressed a kiss to my soaked locks, softly asking "what was that now?"

I sat up and turned my face towards him, letting the water run down my flushed skin before I reached up to shut it off.

"I said I love you. More than I can say...I think- I think we connected the first second we met." I laughed softly at the memory as I scooted back into his arms, not willing to get up yet. "Remember? You kissed me on the cheek and I babbled like a moron because I was so surprised, but...but I think I've been looking for you as long as you've been looking for me, but I didn't know it either... Shit, sorry. I didn't mean to get all sappy."

He pulled me in slowly and his mouth brushed mine as he moaned lowly into my lips, his mustache still soaked and his heart pounding out of his chest. I tasted of him, but he didn't seem to mind as his tongue gently parted my lips and he sighed beautifully.

"No, little one, that wasn't the first time we met. It was when I saw you from the stage and you looked at me and something...I don't know."

"Clicked," I finished for him, and he nodded after a second.

"I knew I didn't make that up," I hid my smile by burying my face into his shoulder, absorbing the warmth from his skin and his personality until he pulled me closer and took my lips again. When he broke our kiss he was silent for a beat, and let his fingers wander up and down my arm and over my body, needing to touch me, to confirm that what was happening wasn't a dream.

"Do you want to get up and dry off?" I asked quietly.

"No. I want to stay right here till the world ends," he smiled, cupping my cheek with one hand and letting his fingers slide back into my hair, staring at me for a moment before he kissed me, pulling a small noise of want from my lips again as he didn't hold back.

"Mmm, is it weird that I still like the way you taste now?" he laughed, but kissed me again, his tongue gliding against my own, exploring me purposefully.

"Gods, I can't stop myself around you," he sighed, pushing me back down onto the floor of the shower and moving on top of me. A tiny gasp left my lips as he kissed me deeply and my fingers pressed back into his drenched hair, gathering it over around one shoulder so I could touch the marks on his back that I had left. He hissed as my fingers skimmed over them and I realized that I must have really scratched him quite hard.

My legs spread wider to accommodate his hips, and I relished his weight pressing me into the tile, even as his body was spent and I knew nothing was going to happen. We stayed that way for another minute, each of our kisses adding another ember to the flame that burned in us both.

"There are a lot of places that I want to fuck you in this apartment," he growled into my neck, "and I would like to reiterate the words a lot, but the floor of your shower is really not one of them, sweetheart."

"Wha--b-- it's clean I promise!"

He rested his head against the base of my neck, where it met my clavicle and I could feel him fighting his laughter.

Having thoroughly ruined the moment, Tim sat up and hauled me up off my back and into his arms, shaking his head, "knowing you, I'm sure it is, but its still at the bottom of the list," he laughed and pulled me closer, pushing my hair off my shoulder so he could touch the mark he'd left on me earlier, though it was hidden beneath the glyphs covering my skin now. His fingers skimmed across my skin and I closed my eyes.

"Did I hurt you this morning?" he asked quietly, "I'm sorry if I did... I got carried away. I feel like I can't get enough of you. I can't be close enough to you or kiss you enough or be deep enough inside you."

I shook my head, "I'm okay. I mean yes it hurt, but, not in a bad way. That's...ah...that's kind of my thing?...well, one of them, I guess..." I trailed off as his eyes darkened.

"Your thing..."

"Uhm. Yeah. Kind of like how you like to have your hair pulled? And -- fuck how did I forget!!!"

Tim blinked at my immediate change in demeanor as I crumbled to the floor laughing hysterically, "oh my gods, its Henrik!"

"What? Whats Henrik?"

"Who likes to be tied up! I was so sure it was John but its fucking Henrik," I giggled, completely losing control and collapsing into his lap as he looked down at me grinning and pulled me up until I was cradled to his chest and he bent his knees to support me as I laid there giggling.

"I heard that!" Henrik yelled from somewhere on the other side of the bathroom door.

"I told you you'd be surprised," Tim said, tipping me on the nose and shaking his head.

We simply stared at each other and smiled as my laughing fit subsided, and his hand smoothed down over my hip, "you're so fucking beautiful when you laugh," he said quietly, touching my face, tracing the lines of it, memorizing, though he knew every detail of me now better than he knew himself. 

I sighed happily, closing my eyes and leaning into his touch, kissing the pads of each finger as they rolled gently across my lips.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Is it about the pyramids?"

"No," he chuckled with a roll of his eyes.

"Then fire away babe."

I loved his natural curiosity, especially about me, since I'd never shared with anyone who I was before I'd told Johannes and the rest of them. 

"Why did she call you Masika?"

"She--...I like that you remembered that, thank you, Masika is my name. Well, the name She gave me, not the one I was born with," I said, closing my eyes and leaning comfortably against his chest as his arms closed more snugly around me, keeping me where I was, where I belonged.

"Its pretty. Somehow it seems...fitting. Sounds fitting, I mean," he closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the shower wall.

"Thank you."

What he'd said surprised me, but I remembered my goddess telling me he was ready to listen when we were parting ways last time.

"Do you know what it means?" I asked quietly and he shook his head.

"It means born during the rain. She and Na'eemah though it fit since it was raining the night I was brought to the temple and offered to her."

"Hmm," he paused, "is that why I thought I heard rain?"

I watched his eyes shift under the closed lids, the faintest trace of makeup still darkening them slightly at the corners, and remembered him turning in confusion earlier to look back out at the street.

"That's what you were looking for out the window? Rain?"

He nodded once after a moment, and I turned my face to press a kiss to his chest.

"How did you know to look down at the floor when you came in and She was there? Everyone else just...stared. Which, I mean, I'm sure was okay since She seemed okay with you all being there and...sorry I'm babbling."

"I read a lot about Her," he said slowly as he kept his eyes closed and breathed deeply, "after we got back home. I don't think I saw the sun for like a week. I just sat at my desk and read everything I could find online and bought books and...just stayed drunk and tried not to miss you," he waved a hand, "Kungen eventually showed up when I stopped answering my phone and yelled at me and made me shower and get in the car and wouldn't tell me where we were going. He drove out to this place I used to go to all the time, but hadn't been to it in years. You have to walk a ways to get there but its a little clearing in the middle of the woods, and the sun in the afternoon lights up the whole place and...I sat down and looked up and remembered what you said. Not that I had to remember you, obviously, since you were the only fucking thing I could think about anyways," he said with a little smile. 

I stared at him silently, worried that if I responded, he'd stop.

"It was what you said to me right before you left. About finding a quiet place and looking up at the eye of the sun. Everything I told you this morning just kind of...it flooded back I guess right as you were walking out the door. It was the first thing I looked for when we got back. Sekhmet, the Eye of Ra. You, the servant of Sekhmet. You're...you're it, Triste...for me, you're it...no, not it. Everything."

I leaned into him and gripped his face with both of my palms, the tears streaming down my cheeks unnoticed, but I couldn't think of anything to say.

"I didn't have any other way to feel close to you," he said it quietly and looked away for a moment before he crushed me to him, kissing me breathless as my tears continued to stream down my cheeks.

"You're everything," he whispered again, gripping my shoulders and shaking me but not hard, "all that time, I had no idea you were who I was looking for, but then you appeared and were like this answer to everything. But you were with Johannes, and I didn't understand what to do, and I just wanted you so badly Triste. More than I've ever wanted anyone before, and--wait, sorry, offered?"

I shook my head back and forth trying to keep up, "w-what?"

"You just said you were offered to her...offered how?" His body was suddenly stiff and tense and I pressed my fingertips to my lips, trying to mute the laugh there.

"I wasn't a human sacrifice, Tim, calm down," I managed to get out without the smile resounding in my voice too much, "I was...gods it was so long ago..."

He pulled me to lay back down against his chest, both of us leaning against the tile wall in my shower.

"Can you do me a favor?" I asked quietly, "take a deep breath and tell me if I'm freaking you out."

He inhaled and exhaled slowly, shaking his head as he breathed a laugh, "don't think that's possible at this point, priestess, but you can try."

"Okay so, I wasn't born into the Temple. No one ever was, we all had to enter in one way or another from normal life. As for me," I blew out a shaky breath, "I was...I was eight when my father married me off to repay a debt. It wasn't all that uncommon, actually, marriage was a political tool mostly, or a way to keep blood within the same family. Anyways, obviously I hadn't hit puberty yet but my husband thought he'd been cheated by my father when I failed to get pregnant, because he told him I was older. And he took it out on me rather than going to him, which he fucking should have. Like I even knew anything about sex in the first place at that age. Well...not sex, I guess. Rape..."

I fell silent.

My mind had forgotten what his face looked like, what his voice sounded like, but the blows from his fists and his feet were something I wouldn't ever be able to completely let go of and I instinctually wrapped my arms around myself like a shield as my legs curled up and a tiny whimper left my lips.

Tim's hand rubbed soothingly up and down my side as he processed what I told him. He touched everywhere he could, simply trying to bring me back to him.

"Its okay, baby, you're here with me now, I won't let anything happen to you, you don't have to say anything else if you don't want to."

I sighed as I came back and leaned further into him with my eyes closed. His heartbeat was strong and steady, a rhythmic white noise.

"Sorry, I haven't talked about this in a long time. He almost killed me I guess is the long-story-short version...he broke an awful lot of my bones, and by some minor miracle, my mother somehow turned up at the exact right moment and found me being beaten to death by him, and just...whisked me away...like fucking magic."

"WHAT?!"

My eyes snapped open and Henrik, John, and Jonas were standing in my bathroom, staring at me with eyes the size of saucers.

"Uhm, oh. Hi. Ahh...Tim asked about how I was offered at the temple..."

"No, not that, the fucking bastard who laid a hand on you."

"Oh John, that's sweet, but he's not even dust anymore at this point. That was th--," I stole a glance up at them before I continued, "that was thousands of years ago..."

They were silent.

I was silent.

If I had been reminded of anything over the course of the evening, it was that no matter my mortal life that ran parallel, at my core I was Masika, servant of the goddess Sekhmet, and I wouldn't stray from her divine presence again.

But I wouldn't force that kind of mental gymnastics on anyone unwillingly, so I let them process at their own speed, if they dared to at all.

Henrik reached down a hand and pulled me up, handing me over to Jonas who wrapped me in a thick towel, warmed from having been thrown over the radiator. John offered Tim a hand and hauled him up off the shower floor before offering him a towel too. Tim dried off and then wrapped it around his waist, gathering his wet hair around the front of one shoulder and combing his fingers through it.

I remembered my mental note from earlier and dug under my bathroom sink for a moment, tossing him a comb as I stood.

John turned to me then and kissed me gently before lifting me up to sit on the bathroom counter. Four sets of eyes stared at me, and I realized they were waiting for me to continue.

"Oh," I was surprised, "I don't...we...if this is too much, I can stop..."

Henrik stepped forward and slid my crossed legs to one side so he could stand against the counter, as close to me as our positions would allow. His hand curled my wet hair behind my ear and he pressed his lips to mine, "if you're okay with telling us, I think we all want to know. Only if you're okay though, I already feel like an asshole for pushing you into coming to the show tonight anyways..."

"Why do I get yelled at for being accommodating but he doesn't?" I asked Tim over his shoulder, but Henrik tapped me on the forehead playfully, stealing a kiss.

"Because he loves me less than he loves you," he teased, smiling down at me with my favorite grin.

"Oh...you heard that?"

"I think the whole block did," John laughed, winking quickly at me so I knew he was teasing as I turned back to Henrik, cupping his cheek with one hand and drawing his lips down to mine slowly.

"What happened wasn't your fault," I whispered, and he made a face like he disagreed.

"Hey," I tried again, now more concerned that he was actually beating himself up over this, "I don't believe for a single second that you would ever ask anyone to do something that might go against their own self interest if you knew so beforehand. You couldn't have know he would just f--"

"He didn't forget you, love, he couldn't have."

"Baby, I just don't know," I shook my head at him, putting an end to the conversation.

I didn't want to talk about Johannes anymore. He'd obviously made up his mind about our time together, and dwelling on it didn't seem to do anyone any good now.

"What matters now, to me at least," I looked at everyone crowded around me, "is that for another couple hours at least, we are all here and together and..." I wanted to say happy, but it didn't seem quite right, "and we're all okay."

"You're crazy if you think we won't all still be here when that sun comes back up, älskling," Henrik murmured into my lips, dropping a lingering kiss like he wanted more, but wouldn't push for it.

"I..." I took a deep breath and hugged him close, "I really can't tell you how happy that makes me," I whispered, fighting my tears.

Gods, maybe Johannes had been right all those months ago, maybe all my emotions really were wired to my tear ducts...

"I'm sorry I interrupted you," John nudged Henrik out of the way and pushed on my hip until I scooted over on the counter enough so he could sit next to me, "are you sure you want to keep going?"

"The bad parts over babes," I smiled at him, butting his shoulder with my forehead, "but thank you for asking." He laced his fingers through mine in response, giving me something to focus on while I continued my story, tracing the lines on his hands and rubbing little circles around each of his knuckles.

"Well, like I said, my mother found me, and...I don't know, I was unconscious for most of this. Na'eemah told me later, but just bits and pieces really. When she saw how broken and damaged my body was, she figured I was going to die, so she took me to Sekhmet's temple as kind of a last ditch effort. The priestesses there were the best healers, so if there was hope for me, that's where it was."

I glanced around the room, meeting everyone's gaze individually, but they seemed to be doing fine.

"My mother offered me to the high priestess as a novice if she would heal me. And basically Na'eemah accepted, and I only ever saw my mother twice after that...Na'eemah nursed life back into me, and from there on out, I pretty much was a temple priestess when I reached the right age. You learn when you're young, then you participate when you get older, like everything else. My husband was murdered some time later, but they never caught whoever did it. Not that I cared, I was glad to know the bastard was thrown into the sand, personally..."

When I came back from my reverie, I looked up again and they were all looking at me with something like awe in their gazes.

"So, ah, yeah, now I guess that explains the lioness in my living room...maybe...I mean...does it?"

Jonas kissed me then, and his hands wrapped around my shoulders, fingers pressing hard into my skin, like he wanted to draw me into himself.

"Not really..." he whispered into my lips and I giggled at him when he pulled away.

"No, he's right, it doesn't," Henrik frowned a little at me, "gods I have like a hundred questions, at least."

 "Well," I shrugged my shoulders, "I guess this is as good a time as any."

"Not like this," John interjected before taking my hands and pulling me down off the sink, walking backwards and leading me into the living room without ever looking away from my eyes. With a gentleness that made my heart swell, he turned us and unwrapped the towel from around me, draping a thick blanket around my shoulders in its place so I wouldn't be cold.

I noticed he used his body to shield me from everyone's gaze as he did so, but he still kept his eyes on mine, never looking at my breasts or anything lover without my permission.

My hand reached up to brush against his face, tracing the line of his beard around his wide, passionate mouth.

"Oh John," I whispered.

He didn't reply, but bent down and kissed me, and I had no hesitation when I leaned further into him, completely trusting. His hands wrapped the blanket more securely around me, almost swaddling me in it, and I sighed into his lips as I pulled back, but kept my palm pressed to his cheek.

"Hold still for a second," I closed my eyes and pushed my energy through him, around him, repeating the same ritual I'd done on Henrik and Tim the previous night.

"John..." I kissed him again before he had a chance to remark on the bizarre feeling that crept through his body, though he took an involuntary step back when I released him and turned to look for Jonas.

"Your turn," I stifled a grin as best I could, but it still made me giggle, "your majesty".

Jonas rolled his eyes, but advanced anyways, wrapping his hands back around my waist as John backed off.

"What would you have of me, little smartass," he whispered before taking my lips in a delicate kiss that made me want more. One of my arms wrapped around his neck, pulling him closer to me the same way it had earlier in my office. The thought reminded me.

Shit I need to call Mike.

I refocused on Jonas, running my fingers along his dreads as I closed my eyes, "Jonas. Jonas Jonas Jonas..."

He groaned softly listening to his name pass my lips repeatedly, and I pushed energy around him in the same way I'd done to John, placing him under my eternal protection.

When I opened my eyes, his lips were moving, but no sound escaped his mouth.

"What was that?" he finally choked out, "wha--"

I pressed my mouth back to his before he could finish the next question, and his beard caressed my skin as our lips moved against each other.

I couldn't help but laugh as it tickled me, "mmm, your lip ring feels so...different. Good, just different, I don't think I've kissed anyone with a lip piercing other than you before," I said quietly.

"If you like that ring, you should try out the one on my co--"

I pressed one finger to his lips, "its cute that you think I don't already know about that," I whispered with a grin and he raised an eyebrow. I kissed him softly one more time before stepping out of his grasp.

"Henrik, you said you had questions?" I turned to look for him, finding him seated in the corner of my couch, right where we'd fallen asleep last night, and he pulled me into his lap, wrapping his arms around my waist and securing me comfortably against him.

"So many," he chuckled, and I leaned back to press my lips to his as everyone else settled in around us.

My sweet, tender Henrik.

Chapter Text

As I rose to find a bottle of wine, he fired off the first question.

"So, sorry if I missed this earlier, but you were, ah, offered to Sekhmet? Didn't you get a say?"

I loved the way my goddess' name sounded with his accent, and I shivered with need involuntarily.

Easy, little one, her voice sounded in my head, laughing at me if I wasn't mistaken, tell them of me first.

I bowed my head in submission, wordlessly answering her before I turned around and looked at him, holding the bottle of wine with one hand and twisting the corkscrew with the other, all while managing to hold the blanket around myself.

"When I was brought to the temple, it was pissing raining which was kind of a freak thing for that time of year," I distributed glasses to everyone and lifted my own. They responded in kind before we all took a sip.

The wine was glorious. A bourgogne rouge with 10 years on it. The earthiness and tang were almost an ethereal experience for me, and I licked my lips with pleasure when it passed them, closing my eyes with a soft sigh as I went to sit back down next to Henrik, curling my legs under me and disappearing into my blanket fortress.

"You're too adorable, I can't handle it sometimes," Henrik chuckled in my ear, knocking his head against mine softly and clinking his glass against the rim of mine.

"Try me decaffeinated and hungry, and I promise you'll change your mind," I giggled.

He scoffed but put his arm around me as I looked up and everyone was patiently waiting for me to continue as they sipped.

"Right, sorry. Uhm, so like I said, my mother didn't really expect me to make it - I'd imagine probably no one did. But she was willing to take a chance, plus it got me away from my husband."

I noticed with the barest hint of a smile that Henrik's grip on me tightened when I said the word, like he was as pissed about it as I was. Jealousy over a marriage dead for three thousand years was somehow still flattering, and I smiled up at him.

"But obviously Na'eemah healed me and put all my broken bones back together, and, that's where I grew up...and a good thing too--"

"Sorry, who is Na'eemah?"

"High Priestess," Tim answered John's question as I swallowed my sip of wine, shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly as John cocked his head to the side in response.

"What! I know stuff too...sometimes..."

"He's right," I added, trying not to laugh at Tim's defensiveness, "she was high priestess when I was taken in, and still was when our Temple was sacked. She's stayed in that role for...gods...a long long time," I mumbled, trying to count and giving up.

Suddenly counting things in the Year of Our Lord model kind of threw a wrench into the entire human race's method of tracking time up to that point, what with starting back at 1 and everything.

"You might meet her eventually, I'm not sure. She comes and goes, and just kind of pops up randomly from time to time. But last time we spoke was...rough."

"What happened?"

I made a face at Jonas, "its kind of icky."

"Icky?"

"Well...I wasn't very nice to her. I mean it wasn't really my fault," I tried to sidestep any mention of May, I really couldn't handle that tonight, "she came sideways at me with this crazy plan and basically forbade me from--...oh shit."

Four sets of eyebrows simultaneously raised in my direction.

"I wasn't supposed to talk to my goddess. I totally fucking forgot," I smacked my palm against my forehead, "Na'eemah forbade it. Fuck me..."

"What she can control what you do like that?" Tim asked, genuinely curious.

"No, I mean, yes she can, but that wasn't what I meant," he looked like a confused puppy dog and I tried to stop from choking on my laughter as I explained, "control is her gift, like mine is plant stuff and animal stuff and--"

"Animal stuff?"

I looked over at Jonas next to me, "ah, yeah. Animal stuff."

His eyebrows went up again over the rim of his wine glass and I put up one finger to silence him when he made to say something else, and searched the room for Babyboy. He was curled up behind Tim's shoulders, where he'd spent most of last night and I made a noise with my lips to get his attention until his head raised and he blinked sleepily at me. 

"Hiya handsome," I smiled, and he yawned widely and stretched.

"Are you talking to the cat or to me?" Tim teased, reaching back to scratch behind the little cat's ears when he felt him stirring.

I laughed and shook my head before turning my attention back to the cat.

*Hi baby. Can you come over here and sit in my lap?*

He hopped down to the floor and stretched again before trotting over to the couch and leaping into my lap.

"Any more questions?" I asked Jonas, teasingly leaning over to kiss his cheek.

"Yeah, how the fuck did you do that?"

"How the fuck do you think I did it?"

"No way. You can't."

"In fact, I can!" I smiled, loving the way his face plainly showed his surprise. 

"What ever happened to Khufu?" asked Henrik, "he's not here, I assume."

"No, he went back to the coffee shop to watch over the kiddo," I explained what I could in the briefest possible terms about how I communicated with our four legged furry friends to bring everyone up to speed.

"Wow," John mused, crossing his legs and staring at me as he brushed one finger back and forth across his lips. It was a perfect gesture for him somehow - quiet, thoughtful, but intense as hell.

"Oh, I'm all kinds of fun at parties, just ask me," I giggled, only to be answered almost immediately by a perfectly timed 'we heard' from him and Jonas both.

"You guys, I fucking swear you practice that or something...okay who's up next?"

"Why do you live so long? Are you all that way? I assume there are more of you right? I mean other than May," Jonas asked, drawing my attention again. I willed him not to ask anything more about her - telling him she was dead would be the proverbial straw in my current state. But he stayed quiet after he asked his question, and I lifted my glass to my lips again, thinking.

"Well we don't live longer than average. We just come back, so kind of no, and yes...I grew up in the temple with others, obviously. We worshiped Sekhmet, and sometimes we communed with her through ritual sex if we needed to speak face to face with Her and--" 

I forgot all too late once sex was brought up that I'd in fact used a very hot pink, very clearly visible vibrator, which was now sitting forgotten underneath John's chair. Tim followed my gaze as he watched my eye twitch and choked on his drink, sputtering a cough as he laughed at the expression on my face.

"Not a word," I warned him, "we're going to ignore that."

"But its so pretty," he smirked at me and I felt myself go red. 

"Look its not my fault!"

"I know, I know, I remember, worship by fucking, right?"

"Y-you what?!" Henrik stammered.

I waved my hands to stop the sudden wave of chatter and cheeky comments that drowned out my response.

"We worshiped by recitation. Well plus offerings, stories, prayers, that kind of thing. But there were occasions where we needed to speak with our goddess face to face," I gestured towards the floor where She and I had been, "and then it takes...more. It has to do with the endorphins that flood your brain when you experience an orgasm. Like...I don't know. Like kind of being high?"

"Okay, so quick question," Henrik added, still looking a little shocked, "why doesn't that happen every time you come then?"

I was surprised at the flash of heat that shot through my entire body at hearing him talk about me coming like it was a casual dinner table conversation topic.

"It requires a little extra...something, now. I haven't done it in a long long time, but for centuries now, its taken more than sex to meet with Her."

"So why are you...I guess, why are you like you are? What happened?" John asked, and I gave him a thankful little smile for changing topics.

"The same thing that always happened - regime change. Different temples and cults at the king's pleasure took precedence over the rest of us."

I rolled my shoulders - tuning into these memories always made me tense.

"I remember this," someone murmured, and my eyes flashed when they met Tim's, "I read about this, I remember this!" The obvious satisfaction and glee in his voice made my lips twist into an indulgent smile, somewhat morbid, I realized, in the context of our current conversation, and I turned back to John.

"Our temple was sacked by night. The carvings were destroyed, the images of our goddess desecrated, her servants slaughtered. Some of us escaped and when the dust settled, literally and figuratively I guess, the rest of us went into the desert in the West and asked Her to remain with us, and She did."

I glanced around the room and got up to retrieve the bottle for refills.

"In those days, for us, our goddess dwelled in Her temple. When it was destroyed, we weren't sure if She'd still be near to us or up with the rest of the neteru, out of reach. Judaism had a similar idea about the house of God being a physical dwelling. But as it turned out, She was still very much within reach. And happy for those that remained, small numbers though we were..."

"So the markings? What are they?"

I kept forgetting about them, and as I handed John back his glass, I let my eyes linger on his, willing him not to forget what I was telling him.

"Everything was destroyed babes - the texts, the carvings, all of it. But any girl who spent her formative years there knew them all by heart anyways. And our high priestess asked that those of us who remained be made into living canvases to carry Her stories on our skin..."

A low growl full of pleasure sounded in the room, almost a rumble.

"Mistress," I sighed, closing my eyes and feeling my face turn into a caress that wasn't there.

Four sets of eyes pinned me as I gave Henrik back his glass and my blanket cocoon started to feel uncomfortably warm.

"I don't meet with Her face to face as regularly as we did then. But when I do, when any of us do, they show up for a day or so. Just a...reminder, I think," I scooted the fabric down a little so my shoulders and neck could breathe for a moment.

Henrik was looking at the skin there, absentmindedly rubbing one finger over his bottom lip, studying the intricate markings.

"What do they say?"

"It would take too long to tell you exactly, but it...its Her. Its Her kindness, Her power, Her divinity and divine lineage. How She rode into battle with the pharaohs and shielded them from harm. How She burned the enemies of her father with fire," I glanced down as one of my legs kicked at the fabric, trying to work its way out.

"Ah, there it is," I stood and exposed my leg all the way up to my hip, showing them the panels, "this one is Her nature as the Eye of Ra," I glanced at Tim, whose gaze burned into mine at the mere mention, "our stories said she took revenge on the ungrateful subjects of her father, and her blood lust was unquenchable. That's obviously the TL;DR version..."

I got distracted, looking down at the markings, remembering them in relief carving, rather than blue ink on skin. They were exactly the same though, down to the last detail and artistic flourish.

"She took me in, and so many others like me over time. And She blessed us with the reward of living again and again for remaining faithful to her. Our bodies die, but we're reborn every time. At first is was just in other towns and villages, then outside the Nile Delta and Egypt, and then on different continents. Now we can really reappear pretty much anywhere, but we always somehow find each other...I mean we have to or else we'd all think we were going mad."

They stared at me again, but only John looked up at my eyes, everyone looked at my skin. I knew they'd heard some of this at the beach, but I wasn't totally sure what May had shared or what they remembered from it.

"They'll be gone tomorrow, but they're sort of a reminder of--" I was cut off as John launched himself up out of his seat and crushed his lips to mine with a growl. He kissed me breathless, tearing the blanket away from my body and tossing it to the floor, his hands roaming over and gripping my skin, pulling me closer to him as I moaned into his lips, reaching up to press my fingers through his hair.

Enough talk.

Someone pressed against my back and Jonas gently pulled my mouth back when I gasped for breath, pressing his own down in the other man's place over my shoulder. John leaned down and took one of my nipples into his mouth as Jonas' tongue plundered me, making me gasp and cry out with arousal and need.

"Will you have us, Triste," he growled against me, one hand traveling down over my ass, "both of us?"

I desperately nodded my head as I heard my goddess tell me I'd done well by her, and John reached back to take my hand from his hair before walking backwards again as he'd done earlier, leading me towards my bedroom.

"Wait..." a low voice said, and we all looked back at Tim, who was still standing in the living room.

"Triste, come here."

I looked up at John, who shrugged, no more clued in than I was, then back to Tim, clearly not understanding. I went to him anyways, and stopped a foot away, the light from the candles making the glyphs on my skin flicker and dance like they were alive.

"You forgot," he rumbled as he closed the gap between us, staring down at me intently with that gaze that so nearly set me on fire.

"Forgot what," I gasped as he fisted his hand in my hair and pulled back, exposing my throat.

"I do believe we had a deal, did we not?" he breathed, running his nose up the line of it, "and its my turn now."

I remembered suddenly what he was talking about.

If you're a good girl and swallow me, I'll make you squirt all over me again.

My body tensed in response, and he knew I had figured it out. His breath was hot on my skin as he sucked a mark into my neck, and I dipped my head further back and moaned, my fingers gripping his bare upper arms hard.

"Lay down Triste."

"...what, here? On the floor?"

"Yes," his tone dripped with mingled dominance and lust, and he leaned into me again, speaking quietly, "in front of everyone...that is your other thing, isn't it?"

You can NOT possibly fucking know that...

But my jaw dropping was enough of an answer for him, and suddenly Jonas was behind me, gathering me into his arms and lowering me to the floor. The hardwood was cold against my flushed skin and I arched my back at the sensation, making a collective groan fill the room at seeing my body splayed that way, but still nobody spoke for several moments.

I looked up at Tim and we locked eyes as I waited for him to come to me.

"Are you going to keep me waiting now, Tim?" I moved one hand over my breast and slowly traced the line of my waist down to my hip, letting my fingers dance along my skin, playing in the flickering light. He watched me reach down further and touch my pussy, sliding my fingers through my folds, more than ready for him.

"If you keep that up, I'll be sorely tempted to," he muttered. And indeed, he looked like he was thinking about taking a seat, as everyone else had, and watching me touch myself, even as his hand went to his belt.

I moaned quietly as my fingers barely dipped into my center and let my head fall to the side with my eyes closed. Henrik groaned at the way my hair splayed out over the hardwood, gleaming in the low candlelight. The only sound was the rustling of Tim's clothes as he kicked them to the side, and knelt down over me, as naked as I was.

"Open your eyes, priestess."

Tim was hanging over me, the ends of his hair draped over one shoulder and brushing across my naked skin. I ran my hands up his sides, the wetness from my fingers shining on his skin and making him shiver as my fingers passed over each of his ribs and he leaned down and captured my lips.

"I love you," he whispered before his tongue filled my mouth and I moaned heavily into him, arching up to press my skin against his. He trailed kisses down my neck, laving his tongue over the mark he'd left on my breast, and I writhed against the floor for him.

He took my nipple into his mouth, flicking his tongue and then sucking on it before switching to lavish the other with the same attention as I pressed the fingers of one hand into his hair, adoring how soft and thick it was. I bit my lip and held one hand out to Henrik, who dropped to the floor behind my head and took it in his own, pressing it to his cheek for a brief moment, grounding me again as he had that morning as my cries grew louder.

Jonas and John sat on my sofa, enamored by what was happening, watching their two friends work me and pleasure me. Jonas palmed his erection through his pants, growling when I gasped sharply as Tim swirled his tongue in delicate, sensual patterns down my torso and my hips bucked, desperately seeking friction.

"God I love your skin covered in these," he said, running his tongue over a line of glyphs down my pelvis, "you're a fucking masterpiece."

I couldn't speak, listening to him talk to me that way, but a growl sounded in my ears at hearing him appreciate Her handiwork, and his head darted up, slightly startled at having heard Her approval in his mind too.

"Triste, open your eyes. Look at me."

I stared down at him, laying between my legs now, his face hovering over my pussy, inhaling me, licking his lips.

"Are you going to come for me like a good girl, Triste?"

"Yes," I breathed, gasping as Henrik pinched my nipple hard.

"Mmm. Are you going to scream for me?"

"Yes," I gasped, as his fingers traced delicately along my folds while he questioned me, not stimulating, but giving me some of the contact I so badly desired.

"Tim please," I moaned, unable to stand it any longer.

"Are you sure, beautiful? There are a lot of eyes on you right now..."

I lifted my hips fractionally and he smirked up at me and unknowingly echoed my own words to Henrik the previous night.

"As you wish..."

I screamed and most of my body left the floor when he buried his face into my pussy and shoved his tongue inside me before pulling it out and running through my folds, moving up to swirl it around my clit.

My entire body was on fire, and I only halfway heard both men on the couch groan as I writhed under Tim's expert touches.

Henrik released my hands and leaned down to capture my mouth for a brief moment. Our tongues swirled together and I had a semi-coherent thought that his lips tasted like wine before he released me and sat back, watching as one of my hands tangled into Tim's hair. I pressed my hips harder into his face as he repeated the torturous pattern, using his lips and tongue and teeth to push me further towards the edge.

The coil of fire inside me was rapidly becoming an inferno, and I screamed Tim's name. He pressed three fingers halfway inside me, teasing me and making my scream louder as he sucked my clit hard.

I was so close, about to lose myself, when he shoved his fingers inside me as far as they would go and began to massage my inner walls, twisting and turning them. When he felt me tighten around him as I started to come with a scream, he pumped his fingers in and out of me hard while his thumb swirled around my clit, rubbing tantalizing circles around it and his teeth bit down hard on the soft flesh of my inner thigh, knowing a little bit of pain made my high more intense.

I gave him everything I had as I squirted hard around his fingers, soaking his face, his hand, and the floor beneath me, as he stopped time itself and kept me coming through the whole thing until I thought I would surely die if he didn't stop. I gasped as the last spasms wracked my body, and he was suddenly hanging over me again.

"I love you, oh fuck do I love you," I gasped, moving my legs to accommodate his hips which pressed against mine.

"I know," he grinned before he kissed me. I swirled my tongue over his skin, tasting my own fluids, and heard various growls emanating from the other men around us.

"Take all of me," Tim whispered as his cock slowly pressed into me and I arched my back and gasped at the sensation, still sensitive from coming so hard, but he felt heavenly as he worked slowly inside me.

He held my gaze before kissing me deeply, pulling out slowly, letting me feel everything he had to give.

He wasn't fucking me, I realized, he was making love to me. On the floor in my living room, like we were love-struck teenagers.

I shifted to pull his body closer to mine as he pressed kisses all over my skin, connecting with me on more than just a physical level.

Tim moaned my name softly against my lips, his mustache tickling me as he kissed the line of my jaw and down my throat, keeping up the rhythmic thrust of his hips, loving the way my heat surrounded him.

"Fuck, promise me you'll do that every time," he whispered into my lips, "that was amazing..."

"Not -oh, fuck babe- not every time, I c-can't control it," I laughed breathlessly, giving myself over to the delicious rocking of his hips against mine, and hoping he understood the magnitude of earth-shattering orgasms he was tearing out of me.

I could feel myself tightening again, and so could he.

"I love the way your body responds to me," he growled lowly into my neck, nipping and kissing the skin there as he moved his hips a little quicker, meeting my center a little bit harder, "how you come for me..."

"Tim," I gasped into him, trying to draw his cock further inside me as my fingers gripped the skin of his hips.

"Time to let go now, my love," he whispered as he started to increase his rhythm again, on the edge of coming himself. He locked the fingers of both hands with mine and pressed them to the floor above my head until the lengths of our torsos were pressed together from the hips up.

Our bodies rocked against each other until we came together, crying out and desperately trying to get closer to one another as he kissed me hard, drinking down every noise I made. My body filled with his seed, and I felt him leak out of me as his hips thrust one final time and he lost his posture, pressing his forehead to mine as we gasped together in the aftershocks.

When he kissed me again, it was tender and loving, no longer lust-filled or urgent. It was just Tim, giving all of himself to me, as I had to him. I wasn't sure how long we stayed that way, trembling in each other's arms, but he finally opened his eyes and looked down at me, taking in my reddened lips, my silver hair gleaming in the low candlelight, the beads of sweat across my skin.

"I would do anything for you, Triste," he said quietly, and that was it. In the next moment, he pushed back onto his knees, slipping out of me and reaching up to tie his hair back as he tried to control his breathing.

My eyes roamed around the room at the other men, who I'd nearly forgotten about, and I smiled and looked at John, who I was sure was about to come just at the sight of me in that state - my body covered in tiny blue glyphs, patches of my skin reddened where Tim's stubble had scratched against me...

His eyes roamed down my body with a gaze that could only be called lascivious, and I bit my lip and looked up at him a little more cautiously.

When his stare finally met mine, his breath caught.

"Do not bite your lip like that...”

Chapter Text

I turned to Henrik, still right behind me, and his warm hands worked up my waist and over my torso, moving up to cup both my breasts as his mouth dropped kisses along my neck and he pulled me up until I was leaning back against him.

"Can I add that that was just as hot to watch the second time," he growled into my ear when he pulled me to my feet, tilting my head back and biting at my lips, pulling back after a searing kiss.

John immediately took my hands and pulled me out of Henrik's grasp, leading me into my bedroom and shaking his head when Henrik and Jonas followed. He needed me to himself for at least a couple minutes, and he halfway closed the door behind me.

"Hey babes," I whispered as he pulled me in close, keeping the lengths of our bodies perfectly pressed together while he ran one hand back through my hair, mostly dry now. His fingers were long and gentle, combing through any tangles that they met until he could smoothly run them from my roots down to the ends halfway down my back.

"What are you doing?" my voice was soft and low as he continued for several moments, just repeatedly touching my hair, his other hand holding me to him as my eyes closed with relaxation.

"Relearning you," he said softly, gently touching my cheeks and my eyelids, my lips and chin, tugging on my ear until I opened my eyes with a tiny laugh and touching my lips to silence myself, lest I ruin the flawless moment he had created.

"You're shaking," he said quietly, frowning down at me with concern as his hand brushed over my fingers, pulling them up to his own lips and softly kissing each pad, letting his tongue dance over each fingertip and pulling a hushed sigh from me as he held my gaze and pressed my hand flat to his chest over his heart.

"You're shaking too."

John paused, looking down at his hand holding mine, both trembling, and he breathed a shaky laugh.

"Guess I am," he chuckled, trailing off into silence as he pulled my hand back and touched my palm, running the tip of his index finger over the lines there while I watched.

"Are you afraid of me, John?"

"What?"

"Are you afraid because of all that stuff I told you? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do that, I didn't want to freak you out and--"

He put one finger against my lips, effectively putting a halt to my babbling apologies.

"I'm not afraid of you, little one," he said with a hint of a smile twitching at the corner of his perfect mouth as he shook his head.

"Are you sure? Because we don't have to do this if you don't want to," I mumbled against his finger when he didn't move it.

"Do what," he breathed, drawing me in close once more, making me tilt my head up to keep his gaze, "this?"

His lips brushed mine, almost a whisper of a caress, nothing lingering, nothing lasting and his hair brushed my cheek as he pulled back.

"Or this?" John's hands roamed over my waist and my back, not grabbing or gripping, just letting his palms run across the surface of my skin, making me close my eyes at the intensity of such a soft touch.

"Please don't stop," I whispered, laying my forehead against his shoulder, absorbing the way he needed me in a way the others didn't.

"I don't think I can, Triste," he whispered back, dipping his head and taking my mouth, drinking down my whimper and firming his grip around me when my knees started to give.

The world was a swirl of dark hues behind my eyelids as my head dipped back - grays and blacks, midnight blues and deep, royal purples. His lips sucked at the skin of my neck lightly, more than a kiss, but not enough to leave a mark.

I loved the noises he made - soft little groans and sighs as he drank in the softness of my skin, the scent, the taste of me, running the tip of his tongue up the line of my throat with a low growl that made me tremble as he breathed hotly over the surface of my body.

My fingers still shook as they found the bottom hem of his shirt and I pushed it up his torso, running my hands over his chest, through the sparse hair that covered it, interrupting the attentions of his mouth for less than a second as he lifted it off over his head and it landed somewhere on the floor behind him.

"Easy baby, go slow," he smiled as I pushed the leather of his belt through the worn loop, pulling a little so I could slip it back through the buckle and undo the button of his jeans.

"I'm sorry, I'm not trying to rush," I whispered, pulling back a little and chewing at my lip, feeling the self consciousness creep in at the periphery even as I tried to shake it off.

John saw everything for what it was, and gently took my hands and held them in his as we worked the rest of his clothes off together while he smiled down at me softly the whole time.

"Don't ever feel like what you want is wrong, I just want to enjoy you alone for as long as I can," he tipped my chin up and softly kissed me as he whispered the words before his kiss turned rougher, hungrier, more demanding, until he was crushing me to him, his hands devouring my bare skin as his tongue repeatedly filled my mouth and he dominated me, growling as I gripped his cock hard, dying to know what he looked like, what he felt like.

"Lay down," he panted, moving me over to the bed and maneuvering my body until I was flat on my back in the middle, staring at him standing at the edge still. His fingers twitched against his leg like he wanted to touch himself, but he didn't.

"What are you waiting for," my voice sounded thick in my own ears and I felt my muscles tense when he met my eyes again with a gaze that could have set the world on fire.

"I'm trying to figure out where I want to start..."

I didn't know how to respond, so I waited, listening to my heart beat heavily in my ears, drinking in the magnificence that was John naked. He was more sparingly built than Jonas or Henrik - leaner, all arms and legs, but he was absolutely perfect in the moment that he climbed up next to me, looking me over and reaching out with one hand that still shook a little to touch the skin at the curve of my shoulder.

"Is this really happening," he whispered, and I touched his cock with one finger, running the pad of it over the sensitive groove on the underside of the head and biting my lip at the pleasured hiss I got in response as his eyes closed and the muscle in his jaw clenched.

"Yes. But only if you want it to...I-I don't want you to feel like you can't say no."

His eyes flashed open to look down at me, laid out naked before him. 

"I promise you, 'no' is not what I was thinking, little girl," he growled into my lips, bending forward to kiss me, "I was more thinking that I want to make you come a hundred times...I want you everywhere, Triste...against the wall, on the floor, in the shower, laid out on the kitchen counter...everywhere..."

He took my hand and pressed it to his cock as he whispered his thoughts to me and it became evident that he'd taken very good stock of all the fuckable places my apartment had to offer.

My hips squirmed with every suggestion as he deepened our kiss, flicking his tongue against mine and moaning until he couldn't hold back anymore and ran his hand in a flat, hot line down my neck, groping one of my breasts before continuing down my torso, spreading his fingers until his hand slid between my legs, cupping me entirely and making me whimper as I felt his heat.

"Fuck, you're so wet," he whispered into my lips, running the tip of his middle finger over my entrance repeatedly.

"I c-I can't help it," I gasped, shifting my hips to try and get more contact, but he wouldn't give it to me.

"I can't tell you how much that wasn't a complaint, Triste," he chuckled, moaning lowly into my lips as he swirled his finger over my pussy again, tracing maddening little circles that made my head start to spin.

"Please, John I just want you..."

"Oh you'll have me, little one," he growled, "but you have to be patient...we've waited six months, whats a couple more minutes?"

"Patience is not my strong suit," I grumbled. What was the insistence these boys had on torturing me first? It simply wasn't fair.

"Maybe that's something we should work on, my darling," he smirked against my lips, pulling back just enough that his tongue could trace the curve of my bottom one, making me clench.

"Ohh, that's my good girl," he praised, feeling the increased wetness at my entrance, rolling his fingers through my folds and softly thumbing at my clit until I was grabbing at his shoulders and trying desperately for just the slightest bit more.

"Please, please please please please," I begged, unable to think about anything but having him inside me, filling me up, putting an end to the aching emptiness that was only made worse with each teasing touch.

"Give me more," he said, dropping kisses over my breasts, rapidly flicking his tongue over the tip of my nipple and growling as he felt me gush again as I cried out and he switched to the other side, receiving the same reaction until my hips were bucking into his hand, creating my own friction as his mouth worked my oversensitive flesh.

"Use me," he moaned, pressing two of his digits to my entrance, but not pushing them inside me, "fuck yourself on my fingers, Triste, I need to feel you..." his tongue slid between my lips, filling my mouth with the vibrations of his voice when I lifted my hips and pushed myself onto his fingers, crying out at the satisfaction of finally being filled, and clenching hard around him.

"Gods, yes, that's it, Triste, you're so fucking wet," he held perfectly still as I rocked my hips back and forth, slipping his fingers in and out of my pussy, holding on as long as he could while I writhed and cried out, but unable to make it much more than a few seconds.

John shifted, keeping his hand pressed against my core but sliding up so his cock was at my lips, his height again working to his advantage.

"Please," he whispered when my eyes opened and our gazes locked, and I eagerly wrapped my lips around him, clenching around his fingers again at the sound that he made as he threw his head back and cried out towards my ceiling. His taste was consuming and perfect in my current state, and he gripped my hair and pushed further into my mouth, sliding hard and smooth against my tongue.

"Fuck yes fuck yes fuck yes, take all of me," he moaned, looking back down to watch his cock disappear between my lips and slamming his fingers inside me hard, almost lifting my hips off the bed with the force he was using and splashing my fluids against my thighs, no longer wanting to feel me taking my own pleasure, but desperate to make me come, to give me a high and cause me to feel pleasure.

I moaned around his cock, squeezing my eyes shut as his thumb repeatedly brushed my clit and the vibrations made him shout as his whole body seemed to hum with the same frequency.

I apparently underestimated the strength contained in his wiry frame, because in one second, his cock was at the back of my throat and in the next he was sitting at the edge of my bed, feet flat on the floor, yanking me around into his lap and growling at me to ride him before he kissed me hard, tasting every part of my mouth as I held on for dear life. He was longer than Tim or Henrik and I had to go slower when I lifted my hips to take him, stretching around him and feeling my breath leave with a hiss so sharp, I wasn't sure I would be able to fully inhale ever again.

"Holy fuck you're so tight," he groaned against my shoulder, pressing his forehead down hard and trying to hold back, "j-just give me a second, fuck."

"Cant," I managed to say as we both gasped for air and my hips finally met his as he bottomed out inside me, helpless to stop the reactions of his body as his hips rolled and I cried out sharply as his tip pressed against my cervix.

"Sorry! Sorry sorry sorry," he gathered me closer to him, the frenzied movements calmer, slower now that I was where he wanted me.

"You feel so perfect, Triste," he breathed into my neck, wrapping his arms around my waist, holding onto me as he slowly rolled his hips into me again, "please tell me if I hurt you, I don't want to hurt you...I-I can't..." John's brain was full of scattered thoughts...me, his friends in the other room, this burning, near insatiable need, but one that was almost its equal, to be quiet and slow with me, to make me glow rather than burn.

None of them seemed to stick, to last, like they were disappearing into this air as soon as they arose.

"What have I done without you all this time, babes," I whispered, capturing his lips with mine, and slowly lifting off him, letting him feel every part of me before sinking back down again with a tiny whimper, loving the sounds that he made too as he pulled me closer.

"T-take me somewhere. Please," he gasped, laying his forehead against mine as his eyes closed and he tried to concentrate, "somewhere we can be alone."

The last vestige of my consciousness not being completely controlled by my reptile brain supplied me with the thought that Henrik had probably told him that I could do that after I'd showed them all relived memories earlier.

"Where do you want to go baby," I whispered, still moving on and off him at the same unhurried pace, "gods you feel good."

"Anywhere, I don't care, just, oh god, just don't stop."

I tangled my fingers into his hair and sank back down against him, taking his cock all the way inside me until he was bottomed out, growling at the pressure of my cervix against his tip as gravity brought us all the way together again and I pressed my forehead down to his.

"Take a deep breath, John."

He jumped when he was flat on his back on the sandstone floor, rather than sitting up on my downy comforter, but he didn't startle the way Henrik had, even as he sat up and wrapped his arms around me again, stretching his legs out and looking around.

"Where are we?"

I could hardly think, he was so far inside me, and I pulled off a little, feeling the hard floor under my knees and gasping as he slid partway out of me.

"Home," I whispered, pressing my hips forward again, not caring that he was almost tearing me apart, and screaming for him as he laved his tongue over one of my nipples, his massive hands wrapping around my waist, holding my skin so tight I was sure I would have bruises. His lips covered my body, nipping and licking and consuming until he couldn't stand it anymore, shouting so that his voice echoed into the temple.

"Fuck me, Triste, oh gods, don't stop," he cried, the sound bouncing off the stone walls as the low lighting from the torches illuminated the carvings, making them lifelike and fluid, their bodies seeming to move like ours.

It was Her temple looming over us in the settled night, Her image watching us with sightless granite eyes as our shadows danced across the floor before Her, our offering one of pleasure rather than goods or sustenance. John looked around for the briefest second as he flipped us over, pressing me into the floor, biting my nipple hard with a growl and forcing me to buck my hips up into him, to take everything he had with each thrust.

"Just like that," I cried, "fuck fuck fuck!"

He made an almost inhuman noise as I clenched around him, my inner walls gripping and squeezing his cock until he had no choice but to come with me, slamming his hips down into me, crushing me into the floor, devouring my mouth as we tangled ourselves together, extending the high until tears streamed down my face.

"No no no, shit I'm so sorry!" he gasped as he saw my tears, lifting on his palms and pulling his hips back as he softened and slipped out of me, "I didn't mean to h--"

"Shh," I pressed one finger to his lips and I turned, feeling his seed leaking out of me but not caring in the slightest as I faced Her statue and knelt forward, clasping my hands over my heart and bowing my head towards the floor. I whispered my prayer in the old language, staying silent for several moments after until I turned back to John and knotted my fingers into his hair, pulling him forward to me again and kissing him deeply, the arousal he had just sated already flickering once more now that I was here, in the place of my very origin.

"Give me more," I said lowly, letting my eyes shift until they were acid green, practically glowing in the dim lighting around us.

He chuckled darkly, smirking and throwing me down to the floor again, immediately sinking his fingers into me with a snarl.

"Is this what you want, Triste," he growled as I gasped and arched sharply off the floor, "do you want me to fuck you with my fingers until you come again, until you scream for me again..."

My head thrashed back and forth, my whole body keyed up to the point that I knew I was only seconds away, and the way he bared his teeth and growled only lessened that time.

"Goddamn, you're a sloppy little thing, aren't you," he worked a third finger inside me as he said it, sending me into the clouds with a high pitched scream. John kept his fingers inside me, moaning lowly every time the ring of muscle at my opening clenched hard around him as I gasped for air and came back down, slowly, one gasping breath at a time

"Gods, you're perfect," he whispered, capturing my lips in a kiss so sweet and soft, it shouldn't have been possible right after what he'd just done to me. 

He didn't pull back, rather letting his lips continue to caress me until I was calm and quiet, humming softly as his fingers slipped out of me.

"What now, little one," he asked quietly, brushing the damp hair out of my eyes and laughing softly at the state I'd worked myself into as I leaned up and kissed him again. 

"Now you take another deep breath," I replied with a little smirk. 

Chapter Text

In my room, Jonas stood in the doorway, looking dumbfounded. I still was astride John, who was bottomed out inside me, but we were perfectly motionless, staring into each others eyes, my fingers tangled back into his hair and his hands gripping my hips.

"What the fuck," he whispered as Henrik looked over his shoulder and grinned as he barked a laugh.

"Ohh, so that's what it looks like...they're uhm, gone...kind of..."

Jonas cocked an eyebrow at him, silently requesting more information.

"She'll explain it better than I will, but its what I was telling John before, she said its kind of like a file cabinet of memories that she can go back to. And she can apparently take other people with her, hence the...staring..."

"What??" he said unbelievingly, but before Jonas could ask anymore questions, John and I came back with a sharp gasp.

He moaned heavily at the sudden feeling of being buried inside me again, looking down at his hips with a shocked expression, "how am I still--?! Didn't we both just...Triste?!"

I gasped too at being stretched and filled once more, pressing one calming hand to his face when I felt him shift inside me, "it was all mental, all a memory, we've been here the whole time babes, I promise."

Henrik was next to us then, pushing past Jonas in the doorway and tangling a hand into my hair, pulling my head back so he could press his mouth down over mine as we gave John a moment to digest what I'd told him and he flopped down on his back, his feet still on the floor as he stared at the ceiling listening to the sound of us kissing.

"That was so cool to experience from this side," he mumbled before kissing me heartily again, our mouths automatically opening to each other now. His tongue stroked mine slowly but hungrily, and I let go of John's hand to trace the line of Henrik's hardened cock through his pants with one teasing finger. He moaned into my touch and pressed his free hand not tangled into my hair down hard over mine, closing it over his cock and rolling his hips against my palm.

"Fuck, woman," he groaned, "just the sight of you makes me impossibly hard."

"Mmm," I breathed with a low laugh, "hold that thought for just one more minute baby."

He looked down at me a little surprised, "yeah?"

"Oh yes," I smirked, grabbing the front of his shirt and yanking him down to me again.

"Both of us?"

"All of you," I whispered, not caring in the slightest that I was clearly getting myself in over my head. I needed them all to touch me like I needed to breathe.

The combination of feeling Henrik's cock against my palm and John still twitching inside me, though doing his best to keep still, made me sigh in anticipation as I moved my hips.

"Are you more comfortable now baby?" he asked, sitting up and wrapping his arms around me again.

"Yes, thank you," I smiled, trying to figure out how to tell him that I'd just needed time to get used to his size without stroking his ego to the point that it wouldn't fit inside my apartment, "I just needed a minute to--..."

"Adjust?" he growled into my throat, finishing my sentence for me, "stretch?"

I hissed sharply as he rolled his hips, fully seated inside me, grabbing my ass with both hands to press me further down onto him.

"Fuck ohh, something like that," I gasped.

"If it makes you feel any better, you're so tight you feel fucking heavenly," he murmured as he licked my nipple, drawing growls from everyone watching and a tiny gasp of pleasure from me.

I wanted them all, needed them all, and thought I would be able to handle it, but I wasn't even close to prepared for the sound of Jonas' voice.

"John. Turn her over," he rasped from my doorway, palming his erection through his pants, unable to stand not participating any longer.

I looked up and over my shoulder and my eyes settled at his lips, separated and panting for breath as I bit my own, waiting...

Tim stood behind him in the doorway, halfway dressed again, his face hidden in shadow as the backlight from the living room washed over him.

Just then, John lifted me halfway off his cock and brought me back down into his lap hard, bringing my wandering attention back to him with a cry before he pulled me down to his lips. The way they moved against mine was like unspoken poetry and I was nearly desperate for more as he nipped at me and sucked my tongue until I collapsed against him, pressing my hips further down onto his length and we groaned together as we were joined deeper still.

"You can't possible feel this good," I whimpered, swirling my hips against him, "gods I want you..."

He smothered me with his mouth, dominating our kiss and pulling every sound he wanted from my lips in perfect time.

"I will always want you, Triste...but for now I guess I have to share," he whispered with one last kiss before pulling my hips off of him until he slid out of me with a wet sound and pushed me up to my feet so he could move further back onto my bed.

Henrik held me up once I got to my feet, tipping my chin back to kiss me as his fingers slid between my legs and played with my clit, tapping his middle finger against it as his others spread me open.

"Uh oh...tsk tsk tsk what have you gotten yourself into, älskling," he chuckled, moaning back at me as my hips bucked into his hand and I reached my fingers back to anchor into his luxurious hair.

"Hey, I wasn't done with her yet," John called, but neither of us were listening as Henrik spun me around to face him and rapidly picked me up, holding me against him as my legs wrapped around his waist and he tilted his chin up to kiss me again, devouring my lips, thrusting his tongue between them until I whimpered and collapsed into his embrace, letting him have whatever he wanted from me.

"Gods I want to be inside you right now," he moaned softly, running one of his hands over my skin and silencing my response with a kiss before finally setting me back on the floor and turning me towards the bed, helping me climb up and giving my ass a sharp slap as I moved towards John.

"How are you feeling?" he murmured into my lips, kissing me like I'd been gone for a hundred years. I nipped at his bottom lip and swung my leg over his hips as I devoured his mouth, desperate for anything at this point.

"Empty," I whispered.

"Well, I do believe there are four people in this room who can do something about that, my darling," he grinned, "but not like this. Turn over..."

I followed the pressure of his hands, gently pulling and turning me until I was shifted around, my back against his chest. He moved further back and settled at a seated angle against the pillows and adjusted me so I was seated low on his hips, his cock resting against me, and I leaned back against him comfortably in the middle of my bed, my knees bent but all my weight settled on him.

"Am I hurting you?" I asked shyly over my shoulder.

"No, but even if you were, neither of us are going to be worried about it in about five seconds," he smirked, one finger tilting my face back so he could kiss me once more.

"How do your lips always taste sweet," he whispered before resuming, and the flat of his heated palm traced the curve of my breast, down my hips, and settled between my legs, only applying the most teasing of light touches. I moved my hips to try and take him inside me again as we breathed against each other.

"Ah ah ah," I heard another voice and my eyes snapped open when a hot pair of hands stayed the movement of my squirming hips and Jonas settled between both our sets of legs, hooking mine around John's to expose me further, my pussy glistening in the low light spilling in through the doorway.

"Fucking hell Tim, what did you do to this poor girl?" he laughed, eyeing the bruises and bites left from last night and this morning.

Tim grinned and shrugged, "happy to demonstrate again."

Jonas looked at John over my shoulder, and something unspoken passed between them. He imperceptibly nodded behind me before running his tongue over the shell of my ear and breathing a low laugh at the way it made me shudder.

Henrik and Tim knelt on the bed on either side of us, close enough to touch, the latter rubbing a hand across my torso just under my breasts. I pressed a hand to his cheek and he leaned down to kiss me hotly.

"Do you want us to touch you, Triste?" Henrik breathed as he started running a soft hand over my breast, rubbing the tip of his index finger over my nipple, watching it stiffen under his touch. I relinquished Tim's mouth to turn my head and take Henrik's.

"Yes," I gasped, squirming under their caresses as John continued to run his fingers through my wetness, and Jonas moved his hands over my thighs slowly, up and down, pressing his fingertips into my skin.

"All of us?" John breathed in my ear, making me shudder again.

"Yes. Please..."

"All together or one after the other?" the voice between my legs asked.

"A-all together...my boys...please."

Something of an appreciative growl filled the room, drowned out by my loud cry when Tim and Henrik knelt together and each took one of my nipples in their mouths, their tongues working in different patterns but perfectly complementing each other unintentionally. My fingers tangled in their hair - Tim's smooth and straight and Henrik's curls soft and full, pressing them harder into my skin.

John and Jonas locked eyes as mine closed and I drowning in the two men at my breasts, and John lined up at my entrance as Jonas grinned and chuckled. I was stretched open and filled at the exact same moment that Jonas bent his head and latched his lips around my clit, swirling his tongue and sucking.

Everything was an overwhelming deluge of sensation and I came in less than thirty seconds as John slid against my frontal wall, the tip of his cock almost caressing my insides more than fucking them. It only encouraged everyone further, moaning with me and increasing the intensity of their attentions.

Henrik worried one of my nipples between his teeth, moaning softly at the taste of my skin, and I tugged on his hair until he lifted his head, and we looked at each other with searing heat plain across our features as I gasped for breath and felt myself already starting to tighten again as my body was rocked between the four of them and Jonas let go of my clit in favor of kissing up and down my hips and thighs.

My hand left Henrik's hair and he quickly shed his shirt, tossing it the floor behind him.

"Everything," I gasped, eyes dropping down to his waist. He stood to pull his jeans off his hips.

"Your wish, my queen," he chuckled, and I turned my head to Tim then, pulling him up to my lips. His fingers immediately started rolling the nipple he'd just been licking as his tongue filled my mouth, making me buck harder into John with a muffled cry as he rolled his hips into me.

"No jeans," I murmured, too aroused to give any clearer instructions as Jonas returned to my clit, flicking the tip of his tongue against it, tilting his head so he could look up at me watching his tongue. Tim mimicked Henrik's actions, standing and dropping the material down his hips before taking his place next to me again.

"Aren't you tired of me yet, priestess," he teased, and all I could do was shake my head, pulling him back down to my lips before he trailed kisses down to my breast and renewed his attention against my nipple.

John bottomed out inside me again and bit down on my shoulder to muffle his shout.

"Fuck you're so tight," he groaned, as I bucked my hips again, crying out with him. One of my hands pressed Jonas' head harder into my pussy as he ran the flat of his tongue over my clit and met my gaze head on this time as he dug his fingers into the soft skin of my thigh with a groan.

I laid my head back against John's shoulder and closed my eyes, feeling almost overwhelmed by sensation, but knowing I was about to come again, hard. A whispered litany of 'don't stop' resounded in my room as John's hands gripped my hips hard and he picked up his pace, the tempo of Jonas' tongue matching perfectly.

Henrik pressed his lips to mine quickly, "ready for me, love?"

I nodded and opened my mouth as he pressed his cock between my lips, moaning and gasping as my tongue caressed him and his flavor exploded across my senses. He watched as my eyes closed, my lashes fanning across my cheeks, and he gently moved his fingers into my hair as he pushed further into my mouth, holding me there.

"Good god damn, sweetheart," he growled. Tim on my other side took my hand and wrapped my fingers around his cock, and my thumb swirled around the tip reflexively before stroking him hard, his weight feeling almost natural against my skin now.

"You look so good like this, babe," Jonas growled before resuming, redoubling his efforts against my clit, his mustache and septum piercing ticking across my skin, making me buck harder.

"Come for us again, Triste," John groaned in my ear, "I can feel you tightening again, baby, come for me."

The way he tilted his hips up and pressed his cock against my inner walls as he thrusted harder gave attention to a series of erogenous spots inside me that I wasn't sure I even knew I had before that moment. I squeezed Tim hard and my throat closed around Henrik, drawing shouts from them, and I gave myself over to the the rivers of sensation flooding my body as I got licked and fucked into oblivion.

Henrik pulled back just as a strangled scream left my throat and my body arched off of John, being pulled in a thousand different directions as I climaxed. My pussy suffocated him and he came with a shout, spilling inside me as Jonas flicked my clit with his tongue, working me through the high and pumping himself with his hand as he growled a hundred different obscenities into my core.

Henrik gripped his cock and he and Tim painted my breasts when they came, one shortly after the other, and some small part of my endorphin-wracked brain registered the pleasurable warmth as they both growled and cried out before collapsing next to us.

We were left a panting, sweating, drenched pile of tangled limbs and John kissed me through the whole thing, hardly able to stand the idea of stopping as the sound of our lips moving together permeated the eventual silence of everyone's breathing.

Jonas was the first to move, and he shifted out from between our legs after pressing one more gentle kiss to my clit, raising his head from my thigh where he'd been silently coming down from the clouds, wondering how the last 24 hours of his life had taken such an abrupt turn off a path he'd been travelling for years.

Henrik turned me gently by the chin so he could look into my eyes, searching to make sure I was okay.

"Say something love," he whispered, and I could only gasp and shudder against John, making him frown for a moment.

"We need to make sure you have a safe word next time," he breathed, kissing my bruised lips softly, "I'm sorry, I should have made sure you had an out before any of this."

"Next time?" I breathed a laugh and he smiled, relieved at hearing my voice.

"I hardly think we're collectively patient enough to wait and take turns babygirl," he chuckled, dipping the tip of his finger into his cum covering my breast and slipping it between my lips as he watched me clean it off with soft eyes.

Tim brushed my hair away from my cheeks when he turned my face towards him, needing my attention too, "I love you, priestess," he reminded me, his mustache brushing my skin as he kissed my cheek softly, "please don't ever forget that."

"Don't think I can baby," I whispered, lifting my face to press my mouth against his.

Henrik, Tim and Jonas disappeared to the bathroom to clean up, and John tilted my chin back so he could kiss me again.

"That was incredible. You're incredible," he whispered, stroking my cheek with the backs of his fingers, "that was your temple?"

"Mmhm," I hummed, "a long time ago, babes."

"I felt...Her, I think."

I shivered hard against him and he held me tighter, kissing me longer, more deeply this time.

"She's endless, John. Perfect, divine, powerful...She's spanned thousands upon thousands of years, and I exist for Her. As a testament to her power."

He shivered too, "oh, baby, keep talking like that you won't be getting up for the rest of the night."

"What time is it even?" I asked.

"Doesn't matter," he murmured into my ear, pulling my head back down against his shoulder as I turned my face to rest against his cheek.

"I love you babes," I whispered, opening my eyes when someone pressed a warm damp towel to my breasts. John lifted me off of him and settled on my other side, looking at me with an expression I couldn't quite name.

"How are you constantly surprising me, Triste." Henrik breathed, turning me towards him and kissing me tenderly as he cleaned himself and Tim off my skin. I pulled hard on him until he collapsed into my arms and held me tightly.

"Will you stay here with me tonight?" I asked quietly, nuzzling my nose against his until he smiled softly and pulled me closer.

"I already told you I would. That we all would. Where else could I possibly go when the only one that matters is here in my arms finally, you crazy girl," he kissed me, sighing beautifully as he eventually broke away to get up and throw the washcloth in the hamper.

"Do you want anything while I'm up love?" he asked over his shoulder.

"Just bring everyone back here," I said, stretching and languishing in the warm hollow John had left in the sheets next to me, feeling like with all four of them I might be okay with the gaping void Johannes had left in my heart. 

Chapter Text

Henrik discarded the towel in the bathroom hamper and as he went to wash his hands, he caught sight of  Jonas frozen, staring at the countertop. His eyes followed his friend's gaze, and watched Jonas reach out one finger to touch the black metal ring that was discarded there.

"No..." he whispered, picking it up and turning it over in his palm, the chain dangling down between his fingers, "it can't be...he-he said he'd lost it... she's had it this whole time?" His eyes blurred with tears as he looked over at Henrik, who sadly nodded his head. But his sadness quickly turned to anger and he switched to Swedish so I wouldn't know.

"Johannes gave it to her and she wears it every day, and I had to be the one to fucking tell her yesterday that he ran off and married some devil-spawn terror and she had no clue. NO CLUE  Jonas," Henrik fought the tears he could feel stinging his own eyes as the memory of my face falling in despair plagued him again and he turned and punched the doorframe hard, shaking his hand as he brought it away but wanting to do it again.

"What the fuck is going on? How can that woman in there possibly be the most divine, beautiful, thoughtful creature on the planet, and he all of a sudden doesn't have a clue who she is? No one forgets about someone like her. None of this makes sense," Henrik ran a hand back through his hair frustratedly and Jonas reached out a hand to his friend's shoulder to calm him.

"I don't know, but something isn't right. We all know that, so that's where we start. Tomorrow, we talk to him and try to get to the bottom of all this shit," he grasped the ring in his hand as John joined everyone and leaned against the doorway to the bathroom with a glass of water in his hand.

"What are we supposed to say? We'll have to get him away from her first, you know she watches him like a hawk."

"Stone cold bitch," Tim muttered, meeting Jonas' reflection as he looked up in the mirror after splashing water across his face.

They talked quietly amongst themselves and I laid in my bed listening but not understanding beyond the name everyone kept saying. In the sex-crazed rush of the evening, I hadn't really even thought about Johannes anymore. I tried to puzzle it out, but I was too foggy now with booze and sex to make any kind of progress.

It would have to wait until morning.

Just as well. Why are you thinking of the only one that isn't here?

We have to do something - he wouldn't forget, something is wrong.

Jonas came back to me first, standing in my doorway, the light from the room behind him hiding his front in shadow, but making his hair look more gold than blonde. I saw what was hanging from his fist, and silently held out my hand.

When I had gotten home, it felt like a useless weight. A lump of meaningless metal. But now as Jonas placed it gently in my palm, I had to fight to not dissolve into heartbroken sobs as I looked down at it. Such a little thing. A trinket. A token. My entire world in one little circle.

I reached up to put it over my head and the chain caught a strand of my hair, making me gasp as it pulled it out by the roots.

"Here, let me," he said, gathering my hair to the side and reaching around to latch the clasp behind my neck. He touched it as it settled between my breasts.

"Oh, Triste, I'm so so sorry," he sighed, crawling in next to me and gathering me to his chest, "I don't know whats gotten into him, this is so unlike Johannes."

I nodded my head, but leaned up to kiss him, still feeling irrationally angry at Johannes, even though I was beginning to suspect this wasn't all his fault.

"Whats important is that we're all here together, remember?" I sighed into his lips, letting him kiss me however he wanted to right then, "Johannes waited six months. He can wait until tomorrow."

Jonas pushed his fingers into my hair, keeping me at his lips as he kissed me like he was trying to make me forget until Henrik and John joined us, and we all curled up together, sharing body heat and affection.

Tim sighed as he hung back, shaking his head and trying to will his own anger away. He did love me, and seeing me hurting at the hand of his friend was forming a rift in their relationship. He'd noticed it earlier on stage, whenever Johannes would interact with him or touch his hair, he'd flinch and immediately the anger would simmer to the surface. He'd done his best to keep it under wraps because the fans loved watching Johannes play with him, but...

"I'm gonna go smoke, I'll be back in a minute," he said, stooping to gather his jeans off the floor.

"Can I come?" I asked sitting up, having heard the frustration in his voice. He reached a hand out to me silently as an answer and I climbed off the bed as his fingers closed around mine.

"You don't need that if you don't want it," I motioned to whoever's shirt he was about to pull on over his head, "we can smoke out on my back balcony. I think its supposed to start snowing soon too."

"Stay here for a sec, I'll get you a blanket," he said, kissing my forehead before disappearing for a moment. I looked back at Henrik, John, and Jonas who were pulling on their own clothes too.

"You guys don't need those either. They'll probably just come off again," I giggled, shrieking playfully as Henrik lunged at me and pulled me off my feet, spinning me around in circles like he had at the shop.

"Efficient. I like it," he growled, nipping at my neck and joining in my laughter as he released me to Tim with a sweet kiss.

"We'll be back in a minute, okay?" They all nodded and smiled. John reached behind his head to pull his hair through the elastic around his wrist before turning to talk quietly with Jonas.

Tim stepped towards me with the blanket John had discarded on the living room floor and wrapped me in it, tugging the ends tightly towards him until I moved into his embrace and his lips brushed mine. I laid my head against his chest, wanting him to relax and just be okay, but knowing it was going to take more. In some ways, Tim was the most emotionally complicated of all my boys, and felt things the hardest.

He zipped his jacket over his bare chest as I walked out onto the balcony, smiling as I realized again that my boys were finally here with me, and some of the sexual tension had at least been temporarily relieved to the point where I could enjoy them without wanting to tear them apart.

The wind felt like ice over my flushed skin and I pulled the blanket closer around me as the door slid open again and Tim appeared at my side, his hair pulled over one shoulder so he could put his hood up before he reached into his jeans pocket. I didn't reach to take the cigarette from him this time, and he moved to place it between my lips before thinking twice, pulling his hand back, and pressing his mouth to mine instead.

"Hmm," I hummed into his caress as his lips moved over mine, and when he stopped I looked up at him, seeing his eyes were guarded.

 "Oh. Are you still angry with me, Tim?" I asked quietly, dropping my gaze to the floor of the balcony and stepping back. He moved towards me, closing the distance I'd just put between us as he shook his head.

"No. I'm..." he paused and placed a cigarette between my lips and one between his own, and lit both before he resumed, "I just can't understand Johannes doing this, for one. And doing this to you especially, two. And...Christ, Triste, I'm so angry at him." He shook his head and looked away.

I exhaled the smoke through my nose, watching it drift through the frigid night air as the first flakes of snow began to descend lazily around us.

"Me too," I sighed, "but you're right. You all were right. I know that we didn't have a lot of time to, uh, to get to know each other, he and I, but...this seems unlike him, and I can't shake the feeling that something else is happening here. I just...I don't know what to do about it."

He turned towards me and brushed one hand down my cheek softly before hiding it back in his jacket away from the cold.

"I'm so sorry baby," he sighed and I blinked several times and looked out at the swirling white flakes.

"I just don't get it...I'm telling you, Tim, he looked at me and touched his face right where my hand had been and I thought he was remembering, but when he experienced the memory with me...he doesn't remember me...he didn't place it at all." I tried to keep the anguish out of my voice as I felt my heart sink.

"We're going to talk to him tomorrow about all this shit. Its time he answered some questions."

"I don't think that's a good idea yet, babe, not till we know more," I said, staring at the ground below my balcony.

"Why not? He's being an ass."

"Of course he is. But..." I gathered my thoughts for a moment and pulled on my cigarette, rolling the filter between my fingers as I considered what to say.

"So, all the extra old-lady prophecy stuff aside, do you think you would ever forget me? I don't mean to sound cocky, or like I'm super important," I started to babble, "but I mean how many supernatural or immortal-ish people do you meet in one lifetime? Like it can't be that many. Even if he hadn't told me he loved me, that experience isn't just something your brain discards, or even if it isn't what you regularly think about, you wouldn't just not be able to recall it when reminded and-and...yeah..."

Tim was fussing with one end of his mustache, staring into space and when he finally looked at me and his hand dropped to his side, a single tear slipped down his cheek. I'd never seen him cry and I gasped, pulling him into me and wrapping the ends of the blanket back around his shoulders as he buried his face in my neck and wrapped both arms around my waist, shaking with silent tears.

"I'm so sorry. What did I say? Shit, Tim I'm sorry!"

His breaths were shaky and I could feel his tears dripping down my skin as he shook his head back and forth.

"I hate him for this," he muttered, the sound muffled by the blanket.

"You don't," I nuzzled my cheek against the side of his head until he pulled his face up to look at me and sighed.

"No. I don't. But I want to."

"No you don't," I said again, pulling him in to hug him, "you're just angry."

He was silent for a beat, "I didn't know he'd told you. I mean it was obvious from the way he acted when he was around you that he did, but...I didn't know he'd actually said it. I'm sorry."

"Oh. Yeah. I think that's why I didn't...expect this. And why none of it really makes any sense. I--well... unless he didn't mean it, which I guess is," I swallowed hard, but the lump in my throat wouldn't go away, "possible..."

With a sigh, Tim straightened up and stepped back from me, leaning his arms against the balcony railing. He rarely looked or moved away from me now, and I stared at his back for several seconds.

"You're gonna go anyways, aren't you."

"Yup."

I pushed a hand back through my hair, wincing as I hit a tangle, "fine. Well since I can't talk you out of it, I'm coming too."

His head whipped around and he stared at me with a scowl that made me take an involuntary step back.

"No, you aren't."

"What? Why not?!"

He snapped at me, "because I can't fucking see that look from earlier tonight ever cross your face again."

I scowled back at him, "you can't stop me."

He scoffed and turned back to the railing, lighting another cigarette, "good luck finding him without my help, priestess."

"Henrik will tell me...asshole," I muttered, and despite the sudden frustration between us, I saw his shoulders shake with a silent laugh.

"If this is going to end like last time, we need to go inside. I'm not sure there'll be much left down there after standing barefoot outside for this long."

I clapped a hand over my lips as I snorted a laugh and he grinned over his shoulder at me, the tension evaporating.

"You're a big jerk," I giggled as he moved into my reach.

"And you're a hard-headed stubbornass of a woman," he growled as he kissed me deeply, roughly pushing me back into the brick wall of my apartment and leaning all his weight into me.

"Yet you love me anyways," I growled back, pulling the zipper on his jacket down and wrapping my blanket around him, kissing him hard and letting him have every sound he wanted from me as his hand cupped my breast, rolling his thumb across my nipple and pushing his knee between my thighs. Tim pulled back, panting, his fingers dropping to wander up and down my leg from my hip to my thigh.

"From the damn day I met you, priestess. Can't seem to get enough of you even when you drive me insane."

When he kissed me again, it was different. It was slow and purposeful, his tongue dancing against mine, his breath soft against my cheek. He moaned quietly into my kiss as my fingers touched the small tattoo on his chest.

"Did you hear her say 'We love the lost as we love those who are not'," I asked quietly and he sighed, pressing his forehead against mine.

"Triste, baby I can't agree to this. When you left earlier--"

"Ran away."

"...when you left earlier, I saw you. The expression on your face almost made my heart stop. You were terrified, Triste. Not heartbroken, not upset. Terrified."

I chewed my lip and looked away.

"Please look at me at when I tell you this so you understand how much I mean it."

My gaze slowly traveled back to his, and his eyes were stern again, "that woman doesn't ever leave him alone with anyone. Not even with us. And that doesn't seem to bother him, or at least not enough to tell her to take a hike. She's condescending and irritating and the room just feels bad when she's in it. Like she sucks the air out and everything she touches gets ruined. No, not ruined..." he thought for a moment, silent as his eyes traveled back and forth across one of the bricks behind my head, "vriden...Twisted. Corrupted."

"Tim, I--"

"Triste, I don't want you within a hundred feet of her. I don't even want you breathing the same air."

I was surprised to hear him say those things about her - I couldn't imagine anyone being so obviously horrible and still managing to intertwine themselves with someone as wonderful and polar opposite as Johannes. He was quiet and reserved sometimes, but at his core, he was lighthearted and happy.

"I'm a big girl, Tim, I'm not worried about her, this is about Johannes, not his...whatever. I can't just do nothing, not after what happ--"

"TRISTE," he yelled, startling me, "for once would you just fucking listen to me! Please!"

I gasped and my lip started to tremble as I screwed my eyes shut. I hated being yelled at, and hated more that my natural reaction was to cry when it happened.

His eyes burned into mine, and I rubbed a hand over my face, scrubbing at it to try and make my eyes reabsorb my tears.

"Shit, come here, I'm sorry I yelled," he whispered, gathering my into his arms and dropping kisses into my hair, "Triste. Babe, I love you too much for anything to happen to you. I would never forgive myself."

He held me back from him to look me in the eyes, and the near-panic in his expression made me take pause before I leaned in to kiss him softly, reassuringly.

"Tim. You know Johannes. You know this is the exact opposite of how he behaves normally. Something isn't right."

He opened his mouth to protest, but I pressed two fingers down over his lips and shook my head, "I am not worried about her..." As I said it, a fire flashed through my veins and I felt a wave of fierce protectiveness wash over me. This woman may have corrupted and twisted everything she touched, but what my goddess gave me the power to do was the exact opposite. It was to create life and color, and beauty and goodness for the sake of it.

I looked back at Tim, realizing my fingers were still smushed against his lips, and quickly removed them.

He didn't say anything at first when he saw the anger and simmering rage in my stare.

"I hope that's not for me," he finally mumbled.

"Its not."

Tim narrowed his eyes at me, "why do I even bother?"

"Tim I'm not going to let Johannes go down this way. I...I can't."

He rubbed both hands up and down over his face before running all his fingers back through his hair.

"What are you going to do?"

I thought about it for a moment, "I'm not sure. Just talk to him I guess. If he really doesn't remember who I am and it doesn't come back seeing me up close without all the flashing lights and stuff, that will be pretty clear from the get-go. Then, I guess I'll go from there."

"Can you do anything about it?" I hadn't heard John come outside and I turned to look at him.

"What do you mean?"

He chewed his lip, and a gust of wind blew snow into his dark hair, hanging down over one side of his face.

"If he doesn't remember you, which I still think seems unlikely, what do you do?"

One of my fingers rubbed over my bottom lip, still the slightest bit swollen.

"Then...then nothing," my heart fell into my feet. "There isn't anything I can do. There are...well I don't know this for a fact, but the possibility exists that there are other people like me. Like us, rather, that serve my goddess. All of this just seems so unlikely, but if there's some sort of darker magic involved, then I-I don't have...there's nothing I can do about that. I'm not powerful enough to counteract magic."

John's face fell and he cursed softly before crossing to me and pulling me into his arms as the crushing weight of my realization settled in me. I knew I was right. That was the only explanation, but I couldn't imagine why anyone would target Johannes. He didn't seem like the type to make enemies, and in fact had even said that most people just sort of became a blur.

What did you get yourself into, my love. 

"Come on now, my darling. No more tears. We're going to figure this out together, okay? Magic or no magic," he tipped my chin up and wiped my tears away with his thumbs, "I promise."

He bent his head to kiss me softly, lingering at my lips until I believed him.

"He's right," Tim added when John stepped back, moving to go back inside when he started to shiver and the sliding door slid closed behind him.

"Don't worry about this any more tonight," his lips brushed over mine as he held me tightly, "everything else about tonight has been so full of happiness and pleasure, lets just let tomorrow wait until tomorrow, hmm? We'll all go together."

I wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and nodded, pressing a quick kiss to his lips and feeling him react to me like we'd done it all our lives.

"That's my girl," he smiled softly, kissing me again as his hands roamed over my body and he nudged my nose with his, "lets go inside."

--

I watched with a little smile as Tim moved around my kitchen like it was his own, never asking where anything was or guessing incorrectly about cabinets or drawers. Everyone else sat on stools and leaned against countertops in an almost perfect recreation of that morning, chatting idly, eating, drinking, laughing.

I glanced at the clock on my stove and yawned, rubbing my eyes as they started to feel like sandpaper. When I pulled my fingers away, Tim was standing in front of me smiling softly.

"Bed time?"

I nodded, feeling the exhaustion start to slow my movements, and crossed to say goodnight to everyone else.

"Where do you want us tonight love," Henrik asked quietly, brushing a strand of hair out of my eyes with his index finger. 

"As close to me as you all can get baby," I sighed, wrapping the blanket back around his shoulders and burying my face into his hair, shivering at the warmth of his hands as they ran up and down my back. 

"Anything you want," John smiled softly, pulling me over to him and kissing me slowly, chuckling at my sleepy smile before passing me over to Jonas. 

"Goodnight," I sighed, touching his face gently as he pressed his lips against mine briefly, "don't stay up too late."

"Yes, mom," he laughed, kissing me one more time before whispering that they'd be in soon. 

Tim watched with silent appreciation before reaching out to take my hand and shepherding me back to my bedroom, where someone had changed out the damp sheets for fresh ones.

"And housekeeping skills to boot," I laughed, "now I'm really never going to let you guys leave."

He chuckled, watching me as I opened my dresser drawer and slipped into a pair of panties and a tanktop to sleep in before crawling under the blankets and sighing as my muscles relaxed. I rolled over onto my side, facing Tim who was still standing next to the bed, staring down at me and drinking in every expression and sound I made.

"Well?" I asked, lifting the corner of the covers so he could get in with me.

"Uh-uh. You need to sleep, babe," he said as he shook his head but sat down on the edge of the bed next to me. I frowned at him, pulling a low chuckle from his chest.

"Yes, sleep. And you know what you're in for again if I get under there with you," the dark tone in his voice made me shiver.

"Lot of self-control you have..." I mumbled sarcastically as my eyes closed.

Tim shook with a silent laugh and leaned over to press a kiss to my forehead before dropping his lips to my ear, "not ever enough around you it would seem...but then again, its not really my fault that your pussy tastes so good, is it," he whispered, and my eyes shot open as he laughed darkly again, making me squirm. My fingers gripped the cotton of his zip up and he leaned down again with a wicked grin.

"And its really not my fault that the inside of your mouth feels like velvet when you suck my cock..."

I squirmed some more, feeling renewed wetness between my legs.

"Or that you press against me and scream my name when I make you come..."

"T-that technically is your fault," I said breathlessly as my body felt assaulted by flames for what seemed like the hundredth time in one night, "Tim...please..."

"Nope," he smirked mischievously, lips still at my ear, "if you need something you'll have to do it yourself this time, precious, I think I'm a little worn out..."

I realized what he meant and let go of his jacket at the same time he moved the blankets off of me and I shivered in the chilly air of my bedroom.

"I think that's thoroughly untrue, but tell me what else isn't your fault," I moaned into his lips, seeking his kiss, but he pulled back and shifted me up until there was room for him to sit against the pillows behind me. He pulled me back between his legs to lay against his chest and moved his hair over one shoulder after shrugging out of his jacket so we were skin on skin. The ends brushed against my nipple over my tanktop and I shivered again.

"Touch yourself, Triste... let me watch you," he whispered lowly into my ear, making the muscles of my back tense and arch involuntarily. I let one hand wander between my legs, slipping it under my black panties, and I couldn't stop the satisfied sigh that left my lips.

"What are you thinking about, priestess," he continued to growl low into my ear, "are you thinking about the way my cum tasted when you swallowed me? How good my tongue felt inside you? You were such a good girl, squirting so hard and soaking me in front of everyone..."

He moaned encouragingly into my ear when my eyes closed in pleasure, and half of my brain registered that he was rock hard already and grinding against my back.

"Mmm," I hummed, swirling my fingers through my folds and enjoying how wet just his words were making me.

"I know you liked that, getting off while everyone watched us. You love having an audience, don't you..."

I sighed something like an affirmative reply, but my brain was having a hard time forming coherent thoughts.

"I think you should get out of those panties," he breathed, working the thin straps of my tanktop down and pushing the material away so he could run his fingers over the swells of my breasts. I shimmied the thin material down my hips and felt his approving growl vibrate through his chest at seeing me exposed again.

My fingers returned to run through my wetness, pressing gently against my opening. I did my best to put on a show for him since it was his idea in the first place, as I brought my fingers up to my lips and gave them a slow lick, humming lowly around them.

"Fuck, that's hot," he groaned as he rolled his hips into me again and I offered him a taste too. He took my fingers into his mouth and sucked hard, swirling his tongue and moaning at my flavor. The feeling of his tongue moving against my fingers made me start to whine, and I pulled my hand from his lips, desperate to continue touching myself.

"Do you like the way I taste," I whispered, sighing softly at the end as I pleasured myself. One of his hands traveled over my torso, fingers dancing lightly across my skin as he dipped his head and kissed me hard, swirling his tongue over mine as his cock pressed into my back.

"If I had it my way," he said lowly as he bit and sucked softly on my earlobe, "I'd never stop making you slick yourself all over my face..."

All my muscles tensed again, and I knew that he was aware of every single word he was saying and exactly what they were doing to me. Not one to typically show mercy, he continued.

"I'm going to fuck you and eat your pussy on every surface of this apartment...hmm but where do I start with you?" I slipped one finger inside myself and moaned softly, arching off him again as I teased a second just barely in.

"Would you like that, Triste?" He groaned, drinking in my pleasure and wanting to push me higher, "do you want me to tear your clothes off, bend you over the bathroom sink and fuck you? Do you want to watch your face in the mirror when I make you come all over my cock?"

I could feel myself tightening with every question he asked, and I pressed the second finger all the way inside along the first with a loud moan and started to pump them in and out of myself slowly, taking the time to lavish attention on all my sensitive spots.

"But maybe next time I should blindfold you instead. It heightens all your other senses..."

"Tim, please," I moaned as I moved my fingers up to rub circles around my clit, "I want you inside me..."

"Or should I tie you up," he growled, thoroughly ignoring my request but rolling his hips against my back to keep me going, "I'm hard just thinking about seeing you bound. Maybe you'll get both. Although I do love the way you look so desperately at me and pull my hair when I'm making you come..."

He grabbed a fistful of my own hair and pulled hard, keeping my head locked back against his chest.

"You like having your hair pulled too, don't you, dirty girl," he moaned into my ear before running the tip of his tongue over just the shell of it, "you loved that I tangled my fingers in your hair when you were on your knees letting me fuck that gorgeous mouth..." he rolled his hips again, almost painfully hard now.

"Does that feel good Triste... do your fingers feel good inside you like my cock does," Tim whispered, this time running his tongue in a line up my neck, "you're so fucking wet, I can hear how wet you are, baby. Don't stop...don't stop."

His words took me to the edge, and he waited until I was about to fall over into abject pleasure, then grabbed me around the waist and shifted me to the slightly to the side, filling my mouth with his tongue as he shoved his middle and ring fingers inside me while I still rubbed my clit. I gasped through each wave of my orgasm, not so much falling anymore as being catapulted over the edge, arching off of him and then immediately melting back down against his chest, his fingers still inside me.

"I thought...you said I had...t-to do it m-myself..." I panted into his lips, trying to catch my breath He waited as he worked me through each shivering aftershock, loving the way the ring of muscle at my opening clenched hard around him still.

He finally pulled his fingers from me and smirked before licking me off of them again. My eyes remained trained on his fingers as they disappeared between his lips and I pulled hard on his neck until he bent to kiss me again. The iron and saline flavors of me mingled with the taste of his mouth and I moaned softly into his kiss.

"Mmm. I did say that, didn't I? But you did most of the work...and I'm a sucker for audience participation," he chuckled when he leaned down to kiss me again, seeing that my drowsiness was kicking in once more. He shifted out from behind me and laid me down against the pillows before pulling the covers back up, about to leave me to drift off in my blissed-out post-orgasm haze.

I reached out one hand and pressed hard against his cock, gripping him through the fabric of his jeans and tearing a startled moan of pleasure from him.

"Triste..."

"Don't you want to get off, too?" I whispered, stroking more softly now, and feeling him become fully erect against my palm. He pressed his hand over it for one moment, rolling his hips and groaning before removing my hand and pulling it up to his lips to press a heated kiss to my palm, the whole time keeping his eyes locked with mine.

His thoughts were voiced in a tone so deep I almost felt the sound waves physically rumble through me.

"You beautiful, willful little thing...next time I have you, I want you wide awake and screaming, and prepared to come over and over again until I'm good and fucking ready for you to stop...if I take you now, you're going to blackout."

It sounded an awful lot like a promise.

"Fuck," I whispered, staring up at him and wanting nothing more than to be wide awake, "we are gonna tear each other apart..."

Tim leaned down, letting his lips hover over mine, almost kissing me but not quite as his tongue slid out and traced the line of my lower lip.

"Without a doubt," he growled.

He stared intently at me, brushing the tips of his fingers over my face before lightly running them back through my hair.

"Sweet dreams my precious girl, I'll be in later," he said into my lips as he kissed me goodnight; all traces of lust were suddenly gone and this was just Tim as I knew him under the snark and the sex. I gripped his hand fractionally tighter as he got up to leave me, and he sat back down on the edge of the bed, searching my weary features.

"Thank you for coming to find me tonight, and I'm sorry I yelled at you earlier...twice." I looked up from the loose thread I was tangling around my finger of the hand that wasn't holding his as I spoke. The softest, warmest look I'd ever seen cross Tim's face was there, and he bent to take my lips in a sensual, sweet kiss that was still in every way very much Tim. His tongue passed my lips but it wasn't eager or demanding, it was just the way he could kiss me now and I pressed into him, drinking in the moment, sliding my tongue back against his.

"All this time, all these years, we were supposed to find each other, love. I'm not going to let anything happen to you now...besides, it turns me on when the claws come out," he grinned.

"I do not have claws."

He smirked silently and I rolled my eyes.

"Get some sleep...I love you, priestess." He looked straight at me as he said it, and tears stung my eyes as I brushed my thumb across his mouth.

"My heart isn't big enough to possibly love you as much as I do, Tim...I-I don't understand."

That pulled him up short, and rather than leaving, he laid down next to me on top of the blankets and pulled me close, wrapping his arms around me and stroking my hair until I quieted. I had no room in my heart for hurt in that moment - it was only a potent, wonderful form of joy and thankfulness.

I drifted off with a smile, and thanked my goddess for bringing my boys back to me, even if it meant losing the piece of my heart that I had given to Johannes.

Chapter Text

My eyes opened slowly and I blinked several time as my brain processed my surroundings.

Still dark...hot...why is it so stifling in here?

The following discovery that I had four full grown men crammed into my bed with me informed me as to the source of all the body heat. John had pulled me to his chest at some point as we both slept, and Henrik was pressed to my back, his breath soft and even as he continued to dream about things I wished I knew.

I kissed softly across John's exposed skin, loving the way his broad mouth relaxed when he slept, and softly touching my lips to the corner of it as I leaned up. It took an absurdly long time to untangle myself and slip out of bed without waking anyone else, but my feet finally hit the hardwood silently and I turned back for a moment to take a mental picture of them all before pulling someone's shirt from the scattered clothes on my floor and buttoning myself into it, the bottom hanging halfway down the backs of my thighs over the panties I'd slipped back into.

I padded to the kitchen, running the tap and filling a glass with cold water. The night was filled with a still heaviness, though the snow had started in earnest again at some point hours ago by the looks of it while we were sleeping, insulating us in our own little world full of love and acceptance, where we all hurt the same way but somehow being together made it not feel quite so bad.

A smile curved my lips thinking about the pile of warm bodies still asleep in my bed. Somehow they had managed to all position themselves near me without waking me up, which I appreciated, but I found my heart also longing to return to them, to have all of them within my reach and simply surrender to the fact that I was in love with five very different men.

Five...yet only four are here...only four love me back...

The snow rested on the ground, coating everything in a layer of white that somehow for me softened the city. Stray flakes drifted down and were illuminated by the streetlamp, making me feel like I was in a snowglobe, and my thoughts wandered to Johannes as I ran a hand back through my hair.

I heard Tim and John in my head telling me to leave tomorrow to tomorrow, but I glanced at my clock and shrugged. Tomorrow had come.

Once we'd brought up the idea that magic might be involved, I couldn't make the thought go away, or give it any less credence. What other explanation was there? But on the flip side, that opened up a horribly complicated can of worms that I didn't have any idea how to handle. Where was I even supposed to start approaching that as a plausible explanation? 

Fucking hell, you know we're going to need her for this.

"No," I said aloud, "there has to be another way. I can't deal with her on top of all this."

The voice in my head shrugged her shoulders with a 'suit yourself' kind of look.

Ihy's presence as Papa in this world confirmed for me that we weren't the only ones to break the bounds of human normalcy. Maybe there were others like the women of Sekhmet's cult. Maybe in some way Johannes had managed to ensnare himself accidentally in something bigger, some larger plot.

Yeah, but how? And who? And what the fuck?

I didn't know. None of it made any sense, and I desperately wished he was here, standing in my kitchen with me so I could ask him. So I could know for sure if he really had forgotten.

I finished my water and the moon peaked briefly through the clouds. My hip rested against the counter and I pulled the shirt closer around my middle when a gust of cold air swirled about my feet from the drafty windows, raising goosebumps over my skin.

Everything will be different now, Triste, with or without him, I heard my inner voice say softly, her voice almost like a caress in the darkness. I huffed a mirthless laugh - in the months since her death, that voice had started to sound more and more like May every time she said something.

"I know," I answered quietly. I could hardly believe the abrupt change in my life that I'd willingly thrown myself into. It brought intense complications, but so, so much happiness and joy. They were finally here - my boys.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone, say could that lass be I...

The song lyric tumbled through my brain and I hummed it to myself softly as a fresh wave of snowfall began in the moon's absence and my arms wrapped tightly around myself as I desperately wished for Johannes again and watched each flake drift down and disappear. Seeing him had been so refreshing and I remembered with a heartpang the moment where we had locked eyes, me in the audience and him shining on stage.

"What is that?" he asked behind me and I turned rather suddenly with a gasp.

"Ohh. You guys have got to stop sneaking up on me like that," I said, pressing a hand to my thundering heart and rising from the slightly crouched position that I'd dropped into when he startled me.

Jonas moved closer. He wore only boxer briefs and I half-realized it was his shirt around my shoulders now, but my brain quickly became distracted as my eyes flicked down momentarily to take in his mostly-naked body. He was well-built, and the way the low light from the window fell on him made the muscles of his chest look pronounced and striking. My eyes wandered lower to the chiseled line of his pelvic muscles, forming that perfect V that disappeared beneath the thin material, and I was suddenly thankful that my face was hidden in shadow as I felt my cheeks burn and my mouth started to water.

He closed the gap between us and reached a hand out to tuck a stray curl behind my ear, making me shudder under his touch.

"Sorry, love. What were you humming? I feel like I know that song..."

"You probably do, its a version of the Skye Boat Song, about the Bonnie Prince's escape after Culloden. A billion people have done different renditions of it."

He wrapped his hands around my waist and pulled me closer until I leaned against him and his arms encircled me tightly. His body radiated heat and I realized how cold I actually was when I pressed my cheek to his chest and he shivered.

"Will you sing it to me?” he asked quietly. The vibration of his voice hummed through his chest and my cheeks flushed. I still hated singing in front of people after all these years, even know I knew I was good.

"Uhm, m-maybe later," I mumbled, hoping he'd let it go, and he did for the moment, "what are you doing up?"

"You weren't in bed anymore. Tim mentioned you had a habit of...wandering."

I breathed a laugh but didn't respond otherwise.

"You still don't sleep much?"

"No," I sighed. I couldn't remember the last time I'd slept through the night. But on the bright side, I almost never woke up with dishes in my sink. He laid his cheek against the top of my head and rubbed a hand up and down the middle of my back.

"I can hear you thinking, little one."

I pressed a soft kiss to his shoulder before turning my face in towards his and laying it back down as he pulled me closer, his hands feeling blissfully warm through the thin material of my shirt.

"I feel like I'm missing something right in front of my face Jonas, and its killing me. I just don't understand."

He sighed and shook his head sadly, staring out the window behind me, watching the snow fall for several moments before he spoke, "have you spent the last six months doing this every night, Triste..."

My eyes blurred a little with tears but none fell and I answered him honestly, "yes."

"Goddamn him," he muttered, crushing me against him and gripping my hair to the roots as he hugged me tight, like he could put all my pieces together with a physical touch.

"I'm so sorry, sweetheart," he whispered, kissing my hair, holding me tight until I squirmed and pulled back a little.

"I'm sorry too. And I'm sorry I didn't stay and watch your show."

He frowned at me and I knew he was about to echo whatever sentiments Tim had had earlier regarding my obsession with accommodating everyone else's feeling, and I shook my head.

"I mean it. Watching you guys at the festival was so much fun, and I wish I had just stayed, everyone was having such a good time...speaking of, that place was packed, how many people were there?"

"Quite a few, I think, since we sold out. It took me a minute to find you, and I was actually looking."

I remembered locking eyes with him, seated on a throne with a gold crown on his head and shook with a laugh as I chewed at the inside of my lip, "yes, you looked very...ahem...regal..."

Jonas tipped my chin up and kissed me softly, answering my smile with one of his own before shaking his head and looking down at me, still wrapped securely in his arms.

"You're just jealous because I get a velvet cape and a fancy chair."

"Yes, that's probably it," I giggled, my lips trembling with my effort to swallow my laughter. He kissed me again as I leaned into him, and he held me there for several moments, moving his lips to pull me into his kiss and I pressed further into him until he broke away.

Our eyes locked and I wondered for a moment if maybe Johannes hadn't actually been able to see me. Maybe he felt me but didn't realize it was me and didn't know what to do so he just ignored it?

But he looked right at you.

Jonas watched my thoughts unfolding across my face and tipped my chin up again then touched my forehead with this fingers, unfurrowing my brow, "what are you thinking love?"

"What if he didn't see me?" I barely let him finish before the thought escaped my lips, "maybe he didn't realize it was me? I mean he wouldn't expect me here, and its been six months and..."

My hair was the same. My clothes were the same. My face was the same. It was so obviously me. 

"Baby...the lights kind of make it hard to tell what people look like sometimes, but the rest of us I think were pretty clearly able to recognize you..." I could tell that he didn't want to say it to me, that he wanted me to cling to some kind of hope that I'd been mistaken, "but then again, we knew what you looked like and what you were wearing, and your friend was rather...ah...excited?"

His mustache twitched as he tried to find the proper last word.

"SHIT, I need to call him. Damnit damnit damnit," I all but jumped away from Jonas, spinning to find wherever I'd left my phone after getting home from my run. There were multiple notifications and missed calls and I fired off a quick message after reading the half-dozen texts Mike had sent me since I'd looked at him in a panic and fled.

-You okay?
-The sets halfway done, where are you?
-Please at least answer me so I know you're not in a ditch somewhere.
-I'm picturing a serial killer cutting off your toes as souvenirs, where are you?!
-I hope you're not dead or I'm gonna feel like a total dick. Please let me know you're okay when you get a second.
-I think the guys are on their way over, please don't be dead. Sidenote, I think Jonas hates me.

I couldn't help but chuckle; he had a great sense of humor that I thoroughly appreciated and I grinned over at Jonas.

"Do you want to tell me why Mike thinks you hate him?"

"Hmm?" he blinked and looked up, having gotten distracted staring at me wrapped up in his shirt, too big to fit me, but damn I looked good in it, "I don't know. But you should consider wearing nothing but men's shirts and underwear for the rest of your life," he chuckled and I rolled my eyes as I replied to Mike.

-Sorry, I started to have a panic attack and needed to get out of there. Enjoy your day off tomorrow, I'll see you Monday -- don't forget our tasting at 11. And Jonas says he doesn't hate you.

A little extra self-preservation never hurt anyone, though I was doubtful they'd meet again. I was halfway turned back to Jonas when my phone pinged in my hand with his immediate response, and I glanced over at the clock on my stove.

-Yep, on the schedule. Sorry you had a panic attack, I'm sure a metal show isn't calming in that headspace. Also sorry about the serial killer cutting off your toes as souvenirs.
-Wait, Jonas is with you? What are you doing up at 4 AM?
-Oh my God. Nevermind. Ignore that. Please don't answer that.

I laughed out loud as my thumbs moved quickly again before I put my phone back on the counter, face down.

-Apparently waking you up, sorry! Go back to bed and for fucks sake turn your ringer off Mikkael. I've got dishes to do and sheep to count! Cheers.

I didn't see the answering messages that came in back-to-back.

-Dishes, huh...do they wear a gold crown and sit on a throne?
-SORRY sorry sorry, just ignore me, still drunk, sorry! See you on Monday boss lady, glad you're okay.

Jonas looked at me with a questioning expression as I grinned up at him.

"Do you two talk a lot in the middle of the night?"

My head cocked to the side a little as my smile faltered.

"Not really, I mostly talk to the cats if they're up...ugh I didn't just say that. Forget I said that. Ahem...wait, wait a minute. Why?"

"No reason," he said quickly but I notice