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They’ve talked about it, some. In theory. How to start. Sheena doesn't like to assume shit. Pearl says she’s anatomically asexual, and has a firm 0% interest in shapeshifting any human genitals. (“I’ve tried the two primary forms,” she grumbled, “exactly once apiece. Not my ‘jam.’”) So... there’s that to ponder over. No weeknights. No penetration. Nothing rough. Those are her limits. She insists the last one isn’t a hard ‘no’ so much as a not-right-now, though, because “humans are fragile.”

Sheena doesn’t argue. She’s all too happy to accommodate. 

But it leaves a few question marks around what she does want. Yes, Pearl’s had sex, she says. No, never with a human. Yes, she enjoys it. Yes, she wants to try with Sheena. 

No, there isn’t a chance of venereal disease. 

“Gems and humans can,” she insists, not for the first time. “And safely.” She’s snuggled underneath Sheena's arm in her typical niche on the couch. Kind of watching a documentary. They both find it easier to talk about delicate things when doing something else. It’s come in handy, past couple months.TV. Walks on the beach. Tearing up swathes of anti-homeless spikes downtown. Baking. That kind of thing. “I simply never have.”

Why not? Sheena wonders. And does not ask. It would bring on the type of smile Sheena does not like to see. The complicated, wistful, not-gonna-tune-back-in-for-ten-minutes kind. Far from the favorite. They've cut down on the frequency lately. Still happens, though. Even between the festive spats of Pearl giddy and reveling, sometimes she looks at Sheena like she’s terrified. 

It doesn’t feel like attention games. It feels like Pearl is both enjoying herself and having second- or tenth-thoughts in turns. Sullen and withdrawn followed by thrilled and dizzy followed by heart palpitations followed by…yeah. That kind of seesaw.

Sheena doesn’t crowd. She doesn’t chase her down. "Talk to me if you want to" goes unanswered for a few days after an incident. Takes Pearl awhile. 

It’s chill. Fine. Not like they’re married. They both got their own shit to work on, is all. Sheena can't tell if it's comforting or not that it can take thousands of years.

“Sheena?” 

She blinks. “Hey. Mm.” Quick smile, shoulder squeeze. “Spaced, sorry.”

Pearl smiles back. But it’s uneasy. “We can talk about something else.”

“Nah, man, not like that.” She brings up her free hand to scratch her chin. “It’s… how to put it…”

She almost topples the glass propped by her thigh, oop. Forgot she had it. Pearl has had nil interest in alcohol since their first night out, but didn’t mind Sheena pouring herself a little bourbon and soda before they settled in earlier. She did give a disapproving look at keeping the glass on the couch instead of the coffee table.

(“It might spill.”

“Sitting up all the time compromises the cuddle.”)

Hey: it’s a cheap couch. 

They've kinda looked at the TV in between pieces of the actual conversation. Some documentary on the space race. Pearl seemed jazzed about the summary. But ten minutes in it became clear it was more about the political shit. Not much about space itself. Still didn’t keep her from a few moments of ooh-ing and pointing, though, full of stuff to gush about some corner of the sky she recognized. That, or a few chuckles about some folly of human tech. 

Hard not to grin about it. Pearl’s gotten in a lot of miles on her gem-centric… eh… chauvinism, might call it. But tech still gives her the sniffs. Heh. Sheena finds it more endearing than anything. You know? Progress. 

For her part, Sheena spent most of the documentary ignoring the talking heads and trying to plot the rest of the convo. No telling how it’ll go. Much less the encounter.

Listen: Sheena has a life. She doesn't spend all day and all night picturing gals as God made them. But in this case? With Pearl? Man. She’s literally struggling to imagine what's going on under there. 

“Call me anthropocentric.” Borrowing one of Pearl’s zingers. “And no, this isn’t me prodding a boundary… but.” She scratches her neck. “Hm.” Takes a sip of bourbon. Lets the ice rattle. Come on, out with it.  “How do you...?”

That bags a blink. “How do I…?”

“Have sex.”

That bags a squint. Really racking it up, here. “... I do hope we’re talking about the same thing.”

Sounds like she’s a Ben doll down there. 

“I know how it works with humans.” Uh. “Human genitals.” She scrubs the corner of her mouth with a couple knuckles, wetting her lips around the ring. Yikes. Feeling like a dumb highschool kid again. “I don’t know how it works with gems.” 

Ah. Yes… well.” Pearl’s eyes flicker back to the screen. Not that she’s watching. She just needs a breather. Sheena does the same thing sometimes. Once she’s had it, Pearl turns back with a smile. One of the sweet, papery, nervous ones. “Truthfully?”

“That’s the only way this works.”

“Yes. Well. If it’s alright with you, I’d rather…” She clears her throat behind a fist. “… focus on you. To start.” She clears it again. And sits up straight, chin high. “With room to adapt to something more mutual, later on.”

… Huh. Pearl’s always kinda clinical. But she’s also precise. This is… vague. “Can you say more?”

Her hands tent; she watches them instead of Sheena. “I’ll be more relaxed if... to start…” Her mouth stretches thin. Quick breath in and she bullies the words out, stammering: “I can direct my focus solely on you and your pleasure rather than anything directly involving my own.” Her eyes dart back to Sheena’s. “... so, I’d ask that you be... receptive.” 

Receptive. Sheena tastes that one. “You... whoa.” Feels like her stomach tries to wiggle over her liver. She pulls back for a better look. “You want me to bottom.

“O-only if you’re comfortable."

Time to stare. Yeah. “You’re a service top?"

Her eyebrows pinch. “I’m assiduous.” She bristles a little, too. Maybe at the word ‘service.’ 

Shit.

Pearl’s opened up more about it all. In bits and pieces. She was not a general or commander until she and her crew jumped ship, like Sheena thought. Wasn’t even a grunt. Before Earth, Pearl was treated like an intelligent handbag. Status symbol. Servant, tool, toy, thing. The way she monotoned about it late one night, walking shoreside, dull and staring at the waterline -- fuck, man. Sheena didn’t mean to pry. Just wanted to know more. It felt like the right time after opening up about her own family and health baggage, but fuck. And the look she gave Sheena after, not even nervous -- just kind of beat down, and zapped dry, and -- like, Well. It’s been fun. 

Sheena’s not great with words. She just took Pearl's hand. 

Pearl sucked in a breath when she did. Smiled, nervous, not the kind she liked but Sheena was happy to see it, anything but that resigned lost-at-sea fucking look.

“No, no, that’s totally cool. That’s mad cool.” Sheena’s hands go up as she shifts in her seat. Might tip a shade into the red, yeah. “That’s just… wow.”

“Are you uncomfortable?”

“Nah, man.” Puffs a laugh through her nose. ‘Uncomfortable.’ Imagine. “Just feeling kinda spoiled.” 

A little embarrassed. Sheena’s got her own crusty punk appeal, sure. She doesn’t have a hard time getting takers. But she’s never been given the pillow princess treatment. 

Sheena shifts; finds Pearl’s eyes. “Listen, though.” Clears her throat too. Hey, it’s catching. “I’m down. And for anything else that would help you relax.”

"I don't think you should say that so quickly."

"Down to talk about it, at least. You know." She pauses. Shrugs. "Long as you're not trying to run some kind of freaky experiments. Or lop anything off." 

Pearl's face twists, very urgh. Sheena laughs. 

"Somehow I think neither of those will be a concern." Pearl clears her throat. Straightens up, too. Something in her shifts. Voice goes warmer. “What should I keep in mind? For your comfort.”

Oh, buddy. She’s already taking on the rolling tone. The smoky, warm molasses one. She’s hinted at it before. Couple times. Late nights on the couch. Searing Sheena’s ear in quiet places. 

Sheena takes cover behind another sip of bourbon. And she actually thinks about it, yeah.

“Be nice, I guess.” She pictures Pearl’s flawless body. Extrapolates, at least. No scars, wrinkles -- nothing she doesn’t want. Truthful’s the only way to do this. “I get a little self-conscious sometimes about stretchmarks. Cellulite. That kind of thing.” Shrug, shrug. “Just be your typical sweet self.”

"Sheena!" She has to pull her arm back as Pearl somehow pivots a clean 90 degrees underneath and takes her by the cheeks, looking utterly aghast. “You and your body are beautiful!

Wow. Sheena grins as best she can with the squeeze. “Yeah. Just like that.” 

It loosens up the room: they’re face to face, now. And the talking comes easier. The space documentary falls to the wayside, so Sheena kills the volume on it. They both lean in.

“So. With receptive ol’ me.” She lets the ice clink in her glass. Slides a look over the rim. ”What exactly would we do?” 

“What I would do,” and isn’t Pearl enjoying the hell out of that correction, “is a bout of extensive and thorough kissing.” Her eyes skim over Sheena’s bottom lip, tugging the corner of her own smile with a hint of teeth. 

Sheena feels it. Like the beginning of a bruise. 

“... followed by teasing of a physical nature, and verbal if you’re amenable, that culminates in digital stimulation of your preference."

… wow.

Sheena might laugh if it wasn’t, like. Actually kinda hot? Shit she’s cute. Maybe all the dirty talk will feel like a grammar quiz. It’s fine. Sheena can work with that.

For now she just hides a grin behind her glass. “Thought you weren’t into penetration.”

“Not receiving.” Lazy trace along her cheek. It leaves the skin ringing gold. “But I have extensive expertise in its equal and opposite.”

Wow. 

Alright. She lets her eyebrows pull high. If she does it just right, Pearl can’t tell her insides are pulling off some drowsy gymnastics. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Sheena finishes the last of her drink. The ice has barely begun to melt. Okay, fine, she’s a little nervous. New partners can bring that out sometimes. Not a big deal. Relax. 

But there’s new. And then there’s new, you know? Pearl’s practically a first time. She’s always given off a cute nervous sub kinda vibe, when she hasn't been pulling spears out of her head. But obviously there’s some range. Quite a bit. Sheena’s own fault, really, for being surprised. 

It’s fine. It’s whatever… just that Pearl has had centuries to learn everything about human anatomy, and Sheena knows next to zero about gems'. 

Cool. Very cool and fine. Right. Sheena can work with this. 

Just be natural.

Chill.

Pearl won’t take her eyes off of her. A tingle on Sheena’s scalp: Pearl’s toying with a lock of her hair by her shoulder. “You look like you have a lot on your mind.” 

The skin along her collarbone sparks up, too. Sugary warm. Pearl’s painting the lock of hair along there. Right where the skin’s bare. It’s doing things to Sheena’s chest, man.

Proud to say her voice is steady though. “Me? Never.” It wins a wafery laugh from Pearl. Not quite a giggle. Then, trying to nab one, “You look like you’re about to pull some ropes out.”

Pearl goes bright-eyed and reaches for her gem. “Oh, would you like some?”

Shit. 

Big backfire. Her neck is hot. Sheena stutters a laugh of her own, waving. “Maybe later.” 

"Well.” Pearl’s chin ducks a little, reading the mood. Sheepish smile. “In case you change your mind." 

Yeah. Stand by on that one. Sheena shuffles in her seat, but it feels more like a settling-in with Pearl on her back foot like this. "’Never been with a human,’ she says.”

"Been with... sexually. That’s correct.” Double-checking the meaning.

“Have you ever wanted to?”

Her lips purse. And she pulls back. Ahhh -- it's the thinking frown. Sheena's in for a lecture, or a question. "I've never acted, but… hm. I suppose you could say the attraction was abstract. Theoretical."

Feels like this could get philosophical real fast. Sheena watches Pearl’s eyes wander.

"Women are beautiful." Back to toying with Sheena’s hair. But it feels less like the personal act of a moment ago. From foreplay to follicle analysis. "I've admired them from a distance since we've come to Earth. But the differences are too… always felt too vast." Her head shakes. "Interest would fizzle quickly."

You chickened out, Sheena thinks to tease, and does not.

"Too different from gems,” Pearl goes on. “Rose was the only one who had much inclination to --" and her mouth snaps shut. 

She shoots a look at Sheena.

Sheena nods. Go on. But Pearl just stares like she’s been caught mid-arson.

Try again. Sheena waves a ‘go ahead.’ "I'm listening.”

"... It's rude to talk about previous partners."

“I think that’s up to us.” There’s a chilly nerve in her chest. The whole moment, the atmosphere. Frail. The air's gone like rice paper. Sheena sits up taller but she keeps her voice easy. "She’s a part of you.” 

A pause hangs. A pipe rattles -- the thermostat clunking on.  

Sheena wets her lips. Presses. “And I’m asking. You know?”

Kinda trite, to make a fuss about eyes. Not Sheena’s style. But if there is anyone who can use them like Pearl does, Sheena’s yet to meet them. Effusive, emotive, expressive -- you-name-it-she’s-got-ive. And it’s all of her, really. Gestures and hands and posture. Her voice. Just watching her piece through her own thoughts and weigh how to word them is hard to look away from. But it all starts in the eyes. 

Kinda trite. Sure. ‘She’s an open book.’

And just like a book, it’s easy to see when she’s decided to close. Sheena can track it down to the exact moment.

And Pearl does now.

“... perhaps another time.” Comes out a mumble. Dry. Brisk. She doesn’t turn away, exactly. 

I’m not ready, Sheena reads. That's okay. It’s really fine. Hard to scrape back a little disappointment, but. You know. Shit takes time. 

“No problem.” The words snag a little. Getting out. Sheena clears her throat. Feels like the right time to break off the close contact, set her glass on the table. Would be good to give Pearl a breather. Mostly ice and water now. She peels her arm away carefully and leans forward out of her favorite dent on the couch, and Pearl sounds sick saying, “Oh, don’t go.”

“... what?”

“I’m sorry.” She looks panicked, a little pained. Her hand is out for Sheena’s shoulder but she doesn’t touch, like she’s scared to, “I’m sorry, I’m -- I’m just not --”

Sheena takes the long hand in both of hers, like she’s trying to warm it, and Pearl’s mouth snaps shut. Big, watching eyes. Sheena watches her, too. They both take a breath.

“Listen.” Lets her thumbs stroke a little. Over her long palm. “It’s really okay.” The back of her knuckles. Just soft. Easy touches. “You’re doing fine.”

It’s like the words unplug some drain no one knew about. Pearl least of all. Her big blue eyes water, and she sucks in a breath, and lets it out, shaky; her shoulders droop. Relief.

It’s good to see. 

So good Sheena doesn’t notice the spill, until a trickle hits her big toe.

“Shit, c’mon,” she mutters. Makes to get up, to head to the kitchen and grab some paper towels, but Pearl reaches out for her shoulder all the way this time. She's got a cloth ready to go. And laughs, once, dainty -- a little sugarcube of a sound. It’s good. 

“Yeah, yeah, go on.” Sheena grins. Hard to grudge Pearl when she laughs. “You tried to warn me.” 

“In fairness, it didn’t spill on the sofa.”

It takes just a few swipes. And shifting a couple magazines. Then she stows the cloth back in her gem, and they both settle back. It’s... nice. Yeah. Pearl seems more calm. Sheena’s more relaxed, too.

"Sheena."

"Mm."

“... do you have a type?”

Oh, buddy. Sheena’s lips twitch. This should be good. “Type?”

“Yes… a... pattern in the nature of the individuals you find attractive.” Got some hesitation there. Like she isn’t sure she’s using the word right.

Hmmm. 

“I might. Can’t say I’ve noticed.” She scratches the back of her neck and pretends not to see Pearl’s lips purse. “Tempted to just call it ‘I know it when I see it.’”

She clicks her tongue. “As a classification system, it could use some work.”

“What about you?” She wouldn’t bring it up if she didn’t want to share. 

“Ah. Yes.” Oh, shit, the blue blush is creeping up. That’s fucking cute. Pearl smiles behind it. Shy, but teasing, too. “I do, in fact, have a type.”

”Gonna make me guess?”

“I don’t think you need to.”

Well. Sheena pulls her a little closer. 

Pearl looks… like she’s feeling good. Confident. She curls, half on her hip, legs tucked underneath her.  “There’s a lot I like about you. Even from the start.” It’s warm but earnest. (Shit. Sheena’s chest tugs a little.) “I couldn’t take my eyes off of you.”

She couldn’t. Sheena could crack wise about how she really bungled it in the coffee shop, but Pearl’s already settling closer. Her side is pressed into Sheena’s arm along the backrest, and Pearl’s own arm reaches up, slow. Brushes a lock of hair from Sheena’s cheek. She takes no pains to hide her languid look (drinking her in -- eyes, lips, neck), no shame about it. 

Shit, man. Yeah. Sheena resists crossing her legs. The mood’s alive and well.

Light, light: Pearl grazes her knuckles along Sheena’s jaw. She’s practically purring. "You really are lovely."

What the hell. Sheena grins into the blunt charm of it. "You know you don’t have to sweet-talk me."

"I do." She leans in. Gentle: her nose brushes Sheena’s cheek, like the prelude to a kiss. "I do, because you're going to be such a darling, and let me touch you."

Wow. Sheena drags an exhale. It's pretty PG, yeah. Barely sexual. But the way she says it -- heated, calm. Easy to give into. It’s more than enough to get a girl fluttery.

She takes Sheena by the hand; brings it to her lips; settles a kiss along the back of her knuckles. Barely there. And then another, just a graze, but it sends a scrape of brassy warmth through her wrist. Tender. Just watching her.

Soft lips. Soft eyes.

"You will, won't you?" She trails kisses along her index. Never quite leaves the skin. And punctuates, with a gentle nip. Not even. Just pressing her teeth, barely enough to tingle, simmering bedroom eyes. "You'll let me have you."

Fuck, dude. 

Sheena wets her lips and swallows. Opens her mouth. Uh. Closes it. “... am I supposed to answer?"

"You'll know when I want you quiet."

That’s hot but, wow. A nervous laugh bubbles up. Of course foreplay with Pearl feels like an action movie script.

"Sorry," she titters. Her flush is high over the bridge of her nose. "Was that too much?"

"No. It's good." If a little weird. Of course it's weird. "I'm just not great at banter."

"Oh, but that's fine! You don't need to be. I'm simply, um, quite verbal." She laughs; sounds a little light-headed. Glad Sheena’s not alone. "Is that alright?"

"Super alright.”

“I’m also rather. Ahem. Particular.” Careful fingertip along her collarbone. Makes Sheena swallow. “Does it feel okay?”

Uhhh yeah. It’s excessively fucking okay. Sheena lets her chin roll back in a grin. “Feels good.” Feels like being lovingly skewered with hard candy. “Just spell it out for me if you want some yes ma’ams, or something.” 

"Mm. That won’t be necessary.” Then, perking, “If it would help you relax to wear a gag, I have a few you might --"

"Maybe just kissing," Sheena cuts in, and Pearl goes "Oh! Ahem! Yes."

Normally Pearl is careful about climbing on top of Sheena. At least subtle. Couch sessions more often than not end with Pearl lowkey buried into Sheena’s side, leg grapevined over hers, or Pearl stammering to climb aboard for a little second base. Now, though: Pearl just slips a long thigh over Sheena's legs, and settles herself. All prim confidence.

Maybe Sheena’s face gives her away, because Pearl hesitates. 

"Ah, oh. That was presumptuous.” She flutters her mouth around oddly. “Is this alright?"

"Fuckin' A." It comes out a grunt. Oops. 

Pearl clicks her tongue. "That won't do." And slips right back into character, threading fingers into Sheena's hair. Shivery-nice. "Be good for me."

Yeah, man, no problem. Sheena practically rolls over. Do what you like. Kissing, kissing; fuck, dude. Can’t be legal what she does with her mouth. And she knows it, she leads Sheena along on a thread through every press against each other, every time --

Sheena's hands curve along Pearl's hips to squeeze her closer, but then she sucks in a breath when her wrists are pinned flat to the back of the couch. No budging those. Fuck.

“Be still,” Pearl whispers, in a rush, and heat pours from mouth to belly like Sheena’s swallowed wine. Brush of Pearl’s lips along the curve of Sheena’s cheek; cool breath against her neck. “Just let me have you.”

Fuck. She sucks in air. Lets it go. Wet, already? Fuck. “N… no problem.”

What a turn. What a turn. Sheena had been so sure that she had a bedroom wallflower on her hands. Listen -- shit tracked, alright? But feels more like Pearl’s gonna wring her out instead.

Kissing turns to nibbling -- just tasting, gently. Pearl’s mouth is warm, all of her is warm right now. She traces toothy, lacquer kisses from the corner of Sheena’s mouth, her jaw, setting off a klaxon of happy nerves and survival bells when she brings her mouth to Sheena’s throat. She can feel her own pulse against Pearl’s lips. Just before she lists hard left -- kissing the softest part of Sheena’s neck, along the side, right under the jaw -- Pearl shivers in her lap and makes this closed mouth moan that has no goddamn business sounding that good.

Fuck. 

Might be Sheena’s only leg to stand on tonight. Should things turn thataway. If observation serves, Pearl’s very into softness. Gets her a little weak-kneed. It’s cute. The first time they kissed more than once, cloistered in the backalley behind a noise band venue, she visibly struggled to keep her hands off of Sheena: her hips, her thighs, her tits and waist. One shift in hand position had Sheena’s sweater ride up a few inches, and Pearl shivered and squeaked when her touch brushed the bare skin of her belly. Super fucking cute. Sheena had closed in, hemming Pearl against the wall -- pressed them chest-to-chest -- and it drove Pearl to break from the kiss with a pocketlinty strangled little sound, staring down the opening of Sheena’s V-neck with eyes gone dinner plate. It gave Sheena the chance to guide Pearl by the wrist, to cup Sheena’s ass through her jeans.

“Hey.” She stole another kiss. Left a spur of a nip at the corner of Pearl’s mouth. “You can touch me.” Her hand over Pearl’s squeezed; made herself sigh. The look she poured down on her got a lot of flutters. “I like it when you do.”

Pearl had given one nervous laugh, face blue as a freezing victim. “Al... alright.” And that wibbly smile Sheena first found cute, but now finds a little heartbreaking. Like she’s asking, Can I really?

(But since then she’s touched her more.)

Not that it’s helping her so much now. When Pearl laces teeth over her pulse and sucks, Sheena’s voice writhes up in a moan.

Bed! ” she gasps, and actually bridges her hips, demanding pressure -- can’t help it -- but with Pearl’s hands whipped away at the shout, the movement damn near bucks Pearl right out of her lap.

“Bad?” Her eyes are big and spooked, scanning for what hurts. Breathing heavy. 

No! … no, ‘course not.” Shit. Deep breath. “Bed… ” She catches her breath, hand in her hair. “Bedroom.” She’s already starting to sweat. “Take… let’s head to the bed.”

Pearl’s seen her room exactly once. From the hall on the initial tour. It was weird, though; she shied away from stepping inside. Didn’t want much to do with it. And in the time since then, curiosity has yet to get the better of her. 

Brand new territory, for Pearl. Not for lack of trying on Sheena’s part. 

And all that earlier hesitation comes hustling back. Apparently. Pearl wavers. Stands. She’s a little unsteady. Clears her throat, smooths down her jeans.

Damn.

“Sorry.” Sheena wipes her mouth. Her lips are on partway to sore-but-happy-about-it. “Didn’t mean to throw your rhythm.”

“No, not at all. The, um, the bed is better.” Pearl’s eyes flicker. They’re clearing of the heat. “I’m sorry, I’m normally much more -- er, transitions aren’t --”

“-- perfect. Not ever. Don’t worry about it.” Sheena shrugs. It’s not very fluid with her breath still heavy but whatever. She smiles, too. “We’re having fun, you know? No one’s keeping score.”

Pearl sighs. Like it's a consolation prize. “‘Fun’...” 

Sullen, oop, oop. Got that perfectionist streak. 

“That’s right. I know you know fun.” Sheena cooks up a crooked grin as she gets to her feet. And takes Pearl by the hands. Pulls on them, too, back and forth. "Shake it out… c’mon, ladykiller."

For someone of such a pasta-like constitution, she’s got a tough time loosening up. Almost mutinous in the face.

Until Sheena steals a kiss (Pearl goes “oh!”), and begins a drowsy beeline for the hall. She leads Pearl by one hand all the way. Backwards saunter, easy grin. She dips her chin and sways, lazy, pretending to dance to no music, and it makes Pearl roll her eyes and chuckle. Her smile’s less nervous. Good. If she were human, she might be showing laugh lines.

Straightening up her room has crawled higher on the priority list lately. Not, like, planning or anything. Just in case. Pearl’s uncomfortable when shit’s messy. Sheena can accommodate. Guitar and ukulele on their hooks, books half-stacked on the shelf, desk clear of general artsy detritus. Couple jackets over the back of her chair. Neat but cozy.

She plants on the bed, going for cheeky. “Welcome. Help yourself to souvenirs.”

Pearl slows to a stop well out of arm’s reach. She pans around the room looking at everything but Sheena: couple posters, photos, her clothesline of zines across the window, tidbits on the shelf and desk. Sheena catches her eyeing the closet.

“Yes… thank you.” She fidgets. “What are those for?” She points at Sheena’s particle mask and goggles.

Oh. “Protests. If they fire off tear gas.”

“Ah.” Pearl folds her hands together. Skims one thumb over the other. “That…” She chuckles. “I wouldn’t have to worry about that.”

Because she doesn’t need to breathe? Because she could level any military grade riot gear in seconds? Both and, probably. 

“I bet.” Sheena just smiles.

There’s another pause. Pearl won’t look at her. Still casting around, studying the walls and floor, not setting foot outside the square of carpet that barely qualifies as “inside.” 

That’s fine. She can take her time.

Sheena considers patting the bed next to her. Instead she asks, “Can I take off my shirt?”

That brings Pearl’s eyes back. Wide, too. “Your shirt?”

“Yeah.” Little blunt, maybe.  

“Of… of course.” But Pearl doesn’t come closer. Just watches. Maybe Sheena should have asked for her help.

Oh well. Sheena fires off a wink, and shrugs herself out of it. Doesn’t wait to check Pearl’s expression (but she hears an “oh ”) before she reaches back to unhook her bra. Real efficient. Listen, Sheena’s all business when she can afford to be. The strap slides down her arm, waking up the nerves again, and she casts it off at the end of the bed. Then she fluffs up her hair to its typical order, and looks back to Pearl. 

Poor thing is mad staring. One hand is over her lips, but Sheena can tell they’re in an trembly “oh.” 

“Feel okay?” Yeah, alright. There’s a smidgen of smug.

Pearl’s mouth opens. Closes. “You’re... er,” she shakes her head oddly, flaps a hand, “... decorated.” 

Oh. Right. After years, Sheena hardly notices them. But the tidy silver barbell through each nipple must be eye-catching.

“Yeah.” She props back on her hands.  Shrugs a spill of hair over her shoulder. Shows them off. Why not? And adds in a saucy chin tilt, for good measure. “You like ‘em?”

Pearl’s already taken two steps closer. Like she’s sleep-walking. But she jerks to a stop, not quite in arm’s-reach, and freezes.

“You okay?” Sheena curls a couple fingertips. Coaxing. Come closer. 

Pearl ain’t having it. She looks like she wants an escape hatch.

“Still having fun?” Sheena straightens. Holds her hand out for Pearl. She doesn’t reach back.  “It’s okay if --”

“I am," she says, and snatches up Sheena’s hand between both of hers. Like she’s trying to warm it. The words come out terse. A little frail. Apologetic. “I... I want this.”

“Cool, cool... that’s cool.” Gives her hand a squeeze. As best she can. It’s a weird position. “C’mon, Star Girl.” She pulls, nice and easy. And fishes for a suitably corny line. “Rock my world.”

Pearl lets herself be tugged closer. She looks sheepish. “I intended to seduce you .”

“Seduction can be a team effort.”

A couple more tugs, and Pearl lets herself settle back onto Sheena’s lap. Pearl’s eyes have that look again, the Can I really? Sheena’s kind of starting to hate it. 

“They don’t hurt, do they?” Pearl asks, grazing the piercings with her eyes. But only Sheena's shoulders with her hands. Light as lace. Of course Pearl knows they don’t. She just wants to hear it from the source.

So Sheena shakes her head. “Exaaaact opposite.” They were a great investment. “Just be gentle, hey.”

“I believe I can do that.” Her throat bobs in a swallow. She looks hungry. That’s a new one on Pearl.

Sheena could just sit there until she blushes so hard she bruises blue, but fuck if she isn’t burning a hole in her jeans, here. So she just slides her hands along the tops of Pearl’s thighs, to her hips, and murmurs, “Touch me,” so low and glossy that Pearl shivers -- but then she does -- she’s petting, just holding her a moment. 

Sheena’s lips twitch. Don’t smile. Leave it to Pearl to get all artful about a handful of tit. “Do I feel good?” Teasing.

“Yes.” Comes out foggy. And undercut with a whoosh-ing sigh as she lets her fingers brush against the skin.  “You’re s... so lovely.”

“Glad you like.” Lazy smile. Sheena leans up for a kiss. “C’mon.”

Kissing, straddling -- it’s what brings Pearl’s confidence back. God she’s good at shortcircuiting Sheena’s brain with it. Feels so natural to move with her, take each other in like this. Easy as drinking water. 

She waits for Sheena to make a sound into a kiss before her first squeeze and -- yep -- that sets off a moan, strained, heated. 

“Oh,” Pearl gasps, shivering, “Oh, you’re…”

She bites her lip on whatever the next word is and Sheena just enjoys. Pearl has incredible hands. They’re not soft, but they’re gentle, and exact in how they touch, stroke. Even a little too exact. Dexterous is a good word for it. 

“It’s not so different,” Pearl whispers. Maybe she meant it for herself. Her eyes have that glazed over look to them that honestly, has Sheena kind of buzzing, and the polite petting gets a little heavier.

Sheena wants more pressure. More movement. Yeah she wanted the shirt off but something about the position (nice as it feels) is very exposed. She takes her hand to make Pearl squeeze, harder --

“Ah-ah.” Pearl takes her wrist. She’s strong. “We’re going to take our time.” She pulls Sheena’s hand to her lips and grazes her tongue against her thumb. “Lie down for me.” 

Hot. Fuck. Yeah man, no problem.

“That’s very good.” 

Pearl has her mounted. Easy, aloof, back in control. Sheena searches for the nervous, second- and third-guessing Pearl. She’s apparently left the building.

Pearl reaches: Sheena sucks in a breath, waiting for a tug on her piercing, or another grope, or… but Pearl’s fingers twist around a lock of her hair. She toys with it. Brushes it over Sheena’s skin, scattering nerves. Seems a favorite move of hers. 

And one she’s good at. Got Sheena running with dopamine shivers, goosebumps. Anticipation. 

"Feeling alright?" Pearl coos.

"Yeah." Comes out a grunt.

“If you want to stop, you’ll have to tell me.”

“Yeah...”

“Do you like me on top of you, Sheena?”

“Y… eah.”

“So agreeable.” She hums. “Can you say anything else?”

“... yeah.”

She laughs, champagne-slow, and dizzying, and actually starts a slow swirl with her hips, eyes never leaving Sheena’s.

The jeans have got to fucking go. ”Let me take these off,” Sheena grumbles, and shifts her hips, and makes a reach for her fly -- just to curse when Pearl pins her wrist to the mattress. A pop of heat in Sheena’s belly has her hips shifting, she’s sweating, fuck.

“Try again.”

Right. Play along. “Please?” She licks her lips. “Can I take them off?”

It wins a purr, and a stroke up her arm. “Much better.” 

Shouldn’t be surprised that Pearl strips her instead. Sheena moves for her, making way -- doesn’t even try to shimmy when Pearl takes her sweet time tugging the denim and panties down. Oh, but Pearl -- this sweetheart -- brushing against Sheena’s thighs gets her all trembly, and she lets a long, shuddery exhale for a moment before she finally tugs the jeans off her ankles. 

”You okay?”

“Yes. Oh.” Breathless, “Oh, Sheena.”

She seems to just want to dote, for awhile. Some of the most loving touches and looks Sheena’s been on the happy end of. Just taking her in. Sheena feels assessed once more, like their first date, but she keeps quiet underneath it. Strange. Yeah, it’s strange. But hard not to get a bit sentimental over it.

How many humans has Pearl seen? How many have wanted her? No way in hell Sheena’s the first. By a long shot. She’s bedding down with a being who’s declined intimacy with thousands of years of humanity, but wants to fool around with her.  Sheena’s never been much for stage fright… but that’s a nice dose of pressure.

And she’s halfway worked up the nerve to ask Pearl to touch her when she hears a strangled sound. Shit. Sheena struggles upright. “Pe... are you crying?

”I’m feeling!” She swipes a hand over her eyes and gives a great heaving sigh. “You’re juh-just so lovely!”

If she wasn’t so relieved and wildly turned on, she’d probably laugh. Incredible.

Pearl fans her face a moment. Flushed to the roots of her hair, so fucking cute. A couple deep breaths seem to compose her. "Okay… okay." She clears her throat. Parts invisible curtains. "I'm alright. Excuse me."

“Sure you’re okay?” Sheena watches her. Swallows. “We can take a break, if you want.” Even if her nerves file a grievance at the thought.

“I’m marvelous.” Calmer. She’s back with it. “Nevermind, you… you know how I am.”

I get a little carried away.

“You aren’t alone.” Sheena sinks back to her elbows. “Could I have another kiss? Pretty please.”

“Mm.” There’s a good smile. “You’re a quick study.” 

When Pearl climbs on her again, kissing, the denim of her jeans scrapes delicious against Sheena’s skin and she groans. It’s sensitive, all over, like a newly healed burn, goddamn, foreplay doesn’t normally get to her like this. And if they keep moving at the Sunday afternoon pace with the added sensual torture of Pearl’s outfit scratching-stroking-slinking over her skin, Sheena might actually rip a hole in her mattress.

Pearl takes her lip between her teeth and tongue and sucks, soft enough to kill her, and it’s what makes Sheena break away for air, gasping, “You’re still dressed.” It comes out as a whine. That’s embarrassing. 

“I want to focus on you.” Pearl pauses, though. Hovering over Sheena. There’s a note of nerves coming through.

“I won’t touch.” Sheena can just not touch ever. No problem, man. “But can I see you?” She waits a second before she sweetens the pot: “Please.”

Pearl softens. Sheena watches it happen. Pearl really likes begging. “Oh... alright.”

If Sheena’s businesslike, Pearl is downright economic. She slips off to the foot of the bed, and her clothes just vanish. Only thing she leaves on are a pair of powdery blue boyshorts. Her fingers fidget near the waistband. “I’d... prefer to leave these on.”

“S’fine.” Super fine. It’s really completely fine.

Sheena…. stares. Okay? She stares. Pearl’s built and muscled like a willowy, slightly anemic woman. She’s not. Of course. She’s a gem. Long, and pale, and human in silhouette, but no nipples, no breasts, no navel. Obviously. What would she need them for. 

Stunning. She really is. Sheena opens her mouth to assure her that. Calm her nerves. With a “you’re gorgeous,” or “you’re so pretty,” or  --

Pearls are supposed to be ‘pretty.’

She said it sharp enough to spark. At night, at the dockside. She’d just projected for Sheena some clip from the war -- Pearl taking down some big motherfucker. But with a very different outfit. And Sheena commented on it. It was supposed to be an idle comment, and Pearl blinked bemused when Sheena apologized for it later. She hadn’t taken offense. But Sheena still felt like an asshole. 

Pearl is beautiful. She’s gorgeous. But that doesn’t mean Sheena needs to remind her. 

It's gotten quiet. Pearl half-watches, waiting for some signal. And maybe grudging the need to. She doesn’t seem self-conscious about her body at all -- doesn’t hunch or hide --  but she props one knee on the mattress, like she’s eager to slide back. Get a move on.

Sheena… holds a hand out. “Thank you.” Comes out creaky. “I’ve never known anyone like you.”

Her eyes go wide. There’s whole portraits happening in there.

Sheena sucks on her lip. Why does she feel like ten different kinds of embarrassment? Shit.  “So, please.” She shifts a knee, just enough to give the message. “Get back here before I pop my frontal lobe.”

Pearl laughs. It’s one of the good ones. Her eyes glitter, and she’s smiling wide when she climbs back onto the bed. "Move up for me, then." Waves Sheena farther back. "To the pillows, you silvertongue."

Sheena keeps her promise: she doesn’t touch.  But Pearl seems affected nonetheless. She’s slower, now, moving more carefully. The mattress makes way underneath her as she settles back and tents Sheena’s knees tall, gets a good eyeful of everything from the waist down. A flash thought of Should I have trimmed? gets tossed. Fuck a bunch of that. Sheena has plenty to contend against just resisting the urge to grab the back of Pearl’s neck without the mixed signal of wanting to close her legs. 

Pearl just blankets her hands on her thighs. Taking deep breaths. Her hands have the tiniest shake to them. “May I kiss you here?”

“Yeah,” she grunts. Like you gotta ask.

Soft kisses along her thigh, starting by the knee. But moving down. Sheena tries to breathe. Slow breathing. But Pearl: grazing lips over the skin, lower, (higher? closer ) teeth take a mouthful of creamy flesh and press, just enough to nibble, hot breath, fuck, Sheena’s thighs try to wedge wider. 

And Pearl pulls back. “Not yet.” Her voice is hoarse. 

God, and she’s a tease!

She takes her sweet fucking time. Stops only midway through the thigh and climbs up further on Sheena’s body (Sheena tries to bridge her hips up to her leg, get friction, something, Pearl makes some chiding sound and pins her flat again) -- until she’s level with her hips, skipping over the main course. 

Sheena nearly complains, but Pearl… Pearl’s intent. She doesn’t seem like she’d hear. She’s very absorbed in kissing along Sheena’s belly, her hips and breasts, making tender little sounds. It’s hot, and flattering, and maybe a little embarrassing. She seems to be having such a good time of it, though, as Sheena tries to calm down again, and just -- just relax into the attention, just enjoy the ride. Threads her fingers through Pearl’s hair.

But then Pearl sucks a nipple into her mouth and Sheena has to hiss, “Pearl, fuck, it shoots a bolt of hot white straight to her clit. And Pearl whimpers and it sends another right behind it, fuck, dude. Her tongue swirls, flexing-gentle over Sheena’s skin, teasing at the piercing -- tugging enough to send sleepy-thick static -- and it’s good. 

But goddamn, somehow Pearl seems to be enjoying even more than Sheena. Her eyes are hazy and half-lidded as she lays in like that, still groping with her hands -- she seems to love the curve of flesh framing Sheena’s side, the generous shape of her hip -- and her whole body shifts, steady and restless, each possible inch of herself pressed close. Pearl’s long legs wind around Sheena’s like hungry vines -- not grinding or thrusting but nonetheless like she’s trying to tenderly work all of herself, however she can, inside Sheena’s body -- a gentle burrow of skin-to-skin.

She half-buries her face in Sheena’s chest -- but then her neck -- but turns, too, like shaking her head -- shivering and moaning -- rhythmic but atonal, she’s never sounded like that before -- and her gem is warm to the touch, almost hot, like a sunbeam on her skin. What she can see of Pearl’s expression is heartbreakingly sweet and pleased, eyebrows pinched in and lips open around soft sounds, until she chokes a shout, once  -- twice, longer -- 

Sheena’s throbbing. But she doesn’t move besides panting underneath Pearl and stroking shakily along her back as she rides it out, trembling, and sinks back into herself. Still stirring… but the movement drags more, slower, until she’s still. 

They’re both panting. Sheena just… just strokes her hair, a minute. It’s sticking up in places. Tries to smooth it down, careful. Not hard. Just easy. She can’t tell if Pearl is sweating too. But the noise she makes at the touch is sweet. Just a soft round sound, drowsy, somewhere at the back of her throat. That’s fucking cute. 

Sheena keeps petting as they cool. Not for long -- a couple minutes at the most. Up until the happy drowsy hum abruptly cuts off and Pearl’s eyes snap open from her place on Sheena’s chest.

“Oh…” Her hand goes to her cheek like she’s shielding it. “Oh, no.”

“It’s alright.” Sheena drags her palm along her back. “You okay?"

“Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be.” 

Her other hand joins and she buries her face in the both of them, half-curled on her side against Sheena’s chest. “Oh noooo…

“Shhhh, hey, c’mon. I liked it.” Sooo fucking cute. Sheena grins in Pearl’s hair, hidden. “Was that good?” 

Whatever it was.

“I… oh, of course it was good. It was decadent .” She sounds so embarrassed Sheena wants to squeeze her. “I’m sorry, I normally have much better self-control.”

“You are a master of flattery.”

It takes a few more minutes of kissing her hair and yes, really, don’t worry, it was perfectly fine, to get Pearl to come out from her double-hand holdfast. When she does she is flushed almost to her neck and yep, wow, that sure is a post-o face. Sheena just hopes she can let herself enjoy it.

“I’m sorry again.” She still looks dazed but warm. “It can happen when there’s an excess of stimulation.”

“I think it was the exact correct amount of stimulation.” Spicy grin. “Woooof.”

Pearl clucks her tongue but without much sting to it. “And besides, it… oh, ” she huffs! “It’s so much more difficult to gauge with a new partner --”

“Sorry,” Sheena says, struggling to feel it, “But I hope it doesn’t mean I can’t see that again.” Pearl actually makes a weak bat at her shoulder and buries her face back into her chest, grumbling. “No, seriously, I’m not teasing. It’s nice. I was a little worried I couldn’t do anything for you.”

Pearl dredges another groan.  “I wanted this to be about you. ” 

“I’m enjoying the hell out of myself. Do not worry about that.” Another kiss in her hair. Pearl grumbles but accepts it. “How does it work, though?”

Something about it seems to comfort her -- maybe hearing that Sheena’s enjoying. Pearl relaxes on top of her.

“... physical contact is very important for pearls,” she mumbles. Her breath feels good over Sheena’s chest. “Or rather, it’s very good for us when we can have it. It facilitates healthy nacre maintenance and regeneration, and better regulates our typical gem functions… we can store bodyheat from other beings and sublimate it into an energy that can supplement our own inherent stores…”

“And it feels good.”

“... and it feels good.” She buries her cheek against Sheena’s skin again. Fucking precious. “Not always in the fashion like just now... when it, er… culminates.”  

“Gets you off. It’s cute.”

Pearl dithers on that. “I suppose it could be considered similar. To orgasm.” Cautious. “And of course it’s contextual, and dependent upon a number of other circumstantial pieces.” She babbles a bit. Flushed. Seems she gets chatty after she’s popped her cork. “Mostly of course it’s not to such an extent, or of such an analogously prurient nature… mostly it’s just warm and pleasant. Typical of cuddling. But at times, yes, it’s rather --”

That’s super cute. 

“-- I’m sorry if it startled you.” 

“No, don’t be. It’s really sweet.” Feels like she keeps saying it. But only because Pearl keeps not hearing it. “I didn’t really know what to expect, anyway.”

Her eyelashes move. Sheena can feel them against her skin. “… what did you expect?” 

Hmmm. “I didn’t think too hard about it.” It’s kind of true. Sheena just kinda rolls with shit. “I was down to work with my cute alien datemate's... tentacle, or whatever.”

Pearl’s mouth stretches tight in a sour line. Like she just had another go with the stout. “Sheena. I am a rock.”

“Yeah. And I didn’t know what they got. Now I know.” Kiss. “And I like it.”

“Oh.” She sounds pleased. “You like it?”

“Mmhmm.” Sheena can’t laugh. Only took half a dozen times to get the message across. The mood’s changed, though. Sheena wants to check in. “Do you want to slow down?” Like, she’s left a wetspot in the mattress, but they can stop if Pearl wants to. “We can just snuggle lowkey like.”

She goes uncertain again. Oop.  “... do you want to slow down?”

Uh oh. This kind of thing. Sheena nips it in the bud.

“I can go either way.” She swallows. It’s technically true. “But honestly, I’m worked up. So I’m happy to cuddle you all night, but I think I’d need a minute alone in the shower first."

“Oh, no.” 

The shift again. It’s like the room warms a few degrees. Pearl is careful, lifting herself up. She sears Sheena a look before slowly backing in a crawl towards the foot of the bed. Threading back between Sheena’s thighs. “I think you misunderstand my intentions.”

Yo. She sucks her bottom lip. “Dumb it down for me.” Don’t grab her neck, don’t grab her neck.

Long, watercolor fingers trace high along her inner thigh. Feels like they’re leaving calligraphy. “I want to feel how warm you can be.”

Wow. Sheena actually goes red to the neck. She can feel it. And she can see Pearl enjoying it. She’s too good at the type of dirty talk where it’s not what she says, it’s how. She could be reading a goddamn grocery list for all Sheena’s libido cares.

"Would you like me here, Sheena?" Just a touch, light, but it has Sheena’s head whipping back into the pillows. Don’t grab her. Don’t touch.

“Yeah,” hissing.

“Oh, my.” Another touch. Full palm, too light, “Is this typical for you?” Pearl laughs low. 

Sheena just moans, trying not to press against it. If she does Pearl’s gonna drag it out even more, she can tell --

”So pretty, Sheena.” She’s starting oh fuck yes she’s starting to actually touch her, she’s stroking, long, slow rolling strokes from the heel of her palm to her fingertips, Sheena can feel it thrumming in hot neon strings up her spine to the backs of her teeth, only -- what the fuck, no --

“Oh… oh my.” Pearl sounds a little giddy. Light-headed.

Whyareyoustopping?” she slurs, sounds like she might cry, fuck, dude.

Pearl laughs: small, dark. Got the acoustics of a jewelry-box boudoir. “Here, too, Sheena?” 

She’s found her other piercing. Takes it in between her fingers and Sheena can’t answer, are you fucking kidding, she just goes blank -- pleasure and paralysis in a wave --

"Shhhhh," Pearl over her, hard kisses on her chest, "Don’t worry, I've got you. I do. Oh, you're so lovely." 

The piercing rolls between her fingers and Sheena can’t not -- she hisses " Fuck," -- and Pearl purrs and presses closer, pins her with her body. She's strong: Sheena’s hips cant hard upward, but Pearl won’t let her budge, makes her steady, makes her still -- makes her feel every touch exactly as Pearl wants her to.

“Kiss me,” Sheena growls, and Pearl pinches and Sheena's back bows and she curves up in a whine, “Please, please, kiss me, please --”

“That’s right,” kisses her, voice shaking quiet, “That’s beautiful. You're ready for me, aren't you? Oh," kisses, again, and Sheena moans into her mouth -- can’t even kiss her back right -- "you're beautiful. You're beautiful, you..."  

It’s like she splits Sheena up the middle with it, yes yes yes, stretches her tight where it’s best and Sheena’s coming like that -- too good to be still -- Pearl’s in her arms and Sheena’s squeezing her close and press, presses against her, presses. Pearl’s hushing, between kisses against Sheena’s neck, when her brain comes back online.

“A minute,” she gasps, pushes Pearl away. She needs a minute. To breathe. To cool. Calm down. Too sensitive. Too much. Pearl does. Lets her breathe. Lets her. 

Sheena gasps. “Oh, my god.” 

Closes eyes. Hand to her head. On her side. Breathing. Fuck, dude. Like her brain's on a carousel. Breathing. Skin humming, every muscle from the bellybutton down all Mardi Gras color. 

"Fuck,” she fizzles. Pearl’s lips on her neck. Soft. Lets Pearl lie her flat again. Sheet's sweaty under her.

Pearl brushes hair from Sheena’s eye. Sticky hair. Mess, mess. “Good?” 

Sheena just scoffs. Breathless. But then wrings out a weak “Yeah.”

“May I kiss you?”

Tender with it. Just lips, lips. Soothing. Sheena catches her breath. Slow. Catches her breath. Pulls back, in the haze. Pearl lets her. Sheena moves. Careful. Slow, pours off the mattress. For the shower. Does Pearl want to join? No, shakes her head, go ahead. Sheena does. Water on. Steaming hot. Dreamlike. Floaty and soft. That knot in her neck is gone. Brushes her teeth, quick, just toothpaste and water, doesn’t bother with floss, pajamas. Fuck it man. When she stumbles back in Pearl’s changed the sheets.

They sink back into bed. And then back to slow kissing (“Oh,” Pearl coos, “Mint,”) kissing…..







Scrrp.

Sheena's too comfortable. Warm. It's good. Just enjoys, collects herself. Still on that gauzy edge of sleep. 

Scrrp.

She’s got her arm scooped around Pearl’s waist. Noseful of ginger fluff. Too awake to fall back asleep. She takes a big breath, stretches her legs. But doesn’t let go of Pearl. Sneaks a look over her shoulder, though. The room is dark, except for a faint light from Pearl’s gem. Just enough to see the book she’s curled up around.

"Reading?" Sheena stifles a yawn. Reaches: snags the lightswitch. The stone age digital clock on her bedside reads 3:22. Pearl's mentioned she doesn't like to sleep much.

"Mm." Milky, drowsy. Comfortable. "I hope you don't mind."

Sheena traces her lips along Pearl's neck. Warm. No pulse. "You’ve officially...” she peppers a kiss, “... earned the right…” and another, “to do whatever you want. Phew." Couple more for good measure.

Pearl giggles low. “So you enjoyed yourself?” She closes her book and stashes it in her gem.  Not sure Sheena will ever get used to that. But then she turns over, looking impish. 

“Your hands are ridiculous.” Sheena kisses her temple, down her cheek. Finds her ear. 

Pearl’s laugh is breathy.“It appears that’s a good thing.”

Sheena straddles her: it’s a sleepy tease. Warm skin against warm skin, Pearl's taken on all of her bodyheat, she giggles “Sheena.” 

"Am I acting up?" Kisses her neck, she smells like the sheets, "Is it time for some yes ma'ams?"

Sheena can feel her hips wiggle underneath her. Pearl tucks a smile into the pillow, aiming for coy maybe. It doesn’t quite land until Pearl bites her bottom lip. "You didn't seem to mind a firm hand."

"Not if it's yours." She leans to kiss, and Pearl meets her partway. "Woooof."

She goes for the kiss again but her hair falls wrong -- it gets between them and Pearl splutters, laughing. "Sheena! It’s… blegh.”

"Occupational hazard, ma'am."

"Wait, hold still, I can…" Giggling again, "Oh no, you have so much of it --"

Sheena's not much for the play wrestling type shit. But something about the moment brings it out of her. Out of Pearl, too, apparently: there's a good piece of tussling and half-kisses between laughs, where Pearl slips a hip so she's back on top -- but then lets Sheena back up -- until they're breathless again, threatening toothy kisses, demanding hands.

Is it like this with other gems? Her other times?

Gem shit is still a big mystery. You bet. And she's still kind of hung up on it from earlier. And maybe Sheena’s feeling a little high on herself, and wondering how Pearl would feel about another round. So yeah; girl’s curious. 

She waits for a break in action with them side by side, nose to nose. Both grinning, breathless. Then Sheena puts it out there. "Is that how all gems have sex?”

Maybe it's rude to ask. But Pearl has her at a disadvantage. Despite all the glass cannon confidence, she’s clearly got a much better handle on the human side of things.

Pearl's still midsmile and panting. But at the question it's like… like the wind drops out. Her breath slows. Her eyes stay the same shape and size but they change on her. 

She holds the gaze with Sheena. Looking for something. But then she clears her throat, and turns onto her back.

"Ah… well." Pearl looks up to the ceiling. Sheena watches her eyes in profile, flicking across the ceiling. Weighing words. “Sometimes.” Her eyes shift a fraction to the left, thinking. Uh oh. "When they want to."

Quiet crops up. Sheena’s still leveling her breath out, but Pearl’s stopped altogether. It’s easy to forget she doesn’t actually need to.

“For pearls in particular, it's more of a... side effect. Of how we’re made. " 

She mentioned this before. Gems come fully formed, fresh out of the box. With all kinds of features they didn’t have much say in.

"When most gems step out of line, retribution is always immediate. Most often physical. Some combination of corporal punishment, public upbraiding... a sharp drop in status or certain privileges."

She's far away now. Wistful. Dammit. 

"But pearls…" Ah, shit. There it is. The monotone. Part of Sheena wants to kick her own teeth in for asking. "Pearls have no status or privilege to speak of. And are relatively fragile. It's much easier to mistakenly compromise a pearl’s function by repeated dissipation, as they may accidentally be reset. They could forget all their owner's particulars and preferences, which would decrease value. And besides.” The monotone breaks, just a moment, for a tight smile. "We're far too pretty to risk being damaged."

Bitter. Bitter, bitter.

"But they always had some strategy to try and compel obedience." Her fingers smooth along the lip of the comforter, forcing symmetry. “They’ve always held that as priority.”

Pearl's gem catches some of the low light from the bedside lamp. That's her. Fully formed. Fresh out of the box. When Pearl gets too fucked up, her body vanishes back in there until she can make a new one. 

She never really leaves it, though. It’s her. 

The quiet sticks around for a moment. Pearl breaks it.

"I suppose Homeworld saw it as a way of fostering our dependence upon an owner. To need to obey. To need to stay close. To crave approval." She gives a small hard laugh. 

Sheena's mouth dips. That doesn't sound like Pearl. “Didn’t work very well.” 

"Mm. Yes." But she’s frowning. More thoughtful than amused. "I suppose it never occurred to them it could be a conduit to equitable intimacy."

Gutting to think about. All of it. They wanted her clingy and needy and submissive and defeated from the ground up. From the word “go.” They wanted that shit baked in. And damned if they didn’t try every way they could think of.

It's horrifying.

She's slow in shifting her arm deeper around Pearl, giving her every chance to shy away or shrug it off. But Pearl doesn’t; she nestles closer to meet Sheena in the middle. 

Sheena takes a breath. “How do you feel?”

Pearl's frown deepens. What a wonder she has no wrinkles. “About…?”

Uh. 

Sheena blinks. Fuck. She's bad with words. "About… All of it, man. All that shit."

“Angry.” Instant. She laughs, once, as though surprised and embarrassed by the word. Bitter. Bitter, brittle ceramic, ready to crack and break and slice. “I’m so angry, Sheena. All the time.” 

They just breathe. Pearl’s eyes are aimed at the ceiling. But whatever she’s seeing is behind them, watching something Sheena can’t see. 

One hand comes up from the comforter to tap the base of her throat. “I hold it right here and have nowhere to put it. Like I can’t even enjoy things,” she spits, acidic. “Without thinking about it. Lying in the sun, blades of grass on the back of my neck. Touching a lover. Pledging my life, my love, I can’t…"

Grief breaks her voice. Her hand comes to cover her eyes and then she snarls, the hand now a fist now flung to crush against the mattress. "Is any of it mine?"

Something pops in the mattress -- there’s a divot where Pearl’s unanchored a spring. Maybe a few. The sound snaps her rigid. And she turns to look at Sheena, face long and wary. Shit. "I'm sorry -- I'm sorry, I shouldn't be -- you didn't ask to hear all --"

"Like your feelings aren’t all your own.”

Pearl’s head whips, and she stares. Studying Sheena's left eye. Then the right.

They watch each other, there. 

Sheena reaches. Takes her hand. 

Quiet. 

“Yes.” Pearl swallows. She drops her eyes from Sheena’s. But slowly, she turns back onto her side. Facing her. “Yes... that’s a large part of it.” 

Quiet. 

Sheena lets her thumb play along Pearl’s hand. Her knuckles. Wrist. Light-made-skin. She’s a construct, sure. But that doesn’t mean she gets no say in that. Doesn’t mean she isn’t real.

“They took something from me. From the very start.” She whispers. Slow, her head shakes against the pillow. Her cheek sinks an inch. “Something I can’t get back.” 

“They put something in you. An idea.” Sheena watches her hand on Pearl’s. Not even thinking. The words just come. “They put something in the way.”

She can feel Pearl’s eyes on her as she traces touch along her palm. Smooth. Not a line in sight. “And it’s been there awhile. But it’s not permanent.” Nothing is. “You’ve already taken out some big pieces.”

Fighting. Creating. Protecting. 

What else, since then? 

“It’s not any easier,” Sheena murmurs. “It’s still hard. But everything -- once you get that idea out -- it’s just you. It’s always been you.” 

Quiet. But different, this time -- heavier. Kind of... sharp.

Shit. Sheena always steps in it when she talks too long.

Pearl looks at her with an intensity that shouldn’t fit in 4 a.m. But it’s not… not bad. Not like when she’s about to go away for awhile, up top. More like Pearl’s just considering her. She’s kind of terse when she breaks the quiet. “What is it that makes humans so good at this?”

What? “What?”

“Steven is, too. And sometimes Greg.” Who? “What do humans have that’s so... that makes you so good at these things?"

Uh.

“Well." Wets her lips. "You know.” A little embarrassed. “Work expands to fill time allotted.” 

Pearl's still foggy but watches Sheena. It's a warm look. Hell, it's fond. Her face falls a moment before she shakes her head, laughing low in her chest. 

"Hey. Clue me in.” Sheena tugs an eyebrow up. “What's the joke?" 

“Rose loved humans." Far off smile. But better than usual. It feels like a smile. "I'm having an easier time seeing why."

Sheena snorts. "What, with me?"

"With you."

Quiet.

"You're pink, Sheena."

"Yeah, that happens with humans.” Shit. She kind of scrubs her hand over her cheeks. Don’t know how she expects that to cool them off. “Picking up on that took how many years?"

"So many… too many." She plays with a lock of her hair.

Sheena has gotten the broad strokes. Rose Quartz was the love of her life. Defected right alongside Pearl. And not the best at managing it. Gave birth to Pearl’s kid before dying, however that worked. And their relationship was… complicated.

Pearl’s having fun with her hair, finger-combing the tangles. She sighs as she does it. Might find it more relaxing than Sheena does. 

Sheena waits a moment to finally ask, "Was she good to you?"

"She was wonderful to me." Her face broadcasts a… series of thoughts. "She…" Pauses. "Is this okay?"

"Yeah."

"I don't want to make you feel uncomf--"

"Please keep going."

"... She tried." Smiling. "Always. She wanted to do right… and she did, often." Swallows. "And even when she didn't, she always tried so hard, Sheena."

Sounds like someone Sheena knows. But she doesn't cut in: lets her go on.

"She always wanted growth, change, like humans do. Just naturally. Everything on Earth. You can't not change here. She loved it, loved what it did to me…" A choked sound. Pearl’s hand comes to her mouth. But she breathes, laughs through it. "What it did to her. Oh, you have no i…” Cuts herself off with a snort. She waves away some idea, eyes at the wall over Sheena’s shoulder. 

After a moment she sighs. "She loved plants…” She’s still smiling. But she shakes her head, like she's watching a little kid stumble on the playground.

"Got a lot of plants in space, hey."

Pearl rolls her eyes and laughs again, bats Sheena’s hip through the comforter. "You might be surprised." Her hand comes back up: she's crying, but not much. Wipes her cheeks. 

"It's hard, thinking about her." Whoops. Sheena means it as a question.

But Pearl agrees. Nods, slow against her pillow. "It's gotten easier."

Maybe half an hour passes like that. Pearl, talking low. About Rose. What they would do together. Places they hid, people they saved, things they stole. Sheena only has the heart to interrupt with a couple questions but Pearl fields them all, warm. And even when tears come, she smiles with them.

“I’ve never been this calm talking about her.” Sounds about right. Her voice is soft with it. A kind of pastel wonder. She’s back to toying with Sheena’s hair, letting the strands slip past her fingers. It feels wonderful.

“Gets easier and easier I bet.”

“Mm…” One of her strange smiles. “It’s a nice thought.”

Pearl’s the picture of calm, there, in bed with her. She strokes Pearl’s cheek with the back of her fingers. Gentle. Oh, it’s good, man. Sheena enjoys. Pearl enjoys. It’s just… nice.

So she feels extra goofy when she blurts out, “Can I touch your gem?” 

“That's… oh. Yes! Yes you may. Oh, don't look that way, it's really fine. You just surprised me.” She’s blue all over again. 

But not as bad as Sheena. Pearl must’ve fucked the impulse control right out of her brain. Whatever, man, it’s fine. She reaches up. Careful. “Yeah?”

"Gently.” Pearl watches. Her eyes are soft. "It's sensitive."

"It's you," Sheena mumbles. "Course I'll be gentle."

It’s warmer than the rest of her. Her gem. Her, really. She just traces the pad of her thumb along the curve. It’s almost soft to the touch, in a weird way… and much smoother than she expects. Sheena was expecting smooth, but this is like… she actually rubs her thumb against her other fingers, expecting some kind of residue. There isn’t, but that’s how smooth it feels. 

She catches Pearl’s smile. It feels like laughing.

“Did I do it wrong?” Oop. That came out pouty.

“Not at all.” She’s definitely laughing. “It felt nice.” Watching Sheena float her hand awkwardly for a few seconds makes her tease. “Are you embarrassed?”

Urgh. "... maybe a little.”

“Here. Try again.” Pearl nuzzles closer. “Circles help me relax.”

Maybe too much. They actually fall asleep like that, the both of them, in a tangle of arms with the lamp still on.

When they wake up a little past sunrise, Pearl frets but accepts some consolatory cuddling for having her “clock” reset (“Oh, now everything will feel off…”). Doesn’t let it hold her back for long. She cooks breakfast before Sheena knows any better -- a killer goat cheese omelette, goddamn -- stuffs the dirty sheets in the wash despite protests, straightens Sheena’s bookshelf up, kisses her. Of course she kisses her. Pearl has the audacity to thank Sheena for a marvelous evening and kisses her on the lips, accepts a “superb” hug, and says that she’ll message Sheena soon.

And she turns. And she goes. 

Part of Sheena wants to grab around her waist. Beg her stay awhile longer. Even just the afternoon. They can read together. Go for a walk. Have sex, bake bread, talk more. Whatever Pearl wants to do.

But it feels better to watch. Watch her pause on the landing, where the awning stops: tilt her head up into the sunlight -- stretch her palm out into the warmth -- and then turn, and go.