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strange attraction

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By the time she learns that the dessert is, in fact, bread pudding, Lysithea decides they’re done with dinner. She’s also a little drunk, but luckily she’d switched out the Faerghan Flings for non-alcoholic cherry soda midway through dinner. Easier to tear down all of Jeritza von Hrym’s stupid science theories that way.

“And you know, they’re just theories,” she fumes, holding tight to Balthus’s arm as they head to the elevator. “No one even knows about dark matter!”

“Right,” Balthus says. He looks amused.

Lysithea, who doesn’t often drink enough to be buzzed, pats his arm with more affection that is her usual. “Sorry. I can’t imagine how boring this is. I’ll, uh. Pay to get your -- what was it? Zinger? -- back.”

“My zinger,” Balthus says, and then laughs. “My Hummer? Thanks, but you know, I’m thinkin’ about downsizing. Doing my part to stave off that heat death of the sun or whatever.”

“Ugh, he’s speculating about wildly unstable mathematics that don’t -- uh. Sorry, you’re joking.” She sighs and presses the elevator button. There are other people on there with them, so she takes the opportunity to covertly study him as they stand there. He’s so tall it’s easy to see his reflection in the shine off the doors.

He looks...nice, in a suit. Very nice. She appreciated the messy-hair, tight jeans look as much as anyone, but the suit somehow makes him look taller and broader - she can imagine how much sleep the tailor lost, getting his suits ready in such a short amount of time.

He’s been a perfect gentleman this whole time, and a champ for sticking through her fighting with von Hrym during their lackluster dinner. Despite being a big, brash, loud man, his manners were impeccable. He’d pulled her chair out for her, and absently, like it was so ingrained he didn’t even realize he was doing it.

Well, Hilda had told her he’d grown up wealthy, hadn’t she? That his family had an estate near the Gonerils, but he’d taken off with his mom when his parents divorced? She could probably ask, but she hates talking about her childhood so she’s certainly not going to pry about his.

And she keeps thinking about that moment before they got in the elevator to go to dinner. His offer to help her relax, which of course she understands what he meant. And he’s attractive, he smells amazing, and he genuinely does seem to like her. But she’s paying him to be here, she’s taking care of all his debts and she likes it, there’s something satisfying about using her money to do something nice for someone.

But she’s not entirely sure his motivations for wanting to go to bed with her aren’t just gratitude, and she’s not interested in that at all. So it’s probably best not to mess with it. She honestly thought it would avoid this complication, to have someone she was literally paying to be here. She just hadn’t expected to want to climb him like a tree.

“Lysithea, can I ask you something?” Balthus asks, as they head out of the elevator and back toward their suites.

“Sure,” she says, a little anxious. What if he asks her if she wants to join him in bed? Does she want to? Would she?

Yes, you want to, at least admit that. And you probably would, right now, because you’ve been drinking, which means you probably shouldn’t. Maybe.

“What’s antimatter?”

Lysithea blinks, then turns and says, with a straight face, “Nothing. What’s antimatter with you?”

He looks confused for a half-second, then gives her a slow smile that makes her knees feel wobbly in a curious way. Then, he laughs. “Did you Wow, little lady. I did not expect that.”

“No one ever does,” she says, secretly pleased she made him laugh. “Do you really want to know? It’s okay, you know. If you don’t care about my job. It’s not going to offend me. Just don’t watch bad sci-fi movies with me and you’re good.”

“No, no, I do want to know! I mean, I ain’t real sure I’ll get it, but some of that stuff you were, ah. Yelling at Dr. von Gloomy, there, about black holes? Sounded fake, but also, cool.”

“Experimental physics in a nutshell,” she says, smiling a bit. “I’ll tell you, but let me change clothes first.” She snorts. “Dr. von Gloomy. Accurate.”

“Sure. You want some better dessert? It’s funny how you knew it would be bread pudding.”

“It’s always bread pudding or Enbarr-style cheesecake,” she says, shaking her head. “Order something and we can share. Just make sure it’s not, you know, savory-whatever masquerading as a sweet. I want something sugary. Like cake, but none of that whipped icing, it’s for quitters.”

Balthus bows as they arrive at their suites. “I don’t get science, but girl, trust me, I get snacks. Gimme ten minutes.” He winks.

She nods, a little surprised at herself for agreeing, and goes into her room to change. Her pajamas are simple; a pair of lounge pants with a galaxy-print, including pegasuses flying on cupcakes and some unicorns thrown in for good measure, and a simple black tank top. She waffles over pulling on a shrug for a few seconds, then grabs it and slips her arms in before knocking on the connecting door.

“Yeah, come on in,” Balthus calls, and she opens the door.

Her mouth goes dry immediately.

He’s in a pair of low-slung sweatpants clinging low to his narrow hips, and he’s shirtless. She notices the tattoos on his arms, the cut lines of his abdominals and the fact his nipples are pierced all at once, and her confused, horny brain apparently doesn’t know what to focus on. Luckily, he’s on the phone, still, and staring at the menu for room service so he misses how she’s looking at him like he’s dessert.

What is wrong with her? She’s had sex before. With Cyril, with Leonie, and once, thanks to Almyran whiskey and a game of truth-or-dare, with Hilda and Claude. It was always enjoyable -- even if Hilda was a lot of effort -- but she honestly never felt as feral about shoving someone on a bed and sitting on their face before.

She’s so flushed and turned on just looking at him that she almost turns and goes right back into her room.

“Yeah, one of those, too.” He glances up at her, smiles that disarming, wide grin and says, “You want another drink, babe?”

Normally she would hate the overly-familiar use of endearments, but apparently she’s so distracted by his amazing body and the fact he smells like a cupcake that she just doesn’t care. “No.” She definitely does not need another drink. It’s going to be hard enough to control herself as is.

Why are you? A voice asks. It sounds a bit like Hilda’s. He thinks you’re hot, you want to lick him, what’s the problem?

Balthus hangs up the phone and grins. “Cute pants. Are you gonna tell me how the unicorns and the pegasuses work, with the antimatter? Is antimatter cupcakes? It’d make sense why you’re so into it.”

“No, Hilda got me these. And, um.” She wonders where she should sit. He’s got a little sitting room, but the bed is right there and it’s a lot more comfortable. And if she -- if she really is thinking about having sex with him, that’s good. Being comfortable. Right. Her eyes narrow on something there on the white fluffy duvet. “Are those M&Ms?”

“They sure are. I grabbed some earlier when we got gas. Here, you want some? Figured it’s like. Dessert appetizer.” He waves. “Sit, sit. Eatin’ fancy desserts in a big fancy bed in your pjs is on everyone’s bucket list, yeah?”

She smiles a bit at that and climbs on the bed, sitting cross-legged. “I didn’t know you had all those tattoos.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Got ‘em when I was fighting.” He turns and pads closer, leaning in so she can see them. “Flowers and crowns and chains and shit, not very, y’know, symbolic. But I like ‘em.”

She can barely breathe, and gods, she wants to run her hands all over him. “Um, I -- yes. I thought about getting something, once. But I’m not real. Real fond of needles.” She clears her throat and grabs for the M&Ms before she changes her mind and grabs his pecs instead.

“Yeah, you know, it’s different than the kind of, like, medical needles. The tattoo machine, you can’t even really tell it is a needle. Like a real sharp marker, really.”

She shudders, not wanting to talk about her childhood illness or the myriad of needles and tests that went along with surviving it. “The -- piercings, though. Those are needles.”

“Yeah. I made Yuri go with me. I just didn’t look.” He studies her. “You’re lookin’ paler than usual, there. I can put a shirt on.”

“It’s fine,” she says, so quickly he arches his eyebrows at her. She blushes hot. “I just. Was sick when I was younger, and I don’t want to talk about it but needles aren’t my favorite things. Your -- you can put on a shirt if you want but it’s’s fine.”

She hates how she’s stammering like a schoolgirl. She might be younger than him by at least a decade, but Lysithea’s been through some shit. She’s smart, she’s got two PhD’s and a masters and two bachelor's degrees! She is not going to be undone by a hot shirtless guy with tattoos and nipple piercings.

Of course, then he says, “Well, I’ll warn you up front, they’re not the only piercings I got,” and she nearly faints as she realizes what he must mean, eyes flickering very briefly to the front of his sweats.

She tears open the M&M bag and ignores him grinning at her. “Do you want to know about antimatter or not?” She’s about to pull the shrug off her shoulders. “And turn the air down.” It’s way too warm in here.

His laugh is low and amused, and she’s positive she’s not fooling him for a second. “Sure.” He pads over and messes with the thermostat, then pulls on a black t-shirt that’s too tight and makes him look hot in a totally different way, then torments her further by climbing on the bed and sitting way too close.

She eats a handful of M&Ms as a defense mechanism and then dumps them on the comforter. “Okay, so.” Science. Right. She can talk about science. She starts separating the candy into colors. “There’s a complicated way to tell you this and an easy way, know the math equation, x-squared equals four?”

“Wait,” Balthus says. “Like, do I know the answer?” He thinks. “Is it two?”

She smiles. “Yes, Balthus. It’s two. Well, it can be two, or negative two. Both will come up with the same answer.”

“How can you have a negative number, I never did get that. Nothing times nothing...ain’t that still nothing?”

“Well, yes, but...theoretical mathematics is a whole other thing. But just, you get that, right, that you can have the same answer with a positive number and a negative one?”

“Yeah, if you say so, science doc.”

“Okay, well. That’s how physicists knew there was antimatter. If the positive version -- matter, which is, you know, everything -- existed, then the equation proved the negative one had to exist, too.” She waves a hand. “Don’t think too hard about that part, it’s more complicated but that’s the gist of it.”

“Uh-huh,” he says. He sounds amused. “I’m waitin’ for you to use those M&Ms in a visual example, now.”

“Good, because I’m going to.” She takes the green M&M’s and puts three in a line. “Pretend these are three molecules of matter. Just regular, plain matter.”

“Delicious, chocolatey matter, got it,” says Balthus.

“Right.” She takes three yellow M&M’s. “So, that’s your positive matter. Now, say these are three molecules of antimatter.” She lines them up so they’re each in pairs. “And they meet. Wanna know what happens?”

“You bet I do,” says Balthus.

She takes them all in her hand, pops all six candies in her mouth, and eats them. “All gone!”

“Gobbled up by a cute girl in pajamas,” Balthus says, sadly, shaking his head. “Oh, the fucking humanity.”

“Destroyed,” Lysithea says, pretending she doesn’t like him calling her cute when she once punched her friend Lorenz for doing it, two weeks ago. “So, antimatter is the opposite of matter, and when it meets, that’s the end of both. People will tell you that matter cannot be created or destroyed, but it’s more. Energy? Anyway, during the Big Bang -- you know about that one, right --”

“Oh, I sure do,” Balthus says, and laughs, low and warm.

Her face heats and she thinks about that bulge in his sweatpants and sort of wants to roll off the bed and scream into the carpet. Instead, she sets up the M&Ms again. “Okay, well, during the Big Bang, um, the matter and antimatter collided and caused an explosion.”

Balthus grins at her. “More than one, if you know what you’re doing and you do it right.”

She throws an M&M at him. “Stop making this dirty, it’s science and you asked.”

“Sorry!” He catches the M&M with reflexes that seem at odds with what a big guy he is, then tosses it in his mouth. “Explosion, got it, all the matter blew up.”

“Every piece of matter has a matching piece of antimatter, like a pair, right,” she says, adding two extra green pieces and then swiping away the pairs of yellow and green candies. “But after the explosion, a small amount of matter remained that didn’t have antimatter around to destroy it. So, that’s it. The universe.” She waves her hand at the two remaining M&Ms. “Billions of molecules destroyed each other, but a few stragglers were too stubborn and stuck around.”

Balthus looks legitimately interested. “Huh. Why?”

“Well. That’s the part no one knows.” She shrugs and pops another candy in her mouth, because they’re there. “That’s what I like to study. But antimatter, people have seen it, they’ve isolated a few molecules in a particle accelerator.”

“And your nemesis, what’s his deal? He doesn’t think it’s real?”

“He studies dark matter,” she says. Lysithea puts some more candies down. “If this is matter, dark matter is the stuff you can’t see around it. The universe has all this stuff we don’t know about just...out there. It’s not like antimatter, which we can study. It’s unknown. Very theoretical. And you can, you know, come up with wild theories about black holes and no one can prove you wrong because --”

There’s a knock at that door.

“Hold that thought, nerd,” says Balthus, laughing, unfolding his large frame with grace and heading to the door.

She flushes and eats the rest of the candy as he reveals the hotel staff member with a truly impressive array of desserts; a decadent melted chocolate lava cake with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce, a cheesecake with noa fruit, and a blondie brownie with white-chocolate sauce. There’s two bottles of water and a beer, which he offers to share and she politely declines.

“So black holes,” he asks, once they’re settled. “Tell me about those.”

So she does. They eat around at all the desserts, and Lysithea talks, and maybe it’s the combination of her favorite subject and her favorite thing -- sweets -- that has her being chatty and easygoing in a way she almost never is. Balthus goes a little quiet when she talks about how the universe is expanding into nothing, but she gets that. Most people do, if they think about too long.

She talks a little about her infamous arguments in academic journals with Jeritza, and he’s laughing by the time she’s finished. It’s late, and he’s long since moved the heavy tray out to the hallway, and is leaning back on his elbows on the bed, long legs spread out in front of him.

“You know, it really is fine,” he says, when she realizes she’s been staring at him like he’s the next dessert left to demolish. “I know you think I’m only offering ‘cause you’re...payin’ for stuff, but look, if it makes you feel better, I’d totally hit on you at the bar if I saw you.”

“I don’t know if that should make me feel better, actually,” she says. It kind of does, though. And she’s sober now, though relaxed, and can at least admit that even if she’s not sure she could have sex with him at the moment...maybe she could. Try something. Just to see.

They stare at each other. Lysithea’s mouth is dry, and she licks her lips. “I wouldn’t mind...kissing you.” Her face feels so hot she wants to grab the leftover water and pour it over her head. “I’m not...very good at this kind of thing.”


“Talking about it,” she says, hands fisted on her lap. “I’m not inexperienced, I just --”

“Hey. You know about antimatter, I can handle this part. C’mere.” He holds out a hand. “We’ll stop. Whenever you say so.”

Her problem is less a worry that he won’t stop, and more that she won’t be able to say it. But she puts her hand in his, and he tugs her across the bed with ease.

“Probably easier if you just hop up here,” he says, and that should be silly, not hot, but it has her breath coming faster and warmth curling in low in her stomach. He’s not wrong, though; their height difference is enough that it probably is easier, and he’s likely trying to not overwhelm her by trapping her beneath him. Not that she’d mind that, either.

But he pulls her so she’s on top of him, and he’s so. Warm. There’s so much of him. It’s almost too much contact, but before she can wrap her brain around how it feels to be lying on all that warm muscle and skin, he puts his very, very large hand around the back of her neck and tugs her in to kiss her.

He’s. Very good at kissing. And nothing about how he’s doing it suggests that he’s not into it, either. His mouth is firm and hot against hers, and she’s kissing him back just as eagerly in seconds.

His hands move down her back, and he murmurs, “You’re such a tiny thing,” which she’s heard before, but the way he says it doesn’t make her angry like it usually does. “All that smarts and attitude packed in this hot little body.”

She sucks in a breath and presses her face into his neck, inhaling the delicious scent of him. “And you have all this wasted space.”

He laughs, and she feels it rumble through his broad chest. “That wasn’t very nice. True, maybe. But not nice.”

“I already told you I wasn’t nice,” Lysithea says, raising her head.

“Maybe not,” he says, eyes heavy-lidded and warm. “But you sure are sweet. Must be all those desserts.” He pulls her in and kisses her again. “You can touch me, you know. I saw you lookin’ at me.”

Ugh. He’d noticed. “I just don’t see people who look like you, a lot.”

That laugh again, and he kisses her until she’s breathless and panting. Lysithea’s not entirely in a position to touch a lot, stretched out on top of him as she is, but she runs her hands over his broad shoulders while he kisses her. She’s pressed up against him and can feel his cock is starting to get hard; the urge to grind herself against it is overwhelming.

So she sits up, wriggles a bit until she’s straddling him just above where his cock is starting to thicken, and tugs at his shirt. “Take this off.”

“I knew you didn’t want me to put it on,” he teases, and half raises up to pull it off his body. She can feel all his muscles tensing as he does it; it’s very attractive. She’s not above appreciating his physique, and that’s only fair, isn’t it, considering how hard he clearly has to work to keep it?

“How do you even look like this,” she mumbles, running her hands over his bare chest. “You have muscles places I didn’t even know they existed.”

“Damn,” he says, putting his hands behind his head. “You’re good for my ego. I work out a lot. Like you with your brain, but I use weights.”

She glances up at him and smiles. He’s funny, Balthus. Easy-going. Gorgeous. This is such a bad idea. She leans in and kisses him again, then pulls the shrug off her shoulders and tosses it aside. “You can, um. Touch me. Too. If you want.”

“Oh, I want,” he says, and his hands slide around to her front. He pauses with his fingers on the hem of her tank top.

Well. It’s only fair, right? She nods, and he pulls it up and off, whistling low when he bares her chest.

“Look at those perfect tits,” he says, and honestly, how is he saying things like he’s in a porn video and making it work? Antimatter isn’t the only mystery in the universe, apparently. He glances at her. “I like having the piercings tugged a little. You can be rough with me, sweetheart, I can take it.”

Lysithea’s entire body seems to melt, hearing that. In all her fantasies, that’s what her partner tells her. No one she’s ever been with is all that into it; Leonie likes to be bossed around, but the one time Lysithea pulled her hair, she’d ended up apologizing when Leonie yelped in a very “this is not sexy” way. Claude hadn’t minded being scratched up, but they’d only ever messed around that once. They were a bit too similar, but Hilda was a pillow princess and definitely not into anything rough.

So when Balthus covers her breasts with his palms, making a pleased sound as he does it, she reaches down and gives his nipple piercings a twist.

His head goes back, exposing the line of his neck, and he moans.

Lysithea leans down, and bites him. Hard.

Balthus bucks his hips up, and she does it again. His hands slide from her breasts to her hips, and he moves her as he pushes his heels into the bed and thrusts up -- he’s moving her so he can grind his cock against her, and it feels so good she thinks she might die. She could probably come like this, if she could take off her pants, which are too bulky for her to get the friction where she wants it.

“You wanna ride me, gorgeous?” he asks, grinding up against her, hands on her breasts again while she scratches at him, pulls his piercings, bites him. “Wanna sit on my face? I bet your pussy is as pretty as the rest of you. I bet it tastes just as sweet.”

She feels -- wild. Out of control. She does want to ride him, hard and fast, wants to rub her clit and come on his cock and watch him fuck up into her and feel the bed bounce beneath them. Wants to sit on his face, absolutely, yes, she wants that. Wants to see the piercings on his cock.

It’s late. She has an early session she needs to be awake for, and not thinking about Balthus’s huge dick or what he could do with it. “I -- do, but I....”

“Yeah. It’s late.” He flattens his legs out, tugs her up so she’s not quite rubbing on his cock and tucks her against him. His hands rub on her back again. “Better cool off, then.”

He really had stopped. Lysithea is both grateful and frustrated, and when she eventually climbs off him she grabs her shrug and leaves the tank top, covering herself only because if she doesn’t, she’s not going to leave. “I. Tomorrow, I have. Meetings and panels all day, so … you should. Do something fun.”

He’s lying on the bed, shirtless, his hair messy -- she’d done that, hadn’t she, grabbed his hair while she’d kissed him -- and sporting a tent in his sweatpants. As she watches, he reaches one hand down and rubs it over himself.

“Gonna take care of this, first,” he says. “You’re welcome to stick around and watch.”

She’s tempted, but she knows very well she won’t just watch. And it’s getting so late that she’ll be off her game entirely if she’s up much longer. And that cock of his -- she’d be up much, much later than she needs to be. Right.

“Goodnight,” she chokes out, and flees just as he shoves a hand beneath the waistband.

“‘Night, little lady,” he calls after her, and she can hear him laughing as she flees through the door to her room.

Lysithea pulls the shrug off, tosses it on the floor and steps out of her pants and her underwear. She makes sure her alarm is set on her phone, plugs it into the charger, then grabs her vibrator out of her suitcase. She brought it with her on a whim, and while she probably doesn’t even need it, she’s glad she gave in to the impulse to pack it.

She flips on her stomach, shoves the vibrator beneath her and turns it on low. It only takes a few seconds of humping against it for her to come gasping into her pillow, thinking about him stroking himself off in the other room and thinking about her while playing with his cock.

She comes again, quickly, the second orgasm strong enough that she’s groaning and hopes he can hear her -- as unlikely as that is, probably. Goddess, if it feels this good getting herself off, how good would it feel if she was grinding on his mouth, his cock?

She comes once more, panting and sweaty, then wriggles the vibrator out from between her legs and puts it on the nightstand. She’s still catching her breath, body liquid and twitching, her cunt still pulsing gently from the intensity of her orgasms.

Eventually her breathing settles and she falls into sleep; it won’t be enough, but it’s better than if she let herself get up, storm back into Balthus’s room and use him like she’d just used her toy. Which she has to stop thinking about right now, or Jeritza von Hrym might finally get the better of her in their early-morning panel and she won’t stand for that.