illustrated by Iron Eater
Nicola showed up for her date with Girril dressed, for the most part, appropriately for an evening in the Ri district of the station. While her normal style tended to involve dresses in the brightest colors and busiest patterns she could find, etiquette demanded that she forego such pleasures when in a majority-Ri area. Just as she wouldn’t parade about the Terran districts in her underwear, she needed to tone things down in her girlfriend’s neighborhood to avoid scandalizing anyone.
And if she couldn’t quite bring herself to do so entirely, she needed to at least give off the impression of propriety. So, while there was a splash of vivid turquoise on her eyelids and in her bootlaces, her outermost layer of clothing was beyond reproach: a skirt that fell to the top of her knee-high boots and a soft, long-sleeved sweater, both in the same shade of charcoal. The sweater was thin enough that one could get a glimpse of the camisole beneath it without being able to see quite what it looked like. On the surface, at least, she could walk through Cibur without offending anyone.
Girril met her at Cibur Central Station; she reacted with only the slightest of smiles when she saw Nicola pass through the checkpoint, but as Nicola drew closer, she could tell she was excited by the sight of her: the slow ripple of muted grays and blues across her skin had continued at its normal pace, but the contrast between colors had deepened. Nicola couldn’t respond in kind, of course, but when she reached Girril’s side she presented her cheek for a kiss, reaching her hand up to rub gently against the sensitive spot at the base of Girril’s skull as she did so. They’d done just fine figuring out ways to show their affection for each other, even in the absence of a shared context for body language.
Nicola was hoping she’d learned enough to play tonight’s little game as well as she’d planned.
Girril had just gotten off of work, and once they’d exchanged pleasantries about their respective days Nicola was happy to let her talk about the newest developments in her lab while she half-listened and half-planned her next steps. She really did enjoy hearing about Girril’s work; while Nicola herself was not scientifically-minded enough to understand more than the basic concept of what Girril actually did all day, she did love her enthusiasm for genetics, and found that her passion made her better at explaining the basic concepts than any of Nicola’s professors had ever been.
The restaurant where Nicola had made their reservation was in Upper Cibur, above the level with the shuttle station and most of the less-fancy shops, and as they reached the stairway she made sure to pull ahead of Girril just a bit so she was ascending in front of her. Holding her skirt casually, as if she actually needed to lift it to avoid tripping on her way up the staircase, she pulled it up just enough for Girril to get an eyeful of the leggings she was wearing underneath. They were houndstooth-patterned in white and vivid green, and after a moment she heard Girril’s quick intake of breath. She turned her head back casually and caught Girril’s eye just in time to see a wave of deep, saturated purple blossom at the crown of her head and cascade down her face. Perfect.
I’ll make you do more than that tonight, Nicola thought as she reached the top of the staircase and dropped her skirt again. You’ll pulse for me before I even get you home.
By the time she turned to look up at Girril, she’d gotten her chromatophores under control; the silvery patches around her dark eyes were still shining a bit more brightly than usual, but after a moment those faded to their normal shimmer as well. Girril may not have had an eyebrow, but the ridge above her eye still went up as she said, “A little warning might have been nice before you flashed me like that!” A tiny ripple of purple, just barely more saturated than the normal gray of her skin, shuddered across her neck and vanished beneath the collar of her shirt.
Nicola laughed, put on her most innocent face, and batted her lashes up at Girril. “Oh dear, how was I to know I’d accidentally lift my skirt too high? I should have known better than to wear something so inappropriate out in public. I hope you can forgive me.” She tugged on the hem of her sweater, pulling the fabric tighter against her breasts and letting some color show through the stitching. “I certainly hope I didn’t make any other mistakes when I got dressed tonight.”
“I see what you’re doing, Miss Fluttery Eyes.” Girril’s voice was pitched even deeper than usual, a soft purr that rumbled out of her broad chest. “And I can’t quite say I mind.” She draped one arm over Nicola’s shoulder, pulling her against her side and stroking her arm through the sweater. “But I’m going to have to sit through dinner thinking about how bright and captivating your legs are tonight, and that’s going to be a distraction.”
Nicola leaned against Girril; they’d arrived in plenty of time, so she had no problem lingering on the sidewalk for a moment before dinner. Snuggling more deeply against her, she reached up to lace her fingers through her girlfriend’s thicker ones, shivering just a bit at their rough texture. If everything went according to plan, she’d be reacquainting herself much more intimately with them later that night. “You can’t deny that I’m a very pleasant distraction, and my legs in particular are particularly fabulous, so I see no problem here.”
At that, Girril snorted in amusement, and Nicola could see a dark freckling on her face for a moment before it faded. “Fair enough, my dear, but since you’re so determined to distract me at dinner, shall we go ahead and get started? Melia and I were so focused on work that I wound up working through lunch again.”
And with that, they headed off again. Nicola was often worried about Girril overworking herself. She had the tendency to get wrapped up in a project and neglect herself as a result; naps in the lab’s sleep pods and high-octane coffee couldn’t substitute for a real meal or a good night’s sleep. Especially a relaxed, pulsed-out sleep. Nicola had only the purest of intentions, after all.
She’d chosen one of the growing number of restaurants that specialized in Ri cuisine but made sure to have a few Terran-friendly dishes on the menu, helpfully marked with a cheerful smiley face. Many Ri foods were safe for Terrans to eat, and vice-versa, and in the century or so they’d been peacefully co-existing much of the cultural exchange had focused on food, but it was still easy to poison oneself at a restaurant that either didn’t take the time to list species-safe foods or didn’t follow proper cooking procedures. Crossover appeal was good for business, though, so it wasn’t an issue at most restaurants. Nicola’s favorite Ri dish was dan cidan, a stew with many regional variations, all of which featured a chewy, barley-like grain and a root vegetable that had a sour flavor and left a faint, tingly numbness in her mouth as she ate.
Despite how good the food turned out to be, it was to be a distant second to the entertainment.
When she’d made the reservation, Nicola had requested one of the restaurant’s small booths along the back wall; they were cozy and intimate, and she liked the idea of being so close to Girril during their meal. She slid into the booth first, appreciating the slight extra room that came from being slightly smaller than the average Ri. As she settled in, she made sure to pull her skirt up just a bit so a few tantalizing inches of her leggings were visible once more. Girril’s eyes were drawn to them immediately, but she kept her composure as she sat down; her color didn’t flicker even once.
Nicola took that as a challenge.
On its own merit, the restaurant was very good: the dan cidan was thick and flavorful, Girril’s meal was something fishlike in a fruity sauce that she was quite pleased with, and the bottle of Ri wine they shared was a delicious pairing with both. Service was attentive, but as she’d hoped, the servers didn’t hover in their little corner, which gave her more opportunities to work on Girril. They ate slowly, with plenty of conversation in between bites, so she had ample time to carry out her plan.
She focused on fluttering her eyes at her more than usual. Her bright eyeshadow wasn’t too inappropriate for polite Ri company on its own, but it did stand out in contrast to her dark skin, and the color and movement were sometimes enough to coax a flutter of color out of Girril, especially if she was at all worked up already. And she certainly was tonight.
Nicola wiggled in her seat from time to time, as if trying to find a more comfortable position, and each time her skirt slipped higher, or her thigh brushed Girril’s own, Girril’s eyes would be drawn down yet again, her gaze drinking in the bright pattern. Nicola could see her struggle to remain composed; so far she hadn’t seen a repeat of the beautiful bloom of color she’d startled out of her on the stairs, but there were ripples of subtler shades, and a deepening of the neutral blues and grays that she held as default coloration. It was only a matter of time.
Visual stimulation seemed to be cumulative; Girril could handle a peek or two at bright colors or high-contrast patterns on Nicola without more than a flutter, but over time her control broke down quickly. Most Ri wore optical filters when out in mixed Terran/Ri company, or at workplaces that didn’t have Ri-friendly dress codes, but for one-on-one interactions it was considered a bit rude. Nicola would have been happy to stop her teasing at any time, if Girril had protested, but she knew her girlfriend enjoyed the game as much as she did. She just seemed to be caught off-guard by Nicola’s decision to play in such a public place.
Once Girril was in a state of constant low-level arousal, evident in her deeper color and the occasional flutter of violet rippling down her neck, Nicola shifted tactics a bit. She adjusted her sweater as she had earlier, stretching it against her so a hint of color peeked through.
“You know, I just remembered — I think maybe I did wear something inappropriate under this sweater.” Girril’s gaze snapped up from her plate and fixated on her chest, clearly straining to see. “Can you help me decide? You know me, sometimes I don’t have the best sense of what’s acceptable to wear out in mixed company.” She reached inside the collar for the tiny fasteners, and opened the neckline just enough for Girril to see the pattern underneath. The fabric of the camisole was skin-tight, shimmery, and covered in swirls and spirals in lavender and deep blue. At the moment, just a patch of lavender was visible, but Girril would know what else was underneath. It was, she knew, one of Girril’s favorite shirts to see her in, and it had been one of the first Nicola had purchased with her lover’s tastes in mind.
She’d chosen well. At just the first glimpse, Girril’s color deepened, and Nicola could tell it was only with great concentration that she kept the flutter from brightening against her skin. As Nicola slowly opened her sweater more, revealing a hint of the high-contrast pattern, Girril’s eyes widened. “Are you really going to do that here?” she hissed.
Nicola leaned against her, angling her body so Girril could see a bit further under the sweater, and spoke softly in her ear. “Oh yes, bright one, I am. You pulse so prettily for me, and I just can’t wait until we’re home to see you do it.” Just saying those words, knowing Girril was close to losing control, was enough to send a jolt of arousal through her. “You’re fluttering already, surely everyone can see that. But you’re so close to pulsing now, aren’t you?” She tugged a few more fasteners open.
Girril briefly looked to her left, scanning the room to make sure no one was looking too closely. But the other diners were absorbed in their own dinners and conversations, and since their own wineglasses were still half-full and they hadn’t finished their meals, no servers were taking more than a cursory glance in their direction. It was the perfect moment. Satisfied that there was sufficient privacy, she turned back to Nicola, scanning her face with the briefest of smiles before returning her gaze to the shimmering pattern that was slowly being revealed.
As the first spiral came fully into view, Girril inhaled sharply, and a faint purple ripple ran down her face. “I can’t believe….” Her voice trailed off into a soft moan as she focused. Nicola continued to open her sweater, inch by inch, until the entire pattern was visible. She’d turned towards Girril just enough that she wouldn’t be fully in view if anyone looked their way, but still she knew she was skirting the edge of acceptable public behavior. The look on her girlfriend’s face made the risk worthwhile, though. The arousal that had hit Nicola earlier had pooled, thick and aching, deep within her, and she squirmed just a bit in her seat.
When she was focusing this intently on visual stimuli, Girril didn’t say much, but Nicola could feel the tension in her body and saw the agitation in her coloring as she first struggled to hold control and then gave in, as the patterns became too intense.
This was the moment Nicola loved to watch. Girril held herself rigid for a moment, and then exhaled deeply. Color, deep and rich, blossomed on the crown of her head and then pulsed, in rhythmic waves, down her body. It reached even the tips of her fingers, and Nicola watched, transfixed, as smaller ripples blossomed and spread across her face. Girril closed her eyes; she often became overstimulated in the moments after her pulse and needed a moment to recover. Nicola took a moment, then, to study her without feeling self-conscious about staring. Her slightly textured skin was still subtly pulsing with deep reds and purples, and the silver around her eyes was bright and almost green in its iridescence. She took slow breaths, trying to get her coloring back under control.
Nicola allowed herself a moment of self-satisfied smugness. She rocked forward in her seat again, slightly regretful, as she sometimes had been since dating Girril, that she required a more physical process to get off — something that was much less likely to happen in even the most private restaurant booth.
After a moment, Girril opened her eyes again, although she still looked a bit dazed. She met Nicola’s eyes and then glanced down at her shirt, shuddering and fluttering intensely before she looked away again. Not a full pulse — she was a bit too overstimulated to look long enough for that yet — but it was a pleasing sight, all the same. Nicola took pity on her and fastened her sweater most of the way back up, leaving only a tiny hint of lavender peeking out.
Girril shook her head. “That was…that sure was something. I still can’t believe we did that here, but. Wow.” She laughed weakly. “I don’t think I’ll be any use for a moment, sorry.”
Nicola let her recover while she flagged down their server and paid the bill. She scooted out of her side of the booth and helped Girril out; Nicola could see that she was still feeling a bit dazed, and she felt a deep flutter of pride and arousal to have affected her so much. They’d talked about Girril pulsing in public, several times, but they hadn’t taken it outside of a whispered fantasy before. They hadn’t quite broken any laws, and they probably wouldn’t even have been thrown out if they’d been caught, but Nicola was sure that the restaurant wouldn’t have let her make any future reservations, either.
They walked arm in arm back to the shuttle station, leaning on each other and giggling a bit at their daring. Once they had boarded the shuttle for Nicola’s neighborhood, she started to undo her sweater again, but Girril playfully batted her hands away. “Not yet, please!” she said, purple spreading along her neck and lapping at her collarbones. “I want to be in private for the next one. And, my darling, I don’t think I want to pulse again until you’ve had your chance.” She leaned down and kissed Nicola’s cheek, then grazed her earlobe with her teeth. “You’ve had your fun, but I want to have mine.”
Nicola shivered, then, and gave a small, breathy sigh. The high-speed shuttle had never felt so slow.
Back at Nicola’s tiny apartment, Girril made a beeline for the bed, playfully pushing Nicola down onto it before she’d had a chance to do anything but remove her boots. Girril settled over top of her, shimmying the long gray skirt off and running her hands up the patterned leggings hugging Nicola’s muscular legs. She focused on them for a moment, and bands of deep, saturated color rippled slowly over her skin. Now that Girril wasn’t focusing on keeping up appearances in public, it was much easier for Nicola to watch her arousal build.
She went to pull the leggings down, but Nicola stopped her. “No, that’s fine. Here, let me take this off,” Nicola said, and pulled the sweater over her head, too impatient to find the fastenings.
Girril turned away before she could see the bright camisole underneath, then leaned in to kiss her. “You’ll distract me before I can take care of you! I can’t focus with you looking so delicious.”
Nicola moaned and reached up with her legs, hooking them around one of Girril’s and pulling it close. “No, just…I want you to keep looking. I want to see you pulse again. Stay like this and I’ll take care of myself, please.” She tilted her hips up, rubbing against Girril’s thigh.
Girril laughed and kissed her again. “How about this, then? I can admire you while you admire me, yes, but I still want to touch you.” With her eyes still turned away, she shifted until she was lying on one side next to Nicola, and pressed the heel of her large hand where her thigh had been. Nicola moaned again and nodded. After a moment more, Girril slipped her hand beneath the patterned fabric and used her thumb to hold Nicola’s hood back while her fingers drew lazy circles around her clit.
When she hit the right rhythm, Nicola reached up to touch her face, turning her gaze back to her and her clothing. “That’s perfect, just keep doing that and look at me, please.”
Girril did turn, then, and the sight of Nicola writhing on the bed, covered in colors and contrast, seemed to almost undo her in that moment. Scarlet waves bloomed down her neck, and she continued the slow, slick pressure against Nicola’s clit while she took in the view.
Neither of them needed much time. Nicola, entranced by the deepening patterns rippling and echoing across Girril’s skin, found her hips stuttering, pressing up for more contact as her orgasm built. The texture of Girril’s fingerpads were rough in a way she sometimes thought should be too much to handle in a sensitive place, but when she was in the right mood it was heavenly. Her free arm flailed, and she grabbed the pillow behind her in an effort to keep still. She closed her eyes momentarily, losing track of everything but the warmth of Girril next to her and the pleasure building under her touch.
Soon Nicola could feel tension building in Girril’s body, a sure sign her pulse was near, and she looked up at Girril just in time to see a cascade of bright color wash over her, bursting and blossoming over her face, her shoulders, and the crown of her head, and flowing across the rest of her body. Nicola cried out, an answering pulse throbbing within as she reached orgasm, and gave herself over to it, noticing idly that the patterns rippling across Girril’s skin seemed to echo her own sensations.
Afterwards they cuddled lazily in bed; Nicola eventually decided to wiggle her leggings off, as she was overheating from sharing a small bed with a large woman who tended to run hot. She entertained herself by quietly tracing patterns along Girril’s arm where it was wrapped around her. Her coloring was back to normal, but even in its regular state Nicola found it beautiful. As Girril relaxed more deeply, the shifting of color became even slower and more subdued. She snuggled back into her chest and sighed. She could get up and turn off the light, or brush her teeth, or even double-check her alarm for work tomorrow, but she was too content in that moment to want to move an inch. Everything else could wait while she rested her eyes for a moment.
That night Nicola dreamed of fireworks.