by A.S. Mara
Kekwa watched Danielle ring the doorbell three times before she intervened, catching her paw in one hand.
“Stop it,” Kekwa said. “You’ll irritate her.”
“I’m just making sure she heard us,” Danielle protested, moving back to her perch on the wall, where the sunlight was warmest. Her tail twitched once as she lay back down. “Do you want to be stuck standing out here all day in the sun?”
Kekwa gave her a look, eyeing the way Danielle was basking in the sunlight. Before she could say anything else, the front door swung open, and a woman jogged over to them.
“Hello,” Carina said. “You’re the witch right? I spoke with you on the phone yesterday.”
Kekwa only needed one look at her to sense something was wrong. Carina’s skin was pale, her eyes underlined with dark shadows, and her movements were sluggish, clumsy. Just looking at her made Kekwa tired, her own energy draining.
“Yes, I am. Sorry about the doorbell, by the way. This one here was playing with it,” Kekwa said, gesturing to Danielle, who got up on all four paws and stretched, long and languid and the very picture of innocence.
Carina clucked her tongue. “You can never tell a cat what to do.”
“That’s right,” Danielle said, and leapt onto Kekwa’s shoulder, wrapping herself around Kekwa’s neck like a living scarf.
“Anyway, this is my partner, Danielle,” Kekwa said, their standard introduction. “She’ll be helping me out with your situation today.”
Carina paused at that, looking confused, before she shook her head. “Right. Thank you so much for coming on such short notice.” Carina led them both into the house, waving for Kekwa to push the door shut behind her. “I simply don’t know what to do.”
“Well, we’re here to do our best to help.”
“I appreciate that. Have a seat first,” Carina said. “I’ll be right back with some refreshments.”
Kekwa took a moment to take in her surroundings. It was a modest house, with the front entrance opening into small living area, followed by what she guessed was the kitchen in the back, and a set of stairs on the right leading to the upper floor. The living area had a set of couches, well-loved and faded. There was a a glass cabinet in one corner, its shelves lined with decorative trinkets. The television was on, the quiet chatter of some drama or other filling up the silence. A faint, barely noticeable aura of a fourth presence coated the house.
Danielle uncurled from around her neck and hopped onto the cushion beside her. “Something’s here, all right.”
Kekwa hummed a little to herself. “Doesn’t feel like it’s malicious though,” she said.
“Not yet,” Danielle said. She flicked her tail lightly, ears perked as she listened.
Kekwa simply nodded as Carina returned with a tray.
“It isn’t much,” Carina said, “but help yourself to some tea, and some biscuits I got from the fair last weekend. I don’t really have anything appropriate for a cat though.”
“Don’t worry. She’ll have some of the tea and biscuits as well,” Kekwa answered. She dug out Danielle’s two bowls, the set she carried with her everywhere whenever they left the house. She felt Carina’s gaze on her as she filled one bowl with some tea, and the other with a handful of biscuits.
“This tea is nice, but–” Danielle sniffed the biscuits suspiciously. “These look very sweet.”
“They’re not that sweet,” Kekwa told her. To Carina’s mildly puzzled look, Kekwa said, “Thank you. She said the tea is nice.”
There was a moment when Carina’s puzzled look deepend, because of course, most people didn’t talk to cats and expect to understand when they talked back. Even witches had limits, and while their shared bond with their familiars might give them a better understanding of each other, it was a completely worldess, non-verbal relationship.
But Danielle wasn’t her familiar, and Kekwa wasn’t her owner. The bond between the two of them was different, twisted by their shared curse of nearly two years. The spell had changed their lives forever, sometimes in good ways, sometimes badly.
In this case, the curse worked in their favour. When Carina peered at Danielle, mouth opening on what was without a doubt another question, Kekwa sensed the spell reacting. She could see the angry red of the curse deepen into something softer, more calming as it twisted itself into a charm. It brushed across Carina’s fingers, up her arms and across her shoulders, a gentle, persuasive touch that distracted her attention, drawing it away from Danielle.
Carina’s puzzled expression cleared. “Shall we get to business then?”
Next to her, Danielle took a small bite of the biscuit and immediately started gagging. Kekwa rubbed her back and pushed her bowl of tea closer to her. She turned back to Carina. “I know we discussed it on the phone, but can you run the situation by us one more time? Anymore details you can give us?”
Carina crossed her arms. “I really don’t know what else to tell you. Four days ago, I woke up with this strange sensation in my chest, like something was off with it. It doesn’t hurt, but it won’t go away either. And then yesterday I kept getting this weird…feeling? In the house. Almost like I know something else is here.”
“But nothing strange happened? No slamming doors or things moving by themselves?”
“No, nothing like in those movies.” Carina rubbed at her chest, almost absently. “It’s just nagging at me, and it bothers me that I can’t figure it out.”
“Does the feeling persist after you leave the house?”
“To be honest, I haven’t really felt like going out lately.”
“Have you been feeling more tired than usual? Any changes to your appetite, your ability to concentrate, or your sleeping habits?”
“Well,” Carina said, rubbing her arms. “I do get tired more quickly lately, but I figured it’s because I haven’t been getting enough sleep. I haven’t really noticed anything else.”
“But you haven’t seen anything strange? No weird shapes out of the corner of your eye, or outside your window at night?”
“Have I seen any ghosts you mean?”
“Ghosts,” Kekwa agreed, “or anything supernatural, really.”
“No, I haven’t, but it feels like…like something’s wrong. I just don’t know what.”
Kekwa looked at Danielle, who gazed steadily back at her. “If you don’t mind, could we take a look around your house?”
“Oh,” Carina said. “Alright. If that would help.”
Kekwa drained her cup of tea, then reached for her bag. She pulled out the flask of kedondong asam boi she had prepared earlier, and poured herself a cup for a quick spiritual boost. After downing it, she poured another cup and placed it in front of Danielle. While her partner lapped at it, Kekwa exhaled heavily and took another look at her surroundings.
The world around her went a little quiet, the colours dimming. She could sense Carina on the edge of her mind, her presence at first loud and vibrant, now fading until she barely registered on her attention. Danielle, on the other hand, only got louder, the condensed mass of her aura seeping into Kekwa’s attention until her mind was filled with it. Kekwa sat back, allowed herself to absorb it until Danielle’s presence settled, a firm weight at her side.
Kekwa reached out without looking, and Danielle leaned her head into her palm in answer.
“Okay,” Kekwa murmured. “Let’s get to work.”
They swept through the living area first. The air was mostly clear, if tinged in a way Kekwa couldn’t quite explain. She still sensed no hostility, no malice to be associated with an intruding presence in the house; whatever was here had only a weak, lingering trail. It had seeped into house, in between the tiled flooring and over the top of the furniture. Even with the spiritual boost, the sensation was still very weak, only a wisp of a presence, barely registering on Kekwa’s senses.
“Anything?” she asked Danielle.
Her partner paced along the walls, inspecting the corners. “Not really,” she said.
Kekwa hummed to herself and went back to her bag. She dug around in the pockets until she found the kedondong candy she had stashed there a few months back. Unwrapping one, she popped the candy into her mouth and moved on to the kitchen.
Sucking on the candy, Kekwa focused her attention a little harder on her surroundings. She let Carina’s presence disappear from her mind entirely, concentrating on that wispy trail that seemed to map out the entire house. She found a concentrated pocket of it by the back door, a mass of nervous energy, and another in the little store room next to it.
Danielle paced the boundary of the kitchen, a silent lookout. Kekwa let her body guide her, and her feet traced the trail in the kitchen, around the small counter in the middle, past the dining table for four by the side, and towards the closed door of the bathroom.
A faint breeze blew across her face.
Kekwa reached out for the door handle, acutely aware of the way Danielle had come to stand by her, her body held low and poised to attack. Kekwa turned the handle, and pushed the bathroom door open.
In front of her, Carina was huddled in one corner, the shape of her translucent, her expression wide-eyed and crazed.
Kekwa stared at her in shock.
From behind her, the first Carina asked, “What is it? What do you see?”
The second Carina looked Kekwa straight in the eye and began to scream.
“Okay,” Danielle chirped, “I wasn’t expecting that.”
Kekwa sent the first Carina–henced dubbed Carina-1–off to the living room. Or rather, Danielle did, because people in general seemed to take orders more willingly from felines than they did from fellow humans. Kekwa watched with faint amusement as Danielle yowled and headbutted and flat-out bullied Carina-1 out of her own kitchen. As soon as the two disappeared from sight, she turned back to Carina-2, who was still screaming.
“So,” Kekwa began, sitting down in front of her, “tell me what happened.”
Carina-2 closed her mouth. Her gaze flicked constantly from side to side, and she kept crossing and uncrossing her arms. Her entire shape vibrated with nervous energy.
“It’s okay,” Kekwa tried. “I’m here to help. You can talk with me.”
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” Carina-2 whispered. “Who was that? Why is she in my house? Why does she look like me?“
“That’s what I’m hoping to figure out,” Kekwa said gently, “and I need your help to do it. Try and start from the beginning. When did you first notice her?”
“I don’t know!” she shrieked. “I just turned around one day and there she was? Wearing my clothes and eating my food. Sleeping in my bed! Oh god, why is this happening…”
Kekwa stretched an arm out towards her, then thought better of it and let her arm drop. “Can you remember anything strange happening recently?”
Carina-2 stared at her.
“Other that this, I mean. Obviously.”
“Of course not! I have a normal life. I’m a normal person, just like everyone else!”
Kekwa suppressed a sigh, and prayed for patience. “What about work? Anything happen recently?”
Carina-2’s expression went dark, the shape of her flickering. “I got laid off from work a few days ago.”
“That’s awful,” Kekwa said, and meant it. She remembered being unemployed and desperate, and it had been a long, horrible chapter in her life.
Carina-2 shrugged. “I’ve got another job lined up that I’m considering. It’s not a big deal.”
“Oh. That’s good then. Is it a good position?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Carina-2 said, glaring at her, “because it’ll be meaningless without a body to go to work with. I can’t even open doors anymore! I just walk through everything.”
“I know, I know. I’m working on it. Give me a little more time to think it through.”
“Go think then.” Carina-2 turned away from her, huddling in on herself. “Stop bothering me.”
Kekwa went back to the living area to find Carina-1 and Danielle watching television. “I’m just going to get some fresh air and figure things out,” she told Carina-1, scooping Danielle up as she passed by, relieved to have the familiar weight of her partner’s feline form back in her arms. “I’ll be right back.”
“Alright,” Carina-1 said, and turned back to the screen.
Kekwa headed out into the front yard.
The front of the house had a small garden to one side, with a row of potted bougainvillea by the wall, followed by five shoots of what looked like the mildly unhealthy beginnings of several pineapples. Danielle padded over to them for a closer look, and Kekwa followed, crouching down next to her.
“Figured it out yet?” Danielle asked.
“No,” Kekwa admitted, “and I’ve got no clues as to what it could be either.”
“What did the second Carina tell you?”
“Not much,” Kekwa said, “but I get the feeling she’s telling the truth. This really is her home, and she really is Carina.”
“And the first Carina?”
“Is also telling the truth. So they’re both right about being Carina, somehow, but they’ve got no idea who the other is, or how they got here.”
Danielle sat back on her haunches and peered up at the sky. “The only difference between the two is that one Carina can interact with her environment, like a normal person, but the other can’t.”
“She’s more like a ghost,” Kekwa agreed, “except not quite that either. She doesn’t feel like one.”
Kekwa stared at her. “You’ve already figured this out, haven’t you?”
Danielle bared her teeth in her version of a smile. “Maybe.”
Kekwa reached out to scratch behind her ears. Her partner preened under the attention, and she began to purr.
“So if both Carina’s are real,” Kekwa continued to herself, “and one’s physically present, while the other is spiritual–” She stopped as the situation slowly unfurled in front of her.
Danielle meowed in protest.
“Really?” she asked Danielle. “That’s it?”
“You make it sound like our job’s finished here,” Danielle huffed, pawing sulkily at her ears. “We still have to go back in there and tell them, and hope they believe us.”
Kekwa sighed, remembering their last few cases. “Yes, well. Maybe it’ll go well this time.”
“So this is the situation,” Kekwa said, once all four of them were seated in the living room. Carina-1 had made another pot of tea, and poured a cup for everyone who could drink fluids. Carina-2, having been coaxed out of the bathroom, was huddled on one end of the couch, glaring at Carina-1, who couldn’t see her, and therefore ignored her.
Kekwa paused. “Actually, this would work best if everyone can see each other. Do you happen to have any carrots? Or spinach?”
“Or liver,” Danielle suggested.
“We are not slapping people with raw liver,” Kekwa admonished.
“What was that?” Carina-1 asked.
“Carrots,” Kekwa repeated. “Or spinach. Do you have any?”
Carina-1 stood. “I think I’ve got some carrots in the fridge. Should I bring them over?”
“I’ll come with you.” Kekwa followed her into the kitchen, and watched as the hostess moved towards the fridge.
“Is one stick enough?” Carina-1 asked.
Kekwa eyed the size of the carrot in her hand. “That’s a lot, actually. I’ll probably only use about a quarter. Can I borrow your chopping board as well? And a bowl?”
Kekwa sliced and diced a chunk of the carrot, then dumped them into a bowl which she then filled with water. That done, she led the way back into the living room, and sat down.
Both Carinas stared expectantly at her.
Kekwa dipped her hands into the bowl. She let the cool water settle around her fingers, watching the way the tiny cubes of carrot collected at the bottom of the bowl. Concentrating, she coaxed the essence of the carrots out into the water. If she had more time, she would let the infusion sit overnight, to really maximise its effect.
“Well?” Carina-2 demanded.
Unfortunately, she didn’t have that kind of time. “I’m going to sprinkle this water in your direction,” Kekwa said. And then, without waiting for a response, lifted both hands and splashed water at their faces.
Carina-2 shrieked; Carina-1 only blinked through the assault, expression barely changing, before turning to look her doppleganger straight in the eye.
“Oh,” Carina-1 said, very quietly.
“Right,” Kekwa said as she wiped her hands dry on her jeans. “Now we can all see each other. Here’s the situation.”
“Who is this?” Carina-1 asked. “Why does she look like me?”
“I’m about to explain that,” Kekwa said. “Firstly, you’re both Carina. Neither one of you is a doppelganger, or a copycat spirit, or anything like that.”
“How can we both be me?” Carina-2 asked.
“Well, to be more accurate, you’re each one half of the same person.” Kekwa gestured to her first hostess. “You are Carina’s body, and you,” she gestured to the other, “are her soul. At some point in the last few days, the two of you fell out of sync with each other, and ended up being separated into two.”
Carina-1 looked at her. “That doesn’t really make any sense.”
“That’s crazy,” Carina-2 said.
“Believe it or not, this kind of thing has happened before. It’s fixable, but before we can get to fixing the problem, you have to first accept that the separation has happened.”
“Then you can fix it?” Carina-1 asked.
Kekwa hesitated. “No,” she admitted. “I phrased that badly. In this situation, it’s actually up to the two of you to fix things. You’ll have to work together to figure out where things went wrong and slowly piece yourselves back together.”
“That’s useless advice,” Carina-2 said. “How are we supposed to do that?”
“It comes back to what separated you in the first place. It’s usually a big issue or event that happened recently. You mentioned getting laid off from work earlier this week,” she said to Carina-2. “How badly did that affect you?”
The air went tense as both Carinas fell silent.
“I think that’s probably a good place to start,” Kekwa tried again.
“If that’s the issue, then this is a lost cause,” Carina-2 said. “There’s nothing we can do about that.”
“Yes,” Carina-1 agreed. “The only thing we can do is take the job.”
Carina-2 blinked and turned slowly to face her counterpart. “No,” she said slowly, “we can’t accept the job offer.”
“What? Why not?”
“If we take it, it will kill us.”
“You’re being dramatic. A desk job isn’t going to kill us.”
“A nine hour desk job, with a two-hour commute both ways, seven days a week, will kill us. We’ve tried it before, and we promised we’d never do it again.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as we remember it,” Carina-1 said, waving a hand dismissively.
Carina-2 stared at her other half, her brow furrowed, mouth hanging open. The outline of her started to waver, bleeding into her surroundings. When she moved to stand, her hands burned the surface of the couch where she touched it, and her feet melted into the floor like candle wax. The translucent sheen of her body darkened, until Kekwa could no longer see through her.
“Enough,” Carina-2 hissed, soft with anger. “I’m sick of you forcing us into situations you know we’ll hate, and then whining non-stop about it afterwards. I won’t take this job, and I won’t let you take it either. I am not spending another year of my life in misery, no matter how much you think we need this job.”
“But we do need it,” Carina-1 protested. “We need the money, and we don’t have anything else lined up–”
Carina-2 extended one haze, shifting hand, and laid her fingers against her counterpart’s cheek. Goosebumps exploded all across Kekwa’s arms, and she watched as Carina-1’s gaze slithered out of focus, her skin flickering where Carina-2 touched her.
“Things aren’t as bad as you think. We have savings, and we have family. There’s no need for this, not yet.” Carina-2 inhaled deeply. Her eyes were very dark. “We’re declining the job.”
Carina-1 didn’t move. “Alright.”
Carina-2 turned to her, eyes glittering dangerously.
“I don’t think this is any of your business anymore,” Carina-2 said. Next to her, Carina-1’s shape wavered like candlelight in wind, her presence shifting subtly but surely. One side of Carina was winning this battle, for better or for worse. Kekwa could only hope for the former.
Danielle pressed closed to her side.
Kekwa cleared her throat. “Okay, you’re right. I can see you’re making progress already so let me just write you a receipt, and then my partner and I will get out of your way.”
“Receipt?” Carina-2 echoed. “You want us to pay you? For what? Chopping up some carrots?”
Kekwa faltered, a cold weight dropping to the bottom of her stomach.
“I could’ve done that myself,” Carina-2 continued. “Sit down and talk this out? You said you were a witch, not some kind of fake therapist.”
“I am a witch,” Kekwa said slowly, “and working through this issue is the best solution for this problem.”
“If that’s all a witch does, maybe I should start advertising myself as one. Never mind getting a proper job.”
Kekwa picked up her bag, every inch of her body screaming at her to get out of there. “On the phone, you said, ‘please help me figure out what’s wrong.’ I’ve done exactly that, now pay me what I’m owed.”
Carina-2 sneered. “I don’t think so.”
Kekwa thought, fuck the money. She dumped Danielle’s bowls into her bag, leftover biscuits and all, picked Danielle up and headed for the front door. She felt the air behind her shift, knew without looking that Carina-2 had started towards her, her presence once weak and wispy, now nauseating in its malice. Danielle held on to her, claws digging into the fabric of her shirt.
Kekwa threw the door open and ran out, back into the sun, where the air was clear and the world was bright. Without slowing down, she pushed the gate open and squeezed out, clutching at Danielle. The suffocating atmosphere of the house clawed at her back, threatening to follow. Kekwa hit the road running and didn’t look back.
By the time they got home, Kekwa’s fear had hardened into anger.
“The nerve!” she hissed, pacing circles into the flooring. She threw her bag against the wall. “Those bitches! I didn’t do anything? Fuck!”
Danielle paced silently alongside her, darting in between her legs and nearly tripping her every three steps. When she finally succeeded, it sent Kekwa crashing to her knees on the floor.
Kekwa glared at her.
Danielle climbed into her lap and curled up there, refusing to meet her gaze.
Kekwa seethed like that, trapped in place by Danielle’s weight and her own absolute idiocy. She was furious at herself, for backing down, for being unable to feel anything but fear until after the confrontation was over. What good was her anger now, when she had already left without payment? That was another day’s work down the drain with nothing to show for it. She had been weak, she was weak, and now all she could do about it was sit here and cry.
She sat there with her teeth gritted, chest heaving and eyes prickling, letting the anger in her grow hotter, stoking the flames. Kekwa sat there and let every inch of her fury seep into her body, letting herself be angry.
The day grew dark, the sun making its steady way through the sky and taking the daylight with it. Kekwa seethed, and Danielle kept her company, and the two of them sat in absolute silence.
When Kekwa was done, they were sitting in complete darkness. She looked down and realised she was petting Danielle, her hand moving in slow, long lines up and down Danielle’s spine. Her partner was purring quietly.
“Okay,” Kekwa finally said. “Time to make dinner.”
Danielle crawled off her lap and followed her into the kitchen.
Kekwa went over to the chicken she had taken out earlier that day, checking the tenderness of the meat with her hands and saying a silent prayer of thanks for the food. Danielle settled into her usual perch on the windowsill to watch as Kekwa pulled out a chopping board and began dicing the meat into bite-sized chunks. That done, Kekwa dug out her container of frozen pre-blended onions and red chillies, and stuck it in the microwave. She put the wok on the stove, heated up some oil, then set the thawed mixture frying.
While the oil popped and sizzled, Kekwa set a bundle of kangkung to soak in a bowl, then got started on the rice. She switched between the three dishes in silence, letting the familiarity of cooking in Danielle’s company ease her frayed nerves, allowing her mind to wander into quiet, mundane thoughts.
By the time the table was set and dinner was ready, Kekwa felt steadier. She dished out a portion for Danielle, pushing the plate towards her partner before serving herself. Then the two of them sat down to eat in relative silence, the quiet comfortable. Kekwa ran through the events of the day in her mind one last time, and forgave herself.
Danielle returned to her perch above the sink while Kekwa washed the dishes. Once she was done, her partner climbed up her shoulders and said, “Boot up the laptop for me before you go shower.”
Kekwa gave her a wry look. “Who said anything about taking a shower?”
“Me,” Danielle said. “Laptop, then shower.”
Kekwa rolled her eyes but did as she requested, setting up the laptop on the bed they shared. Danielle chirped in thanks then curled up in front of the screen. When Kekwa came out of the shower some twenty minutes later, Danielle hadn’t moved from her position, her attention glued to the screen.
Kekwa peered over her head. “What are you reading?”
“I’m looking up hexes,” Danielle said.
“Hexes?” Kekwa echoed. “What for?”
“Nothing in particular.”
“Don’t get into trouble,” Kekwa warned her. “We’re not supposed to do that kind of thing anymore.”
“We won’t get into trouble if nobody finds out about it,” Danielle said, tilting her head back to look up at Kekwa.
Kekwa tapped her on the nose and climbed into bed next to her, careful not to dislodge Danielle or the laptop. She lay on her side for a while, watching the silhouette of her partner reading, using her paws to type on the keyboard or touching the screen to scroll down a page.
After a while, Danielle turned to her, eyes bright in the darkness. “Go to sleep,” she said.
Kekwa blinked and pushed herself upright. “No, no, I’m not sleepy yet. I’ll get some reading done until it’s midnight.”
“Midnight will come whether or not you’re awake for it. Just go to sleep.”
“I’m staying up,” she insisted.
Danielle gave her the most disbelieving look a cat could deliver, but said nothing else, returning her attention to the laptop. Kekwa leaned over the side of the bed to turn on the bedside lamp and picked up her book, flipping to the page she had bookmarked–
–and woke up, slowly, to the sensation of soft lips brushing against her cheek. Kekwa peeled open her eyes to the sight of Danielle, human once again, smiling down at her.
“Oh,” Kekwa croaked, her throat sleep-dry. “I missed midnight.”
“To no one’s surprise,” Danielle said, her smile curving wider.
Kekwa reached up, tracing the shape of Danielle’s smile with her fingertips. Danielle responded with a gentle kiss against her hands, and then bent down to kiss her mouth.
Sighing, Kekwa wound her arms around Danielle, tugging her closer, until they were pressed up against each other, every inch of them touching. Danielle was completely bare on top of her, as they always were when they first changed back. She still smelled of iron and ash, the bitter tang of shapeshifting magic still fresh on her. When Danielle coaxed her mouth open, Kekwa tasted magic on her tongue too, the harmless residue of the curse spilling from Danielle’s mouth to hers.
They kissed like it had been years instead of only five days since they last had this. Kekwa ran her fingers through Danielle’s hair, loving how soft it felt in her hands, the strands slipping easily through her grip. If their positions had been reversed–and it would be, soon enough–Kekwa’s hair would be a mess of tangles and knots, an irritation and a nightmare, constantly poking herself in the eye or in her ear.
But not Danielle, beautiful, breathtaking, human-again Danielle. When Danielle braced herself up on both arms, her hair swept around them like a curtain, a thin layer between them and the rest of the world.
Danielle bent down for another kiss. “Take off your shirt.”
She obliged, tossing it over the bed. She went ahead and took off the rest of her clothes as well, because they were coming off too, soon enough, so she might as well get rid of them now. She sat up and wrapped her arms around Danielle’s waist, holding her close, and smiled up at her. Danielle brushed a hand over her hair, and smiled back.
Kekwa pressed her mouth against the curve off Danielle’s collarbone, grazing her teeth along the length of it until she reached Danielle’s neck. She pressed light kisses into her skin, teasing and chaste, just to hear the way Danielle sighed. Then Kekwa parted her lips and sucked on the skin there.
Danielle didn’t protest, only gasped and held on until she was done. As soon as Kekwa leaned back to inspect the mark she had left–a small, darkening bruise she could barely make out in the dark–Danielle pressed her back down onto the mattress, their mouths meeting in another kiss.
“My turn,” Danielle murmured. Her mouth found Kekwa’s breasts, leaving soft kisses and softer bites along her skin. Kekwa laid back and closed her eyes, her hands running through Danielle’s hair as she lost herself to her partner’s touch.
Danielle took her time; she always had more patience than Kekwa did. Danielle brushed lingering caresses across Kekwa’s hips and thighs, mouthed at the tips of her nipples until Kekwa was a shivering, overstimulated mess underneath her.
After what seemed like an eternity, Danielle finally let her hand drift closer, combing through the curls of hair to where Kekwa waited, hot and wet with anticipation. Kekwa felt Danielle slip her fingers between her folds, thumb pressing against her clit. Danielle pressed her face against Kekwa’s cheek, her breath hot on Kekwa’s ear, her touch heavy and intimate, and then Kekwa was coming in no time at all, shuddering and gasping with the force of it.
Danielle rolled onto her side while Kekwa caught her breath, propping her head up on one hand and smiling to herself. When Kekwa turned to face her, Danielle’s grin widened. “Good workout?” she asked.
Kekwa flushed, her face going even hotter than she thought possible. She climbed on top of Danielle, straddling her partner, and pressed her mouth to Danielle’s neck once more. It would be her second mark for the night, with many more to follow.
When the two of them at last ran out of energy, they curled up next to each other, sweaty limbs and damp hair tangling in each other’s spaces. Kekwa held Danielle, and let herself be held, and felt full-bodied peace for the first time that week.
As she was drifting off, Danielle asked, “Do you think the Carinas will be alright?”
Kekwa blinked slowly against Danielle’s chest. “I guess…I hope so.”
“I might go back on Monday, just to see how they are.”
Kekwa groaned and rolled over. “Don’t bother. They’ll just chase you out.”
“Maybe,” Danielle said, shifting close to wrap an arm around her waist, “but I thought I’d teach them a little lesson anyway.”
Kekwa, already halfway asleep, hummed absently. “Just don’t hex them,” she murmured.
“No promises,” Danielle said against, and pressed her lips against the back of her neck.