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Timepiece

by shukyou (主教)
illustrated by curanto

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/303134.html)

Drunk laughter was the kind Felisha liked best: loose and loud and bubbly as the third word in the gin-and-tonics she’d been drinking all evening. It slipped out of her as she leaned against the door to her condo, rummaging through her purse for her keys. At last, she found them, by the great jingling sound they made as much as anything. But as soon as they’d crested the edge of the purse, her fingers decided they weren’t going to be controlled by the likes of her drunk ass, and they fell to the floor in a great hilarious clatter.

They might well have stayed there all night — and Felisha beside them, giggling herself sick — but for Missy. “Upsy-daisy,” she said in that practically-perfect-in-every-way Mary Poppins accent of hers. She caught an arm ringed with jingling bracelets beneath both of Felisha’s and propped her up against the wall, then bent down to scoop up the keys. “You’re fortunate you’re such an adorable sloppy drunk.”

Felisha stuck out her tongue to show exactly what she thought about that. She meant to say something snappy to that, but that bubbly laughter filled her throat instead, so she just leaned there and gazed at her practically perfect girlfriend as Missy somehow plucked the right key from Felisha’s monster keychain and unlocked the door on her first try.

And they were girlfriends, Felisha knew, because that had been some of the subject of that evening’s dinner, and also some of the reason why Felisha had been drinking more than her fair share of liquid courage. In retrospect, it had been silly of her to worry about confirming the particulars of that relationship title — they’d been seeing one another frequently, exclusively, and quite happily for nearly five months, and anyway, there’d been bigger questions to follow. But Missy was hardly the proverbial type of lesbian to rent a U-Haul on the second date. She’d been coming Felisha’s little feminist bookstore for a month before Felisha had gotten so much as two connected sentences out of her, and another month had passed before Felisha had even learned her name. Whenever the conversation wound toward her, Missy had a way of winding it away.

They stumbled forward together out of the hall, with Felisha’s arms wrapped around Missy’s waist from behind. Once the door had shut behind them, Felisha pressed Missy against it, kissing her as hard as she could while still giggling. Everything felt light and free like this, the future bright and open — their future, together. I don’t care, Felisha had promised, grabbing her hand across the table the same way Missy now twined Felisha’s fingers with hers, pulling her close. Whatever it is, you don’t have to explain. I just want what you are to me, here and now.

Felisha’s free hand traced the long, beautiful line of Missy’s throat, up the side of her cheek and to the crown of her all-but-shaved head, then back down again. Even after being out on such a cold night, her skin felt radiator-warm under Felisha’s chilled fingertips. “I love you,” Felisha said against Missy’s lips.

“I love you too,” Missy replied, echoing what they’d said for the first time mere hours ago. Felisha’s heart jumped just as much as it had when she’d heard it then, all her insides flipping around with delight, and the only thing to do was to kiss the words from Missy’s thick, soft lips.

Then the gin hit her knees and Felisha toppled back, landing in an ungainly sprawl in one of her dining room chairs. Missy shook her head, but she was smiling as she knelt down and began to unlace Felisha’s loafers. “Just a right mess,” Missy said, tugging them off to reveal purple argyle socks. Felisha was going through a bit of a dapper butch phase, which meant argyle was the order of the day in most places, including the cardigan Missy was now unbuttoning.

“You kept buying.” Felisha sighed and leaned back in the chair, stretching out her long legs on either side of Missy, then hooking her ankles together behind Missy’s back. Missy laughed as she tipped forward, off-balance, and landed with her face right between Felisha’s breasts. “And now you’re trapped,” Felisha said with a sigh, as though she’d had nothing to do with it.

Missy bit at one of the buttons of Felisha’s shirt before rocking back on her heels enough to regain her balance. “Not such a bad snare,” she said, glancing around the half-dark interior of Felisha’s condo.

Felisha bit at her lower lip. “You haven’t changed your mind?”

A brief shadow passed over Missy’s face, one almost vague enough to have been imagined by Felisha’s drunk and fuzzy brain, but it disappeared as Missy reached up to grab one of Felisha’s kinky curls. “In the half hour since we left the restaurant, no.” She tugged the lock long, straight as it ever got, and then let it go to spring up again with the rest of the wild mass that maned Felisha’s face. “Unless you’ve changed your mind–”

She didn’t even make it through the last word; Felisha bent down and grabbed her cheeks, then kissed her so she couldn’t protest any longer. No, Felisha had not changed her mind. Said mind had already been made up for quite some time, in fact, nearly from the first conversation they’d had over the bookstore counter, the one where Felisha had joked about the dangers of Missy’s purchasing the works of both Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich in a single transaction. What should have been a thirty-second sale had kept them both there for nearly an hour, chattering on about everything and nothing, until Felisha had wound up asking questions she didn’t really care about the answers to, on whatever casual topics she could find, just to hear Missy speak. When Missy at last had left (though not without several promises to return, and soon), the very air in the bookstore had seemed diminished; ten minutes after the belled door jingled shut behind her, rain had begun to patter against the wide display windows.

Missy was just like that. Business had picked up since she’d started coming in, to the point where Felisha had joked that Missy must be some sort of divine lesbian magnet — or maybe some sort of Sapphic Pied Piper, leading her flock to knowledge instead of drowning. That had made Missy first laugh, and then change the subject so deftly that Felisha didn’t realize until later, reflecting on the conversation on the quiet drive home after kissing Missy good-night, that she’d done it.

Her clothing now half-fastened, Felisha stood again, grabbing as she did at one of Missy’s dozen or so sashes and wraps and drapes. Getting Missy undressed was like doing a magician’s scarf trick, grabbing at one end and pulling until some great formerly invisible swath of it tugged free in its wake. Her skirt swished at Felisha’s ankles as Felisha drew out a long piece of fabric that had been serving as Missy’s belt, causing Missy to lift her hands above her head and twirl in place until the cloth and she parted ways. Felisha caught her mid-spin, and the ever-graceful Missy stopped with a ballerina’s poise.

Taking advantage of Missy’s current pose, Felisha grabbed the hem of Missy’s shirt and yanked it up over her head, dislodging everything else above her waist in its wake. Missy’s lean, athletic build was such that she never wore a bra, so Felisha’s hands went straight to her bared breasts, catching Missy’s dark, prominent nipples between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. She squeezed hard, grinning as Missy gasped and grabbed for Felisha’s shoulders for support. “Yes, please,” she murmured as Felisha squeezed again, then bent in to kiss at the curve of Missy’s long, lean neck.

Felisha hadn’t had many lovers before Missy, though not for a lack of trying; even as a little girl, after she’d rejected the idea of making her hand-me-down Ken and Barbie kiss, she’d still pleaded with her mother to buy her a second Barbie so the first wouldn’t be lonely. It had scared away women less secretive than Missy, though, so when Felisha had finally gotten Missy to agree to a date, she’d sworn up and down she’d be good, she’d be patient, she’d wait. But if you couldn’t ask a woman to move in with you after a year of knowing her and nearly half of that sleeping with her, when could you do anything at all?

illustrated by curanto

And she’d said yes, Felisha thought with giddy delight as she sucked at Missy’s earlobe. She’d said yes. They were going to be able to do this every day if they wanted, and that same light Missy brought to a room would live here now, and she was in love and Missy was in love with her, and she was so happy that she had to stop thinking about it or she was going to do something stupid like cry. So instead she pulled at Missy’s breasts and felt Missy’s hands turn to claws against her skin.

“Bedroom,” said Missy, and Felisha was not given to arguing.

It wasn’t a big condo, and the master bedroom was correspondingly sized, but Felisha didn’t mind. She’d already begun to clear out drawer space, hoping that she wouldn’t somehow jinx herself in the act of making literal room for Missy in her life. She didn’t know how much stuff Missy had; Missy had never invited Felisha over, explaining that she still lived with some very conservative family members, and that had become just another part of Missy’s life that Felisha let remain a mystery. She didn’t know what Missy did for a living, either, or where she’d come from to wind up with that accent. But she’d promised it didn’t matter, and she’d meant it. She could trust what her eyes could see and her hands could hold, and that would be enough.

Still topless, Missy wiggled out of her skirt and tossed it over Felisha’s head, then flopped on the bed, laughing as Felisha scrambled to free herself from the dark. “Woman!” barked Felisha, but all she heard in response to her faux anger was more of Missy’s bell-like laughter. When at last she managed to dig her way out of the drape, she was rewarded with quite a sight: Missy on her bed, naked now except for all her marvelous jewelry, her legs spread wide. She lifted one of her feet, wiggling her toes in Felisha’s direction, so Felisha caught it and kissed Missy’s ankle just beneath her brass anklets. “No, I don’t think I understand what you’re asking me to do. You’re being too subtle.”

With a wicked smirk, Felisha made a V of her fingertips and slid them down the center line of her body, between her breasts and over her navel, then through her untamed thatch of pubic hair, until she got to the cleft between her legs. She shifted her hips slightly, then pushed back folds of dark brown skin to reveal her bright pink pussy beneath. “Ohh,” said Felisha, as though this were some sort of revelation. With a burst of enthusiasm particular to the gleefully drunk, she pitched forward onto the bed, landing with her cheek pressed against the soft, warm skin of Missy’s inner thigh.

There was no rush, though, Felisha reminded herself — Missy was going to be living here, they could do this all the time — so she kept her tongue and lips where they were, at least for the time being, and instead readied a single fingertip and tapped it right on the tip of Missy’s clit. Missy gasped, so Felisha did it again a few more times, watching with pleasure as the little nub of pink flesh rose and darkened to red. She slid her fingertip lower into Missy’s folds, feeling the smooth, soft skin beneath her fingertips — and then there it was, the wetness she’d been looking for, just waiting for her to tease it out. Felisha felt a similar sensation inside her own panties, but she told her bits that they could wait their turn. She had no problem with patience, though; it just meant everything would be good and ready by the time someone got there.

Fingers slick now, Felisha caught Missy’s clit between her thumb and forefinger the same way she’d pinched her nipples earlier, though gentle now instead of rough. Beside her hips on the bed, Missy’s hands turned into fists that grabbed up entire handfuls of the sheets. It was always such a difficult call at this point, when to stop watching, get in there, and have a taste. On the one hand, it seemed like such a shame to waste such a pretty view. But on the other….

When she pressed her lips to Missy’s clit, Felisha felt Missy’s thighs clap on either side of her head, holding her in place. Felisha laughed, and as she did, she blew both the air and the sound of it over Missy’s mons. It felt so good, to be like this, to laugh like this, to be safe and loved just like this. Her tongue flicked out from between her lips, touching sensitive skin to sensitive skin as Missy bucked and writhed on the bed. It was easy to lose herself in the sensation, to just close her eyes and see how long she could manage to–

Her ears heard the sound, but her brain didn’t make sense of it until Missy’s fingers were knotted in her hair, pulling her face back. It wasn’t the ‘stop’ that really meant if you don’t stop, I’m going to come right now; Missy said, “Stop!” and her voice was breathless, not with pain, but not with arousal either.

When that realization hit, Felisha paid full attention to it, pulling back and sitting up in a panic. “What? Baby, what?”

“I–” Somehow in the time Felisha had been between her legs, Missy’s whole body language had gone from sexy and fluid to rigid with fear. “I have something I have to tell you.”

Now? was what Felisha absolutely, positively did not say in that moment, but oh, it was a close call. “What is it?” she asked, her mind racing. Missy was dying. That had to be it. Or married. Or married and dying. Or about to move overseas forever, because she was married, and also dying. No matter what Felisha could come up with, her brain could always find a way to compound it and make it more terrifying.

Missy took a deep breath and sat up, letting her thighs close in together. “I know you–” Her voice caught, and Felisha waited while Missy cleared her throat. Missy was dying of AIDS. Or a Republican. Maybe married to a Republican. With AIDS. There was always something worse. “I know you said you don’t care, and I believe you, I do. But I … I know I’ve kept secrets from you, and I’ve not been forthcoming in many ways.”

“It’s okay!” The mood ruined, Felisha decided that remaining between Missy’s legs was probably not the best choice for a number of reasons; instead, she scooted back up against the headboard and put her arm around Missy’s shoulders, letting Missy lean into her chest. She kissed the crown of Missy’s head. “It’s really okay.”

“I could keep hiding this from you, but … I don’t want to.” Missy draped her long arm across Felisha’s waist and sighed. “Not if we’re living together. And I do, I love you, I want to live with you, I want to be with you, more than anything, but–” She took another deep breath and let it out slowly, then said something that sounded to Felisha remarkably like, “I’m a witch.”

Was that it? Felisha frowned, not understanding why that would make Missy so nervous; she knew for a fact Missy had met Moonflower, a daffy-yet-sweet employee of Felisha’s who made no secret of her Wiccan leanings. “Well … my parents are still Baptists, but I haven’t been to church in–”

“No, that’s–” Missy sighed. “Not witch like witch, but witch like … witch.”

Felisha tried, she really did, she thought through every possible permutation of that statement, but Missy’s intended meaning eluded her. “…You’ve lost me.”

“Witch, like…” At last, Missy sat up; meeting Felisha’s eyes, Missy drew a triangle that started from her ears and peaked over the top of her head, then mimed cracking a whip. “Like witch.”

“Witch like Indiana Jones?”

“Oh, for pity’s sake–” Missy repeated the second gesture a few times more, each repetition more emphatic. When Felisha shook her head blankly, Missy sighed. “It’s a bloody wand! Witch like Harry Potter!”

Nothing about any of this was making sense to Felisha. Perhaps she’d been so drunk that instead of eating out her soon-to-be-live-in girlfriend, she’d fallen off the bed, cracked her skull, and started hallucinating. “Like that Pottermore thing?” she asked. Moonflower had made Felisha take the test a couple years ago, saying that she couldn’t believe a bookstore owner had no familiarity with the franchise. Felisha had gotten whatever the blue one was.

A look of clear indignation pressed Missy’s lips into a line. “Like the ancestral Yoruba clan, many generations of inherited power, matrilineal descent, manipulating powers of the unseen and influencing the forces of the universe.” She thought for a moment, then added, “…Thing.”

From literally anyone else in the world, living, dead, or otherwise, Felisha would have taken this as some sort of strange prank — and one with odd timing and in poor taste, to say the least. But Missy was not a woman given to joking even under the best of circumstances, and despite her angry expression, real tears had begun to rim red the edges of her huge brown eyes. With a nod, Felisha took Missy’s hand and twined their fingers together. Not dying, then. Not married. Not a Republican. …Crazy, maybe a little, but Felisha could more than deal with that. “Okay,” she said, giving Missy’s hand a squeeze.

Missy’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “You don’t believe me,” she said, and it wasn’t an accusation; she used the same tone she had once when she’d promised to fix Felisha a cup of coffee, only to open the cupboard and find the box of sweetener empty. She had identified a problem. Next was the solution.

Before Felisha could protest, or even say she didn’t not believe Missy, Missy reached across her and snatched a clock off the bedside table. It was an old-fashioned alarm clock, the gold wind-up kind with feet on the bottom and bells on the top, which had been given to her in college as a joke but was now the most indispensable, reliable piece of morning hardware she owned. Missy held it in her palm, looking at it. She narrowed her eyes and caught her lower lip in her teeth. Several seconds passed as she stared at the clock, not even breathing, with the only sounds in the room the ticking of the mechanism and the pounding of Felisha’s heart in her own ears.

And then the clock … wasn’t a clock anymore. It was hard to say what it was, exactly. There were no sparkles or flickering lights or eerie sounds; it didn’t change or move or shimmer or blink or even look any different, necessarily. It just somehow stopped being a clock and started becoming….

“A turtle,” said Felisha, barely aware of her own voice.

illustrated by curanto

A turtle was indeed what it was — a boxy little turtle slightly bigger than Missy’s flattened palm, with wide amber eyes and a beaked mouth. It looked … well, Felisha supposed she didn’t know entirely how turtles looked at any given moment, but it didn’t seem stressed or scared. It sat there in Missy’s hand, feet kicking lightly beneath its knobby shell as its legs dangled off the sides, glancing about the room. Felisha reached up to touch it; she yelped a little as it shifted beneath the pressure of her fingers, and Missy laughed. She set the turtle back down on the bedside table, and it began crawling around at a steady pace, ticking all the way.

This, to put it mildly, raised more questions than it answered, really fundamental questions, about the nature of matter and life and the universe and human capacity to bend them all to an individual’s will, and Felisha absolutely did not give a shit because she was about to start living with the most wonderful, beautiful woman in the world, who could also incidentally, at a minimum, turn clocks into reptiles. Questions could wait.

“If anyone I know could do magic,” Felisha said softly, turning to look Missy in the eye, “it’d be you.” She placed her hands on either side of Missy’s face and kissed her in a way that could leave no doubt about how little this had changed Felisha’s opinion of her, and she heard a grateful sob as Missy opened her mouth and kissed back.

They made out like that for a while, just kissed and held one another; Missy’s hands clung to Felisha’s shirt, while Felisha petted her bare back with long, slow strokes. Soon enough, though, Felisha’s hand wandered from back to hip to belly, and Missy sighed as she rolled on her back, letting her legs fall apart. Felisha wanted to get down there, to get another taste, but she didn’t want to let go of Missy, not right now. Besides, they’d have time for that and more. They’d have all the time they needed. Even if it came in turtle form.

Her fingers traced the familiar landscape of Missy’s body, pushing and smoothing until her first two fingers came to rest on either side of Missy’s clit. She twiddled them back and forth quickly, feeling the wet skin slip beneath her grasp, and Missy gasped against Felisha’s mouth. How tense had she been keeping this secret? How good must it feel to let it go?

“I’ve got you,” Felisha promised against Missy’s lips. “I love you.” Missy didn’t answer, but Felisha didn’t need her to; she could tell from the way Missy gripped her and rubbed against her that she heard and knew. Felisha lowered her head until she could reach one of Missy’s nipples with her mouth, then caught it between her teeth and flicked her tongue across its tip in time with the movements of her fingers.

Missy was always quiet during sex, so damn quiet, but Felisha had learned her other languages. No matter how nice heavy panting sounded, it meant Felisha wasn’t quite on the right track; when Missy’s breath hitched and caught, when she wasn’t even breathing at all, that was when Felisha knew her command to follow was there, harder, now. Felisha moved her fingers faster, slid them back until they found the source of Missy’s dampness, then pulled them up again. The slick friction made Missy first pant, and then hold her breath, eyes shut as she waited for that moment where Felisha would take her over the edge. There was no magic to it, unless patience and time and love were their own spells, and who was to say they weren’t?

When Missy came, all the air she’d been holding in her lungs rushed out with a loud gasping moan, such that Felisha was certain they’d piss off a few neighbors in their time together. Let them complain; nothing in the world was as important now as the two of them. She pressed down hard against Missy’s clit, feeling the muscles pulse beneath with the force of Missy’s orgasm, letting go only when Missy collapsed in a satisfied heap. She rolled toward Felisha, and Felisha took her in her arms, resting Missy’s head on her shoulder, holding her tight.

They lay together like this for a minute, quiet and still, until Missy’s feet started nudging at the rumpled comforter. Felisha smiled and kicked its edge up to where she could grab it, then pulled it over the both of them, making sure to bundle Missy tightest. Missy thanked her by kissing the underside of her jaw. “Feeling good?” asked Felisha with a smile.

“Feeling fantastic,” Missy sighed, burrowing in beneath the down cover. She always got so chilly, and Felisha would leave windows open even in the dead of winter — though as it turned out, that might be the least of their domestic incompatibilities.

…As it turned out? Caught in a moment of self-doubt, Felisha turned her head back to the bedside table, and there was the turtle, making his merry circuit around the perimeter of its circular top. She watched and counted, and surely enough, it took him precisely sixty seconds to make a full revolution. “That’s one well-calibrated turtle,” she said softly.

Missy giggled, pressing her mouth against Felisha’s shoulder. “It was all I could think to do. Well, that wouldn’t attract the attention of my clan. Or burn down the building. Or both.”

Felisha nodded. “You know, in a weird way, this explains a lot.”

“It does?” asked Missy, the frown audible in her voice.

“In a very weird way,” Felisha admitted. She settled back down into their embrace and smiled as Missy began undoing the buttons on her shirt.

Missy stared up at her with those great dark eyes, and now when Felisha looked, she was certain she could see stars deep within. Had they always been there? Probably. Just like clocks had always been turtles, and the weather outside her store had always been sunny, and she’d always been so deeply, deeply in love. They’d have to have a very long, very detailed talk later, probably one with maps and timelines involved, but whatever the explanation was to it all, if it started from the two of them together, it had to end up somewhere good. “Very weird is all right?”

“Very weird is very all right,” said Felisha, who laughed as Missy gave her a playful shove onto her back and started at her shirt in earnest.

Timepiece, as he soon afterward came to be called, not only always made sure Felisha was up promptly at six on workdays, he never uttered so much as a peep on weekends or holidays, nor needed winding. And if any of their friends ever noticed a persistent, rhythmic ticking sound coming from his shell, well, that was the benefit of having friends too polite to ever make mention of such impossible things.

 


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