by Shoe
illustrated by olukemi


“Sir, your wine.” The waitress presents the bottle to Emry, then smartly removes the cap. She pours a tasteful blop into his oversized glass.

Emry raises the glass to his nose, eyes lighting up as he inhales. A small sip and his eyes are half-closed. He almost forgets to turn and nod. The waitress pours a decil into my glass, then tops up Emry’s to match and places the bottle on the table, label toward us. Perayne Terreplus 46691, a very good year for a long-lived producer. A mouthful of red grape, my nose and tongue confirm, with a deep hint of cinnamon and the signature top notes of their offworld vineyards: chive and sweet red pepper.

I swirl the ruby liquid while I swallow. “Mmm. I haven’t had the Terreplus for years. Thanks for forcing me to pay for it.” Emry rolls his eyes. I had insisted that he order this, in fact, since it’s going on my department’s tab. Before yesterday, I hadn’t seen or heard from Emry for five years. He is now, if possible, even more appealing than he had been when he was a frightened teenager living on the hard streets of Silim, second planet from Proxima Centauri. His white hair and pink eyes mark him as a telepath, as does his hesitation with speech. I’ve worked with paths before. I’ve learned to keep up the conversation, expecting only yes, no, and gestures in return.

Our waitress tastefully clears her throat. She’s an attractive Kenter with a nicely shaped snout and pleasant manner, aside from the smugness. She had introduced herself as Sheelia. “Sir hass a tab here?”

Without my comment to Emry, she would have assumed that Free was paying. “It’s on me, yes. A gesture of goodwill between our companies.” I sign the slip she produces, adding my title and department, sort of: Lieutenant, Special Operations. That’s how we sign. Outside of my own department and Emry’s, almost no one is aware that such a thing as Covert Ops really exists.

“Gratitude, Mr. Patel. Your selectionss will come soon.”

“Call me Jake,” an automatic response that I don’t catch in time. That wasn’t a smooth move in a restaurant as formal as this. On top of that, Kenters avoid trying to pronounce J’s, even if they are born to Home. Well, I can handle being common muck for the rest of the evening. I’ve been worse.

My dinner companion ignores my verbal fumble, his eyes happy and a little glazed as they lock onto mine. Emry hasn’t forgotten my role in his rescue from Silim, nor our intimacy while we waited for an agent from Free to come get him. I only found out yesterday that he’s been following my career, and other wire-accessible aspects of my life, for most of these last five years. He can do that, of course. My movements are classified, but he’s a path. The Free World Foundation has top-level clearance for all Earth intelligence, even from my own camouflaged department. The paths that own and are owned by Free can read all wire, all levels, anytime and for any reason. The seniors at Free would discourage Emry’s obsession except for the zero risk of unauthorised offspring.

This leads my thoughts in an enjoyable direction. I cross my legs and shoot a hot look at Emry. His cheeks go pinker than usual. I reach across the linen-covered table to touch his hand, moving my thumb over his, back and forth. After several seconds, I turn his hand over and begin feathering my fingertips along his wrist, stroking my thumb across his palm.

Emry’s eyes widen and look left. He draws his hand away and I pull mine back to my wine glass. As I take another luxurious sip, Sheelia strides around the corner bearing a silver-domed plate. A busboy follows her with another.

“Sir, your meal. Pleass, by all meanss, let me know should it not meet your expectationss.” The waitress simpers at Emry while the busboy deposits my plate before me, removing the lid with practised panache. Sacchetti with black olives, goat feta and garlic, according to the menu. The five sizable sacks of pasta rest near the bottom of my plate, with onion confit to the upper right and marinated tomatoes beside them. In the middle is a small dish of the greenest olive oil I’ve ever seen. I can smell freshly-broken stems from here. The oil must be from the first day of harvest, and warm.

It is also infused with peppercorns, I discover. A drizzle over one of the sacchetti and I find my mouth crowded with fresh egg pasta and the peppery green oil. Bland, spicy and rich combine, then open up to the meaty black olives melting into salty-sour cheese, joined by fresh herbs, clean bright parsley and the slight licorice of basil. And in the centre of it all, a whole roasted clove of garlic bursts through and floods my senses, bathing all other flavours in its slight burn. I consider lying down on the floor while I chew. And chew.

Across the table, I see Emry in a state of transport. He has ordered one of the most expensive dishes, as I commanded. I silently thank Covert for putting up with my occasional excesses. The mild rebuke will be worth it, if only for the sight of Emry in rapture.

His plate offers grilled asparagus and slices of sweet potato in cream and nutmeg, encircling a few ounces of filet mignon cut from a carefully-raised breed of delicious cattle. The cows are reportedly put through the stressful routine of daily massages and a diet of milk, beer, chocolate and high-quality grain. This is happy meat.

At the top of his plate is a single crab leg, expertly cracked by the kitchen and ready for plundering with a tiny fork. Said fork, halfway between plate and mouth, accounts for Emry’s current state of grace. Crab is seriously expensive. Legend tells of a time when the clawed beasties could be plucked from the margins of the sea by anyone with a wooden trap and some cheap bait; these days, the good restaurants buy only from a few farms. Anything else and you risk supporting poachers, and getting a bellyful of heavy metals in the bargain.

I really shouldn’t, but I do. “Emry, pass me your bread plate and I’ll give you one of these. They’re wonderful, especially with the olive oil.”

He wakes from his flavour-induced trance. He quickly hands me the small plate beside him, receiving one of my remaining four sacchetti and a generous dollop of that lovely oil. As I’d hoped, he then gestures toward my bread plate and begins … cutting a wedge out of his medium-rare filet. I carefully tranform my flash of disappointment into longing as I watch the morsel pass to my side plate. Emry smiles at me, then reaches toward the (oh be still my heart) crab leg to pluck a portion of the white flesh and deliver it beside the beef. Oh dear thank you God almighty yes. I have had artificial crab but have never tasted the real thing before one moment from now.

I almost don’t debate whether to try the beef first. The debate happens, is lost, and my fork is in my mouth a second later. Real crab has a delicate, startling flavour, as though it shares recent ancestry with cashew nuts. I chew slowly, eyes closed, willing myself to memorize every subtle variation in taste and texture. Like eating threads of silk, I decide, though much more delicious.

When I open my eyes, Emry is staring at me hungrily. He probably likes to feel my pleasure. Or he wants to feel me in any way he can, a slightly guilty thought that I nudge toward nostalgia. “Remember our first meal together? It sure wasn’t this, but it felt so good to watch you enjoy yourself, to see you eat all that you wanted. You were so thin then. It almost broke my heart.” My smile fades as I remember that hotel room, spartan and sweltering, and the sunburnt youth so desperate for human contact.

Emry is watching me. I don’t want to bring his mood down. I smile again and think of hugging him close, giving him a little kiss. His eyes shine. If I’m not careful, my heart will break all over again.

I look away and take another sip of the red wine, tasting how it first mingles with, then cleans away the crab. There is still this issue of the pampered meat waiting for me.

Fork, meet beef. Beef, meet mouth. I was not expecting soft meat, given my past experiences even with filet. This is something else. It is beef that breaks apart with barely an effort from my teeth, beef that bleeds its blood-rich flavour over my tongue without a struggle. It’s like being French kissed by the Goddess Of Beef. Lord on high, I will deliver myself unto hell eternal if I can taste this from time to time. That and the crab, to be sure. Hell isn’t worth anything less.

Emry’s eyes eat the sight of me enjoying his food. I slide my hand back across the table and draw his fingers to me, leaning forward to kiss the tip of each of them. A flick of my tongue across the knuckles and I let him go, turning back to my suddenly less interesting meal.

He takes this as his cue to try the pasta. A look of analysis, then relish. He grins at me and nods, touching a finger to his lips. “It’s quite good, isn’t it?” I make an effort to remember how pleased I’d been before the crab. “The oil is great, and that garlic is just the end of it.” Emry nods happily, still chewing.

“Two co’hheess, yes. And would sir like a desssert?” Sheelia attends to Emry as though he were a god and she his prophet, and I the stableboy. Paths, and their permanent tabs covered by Free, are well known in the towns near their two campuses. Every merchant in Reedsport and Skien can work around the speech limitations with poise.

Our waitress gestures to the dessert menu. “When you’re still a little hungry, I recommend a warm apple tart wi’h cinnamon ice cream and sweet butter sauce. When you’re quite sated, I would point you toward a shocolate cream: a nice little treat, a small bite of shocolate wi’h an interesting taste.” She chooses her words carefully, skilled with the language but mildly hampered by the Kenter facial structure. However much she might want to, she will never be able to say “fuck”.

Emry considers her, then holds up a thumb and forefinger a cem apart. Sheelia pauses for barely a moment. “Not so hungry, yes? Doess a shocolate cream appeal to you?” His smile and nod appease her. “And you, sir? A same?”

“Yes, please. That would be lovely. Do you have…” but she’s gone. I guess I’ll take my coffee with whatever options she brings.

I turn back to see Emry’s grin. “Yeah, laugh it up. You’re the big man in this town, not me.” I glide the threat of resentment toward envy. “I sometimes think of what it would be like to have a stable home like this, on a coast this beautiful. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. It just gets tiring, always moving around, never in one place for longer than a few months.”

Emry reaches for my hand and holds it. I like having his sympathy, though I don’t need it.

“Have you been to the other Free campus?” He nods. “Which one do you like better?” He tilts his head back and to the right, toward his current home in Reedsport. “Milder winters,” I hold up one finger, “or something else?” I hold up two fingers. He grins and holds up three, then squeezes my hand. Dear lord. He’s as naive as he was five years ago.

The germ of unease is interrupted by Sheelia’s return. “Here you are, sir. Pleass take delight. And pleass do not hessitate to call on anyone here when you require any’hing else.” The coffee cups delivered, the chocolate lumps on plates deposited in front of us, Sheelia retreats with a small bow and a self-satisfaction that even I can feel.

I pick up the chocolate lump. It’s soft, as though made of nothing but cocoa powder and something liquid. This turns out to be heavy cream. The lump melts slowly in my mouth, gradually revealing the depth and spice of the cocoa, bitter like unsweetened chocolate but warming into the richness of the cream. I bite into it, and I find a crisp centre that breaks apart, releasing liqueurs of sour lemon and sweet raspberry. The flavours battle it out in my mouth until a quiet surprise of chili pepper sneaks up behind me, making me hum with contentment.

I think of Emry and open my eyes. While still enjoying my own bit of heaven, I’m treated to the sight of the young path riding out a taste orgasm. Eyes nearly closed, lips parted, head inclined toward the ceiling, it looks much like a more common kind of orgasm, though the sensations are focused in the mouth. The moans are quieter, too. I doubt I will ever tire of hearing Emry moan.

“Why the hell did you need to buy fruit, anyway?” The albino idiot stands in the half-kitchen of my hotel room inspecting a freaking persimmon while I lie on the bed, unshirted and with a hard-on. Things get interesting and he gets up to play with food.

I hadn’t thought anything of it when he stopped at the produce stand on the way to the hotel, selecting and rejecting several different fruits before deciding on two Fuyu persimmons. I had assumed they were for breakfast, but he’s fiddling with one now. “You know, you can just eat those like an apple. You don’t have to cut…” Emry shuts me up with a wave of his hand, still attempting to operate on the tomato-shaped fruit as though with a scalpel instead of a kitchen knife. I snort and roll onto my side, toward the window. I have a good view of the Oregon coastline from here. Reedsport itself is a little depressing, covered mostly in military buildings, including those of Covert. The coastline is gorgeous, though.

I look back at Emry, who has succeeded in separating a wedge of the fruit from the core. He is now studying a thin piece of the stuff, holding one end and flicking his fingers at the other. When it breaks in half, he frowns and eats it, then turns back to the messy task.

He seems to have a plan, though I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is. He examines the wedge of persimmon, cuts a narrow and longish sliver from it, tests it for some sort of tensile strength, eats it when it fails, then starts over. After several iterations, he is satisfied. He tucks the sliver into his hand and walks back toward me with a smile that promises something I can’t read, though I can see he’s excited.

Emry points at my trousers with his persimmon-free hand and makes a whisking motion away. “Yes sir.” I obediently peel off the trousers, then hook my thumbs into my underpants and lift an eyebrow. He nods, so I lose those as well. I toe off my socks and recline on the mattress with my hands behind my head, dick at half-mast. I look good naked. I’m told this often enough that I believe it. “So, what’s the fruit for?”

Emry kneels with his legs on either side of my mine. His shirt and zipper are open but he’s still clothed. I enjoy the sight of his pink hands against my coffee and cream. Lordy, but I like all types and this is one of those “all”.

He smiles shyly, keeping the persimmon slice to the side. His other hand is on my stomach, starting to move in gentle circles that edge lower, as though working up his courage. I doubt he’s slept with anyone since our time on Silim. His kisses show the same inexperience as they did then.

His courage finds itself. He leans down to tongue my navel, then the skin below it. I groan contentedly as he kisses the tip of my cock, wrapping his hand around me and pulling the foreskin down. He begins curling his lips oh sweet Jesus around the underside of ohh, that’s nice the head, then moves to swirl his tongue down one side, up the other, then down and back up along the underside of my cock. Mmmmm.

He licks and strokes for a little longer, then looks up and winks. The persimmon makes its appearance, the sliver gripped at the top end between Emry’s thumb and forefinger with the other end dangling, moving closer to the slit on the tip of my Jesus fucking CHRIST!

When my senses return, I see Emry shielding the bit of fruit from my thrashing. He pointedly puts an arm over my hip to pin me down, then brings the persimmon piece back, reinserting it slowly into my urethra. Dear fucking God ALMIGHTY but that sensation is not natural. Holy fucking SHIT that slow movement in and out is the most intense thing I’ve ever fuck experienced, painful and Jesus FUCK exquisite all at once. Emry’s other hand twists around to fuck FUCK jack me off while still pinning my hips to the mattress, a contortion that would be interesting except that Christ fucking God oh… my GOD OH MY GOD…

Sanity wavers in a powerful orgasm, sharp and half-satisfying. When I look down again, Emry has moved the abused fruit away and is wiping my come off his cheek. The rest has landed on my stomach and on the fruit. He notices me staring and deposits the slip of persimmon on his tongue, drawing it in and sucking on it with a brave bit of flourish.

“Little pervert. Where did you learn that from?” I smile and Emry blushes, shy again, swallowing the fruit with a little of my come. No doubt he’s been exploring the seamier side of the public wire, those pages that specialize in marketable smut. I have a few favourites myself. I’m getting hot again.

I sit up, grab Emry by the armpits and throw him onto the bed beside me, face up and pants down. My tongue invades his mouth as my hand goes straight for the goods, working him hard and fast. He whimpers and moans, his arms tight around my ribs as he wriggles underneath me. It doesn’t take him long to come. It happens then, the push into my mind that feels like a second me, sweating passion and desire and bliss. It’s gone in a moment and I want it back. On Silim I’d learned that this is possible, and that it lasts a few seconds longer if we come at the same time.

We rest for now, not bothering to clean up. I kiss Emry’s cheek and drift toward his earlobe. The evening isn’t over. A few metres away, two crisp, juicy persimmons are daring me to get creative.

illustrated by olukemi

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