I caught up to Emma in the hallway, by the door to the outside deck. I blame the thrill of chasing and an overabundance of adrenaline, but I immediately swatted her on the rear. She let out a squawk and I elicited another by smacking her again on the other cheek. There. Balanced.
Emma twisted around to put her back — or rather, backside — against the door. She was flushed from running, but laughing too. That was good, because it was just now soaking into me what I’d done. Or, more specifically, what I wanted to keep doing.
My stomach did a small flop. I was disappointed that Emma had turned around, and now I really wanted to chase her more, corner her against something she could be bent over, and finish avenging my blushes on her ass. And I was horrified about what that had to say about me.
Emma breathlessly fumbled with the door knob. Then she caught it, turned it, and spilled out on to the walled deck when the door swung out behind her. Still laughing she dashed away and the chase was on again. This time I caught her at the edge of the hot tub. She ran into it with an ‘oof’ that almost bent her over. It was all I could do to refrain from landing another pair of swats on her rear.
I distracted my hands by wrapping them around her waist. I could freak out later, I reminded myself. For now, the important thing was that Emma was laughing. So, even though I was disturbed by what I was learning about myself, apparently Emma wasn’t.
“Gotcha!” I proclaimed. Emma twisted around in my grip and hopped up to perch on the edge of the hot tub’s cover.
“Yep,'” she agreed. Then she leaned forward. “So, what are you going to do with me?”
I froze. I was more than enough out of my element to draw a blank when faced with the question, and my imagination rushed to fill that canvas with highly inappropriate suggestions. I started to blush again. “I…” I stammered. Emma leaned in and kissed my nose.
“Cuddles?” She suggested, to my immense relief. “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable,” she added.
I ducked my head and looked away. “It’s not that I’m… Okay, I am. But only because I don’t know what I’m doing!” I hastened to assure her. “This is all just so… new.”
Emma smiled. “Well,” she said, “help me get the cover off of this hot tub and let’s enjoy some time snuggling in the warm,” she said.
I looked at her, wide eyed. “I don’t have a swimsuit,” I protested. Emma knew that! She had to know that — she’d been there when I bought everything I currently owned.
“I know,” Emma said with a saucy smile. I blanched.
Oh. Oh, fuck me.
Emma must have seen how terrified I looked, because her suggestive expression abruptly softened. “I’m sorry,” she said. “But put it on your list, okay? Um…” She blushed. “Why don’t we see if the hammock fits two?”
Seeing Emma blush helped me get my feet back under myself. It meant I wasn’t the only one out of her element. I imagined Emma was as unused to an uncertain partner as I was to… well, any partner. “Okay,” I agreed. I pulled her off the hot tub and led her to the hammock. She got in first, and after some struggling I managed to get in on top of her.
We were both stretched out. Somehow Emma had arranged to get her wrists tangled through the netting at one end of the hammock, above her head. I suspected it was on purpose, because she blushed shyly when she caught me staring and said: “So, rope?”
“On the list,” I said hoarsely.
Then I leaned in and kissed her. Stretched out over Emma’s prone form, it seemed like the only sensible thing to do. I trailed my lips up her neck, since she had turned her face away in embarrassment, and up until I could nip at the lobe of her ear.
Now my fangs were in, but I was pretty sure it was a reaction to arousal rather than hunger. I was still, in some corner of my mind, horrified by how I was behaving, what I was doing, what I wanted to do. It didn’t actually help that Emma seemed to be okay with it — if anything, it made things worse as I struggled with the fact that not only did I want these things, but apparently she was trusting me to keep myself under control. Which was not cool, because I knew how much I wanted to lose control.
For the rest of our date I was highly aware of how Hans had acted this morning. So, on top of being conflicted about the urges running through my head, I was conflicted about the morality of doing anything with Emma at all. I mean, she was clearly not in what I would call her ‘normal’ frame of mind. Not that she was inebriated or anything — but being limited in the extent to which she could feel had to be affecting her judgment. After all, if it weren’t for feeling conflicting thoughts about things, people wouldn’t need to make judgments. And right now, Emma was clearly not aware of any conflicts she might ordinarily feel.
Realizing that helped me keep things tame. Well, realizing that and knowing that I was solely responsible for anything that happened with her. We made out for a while, but I didn’t push things any further than what we had done on our first night at Club Luminescence. I figured that at least mitigated the question of consent, since I wasn’t pushing for anything she hadn’t permitted when she was sober and fully emotionally cognizant.
Of course, there was no reason that she couldn’t change her mind about whether or not I was allowed to do something — like I’d told Hans when I was laying out his rules, granting permission once doesn’t necessarily mean granting it forever. If I was allowed to change my mind about things then obviously Emma was, too. And the only thing keeping me from freaking out about that and derailing everything was that Emma seemed to be enjoying herself, and Linda had stressed how important it was for Hans and I to keep Emma happy while her aura was recovering.
Even so, after a little while I just couldn’t keep taking advantage of her like this. I pushed myself up on hands and knees — not a very easy trick in a hammock! — to put some distance between us before I could cave in to baser desires again. Emma turned to face me. Her cheeks remained flushed and she was smiling shyly.
“You’re beautiful,” I blurted out. I don’t even know why, except that it was true.
Emma blushed harder but didn’t look away. “So are you,” she lied. I squeezed my eyes shut for a second so she wouldn’t see the anger with which I addressed my reaction. She isn’t lying! She really does think so. You know that!
When I opened my eyes again, Emma was still looking up at me. For a second, I felt trapped. I couldn’t look away from her eyes — but I didn’t want to. The sense of being trapped melted away as I lost myself to gazing into her eyes while she did the same to mine.
I don’t know how long we did that for. Emma was the one who interrupted it, though. “Is there… is there anything else you would like to do, Abby?” she asked bashfully.
I knew my cheeks were flushed because I was far too aware of all of the very dire ways I could answer that question. I cleared my throat. The part of me that was horrified by everything that had been going on in my head had calmed while we gazing at each other, but now it woke back up and started screaming at me not to answer on autopilot.
It was too late, though, and all I could do was panic about which scenario I would reveal as I opened my mouth. I raised my head to face the door. “Hans!” I found myself hollering. “I think it’s time for that ice cream!”
Well, that wasn’t so bad, I thought in astonishment. Under me, Emma giggled. Then she wriggled and extricated her hands from the netting. The hammock swung precariously, and I ended up on my butt on the floor. But I could deal with that. Somehow, it was far less embarrassing than anything else I could have said. Which was freaky, because usually my autopilot goes for the worst option. I double checked my fangs. I think those are just from arousal, anyway. They had receded slightly once I wasn’t perched on Emma anymore.
Emma twisted around in the hammock until she was leaning over the edge, but holding on tight enough not to spill out herself. “Are you okay?” she asked. Enjoyment and arousal had been swapped for concern: she seemed half way to panicked already.
“Perfectly fine!” I answered. “It wasn’t that far to fall.” Unless you’d landed on a splinter just right for it to pierce your heart, my worst-case-scenario censor corrected me. And never mind that any chunk of wood long enough to do that wouldn’t count as a splinter. Okay, so maybe it’s a smaller one, slowly working its way toward your heart like the shrapnel in that one superhero with the power armor.
I am not a super hero! I protested. Fortunately, Emma seemed oblivious to my internal debate. I felt guilty as hell for thinking it, but: Thank god she’s in no condition for our flirting to include biting! It might not even count as a silver lining, not really, but it was still a huge relief to know that Emma didn’t have the inside scoop on everything that was going on in my head right now.
Emma smiled in relief, which then dissolved into bemusement. I pulled my legs up under me to sit cross legged on the floor, and she rolled back onto her back before sitting up and rearranging herself so that she was sitting upright and her legs were over the edge of the hammock. I tried not to think about how much fun it would be to tie them together… I’d seen some art in a manga once that had involved a lot of kinky rope work, and I couldn’t help but imagine how good Emma would look trussed up like that.
Hans interrupted those reveries — and thank god, because although I could picture Emma in a full shibari rig, I had no idea how to tie one — before they could translate into a disastrous reality. I was going to need… god, I didn’t even know. Was there a place you could sign up for classes for that? I tried to think of where people usually went to learn about knot work.
I realized I was never going to look at sailors or adult eagle scouts the same way again.
Hans backed through the hall door carrying a tray with a couple of bowls of ice cream: chocolate with hot fudge for Emma; vanilla for me. “Oh, thank you!” I gasped. Maybe it was unfair of me to press him into service during my date with Emma, but I was desperate for the distraction. Hans came over and knelt so I could take my bowl from the tray. Then he raised it so Emma could take hers. “Think nothing of it,” he said gallantly. Then he gave me a wink before rising to his feet, turning, and dooming me to fend for myself.
I scooted sideways on the floor so that I could better face Emma. Then I relied on one of my time tested tactics: I kept my mouth too full to blurt out anything stupid or crazy. The ice cream was great for that: I could eat slowly by letting each spoonful just melt in my mouth before going back for another. Emma did the same, except she punctuated her bites with little moans of enjoyment and sultry glances my way.
Naturally, I was forced to combat my bashful discomfort by returning like for like, and possibly — at one point — playing my tongue a little too obviously along the curved underside of my spoon. By the time we were finished I was pretty sure we were both horribly embarrassed — or rather, I was horribly embarrassed and Emma would have been had she been capable of experiencing multiple emotional spectrums. Once we were both done and I had put our bowls aside to be collected later, Emma sprang from the hammock and pounced on me. This time I ended up stretched out on the bottom while she made out with me. Except that where I had trailed kisses over her skin and left her mouth free, Emma very firmly trapped my lips with hers.
I’m not sure how long we spent like that, but it was long enough for me to get into it despite all my reservations. I tangled my fingers in her hair while she straddled my hips. We kissed passionately, deeply, and with a lot of tongue. And moaning — on both our parts — and squirming of our bodies against each other. And then, in the middle of that, I felt a sudden jolt.
Emma must have felt me jerk, because she sat up. “Abby?” She asked.
“I don’t know,” I answered. I felt, suddenly and inexplicably, awake. Like I hadn’t even noticed it, but the rest of today had been fogged in a dream. I blinked a couple of times. “I think the sun just set,” I said.
Emma’s shoulders slumped and she pouted a little. “Phooey,” she grumped. But it seemed to be a light-hearted disappointment. “I guess that means it’s time for you to get going?”
“Uh…” I hesitated. “I guess?” I agreed. I was still reluctant to leave Emma and Hans alone — but the reminder that I’d left Fumiko and Megan alone with Melvin was enough to bring all that panic welling back up. I hoped desperately that John had been able to keep an eye on things. “If… if you’re really alright with that,” I added.
“Yeah,” Emma said. She rolled off of me and sat up. “I’ll be fine. I’ll get Hans to make popcorn and then we’ll watch a movie or something. I can keep myself distracted until you come home, don’t worry.”
I breathed out in relief and stood up. “Okay, then,” I said. “Let’s go find Hans and let him in on the plan, then.” I gave Emma a hand and pulled her to her feet. She gave me a smile. ” Alright,” she said. “But don’t forget that you still owe me a proper date once I’m feeling wholly myself,” she added.
I swallowed. “Of course,” I agreed. “With ice cream. And rope,” I blurted. Dammit, me!
Emma laughed, but she wasn’t facing me since she was heading into the house. To conceal the way my cheeks were flaring up — by discouraging her from looking back — I gave her a swat on the rear. She jumped and, still laughing, skipped into the hallway. I followed and prayed for my cheeks to simmer down before we caught up to Hans.
Look on the bright side, my worst case scenario censor chimed in. You’ve managed to finagle enough time to figure out what you’re doing before that date arrives. Hey, maybe you can ask Megan for some more advice, hmm?
Right, I countered. Because that won’t be awkward, given that Megan has been crushing on me in secret for ages.
Actually, I considered, it wouldn’t be awkward so much as hideously cruel. I swallowed and fished out my phone. I was going to have to do without Megan’s advice on this one. But that didn’t change the fact that I should really probably check up on her. And Fumiko. So, while I followed Emma and Emma looked for Hans, I flipped open my phone and secretly hoped I wouldn’t be able to arrange for a ride.