Jump to content

Aberrant: Children of Quantum Fire - [Interlude]The King of the Jungle (Complete)


Recommended Posts

[May 15, 2027]

It was a Sunday. And he was working.

"...and there's been a request for a formal signing with regards to the Dragon's Den matter. The details are mainly finalised now, with just the royal seal needed. I've compiled the whole project document on your palmtop for your review, of course, majesty."


Esperance glanced at her monarch (and center of her world) and frowned a little. Einherjar was gazing out of the window of his office, not the formal regal office with the gilt and ebony desk and the flag on the wall, but his private office which, while just as spacious, was cluttered with furniture, odds and ends, souvenirs and trophies from his life, as well as gifts from personal friends. There were a lot of those, from the large signed poster-sized photo of Jason Bellefleur in her role as Dejah Thoris, to the three-pint-capacity etched glass stein Rolf Mueller had given Einherjar last year, to the small carving that sat just in front of his blotter, crafted by the Morrigan. Right now, however, Einherjar was standing at the window, hands clasped behind his back as he gazed out over the royal gardens.

"And the American ambassador wants to meet again, majesty. The U.S. State Department has expressed concern over the number of novas coming to live in the Congo, raising the question on the U.N. General Assembly floor. Miss Vasiliauskiūtė believes they seek assurance that we won't provide asylum to common criminals with nodes." Noting her king's continued distraction, Esperance's lips tightened a little. "She also said to tell you congratulations, it's a boy."

"What?!" Ein blinked and looked over at Esperance, who smiled patiently and moved to stand by his side, looking up at the towering warrior-turned-warlord-turned-king.

"Sire." she said gently. "You need to speak with her." Ein didn't need to clarify who his chamberlain meant, his brow furrowing in a frown as he glanced her way, then went back to looking out of the window.

"It's not that easy." he rumbled, a touch of defensiveness entering his tone. "I don't feel myself around her, Esperance. I feel giddy, out of control. Do you know what that's like?"

Every day, when you smile and greet me! Esperance thought with some wry amusement. That she loved her king with all her soul was an open secret between them. He treated her with respect, and didn't take advantage of her even when she'd wanted him to, at the beginning. Now, she was glad of his nobility, even as she loved him all the more for it. It was why she wasn't married, didn't date, didn't have children. She looked out the window, following his gaze to the lush, nigh-overgrown greenery of the gardens. "Sire, you need to speak with her. She needs more space than the garden can give her, and her abilities could be a great boon to the Congo. But she is cautious of offending you, her host. And I think she is a little frustrated that you have barely exchanged a sentence with her since... that day."

"Hmmph." Ein turned away from the window and began to pace. "Life used to be a lot simpler, Esperance."

"It did, sire. But I would urge you to think on this: for me, the simple life that used to be was one of fear and abuse. Before you came, I was one of millions of people suffering as this land was ravaged. You have changed that, sire. There were hundreds of novas, maybe, who could have done what you did, but none of them did it. You did. Simple is not always better, sire."

"Granted." Ein stopped pacing and grinned piratically at Esperance. "Alright, I'll stop mooning around like a schoolboy and go see the Blossom Princess." He fixed her with an inquisitive crook of one eyebrow. "Happy?"

"Rapturously so, your majesty." Esperance curtsied, trying not to smile... too much. Einherjar eyeballed her, then smiled and turned for the door.

"Clear my schedule for the next few hours, will you? Tell the ambassador we can meet for a drink this evening."

"Yes, majesty." Esperance told the departing monarch as he left the room and headed towards the guest apartments...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It took several tries for the Storm King to find the Blossom Princess: she wasn't in her apartment, nor the garden Chang Zha-Yang had designed for him just beyond her rooms; instead she was in the "garden" Esperance had spoken of, an area of the palace that had been left open for future expansion of the buildings but given to his guest when she'd requested a bit of land to grow things on.

And it had grown. The plants, from the common to the exotic, tangled together into their own miniature jungle, growing ever large the farther one ventured through the garden. Insects and small animals buzzed busily around the plants as well; several somethings that looked like a cross between a badger and cub bear were munching happily in one section of the garden near the closest buildings of the palace. There were bare spots of enriched soil that made a lazy line to the creatures, a natural and effective way of clearing space for new experiments apparently. Glowing insects, pale white in the sunlight but giving off their own golden glow, played amongst the shadows of the trees, more and more of them the larger the trees became. Instead of the usual gloom of the jungle canopy, the space between the ever-larger towering trees was well lit and the smell from the flowing vines that graced each successive tree was light, fragrant, and somehow invigorating. It was a strange garden, and as he passed trees larger than any ever found in the wild, he understood why Esperance insisted that his guest needed more space.

He could hear her as he explored the small forest, somewhere near where the garden butted up against the outer wall of the palace compound and far above him. She was singing some wordless tune as she moved among the branches of the largest tree, a bohemouth that towered over its neighbors, the garden itself, even the multi-story buildings of the palace. The light-bugs were clustered there, burrowed into the bark of the large tree and complimented by multicolored fungus caps that gave the entire area the a bright and cheery feel. He could see light pouring out of the inside of the tree as well and pushed aside some of the vines to discover a large entrance at the base of the tree. There was a curving staircase off to his right and a short hallway that ended in a circle at the center of the tree; several rooms had vine-doors off the circle. Just this first "floor" was as large as an upper middle class home in the majority of the world, comfortably sized for a family with several children and room left over for amenities. Clusters of light-bugs clung to the ceilings, casting a sunlight-like light and warmth over the rooms; more clustered again with fungi to lead up the stairs.

Every ten feet or so up was another internal opening to rooms and after the first thousand feet or so there started to be openings back outside onto massive flat-topped branches as well. The tree could have comfortably accommodated hundreds of families with room to spare before the trunk began to narrow at all. So long as no one minded the climb. He'd made his way almost to the top of the tree, over half a mile at least in stairs and the spiced smell of wood and vines, before he spotted the branch opening that the flower-bedecked mother-to-be must be on. She was still singing to herself and the natural world she was shaping around her when he moved the vines aside to step out onto the branch. This one was far smaller than the others, being so near the top, but could still easily fit two people walking side by side with a foot on either side for safety.

Sakura was sitting about halfway down the branch, dappled in actual sunlight as they were well above the canopy of the garden now. She looked different and the same from that first day in the Congo that he'd last seen her: she was still beautiful and effortlessly alluring, but now her womb was swollen with the children she carried. Her skin was tinged a pleasant shade of green; leaves of the same shade had woven themselves between the cherry blossom flowers that always bloomed from her hair and her body from the hips down were covered in a knotting-looking second skin of bark and roots that, like the vines, had made their way into the bark and flesh of the branch. She wore no actual clothes other than that and the "roots" kept her in place on the branch easily; she looked like some exquisite and exotic flower being grown by the tree.

There was a large version of the light-bug in her hand, sitting sedately as the Blossom Princess stroked her fingers along its chitinous back. After a moment, the bug's abdomen began to bulge and it hopped off her hand to burrow into the bark and lay a large nest of soft eggs there. It covered the nest with carefully tugged leaves from the ubiquitous vines running along and through the branch, then buzzed away on whatever its next errand in life was. She smiled at the nest next to her and lifted her face to the sun above her in unabashed pleasure at the feel of the warmth on her face and the gentle tease of a breeze that was passing through the upper branches on its way out to the sea. Unless she was purposely ignoring him at the moment, she hadn't heard him join her on the branch.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The baby-bump made this easier, Einherjar realised with an inner sigh of relief. The visible signs of Sakura's pregnancy took the edge off the fierce ardour that her appearance caused, transferring that fierce edge from 'possessiveness' to 'protectiveness'. Protective he could deal with - he felt that way about Morri... and Maia and Shaman too, after all. Though this wasn't quite the same... Damn the woman. He knew he was being unfair, and it made him grumpier, mainly at himself and his urge to scoop the dryad-woman up and cover her in kisses every time he saw her. Get a grip on yourself, idiot. He moved out onto the branch, treading lightly for such a large man, and as he approached Konohanasakuyahime he spoke.

"Good morning." He forced his voice to remain casual, but at the leonine rumble the Blossom Princess turned and looked at him, and Einherjar felt everything between his neck and knees tighten. Gods-DAMN it. He glanced around the arboreal garden, smiling a little at the strange and wonderful life that met his gaze. "I see you've been busy." he continued in the same casual tone before looking back at her.

"I have." she replied in a soft voice. "It has been very fulfilling, to be able to create and shape in peace." Her glorious green eyes met his pale blue ones. "Thank you for this."

"Not at all." Einherjar shrugged and moved to sit on the edge of the branch, dangling his feet over the drop and trying not to notice his whole body throbbing at her proximity. "I wanted to thank you, too. Morri told me about your valuable input on the Dragon's Den talks. You helped keep things on track while I was busy... elsewhere." He looked up at her from where he sat. "To tell the truth, I've been putting a lot off on Morrigan, and Shaman too. Things that they need to know how to do, and more importantly need to know that they know how to do them." Konohanasakuyahime stayed quiet, watching the king as he gazed out over the city stretched below the giant tree, the sunlight playing in his pale-gold mane of hair. He was quiet too, for a long moment, his thoughts dark and roiling as a storm cloud.

"I owe you an apology." he said, turning his blue eyes on her. "I behaved abominably in our second meeting, and then behaved worse by shunning you." He looked into her eyes for a pause. "So... I'm sorry."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She'd started when he'd spoken, pink rising through the green tint of her skin as she quickly pulled her leaves and roots in and formed loose blouse that opened up to make room for her belly and a set of practical, if skin tight, leggings around her legs. The green tinge faded, leaving only her natural slightly dusky skin and pinked cheeks. She pulled one of her blossoms from her hair and fiddled with it in an unusual show of shyness.

She listened to his praise and his apology, mostly still staring down at the flower. "I...I understand, your Majesty," she said softly. "You...I...I know the problems I can cause. It was kind of you to let me stay, even so." Her words were heartfelt, but he could hear the undertone of hurt to them, and the repetition of something she'd had had to say to others before. The hurt ran that deep, to the first time she'd had to leave somewhere because of whatever it was about her that pulled such reactions from people. She whispered, "I understand."

He was still distracting, as distracting as Darrik had been and still was when he was around if in a completely different manner than the dark godling of shadows. The nest at her side rustled in a welcome momentary distraction; leaves covering it were consumed in a few seconds of frenzied eating by the larvae beneath. Just as quickly the larvae each covered themselves in a silken cocoon. No sooner had the cocoons hardened than tiny cracks appeared at the base of each and a flurry of white bodies and wings took flight from the tree branch, plunging down beneath the canopy to add to the lights already peeking in and out from between the branches and vines.

She managed a glance up at him, not quite meeting his storm blue eyes again, and asked quietly, "Was there something you needed? Something I could do for you?" She appreciated his apology, but after so long of avoiding her it was hard to believe that he'd sought her out for nothing more than a simple 'I'm sorry', most especially when that apology included nearly a half mile climb up a tree. Or perhaps all the commotion and cloak and dagger and attacks and everything with the crèche was simply making her jaded to people.She frowned at the thought, but waiting for him to make the next move.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Actually no, that was more or less the main thrust of my visit." Einherjar's brooding mien gave way to a surprisingly boyish smile as he looked from the glowing insects flitting out of sight back to her. "Stop hiding like a daft child, apologise for being an ass, ecetera. I really shouldn't have behaved that way, and I certainly shouldn't have stayed away and made you feel like you were responsible." He wanted to get up and go over, to hug her and tell her that it was okay... but he didn't trust himself around her that much yet.

"I also wanted to see how you were." he added with an expansive gesture. "This place... it's beautiful." he said earnestly, without looking away from her. "I've always been a little in awe of novas who can create and grow things. Like Antaeus and yourself. It's impressive." He leaned forwards from where he was sitting and peered straight down with some interest at the myriad levels of flora and fauna custom-made by Sakura. "I'm curious - how do these beasties of yours mingle with an existing ecosystem?" he asked, eyes narrowing speculatively. "I'm assuming you've taken that into account somehow?" Though he wasn't an expert, Einherjar was well-read on a massive number of subjects, and nova effects on terraforming and ecology was of interest to him as a monarch.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"They don't. I keep them inside the garden, and the flowers that bloom don't have pollen just for that reason. I altered the flowering process so that the different plants I melded together cross-fertilize one another while the flower is still a bud. The flowers themselves catch water and produce a honey-like substance that the insects consume." She gave him a shy smile, honestly pleased that he really had come all the way up just to apologize to her.

"And I've made sure that the animals and insects nearby give the garden wide berth. It's as close to an enclosed area as I can make it without actually putting up a greenhouse," she added and glanced up at the top of the tree, still some hundreds of feet above them. "Which would have been....difficult, at best." She waved to encompass the whole garden, "The entire idea of all of this was to attempt to create plants and animals that could function as a very basic but self-sustaining ecosystem in environments much less plentiful and life-friendly than Earth. Although I suppose I've also created a growable skyscraper, if you'd like any. The next time I make the trees taller, I could make them that large and leave places for elevator shafts..."

She smiled at him again, still shy but warmer towards him now. "I'll need to wait for the reclimator animals to finish eating through most of the garden for that, though. I'm getting the glow bugs and glow fungus perfected while I wait on that. I'm also trying to figure out if I can make translucent plants that would create airtight windows and if there is a way to grow moving doors. It's...fun. Complicated, but fun." She nodded out to the garden, "I do make sure that it is a self-contained as it can be, though. Nothing from the garden will get outside. And I've discouraged anything coming in, though occasionally I have to let migrating groups know to go around and not just over or to stop for a rest or meal right here."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Living skyscrapers..." Ein's gaze went from the branch he was sitting on the edge of to the massive trunk, his expression speculative. "That would actually be a good foundation for a civic rebuild. Sustainable as far as maintainence goes, utilising the carbon dioxide and waste respired by the residents where possible." He looked over at Sakura curiously. "Would you have to be there for the whole process of growing it, or would you be able to simply provide a seed that would do the necessary work by itself? And would it be possible to blend certain less-intrusive tech into the fully-grown tree, allowing electricity and communications, for example?"

He stopped, then shook his head and laughed.

"Gods, I come up to apologise and go into 'king' mode on you." He held up his large hands in surrender. "Mea culpa. How's this... I was wondering if you'd like to dine with me tonight." He glanced around the tree and grinned. "Up here, perhaps? I can bring a hamper and leave my crown behind."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She returned the grin and ducked her head in agreement. "That would be nice." She looked out over the garden, speculation in her eyes, "And I don't mind you asking me questions as a king. They're good questions. The trees grow much faster now, but it will still be several more growth cycles before I have trees that would grow from seed to maturity quickly. And I'll need a control mechanism on them so that they don't do so automatically. A simply but exotic chemical compound, perhaps. Something not found in nature, perhaps an excretion from a plant that could be grown separately?"

She stood up far more gracefully than a woman as heavily pregnant as she had any natural right to do so and stepped lightly around him to the doorway into the trunk. She looked at it speculatively and ran a hand along the perfectly smooth wood. "Hollow inner walls, perhaps? If we're talking buildings, than I could modify the trees so that they stop growing at all after maturity, but still heal themselves from damage. That would allow you to cut into the walls and run wiring a such, but have the walls heal over the incisions with a little time. I could also create each floor as a single open room; panels could be cut from the exterior to be used for inner walls, and then the exterior would regrow." Her eyes trailed back over the long drop of the branch as she mused, "There would need to be other balances put in place, like I've created here in the garden, to ensure that the soil stayed nutritious and I would suggest spacing the trees out widely enough to allow sunlight to reach all the way down. Branches could be modified to grow joining platforms when they encounter another tree's branches, or even use the vines as seekers to make the branches grow towards one another. That would give you skybridges between buildings, some large and strong enough for vehicles and heavy traffic."

She tapped her finger to her lips, "I could make only a few alterations that would create regular branch sizes up and down the trunk, and merely cut off at the point that the trunk slims down towards the top." She turned back to him and blushed, "Now who's going on and on?"

"Dinner sounds lovely," she said as she stepped back towards him, putting a hand on his arm and leaning up just enough to give him a friendly kiss on the cheek as an acceptance of his offer. "Let me provide the drinks and fruit. It will be my afternoon's activity, and a pleasurable break from my usual creations of the moment. Oh," she added with a wicked gleam to her eyes. "I do have one demand, if you use the trees for a new city or district: the first group, whether it's a neighborhood or a full city, simply must be named Rivendale."

She kept from laughing, just barely, while she waited for his reaction.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Her scent, light and flowery, caressed his senses as her lips brushed his cheek, and Einherjar couldn't help but smile reflexively even before Sakura's quip caught up with him. Exerting his considerable strength of will to resist the urge to wrap an arm around her and draw her nearer, he laughed instead.

"Deal. And we'll name the one next to it Lothlorien." he rumbled good-humoredly. "If we can avoid getting sued by the Tolkien estate, at least."

"You're the king." Sakura said airily, making an offhand gesture that dismissed the problem, the hint of an impish smile playing around her lips. "I'm sure you can handle a few lawyers."

"I'm phobic." Einherjar deadpanned, leaning close as though to confide a state secret. "Legal professionals terrify me on a deep and primal level."

"Really?" Sakura, to her credit, was managing not to laugh at the exaggerated seriousness of Ein's expression. "What happens when you need to deal with the Congo's Chief Justices, then?"

"We reclassified them as witchdoctors." The ex-Elite shrugged, his own lips twitching. "It was that or send Morri in to deal with them." Their laughter mingled as he stepped towards the edge of the branch, his eyes still on hers. "I'll be back later then?"

"I shall look forward to it." Sakura replied, her smile radiant. Einherjar smiled back, then stepped off the branch and dropped before his node pulsed, turning gravity into an ignored suggestion rather than a physical law, and sending him back to the palace. He'd make arrangements for the hamper, then meet with the ambassador.

Maybe now he'd be able to get some work done. Though he'd still be distracted, thinking of later, at least he wouldn't be brooding over his conduct in the past. Of course, there was still the matter of how Konohanasakuyahime made him feel. It was a problem, to say the least. He wanted her, and he wasn't sure whether the wanting had to do with her as a person and or everything to do with some influence she unconsciously worked on him. And that galled him somewhat. Though Einherjar had a reputation for being somewhat... free with his affections, the truth was that he rarely jumped into bed with women he didn't at least like on some level. And though he liked Sakura, his natural stubborness couldn't help but wonder, however unfairly, how much of that was due to her personality.

It was unfair, he mused as he touched down in a courtyard and made his way to his office, past saluting guards and bowing aides. Sakura was sweet, smart and lovely. If it wasn't for the fact that some signal she sent off made him want to possess her, he'd not even be having any conflict with himself about wanting to bed her. Possessiveness of his partners was not one of Ein's defining characteristics, and the feeling irked him like a splinter under the skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sakura spent the afternoon playing in her garden. She grew small plants in rapid succession for the coming dinner: some carried exquisite and unique fruits to complement the meal, others carried large coconut-like pods with fermenting juice or honey-like nectar for drinks. The drinks wouldn't get a nova drunk, like The Alchemist's brews, but it would taste nice and fizz in that delightful way naturally carbonated drinks did. Her last projects for the picnic had her climbing around her largest tree like bird looking for the perfect nesting spot. She finally found what she was looking for, the perfect view of the palace and Kinshasa beyond from one of the highest branches, but one still wide enough to accommodate her arrangements.

She grew seeds from the smaller trees on the branch, altering them into a low table anchored to the branch by vines; collections of soft leaves sprouted up into pillow-like arrangements around the table. Another handful of small seeds were grown and shaped to provide large mugs for drinking, wooden plates and bowls for eating and sharing, even smooth and beautifully grained chop-sticks for eating. The final touch was a bower overhead, vibrant and dark green vines sprouting iridescent blooms in all colors that would give a reflecting glow once the sun set and the moon rose. Glow-bugs clustered in amongst the leaves and flowers, sipping of the specially sweet necter she'd instilled those flower with and providing a warm glow to shadow-speckled branch even in the late afternoon sunlight.

She surveyed her creations, having immensely enjoyed the creative side-project and smiled to herself. She was getting better at this as time went on; not that she couldn't have done all of this a year ago, but that she simply wouldn't have thought to. It gave her ideas for ways to decorate the creche and provide toys to her own children and the other children she hoped would fill the creche with time. The thoughts of treeships and natural, living city buildings filled her mind as much as the Storm King's smile and his gracious re-entrance to her life.

She hummed happily as she made final little adjustments to her creations of the day and was sitting happily at the table with a furry looking creature that seemed like a mix between a house cat and chipmunk curled up contentedly in her lap, purring, when Ein made his way out into the garden again. The sun was low on the horizon and casting it's final gold glow to the day. The garden buzzed with life, the glow-bugs and mushrooms resplendent in the falling twilight and making a Wonderland, both strange and marvelous, of the small forest. Several more areas had been cleared by the badger-bears, and he passed several "families" of the creatures curled up between large roots at the base of trees. He skipped the stairs this time for the far more expedient flight on the winds up the tree, easily dodging branches and vines before alighting on Sakura's chosen branch.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Lovely." The large man said, the blue-white borealis of his anima flickering and shifting around him in the evening air as he rose into view. He took in the arrangements, keen perceptions registering the grown nature of everything present, before smiling at Sakura and stepping from empty air onto the branch. His anima died away, and Einherjar set the large hamper he was carrying on one shoulder down beside the low table. "Cuisine from around the world." he announced with a grin. "Thai, Sushi, pizza from a place in Rome." At her glance, he shrugged and grinned. "I have a teleporter on my staff."

He flipped open the hamper and started to set the covered dishes (and pizza cartons) out on the table. Beyond and below the treetop dining nook, Kinshasa spread out like a carpet of varicolored jewels that rivaled the stars overhead. Those distant lights winked and shifted, the pulse of the city, as the organic glows of insects and plants around the two novas provided a quiet, intimate setting for their meal. Sakura helped Einherjar set the food out, now and then exchanging a smile with her guest as they worked in companionable silence, then settled down to eat next to one another.

"I didn't think to grow a rum plant." she said lightly as she poured him a mug of nectar. At Ein's raised eyebrow, she smiled a little. "I hope this will suffice." He chuckled softly and obligingly took a sip, his other eyebrow raising to the level of the first at the pleasant, effervescent taste.

"More than suffice." he remarked with a smile, studying the grown mug curiously before serving himself from a couple of the dishes spread out on the table before them. They ate for a few minutes in silence once more, relaxing into the meal, before Ein spoke. "Other than busy working miracles great and small, how are you settling in?" he asked the dryad in a gentle tone, glowing eyes regarding her.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She blushed at the compliment and murmured "More small than great..." She deftly gathered some of the spiced peanut phad thai noodles around her chopsticks and nibbled on them as she considered how to answer. "The apartment is very comfortable and the gardens around it are very beautiful and serene. Shaman brought me a pair of parakeets that first day and their chicks hatched a few weeks ago. They're just now shedding their down and growing feathers. It's adorable."

"Other than that and this garden..." She shrugged and smiled at him, "I've mostly been sleeping. I get tired fairly easily and Lucrezia and Shiv keep saying that I'm about as good as Chang when it comes to just relaxing and doing nothing." She glanced around the garden and shrugged again, batting the cat-like creature away from its curious sniffing at the pizza. "I guess they're right. I start going stir-crazy pretty quick if I don't have something to do. Dad always said I had 'itchy fingers'." She snorted, lost in a memory of warmth and family. "My mom had a much less polite name for it, but more honest, I think. She loved when I helped her in the garden or the barn though. It kept me busy and I could tell her what the plants or animals wanted or didn't like. Or what the weather was going to do for the day."

"What about you?" she asked with open curiosity. "What is a day in life of the Storm King like?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

"I'm tempted to say 'tedious'." Einherjar replied with roguish grin. "I spend at least two hours in the morning going over reports and dispatches from our ambassadors and various intelligence sources. Then comes the domestic affairs, which is another hour at least." He took a large bite of pizza and gestured out over the city below. "But I can look at Kinshasa and say to myself 'This is my work, and the country thrives as much as her cities'." He smiled, ice-blue eyes catching the lights of the 21st century metropolis as he studied it, then glanced at Sakura.

"There's plenty of interesting moments, though. I find playing politics at the global level to be almost as much fun as fighting a battle. Meeting with ambassadors, or super-intelligent novas with a plethora of bright ideas. Reviewing the latest scientific advances from our brain trust is a favorite of mine, and of course there's training the military. I try to spend at least one week a year with every division in the Congolese army." He shrugged slightly, taking a swallow of nectar. "That way I know the commander, I know the men, and I can predict how they'll perform. It's good for morale too." Again the piratical grin. "Plus I miss being a soldier myself, and this lets me get some red mud on my boots."

"Do you really miss that?" Sakura's tone was partly amused and mostly curious as she studied him keenly. "I would have thought, with all you've accomplished, that you'd be beyond it." Einherjar frowned slightly, but only for a moment, his expression changing to one of rueful self-deprecation.

"I'm afraid I do. There was something straightforward about being an Elite." he said with a shrug of broad shoulders. "I don't miss the moral ambiguity of some of the jobs I did, though." he added as an afterthought, smiling at her.

"I think you just miss being a carefree bachelor." the Blossom Princess teased, a smile on her green lips. Einherjar affected a mildly offended expression.

"I'm still a bachelor." he protested. "One out of two isn't bad."

"No, you're married to your country now." Sakura told him solemnly, eyes dancing. "And you're a father. You've gone respectable."

"Hardly." Ein snorted, the corners of his mouth twitching in a smile. "Morri would think you were crazy if she heard you say that. I'll have you know I'm as capable of disgraceful behavior as I ever was."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sakura laughed at his proclamation. "It hardly seems like you'd have the time to be disgraceful, between all the diplomacy and administering and soldiering. I'm only working on a few projects, and I feel like I barely have time to eat and sleep most of the time. And they're all just projects that interest me." Her grin was just as self-deprecating and her tone teasing, "Being a shameless former drifter and current nova bum extroadinaire."

She peered mock-suspiciously at him, "Are you sure you're not a time nova? Cheating and making extra hours in the day? Just to be disgraceful?"

The tree-cat decided that the two large ones were sufficiently distracted and she dove for a slice of pizza - the one in Ein's hand.

She hadn't been bred for intelligence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

A large hand that was as fast as it was gentle softly plucked the tree-cat from the air mid-pounce, apparently without the foreknowledge of said hand's owner, who was chuckling at Sakura's question. The animal made a strange hissing mew and struggled, but found that teeth and claws weren't really a match for... well, whatever strange skin this large creature possessed. Ein brought the tree-cat to rest on one of his knees and offered it small pieces of pizza topping, a peace-offering that the cat decided was sufficient for it to endure the indignity of being man-handled.

"I've been accused of many things, but distorting the temporal flow is a new one." Einherjar grinned at his lovely dinner companion. "The time I have for disgraceful behavior is a matter of careful strategising." he confided, leaning a little closer with a smile.

"Oh?" Sakura asked with an arch of her brow, trying not to lean closer to him in turn. Ein was clearly trying to behave himself, but was also having a struggle of it.

"Yes." he nodded gravely, blue eyes glowing. "For instance, I try to combine other activities with my disgraceful behaviour, like eating for instance." The corner of his mouth turned up in a mischievous smile. "It's more fun that way."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Friendly. Think friendly thoughts. Or just think about the fact that the Morrigan will gut you if it crosses her mind that you're a threat.

Fear spiked through the heady scent of arousal curling through the more delicate scents of the flowers and growing things around them. The kittenish mewled at her from Ein's knee, butting against Ein's hand to encourage the large male to do something about her mistress' fear. She'd been happy with the male a moment before and she still wanted the male, but now she was afraid. Either the male made unpleasing sounds to her or he was doing something else wrong. Either way, he had to make it better. Kittenish mewled again and dug her claws uselessly into the male's skin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Einherjar was aware of the fussing of the creature in his lap, but he was more aware of the sudden contraction of Sakura's pupils and the absolute stillness of her body language. I'm scaring her! he realised, and straightened up slowly, giving her back more of her personal space even has he put a large hand over hers.

"Easy." he murmured softly, in much the same tone he'd once used with the Morrigan over a decade ago. It was a paradoxically gentle manner of speech, coming from someone with the Storm King's repuation, similar to the way he'd behaved when the Blossom Princess had first turned up on his doorstep. Sakura remembered him carrying her to bed and tucking her in like a child. "I'm sorry." he told Sakura with a smile. "I was being overly forward, right after promising to behave." He rolled his eyes at himself, then grinned at her. "Like I said, disgraceful." He took another bite of pizza, but left his other hand over hers, the rough pads of his fingers and palm a contrast to it's gentle warmth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dammit. Now he thinks he scared me.

She debated what to say, if anything. She didn't want to hurt his feelings, but at the same time....it was easier for her to think. She per her free hand over his and smiled. "Hardly disgraceful, your Majesty. You've been a perfect gentleman so far." She returned his mischievous smile with her own. "Your reputation might be slipping," she teased, trying to set him at ease again. Kittenish was mollified and distracted by the opportunity for more pepperoni. Her mistress was still a little distressed, but no longer afraid and there was more of the spicy but really tasty meat.

"Speaking of time...." She reached up and ran her fingers over the bower over them; a light breeze shifted through their picnic space as petals began to fall in slow motion. It was multicolored ballet, shifting around them and mixing in with the cherry blossoms that formed from the quantum Sakura was expending for her dinner entertainment. She watched Einherjar, curious what he would think of her little show.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ein smiled at the downward-floating rainbow, his normally-imposing features relaxed in a simple boyish grin as his gaze flicked back over to her, then resumed following the slow-motion dance of petals. Some settled in his arctic-blond hair, splashes of vibrant colour against the pale mane while others dusted his shoulders and chest. The air was delightfully scented with flowers... and Sakura. Ein took a deep breath, then another, his manner turning a little serious though he still smiled at his hostess.

"It doesn't get any easier." he said with a rueful shake of his head. "Every time I think to myself 'Right, I've adjusted to Sakura now', you do something else..." he gestured at the petals "Beautiful and magical, and I get knocked sideways. I think about you and all I can do is want you for myself." he told her candidly, idly stroking her hand with his fingertips. "I know that's not normal for me: even Jason doesn't cause me to be so profoundly adolescent." He smiled wryly. Sakura started to speak, but Einherjar held up a hand gently. "And I know it's not your fault. You are not responsible for the reactions you cause just by being." He picked up her hand and held it between both of his, the terrible granite-pulverising strength of his frame not at all evident in his touch, which was warm and tender.

"I want to make you a promise." he began, his gaze intent. "I will never allow this reaction of mine to lead me into doing something base such as treating you as a thing to be fought for again. You deserve better than that." He grinned then, humor dancing in his eyes. "If I can stand being stabbed by Morri in order to be the friend she deserves, then I can stand this. It hurts less, for one thing."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She flushed, her mind deciding to simply skim over any Morri-stabbing imagery. His hands felt warm on hers and kittenish was now purring contentedly in Ein's lap and cleaning her claws. "Thank you," she murmured sincerely.

"Most people...most people don't know themselves enough to realize that what they feel isn't...natural." She shook her head, her fingers curling between his hands, "Even after being told. They don't or don't want to really understand. And either way, I can count on my hand the number of people that have been able to control themselves." She quirked a smile, looking down at their hands and laying her free hand over the top of his. "Well, perhaps not now."

She looked up. "You attract many powerful people to you, Einherjar. Not just in politics or in quantum gifts, but in personality. Good people." She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek, then flushed again and looked back down. "My father always said that the measure of a person is only half in themselves; the other half is in what they inspire and attract in those around them." She traced a pattern over the back of his hand, her fingers gliding along the pathways of his veins. "He'd like you, I think."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Her touch felt like warm breezes caressing his skin, but of more note was the quieting effect she had on parts of him. Even those whom Ein was kindest and friendliest to wouldn't be able to deny that he was fierce, a deep well of aggressive passion that was cold-forged by his mind and channelled. Only the Morrigan had seen his tender side, during all the times he had spent with her, taking such patient care of his ward that few would have believed it if they hadn't seen it with their own eyes. And now Sakura brought it to the surface easily, causing him to relax like few could. He chuckled at her comment.

"That has to be the only time I've heard that from a lady." he joked, eyes glinting with good humor. "Normally, they'd consider me their father's worst nightmare."

"I don't think so." Sakura said with a musical laugh, tilting her head to look up at his face. "You're no saint." she said slyly. "But I don't think a smart father would want a saint with his daughter - after all, saints have all sorts of issues." She smiled up at him. "And most of them are boring ones."

Ein struggled with his better self for a moment, then mentally shrugged and kissed Sakura's upturned lips very gently, letting his lips linger there for a moment before breaking the kiss and straightening up a little bit, looking into her brilliant green eyes.

"Thank you." he replied simply. There didn't seem to be much else to say to that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kisses didn't help. At all. She felt her control slipping again and leaned back from him with a reluctant sigh. "You're welcome," she said quietly as she regained some measure of her equilibrium.

Kittenish had finished her meal and had curled up in Ein's lap, purring in her sleep. Sakura smiled at the innocent trust in the world her creation had; she blinked as a few more petals fell in movie-style slow motion onto the kittenish's fur and blushed. Cherry blossoms bloomed around the two of them again as she brought the petals and bough back into the same tempo of time as the rest of the universe. Kinshasa glowed in its full night time glory below them now, the arc of lights and faint beats of music from piazza's that became outdoor clubs once the sun set giving their arboreal picnic a voyeuristic thrill. Sakura tried to keep thinking friendly thoughts, but scooted around the table under the pretense of getting a better look at the city; she leaned against the Nordic king so she could reach the kittenish and pet her while she slept.

"Now my mom is a whole different story. She'd take one look at you and declare that you were too tall, too busy, and had too much hair to be any good for me." She was grinning, though she kept her eyes on kittenish while she scratched some secret place just between the shoulder blades that had the creature stretching and purring loudly in her sleep. She teased, "The disgraceful debauchery and whatnot wouldn't come up until she'd worked through all the things you might be able to change."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Might be able to, huh?" Ein rumbled a laugh. "Your mother sounds like someone I used to know." He too enjoyed the view from the treetop, his pleasure heightened by a certain satisfaction that he had been behind the vibrant metropolis below. He also enjoyed the feel of Sakura leaning against him, but didn't try to embrace her or kiss her again. Twice, now, she had moved away from him with an element of nervousness in her manner when he had made amorous advances, so it was reasonable to assume that whilst she liked him, the advances were plainly not welcome.

"Who?" Sakura asked, green eyes flicking up at his face, but Ein's gaze was on the city... and maybe beyond it.

"Someone from another life." he said with gentle finality, then looked at the beautiful nova leaning against him and smiled. "A life now over. Suffice to say that your mother would have liked her." His smile turned jovial again. "Besides, since when did any young woman do what her mother thought was a good idea? In my experience they tend, right after being told all about the wrong sort of man, to go out and try to find one." He grinned. "It's like you ladies make a checklist sometimes, even the ones that should know better."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Mmm, now that would be telling," she grinned coyly up at him. She laughed, "Besides, I'm not sure any man or woman ever truly measures up to a mother's expectations for her children. Fathers at least usually approve of daughter-in-laws."

This is nice, she thought with a sigh of contentment. He was warm and she felt safe with him - from the world, if not from the constant need to remind herself not to allow her own attraction to make him compromise his values - and if she was cuddling a little more than one would with someone they'd only spent less than a full actual day's worth of time with....well, then she was. So there, a childish part of her mind mentally thumbed her nose at the perceived prudishness of invisible watchers.

It'd be nicer if you'd just kiss him back and get laid.

Shush, you. I'm having a moment here.

You could both be having a moment. Several of them. Loudly.

The Morrigan-

Threatened you if you went sniffing after a crown. Not getting laid.

Can she tell the difference?

..... Probably.

Uh huh.

Ein wouldn't let anything happen to you. He's practically throwing himself at you. The man who has Jason the Bombshell on speed dial and could have an orgy in the main piazza to the cheers of his people.

He's just-

Attracted to you. Get over the rest of it. He knows it, acknowledges it, and is dealing with. And he still wants you.

You just want to get laid.

Yes! So do you! I am you, you ninny!

While her internal battle between her mind and her libido descended into name calling and other helpful avenues of debate, her body took a simpler route: lounging against the nova that set off of all the right instinctive signals of male and protection and interested. Her own internal argument was playing havoc with the tenuous control she had over her pheromones and there wasn't enough attention left to point this out to the arguing part of her mind that would care. Kittenish sensed the shift in her mistress and mewled quietly in approval as she woke up and vacated the male's lap; she wandered a little farther down the branch and made a new nest to curl up in and continue her post-meal nap.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ein felt the slender form nestle closer, squirming a little so as to scoot under his arm, and his initial reaction was private confusion. Okay, maybe she just wanted to cuddle... But then he felt a slender hand rest on his waist like a burning coal, making his whole body tense a little. The scent of her flowers filled his world as the young woman rested her head against his chest, the pheromones she was releasing causing his body to react whether he liked it or not. Sakura was reacting too, her body aware of the male's arousal before her conscious mind could catch up, and her fingers traced a light circle on the king's taut stomach through the fine silk of his shirt. The touch was idle, not a deliberate act on her part, but Sakura felt the rising tide of desire from the man next to her and, against her more cautious judgement, was glad of it. She looked up at him through long lashes, smiling at the rigid control evident on the strong features, and she privately resolved to stop teasing both of them. A gentle hand touched Ein's bearded cheek, calling his gaze down to her, and the Blossom Princess smiled.

"It's okay." she murmured. "You don't have to fight it. Neither of us do." Ein sighed at that, a sound of relief as he smiled back.

"I don't want to force things." he said quietly, the soft glow of his irises not seeming cold right now. "I just want-" Sakura leaned up, grasping his broad shoulders to pull herself up against him as she kissed him intently. She tasted of honey and fruit, of flowers and sunlight and growing things.

"It's not wrong to want this." she told herself as much as him as they broke the kiss, enjoying the male scent of him. She nuzzled her cheek against his, much like the Kittenish might, then kissed him again, this time with more ardour - ardour Ein returned in kind as his arms came around her, lifting and cradling Sakura on his lap and kissing her much as he'd kissed her that disastrous morning, with passion that suited his nickname. This time was better though, because she was kissing him back, her arms locking around his neck as her hands toyed with the ends of his mane of blond hair. Sakura was aware of his arousal pressing against her and the feel of strongs arms encircling her, both protective and desiring, gentle and fierce. There was no fears of the Morrigan, no worries about complications. Right now, this was right for both of them, a release of attraction and sexual tension...

Which was abruptly, and rudely halted by a shrill buzz in Ein's ears. Sakura didn't hear it, but she felt the shift in her partner as he broke the kiss with a sigh of extreme irritation. The alarm had been sent on the one frequency Einherjar was always listening to just for emergencies. One look at his glowing blue eyes told Sakura most of the story - he had an attitude of a man listening to something.

"I don't bloody blasted well believe this." he muttered grumpily, then sighed, focusing on her. "Something has come up."

"Trouble?" she asked concernedly, catching the undercurrent of tension in his tone. Ein smiled a trifle grimly.

"For this evening to be interrupted, someone is in trouble." he growled, but smiled again and kissed her. "I have to take care of this, sadly. It's nothing catastrophic, but there are some things I can't leave to others." He stood, still with her in his arms, but set her down gently on her feet. "If it's any consolation, I really, really wish it were otherwise." he said with heartfelt sincerity that had her smiling. Taking a step back, he kissed both her hands.

"To be continued?" he asked/offered with a roguish grin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We're never going to get laid, ​her libido complained plaintively.

She sighed and nodded, his shift in demeanor allowing her to regain some of her own equilibrium. She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek, "To be continued."

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...