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[Fiction] Neil Preston: Dirty Secrets


Ashnod

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[submitted for canon consideration][Neil Preston story][MATURE]

"I remember a film I watched a few years ago," she says, tracing the form of his right breast with feather-light fingertips. The candles on the nearby tables smell faintly of strawberry and merlot, he notes with some satisfaction, letting her play as she wished for the moment.

"This was before N-Day," she continues, pinching his nipple roughly between the sharp fingernails of her thumb and forefinger. The pain lances quickly through him but he neither gasps nor flinches. If she was disappointed by that, he kept to himself, then she covered it remarkably well. Without hesitating, she resumes the feather-light strokes.

"A year before N-Day, if I'm remembering correctly. There was this whole mess about the male lead being a bit miffed by his girlfriend's past sexual exploits. One of his friends told him that everything would be better off if people realized that anything that could be done with a lover has probably already been done long before you hooked up with them."

She leans back on the bed, and he turns on his side to begin roughly the same touches upon her. Her fingers tangle themselves in the pillow case behind her head. To her credit, he smiles, she doesn't flinch or cry out when he pinches her as roughly as she did him.

"That's my secret, really," she says non-chalantly. "I've done practically everything you can think of. Spent weeks as a pleasure slave to some pretty hedonistic novas, investigated the tentacle monsters of Ibiza, the grav-manipulators, the time-shifters, shape-changers, you name it. I've probably slept with more novas with the possible exception of Slattern, but she's always struck me as one who enjoys the manipulation and observation of others than personally participating. Could be wrong, of course."

He weaved his fingers into her long, auburn locks, and pulled back. Her neck became taut, his other hand reaching up to stroke the soft flesh, the little circle on the throat where it meets the upper chest. She smiles mischievously, her body twisting beneath his finger as she stretched.

"You don’t seem like someone too concerned about her reputation,” he finally replies.

“Life isn’t long enough to let reputation get in the way of experience,” she smiles at him, still firmly in his grasp. “A woman’s reputation is all for the man’s ego. Whether or not it’s the fact that a man can’t stand the thought of his lover comparing him to someone else, that he can’t stomach the idea that someone else was plunging into orifices he now considered his personal hiding spaces, or that he gets off on the idea that he’s exploring unexplored territory. Her reputation ultimately comes down to how much a man will want to slip inside her.”

She breaks his grip suddenly, pushing him off her and then climbing on top of him. He can’t resist this, he knows then. She has strength greater than him and for the moment the superior leverage. She smiles as she holds him down by the wrists, straddling him just above his pelvis.

“Fuck that,” she continues. “I’ve experienced more types of physical intimacy than anyone I know. More types of mental intimacy as well. Sex with telepaths in all kinds of situations, from those I’ve cared deeply for and those that were nothing more than a sport-fuck. And anyone who says I’ve had nothing more than shallow trysts, that I’ve got trauma in my past that prevents me from seeking out a healthy monogamous relationship can shove it. Life is too short to worry about that. I don’t care what people say I should be doing. I’m a nova, after all, and if I have to get all Terat and proclaim that baseline sense of a woman’s worth is inapplicable to a nova, I don’t mind getting a little preachy.”

“But you’re not Terat,” he grins, shifting underneath her. She smiles back.

“No, no, I’m not. Sometimes I think I could be recruited easily enough.”

She releases him, sliding back so that her bare flesh was against his own. Nothing more than that, no grinding or insertion.

“So, Neil,” she asks, “what’s your dirty little secret?”

He pulls the pillows together and sets them behind his head and shoulders, resting at an incline. He smiles at her for the longest time, looking at her increasingly curious expression.

“I’m a connoisseur,” he says at last with a hint of danger, “of pain.”

He allows that to sink in before elaborating. “Now, I don’t mean like some gimpy masochist asking his mistress for one more lashing, or being the master lashing the gimpy slave. I mean the fine degrees which separate mere discomfort from outright agony.”

“Oooooooh,” she teases. “An artist of suffering has found his way into my bed.”

“Laugh all you want,” he says seriously. He leans further back into the pillows. “I wasn’t always this way. I used to hate it. When I erupted and learned I had healing abilities, I couldn’t have been happier. Healing powers are genuinely useful, practical in every possible manner. The quantum genie didn’t give me some stupid glowing power, or something as useless as a flamethrower finger. All those novas with destructive abilities that have no practical use except to destroy I don’t envy at all. But mending the flesh, curing ailments, that kind of stuff, with that you can genuinely affect someone’s life, make a true and real difference.”

“You like the words practical and genuine,” she smirks, tickling him at his flanks. That does get a slight jolt out of him, and they squirm together as hands dance around each other.

“Hey,” he protests during the struggle, “I’m not the writer here. No fair criticizing the vocabulary of the physician.”

She stops trying to tickle, and nods. “Sorry. Please, keep going.”

“Imagine how much my perception changed when the first couple of times it really hit home that my powers worked empathically, that I had to take injury and illness onto myself to heal another person. First time it got to me was this teenage boy that broke his leg in a soccer game. Compound fracture, really nasty and bloody. I’m in the hospital staring at this wound, knowing what I have to do and not wanting to do it. I made up an excuse to step out of the room so I could psyche myself up. Told myself it was only going to be a few seconds of pain and then he’d be fine. I’d never had a broken bone that severe in my own life, and looking at that boy cry and squirm terrified me. I didn’t want to do it.”

“But you did,” she said rhetorically.

“Of course,” he nods. “Kind of had to. It hurt more than I imagined it would, and that’s not usually the way things work. I cried out, giving the poor kid a good scare. It was over soon enough and then my own body was fine. But I remembered how it felt. That pain was permanently etched into my injury memory, as real as the sprained ankle I had when I was twelve. I knew then that it wasn’t going to get any easier. I was going to have to treat wounds worse than that one, and it would hurt more than a simple compound fracture.”

She chuckles at the phrase ‘simple compound fracture,’ but doesn’t otherwise interrupt him.

“I thought at first that I’d become desensitized to it,” he continues, “like one can get to some medications. But no. Oh hell, no. Gunshot wound to the gut gave me nightmares for a week. Third degree burns made me have phantom pains for the next month. It began consuming me. The mind can’t cope with that much suffering. You have to adapt to it somehow or it will kill you. After my first year of erupted life, I’d had more injury inflicted on my memory to fill several lifetimes.”

“Damn,” she mumbles.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “This is the shit that no one wants to know about my life. What my life means. What people are asking of me whenever they bring me their injured and ill.”

“That’s really,” she looks for the proper word, “noble. I know people consider you a hero, but that’s genuinely noble.” He smiles at her use of the word genuine, and she winks back.

“Nobility has nothing to do with it,” he smirks. “I mean, it did at first, I guess. After a while though…I can’t pinpoint exactly when, I started liking it. I liked experiencing pain in some new way, comparing it to other wounds I’d experienced. A certain member of the Teragen has been quoted as saying that there are conditions of the nerve endings that baseline intimacy can never experience, and I have to agree with that. Certain ways you cut the flesh are ecstatic compared to others. It’s quite simply, exquisite. I’m intelligent enough to know it’s probably just a coping mechanism to let me continue doing this torture to myself whenever I choose to heal someone, but I’ve moved past the psychological explanation for it and have embraced it. I love feeling the nerve endings fire in that particular way, the electricity that shoots up the spine in the manner that only pain can deliver. The masochists in the S&M clubs might have some idea of the level I exist on, but I think they’d be horrified living in my world.”

She nods, understanding in her eyes.

“My, my,” she says softly. “You are indeed a beautiful and unique creature. There are Harvesters that you’d shame.”

“So speaketh the lady who is not a Terat,” he smirks.

She chuckles, nodding. “Well, I’m not. I’m just very well-connected.”

He nods, letting it go there.

“So, that’s what you want, Neil?”

“No,” he admits. “This is the dirtiest part of the secret. The most exquisite pain I can feel is upon organs I don’t possess. I bet you’ve never thought about that. A woman’s reproductive system, how on earth does a male empathic healer repair that if he has to take the injury onto himself first?”

His expression darkens. “Let me assure that nothing compares to having to heal a twat when you don’t have one yourself. If pain and pleasure converge at a single line where it is utterly indistinguishable, it exists there. That is what I like, and what I want.”

He finds the sensual knife he placed beneath the pillows when he arrived here, the one with the rippled blade and reveals it to her. The candlelight reflects several times in its many curves, and he runs the flat length along her shoulders and collarbone.

“Are you brave?” His words carry utter sincerity. “Are you truly into experiences as you’re claiming? If you’re the ecstatic goddess, I’m the god of suffering. Will you make music with me?”

He holds the knife just below her exposed navel.

“I promise you there will be no scars….”

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