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“‘Fuck.’ I love that word, Titus,” Ponnamarr murmured from her tiny studio apartment’s sleeping niche, a low deck set into the compact transparency alcove on a tower floor somewhere in the hundred and fifties that'd survived the Fixture Levy. She had wrapped herself in the disheveled bedding and watched me with one blue eye while I put something together for breakfast. “It’s so perfect. I mean it’s sexy and short and sweet, it’s dirty and raw too, the best kind, it means business . . . and it’s just so much fun to say! Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK!”

“Easy. You want two layers or three?”

She turned her head and stared out into the congested pre-dawn flyways. “Three. I’m famished. Your fault. Hey! Come over here. What’s that?”

I was in the middle of constructing dashê, a flatbread and sweetened butter sandwich as common on Here as Egg McMuffins are on Earth but a whole lot tastier and better for you. I put down the spatula and crossed a step and a half to the sleeping niche, followed her gaze outside and she instantly took my bare torso in a monkey grip, rolled me onto the small mattress. “Fuck fuck fuck me again Titus!” She cried, half laughing, half gasping. “I want to fuck you! Now! Fuck fuck!” Her lips found mine and our kisses were feral, driven by an unhinged lust we knew might have existed between us, but had remained an open question because we never did the empirical work. Until last night. I could feel her urgent need in the wound tautness of her body, a carnal tenacity that sought to fuse herself to me, another erection, painful, something I’d not thought likely—yet again and so soon. I finally slowed her down enough to remind her it was she who was sore.

“Damn. Shit. Hell. Still nowhere as good as fuck.”

I gently kissed her and went back to finish concocting breakfast. She sat on the mattress, brought her knees up and rested her chin on them, turned her eyes outside again as the suns were about to burst through night’s horizon. Her thick, coarse blonde hair was in worse shape than the sheets. “Titus, I . . . do you want to have Meal tonight? Just you and me?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” I stopped for a heartbeat. “Sure, if I’m around.”

“Ass.” She was silent and watched the suns come fully to life in the east, the only sounds the dull clack of ceramic utensils against a stone plate, the scrape of a spatula over crispy, seeded bread, hovering screen feeds whispering secrets from all the other Circle cities. “I’m sorry about everything you had to go through . . .”

“We call that a clusterfuck.”

“Ha. Right. But I didn’t ask you to stay last night out of sympathy.” Water run run high sky through to.

“I know, Brix. When I said ‘if I’m around’ it’s not like I’m planning on being anywhere else. But Mara might have something to say about that, especially after the moves I made yesterday.”

Her space wasn’t much bigger than a Pullman compartment, so I had to fold down a small table and muscled the two low-backed maglev stools into position while she slid off the mattress and reached for a faded infantry tee on a hook near the head of the niche. After lighting up a couple more screens with aggregated Domain shipping data, she pulled on her shirt and stared at me, one eye hidden behind a knot of bed-head, the other looking through me. Brix—apparently, I was now one of four people who knew her little brother’s nickname for her—was on the luscious side of curvy but nonetheless exquisitely proportioned, round and soft in all the places that delighted me, so when her shirt hugged that perfect 0.7 WHR and the hem flared right above her hips, I wanted to teach her that wonderful word all over again. She sat and took up one of the dashês.

“’s great,” she remarked, her mouth full. “Oh! Hey! I might have shome nectar shilinders, if you want.”

“I’m good.”

She gave me a roguish smile but said nothing while we ate. Then, “You’ll really try and make it? Abbanoss’s, OK? The rar stach place? I mean, I’m not forcing you to, Titus. I would never . . . it’s just that . . .”

“What? Tell me. What?”

“Just that when Nonynn and Andaris were gone you made everything so calm, so unthreatening in the aftermath, letting us believe that things would be all right. And they will be, in time, but we all needed that shoulder to lean on in the first few months. I think I needed it too much and had to stop being in the same places as you all the time. Worked well, huh?”

“Worked OK.” I tried to wink.

“When you were in City Center, giving the light touch to core Circle, I was often here, making sure my columns footed, wondering what that light touch might feel like. It was worse when the rumors about Mykanna’s disappearance got out. A lot worse when I found out they were true.”

“So that’s where you got off to. Just so ya know, seeing you was the thing I looked forward to most about my trips down here. Even if we didn’t get to talk much, just seeing you.” The words rolled out of my mouth so effortlessly I was appalled. “OK. We return you now to your regularly scheduled babbling. Just ignore the semi-naked dragon you’re eating breakfast with.”

Brix reset her head, looked up at me. Her eyes didn’t sparkle, coruscate, glimmer, or hold great secrets, but their color was exceedingly saturated, the cradle of the purest blue, and they ransacked my defenses.

“I can’t. Ignore you. Gods turn away, I tried. Then. Last night. Just now. I’m not a young dragon, but I’m far from middle age. Things come easily to me and I probably have no right running a Circle’s commerce. My service was routine, easy. I live in this cell because it’s easy on many fronts and I know this because I lived big and was miserable.” She dropped an uneaten corner of food onto the plate. “I also thought, y’know . . . companionship, y’know, would come easy. I’m smart, successful and attractive, according to some, but I don’t mean that in a self-congratulatory way, I really don’t, and you can be the judge of that when you see me in my draconian form. Maybe I thought that was enough . . . enough to let the right one come along in his own time and spin me. Hah! I know enough of the wrong ones who try. Sometimes it seems I fooled myself into believing that the most important thing in this life would be the easiest of all and wonder now when it will get better.”

“Better is never what you think it’s going to be. It’s not easy."

"How did you get so smart-ass? Look at me. I mean, was it easy or luck I'm where I am today? Easy or luck that I'm even alive after everything? When I think about what you say, have I really been chasing second, third best all the time, believing that not settling is too difficult? Is that the downside of easy? You never get what you really want?"

“Don’t be hard on yourself. Especially now. You’re trying to put a city back together and there’s distractions like this doofy dragonmaster bringing Tak to the situation room to help you forget your exhaustion for ten minutes.”

She leaned back. "Is that a spin? Tell me. How do I know the difference?"

"You'll know. When the right one comes along, you'll fight for him.”

“Do I have to fight Mykanna? Captain Shandann?”

“No. Not in the least.” Nothing I said surprised me anymore. Particularly when I was on the brink of falling in love. “I wasn’t drunk last night.”

"That's not what I meant and you know it. Five months, Titus. It's only been five months."

Yes, and not much less removed from Jenny, though the despairing misery of life without Mykanna had begun to wane, as I was sure she knew it would. At the time, her words to me at Unison seemed superficial and full of platitudes, but shortly after I reacquainted myself with Brix all that vanished, something I had not believed possible, and it was astonishing how the empty world I thought I knew so well could become secret and bewitching again, new and at the same time comfortable as old boots. The course of the heart, like grace, endures. I spoke. "They're not here, are they?"

Text from The Fifth Circle, Volume 3 by Don Tyler. Art by Dejan Delic 
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LadyIlona1984 Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Lovely. :)
dtyler99 Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2018
Thanks. Dejan's other illustrations of my work aren't bad, but Brix was special. 
LadyIlona1984 Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
cool. :)
sohighlydubious Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great scene Don...intriguing as always! 
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Submitted on
June 3, 2018
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Mature Content


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