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As I lay me down to sleep
This I pray
That you will hold me dear
Though I'm far away
I'll whisper your name into the sky
And I will wake up happy

- Sophie B. Hawkins

In the old stories, it was rarely the woman who was the monster, the many-tentacled goddess, with the man being vulnerable and delicate, a tasty morsel. Even that man would always smile confidently at the idea, tilt his head indulgently perhaps; he knew he was stronger than he looked, after all, more difficult to draw in. The woman is always the prize, even when that woman is the trap door.

In the few stories where the consuming goddess ate the mortal-- cock and soul and all-- always, always, the man went blissfully to his doom, screaming in joy.

If such a goddess had a descendant, millenia later, what might she feel when she looked at the dawning clear eyes of a man she knew she could destroy? If the goddess had a descendant who was herself guarded, trapped, lost-- how might she communicate a basic desire for companionship while hinting of the danger that lurked in getting too close without driving away the other? How might her own heart survive the brilliant immolation she knew always waited for her?

There was only three directions she could see herself walking-- alone, her strength stable but low; together, loving purely while preparing for sacrifice with open eyes; together, taking what was given with no trace of shame, with the full knowledge that supply was limited and it was going to run out one day, maybe soon. Of course, it was hers. Pain may be inevitable, but happiness is in the gentle burning, the long way down.

He was hers.

Or was he?


It wasn't that she didn't like him. Of course she did. In theory, they could go deep-- she saw enough potential to know she could, one day, in some reality, love him like a brother. Hormones aside; pesky visions she brushed aside from the time they met, which popped out of nowhere, quite aside from anything he did himself if she were honest; visions of him fucking her. The comfort level was enough to open doors, and behind the doors lurked desire, as it always did. As it always, always had.

When she imagined her animus, her fantasy lover, even when his face interrupted that fantasy, she'd brushed it off: after all, novelty meant he'd be on her mind. It didn't mean anything she didn't want it to mean. Wasn't she always so good at ignoring attraction to girls? Why did boys always have to be different?

From the very beginning, he felt familiar; he listened, he was there more solidly than others, somehow, and he smiled: that was enough. When she looked in his eyes, he could see the person looking out as if she'd always known she'd see him; when he smiled, he seemed both like the memory of the smiles of all two of her past lovers and yet also none. Familiar, once again, with only a slight citrus splash of novelty; moreso, an old favorite from the start. Most importantly, there was something she wanted to prove-- she wanted a good male friend entirely on her own terms, this time, untainted by sex or romance or the loneliness of expectations, needs or hope, and especially not love. Was that, she thought, too much to ask?

Romance was need, and need ruined everything; the imbalances of it, the strains of it, the slow creeping disintegration it brings. He may not be romancing her, he may be as scarred and tentative and reticent as she was, but she also knew he couldn't help the tenderness that bubbled up from him, frothing from the edges like a half-hidden shy smile that felt dangerous: like it was just for her. As much as he worked not to offer too much, similar to her in that sense as well, at the same time it seemed like he couldn't help himself, too. Ultimately, closed-off and reticent or not, he was simply a sincere person; she'd known that immediately. Dangerous in his own way.

Of course, some part of her whispered, of course you can't pick and choose. It was another person; of course it wouldn't be your terms alone.

He'd pushed: probed her about her history of romantic passivity, asked questions, let her ramble on about her life while witholding his. It seemed okay if he was happy that way; while already, this wasn't her terms, wasn't her idea, she'd already shifted to her usual perspective: if what she did worked for the other person, it must be okay, right?

He mentioned looking sexy for her, joked about sugar daddies and yet paid for her drinks, he saw her every other day and he kept insisting 'people' must find her attractive-- and still she was wilfully blind, repeating her old mistake of intentional blindness in the zeal not to repeat the past. Of course, ignoring things to make them go away never meant one didn't want those things in the first place, but it did mean the oblivion both was and was not genuine.

She should've known when he flashed her, a reticent and bookish boy slightly older than she, skinny legs and arms, glasses and all in black (he had a surprisingly wide, sweet smile she couldn't seem to resist). In retrospect, he was the kind of boy that was eternally nineteen, awkward, moody and painfully shy, gazing at the object of his affection from afar as he cast a long, thin shadow underneath a tree. She could see within him the self she would most likely be transformed into in a story: there was something quite improper about engaging such a Shadow boy on a deeper level; he waited for someone else entirely, and so did she.

And yet, he smiled at her, and it was hard to remember all that when he kissed her, and that too was its own truth; whether an unexpected one or a folly, what did that matter to the logic of kisses.

Really, she should have known much earlier indeed, but specifically when he sat too near her on a hot night in her room on a little stool, fanning his shirt and flashing a streak of pale belly. It was like a bell somewhere at the back of her mind: 'ah', she thought, strangely inert. Such inertness and desire to not focus too closely had characterized her reactions to all the hints before, but this was quite over the line.

It wasn't all his fault, of course-- skipping off to try on her glasses for him to 'prove' they looked cute on her and so she was just too lazy (not too vain) to wear them-- of course, she put them on only to have him take them off quite handily. If you asked, she'd probably say that result was nowhere near her mind, but what did she know, really?

In retrospect, she thought it might mean she was communicating something unawares: silently, as simply as leaving the door open as if by accident. Letting him lean closer-- letting him put an arm across her to the table edge, letting him brush a shockingly warm hand down her arm. Let it be, something in her said. Let him get closer. Let him come to you. The sticky web she was unaware of trembled and froze, and she sat very still.

What really should have tipped her off was him zeroing in on talking about details of their computer porn habits, with particular verve in exaggerating hers; of course he must be only teasing her as usual. She tried to educate him about the truth of the matter, but of course the truth wasn't the point by then. If that wasn't enough, there was always the fact that he sat awkwardly, with his linked arms sliding up fitfully between his legs; honestly, anyone would have thought he was all but holding himself, which of course he was. In retrospect, she realized he must have been painfully hard at the combination of his sudden close vicinity and the titillating privacy of their situation as well as the apparent effect the 'nakedness' of her messy unmade apartment had on him, too. 'Charming,' he called it (as no one in their right mind would possibly do; a hard cock makes one see a lot of flaws more rosily, it seemed.)

It was truly a measure of her stubborn disconnected tactic that she chose to overlook something that blatant. No one could blame him for assuming she'd cottoned onto where things were going and was only waiting for him to make his move-- so he did.

When he leaned over, finally, inevitably, to kiss her, she saw it coming, an accident in slow motion.

She wasn't afraid. She wasn't startled. She wasn't moving-- and then there it was-- impact!

His rough stubble, his mouth slanted hard over hers, his chair pushed up as far as it would go, his hands cupping her chin, leaving only her feeble fingers to clutch uselessly at his shirt, neither pushing him closer nor pulling away. Just there between them. At the back of her mind, some part of her was concentrated on not, definitely not brushing against his painfully hard bulge, though this was made difficult by the nearby bulge of the wallet in his jeans. The degree to which she could tell between brushing against his erection and his wallet seemed to depend on the quality of a given kiss, so in the end her hand stayed planted awkwardly but firmly where it was; a part of her thought wildly that if she brushed too obviously against his straining cock, the game would be up, and he'd know she knew that he knew. Oh yes, it was very important. Then she couldn't pretend a necessary detachment from the situation she honestly wasn't feeling anyway.

She was awkwardly sprawled on an office chair and he leaned up into her, invading her space with a strange sort of fast-paced patience. The biggest surprise was how willing she was to kiss him at the same time as she fretted he wanted more, wondered how to let him know, fretted she was going to do something stupid and freak out (and ruin it), fretted about her (completely unsuited for viewing) body, fretted about how much further he'd go when he started venturing beneath her shirt; enjoyed his wandering fingers up her legs as long as they stayed firmly over fabric even as her thighs twitched semi-open for him. He rooted for her nipple fitfully, as if was hiding from him. It probably was.

"Are you ok?" he asked, pulling back.

He'd asked this repeatedly, a light smile playing on his lips. She hadn't realized that she'd been afraid of what sort of thing she'd find in his expression; the expectation that he'd turn into someone else, if not a monster then his 'true' self, still demanding and frightening, no longer a friend. But there he was: still a friend; the same person, really. The same person, if a little happier, more openly smiling, like a little boy who'd gotten to open a neat toy present but wanted to share and play together. Something she would not have thought she needed as much as she did, right then. She also realized she loved seeing him like this; happy. She knew she wanted to see that expression more; to make it her own right now.

It struck her gently, that same quiet, unobtrusive bell at the back of her mind: she wanted to play too.

"So far," she said. It was like she wanted to be more awkward, to feel the difficulty meeting his eyes, but his innocently pleased expression stopped her in her tracks. It was both befuddling and very disarmingly sweet. Who knew he was hiding such a weapon?

"Too fast? Talk to me." He said this in several different ways, always gently enough to prick beneath the tight seam of her walls. "Tell me if you're uncomfortable. Okay?"

Easier said than done, she thought, quite beyond most forms of speech. She had no way of projecting a personality in this weird place made of guardedness and defenselessness, a sort of frozen edge of surrender.

"Surprisingly," she said, her croaky voice startling her, "I think I can. Do that, I mean."

It was somewhere before or after that when he'd started kissing her again. Kiss, pull back, rest and maybe question, repeat. On paper it would sound lame, she thought-- in stories, guys she liked would be overwhelmed with passion and therefore unable to control themselves at all. Somehow, he projected both uncontrollable attraction and a scrupulous attentiveness and restraint, something that (again) would leave her cold in a story but that she realized, chagrined, she really appreciated in reality. Something that she perhaps hadn't known all that much about, all things considered.

He redoubled his efforts, moving to sit between her legs, apparently emboldened, but she lacked the will both the stop him and to wonder at her own behavior. All that could come later, she knew.

She finally allowed him to pull her body up against him, barely remaining on the edge of the office chair. She let herself be pliant; somewhere in between their first kiss and the twelfth consecutive one after that, her tongue started working halfway properly in return, and now she felt that familiar pulse between her legs every few kisses. She'd been waiting for the pulse; she found that she wanted the reassurance of her body telling her it was okay: she wanted him. She wanted this.

He pulled at her harder still, and she shrieked laughingly, falling off the chair at last. It was, she knew, a matter of time.

Something else that startled her: all these awkward bits, all the ridiculous parts like falling off the chair, him failing to find her nipple and mistakenly mouthing at a pink inflammation, him burning her mouth repeatedly with stubble as the initial sensation, her own frozen up awkward, barely moving body so rigidly clinging to the security of the chair-- somehow, with him, they were almost minor. When she stumbled off, again she somehow found it easy to laugh at herself with him.

"To the bed?" he asked.

"It's time for the recliner, I think," she said ruefully. They settled down on the armchair recliner she'd found abandoned in from of her building, and that was when Michael Jackson burst out from her speakers, a fact she absent-mindedly bemoaned. One more bit of awkward weirdness-- why not?

"Did that turn you off?" he asked, all oblivious innocence and consideration.

She wanted to laugh, say that it wasn't that she was 'in the mood' to start with, precisely (so what more could it hurt), but instead she shook her head. She knew she could be in the mood, or could find the mood or perhaps return to it, uncover it with him. It was a weird sort of confidence to have-- a confidence in him.

He tumbled onto his back and looked up, waiting for her to lean down; she waited too, though she wasn't so certain what she wanted at all. He began to expect some initiative, it seemed; this position, with her above him-- there was no avoiding what this was, that she chose to do this, without a fuzziness and withdrawal of responsibility that she normally depended on in these situations. Again, he surprised her, somehow putting her on the spot and putting her at ease at the same time. How did he do that?

Every time she kissed him first, unprompted, it was a surprise, an unconscious reflex. There was no way she wanted this. She didn't know what was going on.

When they rested and looked at each other, his eyes were clear, sparkling. A light smile played on his lips, and then he pulled her down on top of him, kissing her again. There was a rhythm to it, amidst all the awkwardness; that was what kept her going, really. It was easy, somehow. Hard, but easy. Easy, but hard. Really weird.

Even weirder to still feel that slight disconnection, that bit of 'oh my god, what is going on' when he leapt ahead of her, arousal clearly skyrocketing, and twined his thin legs around one of hers, thrusting up against her hard, his fingers holding her chin in place while his tongue filled her. He was a man, of course; not always connected nor considerate, a being of base urges. That too, somehow, added to his reassuring nature in the end, because of course he slowed down when she froze up, of course he did.

The next day, she looked it up and decided what they did then was 'cuddling', then; at the time, he held her, she was held, and shivered, twitching from the release of some emotion she couldn't name. Something in her finally surrendered; passionate kisses she could fight on some level, but laying her head on his thin chest as he massaged her back-- soft caresses followed by strong, firm, sweeping strokes with his knuckles, as if he was calming a skittish horse-- she had no defenses set up for this situation, really. She could feel herself untwisting, relaxing by degrees until she slumped against him.

"I'm not squashing you, am I?" (Of course, she still fretted. She felt so big and ungainly, and he kept seeming more delicate than he was.)

When she looked up, there was that subtle smile again. They hadn't really held gazes when they'd talked before, always holding that certain degree of awkward distance, and she hadn't realized his eyes were that odd shade of translucent blue-grey before. Were they always so shining clear?

At some point, he did reply, but afterwards, she wouldn't be able to say when: she did remember the slow way his subtly sweet smile broadened just as hers did, and when he grinned-- he beamed back, quite spontaneously-- it was beautiful, beautiful enough to startle her. Amazing. What was going on here? Where was all this coming from? Her main reaction, even as she smiled, was a certain low-level bewilderment. What was he thinking? She'd give a lot to know, itself a dangerous sort of thought.

"I hope you're less taken aback now," he'd say a bit later. That would be underestimating the degree of my bewilderment, she wanted to say, but indeed he'd made her comfortable. There had to be a trick involved somehow, though, because it made no sense to her.

They kissed in a dozen different ways, experimenting: slow, soft, quicker, shallower, deeper, harder. Rest, pull back, repeat. She could get used to this, unfortunately, she knew, but it felt so good-- so easy. He broke off to trace her face, her cheeks, the dip above her upper lip, probe her nose, circle her chin with his fingertips, and she closed her eyes and leaned in, to her further bewilderment, like a tamed horse to a trusted whisperer. He coaxed, and she'd followed; he'd made a show of ceding control only to sneak up behind her and make her dance to his tune. Did he know it, or was this just-- how he was? Him, or the web he wove around the weaver? Did it matter?

A part of her thought the tenderness and holding, the slow touching, the gazing-- all that was totally different and more threatening, more dangerous than any prospect of him burrowing between her legs and seeing all her deeply unlovely parts. At the same time, she knew that for him it was all part and parcel of the same thing, or rather, the same person-- this was him, right on the palm of her hand just as she was literally in the palm of his.

In between one kiss and the next, he ventured to explore her neck with small, pleasantly firm kisses down her shoulder; somehow both tentative and confident, which was the way he'd generally been in so many ways, it seemed. No sooner than he'd stopped, he tilted back his own neck for similar, reciprocal exploration.

Some part of her was still taken aback at this situation; who was this, kissing so inexpertly, awkwardly, tentatively at his neck, as if she wasn't proudly self-proclaimed an orally-fixated pervert with months-- years-- of practice? Hell, why did he so placidly expect her to reciprocate? Normally, of course she would, but this....

She licked a bit up to the ridge of his ear, swelling with pleasure at his first trembling moan. Could he tell how awkward and half-disconnected she felt? Did he really expect reciprocation because he didn't know, or because he did? That didn't matter so much at the moment, of course, but all those thoughts and worries kept circling her head like the insistent buzzing of flies, as difficult to completely ignore as the sheer awkwardness of their sprawl across the recliner, so that she repeatedly bumped her head against the bookcase full of old paperbacks. Not exactly the sexiest of reminders; in some sense the books were also shocked, if not disapproving. Like family, almost. Weird. One more weirdness among many, but who was counting?

"This is weird," she blurted suddenly. "Bumping against the books."

He paused, considering this calmly. "Bad weird or good weird? Is it a turn-off?"

She huffed a laugh, and they nosed each other, teasing with almosts and soons until their lips connected, and she kissed him again.


At some unspoken signal, she lifted off him, vaguely chagrined to realize her bra was askew: he'd unhooked it quite handily at some point while she was only vaguely aware of what he'd been up to. Sneaky little bugger that he was, she thought with something like admiration.

"I have to go-- have to wake up early tomorrow. Though I don't want to."

She could only lean back on the recliner, smiling up at him. Words seemed both difficult and a bit beside the point, though not really awkward as such, oddly enough. And indeed, he sat down at the edge by her head, and they cuddled some more, and finally they did talk.

He promised her he hadn't come in the apartment with ulterior motives, asking her to believe him so earnestly she felt chagrined once again: how could she disbelieve him? Healthy skepticism, it was a bit late for that; didn't he know how he sounded? How could she doubt him?

"But you're still torn," he said. "Tell me what's wrong," he coaxed. "I want you to be completely honest." He flashed that sweet grin again, and she was lost. Again.

"I really like your smile," she said, and he did look chagrined.

"So you're not going to tell me," he said softly. Not disappointed, humoring her as he still was. Oh yeah, she was Ms. Distant and Mysterious, she thought. It wasn't that she was rendered speechless, her mind well scrambled by his kisses, his face, this whole crazy situation, of course not. Crazy situation? Of course he saw no crazy situation.

"That was honest!" she protested, and he smiled. "I wanted to be your good friend," she blurted, cringing inside.

"You still are," he said gently. "We can go back to just friends tomorrow, if you like." He said this with neither hints of disappointment nor dispassion, exactly-- somehow he managed to say this while communicating that he was simply that willing to do whatever she liked.

She snorted, rubbing her forehead against his side, staying buried there for a moment as if the very act of her doing that so easily would suffice to demonstrate the huge gulf they'd somehow crossed. Maybe to him it was a puddle; she couldn't tell. The day before, based on what he'd said, she'd have guessed this form of intimacy, being so rare for him, must also be Quite Something-- precious, surprising, impossible to ignore once having been uncovered. Perhaps he was simply that good at dealing with disappointment, if indeed it would be; the thought provoked chagrin rather than hurt or frustration in her the way it might have in the past. Already, she knew, she trusted him too much.

"You must have known." She made a show of grumbling into his stomach. "Come on," he half-laughed, "you must have. You thought about it too, didn't you?"

"No! Well, maybe a little."

"A little?" She could hear the grin in his voice. Damn, he was a little too ready to tease her for her peace of mind.

"A normal amount!" she cried. "Not, you know, excessively. I think about it with everyone!"

"Yeah, yeah. And you started talking about sex with me earlier, you know."

"You started it! I'm easy-going!" she protested.

He paused. "Did I go too fast? It seemed right to kiss you, and I was tired of holding back, so I did."

How nice that it's so simple for you, she thought, but fondly. Some of us weren't near so ready. Too late, too late.

"That's the weird part," she said.

"Good weird or bad weird?"

She laughed softly, getting more comfortable against his side. At some point he'd laid back halfway once again, and her head was resting on his stomach as if it was no big deal. At that crazy moment, the bubble they were suddenly residing in, it wasn't.

"It was good. That's what's weird."

"Oh," he said. "At least something good came out of this, then."

It must have been good, because they were kissing again, then resting again, with her tracing soft paths up his arm and tangling a tentative hand in his soft, short hair. She didn't realize a guy could have hair that soft. It was, well, weird to touch it, weird to touch him; it made her tremble in spurts, as if she was transgressing in some way she could't quite define and it probably didn't matter anyway, though maybe it did. Maybe it mattered a lot, and maybe he knew that, though she couldn't imagine what he knew and what he didn't. At the very least, she thought later, he probably felt the same way about her.

Their fingers touched, entwined and released, saying hello. She remembered this process from the early days of her last relationship: just like this, touching hands, sensitive skin to skin until they'd tangled and wrestled and all but hand-fucked each other. Unexpectedly, or perhaps predictably, this had a significant (or perhaps deceptively mild) difference, though: instead of tangling, they separated softly, never prolonging contact to the point of explosion.

Her arousal ebbed and flowed comfortably-- sometimes spiking with a harder kiss, sometimes lulled by his complete relaxation in her arms, sometimes trembling at the edge like always-fading sparkles from fireworks that never quite disappeared into night.

Finally, by some unspoken agreement, he untangled himself again. "I have to get up tomorrow," he said apologetically, and she rose her eyebrows at him, okay with anything at that moment but unwilling to try very hard to verbalize that. "Though I really want to stay," he said simply and with feeling, and she did smile at that.

She rose to walk him to the door, still wondering at how the situation had failed to deteriorate into 'bad weird' even now; even now it seemed all but impossible though obviously it wasn't.

He stopped to kiss her at the door, and somehow the comfort level between them had settled and balanced like water they both held in a glass container, so the spark was even faster to fire this time; it seemed like the intermittent nature may have been partly due to her resistance, because the more open she got, the more he sensed it and fed it back, so that they stood at the threshold like silly typical lovers, with her thighs tingling and aching in stubborn obliviousness of appropriate place and time. She was really in his arms this time; not standing stiffly but leaning as much as she could. His tongue felt hotter and slicker in her mouth than before, somehow; maybe she felt it more. She thought his kiss showed he felt the same way she did, though she was a little too distracted to be sure. In some ways, that was almost the first kiss moreso than the last.

"Talk to you soon," he said, being the one to tear himself away this time. The two times before were somehow laughably easy in comparison. And he was through the door before she quite knew what happened to begin with.


She woke up languidly, her thighs still tingling, the weirdness still in place. She couldn't remember the last time she was so lost in frustrated yet somehow honey-sweet desire for another person; or rather, she knew, and it was way too long, so long ago it seemed like a lifetime, and this a whole new experience like no other. A dangerous feeling, but she couldn't work up the will to worry about it; rather, she wished he'd come over and do something about this annoying left-over lust. It was his fault, wasn't it?

That web he'd left on her remained, sticky on her skin, and if she wasn't careful, it would become a cocoon in no time. There is no consuming, after all, without being consumed in turn at some point-- and it was clear this was a patient and careful opponent, all the moreso for his flashes of impulsive, coaxing aggression.

The clearest memory was his eyes as he'd smiled up at her, as she'd been propped up above him; more than the last kiss, more than the crazed frottage against her leg, when she'd seriously thought he would let go and keep going until he came just like that, suddenly fierce as a cat in heat-- what she remembered clearest was his startling greyish eyes, the softness of his hair between her fingers, and that half-there smile of his breaking so sweetly into fullness. A filled in circle where before there'd been only shadows.

She was no goddess after all, she knew, and he-- this morning, he wasn't hers at all.
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