September 4, 2015 by Lyn
If I make you happy I don’t need no more
Cause you make me feel like a natural woman
“There we go.” Mabina stepped back from Jaya with one last critical look. “It’s sexy and it covers you up. It more than shows off your assets without, shall we say, putting them out for sale. You look classic, dear, and lovely, if I do say so myself.”
“Thanks?” She stepped hesitantly forward in her new shoes, brushing her hands over the grey silk of the dress. “How did you do that?” She’d transformed the kilt and shirt into a high-necked backless dress without ever baring more of Jaya than her arms, done the same to turn her sneakers into … some sort of fancy shoe with a heel… and then spent a couple minutes fussing with her hair, and declared the whole thing done.
“What? The dress? It’s a simple enough Working – Ty here could probably do it, if he applied himself.” She smiled knowingly, and Ty, standing protectively with his hand on her way-too-bare back, winced.
“I never learned how to Work clothes properly. Akatil doesn’t teach it.”
“No surprise there,” Cassidy offered, from his perch on the side of the bed. “I’m surprised your Mentor didn’t teach you, though, considering who it is.”
“He doesn’t do unutu,” Ty answered shortly. “Thank you for… for the dress. I’ll talk to you Monday about the window?”
“Sounds lovely.” Mabina patted Jaya lightly on the – nearly bare, and somehow not showing the farmer’s tan Jamian had developed – shoulder. “You kids have fun. We’ll see you at the dance.”
“Thank you.” Jaya let Ty tug her out of the room. “What’s the rush?” she asked, whispered, really, as the door to the suite swung shut behind them.
“I just, I don’t know…” Ty bit his lip, and took a deep breath. “Hormones. Right.” He took several more breaths, his walking slowing to almost nothing, and said, just as softly as Jaya had, “she was picking on me about my ineptitude. It got me a little angry.”
“The crack about the garden? I didn’t think that was that bad.” She was grateful for the slow pace as she tried not to wobble too much in her new shoes. “She seems like a nice person.”
“I don’t like how everyone knows how limited I am,” he complained. “It’s like the school joke.”
You know what it can do, Aviv had said. He’d seemed scared. “I… I don’t think that’s true,” she said hesitantly. “Ack! How do you stand in these shoes, much less walk!?”
“Ignore your heel.” Ty moved a little closer, supporting her with both hands. “Put your weight on your toes. And don’t try to stride. Sashay.”
“Sashay?” She wrinkled her nose. “You make me sound like a drag queen.”
“Okay, um… wiggle. Sway your hips a little and take small steps. There you go. You just want to be aware of how people are looking at you.”
“That’s the whole problem!”
“In a good way. It’s a lot more showy than slouching in jeans. What did you mean, you don’t think it’s true?”
“I…” She thought about the way the hottest girl in her old school walked, and tried to imitate the hip-sway while balancing on her toes. “When Niki and I ran into your friends Aviv and Uberto there, the other day, they didn’t seem like they wanted to start a fight with you. Like they were scared.”
“When did you and Niki run into them? Careful, your center of gravity isn’t where it should be. Um… think about your womb.”
“My what?” But she could feel what he meant. “Okay, I got it. We went out talking last weekend while you and Shiva were still sleeping.”
“Oh, I see.” His hand slipped a little further down her back. “I think you’ve got the walking thing down. Ready to try dancing?”
“Oh, crap, we’re almost there, aren’t we?” She gulped softly. “Ty, Niki was just trying to explain things to me. It wasn’t anything bad.”
“I…” Ty hugged her spontaneously, and she wobbled precariously on her heels. “I know, Jaya. You’re better to me than I deserve sometimes.” He was pressed against her, his lips almost touching hers.
“No…” she tried, but she thought he might be right. “Just try not to flip out so much, okay?”
“I’ll try.” He brushed his lips across hers, barely a kiss at all. She tried not to be aware of the people passing by. People watching her kiss a boy.
This is supposed to be okay, she reminded herself, but Taro’s words were still resounding in the back of her mind. The he-she and its pet. Apparently, not everyone here was tolerant, PC, and understanding.
There has to be an asshole in every group. And, all in all, Addergoole was a lot better at dealing with freakishness than any place she’d ever been before.
Tail. Horns. Your hermaphroditic boyfriend-slash-girlfriend-slash-owner has hooves, never mind the fact that you have a hermaphroditic boyfriend-slash-girlfriend-slash-owner to start with. It’s okay. You’re wearing a dress and heels and it’s okay. Besides if anyone gave her any shit about it, she could still punch them.
I might get to punch a bigot. And I won’t lose my friends for it. She kissed Ty, rising on her toes to do so – when had she gotten shorter than him? That wasn’t supposed to happen! – putting all of her exasperated affection for him into the kiss.
“Jay…” he said, a little surprised. He held her close, looking at her with eyes that were nearly golden. “Jaya, are you sure?”
“Shut up and kiss me,” she whispered. Before she lost her nerve.
It was weird, kissing in public, but Ty didn’t seem to notice or care, kissing her like he was making love to her. His lips tasted wonderful. His hands on her bare back felt marvelous.
“Get a room!”
Jamian looked up from the kiss, angry at the interruption, ready for a fight. He’d been having fun. For a moment, he’d just been enjoying himself. Ah… yes. Herself.
She looked up at the interloper, straight into a cocky, playful grin framed by a cheerful, handsome brown face and stone-tipped braids. The smile was disarming, and a little distracting.
“Adrian.” Ty didn’t sound happy to see him. Jaya understood why. She wouldn’t be happy to see him around her girlfriend, either.
“Ty.” He didn’t look away from Jaya, and was looking her over in a way that wandered between flattering and insulting. “Where are your horns?”
She blushed. She’d forgotten she’d Masked away her Daeva features. “Under my hair,” she answered. Why was he looking at her like that? Had she forgotten something essential? Ty or Mabina would have told her, wouldn’t they have?
He laughed, sounding like the waves hitting the beach. “Be careful, Ty,” he warned, “or someone might steal her from you. She’s adorable.”
She glared at him. How had she gotten so much shorter. “Bullshit,” she said shortly. “No-one’s stealing me, Ty doesn’t need you taunting him, and I’m not adorable.”
Ty laughed shortly, even though Adrian’s smile didn’t fade, and hugged Jaya close. “Careful. You’d be biting off more than you could chew if you tried to steal my Jay.”
“You have all the luck,” he groused cheerfully. “I’ll go troll in other waters, then. Ib set the stage quite nicely for me tonight.”
“Good hunting,” Ty said, sounding like he really meant it. Jaya couldn’t help but shake her head.
“Like this is all some sort of … I don’t know, trophy hunting expedition.”
He chuckled. “Kind of, but it’s not as bad as you make it sound. We’re happy together, aren’t we?”
Sort of. “We might have been happy together even if you hadn’t been stalking me like some sort of turkey during bow season, you know.”
“I know. But this way no-one else bagged you first.” He held the door open for her. “We’re there.”
She swallowed hard, peering in at the hazy blue scenery. “I… I think I need a drink, Ty.”
“All right, honey.” His hand was spending a lot of time there on the small of her back. It was probably the most time anyone had spent touching her, ever, but it was nice. Comforting. Reassuring. Kind of hot. “What do you want?”
“Cuervo.” Tequila, his drink of choice at high school parties, when he got brave enough to go. Two shots of that, and she wouldn’t care who was looking.
“Would you settle for Patron?” Ty grinned mischievously at her. “None of the cheap stuff here, sorry.”
“I think I can handle that.” She’d been so distracted that he’d managed to walk her to the bar without her freaking out. She smiled gratefully at him; he wasn’t a bad guy, when he wasn’t flipping out. He held out the stool for her and didn’t seem to notice that she had to fuss with the skirt portion of her dress to figure out where it was supposed to go; while she was fussing, he flagged down the bartender.
The six-armed girl headed their way unhurriedly, pouring drinks for three other people on the way. “What can I get you, hon?”
“Two margaritas, por favor.”
“Coming right up.” She mixed with the lowest set of her arms, not looking at what she was doing, studying Jaya instead. “You should show your horns, hon. Be proud of them.”
“Proud of them?” she sighed. She was already tired of hearing that. “They sort of make me stand out.”
“And six arms don’t?” The bartender tapped her on the head with a hand, the cuff on her wrist jangling. “There are kinds of difference that are something to be proud of. Being smarter than everyone else. Faster. Prettier. It means you excel at something by nature. So be proud of your horns. They mark you as a child of Elleheim.”
Ty was looking at her strangely. “I didn’t think you…” He trailed off as she thumped his glass down in front of him.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. And this-” she gestured with her top arms at the rest of them “-this isn’t what I have a problem with.” She set the second glass in front of Jaya, and tapped her head again, between where the horns sat hidden. “Remember that, dear. They can tie you down, they can take away a lot from you, but when they’re done with you, you’re still a child of gods.”
“I…” She didn’t look at Ty. She didn’t want to know, just yet, how he was reacting to that little pep talk. “The child of gods, hunh?” Concentrating very hard, and studying the behind-the-bar mirror carefully, she dropped the Mask covering her horns. “Well, that’s nicer than ‘freak.’”