Another episode of Man Raised by Spiders, the coming-of-age story of Valentine Shelawn.
Valentine wakes up in darkness. He’s lying on his side. His head aches from the knockout blow, but he’s otherwise unhurt. Valykria is next to him, still unconscious. They’re face-to-face, navel to navel. As he tries to pull away, he realizes that they’re tightly bound to each other at the wrists, ankles and waist. They’re clothed, but their belts and weapons have been removed. He should have realized this was a possibility — it’s an old Drow trick with captured troops, a handy way of sowing tension and discord. Certainly he finds it awkward: he’s pressed up against Valykria’s firm, unbound breasts, and his cock is against her pubic mound. Naturally, he has a raging hard-on.
He hears the pattern of her breathing shift. “Valentine?” She says it slowly. She sounds confused, and she did take a bad blow to the head.
“I’m here, honey.” He immediately curses himself for using an endearment — he never does that with her — he’s been so careful. But he can smell her hair, feels her lithe form against him. He feels her struggling to pull away, then freezing when she realizes how they’re tied together.
“Sorry about that,” he says softly. “We’ll have to wait it out.”
She laughs nervously. “It’s not your fault.”
“We’ll just lie very still and think of… I don’t know. It’s very hard to think of anything else.”
“Our injuries? The possibility of rats? It’s cold and we’re lying on a hard surface.”
“Rats help. I’ll try to stick with rats.” It helps to hear her voice, wry and sweet in his ear. It’s doesn’t help him to feel less excited — quite the contrary — but it does make his condition seem less humiliating. “At some point one of us will have to pee, and then romance will definitely be at an end,” he says. They both laugh, and he can feel the contractions in her belly, her breath warm on his face. “I’m sorry, Valykria,” he says. “You’re beautiful, clever, a skilled fighter — I admire you tremendously, and I can’t think of a worse way to let you know how I feel about you.”
“At least we’re clothed.”
“Is that better? To me it feels significantly worse.”
“Oh, Valentine,” she says softly, “I can’t, you know — I’m not —“
“What, sweetheart?” She’s silent. “Valykria, no matter what, I don’t think we should have any secrets. I don’t have any from you, now.”
“Valentine, I’m not a virgin.”
“Neither am I. That’s not important.”
“No. Not like that. Something happened.”
“What, honey? You can tell me. No secrets, OK?”
She nods, swallows, whispers, “When my brother came back from school 10 years ago, he brought a friend with him. They took me behind the barn and forced me — took turns — held me down.”
“Oh, God. I’m sorry.” He can feel her tears wet on her cheeks.
“It’s why I started to train — I wanted to be strong — I wanted to be sure it would never happen again.”
“Oh, darling. I’m so sorry.” And her anguish does cut through his passion. His idiot cock is still pressing insistently against her, but his head clears.
“Those things really scare me. I can’t help it. I decided not to marry — it seems so horrible.”
“Oh, no. I really am sorry about this, Valykria.”
She shakes her head. “It’s not your fault.”
“Thank you.” He kisses her gently on the cheek. “No wonder you were so desperate to leave.”
They lie there silently for a moment, then she asks, “What did you do?”
“What do you mean? Oh, to not be a virgin. I made love to Ariadne when we were engaged, before she died.”
“Well, yes. Aramil says I’m a slow-top. I suppose I am, by his standard.”
“Tell me about her — about Ariadne.”
“I told you how she died — that she was poisoned by the Theates clan.”
“Did you love her?”
“Oh, God, yes. She was a very sweet creature. Very innocent and defenseless. Not particularly clever, very earnest. Wise, in a certain way. We were very happy. Then she died.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Not quite six months.” He feels the need to explain. “I never had eyes for anyone else while she was alive, and I truly thought I would die when she did. I didn’t look at anyone else. I couldn’t.”
“But then you woke up here…”
“Oh, no. I already knew. Aramil could tell — he made me talk to you that first night.” He thinks he feels some feminine satisfaction in her, some small pride in conquest. “I didn’t want to press you — it was clear that you needed to get away, and we were traveling alone. But now my admiration can’t be concealed, unfortunately.” He hesitates, then asks, “Can you tell me more? Not about what they did, but how it affected you? What happened afterwards?”
“What happened afterwards,” she says softly, blankly. “Nothing, really. I didn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t. He was my brother, and the heir. I was alone with it. All I could think was, I have to be strong. We pretended like nothing happened. I caught him with a serving maid a few years ago and punished him for it — made him regret it. I’ve had suitors, but when they touch me or kiss me, I’m disgusted. I feel that they want me, and I’m horrified, sick. I feel contempt for them because they pretend to like me and care for me, act as if they’re listening, but the whole time they’re sitting there they just want to fuck me. They don’t know me at all.” As she says this, she’s rigid with disgust and anger. Valentine feels, not fear or shame, but a kind of awe at the depth of her hatred.
“You didn’t care for any of them? Like them?”
“No. Not at all. As soon as I could feel that they wanted me, I just felt contempt.”
Valentine laughs. “Oh, dear.”
“Not you,” she says hastily. “It’s not your fault. I know you don’t mean it.”
“Valykria, I would have told you eventually. I wasn’t planning to suffer in silence. I’m not a saint.” She’s silent, still. “I’m sorry. I won’t lie.”
“I know,” she says in a small voice. Then, “What did you feel when you saw me?”
He casts his mind back. He wants to be accurate, because he’s confident that his feelings were good and true. “I didn’t realize at first that you were a woman. I noticed the things I always do — your speed, your reach — that you reset quickly. You know how to use your body, have a lot of strength and endurance. It was a kind of professional appreciation. And then we got closer and I heard your voice, and saw how you moved when you stopped striking, and I knew. I felt real admiration, because I’d never seen a gray elf woman fight. I was excited to meet you.” He weighs his next words carefully. “I watched you move, and you were so beautiful and shy and feral. And I did want you. It shocked me because I hadn’t felt that since Ariadne died, that desire. Those things were all mixed up from the start.” As he tells her that, and remembers that first glimpse of her, he feels his arousal come back, with all the stupid enthusiasm of youth. He feels her trembling, realizes that she’s crying again. He can’t tell if she’s disappointed, angry, touched. He makes gentle soothing noises, realizes the full absurdity of his position. “I do care for you, Valykria. We’re at each other’s mercy.”
She sobs quietly for a moment, and it’s very hard for Valentine. Her tears have a kind of immediacy — they fall on his face, wetting his cheeks. He can’t dry them or wipe them away. He feels that he’s hurting her, though he doesn’t know why she’s crying.
“What will we do?” she asks finally, in a voice drenched with woe.
“Nothing, for now. Wait for my hard-on to go away. Hope no one has to pee anytime soon. We’re both clothed. But later, when we’re out of this stupid situation…” He breaks off, tries to organize his thoughts, clear his head. It’s very hard to think clearly, to be calm and just. He feels as if right is on his side — what he wants is natural, after all, and his intentions are good and pure. But he can’t know how it seems to her. He doesn’t understand her rage and disgust and horror, though he can feel their depth. “What do you want? How do you want things to be?”
“Like they were before,” she says hurriedly.
“I won’t press you, certainly. And over time, my feelings might change. I’m not lighthearted, but I can’t imagine spending my whole life faithfully serving an unconsummated bond, like some medieval knight. I didn’t mourn Ariadne forever, and I don’t think I would wait forever if you really are dead set against it.”
“I would hope you would change — that you would forget — because I don’t think I can.”
“I know, darling. And I don’t want to tell you that you’ll feel differently and it’s the most natural thing in the world. I have no idea.” He pauses. “You say you want to go back to how things were before. Did you know how I felt? That I cared for you?”
“I knew we had a connection. We were the same in some ways. We liked the same things. I knew that you felt that, and you liked me because of that. I felt safe with you.” There’s a little catch in her voice.
“Because you thought I wouldn’t…”
“I didn’t think you wanted me in that way.”
“Oh, honey,” he says sadly. “I hope I will never hurt you. But I am not safe. I want you in precisely that way.” He feels her stiffen, try to pull away, and immediately regrets his honesty. Even in that moment, though, when he feels like he’s losing her, when he feels her fear and anger and the stiffness in her limbs, when she tries to avert her face and can’t — in that moment, he takes comfort in the truth of his words. He says, somewhat at random, “I really am at your mercy, Valykria.”
“I know,” she says in a rush. “I know how good you are. I’m sorry. I wish I were different. I wish I weren’t this way. It’s terrible — I wish so much…” she breaks off, presses the whole length of her body against him, inclines her face towards his, seeking comfort instinctively, or trying to give it.
“No, honey. Don’t ever wish you were someone else. I have my whole life, and it’s never changed anything or done me any good.” The sensation of her body against his — her firm breasts, her supple waist and hips — nearly overcomes him. Almost unwillingly he says, “God I love you, Valykria. Please don’t wish you were different. I don’t.” He’s very afraid he will lose control, so he freezes, holds his breath. They are both still while he masters himself. The moment passes, and he bursts out laughing. “This is terrible.”
“I’m sorry,” she says in a small voice.
“It’s certainly not your fault, dear. Briesis was right. Men are beasts, and I’m as bad as all the rest. And I promise I’ll stop calling you dear and honey. I’m not thinking clearly. I know you’ll forget all of this, or at least try to forgive me.”
Of course, she doesn’t forget. The following day, and for a long time thereafter, she remembers his gentle, ardent tone, the force of his desire. Not just his cock pressing against her, though that certainly haunts her, but the way he struggled, ensnared by tenderness and passion.