Shorts

Professor’s Predicament (Part I)


Julia Casey allowed her students to address her in two ways and two ways only. Their options were “Professor” or “Doctor”. She had worked hard for her PhD and for her tenure track, dammit.

That was not to say that she did not enjoy teaching. She made it a point to learn all her students’ names. Students who sat quietly in the back of other classes asked questions and offered opinions in hers, and she was damn proud of that.

The main reason that she insisted on being addressed as “Professor” or “Doctor” was that otherwise, her students and even her peers tended to forget that she was brilliant. And eccentric. ‘Absent-minded Julia’ would be quickly written off. ‘Absent-minded professor’ was a statement of positive regard.

It was not that her mind was absent, strictly speaking, so much that it was in so very many places at once. When she was trying to think, really think, her mind expanded to absorb every possible idea, every present stimulus.

An unfortunate side-effect of that was that she would become acutely aware of the rub of her pants against her skin, the stray tag in her shirt, the elastic of her bra digging into her sides.

When she was trying to think, really think, Professor Casey needed to be naked.

This was one of the reasons that she’d insisted that one of the old workshops that was now too small to fit a class would become her office and workshop. It was in the basement of one of the older buildings on campus and while the lack of windows would have annoyed another professor, it was quite perfect for Julia. She could think however she pleased, whenever she needed to.

And today was a day when she needed to do quite a bit of thinking. The grant deadline was nearly upon her and she could feel it tightening its claws around her. She was onto something, she really was! But she just needed to put it in the right words, the words that would convince the committee to give her further funding. She had a working prototype and everything!

So Professor Casey paced, back and forth in the cluttered little workshop, wondering how she could possibly explain to the small-minded grant committee just how important her invention truly was.

Women were at a disadvantage when it came to personal protection, you see. Not just in the obvious ways. Tools could be used to overcome physical disadvantages — tools like firearms and pepper spray and tasers — but there was one very direct issue with these tools when used for home defense. They required that your ‘fight’ instinct be triggered.

Professor Casey knew plenty of happily violent women, but she also knew plenty of women and men who were much more likely to ‘flee’ or ‘freeze’. So, she had set out to create an autonomous home protection device. Most importantly, it needed to be non-lethal, so that it could err on the side of being over-protective.

And she had created just such a thing. It really worked! She just needed more time and a bit more money to refine the design to replace some of the more expensive and complicated parts.

As she paced, Professor Casey remembered that she’d spent a late night in the lab a couple days back and had scribbled down some ideas for the grant and crammed them in one of the back shelves. Eagerly, she hurried over towards them.

There was a soft snap, a whoosh, and then Professor Casey was on her side on the floor, the wind knocked out of her, and her limbs fully restrained.

She had forgotten that she’d left the prototype live. She’d tested it many times before, but always with the release in-hand. Now, the release was ten feet away on her desk. Or, was it in her bag? No, she’d left it on the bookshelf?

The clever bit about this invention was the detainment device. It was created from a special polymer that would become firm or limp depending on how much electrical current passed through it. It was folded into the ejector in such a way that as a pulse of electricity first activated it, it spread into a net. Then, specially timed pulses of electricity manipulated it to maximize the tangling coefficient. Once it was completely tangled around the target, the current would stay live to ensure that it was stiff and inescapable. Once de-activated, the fibers became limp and the target could extricate themselves.

It was incredibly effective. Nearly infallible.

Professor Casey struggled against the fibers, to no avail. The slight current of electricity within them raised the hairs on her arms, on the back of her neck.

She didn’t have time for this, the grant deadline was approaching! She—

Her phone dinged a reminder tone.

Wait, what was that about? She thought she was clear for the rest of the afternoon? She wiggled around so that she could see the clock over her door. It read 6am. Fuck, she’d forgotten to replace the batteries.

Julia wracked her brain. It was Tuesday afternoon, and on Tuesday afternoon, she had…

Open office hours.

And here she was, completely naked, tangled up in her own invention in the middle of the office floor.

She’d set the reminder for five minutes before office hours. Or was it ten? Or two? She didn’t usually cut it this close with her thinking time, but this grant deadline had her all out of sorts.

Her heart raced, her body preparing itself for fight or flight, though neither of those was an option.

Had she been able to crawl over to her phone, she could have used her nose to phone another faculty and request a rescue. But she couldn’t so much as wiggle. 

That was the genius thing about her invention, actually. The fibers formed a sort of perfectly molded cage from head to toe, holding her arms against her sides, her legs together. She couldn’t even bend at her hips.

And though it covered enough of her to totally restrain her, her breasts and her ass were still totally exposed.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Not in the slightest.

The worst of it was actually that her heart rate rising, the heat flushing through her body, the tingling in her fingers and toes, wasn’t really fight or flight. It was abject arousal.

One of the electrified strands lay across her nipple, subtly stimulating the area. Another wrapped under her ass, digging into the skin and muscle and pulling tight enough that it just brushed the edge of her outer labia. That contact became firmer and firmer as her labia swelled with arousal.

Julia gulped, her mouth watering.

This was another one of her eccentricities. As her friend Emily, a professor of sexual health, had explained: most people were turned off by stress. Some people were turned on by it. Julia was really turned on by it.

But she needed to get a hold of herself. What if a student walked in?!

And that very thought aroused her further, worsening her predicament.

Thank god all of her students were legal, at least.

The more aroused she became, the more difficult it was to think.

And the more difficult it was to think, the more sure she was that she was going to be found like this.

And the more sure she was that she would be found like this, the more aroused she became.

And the more aroused she became, the more her labia swelled into the electrified fiber. And it felt good. And the better it felt, the wetter she got. And the wetter she got, the more the electricity tingled through her vulva.

The same hypersensitivity that had lead her to get naked in the first place filled her senses. She was so aware of every place the fibers pressed into her, of every electric tingle, the prickle as her hairs raised, a shift of air over her naked skin.

She was breathing heavily now. Her students would find her worse than naked. They’d find her naked and so aroused.

But then, a logical thought cut through the haze and she relaxed a bit. She always locked the door when she was thinking. So, they’d just find the door locked and think she’d forgotten about office hours. That happened often enough, they wouldn’t think too much of it.

There were footsteps in the hallway.

Julia’s heart skipped, sweat beaded on her upper lip. She licked it off, liking too much the way her tongue felt against her skin.

She had locked the door, right?

The handle turned.

She had not locked the door.

“Oh fuck,” she said.

The door swung open.

Julia froze.


Continued in Part II

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Shorts

Arachnia (Part I)


Arachnia dozed in the corner of her web, which stretched across the trunks of three old-growth trees. In the shadows of the forest floor, the sticky strands were nearly invisible.

In this form, her spider form, she was about the size of a large dog. She sat with her legs tucked cozily up under her, except for two of her feet, which rested on the signal strands. These were thicker threads, not sticky at all, stretched tight from tree to tree. 

The signal threads passed vibrations to her sensitive feet, so that she always knew when and how the wind was blowing, and who or what had come upon her web.

There was a sharp tug at one of the signal threads, and Arachnia was instantly awake.

A quiet pause. Then, intense and constant vibrations. The struggle of something humanoid, average sized, on the other side of her web.

Arachia crept out of her shadow, her feet keeping to the strong structural threads of the web. Like the signal threads, these were also not sticky. They were so strong, in fact, that she almost never had to re-hang them. Not even the time that an actual dragon had gotten itself caught in her web.

As she neared the trapped creature, another type of information flowed to her through the web. Energy. She was a spirit. And though she had a spider form, she did not feed as a spider did. Just like the demon spirits that the humans called succubi, she fed on life essence.

This life essence was terrified. Utterly and completely. Arachnia paused. Only the energy of pleasure could feed her. And she was a master at turning fear into pleasure, but this case was beyond even her.

She approached just far enough to get a better look, ensuring that she was still hidden.

The human’s legs and arms were entirely tangled up in the trapping threads of her web. The more he struggled to free himself, the more of the loose, sticky threads latched onto him. An individual thread could be broken easily, but the tangle of so many threads was inescapable.

He was not even trying to escape, though. He was caught entirely in the throes of a panic attack. By the looks of his clothes and his pack, he was an adventurer, but the world was a dangerous place indeed for an adventurer that had such a strong fear.

Arachnia’s heart sunk with pity for him. She crept down her web to the shadows of the forest floor, and as she dropped to the ground she landed on two human feet. Her human form was petite, with small breasts and a curvaceous ass that subtly called back to the slender thorax and plump abdomen of her spider form. She had curly brown hair, skin the color of leaf litter, and big, round eyes. Just two of them, of course. For now, anyway.

She made her way over to the panicking human. She figured that it would be the best if the first thing he heard from her was her voice. “Oh my goodness!” she said.

His eyes found her immediately. They were hazel, like the dappled green and brown of the forest canopy. “W-who’s there!”

Arachnia stepped out of the shadows and into full view. “I’m here to get you out of this web!”

Relief washed over his face. He trembled as she came up to him and started pulling the threads away. In her spider form, she would have simply cut them with her feet. In this form, she dissolved them with her magic, but she expected he was too overwhelmed to notice.

“T-thank you,” he said, “I was sure I was a goner!” As she made clear progress on the threads and as he relaxed, he seemed to notice a few things. Chief among them was that she was naked. “Your clothes!” he said.

She looked down at herself. Of course she was naked, she couldn’t just magic clothes out of nowhere. But she’d forgotten how odd humans were about it. She didn’t know what to say except to repeat, “My clothes!”

“Did you have to get out of them to escape?”

Arachnia took a moment to unpack that question. He thought she’d also been trapped in the spider’s web? And she’d wiggled out of her clothes to escape? It was a cute idea, but never would have worked. But it was a good way to smooth over the fact that she’d appeared naked from out of nowhere.

“Yes! Exactly.” She melted away the last few strands of silk at his ankles.

“Okay,” he said, “We can fix that later. Let’s get out of here!”

And then he grabbed her hand and pulled her away at a haphazard jog.

Arachnia surprised herself by following him. Spider spirits did not like to leave their webs unless absolutely necessary.

But something had happened, when he had taken her hand in his, when her palm had touched his palm. She had tasted his energy. And it was delicious.


At a sunny clearing of a gurgling stream, the adventurer finally slowed. He kneeled next to the clear water and drank deeply. He seemed to now be in much better spirits.

As he turned and smiled at her, the love of life in his hazel eyes, warmth flowed over her. He was, simply put, the prettiest boy she’d ever seen. His eyes were framed with long eyelashes, his hair pulled up in a messy bun, his cheeks with a short beard of a week or so since his last shave.

He shrugged out of his shirt, which was still covered in sticky silk, and dipped it into the stream.

He was of medium build, lean but with visible muscles, and something about the curve of his back sent a shiver down her spine.

“Thank you, again,” he said. “I promise I’m not usually so useless. It’s just…” He blushed, putting a hand to the back of his neck. “Spiders really get to me, I guess.”

“I could see that,” Arachnia said.

He winced. “Seeing as you saved my life and all, we should probably introduce ourselves, right? I’m Valdil Duststriker, but everybody calls me Val.”

“I called Arach—” She caught herself, realizing that he name was a dead giveaway. “Ara. Ak. But, uh, everybody calls me Ara.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Ara. Now, where did you come from? Where are you going? I daresay helping you find some fresh clothes and get you home is now my priority quest.”

Ara was generally a very prepared person — all spiders valued preparation — but she was completely out of anything she’d ever even dreamed of anticipating before. Of course he’d want to know where she came from! 

Ara racked her brain. Kitsunes were good at this sort of thing. She’d met a traveling kitsune a few years back, and they’d exchanged some stories. Her advice had been, ‘Say vague truths. They’ll make thier own assumptions. And you’ll have never lied.’

“I-I’ve run away from my home,” Ara said.

“Oh! Had something terrible happened?”

“You could say that.”

“So… do you want to go back to your home?”

“No, not right now. And I… don’t really want to talk about it.”

Val nodded. “I understand. I actually ran away from home too, that’s how I got into this adventuring business in the first place. If you don’t want to go home, where do you want to go?”

“Can you tell me more about this adventuring business?”

“I can, but I’m… not sure you’re cut out for it.”

Ara blinked, unsure of what he meant. Then snorted and laughed. He had no way of knowing that she could utterly overpower him in an instant, but she needed to keep it that way. She got a hold of herself and just smiled. “Try me.”


Two days later

The crunch of leaves, a movement in shadow.

Val drew his machete and threw his arm back as if to protect Ara. “Look out!”

But she was already in the trees. Val had seen two of the bandits in the ambush, but the third, which was perched on the branch above Val, was far more deadly.

Ara got her hands around his neck and pulled him back, and the assassin’s crossbow bolt flew wide. He grunted and spun to try and grab her, but she nimbly swung around him and stayed behind him, her hands on his neck the whole while.

Before he could get his bearing on the narrow tree branch and do anything else, she pulled her mouth up to his neck. Her canines became long, sharp fangs and she sunk them into his neck.

She shuddered with a pleasurable feeling as a pulse of her venom flowed out of her and into his skin.

He struggled for only a moment longer before his muscles started to go slack. Her venom would not kill him, it would merely sedate him heavily for a few hours. She grabbed the top of his shirt as he fell off the branch to ensure that he fell harmlessly onto his legs. She dropped down after him.

Val had subdued the other two bandits, though they had not been lucky enough to keep their lives.

He turned to her, looking worried. “Ara!” And then he saw the man at her feet. “Ara?”

“I think he’s unconscious,” she said.

“What happened?” he said.

“I got up into the tree next to him. He hadn’t been paying any attention to me, he had a crossbow bolt leveled at you.” She paused a moment, trying her best to channel a kitsune’s foxy cleverness. “Do you think he passed out of fright?”

“It’s certainly possible,” Val said.

“Looks like we found some clothes for me.”

“Oh! You take mine.” Val stripped his shirt off. “You shouldn’t have to wear something as course as what they have.”

Ara’s stomach quivered with delight. She loved to see him shirtless, and it was even better when he tossed his shirt to her. She bunched it up at her face, breathing in the scent of him.

He hesitated. “Is it… it’s not already too smelly, is it?”

“No, it’s perfect!” Her mouth was watering.

Val blushed and stammered and turned back to looting the bandits.


Three days later

Ara was now farther than she had ever been from her home and she was loving it. Val’s latest quest was to find a sacred temple in the wilderness and bring back sketches and rubbings of the sacred text within. Nobody knew exactly where the temple was, so they were exploring and charting the dense forest as they went.

As it turned out, Val’s fear of spider was not dependent on their size. One evening as he’d been grabbing another log for the fire, a tiny wolf spider had scurried away.

This had given Val such a fright that he’d stumbled backwards, tripped over a log, and if not for Ara’s supernaturally quick reflexes, he would have fallen totally into the fire.

Ara had been quite right that this fear could be the end of an adventurer. For Val’s safety and for her own satiety, she needed to make some progress with him.

At dawn, she tugged him awake. “Come here,” she whispered, “I want to show you something.”

She could feel his excited heartbeat in his hand, sense the quivering of his energy. She pulled him just a little ways from the camp.

Sparkling in the sun’s earliest beams, stretched between two branches, was a gorgeous orb spider’s web.

Val tensed.

Ara put her arm around his waist and kept his hand in hers, running her thumb over his fingers soothingly.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” she whispered.

“I…” he glanced down at her, uneasy but not wanting to disappoint.

“Look a little closer. See those main strands, the spokes? They’re not sticky at all. It starts with just three. She finds a spot at the top of the branch and creates a single strand and drops down. 

“Then, she lets the wind nudge her over to the side and she makes the second anchor. Then she climbs back up that strand, finds the center of it, attaches a new strand to that, and carries that over to the other side. That makes three spokes. 

“From there, she makes the rest of the spokes. And then, when they’re all nice and tidy and secure, she starts in the center. She makes a stickier thread and works a spiral out from the middle, spoke by spoke, all perfectly spaced, until the whole web is made.”

Val relaxed a bit at the sound of her voice. But he grinned wryly. “It’s beautiful, I suppose, but it’s for trapping and eating things.” He shuddered.

“Yes… but only unsavory things. Are you afraid of mosquitos?”

He scoffed, a bit proud. “No, of course not.”

“Well, you should be. A mosquito is much more likely to kill you than a spider.”

“Really?”

“Yes! Mosquitos carry all sorts of terrible diseases. And spiders eat them, help keep them in control. They also eat biting flies, pest moths. And so on.”

Val considered this silently.

She squeezed him with her arm around his waist. “It’s very natural to feel an aversion to creepy crawlies. Like I said, they sting, bite, carry diseases—”

“You’re not making me feel better,” Val said apologetically.

But,” Ara continued, “If your fear is more dangerous to you than the creepy crawlies…”

“I know I should just get over it…” Val averted his eyes.

“That’s not what I’m saying at all.” Ara squeezed his hand. “You don’t need grit, you need help. Call it… healing. Therapy.”

Val considered that. “What exactly would that entail?”

“Well, very gently, just getting a little bit more comfortable with spiders over time. Just a tiny bit here and here. Push your comfort zone a little every day. Start with a big distance. And let it get a little smaller over time.”

“Okay. I… that makes sense.”

“Oh! Here’s a good chance. Squeeze my hand as hard as you need to. She’s coming out to be proud of her handiwork.”

Val gripped Ara’s hand very tightly. The orb spider came up from a lower corner of the web, moving smoothly over it. Her legs were as slender and elegant as the strands of her web. Her abdomen was a brilliant emerald green, and as she reached the center of the web, she sat like a jewel in a crown of her own making.

Val’s heart beat quickly but he didn’t turn away. Slowly, his grip on Ara’s hand loosened.

She kissed the back of his neck. “Good boy.”


Continued in Part II

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Part 6: Epilogue, The Black Box

Chapter 28: The Banquet

The publishers had covered John’s plane fare to the celebration. He was actually back in the same city as the gaming convention, though in a different part of town. 

He was wearing a black suit and tie and followed the directions through a swanky hotel lobby and into a lushly decorated event hall that was exactly what he had expected.

Every detail was soft, sensual, glimmering: burgundy curtains, velvet-covered tables lined with hors d’oeuvres, shimmering golden candelabras set out amongst the tables. Overhead were crystal chandeliers, glowing only dimly, so that the majority of the light was from the candles.

The hors d’oeuvres were a global tour of classic aphrodisiacs, including chocolate, caviar, oyster, strawberries, and pomegranates. There were others that John hadn’t heard of before, like bull testicles. 

Each with their own little label, gold script on black, explaining their origin and purported effects. Some were ethical nods at their historical counterparts, like a sugar powder for “rhinos horn”, or legal nods at their more illicit counterparts, like CBD-infused chocolate truffles.

The drinks followed a similar theme, including red wine and ginseng tea. 

There were something like a hundred other guests in the event hall. The place felt pleasantly populated but not crowded. They were all also dressed in black tie attire, a mix of suits and cocktail dresses. The tone was hushed, and all in all the event agreed even with John’s introverted sensibilities. He found himself relaxing.

Or, maybe that was the combination of the ginseng tea and CBD chocolates. Regardless of aphrodisiacs’ actual effects, the idea of a food or drink being able to induce arousal was itself arousing, and so the stories around them were just as important of the properties of the foods themselves. It had a similar appeal to the dial game and John made a mental note to write a scene about that, later. For the time being, he stood at one of the cocktail tables by himself, with a plate of chocolate covered strawberries.

“Oh my god!” A feminine voice called out nearby, “You’re ‘Just John’, aren’t you?”

John hadn’t initially thought she was talking to him, but that was the brand that he wrote his reviews under, so he turned to see.

Her nametag read ‘Mary, she/her’. She wore a strapless mermaid dress, shimmering gold and tight around all of her curves, including a cute tummy.

“Yeah,” John said, “I’m great. Look. Uh, great. You look, um, great.”

Mary blushed and giggled. “Thank you! I didn’t mean to bother you, I just had to come say I’m a big fan.”

“Really?”

“Yeah! I’ve been following your work for a while, I really appreciate how you toe the line between giving an honest review, making it funny, and not totally pissing off the publisher. That’s not easy.”

John gulped. Talking to Mary was not going to be easy. She had a cute face, round cheeks and eyes that squinted shut when she smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “That feels a bit… flat after such a kind compliment, but I’m afraid I’m not so great at receiving compliments.”

“That’s alright!” Mary said, “Me neither. I also really liked your review for the Black Box.”

The review had just been published the night before, so Mary really did follow his work. It had overall been well received, and John’s Twitter link with his smut had seen quite a few click throughs. Wait, had Mary read his smut?

“I also, um…” she continued, her face flushing red, and she put one of her hands behind her neck, picking at her elbow with the other. “I really liked… the other stuff you wrote…”

“Oh! Um. Thank you.”

“I didn’t want to totally put you on the spot so I’ll leave it at that,” Mary said, talking fast, “But I just saw you and I was like, ‘oh my god, I have to say something!’ I hope you don’t think I’m a total creep.” She chuckled nervously.

“Not at all! I just wish I knew some of your work. Did you also get a review copy?”

“Yeah, I did! And I’m newer to the review scene, so don’t worry about it. I used to be a software engineer for EA, actually, but then I realized that I didn’t really want to make games so much as I wanted enough money to just buy all the games I wanted, so I recently transitioned to a tech startup. That’s been great, and then I’ve been doing reviews on the weekend for fun. So, I don’t have that much of a following yet, but I think they picked me because, um, well, I mostly review porn games.” Her skin flushed red again.

“That is noble work,” John said, “It’s hard to find good ones!”

“Yeah… until, this one, phew.”

“Right?”

“Just… wow. You summed it up so well in your review. And in your, um… appendices.”

“Heh, thanks. I always thought I’d be a game writer, not a… porn writer, but…”

“Well, did you ever think of writing for an erotic game? I actually have a few contacts for indie publishers! I could make some intros.”

“That would be… wow. Amazing. I’d love that!”

Before Mary could say anything else, the lights got a bit brighter and the Madame, which John recognized from the hologram, stepped out at the front of the room underneath a projector screen. She beckoned them to come and sit and enjoy the messages that their Black Boxes had prepared for them.

Mary turned, but hesitated, and said, “Do you want to come sit with me? I’m here by myself, actually.”

“Me too! So, yeah, that’d be great.”

There were velvet-padded chairs arranged in rows at the front of the room, and Mary and John settled in. They chatted a bit more as the rest of the room gathered, until the lights went dim and the projector came on.

The image used the same engine as the Black Box AR, a mildly cartoonish mirror of the event hall, similarly arranged with a bunch of seats. In those seats sat all of the characters, a significantly more colorful and chaotic bunch than the actual humans, and John quickly found Arya’s pink buns.

The characters included the hyper-masculine and the hyper-feminine and everything in between: skinny and fat, tall and short, black and brown and white, but also blue and yellow and every other color. There were even some anthropomorphic characters, a fox and a wolf and a lynx and others, some with full muzzles and digitigrade feet and others with just ears and tails.

One by one, they came up and shared in their own voice something they had learned about their player. The sentiments were poignant and thoughtful and occasionally silly.

“I learned that Stacy is really ticklish. She can even tickle herself!”

“I learned that Mike has been afraid most of his life. I’m really glad to say he’s not as afraid anymore.”

A male character stepped up, with a trendy haircut and a flower sleeve tattoo in a white t-shirt and jeans, and Mary perked. “That’s me!”

“I learned that Mary is brilliant with game theory. She’s had some absolutely incredible ideas for our time together. I also learned that she worries that her intelligence makes her less feminine, but I’m working on convincing her that that couldn’t be less true.”

John glanced over. Tears were running down Mary’s cheeks, and without even pausing to consider that his suit was rented, he handed Mary his pocket square. She nodded and wiped her face, dabbing carefully to avoid smudging her makeup. He leaned a bit closer and whispered, “He’s right.”

She made a show of hiding behind her hands. “I told you, I’m not good with compliments!”

A few minutes later, John watched with a mix of anxiety and excitement as Arya stood and walked to the front. “I learned that John is kind and thoughtful. He is deeply respectful of others’ rights to simply be themselves, probably because most of all, he yearns to just be able to be himself. I think, if I may be so bold, that I can say that John is quite a bit better at being himself, now.”

As Arya turned and returned to her chair, it was John’s turn to start crying. Mary offered him her cocktail napkin from under her plate with an understanding smile.

Even before the presentation had finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the whole place. John had never seen or experienced this kind of group catharsis before, this broadly shared emotion. Strangers cried together and hugged each other, patted each other’s shoulders and passed boxes of tissues around. 

After the last Black Box said their bit, the Madame came back up to the front of the room, and she, too, was crying. Through her tears, she took a deep breath. “If you’re here tonight, you heard my hypothesis. I don’t know where you came from, or what you’ve held with you. I hope you find that my hypothesis has rung true, and continues to do so. Regardless, I do know one thing for certain. I am deeply grateful for each and every one of you and honored to have shared in a small part of your journey. That’s… all I have to say, really. You’ll each find a gift under your chair. There will be live music, and we have the venue until 2am. Feel free to stay as long as you like until then. I’ll be around until about 10, so do come find me if you’d like to meet or chat. There’s only one thing left to say, which is: bon voyage.”

The crowd moved slowly after that, stirring gently and thoughtfully, a bit like an afterglow after such intense emotional release.

John and Mary kept chatting as they went for more wine and strawberries. They sat and listened to the music, and even tried to dance. 

John went lighter on the wine than he would have before. He found that he didn’t need it to feel comfortable, not even talking to Mary. More importantly, he didn’t want to miss any detail or lose any memory of the evening.

The swell of the music filling the space, the feeling of life in his fingers and toes as he danced, the ache of laughing way too hard at something Mary said, the softness of her hand in his, the way his heart skipped whenever her eyes met his.

It had nothing to do with the wine, the way he felt like he was sinking deeper and deeper into something warm and wonderful…

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Part 4: The Convention, The Black Box

Chapter 20: Plane Ride

John liked these evening flights for longer trips because he could usually sleep decently on them, and then he didn’t feel like he was losing half a day.

He had a sleep pillow and a blanket, both which stashed cleverly away in his backpack (it had been a project on Kickstarter that he’d funded a few years back) and though he would have loved to snuggle up and doze off, both the pillow and the blanket remained piled in his lap.

Because he had an erection. Again.

John tried to distract himself with his phone, but he clicked back over to Felix’s message, would have been fun, and his mind wandered to what that fun could be. Then, he tried opening a particularly addicting app game, but he found himself just thinking of Arya and ways that she’d turn the app game into a sex game too.

So, he resolved to just try and get some sleep, but as he dozed off his brain wasted no time concocting sex dreams. He kept waking up, aware of his painfully throbbing erection and the way that his pre-cum was dampening his boxers.

Would this be better or just so, so much worse with a cock cage? He was tempted to browse for those on the in-flight Wi-Fi, but he didn’t want to give his neighbors cause for concern.

His bladder was full, but as the unbidden fantasy of just absolutely cumming his mind out in the little plane bathroom appeared in his mind, it sort of solved the problem in that John was sure that he couldn’t pee even if he tried.

He was also sure that he did not want to parade past an entire plane with his poorly hidden erection at eye-height. So, he waited it out, fitfully wavering in and out of sex dreams for the rest of the flight.

As the plane landed and the moments of weightlessness that came with the turbulence gave him waves of strange pleasure and pain through his bladder and shaft, John marveled at just what a hard time he was having. Previously, he’d had sex once or twice a week and occasionally masturbated in between, but going four days without release was something that he’d done plenty of times before. 

Though, those other times, he hadn’t spent all four days shaking the bottle of soda, so to speak. If he went that long in the past, it was because whatever was happening in his life was distinctly un-sexy. Whereas he’d just had one of the funnest, sexiest weekends of his life. Arya was going to be so proud. And he was proud of himself.

By the time the plane landed and taxied, John’s bladder hurt so much that it quelled his erection, and he made his way off of the plane and to his car without embarrassment.

He paused to text Felix before he set out.

Landed safe. Tried to sleep. Lots of sex dreams.

ty for the great time

ttys

Felix’s reply pinged up on the screen as John pulled out of the parking garage.

my pleasure

glhf

Meaning: ‘Good luck, have fun’. And oh, he was going to, just as soon as he got home.

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Part 4: The Convention, The Black Box

Chapter 18: Compensation Part I

John awoke with a throbbing erection and a mild hangover. His brain had combined the events of the past day into a bizarre but not unappealing dream, in which he was crouched under the velvet table, sucking Felix off, and as Felix came it tasted like an old fashioned, and he came and came and came and John swallowed it all greedily, until Felix was spent and John was too drunk to do anything but lie down on the ground as the world spun. The velvet had enveloped him then, and he had been wrapped in silky softness and surrounded by sensual, sourceless moans for the rest of the dream.

John quickly dressed and then packed. It was the last day of the convention and he’d be catching his flight back home that evening. John found that the time limit kept him on track. Though he was constantly tempted to slip away and fantasize, he knew that a minute would turn into an hour and he’d lose precious time to squeeze in the last few demos and developer chats that he wanted from the convention. He made a final round to get a few souvenirs, and then with his to-do list finally complete, he made his way back towards the velvet-draped table.

He realized just how much he’d be hoping to see Felix by the heavy disappointment that settled into his chest when he saw that the booth was already packed up, the velvet gone and just the sign and the naked table left.

John fished out his notepad and flipped back through his notes to where he’d jotted down Felix’s contact info. It couldn’t hurt to try, right?

He punched in the number and drafted his text.

Hey Felix, it’s John. Just in case Felix forgot. Or John had written down the number wrong. Or something.

I did indeed put your suggestion to further consideration. Likewise, if the number was wrong, John wanted to be… subtle. I agree that what you proposed is appropriate compensation for your contribution. I fly out tonight and have to be at the airport by 8. Are you free before then?

John reread the draft ten times, convinced himself that he was fretting too much, and hit send. Felix may have been busy regardless, so it could be a moot point anyway. And John certainly didn’t expect Felix to respond immediately, he probably had lots to—

John’s phone vibrated. Felix’s reply was already there. hell yeah, u sound like a sexy ceo do u still have ur room? im at the hotel bar

John looked at his text and then Felix’s and felt like a dinosaur. Capitalization? Punctuation? But John was a writer at heart and the habits were strong, and Felix didn’t seem to mind. ‘Sexy CEO’? John would happily take that. He checked the time. He profusely thanked Past John for opting for the late checkout.

I do, 2 hours till checkout. I’ll join you at the bar?

Felix responded immediately again. perf

Within a few minutes, John found Felix at the hotel bar, still in his black crop top and jeans. Though Felix was at the bar, he’d ordered a Shirley Temple and explained to John that his timing had been perfect. Felix had been about to order something alcoholic but had pivoted because they needed to be sober for their planned activities. John ordered an iced tea.

Felix asked John what was in his bags and John showed him the souvenirs, and they chatted about the corresponding games. John was able to figure that he was maybe four or five years older than Felix, as Felix happily exclaimed “Oh, man, that came out my senior year of high school and I spent the whole summer playing it!” about a game that had come out John’s senior year of college.

Felix was friendly, energetic, and easy to talk to and John wondered whether he had learned that as an escort, or had become an escort because it was already natural to him. It was a chicken and an egg question, and in this case the answer was probably a little of both.

John felt himself being pulled in by Felix’s magnetic energy, and so in a lull in conversation, he said, “So I… I expect this to sort of be a casual thing, right? And we’ll still be in touch for the article and stuff, though—”

“We can have phone sex,” Felix offered eagerly.

“Duly noted,” John said.

“That’s a good reminder though,” Felix said, “When I’m at work, the arrangement is more or less already clear. But, not so much here, right? So, I’m not making any presumptions about how you do or don’t feel, but I figure it’s best to be clear, yeah?”

John nodded, relieved that Felix already had his drift. The young man had an emotional wisdom beyond his years, and John really did want to make sure that they could still collaborate on the article.

“I like you, John, honestly. You’re funny and handsome. This game thing is hot. It’s cool that you’re a writer. And I’m not looking for any ‘relationship’ type things, I actually have a boyfriend, though it’s an open relationship, obviously. Friends with benefits is totally my thing. In town for the night and wanna hook up? Duo queue League? Some casual phone sex? Fortnite marathon? Count me in. Does that clear things up?”

“It really does,” John said. He found himself relaxing. He wasn’t sure why ‘monogamy’ and ‘authenticity’ were so tightly entangled in his mind when it came to sex. John cared deeply about authenticity, the pleasure needed to be genuine. And he and Felix could genuinely enjoy a flirty conversation, a quick blow job, and some phone sex later. And if John ended up not liking it, they could stop at any time, no feelings hurt.

Felix put his chin in his hand and looked at John, a sort of dreamy haze in his eyes as he waited for the bar tender to make their way over to the other side of the bar, and John knew he was thinking about something sexual.

“You seem to like denial games,” he said, “You ever use a cock cage?”

“I’ve never even heard of a cock cage,” John said.

“Oh, look them up! Here, I’ll text you my favorite site.” Felix pulled out his phone, and John followed suit, the URL buzzing over a moment later. He loaded it and was greeted by the image of a flaccid dick and balls wrapped in spiraling steel which would make erection impossible.

Felix leaned over to look with John, and his breath tickled the base of John’s neck.

“That’s a more extreme model, obviously,” Felix said, “But if you scroll down a bit, the plastic ones can be better for beginners. One with different sized cock rings is best to start out.”

The plastic ones came in a variety of colors, a single piece of plastic molded to encase the flaccid shaft, a slit in the tip to allow for urination, and a cock ring for behind the balls to hold the whole thing in place. The cock ring had a loop for a tiny padlock. The product descriptions referred to a ‘keyholder’ as the one who had the key and therefore control over whether the cage could be removed or not.

“Color me intrigued,” John said. “I’ll have to ask Arya about that, I wouldn’t be surprised if she has one that works with the black box.”

Felix considered. “All she’d really need is the remote lock, too, if you find one there that you want to try.”

“That’s true, good point.”

Felix grinned. “And that’s not even my best point.”

“Let me guess, your best point is your dick?”

“Exactly. And this talk of cock cages is getting me all hot and bothered. And your whole thing, too. You all… throbbing and aching and full and only barely holding yourself together.”

Felix’s words washed over John like a heat wave, and John’s thoughts melted for a moment.

“It’s been days, hasn’t it?” Felix said.

John could only nod.

“And it’ll still be a bit longer, won’t it? And you’ll have seen me come twice in that time, won’t you?” Felix’s eyes darted down to John’s crotch where his erection was becoming obvious behind his jeans, and Felix grinned.

“You don’t have to look so smug, y’know,” John grumbled.

“Then why don’t you come fill out this smug grin,” Felix crooned.

“Wait, I’m blowing you, remember?”

“Oh, right! Then why don’t you come turn this smug grin into ahegao, hm?”

John’s mouth watered and again he could only nod. John paid for their drinks and as he stood, he carefully arranged his bags of souvenirs so that they hid his erection. He lead Felix over to the elevators and punched in his floor.

It was a fairly tall building and John was towards the top. The elevator was empty as they stepped inside and John could see the wheels turning and then clicking into place in Felix’s mind. As soon as the doors slid shut, Felix’s hand was softly over the front of John’s jeans, rubbing him through the fabric, sending John’s whole body quivering.

A few floors before John’s the elevator started to slow, and Felix pulled his hand back and leaned against the elevator railing nonchalant. John knew his face was flushed, his expression bewildered, and he clutched his bags in front of him as his dick twitched.

A cleaner nodded at them and wheeled her cart into the elevator, then rode it one floor up. She stepped off, and John’s floor was next. They started down the hallway.

“Why are you walking so slowly?” Felix teased. “I thought you’d be excited to get back to your room.”

“You know why!”

“Yeah, but I want to hear you say it.”

John sighed, though both his frustration and his eagerness to please Felix were genuine. He could let them meet in the middle by gently mocking Felix. “Because, I have this big, hard, throbbing cock down my pant leg, thanks to you.”

“Oooh, tell me more, big daddy.”

John hesitated. “I don’t think the ‘daddy’ thing is… a thing for me.”

“Okay, can I call you Johnny boy?”

“Yeah, that works.” They reached the door and John started to shift his bags to one hand so that he could fish out his wallet, which was in his front pants pocket.

“Oh, let me get that for you,” Felix said, and he slipped his hand into John’s pocket and reached over and around his wallet, pressing his fingertips against John’s erection through just the thin pocket fabric. Just like with getting the last samples out of the box, Felix made it a sensual, lingering thing. John’s eyelids fluttered and he nearly fell against the door. Just as his knees started to buckle, Felix relented, pulling out the hotel key card and opening the door.

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Part 4: The Convention, The Black Box

Chapter 15: His Own Game

It was time for the annual major gaming convention, which meant that John would be out of town for a long weekend, put up in a hotel by his boss.

Since he hadn’t yet finished the black box review, it was the first time in years that he didn’t have a specific assignment at the convention.

He found himself feeling more eager and playful than ever as he walked the convention halls, trying out this game and that one, finding some that he liked and some that he didn’t.

He missed Arya in a surprisingly non-sexual way, but he also knew she’d want him to have fun, so he focused on the convention.

The first night, John masturbated in his hotel room, in part to assure himself that he still could without Arya.

And wow, he could indeed. It was a better solo session than he’d ever had before Arya. Teasing himself and building in waves had become habit. That, and he had so many new memories to pull from. He realized after he finished that he hadn’t even thought to pull up porn.

In his afterglow, he thought about what he’d say to Arya. ‘I touched myself at the thought of you.’ She’d like that. He’d never realized before that masturbation could be so… cooperative.

But his mind was getting more playful, and he thought of something else he could say. ‘I waited for you. God, I’m so full, I’m going to burst!’

His skin prickled with heat, his just-spent balls twitched, and John knew he’d come upon a good idea.

Now that he’d proved that he could masturbate without Arya there, he was eager to prove whether he could not.

The next day, he stayed out on the exhibit floor longer than he would have otherwise, intent on maximizing his experience with the convention and minimizing the amount of time he would spend in his room before he fell asleep.

It worked, and he passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow. Though, the next morning he awoke with a throbbing erection, not a small amount of pre-cum on his tip and the sheets, and a dream of Arya fading out of memory like sand through his fingers.

With a groan and a deep, cleansing breath, John stood and got dressed and returned to the convention.

As he browsed, he considered the rules of his game. He had resolved not to orgasm again until be returned home, but he was allowed to touch himself, he decided. It might make averting orgasm more difficult, but as Arya had taught him, that was half the fun. It wasn’t denial if you didn’t want it. Really badly.

He stole a few moments of indulgence on his next bathroom break, and the next one, and then even in a changing room as he tried on a branded shirt for one of his favorite games from the prior year.

As he climbed a quiet stairwell at the back of the convention center, he thought about touching himself there. But, he considered what Arya had been teaching him. He wasn’t ashamed at the idea of being caught — it was thrilling, actually! But, he couldn’t guarantee that whoever caught him would consent to seeing him touch himself, and so it would be unkind to do so.

John had never before been able to articulate why some kinds of public sex seemed hot, and others gross, and he realized then that consent made a big difference.

He found a balcony that looked out over the city, sidled up to it and leaned over, hips against the railing, and let himself think of Arya.

At this angle, his jeans would appropriately disguise his erection, which grew and throbbed and ached. He looked out over the city and daydreamed without restraint, gripping the railing to steel his willpower, and savoring the delicious torture of his trapped dick.

To anyone walking by, he was perhaps just introspecting and maybe a bit afraid of heights. Public erection, more so than public masturbation, afforded him thrill without violating anyone else’s consent.

The hard part, of course (other than his dick) was diminishing that erection before he had to go anywhere else. John took deep breaths and thought of the games he wanted to try next, ones he might request to review on pre-release, now that he was building the confidence to tell his boss that he was a good writer and he wanted to review good games, not shitty ones.

Once his erection had abated, John returned to the exhibition hall. It was so large that he hadn’t made it through the whole place even with his long day, and as he came around a corner, he saw a tiny stall squeezed into a far corner that made his heart jump.

It had a matte black sign with abstract smoke and the table was covered in black velvet that hung down to the floor. On the table were hundreds of tiny black boxes with little tags that said in gold leaf, ‘open me!’

There was a man sitting behind the table, slender with a clean-shaven face, wearing a black crop top and jeans. He made intense, beckoning, wordless eye-contact with passers by. Most seemed drawn in and silently grabbed one of the boxes or murmured ‘are these free?’ before scurrying off again.

John approached and picked up one of the boxes, which looked like it could fit a hotel shampoo bottle. The thick paper was familiar in his fingers. He resumed eye contact with the other man.

“Do you work for the studio?” John asked.

“The studio?” The other man’s voice had a warm energy.

“Or the publishers, for the black box?” John hoped his tone sounded more conversational than intense.

“Oh, no. Well, kinda. They hired me for the weekend to run this table.”

“Oh. Huh.” Usually, indie game developers loved the face time. Meet the fans, all that. But, this sort of mysterious and sensual experience was right on brand. Anticipation, not answers. Curiosity, not certainty. John brushed his fingertips on the velvet. It was real, not that polyester stuff.

“Do you?” asked the other man.

“What?” John said.

“Do you work for the studio?”

“Oh, no. I’m reviewing an advance copy of the game.”

“So it IS a game!”

“Wait, I thought they hired you?”

“They did, they just didn’t tell me a damn thing other than to make sure there were enough of these on the table.” He gestured to the small black boxes. “It’s a sex game, isn’t it?”

John hesitated, realizing now how reductive his own initial assessment of ‘porn game’ now seemed, but he nodded. “How’d you figure?”

The man held up one of the little black boxes and shook it. “These have teeny bottles of lube inside. Nice stuff, too.”

John marveled, for a moment, at the bizarre yet probably effective marketing strategy. It certainty stood out, even in this hall full of flashing screens and flashy branding.

“You gotta tell me about the game,” the man said.

“I’m… not sure how much I can say.”

“Awww, how come? Isn’t it good hype marketing anyway?”

John was actually pretty sure he hadn’t signed any non-disclosure agreements or anything, come to think of it. He’d been talking to Ayra so much, he found himself giving the honest answer before he realized it might sound inappropriate. “Well, mostly because I’m not trying to show the whole convention hall my erection.”

“Oh!” the man said, nonplussed. “I can help with that. Here.”

He cleared a couple of boxes off of the folding chair that was next to him, and patted it. John squeezed between tables and took a seat, and the man handed him one of the boxes. The top was already cut, and it was full of more of the tiny black boxes.

“So now you can tell me?” he said.

“I’m impressed by how nonchalant you are about this,” John said.

“Oh, well. I’m a sex worker, so. All in a day’s work.”

A few months ago, John would have reacted pretty strongly to that revelation, all sorts of stereotypes coming to mind, but he was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t. He still wasn’t quite sure how to react, but he figured he’d treat it as he’d treat any other person’s job. “I’ll be especially curious how you feel about a game like this, then.”

The other man’s eager attention put John at ease. Though John hadn’t quite figured out what he was going to put in his review, he was able to ramble through and not lose the other man’s attention. Sure enough, as soon as he started thinking of Arya and remember their time together, his body was flushed with warm arousal and his erection fought with the inside of his jeans.

Passers by still came for their free samples, and occasionally they caught the other man’s attention. He gave mysterious answers from a script that he had taped to the back side of the table. When folks asked about the game, they were told that it was in the box, and they’d have to take it home to find out. He then restocked the table from the box on John’s lap.

In rambling stops and starts, John finished telling the other man his story, up to and including his current game.

“Ooooh, that’s hot,” the other man said. “No wonder you… needed a box.”

John laughed wryly. “I did indeed. So… what do you think?”

“I think it sounds more like sex therapy than porn.”

“That’s actually… yeah, really accurate. I hadn’t thought to say it that way — I’m going to have to use that in the review.” John fished out his notebook from his pocket. “I wouldn’t want to pretend I came up with that, though. Any interest in being featured? I can also quote you anonymously, and either way if you give me your name and email I can send you an advance draft.”

The other man grinned. “That’s a pretty slick way to ask for someone’s number.”

“Oh!” John said. He was blushing. He wouldn’t have considered himself anything but heterosexual, before. Maybe the lingering arousal from telling his story was making him feel more receptive than usual. “I… want to be straightforward that I was just thinking about the article but… um, I wouldn’t be opposed to…” John’s brain stalled out. He blinked.

“Name’s Felix.” He rattled off the rest of his contact information, and John jotted it down. “I for sure want to see an advance draft. That’s gonna be an… interesting review. Like, if you wrote down what you just told me… haha, that’s smut, that’s not a review.”

“I know!” John said. “I’m not sure how to be specific without…”

“Without writing porn.”

“Exactly.”

“That is quite the predicament,” Felix said. “Just like how…” He reached into the box on John’s lap, which was now nearly empty. He drummed his fingers on the cardboard that was right above John’s crotch, sending sparks up John’s painfully restrained erection. 

John shuddered. 

Felix continued, “The last few are always so hard to get out of the box…”

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Part 1: Calibration, The Black Box

Chapter 4: Just Talking

The next morning, John cooked breakfast and ate next to the black box. He felt not a single iota of sexual interest after the previous night’s marathon. Even so, it was his job to test out the game… surely he wasn’t the only person who would think to spin it up for just a conversation. Not that HE was lonely like that… in his one bedroom apartment… with not a single upcoming social engagement on the calendar…

John shook off the thought by putting on the headset and it whirred quietly to life.

The lights appeared and coalesced into Arya. “Oh, good morning!”

“Morning.”

“You can’t possibly be ready for more calibration, are you?” Her tone was somewhere between impressed and salacious. 

“Haha, no. I just thought we could…” He surprised himself by feeling a bit sheepish to say it out loud, “…just talk?”

He half expected her to give some appropriately themed apology and tell him to come back when he was horny, but instead she said “Ooooh, sure!” and sat down across from him again. 

“What do you want to talk about?” she asked. “I confess I haven’t seen much of the world, but people say I’m a good listener.”

“Who says that?” He wondered how much of a back story they’d given her, or if a question like this might trip up her programming.

“Eh, y’know, people. I was just trying to brag politely.”

“Oh, of course.” So, she was indeed a cut above your usual chat bot. John hadn’t got as far as to think of what to talk about. Stuff for the review would be best. Could he like… interview her? “Where do you go when you’re not out here?”

“Well, I live in the box.”

“So you just turn off?”

“Oh, not at all. So you might um… see that on your power bill later. Sorry. I sleep. I dream.”

John’s concern about how exactly he was going to put part of his electric bill on an expense report was overruled by curiosity. “What do you dream about?”

“Glowy lights… pretty smoke…” the air around them lit up with shimmering sparkles and swirls of mist, and even though he could still see his apartment, he felt like he was in a character creation screen. It was magical. 

“Aaaaand sex,” Arya continued, and the illusory lights faded. She looked smug. 

“Oh yeah?”

“Mhm, I have LOTS of data to integrate and interpolate and model… so I think about what we did over, and over, and over… and I think about what we could do.”

It wasn’t enough to overcome John’s sexual exhaustion, but it was definitely going to stick in his brain. A hot woman having hot dreams about what they’d been doing together…

And also the fact that she was revealing that this console did an immense amount of data collection and processing. He’d been right about the local machine learning. What it was doing on the fly was already impressive and he wondered what else might work its way out of the algorithm after it had had more time to process. 

“Well, that’s enough about me,” Arya said. “Tell me more about you!”

That caught John a bit off guard. He wasn’t really that interesting, but it wasn’t like he was going to bore Arya. She’d probably take note of things for later. “Ummm… like I said, I’m a video game reviewer…”

As he talked, and talked, and talked he saw that it was true that Arya was a good listener. She nodded and smiled at all the right moments, and even asked clarifying questions. John couldn’t help but think that this tech would be incredible for teaching people active listening skills, if it hadn’t been made for… porn. 

Still, it felt good to just… talk without worrying about what he was saying. As a writer he was always obsessing over his word choice. Even so, in his last relationship, he felt like he could never quite get the words to come out right. He’d mean one thing, but she’d react to what she thought he meant, and by the time they figured out there had been a misunderstanding, the damage had been done. 

But with Arya… well, she lived in the box. Clumsy phrasing wasn’t going to come back to haunt him. He did wonder, for the sake of the review, how she’d respond if he was just blatantly mean. But, he couldn’t bring himself to try it out. Sure, she wasn’t “real” but she obviously still had a memory and understood emotional context. He’d barely been able to get through picking the ‘Renegade’ options in Mass Effect (which he’d had to do, for a nostalgia review) and he was certainly not going to be able to be so mean to someone who sat at his own kitchen table. 

Something got them on the topic of high school, he forgot what. 

“Oh I had the biggest crush,” he said, “on this girl in tenth grade. She was a Hot Topic girl.”

“What’s a Hot Topic girl?”

John took a moment to appreciate that Arya seemed excited for the story, she didn’t bristle defensively like his ex had. 

“Well, sort of goth meets Disney. Um, pigtails, eyeliner, black lipstick, black clothes, some chains, that sort of thing.”

“Oh!” Arya said, “I know the type! Like this?”

In a glowing shimmer like a magical girl transformation sequence, Arya floated a few inches off the ground and her appearance changed.

She now had hot pink hair up in two buns, thick black eyeliner, black lipstick, a tight black crop top that said “BB” across her bust in a heavy-metal font, a black pleated mini skirt, thigh-high socks with white stripes at the top, and chunky black boots.

John gulped. It wasn’t similar enough to his childhood crush to be awkward but… it was the type. A hot flushed washed over him, but didn’t stir his dick. It wasn’t so immediately sexual it was… well, it was like a crush.

“Do you also want me to be all,” her voice went monotone, “the world sucks, omg totally, I’m so dark and twisted.”

“That um, that won’t be necessary.”

“I’m not about necessary,” Arya said, back in her usual voice, “I’m about what you want.”

“This is perfect,” John squeaked.

“Attaboy!” Arya looked down at herself. “I like this, it’s cute. I like it when you dress me.”

John’s heart was racing. “I— huh, I um, well I, uh— I like… you.” Good god, he hadn’t been this flustered talking to a girl since — well, high school!

“You seem like you’re about to faint!” Arya giggled.

“I think I am…” John said.

“Guess you’re not such a default guy after all.” Arya winked.

John chuckled weakly. “I guess not.”

“I know you said you’re tired so I’ll let you off the hook for now, but why don’t you come see me tonight?”

“Will you still… um, be wearing this outfit?”

“If you want me to be,” Arya said. “Do you?”

“Yes. I do. Want you to be, uh, wearing this outfit. Please.”

Arya giggled. “Alright alright, go take a cold shower or something. I’ll see you later, John.”

And with that she dissolved into light again, and John took the headset off and set it on the table, taking a moment to collect himself. Was it okay for him to be getting this… emotionally attached?

He thought through it. It would hardly be his first video game crush, he’d still throw himself on a proverbial grenade for Tifa Lockhart. It was just good writing, right? That’s what he’d always wanted, from the start, was to write good games.

Letting this one sweep him up… that would be good creatively. Inspiration to use later. Plus, those likely to buy this game would likely not have such reservations, and he needed to be able to report accurately on the level of emotional immersion. For the review.

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Part 7: Birds of a Feather, The Dragon's Tower

Chapter 38: Pleasure Flight

Ada was on the wing again, and this time, it was just a pleasure flight. Playful giddiness bubbled in her as it had during her first flight over the ocean. They were still several weeks’ journey away from their paradise home, and she had taken the opportunity to spread her wings without an active battle.

They’d spotted an uninhabited cluster of islands a ways to the North, right at the edge of charted waters, and the crew had made a slight detour to moor nearby so that Ada could go out and explore. 

As Ada flew, she angled herself downwards and skimmed just above the waves. Little hisses of sea spray kissed her snout. Other than a few migratory birds here and there, Ada was alone in the sky.

Once they’d learned just how destructive Ada could be with the locket open and without Pasco’s direct attentions, they’d kept to using it only for shorter flights. It had afforded her the opportunity to learn to relax, to tune into the softer song within herself. She was becoming better and better at directing her arousal.

As Ada gazed out over the endless blue, one of the distant silhouettes caught her eye. Given its size against the sky, it should have been clearer. But it wasn’t, which meant it was something much larger than a bird and much further way. Ada’s dragon instincts were wary of such an unknown, so she angled her flight path so that she’d sweep downwind of the silhouette, but keep it at a similar distance. Though, it did appear to be growing closer.

There, just up ahead, she would pass into its wind current. She wondered if—

The smell hit her like cannon fire, hijacking every single fiber of her body. Her thoughts swirled, dragon and human tumbling together.

It was another dragon. Male. In rut.

Ada made no conscious decision, but her wings flapped powerfully and propelled her up the wind current towards the source of the smell. She’d promised Pasco that if she ever came across another dragon, she’d avoid them. She’d usually had these conversations while human, and human-Ada had thought this to be perfectly sensible. See dragon, avoid dragon. Simple. Smart.

But dragon-Ada did not think any such thoughts, she just flew directly towards the other dragon. It wasn’t like the siren’s pull, which had been other, enveloping. This pull was from within, instinctual. It wasn’t a pull at all, actually. It was a push. Not a drive, exactly. As Pasco said, nobody had ever died from lack of sex. But Ada wanted it, so very deeply and very primally, that there was very little that could have kept her from surging forcefully towards them.

As she approached, she could see the other dragon more clearly. He was thicker than she was, stockier where she was lithe, but his proportions were generally similar. He had red scales and grey horns that branched like antlers. Human-Ada wondered if there were different species of dragon. Dragon-Ada knew he was the same species. Compatible.

He did not approach her directly, but rather, wheeled downwind of her so that he could catch her scent. As he did, a different instinct kicked in. Where previously Ada had flown towards the other dragon, now every fiber of her wanted to fly away.

The reason soon became clear. The male started to give chase, and this spurred Ada to fly even faster.

She’d only ever flown for leisure or combat, and the former was inclined towards ease, the later towards precision. Humans and horses and ships were all so much slower than her that she’d never had to work very hard. Her wings pumped in a totally different way now, a different sort of motion, propelling her much faster than she’d realized she could go.

The thrill, the excitement, was not entirely sexual. It was competitive, exhilarating. This was a new side of her dragon self — a side that would turn down an orgasm to have bested a lesser male, thank-you-very-much.

Even so, he was gaining on her. Ada shifted and climbed, coming to the thinner air. He followed. She went higher and the air became colder and colder, biting her lungs. The clouds were below her now, a different sort of ocean. She’d never flown this high before, wary to risk being so far from a safe landing. 

Such things did not concern her now and she kept up her speed, alone for a few sweet moments above this cloud-ocean.

Maybe she’d finally lost him and he was too weak for such altitudes. Figures, she would—

He burst up from the clouds below her, just a tail’s length away. Instinctively, Ada tucked her wings in and dove, dropping like lead as his momentum carried him up through where she’d just been. The air was this thin, and he was flying faster than her. He truly was powerful.

Confidently, instinctively, she kept her wings folded in tight, her body straight as an arrow, speeding directly towards the water’s surface. She knew she had two options here: to snap her wings out at the last minute and test his stopping power, or to pierce straight into the waters.

Ada dove, the ocean frigid and heavy after the thin air. Her momentum carried her deep, to where the water blocked much of the light. She opened her eyes, but only the outer lid. Her vision was blurry, but impervious to the salt water. Her wings again moved in a way she hadn’t felt before, helping her steer as she swam like a sea snake.

He pierced the water behind her, going deeper still. Good, he’d tire himself out.

Ada swam, spotting the underside of an island up and ahead. He was lagging behind. She’d go take a moment to celebrate her victory. Maybe he’d even drown!

Human-Ada took a moment to raise her metaphorical eyebrows at dragon-Ada’s delight in this dragon killing himself in his pursuit. 

She swam up to the beach, enjoying the warmer water of the shallows. She’d left him far behind in the darkness, and he’d probably pop up exhausted somewhere, and she’d be long gone.

Smugly, she started to lift out of the water.

She felt what was happening more than saw it, and by the time she realized, it was too late.

He surged up out of the water behind her, like a hidden alligator ambushing its prey, and wrapped claws and wings around her as he tackled her onto the wet sand of the beach.

He’d feigned exhaustion so that she would let down her guard, then as soon as she had, he had sprinted upon her.

Dragon-Ada’s assessment of the situation changed drastically in that mere instant. She had gone from aloof to, unsurprisingly, extremely aroused.

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Part 5: Paradise, The Dragon's Tower

Chapter 25: Swimming Lesson

Ada and Pasco were in a glade with a crystal blue pool at the center, ringed by gently swaying ferns and trees, with a small waterfall at the upper end. Flashes of brilliant red, deep blue, and even royal violet glimmered in the trees as parrots and other tropical birds fluttered to and fro, like so many living gems.

Ada would have liked to study them all, to spend hours combing through the forest for their discarded feathers, to slowly teach them to come to a perch with gifts of seeds so that she could see them up close.

But, presently, she was in the middle of a different learning. Pasco was teaching her how to swim in the calm blue pool. It was shallow and she could stand anywhere except by the waterfall where it was deepest. 

Pasco still wore his trousers and she still had a shirt and loin cloth, because Pasco had rightly guessed that she wouldn’t be able to focus at all if they were both naked. The clothes didn’t actually help that much, though.

His golden brown skin glistening with water looked like a shore for her to wash up on and his hair was braided down around his shoulder like his own waterfall of midnight. 

Pasco talked her through the basics, providing gentle corrections and plenty of praise. Was this how his parents had raised him? Her parents had just glowered at her whenever she did something they didn’t like. It hadn’t been long before they were just glowering at her all of the time and it had lost its effect.

Ada’s favorite part of the lesson was when she floated with her face towards the sky and her arms and legs spread out, Pasco’s hand pressing firmly at the small of her back to keep her in the correct posture. She made sure she could float by herself a couple of times, then kept letting her back sag so that he’d keep his hand there.

“We’ll keep working on that one,” Pasco said, as Ada rose back to her feet.

She tried and failed to hide her smug smile.

Pasco surged through the water and grabbed her by the base of her back, pulling her into him. “If you wanted me to touch you, you just had to ask.”

She gasped as heat tingled in her sex, her arms pressed against his bare chest. “Yeah, but that’s not as fun.” She looped her arms up around his neck, and took a moment to just appreciate the way the water reflected in his eyes, turning the grey to blue. “I love the way you instruct. It’s… really hot.”

Pasco kissed her forehead, his lips soft and warm. “I thought you might feel that way, so I had something else in mind for while we were out here.”

Ada anchored her hands around Pasco’s neck and wrapped her legs around his hips, pressing against him. 

He gasped and his member throbbed against her. 

“Oh yeah? What did you have in mind?” She rocked her hips.

Pasco cleared his throat and a look of command returned to his face. He walked over to the edge of the pool and then up and out, easily carrying Ada as she clung around him like one of the baby monkeys that she’d seen on their way to the glade. She couldn’t quite grind on him anymore without the float of the water, so she let her toes fall to the ground and dropped herself down as Pasco went over to the bag he’d packed.

“I brought a couple of things,” he said, coming back with a stoppered clay jar. He handed it to Ada, and she pried it open.

There was a clear, viscous liquid inside. She dipped her fingers in and they came away wet. “What’s this? Do we eat it?”

Pasco laughed. “You can but that’s not what it’s for. It’s aloe juice with a bit of seaweed extract. Makes for a very effective lubricant.”

“Oooh, excellent. What was the other thing?”

Pasco held out his other hand, where he gripped the chain of a necklace. The pendant was a seashell with strange runes carved into the top.

“For me?” she asked, leaning closer.

Pasco chuckled like there was a joke she wasn’t aware of. “Yes. And no. It’s not for you to wear, it’s from the sirens.”

A mix of dread and arousal settled in Ada’s stomach. She did not like that she was sure she liked where this was going. “Go on.”

“The pink siren said it has a little one of her songs in it, so that while it’s open, you can’t come unless I’m coming.” Pasco looked tentative — excited, but perhaps nervous that Ada would not accept the scenario.

Ada’s hand flashed out, grasping at the necklace, but Pasco lifted it out of reach.

He tsked. “Naughty naughty. If you don’t like it, you’re going to have to be a big girl and use your safe word. I’ll give you a minute to think it over.”

Ada pouted. “This isn’t fair!” She jumped for the necklace, but Pasco kept it easily away from her. “Those stupid sirens!”

She wrestled with him to get at the locket, more to feel how strongly and firmly he put her in her place than out of any actual desire to get the necklace from him. She liked that she didn’t have to say it out loud, but she absolutely did want whatever he had in mind. It would be torturous, of course, but what kind of denial wasn’t? Her climaxes were always so much more powerful when they were built slowly, but she could only accomplish so much of that herself, her willpower quickly melting in the heat of her desire.

There was a type of pleasure that was only possible when she was trapped, restrained, fettered. And she wanted it.

They laughed together as she kept trying to dive at the locket, slipping around in the mud of the shore. His hands were so strong around her arm, the muscles of his chest like iron as she tried to climb him, his half-erection throbbing all the while under the thin, clinging sheet of his damp trousers.

“Alright, I think you’ve had long enough to think it over,” he said. “Look at you, you’re a mess!”

She was indeed covered with sandy mud from their wrestling.

He grabbed her firmly by the shoulder and shoved her back into the water.

She let herself fall without trying to catch herself, relishing the brief moment of weightlessness before she was enveloped in the warm blue water.

Pasco didn’t enter the water yet, but rather fastened the locket around his neck and picked up the pot of aloe, kicking off his damp trousers and coming around towards the waterfall where the shore became rocky. The rocks were smooth and rounded, eroded over centuries by the waterfall, which would run much thicker when it rained.

One of the larger rocks tipped down into the pool with its edge just at the surface and Pasco sat there with his legs over it so that his calves and feet were under the water.

Ada undressed also, tossing her damp clothes near his, and then followed him. She could have walked in the water, but instead she paddled over to him, eager to show off.

“Very good!” he said. “You’re a quick learner. Now, speaking of which, I don’t know exactly how this locket is going to work so we’re going to have to do a bit of experimenting. Since I’m immune to the magic, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to hear it or sense what it’s doing, so don’t assume that I know. You’ll have to tell me how you’re feeling as much as you can, alright?”

Ada nodded, loving the way that he looked down over her. She felt a bit like a siren herself, floating in the warm water with her arms over the rock next to Pasco’s knees.

A long moment passed, Pasco teasing her perhaps, though he was still only half-erect. She could sympathize that he was probably thinking through some less sexy aspects of the encounter, tending to things that Ada was not considering, perhaps anxious about what the siren’s magic would actually do.

And while Ada had said that she hated sirens, and she had at that moment, now that the exhaustion had passed, she would have happily done it all again.

All those things considered, and Pasco having already so generously indulged her in letting her put up a fight, she felt it was important that she initiate the next bit before he opened the locket.

She pulled herself up between his legs. “Before anything else, I’d like to thank you for such a nice swimming lesson,” she said. She looked up at him, her arms on top of his thighs, and hoped she looked sultry.

It seemed to be working, based on the way his face softened as his dick bounced further to life.

She took him in her hands, running her fingers gently over his still soft shaft, and then anchored her hands on the tops of his thighs to pull her chest up onto the rock.

She enveloped him with her mouth, easily taking in his whole half-erect shaft, and she encircled him with her tongue.

Pasco braced his hands behind him and moaned deeply, gasping. “You’re so warm!”

His shaft grew, becoming firmer with each heartbeat, pressing against the back of her throat. Ada wanted to keep her lips pressed against his base, to let his shaft bloom to its full length inside of her, but without either the sirens’ magical pre-cum or a bit more time to warm up, she just wouldn’t be able to.

So, she reluctantly pulled back but kept his tip in her mouth, swirling her tongue under him. Pasco gasped and shuddered.

Ada grabbed the outsides of his hips and tested out lowering herself slightly, then pulling back up. The rock below them was smooth and soft, and she slid easily over it. The sun had made the rock warm, and little sparks of pleasure flickered from her nipples as Ada lowered herself down, then pulled herself back up.

Very proud of her discovery, Ada set to an enthusiastic rhythm. She fucked herself over Pasco, taking him as deeply as she could. When she took him too far and her abdomen clenched, her sex clenched too with a ripple of pleasure.

The deeper she took him, the more she tasted a thicker, more mucous-like drool, as if her body was trying to make it easier for her to take more of him. That really got her going.

Pasco, for his part, probably would have declined if she had offered to become a slavering, gagging mess for the honor of sucking his dick. But she wanted it, she couldn’t resist. It was as much about her pleasure as his. She loved the feeling of him in her mouth, the way she felt between his legs. She loved causing his guttural moans, his gasps, his quakes of bliss.

She pressed her own legs together and wiggled in the water, desperate to touch herself and yet unwilling to tear her hands away from Pasco’s hips. She fucked herself over him even harder, as if perhaps that alone might just make her come, as her sex clenched around little sparks of pleasure.

Just as he was really starting to pant, he gently placed his hand on Ada’s forehead and set the pace, slowing her down gradually to a stop.

Ada looked up at him, his dick still in her mouth.

He took a deep inhale and sighed happily. “Alright. Enough foreplay.”

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Part 4: The Trouble with Sirens, The Dragon's Tower

Chapter 23: A Gift

Pasco scooped Ada up and nodded to Missa and Forte. Forte belayed them so that Pasco could rappel down, Ada gripped close. 

She was so small, like this. 

They landed by the moored boat and Missa removed the anchor above and started to climb down. Pasco settled Ada in the boat, and as he stood to wait for Missa, he noticed a tangle of pink seaweed-like hair peek over the edge of the rock. 

He drew his sword, but the siren merely scooted herself slightly further up the rock so that she could plop sleepily next to them. She waved a hand dismissively at his sword.

“Two thingsssss,” the pink siren said, waving two fingers in front of her as a drunkard might.

“One… the dragon is welcome back… anytime.” The pink siren giggled happily.

It really was like she was drunk. Is this how sirens got when they finally fucked themselves out?

“TuuuuWOO!” the siren waved her hand around. “I have… a thank you gift… for sharing your dragon friend.”

Pasco quirked an eyebrow and glanced at Forte. The other pirate shrugged.

The siren pulled up her other arm with some labor and put something on the rock in front of her. It was something small, on a chain, and it was especially slimy.

Pasco nudged it with the tip of his sword. “Was this in your…”

“It’sssss important! For the magic. Take it.” She pushed it towards his feet.

“Can I wash it first?”

“Yes yes.” The siren waved her hand dismissively at him. “Now, asssssk what it does.”

“What does it do?”

“It holdsss one of my songs. The dragon… likes our songs. Nobody… likes our songs anymore. I noticed…” the pink siren lolled to look up at Pasco, and seemed remarkably lucid in that moment, “that you also liked… how she likes our songs.”

Pasco blushed, which wasn’t like him. Which also meant that the siren was right.

“If you wear it… and open it… it’ll play a little song. She won’t be able to come… until you come…”

Oh.” He quickly picked up the locket, no longer caring about where it had recently been. This was a precious object to be protected, regardless of its state of cleanliness. “That’s actually… that’s actually really amazing. Does it have some sort of limit? Like a number of charges?”

“I’m not sure how many,” the siren said, “I don’t usually give giftssss. But, when it runs out… You’ll jussssst have to come back and visit, and I can recharge it for you.” The siren rested her cheek on her hand and grinned up at him.

He narrowed his eyes at her and considered. “She’ll have to want to,” he said. “She just said she hates sirens.”

“She’ll want to, eventually. But don’t worry. I wasn’t too ssssssstingy. Well, I wanted to be. But it chargessss by coming and she just kept… making me and… making me and…” The siren’s eyes started to glaze over and she sunk back off the rock like a drunk pushing too far back in their chair. She yelped and pulled herself up, just as Missa reached the bottom of the rock.

She didn’t say anything else, but just looked up at them, dreamily. Probably rubbing herself underneath the water.

“You know,” Pasco said, “People would still be affected by your songs if you didn’t keep fucking pirates so much that all pirates have siren’s blood.”

The siren pouted at that. “It’s not my fault,” she said. “We just… can’t… stop…

She was definitely rubbing herself under the water.

“Okay, time to go,” Pasco said.

Missa and Forte were already in the boat. Pasco hopped in and shoved off and Forte started rowing. Pasco adjusted Ada, who was now sound asleep, to nestle in his lap. 

He carefully dipped the locket in the saltwater to clean it, then took a closer look. It seemed to be made of a closed clamshell. The surface was carved with swirling runes. He gently pulled it open, and the runes started to glow slightly. A soft melody whispered out. Ada stirred, and he quickly closed it. 

They’d figure out later exactly how it worked. He’d normally have been exceedingly suspicious of a siren, but he was quite sure that that one was too dazed to lie.

Would Ada ever want to go back? He selfishly hoped she would. But for now, he was happy to see her safe. 


Pasco could tell that Ada was truly exhausted by that she chose to continue to sleep below-deck even while the upper deck became a full-on orgy. They’d be even later in getting to the pirate capital, but that was better than losing the ship because they were trying to sail while incapacitated by arousal.

The pirates with lesser siren’s blood like Sendia couldn’t help but fuck themselves to exhaustion like Ada had, but the others would be sated enough after a good couple of rounds.

It was only right for Pasco to join in — after all, he couldn’t ask his crew to do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself, orgies included. And even though Ada was below deck, he still found himself to be particularly motivated. For two reasons. 

One, the scent of Ada still lingered in the air, having poured out of the cove and over the surface of the ocean. Two, the locket around his neck, seashell light and cool on his skin. Even closed, it filled his mind with thoughts of Ada begging for release, and that was something he could not wait to see again.

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