The Ring of Fire: Stories of the Residents

Atisa's Story, Chapter Two



Jesmin poked her head back into the room as Cemitae retreated down the hall, on his way home for the day. Usually Jesmin wouldn't leave her bond alone when Cemitae came over. She liked him, too, after all, even if she hadn't actually caught his attention at the flight-- maybe not a bad thing, considering how many ladies had; he would hardly have time for another one! And even though Atisa had spent a couple nights at Cemitae's hotel room after the flight, they weren't really... cuddly. Jesmin was hardly third wheel, and that was another reason she didn't leave Atisa alone with him much. She didn't think her bond would be happy if she did. It would give her the reason she needed, in her own mind, for why Cemitae wasn't being romantic or even all that lover-like, why he didn't really touch her more than he touched anyone else, or smile at her any differently, or tell her he loved her.

Well, Jesmin knew the real reason. She suspected Atisa did, too, and just didn't want to admit it.

But this time Cemitae had asked to talk to Atisa alone, so off she'd gone. She had an inkling just what he'd wanted to talk about, too, so she'd gone without even a complaint. Atisa's wishing for more than casual conversation-- mostly about how big she was getting, what her babies might be like, and how his other four mates were faring-- was starting to get obvious to people not bonded to her. Even Arlen was starting to get irritable when Cemitae was concerned, on her behalf, and Arlen was never irritable.

"Atisa, you okay?" Jesmin tried again, slithering in a little shyly. Atisa-- dragon-formed, as always now that she was starting to get heavy with the eggs Cemitae had sired-- was curled up awkwardly on the couch, away from the door and Jesmin, her horns very nearly punching a hole in the fabric and one wing trailing onto the floor.

"No," she answered thickly.

"Yes, you are," Jesmin countered, not ungently, and she stopped next to the couch, ducking under her bond's wing and sliding up onto the couch with her.

"He isn't ever going to love me, is he?" Atisa sniffed without looking up, though she did half-fold her wing around Jesmin. Jesmin tucked the end of the leading tine under her hip with one of her own miniature wings, to keep it from sliding.

"Probably not," she admitted. "But does that really surprise you? I mean, really-- five ladies!"

"I just thought, maybe.... He was so sweet when I-- when we--" She broke off with another sniffle.

"I know," Jesmin sighed, putting her chin on her bond's neck, tucked behind her horns. "He's had a lotta experience being sweet, y'know? Could probably charm anybody to bed, if his looks didn't get them there first."

"Jesmin!" Atisa half-scolded, half-choked.

"It's only the truth," Jesmin scolded back. "Do you know how many kids he has? Lots and lots, all from different people, over the past ten years. It's like he collects them."

"Girls?" Atisa asked, sounding horrified.

"No," Jesmin laughed. "Kids! I think he likes kids more than girls." At Atisa's disbelieving snort-- and, given his new penchant for birth control, she was probably right-- Jesmin amended, "Well, as much as girls, anyway. Come on, 'Tis, don't be so down. You knew it was coming."

"I did," Atisa admitted reluctantly. "But I'd still hoped...."

"I bet he still likes you, even if he doesn't love you," Jesmin pointed out.

"He said I could visit him on Avengaea...."

"And I bet he still thinks you're hot," Jesmin grinned, bumping Atisa's nearest horn with her nose.

She could actually hear the embarrassment when her bond mumbled, "He said he'd tell me whenever he flew in a frenzy.... Not that I would! I know what those things are like."

"Well, I bet those 'visits' wouldn't have to be entirely chaste, either," Jesmin said smugly, tugging playfully on a strand of her bond's hair.

"What's the point, if he doesn't love me?" Atisa sighed, finally shifting enough that Jesmin could see one slightly-reddened eye.

"Fun," Jesmin shrugged. "Feeling desired. Companionship."

"This from the one who's been dreaming about fairy-tale romance since she was a pup," Atisa accused.

"What if you can't find fairy-tale romance until you've really looked?" Jesmin asked, putting back her ears a little. Then they came forward again as she added, wiggling them saucily, "And practiced a little."

"Jesmin!" Atisa exclaimed, with an embarrassed and watery-sounding giggle.

"He'll make a nice friend," Jesmin said firmly. "But I bet he'd make a rotten mate-for-life. Besides, who needs men? You have me!" She gave Atisa's horned brow as best an imitation of a kiss as she could manage, with dragon-lips.

"You're sweet, Jes," Atisa replied through the last of her tears, freeing a forepaw to wipe at her face. She even smiled a bit. Jesmin was pleased.

"Don't you have other things to think of right now than boys, anyway?" she said loftily. At Atisa's blank look, she poked at the bulge of her belly under the fold of her wing. "Babies! They've got a hatching bay all ready for 'em. When are you dropping them?"

"You don't drop eggs!" Atisa protested. "That sounds so-- so--"

"What, vulgar? Like dropping a foal or something?" Jesmin giggled.

"Something like that. But you know, I... don't really know," Atisa admitted, and shifted to roll over onto said belly, examining it critically. "I really hadn't been thinking much about them...."

"Well, now that you can stop mooning over Cemitae, maybe you can. It'll be so neat having a hatchling around!"

"Having a-- don't they adopt them out, here?" Atisa blinked blankly at her.

"Well, yes, but don't you want to maybe keep one?" Jesmin said wistfully. "It's be so cool...."

"I... hadn't thought about it," Atisa answered.

"You haven't thought about a lot of things," Jesmin said pointedly, poking at her bond's distended belly again. Atisa swatted lightly at her.

"Don't laugh at me," she frowned. "If you wanted someone who didn't love you, I wouldn't laugh. But I'll think about it. I don't know what kind of mother I'd be...."

"You were fine for me," Jesmin pointed out. "And it's not like you'd be alone. There's me, and Arlen would rather die than not help out with one of his neices or nephews or whatever, and I bet even Kateni will want to help."

"Once he's done with his own offspring. I can't believe he went behind Arlen's back like that!"

"Well, we didn't exactly give a good example," Jesmin giggled at her. "Both of us, signing up for a flight together, and you doing your part to add to the universal gene pool! At least your part is more likely to be cute. C'mon, 'Tis...."

Atisa blushed, then said firmly, "I'll think about it. Now can we talk about something else?"

"What could be more important than your babies?" Jesmin asked in mock horror.

"Dinner to feed them-- and me-- with!" Atisa shot back, cheer apparently at least mostly returned. "I'm starving."

Considering how well it had worked out last time Atisa had said she'd "think about it", Jesmin laughed and let her bond change the subject.

Besides, she was hungry, too!


Star City

Chapter One - Chapter Three



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