Shine: Chapter Nine

Radiant brought Coral back beneath the pier, the little shelter so recently rebuilt by the others above. “Don’t worry,” she said as she removed the device from her mouth, “no one else is here.” She slid the protection from her eyes, rubbing at them in their absence. “I gave everyone a day off, kinda. Not that I hired them…” She cleared her throat, and he smiled. “Thank you for showing me that. For showing me… you. It was… I mean… wow.” He smiled broader. “I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t go anywhere.”

He said nothing, because he did not think he needed to. He had enough practice by now to understand her, but he wasn’t confident enough in his grasp of the language to say more than was absolutely necessary. Gratuitous words were opportunities for mistakes he did not want to make.

She waved her fingers at him as she left, and he waved his back. He stayed in the shallow water rather than pulling himself up onto the pier, because he preferred it. It felt less exposed. He was not afraid of monsters, but land still felt unsafe to him. Perhaps, in time, he’d feel differently about it.

He watched her return anxiously, the way her feet navigated rocks and stones, balanced more often than not on only one of her legs. He could barely understand how she managed to stay upright on two of them. It was no wonder she seemed to fall so often, built the way she was.

His anxiety was rewarded when she lost her balance, sliding on a rock slick with saltwater. He pounced forward so that he could break her fall, wrapping his arms around her as she tumbled backward against him. He leaned back to hold her against his chest, looking down to be sure she hadn’t broken anything. Legs, in particular. Those seemed like they would be very easy to break.


Her voice was not usually pitched that high. He looked at her face, but she was looking downward. He followed her gaze to his hands—or, in particular, the one hand holding her breast, nearly covering entirely the triangle of cloth. Immediately he released her, tried to rearrange the both of them so that she could sit in the water at a safe distance.

“Sorry,” he said, holding up his hands to show that he was not trying to touch her. That was an early rule she’d established, that clothes meant he wasn’t allowed to touch. Her face was turning pink, adjusting the strap that held the garment up, and he felt a vague sense of guilt about it—that he might have made her feel unsafe. He could not quite decipher her expression.

“You can touch me, sometimes,” she said, her voice light and airy, a little bit breathless. Water lapped at her calves and at her thighs. She wasn’t looking at his face, and he wasn’t sure what that meant. He tried to tilt his head into her eyeline to see her better.

“Sometimes?” was the question he settled on. The word was unclear, the context did not tell him when exactly it was that he was allowed to break this rule of hers.

Coral bit her lower lip, square white teeth pressing harmlessly against soft pink skin. It fascinated him to watch her do that.

What did they feel like?

How hard could she bite, before it would hurt?

Bad thoughts.

“On… special occasions?” She said it like a question, clarifying little. Words that he couldn’t decipher in that order, with this context. He raised an eyebrow, and waited, because sometimes it took her time to decide on the words she actually wanted. “You can ask,” she suggested. “I’ll tell you if it’s… um.” Her blush was deepening, face getting redder.

Radiant reached out and crooked a finger under her chin to tilt her face towards him, tired of trying to read her without being able to see her properly. Her flush was the one she sometimes had when he’d kissed her at length, her pupils wide circles of darkness in the paleness of her eyes.

It had taken a while to figure out that she did not purr. He’d just thought she was harder to please than he was.

“Do you want me to touch you?” he asked, and he tried not to sound as pleased by the prospect as he was, how badly he wanted her to want his touch.

He watched the muscles in her throat contract, the way her eyes still tried to avoid his. “Yes,” she said, the barest exhalation, and he purred despite himself, despite her hesitation, fins flaring. His tail moved closer to her, slid beneath her legs along the sand, hips kept at a distance even as he leaned closer to her. Her skin was soft and smooth against his scales, cool compared to his own.

“How?” he pressed, because he did not know how she would want to be touched. She could be picky about it, the way he touched her; he could wrap his arms around her without complaint, and yet sometimes when he touched her stomach she recoiled.

Most of the time when he touched her it was perfunctory, moving her to where he wanted her to be, trying not to think about the way she felt. Easier that way, to simply move people, when they did not listen to him and would not believe it was for their own good.

A bad habit. He shouldn’t have kept doing it with her. But she pushed him away when he overstepped his bounds, and she so rarely pushed him away.

“I… oh.” She made that chirping little fluting noise she made sometimes, which sometimes meant she was amused and sometimes meant she was nervous. He ran his fingertips over the outline of her collarbones, and the small sound she exhaled was new to him. She leaned back as he moved forward, until she was laying out beneath him. “Lower is… lower would be good.”

His fingers trailed lower, brushed along the edge of her clothing. Her hands caught his, and he thought he might have misinterpreted, until she guided him to press his palm to the curve of her breast much like before. His fingers curled, stroked along her skin through the fabric, careful of his claws. “Good?”

Her back arched, pressed against his touch as her hands ran along his forearms. She nodded, and he could not help but catch her mouth in a kiss, wanting to taste her. There was nothing else that tasted like her, soft and warm and oddly sweet. He ran his thumb over the peak that had stiffened against his touch, and though she didn’t purr, the sound she made had him purring loud enough for the both of them.

Her breath shuddered as their mouths separated, her hands returning to those straps at her shoulders. “This is—this—I can’t feel anything through this stupid thing,” she said as she pulled at it, as if he required any explanation. His hand trailed down to her stomach as he watched her, but she hesitated. Then she took a quick breath, pulled the top away from her in one quick motion. Delicate looking skin, impossibly soft, pink peaks pulled tight; even just her top had pressed lines into her flesh, and he traced his fingertip along them. She shivered, and he had learned to love it when she did that, when she trembled and could not seem to decide if she wanted more or less.

“I can touch now?” he asked, and she nodded quickly. He drew a cautious circle around her nipple, and he was immediately rewarded with a trembling mewling sound. He tried kissing the upper curve of her breast, and again her back arched, her fingers tangling in his hair. Her touch against his scalp drew a loud purr from him, and the feeling of it had her nearly pulling at his hair. He ran his tongue over her nipples, but when she arched her back he pulled away, not wanting to risk his teeth against such fragile skin.

She was squirming in the water beneath him, and he leaned back to see her better, the way her hips were shifting against the tail he’d propped beneath her legs.

«I have no idea what I’m doing,» he said, deliberately using the language she did not speak, «but I am very glad it’s working.»

“That’s cheating,” she accused weakly, and she was right.

“Your hands,” he said. “Show me what you want.”

Again she hesitated, and he stroked her hair. Her hand slid between her legs, beneath that last remaining scrap of fabric. She did something to make her back arch, her hips rise and fall.

That was not as informative as he’d been hoping.

Even if it did make him ache to watch her do it, make him want to pin her body against his.

But first he had to figure out what he’d do once he had her there.

He bent down to kiss her, but her mouth sought out his, pressed against his own harder and more fiercely than he ever would. She was not cautious, his lovely Coral, too brave for her own good. “Show me,” he repeated, and she gave a slight nod. Fabric slid away, down her thighs, and he did not expect the orange curls beneath her fingers. She bit her lip again as her knees spread apart, and a low growl of desire escaped him.

That certainly explained her insistence on keeping that area of her body covered.

It explained a lot of things, actually.

He thought of every time she had pressed her knees carefully together, every time she had not wanted to part her thighs, every time she had pulled her skirt lower.

Every time she had wrapped her legs around him to hold him close, every time it had made her blush to do it.

Things might have gone very differently if he’d known this sooner.

Pink, so much of her was pink, soft and small and pink. Her fingers slid along those pink folds, and he watched, fascinated, a quiet growl nigh-constant in his throat. «You’re so small,» he sang, resting a hand on the inside of her thigh. «I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t know how to not hurt you.» His hand moved higher, but he couldn’t use his fingertips the way she used hers, not with his claws the way they were. As her hand moved out of the way, he used the backs of his knuckles instead. He was surprised by how well it worked, grinding her hips against his hand.

“Drago,” she said, and the effect was not quite the same as if she’d been able to sing his name—but close enough, when he knew that she was calling for him.

“Emily,” he said in turn, and the sound of her name made her gasp for air as he touched her. He kissed her, her mouth and then her neck, wanting to feel the way her heart raced for him.

For him, for his touch, enjoying being touched by him as much as he enjoyed touching her. The hand not between her legs found one of hers, went around her wrist before lacing his fingers with hers. Palms pressed together, her hand pinned to the sand beneath the water, her grip on him tightening.

«I could touch you forever,» he sang, «I’ll touch you forever, if you let me. Lovely Coral, brave Coral. I want you to stay here with me, I want to touch you every day, I want to make you sing

He knew she couldn’t understand him, but she moved as if she did. He watched her gaze go distant, head tilting back to expose her throat as her body went taut. Water splashed against her skin, and he held his breath to better hear the way she cried out and gasped for air.

A strange, possessive pride filled him. He’d done that, brought her to climax with nothing more than his touch and a song she didn’t know.

“Drago?” she asked, dazed.

“Yes?” he asked.

“Were you… did you…?” She rose up on shaky arms as he leaned back to give her room, hands leaving her. He licked his fingers curiously, and she nearly fell back again.

Salty-sweet, and he wondered what she’d do if he kissed her there.

“Did you want to…?” She trailed off again, eyes falling to his tail before returning to his face.

“No,” he said, which was not exactly true.

He wanted to.

He wanted very badly.

Those legs of hers spread wide and wrapped around his tail, her hands in his, crying out for him.

He wanted, but there was no easy way to explain that. He didn’t know how it might translate, but in his language, ‘it might not fit’ had connotations.

Still, she looked almost disappointed by his answer. Pensive, maybe. He kissed her forehead. “Should I do it again?” he teased.

Her eyes widened. “Maybe… not… yet?” she stammered, and he laughed as he pulled her closer.