Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
This one’s PG-13.
The former Cisare and Cisara do not message via handheld. They barely tolerate sending electronic mail; Tace remembers thinking that if her parents could send a formally-dressed page with a trumpet and scroll to read from, they’d do it.
There is a video message from her parents in her Inbox.
They want me to come back, she sends to Trini.
Tace blinks at that. It does not bode well that Trini doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
There is a very long pause, during which Tace watches part of the most recent episode of Bitumen Falls and tries to even out her breathing.
Then, Do you want to come back?
Is Mother dying?
Not any more immediately than usual, so far as I know.
Then no. But Father called it a Summons Cisariat.
For fuck’s sake. There’s no legal compulsion there; their father is no longer Cisare, and holds no official power. But traditionally a Summons Cisariat is honored even after the Cisare steps down from power, and if Tace refuses it will be A Thing. And of course he’s playing on your sense of duty.
Tace watches Valeria and Nestor kiss and fade to black before she can think of her reply: It is his favorite thing about me.
“So you’re going to go?” Lin asks, frowning. Linea, the historian, had a healthy distrust of the hereditary monarchy long before she met Tace; the bits of Tace’s life that she’s seen have only served to deepen it.
“I kind of have to?” Tace replies, and Lin shrugs in agreement.
“Do you need someone to go with you?” she asks. “Besides the security detail, I mean. I can take a few days, my grad assistants can handle things for a week, and Javi can work from anywhere–”
Tace thinks she should say no. The three of them together, in her parents’ faces, and she doesn’t know what her father might say–gods and ancestral curses, her mother might say–and will it help or hurt whatever is going to happen? Will it tarnish this, to have her parents near it?
Home is safe. Home is Camwenne. Camwenne is Linea and Javi in the house with the orange door. But maybe safety could come with her this time.
It’s late. Javi is finishing a column in the forward compartment. Tace is wrapped in Lin, both of them in the bed in the sleeping compartment, the train rocking them a little. It’s different, not as enveloping as Javi is, but Tace also loves the softness of Lin’s chest, the feeling of their legs intertwined, the angles of her shoulders and knees and the sensation that they’re tangled up with each other. She thinks the best of all possible worlds would be to have Javi join them, envelop them both as best he could, and let the train rock them to sleep.
“Do you remember?” she asks. The berth’s dimmed lights catch in Linea’s hair, turn it shadowed spun-sugar gold against the pillow, against her skin. Tace can’t remember if she has always played with Linea’s hair like this as she runs her fingers through it, but she has another memory she’s concentrating on right now.
“Remember what?” Lin asks, voice drowsy.
“When I told you I was seeing this boy, too? And I was so scared you’d be upset.”
She feels Lin smile. “I remember. And I told you I’m Roeschist. I thought you’d fall over, you looked so relieved.” Tace snuggles closer, remembers Javi’s shrug and, It’s fine. Can I meet her?
“Do you remember? Javi and me falling in love around you?” Lin’s less drowsy now, more amused.
“Mmmm. Mostly I remember feeling … um, smug. And horny, ‘cause you’re both really hot. And I walked in on you, that time.”
“There were multiple times,” Lin says, barely attempting to stifle her laugh.
“There were?” Tace asks, sits up a little to look at Lin, who looks calmly back, waiting to see what Tace is feeling. She could kiss her for that calm, waiting face. “I only remember one.” Lin’s face turns careful, uncertain, and Tace isn’t sure why, so she grins and says, “I guess I remember that one because. I used it a lot when I was on base … you know, when the nights got long …”
Lin’s face breaks into a smile as she laughs and says, “Oh, for god’s’ sake–I’d call you a perv but it’s not like I haven’t gotten off to thinking about you and Javi a few times.”
Tace decides to be a little brave. “Did we … is, like, watching something we do?”
Lin looks sad, but there’s no anger there. She smiles and runs a finger over Tace’s lips as she says, “Oh, yes. Not always, but more often than all three of us together.”
“I–” She stops, and Lin waits. “I don’t remember all our rules. Or–if they are rules? Agreements. Whatever. I don’t want to hurt you by asking.”
Lin’s voice is soft, full of breath, when she answers, “Ask anyway.”
Tace’s voice matches hers. “Okay. Tell me.”
Lin rolls her over and puts her mouth near Tace’s ear. “You have to tell me, too–which time it was, and how you thought about us.”
Lin’s hands move down to Tace’s breasts, make her gasp softly, “I will, I will,” Tace says, “just … after–”
Lin laughs softly, breath in Tace’s ear, “After. Okay. Tace, you can be so loud …” And Tace may not remember the story Lin is telling her, may not know if she always played with Lin’s hair, but she knows this is the way she’s always loved her, love spun-sugar gold and full of light.
Copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.