A short time ago, I shared a story called “Encounter” on the Tale. Today, with a dear loved friend’s help, we have what can only really be thought of as the …
By TeraS and her Adored Brother
A promise is a promise.
She said that he would see her again.
It felt like that he’d been waiting … forever.
But … she’d promised.
Waiting for her to walk around a corner, appear on the other side of a room … looking for her in a crowd, seeing a flash of red … not quite her’s … catching a glimpse of ebony hair, not as wild as hers … he didn’t give up on her promise.
He did wonder where she was, when she’d make herself known. Time passed, the seasons changed, and that moment still hadn’t come to be. Her card, the one that held her promise, didn’t carry the sweet scent of cherries any longer. But nonetheless, the memories of that night, of her being close, caring about him … those memories returned when he held that card. It was something that helped him to smile once again.
Yet time passed, as it does. Hours had turned to days, days into weeks, and she’d not returned as she’d promised. Still, the card didn’t exactly say when he’d see her, nor did it ask for him to wait for her. It was a promise, telling him that there was someone out there that cared about him. Her words to him, her smile, that promise she held openly for him, asked that he not give up, not turn away.
Asked him not to give up on his own promise.
He’d taken the chance once, and encountered her. The time came when he had courage once more to take a chance, to see what might be. She’d want that of him, ask him to try. He didn’t think it a poor idea, to try, to see who he might encounter. Perhaps there would be someone that he would be able to call his love. The weeks turned into months of encounters with those who didn’t see the value in dating him, of being with him. He was close to some, they seeing him as a friend, sometimes a confidant, occasionally a brother.
The promise began to feel threadbare.
The leaves fell from the trees; the weather was turning cold. Halloween arrived as the nights became longer, the depths of the shadows becoming more pronounced. A thought brought him along to a secret that made him look at the card, think about what she’d said and her promise, what such a thing meant.
The promise seemed not as it was before.
Thanksgiving arrived and with it came the reminders of another promise broken. The one he’d loved was with another. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but seeing her with another, the two of them laughing together, was a hard thing. He’d given his heart, she’d taken it, then she moved along. It broke his heart a little more knowing that they were together and he was alone. It was a time of thanks, at least it should have been. He couldn’t quite see how there was much, if anything, to be thankful for. The moment she’d been there wasn’t as clear, some of the details were slipping out of his memories. Sadly the choice of the one he loved made the day less happy within himself, a little bit of sadness creeping in.
The promise faded just a bit more in his eyes.
The snows came, the winds carrying the frost and the cold of the winter season. Christmas came, bringing with it wishes for those that could still hold onto their hopes and dreams. The family gathered, as was their way, he being alone as the moment played out around him. Watching his parents open their gifts brought a soft smile. That smile was a little wan as his brother and wife played with their two children, laughing as their presents are opened … together.
Though he hid it well, the promise was heartbreaking.
The eve of the new year arrived, the night upon which promises were made for the coming year, when those fortunate to have another in their lives were able to share their wishes as the old gave way to the new. But this was not what came on this night. He did not go out into the world, to find himself amongst humanity, sharing in the moment, to gather within a promise for another year to be. His place was in his apartment, alone … if not quite alone.
Pika, his only friend, at least the only one that hadn’t abandoned him, watched silently from a window ledge as the merrymakers sang and carried on far below. The cat’s deep grey eyes cast themselves across the room, falling upon a soul that had lost faith in their promise. He sat silently, listening to the laughter outside, his hands slowly rolling an empty can of Diet Coke between them. His eyes were haunted, there was pain in them. The year had burdened him, bent him, pushed him until, finally, depression had become his constant companion.
But that was not quite true. There was one other companion with him. Setting the empty can aside, tears in his eyes, he pressed a finger onto the card she’d given him, dragging it across the table. Six months now since she’d appeared. Six months since she’d given him the card. Turning it over, her name remained there.
He considered tossing it aside, knowing that she’d never return. That her promise was—like every other one—untrue, and it brought tears to his eyes. Closing his eyes, he brushed one hand over them, wetting his skin. A single tear rolled over his cheek, passed into space, and then fell onto the card he continued to hold in spite of his feelings.
Turning the card over to look at her promise, he spoke to himself: “She called me a man of honour. She said that I was good, that I shouldn’t be alone. Why am I? Why isn’t it enough to be understanding, to care, to be there for someone? Why can’t I find someone who loves me? I’m the stereotypical nice guy that finishes last, that can’t find happiness.”
The tears came, the imagined truth he knew must be real pushing him. The card became damp, what little light there was around him shimmering where it fell on the wet card.
“I do everything a good man should … and that isn’t good enough for anyone.”
The card fell from his fingers, the last little bit of the promise being taken with it. It was more than depression, more than self-loathing, and his cat’s fur bristled as she watched him. He stood by the window, a hand stroking her fur, but she knew something was very wrong with him. The sight outside did nothing to help his mood as he watched the snow fall lazily towards the street below. He could see people walking together, happy couples on their way to parties to ring in the new year.
Those thoughts were finally too much. With a sigh, he nudged Pika off the window ledge and drew the curtains closed to blot out the scene outside. The lights were soon dimmed and he walked into his bedroom, once again alone.
He wasted little time, soon crawling into bed, the sheets pulled over, curled under them, a pillow clutched against his aching head. The bed shifted—it can only be Pika, he knows—and he didn’t stir from where he lay. He felt her walking over the sheets, nudging his shoulder with her nose, purring in an attempt to curl up with him. But he didn’t want to; he didn’t have that want inside of him.
What he wanted was something he’d never really had. Someone to love, to lay with in the night, to talk to, to have that connection, that need, filled within him—the need to feel their heat, to have a moment of passion, of love. But all his twin size bed had waiting on the other side of him was an empty space.
“… not worthy of anyone … never find someone to love me …”
His cat was the only one to hear the words whispered, to see the glint of his tears still being shed. The night moved closer and closer to the end of the year and he said not another word. When he felt Pika jump off the bed, he knew: at this moment, like so many before, he was alone.
The clock on the bedside table moved towards midnight, the seconds ticking away. Off in the other room, the card still was wet with tears. Over by the window, a cat peeked through a gap in the drawn curtains, watching the snow fall.
Then, she mewed.
Then, she purred.
A slim hand, tipped with red nails, lightly played over her fur, making her tail dart about in pleasure. But that warmth faded as she looked into a pair of oh-so-green eyes, a questioning mew echoing in the room.
The fingers scratched her ear then were drawn away, followed by the soft sound of heels clicking on the floor. She watched the shadow draped in red as it moved to the card, picking it up, then leaving. She bounded from the window in chase, darting between the shadow’s legs and rushing onwards.
He hadn’t fallen asleep, though he wished that he had. He was restless, turning over, trying to be comfortable. Coming to lie on his side, his eyes focused upon the clock.
It was just a moment before midnight … a single moment.
It seems to go on … forever.
He waits for the hands to move, to mark the passing of time.
But they didn’t.
Reaching out a hand towards the clock, his eyes still wet, he let a sniffle escape. He drew a breath, and in the back of his mind he sensed something in the air …
But his mood rejected it, and he closed his eyes, sighing.
She watched from the doorway, her so-green eyes considering him, his soul.
The bed shifted. It had to be Pika, of course; there was no one else there, he believed. It was the cat nudging him with her nose, trying to get him to roll over, to look, to see. But he wasn’t interested.
She mewled, then bounced off the bed. Somehow that seemed to be appropriate, no one wanted to be with him away. Nothing happened for a time, then the bed shifted again.
Deeply green eyes considered him now, the tilting of a head to the right, her raven locks falling wildly about her shoulders, covering her left eye. Flicking a finger through those errant locks, she held a soft smile as she reached to him, her right hand brushing against his bare shoulder, but he didn’t respond. It was another dream, a fantasy; it wasn’t real. The hand traced his shoulder, then he felt the touch of nails against his skin. He couldn’t ignore the soft lips that pressed against his shoulder next, however. Nor could he ignore a voice from the past: “A gentleman shouldn’t be left alone.”
His eyes remained closed. He didn’t want to open them, didn’t want to find this was all a dream. But he did reply: “You?”
“Yes. I promised.”
He opened his eyes, needing to know she was really there.
It was her, there was no question—the concern in her eyes, the soft smile playing on her lips. He’d expected her to see her as she was that night, but she wasn’t. A long, fuzzy, red, oversized sweater caressed her body. She looked, in many ways, like the girl next door, not the seductress she was said to be. There wasn’t something erotic pulling on him. What was tugging was the look in her eyes, one that reflected his one wish.
“Talk to me… please?”
The tales about her told of what she could do, but his mood, his mind, pushed him towards one single conclusion as he closed his eyes: “Nothing to talk about.”
“There’s always something to talk about.”
She gave him some time to think, to reply, but, when he didn’t, the bed moved again, her body flowing over the sheets. A ebon-haired, red horned and tailed vision lay beside him. She paused there, considering him, then she moved a little closer to him. Then he felt her spooned against him, one arm draped over his waist, the other lightly caressing his hair: “I promised.”
He sighed, it was almost in defeat: “I’m … ready.”
Her reply was concerned, almost hurt: “What … do you mean?”
Slipping out of her embrace, he rolled onto his back, waiting for her: “Take me … please. I’m ready for you to claim me and … just let it be over.”
She was fluid, moving from being beside him to straddling his legs, looking upon him: “Since when?”
“Halloween: I read a story about you.”
He couldn’t; it would only make things worse.
Her hands roamed the sheets over his chest: “Not all stories are true.”
“You are the Queen of the Succubi aren’t …”
The touch of a finger over his lips stopped him: “I do like to think that I’m not as ominous in person …”
She removed that finger, her hands lying lightly on his shoulders: “… and, please, you know my name.”
He still hadn’t reopened his eyes, but knew when she lay closer to him, the heat of her body warming the sheets: “Why … why are you here, Tera? Why after so long … why now?”
Her long hair tickled over his shoulder as she came closer still, her lips nuzzling against his cheek lightly: “I was called here.”
It wasn’t much of an answer, leaving out the who and the how. But that didn’t seem to matter, as her voice was sweet, smooth, and delicious. She spoke not in lust or want, but simply in truth.
He opened his eyes.
She had risen up again, drawing back, allowing him to see her, as she was, for the first time. She hadn’t changed from that night they’d met. There was the matter of her horns, of course, and he knew that her tail was somewhere as well. But she was herself, as the stories had told.
The red sweater was so much more perfect for her than that dress was, he realized. The expression he had made her giggle lightly, tilting her head to the left, a lock of ebon hair covering one of her lovely green eyes: “Are the stories close?”
They were both silent for a time, just looking at each other, he trying to marshal his thoughts, she content to wait for him to do so. Time continued to pause and it took a grey-eyed cat jumping into bed with them and mewing for the moment to break.
Regarding the cat, the red-horned seductress sighed: “Pushy thing, isn’t she?”
He watched his cat rub herself against Tera’s thigh, looking at him expectantly: “Pika?”
Tera traced a finger over the cat’s back: “The stories about me and cats are, for the most part, true.”
He didn’t know what to say as his furry companion found a corner of the bed and curled up there.
“I’m not here to claim your soul. I’m here … because.”
“Because … why?”
The sigh was an aching one: “I’ve seen you suffer… watched from afar and saw. I felt your need. I felt the call of your heart … I’m here now.”
His blue eyes locked onto her deep, emerald orbs. He looked intensely into them as he expressed what he believed to be the truth: “You should just take my soul. I’m not anyone special.”
She shook her head, her mane dancing wildly about her: “No. Sorry. Not going to happen. Nothing good comes of that. You are not going to die at my hand, nor any of my kind. You are better than you know, and it would not be a mercy or a gift.”
“So, is this just out of pity?” the question was as blunt as a crowbar.
Her tail appeared behind her, the tip looking over her shoulder at him it seemed: “Pity? Oh, my dear sweet, none of this is for pity’s sake. I don’t do pity. This isn’t about sex; this isn’t about a quick roll in the hay. You are better than that and you know so.” Her expression turned soft: “This is about mending a lonely heart and helping its owner find a path to happiness.”
She had, of course, a bemused smile: “Why not?”
The clock striking midnight came unexpectedly. He found his lips pressed against her own, a kiss like none he’d felt before. She loved him, more than anyone had, more than anyone really could. It wasn’t for sex, passion, or raw need. She … just loved him. As the kiss broke, she kissed his lips twice more before her lips brushed over the tip of his nose: “Happy New Year.”
He … smiled. Something he hadn’t done since that night they’d first met. She’d come because she loved him. It wasn’t a love that could really be put into words, exactly. The next kiss was a little deeper, their tongues entwined, fingers cupping cheeks, the delicious moment of accepting.
He closed his eyes again, savouring her touch, her curves against his skin. He knew, truly, that if he wanted, he could let himself go, be buried within her, be held by her. She could do anything to him and she would allow him whatever he wished.
In all of the heat, the need, the desire, one part of him won that battle. Opening his eyes, she was still there, eyes warm and glinting, waiting for whatever he wished. Her smile said, without a word, that it was okay, whatever he wanted from her.
He knew, exactly, what he wanted: “Will you …?”
Tera moved to straddle his waist, the only thing separating them was the thin sheet between them: “Yes.”
He took her hand and kissed her palm: “I want you.”
“I know. I can feel how hard you are. How you are aching. But …”
He smiled, she knew. He wanted her, but not in the midst of being depressed: “But that’s not what I want.”
She nodded: “Of course … You’ll know when. But …” Her fingers gathered up the bottom of her sweater, rolling it slowly up her body: “… sex isn’t the same thing as being intimate.”
Lifting herself off the sweater, she rolled it up until the edge was just above her navel: “That’s what called me here.”
Tugging a little further, the curves of her cleavage came into view: “For me, it’s been a moment since I last saw you. Sometimes I lose track of time, lose my place.”
The sweater was pulled upwards, over her horns; then she held the bundled red against her cleavage, hiding her curves from view: “You never lost me. You’ll never lose me.”
Tera slid off, moving to the side, pulling at the sheet as she did so, the sweater being dropped beside the bed, for the moment forgotten: “I’m part of you for as long as you want me.”
She stood beside the bed, completely nude, her fingers lightly tracing over her thighs: “You’ll always smell cherries.”
As she said those words, that scent he’d pushed away came back, stronger than before, clearer, more alive.
He didn’t understand, not really: “Cherries?”
A twirl of a finger was her reply: “Sweet … please turn over.”
He rolled onto his stomach, turning his face to the side. He then felt Tera straddling him again, their naked rears rubbing against each other.
Tera’s hands were warm, soft, passing lightly over his back. She focused on pleasuring him through her massage, working from his neck and shoulders, all the way down his back and waist. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling of her delicate fingers working over his tight muscles. When Tera kissed his spine, he moaned lightly from the pleasure. When she draped her wild mane of hair against his skin, he shivered from the sensations.
Laying herself down, her breasts pressed against his back, she whispered hotly against his ear: “You will always have my love. You are a gentleman, a lover, an amazing man most of all.”
A soft tongue licked over his ear: “Listen to me. Don’t forget what I’ve said. It matters.”
She didn’t answer that question, instead slinking off to the side, then lightly touching his shoulder, her tail pointing for him to turn onto his side. Before, there had been a sheet between them. There wasn’t one now.
The ebon haired dream spooned herself against him. One long, slender leg draped over his own, her tail lying over both. Her lips nuzzled into his hair, one arm laying over his waist. The press of her cleavage into him told everything.
He was there, in her arms, being held.
“Will you be here when I wake?”
“I promise that I will be here when you need me most. I promise that you will always have my love. And I promise that I’m always with you.”
The scent of cherries was stronger than ever.
He nodded as he closed his eyes, drifting off into the first real rest he’d had all year. Tera remained with him all night, watching over him, watching his chest rise, smiling at the dreams that came. The night passed, the dawn soon coming to awaken him. She rose from the bed, careful not to disturb him. He was a good soul, a worthy one. That thought made her smile as she slinked quietly from his bedroom, letting him sleep.
He awoke later in the day to find that Tera had gone. Lying in bed, he smiled, remembering her, what they’d shared. Stumbling out of bed he walked into the living room, where he found Pika curled up in a chair…
… and a second sliver card waiting for him.
The note read: A promise is a promise … for always … forever.
The words gave him hope as he looked out the window, a new year begun. Pika woke up then and looked at him, giving a miffed, hungry mew.
“Right; you are the Queen around here, aren’t you?”
He didn’t think he’d seen a more kittenish smile as he petted her, knowing that she wanted food. He was in the midst of opening a can of tuna when there was a knock at the door.
He scrambled to get something on—answering the door in the nude wasn’t a good idea, after all. Rushing back into the bedroom, he found a sweater lying on the ground, and tugged it on … a red one.
The smell of cherries came, causing him to freeze in mid-rush for the door. It was her sweater. His cat looked at him with probably the most kittenish smile he’d seen.
He was wrong about that when he opened the door: “Um … Hello?”
The woman standing at his door had a far more kittenish smile: “Um … Hi! I moved in across the hallway last night and wanted to introduce myself.”
The scent of cherries from a certain Queen drifted around the two souls as they looked at each other a very long time before she asked a question: “Do you like cherries?”
He smiled: “I do. They’re my favourite.”
Her eyes twinkled as she revealed what she’d been holding in her hands. A pie of a particular kind: “I love cherries.”
He noted that the pie had been partially enjoyed: “Would you like to come in? I have some rocky road in the freezer.”
As she crossed the threshold, they both smiled: one for the road that brought them here, one for the road ahead.
As the door closed, at the other end of the hallway, Tera leaned against the wall …
… smiling and enjoying some of that lovely cherry pie.