22: Fists and Words
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Rora teased me all the way through breakfast, provided by our wonderful hosts, and all the way to the market.

“So, what’s sleeping beauty so interested in at the market?” she smirked from beside me, her small height advantage giving her teasing just that little extra edge.

“I don’t know! I have that gold and silver burning a hole in my pocket and I wanted to see what was around!” I huffed, shooting her a frosty glare.

“Awh, you’re so cute,” she giggled, ruffling my hair.

“That is a low blow,” I protested, trying and failing to keep the smile off my face. I liked it when she touched me.

“Oh, look! There it is now,” she said with a shit eating grin, obviously trying to dodge any retribution by changing the subject.

My retribution was swift and sure. I slipped a hand through a fold in the back of her robe and ran a daring finger right up the curve of her ass, earning a surprised growl from her. I skipped away from her before her grasping hand could catch me and gave her a flirtatious wink.

“Oh I am so going to get you,” she chuckled darkly, stalking towards me.

“Here, in front of all these people?” I said with a mock gasp. “You’ll ravage this poor sweet maiden in public?

“Sweet maiden? You’re a demon. A troublesome demon,” she rolled her eyes, cooling off her war goddess prowl and turning to survey the market. “Okay… what do you want here?”

“I think I want some armour. At least some need some plate bracers or something, so I can block attacks and stuff,” I said, moving back to her side like a lump of iron to a magnet.

“Okay. I don’t really know the city or this market that well, so let’s just wander around shall we?” she suggested, subtly shifting me out of the way of a cart I hadn’t seen coming.

“Yeah!” I agreed, completely unphased by her casual handling of me.

We wandered around the market for what felt like hours, our hips bumping together as we navigated the crowds and our hands brushing constantly. It was torture. As we accidentally touched over and over, my ability to concentrate took a nosedive. I was meant to be looking out for stuff that would be useful for adventuring, but instead all I could do was watch her.

She was fun to watch too. She seemed to have an endless well of excitement for just about anything that had a story to it. Something I might not know, or that she just wanted to explain to me anyway. The way her eyes danced as she showed me a type of sword that had originally been developed thousands of years ago in the real world. She told me about its origin, why it was shaped the way it was, and the advantages it gave.

I marveled at her. She had so many facets, so many hidden depths to her personality. She was like one of those gems that showed you a different colour depending on what angle you viewed it from. Twist her one way and she’d show you the battle goddess, her sword raised and spell ready. Twist her another way and she’d show you a nerdy side that devoured all things information. Twist her yet a different way and she’d be closed off, not quite shy, but defensive and alert, unwilling to engage in conversation that might show weakness to those she didn’t know.

Fuck. I was screwed. I just knew this wasn’t going to end well for my heart.

We spent lunch in the shade of a stall that sold hollowed out bread, full of a thick soup that was almost pie filling rather than anything truly liquid. It was good though, and Rora was delightfully hilarious as she tried to eat it. She reminded me of Dawn a little at that point. Dawn had always struggled like this with meals that weren’t your standard plate, knife and fork scenario, and it had been an endless source of amusement to Krissy and I as we grew up.

It was an hour or so after lunch, when things were really starting to feel like a date, that I saw it. Something that tore my gaze even from Rora’s face. It was gorgeous. Amazing.

It was a suit of armour. The chest, shoulders, outer thighs, shins and forearms were covered by light plates of silvery metal. Under the plates was blacked out scale mail across the secondary areas, with dark leather in areas where flexibility was essential, like the armpits and behind the knees. The plates had sky blue enamel accents that gave the whole thing a bit more colour, turning it from simply armour to a subtle work of art. I loved it.

I’d stopped as we were walking, and Rora kept walking for several steps before she noticed I wasn’t next to her. Turning and walking back, she followed my gaze with a chuckle.

“You like that huh? It’d look good on you,” she said softly, stepping up closer than she strictly needed to be. I didn’t mind. The half of me that was nothing but unbridled emotion wanted her to go further and put an arm around my waist.

“Yeah,” I nodded, moving almost automatically towards it.

I almost reached out to touch it before I thought better of it. I needed the merchant who owned this like, right now.

Thankfully, he found me first. “G’day! You seem to be followin’ me around don’t’cha?”

It was the dwarf with the terrible stereotypical Australian accent. I gave him a huge grin, regardless of his accent. This guy was cool.

“Hey!” I chirped happily. “How are you?”

“Oh yeah, pretty good ay. Just arrived here actually. Got my shiny little stall permit all revving to go! Time to make some cash yeah?” he grinned. “And who’s this lovely sheila you’ve got on your arm ‘ere?”

“Oh um, this is Aurora,” I blushed, motioning to Rora and feeling her do what I’d been wishing she’d do earlier, her arm snaking possessively around my thin waist.

Oh. My heart. It took me a moment to pull myself back together at the casually intimate gesture. She was taking liberties with me. We definitely had not discussed what was happening between us, but at the same time… this felt absolutely incredible.

“Nice to meet you Aurora,” he nodded, then turned back to me. “So I can’t help but notice you’re interested my armour I’ve got here.”

“Yeah,” I nodded, my attention struggling to figure out where to focus. On the warm hand that had settled around my waist, or the gorgeous armour in front of me.

“It’s rathah expensive… but you don’t need’ta worry about that,” he said, almost looking delighted to tell me that I didn’t need to pay for it.

His words earned a confused look from both myself and Rora, and I asked, “What do you mean?”

“You two are minah celebrities in the Phoenix Guild now. Practically got your own tab from what I hear. That ship you took turned out to be worth quite the pretty penny. Not enough to go starting a business or acquirin’ a title mind ya, but nothing to blush those pretty cheeks of yours at eithah,” he said jovially. I felt Rora’s hand tighten closer around my waist as he called me pretty.

Giving her a quick amused look, I turned back to the merchant and motioned for him to go on.

“Currently, ya each have eight hundred gold pieces waiting to be claimed in my guild’s vaults, which means that you can also authorise some of that to be transferred to little old me. Like a tab at a bar or whatevah,” he said.

“Oh… how much is the armour?” I asked, feeling my heartbeat increase further as the idea of owning the armour became more than just a dream.

“Well, back in the olden days, a suit like this would’a cost as much as a good house if my history classes were accurate, which they probably weren’t. This ain’t the olden days though. We’ve got magic and shit to help out, so it’s more like the cost of a good holiday. We’re talkin’ three hundred of those shiny gold pieces you have gatherin’ dust with the guild,” he smiled amicably.

“Sounds a bit expensive,” Rora murmured, frowning and leaning in to look at the armour more closely. She turned to me after inspecting it and with a strange look in her eyes she said, “Babe, I’m pretty sure that other set you liked earlier was cheaper than this.”

Babe. Fuck, that word felt good coming from her lips and directed at me. Intoxicatingly good.

“Oh but— “ I started, but she silenced me with a tender, knee weakening kiss, then whispered in my ear, “Haggling, putting on a show to get the price lowered.”

“O-oh,” I mumbled, keeping my mouth shut to try and keep her from realising my disappointment.

It was stupid, because I didn’t want us to be together and all the shit that would mean we had to deal with, but the way she’d started acting possessive felt so good. Finding out it was a charade caused ice to crackle and form over my heart.

Nevertheless, watching her haggle the price down still caused certain unwelcome feelings to well up, and the war inside me continued. It felt strange to feel so awkward and confused about this.

The simple, embarrassing fact was that I had no idea what to do with real feelings. I could flirt and seduce any day of the week. I could drive people sexually wild with teasing words and subtle touches, but when things turned from that to holding hands, loving words and actually dating with the intention of something long term… I was scared. That wasn’t even counting the fact that this was happening inside virtual reality.

The haggling continued and eventually Rora got the price of the armour down to two hundred gold. I had no idea what that was worth, but one third less sounded damn good. There was something about the way that Rora gave zero fucks about hurting the man’s feelings that gave her an edge I guess.

We left his stall with the armour, having sent a message to Jill about the money transfer, and a promise to return later to buy mundane things like clothing. I felt like I should be hefting the expensive stuff with me as we walked, but no… it sat happily in my inventory. A touch of my finger to the armour and it had faded from view, becoming an icon in a menu.

“I was thinking…” Rora started, her hand no longer on my waist. “You need some big fuck off gauntlets. Like, a few inches away from just being anvils attached to your fists.”

I laughed at that mental image and nodded my reply, “That sounds fucking amazing.”

“Alright! I saw some earlier,” she winked, taking my hand with her strong, warm one and pulling me through the crowds. “Like, you’ve been operating with no gear this whole time. I want to see what you look like when you’re rocking gear with actual bonuses.”

“That actually sounds fucking awesome. Oh, I can think of a lot of things I could do if my hands were protected, and…” I said, getting excited and rambling about my ideas for my build, much to her amusement.

When we found them, the sun was starting to look a bit burnt, reminding everyone that sunset was on the way. The gauntlets were also works of art. They were very obviously made with unarmed fighters like me in mind. They had huge steel plates along the forearm that looked to be half an inch thick, and the weight of that metal was channeled down into the fist.

It was designed so that when you locked your fist for a punch, the matching plate on the hand would lock loosely with the forearm plate, giving you extra punching power while also partially taking the impact of the hit off your wrist. It would allow me to punch with devastating force using my speed boost, and not break my hand in the process. My heart was beating almost as fast as it did during an orgasm when we bought them.

The gold bars turned out to be worth almost fifty standard gold coins each, which made us pretty damn rich. My heart rate wasn’t stratospheric because of the gold though, it was racing because I was just altogether too excited for my next chance to punch something with these things on. I couldn’t wait. I could already feel the crunch of bone beneath my fists as the weight of the steel around them drove my blows deeper and harder than they had ever been before.

“Rora,” I breathed giddily as we walked away from the stall, the gauntlets held protectively in my arms.

“Yeah?” she laughed, clearly enjoying my excitement.

“I can’t wait to punch something,” I giggled.

“It’s going to be impressive,” my friend said, her eyes dancing with amusement.

We made it back to the bakery just as the sun disappeared behind the buildings of the city, and I was feeling strangely woozy. Tired, but in an odd way that had me a little dizzy. When we opened the back door of the building, we were greeted by the lovely old baker woman again.

“Hello dears! You look like you’ve had a long day! Why don’t you take a nap hmm? Go to bed?” she commented, the sharp presence of MaTRON seeming strangely urgent behind her eyes.

“Oh, yeah probably, at least for a nap before dinner,” Rora commented, oblivious to the fact there was an underlying meaning to the woman’s words.

“That’s good. You especially Tami my dear, you look like you’re about to fall over! You should get to bed, oh in the next… three minutes by the looks of you,” she said casually, already walking off. Except, the part within, the part that was MaTRON, was anything but casual. It was urgent, almost pleading. Okay… what was go-i-n-g o-n…

I felt so tired all of a sudden, and I took her advice, smiling as Rora helped me up the stairs, “Wow, she was right, I’m so tired…”

 

****

 

I woke to the feeling of Rora’s long, lithe arms around my waist, holding me against her as she slept. My face was nestled lazily between her boobs and my arms were curled up against my chest. Basically, I'd curled into a loose ball and she'd pulled me to her chest. It felt fucking wonderful. I could not remember a time after my 13th birthday when I had felt this calm, this warm, this safe.

I could hear the bakery beginning the day downstairs, but there was no way I was moving from here until I absolutely needed to. I felt my affection for this woman grow with every slow breath she took, the fabric of her shirt rusting gently as the soft warmth of her breasts were gently pressed against my cheek.

I wondered why she was holding me like this, and why I appeared to be curled into a ball against her. I normally slept on my side with my arms wrapped around a pillow, or starfished out across the entire expanse of my bed. No in betweens. The question of my strange sleeping position was answered from a rather unlikely source.

I noticed a little flashing icon in the corner of my vision, indicating that I had unread chat messages, and opened it to find a screed of messages from my sister.

LipsAndShades: Hey Tami… are you okay?
LipsAndShades: Tami?
LipsAndShades: Please if you’re there answer… it says you’re online.
LipsAndShades: Oh god please be okay
LipsAndShades: PLEASE. TAMI

Alright… that was ominous…

Tamipesagniyah: Uh… yo?

LipsAndShades: TAMI. OH MY GOD. ARE YOU OKAY? CAN I CALL?

Tamipesagniyah: No!

LipsAndShades: What?? What’s wrong? I’m calling!

The call came through quickly, and I mentally slammed the decline button like my life depended on it.

Tamipesagniyah: I MEAN NO, YOU CAN’T CALL DAMN IT.

LipsAndShades: ……………
LipsAndShades: So the screaming was from an orgasm then? Right. That girl of yours must be powerful to have you crying out, outside VR.

That girl of mine… Oh how I wished that were true...

Tamipesagniyah: Wait, what? Explain? I mean you’re not wrong, she is powerful, but I’m confused here.

LipsAndShades: Soooo, last night, end of the evening, mum and dad said you started screaming, from inside your pod…

Tamipesagniyah: Well, that’s not ideal… have I stopped screaming?

LipsAndShades: Some time around like two in the morning. You sure you’re okay?

Tamipesagniyah: Yeah, I started feeling really drowsy late yesterday afternoon, then fell asleep in the loft of this bakery. Um… Rora’s holding me right now, but we didn’t, you know… fuck or anything. At least, not that I can smell.

LipsAndShades: You are… wow. My sister I guess, but also just a fucking mess.

Tamipesagniyah: Thanks ;). On a more positive, if serious note, I think I have a way to find out what was happening in my pod last night.

LipsAndShades: Oh? How?

Tamipesagniyah: Oh, I’ll just ask MaTRON.

LipsAndShades: ??????????
LipsAndShades: Uh, what?
LipsAndShades: How?

Tamipesagniyah: Well... wouldn’t you like to know?

LipsAndShades: TAMI!

Tamipesagniyah: MWAAHAHAHHA. GOTTA GO RORA’S WAKING UP.

Rora was not, in fact, waking up. Insert evil grin here.

LipsAndShades: YOU LITTLE FUCKING SHIT. DON’T YOU LEAVE UNTIL YOU TELL ME. TAMI!

I closed the message box and snuggled back in close to Rora, wondering what the screaming had been about. Something to do with my transformation? I hoped so, because if it wasn’t part of the planned procedure…

Whatever, I had warm boobs in my face, I’d worry about it later. I settled down to wait for Rora to wake up, but I kept seeing the message icon flashing in the side of my vision. Wow, looks like my sister was insistent. Heh. I opened the message app up again to see what the damage was.

LipsAndShades: I AM GOING TO FORCE FEED YOU SOME FUCKING ANCHOVIES YOU LITTLE BRAT.

Right, she was annoyed, better close that… I didn’t like anchovies on their own. I personally treated them more like a spice than something that was the basis for a meal. They felt gross in your mouth on their own, all gross. Taste was good though if you could mask that texture and dilute the flavour some. It was great on pizza!

As I was contemplating the finer points of anchovies on pizza and ignoring my sister, Rora stirred, her face and nose nuzzling into the top of my head.

I thought she was still asleep until she spoke softly, just above a whisper, “Your hair smells so good.”

“Your boobs are warm,” I responded, smiling into their softness.

She didn’t reply for several moments, and during that time, I think my heart did a full olympic gymnastics routine. She was cuddling me still, even though we were awake. We’d usually just fucked and then left it at that… there were no displays of affection really so far, just displays of lust. Don’t get me wrong, I was all for displays of lust, but… no!

No stop, stop, Tami… you can’t fall for this woman! You don’t even know who she is! She could live halfway across the world, and you’d spend your days pining after her from thousands of kilometers away with no reasonable hope of seeing her. That was if you were even interested in the real life version of her, and she you. Best to keep things strictly away from that.

I pushed away, wriggling until I was out of our embrace. I wasn’t forceful about it, but it was definitely a conscious removal of myself from her personal space. I really, really needed to protect my heart. I should have realised when I was pining after her that I wouldn’t be able to take things that much further, even if I wanted to… Fuck. Feelings sucked.

“Ah… sorry. I’m sorry I just… you were whimpering in your sleep, crying out sometimes. I tried to wake you, but I couldn’t. Nothing worked… not even shaking you. So I um… I held you instead,” she said, her voice sounding strained.

I couldn’t meet her eyes. I didn’t want her to see how fucking much I yearned to be in her arms again, but to be hers too, and her mine. I couldn’t let her figure it out. People usually ran away when they found out someone was falling for them over VR. It was just easier to go your separate ways.

Fuck, this felt like the early days between Krissy and I all over again. Raw desperate yearning and hot attraction, followed by terrified, cold doubt. So if I was feeling the same shit I had felt with Krissy, shouldn’t I stop? Protect the friendship we had, possibly with all its benefits too? I could do that, I think.

“It’s okay,” I said, smiling the hardest smile of my life and looking up. “I can’t complain about being all close and personal with a beautiful woman.”

Her own smile twitched, and she nodded. “I’m glad you’re okay then.”

“Yeah! Uh, I was wondering, by the way… can we go kill things today? I feel like I’m so underleveled, and we got a lot of experience yesterday. Plus, I’m really excited to use my new gear!” I said, trying to change the subject and grinding to a slow halt.

Fuck, my heart was tearing apart right now. I wanted so badly to wriggle back into her arms, to kiss her and kiss her until I was drunk on my affection for her.

“Yeah, we can do that,” she nodded, reaching over to stroke a foot down my calf.

Oh wow. I felt my hastily erected defences falter under that touch, that assault. It was so casually intimate.

I jumped out of bed and picked my clothes up off the ground, stopping to figure out which way my top went on.

“You didn’t just unequip them?” Rora asked from behind me, and I glanced over my shoulder to find appreciative eyes taking in my almost naked body.

“Ruins my immersion,” I winked over my shoulder.

I put my clothes on quickly, shucking my shoulders to get my shirt to sit right. I needed to learn how to even dress myself properly in this body. It moved differently and clothing hung off it in ways I wasn’t used to. I decided I’d equip my new armour again once I was outside. No need to walk around with those awesome but kinda heavy new gauntlets on.

“Meet you downstairs, I’ll go see about breakfast,” I told Rora, not looking over my shoulder.

I didn’t hear anything from her, which was probably just as well, I don— 

Whump

The sound of Rora’s teleport tearing apart the fabric of space made the air in my lungs shiver as she arrived behind me, and in an instant I found myself pressed against the door, Rora’s warm front flush with my back.

“You’re running away from me,” she murmured into my ear.

“I— “ I squeaked, before she pressed me harder against the door, pushing some of the air from my lungs.

“You’re going to tell me what’s wrong, like an adult,” she chastised gently, letting me up from the door, but staying well within my personal space when I spun around.

I opened my mouth, staring up into those incredible, gorgeous, expressive eyes of hers, and lost all ability to speak. Fuck me, I had never been so thoroughly tossed around like that, even if she hadn’t actually thrown me anywhere. I was trying to figure out if I was scared, horny, or both.

I tried to even formulate my thoughts into those things that people said. Words, or whatever, and it took me a long while, but Rora was patient. She waited calmly, her expression determined but compassionate.

“I’m scared,” I said finally, my voice the tiniest it had ever been. “I’m scared that I’m.. that I’m falling for you, and I don’t want to get hurt.”

Rora bit her lip and looked away for a moment, her demeanour changing rapidly from stalking war goddess to the scared recluse that she was when she was around other people. She took a step back, then another, and hesitated on a third.

Oh god, she didn’t want me. She was going to do exactly what I’d been scared of, and run away.

“I am too,” she mumbled finally, looking up to meet my terrified gaze. Her voice grew stronger again as she spoke next though, a desperate sort of hope washing across her face. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, you know how people talk about VR romances, how they always fail or whatever. I don’t care Tami! I don’t care if it stays in Cora, or if we really trade names and stuff… well that wouldn’t work. Issues… but anyway! I just want to hold you, and kiss you, and do my damn fucking best to make you happy!”

I leaned, weak kneed against the door as I processed what she’d just said. She not only had feelings for me too, but she didn’t care that we were in VR? She didn’t care about any of the hurt that might happen? The question was, could I not care about it?

I swallowed, once, twice, to get some moisture back into my throat before I croaked, “Okay… I’m still scared… but…”

“But?” she asked, her voice singing with fear and hope intertwined.

“I don’t think I can keep you at arm’s length either. It’s too hard, especially knowing that you’re interested back…” I said softly, each breath feeling like I was breathing in pure distilled excitement and affection, and I watched as her face softened into a wondrous, relieved smile.

“Can I kiss you?” she asked softly, taking a half step forward. “I’m really bad at words and definitions and stuff. I know that’s hypocritical, because I just forced you to tell me what you were feeling… but I just don’t want to break anything. It all feels so fragile and…”

“You can. Kiss me, I mean,” I nodded, wanting it so badly after she’d asked for it.

She stepped forward, her feet far from sure as she moved back towards me. Her hand whispered around to the back of my neck, landing like a nervous sparrow in my hair. She leaned forward far too slowly for my liking, but I waited.

Warm, soft lips brushed against mine oh so gently, then fell back for a moment, but I wasn’t going to have any of that. If she was going to kiss me, she was going to kiss me. I needed this kiss. I needed to feel her kiss me with affection, not just lust.

I wrapped my arms tentatively around her neck, nudging her nose with mine for a moment before I pressed my lips to hers again. Once that connection was made, she took over again, regaining some of her confidence and I melted against her.

I’d never felt anything like this. Never. It was just another kiss right? So why did it feel so world rendingly different? Why did this feel so absolutely right? Like this was what I’d been missing my whole damn life? The kiss was soft, luxurious and flighty. It was nervous and yearning and so many other emotions, too many to count. It was so utterly different from the kisses I’d shared with Kristina, and the way I had usually led the intimacy. That’s what a man did right? They were meant to be strong.

Sure, it felt like that now too, but there was also a vulnerability to it all. I felt like I was entirely open to her emotionally, holding nothing back, unlike how it had been with Kristina. This time might be different… I was Tami now, I was a girl. My inability to be a woman in the relationship, no matter the archetype, had been what poisoned my relationship with Kristina. It hadn’t felt right, it had never felt right.

This felt right.

We parted, gasping for breath and diving into each others eyes as eagerly as we’d kissed each other. She looked stunned, in a happy, giddy sort of way. I probably looked about the same. That was good… if we had both felt the intensity of that moment, had both felt overwhelmed, it meant we were definitely in this together.

“Wow,” I said between deep pulls of air.

“Yeah...” she mumbled, and her radiant smile lifted my heart into the sky.

 

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Biiiig things happening, but what will happen when they realise each other's secrets? Thanks for reading!

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