"You're good… so good…"

Warning: Adult Content

Several minutes later Desmond climbed the stairs, the front of his turtleneck was wet but the darkness of the material hid the true nature of the stain. He said nothing to her as he moved past her. He doffed his turtleneck and tossed it into the fireplace. He poured himself a drink from the small bar off to one side and sat down in a large victorian armchair, all in darkness broken only by the light from the hallway.

Akemi stared at him as he did so, waiting for him to finish his drink. Then she went to the bar and poured herself a brandy, leaving the lighting just as it was. She needed the time to consider what she was seeing. The man now in front of her might as well have been a different person from the one she had been with earlier.

Finally she strode over, stood in front of him. "There are just three things I'd like to know right now. One: are you all right? Two: what was that all about? And three," here she took a deep breath, "what was that hex you put on me?"

Desmond slowly looked up at her, "One: I am fine. Two," he was suddenly standing and Akemi found she couldn't look away, or really move.

"Did you wish to become an employee?" his voice was taunting, his eyes contemptuous. "Though I warn you I don't sleep with my employees. Or do you wish to swear an oath to me?"

His voice was now mocking," Swear to me an oath and I will answer you final two questions. Accept and pass a test of my choosing and I will answer any question you choose to ask. But be warned, breaking an oath to me is death. But you will do neither will you?"

"Akemi Rhodes, moving from one relationship to another, nothing past a casual bedding. Too afraid to take any futher steps. Akemi Rhodes, who dosen't have a single real friend. No one to watch her back, to call on in time of need. No one to talk to. No one to care, no one to care for. Simpler, is it not? Cloak your actions however you wish to others, Akemi. Hide your fear behind the belief that you are liberated and progressive, a hedonist by nature. But do not lie to yourself, and do not lie to me."

Just as abruptly he sat back down, watching her with an unreadable expression.

Akemi waited in silence until he was finished. Then she clapped. "Bravo!" she exclaimed. "That performance would earn you an Oscar nomination at least!" Then she turned serious again. "However, consider this: a man who cloaks himself in secrecy, who surrounds himself with the trappings of wretched excess, and whose nearest regular human contact consists of 'employees' who appear to be either brainwashed cultists or androids–this man is calling ME an emotional cripple because I won't submit to him body and soul like everyone else does."

"That is ridiculous. I fuck where, and with whom, I want. I do it because I want to share pleasure with others, not because I want to conquer them. And that takes all the honesty, understanding, and acceptance there is, both with myself and those I choose to fuck. I would be lying if I tried to deny either bisexuality or nonmonogamy as parts of me, and I don't lie to those I love. And it isn't easy to do in the face of widespread disapproval of who I choose to be. But to not assert my real self, no matter what you or anyone else says, would be betrayal. You've got it backwards, just to suit yourself."

"Aside from that, the signed contract I brought with me this evening defines our working relationship, as per our discussion this morning. Feel free to torch it if you like. Anything else that happens between us has nothing to do with that. As for the rest, whether it be oaths or other tests or conditions, my attitude is the same as with that contract: I don't agree to anything unless I know what it is I'm agreeing to beforehand."

"In any case, friend of my father or no, what I do and who I do it with is my business, though I would remind you of the obvious: I'm new in town. So even if I needed to turn to someone, there isn't anyone here I could turn to. Fortunately, I like to think my parents did a good job of raising me to be self-sufficient. That doesn't mean I won't let people into my life; it means I don't have to let them in if I don't want to. I don't have to be dependent on anyone. See the difference? Choice, and its intelligent exercise, is the key.

"By now you know all you need to know about me that would have anything to do with any relationship we might have." Save one, that is, but I can't tell anyone about that. The risks are too great. Jadestorm is one thing I have to bear alone–the one part of me that I have no choice about, and thus can't inflict on others. "So I'll bite: what is this 'oath' and 'test' you're talking about? Like I said, I want to read the fine print before I sign on the dotted line."

Desmond finnished off his drink and poured himself another, "Well defended, well spoken. Thank you. It is not often that I am surprised. I have to be steps ahead of everything, for myself and those who depend on me."

Settling back in his chair, he looked her over slowly as if reevalutating her, "Couple that with the power I am able to wield… Sometimes you start believing what you project. Again, thank you."

Inwardly, Akemi heaved a sigh of relief. Outwardly, she smiled. "People who clearly care for you a great deal," she said. She wanted to add "including me," but somehow those words just wouldn't come out. "My calling them robots was a cheap shot, and I apologize for it. On the other hand," she continued, "it is possible, in the process of staying ahead of others, to get ahead of oneself. And that can be dangerous. For a moment there, I didn't know whether you'd turned schizoid, or simply weren't the man I talked to this morning."

"Oh, I have many layers Akemi, just like most people."

"The oath is simple. I tailor make the tests for each individual and never talk about them to others. I don't think you could pass the one I would set for you," brief amusement crossed his voice.

Her expression betrayed nothing of her thoughts on this point. As Akemi Rhodes, probably not. But as Jadestorm, I wouldn't be so sure. In any case, he doesn't seem to have connected the two. That's something. Now to keep it that way. I only hope Shocker doesn't take an interest in him.

"The oath: Never to go against me in public, in any matter; anything that I say, anything that is heard or seen that has to do with myself or my dealings will never be spoken, written or thought to anyone, living or dead; in appropriate circumstances, to do as I say, immediately and without question."

Akemi appeared to ponder these words, cocking her head for several moments. Finally, she looked him in the eye, arms akimbo, her gaze steady. When she spoke again, her manner was intensely thoughtful: "You get right to the heart of the big issues, don't you. OK, then, let me cut through the legalese. What you want is for me to back your plays in public, and keep your confidences in private. Am I right?"

"In that case, I have two conditions," she added. "One, that our business arrangement remain within the bounds of our contract. As I said, that has nothing to do with any other arrangements between us." Here her face suddenly took on a harder edge than even–had it only been that morning?–when she told him her feelings about favors and handouts. She leaned forward, her voice becoming huskier. "And two: you don't try to make me into something I'm not. Do we understand one another?"

As she finished this statement, Akemi straightened up again, visibly softening as she did so. "If so, then I accept your terms."

"Business is business, Akemi. And as I said," here he laughed, "you would never pass the test I would set for you. My test are about what you would sacrifice for me. For were I to trust you completely I put not only my own life, but the lives of those around me in jeopardy. I would wish you to be nothing but yourself. Accepted."

Akemi smiled at these words. "One thing I learned from my father's diplomatic career was that those who make the most noise about how they should be trusted are the ones you least want at your back. Trust, like respect, has to be earned if it is to mean anything. I'd be as concerned if you trusted me too quickly as I would if you expected me to trust you right away."

He reached out and pulled her onto his lap, where he kissed her long, and slow. She returned his kiss measure for measure, rubbing her silk-covered tits against his bare chest, grinding her pussy against his cock. She enjoyed the contrast of feeling his hardness through his trousers, touching her bare flesh.

At the end he spoke softly, "And so our bargin is sealed. Now, two: One of my people was attacked, he may not survive the night and that is the only thing you know about that. Three: I have horned my will over many years, I merely suggested that go somewhere you were already predisposed to go. And I will answer a free question for you. You knew where my room was because you have been here once before. As a matter of fact, you slept right over there," he pointed at the bed.

Akemi's shock at Desmond's seeming callousness over the impending demise of one of his "people" was swept aside by this latest revelation. Her eyes widened as she turned to look where he was pointing. At a glance, however, it didn't look familiar to her. She looked back at him, the question writ large on her face even before she spoke. "I know we stayed in New London a couple of times over the years, when Dad was assigned here. But if I did sleep here, it would have had to have been a long time ago, because I don't remember it." She paused, a mischievous expression spreading across her face. "Why don't we go over there and see if we can jog my memory? Hmmm? Or," and here she idly traced a finger along his collarbone, "we could just stay here for now, and check out the bed later." She wriggled her hips as if for emphasis.

He ran a hand over her thigh,"I never took you for someone who left something unfinished."

She stood up. Then she smiled and took his hand, bringing him to his feet. "You're right," she breathed, leaning close to whisper in his ear. "If I think something is worth doing, I give it all I've got. I've just been waiting for you to give me an opening, so we could pick up where we left off."

So saying, she stepped back a pace and struck a pose. Her eyes were glazed over with lust. "What's your pleasure?" she asked. "Shall I strip for you, or would you like to undress me yourself?"

The time for playing around was clearly past.

Desmond gave a nonchalant wave and stretched out his long legs, he idly swirled his drink.

Akemi looked askance at him. "Really? I had you figured as the hands-on type. But if you want to watch, that's OK by me too." So saying, she began to undulate suggestively, shimmying out of her dress. Once it was puddled around her ankles, she kicked it off. Arms outstretched at her sides, she put her weight on her right leg, spreading her thighs enough that her thick black bush was clearly visible.

She let Desmond feast his eyes for several moments, standing still for his slow delectation. Her eyes were locked with his, as if closing an electrical circuit. Then she spun on the toe of one of her pumps, and made her way to the bed, every move, every twitch, of her body advertising her desire. When she finally got there, she stretched herself out like a cat, and eased herself up on all fours, her legs spread even wider. Not only were her pouting pussy lips visible through her pubic hair (which was itself glistening with her cunt juices), but the trail of that selfsame hair as it continued unabated up between her asscheeks was also unmistakable. It ran like savannah grass, clear up her crack until it reached her asshole, which it pointed out like a signpost. Framed by her garterbelt and stockings, her pumps still on, Akemi knew just how hot a sight she was presenting. She shifted just enough that he could also see one of her flushed tits, with its engorged nipple pointing straight down.

Finally, she looked over her shoulder at Desmond, giving him her heavy-lidded eyelashes look. "Well?" she said with exaggerated mouth movements, drawing out the one-syllable word into three. Her lips and tongue seemed to suggest that they were going to wrap themselves around his cock at that range if he didn't come over right then. Of her meaning, there could be no doubt: either fuck her brains out, right then and there, or head for the nearest monastery.

Desmond watched her for a few seconds then stood up. He walked over to the bar and set his unfinished drink down. He then slowly stalked towards her. She could see the same deadly grace that seemed to popluate his staff. His also seemed to balance a sexual energy, she could feel her body respond to that slow deliberate pace. A small orgasm swept through her.

Oh yes, come on, that's it, now you've got it…! Akemi shivered with pleasure. "Ooh, I've been waiting for this all day!" she moaned.

Desmond stopped at the edge of the bed, running a strong, graceful hand along the intricaly carved bed post. His dark eyes traveled slowly over her body. Akemi closed her eyes briefly and it was as if his hands traced feather touches. She felt his weight on the bed and opened her eyes.

Desmond rested on one knee and placed a single kiss in the small of her back, he whispered against her skin, "Tell me something you haven't done yet."

Akemi's head whipped around at these words. She could scarcely believe her ears. The groan she uttered was this time one of frustration, rather than anticipation. "You bastard," she said with annoyance. "After everything else you've done to me today, now you want to play twenty questions? One thing's for sure, I've never been teased like this before, and I've known some real bimbos in my time. But you could give them lessons in being a tease. Let me guess: are you some kind of sadist, and you're getting off watching me get more and more frustrated?"

She turned around and began rubbing her cheek against his chest, like a cat. "All right, I'll play," she said, looking up into his eyes. "But just remember, payback's a motherfucker. Oh, speaking of which, that's something I haven't done. Fucked my mother, that is. Or my father." Suddenly she looked as if she were recalling a particularly fond memory. "I came close once, though," she continued, with an added note of happiness in her voice. "My first butch was one of Mom's girlfriends, back when we were living in Tangiers a decade ago." Akemi licked her lips, and smiled. "Mmmm," she purred. "Glorianna was a gorgeous black woman, studying Kung Fu with Mom. I fell for her something awful. But I never felt jealous of Mom; I knew the way things stood. To make a long story short, she played hard-to-get for a while, and then Mom gave her to me as a surprise for my fourteenth birthday. I didn't find out about that part until later, though."

She paused. "Let's see. I've never done hard S/M, though I have played with bondage and some light stuff. The first thing Glorianna did was tie me up," Akemi added. "And my ass is no more virgin than the rest of me. I've had cocks, fingers, fists, dildos, vibrators, all up my asshole at one time or another. Never an enema, though I can't say I'm all that thrilled at the prospect. As for numbers, well, I've had sex with two or more people more than once."

Akemi stretched, then: "I've done a lot of things, though it'll be a while before I can give Emmanuelle a run for her money. What interests me right now, though," and here she pulled herself to a kneeling pose, putting her hands on his shoulders, "is not so much the details of what we'll do–though my imagination is running free on that point–but rather, that it's you that I'm doing them with. Between us, I'm sure we'll think of something."

At this point she pushed on one shoulder while pulling on the other, causing Desmond to lose his balance. Leaning hard into his chest, Akemi got him on his back on the bed, his legs still over the side. "How's this," she said, breathing slightly hard, "I've never ravished anyone–not for real, anyway. I think I'll start with you."

Desmond laughed, it was soft and went straight through Akemi, "Shall I fight back? You may lose."

With that his body twisted and Akemi found herself pinned to the bed, he nibbed at her jaw. "Maybe I will tie you up and continue teasing you."

"Nnnnh…you and what army?" she moaned petulantly, squirming with added delight and frustration at his renewed attentions. "You ought to at least take your pants off before saying things like that, if you want to be taken at all seriously," she continued, tapping his leg with her foot for emphasis. "Or is that the whole point?" she finished, her face lighting up. "You want the chase, but not the capture, is that it? OK, then, go right ahead." Akemi turned her head to look into his eyes, kissing his mouth. Then she said, "You can tie me up any way you like, so long as you fuck me once you're satisfied. And if you don't fuck me, then it's payback time. I'll get you to tell me something from your heart of hearts."

Then her eyes hardened. "But whatever you do, stop playing games with me. I didn't come here for that."

His smiled deepened, "I thought you liked games?"

Her expression softened again. "Oh, I do, don't get me wrong. But I like games only so long as there's an object, some sort of finish. If it goes on too long, it loses its flavor. At that point, it just becomes torture. And I'm not that masochistic."

He moved off her standing in almost one smooth motion. He swept his gaze over her and then moved his hands to his belt. He unclasped it and slowly pulled it from his belt loops, letting the leather slide over his left palm as the right pulled. He then looped the belt and pulled it taut with an audible snap.

Akemi flinched slightly at the sound–not out of fear, but surprise. Then she gave a half-smile, and stretched her arms over her head, clasping her arms together. At no time did she take her dark eyes off his. Her chignon was in disarray now, but she could have cared less. Her pose seemed calculated to send a message of helplessness. But within her stare was a challenge to him to take advantage of it.

"Ooh, the dominant male, in the bedroom as well as the boardroom," she said huskily. "Have you finally made up your mind what you're going to do with me?" she added, writhing just enough on the mattress to enhance the sexiness of her pose. Most other men she'd known would have taken the hint long ago. But if this was how he wanted to play, then she could do it too–so long as they eventually got somewhere…

He placed the looped belt across her stomach and then undid the top button his pants, his eyes never leaving hers. He folded back the material, until it reached the top of the zipper. He then placed his hands behind his head, his face still held a slight smile. He watched her.

Akemi locked eyes with him for several moments, until it became clear that it was supposed to be her move again. Her enjoyment of this game was fading, and her patience was also wearing thin. In short, she was getting pissed. If he wanted her, all he had to do was take her, any way he wanted. That was what she was there for. And if he didn't, she would go someplace where she was wanted.

But this two-steps-forward-one-step-back nonsense had to go. The more she thought about it, the angrier she got. And then suddenly the belt seemed to fill her vision, and she knew just what to do with it.

As quickly as she could (which, while not as fast as Jadestorm, was still pretty good), she snatched the leather strap off her belly, and rolled over until she was on all fours, facing him. Her face split in a savage snarl, and her eyes seemed to blaze with green fire in the near-darkness of the room. The sudden tumble she had just taken had further tousled her hair, enhancing the feral effect.

Akemi raised her upper body, like a cat rearing back on its hind legs, and lashed out at Desmond's bare chest. CRACK! "Quit jerking me around!" she exclaimed. "Take. Off. Those. Pants. NOW!" She punctuated each word with an additional stroke of the makeshift whip. Finally, before he could react, she tossed the belt aside, and dove for his crotch. "No! I'll do it myself. It seems to be the only way anything's getting done tonight." With that, she yanked down his zipper–for the second time that night, a thought which only fueled her anger, which in turn stoked her lust. But she didn't stop there: she grabbed the waistband of his slacks and underwear, and pulled them down to his knees.

Akemi moaned at the sight of his cock. Then she lunged with hands and mouth, growling. If he wanted rough, she'd give him rough.

He sighed and droped a hand to her head, allowing her to play out her anger, sensing her impending orgasim, he pulled her off him and kissed her. He whispered in her ear a single word, "No."

Akemi felt her release easing back, before she could scream at him, he had lain her down, resting most of his weight on her. His smile was gone, his eyes very serious.

"Rhythm is very important, my little tiger. I can hear yours, can you hear mine? Or is your own all you are capable of hearing? Patience is important as well. Without it you can be controlled, like a piece on a game board. Do you like that? Not being in control? Do you like that I have controlled you from the moment you saw me?"

"Is that all you want? If so then so be it. I think you are capable of more. Learn, Akemi. And believe me, I have more control over my own body than I do yours. And I have control, don't I? I can deny you release for as long as I like. Or grant it. This is something you left out on things you've never done. You have never not gotten what you needed, when you needed it."

As he talked he pressed against her, she could feel his manhood between them, feel her body responding. He let her touch him, move against him, she could feel her excitment mounting. And again the soft no against her ear. And the retreat.

Akemi sighed, closing her eyes. "Rhythm, huh?" she said softly. "That's all you've talked about this evening. You're right of course; my rhythms are completely disrupted. My reaction to you this morning should have been my first clue."

She twisted around so that she was kneeling on the bed again. "I've thought about simply walking out of here more than once. But I realized that that would be taking the easy way out." Then she paused, looking at his chest. "Did I hurt you just now? I'm sorry…" There was genuine remorse on her face as she said this.

She looked down at her hands, then looked back up at him, as if she had come to a decision. "I lied to you earlier," she said simply. "When I said you knew all you needed to know about me…that might have been true even a couple of months ago. But something happened to me, something I still don't completely understand myself. It changed me about as totally as anyone can be changed." The look on her face and the tone of her voice testified to the effort it was costing her even to tell him this much.

She took a deep breath, then continued, "When I saw you this morning, I discovered that I could still feel sexual desire–just one of the things I thought was lost to me forever. And all I wanted to do was celebrate. It was an incredible relief to know that something so central to my life wasn't gone, despite…what happened. I practically cried tears of joy. And now, you've made me feel so good, and I want to give you the pleasure that you've given me."

Akemi paused again, trying to calm down enough to finish what she knew she had to tell Desmond now. "You were talking earlier about what would I sacrifice for you." As she said this, she got up from the bed and stood facing him. The fear and exhaustion had left her face, replaced by calm determination. "I'll tell you my deepest, darkest secret, something I haven't dared tell anyone, least of all my parents. One–no, two, two people, have already died because of what you're about to see."

So saying, she pointed her left arm straight down at her side, making a fist. At the same time, she raised her right arm so that it crossed her chest, at shoulder level, fingers extended. Then she paused. "You'd better cover your eyes," she said. "I don't know how bright this is."

Then she swept her right arm downards in an arc, crossing it with her left arm which she raised in the opposite direction. She swept her right hand to rest at her hip, and brought her left arm around so that it mirrored her right, then extended that fist straight up. As she did, she suddenly shouted, "JADE! Hen-SHIN!"

When the resulting green flash and bang passed, Akemi Rhodes was gone. In her place was the green woman Desmond had previously seen that morning, on the New London Bridge. She had no face to speak of, but melancholy could be read there nonetheless. She held out her hands. Words came tumbling out in a rush. "There's so much I don't understand, and there's nowhere I can turn to. I can't bear the thought of anyone else dying because of me. I was afraid to tell you too, even though you're the only person I've who might be strong enough to resist that danger."

Silence. Then, "I have no choice in this. But I have no right to involve you, or anyone, in what's happening to me–to expect you to share the risks I'm facing. I just wanted you to know why I am the way I am. That, and to say… help me. Please." She reached out, grabbed his biceps like a drowning man clutching at a life preserver. "Help me find those rhythms–my humanity–if there's anything left to find. Right now, my sex seems to be all that's left to me. And I couldn't bear to lose that, having only just found it again."

Desmond stood and ran a hand over her body, "Ah, my dear, I am already involved in your safety. Did you not hear me say that you were under my Complete protection? Change back now. And let's start again."

Akemi shook her head even as she shivered under his touch. "No, I can't hold you to that. You didn't know the truth about me when you said that…" Her voice trailed off. She raised her seemingly eyeless face up to him. When she spoke again, it was with a trace of awe in her voice. "And you don't care… not that I lied, nor even what the truth about me is, or what I'm involved in. You've just taken it all in stride…"

With that, she stepped back from him and promptly reversed her transformation.

"If you ever need Jadestorm, you have but to ask," she said with quiet intensity.

He sat down in his chair and after she had changed back, held a hand out to her, pulling her into his lap.

"I was talking about hearing your partner's rhythms, Akemi," he smiled softly, "you hear your own quite well. Perhaps a little impatient. No I am talking about hearing my needs. What I require. You have been lucky up to now, your partners have had rhythms very close to your own. Close enough to make little difference."

She chuckled. "In my experience, most people are so thrilled at meeting a sexually adventurous woman that they would make a fair amount of allowance. Enthusiasm has been very important."

He looked thoughtful, "I wonder though how many of your partners were vaguely unsatisfied, " he shook his head, a odd note creeping into his voice "My rythms are a whole new area. With all the partners I have had over the years, only 3 have come close to sensing them."

He paused, staring into space. A few seconds later, he sighed, "I will give you want you need. If that is all you want."

Akemi was crushed by these words. "No… no, that's not what I want. I mean, yes,it is, but it's not the only thing." She turned so they were looking into each other's eyes again. "I told you, all I can think about now is you. Maybe in some part of me, I'm already sensing some part of your rhythms. I don't have it all, or even very much of it, but I'll learn. Because that is what I want. I know it now."

She kissed him, then put her head on his shoulder, nuzzling his cheek. "Let's begin again, like you said. And keep on beginning again, however many times it takes. I love you, Desmond Reach. And your happiness is what I want more than anything."

He gazed at her face, seeming to weigh what she had said, "Do you now? You don't know anything about me, and yet you love me?"

She returned his gaze with a greater equanimity than she had known all day. "And you? The few people who wouldn't run in terror at what I just showed you would at least ask how it happened. But you know nothing more than that about me, and yet you're not treating me any differently as a result."

Akemi took a deep breath. "You said it yourself, when I'd begun to doubt the truth of it: I know myself, my rhythms. And I know what I feel."

He shook his head and sighed, "Forgive me if I am skeptical. I am not saying you do not believe this… Do you really want to try? Close your eyes, listen. All the clues are there."

"I don't want to try," she said as her eyes closed. "I want to do it." And she opened herself, made herself receptive to what she already knew in some part of herself was there–his rhythms for her to hear, and answer. And answer she would, but in her own way.

She leaned her head against his shoulder and breathed. Just as her mother had taught her. Centering, clearing the mind. Enliven the mind without dwelling on anything. Slowly the night's events came to her, as small slices. Glimpses of time.

The kiss in the den? Had he been excited by it? She really couldn't remember. The talk about Tate. He had been amused. But not touched by it. The dance. That was the first time she had felt his involment. Why the games? Why two steps forward, one step back?

I thought he was trying to see how much I would put up with. A little classic parry-and-thrust. But that's not it at all. His rhythms… they're for real.

She could feel his chest against her side. His body was cool. His heart beat slow even. Slower then her own. Slower then anyone she had ever felt.

Akemi rode it out, letting her perceptions, the situation, him, all of it, take her where it would. At the same time, however, an idea she had dismissed earlier began to reassert itself, in another part of her mind:

I thought he might be trying to push Zen or Tao, or some other cult. But this is something else, something unique to him. As are his vital signs. And his complete lack of reaction to my transformation, too… I hope I'm just reading too much into this, and it's all just coincidence, that he's really just a man, however remarkable. But I've got to know.

Desmond was right. She had approached the evening with her own pleasure firmly in mind. Using her experience with other men to excite him, assuming that that would be enough to satsify both of them. But it had not, and her own pleasure was diminished by the apparent lack of pleasure with her that Desmond had shown.

Later–how much time had passed, Akemi did not know and could care less– she held him and told him, in a voice both firm and compassionate, "Whatever your secret is, Desmond Reach–whoever or whatever you are–it's safe with me."

"That was never an issue once you took the oath," he spoke softly, his hand reached up and carressed her check. Slowly as all his movements had been.

"I know that. I gave my word–both as Akemi Rhodes and as Jadestorm," she said matter-of-factly. "But this is different. That was my head talking–the one on my shoulders. This is my heart talking."

And then it hit her like a blinding light. He needed much more foreplay than she did. The why of the games. His voice coming back to her–I have more control over my own body then I do yours.

Akemi's eyes widened, then closed. She laughed ruefully. "So that's it," she said. "I really have been looking at this all wrong. Those three lovers whom you said had come closer than anyone to satisfying you, they must have been remarkable people indeed. I'd like to have known them."

She slid off his lap, and led him by the hand back to bed. "Relax," she said softly, easing him and herself down. There was lovelight in her eyes as she smiled at him. "You've saved my sanity, and made me feel real again, all in one day. Even if I didn't love you, I'd still want to pleasure you fully. And now that I understand, that's what I'm going to do. Assuming there are no objections, that is."

Here she started kissing and touching every part of Desmond's head slowly, and with lingering touches. "And I'll start by giving you a carpet of flowers." Her lips and hands moved along his neck, traced his ears, his forehead, his hair, eyebrows, eyes (through his eyelids), nose, cheeks, chin, and mouth. Then she moved down one shoulder and along one arm, in the same unhurried manner, to his hand. There she caressed each finger in her own hands, before bringing it to her mouth. She got up on her knees so she could look into his eyes as she did so.

"Think of nothing but yourself and your pleasure," she said. "We will submerge ourselves in your rhythms. The world will have to get along without you tonight, for this night belongs to you."

When it felt right, she eased over to his other arm, making sure not to break her touch with him as she moved. Here, she worked her way down as she had before, though in a different manner. And she continued down the front of his body–chest, stomach, legs–seemingly ignoring his nipples and his crotch. She noted to herself those places that seemed particularly sensitive to her touch. Then she eased him over on his stomach, and continued her slow, thorough erotic massage, again leaving the more obvious erogenous zone of his ass for last.

Akemi leaned forward at this point and whispered again in his ear. "You were asking about things I've never done, right? Well, I've never prostituted myself, nor have I ever hired a prostitute. I have ordered table dancers in strip clubs, though. Come to think of it, I've never done any professional sex work, unless you count producing Sapphire Blue," she laughed. Then she continued, in hushed tones. "I've never done necrophilia either, but I think you'll want to know that that's what you're doing right now, in a manner of speaking."

He turned and gazed into her eyes. There was fear there, on her face. This was no joke, she was more serious then he had seen her. He reached up and stroked her face, "Why the fear, mon amour? You need never fear me. Talk to me."

She put her arms around him, burying her face in his chest. "I'm not afraid of you, I'm afraid for you," she said. "You called me 'amour,' but can you really love someone who's dead?"

She took a deep breath, then continued. "I know you haven't asked, but I'm going to tell you Jadestorm's story anyway. Akemi Rhodes died three months ago, trying to stop what looked like a mugging in an alley in Tokyo. Three guys in black attacked a salaryman-type. She was run through with some sort of knife while trying to save him. Everything goes black, then she wakes up chained to some sort of operating table. The 'salaryman' turns out to be a scientist, working for a secret cartel called Shocker, whose objective is world conquest. Their leader meant for him to reanimate this corpse as one of their destruction units. But he had other ideas, and they escaped when a bomb he planted went off. He told her that this was all he could do to repay her for saving his life, and then he was killed by another Shocker monster, a human spider. I destroyed it, but he died in my arms. That was frightening." She shivered with the memory.

Akemi sighed. "But what could I do after that? I'd become a modern-day Frankenstein's monster. I swore that I would avenge us both, by hunting down and destroying Shocker. Everything else–moving here, the computer software development–was just a front for that."

"Your courage is amazing. And it obvious that you are not dead. Yes?"

"Thank you. But it isn't courage, it's anger, that's all. There really is an organization out there with the power and the will to conquer the world. They have killed me, and made me over in their image. The man who tried to save me–a man whose name I'll never know–told me that I'd had no vital signs nor brainwave activity when I was placed on his operating table, and it took Shocker's equipment a good five minutes to revive me. That qualifies as dead, apparently. But even if I'm not dead, I still don't know what I am. I felt that hunting them down and destroying Shocker, and preventing this from happening to anyone else, was all I had left to me. Those thoughts were everything that drove me."

Then she looked into his eyes. "That is, everything until I met you this morning. You've reawakened feelings in me which I didn't even realize I'd lost. My vendetta against Shocker has kept me going, but you've given me a reason to live again. I'm not going through the motions anymore. Loving means even more than it used to, because I know how short life can be, and how I can't miss an opportunity to tell those I love how I feel. Or show them," she finished, gently pushing him onto his back again. "This is what I meant when I said you'd made me real again," she said. "Maybe Pinocchio might be a closer anology than Frankenstein. In any case, I can never repay you. But I will give you everything I have, if you will take it. But I wanted you to know the spirit with which I give to you."

So saying, she continued her tender ministrations where she had left off, giving her all for him that night. "I won't leave you like this," she whispered.

Her hands and mouth moved with surety, his voice had dropped to a throaty no every once in a while, pushing her own relief back. She was deep in his rythms and smiled softly to herself as he moved suddenly, pushing her to her back. His mouth decended on hers, his tongue danced along her lips and then lept to her invitation.

She felt him enter her.

Akemi could hardly have been more thrilled. She practically jumped for joy, barely limiting herself just then to running her fingers one last time down his spine as she eased her thighs even further for him. Then she stretched her arms over her head and smiled up at him, as if to say, yes, I'm yours. Take your pleasure any way you want.

He smiled and whispered softly, "Now."

Her first orgasm roared through her. Her back arched with the power of it. Desmond paused, giving her a few seconds to catch her breath. Then he thrust again. Akemi cried out as the second orgasim filled her, shook her. Twice more he repeated his movements, each one met with the same result.

She was beyond forming coherent thoughts. Every nerve in her body seemed to be firing simultaneously. She grabbed the headboard fiercely.

On his fourth stroke, Desmond began to growl, a low animal sound. He didn't pause to wait for her to come down this time, but began a rapid tempo. Even as Akemi succumed to the blackness brought on by her second orgasim in as many breaths, Desmond flung his head back and roared.

Akemi floated back to awarness. Her body was incrediable sensitive. Even the slight breath of air across her skin caused her to whimper. Four and then at least two one after the other. She could feel weight on her. Desmond. He was still nestle deep inside her. Akemi knew that he had stretched her in more then one way. She hadn't felt this full since her first time, and she didn't remember if there ever was a time when she was so completly and utterly satisfied and spent.

She lay there, exhausted and happy, basking in an almost literal afterglow. As she gingerly put her arms around him, she reflected on how much she enjoyed this part of sex, when she and her lovers held and cuddled one another. Moments such as these communicated things that could not be found anywhere else. She moved just enough that mere touch didn't sting her too much, and closed her eyes.

It occurred to her that Emmanuelle spoke the truth when she said of any given lover, "I have never loved anyone like this before!" because she had never loved that particular person before. Akemi knew it was most certainly true of Desmond. No one she had loved was like any other, and thus they were all irreplaceable in her heart. But with him, it was different. It was as if she had shed a new virginity. He had taken a new cherry, one she didn't even realize she had. He had made a woman of her again, emotionally as well as physically. She could only hope that she had been able to give him something nearly as meaningful and pleasurable in return.

She smiled to herself. Given his current condition, she was sure she needn't worry about that. She felt certain that he felt secure enough to show her a vulnerable side that most people probably never even dreamed existed. The thought made her heart ache. Oath or no, she would do nothing to betray his feelings, she told herself, squeezing him just a little tighter.

Then another notion popped into her head, and this time she couldn't help verbalize it. "My suspicions seem to be confirmed," she intoned softly, in a mock-serious voice. "This isn't a human being I'm lying here with; this is a god." The last two words came out with a giggle.

Then Akemi turned serious again. "Maybe this means that I really did die, and this is my afterlife. But then that raises the question of where I ended up, and that's more trouble to contemplate than it's worth. No, I must be alive again: nothing dead could feel this good."

She turned and gently kissed his cheek. "'I love you' doesn't seem adequate to describe how I feel. But it'll have to do."

Desmond ran his hands over her back, "Merci, it has been so very long. The last time was when I had just turned 18. She was one of the upstairs maids."

The first thing that came to mind was, how long ago was that? But what came out of her mouth was, "Oh, so you have had female employees here. I was starting to wonder."

He shook his head, "I do have female employees, I just don't sleep with them. This was when my father still ran things."

He smiled softly in remembrance and then frowned, focusing his eyes on Akemi. "Perhpas you should be going now. I have work to do."

Seeing the sudden flare of hurt he sighed, "It is for you amore. It would be too easy for you to make you mine forever." He kissed her gently. She sensed that he was on the verge of telling her something. At the last second he changed his mind.

Akemi returned his kiss, felt him seize up. How can there be any secrets between us now? she thought, but did not press the matter. Instead she asked, banteringly, "Does this mean I get sent home without any supper? What would your chef say? Though on the other hand," Akemi continued, rolling off Desmond and toward the other side of the bed, "it won't be much fun eating alone after this, no matter how good the meal is."

Suddenly she turned to face him again. "There's just one thing I want to know," she said. "Even with as much control as you have, I can't believe that you wouldn't react at all to what I told you, unless you already knew. What do you know about Shocker?"

"Nothing," he answered, already dressing, "but I will find out. Akemi, I have seen many strange things over the years. That you did not see me react does not mean that I didn't. I just have had many years of pratice in not showing it."

How many years? she wanted to ask. But he was under no obligation to tell her anything, even if she had told him about Jadestorm. Come to that, whatever her reasons, she had volunteered that information; not only did he not ask, but it really didn't seem to make a difference in his attitude toward her.

"I haven't been able to turn up anything since that night in Tokyo," she said. "It's almost as if they've gone to ground, they're so quiet. But I know how dangerous they are. I'm living proof. I don't want your life, or those of your people, put at risk for me."

"Do not worry, my people are very good."

"Just the same, if you do find anything, let me know. I'll take over. In the meantime, I'll start checking around again myself."

"I know of one man that may help you understand what has happened. If you feel like trusting him. His name is Dr. Edward Jackson. He is one of two doctors that have taken up metahuman medicine."

"'Metahuman medicine'? I didn't even realize there was such a specialty." Akemi slid off the bed and picked up her slipdress. Dusting it off, she wriggled into it.

"The science is fairly new. He comes highly recommended. I will see what can be arranged."

"Thank you."

As she dressed, she said, "But if you trust him enough to recommend him, and you don't think it'll be a problem, then I'd appreciate an introduction."

He then smiled, and she realized that he was a very good actor because she had thought that his smiles earlier had been sincere. But this one. She realized that he had just allowed her to see a Desmond that few did. The real one.

"I think that you are very beautiful. Whatever outer form you take."

Akemi could practically feel her heart melting. She smiled back as she ran around the edge of the bed, and threw her arms around him again. "I think you're beautiful too," she said. "If you or yours ever need me, I'll be there."