Saved by Grace

October 10, 2021

They’re both what can only charitably be described as “tipsy” – she can smell the alcohol on his breath, and is under no illusion that hers is any different. He smells of beer and fresh sweat and a bit of something else that makes her think of campfires. His skin radiates heat as she unbuttons his shirt, still damp with perspiration from dancing. He grins at her, one hand at her waist and the other grabbing her chin, only slightly awkwardly, to plant a kiss square on her lips. She finishes undoing the last button and slides the shirt down his shoulders, baring his chest. He has the body of a laborer, not a desk worker nor a gym rat, and he plants a kiss on the top of her head as she runs her hand through the dark blond curls covering his chest.

His shirt ends up somewhere on the floor in the hallway. Hers, also a men’s shirt, but so much smaller, hits the floor just outside the doorway to her bedroom. Under it, something that never quite decided whether it was a tank top or a sports bra, perfect for a night out clubbing, but too much for where this night was headed. She pulls it over her head without giving him a chance to try to do it for her. Soulful brown eyes, like those of a dog, drink in the sight of her light skin, her small breasts, her stiff, rosebud nipples. When he kisses her collar bone, his two-in-the-morning stubble scratches against her skin, and some other time that could be a turn-off, but right now she likes the sensation. They’re both intoxicated, they both still have the echoes of the club’s music in their veins, and drunk sex isn’t like sober sex.

She grabs a handful of his short, product-stiffened hair and pulls him in, kisses him. His tongue is hot and soft and sends a shiver through her as it slips between her lips. Large, strong hands on either side of her waist, holding her close. She’d never thought of herself as small, but he’s tall, solid, and it makes her feel like she could hide against his chest and not be found until she wanted to be. The back of her leg bumps against the edge of her bed and she laughs as she lets herself half-fall backwards, a hand on the back of his neck encouraging him to follow.

He does.

He is above her, his hands on either side of her, supporting his weight. Her hands are at his belt, undoing it by feel. Their eyes are locked together, laughter and drunk desire glittering in the light from the light post outside her window. His belt is new, stiff, and her fingers aren’t as clever as when she’s working on an engine. It doesn’t seem to bother him; he leans in and nuzzles her hair, right above her hairline, mumbling something that’s just a collection of sounds without words. Finally, his belt concedes defeat, and his fly hardly puts up a fight at all. She can’t resist dragging her fingernails across the plain cotton material of his underwear, and his breath catches for a moment at that light touch to his still only halfway hard flesh.

Gravity seems to want him naked as much as she does, leaving his jeans in a puddle on the floor beside her bed, his pocketful of keys landing with a muffled “chink” sound. There’s a mark on his hip, something inked with bold lines, but now is not the time to stop to admire body art. She gives him a playful squeeze, and is rewarded with a barely-voiced groan.

Then he rolls them both over, and she’s sitting over him, straddling his waist. Her fingers explore his chest as he unbuttons her many-pocketed cargo pants. His fingers play with the waistband of her boxers, and she almost subconsciously shifts a little lower along his body. It’s hard to keep track of who manages to maneuver her pants out of the way, and it doesn’t much matter, not when they’re tangled together skin against skin, exchanging hot breaths and tasting each other’s lips. She can feel his excitement through the last thin layer of material covering it, firm against her thigh, and in that moment she doesn’t think she has ever been so sure of a thing in her life as she is right now about wanting him. It’s the beer talking, of course, and on some level she knows that, but on no level does she give a flying fuck that her brain’s beer talk has descended into hyperbole.

She reaches out past him, fingers fumbling against the edge of her mattress until they find a flat package tucked in between it and the bed frame. There’s one particular drunk mistake that she in no way cares to repeat. She doesn’t even know where her boxers go as they’re slipped off her legs, and doesn’t note where she drops his.

She’s stroking him, holding the corner of the condom wrapper in her teeth, ready to be torn open. His skin is velvety soft over the hard flesh, and he squeezes her breasts as she squeezes his erection. Just about to tear open the foil and roll the rubber onto him, she’s interrupted by the sound of her phone ringing. Even muffled by being buried somewhere in the small pile that is her pants, it’s loud. Too loud. She drops the condom on the bed, lets go of him, and leans over to reach for it, hoping to catch it before it rings again. He catches her, gripping her wrist, not hard enough she couldn’t pull loose if she wanted to, but tightly enough to make clear he doesn’t want her to move.

“Let it ring,” he smiles, cupping her cheek with his other hand.

“It’ll wake up my roommate.”

She leans over again, and he reluctantly releases her. Somehow she manages to fish her phone out without going tumbling face first onto the floor. Just so she can dismiss the call, she tells herself, until she sees who’s calling. There’s no point in ignoring him. And given the absolute mess her brother’s life has been the last couple of years, she probably shouldn’t, anyway. “I gotta take this.”

Her date gives her a great theatrical sigh, letting himself fall back flat on the bed, and she rolls her eyes at him, mouthing “just a minute.”

“‘Xeen.” She makes no effort to sound happy to speak to him. Now he’s apparently taken to cockblocking her without even knowing she’s about to get some. “It’s two in the fucking morning.”

“I just got off work,” the voice on the other end of the line replies, more an explanation than an apology. “‘Retta, I need a favor.”

“This better be real important.”

“My car won’t start; could you come over and have a look at it?”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. “Take the bus, ‘Xeen. Catch a ride with your boss. Walk. I’m already in bed.”

It’s not technically a lie. He doesn’t need to know who’s with her, or in what sense exactly they’re about to sleep together. The man in her bed seems to take her words as an invitation, leaning up to wrap his arms around her, to nuzzle at the point where her right shoulder meets her neck. She gives his forehead a light push with her free hand, because there’s no way she’s going to say anything out loud and risk Roxeen overhearing it. It’s barely more than a token gesture, and the arms around her squeeze for a moment in response.

“Erkka already left. At least drive down here and pick me up?”

“No.” It feels good to say it, and for a moment she feels guilty that it does. “Look, I had a few beers, okay?” Maybe more than a few. “I can try to stop by the club on my lunch break and see what I can do about the car. What would your boyfriend say if I drove drunk to pick you up?”

“What, you were going to tell him?”

Of all the insufferable… “I said no. Maybe I should tell him you were trying to talk me into it.” They both know it’s an empty threat, of course. “Good night, ‘Xeen.”

She can hear him start to say her name before she dismisses the call. No family emergency, just her brother needing a mechanic in the middle of the night. Well, fuck him.

Her lover, his skin hot and slightly sticky against hers, goes from nuzzling to lightly nibbling at her neck, teeth barely scraping across her skin. It sends a shiver through her, but doesn’t drown out the lingering irritation of being called up at absolute ass o’clock over something that could — and should — have waited until morning. A hand runs up her side, gently cups one of her breasts, and she tries to get into it, to feel the fire she was feeling only minutes earlier. She reaches back, runs her fingers through her partner’s hair, and receives an appreciative hum against her neck in response. She wants to want this. He’s been good company all night, ever since they met up at that you-only-know-it-if-you’re-local Islandic restaurant for what could have been an absolutely awful, awkward friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend blind date. He’s definitely on the hot side of average, and he genuinely had fun with her on the dance floor when they hit up the club after dinner.

Hell, he’d fed her fried flower petals while remarking how corny it was.

He pulls her with him as he eases back onto the bed, and she’s lying half atop him, half nestled against his side. She shuffles around just enough to be able to kiss him, hoping that his lips and his breath will be what reignites that burning, drunk desire. He’s happy enough to kiss her back, gently grasping her chin between thumb and forefinger, and he’s honestly pretty good at it.

But she’s just not into it anymore. With a sigh, she pushes him away. “I think it’s best if you go now.”

“You’re—” His eyes are full of disbelief, his voice has spiderweb cracks of hurt. “You’re kicking me out? Now?

“Look, it’s…” How can she possibly explain that she doesn’t want to fuck him because she’s mad at her brother? “I’m sorry. It’s not you, I promise. Some other time?”

He’s still confused, she can see it. For a moment, his fingers tremble against her skin, like the strings of an instrument brushing against her. Then he sort of half-smiles, cups her cheek, and gives her another kiss. Gentle, tentative, searching. She can return that one almost earnestly. It’s not that she doesn’t like him. When they break the kiss, he places one finger on her lips, as if to silence her. The gesture seems out of place, and she quirks an eyebrow at him while giving his arm a gentle push to remind him that he’s supposed to be letting go of her and getting out of her bed.

He doesn’t let go.

She opens her mouth to say something before quite knowing what, but doesn’t have time to figure it out. His hand clamps over her mouth, strong and unyielding. His breath plays with her hair when he whispers, his mouth not even inches away from her ear. “Shhh. Just let it happen.”

Emotions race through her at breakneck speed. First she’s startled, because what is he doing? Then she’s scared, because he’s stronger and heavier than she is and she can’t do anything to stop him. Then she’s angry, because what is he doing? She scrabbles at his hand, desperate to pull it away, but she might as well be trying to loosen a lug nut barehanded. Her fingernails, trimmed short as they’ll go, are no good for scratching, finding no purchase on his skin. She tries kicking, and feels her heel connect with his shin, but it does nothing to loosen his grip, only draws a low grunt of pain.

He rolls them both over, and she can do nothing to stop him. She’s face-down into a pillow, and can’t scream even when he pulls his hand away. He’s above her, his weight not quite resting on her, but there, keeping her pinned with her arms and hands underneath her. One of his legs is between hers, and she can feel his erection pressing against the back of her thigh. A shudder runs through her when his breath stirs the tiny hairs on the back of her neck. She squirms, trying to work her arms out from under her, at least. He’s supporting much of his weight on one elbow, the fingers that just before were clamped across her face now tangled into her hair, loosely gripping it but not pulling. His other hand gives her breast a gentle squeeze, pauses for a moment to play with her — treacherously stiff — nipple, then slides down along her side. Quite obviously, he’s not in a hurry, and his touch is soft.

This isn’t happening.

Whatever words he whispers into her skin go unheard. The pillow smells like sweat and greasy hair and makes the air she breathes in feel stale, stifling. She tries to fight him when his other leg crosses hers to join its fellow, but with his chest against her back, pinning her down, she has no leverage. Her thighs open to him, slowly and inevitably, as he brings his knees apart. Her frustration comes out as inarticulate noise, swallowed by the pillow in her face. When his hand leaves her hip she tenses up, shoulders quivering, her breaths short and sharp and leaving the pillowcase damp with saliva. He shuffles, his wrist brushes against her buttock on its way past, and her breath sticks in her throat, just waiting to feel his tip nudge against her labia.

This isn’t happening.

It’s almost worse that she can’t see what he’s doing. All she can do is guess, and wait for it to happen. When she feels him prodding, it’s too far back, pressing uncomfortably against her perineum. She flinches, lifting her hips, and feels that point of contact move closer to her still-wet opening. Endless seconds pass before he starts pushing into her, slowly, smoothly. He releases her hair and his weight eases off of her as he repositions himself, one hand near each of her shoulders. The first few strokes are long and slow, and he shifts a little between each, just fine adjustments. Each thrust is like a drawn-out sigh, filling her up and flowing out. It takes a couple of them for it to sink in that he’s no longer holding her down. She shifts her weight, works one arm out from under her, slipping it under the pillow to mask it in case he glances down. Her head turns, just a little at first, and what she spots out of the corner of her eye turns into a cold, hard lump in her stomach.

There’s the fucking condom wrapper, pristine and unopened as the moment she dropped it.

This is Not. Fucking. Happening.

He’s not prepared for her to lash out, to push herself up with enough force that the back of her head hits his nose and draws a pained noise from him. She’s still at a disadvantage, still smaller, lighter, weaker, but for a moment she dares think she’s managed to surprise him just enough to ward him off. Her head hurts — it hit his chin as well as his nose, and she’s probably going to end up with a nasty bump — and she’s running on adrenaline and fear and anger, not clear thought. She pulls herself forward as much as she can, intending to slip out from under him, and finds herself facing her own bedroom wall. There’s no escape there.

Again his hand covers her mouth. Again her face is shoved down into a pillow. He’s not quite hurting her, but there’s a difference in the way he touches her, now. Angry. She can’t reach him to fight back, not like this, so she hits the wall in frustrated defiance until he gathers up her wrists in a grip that might as well be a vise. Something drips onto her upper back, hot and wet. She isn’t sure what it is.

This is not happening.

Dark, sticky helplessness floods her mind, then spills out into her limbs, making them too heavy to lift. She can’t fight this. He’s going to go through with it one way or another, and she can’t stop him. She trembles under him, her momentary fury spent, leaving behind fearful resignation.

He doesn’t immediately push back into her. Maybe it’s because holding her down makes it harder for him to position himself. Maybe the blow to his nose softened him up a bit. But he’s still holding her down, and she has no doubt that he intends to resume, intends to finish. She can’t see past the pillow her face is pushed into, and the soft sounds of her own muffled, wordless protests and his strangely distorted breathing are the only ones she registers. Every few times he exhales, another drop of hot liquid splashes onto her skin.

The sound, like the distilled fury of a dozen fighting housecats, is deafening by comparison. It hits her ears only moments before something slams into the man on top of her, knocking the breath out of them both. He’s no longer holding her wrists, no longer pressing her down into the mattress. Another yowl splits the air, along with a much more human cry of pain, and she suddenly remembers how to move again. She scrambles away from the man, away from the bed, and only when she looks back does she start to realize what just happened.

Her assailant is now the one finding himself pinned down on her bed. Over him, all fangs and claws and bristling fur, is her roommate. She’s never seen Grace like this before, didn’t know this was something Grace had in her.

“You,” the cougar-woman growls, her bared teeth less than a hand away from the man’s face, from his throat, “will not hurt Miss Aretta.”

The whites of his eyes glint in the low light as he nods his agreement, quickly and desperately, blood trickling down his face from his nose. It’s not enough for Grace. Her movements live up to her name as she rises, pulling him to his feet with her and not flicking so much as a whisker at the yelps of pain when her claws dig a little too forcefully into his skin, piercing it and the flesh beneath. Standing, it’s clear she’s markedly shorter than the man, but every inch of her is practically vibrating with rage.

She could rip his throat out, Aretta realizes with a start. She would rip his throat out. She couldn’t let that happen.

“Gracie…” The word falls off her lips like a skeleton leaf, fragile, brittle, but immediately the cat’s ears swivel around towards her.

“You stay here.” Every word laced with a growl promising a world of hurt if he doesn’t comply. Every word the complete opposite of the soft-spoken, always-compliant Grace Aretta is so familiar with. But the moment Grace’s eyes meet hers, the cat’s face softens, the mask of rage smoothing out into heartfelt concern, and the words — spoken in Grace’s mother tongue — come off her lips as gentle as ever. “<Are you unhurt?>”

She nods before realizing she’s started to shake.

No words are needed to summon the cat — her friend, her sometimes-lover, her roommate, her protege, and now her protector — to her side. It’s not until she crumples into Grace’s arms that she realizes just how badly she needs it.

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