I will not be stopped. Advance apologies for the sex, it's not that bad, you can deal, etc etc. CALM DOWN CHILDREN.
RATED NC-17 for adult content. NSFW sex scene. Moderate bitchiness. Part two to follow sometime next week.
Clio’s reflection looked back at her from the small bathroom mirror in her apartment. She was swathed in her green, ankle-length satin dress – the only formal item she owned that wasn’t plain black. After Malvolio’s gentle reprimand about her monochrome wardrobe, she felt the need to look less like her usual self, even if she had worn the green dress many times before. Her long hair was half-pinned up with cheap hair grips; she had taken a break from fixing it due to aching arms. She’d done her eyes up in chocolate brown and gold, and her lips were a silky peach. A pair of discarded false eyelashes lay on the edge of the sink – she had found them at the pharmacy, but was clumsy and failed with gluing them on. She didn’t understand them, anyway, and in fact barely understood the cosmetics aisle as a whole. It was a marked difference to kohl and rouge.
Flexing her wrists, Clio reached up to secure the rest of her hair, twisting it into makeshift ringlets atop her head. She’d only worked until 9pm tonight, leaving her plenty of time to return home and make herself look presentable for the party. Now it was nearing one – extreme punctuality would have caused her embarrassment, she was sure – and as she took a last glance into the mirror, she went to grab her coat.
The streets were not yet filled with tourists – it was still winter, but not yet Carnevale, so the people she passed on the way to the House of Spring were mostly locals and visitors who obviously wanted to avoid the most popular seasons. When she arrived, she was met at the door by a woman who, like herself, also had a hint of blue to her skin – but where Clio’s was smooth and silk-like, Blue Monday’s seemed touched by a patina of frost. The Sage Escort's hair was indigo-coloured, her eyes a misty white.
“Clio,” she greeted, with a cursory glance over Clio’s hair and makeup. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here tonight.”
“Malvolio asked me to attend,” Clio replied, stepping into the foyer as Blue Monday allowed her to pass by.
“Oh? He didn’t mention that.” Her tone was just level enough not to sound patronising, but there wasn’t any warmth there, either. “Not that it matters, I suppose… I just assumed he would have said something, since you don’t usually come along…” A short pause, as though Blue Monday was thinking, and she looked away from Clio for a split second. “You’re still welcome, of course.” Again, no evidence of welcome in her voice. Then she was distracted, as more guests were at the door. She waved Clio towards a room on the left - “Someone will take your coat,’ and then turned to the new arrivals.
After Clio had exited the cloakroom, she wandered back into the foyer where the bulk of the party was taking place. It was a typical Spring event – fresh flowers everywhere, lining the border of the room and winding round the rails of the staircases. The main hall was well-lit, a string quartet in the corner. There were only drinks and canapes here – Clio knew that the stronger substances would be partaken of in the surrounding rooms. She walked rather awkwardly through the foyer for a few minutes, completely aware that everyone seemed to be locked in private conversations. She wasn’t really surprised – she only knew a handful of people in the Court of Spring, and she wouldn’t describe them as friends. Though, who would she describe as a friend? Her workmates at the Florian? They were nice people, and she was talkative with them when on a shift – but she had never seen them in a non-work context. Then there was her motley, and she could never remember meeting with them when it wasn’t a dire situation.
As Clio stood on the perimeter of the room with a drink, she heard a door click a few feet away, and the sound of laughter as a number of people appeared. Amongst the ones she recognised were Tybalt and Madam Roseblood, the latter of whom sauntered back into the crowd. Tybalt instead surveyed the room, catching Clio’s eye – he weaved his way between the guests to reach her.
“Hello, Clio,” he said. No matter how pleasant the salutation, it always seemed a little sly coming from his feline mouth.
“You look nice. Maybe we’ll have a… dance… later.” He smiled, showing pointed, catlike teeth. Clio wondered whether it was coincidence, or if he was referring to her dalliance with the Fairest Dancer, Mercutio, a few months back. Either way, his words were rife with suggestion. He added, “Malvolio wants to see you.”
“Now?” For some reason, Clio had imagined that Malvolio wouldn’t show his face until much later in the evening.
“Yes, now,” Tybalt replied, slightly amused, as though he knew something she didn’t. “Follow me.” He turned on his heel, stepping back towards the smaller room he’d just come out of, with Clio in tow. He knocked twice, then pushed the door, gesturing for Clio to go inside.
The door shut behind her as Clio glanced around the space. It seemed to be some sort of drawing room, with a day bed, a coffee table, a large bookcase. It was decorated in forest green, and the low light made it seem darker than it was. Malvolio had been buttoning his shirt – it was pale blue, and worn with navy trousers - but he turned as soon as he heard the door close, seemingly unfazed by the fact that he was not properly dressed.
“Mia cara,” he said, casting an approving eye over Clio as he walked over. He leaned in to kiss her on the cheek as he had done a few days before. Then he drew back, but lingered for a moment afterwards, clearly waiting for Clio to return the gesture. Her lips softly grazed the pallor of his face, leaving a very faint trace of peach lipstick behind.
“You’re not ready yet,” Clio summised, noting the half-fastened shirt.
Malvolio laughed a little. “It’s just a little early… Blue Monday tries her best, but her parties rarely get interesting until much later. In the meantime, I like to create my own entertainment.” He briefly examined Clio’s drink, pulling a small pink sachet from his pocket. He tore it open carefully, making a tiny slit in the paper, before dropping its entire contents into Clio’s glass. The powder from the sachet was also pink, and it survived a second or two in the lime-coloured liquid before dissolving. Malvolio reached down to the coffee table where he’d set his own drink – he picked it up, swirling the fluid around a little. He held it out to Clio, clinking both their glasses together.
“Entertainment?” She echoed, lifting her glass slowly to sip from it. She was pleasantly surprised that the drug did not affect the taste of the alcohol, but it did make her feel instantly intoxicated, as though she was verging on four or five cocktails. She blinked as the room appeared to shudder in front of her; tiny lights seemed to materialise and then vanish. Everything blended into soft focus.
He smiled. “Pleasure is an interesting concept, don’t you think? Especially here.” He turn
ed away from her, beginning to idly pace the room. “We encourage it and endorse it, we want everyone to experience more of it.” He paused. “But pleasure is still ultimately a mercenary thing.” Swallowing the remainder of his drink, he returned the empty glass to the table, and looked at Clio. “It’s funny… I spent so long waiting for you to share yourself with the Court, and now I want to keep you for myself.”
Clio felt her cheeks flush a little; she glanced down at her drink.
“I won’t, of course.” Malvolio added, moving back towards her. “That’s not to say I don’t intend to be selfish once in a while.” He trailed his palm across the satin of her dress, along her stomach and just above her hips. “I see you’re not wearing black tonight.”
She watched his gaze travelling from her breasts and up to her face. “I wanted to try being someone different.” It sounded odd even to her – could it really be that different? She knew what would happen now, she knew what these parties entailed – and she’d never wanted to feel exploited again, or coerced into acts that she felt obliged to perform. But this wasn’t the same as Arcadia, with her Keepers breathing down her neck. She admitted to herself, standing here in front of Malvolio, that pleasure had been a welcome side effect of trying to find out his secrets. Regardless of her lack of success thus far.
Malvolio teased the glass from her hand – when she didn’t object, he drank the rest himself and set the glass down. “Different… ?” He mused, running his hands over the straps of her gown and pulling them from her shoulders. He wasn’t really looking for an answer – he caught her lips in a kiss, unrelenting and wanton. Clio reached out to his arms to steady herself, twisting and creasing the fabric of his well-pressed sleeves; he tugged down again on her straps, revealing the nude shell of a bra underneath. “You don’t need this,” he smiled wickedly, releasing the hook at the back and putting her scale-coated breasts on full show. “Or these,” he continued, tracing the edge of her underwear through the thin material of the gown. He paused a moment, his eyes locked with hers and his chest pressed heavy against her exposed flesh, before grasping at the seam of her skirt, bunching the satin together and sliding a hand up her silver-blue thigh. He forced down the briefs, leaving them abandoned on the floor. Clio’s hands were inside his shirt, fingertips raking against white and violet skin, as he crushed her to the wall.
She could feel the solid mass at his crotch as he pulled away from her kiss; he slipped two fingers into his mouth, his expression sinful and bold. He suckled on her earlobe, gripped a breast in his other hand, as he plunged both digits inside her. The lack of apprehension in his strokes made Clio ache - she thrust her tongue back into his velvety mouth, relishing its sweet taste. Malvolio’s breaths grew harsh and laboured; he removed his hand from Clio’s dampened entrance and tore impatiently at the buttons of his trousers. Clio didn’t see his next move, only felt it as he keenly struck into her wetness. He held himself there, allowing her to sense his full length, before beginning to thrust methodically. His hand tangled into scarlet hair, and the hair grips came loose as he whispered filthy sentiments against her neck. The drug was still racing through Clio’s system, heightening everything – Malvolio’s body felt searing hot to the touch, and his gnawing on her throat seemed like it was breaking the skin. She wrapped her right leg around his waist, taking a moment to yank his head back and stare into the shining green of his eyes – he grinned at her forcefulness, increasing the pace and depth. Just as the friction began to grow unbearable, Clio’s muscles spasmed tightly, and she felt him slam her shoulders back into the wall as he climaxed hard.
Almost immediately Clio began to feel sore – the substance hadn’t worn off yet, but it only served to amplify the rawness of nerve endings. She let Malvolio step away, and stood supporting her limbs on the wall, breathless as he tidied himself.
When they walked out of the room together, looking a little worse for wear, Malvolio kissed Clio gallantly on the hand, throwing her a lingering glance, then ushering himself off into the throng of guests. If Clio had not watched him go, she would have noticed Madam Roseblood on the other side of the room, eyeing her with interest.
The party was getting more lively now, with people disappearing into neighbouring rooms and behind drapes. Clio managed to find a stack of cigarettes that seemed to only be tobacco, and she let the attendant light her one before wandering to the back doors of the palazzo. They were open, the cold mist of the lagoon gently seeping in, with the canal lapping quietly below. This part of the building had been busy earlier, but now it was empty. Clio stood with her cigarette, listening to the muffled sounds of music and laughter.
“Ciao, Clio.” The voice startled her suddenly, and Clio turned to see it belonged to the slender and pale figure of Madam Roseblood. From what Clio could recall, they had only met once or twice in passing.
“Ciao,” Clio replied, suddenly self-conscious of her state of disarray. She brushed back an unkempt strand of hair.
Madam Roseblood’s gaze was scathing; she looked pointedly at Clio’s smudged mascara and swollen, kiss-ridden mouth. “Enjoy yourself with Malvolio?” Her tone was icy.
Clio’s eyes narrowed, disliking the air of animosity. “…Yes,” she said carefully. “Why?”
“Just curious. It seems such a sudden change for you… a few weeks ago I’d hardly ever seen you here, and now you’re quite a regular visitor. Especially to Malvolio’s chambers. If you don’t mind me being blunt.” It was clear Madam Roseblood didn’t care what Clio minded.
Clio scoffed. “I’ve spent a very small amount of time with him.”
Madam Roseblood smiled, but not kindly. “But moreso, since he became the new Duke.”
Clio felt a cold dread in her stomach at the mild accusation, but it was clouded by her need to be defensive. “I’ll have you know that Malvolio has paid an interest in me, not the other way around.” She wanted to backtrack her words when she heard them out loud, spiteful and malicious.
“Is that so?” Roseblood mused, folding her arms.
“What does it matter to you, anyway?” Clio turned away from her slightly, inhaling smoke from her cigarette. She heard footsteps behind her as Roseblood came closer.
“Some of us have spent a lot of time and effort making our name in the Spring Court,” Roseblood said darkly. “Do you really think we’re going to sit back and watch someone like you get all the attention?”
Clio couldn’t help but laugh. “Attention? If Malvolio likes my company, that’s his prerogative.”
Roseblood pursed her lips. “But you’re foolish to accept his invitations blindly. Did you assume people wouldn’t talk?”
Clio shook her head, thinking. Surely she hadn’t caused that much of a stir… “I told you, I’m not…”
Roseblood’s eyes were challenging. “Then what else is there? Don’t tell me you feel affection for him, or something ludicrous like that.” The very idea caused Roseblood to smirk cruelly.
“No,” Clio countered. “Why would I?”
“I’d feel sorry for you, if you did.” Roseblood placed a hand on Clio’s shoulder, crimson fingernails seeming s
harp and predatory. “You may be his little favourite now, but soon enough he’ll find a new plaything and completely discard you.”
Clio took this in momentarily, then made a mockingly sympathetic face. “Oh, is that what he did to you?” The venom in her words was palpable, and surprising even to Clio.
There was a split second where Roseblood looked stricken; her face flickered to angry, and then settled again. Her words were slow and considered. “…You think I care about Malvolio? I have a list of lovers that would rival even his.” A pause before she struck with more poison. “And mine doesn’t include hideous Elementals.” She hissed the last two words into Clio’s ear, and then stepped back, hearing voices approaching. “Enjoy your upward mobility… at least until someone cuts you down.”