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From Phyllida's Desk

Excerpt from "Birth: A Novella"

"Lady Amalie's memoirs" is a series of novels and novellas about a family of telepathic aristocrats in the sword-and-sorcery world of Eclipsis. This excerpt is from the fourth story, Birth: A Novella, when the honeymoon is definitely over for Amalie; her bisexual husband, Dominic; and his boyfriend, Stefan.

If only we could have stayed home. It's the city that did it, I tell myself, a ridiculous lie from a city girl. But things went wrong from the start in Eclipsia City. The communion that had seemed stronger than the three of us combined weakened with each new conflict, until it unraveled like a cut rope, shaking us off into miserable freedom, even Stefan. Now, five months into our marriage, and back at Aranyi, Dominic and I must work to reestablish the connection. What had once flourished on its own, without any attention from us, now requires care. And so I have given Dominic a gift, arranged an opportunity for him, to show him that I have kept faith as his wife, that I know his mind.

Dominic and Lord Roger Zichmni ride through the deep snow to the summer barn, packed with fragrant hay that seems to retain some of the warmth of harvest time. The men lead the horses in and shut the doors against the wind. Every square inch of space is filled with bales.

"Here," Dominic says, finding a shorter stack. "We can sit here." He sits first, leaning back on his elbows, long legs extended, his mouth curving in the hint of a smile, all innocence, letting Roger come to him.

Roger sits at the other end of the bale, broad shoulders hunched, his tall frame folded over on itself, back turned. The hay prickles through the leather riding breeches, or perhaps it's the excitement, the beginning of an erection that can't be stopped or prevented when the other is this close, body heat and pulsing heartbeats shimmering on waves of hay-scent between them…

Dominic reaches for Roger's hand, but Roger pulls away. Like a virgin schoolboy, he thinks, annoyed with himself, reddening with embarrassment.

There is a pause while Roger lets his hand be captured. Dominic's long fingers stroke the palm; communion builds between them, expanding like the heated air around the closely packed hay, like their own bodies in the tight breeches.

Years have passed since Roger was a resentful first-year cadet, grandson to the Viceroy, born to rule, following his planned future under duress. Dominic must adjust to the new relationship, the equality between them—more, that Roger is his overlord in fact, not merely in name. For Roger, it is another rite of passage, that this man who had wanted him with a fierce, predatory passion, is now offering a combination of casual sex and friendship, natural in the adult male world they both inhabit.

I sit in the easy chair in my room, the book Dominic has given me, his own peace offering, lying untouched on the table. My hand rests on my distended belly, sliding over the wool of my dress that prickles like the hay. Hoping for Dominic's success, a sign of our reconciliation.

"She's very gifted, your lady," Roger says.

Does Roger know it, I wonder, that I'm there in mind, with my husband?

Yes, Amalie, Dominic says. He knows. Dominic holds me in the communion as I start to withdraw. It's always better when my lady wife shares it with me. His arm is around Roger's shoulders, his mouth swoops for the kiss, and I gasp with the sudden sensation as Roger, also taken off guard, responds to the man who has fascinated and frightened him for so long.

Three hearts beat in rapid, thumping arousal. Roger thinks of his own lover in one panicked moment, before Dominic's hand is unbuttoning Roger's breeches, his tongue is in Roger's mouth, and thinking is no longer possible.

Dominic's lovemaking is both forceful and sensuous; he overcomes reluctance by pushing on then drawing back, so that at the moment of surrender it is the other who pleads, "Don't stop." Roger knows only that he enjoys being the one pursued for a change, instead of the hunter, that he likes being mastered by this man who has had hundreds of lovers, who knows what pleases another man—and what secretly excites and scares him. Roger can't resist the allure of passivity, the luxury of lying back and letting this virile, dangerous man do what he likes, of not knowing exactly what will happen. Afterward will be time enough to think. Now it is important only not to miss this great chance.

Dominic's mouth encircles the tip of Roger's shaft; he draws it deep into his throat, his fingertips tickling the base and the balls. Roger struggles to hold back, not to spill too soon, his hips pumping reflexively.

I feel the contractions in my vagina, the physical effects of mental union that Dominic and I have always shared. Strong, almost painful spasms, as if I am experiencing Roger's reluctant orgasm, not my husband's as yet unrealized expectations. My love, I say, go slow.

I hear Dominic's laugh, low and purring, in my mind. This is a man I am with, Amalie. I can't go as slow as with a woman. He swallows Roger's seed, thinking, This is my overlord, to whom I have sworn allegiance. A shift in their relationship, a new hierarchy, one to command, the other to submit.

And new for me, too. Dominic knows I don't enjoy this part, but he's keeping me in the communion. Always better, he said, when I share it with him. Is it? Does he want me as a support in his surrender, or is it another unwelcome development in our marriage, that he would take pleasure in my discomfort? I swallow convulsively, fighting nausea, hand on my belly, feeling movement inside, the child's strong kicks.

There is a jar of harness grease, for horse tackle and leather, left casually in a corner, although no one needs such a thing in a barn. Dominic has taken it from the smithy, put it here days ago, waiting his chance. He is a planner and a schemer, my Dominic, for all his recklessness. He has the jar open, is slathering it on his own bulging cock at the same time that his lips pull the last drops of seed from Roger's.

Roger sighs with repletion after his pleasuring from Dominic's mouth. Dominic straightens from his crouch, leans over Roger's recumbent body and turns him on his stomach, tenderly, like putting an infant to bed. The penetration is slow, easy, slick with the grease. Barebacking, they call it. With harness grease. Most appropriate.

It hurts me, though, a pain deep inside. Never have I felt this with Stefan, and yet Dominic is being even gentler now. Anyway, I haven't enjoyed physical sex for weeks. Once I reached my eighth month it was difficult for me, or would have been, I assume. We had given up trying by then. Our fights in Eclipsia City were always real, unlike our shouting matches at Aranyi, which were more often the prelude to love.

Now, with Dominic and Roger, I feel such a mix of pleasure and pain, joy and loss, hope and dread, it's sickening, like the sexual advances of the ungifted I had attracted on Terra and couldn't accept or respond to. Dominic is oblivious—or is he? Never has he shut me out of his lovemaking with a man if I wanted to share it; never has he done anything deliberately to cause me distress. I'm panting and heaving, caught up in passion despite the discomfort, locked in a communion that I can't sever, even if I wanted to.

Dominic is riding Roger, not so gentle anymore, really barebacking, the long strokes, in and out. They're in the deep communion of sex between the gifted. Roger is sobbing, or perhaps he's whimpering with pleasure. Funny how you can't tell by the sound. From Dominic a rhythmic grunting, a desire so intense it had obsessed him. With the object attained at last, he is more excited by the idea than by the body and flesh he's possessing at this moment.

No, Amalie, he says, do not think I am ungrateful. This body and this flesh are most satisfying. Thank you, my love, for your offering.

He has not lost his rhythm while he converses with me; he comes, wild and violent, pounding roughly into Roger until the young man moans, and the two of them topple over into the hay. Roger is crying now, no mistake, and Dominic holds him, kissing, murmuring words into his face, petting and soothing him.

Roger pushes him away. "It's not enough to rape me," he says. "You want me to like it."

"Yes," Dominic says, "I do. It's better when we both enjoy it. And I don't recall any rape."

Roger rolls on his side. "Sex and rape are the same to you," he says. "If there's no force involved you can't get it up."

"And how exactly did I force you in here and compel you to allow your precious Zichmni cock to be sucked?" Dominic says.

"I was curious, I confess," Roger says. "But admit it, Dominic; you can't lie in communion. The way you rode me just now—gods, that was rough! I suppose I should have expected it, but I thought– these past years– you seemed—" It's difficult for him to express his feelings. No matter that they've just shared the ultimate intimacy. For men, words are always the roughest sex of all. "You haven't changed. You still get off on hurting people."

Dominic stretches his hand toward Roger. "That's nonsense," he says, but softly, doubtfully. "I was as gentle with you as with a virgin." There's guilt at the back of his mind, confusion. He's telling the truth, as far as he knows, but he's more aware now, after the fact, of the discomfort I felt, the strange combination of physical sensations he and Roger experienced, doesn't understand why.

"You hurt me, deliberately, and it's the only way you enjoy it," Roger says.

"Not deliberately." Dominic is humble, apologetic. "Truly, Roger."

"Lord Roger, to you." The intentional humiliation. Face stern, no smile to mitigate it.

Dominic groans, then laughs and complies. "My lord," he says. "I wanted us to have pleasure. Both of us. And it gives me no pleasure if Ama—" He clamps his lips shut over the betrayal he was about to utter.

Even though he suspected it earlier, Roger is shocked. "Your lady wife! You would force her to participate in your filthy—"

"Filthy?" Dominic looks at Roger, sprawled in the hay, his breeches lowered to his knees. "That's a peculiar choice of word for a man in your position." He finds his sword belt, unbuckled but never far from reach, draws the blade. "And you will leave my lady wife out of your thoughts and your words. My lord."

Roger has found his own sword, is unfazed by Dominic's belligerence. "Why don't you leave her out?"

The men rise to their feet and I'm convulsed with pain. We all feel it, the men doubling over, clutching their stomachs—Dominic, who has not broken the connection between us, and Roger, who has still, despite everything, retained the communion of the aftereffects of love.

Dominic! I call him, unable to suppress the cry for help. He is my lord husband, and when I am in distress it is to him I turn, no matter how we have hurt each other recently. Oh, Dominic, help me!

Amalie! Dominic answers my cry, throwing down his sword without bothering to sheathe it or looking to see if Roger is about to attack. He runs to his horse, only remembering to pull up his breeches when he stumbles. But Roger has felt it too, and the men know what it is before I do. Both of them fathers, they have experienced contractions, are wondering why they didn't recognize it earlier: not rape or rough sex, but my labor beginning on schedule, almost to the day.

Roger laughs with relief. "I've never been so grateful for a labor pain."

Dominic doesn't turn around, won't acknowledge the attempt at apology. He's mounted his horse, spurring the surprised animal out the door, through the snowdrifts to the castle's rear courtyard and the kitchen entrance.

Roger follows slowly. He's cold now, his energy drained after the sex, and he's strangely depressed. When Dominic had wanted him all those years he was secretly proud to have inspired desire in this man who always seemed to take what he wanted. Now that it's done, ended so abruptly, with mistaken accusations and no words of love exchanged, it's like a divorce or a broken engagement.

Amalie, Dominic intensifies the communion between us. My love, my lady wife. Be strong. I am with you.

I know it, Dominic
, I say. It is the beginning of mending. I have called to him and he has answered me, is on his way to my side. I am his wife, his second self; he is my husband, my completion. We will not be separated again, I am sure of it.
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