Loneliness Is Stronger

June 21, 2008 Danae Klimt
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Loneliness Is Stronger
A Tale of Nouveau Montmartre
by Danae Klimt

“Loneliness is the spell, loneliness is stronger….”
–“April in Paris,” Ursula K. LeGuin

Daniel did not like working in the Salon. He
preferred to arrange appointments with patrons who had
read his profile on the nexus and knew something about
him ahead of time, patrons who had the courtesy to
fill out the survey so that he could know something
about them in return. But spending so many hours a
decan in the Salon, available to whomever walked
through the door, was part of the job. Most of the
time, he got a drink and lingered in a corner, or near
the piano if someone he liked was playing. His
contract required him to be there. It did not require
him to tryst with a patron.

It was near the end of his shift and he was inching
toward the exit when he spotted the little man.

It was quite by accident; the crowd parted for a moment,
like fog pushed by the wind, and he was looking
directly at a short, no, *small* man, an alien, with
hair the color of poured milk and a crooked back.
Then a couple crossed between them, and somebody else
shifted their weight from one foot to another, and
Daniel couldn’t see the small man any more. He moved
to the nearest sofa and sat down to sip his drink and
hope that the intriguing patron with the milk-white
hair would come to him.

A few minutes later, the small man limped into view
and sat down on the sofa opposite Daniel. Daniel did
not miss the small sigh of relief with which he sat;
the limp was very pronounced, and from the way the
small man twisted one leg over the other, he guessed
his legs were of different lengths. Why hadn’t he
gotten prosthetics? No matter.

Their eyes met, and Daniel’s small professional smile
was met by a tentative one. No, not
tentative–marred. A scar like a deep but narrow
canyon limited that smile; it bisected the small man’s
lips (they were shapely lips) and traveled up his
cheek, narrowly missing his right eye before it
disappeared into his hair. His eyes, larger than a
Terrahuman’s and too widely spaced for human beauty,
were the green of moss agates.

***

He should not have come here. It hurt to be
surrounded by so much beauty and be unable to touch
it. Tubal had assured him that he would find a
partner, that the Courtesies practiced the virtue of
hospitality and did not turn away anyone who came to
them with good will, but his heart said nay. Beauty
like this was not for such as him to touch or taste.

At the door of the Salon was a basket filled with
bracelets: gold for patrons who sought a male
Courtesy, silver for those sought a female, crystal
for those who sought either. It had taken all his
courage to slip one of the smallest gold circlets over
his wrist. Even that one was too large and kept
threatening to slip off.

Courtesies wore bracelets of copper, but to Marly’s
eyes, everyone alike was tall enough, fair enough,
noble enough to be a Courtesy. They all looked over
his head as if they did not see him, a small and
broken creature limping through their midst like an
unwanted court jester with no jokes to tell. He was
invisible, as always. Invisible even here.

Until he saw the tall dark-haired man.

He was not so tall, really, for one of the yingyah.
Not neck-breakingly tall, like Tubal and Jubal; not as
tall as some of the women present, who were even more
terrifyingly splendid than the men. And he was quiet,
like Jubal, like Sihel; he didn’t blaze in one’s eyes
with a loud noise like trumpets. He was still; he
didn’t shimmer red and blue at the edges of one’s
vision with nervous tension. He was quiet enough and
still enough and unhappy enough–unhappy enough almost
to smell–that Marly dared to go and sit near to him,
and meet his eyes once again.

***

He could never be handsome, or beautiful, but Daniel
had never seen anyone who looked like the small man,
or anyone who looked at him with such an expression of
wonder. He would be happy to take the man as a
patron–there was a too-large gold bracelet over one
crooked wrist–but all the clever words and poses he
had been taught failed him in response to the earnest
gaze of those wide, agate-green eyes. White hair,
olive-gold skin, and moss-agate eyes. . . no, there
could be no one else who looked like that. He had
never heard of a human race with this kind of build
and coloring. Was it possible that, like Daniel
himself, the small man was a hybrid?

They looked at one another and smiled. The small man
fingered his gold bracelet; his hands were another
part of him that was too large, too large for his
small torso, with long fingers and small palms.
Daniel allowed his copper bracelet and its red tassels
to fall into view.

After a few minutes Daniel finished his drink and set
the empty glass on the table between them. Then he
held out his hand to the small man. “My name is
Daniel Martinson.”

The small man took his hand in a cool dry grip, his
long fingers wrapping around Daniel’s wrist. “I am
Marly Tengher.” His voice was a high tenor, almost an
alto, with a strange reedy husky quality that went
right to Daniel’s groin in a way that patrons rarely
did.

Daniel clung to his hand just a bit longer than was
strictly necessary, long enough to brush with his
fingertip the outsized gold bracelet. “Yes,” Marly
answered, as if Daniel had asked aloud. Daniel
released Marly’s hand, rose, and led the way out of
the Salon.

***

It had been so easy, after all. The yingyah did not
have his sense of smell; Daniel Martinson, Courtesy,
would not know that Marly had gone with him because
the scent of pleasure, desire, welcome, had spread
forth and overlaid the scent of unhappiness that clung
to him beneath all the artificial scents laid on to
make him smell agreeable. He had seen the one he
wanted, smelled him, and been seen in return. The
clever code of the bracelets made pointless
conversation–small-talk, as the Terraborn called
it–unnecessary.

He followed the Courtesy out of the crowded Salon,
noticing that the taller man moved slowly, careful not
to lose him. The sudden coolness and quietness of the
corridor outside soothed Marly and at the same time
raised his desire. As he followed Daniel toward the
nearby lift, his senses were clear; he could admire
the long legs of the man, the sheen of his dark hair
under the rose-glass lamps, the economical way he
moved. He made the air sing softly just by lifting
his hand to touch the callpad of the lift.

In this tower there were many rooms, many places, many
mansions. Tubal had told him that each Courtesy had a
studio, where they received patrons, and a separate
apartment where they lived. Entering this studio,
however, was like entering Daniel himself. It smelled
of him, of his desire, his pleasure, his lingering
unhappiness. Its shades of blue and green were the
same hues as the shadows in his voice.

“Would you like something to drink?” Daniel asked.

“Thank you, no.”

“If you want to refresh yourself. . . .” Daniel
gestured toward a door.

“It is not necessary.”

They looked at one another. Then Daniel sank to his
knees.

***

It was simply wrong to make a patron crane his neck to
look up at you. Those who wanted that could patron
Fionn or Algernon Smythe or Artemisia. He did not
want to loom over Marly Tengher. There was something
disturbingly childlike about the man, about his small
size and his wide wondering eyes and his long,
straight milk-blond hair. The disturbing part was the
unchildlike wise sadness in those eyes and the
terrible scar that cleft his strange and lovely face.

Daniel knelt, settling his buttocks on his heels
Japanese fashion. Now his face was more on a level
with his patron’s. “What do you want of me, Marly?”
It seemed possible to be entirely direct with this
patron, to drop all the poses and pretenses.

“I want the pleasure of your body, Daniel. I have not
been touched in… a very long time.”

Daniel nodded. “How do you like to be touched?” How
delightful to ask and be answered, not to have to
pretend to be a mind-reader or to guess what the
patron wanted.

Marly hesitated. Then he laid his long fingers on
Daniel’s cheek and looked deep into Daniel’s eyes.
Daniel started to feel dizzy, peering into the green
of Marly’s eyes from so close; it was looking into
deep wells whose surfaces were clouded with fallen
leaves. “My people do not kiss,” he said. “I–I
cannot. Other than that, pleasure is pleasure.”

“Will you object if I kiss your face, or your
shoulder, or your hand?”

“No.”

Daniel turned his head and kissed Marly’s fingertips,
the wide and slightly bulbous pads, leaned forward and
kissed the man’s scarred cheek. The skin around the
scar was inhumanly smooth and smelt of something like
cinnamon. “Let me undress you.”

***

It was a relief to stand still and let the Courtesy
begin to undress him. He felt as if he had not been
naked in years, as if the daily process of undressing,
bathing, dressing counted for nought. He let his arms
hang limp, let his head hang back as Daniel addressed
himself to the laces of Marly’s jacket with long,
hard, deft fingers. His shoulders felt lighter once
the jacket with its bulky shoulderpads was peeled
away.

It took Daniel a moment to find how his tunic was
wrapped about him with the sash. He trembled as it
was unwrapped and drawn away, leaving him in shirt and
trousers. How long since he had been seen by another
person with an accepting eye? And would he find the
welcome in Daniel’s gaze that he was hoping for?

The Courtesy did not reach for Marly’s shirt next,
however. Instead he bent and unbuckled his sandals,
laying them aside on a small table next to the
discarded garments. Marly trembled more deeply as
Daniel reached for the drawstring of his trousers and
untied the knot.

Ironically, in this respect he looked most like the
average human. He had the wenemirra of a much larger
male, and his only body hair clustered there at the
base of his belly. He stepped backward out of the
trousers and made the last move himself, pulling the
shirt over his head.

***

Daniel watched Marly struggle for only a breath before
helping him take off the thin white shirt. Marly let
him take the shirt and put it with his other clothes,
and looked at him, lower lip caught between his teeth.
Afraid. Afraid of rejection, scorn, disgust.

He took a long look at the small man’s body, letting
his face show curiosity, interest, pleasure. Marly
looked like a thing that had been broken, badly, and
put back together by someone who was only guessing.
His spine was crooked and one shoulder was higher than
the other. His torso was too short for his limbs.
His hands were oversized, almost frog-like, yet his
feet were small and neat, with only four toes each.
His genitals, curiously, were almost indistinguishable
from a Terran male’s. And one leg was visibly shorter
than the other.

Daniel smiled, a slow, sensual smile that was both
professional and utterly sincere. Marly was the most
fascinating patron he had had for a long time.

“Why don’t you sit on the bed and wait for me?”

With the ghost of a smile, Marly bobbed his head and
limped to the broad bed, stepping on the handy stool
at the foot. He crossed his legs and wrapped his arms
around himself, eyes on Daniel. Daniel made a silent
resolution to rouse his patron’s cock just by
undressing.

He did not often take the trouble to strip for a
patron; he made most of his income on regulars who did not
need to be seduced or cajoled, or at least not in that way.

But it was something every Courtesy learned, along
with the story handed down by Saint Basia: how the goddess
Inanna descended from heaven into her sister goddess
Ereshkigal’s realm of the underworld, and how she
undressed piece by piece, leaving behind her garments
on her ornaments as she advanced through the gates of
the underworld. The goddess of the morning and
evening star at last stood naked before the goddess
of death and darkness, to die of that dark severe
gaze and be reborn and ascend once more.

***

It was warm enough in the room that Marly felt no
chill on his bare skin. The Courtesy’s gaze was
warm enough that he felt no shame, no discomfort.
The bed’s height raised him almost eye-to-eye with
the taller man; he sat on it as on a throne and
watched Daniel disrobe.

Daniel’s thin dark green sweater wrapped at his
waist and tied, rather like Marly’s tunic. He
untied it slowly, showing off long, graceful hands,
and spread it open as a glaal might spread its wings
before lifting off from the water. Underneath the
sweater he wore a black shirt with a high collar
that clung to his torso and its subtle curves of
muscle. He did not so much shrug the sweater away
as roll his shoulders and let the sweater glide away,
revealing bare arms white as shell. The sweater
dropped away like a shed skin, forgotten as Daniel
toed off his shoes. He wore black socks. Marly
never wore socks.

Smiling, Daniel turned away. The movements of his
arms suggested he was unfastening his sleek black
trousers, but Marly was fascinated by the back of
his bent neck, a smooth white vulnerable spot above
the collar of the black shirt, below the dark brown
edge of his hair. Marly stared at his neck until
it dropped out of sight–Daniel bent, lowering his
trousers and treating Marly to the firm curve of
his toydah and the strong straight lines of his
bare legs.

Marly could have laughed at the cleverness of it,
at the teasing smile as Daniel turned around again,
his wenemirra peeking out from below the hem of his
shirt. Marly’s prick stirred at the sight: slim
fair arms and legs exposed, torso covered, a glimpse
of wenemirra. Daniel bent and deliberately peeled
off his socks, exposing narrow feet with long slim
toes, high arches.

At last Daniel drew the black shirt over his head.
Each moment of the slow twist of his arms, the glide
of black cloth over pale skin, was a separate
sculpture, unique, unrepeatable. Marly drank in
the sweet mossy scent of the other man’s body and
the one pure note rung by perfectly contained tension.
So hard to believe that this much beauty was offered
to him.

***

The unveiling had had the desired effect; by the time
Daniel knelt before him, Marly was fully erect, his
cock flushed almost brown. He was either circumcised,
or else males of his kind did not possess a foreskin;
the whole length of him, a length in proportion to his
long arms and large hands, was exposed to Daniel’s
sight.

He bowed his head and offered a cautious kiss to the
tip of his patron’s erection. Marly’s whole body
quivered, and Daniel sucked the head tenderly into
his mouth and held it there, seeking the sweet spot
on the underside with just the tip of his tongue.
Groaning, Marly lay back on the bed, yielding, and
Daniel smiled around the hot flesh and set to his
work with good will.

The cinnamon scent was stronger here, mixed with
pepper; the skin over Marly’s cock was smooth but
felt oddly tough. Still, his responses were familiar
and unmistakably pleased: the slight quiver of the
organ in Daniel’s mouth, the slow leaking of
pre-ejaculate from the spongy crown, the unbelieving
groan as Daniel exercised his training and swallowed
nearly all of the cock, tickling his nose on fluffy
white pubic curls.

It should not have been a surprise when Marly abruptly
came, with a strangled cry that might have been the
first syllable of Daniel’s name, yet it was. Daniel
prided himself on making fellatio last. He neatly
swallowed, wiped his mouth, and got up, to sit beside
Marly on the bed and stroke his hair. The long white
strands clung to his fingers like silk.

“It has been too long,” Marly said. His eyes were
closed.

“I’m sure I can rouse you again.”

Marly’s eyes opened, and his mouth widened in that
abbreviated smile. “I am sure you can.”

Caught off guard, Daniel made a small, undignified
noise when Marly rolled over and swallowed his cock.
All of it, as easily as any professional. Ah, hot
sweet warm wet close good–Daniel lay back, groaning.
Gentle fingers explored his balls, the hollow behind
them, the insides of his thighs. Marly at least had
the foresight to pull away before Daniel could come.

“That wasn’t necessary.” Daniel could barely keep his
eyes open.

“It was my pleasure.”

“I can rouse again, soon, if you like.”

“I would like that. I would like you to–” Marly
broke off, looked away, and said a string of words,
syllables, in no language Daniel had ever heard.
“I do not know how to say it kindly, in your words.
To put your penis inside me, to possess me.”

“To fuck you.”

The flinch was small, subtle, but it was there. A
flinch, and an opacity in those mesmerizing eyes.
Daniel sat up, rubbing his chest. “I am sorry.
I’ve offended you, and I don’t mean to.”

“Those are not kind words, to me. But the plain
meaning is the same, yes. I do not think you will
be unkind.” Marly’s eyes cleared, like flowing water.

“No, I hope not.” Daniel thought for a moment.
“Would it please you if I gave you a massage?”

“Yes, I would like that.”

***

To yield his body for a massage was almost more
frightening than to yield it to penetration.
Hands that touched him that intimately could feel
his broken places, could feel that his body had
never been right, or whole. Yet Marly did not
hesitate to allow the Courtesy this intimacy.
His body had more traps for the uninvited than
a torturer’s palace, yet Daniel had passed through
all his defenses thus far.

He made himself comfortable in the center of the
bed, a small pillow beneath his head. Daniel knelt
beside him, easy in his nakedness, coating his hands
with a sweet-smelling golden oil that reminded Marly
of his mother’s skin, clean from a soak in the water-
hole. The scent kept him relaxed when large yingyah
hands descended on his lower back.

Marly tensed for a breath, then relaxed. Slow circles
spread across his skin, traveling like fish in warm
currents from buttocks to neck. Heat flowed to the
surface, following the large wise hands that never
pressed too hard. His shoulders loosened and the
old aches eased as Daniel lifted them, kneading
deeper. Nerves long numb tingled with pleasure as
Daniel stroked down each arm, dug his thumb into
Marly’s slack palm, tugged gently at his fingers.

The aches in his hips were deeper, sharper, yet
they, too, retreated as the Courtesy sought and
found pressure points. Little bursts of fire
flared and cooled, leaving a gentle warmth that
pooled in his cock. The careful touches on his
hips, lower back, and buttocks became arousing so
gradually he hardly noticed his own erection; he
woke from a kind of trance when one fingertip
brushed his gaan.

He half-turned over, looked up. Daniel was holding
a jar of some different soft, sweet-smelling
substance. He was aroused, too, the curve of his
cock beautiful against his tall straight body.

“Yes,” Marly said, understanding the unspoken
question. He turned away, his back to the Courtesy,
one leg drawn up.

He wondered how many hours of training it took for
a man to learn this gentleness, this skillfulness.
To probe the gaan without hurting, to use the creamy
lubricant without spilling it everywhere, to loosen
muscles meant to constrict without conscious control.

He wondered what it took to teach a care that could
make him forget the wepwiyah and think only about
this man and want their bodies to be joined.

***

He was intimidatingly tight, the more so because he
was so small, so broken. But Daniel had learned
through training and experience to tell the difference
between tension that was merely tension and tension
that was resistance. Marly was not resisting, he was
certain. He wanted to be fucked, even if he would not
use those words to express his desire.

He did not cease teasing, probing, gentling until his
patron said, “Now. . . please, now.” Then he wiped
his hands clean and smoothed on the sheath, quickly,
easily, and curled up behind Marly, slipping one arm
under theman’s neck while he guided his cock in with
the other hand.

So tight, so smooth, so welcoming. And the scent of
the man’s body was wild and unpredictable and unlike
any other patron he had ever touched. Marly made a
high small noise in the back of his throat; Daniel
swallowed a groan. When he was all the way in, he
wrapped his arm around Marly and was gratified when
Marly’s hand closed over his. He pressed his lips
to Marly’s shoulder, feeling the knots of unset
bone beneath the satiny skin, and hoped it did not
transgress the prohibition against kissing. Cinnamon
and pepper and alien sweetness filled his nostrils,
his mouth, his brain.

Marly crooned softly in his native tongue, liquid
vowels pouring over the rocks of harsh guttural
consonants. He writhed slowly in Daniel’s arms
like seaweed caught in an underwater current,
dancing to music Daniel could not hear. Daniel
caught the rhythm of it from Marly’s hips, his
gasps, his heartbeat like a hummingbird’s under
Daniel’s hand, too fast for individual beats to
be felt. So small and fragile in appearance, the
man had a strength Daniel could feel, amazing
strength that called one to try it and to prove it.
Daniel tried Marly with slow deep thrusts, with
swirling caresses to his chest, his belly, his cock,
with wet kisses to his shoulders and the nape of his
neck. Marly stood the test and asked for more, more,
yes more, until Daniel groaned and shuddered and
spilled, content.

Marly allowed Daniel to wipe him clean and draw the
covers over both of them. Daniel lay quietly, feeling
more at peace than he was wont to feel after serving a
patron, enjoying the feeling of his heart and breathing
slowing. Marly seemed restless, however; Daniel was just
about to ask if everything was all right when Marly spoke.
“I–have a musical instrument with me. Will it trouble
you if I play?”

“Not at all.”

He did not offer to help as Marly lowered himself off
the high bed, limped across the room, and searched
through his discarded clothing. He did reach over and
give him a hand up when he returned to the bed clutching
something. Marly settled with his back against the pillows,
the duvet drawn over his legs, and began playing a curious
little flute. It looked to Daniel like one of Fionn’s smaller
instruments, something he called an ocarina–a fat egg-shaped
shell of painted wood perforated with holes. By blowing into
the small spout at one end and fingering the holes, Marly
produced a soft, eerie, yet charming melody, in no scale
Daniel had ever heard.

***

Daniel woke suddenly out of a loud snore and sat up,
looking embarrassed. Marly smiled. It had been sweet
to sit quiet and play the other man to sleep, so that
the lines of tension in his face softened and gave way.
But perhaps it was not customary for Courtesy and patron
to spend the night together; perhaps he ought to leave soon.

Marly put down his p’lipp and looked at Daniel. “You
are not whores, here.”

“No.” Daniel ran a hand through his hair, making it
stand up.

“I was, once.” Marly said no more, but let the truth
wash over Daniel, watched it change his face.

“I am sorry,” the Courtesy said. He touched Marly’s thigh,
with two fingers, drew back his hand. “I know that few sex
workers anywhere are held in the kind of esteem that we
Courtesies are.”

“No. But they should be. All should be. To give pleasure
like this is very honorable, worthy of high esteem.”

Daniel inclined his head. “Thank you.”

“Do you mind if I play more?”

“Not at all.”

Daniel lay down and Marly resumed playing the p’lipp,
improvising without much thought and letting old tunes
slip in where they would. He used to play for hours in
the dark, dank brothel, going from one instrument to
another, singing if the customers waiting had a taste
for it, making music in the hope that he would be left
alone to do so and not be asked for sex. It was always
the men who wanted him, never a woman; few women came
to brothels on his homeworld, and those who did were
those who wanted another woman.

***

When Marly paused, Daniel touched his arm. “I’m no
musician myself, but it seems to me that you play
very well. Do you ever play with other musicians?”

Half a smile. “At times.”

“I’d like to introduce you to my friend Fionn. He’s
a Courtesy, too, and interested in music and especially
in, what do you call them, woodwinds. Flutes and different
kinds of flutes from different worlds. He might like you
to play with him sometime.”

Marly moved his fingers over the instrument without
blowing into it. “He has time to do such a thing? To
see a patron but not, not for sex?”

“Oh, of course. We all do.” Daniel found himself smiling.
“Being a Courtesy requires more than having sex with patrons.
Each of us must have another art we practice besides the
art of giving pleasure. One of our jobs is to help others
learn and practice their arts. Fionn makes music. I wr–
translate poetry.”

He sat up, realizing that at the moment, he actually felt
enthusiastic about his work. There *was* more to it than
sex, after all. And even the sex was good with a patron
like this, who appreciated the gift.

“Why don’t you come back down to the Salon with me? I think
Fionn is also on duty this evening; I could introduce you
and you could talk things over.”

Marly was silent for a moment. “I would like that. I would
like that very much.”

***

Quite a few people noticed when Daniel Martinson came
back into the Salon with his only patron of the evening.
It wasn’t something talked about with patrons, but among
Courtesies it was considered a particular honor to return
with a patron to the Salon after a tryst or to see them to
the exit personally. Everyone knew that Daniel disliked
working the Salon and rarely took patrons there, so it
was doubly unusual to see him bring a patron back.

Fionn was just getting himself a cup of coffee when he
felt a light touch on his shoulder. He turned to see
Daniel, clad in a dark red dressing gown and smiling
more than Fionn had seen him smile in, well, ever.

“Fionn, if you’ve a moment–I’d like to introduce you
to my patron of the night, Marly Tengher. He’s a musician,
and you two have a lot in common.”

Fionn bent to take the diminutive patron’s hand. It was
nearly as large as his own. What an odd-looking fellow–
grotesque and beautiful at the same time, with the most
amazing sea-green eyes.

“My pleasure, monsieur. I am Fionn mac Cumhall.”

“Not at all, sir. The pleasure is mine.” Marly smiled.

***

end

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