Curiosity & The Cat

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Andy was kind enough to do this short piece with me and I'm glad of the chance to explore a theme that I think will only deepen as Josephine and Evie continue their association as friends and partners. It's a cruel irony, actually. One woman has to go where her heart really isn't interested, while another is prevented from going. It makes for good drama, but I feel awful for both of them.

Thursday, May 28th, 1868
Fleming-Drake Estate
Outside London, England
3:00 A.M.

Josephine quit Alexi's guest suite and padded down the hall clothed well enough for the trip to her room. The hour was late and lassitude made her weave a bit as she walked, even as her mind was spinning with the events and impressions of the day. Craving the peace of a bed she didn't have to share, she slipped into her room and threw the locks. She'd sketch a quick wash at the basin and settle her thoughts with her journal, she decided. Otherwise, I'll just toss and turn until my head implodes. She yawned as she stripped to her skivvies and turned up the lamp at her bedside.

Evie stood in the shadows of the corner, half shielded by the dark, half shielded by the curtains. She watched Jo come in, her clothes clearly just having been put back on. As Evie watched her mentor and friend get ready for bed, she could feel a little unrecognizeable something gnawing at her insides, making her feel uncomfortable. That little something was the reason she hadn't stepped out right away and revealed herself. Jealousy, her little inner voice dryly commented. Did you think you were immune to it, Eglantine Varney? You want what she's got, or rather, what she just had, and the little green beast will eat you up inside if you let it.

So she gritted her teeth and slightly and quietly padded out of the dark up to the bed. "You got a minute, Jo?" Evie asked calmly, trying to keep her tumbling emotions out of her voice.

Josephine spun, her hands reaching for blades that weren't there. You really are fagged out if you let your partner startle you out of your skin. Sloppy, Jo. Sloppy. She didn't bother hiding her fright or her dismay, knowing Evie would see through any feigned expression, and simply said with a smile and a sigh, "Scratch a year off the back end, love. But yes, for you, always."

Josephine sat with her back to the headboard and tilting her head she regarded her partner. There was a set to Evie's ears and slight whiskers that struck her as odd, unsettled. Patting the coverlet beside her, Josephine ventured an oblique prod. "Come on up. I won't bite. I've already crossed that off my list for the evening."

Evie tucked the instinctive growl at Jo's comment back into her depths. Besides the fact that Jo didn't know what Evie was thinking about, Evie didn't have no right to get upset anyway. That's right, the little inner voice chimed in, you're the one putting on the angelface while getting ready to perform second story work on Jo's lovelife. Don't be getting your hackles up, missy.

Wandering over to the bed, Evie sat down and fidgeted with her ears for a second before blurting out, "What's he like between the sheets, miss?" Oh real smooth there, Eglantine. Why not just ask her for a blow by blow? Then she blushed underneath her fur at the thought of it.

Well, that's set the cat amongst the pigeons. No wonder she seems off. Josephine leaned back and crossed her arms and ankles, at ease now that she understood the undercurrent she'd sensed from Evie that entire evening.

"Vigorous." Her lips curled up in a half smile. "But patient and considerate of his bed partner. More than I would have imagined him to be, actually. Are you thinking of finding out for yourself, Evie?" she added gently. Her partner wasn't the sort to beat around the bush, no matter the subject, and Josephine decided she might as well start anticipating where Evie's inquiry was going.

Well, there it was. How to try and explain what she'd been feeling? "Been realizing that the business between a man and a woman is all dark to me, Jo. It didn't matter none when it was just me and the rooftops, but now I'm going to get all folded into a title." It wasn't that she was afraid of the title, she thought, just that..."Once I got the weight of the Duchy around my neck..." Evie's hands unconsciously floated to where her amulet of illusion normally rested right above her breasts.

"I ain't gonna have much chance then to dabble in the bedroom and almost certainly not with someone who might find me pretty for who I was and for not what I was pretending to be." Feeling sorry for yourself, your grace? her inner voice chastised her, but even her harsher self didn't seem to into it. She might be gaining more than she ever thought possible, but that didn't mean she couldn't feel sorry for what she was going to give away in return.

"Oh, Evie ...," Josephine breathed, keenly aware of the scent of lovemaking rising off her skin, knowing what she said next would be a cruel counterpoint to it. She rolled onto her side and offered her hand, hoping to soften the blow. "Never let anyone convince you you're a dullard, no matter what circles you find yourself in. You're not. You're one of the most observant people I know and quicker than just about anyone I've met. You've put your finger on the one thing I'd wondered how to discuss with you, but it looks like you've got the shape of it anyway. You're right. You may not be free to follow your interests as a Duchess before marriage. And depending on what the title requires of you, you might very well have to wait to discover the dark between men and women until your wedding night. It's not what I would wish for you, Evie."

Josephine took the cat girl's hand and gave it a soft squeeze.

"I would rather you be free to follow your heart and your fancy, but as an up-and-coming Duchess, you cannot. Any future marriage you might be offered would be jeopardized by it. It's one of the things I loathe about the social rules and order of our day. It's pure hypocrisy but the higher ups are quite unforgiving should the rules be broken. As a matter of fact, it's one of the reasons the Duchy has come your way. The 7th Duke sought to circumvent it and his class was ... unappreciative of his efforts. If you should choose to go ahead with finding a lover, I will stand by you. And I hope that whomever you marry will grant you the leniency he'd been given to approach the marriage bed in an experienced state. Personally, I strongly believe that both participants should be equal in that regard. However, that belief is not held by many and I hope that whoever you marry shares it."

Bugger. For not being a dullard, she hadn't even thought of that. Couldn't be having any kittens running around to mess up the title. "So I guess I'll just be crossing my claws and paws and hoping that I can find a husband that'll give me prick without being one." She sighed and laid her head on Jo's shoulder, wrinkling her nose briefly at all the different, intriguing scents floating off of her.

"Or maybe I'll just have Madame Scarpelli over every so often." That had been pleasant but Evie wasn't going to try and fool herself into thinking that kind of night was anything more than a interesting diversion.

"That's one way around it, to be sure," Josephine agreed but she could tell from the set of Evie's ears that it was a far second to what she really wanted. She pulled the cat girl into a hug and stroked her back, saying over Evie's shoulder, "Of course, there's nothing against knowing what goes on between men and women before you actually do it. What's in your brain box is easier to hide than anything done to your maidenhead. Though there are a few ways around that, as well. I haven't had to fall back on them but I know of them in theory. I'd be happy to tell you what I know. Just ask."

"Hard to know what I don't know, Jo." She assumed that a lot of what happened between her and Scarpelli would happen if there was a man involved. Not like men didn't have tongues and lips and things. But past that, it all seemed a little fuzzy. "What's it feel like? I heard it hurts the first time, which don't surprise me none. Anytime you're getting stabbed by something long and pointy, you shouldn't be expecting for it to be sunshine and rainbows."

"Not sunshine and rainbows, no. Not at first. But the body quickly adapts and that comes along fairly soon after. To answer your question as to what it feels like?" Josephine leaned back, trying to decide how best to approach it. She closed her eyes and recalled the night on the Odyssey, examining it for nuances she could share with her partner. As adept as Alexi had been, Josephine clearly remembered what a shock it had been to have him enter her. Don't scare her. Keep it simple at first.

"It's like ... tearing a muscle you've stretched beyond its limits. It's sharp and quick. Friction refreshes the pain, however, so it's important to relax until it fades. And once you're stretched enough to admit him, that friction can set off quite a chain of reactions." Josephine opened her eyes and sought Evie's green ones. "This is why choosing your first partner wisely is crucial to how everything goes afterwards. Some men are quite empathetic to your state and some aren't. In case you're wondering," she added, "Alexi was the epitome of empathy. As a sensate medium, I daresay he felt everything I did. I couldn't have asked for better."

"So, bit of sacrifice before you get to the goods, then?" Also nothing that Evie wasn't familiar with. "Well, Katherine seems to have gotten lucky with Mr. Ezekiel. Maybe I'll get lucky too." And if she didn't, she'd just to have to settle for rolling in big piles of jink to make her feel better, she supposed.

"A small sacrifice, considering what's gained by it. And you need only pay that coin once. You've been with Madame Scarpelli so you're familiar with the payoff if not the delivery. And yes, Katherine is very fortunate indeed in her husband. If at all possible, Evie, never settle for anything less than your best and most trusted friend for a spouse. By the time you're wedded, you'll already know everything important about him. And while you may not have a choice as Duchess whether you will marry, you do have the leeway to be choosy as to whom you marry. And you should have the time to get to know the man before you do. As Duchess, you have that right. Certainly you have the rank to demand it."

Evie pulled herself off of Jo's shoulder. "The whole Duchess thing may be putting lipstick on a pig, but I ain't going to settle for less than what I want. No point in having money and power if I don't use it." She stood up and moved towards the door, brushing Jo's hand lightly as she walked towards the door. "It's late. I should probably leave you be. Intruded enough already, I have. But thanks for the advice. May have kept me from totally bolloxing this job up. And thanks for taking care of me." Evie had thought she had gotten unlucky with that original botched dip. Now she knew how just very lucky she had gotten.

Josephine got up and snared Evie in a fierce hug before the cat girl could leave.

"Thank you for taking care of me, Evie. I don't think I would have fared well without you." It was nothing but the truth. Father always told me to look before I leapt, to think things through before acting. Had he seen me capture that airship off Big Ben, he would have killed me for it. Looking back on it now, Josephine wondered how at the time she'd ever thought it possible, but somehow she'd done it. She drew back and breathed a laugh. "You've kept me honest, kept me grounded, for your sake. I don't think I've ever told you so or thanked you for it. But ... thank you."

"You're welcome, Jo. That's what...*this* is what friends are for, right?" She squeezed right back and then gracefully removed herself from the embrace. "Best get your sleep. Busy times ahead of us." Evie started to duck out the door but before she closed it completely behind her, she stuck her head back in. "And I think Alexi's going to be around for a few days. Wouldn't want to be too tired for that chain of reactions." She smirked in Josephine's general direction and then closed the door before Jo could get a response in.

As she walked back to her room, she consoled herself a little. Lack of bedroom antics meant more time to spend honing her skills. And that couldn't be bad, right?

The door closed on her drawn breath and Josephine's response died before she could utter it. Brows drawn, she chewed her lip as she gauged the tone beneath Evie's parting shot. Feeling she hadn't been entirely successful in satisfying her partner but knowing that following Evie would undo what she had managed to accomplish, Josephine readied for bed and resolved to take up the subject again as they traveled to Wales. They'd have time alone to tackle the matter then. Weary from more than fatigue, Josephine resolutely pulled her journal from the bedside drawer and recorded the significant events of the day onto its pages. Nevertheless, the look behind Evie's eyes kept intruding, even after Josephine lay down to sleep.

Since any campaign is a collaborative effort, Journal and RP entries by our other players can be read here.
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