RSS Feed
Ring Pull by dee
[Reviews - 0] Printer
- Text Size +
Author's Notes:
Written for the RSF contest - won "Best Kiss". \o/ This cannibalises so much from my real life, it's hilarious. Massive thanks go to the Kiwi summer scholars of 2000/01, who taught me the rules of the ring pull, and to the closest (in all ways) of my mates, who played the 'Coin Game' well and truly beyond the point of decency. May none of you ever read this.
The story starts with Elijah telling us about some bizarre Kiwi mating ritual involving those ring pulls on the top of drink cans.

Well, it doesn't really start there, I suppose. I guess it starts somewhere in the past. Maybe when we met, just another handshake and grin and name and maybe the thrill of a recognised accent after all the other strangeness. Maybe somewhere in the mess of our association, in a growing friendship built out of beercans and surfboards and football games, with jokes and quiet words in between. Maybe it really started in the mess of the break-up, and her leaving. But that's another story for another time.

The interesting part starts with Elijah. The part with, like, the sexual tension and shit. And that's what you're interested in, isn't it?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

The party had been going for hours by the time we'd arrived at Harry's around sunset. It wasn't really a party; it was a barbeque. Old-school Antipodean style, which meant that the beer outweighed the food at least two to one if not more, and of that food, at least three quarters was meat. Harry's place had a huge garden out the back, the lawn crowded with people sitting with their plastic plates and beer cans. The cooking was taking place up one end of the long back veranda and there was an old bathtub full of ice and cans of beer up the other end.

So, Elijah, right, he'd been bouncing around the party, talking to everyone and getting a million laughs out of it. That's him. That's what he's like. He gets away with it, too, because he means it. He has that energy. It's genuine.

Can't help but love the daft sod.

Anyway, who knows who he'd got this one off, but he was telling us about this strange social activity involving the ring pull off of a beer can. You know, that little metal tab on top that you lever up to get the can open, then push back down again. They used to come off really easily, I remember, but then they changed the design of the can and now they're a real bastard to get off. Which wouldn't normally be a problem, except the first part of this social ritual Elijah was determined to re-enact involved getting the ring pull off the can.

"Ow, fuck!" Billy swore. When I looked up, Billy was shaking his hand, face screwed up. Elijah dropped his own (thankfully empty) can, and had to stretch across the grass we were sitting on to retrieve it.

"Fuck," Billy repeated, holding his hand up. The nail on his middle finger was mangled. "Fucking hell, I've ripped half the nail off."

"That's what you get for having long, girly fingernails."

Billy poked at the torn nail. Blood was starting to seep around the edges, welling up.

"Suck on it," Orlando suggested with a grin.

"As the Archbishop said to the actress."

"Fuck you," Billy stated, but he stuck his finger in his mouth. Asked around it: "Why are we doing this anyway?"

"The brat said so." I pointed at Elijah, who chose that moment to dramatically wrench the tab off his can.

"Victory is mine!" he crowed, and brandished the little bit of metal.

"So what's the prize?" Sean prompted. He was twisting idly at the ring on his can.

Elijah grinned broadly. "This," he declared, holding up the ring pull, "can be used as a token to, y'know, pull."

We all blinked. "How?" Billy demanded, finger still in his mouth.

"You've got your ring thing, right?" Elijah reiterated, settling into his explanation. "Now, if you give it to someone, like, I dunno, Sean -" he handed the tab to a suspicious Sean "- then it's, like, an expression of interest."

Sean went from suspicious to startled, and Orlando started laughing. I elbowed him. "Shut up, tosser."

"Yeah," Billy added, removing his finger from his mouth. "Young love shouldn't be discouraged." He squinted at the finger. "Fuck, I'm going to need a plaster for this."

"When you lot are finished," Elijah stated loudly.

"Sorry. We can leave if you two want to be alone."

As one, Elijah and Sean gave me the finger. "Sean's just an example," Elijah explained, "because I certainly wouldn't want any of you motherfuckers to think I fancied you."

Orlando blew him a kiss, and Elijah ignored him. "Anyway!" he said loudly. "You've expressed your interest, with the little tab thing, and it's not as hard as a line or anything. It's really casual, you're not really putting anything in jeopardy."

"Except your self-respect for trying to pull with a metal tab."

"Shut up," he ordered, barely blinking. "Now, if the person," he gestured towards Sean, who still looked highly bemused, "isn't interested, they don't have to do anything. And there you go, absolutely painless rejection and no one else has to know anything about it. But if they're interested, then they give the ring back." He held out his hand towards Sean.

"Fuck off," Sean laughed, pulling away from Elijah.

"Rejected!" Orlando crowed.

"It's just an example," Elijah repeated. "Just give it back." Reluctantly, Sean set the metal tab back on Elijah's hand. Lij held it up triumphantly, grinning. "And transaction complete," he declared. "You've pulled."

Billy pointed, and sang, "Lij and Astin, sitting in a tree..."

"Jesus fuck!" Elijah swore, and threw the ring pull at Billy. "Why do I have to work with such fucking children?" But he was laughing.

Billy fumbled one-handed for the metal ring, fallen amidst the rumples of his shirt. "Wow, Lij," he said, fishing it out, "I didn't know you felt that way about me." He turned to Orlando and me, and asked in a stage whisper: "Should I give it back?"

"I think Sean'll get jealous," Orlando told him, and took a swig of beer. He'd long ago given up on getting the ring off.

Sean had fallen over, flat on his back on the grass, laughing hard. He wasn't saying anything. Billy levered himself to his feet with a grunt of effort. "In that case," he stated, "I'm going to find a plaster for this fucking finger, and someone willing to give me my ring pull back. See you bastards later."

"Hey!" Elijah called after him. "That's my fucking ring pull!"

"Mine now," Billy called back, over his shoulder.

Elijah subsided into a pretty sulk on the lawn. "How am I supposed to pull without the ring?" he grumbled.

I laughed. "You do realise just how ridiculous that line sounds, don't you?"

"You could try it the old-fashioned way," Orlando told him.

"Fuck that," Elijah declared, pout turning into his rarely-absent grin. "Too much effort."

"You know," Sean suddenly announced, still flat on his back, contemplating the sky, "I heard that Harry has a pool table."

Orlando was on his feet in an instant, leaning over to help Elijah pulled Sean upright. All three were standing before my complaint even left my lips. "Do we always have to sodding play pool when we get drunk?"

Orlando leaned over me next, offering a hand and a grin. "Shut it, Monaghan. You're just whinging because you always lose."

I glowered at him, but accepted the hand, got pulled to my feet. "I do not."

"Sblom, you suck," he declared.

Elijah leapt between us, an arm around our shoulders, pulling us both staggering off balance. "Only if you give him the ring pull!" he said gleefully.

We righted ourselves, dumping Elijah on his own feet, and headed back towards the house. The party was in full swing, people everywhere, the noise of a dozen conversations a loud hubbub. We had to thread our way up the stairs in single file, wending between and stepping over those sitting on the steps. Halfway up, Orlando, in front of me, stopped and nudged me, almost sending me sprawling into three of the giggling props girls.

"Sorry. Watch it, Orli."

He ignored me. "Look, over there," he said, pointing to the far corner of the verandah.

It was Billy, with a lithe brunette perched on his knee, giggling as she wrapped a plaster around his injured finger. "Is that Susan from make-up? Fuck, that was fast."

"Wonder if it was the ring pull that did it," Orlando said, grinning over his shoulder at me.

We stopped at the bathtub for more beer, before sliding past a very amorous couple snogging in the doorway, and into the house itself. It was quieter inside, just a few people here and there, clustered around spills of light, laughing together. One cluster in the kitchen, another further down the corridor outside the bathroom.

The pool table turned out to be in a long room that I guessed used to be a veranda as well, before it was enclosed. It was only just wide enough to play on the table. Some extra space at either end held armchairs. There was, strangely enough, no one else there when Sean flicked on the overhead lights, and we spilled inside. The table was full size, solid wood and covered in royal blue felt.

"Nice," Orlando commented, running a hand over the surface as Elijah circled the table, pulling balls out of the pockets. "I am so getting me one of these."

I snorted. "Like you'll ever afford one, hack."

Orlando pointed across the table at me, eyebrows raised. "That's it, Monaghan," he declared. "Your arse is mine. Choose a weapon."

The rack of cues was right next to where I stood, just inside the door. I took the nearest one. "You wish, Bloom. Guys, choose a team. Who wants to be with the muppet with the mohawk?"

"Oi!" he objected, righteous indignation spoiled by Elijah's laughter and his own grin. "Don't fuck with the hair."

"Oh, that's hair? I thought an animal had died on your head."

Orlando made as if to tackle me. I fended him off with the pool cue, retreating and laughing the whole while. I almost fell over Sean at the end of the table, and he stepped forward to stop Orlando.

"Come on," he said, as Orlando made elaborate and expansive threatening gestures at me. "Pool! Now!"

Of course, Orlando beat me. Not that I actually did suck that much, or that he was that good, but he got Sean as his partner, and that guy could hustle for a living. It's a fucking disgrace. Elijah's decent enough when he's sober, but we were on our fourth or fifth beers by now. As the losers, we were sent to get the next round from the decreasing stock in the bathtub on the verandah. The beers were swimming now, the ice half-melted. We held the dripping cans out over the verandah railing to dry off.

"Who're you looking for?" Elijah asked, as I turned to scan the crowd.

"Billy. He was with that little cute girl from make-up when we came in before."

His eyebrows rose. "Suze? Nice work," he said consideringly.


"It's the ring pull that did it, of course," he declared, grinning broadly.

I just flicked the last of the water off my beer cans at him. "Come on, Casanova."

Orlando had almost finished racking them up when we got back, just fiddling with the alignment of the plastic holder on the table. Sean stood next to him, chalking a cue. He fumbled and dropped the chalk when I tossed his can of beer to him. "I wouldn't open that just yet." Sean grinned, tapped against the bottom of the can, settling the beer. "You're with me this time, boy wonder."

"Hey!" Elijah objected, opening his own can. "What is this, pass the Elijah?"

Orlando stowed the plastic triangle on top of the light over the table. "If the music stops," he wondered aloud, "do we get to unwrap him?" Elijah squawked in protest again.

Sean laughed as well, and opened his beer with barely a hiss. "Sam's got to stick with Frodo," he told me.

There was warmth and weight on my shoulder, the point of Orlando's elbow leaning against my collarbone. "Fucking fantastic."

When I turned slightly, Orlando was grinning at me along the arm resting on my shoulder. "What were you saying about my hair?" he asked casually.

"It's lovely hair."

"Too right," he agreed, and passed me the cue. He took the can of beer out of my other hand, opened it and took a swig.

"That was my beer."

"And now it's mine," he said with a grin. "Break, Sblomie."

I nudged him out of the way, and bent over the table. "Nancing elf." As he chuckled, I cracked the white ball down the table, scattered the clustered colours in a wide jumble. But nothing went in.

Sean went first for the other two, and of course he sank one. I used the delay to go and get the fourth beer from Elijah. "I don't think I should give it to you," Elijah grumbled, even as he handed the can over. "You didn't want to play with me."

Orlando burst out laughing, almost choking on his beer, and Sean fudged his shot, sending the white skittering at an angle across the table. "Aw, fuck," he swore, still laughing, as it dropped into the corner pocket.

"Foul!" Orlando declared, gleefully, and I stepped forward to fish the white out of the pocket, hand it back to him to place on the table. He made it count too, striking a beautiful, long shot straight down the table, and knocking the ten into the pocket at a tight angle.

I took a swig of beer, raised my eyebrows. "Well, whaddya know. Seems the muppet can play after all."

Orli gave me two fingers and a cheerful grin across the table, and went looking for his next shot.

We won that one, but only just. We didn't even have to cheat, though at one point there was a little devil - also known as Orlando - at my shoulder, muttering things in my ear about how ticklish Elijah was, and there he was, just taking his shot... I elbowed Orli in the stomach, and he grunted.

In the last, I sank the black delicately, just a careful nudge, so as not to tip the white in after it. Sean grimaced, Elijah swore, and Orli slung an arm around my shoulder, smacked a kiss on my cheek. "Clever hobbitses!" he pronounced, before he peeled away. I watched him as he strode around the table, pausing to ruffle Elijah's hair and dodge the smack aimed at his head in return. He found his beer, sitting on the window sill, and drained the dregs.

Elijah glared after Orlando, and shook his own can, maybe looking to drown his sorrows, but there was no noise of liquid within. "It's about time we left, anyway," he noted, setting the empty can down.

"Sore loser."

"He's right," Sean agreed, gathering up his coat from the chair he'd slung it across. "We're shooting early tomorrow."

"Fine. Take Frodo home and put him to bed."

"It's the ring pull that does it," Orli quipped, and winked at me. I grinned in response.

Sean simply laughed, and pulled a grumbling Elijah towards the door. I waved, turned back to Orli as they stumbled out into the corridor. "So, another game?"

He jiggled his now-empty can. "Another beer," he countered.

I grinned, took the can from his hand. "You get the beer, I'll rack 'em up."

It was sort of eerie, alone in that room. It was bizarrely quiet without Orlando. The noises from the party out the back filtered in, but seemed distant. The party was winding down now, anyway. Three of the WETA crew thundered past, down the corridor, arguing raucously about the best sort of pizza base. I set up the balls in their careful triangle. Orli returned with a dripping beer in each hand.

"Karl's taken up residence in the bathtub," he reported, handing me a can.

"Not naked, I hope." You never could tell with these mad Kiwis.

"No, still fully clothed," he said, opening his beer, and shaking the water off his hand.

The beer was still cold, at least. And now my hand was wet as well. I handed Orli a cue, and wiped my fingers on his shirt, dragging them over his shoulder blade.

"Oi," he objected, twisting away.

"Your break."

He set his beer on the edge of the table while he bent over the table, hefted the cue into position. The can drew my gaze; he'd opened it, but hadn't pushed the tab back down again. It sat up, almost perpendicular to the top of the can. There was the click of ivory, and then Orli's hand wrapped around the can, took it from my field of vision.

I blinked, and looked up at him. He swigged out of the can, eyebrows raised. "I got you one of your own, you know," he noted, and knocked his can against mine.

I opened the beer, pushed the tab back down, and took a long pull, still looking at Orli.

He grinned. "Your shot," he said easily.

He leaned against the wall as I circled the table for my shot. He was behind me, but I knew how he'd be standing. I'd seen the pose before, one leg braced against the wall behind him, fingers curled around his cue, looking loose and relaxed. Depending on how drunk he was, he might tilt his head back against the wall, let his fingers tap against his thigh in whatever rhythm was currently haunting him. He was holding the beer, though. Couldn't do that now.

I set my beer on the edge of the table like he had, and bent over the table. If I could just hit the four on an angle like so... "Fuck." Not like that.

"Fuck?" Orli repeated, and as I turned he pushed off the wall. He grinned at the table. "Where's the white ball, Sblom?"

"I fouled."

He laughed, stretched around behind me where I was leaning against the table to fish the white out of the pocket. "Well, shove over," he ordered. "Give the master room to work."

Grumbling, I moved away from the table. I perched on the chair in the corner while Orli took his time placing the white ball. I was still sober enough to manage it, crouching on the cushion of the armchair, bracing myself with both hands on the cue in front of me. Orli played careful, using his first shot to set up an easy second shot. A straight shot, into the pocket. The pocket I was sitting behind. He settled low over his cue, lining up the shot, and his eyes flicked up to meet mine.

I blew him a kiss.

He snorted with laughter. "Dom," he said warningly.

I grinned. "What's the matter?"

He licked his lips, forced concentration with that furrow between his eyebrows, and sank the ball.

"Bet you can't do that again."

He sent a sidelong glance at me as he came around the table, past where I crouched, wobbling slightly, on the chair. Sidelong glance and smirk. "Are you casting aspersions on my ability to perform?" he asked.

"I'm sure you're fantastic in bed. Just don't think you can sink the next ball."

He couldn't. My shot.

I climbed off the chair, and he slid sideways past me, hip and shoulder brushing, to take the seat. "Bastard," he muttered, the word a passing breath against my ear.

I took a deep breath and hefted my cue, leaned one hip against the table as I contemplated the table. "How is it my fault that you suck?" Ah, easy shot, right there.

"Bastard," he repeated, as I slammed the six into the pocket. "It just is."

I came past the chair again, looking for my next shot. He was sprawled with his usual lack-of grace, legs lolling, stretched out in front of him. I had to step over them. "You're right, it's all my fault. I have complete control over you, and I'm using it to make you lose." Three in the corner pocket. Bang. I was on a roll.

Back around the table, stepping over Orli's legs, one step between them, and when I was almost past, his knees came together. I staggered, knee caught between his. "Hey!"

He grinned up at me, wide and cheeky, and let me go to half-fall another step.

I missed the next shot, bounced the one off the cushion and away up the table.

Orli bounced to his feet. "My turn!" he declared. He came up my side of the table, placed a hand on my chest to push me back, away from the table. "Let the master through."

"The master?" I leaned back against the wall, pushed my hands into the pockets of my jeans.

He sidled past, leaning towards me. "Yeah, the master," he stated, enunciated carefully. He was drunk. I was drunk. I couldn't smell the beer on his breath for the beer on my own. He continued on, shifting his grip on his cue.

He sank the twelve easily, and grinned smugly across the table at me. I smiled pleasantly back, and pulled my hands out of my pockets, patted one of them, the faint cube outline there. We'd see how far he got without -

"Dom," Orli said, stretching the vowel into a half-question. "Where's the chalk?"

"Hmm?" Perfectly feigned innocence. I swigged at my beer. "Damn, I've finished." I turned to set the empty can on the window sill beside me, and when I turned back, he was standing in front of me again, leaning against the table. His arms were folded across his chest, beer in one hand. He'd left his cue on the other side of the table. I propped mine up against the wall. "Yes?" I took a couple of steps forward, off the wall, to stand in front of him.

"Dom," he repeated, smiling. Not his standard, throw-away smile, but slow and almost sly. "Where's the chalk?"

"How should I know?"

His arms fell loose, and he reached forward. "Well, I don't know," he said, consideringly. "Maybe because..." His hand touched my hip, the belt loop on my jeans, and then trailed down a little, traced the curve of the pocket. I summoned as much Zen as I could, managed to limit my response to a single raise eyebrow. "Maybe," Orli repeated, "because it's in your pocket."

"Hey!" His fingers pushed into the pocket, up to his first knuckle, and I yelped, grabbed his wrist, close down near my waist. Tendons shifted under my fingers. I stepped forward, and again, right up against him now, pressed almost flush against him, trapping his hand between our bodies. He couldn't get enough leverage to push further. I had to lean back, crane my neck, to see his face. "Stop that."

His eyes were half-lidded, amused. Burning. "Stop what?" he asked.

He flexed his fingers against my hipbone, creeping lower. "Oi." It was supposed to sound sharper than it did. I tightened my grip on his wrist. One of the buttons on his shirt was pressing into the knuckle on my middle finger. "Stop."

He was grinning, and we were breathing the same air, as he shifted his shoulder, edged his fingers a little lower again. "Why?" he asked, a challenge. I could feel his fingers through my pocket, creeping past the denim, into just thin linen lining. The heel of his hand was cold against skin at my waist, pushed up under my shirt by the way we were pressed together, my fingers still curled around his wrist. "Why?" he breathed again, and pushed further. I could feel his fingers; he was nearly at the chalk, nestled low in my pocket.

I grinned, reached out with my free hand. "Because I need another beer." I pulled his out of his hand, turned my head to raise it to my mouth.

"Hey!" he protested, his hand coming out of my pocket, his weight pushing me back as he grabbed the can back off me. Quick, very quick, and I was two steps away from him, laughing, as he looked at me with affront.

Very quick, but not quick enough that I hadn't noticed.

His can didn't have the metal ring tab on it any longer.

Where was it?

"What you need," he was saying, as he turned away, highly indignant, "is a drink of water. You're obviously drunk if you're stealing another man's beer."

I looked down, pushed my own hand into my pocket. "I'm not drunk, that's why I need your beer."

"Pathetic excuse," he said dismissively. "Come on, let's get some water."

My fingers found the chalk in my pocket, spread wide, covered the entire area, but there was nothing else in there. Just the chalk. Not the ring pull. "But we haven't finished the game."

Orli was halfway around the table, halfway between me and the door. "It'll still be here," he told me, and tilted the beer can to his lips, tilted his head back, way back. He straightened and shook the empty can. Grinned encouragingly at me. "Come on."

I pulled my hand out of my pocket, set the chalk on the side of the table, and followed him out of the room. There were two girls half-collapsed with giggles outside the bathroom, and someone shrieking out the back - "No, no, put me down!" - as we went into the brightly-lit kitchen. It was empty, a pair of white, strappy heels discarded in one corner, and a cluster of beer cans on the bench. They were almost all empty, I discovered, shaking them one at a time. Just a trickle in a few of them. Orli was opening cupboards, looking for glasses. I leaned against the fridge, the surface cool through my shirt against my back, and watched him.

Silence stretched.

He found two glasses, filled them at the sink, the water running loud. He turned and handed one to me, but didn't meet my gaze.

I sighed. Right, OK, so that's how it was.

I raised the glass to my lips, tilted it to take a long drink. The water and glass obscured Orlando as I looked through them, and...

And shit. The ring pull was in the bottom of the glass.

I swallowed, and drank, drained the entire glass in one long, slow pull. Tilted the glass as the water level dropped until the metal tab slid down the glass, bumped against my bottom lip. I took the glass away from my mouth, let the ring pull fall with the last dribble of water onto my palm.

When I looked up, Orli was watching me, his glass of water untouched on the bench beside him.

I leaned forward to set my empty glass on the bench, leaned back against the fridge, considering the tab in my hand.

"You're supposed to give it to me."

"You've got it, haven't you?" he pointed out.

I did. For a moment, frankly, I had no idea what I was going to do. Turned it over in my fingers. Wasn't sure which way I was going to take it.

Then certainty slammed into place.

I raised my head, looked him straight in the eye, and smiled. "It was in my glass. Not very safe. What if I'd..." I paused, raised the ring pull close to my mouth. "Swallowed it?" And opening my mouth, I placed the small tab of metal on my tongue. Displayed it for a moment, before curling my tongue back into my mouth, taking the ring pull with it.

He could move quickly, so quick, as he crossed the kitchen, palms braced against the refrigerator behind my head. With that predatory gleam in his eye and the speed with which he swooped down, it came as a surprise, a physical shock, when his lips touched mine. Not hard, and that was the shock. It was the gentlest of touches, barely a nudge, so soft, just at the corner of my mouth, his lips pressed and then the wet touch of his tongue against the seam of my lips. His hand smoothed against the back of my neck, fingers tangling in my hair as he turned my head carefully. My lips parted, and his tongue ran along the underside of my upper lip.

I couldn't see; my eyelids were closed. My fingers were bunched in his shirt. "Orli."

Then his mouth hit mine with all the expected force, with everything he had, with the impact of a train. He blew me away, lips hard against me, tongue unforgiving as it invaded. Took no prisoners, took my breath away, sucked into him as his mouth tilted against mine, lips wide and welcoming. I did the only thing I could do. I kissed him back. I leaned against him, strained to get as close as I could with his body pressing me against the fridge, hip to hip. Curled one hand between us, smoothing up his shirt, up the side of his neck, across the rasping skin of his shaved scalp. I grabbed a fistful of that stupid mohawk and pulled him even closer. Our teeth met with a click, and I pushed my tongue against his, into his mouth, out again. Gasped as he sank his teeth into my bottom lip, ran his tongue over it before plunging back into my mouth. He pushed against me, but I was flat against the fridge behind me, and we couldn't get any closer; him pressing against me, me trying to arch into him. I was breathing hard, nose against his cheek, rasping in my throat. My jaw was aching but I couldn't open my mouth wide enough, couldn't feel enough of his tongue against mine, couldn't let enough of him in, couldn't get far enough inside him. Couldn't get enough of his hand curled around my neck holding me tight against his mouth and his thigh rubbing against mine, the scratch of denim barely audible over our breathing, the wet sound of lips shifting, moving together.

We developed rhythm, tangling and circling and intoxicating, lost it, found it again, different and better, his tongue curling around mine, mine around his. Inevitably, the rhythm slowed, diminished to the sweep of tongue on tongue long, languid, lazy and thorough. Small, darting sorties against his lips and mine. Ebbing, leaving us both panting, the wave pulled back. The kiss ended with the same soft press of lips that had begun it, placed lightly against the corner of my slack, swollen mouth.

I opened my eyes like surfacing from deep water. Watched his clouded eyes open, blink twice in the light. My head was back against the fridge, his hand still curled around my neck, thumb pressed into the hollow underneath my ear. I smoothed my hands over his scalp, down his back. Pulled his shirt up slighty at the back, enough to hook my thumbs into the waistband of his jeans. His other hand flexed on my hip, releasing and gripping again. My bottom lip was starting to throb where he had bitten it. I ran my own tongue lightly over it, relished the sensation.

Then I realised. My mouth was empty. His tongue was gone. The ring pull was gone.

Orli grinned, the glint of metal between his teeth. "Transaction complete," he said around it.

I was grinning too, grinning with him, breathing the same air. "You've pulled." My hands rested, heavy and comfortable, on his hips. I could feel my grin get broader. "So, your place or mine?"

He shifted, leaned into me, mouth close to my ear. "Yours is closer."

And no, that's not where the story ends.

But that's all I'm going to tell you, so you can just bugger off.