Interview with Tumaini Two

Andre talked animatedly about the pack's recent trip to one of the more exotic Raven nations (what kind of bird community would let a cat in?), while Bes prowled next to us. Why he was the one upset I can't fathom. Looking sideways at him, I glanced back before he caught me staring.

Did I almost have sex with one of my characters? Is that even possible, and if so, is it still considered sex? Maybe masturbation? I quirked my mouth and tried to figure that one out.

"Save that look for the appetizers Jo," Andre said playfully as we entered the dining hall.

I nodded in reply as my whole head swiveled to take in the dining hall. I knew I shouldn't, but I swelled with pride at its pure beauty. Maybe I didn't create this, maybe I did, but either way it is breath taking. Bes nudged me out of my revere and towards a seat. Not appreciating the gesture, but not letting it bother me too much.

"I'll have you know after the frog-eye pea soup I have changed my ways." Swooping in front of us, seemingly from nowhere and dressed like a Victorian kitchen maid, Selma laid a tray down on the table in front of us. Wiping her hands on her skirt and patting her wild red hair a bit, she gave me a crooked smile. "Jo, how lovely it is to see you. I made these crème fritters just for you."

"I came all the way here for nothing?" Andre asked in mock shock.

Rolling her eyes, Selma came towards us and pulled me gently by the arm. "Don't start your cryin'. There's plenty for all of you." The look she gave Bes out of the corner of her eyes was speculative.

Sitting me down, she plopped herself right next to me. "Now, Jo, from what I hear you've got another story in the make. Eat, eat, God made women to gossip over food."

Smiling, and really feeling it, I grabbed one of the fritters and began to chomp down.

"Of course, that's to be expected from such a proficient writer," Selma continued on.

I snorted out most of my fritter. "Proficient? Hardly. Updates can be long coming."

"Well, not for lack of ideas I suspect. You just need to put your nose to the typewriter more often." Nodding sagely, Selma picked up one of the fritters.

I nodded. "I suppose you're right on that one. The stories I want to start overwhelm me, and the stories I finish are few."

"Now, now, I know you have another one of our boys, perhaps girls," she winked, "to star in one of these up and comings. We wouldn't want you keeping one of us up in the air."

How can you not love the way she mixes common sayings up? "There has to be a remedy for my lack of writing, and I believe I have found what it is."

"Really," she leaned forward, eyes big and questioning, cheeks still tinted red and chest alarmingly close to jiggling free.

"Yes," nodding, I wiped away a few crumbs. "If I don't go back and try to rewrite anything, I'm good."

Selma held her pose. Then her eyes darted to the side and back again to look at me. "That's it?"

Andre started laughing and even Bes hid a smile. Indulgently, I smiled at her. "Yep. Just like the way to improve my grades was by actually studying. I refuse to let the TV, or it's friend the internet, control my life."

"Oh my goodness, you have mind-controlling problems in your realms too?" She fanned her collar while it was my turn to widen my eyes. "I thought your people must be advanced enough to overcome that."

"No, well that is to say, TV is short for television. It's a means of entertainment, and most people don't realize just how much time they spend… devoting themselves to it. I was walking by my nephew's room the other day and he was literally slack-jawed watching TV."

"My, that sure does sound like being subdued mentally."

I gave a short laugh. "You have no idea."

"Speaking of mind-controlling demons, guess who my niece is dating…" Selma filled up the rest of our time in the dining hall rather easily, and by the time we left the sun had begun to set and we had been served a five-course meal.

Sometime throughout dinner we lost Andre to a pretty little pixie, but I wasn't as lucky when it came to Bes. He sat there the entire evening with me, either focusing on conversation or staring at me from the corner of his eye. It was really hard to determine what he was thinking, so I gave up and enjoyed the meal. As we were leaving, I tried to catch the attention of a few Ubeasties in a vain attempt to avoid being alone with Bes, but they are a smart people and tuned into an undercurrent between us. With their love of passionate emotions, they were happy to send me to my doom.

Bes led me with a firm hand to my lower back out of the dining room and to a terries along the grand hallway. There were wrought iron steps with intricate patterns along its bars and it led to one hell of a view. The Palace gardens, all 700 of them were at our finger tips.

"Would you mind to spend more time with me Jo? Or have I managed to loose myself the privilege." There was no bite to his tone, just a wistfulness that made me want to smack him. He knew I was weak for that tone of voice.

Sighing, I looked out at the stars as the met mountains in the distance. "You haven't lost the "privilege", but you are on probation," I warned him.

He gave a small laugh and turned to face me. "People of my world are different from you. It may not seem it, because our humanoid forms are similar. Even though you are privy to an understanding of our world that not many others are, you still have a lot to learn." His face was full of contemplation as he spoke to me. "It may seem arbitrary, but when I told you I want my woman to be like you, I was not bluffing. If I could convince you to visit our realms more often, I think we would both have a lot to gain from it."

Suspiciously, I looked at him from the corner of my eye. His body was lit around the edges; the rest covered in shadow as the setting sun dimmed further and gave a glow to his golden hair. His eyes of course, not being human, shone with a deeper view of the dark than I myself possessed.

There are a lot of impossible things in both your world and mine; if not through practice then through politics. I would love to visit here more often, but you and I both know that if I did I would have a bigger commitment looming in the horizon than another romance story." My tone towards the end took on a wary tone. What was I supposed to say to a panther shape shifter that wanted me to move literally out of the known universe and into his?

There was a humming sound from Bes and then he wrapped his arms on either side of my body.

"Bes," I said in a warning tone.

"Don't worry, Jo. I'm not going to man-handle you again. I simply want to take from you a few more moments before you are gone from me."

"Don't do that," I laughed slightly as he smiled and swayed and a soft breeze blew the perfect scent of the garden towards us.

We spent the next few moments in silence, enjoying each other. It was nice to be able to just… connect with someone without words, or sex, or even expectation. I knew Bes, if not completely then enough. Heck, if it were a remote possibility I would pack my bags and move myself into the Ubastic Palace. But that's where reality comes in.

"Jo!" Tumaini called happily from the doorway. Bes and I pulled apart slightly. "I hope you have enjoyed yourself as much as I have." His smirk told me I had not.

Giving him a smile, I pulled away from Bes. Or tried to. His arms locked behind my back. Giving him a small glare, I turned my attention back to Tumaini. "Would you like to continue the interview or should I just head home?"

"What, leave? You should know no one ever stays less than two days in our company." His smile was predatorial and he stalked towards me. The roll of his hips was sinful; I swear to you I will never see anything that sexual from a fully clothed male for as long as I live. "You might as well interview the entire cast while you're here."

"No, Tumaini, I can't do that," I began to protest.

"Shh, yes I know, but that is one of the interesting things about our culture." Maria peeked from the doorway and then came towards us.

"Hi Jo, nice you see you." Though her clothes weren't revealing their disarray was.

"Maria was telling me a little about the methods of transportation through the portal you arrived in." His grin and her blush told me it was under duress, or should I say undress? "It seems our time passes much, much slower than your own, and the warping of the portal distorts it even more."

Suspicion was like a midget sitting on my chest, awkward and heavy. "What do you mean to say?"

"Say, nothing? I'm merely suggesting that you take more time to gather research while you're here. If only to broaden your own horizons," he held his hands out as he said that, as if to tell me there's no valid reason for rebuttal.

"Uh," I wasn't sure where to start.

"If you find after a couple of day that the study is futile, then you will have proved your point. If not, well, we can always lengthen the study."

"Days, lengthen, Tumaini, how long are we talking about?"

A grin split his face. "Two, maybe three weeks. It'll be merely days in your time."

"I can't do that! I have work, school, do you know how hard it was to get a few hours to fit into my schedule?"

"Maria tells me students often "blow off" their work for a day or so."

"Not when they're trying to get into med school."

"Do you have any exams coming up?" Bes asked inquiringly.

"Well, no, but,"

"Have you taken a day off since you started working?"

"Um, not yet, I like to work, pays the bills you know."

"Well, we wouldn't ask you to stay here for free. In fact, we will consider the interview and an article on our culture as freelance writing to improve the view of our culture."

"Are you bribing me?" I asked incredulously.

"Bribe? No." Tumaini leaned down close to me with a huge smile. "Consider it persuasion," and then he bit my neck.

"OUCH! That is so not sexy!" Bes pushed Tumaini back forcefully and he released my neck. Blood coated where his teeth had been and dripped further to my collarbone. "I wouldn't have liked that if it came from Marius himself."

"Did I mention I've caught a bit of a virus? Tumaini asked sweetly.

Little known fact is that viruses for the Ubeasties, like colds for us, are passed through blood and open wounds in the shifting communities. They can last from a few days to a few weeks, but are rarely fatal. The biggest inconvenience of a shifting virus is that the portal rejects infected people. You have to stay where you are until the virus works itself out of your system.

Rage covered my eyes for a moment. Calmly, but firmly I ground out one word, "Tumaini!' before lunging at him, with attempts to slapping and/or maiming him.

Bes held me back though, and the turned me to face him while he inspected the bite.

"Who knew you were so devious that you would attack someone who can't even fight back!"

"I suspect you to be a capable woman," I wasn't sure if he meant that as a joke or not.

"Not with Bes as a shackle." And that he was, his strong arms are impossible to escape from.

"You want me to let go?" Bes inquired.

"Yes!" His arms released me and I went tumbling forward, caught myself, but quickly became dizzy from either blood loss or the virus. Groaning, I shook Bes' hands off my waist as he tried to support me. I lunged haphazardly for Tumaini, but he side stepped me and I landed on Maria. That was when the fever set it.

Moaning and rolling off of her small frame, I stayed on the cool stone. It was a soft color and the world seemed too troublesome to face again so soon.

"Bes?" Worry laced with trepidation colored Tumaini's tone.

"That was foolish Tumaini."

"I thought it would work out for all of us. Writer's need a break, and she could enjoy one for weeks and be gone for mere days in her own time."

"Yes, but did you consider that she is from neither our world nor Maria's before you purposely infected her? We have no idea how she will react to a virus. And so far, it doesn't look good."

I heard a sigh, but by that time things were a little fuzzy. Burning, furry arms were under my shoulders and knees suddenly, and someone was trying to rouse me. "Jo, I am terribly sorry. Perhaps it is a good thing you have had a hand on my eagerness while this story progresses."

The feeling of weightlessness took over but there was a nice breeze. "Where are you going to Tumaini? I can taker her."

"No Bes, I will take her. It is my responsibility now. But if you like you can keep an eye on her in the Iridescent Baths."

"Do you think she will need that much cleansing?"

The world rocked partially, I guess he was shrugging. "Better go the full distance now. It won't do to delay her any longer."

"You are singing a different tune from a few minutes ago Tumaini."

Air brushed my face as he let out a sigh and a large door opened. "Yes well, a few moments ago I wasn't in that much trouble with our Celestial Lehydre."

Cool, minty water enveloped not only my body but my mind as well. I was calm, serene, in a world of ease. Water splashed next to me as someone else entered the bath, then hands gently pulled me with a hand gently caressing my neck and waist. Water was splashed on the wound, and though it stung for a moment or two, the feeling was replaced by a delicious tickling.

The feeling heightened as those same hands swirled me around in the water, this way and that until I felt a relaxation so deep nothing else mattered. This was a stay in bed for a few more hours comfy. Then a soft lullaby was sung and I gave into the abyss of sleep.

I awoke to soft hands brushing up and down my back. Cuddled up against what must be the biggest stuffed animal ever, not only was it soft but it smelled really good. There was a sweetness like lavender, but also a musk like a man. In fact, it reminded me a lot like Bes. Oh, no. Mental derail. I groaned remembering the incident on the terries, wondering what had happened afterwards and how long I've been here.

"Bes," I groaned again, this time into my pillow.

"Yes," was his reverberating purr.

"What happened?" Groggily, I tried to piece together what I could remember. It started around entering the Ubastic portal and being bitten, bitten by Tumaini. Ooh, he is in so much trouble.

"Hmm, we put you in one of the healing baths for a few hours until the virus was flushed out of your system. Unfortunately, your body was exhausted from battling the virus and also reacting to the dense minerals you were submerged in. You've been out cold for a few days. Well, I suppose cold is the wrong term."

"What do you mean?" Rising up from his cocoon, I'm sure I was a slight. I could feel my hair matted to the sides of my head and in front of my face, but I didn't have to worry about clothes being disarrayed. Apparently I'm not wearing any. "And where are my clothes?"

"Your body had to flush out extra endorphins created by the excess of vitamins and minerals in your body. You've been aroused for quite some time." His smile was Cheshire.

"That explains why I'm naked?"

"Well," he gave me a very believing innocent look. "One can only do so much. While I couldn't molest you in your sleep, I could at least give you a very nice massage."

A blush so deep it curled my toes in embarrassment. "I am going to have to think of a really good punishment for Tumaini."

"Mm," Bes scooted down the bed to come eye to eye with me. "Maybe you can think of one for me now."

"Um, why?" I asked confused.

His grin made my pulse race. "Coming on to you that first day," his eyes roamed as he continued, "and for touching you without your permission while your body recovered. I was thinking of skipping the bondage and starting with spanking."

Laughing with reserve, I tried to gauge his seriousness. Bes' eyes were dilated so much I could barely see a ring of blue around them. His hair was tussled like he had spent the last few days in bed, though somehow he still managed to pull it off (internal grumble.) His body was very, very warm, which led to some suspicion. I wasn't sure if I wanted to check below.

He was wearing clothes at least. Soft cotton pajama bottoms were his only means of covering, but I suppose that's a lot better than I myself could claim.

"N-No that's okay, I don't need to punish you Bes." I pulled away as he leaned in, intent on nuzzling me. "You've had p-plenty of that already."

He stopped short, looking at me. "What do you mean?"

My eyes darted around at his tone. What, had I offended him already? "You know, having to put up with me after Tumaini bit me and all."

"Oh," his entire posture relaxed. Had he thought I was mentioning his past? Why would that upset him so much, granted it's not the most romantic of talk. "In that case, maybe you can do something for me."

There was nothing but suspicion in my tone. "What?"

He smiled and then rolled onto his back. "Would you please scratch my back for me?"

His face was turned to look at me imploringly and there was a dusting of white panther fur all along his back where apparently he had begun to morph. The sight was so unusual I had to laugh.

"All right, I suppose that's fair. Let me get a robe or something though."

"There's one on the end of the bed." Pointing to a far corner, there was a small white robe hung on one of the bed posts.

"Thanks," I said almost sourly as I realized just how short this thing was. Oh well, at least it covered the most important parts.

His purr was my response as I reached out and started brushing up and down his back. I dug my nails in lightly at first, but the hair was thick enough that I had to add more pressure to actually scratch him. I followed up and down from his shoulders to the waist band of his pants, the fur seemingly getting thicker each time. Looking at his muscles clench and relax as I rubbed him, I couldn't help but also feel a strange commitment. I really love Bes, but I also realized that I love a lot of my characters, and I in no way want to confuse that while I'm on the other side.

By the time I started winding down, Bes was practically vibrating off the bed he was purring so much.

"Well then," my hand stilled, "I guess that's it- oh shit!"

Bes suddenly sprang up the bed, morphing fully into the first white panther I had ever seen up close. He swished around to face me; eyes alight and tail twitching back and forth.

"B-B-Bes, w-what are you doing?" Freaking out, but for some reason trying not to let it show, I thought back to a line from High Revere; "shape-shifting community of large and dangerous cats." Oh man, did I ever realize that now.

He stalked me to the corner of the bed, and I found my footing in time to stand. I knew trying to outrun his was stupid, so I creeped backwards in hopes to reach a door of some sort. Of course, having just woken up after being knocked out for a few days, my footing didn't last long. My feet slipped out from under me and I ended up flat on my back in the middle of Bes' room.

Before I could try to get up, Panther Bes stood above me, placing one paw on my shoulder. He didn't look hungry though, so that was… good? I hoped-

"Aw man, gross Bes!" His rough tongue came out and started leisurely licking my face. I tried pushing him off, but his strong paw kept me in place. "Come on Bes, that's not funny." I ended up laughing as he sit a ticklish spot along my neck.

I swear to God he grinned and licked there again. As I squirmed, laughing, I managed to get onto my stomach. Realizing that was a bad idea after I'd gotten myself stuck there, of course. Bes continued to lick me down as I laughed, cried, and felt utterly humiliated.

After that romp around Bes' room, I was able to leave the Ubastic Palace and head back into my own world. Worn out but glad I had only missed Friday, which I had dedicated the evening to spending on the other side, and Saturday, which I had planned to attend a Smashing Pumpkins concert, I promised myself that I would call in sick tomorrow and then crashed on my own, human bed.

Back on the other side Bes and Tumaini were reveling in telling each other what they had gotten to do to their women while they had no supervision. What they didn't know was that their ticked off author would mention to Selma that while they were scouting for information on the enemy, way back when they were in training for higher positions in the military, they had both gotten terribly drunk and decided to experiment with a little male intimacy.

Selma reviled in this information and quickly spread it throughout the kingdom. News travels fast of course, so it wasn't long before everyone from the King of the Elves to readers in Texas knew all about their adventure. Tumaini and Bes spent a lot of their time blushing and fending off remarks after that.

Disclaimer: I do not own Marius, Anne Rice's greatest of vampires. Though, admittedly, I wish that I did.