Then I realized that her laughing had slid over to something else... I could feel it... I could... I was soft and still inside her and I could feel that she was crying. I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her close and then we were weeping together. It was joy and overwhelming emotion I couldn’t lay a name to and a fear, still.
“I... Akminchaer said... Erininden said... it would get easier... I wouldn’t be so scared... I wouldn’t be so... nasty to myself,” she was saying. “It felt so good and I’m not supposed to feel that good... I feel so ashamed...”
“Ky, no, no you’re beautiful, you did the right thing. I was afraid I’d hurt you, did I hurt you?”
“No, no it felt wonderful... I...”
I felt a hand on my shoulder, saw Gannara slide down behind Ky. We were sandwiched between them. “You both did exactly as you should,” – “You did splendidly,” they were saying.
“Beautiful,” Farasha said, even as Gan said “really hot, you two.” She reached across us to smack him lightly.
“All right, a little crudely put, but you did really well for a first time.” Ky shifted and I slid all the way out of her. All four of us were pressed together naked and no one was upset by that I was glad to see. Skin felt so good on skin.
“And my healers tell me it will keep getting better,” I said. “We have good healers.”
“I... it's hard.” Ky said, taking a cloth from Gan, wiping her face. “It feels so marvelous, and then all this mess... I’m sticky, and I’ve lost all control of my tears and sweat... it feels so unclean.”
I leaned close to kiss her wet face. “I understand that completely. Let’s go wash.” I looked sideways at Gan and Fara. “And we can try again if you like, if the Lesser Baths are private enough. I need a lot of practice.” They smacked me and tickled me but we unpeeled our sticky selves from one another.
As we got up to throw robes on to wobble down to the baths, Ky stopped and drew her finger along a smear on the sheets.
“Akminchaer told me I might bleed a little. It didn’t hurt, husband,” she held up her hand to stop me apologizing. “They’ll have their memorial mark to my purity.”
“I had something to smear the sheets if you didn’t bleed,” I said. “I took a sliver of Bella’s calves’ liver. You said that you’d been helped by Haians and I thought...”
Somewhere in the women’s wing of the Marble Palace, there was a library... a collection... framed... of Imperatrix’s wedding sheets, at least the stained bits. Just another thing I didn’t think I’d ever want to see. And it was the sort of thing that you didn’t just throw away. It would be disrespectful.
Now this sheet would be cut out and that tiny smear would be framed and put in the most recent place. Someone would have created one for Niku... probably from her moon time, even if it was a lie. No one would ever say that the Imperitrixes of Arko were not pure on their wedding nights.
We linked arms or held hands and turned down the corridor to the Lesser Baths and that was when the fire-bell started clanging. The Imperial Chamber fire bell.