By Black Waltz 0
"I don't think it's fair." Yasty complained as she sat cross-legged on the floor of her friend's home with a small white box of Lopp fried take-out in her lap. The dour lighting made everything in the room look sickly, including her food, but her appetite was the stuff of Arborian lore and it didn't faze her enough to even think about passing up dinner.
Formaldehyde paused with a piece of fried octopod halfway to his lips, holding the chopsticks (loppsticks) quite a bit more professionally than his smaller guest. He was a vegetarian, not for any moral or social purposes, but simply because the thought of eating meat, cooked or otherwise made his mordesh stomach turn over uncomfortably and he could tell; clearly visible and floating in fluid as it were. "What isn't fair?" He asked, peering down at her from his higher vantage point.
They had spent the day killing stuff and were tired now, so their two-person party had disbanded at Mal's house for the sake of rest experience and the both of them couldn't be assed to cook, not that either of them had ever really bothered to learn. Yasty speared a hunk of oily golden bug meat with a loppstick and nibbled on it thoughtfully, her long, rabbit-like ears drooping a bit at the ends. "I don't think it's fair that you can get away with touching me all the time but I'm never allowed to touch you."
He immediately lifted his hand from where it had been on her knee. He'd been stroking her long white tail a little earlier as well, but it was only absently while waiting for their food to arrive. He couldn't help it; it was just too soft and too comforting to run his fingers along after a day of being shelled, strained and stepped on. "I'm not sure I understand what you mean." He replied in his usual low, tired manner. "You put your hands on my body almost daily in order to revive and restore my ravaged form."
"It's not the same. I'm usually just touching your gloves or your clothing, or maybe sometimes your hair, but you always freak out and flinch away whenever I try to touch your face or your skin." Yasty sulked, wrinkling her nose. "Like your aquarium parts. What are they made of? What does it feel like? It's a mystery!"
"It may be a mystery not worth knowing, and please. This isn't very good dinner conversation." Formaldehyde responded, hoping he could change the topic somehow. His aurin friend had a relatively short attention span so maybe he'd catch a break today. He was still mostly comprised of the parts he'd been born with (mostly, well, more than some other mordesh he had known), but he didn't understand her fascinations. At all. Not one bit.
But Yasty was the sort of girl who couldn't leave well enough alone once she had started into something. Her ears pricked up slightly. "No, I'm serious about this! Do you know how hard it is to have a… well, you know… a relationship with someone who's afraid of skin-on-skin contact? I looked it up on my datachron and they call it haphephobia, which is like the worst thing there is. It's almost as bad as a fear of being hugged!"
The taller, gaunter alien sighed and set his food down on the floor, next to an open can of beer. "I don't… I don't have a phobia." He argued, getting somewhat annoyed and frankly a little exasperated. "I just can't understand why you would want to touch the remains of my flesh. My body is rot and ruin and it is nothing you would ever want to feel under your fingertips."
Yasty frowned at him. It was what she did when she didn't like how an argument was going but couldn't think up anything good for a rebuttal just yet. She just wished he would climb out of his crypt and cheer on up sometimes. Her bushy tail that had been twitching back and forth while she ate flopped and went limp by her side. "I don't know. It just bugs me, that's all." She pouted, resting her chin on her hand.
For a time neither of them said anything and the only sound in the house was the gentle hum of machinery from another room. Eventually Mal sighed again, letting out a breath of chemically preserved air. "… Really, it sometimes warms my stilled heart when I place my hands on you. Your skin is like bronze and it pulses with life, almost like… as if I could feel alive again, vicariously through you."
She wasn't sure but she thought that might have been a complement. Yasty beamed at him and probably would have tried to hug him if the timing had been better. "Thanks! I like you too!" She laughed, perking up. "You shouldn't have to worry about creeping me out, you know? I've seen way creepier things since coming to Nexus. Remember the squirg? The strain?"
"Perhaps…" Formaldehyde murmured, unsure.
"That giant mind-controlling brain pudding from beyond the fringe? And we had to swim into it to rescue everyone and it tried to take over our brains but I have the strongest willpower on the planet so we went into its mind and I freed all the brain thralls with my mental fortitude and I saw my deepest, darkest nightmare which was when Jonah Bluefern wouldn't take me to the dance because he said I was too fat and-"
"Alright, alright. I get it." The mordesh said at last, raising a big gloved hand at her. He smiled wanly, which was the most cheer she could get out of him on a good day. "I submit. I didn't think it meant so much to you and I was merely trying to save you from an unpleasant experience, but if that's what you want you can touch what is left of my vile visage. I'll try not to flinch away."
"Really?" Yasty asked, her small mouth hanging open. Her eyes sparkled with delight.
"You should wash your hands afterwards." Formaldehyde suggested, trying to be safe. It was a well-known fact that the Contagion was only necrotizing and deadly to the sapient inhabitants of the planet Grismara, but there was no knowing when that might change. Viruses could mutate at any time, just like practically everything else that had been left to its own devices on Nexus.
The tall, white-haired mordesh relaxed his posture and scooted away from the gas fireplace they had been facing towards his friend. It was likely the only invitation she was going to get so Yasty put her food and utensils down, hopped up onto her haunches and stretched her arms out to reach for his face. It seriously looked like he wanted to lean away again, just like the other few times, but he kept to his solemn word and stayed put, closing his eyes. Maybe it helped more that way.
She cupped her comparatively small hands around his cheeks. Initially she would have guessed that his dark purple skin, lined with stagnant veins and darker patches made from wear or maybe even contagion ravage would have felt oily or slimy, possibly even greasy like the meat of a snoglug, but she was wrong. He was cold, not icy cold as though he had been kept in a refrigerator, but more like a room temperature that felt comparatively cold next to the internal body heat she was mostly used to in people. There was not as much 'give' to the dark flesh as she would have predicted, either. There was enough flexibility for him to move about and control his muscles, but a quiet voice in Yasty's head kept whispering rigor mortis to her as she touched away.
"Is this okay, Maldy? Not freaking out?" She asked after a few moments, making sure.
"Mm? Ah, yes. It's fine." He murmured back, eyes still closed. "Your hands are warm. Pleasant."
The long-eared aurin giggled briefly at that. Rather than oily or greasy Formaldehyde's features were more waxy than anything else; a by-product of his body modification's preservative properties. It wasn't so bad provided she could trick herself into believing that she wasn't laying her hands on a talking mummified corpse. He had prominent cheekbones, a strong chin, and a boopy nose. She had to resist the silly urge to boop it herself.
She moved her hands a little lower and slipped her thumbs under his jaw, close to the strange neck-brace thingy that most mordesh were cursed to bear. She held onto his chin like that and tried to move his mouth for him, like a puppet. He let her, probably out of a morbid curiosity of his own, his mouth going slack to reveal two rows of sharp, pointed, carnivorous teeth. It was the same kind of teeth that made his people into a lethal, flesh-eating horde when they lost their minds and embraced the whole 'zombie' concept with open arms and maws.
Unfazed, Yasty moved his mouth up and down a little and made a; "Bluh bluh blurg" sound until she couldn't help her giggles again and had to move on, the corner of her friend's mouth turning up at the end in response to her horrible, horrible ventriloquism.
"Sorry, I'm almost done." She told him, briefly letting him go.
"The things I have to put up with for the sake of love." He complained, but he didn't sound all that serious about it. The beer from earlier might have helped with that, or maybe he had realized he legitimately missed the attention.
Yasty shuffled a little closer, almost practically in his lap by that point. She had to stretch her arms up even further to run her vestigial clawed fingertips along the edge of his long pointed ears, still just as dead as the rest of him but kind of fun to touch. She was used to the big, soft, floppy ears of her own people and frankly she'd wanted to poke at the small round ears of every exile she'd come across in fascination, but this was close enough. She ran her fingers from one end to the other, right to the very tip, and then behind them to brush the backs of her knuckles against his coarse synthetic hair.
It must have been tickly enough for Formaldehyde to open his eyes at that point, because that's what he did. The vitalus-infused grey lenses stared down at her, and she up at him.
This time it was Yasty's turn to stomp up and down as hard as she could on the sudden overpowering urge to panic and pull away when he unexpectedly leant down and kissed her. It was a chaste kiss, thank the weave, she probably would have had a heart attack and dropped dead if there had been any undead tongue involved, but it wasn't the sort of kiss you'd give to your grandma either. His large, gloved hands came up from his lap to touch her on her bare arms.
Her fur stood on end. Cold firm waxy chemical reeking dead sensation. She was kissing a dead thing, a walking corpse. Sharp ravenous flesh-tearing zombie teeth were inches from her throat…
Yasty tensed and tore herself away just in time to choke on part of her takeout that attempted to make a second curtain-call as it rose alongside the bile in her stomach. She coughed and swallowed it down again before she had a revolution on her hands but it was too late to hide away the reaction she'd had to that small bit of affection. Too late for sure.
But Mal already knew he'd done the stupidest thing a mordesh in his position could possibly have chosen and were his blood not already cold and sluggish it would have grown colder still. He raised his hands a bit and leaned back in horror over what he had done. "I'm sor-" He started to say, desperately.
Before he could finish the small, snow-hued aurin wrenched herself to her feet and pelted down the hallway without a moment to spare, headed to the room with the ivory throne she abruptly had to worship. She stuck a leg out once she'd fallen to her knees and kicked the door closed just in time for Formaldehyde to come striding quickly around the corner and watch it slam right in front of him. Animated retching noises were already audible through the splitbark wood.
After a painful pause Mal dragged his heels the rest of the way towards the bathroom and let out a long, drawn-out sigh. He leant forward, arms by his sides and rested his forehead against the surface of the door. He could still hear his beloved friend and perhaps something more continue to suffer on the other side. "I'm sorry," he said again, loudly enough to reach her; "I don't know what came over me."
He did not receive an answer. He waited for about half a minute before taking his brow off the door and speaking again. "Are you alright in there? Yasty?"
A small, wavery voice from within replied; "Y-Yeah…"
The dark-skinned mordesh stalker who was usually calm and collected in the heat of battle floundered about aimlessly now. "You have my sincerest apologies. I'm an idiot. I shouldn't have done that, foolish creature that I am." He moaned, wishing he could take back the last minute or so from his life. He was as he said he was, a pitiable creature, and the aurin he had befouled with his brainless betrayal felt like the only thing that kept him as a person; kept him going on even as his body decayed from within.
"It's okay." Her voice tried to reassure him. "I just wasn't expecting you to do that. Ugh. I think I need to be eased into something like that real slowly, Maldy. I'm not ready. A roll of breath mints wouldn't go astray, either."
Formaldehyde smiled wretchedly at that. "Please forgive me." It was all he could think to say.
Yasty tried to change the subject. "It's fine. Really." She squeaked, as though she were nervous. "Uh… I've made a bit of a mess in here so why don't you go back into the living room for now? I'll be out in a minute!"
"Of course." He replied. That too was the only thing he could really do.
Five minutes later Yasty wobbled back into the big room that doubled as both a living area and a bedroom, clutching her stomach tightly after all the dry heaving she had done. Every second of it had guilted her horribly, because shouldn't she be beyond that by now? Didn't she love him? It was only a little kiss and not the end of the world, for Arboria's sake!
Formaldehyde had returned to his place on the floor, sitting on the unraveled sleeping bag he used as a bed as he watched the TV with the sound off. He glanced to her immediately as soon as she arrived and she couldn't help but smile very sheepishly at him. "I'm back." She announced, leaning against the doorway. "There goes my dinner tonight. I'm gonna be hungry again in another hour or two, I just know it."
"We can order a pizza later if that's what you want." He suggested. He didn't care about the state of the bathroom; he was just far more concerned about her.
Yasty nodded at that but stayed where she was for a few seconds longer, consumed in her own thoughts. The awkwardness between then could have been cut with a knife and served with a vintage wine, but eventually she drooped as she gave up on the sunshine act and spoke her mind instead. "Hey, please don't think I tossed my cookies because I can't stand to be around you or anything. I really, really like you, but it's still hard and I guess you know why. I don't want to hurt your feelings. I'm sorry if I have." She whimpered.
The mordesh just beckoned to her to sit beside him again on the pile of soft pillows and various plushies gathered from all over Nexus that she'd turned into sort of a nest. She did so right away, settling into the softness and hoping it would soon convince the awful feeling in the pit of her stomach to disappear. Formaldehyde put an arm around her as she snuggled into his room-temperature, thankfully clothed side. "I understand where you're coming from. I would never have relished reciprocating such sentiments to the undead long before the contagion took me." He said.
"So we're okay then?" Yasty asked, glancing up at him. "Not mad?"
"No, not mad. Not at all." He responded solemnly.
Relieved, Yasty relaxed in her cushions against her friend and used her tail to nudge the remote control for the TV into arm's reach. She popped the sound back on and brightened immediately. "Ooh! 'Celebrity Immolations' is on! I usually end up missing the best parts!" She laughed.
The TV soon cut to commercial. "COMING UP NEXT: Vigilant Cassus Airwaves Presents MONSTER MOVIE MARATHON : 'Attack of the Brain-Eating Babes from Beta Abraxis 5', 'Artemis Zin Conquers the Canid' and 'Honey, Our Lover is a Werewolf!'"
"It's going to be a long night." Formaldehyde said, but he didn't sound unhappy. He laid a hand on Yasty's head and delicately stroked her long, curly hair.
Yasty glowed at the affection and maybe would have even purred if she had the ability, then a goofy idea came to her from out of seemingly nowhere. "Hey Mal, hold your collar up against your cheek like that for a second, okay?"
"Uh. Like this?" He asked, unfolding his collar as he was told.
The aurin giggled to herself and stretched up one last time to plant a great big kiss on his cheek, buffered safely by the fabric of his clothes. She then slipped off the cushions and slid into his lap like an affectionate jabbit, curling up right there instead. He was a big, gangly guy so there was plenty of room to spare, and she almost didn't hear the half-audible, quiet chuckle in response. Maybe she had imagined it.
But she was still snuggled there a few hours later by the time the both of them had fallen asleep.
(Yasty, Myrcalus PvE server)
(Formaldehyde, Myrcalus PvE server)