I'm sick with strep throat, and my reading budget for the quarter is shot. I can't think of plot for other stories, so here's some more mostly plotless smuttiness. Sorry folks, but Helen/Nikola makes me happy and I need some happy right now!

Now, back to my original WIPs….

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Helen lay on the divan, a soft pillow under her head, her skin anointed with fragrant oils. The room smelled of incense and jasmine and the luxuriant heat of Assam allowed her to be quite comfortable in her nude state. Helen tried to clear her mind and center herself for the ritual to come, but the blindfold made it very difficult. She'd seen too many years and too many missions gone wrong to allow herself to completely relax, especially when she was about to give her body over to a complete stranger.

She'd studied at the temple for a full month, eager to learn and hoping to banish her problem with knowledge and practice. With WWII ten years past and things finally settling into a working pattern at the Old City Sanctuary, she'd taken time for herself. It was a late hundredth birthday gift to herself. It was a new era, and she hoped to learn the ins and outs of her body and so banish the longings that tied her in knots when she tried to sleep at night.

Her introduction to the arts of love had been sweet and gentle. John had treated her as though she was made of glass. And, given his enormous proclivity for tremendous sexual violence, she knew that he must have loved her to treat her so very carefully the few times they had made love. She looked back at those times with a bittersweet fondness, but little passion. James had been a better lover, more willing to let go with his passions, but he'd not really wanted her as a woman. He respected her, loved her in his way, but his true passion had always been John. Helen knew she was the closest James could get.

They'd parted on good terms after the war, but seeing John again had driven James into a swirling depression that only solitude and cocaine would comfort. So she left and claimed Old City, and she was proud of all she had accomplished. She'd slept with various men and women over the years, but more for the novelty and the craving for some scraps of intimacy than any deep satisfaction. She knew she was capable of climax, and it had happened on occasion, but very rarely. She felt it was time to learn why, and the tantric priestesses here would be able to help.

She'd learned philosophy and breathing techniques, and she'd spent hours of sensual play with priests and priestesses, exploring her body and theirs. She know knew herself and her physical shell better than she'd thought possible, but she still felt lost, and she could not hide this from her teachers. It was then that this ritual of trust had been proposed, and she'd foolishly accepted.

So, naked and blindfolded, she lay waiting for some high priest to come and worship the goddess within her. And if it was anything shady, she was reasonably certain she could kick his ass as required.

The air shifted, and whisper soft footfalls on the marble floor were the only warning she had that she was no longer alone. She waited for her partner to speak, but he said nothing. She could hear the softest of breathing as he looked at her, and what she could have sworn was static, although the pounding of her blood in her ears might have altered her senses. He must be standing next to the divan, but he made no move closer, and she could practically feel eyes on her skin. Instead of feeling alarmed, she felt strangely powerful and she subtly shifted her body, widening her thighs and arching her back in greeting. A soft moan was her only answer, and she smiled at the idea that some sensual master was aroused by the sight of her.

Warm hands circled her ankles and she gasped at the sudden touch. She felt breath caress the side of her knee, and the ghostly imprint of a kiss there, so fleeting she wasn't sure if she had imagined it. She opened her mouth to speak, but remembered in her training she'd been told to focus only on sensation. So she refused to ask the thousand questions in her mind, refused to think any of the thoughts begging for attention. She even refused to contemplate that this man smelled familiar, felt comfortable. She trusted him immediately, though she'd thought that would be impossible. But she let down her walls and only felt the whisper light sensation of long fingers stroking over her skin, drawing swirling patterns that made her nipples tighten and her sheath clench with emptiness.

Hands with supple fingers continued to ghost over her skin, rising past her thighs and toying with her hipbones, ignoring her sex though she arched her hips to try and signal that she was more than ready for such touches. All the rules that she had learnt in her weeks in the temple seemed to fly right out of ther head. Perhaps it was the blindfold, but more likely, it was the man with her.

The scent of him was somehow stronger than the heavy incense and bright floral oils. It was clean and crisp and cut through everything else, utterly unlike any other lover she'd ever taken, and yet still her memory struggled to grasp where she knew the fragrance from. Then the very tip of his tongue began to wander across her knees, slowly traversing the sensitive skin of her inner thighs, and she could focus solely on the feel of him against her, his naked chest brushing against her foot, those hands sweeping softly over her stomach and ribs with infinite patient slowness.

When that teasing tongue alternated with tiny bites, she almost screamed but managed to simply suck in a deep breath, the oxygen reminding her that she'd been holding her breath almost from the moment he'd first laid hands on her. She felt her lover chuckle softly against her skin, his chin pressing against her thigh and his breath mere inches away from the parted lips of her sex. His fingers stroked the soft roundness of the sides of her breast and she was already more aroused than she could remember being in a very very long time.

But those hands moved up to her shoulders, drawing patterns across her collarbone that seemed almost charged with electricity, her skin tingled so. And those full soft lips that pressed kisses across her skin moved to her hipbones, his tongue circling over the bone in three quick strokes before moving farther upward and away from where she needed to be touched.

By now, she was beyond frustrated, but she forced herself to relax, to let this man explore her body as the expert he was. Why she felt a hard knot of jealousy in the pit of her stomach over all the others he'd must have slept with in order to achieve such mastery, she tried not to wonder.

His tongue traced over her ribs and those fingers dug softly into the base of her neck, teasing her curls and rubbing away tension she hadn't known existed. She could feel him hovering over her, his lips caressing the soft skin under her breast and his hardened member pressing against her knee, the only proof that he was aroused by his action. She'd been told in no uncertain terms that in the beginning, it was her assigned role to lay submission and accepting, but she could not help moving her knee, trying to stroke that hard flesh and torture him as he was torturing her. Again, he did not chide, but breathed a laugh against her skin, a sound that made her smile with delight.

But he didn't let her go unpunished. He moved away, his hands holding her shoulders firmly, and he spun her around on the soft cushions, her face half buried in silk as he revealed the naked length of her back. He pressed a kiss against the skin of her shoulder, and she could feel him press against her, he held his body so that his chest pressed just a little against her back, his cock against her thigh, his legs draped over hers. She was completely surrounded by him, and she did not feel trapped. She felt strangely protected and she didn't mind in the least.

She moaned softly and his kisses grew wet and passionate, and he moved across her skin with tongue and teeth. He shifted his weight to his legs and pulled his body away, letting his hands free. His fingers swirled over her skin in beautiful patterns that seemed to be something she should recognize, but her mind was unable to concentrate. She didn't want to think, she wanted to feel, and he was giving her ever so much to feel. His teeth sank into one buttock and she squealed and he laughed, a deep chuckle that made her stop and pick up her head. She wanted to take off the blindfold, wanted to look into his eyes, but he pressed a hand to her head, stroking her hair and calming her like a scared kitten.

He flipped her over once again leaving her open and vulnerable and utterly accepting of his touch.

"You are my light." A masculine voice whispered in Sanskrit, a language more ancient than Latin, and more sensual. The voice made her pause, made her wonder if she was going mad at his touch. It was so very familiar.

But his tongue slid into her folds, pressing a soft circle around her clitoris, and she pressed her hands through the short soft hair of her lover, begging him to relieve the need that burned in her.

She came with a blazing suddenness, like a fuse with too short a length, unexpected and almost destructive in its ferocity. She'd clutched at her lover with what she knew to be strength that was not entirely mortal, but when she recovered enough of her ability to think to take stock of her partner he was resting against her thigh and from the stretching of the cool skin of his face, he was smiling as he continued to draw patterns through the folds of her sex with those wondrous fingers.

That would be all the break he allowed her. His tongue touched her sex again, diving deep within her sheath and with fingers and tongue he brought her over the edge again and again, never giving a thought to his own pleasure until finally she could take no more and pulled on his ears. He growled as he rose over her and nipped at her neck and she shuddered with the sound, it touched something within her so primal she dare not examine it.

"All of it, all of it!" she demanded arching her hips and demanding his cock to enter her and take her completely.

To her shock, for she had expected an argument, he thrust inside with unerring rhythm, catching her unawares with the pressure of being filled to perfection. She cried out wordlessly and he halted, but she clutched at his hips, wrapping her legs around him and pulling him so close he could not think to escape. She arched into him, slamming her hips into his and wanted to pleasure him as he pleasured her. She wanted him to feel just as worshipped, and vague plans swirled in her brain of how she could show all her gratitude.

But as he began to set an impossible rhythm, filling her with each stroke, exerting the perfect pressure on each sensitive spot within her channel, his hipbone pressing against her clit at the same time, she came once again against her will, losing her mind to the fire that he burned her with.

She came back to her senses with him whispering in her ear, soft, quiet words in Sanskrit that made her eyes fill with tears."You are a fire in me. You are so hot, you burn. I will never be the same." He thrust faster, harder, clutching her hips as she gripped his shoulders, needing him so deep inside that she'd never lose him. She felt his nails sharp against her skin, and the pain of it pushed her over the edge once again. She wept at the bliss he'd brought her, a release unlike anything she'd ever known. She was surrounded, submerged in throbbing pleasure and the scent of him and sex. He groaned against her, turning his head suddenly away from her neck as he came within her, his seed searing hot within her womb.

He slipped out of her body and wrapped his arms around her, tucking her head under his chin and holding her close to his side. It was nothing like what she'd been told. This was no controlled and disciplined search for the divine, more philosophical lesson than sexual encounter. This had been raw and brutal and deeply emotional. She felt flayed open and so sensitive that she didn't know if she was going to laugh or weep.

"Who are you? Please?" She put and hand to her blindfold to tear it off, but he capture her hand, kissing the back of it.

"My fire." He whispered, and she had to know why he was so familiar, why she felt like she'd come home in his arms. He let go, the weight of his body disappearing next to her with no warning, and when she tore off the damned blindfold he was gone, fled from the room preternaturally fast. He had to be an abnormal, he had to!

She lay back upon the divan, tears filling her eyes. She thought women who fell in love with a man for their performance in bed were idiotic fools. Now she could count herself in their number. In love with some tantric priest, who made sex an artform, an act of worship. But she simply could not distance herself from what they had shared. There was none of the training of the temple in that. It was worship, but not of the gods. She had felt love. And she was deeply afraid of it.

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When they got back to the Sanctuary after defeating Afina, Helen insisted on a full physical for Nikola in his new form. He'd gotten a full dose of his former treatment, but he was still looking at her with hungry eyes.

"It's not your blood I want, Helen."

She placed her stethoscope on his chest and tried not to notice the firmness of the muscles under her fingertips. His heart was beating rather fast for a vampire, although still slow by human standards.

"Will you ever admit that you might be able to love me, Helen? Not even after such a close brush with losing me completely?"

His tone was teasing, but behind it she could feel the slightest edge of desperation.

"And what will you do with such an admission? Gloat and torment me with it? I'd best keep my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself. Best way to keep the peace."

He grit his teeth. "Damnit, woman." His eyes flared black for a moment before he closed them. His hands gripped her arms and he pulled her down, enough to capture her lips. This time, her mouth had been parted in shock, and he let his tongue sweep in. She couldn't fight him this time, she didn't have the armor of anger she'd had in Rome. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back, tasting the flavor of him on her tongue and letting ago of the tight grip she'd held on her emotions. She would not lose him. She would not lose this man.

He pulled away and looked her straight in the eyes. "You are so hot." He whispered in perfect Sanskrit.

Memories flooded her mind and body and suddenly she couldn't lie to herself anymore.

"You! That was….you ruined me for other men!"

He grinned impossibly wide and she could have kicked herself for giving him such ammunition. "Why, why didn't you tell me? Why wouldn't you ever stay?"

He looked at her, sadness in his eyes. "Were you ready to hear that I loved you? That I'd loved you since the moment I saw you in 1877? Or would you have run away screaming?"

She opened her mouth, but she knew she had no defense. She would have run.

"I took my one day every three years and cherished it. For that day you were mine. You even called my name when you came, though I'm certain you were barely aware of it."

She blushed. She was quite aware of it, now that she let herself remember. She'd returned to the temple in Assam after three years had passed, cursing herself for a fool. But when her lover was there, and agreed to meet with her again, the relief in her heart was the closest she'd ever gotten to nirvana. They'd worshipped each other for a night and a day, and she never saw his face. But she had screamed a name when she'd come. Nikola's name. Her lover had merely paused in his ministrations and never chastised her for breaking the rules of their game. She'd returned every three years since, restoring her soul from its trials with the touch of a lover she refused to admit to. He'd loved her, even when she was pregnant with an enemy's child, he'd brought her more pleasure than she knew could exist.

"And you used to mutter in Serbian when you were close to coming. I can tell the difference between Indo-European languages you know."

"What do you expect? You love to torture my poor cock, and a man, even one trained in the tantric arts, has some limit of endurance with the woman he loves." He paused, held her eyes captive. "Even in Rome, I told you I loved you, and you chose not to believe me, not to admit to what you knew."

"You tried to kill…" she laughed, "you wouldn't have killed me."

"Never, my light. I was just trying to impress you a bit. And now, after meeting and killing Afina, I think perhaps I shall give up on resurrecting the vampire race for a bit."

"Well, that's a load off my mind, Nikola." He was still holding her tight to his body between his legs, and she could feel that their kiss had affected him rather strongly, given the pressure against her thigh. And she could no longer deny that she knew exactly what he could do with that particular piece of his anatomy, a blush flamed over her skin as soon as her mind descended into the gutter.

"What will you do now, Nikola?"

"That depends on the woman I love. Our three year date is due next week. Will she wish me to disappear again into thin air, or will she accept my proposal to stay by her side, capture the occasional dragon, as Helen Magnus would not wish her mate to slay a dragon of course, and perhaps make mad passionate love to her with remarkable frequency and produce several small beings as proof of said love?"

His tone was flippant, but his eyes were on fire. He'd laid everything on the line for her, and she knew if she rejected him now it would be decades before he would try again. Because he would never completely give up on her. Just as she had refused to give up on him.

"I love you, Nikola. Stay with me."

He pulled her closer and their lips met, the kiss turning fiery hot in mere moments. Everything he'd ever done to her body, every whispered promise he'd ever made, all of it turned into a want so powerful her needs almost buckled with it.

He pulled away and pressed kisses along her jawline, and she caress the muscles of his chest, pushing his open shirt off completely. When he got to her ear, he whispered. "India is a very long plane flight away, love. I suggest we simply retire to your bedroom this time. Less time lost to travel that way."

"Must I wear the blindfold this time?"

"I'd like to see your eyes for once. But perhaps occasionally for old times sake?" His blunt human teeth sank into her neck, nipping and sucking and making her moan.

"Bed, now!"

"Oh bossy. I knew you had it in you!"