Is it weird that this is one of my favorites?


ShroudedShipping // Kate & Darkrai // PG-13

The sky looked … painted. Kate frowned at this observation, shielding her eyes with a trembling hand as she squinted upwards. It was a beautiful blue, regardless of the vast patches of clouds obscuring it. And yet it had lost its depth somehow – no longer did it carry the suggestion of infinity. Even the sunlight shining weakly through the clouds was looking oddly close. Perhaps it was a trick of the light.

Bringing her gaze down, she blinked in surprise to find herself in the Ranger School cafeteria. She stood at the center of the teachers' table, looking over the large room with confusion. Where there should have been several long tables stretched a single spiral-shaped one, twisting so sharply on itself that it was impossible to tell where it began and ended. Streamers sagged from the ceiling and thick carpet coated the floor, transforming the room into a place of true celebration.

Kellyn stepped out of nowhere, blue eyes fixated upon her as he handed her something on a plate. "The first slice is for you," he said. His voice was quiet, yet somehow still audible over the growing rumble of the thousands seated at the great spiral.

It was a chunk of something unidentifiable, though its dark purple color and bumpy texture reminded her of a Drapion. She picked at it with her fingers, bringing up a morsel of it and letting it slide into her mouth. She bit into it, chewing thoughtfully. It tasted salty.

She looked over again at Kellyn; but he had become Keith, smirking at her as juggled twitching hands. "A little helpful, is this true?" he laughed, and bright blue eyes sparkled as the crowd roared behind him roared its approval.

Something moved at the corner of her vision. Still nibbling at her food, she watched a solid-looking wall dissolve into a swarm of Beautifly, fluttering about on jagged wings that twisted like lightning bolts. Somebody seated at the spiral stood up, opening his thin mouth wide, wide, wide, so that his cheeks ballooned to the size of his own body and his jaw dislocated with a wet crack. He swallowed one of the butterflies whole, and after a brief moment his back exploded noisily into chunks of gore and shards of bone as a pair of those wings burst out, flapping so hard that the air around them whistled.

"Watch them dance." Keith was now Rhythmi, her mouth twisting into a grin beneath blue eyes. They floated within water, brilliantly lit by some unseen source. Yet the surface lay miles above them, if it existed at all. Around them twisted the members of the crowd, or perhaps their bodies. It was difficult to tell.

Somehow managing to swallow the rest of her food, Kate pushed herself upwards with suddenly heavy arms, growing lightheaded from the pressure. Water poured into her nose and mouth and eyes and ears, turning everything hazy and shimmering and distant. Dark shapes slid across her vision, briefly taking form before dissolving into meaninglessness like clouds. Instinct caused her to panic, and yet she found herself shivering in delight, wrapped within the tight blanket of water.

Hot breath tickled her ears as two voices murmured into them. "There is always more, of course."

She took a deep, shuddering breath, and suddenly it was a real blanket, warming her back as she sank into the mattress beneath it. Two bodies were pressing down on her, blue eyes glinting hungrily as they hooked their legs around hers to pull them apart and stroked her sides and kissed her neck and tickled her thighs and she dimly realized that her shirt and jeans were gone but that didn't matter, not with the ecstasy flooding through her body and making her tremble in anticipation.

The two became four, all strong young men who surrounded her and wrapped her in their muscular arms, and then eight, twenty, a hundred of them, crushing the breath out of her with their sheer weight, their forms just barely defined but so clearly felt against her own slender body, which was nothing here and yet everything at the same time.

Then there was one, but what a powerful one he was, for his presence was even greater than that of the hundred; his tattered cloak floated on their own accord, blotting out everything above them, and she could only stare up into his searching, rapacious, cold blue eyes.

"Is this to your liking?"

"Yes," she whispered, so softly that it melted into her breath and became inaudible beneath her pounding heart.

"You will stay."


"You will be mine."


"Only one may be the master."


"Tell me which of us is the master."

She simply gazed up at him, her body trembling eagerly beneath his.

"Tell me," he repeated, grasping her shoulders.

"You are!" she blurted, excitement shocking her with his touch. "You are, you are!"

His body radiated satisfaction, and as they drew together the world around them burst into bleeding flowers and dripping swords as a million voices screamed in a terrible joy.


In the waking world, Altru Tower shook with the triumphant laughter of a madman.


Coming up next: SteadfastShipping.