In Tandem Orbit: Chapter 11

Photo representing how I imagine Iris and Rianna, only Iris has purple eyes and the girl in this pic does not.
(I'm no good at Gimp or Photoshop, you'll just have to imagine that Iris has thistle-colored eyes. Though I do now have an anime-ish avatar depicting Iris.)

"In Tandem Orbit"
By = Sure As Elle

Chapter 11: "Testing, Dinner, and a Movie"

Monday was fairly dull, aside from some time with Iris watching three-vee after work, but nothing worth going over here happened then. Tuesday was much the same, except for giving the permissions needed for Kam, my dad, and one of his friends into the house to move a few things of Kam's in, most of it going in the attic. Kam's nerves were frayed enough from moving that I gave her a massage after the fact, which she enjoyed so much she fell asleep on the couch. When Iris came over later, she and I went into my bedroom and watched the three-vee in there instead. Kam's snoozing must have been contagious, because we fell asleep, too; this had not been in the plans, but luckily Cleo was on top of things. Though there were no cameras in the bedroom, Cleo apparently figured out what happened anyway, and told the AI for the Zahane household that we'd accidentally fallen asleep, so Matria didn't make an issue of the unplanned sleepover. Didn't help my nerves when I woke up and found Iris still there, of course.

Having Kam there helped immensely that morning. Somehow, neither my getting out of bed, my panic, or the cooking smells from the kitchen woke up either of them. That it didn't wake Kam up didn't surprise me; she could probably sleep through a tornado going through the living room. But Iris... the fact she didn't wake up from all that had me checking to make sure she was still breathing. She was.

I left a note for Iris on the inside of the bedroom door, and another on the bathroom door just in case, which was for Kam as well. I would later find out from Kam that Kam had woken up while Iris was still in the bathroom, and that Kam had made breakfast for both of them before Iris headed home. She must have changed at home, too, because when I saw her later at the library, she was wearing a different outfit from the one she'd fallen asleep in.

Kam was busy with school and with homework the rest of the week, so there weren't any adult fun times between us, to both our disappointment. But at least we were together, which helped my mood more than I had even guessed. It was awesome having her to talk with, even if only for the few-minute long breaks she took between work or study sessions, and of course Kam and I slept in the same bed together most nights.

Friday morning, Iris came over to spend time with me before work, since I work 1pm to 9pm on Fridays. She came over at 11am, leaving only a couple hours before I had to go, so we just talked. At one point in the conversation we were discussing her school again, when something occurred to me.

"So what are the hours for your school? When do you start?"

"Well, school starts at 11am and gets out at 6pm."

I nodded; that made sense. On Paxum, elementary school starts at 10am and gets out at 5pm, but teenagers don't do mornings well at all. Teenagers are generally not able to learn much before 11am, so their schedule got moved forward an hour. Since Iris was going to be 14 soon, her schedule made sense.

"So I take it your schedule was the same last year, too?"

"Yeah, that was when it moved up a year,” Iris responded, apparently getting an idea of my train of thought.

"Have you been getting up this early all the time I've known you, or are you just getting used to it?"

"The first one you said. I get up by 10am most days. I'm usually in bed by 2am." She paused, thinking. "Don't tell my family I stay up that late."

"Well at least you usually get a good 8 hours of sleep."

"Yeah, but I kinda need more. I've been working on getting to bed by midnight, in preparation for school."


There was a bit of a silence, but then Iris broke it. "I know we can't do it today, but if I got up a little earlier tomorrow, we might have time for me to take you a place I think we'll both like before Mama picks us up for the extra tests."

"Oh? Where?"

"There's a pretty awesome playground in the neighborhood I discovered a couple days ago, it's huge and it's got plenty of room even for you to climb around on it. I looked it up afterward on the VC, and it was designed for both adults and kids."

"That sounds pretty cool. When do you want to go?"

"How about 9am?"

I nodded. "Sounds good. That'd give us a few hours there. You'll have to tell Matria where it is, so she can pick us up there."

Iris nodded, putting a note into her Omnus about it.

"Hey, since we're making plans for tomorrow, I have something to run by Matria, if you agree: how about I call Jeeves to pick you and me up after the tests, and we can have dinner and a movie after the tests?"

"Oooh, I love that idea!"

The rest of our conversation involved discussing where to eat and which movie to see, of the ones that were available, as well as the possibility of Iris staying overnight afterward. By the time it was time for me to go to work, we had our plans sorted out and we'd already talked with Matria about it. So I had a lot to occupy my mind as I took Iris with me to the library with me. Still, I did notice Iris leave an hour later for the night, because she made sure I noticed as she waved at me.

If I'd had a lot to think about then, I had more to think about when I got home. When I stepped into the house, Cleo informed me that I had a priority email from Iris. I had a moment of worry about that, so I hastily turned on my VC and checked my email. The worry instantly turned to embarrassment, my cheeks turning hot.

"Wow," Kam said from behind me, startling me. I'd forgotten she was home, and hadn't seen her. Considering the image on display, my embarrassment deepened.

"No seriously, Rea, WOW. Even I think that's a hot picture."

The image in question was of Iris, that she'd taken with her VC. In the picture, Iris had her hair held up with chopsticks; her back was turned to the camera, and was bare. She wore a red silk robe with her forearms in the sleeves, and the rest was draped so that it covered her butt, in a way that suggested she was nude underneath. I doubt she was, but it was suggested. Her face was in profile as she looked over her shoulder at the camera, and her expression was a cross between coyness and wickedness at the knowledge of what the image would be doing to me.

Kam giggled at my discomfort, but left the room. I'm sure she thought she knew what I was going to do, but I was going to surprise her on that score. I sent the picture to my photo printer, and also saved a copy on my Omnus. I hung the printed copy up in a frame on my wall, where I could see it from my bed.

After a few minutes of staring at it, I got up and closed the door and locked it. I guess I wasn't going to surprise Kam after all.

I woke up at 8am the next morning and made breakfast. Iris did not join me, so she must have been eating at home. When 8:50 rolled around, however, the doorbell rang.

"Hey there, Iris," I said, taking in her outfit. She was wearing pants and not a skirt, a bit of a departure for her. The pants were pink, though. Pink Capris. And she also had on a purple top with spaghetti straps and little pink flowers.

"You done eating yet?" she asked.

"As a matter of fact, you vixen, I am."

Iris turned red briefly. "So you enjoyed the picture I sent you?"

"Yes. Several times last night, and once again this morning."

Iris giggled. "Good. I enjoyed taking the picture, too."

She had not come in yet. I grabbed my fanny pack - which was serving as my purse today - and followed her out. I was dressed for play, too, in blue jeans and a red blouse. I noticed she had a little fanny-pack purse as well, blue with yellow flowers on it.

"In fact," she said as she began to lead me to the playground, "I, er... I might have enjoyed the picture myself, er, once or twice."

I couldn't help it, I had to laugh. And after Iris got past her embarrassment, she began to laugh as well.

We turned the corner, and there it was: the playground Iris had been leading me to. It was... well, the park itself was about average size, but the playground equipment set in the middle was huge. We were about a block away still, and though the park itself took up about three blocks, the set in the middle took up most of the park. There were multiple slides, multiple bridges, at least a dozen ways to climb into the thing itself, and self-repairing padding all around the outside of it in case anyone fell (or jumped) off. And that was just what I could see from a distance.

"Wow," I said.

"Yeah, I know. And it's big enough for most adults to play on, too."

We got closer, and I began walking around it to take it in. I could see a series of plasteel tubes to climb through, nets to climb, monkey bars, swings, and other things. It looked amazing.

Iris ran up to it and began climbing on, and I followed right behind. Before I got on it, I noticed that the padding around it was predictive; it was firm when walking on it, but if it sensed someone fell or jumped from a height onto it, as Iris did to demonstrate, then it became like a safety net, in that it let the person make a huge depression in the material before more slowly pulling itself back up to its usual level. There was still the possibility of two people falling on each other, but I suspect the material could depress even more in order to prevent that from causing a serious injury. (Or at least, to try.)

Iris climbed back on, and I actually managed to follow this time. The thing was big enough for even two adults to spend a goodly amount of time hunting around for one another on it in a game of Evade. Which we were doing, of course. Iris called out "Evade!" when she was already far enough away to avoid me, and ducked into a plasteel tube immediately after saying it.

"Why you little scoundrel," I playfully called back, climbing over to the tube entrance she'd gone into. When I got there, I found it quite large enough for me to climb in without feeling terribly cramped. The tubes were also a complex network even larger than one could see from the outside. In fact, I rather suspect some of the tubes went underground. You'd think such plasteel tubes would be dark, but there were simple, soft lights embedded in the tubes; lights that, I would later realize, whose brightness was dependent on the brightness of the outside without ever going out completely.

As you might have guessed, some parts of the tubes were vertical, and had rungs to climb up and down them. Other vertical tubes had no rungs; they were for sliding down only in some instances, and in others they were at an angle where one could climb through them without needing rungs. The plasteel was slick where it needed to be, and had a more gripping surface where that was necessary. Which of course meant that going up a down slide was practically impossible, but there were always nearby climbing tubes so one could climb up and go back down a slide tube as many times as they wanted to.

I would later discover, doing some research on the set, that pretty much the whole thing was made of plasteel, because plasteel had useful properties for a playset. It was strong like steel but didn't corrode, was resistant to absorbing heat from sunlight but didn't reject heat either (and was, therefore, always the same lukewarm temperature), was non-conductive (and therefore, lightning was not an issue), couldn't be scratched or dinged without significant amounts of force (that could only be done by machines), and was impregnated with repair nanites anyway, just in case. Those same nanites also made the entire set color-changeable through several interfaces in the set. Also, just in case somebody got stuck somewhere, the nanites could be programmed to help free the person (with the right override sequence).

The labyrinth of tubes was so much fun for both of us that we only had 45 minutes left of play once we got out of them, out of the 3 hours we'd had.

"We spent over two hours in there!" I exclaimed.

"Yeah, that was a lot of fun, for sure. Well, I'm going to the monkey bars now."

"Aha!" I shouted after her, "I knew you were a monkey! And I'm the zoo keeper who has to recapture the monkey!"

"Eeek!" She deftly swung away on the monkey bars while making monkey noises, and I swung after her with a lot less grace. And, well, a lot less ability as well. I ended up falling off halfway over and having to start over again, giving the little monkey time to climb into other areas of the playset.

With lots of effort and - I'll admit - a little cheating when Iris wasn't looking, I got across the monkey bars and started climbing the various levels of the playset, which were full of interesting interfaces for changing the colors, opening hidden doors or closing them, even moving the pitch and yaw of the levels' floors, and more. It was basically an entirely different kind of labyrinth, only in this case you could see the person you were chasing if they were tall enough to be seen over the walls. The floors of these levels were made of the same kind of material as the protective floors outside the playset, just in case somebody fell from one level to another, and the walls were soft, too.

I finally managed to "trap" Iris in one of the levels near the edge. This one had no slides, firefighter poles, or secret escape routes as far as I could tell. In fact, it appeared to have only one entrance. I couldn't get in, though, because between me and the entrance was not just a closed door, but also a tube bridge to climb through, with no place to stand up at the end; if the door was closed, you had to go back.

From previous experience from the day, I knew the doors could be kept closed as long as someone was in there, and wouldn't open again unless the person left. Obviously, given their ability to catch falling people without them getting hurt, the floors had pressure sensors along with whatever other sensors it used to predict how it would have to react. So I had no chance of getting in at her.

Or so she thought. She couldn't see me in the level before the tube bridge, because her level was lower than mine was. I peeked through some view slats to get an idea of the lay of the land, and figured out a plan. I snuck out of that level, going down two more levels, then turned left twice, getting to a level as close to hers as I could, which was slightly behind hers. I noticed her poke her head over the wall and look up at the level I'd been in before, then hide again. That's when I made my move.

I climbed carefully and quietly onto the wall of the level, and used my adult size to try to reach a bar on the outside of her level. I had to jump to grab it, but I caught it. I then noticed some other bars under her level, and used them like monkey bars.

"Ha!" she said, worrying me a moment before continuing, "You're stuck over there. You could come through the tube bridge, but I have the door closed. Ha! You'll never catch me!"

Quietly, I continued my trek underneath her, to where I could pull myself up in her blind spot by the tube bridge's entrance. It took a lot of work, but I felt safe to try; worst that could happen was falling onto the reactive safety flooring. I pulled myself up and ended up face-to-face with Iris.

"Boo," I said. She screamed, falling backward against the far wall, in genuine startled fear. Then, realizing what was going on, she screamed in delighted, faux fear as I continued climbing the wall into her level. I was by the exit; even if the door wasn't closed, she wouldn't be able to escape that way.

"I've got you now," I said. "There's no escape! The Rianna monster is gonna gobble you right up!"

She playfully screamed again, then surprised me completely by hopping up the back wall, putting her legs over it, and jumping off while laughing, right onto the reactive safety flooring.

I finished my climb into the level, the doors of which were opening again, and walked over to the far wall and looked down. She lay there on the ground as it gently rose back up, giggling.

"You're a sore loser, my Queen," I called down at her.

She responded with a loud raspberry and 'moose antler' hands at her temples.

"Well, if it's good enough for you," I said, moving to the wall to my right and jumping off as she had done. This way, I wouldn't land on her when I fell.

"EEK!" she shouted anyway as I landed upright on the soft and yielding surface, scrambling to stand. I ran up the divot's sides and after her. She was heading towards the tube labyrinth again, but I caught her just in time, from behind. She was laughing very loudly, attempting to speak, as I pretended to gobble her up.

"Bleh," I said, having gotten one of her hairs in my mouth. "Needs some barbeque sauce," I said in a gravelly voice. "I'm gonna take you to my cave and throw you on my barbeque, human child."

"You don't want me, I'm skin and bones."

Holding her with one arm, I used my free hand to gently pinch her arms, legs, and her butt. "True you could be plumper, but you feel plump enough to eat regardless."

We didn't hear Matria's car pull up, and when she got out, Matria found me carrying Iris over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes, talking like an ogre.

Smiling, she caught my attention. "Ah, you two silly geese, it's time for lunch."

I put Iris down, and she ran over to her mother excitedly. "Taco Tavio's?" she asked excitedly.

"You don't want to go there for our date, later?" I asked.

"Hmm... no, I wanna go somewhere nice for that. Somewhere we havta wait for our food to be cooked."

"Well, into the car you two."

We both got in the back, snuggling against each other and talking. With my Omnus, I looked at the area we planned to go for our date, for dinner locations. By the time we'd all arrived at Taco Tavio's, we'd decided to go to a nice Italian place called Antoni Brothers Fine Italian Restaurant, for our dinner date.

As usual, Iris ate quite a lot of tacos for lunch, making me wonder where she put it all. I myself had a burrito enchilada style. And of course, after lunch we went to more testing of Iris's genius. This time, the tests consisted of the doctor asking Iris a lot of questions in a relaxed, casual manner. Some of these were the kind you'd expect in a test of knowledge, but others were about her habits, her hobbies, and what she liked to read about. A lot of those consisted of gently encouraging Iris to go into a full aspie-like info-dump mode, making me wonder if she was on the autism spectrum, like Kam and I were. I guess the tests will help determine that, too.

There was some play, but it was directed play. One of the 'directed play' tasks was having her give her best shot at solving a Rubik's Cube; she didn't get very far, but then neither myself nor Kam had ever done any better. Another was having her draw, first with paper and pencil, then with a computer. She wasn't bad at drawing with paper and pencil, but she wasn't especially talented at it either. She did better drawing on the computer, but not a lot better, when the task was 'draw a scene from your life; she improved significantly when given the task to design something. It wasn't as good as it would be with her preferred design program and tools, but it was still pretty good. She designed a chest of drawers; simple, but a very good drawing. A lot better than her attempt at drawing a human face had been.

Luckily, they didn't schedule any more tests. They indicated they might at some later date, but for now they weren't going to, especially with school so near. Iris and I were both grateful for this. As much as I thought knowing more about her abilities was a good idea, I was keen to have my weekends with Iris back.

Jeeves met us outside, pulling up right behind the Zahane vehicle, and we said our farewells to Matria before getting into Jeeves to go to the restaurant for the dinner part of our 'dinner and a movie.'

The restaurant we'd chosen was pretty nice, without being too nice for my budget, or requiring reservations. We were mildly under-dressed, but nobody said anything and nobody stared.

Like I expected from a nice restaurant like this, they had actual human servers. Ours was a waiter, a handsome man with beautiful brown eyes, slicked-back black hair, and a clean-shaven face. I caught Iris staring at the handsome waiter, who looked like he had Mediterranean heritage, and Iris wasn't the only one to notice that his neat uniform complimented his firm butt. We were both blushing and nonverbal when we noticed that. I suddenly found myself wishing Kam was here to help us.

"Good evening, ladies," he said with a deep and sexy voice that made our predicament worse. "My name is Antonio, and I'll be your waiter for tonight. Can I get you some drinks to get started?"

Not having Kam with me, I tapped a shortcut button on my Omnus, to activate the avatar of Cleo (my house AI) that resided in my Omnus. Suddenly her voice came from it, saying, "Please excuse my mistress for a few minutes. She has autism and needs a few minutes to become verbal again."

"No problem. I shall go get some water for you. Here are the menus; drinks are on the back." And true to his word, he left the menus and scurried off.

I had tried learning sign language once, to help me when I went nonverbal and Kam wasn't around, but I'd given it up because it didn't help. Whatever it was about my brain that made me go nonverbal affected all languages, including sign language.

"He had a nice butt," Iris whispered to me, her cheeks still red.

"I noticed."

We looked over our menus, and decided quickly on drinks. I programmed them into my Omnus in case we both went nonverbal again. But it proved to be unnecessary; I was prepared for him by the time he got back, and though Iris was still quiet, I managed to order drinks for both of us. I had ordered a low-alcohol champagne for both of us. This particular kind had something like 5% alcohol total in it, and 95% grape juice. Legally, I could have gone with a higher percentage for both of us, but I didn't really want either of us to get drunk, and I wasn't all that fond of alcohol to begin with.

"Ah, champagne," the waiter commented, with a sigh. "Tell me, are you two...? Is this a case of amore?"

We nodded. "Y-yes," I croaked out.

"Beautiful, beautiful." He paused momentarily to scan our Omnuses with his, which he explained was policy. My Omnus informed me he'd checked my Trust Level as set by Matria, and was pleased with the results. "Even better. Forbidden love is just so depressing. Anyway, would you like any meal suggestions this evening?"

"Yes, please."

"Well everything is delicious, of course, but I highly recommend the Stromboli bread. It comes in several varieties, of course. My personal favorite is the sausage marinara Stromboli bread. Filled with fresh Italian pork sausage, rich mozzarella, home-made marinara sauce, as well as chopped portabella mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers that we grow on the roof. We use cutting-edge cooking equipment and tools to ensure everything is cooked to perfection."

I nodded. I'd seen the five-level vertical farming greenhouse built onto the roof of the place before we'd come in.

"What do you think?" I asked Iris.

"That sounds yummy!" I noticed she was practically drooling, which made me chuckle.

I turned to our waiter. "Is your meat real or cloned?"

"Sadly, it is cloned, and the milk in our dairy products is synthetic. We aren't quite high end enough for real meat, but we appreciate the compliment of your question. However, I am happy to note that we do get our meat and dairy from Ezrix Co-op, which has the highest quality meat-cloning labs and artificial-dairy labs on all of Paxum."

"Okay, then, we'll have the sausage marinara Stromboli bread."

"What size would you like? There is single-serve, small, medium, and large. The medium is big enough for two adults to share." He indicated the size of it with his hands, and it looked big enough to both of us, so we ordered the medium size.

"Excellent! I shall bring you some bread sticks to tide you over until it arrives."

Sure enough, a few short minutes later, he dropped a large basket of Italian bread sticks and a bowl of butter at our table for us. We started buttering up bread and eating it at a reasonable pace, and had barely started when he returned with the champagne, pouring us each a generous measure.

When he left, we began talking about various things; mostly about Antonio's handsome face and firm butt, but also about which movie to see. I also reminded her that I'd gotten permission for her to stay at my place for the night.

"Yeah, I know. I saw Mama move my overnight bag to the trunk of your car before we left. Anyway, do you think Antonio is, well... into kids?" She blushed.

"Now now, you can't expect everyone to be the sexuality you want them to be. And anyway..." I looked back in the direction he'd vanished to, then back again, "Nah. I was gonna say you're already in a relationship with me, but to be honest, if you could get a piece of that, I'd want details."

She chuckled. "You wouldn't be jealous?"

"I would be hurt if you had a relationship with anyone else without telling me first; I might even be hurt anyway. But for him... for him, I'd even watch if I could. I want me some of that, too."

"I kinda thought so. Oh, hush, he's coming this way."

Antonio was just checking on some of his other customers, but he had indeed passed close enough to hear if we'd kept talking. When he walked away again, we both giggled.

Checking around to make sure nobody else was watching, Iris began to do something naughty with a breadstick and her mouth, which had me fighting the urge to guffaw in a loud and uncouth manner. She was getting really into it, when I saw Antonio coming again and stage whispered at her, "Here he comes again!"

She choked briefly, the breadstick falling out of her mouth, and began to cough, while I continued to try to restrain my laughter.

"Are you okay?" Antonio asked in concern at Iris's coughing. She turned so red - ears included - that I worried her hair would catch fire, and hid her head under the table.

"She's fine," I assured him. "She's just a little embarrassed."

He chuckled. "Alright, then. If you need me, just press the button." He gestured at a box in the middle of the table. I lifted the lid on it, revealing a green button to call the waiter.

"Thank you," I told him before he took off again.

After he left, my Omnus buzzed. When I checked it curiously, I saw it had caught a local A.R. (augmented reality) alert. Some people have implants in their eyes or brains that let them view postings on A.R., usually for stuff like concerts, missing-persons alerts, or even just A.R. 'graffiti.' Omnuses could pick these things up, too. I had mine set to ignore most of it, but I recalled now that I did have it set to notify me of things that might interest Iris, when we were out.

So, I opened it for more details. Iris looked at it too, as the holograph was a cube-shaped posting which displayed its info on all 6 sides. I made it bigger, to see the text. It was an ad for something called 'Fairy Convention' a couple weeks from now; not next weekend, but the one after. It was local, encouraged cosplay, and only cost 25 Hours apiece, meaning it would cost me 50 for both me and Iris, but I had a decent savings that could handle that. It sounded like fun.

"Wow! A Fairy convention! Can we go?"

"We'll have to discuss it with Matria, of course, but if she's cool with it, it does sound like fun." I scrolled through the extra information. "There are panels with various related subjects, vendors, a costume contest, a separate couples costume contest, and a concert with several artists in attendance, that includes dancing. Ah, and no outside food or drink. The food prices will probably be high to compensate for the cheap entrance fee, but that's no problem."

"I could even use some of my allowance to buy something cool," Iris said excitedly. "Oh, hey, here comes our food," she finished.

Sure enough, Antonio was carrying over a decent-sized Stromboli bread on a large platter, a waitress ahead of him bringing over plates for the two of us, and another waiter refreshed our champagne. I gently made sure Iris knew this would be the last glass for both of us. It'd be water after that, or else a drink much cheaper than champagne. She nodded, and nursed hers much more slowly.

Antonio cut several pieces for us, and started out with our first pieces. After asking if there was anything else he could do for us, we shook our heads and thanked him; he and the others left us to our meal, but not before Antonio said he'd check on us later. I paused before eating anything, to shoot a text message off to Matria about the Fairy Convention.

He had not been lying about how good the Stromboli bread was; it was almost orgasmically delicious. There wasn't too much or too little of any ingredient, they all tasted excellent both individually and together, and everything was cooked perfectly. The outside crust was crispy and buttery, but not too much so. The inside was, of course, softer because of the marinara sauce, but every bit of it was perfectly cooked; if there was any raw dough in it, I hadn't found any yet. Neither, it turned out, had Iris.

Iris made a sound somewhere between a "tasty food" moan and an entirely different kind of moan, that made a couple other diners turn to look at her. I wasn't sure, but I may have been making the same sound as well.

"Oh my goodness," she said after swallowing, "I think I have a new favorite food!"

"Better than tacos from Taco Tavio's?"

She pondered that a moment, then said, "Their tacos are still my favorite fast food. This is my new favorite non-fast food."

After that, the two of us barely spoke, as we ate. It was so delicious, we were taking our time to savor every bite. It took us long enough to eat it all that it was a good thing we hadn't ordered a larger one; we were stuffed, and given that we were going to the movies later, we wouldn't be able to keep any leftovers. Thankfully, there weren't any.

Our waiter came over a few minutes after we were done and asked about deserts, but we were both too stuffed to take him up on that. He chuckled in an understanding manner and left again. We spent another 20 minutes talking and digesting before getting the bill.

The bill came to 30H, which was a very inexpensive price for the best Stromboli bread in the world and a total of four glasses of champagne. Our service had been excellent enough (and our waiter hot enough) that I gave him a 10H tip. Given that we'd be too full for more than maybe a medium popcorn at the movies, I thought that balanced out well.

"I wanna go there again sometime," Iris said as we went out to the car. "I hope Antonio is our waiter again next time. I never did figure out his sexuality."

"I echo that sentiment."

Just as we got into the car, I got a text message back from Matria, giving permission to go to the Fairy Convention when it came up, assuming nothing more important came up between then and now.

While the car drove itself (and us with it) to the mall where the movie theater was, I checked the time; it was 7. "The movie doesn't start for another hour, should we go shop for costumes for the Fairy convention?"

"That sounds cool," Iris said, her still-full belly making her slower than usual.

I would tell you about the trip to several stores in the mall to piece together our costumes, and about the costumes themselves, but I want that to be a surprise for later. Let's just say, we were going for the couples costume contest win, and our costumes were very interesting.

After getting our purchases into my car's trunk, we got back to the theater in time to get in line for the movie, and then in line for the concessions. I got us a medium popcorn and some candies in boxes in case we had more room for stuff later, and a pair of sodas. We sat in the back, at Iris's insistence, and waited for the movie to start.

The movie we were watching was a romance movie, the movie version of a novel we'd both read. Both the novel and the movie were named "Crossing the Stars," which was a pun, given that the story was about two star-ship freighter pilots on opposite sides of an inter-planetary war, running through dangerous parts of the solar system to both deliver their cargo and clandestinely meet each other for brief trysts, who eventually get found out and executed for treason. IE, star-crossed lovers who had jobs crisscrossing the solar system, hence the pun of the title. Both pilots were women, but they were also both adults; so, not the usual fare for either of us, admittedly, but it had been an interesting read. We'd also heard lots of praise for the movie.

It soon became apparent that the movie did a stupendous job of following the book's events, so we could tell that anyone who had never read the book would have had no trouble grasping the complexities of the story. And well, as interesting as that was, once we figured that out, it wasn't long after that before we both started letting our minds wander to other things, like the fact that we were both in a dark theater together, and sitting in the back where nobody would be noticing us. Not like it would matter on Paxum if they did, but still... it reminded us both of paedoromantic stories that took place in places and times less accepting of our kind of relationship, which leant it an air of illicit thrill, making even something as simple as holding hands or cuddling together feel more exciting than usual.

We only ate about half the popcorn before Iris set it aside and pushed the seat arm between us down into its niche between the seats so we could cuddle without the chair arm being an uncomfortable obstacle. She leaned her head against my bosom, I held her right hand with mine, and ran the fingers of my left hand through her hair.

I don't know how long we were like that before Iris slid up onto my lap, her head on my shoulder now, one leg between mine. She grabbed my right hand and set it down on her leg. The skirt was hiked up, but I was a little disappointed to be reminded she still had pants on under her skirt. I didn't give any indication of my disappointment, though.

However, she must have been thinking along the same lines as I was. She fidgeted a moment, making me wonder what she was doing. Then I heard the faintest plop of shoes coming off and hitting the ground, all the warning I had before she just took her pants off right there in the theater and shoved them in the little purse she'd brought with her. I sat there, my face hot with shocked embarrassment. Sure, she'd been wearing a skirt, so it wasn't like she was bottomless or anything now, but still... she'd just taken her pants off in public without saying anything about it, and now she was sitting down on my lap again, putting my stunned hand back in place on the top of her thigh, the skirt once again hiked up on that side.

I heard her giggle as I continued to sit like a deer in headlights, and she whispered in my ear, "You're silly. It's dark in here, nobody saw anything. Pet my thigh, My Subject; it'll make you feel better."

The order had done what nothing else had, and brought me back to the world of Those Not Mimicking Statuary. I was still shocked silent, but she was right; running my hand along her thigh, feeling her young, baby-soft skin under my hand was incredibly relaxing to me, and after several minutes of this, I was back to a state where I could have spoken if I wanted to.

From what I could hear, she was enjoying being "petted" on her leg just as much as I was enjoying doing it for her. Maybe even more so! Eventually, she even directed me to do the other leg with my other hand at the same time. Her skirt was hiked up on both sides now, and if it hadn't been so dark, I would have been able to see her panties. (And yes, a few brief contacts I'd had that far up had told me she was indeed wearing panties.)

Iris was practically melting into me, the skin contact of my hands on her legs was relaxing her so much. Yet, at the same time, she was also getting very excited. Being curious, I did a small naughty and let my thumb brush gently between her legs once, to see if I could tell if she was in red mode or blue mode. I found that she appeared to be in blue mode, as I felt no red-mode bulge. She slapped my hand just hard enough to tell me to not do that again, and I went back to stroking the top of her thigh.

She whispered, a few minutes later, "You can do the inside of my thigh if you want."

Feeling my face turn hot again, I nonetheless did as she instructed, fluttering my thumb and fingers in a light, gentle, almost-ticklish touch over the insides of her thighs that sent delighted shudders, moans, and heavy breathing through my little girlfriend's body.

I kept doing this, and her reactions kept getting more and more energetic, until she was literally stuffing a fist into her mouth to keep herself from making enough noise to turn every eye our way. I was getting extremely turned on at the ecstasy I was causing her, and every once in a while I could make out giggling as my lady-boner poked up against the fabric of my jeans.

Her body was now tense with sensual pleasure, and she was pushing against me, her feet firmly planted on the floor, her neck lolling over my shoulder, little moans escaping the fist she still had in her mouth. But she soon took that out and said, quietly but not a whisper, "Kiss me!"

I wasn't sure how to do that, the position we were in, but I started to try. The answer involved removing one of my hands from her thigh, scooting my own butt to the left, and using my free hand to hold the back of her head as I kissed her awkwardly, my other hand no longer able to do anything because of the conflict of actions. Iris seemed to realize it was a choice of one thing or the other, and she changed position to straddle my lap. I scooted back in place to make us both more comfortable, as I held the small of her back with one hand, and her head with the other, kissing her passionately, our tongues wrestling one another eagerly.

It was a little daring, but I couldn't exactly ask her with my tongue down her throat, so I slipped the hand at her back under her blouse to feel the skin of her back against the skin of my hand. She did not object; in fact, she moaned a little more delightedly when I did it, and giggled.

The way we were positioned left no more doubt in me that Iris was in blue mode, if you get my meaning. We were only four layers of clothing from having penetrative sex right there in the theater. Though realistically, even if we'd both been nude, I would not have even dreamed to do that to her without her pausing to give me permission first; Iris was the one in control here, not me, which is just how it should always be: the minor in the relationship being the one to initiate everything. Besides which, it'd been my experience that sex was best put off as long as possible, the teasing and torturing of getting closer and closer, delaying gratification, made it absolutely amazing. No matter how good a quickie might feel, it was like a granola bar compared to the Thanksgiving dinner that came at the end of a long period of delayed gratification.

As if just the thought of delayed gratification was another version of saying 'What could possibly go wrong,' Iris pulled gently out of the kiss, smirking evilly at me, and turned around again on my lap, leaving me both frustrated and content. After all, it made the wait sweeter, and anyway, my girlfriend was comfortable cuddling with me. It's always nice to cuddle.

Curious to her mood, I tried stroking her leg again, and she took my hand gently but firmly and moved it, holding it with both her hands. I repressed a sigh; that was that. I only wished she would let me get up and go to the restroom so I could 'take care of things,' but I took her position and her grins and giggles at my discomfort as a sign that I was being silently ordered to stew in my own juices.

We sat in silence like that for the remainder of the movie, just relaxing, cuddling together, eating the rest of the popcorn and candy I'd got us. Little Rea eventually calmed down too. It was nice, cuddling with Iris. But it was getting late, and I was getting tired. I was glad when the movie ended and we left the theater.

As we walked toward the exit, where Jeeves was waiting for us, I asked, "What do you want to do when we get back to my place? I don't know about you, but I'm knackered."

"Me too." Iris went pensive for a few minutes, before speaking again. "I like it when we both nap in the same bed. But that room is Kam's room now, too."

"Well, the bed in the guest bedroom is the same size as mine. If you want, we can use that one. If Kam is still awake, she'll understand. If she's asleep, I'll leave her a note and she'll still be cool with it."

"Good," she said, leaning against me and sighing, "because I love cuddles and shared snoozing."

"Me too, my Queen."

After we got home and unloaded everything, I found Kam already asleep in my--I mean our bed. So I left a note for her on the doorknob, took a few things I needed from there, and moved them up to the guest bedroom. When I got back downstairs, I found Iris was in the restroom; and by the sounds coming from in there, she was taking a shower. That sounded like a good idea to me, too; I decided I'd have one when she was done. So I sat down on the sofa to watch some three-vee while I waited.

She came out later, her hair in a towel, already dressed in a pair of teddy-bear print PJs, and plopped down on the sofa to watch the three-vee while I took my own shower. I had a funny surprise in store for her when I was done, because I'd bought new PJs the other day, that were basically an adult-sized version of Iris's favored teddy-bear PJs.

"Oh my goodness, we have matching pajammers!" she said in a stage whisper when she saw me, and then giggled. "We match!"

"Yes indeedy we do, clothing wise anyway; I'm still black and you're still of Asian heritage, of course, so we haven't started to match in that way."

"You silly billy you! That would never happen. Though if it did, I wouldn't mind looking like you."

"And I wouldn't mind looking like you either, sweetie," I said, booping her nose with my finger.

I sat down next to her on the couch, and we continued watching the three-vee together until our hair dried enough to go to bed. I turned off the three-vee, picked Iris up and flung her over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes as she giggled, and hauled her up to the guest bedroom.

It was a little odd sleeping in the guest bedroom, but having Iris next to me helped. I'd thought her continued energy would have her up for at least an hour, but within 15 minutes of the lights going out, she was asleep. Sighing contentedly, her warm body pressed against mine under the covers, both of us in matching PJs, I soon followed her into slumber.

Note: Synthetic dairy on Paxum is just as good as real dairy; in fact, like cloned meat, there's no chemical difference between real dairy and synthetic dairy, except for alternate varieties for people with allergies.

Note two: The “monetary” system of Paxum is based on Hours. H is short for Hours. So think of the 30H bill and 10H tip as being like $40 altogether. There was more on this in a previous chapter.

Note the third: I had a much more... interesting... and longer version of this story originally, the difference beginning somewhere in the theater scene, but after I finished the story that day, I had to ponder if it violated the rules for I later checked out their rules again, and it did indeed violate the rules, so now you have this version instead. Sorry.

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