Subject: The Delightful Education of Julian Bashir, part 1 of 2 THE DELIGHTFUL EDUCATION OF JULIAN BASHIR Julian Bashir's fingers

trembled slightly as he pressed the door chime. It was only a scant few hours ago since he had met her, when she had come to the infirmary with a slashed hand. At first, he had been preoccupied with healing the cut -- obtained in Quark's after, according to her, some of the other patrons had taken exception to the fact that she cheated better than they did -- but after finishing, he had looked up to see more. They exchanged a few words, and he learned that she was from Ishtar. That had explained several things to him: her skill with a knife (the other man had sustained considerably more damage) and the way her eyes held him like a cat's held a mouse. Her gaze alone was enough to make him flush slightly. He had turned to replace the protoplaser in the sterilization field, and when he turned back around, she was no more than three inches away from him. Stammering an apology, he tried to edge past her but could not; her hands were around his slim waist, and she had positioned her hips directly in front of his. "Have you eaten?" she asked him, her voice low and rich. He had managed to force a "no" past his lips, feeling more and more like a mouse as her eyes roved over his face. "My ship is called the Ariad. It is docked at Bay 2," she had told him. "You are very lovely, Doctor. Be there in two hours." And then she had left, leaving him quite warm, with a thin film of sweat on the back of his neck. He sat down to collect himself, feeling the slightly pleasurable ache between his thighs that always signalled arousal. I guess it's true, he had thought, what they say about Ishtarian women. The intervening two hours had passed slowly, with no incident, making it hard for him to ignore the insistent throb that reminded him of his appointment. Finally, out of boredom and a desire to distract himself, he asked the computer for information on Ishtar, the woman's home planet. When at last he looked up from the desk viewer to discover that the rest of the two hours had passed, he wondered what would happen. I'm not going, he told himself. I'm just not going to go. I'll get back to my quarters, get something out of the food replicator, and just get to sleep early. He sat back in the chair, leaning his head against the headrest. Though he tried not to, he couldn't keep from looking at the last image on the viewer -- that of one of the twelve Ruling Queens of Ishtar with six of her consorts. Six of ten. I'm just not going, he told himself again. He got up, licked his lips nervously, smoothed his uniform, and walked out of the infirmary, dead set on returning to his quarters. Now, he stood before the docking entrance to her ship, unable to restrain his curiosity and thinking even that, perhaps, she might be something that he needed. He remembered the way she had looked at him after he had regenerated the skin on her palm, and how he had felt like a rabbit looking up into the eyes of a sleek hunting

bitch, his throat tight and he barely able to speak. It'll just be a nice dinner, he told himself, but that thought died faster than Warp 9. He knew how she had looked at him, and he knew after reading more about Ishtarian culture why she had looked at him as she did. He pressed the chime again, and the door slid back to reveal darkness lit by firelight inside. The same rich voice that had caught his attention so completely in the infirmary told him to enter and swallowing once, hard, he obeyed. He saw nothing at first, his eyes still adjusting to the change in lighting, but when they had, he nearly gasped in astonishment. The rich voice came again, from nowhere, "I told you I was good at cheating." The ship was opulent, and everywhere he looked, he saw beautiful things to delight his eye. Tapestries hung from the bulkheads, flame lamps stood from the floor, lighting the deeply colored room with a somber and quieting glow. He moved forward, feeling as if he were walking in liquid topaz light, looking for the source of the voice. Nervous, he said nothing. "I'm over here," the voice said, from directly behind him. Julian jumped and spun around -- and gasped yet again. She walked toward him, and he felt his chest rise and fall in little pants. He swallowed again. "Are you nervous?" she asked him, raising her sharp, dark face in a challenge. She took a step toward him, the click made by the heels of her boots audible against the polished hardwood floors of her vessel. She wore only them and a pair of dark fingerless gloves that reached to above her elbows. In one hand he could just see two velvety blue cords dangling down to reach the floor. Any reply he made would be a lie. He tried to shake his head and muster some bravado and failed, settling only for licking his lips yet again. He had only guessed at her physique earlier on in the infirmary; now he was able to see what had previously been only hinted at. She was tall, nearly as tall as him, and muscles stood outlined under her smooth flesh as she moved. He was unable to take his eyes off of her, but could only gaze. Her breasts were firm, and as she breathed their perfect rosy nipples appeared to point at him, over and over. Her stomach was hard-looking, with the muscular outlines that spoke of peak physical condition. Under this were a set of very female hips, and he could just see in the dark lighting the outlines of her vulva, inviting and mystifying. Then came the long, fit legs, muscled and strong looking -- what he could see that was not hidden under the boots she wore. Only the barest hint of thigh showed; the rest was covered in the black animal skin. No elevated heels were on these boots; this woman's feet were planted solidly on the ground.

She was directly in front of him now, reaching up to run her fingers over his moist lips. "I enjoy watching when you do that." Her eyes were riveted to his face, raking over it like nails. "I . . . I . . . thought . . . we were going to have dinner," he managed to stammer. He felt lightheaded, and she started backing him toward the massive bed in the far corner of the main room. "I said nothing about dinner," she told him. "I asked only if you had eaten." She reached out with leather-gloved hands and took one wrist firmly. "Have you?" "N-no. . . " He could only watch in fascination as she tied one of the two soft blue cords firmly around his wrist, letting the ends dangle down from his arm. He did nothing to stop her as she repeated this with his other wrist. "What . . . " he began, but she placed her hand very firmly against his mouth. "No questions." He felt her reach down and take his hips again, and with a push, he was thrust backward to land on the bed. She stepped directly onto the bed until she stood over him with one foot on either side of his chest. He could make out more of her moist and tantalizing vulva, but tried only to squirm his way into a sitting position. She would have none of it, and placed one booted foot directly on his chest. "You will not move until I give you leave to move," she said. Stunned and wondering what this night would teach him, he said nothing, only looked up at this beautiful and dangerous woman standing over him. As he watched, he saw the undersides of her breasts moving rhythmically, bouncing gently as the bed cushion rocked in response to his attempts to get away. "I saw you in the infirmary," she told him, still standing over his supine form. "That's when I decided I wanted to teach you." She moved her foot from off of his chest and descended on him hard, to land sitting with her legs straddling his ribs. He cried out in surprise, and felt the bed roll under his back. Taking his face in her hands, she looked directly into his wide eyes. Her voice softened but lost none of its resonant quality. "You are so very beautiful, Doctor, with your large eyes which you use to melt my heart. I can't let you melt it, though." She shook her dark head. "A teacher must be firm and disciplined with her pupils." Her dark, sharp-featured face dipped close to his until he could feel her breath against his trembling lips. "You, with your lovely mouth and lips and soft voice, which you will beg with, but I can't let your begging sway me." She took two handsful of his hair and drew his head back hard. "Your long slender neck, which I will see bend and arch as I will it . . . " He turned his head, trying to get it free of her grasp, breathing hard, and a puppylike whimper escaped his

throat. "Please, don't hurt me . . . " he said. His eyes were wide with incipient fear. "Don't hurt me . . . " Immediately, her voice softened, and she placed her hands on his smooth young cheeks. He could smell the rich leather and feel it against his skin. "Beautiful child, I would never hurt you." Her eyes became moist and soft. "I will teach you, not hurt you." She ran her hands over his chest and stomach. "So beautiful . . . " she said with hunger in her voice that frightened him. No, he thought, not a rabbit. And she's no hunting bitch. As he watched her tawny, muscled body over his, with its cape of wild dark hair he realized what she was -- a lioness. That makes me the lamb, he thought, or the cub. Maybe a gazelle, after being run down and caught. His breath came faster, and he felt his mouth go dry. "What is your name?" he managed to choke out. "Why do you need to know?" he was told. "You need only call me Lady." She took one wrist and pulled it away from his chest where he had raised it to protect himself, and he turned his head to see her fastening the dangling ends of the cord to one of the corner posts of the bed. He could not defend himself; before he knew what was happening, his arm was stretched out and he could not budge it. She slapped him lightly. "Stop this ridiculous struggling." Taking his other hand, he was soon defenseless and completely vulnerable to this woman atop him. His heart contracted and he cried out in fear when she rose from the bed and returned carrying a large, vicious looking knife. She saw his face, questioning and afraid, and her own expression hardened slightly. "I am not going to hurt you," he was told. Then, "Do you have another uniform?" Confused, he nodded. "Good." Fascinated and unable to stop her, he watched as she straddled him again, slid the knife under his tunic, and cut it away from his body. He fought against the bonds she had placed him in, feeling the soft cord cut into his wrist, but she had done her job well, and the knots did not give a millimeter. "If you don't stop struggling, you could get cut. You must stay completely still." He did so, and could feel the dull edge of the knife brushing against his skin as she cut away the uniform shirt to expose his chest, rising and falling quickly, and his slim stomach. "My . . . " she said, and placed the knife on the bed cushion. "I see you're this beautiful caramel color all over, Doctor," she whispered. As her eyes devoured him, she placed her hands on either side of his neck, drawing them down toward his waist firmly. He felt her touch, and writhed as her nails contacted the sensitive skin on his sides and near his waist. He could not hold back a small sound of mixed distress and pleasure at the sensation that made his hair stand on end and lit up every nerve ending in his body.

Her face lit up as well. "Ah!" she said in the voice of someone who has made a great discovery. His eyes shot to her. "No . . . " "`No, Lady,' you mean," she instructed him, drawing her nails against his smooth cafe-au-lait skin again. His muscles tensed under her touch as he bucked against her. "Stop!" His voice broke. "Please . . . " "Please WHAT?" she demanded, not letting up but intensifying what seemed to him to hover on a thin and exquisite border between torture and pleasure. He cried out again. Finally: "Please, Lady!" was wrung from his quivering mouth. "What?" She did not stop. "Please, Lady, stop!" Instantly, the sensation ceased, and he threw his head back, panting, eyes closed, the muscles in his arms aching from his struggle against the cords. His eyes jerked open again, though, when he felt her gloved hand against his cheek again. He looked at her, saying nothing, only trying to get his breath back. She was regarding him with a hunger that seemed to make her previous appetite pale to nothing. Her beautiful face closed in on him, and she placed her mouth against his, but did not kiss him. He felt her own breath coming more quickly, and realized that she was becoming as badly aroused as . . . . . . as he was. He was very badly aroused now, he suddenly saw. He could feel himself pushing against his uniform trousers, and he wished with all his heart that she would cut them from around his legs as well. "I want you," he whispered to her, his lips brushing over hers as he spoke. "You beg . . . so beautifully . . . " she told him, and he could feel her lips moving as well. "But . . . " and she pulled back, "I will take you when and if I decide that you have earned it." He watched with excitement as, after pulling off his uniform boots, she picked up the knife again and slid it underneath the cuff of his trousers. Slowly, slowly, he felt the edge brush against his skin as it rose along his inner thigh, sending chills along his spine and making goosebumps stand out all over him. When progress would have endangered him, she slid the knife up along his abdomen, making him writhe anew as he felt the edge tickling him, his skin's sensitivity now heightened with anticipation. The same sensation met his other leg, and as she then cut away his underclothes, he burst forth, ready and aching horribly for her. He was completely unclothed, and completely at her mercy.

She turned and threw the knife hard; it thudded into the wall opposite them, the Starfleet doctor supine and defenseless and the Ishtarian woman who had made him that way. She was silent for a brief moment, and then drove her hips down on his, plunging him deep inside her. He gasped and shuddered at the warm wetness that clutched at him, and moaned in horror when he felt her withdraw and get up from the bed. "That is a taste," he was told as he moaned in frustration. "IF you satisfy me, that is what you can win. If not, you win nothing." "Lady . . . " he gasped, his voice soft and pleading. She turned back to face him, and he saw in her eyes what she saw: his bare body, shining with the light sheen of sweat that had formed on him, long legs stretched out along the bed with his rigid sex between them, arms forced wide, face alive with a mix of fear and arousal. She turned away then, and he watched as she disappeared into another room. After an awful pause during which she was out of his sight, she returned carrying a small silver jar. He only watched as she resumed her position standing over top of him. This time, he could see her sweet vulva more clearly, and he felt himself throb and thirst to be inside her again. "What . . . what is that?" he managed to whisper. She reached down quickly and grasped him hard, squeezing tightly. Julian's head swam. "*What* do you say?" she demanded softly, in a voice of great affection and patience. He could barely think for the roaring of blood in his ears. "What is that . . . Lady?" he choked out. She released him, and he began breathing again, not sure of whether he would want her never to touch him like that again, or do so over and over until he was wrung dry. She sat on the edge of the bed and stroked at his inner thigh idly as she told him, and he could barely concentrate on her words. "It is called kamireh." She removed the lid slowly, then resumed stroking his thigh. Not even addressing his body, twitching with every movement of her fingers, she explained further. "It is very sweet," she scooped out a small portion on a fingertip and smiled at him a smile he had been waiting to see all his life, "and VERY sticky." Languidly, she placed her finger in her own mouth, and sucked at it as he watched, his large eyes riveted to her lips and how they draped around her finger, how her cheeks pulsed as she sucked. Allowing this tension to mount, she then scooped out another little mound of the kamireh and held it over his anxious mouth. "Would you like some?" He parted his lips. "Yes, Lady . . . please." She withdrew her finger slightly as his mouth rose for it. "I should warn you that it has some . . . unusual qualities," she

informed him, pulling her hand back until it was directly between her breasts. "What . . . unusual qualities?" he asked, then added quickly, "Lady," at her budding expression of displeasure. She was satisfied. "Pleasure-enhancing qualities, or rather stamina-enhancing. Are you really sure you want some?" She shifted her position slightly, opening her legs just a bit so that he could see past the leather and between her firm thighs. She saw him looking at her and her eyes became hooded at the naked hunger on his face. "That's for later, if you do your job well." Then, she held her hand over his mouth and slowly placed her finger between his eagerly parted lips. His eyes closed in sheer pleasure as he sucked at the intensely sweet creamy confection. He could feel it making his blood pulse faster, and his sex, previously beginning to surrender to frustration, bounded back to stand at attention, thirsty and throbbing. His appetite rebounded with it, and he heard himself moaning in response to it. He had never wanted anything so badly. After a few moments, the silence in the room caused him to open his eyes. She was watching him, plainly taking great delight in witnessing his reaction to the kamireh. "You are VERY responsive," she said approvingly. "Few men so young respond so well and so completely to it. Would you like another taste?" He had to gather his breath. "Yes, Lady, I would." A chill swept over his naked body, and he shivered. "Very well." She resumed squatting over him, painfully not such that he would be able to be inside her, took another little mound of kamireh and, as he watched in growing excitement, placed it on her tongue. She bent over him and his lips parted again; his heart knocked hard enough to burst from his chest in anticipation of . . . He felt her tongue slide between his lips, the sweet cream at the tip, and meet his own. For a few moments, he felt nothing, was nothing, save the delicious sensations flowing over him like wet velvet as he sucked at her tongue. Her breasts touched lightly against his chest as she bent over him, and for a time they were silent, toying with one another's warm nimble tongues and delighting in the sweetness of the kamireh. Then, he felt another burst of hot fire run through and over him, and the hard throb that pounded at him from his sex felt as if it could drive him through the roof. He was gasping now, and whimpering lightly on every exhalation. Finally, he found the consciousness to open his eyes, and saw a similar hunger in her face, felt as her breasts pushed rhythmically at him as she panted as well; the kamireh affected Ishtarians, too. "I must . . . " she began, then broke off

as a shudder ran through her; her felt her sex also twitch and pulse against his naked belly. "I must . . . be careful of the kamireh, or I will not be able to," she looked at his shining body with greed, "restrain myself long enough to instruct you properly." For a brief few seconds, she simply stared at him, grasped his upper arms, and gripped them so hard that she left the imprints of her nails in his skin. "It's a pity you Starfleet types are so dedicated, and so easily missed, or else I might never let you off my ship." At his expression, she patted his cheek. "Don't worry, Doctor. I have every intention of allowing you to return to your duty, but," and she traced her fingers along his sternum down to the hollow area between his hips, "your duty lies with me right now." Yet again, she drove her hips down onto his, this time lingering a little longer. He felt her muscles contract as she squeezed at him, and felt rather than saw her take two handsful of his hair and pull his head back until his neck was extended completely. Fleet doctor, brilliant specialist in multi-species medicine, he was now nothing but a mass of raw nerve endings, knowing and caring about nothing but the satisfaction of the woman that had swallowed him up. She was right; his duty was here now. She clutched at him for a few more times, her own face betraying her excitement and desire as she watched his body arch under hers, and then she withdrew, oblivious to his sobs, and stood over him on the bed. He could restrain himself no longer. "Lady!" he begged her. "Lady, please . . . " His voice broke as he begged. "Lady . . . " But she simply stood over him, looking down at him stretched beneath her, his arms tense with their tendons standing out in clear relief as he strained against the cords, fists gripping them. "Please," he whispered. She stood still for long agonizing seconds, moving only as the bed swayed under her from Julian's twisting and arching. Then, she squatted slowly over him, again not taking him in despite his desire, and picked up the silver jar again. This time, however, he shook his head in fear. "Please, no," he begged her. "No more, Lady. I don't want that." His soft voice caught. "I . . . want you . . . " She was silent and removed the cap, and then her gloves. Taking a little kamireh out of the jar, she placed it caressingly on the head of his sex, and with languid strokes, covered the shaft. He watched as she did this, thrilling to each touch of her hands, gasping as his body reacted to them, heightened by the kamireh already. "This," he was told, "will intensify the experience. For both of us." She replaced the lid of the silver jar, and grasped him firmly, hard enough to make his eyes squeeze shut. He gritted his teeth, awaiting whatever would come next. When nothing happened, he looked down and saw only her face looking straight at him. Then, with great deliberation, she placed her sex directly over his and guided him into her. He only stared and swallowed, not sure of whether or not she would allow him to remain inside of her. Her face gave him no clues; it was expressionless, looking into his eyes, or rather through them.

"Your eyes are," she bent down until she was on top of him, her face even with his, "most remarkable. They are . . . like liquid . . . " Then, she devoured his mouth, unable to control herself. She was whispering now, as she took his face in her hands. "You will keep your eyes on mine at all times." She paused and put her lips over his without kissing him, all the while maintaining eye contact. "Even when you come." Her voice was soft and delicious as she began to squeeze at him and undulate herself against him. He shuddered and closed his eyes, and she stopped. Nearly sobbing, he looked at her, his face a question between her hands. "You will keep your eyes on mine at all times," she repeated. "Even when you come." "Yes, Lady," he breathed, and she resumed, keeping her grip on his head and keeping his face turned to hers. More slow clutching, more languid movement of her hips, becoming gradually more energetic as the kamireh took effect on her as well. She watched as he tried to control his reactions, keeping his eyes locked with hers. At one point, he bit his lip to keep from crying out. Her face tightened in distress. "No!" she told him. "You may use your voice." He nodded slowly in response, his nods gradually taking up the cadence of her muscles gripping him, her hips grinding into his. Quietly at first, but growing in volume, he moaned with each breath. Every part of his body, every action, became synchronized with the woman to whom he had somehow come to owe his bodily allegiance. He watched her head bob as the kamireh took her, saw her wild hair drag over her wet body, felt her spasm as the hot throbbing laid its grasp on her, saw her sweat-filmed breasts move in little up-and-down circles as her body became synchronized as well with the wave that had taken them both over. Together, they moved, together they moaned, together they breathed -- all the while with their eyes locked. He was tightening, becoming very tight, so tight . . . "Lady," he moaned quietly. He could feel himself nearing the peak as she released his head and slowly dragged her nails down his chest and stomach until her hands were at her own hips. He was beyond gasping, felt only the first shuddering surge of energy; she saw it as well, and her hands flew back to his cheeks to hold his head rock steady. She bent again to him, focusing her eyes directly on his. "Even when you come," she reminded him, her voice a ghostly hiss. He could not respond, but only react as she clutched and thrust, finally feeling the tightness build to the point where he felt that he could not stand it any longer, to the point where he felt that the horrible ache would remain with him all his life if he . . . Then suddenly, with consuming thunder, he felt the first wave break over his slick body. Though she kept her hands around his head, he managed to break her iron grasp and his eyes rolled back. His voice, inarticulate and wondering, gave way to such sensations that he never imagined a human body could sustain without losing consciousness.

Over and over, he felt himself bucking wildly underneath the weight of the woman who owned him; over and over, his hips thrust upwards, driving himself so deeply into her that he felt he never wanted to come out. Oceans of cold water poured over Julian Bashir, drowning him in icy fire. The cords, wet with his sweat, cut against him, rubbing the skin from his wrists, but the hot electricity of the raw skin on his arms only added to the intensity of what was breaking over him with the power of a tsunami. All the nerves in his body were nothing but hot wires, coursing with voltage that threatened to burn out his mind. The sensory burnout sustained itself until he felt he could take no more; incoherent from pleasure, he could only be buffeted about by the storm raging around and through him. Minutes, hours . . . he did not count time. When he at last knew himself again, the flame lamps were nearly dark, and his Lady was in a state similar to his own -- asleep on top of him, covered in her own sweat and his, exhausted. His eyes took some time to adjust to the light level, and he wondered how long he had been unaware of his surroundings. A trickle of their mingled sweat that had once seemed so hot drew a sensuous icy line down his side, and he caught his breath. Turning his head took every ounce of energy he had, and he saw that his arms were still tied in the cords -- cords that had become frayed and strained through his thrashing. Every muscle in his body was sore. His stomach, his legs, his arms especially. His abdomen and thighs were stiff and refused to respond to his orders -- particularly with the prone form of his Lady asleep on top of them. Still feeling the exhaustion, he sighed and dropped back to sleep. *************** When he woke, he was alone in the bed and completely unaware of how much time had passed. In a panic, he tried to sit up, and found that he was yet bound. Sounds issued at him from the next room, and he called, "Lady?" The sounds stopped, but there was nothing further. "Lady, are you there?" She appeared in the room, with no boots and no gloves, but dripping wet, her muscular body glistening with water. "You are awake," she observed. "Yes, Lady." His voice was gentle and quiet. "May I get up?" "Of course." She reached to the knife, still stuck in the wall opposite the bed, and with two quick flicks of it over his head, he felt the cords fall away. Stiffly, he moved his arms back down to his chest, trying to rub at them and finding that his hands were rubbery and weak. "I was in my spa," she told him, helping him sit upright. His head

swam and lights danced in his vision. "Would you like to join me?" Sheepishly, he replied, "Lady, I don't think I'm ready . . . " but she shook her head at him. "It's only a nice warm soak. You could probably use it." She helped him to his feet and guided him into the next room, where a lavish spa greeted him. Steam hovered on the surface, swirling gently like fine mist over a lake. The spa itself appeared to be set into a lush green lawn and was ringed with fragrant jasmine, and rolling fertile hills stretched toward the horizon as far as he could see, some dotted with trees in autumn colors. A fresh cool breeze caressed his tired face and washed the scent of the improbably flowering jasmine over his bare skin. "A holosuite, Lady?" "Yes. Expensive, but as I told you, I cheat quite well." She climbed into the water, and made a motion to him to follow. He did so, lowering himself gratefully into the steaming spa. Slowly, he felt the stiffness disappear from his muscles, to be replaced with a weak lassitude. "How long have I been here, Lady?" he asked. "Only a few short hours," she told him. "Six hours. You are due back on duty in six more." Purring with pleasure at the gentle breeze that tugged her hair and his, she told him. "It is a slow time now. I will be finished instructing you by then." His eyes widened. "There is more?" She laughed at his question. "Of course there is more. You didn't think I could teach you everything in one lesson, did you?" She stretched like a contented lioness. "As it is, I must leave tomorrow and hence can teach you only a little of what I would like to." She opened her eyes. "I can arrange to be back at this station in some time, you know." He looked back at her, the warm water lapping at his shoulders and around his chest. "I don't know if . . . " He swallowed. She reached over and patted one shoulder. "The first lesson is most involved, as it is then that I must teach you proper submission and willingness to learn. Subsequent ones become more and more . . . leisurely. There are only a few small things further that I can teach you in the time we have at any rate, and they should leave you considerably less . . . " "Exhausted?" he finished. "Precisely. After all, you will have to go directly on duty from here."

He swallowed again, wondering what would be required of him, and settled for remaining quiet and lowering himself into the blood-warm water until only his face was above the waterline. Nearly an hour passed with them like that, silent, simply content in each other's company and enjoying the sensation of the water rippling against their skin. At one point, he felt a light tickling on his face and opened his eyes. He saw her hand over him, her face smiling at his, as she sprinkled a handful of the tiny jasmine flowers over him. He could only return her smile, and closed his eyes again. More time passed. "Lady?" he said finally. "Mmm?" He hesitated. "Lady, Quartermaster only gives us a certain number of uniforms in a given period of time. I can't have another one destroyed." She laughed at this. "Don't worry, you won't need your uniform, Doctor." She sat up. "That reminds me." She rose from the water. "I have something for you." Julian watched as her sinuous shining body moved to one of the trees lining the glade in which the spa was set. He saw her pick something up but could not make out what it was. When she returned, she bent down next to him and held the object out. Dark blue, soft, and shimmering, it lay in her hands. It was a collar. Attached to it was a long beautiful silver chain that glittered in the holo-sunlight, and dangling from the end of the chain were two more binding cords like those that had cut his flesh in the first lesson. Julian sat up at this, and looked up at her. "This is . . . ?" he began, but she cut him off with a finger against his lips. "This is yours," she told him, "the only thing that will be recognized as yours as long as you are on this ship." He felt the soft kid leather wrap around his neck, and heard the tiny click of the fastening. The chain and binding cords lay on the ground behind his head. He fingered the collar, mark of his bodily duty to his Lady and watched her as she lowered herself into the water again. "It is your mark of allegiance to me. By undergoing the initiatory lesson, you've proved your worth to receive the collar." He was silent at this. "It's actually a nice fit; I had to use a smaller one than usual for you." She leaned forward and touched his face. "You have such a lovely slim neck, you know." Her hand dragged down his wet chest, disappearing under the water that covered him. Again, his nerve endings awakened to her. He knew then that he would have stayed, no matter what, and endured even more exhaustion than previous, all for her and what she could

teach him. He moved his hand under the warm water, taking hers in it, and said, "Lady, I'm yours," and felt it with all his heart. She looked directly into his dark eyes. "I knew you would be," she whispered to him, and kissed him, the first and only kiss they had shared while he was free, and the last. He returned it, gently, and felt his own sincerity and dedication to her filling him like wine. Then, she pulled away from him, one hand firmly on his chest to keep him from following. He held her eyes with his own, gazing up at her. "Enough informality," she said softly. "This could compromise your disciplining if it continues." Julian was crestfallen but understood. "Yes, Lady," he said, and could not keep the disappointment out of his voice. He shivered as he felt her fingers brush against his skin one last time and withdraw. ***************