by Victor Chablon
She’s my tinkerer.
I’ve called Lill that for the ten years I’ve known her. Oh, it’s a presumptuous thing to call her, particularly because she is most certainly not a tinkerer—she’s a master clocktocker and steamer.
But it’s an especially presumptuous thing to call her, because she’s never been mine. Lill’s always been her own master, a tenacious controller of her destiny. Even after we married and our fiery wooing slid into a few well-worn patterns of domesticity, she was never anyone’s but her own. I loved her for that, for that untamable side of her. Lill, my wild woman with the goggles and the gloves. My tinkerer.
We met in the borderlands, back when it was safe to be there, in a plankdive where the local beer was called “blear” (after a mug of the stuff, you’d understand), and the low-juiced ketenergy lights flickered like horizon lightning. That evening began with laughs, and it ended with us tangled and panting, licking and screwing like mad.
Last week, I stood in the smoking crater that had been that tavern. The borderlands brought us together. The borderlands tore us apart.
She was my tinkerer, and I was her doc, and when the war finally came back to the borders three years ago, I was pulled away from my life here, in this improbable warehouse in which we worked and lived. I wasn’t mending fractured arms for countryside farmers anymore. I wasn’t smearing my cooling salves on Lill’s smooth, pale skin—after all, nicks, bruises and burns are her constant occupational hazard. I took care of her. And oh, how my fiery, brilliant woman rewarded me for my tender care….
But no. No farmhand splints. No Lill and the raucous music her machines made. Just war. War and blood. In my soul’s soul, I know it was Lill’s letters that kept me sane, and safe.
The war is over, for now. Today, the zeppelins carried us from the front lines to our towns. After all the fighting, the victory was sudden; I couldn’t even write to Lill before they put us on the airships. The generals had decided their warriors deserved a speedy return. They reckoned three years away from family was far too long. They reckoned right. But today’s walk from Sota’s airstrip to the countryside felt longer than the years that had passed.
And now, here I am, standing before the tall doors of our improbable home. I’m dust-covered and trembling. I haven’t seen her, haven’t spoken to her, haven’t touched her in three years. I place my grit-crusted hands on the door handles, wrap my fingers around their carved metal.
My greatest fear is that she won’t want the man I’ve become. The man who’s seen such terrible things.
I pull open the doors, and the afternoon light rushes into the cavernous interior. My god, so much is the same—the enclosed quarters near the entrance (the meals we made in its kitchen, the passion we’d made in its bedroom), the wide space of Lill’s workshop, the enclosed bathroom off to the side (and what a grinning arsepain that had been, walking from bathroom to quarters, traversing her gear and contraptions and grease-covered tools). But the differences were here, too, impossible to ignore—Lill’s inventions were larger and noisier than ever. Blocky machinery, as tall and wide as four men, throbbed and hissed. Ah, and in the air, the coppery scent of spent ketenergy.
I smiled. From clocktocking to keteneration. That’s my girl.
And there she was: my tinkerer, my Lill, her back to the door, a wrench the size of a chairleg in her gloved hands, tugging at a troublesome bolt on the machine. The afternoon light swept across her. She started.
She turned slowly, and even from where I stood thirty feet away, I could see every nuance of her form. She was leaner than I’d last seen her. Even beneath the grease-stained overalls and ragged undershirt, I sensed the flatness of her belly, the lilt of her perky breasts, the sensuous curves of her hips. The muscles in her arms were taut from her work. Her neck glistened with sweat. Her face and arms were covered in soot and mechanic’s grease, as they’d always been.
Ah, this was new. Her hair was magenta. My grin grew into bona-fide smile. I must’ve looked like a vagabond madman.
Sunlight glinted from the goggle lenses on her face. Her brown eyebrows perked up, inquisitive. The wrench clanged to the floor.
We met in the middle, tinkerer and doc, and clutched at each other, wordless, disbelieving, our dirty hands rushing across each others’ body. Is this real, I wondered, is this real, is this real, my god, is this real.
I will not tell you what was said there, the words that echoed in our sunlit cathedral. There were questions, and tentative answers, and tears, and disbelieving laughter. We didn’t talk about my war, or her new inventions. But as we finally pulled ourselves away from each other, the silence of three years took hold. Her green eyes looked up into mine. I gazed at her. Shuddering, I told her my greatest fear.
A smile emerged on her lips. She pulled off her gloves and goggles, tossed them recklessly to the floor. She tugged off my dusty satchel, and unbuttoned my overcoat. Those, too, fell to the stained stone.
“We’re not going to be afraid now,” she said. “We’re going to wash this all away. Get reacquainted. Come with me.”
Her hand tugged at mine, and we walked across the workshop, toward the bathroom.
I adore this woman. I had thought the running water and warmer she’d built for the tub in this small room had been more than adequate for our needs. But Lill has never been content with adequate. In the years I’d been gone, her mind had concocted modifications and improvements. The warmer was now half the size of than the one I remembered, and strange vertical piping sprung from one end of the tub, taller than either of us. A nozzle-shaped thing perched on the pipes’ ends—it reminded me of a overturned colander.
“You’re going to love this,” Lill said. She adjusted a knob on the crate-sized warmer, squinting at its brass-encircled gauges. Needles ticked and twitched. Lill looked over her shoulder at me. The rogue oil-smear beneath her left eye hopped merrily as she gave me a wink. She wrapped her fingers around the warmer’s metal lever and pulled it downward.
The machine groaned, and the piping on the tub trembled. Water streamed from the nozzle-thing. Steam quickly surrounded us. Lill stood, and reached out and touched my chin. She pulled it away from the new contraption—I admit, I was a bit mesmerized by the sight of this new thing—and back toward her face. My eyes followed. She winked again, and unsnapped the buttons on her overalls. The straps slid from her shoulders. The tough fabric fell off her body.
“I call it a ‘thunderstorm,'” Lill said, nodding toward the water. I was barely listening. I was watching her. She stepped out of the clothing bundled at her feet. My eyes drank up the sight of her, from the floor up: her painted toes—something she’d always called “an impractical indulgence”—the matching tattoos on her pale calves, her slender thighs, the gray panties covering her sex. I spotted a rogue pubic hair curling against her thigh, and exhaled. It had been so long. Goddamn, so very long.
I felt my cock swelling. It pressed against my pants, wanting. I let my eyes go further up, past the waistline of her panties, up to the ragged, thin fabric of her tight undershirt. Emblazoned on its chest was the worn logo of the local clocktocker’s guild she’d created five years ago. Her breasts were perfectly shaped, and pressed against the sheer cloth. I could see the outline of her stiffening nipples, spotted the dark outlines of the tattoos on her chest. My cock pressed harder now against my pants. My hands slid to my belt, completely on their own.
I didn’t stop them.
My eyes continued their ascent to Lill’s slender face, to her lips—a small moan escaped me as she licked them knowingly—up to her soot-stained cheeks and nose, into her eyes. I’d once told this woman her eyes were oceans. I’d been wrong. I gazed into them, twin emerald planets, completely lost in their newness.
My fingers tugged at the leather at my waist, and as my tinkerer watched me, her head lowered slightly, gazing at me with a hunger I’d never seen before. I heard my belt buckle’s clink of metal against metal. Lill pulled the undershirt off her body. She grinned as my trousers finally slid from my hips. I stood there, self-concious of my stiffening prick and the bulge in my underpants.
“Take off your shirt,” she said. She glanced down, past her beautiful tattooed breasts, to her panties. “I’ll take care of these.”
I fumbled at the buttons on my shirt, intoxicated by her. Lill leaned forward to pull the panties from her hips. She stopped halfway, her back in a semi-arch. She reached out and pressed her hands against my chest. Electric. Her fingers slid toward the center, between my pectorals. She ripped the cloth apart, buttons cascading to the floor. I moaned. She placed her hands on her hips, her back still in that half-arch … and as she pulled the fabric down her thighs, her lips and tongue slid down my chest, kissing and licking and nipping at my flesh. I shuddered.
Finally, her panties were down past her knees, and her mouth was kissing my underwear fabric, pulled taut by my cock. Her hands free again, she tugged down my underwear.
She said nothing. The seconds were hours now.
Lill slowly slid her mouth around my prick. I gasped as her lips slid further and further down my shaft, soaking it with saliva, her tongue sliding against its underside, until her nose was buried in my pubic hair and her lips were sucking at its base. She inhaled deeply through her nostrils as she sucked my entire length.
Three years is a long time. It was exquisite.
She slowly pulled away from my now-glistening cock (when my swollen head emerged from her lips, there was a quiet, nearly-whimsical pop), and pulled herself tall again. She gently grabbed my wrist and guided my hand between her breasts, down past her navel, to between her thighs. My fingers curved around her body, my fingers seeking her slit. Goddamn, she was so very wet.
Lill gave a husky chuckle and pulled my hand away. She shot a glance at the spraying water, at her thunderstorm. “We’re already wet,” she said. “Let’s play in the rain.”
We stepped inside the tub, and was I tickled by the fingers of water hitting my dirty skin. The sensation was amazing, new—but it was secondary to Lill’s body before me. Our hands slid over each other, marveling at the togetherness we were experiencing. Her eyes and fingers asked questions at the new scars on my chest, my arms, my back. As she stood before me, her back facing me, her ass pressing against my cock, my hands soaped and slipped down the canvas of her back. I took in the new art she’d had inked between her shoulder blades—a long, thick clocktocker’s wrench. It aligned perfectly with her spine, lanced down to the middle of her back.
I washed the sweat from her skin, the block of soap gliding down her arms, down her spine, my hands reaching around her body to lather her breasts, the soap clipping against her stiff nipples. She was sighing now, pressing her backside harder against my cock. I leaned my head forward, tongue extended, now licking the back of her neck. Lill’s body stiffened, and now her back was against my chest, and her fingers encircled my wrists once more. She brought one hand up to her left breast … and the other, down to her pussy again. The soap clanked against the basin, forgotten. As I pinched her flesh and sucked at her neck, my fingers slid between her pussy lips and pressed and rubbed her slick, stiff clit.
Lill was groaning now, her arms extending upward, hands tangled in my wet hair, pressing my face against her neck. I kissed and sucked and licked, and my hands found the rhythm at which her body was grinding. Three years without her, and yet here I was, with her, knowing these places on her body, never forgetting, greedily sucking and now fucking her with my fingers.
Her fingernails pulled at my hair, her moans louder now, louder still. One hand was away from my head now, now between her ass and my belly, fingers wrapping around my quivering cock. I was finger-fucking her and she was pumping me and the steam was enshrouding us, our noises bouncing off the tiled walls, and…
… I pulled away. Lill turned around to face me, her green eyes glazed—and a little pouty.
“Why?” she asked. Her hands were sliding down my belly as she said this, wanting to touch me again.
I grinned slyly. “We have to finish washing this stuff off you—and me,” I said. We looked at each other’s. There was still some spots of mechanic-funk on her skin, and much of my chest still needed washing. Our hands had been craving something other than
cleanliness. “And then we’ll feast.”
I squatted down in the streaming water, and picked up the block of soap that had landed between Lill’s feet. But as I went to stand, Lill’s hands slipped onto my shoulders and pressed downward, keeping me there.
I glanced up. Her face looked down at me, her smile ravenous now.
“Feast now,” she said.
That’s my tinkerer. Never satisfied with adequate.
My eyes slid past her lips, past her breasts, past her navel, to my eye-level. Just above her thatch of pubic hair was her favorite tattoo: an image of a single clockwork gear, perfectly rendered and shaded. This one, I had done myself.
My tongue quickly found her clit, and I licked and lapped and sucked. Lill cried out, clutching at my head and hair.
But our re-aquaintence was just beginning.
Lill did not come as I’d licked her, but she had hissed my name over and over, teeth clenched, her fingers pinching and pulling at her nipples, her knees leaning into my shoulders, the inked gear above my nose fluttering as she gasped. Finally, in a voice both ragged and reluctant, she told me to stop—she simply couldn’t stand on her feet any more. I pulled my fingers from her pussy (so tight and throbbing around my middle and index fingers, so wet, so close), and I stood. My eyes were lost in hers, again.
She trembled, wanting more, knowing release wouldn’t come here, and yet she she brought her wet body toward mine, her fingernails sliding down my scarred back as she kissed me. Her belly pressed against my hard cock. Her tongue swirled around mine, intoxicating and sweet and not at all gentle, no—we were too far gone for anything tentative now. My arms encircled her; I was on fire for her, I was fearless. She gyrated, gasping, her lower belly grinding against my prick.
I moaned, and found myself pressing my cock forward, between us, to the rhythm of her body. I felt its sensitive flesh tugged taut, then slack, over and over—Lill was jacking me off with her body, with our bodies. I felt a hand’s worth of fingernails leave my back. I noted the absence, fleetingly….
…and then Lill was sucking my bottom lip, biting it, and her hand now cradled my balls, squeezing them to the timing of our thrusts.
The sound that came from my lips was not that of a man’s. It was primal, a snarl. My own fingernails dug into Lill’s shoulder blades. They carved scratches down her clocktocker’s wrench, past more ink on her lower back, finally gripping her ass. I pressed her closer to me. I wanted. God, I wanted. My mind devolved. Want.
She bit my lip again. I thrusted. Want.
She massaged my scrotum, smirking. I thrusted.
She pulled away, leaving me rattled and craving her. She stepped out of the tub. I gasped as the thunderstorm sprayed fully onto me, onto my throbbing cock. She pulled the warmer’s metal lever upward, and the rainstorm ended. We stood there, panting, our eyes locked. She did not reach for the towels hanging from the hooks by the door. No.
Lill smiled, and ran.
My bare feet squeaked against the tub’s surface as I bolted after her, laughing. Perhaps a man more concerned with discretion would have felt awkward dashing through that doorway, into a grease-stained warehouse, naked, dripping, steel-veined cock bouncing with each footfall. I wasn’t that man three years ago. I wasn’t that man now.
My tinkerer is strong and lean and ferocious, but my legs are longer than hers, and I snatched her arm at the heart of this enormous room, at the place where Lill created her metal miracles. I whirled her around to face me. Her smile was brilliant, her face glowed amber in the waning afternoon light. I tugged a rogue slice of wet hair from her pale cheek. I brought my lips to hers. She wrapped her arms around my neck.
I slid my hands down to her legs and scooped them upward, off the floor. Lill chuckled against my lips and slid her legs up my thighs, locking her feet behind my back. We stood there, kissing.
And then I strode forward, finally placing her ass on the worktable behind her. My Want, three year’s worth, slid inside her.
We gasped together. It began.
~ End of Part One ~
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