Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump.
The blood thundering in your ears drowned out most of the noise around you. Your hoarse, gasping breaths covered up the rest. It wasn’t that you couldn’t hear the other sounds. It was just that your brain refused to process them. Your sight felt supercharged, scanning the path ahead, darting through the long shadows with almost inhuman speed. You could dimly feel twigs snapping beneath your pounding feet, ferns swatting against your pumping calves, but your hearing was gone. Stolen by the icy grasp of terror clutching your chest.
Had your attention not been otherwise occupied, you might have marveled at the strange, wild beauty of the forest surrounding you. You might have drunk in the dense green foliage filling your gaze, perked up at the mating call of some woodland bird, shivered slightly in a cool, balmy evening breeze. But all your eyes saw was a tangled network of passages, between trunks, under branches, over stones. All your ears heard was the relentless drumbeat of your heart, the wheezing rasps of your lungs. All your skin felt was that freezing, almost painful tightness in your chest sapping your strength with every stride.
A flash of colour in the corner of your eye. Yellow, almost gold, glimmering in the darkness. It moved, and a titanic shadow moved with it. A huge, barely visibble shifting out of sight. Terror snatched yet tighter at your chest, its claws digging into your hammering heart. On instinct, you leapt in the opposite direction, diving between a pair of rotting stumps. Something snatched at your ankle, causing you to stumble momentarily. You wanted to scream at the sudden yank, but you regained your footing. You kept your balance, using the momentum of your stagger to propel yourself –
A tree trunk loomed seemingly out of nowhere, and you bowled into it at full speed. The fading light filtering through the canopy above burst into brilliant stars. Instinct and momentum wrapped your limbs around the tree, preventing you from falling, but the sudden throb of pain in your head and chest threatened to knock you down all the same. Your fingertips scrabbled against the rough, cracked bark as you barely managed to steady yourself.
You allowed yourself a second or two to regain your bearings. Your wheezing gasps subsided for just long enough to grant you a moment of hearing. The sharp rasp of something slithering towards you sent another chill down your spine. The sound got louder at an alarming rate; she had seen your collision, smelt the drop of blood trickling from the graze on your shoulder. She knew her prey was weakened, wounded, worn down, and she closed the distance with inhuman speed, tossing ferns and leaves aside as she charged through the undergrowth. Your legs thighs itched, burning with the desire to run, to hide, to get away. Your heart leapt into your throat, pounding so loudly it almost blotted out the sound of your predator. But you steeled your resolve. Forced yourself to wait. Just a little bit longer. The sounds got louder and louder, closer and closer, until you could actually feel the very air beginning to stir as the behemoth creature hurtled towards you.
At the last possible instant, you flung yourself aside, propelling yourself against the tree and diving into the undergrowth. The moment before you rolled away, you caught a glimpse of a shadowy length whipping through the air where your chest had just been, an artificial breeze whistling through your ears. You felt more than heard the hearty thwack of that length slamming into the tree. With practiced grace, you sprang out of your roll, landing on your feet, using your momentum to propel you into an instant sprint. A low, angry hiss called after you, but your mad dash allowed it to quickly fade into the distance. Inwardly, you congratulated yourself at your masterful evasion, but your jubilation was short-lived; you could hear the moaning creak of that tree as it flexed under a crushing strain, the same tree which had barely budged when you collided with it. With the return of that familiar heavy slithering sound, the hunt began anew, the predator having gained significant ground on her prey.
Left, right, left, left again, right, over, right, left. The densely packed forest was littered with thick fallen boughs and rotting trunks, making a natural maze of wood and leaves for you to dash through. Your predator was so fast, so strong, that attempting to outrun her would be utterly hopeless. Instead, you tried your best to outmaneuver her, darting back and forth, over and under, using your relatively small, agile form to wind your way between the towering pillars. However, you were deep within the creature’s lair. She knew these woods far better than you could ever hope to. No matter how winding a path you took, no matter how hard you pumped your legs, no matter how many times you ducked in and out of sight, it kept creeping closer and closer. She had your scent now; you had no chance of hiding from her. And the more you ran, the heavier your legs felt, the harder it was to breathe. You were tiring fast, and she knew it. She didn’t have to expend the energy to charge and risk missing you again. All she had to do was wait for you to stumble, for you to falter, for you to slow down for an instant, and she would have you. And the more you ducked, dived, weaved and swerved, the harder it became to keep up the pace. The dull ache in your calves screamed for respite, your lungs wept in the sharp, angry pain.
Out of the evening gloom loomed a large boulder, thickly blanketed in wet green moss. You almost darted past it without thinking, before a bolt of recollection hit you. Despite your random, chaotic dash through the forest, you knew where you were now. In that moment of clarity, an idea sprung up, fully formed, out of the exhausted haze of the back of your mind. Instead of bobbing and weaving further, you charged straight forward past the boulder. The skittering sounds of you constantly shifting on your ankles were replaced by heavy, sprinting footfalls. Your change in tactic made itself known immediately; your predator shot forward, quickly closing the distance you had managed to put between you. The rasping sounds were getting louder again. Closer. Faster. You could almost sense the hunger of the creature behind you. The thrill of the chase mingling with the need to capture her prey. A high, keening hiss echoed through the trees around you. You dared not look behind you, but you didn’t need to; it was only too easy to conjure up the image of the creature’s jaws widening, that guttural rasp rising from that scarlet maw.
There! Barely twenty strides ahead, the ground suddenly fell away, hiding what you knew to be the steep slope at the edge of the hill on which you stood. Instinct told you to skitter to a stop, or turn and race along the rim of the valley. You suppressed the gnawing instinct, instead propelling yourself further, faster. If you slowed down, hesitated for even a moment, you would be caught. Fifteen strides. The ground trembled beneath your feet, the sheer weight of the creature, so close behind you, creating tremors with every shift. Your heart hammered harder than it had ever done before, threatening to burst forth through your chest. Ten strides. The hissing was so loud now. You ached to turn around, morbid curiosity needing to know how close it was. Five strides. A flicker of motion out of the corner of your eye. Three strides. Your thighs burned, begging for respite. One stride. Hot air against your back, long white teeth yawning around your shoulder –
The ground suddenly disappeared. For a brilliant, terrifying instant, you soared through the air, unmoored, feeling only the heat of your predator’s breath on your neck. Then, gravity seized you, its inexorable grip yanking you down, ripping you away from those glimmering teeth. The world around you turned to a blur of green, blue and brown. You windmilled your arms like a lunatic, desperately trying to stabilise yourself. Your feet made contact with the steep hillside and began to slide out from under you almost immediately. With mad fervour, you dug your heels in, pounding down the slope at breakneck speed. The scenery whipped past you, twigs and branches threatening to knock you flying. It was a minor miracle that you made it to the bottom of the hill still on your feet. The ecstasy at your success was short-lived, however; you immediately plowed into a mulberry bush and toppled over, collapsing into the thick hedge with a heavy thud.
You had managed to land on your back, staring through a gap in the foliage up at the hill you had just half-run, half-fallen down. Though it was difficult to discern in this darkness, you barely saw a huge, snakelike figure retreating back into the dense trees from whence it came with a scornful hiss. The flames of triumph burned through you. It was all you could do to prevent yourself from bursting out laughing. You had done it! Escaped from the hulking figure slinking back to its nest, albeit only by a hair. Your legs and chest wept with gratitude for the reprieve, the angrily stinging stitches beginning to subside. The manic drumbeat within your chest was softening. You couldn’t stop yourself from grinning from ear to ear; every muscle in your body was exhausted, but the fatigue was assuaged by the warm glow of victory.
That pride only glowed stronger when you sat up to check yourself. You seemed mostly unscathed, the only resistance to your movements being your own exhausted muscles. A few drops of blood leaked from the graze on your upper arm, and you could feel the stiff feeling of a bruise beginning to form on your cheek, but aside from that…
When you turned to check the other side of your body, you started in shock. Your left shoulder had been punctured by two dark red holes, piercing clean through your shirt and deep into your flesh. Despite the unnerving appearance, the wounds issued neither blood nor pain; in fact, the only way you could tell they were there other than sight was a vaguely itchy tingling in your shoulder, and after a few seconds, even that vanished. Experimentally, you traced the border of the punctures with your fingertips, expecting hot, jabbing pain, but finding none. Not only did the shoulder feel no pain, but it could barely feel your cool fingertips against it. It was as though it was being softly caressed through an incredibly thick blanket. Distant alarm bells sounded in the back of your mind, but confusion and curiosity temporarily won out over fear. You found you were able to lift your left arm, but it felt… odd. You could feel your hand moving, and the muscles in your chest and back flexing, but there was a gap in sensation in your shoulder and upper arm. It was as though they were no longer there, and your lower arm was simply floating through space on its own. After a moment of keeping it aloft, your arm began to lower against your will. No matter how hard you attempted to force it upwards, your shoulder and upper arm refused to obey your commands, falling slack and numb.
You staggered to your feet. You had to hoist yourself up with one hand; although your left hand was still able to move freely, the rest of your arm firmly refused to cooperate. It felt… numb, absent, hanging slackly at your side. It wasn’t an unpleasant sensation, exactly. In truth, it wasn’t much of a sensation at all, as though you simply had a length of warm rubber hanging on the side of your body in place of an arm. You felt as though this should be more concerning, and yet… you couldn’t quite bring yourself to be unnerved by it. Yes, having use of your arm was nice and all, but… strangely, you felt neither fear, nor anger, nor frustration at its indolence. You simply felt… vaguely perturbed.
“Curiousssss feeling, issssssn’t it?”
You were broken from your reverie by a high, mocking voice. Every hair on your body stood on end, as though you had just been splashed with cold water on a warm summer day. When you whirled around in shock, you were greeted simply by a pair or yellow, lamplike eyes, shining out from the darkness in the depths of the bush. The chill of fear deepened, threatening to freeze you to the spot. Your eyes were locked with hers, their golden glow seeming to grow larger and larger. They were so large that you could see every shimmering band of colour in the iris flexing as those catlike slits widened in excitement. It was… mesmerising to watch, each hairlike strand moving in unison, gold giving way to the black which threatened to swallow your vision. It was so breathtaking that you almost didn’t realise that the eyes were slowly inching closer, supported by that huge snake body which had so silently stolen up on you.
It took a monumental effort to uproot yourself, turning away from those golden rings which momentarily captivated your attention. You forced your battered legs to move, extricating yourself from the bush and resuming your terrified dash. Your left arm flopped uselessly against your side as you stumbled over the thick brambles, a dead weight which only served to slow you down. The numbness was spreading down into your hand; it felt dull, smooth and puffy, each movement of your fingers coming harder than the last. You desperately tried to ignore the feeling, but with every step your arm bounced against your chest and thigh, dully reminding you of the venom which was surely coursing through your veins.
“Come, come… you musssst realissse there is no esssscape now…”
That raspy, jeering voice hissed at you again, this time from ahead of you. The golden eyes shined once again like beacons directly in your face – how had they managed to overtake you without you noticing? You darted aside, ignoring their comment and weaving once more through the trees. As you rounded a particularly thick trunk, you almost toppled over; the whole left side of your chest suddenly felt sluggish, throwing you off balance. A quick smack to your side with your right hand confirmed your fears; that terrifying numbness was spreading quickly. Too quickly. The icy chill of dread threatened to envelop you, and yet… you could feel a spot of warmth on your shoulder, right in the middle of the ever-growing patch of numbness which coated your left side. A pleasant tingling, almost tickling sensation, like the whisper of fingertips barely brushing your arm.
“Mmmm… poor little morsssssel, sssssstill trying to ssssquirm… but if you’re so insssssistent, I don’t mind playing with my food a little…”
For an instant, a vicelike pressure seized your ankle, your own momentum bowling you over. You couldn’t stop yourself from yelping, only too keenly recognising the smooth feeling of scales against your leg. You yanked your legs back in, seizing whatever branch your hands could find to pull yourself out of her grip. Your breaths came wild and fast. Your heart blasted through your ears, suppressing all external noise. You tried to leap to your feet and resume your sprint, but your left leg shook and failed you, dropping back down onto your hands and knees. Desperately, you tried again, hoisting yourself up with your one good arm. Your leg wobbled again, but this time it held, allowing you to run again.
As you pounded through the forest, you were grateful for the hammering in your chest blocking out your predator’s jeers. But you couldn’t stop your gait from beginning to slow. With every step, your left thigh felt slacker, more rubbery. And with every thud of your feet on the ground, that warm tingling in your shoulder just got stronger and stronger, bathing your entire upper arm in a balmy glow. A manic run quickly shifted to a desperate limp. You practically had to hop on your right foot as your left stubbornly refused to bear your weight. And yet the cold ball of terror rattling in your chest seemed to slowly melt. Your heart was beginning to slow. Your breaths came easier and easier. You knew she was still right behind you and yet… and yet… er… why was your body calming? You knew you should be terrified, but… the strain and tension you felt were loosening, once-frantic thoughts flowing more smoothly. Your fear wasn’t completely gone, not by a long shot, and yet… it seemed to become almost indistinct, a shrill voice falling to the back of your mind.
“Quite potent, issssn’t it? All that stress, that fear, the power in your muscles. My venom will drink it all, my little morssssel.”
It almost sounded like she was whispering right into your ear, but… that couldn’t be, right? Surely, she was still a ways behind you, you still had a chance to escape. It was just body chemistry, you could overcome that. You tried to force your lungs to move faster, pump harder, supply your muscles with the oxygen they needed. But your lungs refused to obey you. They just slowed, and slowed, and slowed. The sense of warm relaxation had spread into your chest now. It was as though every exhale allowed a golden plume of giddiness to burst forth from your lungs. But no, no. You… you had to resist the sense of delightful relaxation taking over your body. You… you had to…
…when had you fallen to your knees?
You blinked hard. You were definitely no longer on your feet; you had been shuffling along the forest floor for… you weren’t sure how long. But you could definitely feel the rasp of wet leaves and twigs sliding uncomfortably under your shins. Perhaps… perhaps this was your body’s way of telling you it needed a break? You’d exhausted yourself so much that your body was physically shutting down on you? Yeah… that made sense. You had been running for a very long time. It was only logical that you’d be feeling so tired. So… very, very tired. It would be good to take a moment to relax. Just a moment to regain your strength and focus, and then you could continue running.
With only one limb in full working order, you had to half-drag yourself across the forest floor. Fortunately, you didn’t have to go far; a thick coppery-barked tree loomed out of the darkness a short way ahead of you. Although it took an exhausting effort to prop yourself up comfortably against it, the glossy smooth, gently curving trunk offered a wonderfully supple support. The sun had set by now, casting the undergrowth into a deep blue, shadowy light, but the tree was still slightly warm to the touch; it must have been in direct sunlight earlier in the day. You could hear, in the distance, the sounds of crepuscular critters leaving their dens, hunting for a snack or a mate. The rustle of trampled leaves, the creak of branches perhaps a little too thin for comfort, the occasional hauntingly beautiful song. But most importantly, there was no sign of your pursuer. You allowed yourself a grin at that. You must have managed to lose her… somehow. You weren’t entirely sure how you had managed it. Hadn’t she been just behind you just a moment ago? No matter. All the more time to lie against this surprisingly comfortable trunk and indulge yourself in the glorious soundscape of the forest. When you allowed your head to rest against the wonderfully smooth bark, you almost immediately found a cozy groove, almost as though it was designed specifically to support you.
As you sat, you were surprised to find that you did not feel yourself cooling as evening approached, but warming instead. The glowing relaxation radiating out from your shoulder now seemed to envelop the entire left side of your body, a soft, tingly blanket warding away the cold of night. When you took a moment to glance down at your bare left hand, it seemed… almost pinker than it had done before. Curious, you gingerly tapped the back of your left hand with the fingers of your right. You gasped; instead of a numb lack of sensation, a powerful tingle raced up your arm even at that tiny touch. Your hand wasn’t just warm, it was hot; it almost felt like a radiator compared to the cool earth. But it wasn’t unpleasant at all. No, it felt delightful. Every tiny tap against your left side seemed to create electric tingles of warmth bouncing up and down your body.
“Ssssso very warm, sssso very cozy, ssssso very sensitive… would you like some more, little morssssel of mine?”
You were only half-paying attention to the familiar voice whispering in your ear. Unconsciously, you nodded gently, still marvelling at the incredible heat radiating from your skin. You only realised your mistake an instant too late. A white-hot flash of pain in your neck, just above your collarbone, made you cry out. The trunk you were lying against twisted out from behind you, wrapping around your arms and upper body, preventing you from struggling. Your heart hammered against what you realised far, far too late was a coppery coil of snake scales. The initial burst of pain faded almost instantly; you could still feel the fangs dug deep into your flesh, but it was more of a vague awareness of pressure, like a bone just ever so slightly out of alignment. You felt no warm rivulets of blood trickling down your back and shoulder. Instead, you distinctly felt something flowing into you, bubbling slightly, tingling, not quite itching. You shifted your shoulders as best you could, trying to tear yourself away, but after a few seconds, both the fangs and the coils retracted, allowing you to slump forwards unhindered.
You tried to push yourself over, give you a chance to defend yourself, but the moment your arm tried to push against the ground, the entire limb went dead all at once. Like a marionette with cut strings, what little control you had over your body vanished and you thudded to the floor. You could even feel that blank numbness racing up your neck, vertebrae loosening and disappearing one by one. You opened your mouth in a desperate attempt to scream, but all you could manage was a quiet, mournful “hhhuuuuhhhh…” before your lips, too, vanished from your perception. It was as though your entire body was suddenly gone. No sense of touch, no awareness of the position or movement of your limbs. Your sight and hearing remained, but the only way you could tell your eyelids had fallen half-shut was that the world suddenly looked faded and fuzzy. You couldn’t even feel your heart beating, nor the lungs which you could only pray were still breathing. You wanted to scream, to cry, to beg for your body to be returned to you, but you couldn’t even tell if you still had a mouth with which to do so. And yet that hot tingling remained. Your most basic control was wiped away, leaving nothing but that radiant feeling. Without a body to bind it to a specific place, it seemed to come from every direction at once, assaulting and enveloping your mind with incessant pulses of warm, cozy pleasure.
That teasing, tinkling voice sounded again from behind you. “Awww… ssssso relaxed now, ssssso very warm, it’s difficult to move? Not to worry, I can help you with that. Now, ssssstand.”
Suddenly, the warm embers filling your mind blazed into brilliant flame. Any attempt at thought was utterly overwritten by blissful heat, momentarily burning away your consciousness. Your eyes saw the world shifting before you, but your brain was so overwhelmed by disembodied sensation it completely failed to process what it saw. It was agony, it was ecstasy. It was both, and yet simultaneously it was neither. Your mind was so oversaturated by sensation that it couldn’t make sense of what it was feeling.
Eventually, the crushing heat died down just enough for you to form coherent thoughts again. You realised you were looking down at… what you presumed was your own body, standing ramrod straight. You were being propped up by a kind of harness of shimmering copper scales, puppeteered into a sharp posture. The sight was so bizarre your brain almost refused to accept it. You could see your body standing below you, but it was more like you were a passenger watching a live video feed, unable to feel a thing or sense how you were positioned. It wasn’t simply that you couldn’t move no matter how hard you tried; your body felt absent, as though there were no muscles there to move, so you couldn’t even try. It took a monumental effort just to focus your mind enough to maintain coherent thoughts.
“A curiousssss sensation, no?” Her mocking, teasing voice whispered in your ear again. You could hear the barely suppressed laughter deep within her chest, bringing a tinkling, almost fairy-like quality to her words. “To have your body sssso completely out of your control. Unable to move unlesssssss I insssstruct you to move. Unable to think unlesssss I allow you to think. Unable to even try to resssssist, even if you wanted to. And with how warm and relaxed your body is now… are you sure you want to resssssist?” She allowed herself a wickedly triumphant chuckle. Then, her voice dropped to a bone-shaking snarl. “Kneel.”
The flames roared up again, disintegrating your thoughts with unimaginable intensity. You wanted to moan in euphoria, you wanted to scream in anguish. You wished you could lose yourself in this feeling. You wished you could run away and never feel it again. Your body did not obey you. It could not obey you. Your body was no longer your own. Your mind was no longer your own. Your consciousness was melting, splintering, flattening under the infernal pressure. You needed to resist, you needed to hold on, but you could feel yourself slowly slipping away into that excruciating bliss.
When your senses returned to you, you were again looking down at yourself. You were kneeling on the forest floor with both knees, your head bowed low in complete submission. You couldn’t see your hands; presumably they were being held behind your back. Those bronze coils wound their way through every joint, every crevice, controlling your entire body effortlessly. You were powerless to stop her, you were powerless to even try. A part of you wept at your loss of control, but a deeper, more primal part sighed in satisfaction. You were lost in the forest, at the mercy of this enormous creature, and part of you loved it. A part of you craved this feeling, of being held, of being captured, of being controlled. No matter how much your mind screamed “no, no, no”, always lurking in a corner at the back of your consciousness, there was a quiet but powerful “yes”. You fought to hold the cracking fragments of your thoughts together, but deep within, you already knew that it was hopeless to resist.
“Mmmmm… I can tassssste your fear, little morsssel… I can feel how my venom has made you warm, has made you burning hot against my coils. Mmmmmm… the nights in the forest are so very cold… particularly for a ssssssnake such as I… but I think this little ssssssnack will keep me warm… for a long, long time…”
Your head moved without your bidding. Forced up, up, up away from your body, forced to stare into the twin pools of gold shining above you. Two beacons, each split down the middle by rings of darkness. Her pupils grew, and grew, and grew, as she gazed down at her prey. Her eyes were so large, so bright. They filled your vision, threatened to swallow you whole. The flames were rising again. Slowly this time. Flickering. Burning. Blazing. Your mind was melting. Bubbling. Boiling. You couldn’t think. You couldn’t move. All you could do was stare. Tingling ever more powerfully. Was this what death felt like? Was this the agony of mortality that you felt? Was it pleasure? Were you just being brought to heights of ecstasy that you had never dreamt of before? You couldn’t know. You couldn’t care. All you could do was stare. Just stare. Just stare. Just –
Your vision winked out, your hearing vanished, and the last wisps of your consciousness boiled away.
You were awoken by a stiff, prickly feeling deep within your throat. Your head spun with the remaining whispers of sleep which clung to your mind, dragging down your thoughts, threatening to pull you back into unconsciousness. The world was black, what little sound there was was muted and dull. But aside from the feeling in your throat, you were not uncomfortable. It was… warm. Not overwhelmingly hot, but the cozy, blanketing warmth of being wrapped in… what you assumed was a duvet. You could only feel your body in the most general terms, drowsiness stripping you of the will to pay greater attention. You tried to cough and swallow in an effort to clear that unpleasant dry feeling from your throat, but your sudden noise was greeted with something soft stroking across your forehead.
“Shhh, shhh, shhhh,” whispered a voice. A familiar voice, soft, smooth, gentle, with an unmistakeable note of tenderness. “It’s okay. Rest for the moment. You need time to rest and heal. You’re going to be okay.”
As best you could, you nuzzled your head into the hand caressing your forehead. It wasn’t easy; your muscles felt sluggish and weak. But the hand helped, slowly and gently ruffling through your hair, wiping… what you could only assume was beads of sweat from your brow. Even making that simple deduction felt like your brain had been working for hours to connect the dots. It took every ounce of energy you had to muster up the focus to croak a couple wavering syllables. “Water. Water.”
A moment of silence. The hand disappeared from your forehead; you murmured in annoyance at its absence, but it returned after only a few seconds. You felt something cool being pressed against your lips. It was slightly rough, thin, and curved. “Here. Drink, but slowly. Take it easy.” The voice again – instructive, but still tender. You recognised that voice… sweet, caring, carefully poised but still carrying the distinctive burr of an accent. You were sure you knew that voice. You could picture her so clearly in your mind’s eye, but the name remained firmly fixed to the tip of your tongue.
You opened your mouth, and a trickle of life-giving water slowly poured past your lips. It was a heady balm to your throat, instantly clearing away the roughness you had felt accumulate. You felt your focus slowly sharpening, enough to crack your eyes open. You could barely see anything, but the sight of a pair of slightly glowing yellow circles was unmistakeable. “Sim…ran…?”
“That’s right, I’m here.” Simran’s thin, bronzed lips smiled widely, her eyebrows unknitting as she heaved a sigh of relief. She bent over, pressing forehead softly against yours. With how warm you felt, she seemed cool, like a splash of wonderfully refreshing water on a baking hot summer’s day. “You’re safe, it’s all over now. You did such a good job, I’m so, so proud of you. How are you feeling?”
You had to take a moment to ponder your response. Sleep still had its claws in you, insistent on dragging you back into unconsciousness. “Tired…” You murmured softly, barely able to enunciate. “Warm…” You attempted to raise your arm in a feeble attempt to give a thumbs up, but your hand simply twitched uselessly at your side. “Can’t… move much…”
“Shhh, shh,” Simran gently admonished you again, rubbing her thumb in slow, smooth circles across your forehead. “That’s okay, that’s normal. You don’t have to move right now if you don’t want to. I can take care of you. There’s still a lot of venom in your system, but if you get a good night’s sleep, you should be feeling better by tomorrow. Are you in pain, or stiff at all?”
“Mmmm… no…” Full sentences were beyond you; you drifted in and out of a sleepy, half-drunk haze. “Just… tired…”
You felt a warm, wet pressure against your forehead; it took a moment to register that it was a tender kiss. “Okay,” whispered Simran, nestling herself next to you. She laid her head on your chest so she could listen to your slowly plodding heart. Her skin was so pleasantly cool against yours, you could almost imagine the warmth slowly leaching out, out from your skin and into hers. With that warmth went what little focus and energy you had to ward off the drowsiness which enveloped you. “We’ll talk more in the morning, yes? For now, let’s just rest and recover. I know it was a lot, but you were really good.”
You jerked your head in a vague approximation of a nod as your eyes fluttered shut again. Just before sleep pulled you back into its embrace again, you were able to mumble a few more words, slurring badly on each one. “Sim…ran…?”
“That… was… awesome.”
You felt her chest shaking against your hip as she chuckled. “I’m so glad you had fun. But for now, rest. Rest, and recover.”
You didn’t hear the last few words. Your eyes had already rolled back, and you fell back into blissful unconsciousness.