This is an entry for the January Story Challenge – please consider creating an entry of your own!

The ship that moved through the depths of darkness and the vastness of space was silent, of course. Internally, the engines hummed and the life support systems whirred, but on the outside, it looked like a magnificent loaded gun, a technological weapon of the future expanded in size to fit the palm of a giant being much bigger than any celestial body in existence. It wasn’t a gun, however. It wasn’t even a gunship in of itself. Rather, the ship that moved through the abyssal outer rims of the universe’s most distant galaxy belonged to a necromancer, and a devilish one at that.

Vahress was a collector of sorts. She had lived a very long time, long enough to have learned how such a ship as her own came to be. She had been there when her people had discovered galactic star-hopping technology. She had been there when they had first taken to the stars, leaving the ground and the dirt behind for floors of metal and plasti-steel only. She hadn’t even been a child when they first discovered and contained the very beginnings of fire.

However old she was, it didn’t show in her looks – except for today. Her long black hair was a silky and as sleek as ever, hanging from the smooth crown of her head down to beyond her waist, flowing over her black dressing gown like a cape. The gown itself covered a body kept slender by constant business; there was no time in all of Vahress’s long life to rest. Time to lean, time to clean, her long-dead mother had once scolded her. Space travel itself lent a form to becoming thin and gaunt regardless. Bone loss was expected, even if a ship could maintain a proper gravity drive. Too much time amongst the stars, and Vahress could never return to a planet with a gravity greater than 0.38g. Such small and less massive planets were rare indeed.

Today, in this hour, the luminescent allure of Vahress’s pale skin seemed almost dimmed. As she leaned over the command console of the ship itself, she panted and huffed, breathless from her recent ordeal. Blackish blood stained her lips, and her almond-shaped eyes, already lined with the most expensive of kohl, now had heavy bags showing beneath them. Her bottom lip trembled – not with the exhaustion and fatigue that her weak posture showed but with trepidation and fear. Those watching would not know the difference. Vahress alone knew what she had gone through. And what was to come.

“My lady,” whispered the human standing closest to her.

He and one other were the lone audience to her crisis. Or was that crises?

Vahress put up a hand to ward the man off, but he rushed to her and took her carefully in his arms. She couldn’t help but support her weight on him. He was strong, no regular traveler among the stars as she was. He came from good stock too; his ancestry bore more than a handful of kings and queens, and few people from his world ever made it onto a ship such as this.

His name was Jim. No titles. No surname he shared when introduced. He was just Jim. His name suited him, for he was simple and honest and genuine and authentic. Everything that Vahress was not and never had been. Oh the webs that could be woven in the tales of her conquests and victories. But Jim had no interest in any of those. How would he feel if he knew she had slain not one but two of his predecessors in cold blood? He was a man of battle, a man-at-arms sort, and he would not have approved.

The look on Jim’s face now was one of adoring concern for his mistress. He loved her. He had said so many a time as he grew up in her service. First it had been idolatry, reverence for the near mythical lady who came to his planet and raised an army from the ashes of a defeated civilization. Then it had been respectful love, as Jim fought in that army, took rank in that army, and then became what he thought was her planet-bound equal. Not too long ago, that love had changed once again. There was nothing puppy-like about it, either. He fantasized about her, her journeys into his dreams in secret told her that. And oh the things he wanted of her, oh the things he thought about. They were very exciting and arousing to Vahress. But sex was not something she indulged in. She hadn’t been naked in front of a living and sentient being for what felt like eons. Millenia, in the least.

“Please,” she whispered up to Jim as he stroked her pale cheek. “My bath…”

“And your drink,” said a second man’s voice from across the command deck.

The deck itself was a three-walled affair, open completely on its fourth face to the space and the stars beyond its forcefield. It housed the simple console Vahress used to guide the ship from wormhole to wormhole, and nothing more. Nothing else was needed. The rest of the ship was practically vanity; even the bio domes and trade storage and weapons distribution sectors were purely for the sake of others. A show of charity when needed, and a show of force when it was required.

Across the deck, close to the forcefield itself, stood a timely old man who looked for all intents and purposes like a wizard. He was far from human though; his race had even less in common with humans than Vahress’s elven bloodlines did. Beneath his skin raced neurons and electrons in prolific capacity, communicating with networks far beyond what Vahress’s ship could reach. In his true form, he would look metallic, and he would not be bipedal. Since most species of this universe chose to stand on two or four or six or however many legs, the old man stood up as well. Since they clothed themselves in materials, organic or otherwise, he too was clothed. And in Vahress’s presence, he always resembled a magician or sorcerer of some sort. He was the light to her darkness. He was the wisdom to her folly. And he was the finite to her eternity.

She called him the Time Keeper. He did not participate directly in anything Vahress was involved in. He did not challenge nor support her decisions in this or that war, galactic or otherwise. But he made himself known to her centuries ago, and was always here now. She relied on him, for he had introduced her to a new sort of science, one that a necromancer would never have discovered alone and without his influence. Why he had shared it with her, she could not yet tell. But soon it would be revealed. Why else was he so smug these days instead of bearing his usual dour expression?

“Yes,” Vahress stammered, “my drink…”

The human Jim hissed. He hated the Time Keeper, though he didn’t know why. He blamed the Time Keeper for Vahress’s increasing weakness and illnesses. There was no evidence or reason for this but Jim was human. And humans did so like to have scapegoats, someone to blame when things seemed to be going all wrong.

Vahress closed her eyes. She meant only to blink but her legs shook beneath her and suddenly Jim was scooping her up, carrying her out of the command room and down a long hall, towards her chambers. Robotic servants tried to take her from his arms, but he kicked at them and refused to release her. Against all protocols he had ever known, Jim carried the whimpering necromancer to her personal bathing room and set her down at the edge of the glowing pool of crystalline water.

“Please, leave…” Vahress tried to beg, but Jim was not listening.

She appreciated that about him. She’d let him defy her many times, changed her plans to suit his rebellious nature. He was sometimes right, sometimes wrong in his judgments. But there was an adventure to allowing him these little snippets of control.

Right now, however, she wanted him strongly to obey her. She needed her bath, she needed the refreshing and healing waters she had cultivated and curated over her long lifetime. Once she was settled in the waters, she could heal, she could regenerate. After what she had just witnessed, there was only so much the waters could do. But still, she needed to be in the bath, and desperately so.

“Jim!” the necromancer tried to object.

He was having none of it. Silent as ever, and bearing a rather brooding look on his face, the determined man fiddled around her body to find each and every snap to her form-fitting dress. He peeled her clothing away, barely managing to hide a gasp here and there as he saw how very lean the body beneath her clothing was.

Vahress was not embarrassed by her nudity. She was simply shocked, but too tired to pay it mind. She closed her eyes and almost fainted from the draining of her powers. Jim held her upright, then moved towards the pool with her. Her steps were shaky, her toes kept forgetting to bend when she moved her feet, and she tripped more than once as the man tried to guide her across the room.

“You can’t get in by yourself. You’ll drown,” he snarled.

Before Vahress knew what he was doing, he had begun to undress himself. His long duster-style jacket crumpled to the floor, followed by his leather gauntlets and vest, his tunic and his leggings and undergarments. His weapons belt clattered as he held Vahress in one hand and pulled off his shin-shielding boots with the other. Vahress tried to wiggle away from him but she was so drained and depleted.

“No, no!” she squeaked.

“Into the bath!” the stubborn man quipped.

He picked her up in his arms once more and stepped into the waters, making loud gulping noises as he sucked in air. The water would be so cold to him, as cold as space itself without any protection. But still he moved into it, holding Vahress gently in his arms. He let her float, but kept his hands beneath her body, keeping her aloft in the glowing liquid.

Vahress’s hair splayed out around them both like the black ink of a cephalopod defending itself from a predator. The tentacle-like tresses curled and whipped ever so slowly around and against themselves, touching Vahress, touching Jim, seeking space then curling back inwards again. There was a current in the water, no doubt the human felt it. He would have no idea what caused it or what it was for, but Vahress knew he no longer cared. The look on his face was one of relief, and that alone told her that the waters were doing their job long before she began to feel their healing cure.

Time seemed to slow. The waters lapped at the edge of the pool, against Jim’s naked body and Vahress’s too. She felt herself more able to breathe, and slowly but surely felt the energy returning to her extremities. Her toes could curl again, her feet moved when she told them to. And her fingers could feel the smoothness of Jim’s back. He was starting to look a bit overwhelmed though. The waters would have warmed to him, coming to accept him. Still, he had put himself directly into her personal space in a way he’d never dared to before. She’d always pushed off his advances and professions of love with coy and clever repartee, and now here they were completely undressed and pressed against each other.

Vahress sluggishly put her feet on the bottom of the pool. Standing up next to her companion, the waters reached her waist. Much of her hair still spread out like a jet black halo of spikes around her hips. The water went to Jim’s groin, leaving his member half submerged. He was tall for a human, and Vahress was petite for an elf. They would have made a cute couple, in another lifetime. Not in this one.

“You shouldn’t have come in here,” she whispered, trying to sound stern.

It was too difficult to be mean to him right now. He had wanted to help her. Sure, her robots could have taken her had she called them. They would have delicately removed her clothing and slid her along to the pool, dangling her in until she could stand on her own. They had done so before. But Jim, knowing he wasn’t allowed here, must have been so very worried for her life. And suddenly, his concern seemed important to her. Poignant, given what she had learned.

“I had to,” he said softly.

Jim lifted a hand and took one of hers, placing it in his and holding it. She’d never really let him touch her before, only here and there in passing as friends-in-war would do. A shoulder rub here, a pat on the back there, nothing more. Now he was boldly holding her hand. And she wasn’t stopping him.

As Jim took her other hand in his as well, he slouched down slightly, putting their faces almost level. Awkwardly, no doubt unsure of what he was doing himself, he leaned in and put his lips against Vahress’s. The blood she had tasted had washed away, but her mouth was always permanently stained with ichor of the darkest kind. The drink the Time Keeper had exposed her to made sure of that.

Now there was a new taste on her lips. That of Jim’s sweet and well intended kiss. Vahress closed her eyes and let him press his mouth to hers, her own lips soft and yielding and offering no resistance. When he finally pulled away and made to stand, Vahress surprised herself and turned her head upwards, going onto her toes so her mouth could follow his. It was she kissing him now, and she felt his arousal between their bodies as his sex began to harden in the water.

What was she doing? What was she thinking? The waters would not have healed her to the degree that she would have forgotten what she had gone through, what she had seen, what waited beyond the forcefield of her ship’s open command deck. How could she let this human kiss her, and then how could she kiss him back, knowing what she knew?

Jim’s hands reached down and gripped Vahress’s buttocks, lifting her up. Before she knew it, her slender legs were wrapped around his muscled waist tightly. Her hands clung to his shoulders and neck as she pressed her mouth harder against Jim’s. Then his lips parted and she felt the darting welcome of his tongue teasing at her own. Their two mouths danced and moved, parting and pressing, coming together and away, their tongues always keeping contact regardless.

Vahress’s body was shaking with need. She had never wanted someone. Anyone. Ever. She had enjoyed sex in the long distant past. It had even been the pursuit of a full handful of decades of her life at one point. The lasciviousness of a life of fucking and sucking and humping and grinding. It had been necessary and required though, in order for her to get it out of her system. She had always known that a different path awaited her, one that didn’t include love and offspring and breeding in any way, shape or form. She had needed to get the urges and desires out of her mind and body, so she could head into her pre-destiny without impairment. A life of regret would have held her back, so Vahress had experienced every form of fucking she could.

But she had never made love. And this, what Jim was feeling, what he was sharing, was completely and utterly full of love. His caressing of her ass, the way his tongue hungrily flicked and lashed against her own, and the way his meat throbbed between them. It was all based on what he felt in his oh so very human heart.

It made Vahress want to weep. It made her want to stop him and warn him off, tell him how futile his feelings were. But it also made her want to be what he thought she was. She wanted to be the goddess of his dreams, the fairytale sorceress he had grown up hearing about, the alien being who had come to his home planet and resolved all the struggles and conflicts of his people. She wanted to be the hard-as-nails on the outside, but soft on the inside woman he believed her to be. Couldn’t she be such, just for this moment?

Vahress wiggled her hips and her bottom. Jim’s thick cock nudged up against the hairless flesh of her puffy labia. The head of his prick eased her open, and then with a pop and a push, he was inside her. She swallowed the groan he sang against her mouth, sucking his breath into her lungs as she ground herself down onto his rod. She could feel him striking to the very depths of her sex, up against the pointless womb she had refused to rid herself off, if only for the sake of having some vestige of pride in being a woman. Her small breasts tingled where they were pressed against Jim’s furry chest, and her nipples became hard, dark little pebbles squashed between them.

The man held her by the cupping of her ass in his palms, and began to move her up and down. The thrusting of his hips was slow and steady, and it made Vahress cry out against his lips in pleasure. He felt so good, doubly so because she knew the very heart of his feelings for her, knew how much he had craved and wanted a moment like this. And she knew how it was never supposed to have happened, how she had long ago sworn off allowing a lesser species to become so intimate. It was better that way, to keep mates at a distance. Especially if she had to go to war with him. The very idea of having to turn her army against his would have given her but a second’s pause. The look in his eyes as she cut his head from his body with a laser sword or necro-whip would have touched a part of her though. She wouldn’t have liked to do it.

And now here he was, in her personal bath, where no one had ever been before. Fucking her, beginning to move her faster and faster up and down his thick sex. He was hard as a rock, and his lips were wet with drool. He would cum soon, Vahress knew. And she wanted it. She wanted to feel him release inside her, to know that she had been the perpetrator of his pleasure.

Jim pushed her off of him, away from him, his cock reluctantly dragged out of her cunny.

“What-“ she started to say, objecting.

Jim turned her around and bent her over the edge of the pool, entering her from behind and quickly renewing his fucking of her cunt.

At first, Vahress wanted to object. How dare he treat her like an animal, like a dog? But she knew he wasn’t taking her this way out of some arrogant dig for pride and power and dominance. No, it was for the feel of it. Her ass cheeks were making loud slapping noises despite their diminutive size, as Jim fucked and pistoned in and out of her sex in the water. His cock was slick with her pussy juices, but still the water got over and around him, entered her with him, sloshed up into her body. She could feel it, like sex with narcotics, stimulating her cervix and the muscles of her uterus.

Vahress’s orgasm was cosmic, like one she had never had before. Her head tilted back and she screamed in pure, unadulterated joy. It was as if she had never known bliss before this moment. Jim gasped and sputtered behind her, shoving his cock as far into her as he could go before withdrawing, only to return once more. Again and again he pushed inside her, and it was like each new thrust forced Vahress’s cunt to new heights of nerve-wracking revival. She was starting to feel more alive than she ever had before, despite her eternal commitment to Death and Decay and Entropy. What kind of necromancer enjoyed the act of procreation so intensely as this?

Jim started his climb to his own orgasmic heights, and Vahress clawed at the floor of her bathing room. Her toes curled and pressed to the pool’s floor, her bottom angling up to try and take the man even deeper into her body. Suddenly he pressed a thumb against her anus, teasing the wrinkle with the pad of his calloused digit just as he shot his first load of human jizz into her cunt hole. Vahress squealed and wriggled, eyes squeezing shut. What a sight they must have been, if only the ship were not staffed solely by robots.

All of a sudden, Vahress could feel heat beneath her hands. The floor was normally kept quite cool due to the nature of the contents of the pool. But now it was warming up, and starting to glow orange. Vahress lifted her face to the doorway of the room, catching the glimpse of the Time Keeper where he stood. Watching. Observing. Holding out in his hand…

…her drink!

“Fuck!” Vahress snarled, slapping a hand against the erupting floor.

The lower half of the ship went first, the gravity drive having been affected by the time bomb before the other parts of the ship. Above that were the harmless stores of food and organics but they could only protect the weapons sectors from the explosion of the drive for so long. It took a few seconds for the ship to fully explode and disintegrate, but it happened. As it always happened.

As it had to happen.

Vahress leaned against the console, blinking against the incredible drain she felt as she came to. She looked up just as Jim moved to her side, and this time, she pushed him away. Behind her, she could hear the Time Keeper tsking softly. He was no doubt shaking his head, that wicked old man. That wise old man who held her drink in his hand.

“You will remember, this time?” the Time Keeper said as Vahress stumbled over to him.

She gripped the metallic mug tightly and drank its contents down completely, despite the chemical afterburn the liquid left in her throat.

“Let me help you to your bath, you’re too weak to-“

Vahress turned and slapped the human man across the cheek. Hard. She left slight reddish marks where her nails had scratched his skin. The blow hadn’t knocked him from his feet, but he was shaken all the same, glaring at her in surprise and rage.

“Don’t!” she hissed. “Don’t you ever presume to touch me!”

A robotic android of masculine humanoid make made its way to Vahress’s side. She readily leapt into its lukewarm arms, allowing it to carry her like a child. Like the Jim in the last timeline had carried her.

“Don’t follow me!” she said with as much authority as she could muster.

The robot carried her off towards her chambers. Jim looked blankly at the Time Keeper as his expression of anger was replaced with one of confusion.

“Women!” he finally said softly, throwing his hands up in the air.

“Yes. Women,” the Time Keeper said with a knowing smile.

Both turned towards the magnificent machine that whirled and waited beyond the ship. It was a mass of metal and plasti-steel rings that ran around and around each other, almost seeming chaotic except that they never crashed into each other. Never touched each other.

It was a time bomb. And it was Vahress’s purpose, hers and hers alone, to decipher it and decode it and disarm it. She had been doing this for half a century. But Jim, the human, never knew that he had actually lived over eighteen thousand two hundred and fifty days in succinct repetition. He was oblivious to it. The worlds around them were oblivious to it. Only the Time Keeper and Vahress knew what happened on each of those days.

And today’s day, Vahress would never allow herself to repeat – or forget!