Three months after Morton's death, Surreal shows up at Karla's court, looking refined and dangerous, and says, quite pleadingly, "Have a room where I could stay? Just for a bit?"
Karla smiles. "Family a little too much?"
Surreal tells her, with utmost conviction. "I hate males. Particularly ones I'm related to."
Karla pats her on the shoulder and gives her a room within skipping distance of Karla's own.
Surreal opens up with, "Can I ask you something personal?"
Karla thinks about it. Surreal might be loyal to Janaelle, but that's most of the knowledge Karla has about her, and she's not in the habit of confiding in people. Not since Morton. Maybe, maybe Gabrielle or Janaelle, but even then. She closes her eyes, trying not to wish Morton back, because it's useless. The emptiness of the thought causes her to be impetuous. (Really, she's aware she's rarely not.) "Ask."
"It was Lucivar, yes, on your Virgin Night?"
Karla looks at Surreal for the first time. That had not been what she was expecting. "Yes."
"What was it like?"
"Forgive me if this is rude, but, aren't they all alike after a certain point?"
Surreal's expression sharpens a bit. "What experience would convince you of that?"
Karla has worked diligently to make the leering voices, the presumptive touches of her childhood nothing more than memories, distant and lifeless in her mind. She shivers at their presence, all the same. "I might have been a virgin with Lucivar, but not for lack of attempt on several person's parts. They're all bad breath, and bruising fingers and crude words--"
"Many of them, yes." Surreal's gaze has softened again, a bit more than Karla would prefer. "But once you have found out how similar most of them can be, it makes the ones who are not that much more...exceptional, I suppose. Something to talk about, in any case. You do not have to tell. I've just wondered."
Karla smiles, because this is a memory she's never had to rework, never had to hide from. "It was like flying. Falling, really, but he didn't let me crash."
There's something wistful about the way Surreal says, "I don't understand."
"I slept with The Sadist, once," Surreal says on a night when neither of them can sleep. Surreal's stayed for over a month, and although Karla can't say why, she doesn't mind it, doesn't really want the other woman to go.
Karla turns sharply to her. "Sadi?"
"No, not Sadi." Surreal's laughter is not amused. "I wish. No, he's-- Before Janaelle, in the bedroom. There were all these rumors, but I thought--" She shakes her head. "I was young."
"He hurt you," Karla says flatly.
"In a way, I asked him to."
Karla all-but snarls at the sentiment, but Surreal cuts her off. "What I asked of him? It was no better than what those men did to you as a child. I knew. I knew the things that had been done to him by Dorothea's court. And I still asked."
After a long moment, Karla asks, "Why are you telling me this?"
Surreal shrugs, "Because I thought you'd listen."
Karla just looks at her.
"Because I needed someone to hear."
Surreal kisses Karla goodbye nearly two months after she arrived and asks, "Would I be welcome again?"
Karla tells her, "Only if you return quickly," and means it.
Surreal is back within a week, not a word about where she has gone, but there are shadows in her eyes and Karla kisses her, soft and possessive and natural. She pulls back and admits, "I meant to say 'welcome back.'"
Surreal licks her lips and smiles. "You got your point across."
Karla takes a deep breath. "What's it like? When one is neither being forced, nor falling?"
"I suspect, my dear, that you are one of those exceptions."
"You can't tell me, then?"
Surreal traces finger over the line of Karla's neck. "No, but if you wanted, we could find out."
Karla, to her own surprise, says, "Yes. Yes, I want."