The first time I laid eyes on Jeannette, that chimera girl, I wanted to take her by force, by storm, just push her against the nearest wall and pin her there. Wanted her with a fervor that was barely distinguishable from fury. Wanted to hear us both scream.
I had to remind myself, fiercely, of the truth: that it was Jehan in the so-modest skirts, that the coquettish curls and seductive eyes and slim, fragile waist were only his. Jehan, whom I loved, who was real, no matter how much it felt like a dizzy dream where no rules applied.
But he stepped closer, slipping both arms around my waist, and reality burned away. I could feel his body, tense and eager under the stays and the petticoats; and yet Jeannette was soft and pliant in my arms, her delicate face turned upward. I caught her by the shoulders and kissed her, heard a soft whimper as she melted against me.
"You're beautiful." I tugged at the bodice of her gown, baring a white shoulder. "Beautiful. My God, you look as though I could break you in two."
Laughter, shaky but triumphant. "I'm not so frail as that."
We fell against the wall, entwined. I kissed her again, savagely, tasting blood. Jeannette arched and gasped against me, but it was Jehan's hand that slid inside my trousers, teasing me. For a long moment I could not see, could scarcely breathe. "Chéri," I heard, huskily beside my ear. "You're blushing."
She laughed, a high girlish giggle, and drew me down for another kiss. I braced one hand on the wall, fumbling with the cumbersome skirts, while she unfastened buttons with practiced dexterity. A shiver of ecstasy -- mine, or his? -- went through me as my hand met skin. There was no mistaking Jehan's ardor, or the warm scent of him under the perfume. I caressed him roughly, made him whimper again, buried my face in soft dark curls coming loose from their pins. He pulled me against him with sudden force, then, and sent me past words, past thought, past anything but clinging to him, drowning in sweetness.
He was breathing hard, within the restraints of Jeannette's rumpled finery. I kissed the curve of his neck, tasting sweat. "I'm sorry," I murmured, and heard Jehan's familiar, mischievous chuckle in my ear.
"What are you sorry for?"
"I've made a mess of you, lovely." I tangled my fingers in his hair. "In my reckless haste."
"It's all right."
I straightened up, a little gingerly, and grinned at him. "There speaks my friend Jehan. Any true Jeannette would be far more worried about her clothes than about her reputation."
"Wretch!" Laughing, he caught hold of my shoulders and knocked me off balance again. I stumbled back and fell onto the bed, pulling him after me. "Is that any way to speak to a lady?"
"No. Not at all." I looked up at him, still dazed with delight; beautiful boy, beautiful girl, it hardly seemed to matter which. "Allow me to make my apologies."
His smile was breathtaking. "I suppose I could do that."
This time I did not hurry.
[author's note: the petra helpfully informs me that a "chimera", besides being a mythological monster and a figment of the imagination, is also an "organism composed of two genetically distinct types of cells," which occasionally produces intersexed individuals. you see why I heart petra?]