Warning: This poem contains a few things that may not be to everyone's taste. Highlight to read the details, some of which are spoilers. There are minor discriminatory comments (swiftly quashed) and erotic play. It's basically romantic fluff, though.
"Some Ancient Urge"
"Want to do a couples exercise
for our third date?" Chiara said,
her breath tickling warm
over Cuoio's ear.
"Okay," he said.
He had no idea what
she was talking about,
but he was eager to find out.
"Make a list of ten places you love to go,"
Chiara said, "not specific establishments
but categories like forests or theatres."
Not having much opportunity for vacations
in the past meant that Cuoio had to put
some real thought into making his list.
"Now what?" he asked.
"Now we compare our lists,"
Chiara said, laying them side by side.
"My top favorite is cities, and yours is mountains,
but number two for both of us is beaches."
About half of their entries matched, actually.
"I'm okay with cities," Cuoio said.
"How do you feel about mountains?"
"They're probably more fun with
someone who loves them," she replied.
"Huh, I guess that's true for cities too,"
he said. "I haven't gotten to travel much."
"Oh, you will now," she said knowingly.
"Some of it will even be fun trips.
Would you like to go to the beach?
There's one frequented by the Family
that's only a few minutes away."
"I would be delighted," he agreed.
So they packed some supplies,
dressed for the beach,
and caught a bus.
The white sand made a long curve
against the turquoise water,
dotted with colorful towels
and sunbathing people.
Some ancient urge rose up
in Cuoio, making him kick off his shoes
so that he could feel the soft sand
against his feet. Not for the first time,
he thanked God and Mother Mary
that he was a tough guy who
didn't have to worry about
stepping on something sharp.
Chiara dangled her sandals
from her fingers and simply kept
an eye on where she was stepping.
Warm water swished around their ankles,
advancing and retreating as they walked
along the serene sweep of the beach.
Within minutes, Chiara's hair
was a mess from the wind despite
the wide straw hat that she wore, and
she'd taken off her makeup at home.
Cuoio thought she had never
looked more beautiful.
"It's funny, you know,"
he said thoughtfully.
"I've seen the big bosses
with their fancy women, but
I never realized how important
you are, how much you do."
"Well, Marionette comares
are the top of the line," she said.
"Not everyone is as good as we are,
just like not everyone's fighter bosses
can put down as much trouble with
as little collateral damage."
"Cream floats to the top," Cuoio said,
feeling a little self-conscious.
He poked at the sand with his toes.
She batted him gently on the shoulder.
"None of that, now," Chiara said.
"We picked you up for a reason.
Not just any enforcer would
wade into a fight, six against two,
for the sake of a total stranger."
"Six against one, really, since your guy
was pretty beaten down by the time
I could get there," Cuoio said.
They had then proceeded to do
a credible job on him -- although he
flattened three of them in the process --
before the Marionette backup arrived
and decided that Cuoio was worth keeping.
"True enough," said Chiara. "Anyway,
some of the ladies you see are really molls,
prostitutes become mistresses, without
necessarily any of the extra skills of
a fully trained comare. The better Families
just have higher caliber personnel."
"Is that how it started?" he wondered.
"Yes, people learned that anyone
outside the Family could be a spy
or a target," said Chiara. "So first
they just turned to the hired help --
not only the courtesans, but that's
also why you'll see a lot of close friends
among bodyguards and button men."
She paused to pick up a seashell,
two halves of purple-gray bivalve
still connected at the base. "It's rare
to find these attached like this,"
Chiara said happily. "They're lucky,
especially for lovers."
That made Cuoio's heart skip a little.
"Maybe we should frame it,"
he suggested, half in jest.
"That's a good idea," Chiara said.
"This would look lovely in a shadowbox."
Cuoio looked at the two halves of the seashell
and felt a sudden fierce ache for Galterio.
At least this Family wouldn't make fun of him
for having gotten so attached to his bodyguard.
"I'm finding a lot of ways that the Marionettes
are different from other outfits in our business,"
Cuoio said. "How did you put it all together?"
"It took a long time," Chiara said. "Our Puppetmaster
is not the first one; we've been building this Family
for generations. One thing we learned is that
bringing people in from the outside is both
necessary and risky. A friend tipped us
to watching the favor trade for new recruits."
"Better than trying to figure out whether
some jamook off the street is as good
as he says he is," Cuoio agreed.
He picked up a piece of driftwood
and twirled it thoughtfully in his hand
before discarding it for poor balance.
"People started looking at what we had,
what we still needed, and how to get
from one to the other," Chiara said.
"It's not actually new -- if you look back
you can see a very similar profession with
the hetaerae of Greece or geishas of Japan,
highly educated women who serve a valuable
social role as hostesses and entertainers,
not just sexual services for hire."
Cuoio blushed, stirring the sand with his toe.
"When Ruggiero and I first talked about
how to find a comare, he asked me if
I wanted a man or a woman. I wasn't
expecting anything like that."
"Male comares are less common than
female ones, but one of the earlier things
the godfathers realized was that we
do need both," said Chiara. "At first
there were only the mignotte, no use
to the female bosses looking for boyfriends
and not always appealing to the men either.
So we had to find our own way of training some."
"If you can't find what you need, make it,"
Cuoio said. "Ruggiero is helping me
figure out how to assemble a team."
"I'm sure you'll put together a good one,"
Chiara said. She paused to pick up
a piece of tumbled glass, frowned
at a sharp edge, and flicked it out
into the lapping aquamarine water.
"It just feels like it's taking forever,"
Cuoio said. The beach helped him
to relax, though, which he appreciated.
"Important things take time," Chiara said.
"Rome wasn't built in a day, nor was Family.
We learned how to sweep up a great deal of talent
just by taking in those turned away by others --
the mannish women and womanish men
and people with superpowers. We are
one of only three Families who do so,
and it pays into our prowess."
"I wondered why the Marionettes
do that but are so, ah ... conservative,"
he said delicately, "in other regards."
"You can say stuffy," Chiara said with a laugh.
"As we bring in new ideas, they replace
some but not all of the older ones. So
the idea that women should be subservient
has given way to women should be formidable
in our own right. But we've kept some things that
the mainstream has lost, like a better social safety net,
respect for elders, and how young people should dress
modestly until they're old enough for actual romance."
That sparked a memory. "So that little black dress
with the higher neckline and longer sleeves was
something you might have worn earlier," he guessed.
"I thought I'd seen Family girls dressed that way."
"Exactly," she said, and without warning
caught him by the waist and lifted him up
in just the sort of exuberant twirl that
men often did with their girlfriends.
"It's just easier for people to relate
when the label matches the content."
One of the matrons up the beach
made a scolding noise. "You should
be more ladylike, dear, or you won't
keep a handsome man like that for long!"
Cuoio might generally agree with
the Marionette rule of respecting elders,
but he could not let that pass unchallenged.
"As a matter of fact, Signora, I picked her
out of a gym session because I wanted
a strong woman," he said crisply.
"Maybe we should do a few more
for illustration," Chiara murmured.
"How good is your plank?"
"Pretty good," Cuoio said.
"I can balance over a board, too --
my field toughens up if I lay
over something narrow."
"Perfect," she said, and
lifted him over her head.
Cuoio stiffened his body
so that Chiara could hold him up
with just her two hands. She pressed
him up and down several times.
Then she switched to a single hand
and tossed him lightly into the air,
catching him with flawless precision
when he came down, her palm
right over his center of balance.
If it hadn't been for his superpower,
she would have knocked his wind out
doing that, but for them it worked.
A smattering of applause broke out
as Chiara set Cuoio back onto his feet
in the silvery sand of the beach,
punctuated by a few calls of
"Lucky guy!" and "Lucky gal!"
"See, times change," she said as
they strolled onward. Their fingers
brushed in time to their strides.
"Some things are old and outdated,
others are old but still relevant, and
you have to know which is which."
"You know, even a few years ago,
a stunt like that would have been riskier,"
Cuoio pointed out to her.
"True," said Chiara. "Superpowers
are getting, not common exactly,
but known enough that people aren't
quite so inclined to panic over them --
especially little demonstrations like that
which aren't doing much more than
an ordinary person could manage
given sufficient training. We are
making it a normal part of life."
"I think it helps that to have
some strongmen and speedsters
among the police, at least here in Italy,"
Cuoio said. "I thought about it myself,
but I just don't like rules that much.
I want to make the world a little safer,
but I don't want to make it tame."
"Have you heard about Lamborghini?"
Chiara said. "They've made a set
of zoom wagons for the police here."
"That ought to make for some interesting chases,"
Cuoio said. Up ahead he saw a row of carts
selling food and drinks. "Are you hungry?"
"I'm always hungry," Chiara said.
They bought pani ca meusa
and found a vendor who would chop
whatever fruits you wanted into a cup,
then stopped at a bar cart for lemon spuma.
Seagulls squealed and fluttered around them,
squabbling over scraps dropped from
the sloppy sandwiches. Chiara laughed
and tossed a piece in the air for them to catch.
After finishing their sandwiches, they found
another booth selling granita, where Chiara
bought pistachio and Cuoio bought gelsi
and they traded bites over their cupped hands.
"We seem to be at the end of the beach?"
Cuoio noted as he tossed his empty cup
into a recycling bin where the grass began.
Chiara just grinned at him over her shoulder.
"Put your shoes on," she said. "We're
going over the rocks for a bit."
Gamely Cuoio put his shoes on
and left the soft white sand to follow her
along a maybe-trail that wound between
waving tufts of green and gold beach grass
dotted with taller and taller boulders.
Soon they were scrambling over the rocks
and the sounds of civilization faded behind them.
"Did Ruggiero talk to you about propriety?"
Chiara asked as they climbed.
"Oh yes," Cuoio said. "I got the talk about
behaving respectably in public, never
drinking to excess, and treating comares
like ladies -- or gentlemen. Why?"
Chiara lifted a rock and flipped a switch
that lay underneath it, then lowered the rock.
She dragged a driftwood log across the path.
"Because," she whispered,
nibbling on his ear,
"this is a private beach."
Cuoio's heart quickened as
she took his hand and led him
down to where a small arc of
pure white sand cupped
the ultramarine water.
Her top hit him in the face
as she ran toward the sea,
shedding clothes all the way.
Hastily Cuoio peeled off his own
and followed her into the water.
Sheltered by the high rocks nearby,
it was almost perfectly calm,
the waves no more than riffles
that added a sparkle to the surface,
almost as warm as his body.
Some ancient urge drew him to her,
paddling lazily through the salt water,
proud to show her his body to see
if it met with her approval.
She rolled onto her back,
breasts bobbing with the waves.
One hand flicked a splash at him.
"Come and play with me," she invited.
Eager, Cuoio reached for her --
only to have her dart out of the way,
agile as a mermaid in the water.
"Oh, now you're asking for it," he said.
"Catch me if you can," Chiara said,
and dove under the crystal waves.
His talent gave him an advantage
because he could keep his eyes open
underwater without the salt irritating them --
but of course, Chiara's super-strength
made her a prodigious swimmer.
They chased each other around and around
the tiny cove, sometimes in the sea,
sometimes scampering across the sand.
Finally he caught her (she let him catch her)
at the edge of the water where the waves
lapped over the white sand, tumbling down
to lie along the margin with the water
rushing across them and then away.
"I like you very much," Chiara said.
"I want to see how compatible
our bedroom interests might be."
There were no rocks within reach,
which was a good thing, because Cuoio
wanted to bang his head against one.
"The only protection I brought was
the sunscreen," he groaned.
"Mmm, I'm well protected already,
and we're not going far enough
to need anything like that today,"
Chiara said. "I want to sample,
not devour the whole feast at once."
How nice that one of them was
still coherent enough to have a plan.
"Whatever you want," he said,
happy to let her have her way with him.
She kissed him, and he licked the ocean
from her lips, salty and sweet.
Her slim strong hands roved over
his chest and down to his hips.
She rolled them, flipping him easily
to pin him underneath her, and
Cuoio turned his palms up to her.
Just the weight of her straddling him
brought his nethers to attention.
He hoped that wasn't going
to be a problem for her.
As if reading his mind, she said,
"Just because I don't plan
to unwrap the package today,
doesn't mean I'm unhappy to have it."
All right then.
Cuoio wriggled under her.
"Do you prefer being on top
or on the bottom?" Chiara asked.
"I like both," Cuoio said,
struggling to think past what
her hands were doing. "I like
athletic sex. I like sex."
"Slings and things?
Erotic furniture?" she said.
"No idea," he replied.
"Never had the opportunity.
Happy to try them if you want to."
It was getting even harder to think.
"Comares have a very ... comprehensive
education," Chiara explained. "I'm trying
to find your boundaries, so we don't
bump into them at high speed."
"I don't know," Cuoio said.
"I'm curious, I guess. My last
girlfriend was into food, you know,
like me licking gelato off her tummy.
I can take it or leave it. I like
trying new things."
"I enjoy exploring," Chiara agreed.
"Athletic sex can be a lot of fun.
Between my strength and yours,
we have a lot of options. You're
content to let me teach you?"
"Please," he said.
"Gladly," Chiara said,
squeezing with her thighs.
And he spilled all over himself.
Well, there went all his hopes for
this relationship, sure enough.
But Chiara just grinned at him and said,
"I wanted to see how responsive you are.
I'm going to go with ... very."
This was a good thing?
Okay, if Chiara liked it,
then it was a good thing.
"I know how to use my hands,"
Cuoio added just in case.
"Next time," Chiara promised.
There was going to be a next time.
He could definitely work with that.
She nudged him out into the water again
to rinse him off, and then led Cuoio
back to the beach in search of
their discarded clothes.
It took them a while to find everything
and then to get dressed again.
Eventually they made their way up
the rocky edge of the beach, where
Chiara turned off the privacy field
and dragged the log off the trail.
"This lets people know whether
the beach is currently in use,"
she explained. "For some of us,
it's just a fun place to play in private,
but for others it's a necessity. We need
to make sure people respect the boundary."
"Understood," Cuoio said. He didn't know
a lot about superpowers, but enough
to know that some of them had a high cost.
"Thank you for a lovely day," Chiara said
as they walked back toward the public beach
where they could catch a bus home.
"It was your idea," Cuoio pointed out.
"Our idea," she corrected,
bumping gently against him.
"Our idea," he agreed.
They brushed together again,
and he laced his fingers with hers,
hands softly swinging between them
as the waves whispered secrets to the sand.
* * *
"Every time we walk along a beach some ancient urge disturbs us so that we find ourselves shedding shoes and garments or scavenging among seaweed and whitened timbers like the homesick refugees of a long war."
-- Loren Eiseley
Having established chemistry, Cuoio and Chiara are now checking for compatibility. So for example, it helps to ask thoughtful questions before deciding on a travel destination or a date. Learning to make decisions as a couple is an important part of the courtship process.
Building a relationship requires attention to communication and intimacy skills.
Beaches are ideal for a romantic date. Sicily is known for its beautiful beaches. See the big public beach and the little private beach.
Beachcombing is a popular activity in Sicily. Here are some tips on finding seaside treasures.
Outfit -- a clan, or family within the Mafia.
Jamook -- someone not actually involved in organized crime, but interested; a wannabe. Contrast with mook, a low-level member.
Moll -- a woman, usually a prostitute, involved with a man in the mob. The Marionettes use the term more specifically to indicate a prostitute who has become a mistress.
Hetaera -- a professional courtesan in ancient Greece.
Geisha -- a professional courtesan in Japan.
++ whore, slut
Used pejoratively of sexually dissolute women or gay men
-- The Alternative Italian Dictionary
Discrimination can take many forms, such as gender policing. It causes harm and can turn violent. Pressures are especially high against female athletes or men with feminine interests. Chiara has been dealing with this for years due to her Super-Strength and interest in physical activities. Cuoio is just starting to discover that some of his interests lie outside the conventional masculine arena. The best way to handle it is exactly what they did: confront it and blow it off. They really have no patience for this shit; it's stupid and they don't have to tolerate it.
Lamborghini is making zoom wagons for Italian police.
Sicilian cuisine includes a variety of beach food.
Pani ca meusa is a roll stuffed with boiled spleen.
Italy makes some interesting soda flavors.
Granita is a frozen dessert made by flavoring large flakes of ice. Gelsi is mulberry.
Sexual compatibility is important to most people. Know how to find out if you are sexually compatible with your partner. Cuoio has way, way less experience than Chiara. She's trying to investigate and negotiate, but he has no idea about half of what she's asking. This is fine because he's willing to explore and find out.
Athletic sex includes some interesting positions. Cuoio and Chiara are unusually fortunate in that both of them are strong enough to serve as the supporting partner in such positions, which gives them more variety.