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07 April 2011 @ 02:27 pm
April Flowers Prompt #7: Naked  
Title: Naked
Author: mrstater
Rating & Warnings: R for sexuality, nudity, and mentions of violence and torture
Characters/Pairings: Caz/Betriz
Prompt: #7, flashback
Format & Word Count: fic, 1028 words
Summary: Cazaril's past associations with nudity threaten to interfere with his wedding night.



The silk of Betriz's wedding gown sings against her skin as it slips down her body and pools softly on the floor at her feet. She reaches for Caz, he assumes for balance as she steps out of the crumpled folds of the dress, but instead of grasping his forearms her fingers close around one of the gilt and mother of pearl frogs of his tunic.

His stomach cinches inward with his sharp intake of breath--

"Too slow!" shouts the Roknari oar master, cracking his whip across the trembling fingers that were so carefully unfastening his tunic before ripping off the garment himself. The iron tang of blood fills Cazaril's mouth as he bites down on his tongue to stop his protest against the rending of the dirty but otherwise fine tunic. The frogs, engraved with the seal of the Order of the Daughter, rain down around them as Cazaril is forcibly stripped of his clothing by the jeering guard who mocks him in vile Roknari: "Not so fancy where you're going now, filth!"

--and instinctively he drops his gaze.

But Betriz's dark eyes catch his, holding them as she unfastens the frogs, one by one, taking as much care and pleasure from removing his outer garment as he did from divesting her of her gown. Caz cannot help but return her smile, and the ugly memory recedes as he allows himself to relax into the loving touch of his wife and enjoy the newfound intimacy allowed them by their married status.

He draws her against him once his tunic couples on the floor with her gown, appreciating the closeness afforded by this first barrier being removed from between them.

Little is hidden by the remaining layers of his fine linen shirt and her summer weight cotton shift. Her body infuses both the fabrics with warmth; the stiff boning of her stays emphasizes the swell of her breasts above the embroidered neckline of her under-dress. Wishing very much for his hands to do the work of those stays, Caz slides his fingers from the soft, bare skin of her arm round to the tantalizing curve in the base of her back where the laces of the foundation garment rest.

Betriz's bosom grows a little fuller with her deeply indrawn breath, and the pretty flush that blooms on her fair skin, spreading up her neck and into her cheeks like delicate flowers blossoming across a meadow only encourages his efforts at unlacing her stays. Hers is not the only clothing bound by laces, and she reaches out, again, this time for the cord that pulls Caz's shirt closed at the neck.

His fingers falter--

"You will oblige His Majesty by removing your tunic and turning around," dy Jironal says in his serpentine tones. Dy Jironal, playing the role of the betrayer once again with the revolting accusation of rape, against which Cazaril is helpless except to bare his back and suffer the humiliating scrutiny of Roya Orico, who believes Cazaril capable of that evil, and the Royesse Iselle, who does not, but whose reaction to the ropes of scars is no less horrified. Betriz, too, enters Orico's council chamber, and sees, and gasps, and completes Cazaril's shame.

--with the concentrated effort required for him not to recoil from her advance.

But she holds him to the spot, her hands slipping inside the now open neck of his shirt to rest upon his bare shoulders. She knows his innocence, never doubted it then and certainly would not have chosen him to bind herself in marriage if she doubted it now. Those who did--Orico, the boy at the bath in Valenda and the bathkeper--and dy Jironal and Dondo who would sow seeds of doubt, all slip from Caz's thoughts as he bends his head to claim his bride's lips with a passion fueled by the new thought that her horror is on behalf of his innocence and gods help his abusers if ever they should cross her path.

It seems imperative, suddenly, to demonstrate his gratitude for the unwavering, unconditional love she bestows on him, so, without breaking their kiss he shrugs off his shirt and, with a little delighted assistance from his eager bride, makes quick work of Betriz's stays and shift.

So taken he is with her gloriously nude form that not until his eyes sweep upward over her does he note that her shoulders are slightly rounded, not held back in her usual confident posture. For a moment he stands still, surprised and amused that of the two of them she is the one demonstrating insecurity in her nakedness. He brushes back the dark, curling tendrils that cascade over her breasts, allowing his thumbs to stroke the pink nipples which harden at his touch, as does a particular bit of his own anatomy as he does the touching, and then he slides one hand up to her chin, tilting it up so that her eyes meet his.

"You, my lady, are a goddess."

Instantly she dimples, and a mischievous gleam replaces the uncertainty that veiled her eyes only seconds before.

"I should like to even the score, husband," she says, and her hands dart downward and find the waist of his trews.

Though keenly aware that they have grown uncomfortably tight, he catches Betriz's wrists--

His own undignified wails fill his ears as he hangs lashed to the mainsail, naked before his tormentors and their foes. Of all he has suffered as a slave of the galleys, he never conceived of being so vulnerable as this, displayed like the criminal, like a man to be executed for the vilest of sins, broken, mutilated, utterly helpless against the elements and the archers and his own utter shame.

--to stop her insistent tugging at his trousers.

But just as quickly he releases her, and pulls his trews down over his hips and buttocks himself, kicking them aside with their other cast-off clothes.

He stands before her, for a heartbeat. Then, he opens his arms to her, and she presses herself, all of herself, against all of him.

Cazaril is naked, and he is not ashamed.
 
 
 
bookish_browniebookish_brownie on April 7th, 2011 08:16 pm (UTC)
I really, really like this. I've often thought that Caz might initially have issues with intimacy with Betriz because of all the torture he suffered, and I don't see him as ever having been extremely sexually experienced before Gotorget. I think the transitions between the flashbacks and the wedding night work really well, even though the elements are so disparate. I also love Betriz's care and acceptance of all Caz's spiritual wounds. This is my favorite part: he bends his head to claim his bride's lips with a passion fueled by the new thought that her horror is on behalf of his innocence and gods help his abusers if ever they should cross her path. Great job!

What's Taters, Precious?: Colonel & Mrs Brandonmrstater on April 8th, 2011 02:58 am (UTC)
Yay, I'm really happy to hear you liked this and it rings true for you. I'm not entirely sure why I was drawn to these particular flashbacks for Caz, except that I wanted to write some smut, LOL. No, I knew I wanted to infuse the flashbacks in and out, and those particularly tormenting moments for Caz I thought would leap to mind in a moment like this. I'm glad you felt they flowed well with the present day scene! Poor guy brings so much baggage to the relationship. But he's definitely found the right girl to help him carry it. :)

I don't see him as ever having been extremely sexually experienced before Gotorget.

I don't, either, though am I remembering correctly that there's some reference to his sex life in the book?

Thanks for your thoughtful comments!
bookish_brownie: Cazarilbookish_brownie on April 8th, 2011 03:24 am (UTC)
There are only two specific references to his sex life, or at least his having had sex, that I can think of. One is his thinking of how late his own apprenticeshp had been when he talks to Betriz about Dondo's encouraging Teidez to have sex with a whore. The other is that when he freaks out at dy Joal, he thinks that his rage is as intoxicating as wine or sex. This does not include the disturbing dreams that Dondo's spirit made him have. D: It's just that his sweet awkwardness toward Betriz, his memory of his infatuation with Ista, and simply the way his life has been composed of wandering suggest to me that he doesn't have much experience in matters of romance.
What's Taters, Precious?: Ivy Heartsmrstater on April 8th, 2011 03:27 am (UTC)
You are the Chalion encyclopedia. ;)

It's just that his sweet awkwardness toward Betriz, his memory of his infatuation with Ista, and simply the way his life has been composed of wandering suggest to me that he doesn't have much experience in matters of romance.

I'm inclined to agree, though I do have to wonder how much of his awkwardness with Betriz is mainly colored by his imprisonment/enslavement?
rthstewartrthstewart on April 7th, 2011 10:42 pm (UTC)
Grrrr. Evil Russians blocking my comment about how much I enjoyed this. Like BB above, I especially enjoyed the comment that any future abusers will need all the help of the gods after Betriz is done with them. There is a real sense of a powerful bond between the two of them, in his damage and her love of him because of and in spite of it. There is a lovely partnership implicit here that we do not see a lot of in the book, actually. Caz is so much Beatriz and Iselle's protector, which is lovely, of course, but here, in their marriage seems to be an equalization, a real maturity of Betriz and a willingness by Caz to let her take some of the share as well. And yes, it's pretty HAWT too. Nicely done, Mrs. T!
What's Taters, Precious?: Colonel & Mrs Brandonmrstater on April 8th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC)
I'm touched that you'd do battle with the Russians to let me know you liked my smut! ;) I was just commenting to someone the other day that Betriz, wonderful as she is throughout the book, is a rather static character, so it's nice to have fanfic as an outlet to explore the different depths to her that you know must be there for Caz to fall in love with her. It's great to know you feel I've presented her as an equal partner for him here. I'm far more interested in how she helps him grow and develop than in the change wrought by the Daughter!

(And of course I'm pleased you liked the sexytimes.)

Thanks for reading and commenting!
Elisel d'Ivantelisel on April 8th, 2011 12:50 am (UTC)
Again with the 'what they said'! This was a really delicate situation to tackle (and yeah, I'll admit it, I'd have loved to have seen Bujold write some intimate Caz/Betriz) and you did it with real grace and warmth!

...gods help his abusers if ever they should cross her path.

And somehow in the middle of this bedroom scene, I had a flashback of Betriz glaring at the dy Gura brothers while Cazaril examines an embroidered white hat. LOL!
What's Taters, Precious?: Colonel & Mrs Brandonmrstater on April 8th, 2011 03:04 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you very much! I like to write a good love scene, but am always nervous about the balance between sexy and Harlequin, lol. Very pleased you found it enjoyable!
Elisel d'Ivantelisel on April 8th, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
LOL! This was definitely more with the sexy, and less with the Harlequin (and hi, Sense and Sensibility icon! ♥). I think my standard for evaluating such things is: "Can you insert two different, random character names in the interaction and still have it work? Yes? If the characters are interchangeable, you're writing Harlequin."

This was definitely Caz and Betriz~
shimotsuki: chalion3shimotsuki on April 8th, 2011 03:11 am (UTC)
Oh, Caz. This is lovely and heartbreaking -- not just the flashbacks that remind him of such difficult experiences, but also his determination to push on through them.

This fits together really well, in the sense that there's a flashback to match each, erm, stage in the process. ;) And in their reactions to each other, we see a lot about the nature of their relationship and the way they relate to each other.

And the last line is beautiful.
What's Taters, Precious?: Colonel & Mrs Brandonmrstater on April 8th, 2011 03:23 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I particularly like how you phrased "his determination to push on through them," because I didn't want this to be about Caz being dragged through by Betriz, but about her giving him just the strength he needs to carry on on his own. And I'm really pleased the flashbacks fit together with the wedding night scene!

Wish I could take credit for that last line, but I did rather shamelessly rip off the Bible... ;)
shimotsuki: chalion3shimotsuki on April 8th, 2011 03:32 am (UTC)
Oops, I didn't phrase that very carefully, because what I really meant was the whole sequence of the final three lines. ;)

And I definitely didn't read this as Cazaril being pushed or dragged along. The rapport between the two of them is really lovely.
What's Taters, Precious?: Ivy Heartsmrstater on April 8th, 2011 03:33 am (UTC)
Oops, I didn't phrase that very carefully, because what I really meant was the whole sequence of the final three lines. ;)

Oh, bless! Because I was really not sure if I'd rushed that ending. So, yay!

Thank you, again. I loved writing this.
gilpin25: Springgilpin25 on April 13th, 2011 05:08 pm (UTC)
I really like this a lot - I must do, this is my third read-through! ;) I like how they both have reasons to fear being naked with one another here: Caz because of the past and Betriz's uncertainty over the here and now. Which means, of course, that they are pefectly matched as they help each other while not realizing they're doing so. Caz couldn't reassure his bride more than by finding her beautiful, and Betriz does the same by loving him as he is in return.

I also thought you handled the fashbacks extremely well: his total humiliation is what comes across most clearly, and that makes so much sense with his momentary hesitation now.

Wonderful job! ♥

Edited at 2011-04-13 05:09 pm (UTC)
What's Taters, Precious?: Barefoot Writermrstater on April 13th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
Aw, I can't believe you read this three times! That's the biggest compliment you could give, thanks so much! I also appreciate your review, though, especially that you think Caz and Betriz come across well-matched here and that the flashbacks worked to heighten their present emotions.