They reach Babe's room and lock the door behind them. Through the window, Constance sees that the crescent moon has pierced a bank of tea-stained clouds to float, achingly new, in a blue-black pool of sky. Babe turns to her and begins unbuttoning her blouse. Constance is amazed: Babe has never undressed her before. She suspects some sort of act of contrition until the clarity of Babe's desire dispels the possibility. Babe breathes through parted lips while Constance hardly dares to breathe, and cannot move except at Babe's prompting, as Babe undresses her completely with lingering fingertips and panting breaths upon her thighs. Then Babe steps back to sit on the edge of her bed. "I think," she tells Constance, her eyes eloquent with rare candor, "that I have been wanting you more today than I have ever wanted anything."

Constance goes to her. Straddling Babe's lap, shivering slightly at the contact of the chain mail with her skin, she takes Babe's fragrant head to her breast and strokes her hair, half-curiously--Babe is so different tonight. Tightening her arms around Constance's broad back, Babe sighs with unmistakable contentment. Then Constance feels Babe begin to kiss her breasts and nuzzle them, her mouth finding one nipple, then the other, her tongue and lips insistent, needy; and Constance, dizzy with the unfamiliar pleasure, is nonetheless alarmed at this neediness in Babe she never knew existed and never (she realizes now) really wanted to exist, certain fantasies notwithstanding: for now at their unlooked-for consummation she feels above all else a deep contempt for Babe, a limitless disdain for her final ordinariness. But then she realizes that a needy Babe really does excite her.

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