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Staves were a great way to test a possible drift compatibility without doing a neural handshake; unless you were a good pilot and had fantastic directional sense, initiating a handshake could be utterly disorienting. Some people were nauseous, some wound up laid out for a day or two to reestablish their equilibrium. Ariadne hadn't been a good fighter with a bo before coming to Hong Kong, but everyone was a good sport about training her. "The US is backward on the handshake," Arthur told her with a grin. He'd lived in Hong Kong for the past two years and took on the bulk of her training, since neither had found a drift compatible partner to work with. As a result, it kept them grounded and available for training sessions. He worked with jaeger pilots between kaiju fights, and enjoyed the physical exercise. "Why put your potential fighters at a disadvantage if you don't have to?" he asked with an exaggerated lift of his eyebrows.

"Don't knock 'em, fly boy. You were from there once," she'd replied, amused.

"Once," he agreed. "But I've been away from there for a long time."

Stories around the base said he came in with Cobb, who had left his kids behind with their grandmother to try destroying kaiju after his wife died in the San Francisco attack. Cobb was so driven he didn't care who he pissed off or hurt, and it had nearly cost the base a jaeger. Even so, Stacker Pentecost hadn't sent him off base.

"All right, whatever. Start the lesson, oh wise one," she snarked.

Both were barefoot, in loose dark pants and a tank top, all military standard issue. Arthur looked damn good, and Ariadne had to steel herself against her desire. There was no way she wouldn't try her best, but didn't want to feel bad about hitting him.

They sparred for nearly an hour. Maybe it was the sheer fact that they had practiced so often, but Ariadne thought she knew where Arthur was going to strike. Arthur brought the staff forward in an arc, and she was able to twist her body close to him, back arched as she brought her own staff up to block his blow. Then she spun around him, her staff coming down toward his leg, then she quickly reversed it to aim for his head. Arthur had to use short, jerky jabs to block her movement and prevent her staff from striking him. He grinned, advancing, but Ariadne met him step for step, the staff feeling like an extension of her body now. It was less a graceless melee and more like an orchestrated dance. As that crystallized in her mind, she finally understood what they were looking for in these battles. Not aggression or a grasp of strategy, but the flow of two minds and bodies working together in clockwork precision.

Like this, Ariadne thought suddenly. Compatibility feels like this. That thought made her falter and stumble into his arms.

And then Arthur kissed her.

It took a moment for the kiss to register as reality and not one of her frequent dreams. She drew him back when he started to pull away. "My room," she offered, still trying to kiss him.

Arthur pulled back, shaking his head. Just as Ariadne began to feel stupid and doubt herself, he said "Mine is closer."

Though no one commented on them as they moved through the halls to his room, Ariadne almost felt like they should have. Couldn't anyone see that she wanted in his pants so badly, never mind the fact that they were sweaty and tired, hair sticking to them and tank tops nearly translucent with sweat in spots?

But once the door was slammed shut, she felt a little shy. Was this all because of the sparring adrenaline rush? Was this all in her head? Were they really drift compatible after all?

He pulled her close and kissed her again, tongue sliding into her mouth as his hands trailed down her ribcage. She felt sticky and sweaty, and Ariadne didn't want this to be something she remembered from their first time together. Because no doubt there would be more than this one time, right? It would be better if there was the slick slide of skin on skin, nothing that would make it weird or uncomfortable or cringe worthy. Lord knew how many awkward moments she'd had with prior lovers. She wanted this with Arthur to be perfect.

"Shower together?" she suggested.

When he pulled back, his lips stretched into a wide grin. "Fantastic idea."

The water was hot, the soap slippery. Ariadne laughed when he discovered her ticklish spots, and Arthur opened himself up to her detailed inspection. Their hands and mouths went everywhere, exploring the planes and curves of each others' bodies. Arthur stroked her breasts and belly with the washcloth, then slid his fingers inside her, thumb at her clit. Ariadne held his cock in one hand, moving in counterpoint rhythm, her other hand on his arm to keep her balance. Because oh, she was drowning in the sensation of him, in the way he stared so intently at her, in the way she wanted to wrap herself around him and have him bury himself inside of her.

He came first, spurting in her fist, splashing her leg. He moved his fingers faster then, and tried picking her up and pinning her against the shower stall to get a better angle. It was perfect there, one leg hooked around his waist, the other up on tippy toes, her hands tight enough on his upper arms to bruise. Arthur's mouth slanted over hers, short kisses between panting breaths, grunting sounds drowned out by the water sluicing down over them. More, she thought dizzily, tilting her hips, and he understood what she needed without her having to say the words. He filled her, fingers curling and finding the spot that shot lightning along her spine and had her toes curling in pleasure. Arthur kept Ariadne upright, working her body until she came with a shout, triumph in her tone.

Their mouths came together, less intense but no less emotional. Ariadne ran her hands along his chest, then out to his hips and down to cup his ass, pulling him against her. Her thighs stretched wide to accommodate his hips between them, and she reached one hand between their bodies as he held her to work on his half erect cock. She wanted him so much, emotion threatening to choke her, and guided him into her as soon as he was hard enough to try it.

This time it was slower, more drawn out, taking their time in feeling for responses. Arthur reached out with one hand to crank up the heat on the water just when Ariadne would have complained about it being too cold, and she grinned her thanks. He simply thrust into her steadily, his lips drawn back in an answering smile. She had one arm around his shoulders, one moving to cup his cheek. Was it too soon to swear she loved him? Was it too soon to ask for more than this moment?

Even if she didn't say it, he must have felt something similar. Even after she came with his cock inside her, even after he shuddered with another release, they remained locked in each others' arms until the water ran cold. They toweled each other off, and Arthur stopped her when she reached for her sweaty clothes. "Stay," he murmured, a shy smile on his face. "Don't go."

Still wrapped up in towels, Ariadne stepped closer and wrapped her arms around him. Resting her head against his chest, she let her eyes fall shut as she smiled. "Of course."

This was a much better way to prove drift compatibility than the staff fighting.

The End