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John stood by his bunk, half undressed, when he paused for a moment. Do I feel lucky? It wasn't too late – he could still go check on her, see if she'd like some company. But then he imagined it, saw himself standing outside her door as it closed in his face. He wasn't ready to stand there like that. Not tonight, not now.

He climbed into bed and lay there with his arm flung out over the space where she should have been. Couldn't stop playing back the night before, the whole sorry mess. There they had been, naked, home free. Then – BANG – she was blasting: "No more. I can't stand it. It bores me."

Bores me.

Whiplash. Hammered. Slammed to the wall.

Hell, you'd think I'd be used to it by now. This crap was starting to wear him down. There weren't any minor mistakes, with her – the last time they tanked, it took half a cycle to get back to "Go." Do we have that kind of time?

The night before last, she was here, right here. And she'd come to him. And waking, that morning – he'd opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was her. Aeryn. Looking right at him. With him all night. Still there. You're not the only one wanting this, man.

He buried his face in the pillow; it still smelled like her, and that helped, somehow. He thought, she was really here, and finally that let him nod off.

The dreams weren't too bad.

The next day she surprised him again. Walked up behind him and cut right to the chase: "Where did you sleep?"

"Uh, in my bunk."

"You can sleep with me," she said, just that, before turning to go.

What? "But you – " She turned back, and he tried to regroup. "You were gone. In the morning. Figured you didn't want me around."

"Crichton, must you – " She stopped. Looked cornered, almost. "Do we have to talk about everything?"

No, just the stuff that keeps me awake. Something must have shown on his face, because she softened.

"John – " she said, "It wasn't all bad. I'll see you later." She walked away.

He leaned against the wall, rubbing his face, feeling weary. She didn't seem mad, not at him, anyway. She keeps coming back. Even after the other night, something had made her stay. Sure be a big damn relief if he knew what that was. Help a guy get himself back up on the horse, if he knew what the hell just happened.

He grimaced and combed his hands through his hair. Not much chance you'll be getting that briefing. Not anytime soon. Better get off his butt and get busy, or he'd drive himself nuts by tonight. Hey, cheer up. At least you're back in the game.At the end of the day, he stripped off his clothes and stepped into the shower. He tilted his head back, took the hot water full in the face for a while, then soaped his hair. He'd ruffled his hair on her breasts. She liked that move. Do that again, for sure. He relaxed and stood under the spray, taking a few deep, steamy breaths. There was his cock, sticking out, ready for action. Son, he thought fondly, you're worthless. So long since you've seen a naked girl, you can't hardly get to the corner and back, without going off. Her touch made him crazy. He'd barely gotten it out of his pants. If you don't watch out, you'll be running the same play tonight. Make her think that's the only thing you can do. Be better to take the edge off, right now.

He turned the jets down, let the water play lightly over his back, just enough to keep warm. He lathered the soap in his pubic hair, stroked himself idly, wondering what this stuff smelled like. Nothing he recognized, just another alien smell. Man, remember how Ivory smelled. All those teen-aged orgasms, just a boy and his soap – imprinted him on that soap for life, could probably give him a hard-on today. If he ever smelled it again, of course. He did like the texture that this had, though, nice coefficient of friction. He was stroking slowly, easy, water trickling down his shoulder blades.

That soft, loose rhythm carried him back, to warm fingers squeezing him, slowing him down. 'Take it easy, Rocket Boy. Go with the flow. We've got all day.' Funny to think about Alex, now. She had her stuff, no doubt about that, she had her shit, but she'd given him more than she got. Did the best you could at the time, I guess. Another one where you had it all planned. Pop the question, give her that diamond, cut to the fade out. Such a hot-shit planner, writing the script for somebody else. Must not have needed her, man, not really. Going out west never crossed your mind. Those Delvians nailed him on that one, for sure – made her Co-Pilot Barbie, solved all those problems to suit himself

Yeah, Alex had let him off easy – no scenes, no demands. Picture Aeryn doing that, taking his shit. Godspeed, John Glenn. No, she'd ream him, for sure. He smiled and stroked harder, seeing her face. Whatever played over her face looked good. God, what a face. What a force of nature. Momentum, inertia, gravity, Aeryn. Laws of physics, shit that a mortal man shouldn't mess with. Just hang on, son, try not to fall off, ride that sonofabitch on down. He was breathing harder, getting close.

'You touch yourself... often?' Hell, yes, I do. Best way to be sure that I'm real, sometimes. Still got my body. One thing that feels right. Now, that was a stunner. Never entered his head that she'd find that strange. But, yeah, it could fit with the Peacekeeper stuff. Why are you off by yourself, here, soldier? You ought to be with the other troops. Somebody be glad to relieve that tension. Don't sit around and play with yourself. Might start to like something that's not regulation. You might get ideas. She came from a different place, all right. Try to remember that.

Would he ever find his way with her? He'd sure slammed into that wall last time. Got full of himself and missed her signals. Yeah, those flashing red lights, those tornado sirens, shot right past 'em. Totaled that sucker. Driving all wrong for conditions. Hadn't known where the hell he was. You were with her, that's where. Right next to her frelling amazing body, doing stuff he'd been dreaming about for years. Had his mouth on her breast, his hands all over, her hands on his cock. That was fine, damn fine. He heard himself groan, felt the urgency mounting. He turned to the side, propped his arm on the stall, found a solid stance. Watch where your center of gravity is, keep yourself balanced. Hell, he lived off balance. Crashed into walls left and right, one frelling pratfall after another. Stooges in space, stick his thumb in her eye. Well, try to stick with what seems to feel good. This, for example, feels pretty good.

Good thing he was braced. When he came, he came. All at once, out of nowhere, with plenty of force. He was jerking his hips, rocked back on his heels. You're a cheap date, sonny. Something I've always liked about you. The smells of his body mixed with the alien soap. He reached to turn the water back up, letting it pound him, letting it wash him down.

She wants it, too. Just leave some room in the plan for her.

Half an hour later he stood in the passageway, thinking about his next move. Tonight the door to her quarters was closed. Better knock, he sure didn't live here. What was it she'd said, exactly? 'It wasn't all bad.' Not the most encouraging line in the world. No, be fair. 'You can sleep with me.' That had been pretty clear. Suck it up and knock. The door opened faster than he expected, and he jumped back with his knuckles still raised. There she was, looking a little amused, like she'd been standing right there. Okay. Fine. Pratfall Number One. Let me entertain you, babe.

"Are you coming in?" she finally asked.

"Uh, yes." At least you bit back the 'ma'am,' he thought. He stepped in, and the door shut behind him. She was wearing her usual tank and her shorts, her hair in a braid. His cheeks were burning. Shit, am I blushing? Hey, if that made her less tense, then it's worth it, it's fine. She walked to the bed and watched him from there. Bare feet. A guy didn't see those that often. Seemed like a good sign, those naked toes. He managed to cross the room without tripping. As he sat, he regained his powers of speech. "Hey," he said.

"Hey," she answered.

Okay, we've got two of us sitting here, got the door closed, no alarms going off, nobody's mad. This is good, so far. She was sitting cross-legged, watching him, silent. "You look good," he said, and she nodded. "I've always liked how you look in those shirts." She looked a little less happy, at that. Danger, Will Robinson! Grown-ups ought to be smoother than this. Haven't been this freaked since my voice stopped cracking. Were zits popping out on his face right now? Could she smell his fear?

He fell back on the bed, his hands pressed to his eyes. "I give up," he moaned. "Let's get it over with. Say I'm an idiot. Put me out of my misery."

She scooted closer. Through his fingers he saw her above him. "Crichton," she said, "You are not making sense."

"Yeah, I know." He lowered his hands. "I'm so glad to be here – " Scared shitless I'm going to screw this up –"Mostly... kind of paralyzed, really. That make any sense?"

"I don't know," she said. She seemed to be considering the question. "But I think I... understand." After a moment, she lay down beside him. They lay there regarding the ceiling, just taking a break together.

Something was screaming, 'Roll over, roll over. You're thinking too much. Shut up and grab her.' Just bury his face in her body. Would that be a plan? Just cut to the chase? That was one way to go, it definitely was. A guy could use a few choices, here. Tap dancing, maybe? Burst into song? Or burst into tears, would that be an option? Would she scoop him into her big, strong arms? Did she know that script?

He felt her moving and turned to look. She was taking her shirt off. Oh, mama, her breasts. She pulled off her pants and rolled under the sheet. It was all so matter-of-fact. She faced him, propped up on her elbow, her breast peeping out. Naked girl in the bed! Not smiling, not frowning. "Are you going to wear your clothes?" she asked.

"I guess not." He stripped and got under the sheet, and lay facing her, mirroring her pose. He reached out to cup the point of her shoulder, the spot where her skin caught the light; it was as smooth as it looked. He took a deep breath. What the hell came next?

Here he was, alone with his girl. Seemed like he ought to have more of a clue. Not like he hadn't done this before. But this room, this girl – they were nowhere he'd ever been. Uncharted, all right. How did we get here from there? After what we've been through, how can this be so... hard? All those trips through hell and back, all their history, right there with them, it ran so deep, so clear it was painful. "We've... been through a lot," he said. Things there aren't any words for. "And you've managed to keep us alive."

That got him a smile. "It's not easy," she said dryly.

He smiled himself, at that. He brushed a strand of hair from her face. "I'm guessing we can survive this, too."

"We have so far."

Better odds than I get, a lot of days.

He felt such fondness for her, right now. His friend, Aeryn Sun. Such a natural thing to lean forward and kiss her. Yeah, that was an excellent thing to do, no doubt in his mind. He ran his hand down her arm, and their hands clasped tightly, finding each other, their bodies melting together. This was all he needed, all he'd been living for, everything here. He reached around her, drawing her closer, running his fingers over her cheekbones, her temples, the lines of her face, her powerful face, and every bit of her perfect, right. He felt her press closer, crushing against him. His whole body ached for her. Touching her only made him want more. Total awareness, sharp and deep, of every touch, of how much he wanted her, wanted her happy,

 – whatever you want –

He put his mouth close to her ear, and spoke very softly. "Baby, what would you like?"

"Crichton, you always – " She stopped, and he held his breath. Easy. Wait. "All right. You keep asking." Her voice was quiet, but it had an edge. "I think, I want... to look at you. Just – look."

"We could do that," he said, carefully, trying to keep his voice in neutral. Of course we could. That's easy. No sweat.

"All right," she said. Like she'd been ready for more of a fight, wary there might be a trick.

Dummy, he thought. Such an obvious thing. Alien bodies. Oh hell, let her have the wheel for a change.

Her heart was pounding. Why had she said that? It had been on her mind, on duty, all day – but what was she thinking of doing, really? Things never stayed easy, when they were together. He would do something, want something. She could never relax for long. She shook herself. Too late. You said it. It was one thing to look when he was asleep, but now – here he was. Awake. Right here. Don't back down. Do it.

Feeling awkward, she pulled back the sheet. Just a naked male. He lay back on the pillow, watching her, waiting. Only a body. Insane to want anything so badly. To want... what? She let herself look. His nipples were quite small, surprisingly dark, almost brown; his neck and shoulders well-muscled, pleasing to look at. Her eyes ran along the line of his chest as it narrowed down to his waist. Shadows pooled in the hollows above his hips. Hair grew more darkly, more thickly, above his cock. That's where you could see that he wasn't Sebacean. So why shouldn't things be different, with him? He's alien, strange. She kept looking, searching. He does sex strangely. Of course he makes me feel strange.

"You know," he said, "It would be okay – you could use your hands. If you wanted to do that." Was he mocking her? No, his face was steady. Only a smile in his voice. He made her feel like she didn't know what to do next. So frelling annoying. She annoyed herself.

All right, then. She ran her palms down his chest, pressing lightly, going with what she was seeing: the curves and the lines, the resilience of muscle, the sharpness of bone. And over it all the warmth of his skin, so smooth, where he had no hair. Her hands came to rest on the bones of his hip. You've touched plenty of men, before. Nothing special, here. Nothing to warrant alarm.

He was smiling now. "I like your hands," he said. "You can do that any time." He was watching her closely. His eyes always followed her. Always looking. How he stared at her when she was failing, dying, her paraphoral severed, hating his pity, trying to hide. All the foolish, dangerous, things he had done. Everything they had cost him. All going back to his stubbornness. All going back to her. This is that man. This is his body.

Tonight his cock was relaxed, short and soft, resting against his groin. Not in need of release, not even ready for sex right now. She slid her palm under, and felt its small weight. Normal skin, soft and warm, resting there in her hand. She wrapped her fingers around the whole thing, making it disappear. As she leaned forward, his fingertips drifted over her hair, her shoulder. So strange that he liked her to look. He was shifting, settling, changing the way the shadows fell.

She squeezed his cock, thinking of the times she had touched it blindly. Moving downward, she brushed against the hair that grew all around it, and came to his boys. She looked at those closely. So curious, alien – bumpy and furred. Like the rest of the hair on his body, wiry but far less coarse than it looked. She touched them, lightly. The skin right behind them – that was his softest spot, so far. But the boys themselves – too strange to describe. Flopping loosely. Dangling. Comic. She gave one a squeeze.

He yelped. They both jumped as he grabbed her wrist. "No!" She drew back in alarm. He took a deep breath and eased his grip. "Careful, babe. Those are easy to hurt. You never want to squeeze them too hard."

"Sorry... Should I not touch?"

"Uh, just go easy." He let her go.

"Understood," she said, quickly.

He reached for her hand and brought it back, with that smiling shrug. "Hey, we're both still learning our way around."

His cock had retreated, smaller again. She stroked once, slowly, from the tip to the base. He seemed to like that, so she repeated the action.

"You don't need to be so delicate, there. That's pretty robust." He was relaxing, lying back.

She squeezed and felt him pulse in response. It grew wider, thicker, gathering weight, but lively, alert. The base of it thickened, before the tip. Every time she looked it was different again, changing its shape. As it filled, it seemed more naked; the skin stretched tight, and grew very thin – transparent, almost. Layers showed underneath it. A lot to see – tiny blood vessels, ridges, places where one part curved into the next. Even the boys were changing, drawn up, making a sort of base for his cock, a smoother package. His cock had a bit of a curve, it fit her hand, as it grew too big to enclose. She liked its shape – not Sebacean, of course, but graceful, smooth. And it liked to be touched, it was drawn to her hand.

"You, um... kissed me, there," she said. "Used your mouth."

"I sure did. I do." That made him smile.

"Can I...?"

"You bet." He was grinning, now. "Just don't bite, okay?"

"I won't," she said. Moving down his body, she opened her mouth and touched her lips to the head of his cock. He writhed at her touch. She looked up quickly. "Are you all right?"

"God, yes," he said. She did it again. It tasted a little like kissing his mouth, but stronger, richer. Pleasantly salty. Very smooth. She rolled her tongue around the tip. It affected her, to feel his reactions – that jump in her mouth, how he tensed his legs, that little moan in his throat. It made her want more. She rested her cheek on his thigh, fitting against him, taking his cock a little more deeply, letting it fill her mouth. Just touching him made her tension rise, as if she was soaking him up, through the tips of her fingers, her palms. Her nipples had tightened; she felt a shock when they brushed his skin.

She eased his cock slowly out of her mouth, running her lips along its length. Lay her face above it, resting her cheek on that buffer of hair, rubbing there slowly, inhaling his scent. He was showered, fresh. Just enough smell to know who he was. This particular, alien, naked man. Put her mouth on his thigh, wide open, wet. Tasted the skin inside his legs, high up, the tiny hairs tickling her lip. She had never examined a body so closely, from so close by. She kept finding places that made him moan, or made him laugh, spots she'd never really noticed before. Things she had never thought to try. Well, she'd try them now.

Good thing we had that date in the shower, isn't it, son? He was holding up a lot better this time, he had some reserves. He felt so relieved, and so edgy, too. They were back on track. She was liking this, she seemed to like it a lot. He felt so pulled to do something, anything. Don't push your luck. Touch her wrong, and he'd piss her off – they'd established that. Count your blessings, man. What kind of fool would turn this down? A chance to lie back, let a Hot Naked Space Babe do you? Had he ever, ever laid back this long without knowing what was coming next? Usually he stayed busy in bed. Used to doing his part, making sure everybody had fun. This wasn't his style, that was all. But it was so cool to see her like this. Just shut up and let her explore.

He jumped. What the hell? He'd curled tight in an instant, protecting his belly. Oh. Her hand. She must have reached over, to balance herself. Just caught him off guard. Now she was frozen, looking alarmed. He tried to smile, uncurled himself, rearranging his arms. Man, you're way too easy to spook. Not how he used to be, before. His body was different, his wiring was strange. Like his body remembered. Times he'd been pinned, or exhausted, unable to move – See, that was the problem. When you lie around with nothing to do, that stuff could pop up. Hey, try not to think. Stay out of your head. That's a place where you shouldn't spend time. He shook himself, tried to get back in the groove. Look at this woman you want to be with. She's here. You're with her. Watch her hands, feel where she touched him, look at her serious face.

He didn't have to over-react, as long as he saw where her hands were going, as long as he wasn't surprised. He could stay cool. He was getting into it, taking it easy, getting better at this kind of thing. Maybe he could relax with her. It made him feel hopeful, when he thought that. Her hand grazed his balls, carefully, gently. She stroked the skin underneath, such a delicate touch that he caught his breath. She was finding places that felt mighty good. His cock, of course. The insides of his thighs. All fine places. He petted her skin, just where he could reach, staying in touch.

She smiled without looking up. She was tracing the crease between his cheeks, running lightly down, stroking her fingertips over his ass. She pressed a bit harder, her finger edging inward a bit. He jumped again. Didn't see that coming. Startled as hell. What do you say? "No, honey, that's taboo in my tribe"? "Gee, darlin', the frat boys would call me a fag"?

She was watching him closely, checking for signals. Had to have noticed that jump. He took a breath, trying to clear his head. She knows 'Don't touch.' You could tell her to stop.

He was out of his depth. Treading water about as fast as he could. Hey, she was the one who freaked, last time. Show her how you do a new thing. Could he manage that? He wasn't so sure. Give it a chance. Be cool, you'll be fine. "Uh, if you want to touch there, you need to be slippery." She quirked an eyebrow. Okay, put up or shut up. He grabbed for his pants and fumbled around, came up with a vial. Not what he'd hoped to be using it for, but... "That's very sensitive. Friction would hurt." Felt funny to say that. Felt himself shiver, saying those words. Hey, can't be worse than a medical, man. Gay guys do a lot more than this. She reached across to take the vial from him while he chattered on, her helpful tour-guide. "Uh, lots of nerves there. Just go easy. Go slow." He willed his mouth shut. What a time to be sober. Couple shots of bourbon be great about now.

She stretched up to kiss him, smiling, intent. Something had shifted between them, here. Still smiling, she spread his thighs wide apart. So exposed. Laid out like a gift to the world. That thought made him harder. Made him a little bit queasy as well. Funny to have those feelings together. She ran her fingernail down, very light. Crap, he had gotten jumpy, again. His eyelid was twitching, his jaw seizing up. Easy, there, son. Let's just take a few breaths.

She poured some more fluid and stroked him, exploring. These were parts of his body he usually ignored. They were surely there now, alert to those curious fingers that twirled at that tight little dip. Had she done this before? Would he gross her out? Her finger slipped inward and paused in a ring of muscle. Her hand. In him. His body went rigid. What a belle he was, to be breaking a sweat for that little touch. Did she see his nerves? So what, if she does? Thank God for the lube. He was tense, all right. Good thing you're a sensitive, liberal sonofabitch – Normal guy'd be freaking out, about now. If he had a brain in his head.

"Whoa. Hold still a microt." Her touch was enormous, firm and cool. The sensation was strange, not exactly bad. He felt his cock making slight little moves, sympathy twitches. Relaxing, now, that's a great idea. That would be a smart move. How do we do that? He flexed a few muscles, trying to find the relevant ones. He'd spent his whole life making friends with his cock, but this made him feel like a clueless kid. Try to put things together, try to match the words with the flesh. She was watching him closely. "Uh, why don't you play with my cock a little?" Let me get used to this. Her very first touch to his cock made it jump, made his whole body move, made his ass grip her finger. Oh. Those muscles. There. Pleased to meet you. He took a deep breath. She slipped out her fingertip. Swept up more lube, then slipped back in, that first little bit. His hips jumped on both moves, out and in. He could feel his cock jerk, he could feel how it pressed at her hand.

"You really react," she said. Had her interest, all right.

"It's a lot," he said. Her stroke on his cock was casual, off-hand. She was intent, inquiring, focused inside him. Calm down, man, get back in the zone. He breathed deliberately, deep and slow – IN... mississippi, OUT... mississippi... He did it again, and it did make the buzz in his chest settle down. Do that some more. Easy, deliberately, taking it slow. She was moving her finger a little bit, now. Something gave her permission to move. Things down there must be easing up, too. Not bad at all. Just odd. New sensations, vivid, strong, where things were usually blank. Those are really swell nerves. Made him swallow hard, made his shoulders hunch, made him roll his head on his neck.

Such a slow, silky creep. She had the idea. Every stroke made him twitch, made him feel something more, without really doing a thing. Kind of interesting tension, just had him off balance. Didn't know what would be next. He shifted, and she looked up, checking. Hey, fair is fair. "It's... kind of intense," he said. "Don't quite know what to... do with it all." Was that sympathy that crossed her face? Whatever it was, she didn't stop. Breathe, that's all you need to do.

He could breathe like a champ. He was a trained professional, man. He embraced that challenge. He worked to relax. Suck it in, huff it out, just let it all go. It dawned on him that his weight was shifting, edging down toward her, his body wanting to help. Oh, God, this is sex. He shook his head. Of course it is, bozo. What did you expect? Not this, for sure. She's doing me, here. The base of her finger fit into place, her knuckles against his body already. She swept with her finger, around, around. It seemed surreal, to be watching her face as she felt her way, exploring inside him. She found a hot spot, a knot, something different. He jumped.

"What's that?" she asked.

Took a second to get to the words. "That's... my prostate," he gasped. "My gland. Where the fluids build up."

"Is it good to touch?"

Uh, ask my doctor. "Should be. Try it."

She stroked it lightly, pressed and released.

His stomach tightened. "It's – that's a lot," he breathed. His cock was fading back, dwindling. Too much going on. She looked where her hand was pointing. Her other hand reached to stroke his abdomen, and pressed firmly down. Made him gasp. Bunch of rapid breaths. "God, I – Wow – between your hands." She almost blushed, she looked so pleased. Turned on, too, and seeing that nearly set him off, but he got it back under control. His face was prickling, his skin felt tight. Lube on her other hand, hand to his cock, Oh, my. A wave crackled through him, shook his belly, went to his feet. Nothing he'd ever felt before, and he liked it. A lot. No lie. He wanted to feel it some more. A smart guy would say that. "Oh, baby – that's good."

Another swirl of her hand. "That?" she asked.

"All of it. Good together." She was nodding, listening. His cock was jumping. She'd hit its root. Didn't know you could get here from there. His cock seemed to go further in, further down, than he'd ever noticed before. Warmth spread around it, below it. He felt cautious, his whole body felt cautious. There were feelings here that he didn't expect. "Oh, babe," he said sharply. Caught a ragged breath. "Oh, God!" His voice was louder, more urgent. Tremors, buzzing. His hips were twisting, his arms were tense, his senses flooded. Flash flood, washout, forces of nature, acts of God. His chest was never this sexual before, his belly, his back.

"Is that good?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah." He laughed. "Good's the right word for that." Rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. Eyes watering, wet. He stretched his jaw wide. Relax. Let it roll. Don't try to hold it. He was hit by an impulse for more. "Aeryn, baby, another one, please." His mouth felt dry. Did I say that out loud? She looked unclear, not sure she'd got it. He ran his tongue over his teeth, his lips. "Two fingers, babe. Very slick." She nodded, and she slipped easily in. So easy. Who knew? He was stunned by how much he wanted it all. Too much. It flashed right by. Like this too much for a straight boy, for sure. He groaned. What bullshit. You're hopeless, man. This wasn't a test. This was him, with her. This is how you do a new thing.

Another wave in his chest, in his throat, in his throat. He swallowed hard. His shoulders were trembling. So much. "Can you kiss me?" he asked. She stretched up to reach him, without breaking contact. Smart girl. He curled his torso to meet her. So right to have her mouth on his, to feel her flesh, her tongue. And she was in, as far as she went. Just like that. Astonishing nerves. He broke the kiss, the small of his back rolling hard to the bed. Her fingers pressed again on his gland. God bless. Light shot up his spine. He felt stupid with need.

"Oh, touch my cock. Please." She was on it, at once. Swept her wet palm across it. A strangled cry from deep in his throat. She jumped. Looked rather impressed. What, commandos didn't make noises like that? She was watching him hungrily, caught in his tension. His body was thrumming, glowing. C'mon, Crichton, it's only a feeling. Let it run through you. Just do like you told her to do. He had to laugh. She looked at him, curious. He said what popped into his head: "Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." Her look was baffled. Well, that didn't make a lick of sense. Try that again.

"It's just – it can scare me, too." She smiled, and he shook his head, laughing. "God, I love you, Aeryn." He felt a thrill at her smile, a jump in his gut. He'd become her accomplice. She could fly him, all right. His whole life, back home, he'd always loved thrill rides. Wall of Death. Cyclone. This was a great one. She was inching him up something awfully steep, unimaginably high, and he felt every step, every click of the gears. The air was getting real thin, up here. His ears might pop from the altitude, hell, his ears might bleed. When he came to the top there'd be nothing but sky in front of his face, before the drop. The drop. God knows where that led.

Do you trust her, John? He laughed at that. Ought to stop laughing. Must sound ridiculous. Not very suave. Kind of hysterical, really. A hand on his belly, stroking, soothing. Breathe. Just breathe.

It seemed like advice a smart guy would take. Pull it deep. Let it go. Feel that rush. He had never been this naked. Not ever. Helpless, laid open, riding the wave that came next. Blood. He tasted blood. Must be biting something. He opened his mouth, turned his face into the pillow. Bite that instead.

Harvey's voice interrupted, touched with alarm. 'John, John. You're losing control.' Old sights, old smells welling up, crowding in.

He shook his head sharply. Enough of that shit. Don't let that start. He needed to focus. Reality check. He opened his eyes. Aeryn. Her face. Ran his hand down his body. Checked for his cock. Still there. Distracted, softened, just not the center of things right now. Take a break, little fella. The boys were so there. Pulled up so tight, they were hard to his touch. His own fingers brushing their hairs made him shiver. She watched him closely, each move he made.

He moved his hand lower and, God, there she was. Her strong, smooth hand. And those fingers were gone. Buried. He spread his hand over hers, pressed it, caressed it. His eyes filled with tears. Where the hell did that come from? Inside me, I guess. She was so calm. Why the hell not? This was fine with her. Whatever else they had done to her, a body was only – a body. No one had shamed her. No one had snatched her hand away. What else could she bear? What all was okay, out of all his secrets and shames? He heard moaning, crooning, noises coming from under the earth. As if we're anywhere near an earth. From something that went that deep, in him. In me. She wanted that, and I'm letting her do it. The thought split him open from head to waist, in one clean stroke. It shot through his chest, his gut, a deep blue shock that left him astonished and dazed.

She has to feel this. She has to know. He looked at her helplessly, mute, and she flicked her fingers deliberately. Delicate, fleeting, relentless, huge. Yes. That. God. Please. His head thrust back on his neck. Oh. My legs – Impossible waves around his cock. Flop like a fish, like a frog. OH. Did I. Come? No, I'm still – Event horizon, hang at that brink forever. A yawning gasp. Lips dry on his teeth. He tested, tensing, pressing his muscles, flexing his cock, felt himself tighten around her. More. No. MORE. Does that hurt? Don't know. Don't care. Something cool on his cheek, wonderful cool. Brightness. Buzzing. Glare. Singularity. Jesus. God.

Exhale. No, inhale. A great, round breath. What was left of his brain thought, Holy shit, Holy Mother, I'm cool with this, how'd I miss this 'til now?  – his flesh luscious, open, greedy for more, while something else howled at him, Mayday! Mayday! We're all gonna die! His teeth were grinding. He clutched at her wrist. Too much. Too confused. "Oh, stop." She obeyed in an instant, pulling out swiftly. A rush in itself. Nothing left in his lungs. Hey, inhale. He was choking, coughing. Damn, I keep forgetting to breathe.

"Did I hurt you?" she asked.

"No. Uh – " Breathe. Breathe. He checked with the troops, pulling together an answer. "You were just right."

"Then why did you stop me?"

Good question, babe. He lay wiping his eyes. Getting that grip back. "It – I was afraid – it would be – too much. Needed a break. Something else."

"All right." Her face hovered over him. "What else, then?"

"God, whatever you want. I don't have very far to go."

Well, she liked how he felt in her mouth. She bent over his groin and caught the head of his cock in her lips. That made him gasp. She licked her lips and dropped her mouth downward, taking him in. Felt the pleasure of sucking, the pressure of his flesh against hers, stroking the roof of her mouth. A moan was coming from deep in his throat. She ran her hand up his thigh, his side. He was oddly still. His body felt stiff and contained.

He said, "Tell me you're here." His voice sounded strange, tight, like a pilot in trouble, a tremor under the disciplined calm. Command, we've got a problem.

"What?" She stopped to look, raising her head.

"Give me an anchor. Say. My. Name."

"John," she said sharply. His face was twisting.

"You leather-faced freak, get the fuck out of my HEAD!" he roared. She jumped back as she realized: the clone was there.

"Frell that, John," she snapped, without a thought. He was trying to speak. She sat up over him, straddling his thighs. "John. Look at me." He stared at her, pleading, his whole face a question. "That's right. You're with me." Her hand was still on him, and she squeezed him again. Feel that.

He flung his legs wide, stretched across the bed. His heels gripped hard at each edge of the mattress. His long legs were straining tight as he pressed. She could feel their force, how the muscles bulged. "Yes," she said, her voice low and fierce. "Stay with me. " He stared in her eyes, and then let his eyes close. His head rolled back hard. He was frowning intensely, his brow deeply furrowed, his eyelids squeezed tight. His lips flared open, baring his teeth. It looked like work. It looked like pain.

'Anchor,' he said. Keep him here. "John. I have you."

"Harder," he groaned. She gripped his shaft tightly, forcing more blood to his crown, working her other hand up and down 'til he caught his breath.

"Here. Right here." She could feel tiny flickers under his skin. She could not wrench her eyes from his face – he still had that grimace, utter tension. His hands clutched at her knees, her thighs. Still gripping the bed with his heels. "Yes, John. That's right," she urged, as she twisted her palm, as something went free. And there he was.

His body was thrashing. His fist was hitting the bed. He was making a strangled, sobbing noise. She watched, excited, a little alarmed. Warm liquid surged out, going over her hands. It seemed like a great many surges. A fresher smell, stronger, so much warmth. But his face – she was riveted there. He looked dazzled. Astonished. Helpless. Shocked.

"Come here. Come here." He choked it out. She scrambled up and he clutched her tight. He was slick with sweat. She kissed him, hard.

"Oh, babe," he managed. "It goes... past words."

She kissed him again, over and over. Rocked him. When she finally stopped, he was coming back, although he still looked a bit stunned. "I guess there's a lot – I've had a pretty tight lid on." He smiled, just a little off-kilter. "That was kind of news to me, too."

She had watched it all, hungrily. Studied his face like a map. Where had he gone? Could a person still breathe there? Find their way back? Every muscle that played on his face, his jaw, his eyes, she had watched. Something in her wanted to know, to see how it went, see where it took him.

She had watched him tense, and coil, and fill. How he willed himself to lie back, to yield. His fear, his trust. Saw him ambushed and struggling, and felt him tip over the edge. Watched his wordless fall, rode with him down... And here he was, holding her tightly. Naked, amazed. It made her want something. It just made her want.

He stirred and she realized he had dozed off; she gently disengaged herself and got out of bed, looking for her clothes. She had her shirt on when he opened his eyes. He looked confused. "You're all... sticky," she said, when he didn't speak at once.

He looked down at himself, blinking. "Yes, I am," he said. "And I'll fix that. Soon. As soon as I've got back control of my legs." He let his eyes close. She sat beside him, grabbing his discarded shirt and leaning over to wipe off his chest.

"It's okay, I got it," he said, taking the shirt from her and dropping it on the floor. "Just watch me. I'll shower like a man." He sat up, and then got to his feet. "I'm up!" he announced triumphantly.

She felt herself smiling. "You are always washing."

"Hey, you grow up in a hot, sweaty place, you appreciate a good shower." He pulled her along, grinning at her. "Come on, join me."

"You want me to... take a shower with you? Now?"

"I could wash your back, make myself useful." He ran his thumb down her body, coaxing. "C'mon, you'll like it. Pin up your hair."

She went along with him because in the end there wasn't any real reason not to. He didn't talk much in the shower – He moved carefully, like someone who'd gotten a little bit drunk, but he stopped to kiss her when they stumbled together. Back in bed, she touched the ends of his damp hair. He caught her hand when she started to take it away again, placing it against his chest and spreading his own on top of it so her fingers lay flat. Held it there, over his heart. "So, baby," he said, "when I dozed off, I owed you. Big time."

"I'm fine. I can sleep."

"You're sure? There's nothing you'd like?"

She thought for a moment. " Before – you looked surprised..." She wasn't sure what she was trying to ask, but he seemed to understand.

"Well, you blew my brains out. In a good way." He smiled, his face taking on that distant look before he glanced back to meet her gaze. She fit herself close to him, head on his shoulder, feeling the tension gone out of his body. His hand had found the edge of her breast, a long, sure stroke from her arm down her side.

"Aeryn," he said, like he loved to say that. She felt his voice vibrating, under her ear. "Nothing prepared me for you."

After that he was quiet, and if he dreamed, neither of them knew it.