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They rolled under the covers, their bodies tangled. He was rumpled and dazed and so jazzed, so happy – wake-up sex had always been one of his favorites. High-octane, luxurious. He fumbled around, dropped his head to her chest, caught her nipple with a sweep of his tongue. No fancy moves – he was sloppy, comic, sucking her skin, grinding his cock against her leg. Still a little bit drowsy, pleasantly stupid, his body just seeking her, rubbing against her, doing the obvious stuff. His hand worked insistently, making her squirm. She was wrestling back, grabbed hard to restrain him, gripping his forearm –

NO. Not that. He froze, flooded. Alarm kicked in. He struggled backward. She followed him, laughing. He twisted and yanked. Get the hell away. They'd broken apart. She was catching on that it wasn't a joke. He was wide awake, now. Swallowed his nausea, forced back the fear. "Sorry – Wow. That's a new one, huh?" He was shaking his head, tried to shake it off. She'd recoiled, herself. She was poised to spring, ready to grab him, ready to take Harvey on – My bodyguard. The picture blurred. Must be tears in his eyes.

She was watching him closely. "Sorry," she said, in that neutral voice. No offense. No problem. It's handled already. She was easing toward him, keeping it very low-key. Going slower now, keeping all her moves in his line of sight. A practiced response. God, it pissed him off, that they had to tiptoe around this crap.

"Don't," he said. "I mean – Do that again."

"John, I don't want – "

"Aeryn, Goddammit, I want you to touch me." Uh, that came out a little intense. He reached to her face and softened his voice. 'Run your hand back around it. Let's see what happens. Work back up to that squeeze."

They both watched her do it. As her easy touch tightened into a grip, he willed himself not to jerk away. Hadn't noticed that spot as a problem, before. The scars on his forearm and wrist were faint, had to look hard to see them. Just skin that had roughened, marks where a few little vessels had burst, a little thin patch in the hairs. No big deal. Was it just the restraints? Had some kind of current run through there, somehow? Why did it choke him so bad? Fucking bored with this shit. Repetitious as hell. This just wasn't right. He was smarter than this. Shouldn't keep going off, when I get it, I get it. 'Hi, there, I'm Trauma Boy.' Made him feel like a crip. I got Issues, huh? Hey, got that fucking insight already. Got insight right out the wazoo.

So, get yourself past it. Floor that sucker. Blow out the cobwebs. He watched her hand, felt himself trembling. Okay, then, just ease up on the brakes. His breath had gone shallow, cautious, tight. His heart was pounding. He lay back, willing himself to breathe deeply, to get his autonomics back down. Tears pooled in his eyes, slid down his face. What am I doing? Hell if I know. Crying, I guess. He was letting it happen. It didn't really feel out of control. Not yet, anyway. No sound, no drama. Just tears rolling out as her fingers pressed. As she held his arm down, he felt so... sad. That pressure, there, on his wrist. He pulled the air all the way to his belly. How bad can it get? She didn't seem freaked. She sat balanced and still – if he did flip out, he had his spotter. No problem at all. And no sign of Harvey. Sort of weird, to be left alone to deal. But so far, so good.

"Both arms," he said. "Hold down both my arms." She looked at him sharply. You sure about that? Hell, no. But I'm sick of this shit. Something was clutching his heart, his throat – the thing in his arms ran somewhere deep, and it felt really... fragile. Breakable. Mortal. Doomed. Eyes wanted to shut. Get away. Away. He forced his eyes open. Look at her hands. She held him expertly, plenty of strength. He was pinned until she let him move. She could spring if she had to, she still held her center of gravity back. All that pressure was just from the strength in her arms. Never fuck with a trained professional, man. Those hands had killed. Soldier. Commando. Peacekeeper. Fuck. She could kill me right now. A bubble of panic, his body twisted, his heartbeat went nuts. The thought felt crazy. Her. This is her. That's her hand. He saw that his fists were clenching hard. White knuckles, all right. Hey, open your hands. Stretch your fingers out. Not easy to do. Fingers wanted to curl, curl tight. He watched them open, slowly, distantly, like he was watching a tape. So fucking bizarre. While she held him still, her thumbs stroked slowly, up the taut muscle, over the knots.

What shocked him was, it didn't hurt. It just welled up. Immense, unspeakable. Letting it happen – that's what was hard. Not making a fist, not clenching his jaw. Just lying there, sadness flooding his chest. It wasn't what he expected to find.

Her voice came so quietly. "What was the worst?"

He cleared his throat. "Just wanting it to be... over." His voice in his ears seemed detached, remote. Not like a guy who's crying, huh? "Knowing I couldn't be strong enough. To get free." He looked up at her face. Her eyes wide open, her face so still. Her grip stayed firm. Not tight enough to mess him up, just... solid. On standby. All set to wade in and cover his back. She's not gonna let you hurt yourself. Cross that off the list. And, sonofabitch, I'm cool with that. She'd seen him a lot further gone than this. And she was still here. Hell, I've seen you dead. Takes more than it used to, to scare us, I guess. He worked on that breathing. Took him a while to say any more. "You know what?" That sound was so soft, when it finally came out. It's okay. She's okay. "I don't even know which time it was." That brought more tears.

She nodded slightly. Her eyes never wavered. No alarm, no disgust. "You made it, you know."

He actually laughed. "No thanks to me. You. Gilina. D'Argo. Whoever." His throat was loosening. "Somebody always hauled me out."

She shrugged. "You made it. You're here."

"Oh, yeah. I'm here." His vision was clearing, his chest didn't feel so crushed. "Still slogging around through all my shit. Dragging you with me."

"Oh, shut up, Crichton." A pretty good run at her teasing voice. Her grip had relaxed. Okay. It's okay. She just held him lightly, keeping in touch. I guess I'm done. Felt like plenty for now.

He twisted his arms so they lay palm up, and squeezed her wrists. There they both were, that double grip, hand on arm, arm in hand. Enough to haul you back up a cliff. He pulled her down and she let herself drop. He opened his mouth and there she was, a wet, deep kiss that turned hard and fierce. And he could still breathe. No problem. Where were we?

He groped for his shirt to wipe his eyes, and lay there looking up at her face. She colored a little, and bit her lip. Such a girlish move, like a child biting back a question, a wish, hesitation flitting across her face. He wanted her, now. Right now. It flashed through his body, suddenly so aware of her skin, her warmth, her weight, her scent. That familiar mixture of lust and relief. His hard-on was back, no doubt about that. It was straining toward her, leaking moisture, begging for touch. "God, I want to move." He blurted it out. "Want to work my way there." He ran his hand between her legs. "Could I frell your thighs?" She nodded, indulgent, almost amused. 'Earth sex? Why not?' She rolled them both, pulling him over.

He stretched and reached for the liquefied silk. He ran his wet hand between her thighs, slicking her, tickling those muscles, that smooth, warm skin. He slipped his cock where his hand had been. When she squeezed him in greeting, it made him gasp. God, she could strangle a man with those. He flashed on their meeting – his body slammed flat to the deck, how she crashed down over him, straddled his neck. Damn straight, she could. He felt himself grinning. "I love you, Aeryn. I love who you are." She kissed him harder, pulling him deep.

He rose up above her, feeling his arm muscles tighten and strain. The ache wasn't bad. Took a long, deep breath, before he let himself fall and pump. Two-person push-ups. God, that feels good. Swinging his hips, finding his angle, driving downward, full throttle, full bore. He wanted to run as fast as he could, wanted to yell 'til the dogs went nuts, wanted to holler his lungs out.

His body took over the rhythm, the moves. But he still kept watch. Don't get stupid, don't slip, gotta know where every stroke goes. That part of his brain never went off duty. No way that I harm this woman again. But he knew, he knew, this was just a taste. Pretty soon, he could drive himself all the way into her, where he should be. Just get that Retrieval Squad off their tail – Next Sebacean planet, next commerce planet, we'll get this straight, and we'll have it all. Not a thing off limits. Nothing held back.

She squeezed his cock hard, while she ran her hands around his waist. He seemed unharmed. She stared at his face, so close above her. Between his eyebrows a deep crease formed, a vertical line, his energy brought to a few small points. How much you saw, when you watched his face.

It did excite her. It always did now. She watched him climbing, felt herself frowning along with him, imagining what he might feel. A muffled shout. Another. Yes. His face in spasm. It made her glad. He fell to her arms, and she reached around him, pulled him closer. Her palms on his back, grasping those muscles, molding right to them, loving the feel of his skin. He moaned, his face pressing into her shoulder. He tried to roll off, but she gripped him tightly. "You're good," she said. "Stay there." He sank down, making small, happy sounds.

Well. Except for that detour, that had been basically Wake-up Sex. Not such a familiar thing, before him. Sex with a man who's been hard asleep. When John was at his fastest, most driven. Most like a Peacekeeper. Grab, crash into you, go off explosively – after he's slept the night in your arms.

Strange, the way things kept turning, shifting, falling in place in new ways.

When he roused enough to roll off her body, he lay close beside her, and let himself look. Her skin was so pale, so milky, he had to look twice to see his come. As a kid, that could shame him – leaving a wet spot, making a mess. You could gross a girl out. Still surprised him, how casual she was with it all. He fished again for his poor, abused tee shirt and wiped her clean, used the worn fabric to stroke her thighs. Alien body. Full of surprises. Hell, heat could kill her. His child, in her body – what could that do? Things could go wrong, go wrong out of nowhere. He'd be standing there saying, 'I did that to her.' Not again. Not ever. I'm a selfish bastard. Can't lose you again.

He kissed his way up her thigh, let his cheek rest there. Someday, we might put a child in your body. If they lived long enough to change that much. But someday we might. We know it's a thing we could do. He pressed the heel of his hand on her pubic hair, so his palm, his fingers spread over her belly. These hands knew killing, no different from hers. He felt tenderness, awe, a strange dislocation. Their astonishing bodies. The currents that ran back and forth, all that power. And they had this whole other power, between them. They could make something utterly new. Someday when they had safety, had help. Someday really different from now.

He scooted upward, propping himself on his elbows. He kept his voice as light as he could, as he reached to toy with her hair. "You know how much I love you, Aeryn?"

She shrugged, but she reached to stroke his face. The back of her hand brushed his cheek, his temple.

"You know I love you to touch me," he said.

Her reply came softly. "I know."

"It's worth it. It's always worth it."

"I know."

His hands weren't enough. He needed to get past her skin, her edges. Take me, please. He kissed her again, their mouths wet and open, Connect. Touch base. Touch home. All that before his feet touched the floor.

Before the next shift, she stepped into Command. "Crais," she said calmly, "You have my file.""Yes?"

"I want it."

He gave her a look, but she just stood silently, waiting. He nodded, and walked to the console and keyed a command. A chip popped out, and he gestured toward it. She reached across to collect it. "Thank you."

Just like that. Just ask. Just have to remember, to think to ask. She turned and walked out.

Back in her quarters, she closed the door. The chip clicked into the console, brought up the display. Name, rank, regiment, download date – her file, all right. Surprisingly large, but why wouldn't it be? It was just that she'd never seen one before. Files had never been part of her duty. It was big enough to contain a whole life, a Peacekeeper's life. My life.

When she skimmed the index, the first thing she saw was DEFICIENCIES / DISCIPLINE, right at the top. It made her wonder what might be there.

She could look, if she wanted.

She touched the control.

Not many entries. A few childish risks – the joy of speed, the urge to see what a flyer could do, and – Oh. Xhalax's name jumped off the screen. There was a flaw, no mistake about that. The clip started to run, and she reached to pause it. That small body curled in the bunk, that grave face. My younger self. She had opened her eyes, and the battle-scarred veteran stood above her.

The girl had remembered.

Me. That was me.

She sat a long time, paused on that image. My mother. There was only that night to say she was special. Aeryn Sun, made against the rules. Made on purpose, by people who wanted to make her. Different, unique. Bred well, even coming from renegade stock. She was worth keeping. She never gave them reason to wonder, never made them rethink. She'd told herself she had dreamed it. Kept herself just like the others, kept clear of the questions you shouldn't ask. The rules made everything right.

She shook herself out of it. Back to the search. Screen after screen, the data flashed by:

TRAINING. PERFORMANCE. Scrub runners. Prowlers. Attack School. Offensives, blockades, Leviathan captures, Transport Pilot. Transfer back to Prowlers again. Her hand had gone tense. 'There's something about you – something special – I think you know it.' Nothing that could be changed, or forgiven. Nothing that she could undo. She'd gotten her transfer. Velorek had threatened too much.

Couldn't remember her first times with him. Just recreation. But the night she walked toward Velorek's door and heard herself think, 'I want him' – that was bad, very bad. A moment when it didn't make sense – and then the shame, the anger, the fear. Impossible, bitter – Too many parts. There wasn't room in her skin for those people. All those pieces, fragments, the edges so sharp. She could only feel so much.

No, you can feel more. She remembered huddling in NamTar's lab, DNA going wild, skin splitting open, head pounding with thoughts, every thought at once, thousands of inputs screaming together, the body she knew long gone – the way John's voice cut through it all – 'I'm here to see Aeryn.' He knew it was Aeryn Sun, in there. She knew he would stay. He would think of something, try to do more. Refuse to leave. Refuse to let her suffer alone.

There was still too much to make sense of, and now she had to make room for him.

If they could have sex, it would have to help. Help put things together, help them both feel normal again. That was what she had come to do. Get back to that. She hit the control. MEDICAL. Ah. GENOME. INJURIES. MAINTENANCE. Yes.

She settled in, fully alert. It's a search. Run a pattern. Look for a shot, a procedure, an implant. Start when you left the children's barracks. Sweep each vector, see what you hit.

It took just a few screens, a quick check back, and there she was. The pattern, repeat, what he'd wanted to know, all there in the dates on display. That easy. Just ask. She let out her breath and stood leaning forward, eyeing the screen. John had made it sound like such a large problem. She'd almost expected more of a challenge, expected a longer chase.

She ejected the chip, slipped it securely into her pocket. She might want to look at it more.

She had an impulse to punch the bag, work off some tension. Get herself settled before she saw him. She jogged to the gym, or what passed for a gym. Stripped to her shorts, and stepped up to the bag. Felt a twinge of guilt. Ought to do weights, haven't lifted for days. She knew the danger of letting things slip. Tomorrow, she'd lift.

She found her stance, shadow-boxed for a moment, then let her fist hit the bag.

Finally, we can do something normal.

Keep it simple at first, keep moving. Short fast punches, nothing too heavy, warm up the muscles.

Well, not normal, exactly. It did involve Crichton.
She laughed and threw a pantak jab. But do it right. No holding back, no need to be thinking. Not to be left wanting more. Be good for both of them. Stop his worrying. Just get on with it.

It surprised her to feel a pang of regret. She had gotten accustomed to all that earth sex. There were things she would miss. Might still do them again, some times.

Right cross, left hook, familiar rhythm. Catch the bag as it swings back again.

Couldn't dodge the retrieval squad much longer. Had to keep their edge, be ready to fight.

She put her shoulders into the blows and felt each impact jarring her bones. She shifted attack, went into free motion, keeping good form, the way she'd been trained.

How we used to do it. Just before duty, when time was short – up against walls and sometimes in showers. In barracks, keeping more quiet than usual. Duck into a transport, stacked on the flight line, when traffic was down. Keep your weapons in reach, expecting a scramble.

Wrestle, struggle, test their reflexes, push at each other. Spar with a man and watch how he moves. He'd dare you to take him. After a raid, drunk and wild and pounding with victory, pounding each other. Did you get those bruises in bed, or before? Clumsy on raslak, he got a black eye, and it made her laugh.

This is what you were made for.
Each move exploded out of the last, faster than thought. Her body remembered, her training took over. Hit the bag, sweep her leg in a wide turning kick, punch again, spin.

On leave, in the back rooms of bars, or surrounded by transients in featureless lodgings. Once in zero-g – that wasn't worth doing a second time. Planetside, in a hollow against the hill, just inside the perimeter. Smell the grass where your bodies crush it, feel the gravity drag you downward. The atmosphere makes the stars look distant, barely visible, see the command post lights wink above you. Sentries nearby, keep so quiet you hear your heart pound. Feel the cold air in your lungs. Would you still be breathing the next solar day, either one of you? Alive. Right now.

Turn. Elbow strike. Her hand caught the bag while her fist slammed into it, up into the enemy's guts. Close combat moves, when you've been disarmed.

On a stand-down, aborted, nowhere to go, that edge of frustration that made you go harder, burn brighter, bite deeper than you expect. After a raid, too exhausted to stand, wound up too tightly to rest. Collide. Regroup. Fall hard to sleep. Stumble back to your bunk when you wake to piss.

That life, those rules. Sex was supposed to blot it all out, but she'd felt too much. There had been times... a comrade got transferred, or didn't come back, and you wanted...  What? Something you hadn't been meant to have, things you didn't have words for.

There had been a last time, back on the carrier. What was it like? No memory at all, not who, not when. A last time for everything. Just never knew it. We don't say goodbye. Didn't know she was leaving. Just never got back.

And now – she had this ache in her chest. Keep him safe. So far past wanting. This is what it's like to need someone. Fierce, unthinkable. And here she was, doing it, every day.

Discipline. Focus. Land each blow precisely. Don't slip, don't swing wild, follow through.

Today he had seemed... determined. Brave. Let it bleed clear. Something he'd needed to do. And he needed her there.

One last solid punch. Then she caught the bag with both hands and steadied herself, before she dropped to touch her toes, exhaling as she stretched out her back. Her body, doing its work. A thing to rely on. Her breathing came smoother. She still felt the weight of that file, that life. But she didn't want to hold this longer. She wanted to be in a room with him. She wanted to see his face.

Right. She wiped herself down, pulled on her clothes, and headed out. Found him working the conduits, checking connections low to the deck. She stood over him, looking down at his back.

"I have your answer," she said.

"My what?" he asked. He swiveled to face her, bracing himself with his hand.

"Your answer. When I am fertile," she said. "I'm not."

"What?" He rocked back on his heels. "I missed something, Aeryn. Back the truck up."

"I looked at my file. It was a shot. The protection they gave us. They repeated it every six cycles. Had one three cycles ago. Just before I... left." She looked right at him. "So. It's not a problem."

"Your file?" he asked.

"My personnel file. Crais kept a copy. What the clip of my mother was in. Don't you remember?"

"Your file." He was shaking his head, but his look was admiring. "Of course. Your file." Something inside her relaxed. "Baby, remind me never to piss you off." He was grinning now. "Let's celebrate," he said, as he came to his feet.

"On duty? Again? Eventually people are going to notice." Felt good to tease him.

"You just walked off with the Science Fair, baby." He paused for a kiss. "God, we can go all the way."

They were back in the bed, and she felt him everywhere, legs thrown across each other's bodies, kisses getting more heated, energy crackling between them. Everything was so sharp. He was mouthing her nipples, teasing, suckling. His face slid lower, his plan came clear.

"John, you don't need to do that."

"Oh, yes, I do," he said. A mock growl in his voice. "Need to. Want to. Don't try to stop me." She shook her head. He settled in, and kept at it until she was quivering, trembling. And then he did more, and more, 'til she cried out softly, a strangled sound, breaking through her controls.

He ran his hand up her chest. "You were going to frell me, I think?"

"Yes," she gasped. "I am." He scooted up and dropped beside her. "I liked that," she said, rolling into his arms.

"I liked it, too." His voice had an edge of excitement. He was stroking around her cunt with his hand, checking conditions, his curious touch, exploring, testing.

He kissed her, still touching as he shifted his body, rising above her, guiding himself to the spot where he'd fit. The smooth, broad tip of his cock, so much more than his fingers. Sliding across her, warm and slick – Ah. There. He slipped in smoothly. There. Her eyes shut reflexively. FINALLY. YES. Oh, she had missed this. Been so hungry. He was moving his body slowly, firmly. She rose up to meet his steady thrusts. Follow those strokes, let them take her over, press all around him, pull him deep. She was coaching herself, trying to ride the old rhythm, finally doing the thing she knew best, and it felt so strange. This had always burst with that dammed-up rush, that controlled explosion. But she wasn't tense – at least, not like that. He was too familiar. And her body felt more – he had her more charged, her nerve ends exposed. Direct current flashing between them, no insulation, no buffer. And her heart felt, too – that was always here now. She felt his eyes on her, she felt his hopes, his desires, his fears – she wanted him, wanted his pleasure. I used to have rules.

So much poured in. She lay here un-armored, naked – not even her skin could keep him out. Nothing's the same.

She heard him groan, and it startled her back. He looked stricken, strained. Anger surged through her. Abomination. Indecent scum. She'd climb into his head and throttle the frelling clone herself. Stop whatever this was. "John!" she said sharply, "What?"

"It's – Oh, babe – " He looked... embarrassed? "One flesh," he choked.

Had she gotten that? "A flesh?" she asked. Tears on his face. Something breaking out of control. But his eyes met hers, not that distant stare, not at all. Something else.

He brushed back her hair. "One – My people say that. What we are. Right now – " He swallowed hard, groping for words. "How we fit." His eyes were wide and dark. "It's – as close as I get to you, Aeryn."

"Oh," she said. She was less alarmed. But not exactly relieved.l

His mouth found hers. He ran his hands over her shoulders, around to her back, lifting her toward him. He pressed his hips down, his whole body embracing her, wrapping her, rocking into her, feeling his way, small motions, tight breaths.

She was off balance. Too many inputs that didn't mesh.

He wanted her, wanted what was inside her. The way he surrounded her, drawing her to him. His nakedness. This intensity. How did those fit? Were they doing the same thing, at all? Interference made everything chatter and jam. These other layers, these overlapping displays – they clashed. He drew something from her. That look on his face made her fierce, protective. What could she trust? She felt raw, exposed, just being with him. This particular person, Aeryn Sun – she didn't know how that should feel. Absurd.

Something must have shown on her face. He tried to laugh. "I'm not really like this, Aeryn. Really." Another kiss, more active, distract her. "Crap, don't tell the guys. Lose my union card in a New York minute." Her hand went to his face. She brushed his cheeks, held his head as they kissed. That anchored them both. Here we are. I taste you, I smell you. Here. He groaned and thrust slowly, bracing himself, leveraging into her, each stroke deep and complete. Her hands on his back, cupping his shoulders, stroking down that long sweep of flesh. One flesh? They were so different.

Noises came from him, throat sounds, moans. He was kissing her cheekbone, her eyelids, soaking her up through his lips, like moisture after a desert march, something to keep him alive. "Oh, babe. Oh, God," he murmured, his voice a vibration against her skin. "Aeryn. Aeryn." She felt him gear up. He was here, with her. He lifted his trunk, changing his angle, hovering over her body. His eyes had closed. His brow was wrinkling, making deep creases. His lips were parted, as if he might speak.

"Oh," he said sharply. A sound of utter surprise. And she saw the shockwave, she saw it break out. Her hands went to his waist, to the base of his spine. He shivered and jerked. She felt it under her hands, and she felt the same thing from his cock. He fell against her, his arms reached around her, mouth on her face, on her mouth. Confusion. Their skin, their kiss, how her breasts were squeezed by his weight, rub his back, feel her cock. Yes, my cock. Only mine. So many strange thoughts. This man, no other. All that she needed. What had they done? Something new and strange. She wasn't released, she hadn't come. But she drank him in, too, she pressed his shoulder, his back, cupped her palm over his butt. Massage his back, and feel that same pressure inside herself, inside her body. Now he was laughing, she thought it was laughter.

"John. It's okay," she said quietly.

"Oh, it's more than okay. Way more. God, I love you." His mouth rooted along her neck, her shoulders. "I'm sorry, babe."

"What?" Would he ever make sense?

"Just – didn't mean to go off like that. Got carried away." He pulled back to look at her. Happy. Embarrassed. "I just – " He lowered his eyes and shook his head. It caught at her heart. That simple gesture. That sidelong look.

"Yes, it's all your fault," she said. "Every bit. Entirely. Nothing to do with me." She caught his lip in her teeth and tugged at it gently. She could kiss him. That worked. That felt right. When things got confusing, go back to that. You could start back, again, from there.

He lay there beside her, boneless, blissed, his arm resting over her, feeling her skin. It took him a while to rouse himself.

He kissed his way down her body, greeting each favorite spot. He settled down by her waist, gripping her hips, ran his thumb along her pelvic bones. Her lips were rosy, blooming, glistening – God. That salty sheen. That's mine. Too much to take in. He was undone. His smells. Hers. Amazing blend. Salty and sweet, hayfield and apricots. The smells of their sex, together, mingled. He was kissing her pussy, her clit, every spot, every inch. Flooding himself with her flavors, her textures, greedy for more. His cock was swelling already, so sensitized that he could feel how it grew, feeling that from the inside out.

Oh, God, this is going to feel so good.

A glimpse of his hair, his head bobbing softly down at her belly. His mouth. His tongue. So wet, so luscious. Earth sex, no doubt. No Peacekeeper memories, there. Just float. He propelled her easily, fluid, so warm. No rules, no walls. But connected, attached. A lifeline floating behind her.

He raised his head to look at her, lying back, letting him do what he wanted. Her body relaxed, but her brow was wrinkling. Even with her eyes closed, her face held so much. He shifted toward her, one hand going under her shoulders, the other one finding her clit. Don't need to hold back. It gave him whiplash – last night his come was so toxic, dangerous, something to keep him sober and watchful. Not any more. Now he reached inside her and felt it there, warm and slick, so good on her flesh. He spread it lavishly, making her writhe. She was warm, so warm, where he had been. Where he'd be again soon, often, over and over. A welcoming place, his place. She was moving with him. He loved to feel that, loved to feel her moving against him, wanted that, wanted her totally gone, wanted her over the rainbow before his cock got anywhere near her again. She was moaning softly, almost a hum, hardly a noise at all. Made his cock stir again.

These things she couldn't do to herself, that no one else did. No beacons anywhere. Where were they headed? Made her feel strangely young, without experience, not knowing nearly enough. She opened her mouth and he found her, kissed her.
He circled his fingers around her clit, his thumb slipping briefly into her pussy, loving that slickness, those textures. He was breathing deeply, homing in, drawn so strongly –

She groped down his body, clumsy with need. Her hand found his cock and gripped it. "Please," she said, in that rough, breathless voice. "I want to frell you."

Aeryn. Oh, babe. That wave of desire in his body. His throat tightened up, and he swallowed hard. He checked himself with his hand – just hard enough, he could go for a while. His hand lingered a moment, curled around hers, teasing her as she clutched at his cock. "You want that, baby?" His lips were tugging her earlobe, kissing her face. "In your pussy? Your... cunt? You want me there?"

She groaned in frustration. He kissed her as he shifted his body, scrambling around to kneel between her thighs. He reached down blindly, eyes locked on her face. "I love you so much," he said softly. Her eyes were closed, but she nodded, frowning.

She opened her eyes to find him staring, leaning down over her. You, she thought. It's you I'm with. Every nerve vibrating, too much skin – unexpected, unreal, how different this felt. This place in between. Wasn't sure where the ceiling was. Zero g with no handhold, and helpless to steer, tumbling and spinning. Too much and too little. Need something. Need him.
He brushed his cock downward, feeling her surfaces, shapes – sliding over her clit, the soft flesh below, the folds of her lips – and into her, IN – he plunged in evenly, slowly, drawn along that true, perfect path, familiar already. He watched her eyes shut as her lips formed an OH. He kissed her quickly, brushing the hair from her forehead. Then he grasped her thighs and lifted them upward, working the angle, trying to find that spot she had liked when his fingers had played with her – wanting to please her, to touch her as well as any man could, to give her the best that he knew. Screw the words, here we are, take whatever I've got, and God, it was sweet. It was just the best place in the world to be, best thing in the world to feel. He rose up on his toes, stroking deeply, steadily, pacing himself. Don't get carried away. Make it last. Her eyes squeezed tightly and suddenly she was working her muscles, squeezing around him. "Wow," he said. "Are you feeling me?" What a silly-assed question. But her eyes flew open, she nodded rapidly, gripping his cock. I feel you, baby. I feel what you're doing.
Feelings confused things. I thought I knew how this went. He was IN her. The strangest creature she knew, in her body, her heart. She clutched at him fiercely, searching for that pure body response, that drill of frelling, thrust and press. But it's you, John. It's you.
He slipped a pillow under her hips to help hold the angle, and let his hand glide up her thigh. He couldn't do much, in between his strokes, but he rested his palm on her pubic hair, pressing her clit. His hand bumped his cock as he rocked in and out, still amazed to feel himself slip past his hand. She lost her tight grip, went softer, he could feel little twitches, tremors – went deeper – slowed down. He shifted to hit her as firm as he could, saw her straining, straining, her shoulders rolled back, and he dropped his mouth to her breast, took it in, swirling his tongue as he suddenly rocked his hips. A wail escaped her, a long, throaty tone, of disbelief, pleasure. Made his own throat catch as she jerked underneath him. "Oh, baby," he said, "Oh, yes. God, yes."
Oh, so SOLID, so there – All around that, liquid, melting, wet – His voice. Unbearable, welcome – Don't stop, don't – OH! That deep, full – falling away. A blur. A cry in her throat. Let it in. Let it in – trembling, that CENTER – She shook all around it.
Tremors. Temblors. Quake right behind them. Fault lines where the plates came together, bones of the earth. The fire that was under the planet would come out RIGHT HERE, going to melt the rock. Whole place would go up. These were fucking Large Forces – Whoa, going critical, NO. Not yet. Not ready. Want more. Shift it down. He had to stop moving, hold himself still, get hold of himself. Needed something way better than baseball – Cretaceous, Jurassic – go easy, breathe – Triassic, Permian – DAMN – Carboniferous... Once they finally caught on to the plates, the whole Big Picture fell into place. That's how you know you can trust what you've got, when the crazy stuff starts to make sense.

He was kissing her jaw, her neck, her face, moving slowly again, taking easy strokes, hovering, putting it all on her. Wait. I can. Wait. She was shifting under him, trembling around him, making eager noises that weren't quite words. He lay there, full in her, on her, shifting his weight from side to side, feeling her shiver. He kissed her mouth, easing it open, running his tongue in slow exploration, felt her welcome him, felt her jaw loosen. While they had that connection he eased his cock out. She grabbed at him sharply. He kept his mouth on her, open and wet, and rubbed his skin on her breast. I'm here. I'm still here.

He reached down and squeezed himself under his crown, right at that spot, to step things back. He murmured soothingly, "Just want to buy us a little more time. Last one I'm gonna get for a while." He felt the strain on his skin easing up as he softened a little. Then he reached to her pussy, his cock in his hand, swept it up and around, checking things out, taking a moment to play with her. Her flesh was so swollen, so wet. What would be good now? There hadn't been many words today. He was trusting that things were okay for her, that nothing too strange was happening here. He nuzzled her face. Some wayward tendrils clung to her skin, escaped from her braid, damp from her sweat. She'd been working hard, too. "Aeryn. Baby. How are you doing?"

"Mmmmmmm," she said. He kissed her softly.

"I owe you, babe," he said, and the catch in his voice surprised him. "I wanted to do this, so long, so much."

"So much," she agreed.

"You make me so happy."

She nodded, as he kissed her again. He guided himself back to her body, twisting his hips to snug himself in. She never stopped kissing him, urgent, hungry. I'm here. It's okay. Whatever it is. Whatever you want.

Her nerves were so stripped, everything rushed in. His cock had gone softer, smaller, he helped it in with his hand, but she felt every micron it traveled. Where he belongs. Her hands found his waist, pulling him to her. She rolled herself upward, all of her flesh wanting contact, drew back her knees to push more of herself against him, felt herself jerk as she hit a good spot.

"Would you like to move?" he asked softly, rocking his body, keeping engaged as he hardened again.

"I think – just let me – " Everything wanting. "Yes," she said.

He kissed her again. "Then why don't you finish us off?" He pulled out slowly, kissed her belly, rolled to his back with a sigh. He held his cock lightly, his other hand drifting across to her.

They clasped hands for a moment. Then she rose to her knees and straddled him, dropped right down over him, sharply, decisively, the way she'd pictured the day before, when he was sleeping, when she'd wanted so badly to take him in. He was wide awake now, he was utterly there, he watched as she did it, watched every motion, looked at her with that naked wanting, that absolute need. Is that how I look, when I'm asking him? Her body surrounded him, hit him straight on. She shifted her weight so her lips opened further against his skin, so her clit rubbed hard on his pelvic bone. She slid back and forth, keeping her weight pressed down the whole time, frantic to get that friction, along with everything else.

She felt his hands on her waist, on the bone of her hip. Not interfering, just encouraging her. How many times have I come today? Don't seem to have finished. Don't know –

Her eyes blurred with tears. It was all so strange, and it wasn't small. It was all they both had. So much in his face, his eyes burning into her, eager, intent. She squeezed her eyes closed.

We can do it again, tomorrow. We can do whatever we need. She was back in NamTar's lab again, skin splitting open, thousands of inputs screaming at once – His voice cutting through: 'I'm here to see Aeryn.' He knew it was Aeryn Sun, in there. He would not leave me alone –

"I'm close," he said. Just letting her know. Just in case she didn't want that.

His voice pulled her back. She raised her hips 'til he almost slipped free, and dropped her weight downward, squeezing him hard. He blinked, surprised. She did it once more and then pressed her weight down on him, forward and back, loose-limbed, abandoned. She felt it, everything, letting it in, her wet open flesh, all his skin, how it screamed up her spine, down her legs. She moved rapidly, driving them smoothly – acceleration, ignition – both of them climbing – More – JOHN –

And she stared at his face – It's you I'm with – and his eyes had closed – he was coming – gone. She let her heart fill as he shouted his wild, incoherent noises. Yes.