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By Paula
Page 2 of 2

      Abruptly, she rose and turned her back on Blake. "Would you like something to drink?" she asked in a cool, polite voice, as if offering tea to a stranger.

      He jumped up behind her and caught her shoulders, turning her to face him. "Don't," he said urgently. "Don't close yourself away from it. That only makes it worse."

      "It's the only thing I can do, Blake," she insisted, trying to pull herself free of his touch. She knew she was vulnerable now and she hated it, but she couldn't change it, and it was worse because Blake was here to witness it. He would not let her bottle it in. Instead, he drew her against his chest, wrapping his arms around her until she felt swallowed up in his warmth, and something snapped inside her. She hid her face against the rough fabric of his shirt and shed tears for Dayna. Not many, for it was not her way, but a few, and, to her astonishment, it actually felt good, as if she had opened a long-blocked channel and discovered a side of her she had thought gone for good.

      Blake was a big warm teddy bear of a man, offering her exactly what she needed at the moment, a bulwark. She let a cynical thought intrude, that this came naturally to him, a form of manipulation, and that now he had something he could use against her, but she knew it wasn't true. Blake might manipulate people, but not in this way.

      Finally, she pulled back a little; not enough to leave the warmth he offered so easily, but enough to see his face, and she was shocked to realise that his eyes were bright with tears of his own. For Dayna? For her? Or for himself and his determined acceptance of guilt? She didn't know, but if he could give comfort, then she could give it in return, and she wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly. Though the role of comforter was new to her, it did not feel unnatural, and they stood there together for a long time, sharing something that was too difficult to define, but which she thought might be friendship.

      When it began to change into something else, she was unaware of it at first. Holding a male body in her arms was familiar, though this was different from the times when she had used her body as a tool to gain information, to get past someone's defences, to learn of her enemies. It had always been practical, and if there had been some physical gratification in it, it was only because she was pragmatic enough to find pleasure in her work.

      But this was different. She had never wanted to give herself before. The other times had been necessary and she had braced herself and got on with the job. Now, she lifted her face and saw Blake looking down at her with a startled realisation in his eyes, and she wondered if he would back away before he admitted to a need similar to her own. She knew she could make him stay, demanding it of him in such a way that he would fear to reject her in case it turned her cold and hard again and isolated her from him.

      But she would not accept him because he was being merciful to her, fearing to drive her away if he backed off. She wanted him now because they were two people who had shared sorrow and needed to share joy, because she had nothing to give to him but herself; not because she had to, not for gain, but because she wanted to be with him of her own choice, freely. She had offered her body to men before, but she had never offered herself along with it, and it felt very strange. It made her sudden desire seem beautiful instead of a simple bodily function. And so, when she caught his eyes and smiled at him, he was startled into smiling back.

      He kissed her, gently and lightly, as if to say that he understood, and when her lips parted under his, she felt strangely moved as if she would cry again, but not because she was sad. Did people ever cry because they were happy? It seemed strange yet right.

      The kiss intensified as he recognised her acceptance and they stood locked together, clinging with mouths and bodies. She felt the familiar warmth race through her, but it was different this time, and when he drew back and looked down into her face, she reached up and stroked his cheek with one hand before she led him into the bedroom.

      Blake undressed her slowly, his hands warm as they freed her from the confinement of her clothing, his fingers startling her into reaction when they traced across a nipple. She made a little squeaking sound of pleasure and caught his wrist, pressing his hand to her breast for a moment before she let him go to work on the fastenings of his shirt.

      She found pleasure in exploring the smooth skin of his chest before she worked the fabric back off his shoulders. The scent of him was exciting to her, and soon she had opened his trousers and worked them down over his hips. He was partially aroused already and when she touched his shaft, he caught his breath and pressed forward into her encircling fingers. For a moment, she caressed him, then he detached her hand and finished undressing her.

      Neither of them spoke. It seemed almost like a ballet, moving together as if the movements were choreographed, both of them intent on the atmosphere of the moment: first a rehearsal as they learned each other's bodies as a dancer learns his routine. Blake's lips brushed a nipple, then his mouth opened and his tongue traced its hardness before he sucked lightly. She wove her fingers through his hair and breathed his name.

      She guided his hand down across her belly and spread her legs for him, eager to feel his touch, and he brushed his fingers lightly against the warmth of her thighs before he found the right place and began to tease and probe.

      "Blake!" she said sharply, startled to realise how much she had been wanting him to touch her.

      Her breathing quickened and she began to move restlessly under his exploring fingers, gasping as he thrust one of them into her and made little in and out movements. Determined to arouse him as he was arousing her, she reached for him and began to draw her fingertips up and down his penis, pleased to hear his breathing quicken and to feel him swell and harden beneath her touch.

      "Now, Soolin," he begged suddenly, moving over her. "Now."

      "Yes, now," she agreed, and drew him to her, guiding him in. He plunged deep in sudden urgency and she welcomed him, shifting her body expertly to take him in. She knew how to please a man and had done it before, and she had been with men whose skills probably far exceeded Blake's, but she had not really wanted them, not like this, and when he began to push against her, driving his body into hers, she forgot about all her little tricks and let instinct take over.

      He kissed her hungrily as he thrust, and she responded, wrapping her legs around him to hold him close. They clung together with a need beyond the moment's gratification, and though there was an urgency to it, there was also something warm and gentle that slowed the pace, prolonging their pleasure and startling her with the realisation that the sharing was more important than the actual climax. Being together now, needing each other now was what really mattered. She thought she did cry a little, and perhaps she did, for he slowed his movements and brushed a finger across her eyelashes, kissing her closed eyes.

      Then need overwhelmed them and they lost themselves in a dance as old as humanity. She climaxed first, stunned and breathless with the sweetness of it, and a moment later he followed her, his body going rigid against her as he came.

      When he finally withdrew from her, he gathered her into his arms and held her against him while their breathing stilled. Neither of them spoke immediately, as if there were no real words to say, and to say anything would shatter the moment. He dropped a kiss on her forehead and smiled at her, and she smiled back contentedly.

      After a time, he sat up and pulled her up with him, leaning against the headboard of the bed. "All right?" he asked.

      "I think so. Are you?"

      He nodded. "I think I-"

      She reached up and touched a finger to his lips. "No, Blake. No explanations. No justifications. I don't have any claim on you and I don't expect one."


      "We needed each other just now. I know this will sound like a cliche but I don't mean it that way. I didn't know it was ever like that. It's never been that way for me before. I never - cared for anyone before." She smiled a little at the startled look in his eyes. He was very careful not to let it look like pity. "I know you and Jenna have a relationship and I won't interfere with that. I don't know if I'm ready for a relationship myself. I don't think I am yet. But you were here for me when I needed you, and I'll always be there for you. That's a promise."

      "I hope that means you'll come back to the ship," he said, taking her seriously and not trying to argue her meaning with her. She was glad of that.

      "You don't think it will be a problem?" she asked, startled to know how much she wanted to go back. Was that wise? Was it worth the risk? Was it worth the knowledge that what she had just shared with Blake would never be repeated?

      Yes. She had expected no commitment and she was not ready to make one. But she had learned now how a commitment might feel and she knew that one day she would want that from someone. Blake maybe, if that were possible? Hugh? Someone else?

      Going back to the ship was a commitment, too; one she knew she could make now. She cared about the others, though it was a frightening thing to admit. Dayna was gone and that would hurt; she would turn and expect to see her and never see her and know that her friend was dead. But maybe the having of the friend was enough to see her through the losing. Blake had come to her and Blake was her friend, too. She wouldn't expect too much. She was good at that, and for once it might be useful. She would not expect too much of Blake or any of the others.

      But she would have to expect more of herself. She smiled a little. Yes, it was possible. It was a risk, but she was good at that too.

      "We all want you back," Blake avowed, shaking her shoulders slightly. "Even Avon won't argue against it." He didn't ask if she meant what had just happened between them and she was glad. That might be her own particular problem, but she could live with that.

      "Then I just might take you up on it," she conceded carefully. "Right away?"

      He smiled at her. "The sooner the better. It's time for you to come home."



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