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“Hmmm…” Jaal hummed thoughtfully while he focused on the drive core schematic he was working on.

Ryder shivered restlessly. She was at the workbench in the corner, and he was working between her and the door. She had a painfully clear view of his profile as he leaned over. Working in the tech lab had been great before he joined the crew. It wasn't bad now, it was just...hard to concentrate with two meters of solid, warm...him. Just...there. With his...arms. And his thighs. And that fucking smile. And he acted oblivious to how sultry he made the most mundane sentences sound.

He'd asked her to toss him a data pad a half hour ago and she still hadn't gotten over it.

It wasn't like she could just stop using the tech lab. In addition to the fact that she actually needed the equipment, she'd talked it up something crazy when he'd first moved in and she was trying to make friends. It'd be weird if she started avoiding it. Or avoiding him. Not that she wanted to avoid him. She was here fiddling with her flak cannon while they were docked at the Nexus for downtime, and her desire to lighten the weapon was only part of her motivation for being here.

She sighed, shifted her hips, and glanced out of the corner of her eye. How good is angara peripheral vision? She wondered. With those eyes...probably wide but not detailed. Ok, probably. He probably missed her shivers and fidgeting. Or didn't pay attention. Aliens are weird, right?

Yeah. Ok. It was fine. She was fine.

Ryder pulled over a stool and took a drink of her water. Her eyes wandered.

He was fine.

Goddamnit.

Focus Sara.

Ok. She sat down her water bottle and wiped her hands on her pants. Ok. So, theoretically this Remnant polymer should be strong enough to hold at this thickness. Ryder tested the connections, seemed strong, good. She sprayed on a fire retardant sealant. She'd just have to test it at the range later.

Her stomach growled and she checked the time—she’d been here for hours.

Ryder yawned and stretched hugely, trying to loosen the muscles that had gotten stiff while she worked. Wonder if he'd like a break, too? She glanced over and caught Jaal looking at her from across the room as she leaned back.

Is he…? The surprised thought came just as her stretch overbalanced her. Ryder threw her weight forward, but it was too late. She fell with a crash.

“Ryder!” Jaal yelled in alarm.

Fuck fuck fuck FUCK!

She’d avoided hitting her head—small mercies—but had whacked her elbow and ankle pretty good and gotten her foot tangled in the stool. She was probably lucky not to have sprained something. The mighty Pathfinder, Defender of Heleus, felled by a chair. Great.

“Ow,” Ryder said as she sat up. Jaal was squatting beside her with a startled, worried expression. He held the stool steady for her and put it aside after she'd gotten her foot out.

“Are you hurt?” he asked in concern. He was sliding his hands over her arms and back, leaning around and lifting her hair to check for injuries. Goosebumps bloomed everywhere and even though he might not know what it meant, she was still glad she'd worn long sleeves.

“Just my pride,” Ryder grumbled and blushed.

He turned his attention to the leg that had gotten twisted up as she fell. As he usually did on the ship, Jaal was wearing a light loose shirt and pants that clung to him in terribly unfair ways. He knelt and started probing with his hands and electricity, working slowly down her leg from her hip. He was so warm. Her current position gave her an excellent view of the slope of his back, the thick curve of his hip and thigh, the movement of his shoulder and bicep.

She gasped and shivered when he gently squeezed her leg. His hands were huge.

“Pain?” he asked, looking up.

“Uh,” she coughed, “um, no.” I might have a heart attack, though.

Jaal narrowed his eyes at her but went back to his examination. Ryder managed to avoid making any more noises until he got to her ankle and slid his bare fingers under the edge of her sock, when she gasped again. He pressed harder and gently moved her joint. She held her breath and bit her tongue.

“Well, I can't find any signs of injury, but you should still probably go see Lexi when she gets back.” He stood and held out a hand for her to grab and hovered the other behind her back. She took it and stood, blushing harder at the feel of his bare palm on hers.

“Thank you. I'm ok, really. Just a stupid pratfall. You've seen me take worse,” she grinned, but he didn't return it. He kept holding her hand and rested his free hand on her shoulder blade.

“But you still don’t seem yourself, Ryder. You usually move with remarkable grace and strength. I’ve never seen you lose your balance so easily. Are you…?”

Jaal was close enough she could see the cloudy softness of his iris as it stretched and contracted. His pupils widened, and she caught a small movement as his nostrils flared. It was barely noticeable. Ryder's mind raced to some of the...less immediately obvious physical reactions she'd had to his presence and she froze as her eyes widened.

Shit shit shit I didn't even think about—shit! How good is their sense of smell? Can he tell? Or can he pick up on our pheromones? I'm probably dropping buckets of pheromones right now!

“Am I what?” She sounded hoarse and she coughed to clear her throat.

“You...seem…”

He was looking over her face curiously. She was effectively trapped between him and the corner where the workbench met the wall, and that did not help keep her mind clear. He always leaned so close. She knew it was because angara had less personal space, but it always felt like...something else. If a human was in her space like this it would mean shit was going to get physical...in some form or another...very soon. It fucked with her instincts.

Jaal froze.

“Are you afraid?” His eyes widened. He immediately let go of her and backed up a step and to the side. “I would hope not, but...I suppose it would be understandable?” He twisted his hands together in worry, and his face was open and earnest.

“I...thought we were building a strong mutual trust, friendship, but...I know human body language is different, I keep forgetting, especially when I’m comfortable around everyone. I'm sorry. I should pay more attention. You're clearly able to defend yourself, but I know quite well how our instincts don't always match our skills, and I am significantly larger than you, and this is a vulnerable environment where your guard would be down, so…”

He was babbling, and it was adorable, but she had to stop him.

“No!” Shit that was too loud! She cleared her throat. “No. Jaal, don't worry, I'm not. It's ok, I do trust you—in any environment. I'm not scared.” Ryder could feel his current humming from here, and she wondered what it would tell her if she could understand it.

“You're not?” He sounded relieved and came a bit closer.

“No, not at all,” she said.

She glanced up, then back down, shy and embarrassed. He’d narrowed his eyes in concern and concentration.

“Then…” he said, mostly to himself.

Suddenly he gasped like something clicked in his mind, and a wild hope flew through her, then crashed and burned when she looked up and saw his expression.

“Oh,” Jaal said.

He stood up stiffly and backed away a full pace toward the door. Now he looked closed off and embarrassed, too. Awkward. Like he wanted to be anywhere but right here, right now.

Fuck now he knows and he clearly isn't interested. At least it was involuntary? At least I didn't proposition him or something?

A hot stab of shame, embarrassment, and hurt went through her chest, and she shuddered around the dry lump in her throat. Don't fucking cry yet, Sara, she told herself. He'd be kind and understanding and that wasn't something she could handle right now.

Ryder cleared her throat. “I...think I'm...I was about to take a break anyway, so...I better...go.” She turned and started mechanically packing up her tools and materials.

And maybe find Peebee to be my wingman, get absolutely trashed, and find some muscled up one night stand to fuck me into oblivion.

Jaal hummed awkwardly. “Um, yes,” he said. “I'll...send Lexi a message if you'd like, and have her stop by your quarters when she gets back?”

That startled her out of her spiraling hurt.

“What? No, I'm seriously fine. I didn't injure myself, it was just embarrassing bad luck. I'm actually headed out to the station for a break.” She managed to shrug and smile at him without a waver in her voice.

“Why would you leave the ship?” he asked, raising his voice in baffled surprise. Ryder had no idea why Jaal looked confused and kind of annoyed, but it was definitely rubbing off on her.

“Uh. Because I want to? To hang out? Grab a drink? Figured I'd actually get some shore in my shore leave?”

“Ryder!” His head jerked back in shock, and he scowled at her. “I thought you had better judgement than to let your pride lead you to make poor decisions.”

Excuse me?” Well, at least all thoughts of crying over his rejection were completely gone from her head. Silver lining. She crossed her arms and raised her voice. “I thought you had better judgement than to say something like that to me, like you have any right to do so, so I guess we're both making some discoveries today, aren't we.”

Jaal blushed and closed his eyes with a sigh. He muttered under his breath, then looked up at the ceiling and whispered, “Humans,” before he glared at her in exasperation. “Yes, it is awkward to discuss openly, but practicality is more important. You are obviously ill, Ryder. You need to get medical attention before you make it worse! Do you really think it’s a good idea to go out drinking when you're sick? You can make that choice if you want to, obviously, but as your friend I am going to tell you when I see you doing something destructive!”

Wait what the fuck?

Ryder glared at him. She blinked. There was only one thing she could possibly say to that.

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

He glared back at her. “I am talking about you being so skkutting gosan yav daar you'd hurt yourself instead of admitting you have limits!”

She was still pissed, at this point mostly because they were yelling at each other, but the shape of the picture was starting to resolve.

“SAM! Translation, please,” she said, keeping her glare and her crossed arms.

Skkutting: gerund form. A general exclamation, as—”

“I know, I mean the rest of it,” she snapped.

Gosan yav daar: adjective, literal translation: clinging to a rock. Contextually: stubborn, single minded, inflexible. Noun form: gosavar, gosavara."

“Thank you, SAM,” she said. The AI responded with a VI logout chime, which she normally would have thought was impressively sarcastic, but she was distracted.

They glared a little while longer, just because, then Ryder closed her eyes and breathed out a defeated huff through her nose. Of all the ridiculous things.

When she opened her eyes again, Jaal looked slightly mollified, probably because she didn't seem like she was fighting him about it anymore.

“Jaal,” she said, looking into his eyes. “I am not sick. My health is fine.”

He scoffed immediately. “Ryder—”

“No, listen,” she said, now exasperated herself. “All the...everything you noticed...it wasn't because I'm sick. I promise.”

He radiated absolute confusion. “But then what were you so embarrassed about?”

Ryder groaned and closed her eyes and leaned back to thump her head on the wall. This is so awkward, oh my god. I wonder if asari ever have this problem?

“So, I guess angara have some kind of taboo about being sick?” she asked with a sigh.

Jaal was silent, and she peeked at him. He was deep purple and shifting awkwardly in place. He cleared his throat. “Um…Yes. Well. Not being ill, that’s just unfortunate. Talking about it is...it is private. Other than with doctors, people might discuss it with...a parent, romantic partners, javegara if really close with them…” he trailed off. “I guess humans...do not?”

“No, we do not. There might be a culture I don't know about that does, but I have never encountered it, and it is definitely not one of the big taboos. As long as no one is vividly describing bodily fluids or anything gross, we talk about illness pretty freely.”

“Oh.”

Ryder closed her eyes and took a shaky breath. Nothing ventured… “We do have lots of taboos about nudity...and sex,” she said, and waited.

And waited.

She peeked.

Jaal was blinking at her in patient confusion.

“Seriously?” she asked. Her mouth dropped open and her forehead wrinkled so hard it hurt.

“What?” He said with a shrug. He was usually insightful and quick and...what the hell was this?

“Of all the—! Mother-, god-, fucking hell, Jaal! You cannot be this dense! I am attracted to you!”

He blinked in surprise. “Why would that make you embarrassed? Why didn't you just say so?”

How is he surprised by this? Shit, no, it's not a good thing he knows. Ugh what the fuck.

Ryder buried her burning face in her hands and swore to find those two gossiping women on Aya and buy them both drinks.

“I am embarrassed because it was apparently so obvious that you could tell something was going on with me! And that's embarrassing for humans! And it's inappropriate of me to make a pass at someone on my team, no matter whether they're technically an envoy from a new ally, or actually, probably definitely if they're an envoy from a new ally! And anyway all that aside, and that is a lot to set aside, I didn't say anything because we're still...I just...I didn't know if my interest would be welcome!”

“...oh.”

“Yes! Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to go get extremely drunk and try to forget that any of this conversation happened.” Ryder sped past without looking at him and headed out of the lab. Someday this will be a funny story, she told herself firmly.

“Ryder…” he said quietly, just as the doors opened, “Sara. What...if it is welcome?”

She froze in the doorway. Even half an hour ago, if he'd said words like that in that tone...ok she'd probably still be frozen in indecision.

She should say something diplomatic and cautious. She should demur, apologize, leave.

Sara Ryder never was one for the cautious choice.

She turned back with a groan and covered her face with her hands again. “Shit, this is such a bad idea,” she said, heartfelt.

Jaal's booming laugh shocked her partially out of her embarrassment. She pulled her hands down to look over top of them. He was leaning on the wall partition with one foot braced against it and doubled over his arms laughing. He calmed a bit and looked up, but caught her eye and started all over again.

Ryder sighed. Ok, fair, the whole situation was ridiculous. She sat on a crate and propped her elbows on her knees with another sigh. Well, at least the tension was broken? She put her chin in her hands and shook her head with a small smile.

“I have—” Jaal laughed and wiped his eyes, tossing his visor onto his workspace, “I have never heard such a…” he snickered again, “such a flattering response, Ryder.”

She rolled her eyes, but started giggling too, and pressed the heels of her hands to her closed eyes. “Oh my god I am such a fuckup today,” she groaned.

Jaal laughed again, quieter this time. “Just today?” His deep voice was relaxed and teasing and she enjoyed it way too much.

“Yeah, see, getting drunk and pretending this never happened is still looking like the better option here,” she said, shaking her head. She wiped hard down her face.

“Hmmmm…” His voice was closer, and she looked up to see him come sit near her. She could feel his current again, and it was...higher frequency? Nerves? Excitement? She had no idea.

“What does that mean, Jaal?” she asked with raised eyebrows.

“It means I am thinking, Sara.” The emphasis he put on her name made her shiver, but she looked up to hold eye contact with him. His eyes were...gorgeous, ok, yes, but right now they were also twinkly with mischief. “I...suppose I should have looked up more information about this, but…” his eyes trailed down over her hair and back, “I have always preferred hands on learning.”

“Shit, you're just fucking with me, aren't you?” Ryder hid her face in her hands again with another groan.

He chuckled warmly. “Well, not yet,” he said.

She felt a burst of heat in her lower belly, but tightened her shoulders around herself and groaned again.

“Ok. Yes. That's great. That is just what I need: you giving me shit about this. Thank you.”

“I'm not—” he paused, and she felt a gentle touch on her knee, then a gentler current. She didn't know if she was interpreting it right, but it felt nervous. Jaal took a slow breath. “I’m entirely serious,” he said quietly.

Oh fuck. Ryder's mind frantically bounced around the memory of their conversation.

“Wait,” she said, looking at him and sitting up. He put his hands in his lap. “You said more information. Have you…?”

His answer was a quick flick of his eyes over her. Jaal lifted his brow slightly, like a shrug, and tilted his head with a small smile. Her blush was everywhere and incandescent.

Jaal’s eyes wandered over her face with something that almost looked like...longing. Hot spiky blooms were growing in her stomach. Her throat ached.

He clasped his hands and leaned on his own knees. “Would...my interest be welcome?” Jaal asked.

Ryder was frozen again, and felt like she was about to explode. She let out a breath she'd held and took another one, slower. She swallowed.

“Yeah. It would definitely be welcome,” she said shakily.

She saw his pupils widen. His mouth was still closed but his smile grew.

Fuck. I am doomed.

Jaal proved her right with one quick, smooth movement. He took her hand and stood, pulling her up close to him, then slid one hand to the side and back of her neck. His fingertips were just past her hairline. He was still holding her other hand. His thumb rubbed over the back of her knuckles, exploring, enjoying where they touched. She felt his current slowly fade. It was a little disappointing.

“Would...acting on this mutual interest be welcome as well?” he asked. His face was tilted down closer to hers and she could feel his breath on her cheek. She could smell him. Feel so much of him against her. She was reeling. She was going to combust.

“How much action are you offering?” Ryder asked, leaning forward slightly. She brushed against the curve of his bottom lip and thoroughly enjoyed the rumble she felt through her chest in response.

“As much as you want,” he answered in a tone that shook through them both. A wave of electricity poured out from his fingers in her hair as he moved them against her. She pressed her thighs together tightly and shuddered.

Their breath was mingling and he moved the hand he was holding to his hip. Ryder let out a small moan from the back of her throat. He was warm. Jaal gave slightly, thick protection for the rock solid muscle beneath. He felt just like she’d imagined he would. Ryder wanted to wrap herself completely around him. She spread her hand over the curve of muscle and dug her fingers in. He closed his eyes and his lips quivered against hers.

Fuck it.

She slid her hand down to his ass and molded herself against him, as close as she could get. He made a very short, very deep sound that punched down between her legs.

“As much as I want, huh?” Her voice was husky. “I don't know if you realize just how much I want, Jaal.”

“It can't possibly be more than I do,” he whispered. He scooped her up with his free hand, palming her ass. Her hands ended up spread out on either side of his cowl and she hooked her legs around his hips.

When she settled against him, Ryder let out a quiet gasping cry and rocked her hips. He was solid and gave just enough under her pressure. A tingling wave ran through her from his hips and she moaned. Jaal answered with one of his own and closed his mouth over hers.

His lips were a little firmer than she was used to, but that hardly mattered when their mouths pressed together. His tongue was exploring into her, lighter than she expected, a question in each gentle movement. Ryder answered roughly, digging her fingernails into him and squeezing her thighs around him.

Jaal growled and dug his hands into her, and walked over to lean her back onto the workbench. His kiss quickly got harder, hotter, his movements shorter and insistent. Perfect. Ryder let go of him and shoved her tools out of the way, then grabbed the edge for leverage to lift her hips up to cradle him. He swelled bigger, warmer, and she slid easily over him.

He pulled back from the kiss and gasped as he thrust against her. She wasn't sure if he was more shocked or aroused. She wasn't sure if she was, either, but mostly right now she was grateful that his thighs were finally between her legs.

He braced his hands on the table on either side of her hips and leaned into her with a sound that could fuel her fantasies for months. Jaal was holding her down with the weight of his hips and she must have actually died of a heart attack earlier because this could not be real.

“So...you planning on fucking me on this workbench?” Ryder was panting and grinning, then shivering when the heat of his gaze turned to her.

“Would you like me to?” He asked, his tone suggesting she only had to ask. The bottom dropped out of her stomach and she squeezed her legs tight around him.

“Maybe next time,” she said breathlessly, rolling hard up against him.

“You are already thinking of next time?” Jaal gave her another small smile and watched from under heavy eyelids.

“Well, you did say as much as I want.”

“I see,” he said, sounding happily smug. “In that case, assuming you would like to continue, where...should we continue...this?”

“I do have some big fancy quarters just downstairs,” she suggested. He didn't respond with words, just slid his hands back under her and stood straight.

Ryder tightened her legs around him and he grunted in approval. She giggled happily and wrapped her arms around his neck, and he nuzzled her with a smile as he walked to the door. Then she realized with alarm that he planned on walking all the way to her quarters like this.

“SAM! Is anyone else on the ship?!” Ryder squawked in a panic.

“Suvi is asleep in the crew quarters, and Cora is in the shower, Ryder.”

“Shit. Ok, thanks SAM. And sorry. And...privacy mode.”

The AI took a few seconds longer than really necessary to respond. “Noted.” He said.

Oh god my brain robot is mad 'cause I’ve been short with him while arguing with the giant purple alien I'm totally about to fuck. What the hell is my life?

Jaal rumbled in amusement and she pulled back to glare at him. “I'll remember this next time you get sick,” she hissed, and he sighed and nodded, but didn't put her down.

Ryder expected him to go down the lift and around the long way, but he headed right in the research room, toward the catwalk. She was about to say something when he adjusted one arm to hold her tightly around her waist and gave her a playful sidelong glance.

“Hold on,” he said with a grin, and half knelt to grab the edge of the catwalk and hop down, as easily as she would have a couple feet. He landed with a bouncing thump that was actually slightly quieter than the one she usually made when she slid down the ladder. Ryder barely had enough time to realize what was happening before it was over. She stared at him with her mouth open and blushed.

“Are you seriously showing off right now?” she asked.

“Mmmmm...maybe?” He tilted his head and smirked. “Is it working?”

“You are unbelievable,” she said, and rolled her eyes with a grin.

Jaal’s smile grew and he leaned forward to whisper, “Just wait.”

Fucking doomed.

She might as well at least try to give as good as she got.

Ryder hooked her ankles together and started nibbling warmly on the edge of his cowl. He gasped when she ran her tongue into the curve of cartilage and sucked. Jaal was walking purposefully toward her quarters, and she waved her omnitool vaguely at the sensor so the door would open for him. She pulled away to lock the door behind them.

Then he was settling on the bed and his hands were under her shirt, warm on her skin. She grabbed his shoulders and rubbed against him with an urgent gasp. Jaal pulled her hips tighter against him and burrowed into her neck with a moan.

“So,” Ryder said, shivering and trying to keep her head, “all I'm working with here is the fact that you are unfairly attractive and seem roughly compatible so far. Do you...uh, have...more information?”

A small laugh shook through him and his breath was warm on her skin. His hands let up their pressure and started rubbing her back and sides in a soothing rhythm. Then his lips started gently pulling on the soft skin behind her ear while he talked.

“I've been wanting to do this since...well, I've thought about you for...so long, Sara. I tried to ignore it, tell myself it was just natural curiosity, but...it was just you. Then looking up...details...just fueled it.”

“Yeah?” She gasped and leaned to expose her neck. One of his hands came up to cradle her head again, stroking her scalp as he nuzzled his nose closer to her skin and breathed in.

“Mmhmm,” Jaal's voice was gentle and deep. It made her think of working to a slow, inexorable climax and falling asleep with the warm weight of his leg on top of her. He flattened his hand over the base of her spine and sent a barely detectable current into her lower back. It made her shiver and push her hips harder against him.

“Pretty hard to concentrate while you're doing that,” she said.

“Now you know how I feel when you're near, Sara,” Jaal whispered and nipped her, then pressed a kiss to her neck to taste her skin. “Besides, it seems you're concentrating on exactly what I'd like you to, so there's really very little incentive for me to stop.”

“Mmnnn! I don't want to stop!” Ryder rocked against him emphatically. “I just want to make sure that neither of us is going to end up…” freaked out, with hurt feelings, running in horror? “...disappointed,” she said, “and I already feel like this around you or did you forget the spectacularly awkward argument we just had?”

“More urgent concerns have my attention right now,” Jaal said from somewhere near her collarbone. His hand was on her ass and working slowly underneath her. His fingertips were nearly between her legs and she shivered harder.

“Yeah, so how sure are you this can work?” Ryder asked.

Jaal's fingers stroked soothingly through her hair and he sat up to look into her eyes. He slid his hand out from under her and rested it on top of her thigh.

“I can't know how you will feel,” he said softly. “but it seems that we are similar enough for compatibility. And I have…” his current buzzed, “lain awake wondering about you.”

Jaal looked playful, but sincere. Just a couple months ago I thought Suvi was adventurous for licking a rock. Ryder bit her lip and saw his eyes flick down to her mouth. Yeah, fuck it.

“Thought you weren't into biology?” she smirked and raised an eyebrow.

“Maybe not the science behind it,” he laughed, but then narrowed his eyes as his smile darkened, “but I do know how to use it, remember?” he said.

So. Fucking. Doomed.

Ryder shivered and moved his hand back under her ass. Jaal grinned and kissed her while he moved his hand slowly back toward his goal. He started probing gently with his fingers. She whimpered against him when he found the edge of her folds and her softness started to give under his touch.

He pulled back and rested his forehead on hers, then brought his other hand down to her hip. He started rumbling before he spoke. “I can't wait to find exactly how to bring you release,” he growled.

She rocked down against his fingertips and arched her back. “Oh my fucking god, how are you this sexy?”

He chuckled and kissed her again, no longer hesitant, but with full probing strokes. His hand underneath her followed the same suggestive rhythm until she was rocking her hips down hard and nipping with her teeth.

“Yes,” he whispered against her mouth, “there is your intoxicating power.”

Ryder moaned and moved her hands to cup his cheeks. She spread her fingers between his jaw and cowl. When her hands trailed down to his loose collar, she spread them warmly onto his neck. He purred as she rubbed down the warm, sensitive skin there.

She slid her hands back up to his face and pulled away from the kiss.

He tilted his head with a silent question, but kept moving his hand under her, smirking when she sighed and thrust. She groaned in frustration and moved his hand back to her hip, which he squeezed placatingly.

She met his eyes with a challenge while she sat down against him again. Jaal gasped and thrust, and the expression on his face tightened, but he didn't look away.

He had gotten bigger, firmer, while she had been distracted by his hand, and she felt warmth seeping through his pants, like her own wetness. She ground against him, distracted, and asked, panting, “You make—lubrication too?”

He was staring into her eyes as he said, “Yes,” hoarsely. Jaal glanced down to watch her moving on him and his hands came up to the fastenings on her pants. “May I?” he asked, gently tugging at the fly. She bit her lips and nodded, and felt his fingers start to investigate.

Jaal quickly undid the zipper and snap. He put his left hand at the small of her back and slid his right hand over her panties, so much closer. She had to close her eyes and thrust against him when she felt him pressing gently into her mons. His fingers were caught between them, with her softness seeking release on his dick. He made a delicious sound and pulled her closer with the hand on her back.

“Sara,” He was breathless and buried his face in her neck again, carefully moving his fingers between them. “It—feels like...like you could—like I could—shit you're so soft, I never thought—” Jaal latched onto her neck and dragged his teeth across her, and she lifted herself up with a cry. He immediately moved further between her legs, cupping her and letting out a soft current from his hand.

“Ahh! Ok, wait—” Ryder said with a deep shiver. He sat up from her neck and drew back his hand and energy.

“What is it?” he asked, watching her with concern.

She smiled and kissed his cheek as she stood. “I just think we're both overdressed at this point,” she said. Jaal shrugged and nodded, then leaned back with a smile.

“So…” Ryder said, “How about a trade?”

“A trade?” He tilted his head curiously.

Ryder pulled off her shoes and socks, then shrugged and added her pants to the pile. She climbed onto the bed and crossed her legs. “See? Your turn.”

Jaal smiled and turned to the side to start removing his shoes. They seemed to function a lot like gloves, which made sense actually. He chuckled at her attention and wiggled his toes. She rolled her eyes.

“Weird foot club has lots of members, too?” she asked.

“Probably,” he laughed.

Then he stood and reached for the waistband of his pants. His loose shirt was partially lifted by his arms and she was drawn to the movement. She gasped when she saw a flash of his abs: big, solid, and softly defined. Ryder heard him huff a small laugh and glanced back up guiltily. His eyes were crinkling and the corners of his mouth twitched.

“You may look anywhere you wish, Sara,” Jaal said, his voice rumbling with amusement. His gaze held hers and her mouth went dry.

Ryder sighed. “Kinda spoiled for choice right now.”

He looked down with a smile. “You're making me blush.”

“Well, I think it's probably your turn for that, too,” she said. Jaal laughed quietly and slid his pants down while he shook his head.

Holy hell his legs. Ryder watched the thick curves and valleys of muscle as they moved, smooth and balanced, packed and powerful. She remembered watching him speed up a cliff face outside Prodromos without jump jets. He'd laughed at the top and started shouting encouragement to Liam and Vetra, who were still only halfway up. He hadn't been winded at all. Shit one of his legs probably weighs almost what I do.

She bit her lip and sighed as he walked around the bed toward her. He apparently wore a pair of tight navy blue shorts under his pants, and they weren't leaving much to the imagination at this point. Yeah, this is gonna work. He'd stopped and stood next to her for a few seconds before she looked back up to his face.

Jaal was smiling and had his arms crossed over his chest. His sleeves had scooted up halfway to his elbows and she had to stop and sigh again about his forearms. He had a flush all down his neck, and Ryder could feel a charge in the air around him.

“It's your turn,” he said quietly. Heat flooded through her and she had a solid ache in her chest and stomach. Oh, this was the best bad idea.

Ryder squinted thoughtfully, then climbed to her knees in front of him. Jaal raised his brow and watched, but didn't move.

She unbuttoned her outer shirt and pulled it over her head. She tossed it aside and reached up to take down and fluff out her hair. Last, she took her bra off, pulling it out from under her sleeveless undershirt.

Jaal narrowed his eyes in curiosity, but soon dismissed it in favor of heat and anticipation.

“Your turn,” she said.

“Hmm...I don't know about that,” he said. “You’ve already seen me without my shirt on.”

“That does not count,” Ryder said firmly. “Completely different context.”

“That's true. In that case,” he put one knee on the bed, letting the inside of his thigh brush the outside of hers, “perhaps I could persuade you some other way?”

Ryder grabbed his shirt and backed up. He followed and reached for her hips with a smile. She leaned in to kiss his jaw and explore into the space between his cowl and neck. He hummed and tilted his head to give her better access.

She scooted a bit closer and felt the weight of his dick, wet and solid. He pressed against her just as she gently bit him, and he gasped.

She hummed happily and smiled as she continued slowly working her way down his neck. The wide neckline of angara shirts allowed for a bit of leeway, but she was still stretching it before she reached the bottom of his cowl. She started nibbling through his shirt, letting her breath warm his skin through the fabric. When she brought her fingernails into the equation, scratching up from his waistband, Jaal groaned and moved his hands from her ass.

“Skkut,” he hissed, but he was smiling as he pulled his shirt over his head, “fine, you win, temptress.”

Ryder giggled and pulled off her own shirt while he did. His pupils widened when he saw her, then he winced at the light. She startled, then quickly lowered the lights.

“Better?” she asked, reaching for his face. He blinked and smiled.

“Thank you,” he said, kissing her palm.

“Lay down?” she asked.

“Mmm, yes,” he said, tugging her down with him.

Ryder giggled and scooted closer. They ended up on their sides, facing each other. Jaal sighed and cupped her face, looking like he was searching for words. She kissed him, full and open, just like she had ached to for way too long. She took a second to explore his lips, then pressed deeper. He moaned and moved his hand to her hair, then answered with his tongue.

He was overpowering. He wasn't quite as flexible as her, but he responded eagerly, trying to learn her as she did him. Jaal rose slightly, gently nudging her down. Ryder slid one hand under his head and tugged his shoulder with the other, then hooked her foot behind his knee. He quickly got the message and rolled on top of her. His thigh was warm and heavy between her legs and he made a small needy sound when they touched.

His cock was so hard it was digging painfully into her leg, and her nipples tightened against the warmth of his chest. He let out a short moan and made a fist in her hair. She gasped and rubbed herself against his thigh. His other hand grabbed her hip hard and he broke the kiss.

“Skkutting—!” He gasped and bucked his hips as he pulled hers closer. “Lost and hidden stars, Sara!” He had a firm handful of her ass and kneaded his fingers into her.

“Yes, your hands—” she arched to drag her breasts against him and spread herself under his unbelievable legs. He cried out, but muffled, and held her tighter. “Jaal, your hands are so big,” she panted under his attention, “your touch—I want—I just want to feel you touch me, anywhere, anywhere you want.”

He kissed down her neck and sucked her skin hard into his mouth. It felt like he was trying to scrape his teeth over every bit of her he could reach. He was biting out hard little broken moans whenever he moved his mouth and his dick was heavily throbbing against her. He started speaking between his kisses.

“You—” kiss “Sara, you're—” kiss “you feel even—” heated bite “better—” kiss “than I imagined.”

“Tell me,” she panted out.

“About thinking of you?” He kissed her jaw.

“Yes,” she whined and pushed against him. “What did you imagine?”

Jaal groaned out against her and thrust.

“What you would feel like,” his voice was straining, “the sounds you would make. Stars sometimes you make these sounds, and the way you move…”

“When do you...?” she asked breathlessly, clinging to him and squeezing her legs around his thigh.

“Lately? When don't I think of you?” He chuckled. “Right before you fell in the lab? I was watching you and wondering what it would feel like to have you move like that under me.”

“Fuck!” Ryder hissed and arched.

“Mmnnn—yes, like that,” he groaned and thrust. He needed to put his dick between her legs right now. She was about to say so, when he spoke again. “And I love thinking about what it will feel like when you reach your peak on my tongue.”

She gasped in surprise and want, and looked into his eyes. His iris was nearly gone and his eyeshine would have been otherworldly if she’d had any spare attention to give.

Jaal kissed her again, then pulled back. “I want to devour you.”

Holy fucking shit.

“Please,” she whispered.

“Yes,” he answered as their mouths met. He gently cradled her head and let one low wave of energy over her scalp. His touch was gentle, but his kiss was firm, and he moaned when she met him with hard movements of her own.

Ryder rocked her hips restlessly and scratched at his shoulder and the side of his cowl. He pulled back to catch his breath and grinned down at her while he got up to hover over her on all fours. Jaal looked over her with an expression of eager curiosity. She giggled.

“Thinking about how to take me apart?”

He glanced up and his smile softened and oh shit she suddenly had a hot weight in her stomach.

“You are fascinating,” he said, kissing her cheek, “and special.” He glanced down again, affectionate but puzzled. “...and...strange.”

She laughed and said, “You said something about hands on learning, right?”

Jaal shook his head with his eyes closed, then smiled back up at her. He touched her cheek and trailed his hand down her neck to her shoulder. He followed the line of her collarbone down to her sternum.

“You look so delicate,” he whispered, “but you are so vital.” He spread his hand over her chest and smiled when he felt her heartbeat. Jaal glanced back up at her and she suddenly realized I am in serious trouble. Then his attention turned back to her body and she shivered.

He kissed down from the hollow of her throat and slid his hand out of the way to press a kiss over her heart. She shuddered a sigh and stroked down to his jaw. He nuzzled into her hand as he adjusted his position to lay further down and braced himself over her.

He ran a hand up from her hips, stroking her side warmly, watching his progress up her body. He slowed at her breast and carefully, too gently, brushed the back of his hand against the bottom curve. When he looked up to her face, she smiled at him and took his hand.

“Like this,” she said, covering her breast with his hand and shivering at the feeling of warmth and calloused but softened skin. “they’re sensitive, but tougher than you might expect. Rubbing, holding, is nice, and here,” she demonstrated on her other nipple, “this part is...sensitive. It swells and hardens with arousal.”

His eyes were glued to her movements and he started cautiously squeezing her and brushing more firmly over her. She sighed happily and pulled his other hand up to cover her other breast. He immediately mirrored the action.

“You use your mouths as well, yes?” He rumbled quietly.

“Yes,” she said, holding onto the backs of his hands and arching against him. She closed her eyes tight. “all the time, anywhere, please,”

Jaal kissed her stomach and she felt him smile against her. “Hmmm, more common ground,” he said mischievously and she laughed.

“You are unbelievable,” she smiled down at him. His smile was so shockingly tender her breath caught.

“Sara…” he said quietly, his voice going soft and serious, “I…” he seemed to make a decision and climbed back up to lay next to her, propping one hand under his head and resting the other on the neutral ground of her stomach.

Jaal sighed.

“What's wrong?” Ryder asked, trying to ignore the sudden urge to cover herself. He must have heard something in her voice, because he glanced back up to her face in concern.

“Nothing!” he said quickly. “Nothing is wrong, I'm just searching for words. I…” he sighed again. “truthfully, I am starting to feel much more for you than just...attraction.”

She held her breath and another lump was forming somewhere behind her ribcage.

“I’ve wanted you so much, Sara. I thought I could be happy with whatever you wanted to share with me, but...I can't.” He pulled his hand back from her.

She grit her teeth and tried to swallow but her throat was burning and aching.

“Jaal,” she wasn't sure what she was going to say afterward, but he rushed ahead anyway.

“If you want to remain casual and unattached...I understand, but I can't be the one to give you that. If that's what you want, I need to stop. I want...more too much for that, and it would hurt us both,” he said.

He made eye contact again, and she managed to swallow this time. His eyes were swimming. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I'm sorry. I'll...this...has been…” He pressed his lips together tightly and swallowed hard, then huffed. “My timing is terrible. I'll go, and...give you some space.”

With a burning ache in her stomach, she watched him slowly sit up until finally she was able to break through her tension. She reached for him, and he froze. Her heart was pounding as she turned his face toward her.

Ryder brushed her thumb over the nearly healed scar that rancid douchebag Akksul had left on his cheek. She'd been terrified and enraged, and had yelled at Jaal through tears when they got back to Pelaav. He'd let her cry, then hugged her. He told her he was sorry she'd been scared, but he had to do it, and had known she would understand. He'd thanked her for trusting him. It was the second time he'd called her Sara.

The first had been just hours before, when he yelled at his younger siblings that she wasn’t their enemy. His electricity had snapped around him, but his hands on her shoulders were warm and grounding.

I am such a fucking idiot.

“So’s mine,” she said, leaning up to kiss his cheek. “because I'm not just attracted to you, either.”

Jaal breathed in with a shudder and looked down at her in awe that Ryder was pretty sure was excessive just for her. But she wasn't going to complain. He pressed his forehead to hers and held her cheek.

“You...make my heart...sing,” his voice was thick as he whispered. “I want us to be together.”

“Yes,” she said. “I do too.”

They met in an eager and slightly clumsy kiss, then laughed together as they adjusted.

Jaal seemed lighter now, almost carefree, and he was touching her as much as he could. His hands were in her hair, on her hip. He rolled to face her and moved to cup her breast. She groaned into his mouth and threw her leg over his hip.

He grunted and rocked forward as he gently tugged her nipple between his thumb and forefinger.

“Mmhmm,” Ryder hummed and moved her hips closer.

He was barely brushing her clit when they moved and she was going to lose her mind. One of her hands was practically trapped between them, and her other was rubbing up and down his bicep. She squeezed his arm and moved down his stomach, probing and caressing. When she moved lower, his breathing got faster in anticipation and he rocked forward again.

She pressed her left hand over him and he pulsed against her. She gently held him and stroked her thumb up and down along his length. He kissed her hard and breathed heavily through his nose. He tightened his grip in her hair and on her breast. She groaned deeply in response and scratched over him through his underwear. He let out a short, pained grunt and pulled away from their kiss.

“Sara I want you so much,” he groaned. He rubbed the pad of his thumb over her nipple and thrust against her hand. “I can't stand it, I've been half hard for hours. I take twice as long to get anything done when you're working near me.” He leaned in to nibble her bottom lip, then kissed it gently.

“Every time you’d make a sound, every time you'd shiver, you'd move your hips—” he thrust again and she firmly pumped him. “I—sometimes I'll notice your scent changes, deeper, heavier. I've barely been able to keep from touching you.”

Her face was burning as she moved up to his waistband and slid her fingers under. She carefully let one finger stroke over his tip, and they both moaned.

“Skkut—shit!—please, Sara!” Jaal's hips lifted and moved and she spread her whole hand over his dick. His skin was smooth where she brushed over him. He sighed in relief.

“Now that I know I'm smelling your arousal I don't know how I'll be able to concentrate on anything but you ever again,” he groaned and thrust, twitching hard in her grip.

Ryder grinned and nipped his cowl. “We'll just have to get it out of your system.” She squeezed him.

“I don't think that's possible,” Jaal said as he ground against her hand. He was flushed and small glimpses of his current were getting through his control. The waves were heavy and shaking.

She moved her hand away from him after a final tug. Then she looked directly into his eyes and pulled his hand off her breast. He stared as she moved it between her legs and adjusted him comfortably.

She pressed his fingers between her sodden lips and said hoarsely, “Only one way to find out.”

His energy instinctively poured from his hand and she hissed and ground against him. His groan was deep and broken when he pushed her over onto her back and started kissing down her body. When he got low enough, he moved to kneel at the end of the bed and easily pulled her down by her hips.

Shit.

Jaal nuzzled into her mound and she lifted herself up against the heat of his mouth. His muffled sounds reverberated through her while his fingers slipped under the fabric. He tore down her panties and threw them to the side.

Ryder felt his breath on her and shivered. She rose on her elbows to watch him.

He was panting heavily, with his mouth open just a few centimeters above her. She was trimmed short, but unshaven. He wasn't touching her yet, but he looked very interested. She bit her lip and wondered how he would react to the reality of her in front of him, how different she might be.

Jaal’s nostrils flared wide and he closed his eyes with a shudder. His tongue could only extend a short distance, so he pressed his whole mouth against her to lick into the folds of her mound. Ryder whimpered and pushed against him when she felt him stroking over and into her. He pulled back to look up at her, his voice rumbling as he licked his lips.

“I wondered how you would look,” he said. He slid one hand from her hip to stroke over her short, damp fluff and shivered when he touched her. “You're soft and beautiful.”

He carefully pressed one forefinger up into her outer folds and followed with his tongue. His touch was light, nearly tickling, but the warmth of his tongue sent a throb through her and he gasped against her, pressing closer. He soon worked his way between her inner folds and she felt him begin to sink into her with a gasp.

“Is this…?” he asked breathlessly.

“Yes,” she groaned. She clenched herself and rocked her hips to draw him in deeper. Soon she heard him cursing so quickly the translator couldn't keep up.

He gasped and rested his head on her hip. “Stormy fucking skies, you are impossible,” he groaned, and his energy was heavily rolling through his hand on her hip. “You’re smoother and wetter here than your mouth and I thought that was the most sensual place that could possibly exist.” He moved up to nudge at her mound with his lips and slowly adjusted his angle. He brought his hand from her hip up to help him probe for her clit.

“I want to bury my face against you, but I love how both my hands are so full of you,” he groaned as he stroked his thumb deeper, gently over the hood of her clit.

She gasped and rocked her hips slightly, clenching around his hand again. “You could just come up here and fuck me.”

“Oh, it’s tempting, but you're too tight for that, Sara,” his breath was warm over her clit and she wished he would just take her already, but he kept talking, “and if I'm going to last inside you, slick and soft, squeezing and pulsing like this? I need something smaller first to tide me over.”

He moved gently, slightly out and back in, circling around and pressing deeper. He was nearly at her g-spot and she rocked her hips restlessly.

“You can—more than once?”

He pulled back, panting, and kept going with his hands. “Yes, we can—smaller peaks, building, then—” he growled and dipped back down, “a full release.”

“Not always?”

“Mm-mnn,” he hummed against her, shaking his head. His hand slipped down from her mound, but his mouth was more than enough. He pulled up to speak again, “but, oh yes this time, Sara,” and took her into his mouth again. His voice was full of strained satisfaction and she knew he was filling his fist, chasing the peak he was dragging her to.

She lifted her knees over his shoulders and he tilted to rub affectionately against her thigh. “I usually—ahh—need a little while between, butyou,” Ryder pressed against the back of his head, stroking down the lines of his frill. Jaal hummed and sent a soft current up through her hands. “Jaal, yes, more—” she said, “there’s a place—inside, almost there. Please!”

He slowly stroked in and out with his finger, searching. He gradually worked deeper, pressing firm circles with the pad of his finger all the way up her back wall, then either side. He nudged the hood of her clit with the tip of his tongue, moving it, cupping her, pressing beside it, building a hard knot of heat. The wait was agonizing and wonderful and she told him so, enthusiastically.

He adjusted his wrist and started his slow exploration of her front wall. “Oh, yes, yes, almost there! Furtherdeeper! More, more please!” She pushed her ass down into the bed and squeezed his head with her thighs.

Jaal froze. His hands, his mouth, everything was held with a tight tension. Then, a loud, deep groan rumbled through her clit, and she felt his restraint of his electrical field drop. His breath hitched and a slow, strong wave poured from him. Through her clit. Into her channel. Then another. So close. Just a little more.

“Inside—I need—all the way, right there, oh god,” she cried and dug her fingernails into the back of his head. Another wave. Jaal inhaled and shoved roughly into her. His hand was coated with her wetness and he was finally dragging across her sweet spot.

She threw her head back and wailed his name while another wave of heat carried her over the edge. Quakes shook through her, squeezing her around him. She angled her hips to rub harder against his mouth and he pressed his tongue down directly over her clit.

Another pulse slammed down through her. Ryder grit her teeth to muffle her cries as she rode out her orgasm. His waves slowed and faded, but he stayed exactly where he was until she collapsed with a breathy groan. Jaal adjusted slightly, still gently touching, but less directly. After a few seconds she winced and patted him.

“I—hah—ok, I need—need a break, ok?” she still hadn't caught her breath. He slowly pulled back from her with a deep echoing sound. His breath brushed her over-sensitive skin and he carefully moved his hand. He sat and rested his head against her knee, breathing hard.

After a few seconds, Jaal shuffled and started climbing up over her. He kissed just under her belly button, then further, gradually working his way up her body. His breathing and movements were just as urgent as they had been, but he carefully lay down next to her and put his hand over her stomach. Then he kissed the top of her head and sighed.

“That barely took the edge off for you, huh?” she huffed.

“I'm fine,” he breathed deep and sounded strained, but smiled warmly. “I’m happy to wait for you.”

“Well,” she said, rolling toward him and stretching. He held his breath and his fingertips slightly dug into her hip. Ryder smiled up at him and Jaal swallowed. “I have a few suggestions for passing the time while you wait,” she said.

“I would love to hear them,” he said. He spoke quietly, barely more than a whisper, but she felt the depth of his voice through his chest.

Ryder pressed her body fully against his. His cock was just as hard, slick and hot, sliding on the soft skin of her stomach. Jaal hissed and thrust gently, clearly holding himself back. He hungrily groaned out her name.

She nudged him to lay on his back and spread her hands on him when he agreed. He sighed and shuddered.

“Mmm, yes, you feel so thick,” she said, dragging her fingers down over his abs. He had thick, softened definition here, and her fingertips dug in hard. She let out a deeply appreciative groan at the densely corded muscle she found everywhere she pressed. “I want to drag my teeth over you,” she gasped, “leave marks trailing down to your dick.”

His hands twitched and he thrust. “Yes, whatever you want,” Jaal moaned.

“So…how much do you think it will take for you to fully release?” Ryder asked, lowering herself to kiss and suckle down the smooth, solid plane of his stomach.

“I don't—I’m never sure, but I think—” She carefully bit him and soothed his skin with her tongue. He paused for a breath. “Probably one more first?”

“Excellent,” she said. “I was hoping you'd say that.” He shivered and groaned in anticipation.

She grabbed each of his hips hard and ran her hands along the muscles of his pelvis. They led her straight to the base of his cock. Jaal panted and grabbed the rumpled blanket in either hand.

She cupped her hands around him, then gently explored. Sliding underneath, down and back, she discovered tight folds similar to her labia majora. Softly curving lines of darker skin led to and disappeared between them.

“Hmmm…” she said, and gently pressed the pad of her thumb between them. Maybe he sheathed when he wasn't aroused? The space behind was warm and slick, and a visible pulse ran up his dick. Jaal was holding his breath and biting his lip hard.

“Is this ok?” she asked softly, letting her breath ghost over him. He let out a hard gust of air and nodded, then spread himself encouragingly. She gave him a gentle touch and kiss, a promise to return.

The darker lines flowed up either side. They met near his tip and swooped over and around. They were beading moisture and looked extremely sensitive. Ryder pressed her thumbs near them, edging closer, dragging indirect pressure parallel along them. He shuddered hard and took in a huge shaking breath. She hummed happily.

His tip was slightly flared, framed by the lines running along his length. She slowly licked along the bottom and felt him swell slightly. When she pulled back, he heaved out a sound somewhere between a cry and a sob and thrust upward.

“Your shape is elegant,” she said, and he still had enough coherence to huff out a laugh. He was tense and shivering.

Ryder sat back and considered. Then, reaching out with one hand, she stroked the back of her index and middle fingers down from the tip. She lightly pressed against his folds, feeling a charge build under her fingertips. He groaned encouragingly. She stroked him with her other hand, following the lines smoothly up to the tip and back down. Slow steady pressure.

He was flushed and rumbling. His breath hitched and sped up. “Yes. Yes, Sara, yes, like that,” he cried. His hips were shifting restlessly, but he wasn't quite thrusting. “Oh stars, how do you—how can you touch me so well—ahh! Sara! Don't stop!” He cut off with a shallow gasp and a shivering rock of his hips down into the bed.

She grinned, watching him fall to pieces in her hands. Her clit throbbed hard, once. Once more. She leaned forward to ghost her hot breath over his tip while she finally pressed both fingers inside him. She curled just upward against the base of his cock.

He groaned, deep and full. “Yes, I want—please, please take me in,” he panted, begging for her touch. She shivered and felt her nipples tighten.

Before she did, Ryder looked up. He was breathing hard and steady and his eyes were closed.

“Jaal,” she said.

He glanced down. His mouth was open and his breaths were getting ragged as he watched her. She looked right into his eyes as she leaned down to cup his tip with her tongue. His hips froze and he made a harsh sound. She circled against the underside of his tip and breathed warmly out onto him.

She could feel his racing pulse against her tongue. Keeping eye contact and blinking slowly, her fingers pressed firmly into him, she closed her mouth over him and sucked.

Then it was his turn to wail desperately as he came against her mouth.

She could feel the same waves as before rolling over his body. Shit that was fast! Ryder was throbbing and ready, eager to take him in, and she wanted much more time than that.

She kept her hands and mouth moving steadily and moaned onto him. A bit of lubrication gushed onto her tongue, and she licked over his tip. He cupped her head and gasped like the air was knocked out of him.

She stroked along his length and sucked him hard through his peak. Her fingers inside felt a heavy tingling buzz, but she kept them firm and moving against him. He hissed out curses and moved his hips carefully but steadily.

Jaal was tense, staring, gulping down air between his slowly quieting cries. Just when she was wondering how long this one would last, he was tugging her up off him into a thorough, hungry kiss.

“Sara,” he said when they came up for air. “thank you.”

She climbed onto him and straddled his hips. He kissed her hands, her cheeks, her lips, then he cupped her ass and sighed. He was still sending out a steady current.

“So, your energy…?” Ryder asked.

“Hard to restrain when I'm this close,” he said. Jaal closed his eyes and shivered under her.

“How...close are you?” she asked carefully.

He chuckled and his electricity lowered slightly. “Not that close,” he said, rubbing his cock smoothly against her. She shivered. “What do you need?” he asked, voice deep and shaking. “Tell me what you want, Sara.”

She braced her hands on his biceps and gently rocked her hips left and right, enjoying the warm fullness of him. “I want you right here,” she squeezed her legs, “I want you inside me,” she said.

“Yes,” he gasped. Jaal was breathing heavily again and sat up to cradle her face. He swallowed and stroked her cheeks with his thumbs. When he spoke again, his voice poured deeply through her. “Anything you want, as much as you want, whenever you want,” he said as he leaned in for a kiss.

She opened eagerly and met his tongue, tilting into him. Ryder hummed contentedly and he slid his hands through her hair. One smoothed down her back. He gathered up her hair and gently tugged. She moaned in approval. He hummed against her and slowed, pulling back to brush his lips against hers.

“I've noticed...you like this,” Jaal tugged the base of her hair and let his voice get rough.

“Yeah, I do,” she gasped and arched against him. “Scalps are...sensitive, and it—you feel...powerful, in control, like you're taking what you want.”

He sent a wave of energy from his hand on her back. It was getting heavy. “And you...like that?” he asked quietly. He kept his hand in her hair and kissed around her jaw toward her ear.

“Fuck yes,” she said.

Jaal shivered and his dick pulsed hard. His tip pressed into her mound and she scooted closer with a sigh. Ryder arched back and moved her hands to his chest.

“I know I'm safe with you, Jaal,” she whispered. He gasped and his hands tightened. “and you're so big, and so careful. You—oh shit the things I know you can do—” Her voice was getting higher and her breaths faster. He had her earlobe in his mouth and his current was flooding through her, making her thrust against him. “I just...fuck I want to feel that power you carry so gently. I want to feel you take me, Jaal, please. I want you so much.”

He moved his mouth to her neck with a groan and bit down a little bit harder.

“Yes like that, just...fuck me the way you want me the most,” she said.

Jaal smiled against her neck and kissed where he’d bitten. Then he carefully gathered all her hair in one fist and tugged her head to the other side. He latched onto her neck with his mouth and pulled her closer with a purr.

Ryder whined and arched back to rub her clit hard onto him. Their spreading wetness was coating them both.

“Please, Jaal!” She was going to explode.

“Yes, Sara,” he whispered to soothe her, “this is how I want you. Slowly. Thoroughly. Completely.” He gently tugged her hair to emphasize his words, and sent a short hard wave through her with each one.

“Shit—” She moved her hips faster, growing desperate.

“Do you want to come again before I take you?” He slowly stroked down to her ass and cupped her, then pulled her hard against him. He moved back to drag his lips across her cheek. “It feels like you're wound so tight. I’d love to watch you unravel.”

“No. I want you inside me before I catch fire.”

“Hmm,” he rocked his hips up against her. “in that case, I know exactly how I want you,” She closed her eyes and shuddered just to hear him talking about it.

“Whatever you want,” she said, echoing him.

“Mmm, Sara,” he pulled her close and stood. She didn't have time to react before she was on her back and he was there at her entrance.

“You're so fast,” she gasped, then grinned and lifted her hips. “Is this how you think of me?” She looked into his eyes mischievously, but the heat and hunger there pinned her to the bed.

“And on your knees,” he said, and slid forward, almost inside. “holding you tight, touching wherever you want. Deep inside you, driving hard against your ass until I empty myself into you.”

“Yes,” Ryder whimpered and grabbed his cock to help him settle. He grit his teeth and slowly pressed forward. His tip was inside and she gasped out a high pitched sigh.

“And bent over my workbench,” he strained and dug his hand into her ass. “spread for me, Sara. That's how I want you. That's where my mind always goes when I give in. When I touch myself and think of you.” His voice was making her shiver and his words were making her tremble. He held her hair tight.

“Please, yes,” she panted.

“Next time, remember?” he rumbled into her ear. He slid a bit deeper, and it was maddening. “Right now, I want to see you, kiss you while you take me in. I want to hold you close.”

Ryder couldn't take. any. more. She braced her feet on the bed and rocked her hips up. He wasn't expecting it and slid in halfway before he managed to tear his hand from her ass and prop himself up.

He throbbed hard and all his breath left him. “Sara, fuck!” he cried. His eyes were closed and he was gritting his teeth again.

“I can't stand it,” she panted, thrusting up over him. His face was held tightly and he looked desperate. He opened his eyes to look into hers and she saw the moment he decided.

Shit,” Jaal hissed and slid completely home.

Ryder shuddered hard and clenched around him. He thrust with a shocked gasp. “Shining stars! That's almost too much. I can't—you're pulling me—darkened skies above us!” He thrust harder and she wrapped her legs around him.

He spread his hand on her scalp and kissed her slowly, heavily, mirroring the movements of their hips. She felt the sounds in the back of his throat and moaned in response. He filled her so well, thick and full, not too tight. He dragged his cock back slowly, only halfway before he huffed a desperate noise and thrust back in with a shiver. She squeezed him tight between her thighs and he pushed against her harder, shoving her up the bed. Ryder grabbed him and scratched down the back of his cowl on either side.

Jaal broke the kiss and stared down at her with his mouth open, breathing hard. His eyelids were heavy, his eyes angled so they were dark and shadowed.

“You're unbelievable,” he whispered. “What do you need?” he asked, pulling her up by her ass and rocking them together slowly.

She smiled and stretched, squeezing around him. She pulled his hips down with her legs and arched her chest up against him. He hissed, cursed, and gripped her tighter.

“Mmmmm…” she shivered happily, “here—” Ryder brought his hand up from her hip to her breast. He adjusted to carefully settle more of his weight on her. She hummed and tilted her hips, which pressed her clit against the hard muscle across his pelvis. He realized what she was doing and adjusted again, bringing his hand from her hair down between them.

She felt him cupping her and said, “You might have a little trouble—” He brushed straight up over her clit and pressed the base of his thumb down firmly. “a-ah! never-mmm-ind,” she gasped. Jaal chuckled against her cheek.

“How is this, darling one?” he whispered softly. He kissed her cheek and caught her eyes. She ran her hands up his cowl and back down while they smiled at each other.

“It's amazing,” she said, kissing him again. He slowly moved his hips. She pulled up her knees and slid her heels back down to the bed, cradling him between her thighs. He thrust harder and started moving his hands against her in a gentle rhythm. She answered with a stroke of her tongue.

He gasped and shivered. He pulled at her bottom lip with his. “You're impossible,” he whispered, “how are you real?”

“I don't…” He cut her off with a deep kiss and a full, smooth thrust. His hands moved steadily, building urgency and soothing it in turn. The warmth of his thighs between hers, heavy fullness pushing inside her, it was everything she'd wanted.

He lifted her slightly with the force of his thrust and she squeezed her thighs around his hips. Ryder moved her hands restlessly, scratching gently, looking for anything that made him as desperate as she felt. Jaal pulled back, trailing short kisses across her cheek. He sighed and nuzzled her neck.

“I’m speechless in the face of your grace, your power,” he licked a short space along her jaw, then nipped. He pressed his nose to the curve of her neck and inhaled deeply. “You overwhelm my senses.”

“Jaal,” her voice broke, “I want—you’re so—” She tilted her head to the side and sobbed when he nibbled behind her ear.

“What is it, my love?” He whispered, “Anything I can do, it is yours, Sara.”

“I want to—” she gasped and tried to focus, “I want to make you—drive you as crazy as you're driving me.”

Jaal laughed softly as his voice deepened again. Softer, lower, echoing. “The way you're clinging to me breathlessly? The way you cling to my cock?” She clenched hard and he groaned. “Shit—yes, that!—and the way you're moving underneath me? That's all I can take, Sara.”

He kissed up to her lips again and squeezed both hands over her as he thrust. She cried out and stiffened. “Yes,” he growled and gasped, “I want to see you. I want to watch you. I'll feel you tighten around my cock when it breaks over you, Sara.” Jaal gasped and froze. She felt a sudden tightness pulse deep inside her, then relax. “You see how I can't even talk about it?” He huffed and thrust hard.

She tried to lift her hips, but his weight held her down. He groaned low against her shoulder and let electricity unspool from the hand pressing over her clit.

“Oh shit,” she gasped.

The charge surrounded her, warm and prickly, teasing and probing, layering on top of the firm pressure of his hand and hips.

A shiver ran through her and he squeezed her nipple just past comfort. She covered her other breast with her own hand and copied his steady movements. She worked her other hand between them to clutch the back of his. He relaxed his hold on his energy further, letting it pour from both hands. She sobbed and thrust with her eyes closed tight.

“Ja-aal! Don't stop!”

Jaal gasped in wonder and lifted his head to watch her. “You're frantic,” he whispered. His voice was thick and deep, reaching into her. Ryder bit her lip hard and pushed up against him.

“Yes,” she said.

The pulsing tightness she'd felt before was back, and his thrusts were slower. He rocked his hips but stayed deep inside. Her clit was shaken and throbbing from his attention.

“I'm right on the edge, Sara,” his breaths followed the rhythm of their movements. “but I can wait for you. Wait for the way you felt on my hand when you came. I'm going to feel it on my cock so soon,” His tip twitched hard and he winced.

“Nnnn yes, you're going to—make me come so hard, Jaal,” Her nipples were painfully hard and his energy was melting through her clit.

Just a little more.

Of course he gave it to her.

He shoved his hips into her and tightened his grip. A warm shivering pulse bloomed from the base of her spine. Oh god, almost, it's starting—

“I can feel your field, Sara,” Jaal stared at her in surprise. She grinned and closed her eyes with a dark chuckle and hooked her legs hard around him.

“I don't want to come yet, but I can't fucking help it,” Her voice rose with her hips and she dug her fingernails into the back of his hand.

“Ohhh Sara, come for me, yes. I want you, over and over. If I could stay locked inside you forever I would. You're so soft and perfect—!”

“Harder,” she groaned, and the harsh sound he made triggered her release before he even moved. “Yes, fuck me! Harder, harder, fuck—fuck yes!”

He listened. She quaked around the deep heavy drag of his cock. A hard pulse made them both sob before he slammed home and his orgasm burst into her.

She was shaking down onto him, warm tight caresses that she never wanted to end.

Her clit was molten and his grip was sinking into her. A sharp spike of pleasure ran hot down from her tits.

His cock was tight inside, swelling bigger, and she felt his warm, thick release. He made a heavy, broken sound and held his hips still while it poured through him.

“Shit yes, come inside me! I want it, all of you, please,” she cried. He buried his face in her neck with another hard noise and his whole body shook.

Ryder threw her head back and held on through the explosion that was tearing through them both. She was full and coming and Jaal was taking her, fucking her, and sobbing into her neck in relief. She barely remembered to breathe.

They clung together, shaking, sweating, crying, exhausted. Finally, they started to come down as their pleasure ran its course.

A hard shiver from the base of her spine ran through her. Jaal’s back stiffened. He gently set his teeth on her and groaned, long and deep. His own shiver pulsed through him, sending a final heavy burst from his cock.

“Shit,” he hissed, his breath hot against her neck. Ryder chuckled deeply, in complete agreement.

“Yeah, holy fucking shit,” she said. “Are...” she thought for a moment, “can you pull out yet?”

Jaal slid his hands from between their oversensitive bodies and sighed. He propped up on his elbows and blinked. He looked like he was clearing his head, which, well, made sense actually.

“Nearly?” he said, then concerned, “Are you uncomfortable?”

“Hmmm, not exactly?” Ryder thought. “Oh, let's roll to the side?”

Jaal smiled and kissed her cheek with a nod. One hand went back under her ass and he carefully rolled them over before collapsing with a deeply contented sigh. She left her leg over his hip.

He tucked one hand under her head and kissed her forehead. The other started warmly stroking anywhere he could reach. She shivered happily and let her hands wander over his chest.

She looked into his eyes and watched as his irises slowly went back to normal. They smiled in silence. He settled both hands in her hair and made soothing movements over her scalp.

After a while, Ryder spoke. “That? Wasn't just the best sex I have ever had,” she said, “it was the best sex anyone has ever had.”

Jaal laughed and kissed her forehead again. “I can't disagree,” he said.

His energy was calmer, but still dancing from his hands. It fluffed her hair and he smoothed it back. It fluffed up again. She snorted, took his hand, and held it between them.

She reached up again to stroke over his brow ridge and around under the side, and his breath hitched. He leaned into her touch, and when she repeated it, she felt him purr. He gently kissed her, then pulled back with a smile.

“That's a common gesture of affection,” he said, flicking his eyes up toward her hand and back.

Ryder smiled. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” he said softly. He pressed his forehead to hers and moved to trail his hand down her back. He was softening inside her, but neither of them moved.

“So...you asked why I didn't just say so,” Ryder said thoughtfully.

“Yes?” He said.

“If that's no big deal for angara…” she glanced up and he nodded, “and you didn't know it kind of can be for humans...why didn't you just say so?”

Jaal was quiet and snuggled a bit closer. Ryder felt a light wave of nearly nervous energy from his hand as he stroked up and down her arm. He took a deep sighing breath.

“I was...trying to build my confidence,” he said. “We aren’t embarrassed by our attraction being known, but we do get hurt by rejection. And...it wasn't...I was afraid.”

“You were afraid of my rejection,” she said. “You. Shit, why would I reject you?”

He chuckled and squeezed her affectionately. “You’re making me blush again,” he said.

“Good! You're…amazing, Jaal.”

The waves from his hand had faded to something stronger, bouncier. No longer nervous at least. He kissed her forehead again.

“I know I probably seem very confident and capable to you,” he said, and his voice was soft, vulnerable, “but…”

She touched his cheek and he sighed.

“My...many members of my family have reputations, accomplishments. The name 'Darav’ carries weight,” he said. “My older siblings, uncle, cousins, they have been very accomplished in the Resistance, or made important scientific discoveries, things like that.”

“I know about feeling the pressure to measure up, that's for sure.”

“It's not exactly pressure, but...there is an unspoken expectation that I will do something...important. Everyone has...opinions,” he sighed. “I have so many older siblings and cousins who achieved whatever they wanted, and I...didn't. After a while, I just stopped trying to keep up.”

Ryder cupped his jaw and scooted up for a kiss. Her tongue gently stroked the inside of his lips before she met his. She held him carefully with both hands and looked into his eyes until he closed his with a gentle sigh. She pulled away with small sweet kisses on his lips and cheek. He relaxed against her, contented.

“Jaal. You have done important things. But more than that, even if you never did anything that anyone else considered 'important,’ you are kind, and insightful, loving, curious, dedicated...you, specifically, are important. Right now.”

He pressed his forehead against hers and sniffled. He brought a hand up to wipe his eyes and touched her cheek.

“I love you,” he whispered.

Her heart pounded, but soared. “I love you, too,” she said.

Jaal grinned and nuzzled his nose against her cheek. Her stomach chose that moment to let out a giant, weird, bubbly growl. “Oh,” she said, “I was going to get something to eat...before um, all this.”

He smiled. “Then shall we get food and come back for more of the same?”

“That is an excellent plan.”