Sass could hardly believe it. In fact, she still couldn't quite believe it; still kept one ear out for the comm signal. It always happened to them - something always came up, some emergency calling them back to their endless duty.
But if anyone wanted to interrupt them today, they'd have to get past Dr. Eden first. Taking one look at them when they dropped by on the way back from their last exhausting mission, their good friend had used every ounce of the not inconsiderable influence she still wielded - despite not strictly being in the medical chain of command any longer - to ensure they were very firmly placed on shore leave.
Anyone attempting to interrupt their vitally important rest and relaxation, she'd told several important and harrumphing faces on the view screen, would have to answer to her medical opinion that the two of them were seriously overdue for a break.
It had been an exhilarating ride, getting the Vaxxar back up to spec, while trying to find all the tracking beacons that the Faction had hidden within it and dodge the Ved and their more conventional patrols using the remaining ones to hone in on their current hiding place. But now it was done, and the huntership was back in service - and sorely needed, as the remains of the ex-Triad fleet were still a formidable foe even as the internal economy and support inside Triad space fell apart from the remorseless depredations and hunger of the Ved.
And much as neither of them truly believed the ship could be properly captained in their absence, she had to admit that the tasks it was currently engaged in were much less demanding than the ones they had just shepherded it through.
So now she was here - in the hotels of Glitterkiln, on top of one of those ridiculous heart-shaped beds, red-satin sheets sprawling across an expanse so wide that it wouldn't have fit into Cabin 2 at all - and she had him all to herself - with nothing to do but relax, and explore.
The poor boy was still nervous, even after all their stolen kisses and hurried assignations through the months of turmoil at the outset of this new war. He was still so uncomfortable being naked around her - as if she would suddenly change her mind about his body, which he despised so much. So nervous that, even now, she practically had to order him out of his clothes.
But she couldn't stand him being covered up one moment longer. Now she could see every inch of him, every lovely seam and meaningful bump, every scar a tale of his strength and determination. And she was determined that he would see himself just as she did - perfect and whole, fascinating and enchanting - not despite of his modifications, but because of them.
Drinking in the sight, she was not sure where to begin - so she began, of course, where they always did - with a kiss.
Straddling his passive, rigid body, her hands by his shoulders, she dipped down to find his lips. Gently at first, then with increasing passion, she reminded him in the language of their first embrace that she loved him, that she will always love him, that she wanted to please him.
After some moments, he pulled gently away.
"I still don't know," he mumbled, his voice husky with desire, "how you can stand looking at me like this."
"Branden," she admonished him. "I like looking at you. I like looking at all of you. I love unwrapping you, like a gift from the gods. It's not that I love you in spite of your differences..."
She moved her head down, along his neck, across his shoulder, gently nuzzling the thick, ropy scars that speak of the torment that he must have gone through for these enhancements that they have given him.
She didn't want to say - I love you because of them - because that wasn't true either. She loves him: the whole package, man and 'cybe, everything. She didn't want him to think that she only loved the parts of him that he detested, that she was only with him out of some strange desire for novelty - not that that wasn't part of it, she had to admit - but neither did she want him to think she didn't love them.
So she let her body do the talking. She progressed down the strong, hardened arms to the port on his wrist, the attachment that he was so ashamed of, that she was so fascinated by. He tensed as she approached it, so she sat up for a moment, lifting his hand with her, so she could watch his face as she continued to explore.
He seemed conflicted for a moment - as if he might snatch his hand away, as if he wondered what she was really thinking when she delicately touched her nose to the soft synthderm covering.
"Mmm," she vocalised, caressing his wrist, the back of his hand, darting and exploring around the port just like he might around her nipple.
"Unh," he said, awkwardly. "Oh. Sass. You... you don't have to... I understand if..."
"Sssh," she counselled him, and continued her exploration. His hands were especially fascinating. The silvery glint of the powermesh, the intricate patchwork of scars that run just under the synthderm. She could lose herself in them for hours. She almost lost track of his face, of the way that she was trying to teach him how to love himself, even as she loved him.
"You..." he croaked, barely able to speak with the realisation. "You... you really like them, don't you?"
He sounded so lost and so adorable in that moment that she couldn't help but stop what she was doing - despite her intense interest in the scars that stripe his fingers - and dive in to kiss the surprise off his face, and replace it wholly with the dawning delight that is warring with it.
"Of course I do," she whispered, coming up for air. She searched his expression, seized with a sudden doubt. Would her admission of loving the thing that he hated about himself make him think less of her? Would he think that she was a freak for enjoying the touch of those gleaming powernodes that adorn his fingertips?
But all she could see was a profound relief; a barrier dropping away between them, as he pulled her close, trailing the slightly cool surface of his fingertips down her back. She surrendered to his touch, arching and sighing, letting him see how much she did, indeed, 'really like them' - and it did not take much exaggeration, simply a letting go of the boundaries she'd been keeping to protect him from himself.
"I didn't think anyone could," he breathed.
"Well," she managed to catch the breath to retort, "I'm not just anyone, now."
"That you aren't," he replied, with a chuckle; and pulls her down into another kiss before she could get the final word.