Disclaimer: Some concepts and a character in this story belong to ABC TV, and no, ABC TV has no idea I'm writing naughty stuff about one of their characters. They didn't give me permission. I'm just borrowing one of them, in any case. I promise to put him back when I'm done. Oh, and this story is just CHOCK full of SEX! EEK! Oh my! (*fan* *fan*) So, if you can't handle reading about people (m/f) having sex, or you're under 18 and don't have parental permission, DON'T READ IT!!

System Requirements: This story is best viewed with Sarah McLachlan's "Surfacing" CD playing in the background.

BTW, for those of you who have read other fanfic by me, this story, like "Gemma," begins in a bar. There is no arcane significance to that, it's just that it is one of the few places in our society where strangers meet and indulge in courtship display, which makes it a logical place to start an erotica. --Kellie

What ravages of spirit
Conjured this torturous rage
Created you a monster
Broken by the rule of love
And fate has led you through it
You do what you have to do
--Sarah McLachlan, "Do What You Have To Do"

by Kellie Matthews

No one sat close to him, despite the Friday-night crowd. For an hour he had remained alone, surrounded by a small oasis of open space that no one had dared to breach. Apparently Carlie wasn't the only one who could feel that 'otherness' he radiated. There was an intensity about him, a sense that all she saw was what he allowed to be seen, that nine-tenths of him was hidden from view. It both fascinated and unnerved her. She had faced hundreds of people across this bar, not one had ever affected her like this. She swore she'd felt him from the moment he walked in. Something had made her turn and look, made her watch him step inside and glance around, then cross the crowded room to take a seat at the bar. She'd filled his order like any other, and now watched him look into the glass, gazing into the topaz liquid as if he could see in its depths the future, the past, and all the secrets of the universe.

As she studied him, he suddenly looked up, his actinic gaze pinning her like a butterfly on a collecting board. For long seconds their glances held. He seemed to look inside her, drawing out every secret thought, every unspoken desire. Heat flushed through her, not embarrassment, arousal. She could read nothing in his gaze, he was as hidden from her as she was exposed to him. Finally he looked away, releasing her from the spell. She swallowed heavily, trying to convince herself that it had all been in her imagination, and summoned a weak smile as she gestured at his glass.

"Refill?" She queried, amazed that she could actually speak.

He considered, then shook his head. "No. Thank you."

His voice was husky, softly abrasive, and his diction very deliberate, almost studied. Though his fair skin was relatively unlined, the dark gold of his hair was almost obscured by silver. He might have gone gray prematurely, but despite his youthful skin his eyes were too lived-in to be those of a young man. She nodded briefly, acknowledging his refusal, and turned away, hearing her name called from the other end of the bar. She smiled, recognizing one of her regulars.

"Hey, Henry. How's business?"

"Can't complain, Carlotta darlin'" he drawled. "Get me a Boilermaker, wouldya?"

She winked and fired a finger at him. "You got it."

Henry was old enough to be her grandfather, but he liked to flirt, said it made him feel young. She didn't mind indulging him, especially since he tipped well. She poured a double shot of whiskey, pulled a short beer, and placed both in front of him, waiting. Picking up the shot glass, Henry dropped it in the beer, waited until the foam started to rise, and then started drinking. He didn't stop until the glass was two-thirds empty.

She held out her hand. "Pay up."

"Aw hell, Carlie!" Henry complained noisily.

She stuck to her guns. "You know the deal. I only comp if you empty the glass on one breath."

Grumbling, Henry drew out his wallet and pressed a bill into her hand. "Keep it."

She nodded, and put the extra in her tip jar. She glanced up to see Blue-eyes looking her way, smiling faintly, with just the very outer corners of his mouth. The soft silver-blonde beard that hugged his jaw did little to disguise the grim set of his features, but the smile did wonders. She felt that flush again, that dangerous warmth. He lifted his glass and sipped, looking away again. Her own gaze lingered, watching his throat move as he swallowed, noting how beautifully shaped the hand holding the glass was.

"Oh, Carlie, be careful darlin'. That one's trouble."

Startled, she looked back at Henry. "You know him?"

Henry shook his head. "Never saw him before in my life, but I know trouble when I see it."

He was right. Not that it mattered, since she was just admiring the view. She grinned. "Well, don't you worry, I only have eyes for you."

Henry didn't look mollified. "I mean it Carlie, not that one."

She started to get annoyed. "I'm a big girl, Henry, I can take care of myself."

Henry had enough sense to know when to shut up. He nodded, and picked up his drink. Carlie went back to work, mixing drinks, making change for the waitstaff, talking up her regulars. Her gaze was consistently drawn back to the stranger who still sat alone at the far end of the bar. It was as if he were a magnet and she a compass needle. After a while she saw Blue-eyes finish the remainder of his drink and stand to leave. She sighed, so much for the entertainment.

He had to wait a moment as a large group passed the bar on their way to a table, and she studied him covertly. He wasn't tall, but his body held a coiled-spring tension and animal grace. A brief fantasy exploded in her mind, his strong, compact body naked beneath hers, those gorgeous hands gripping her hips as he thrust upward . . . Carlie shuddered with the intensity of the image. He turned, eyes meeting hers, one silver brow lifted in query, that faint, mysterious smile back on his lips.

He knew. She didn't know how, but he knew. The heat in her belly rushed upward, staining her face. He inclined his head in a slow, deliberate nod, and then moved toward the door and was gone, leaving her staring after him with her mouth open.

"Hey, Carlie! I need that vodka-tonic sometime tonight, okay?"

Liz's sarcastic comment broke her paralysis and she hastily grabbed the vodka bottle. "Comin' right up Liz, sorry."

* * *

Carlie locked the door behind her, then turned and faced the parking lot with a yawn. God, it seemed like closing got later every night. Glancing at her watch, she scowled as she saw it was after three a.m. It had taken an hour to get everyone out, balance the till, and get the place in order for the cleaning crew who would arrive in a scant four hours. She stretched and headed for her car. Her car and three others were the only vehicles left in lot. She'd sent three customers home in cabs, so the other three vehicles were probably theirs. A few steps from her car, she stopped suddenly, sensing . . . something A surge of adrenalin went through her and she carefully shifted her keys until their sharp points protruded from between her clenched fingers.

It wouldn't be the first time she'd had to defend herself, and she was good at it. Not that she'd ever admit it to anyone, but some anti-social part of her actually enjoyed it. Suddenly she identified the tingle that had run down her spine. It was the same feeling that had made her look up to see Blue-eyes walk into the bar. Slowly she turned in a circle, surveying the nearly-deserted parking lot. There. In a shadow just beyond the circle of light cast by a street-lamp, a motionless figure. It should have been impossible to see any detail at all in the darkness, especially at this distance, but she knew who it was. Silvered-blonde hair, eyes like glacier ice, a grim, set mouth that barely remembered how to smile. Him.

"Hello, Carlotta."

His voice roughed over her skin like a physical touch, bringing every nerve alive. She knew she should be afraid, but she wasn't. Something primal in her knew this man, demanded him.

"What do you want?"

"I want to show you who you are."

"I know who I am."

"You know who they told you that you are. They're wrong." He stepped into the light, advanced until he was only inches away, leaned closer, in her space. She didn't move away. "I know you're different."

He circled behind her, she resisted the urge to turn and see what he was doing.

"Different here . . . "

As he spoke, he reached around her to flatten his hand over her belly. She stiffened. How could he know that? No one knew that, everyone who ever had known was dead now.

His hand moved to center between her breasts. "Different here . . ." It moved upward to her hair, smoothing it back from her temple so his fingers could rest against bare skin there. ". . . and here."

"No," she said instinctively, though her mind screamed "Yes!"

She could feel the heat of his body, could smell the unique scent of him. Why wasn't she afraid? Logically, she should be. A deserted parking lot at three in the morning, a strange man, saying strange things, touching her. She was trembling, yes, but not from fear.

"Yes." His breath fanned against her ear as he spoke, he was that close. "You know I'm right. You're different but you hide it to protect yourself. We all do, Carlie, because they kill what they don't understand."

Every word struck home like a knife, his voice compelling, persuasive.

"How . . . " She didn't finish the question, afraid of the answer.

"I know because I'm like you. I'm different, too."

It was the answer she had feared, yet needed. To know there was at least one other person in the world who understood. Who knew what it was like to be different, not just in the everyday, angst-ridden way of the world, but deeply, strangely different. Alien.

He moved around in front of her once more, framed her face between his hands. "No, not alien. We belong here. This world made us. Different, yes, but not alien."

As his hands left her face, her breath stopped, caught in her throat. He could read her mind. She hadn't imagined it. He shook his head.

"Not your thoughts, your emotions. That's part of us, we all can do it."

She shook her head. "I can't."

"You can, you've just let them convince you otherwise. If you let yourself acknowledge it, you'll find that you've always known what others were feeling."

A thousand incidents flooded through her, memories she had ignored or suppressed. One stood out, her foster mother looking bright and cheerful as she'd emerged from the doctor's office that morning, telling her that everything was fine, yet emanating waves of distress, of fear, of barely controlled panic. The beginning of the end. Yes. He was right. Curious, she tried it out on him, but found nothing. She scowled.

"I can't feel you."

He laughed, a short, humorless rasp. "No. I don't let anyone know what I feel."

She studied him, seeing that hard mouth, those laser-brilliant eyes, and shivered. "How sad."

"How necessary," he replied shortly.

"What are we?"

"The future."

"What are they?"

"The past."

A shiver went through her at the stark finality of his words. Yes, perhaps it was better that he didn't let her feel what he felt. She had a terrible certainty that it would be far more than she could handle. Odd that she didn't doubt his word. This all made so much sense, it seemed completely natural to believe him.

"Are we all like this?" Her hand rested on her belly, on the place where she was most different. His teeth flashed in a mercurial smile.

"The females, yes."

She smiled back, understanding his humor. Of course the males wouldn't be. Strange. Not men and women, but males and females. It seemed a cold way to put it.


"It's more efficient. We mature faster, breed faster. We're stronger, smarter " he laughed softly, shaking his head. "Well, most of us, anyway."

She nodded. That made a certain sense. Evolution in action. "How many of . . . us, are there?"

"More than there were, not as many as there will be."

Truth couched in riddles. He didn't want to tell her. She wondered why, but didn't ask. "How did you know I was one?"

"I could feel you. You felt me, didn't you, when I walked in?"

"I felt something. I didn't know what it was."

"Your body recognized me for what I am, though your mind didn't have the information it needed to process that recognition, because you grew up ignorant of your true nature."


He shook his head. "I don't know. We tried to keep track during the diaspora, but there were a few who were lost. Your parents must have been among those, and they must have died when you were very young. None of our kind would ever willingly abandon a child to be raised by outsiders."

The utter certainty in his voice sounded so good. To believe that she had been wanted, not thrown away like garbage because of her strangeness. "Were you looking for me?"

He shook his head. "I wish I could say I was, but it was serendipity. I was looking for another of our kind, one I had heard might be in this area. I found you instead." He reached out, fingers sifting through the thick darkness of her hair, then moving to cup her jaw. As he rubbed the pad of his thumb across her lower lip, his voice lowered to a whisper. "You were much more interesting."

His touch was electric, instantly waking the carnal fantasy that had been lurking below the surface of her mind for hours. Her skin went tight, her nipples hardened, and humid warmth spread through her belly. She had dreamed this, but never experienced it. Her only pleasures had come from her own hands. Not that she had trouble attracting men, just the opposite, but in school every boy she'd dated had left her unmoved, later as an adult, every man she tried to start a relationship with had left her cold. Not this man. This one set her on fire with just a glance. She looked at him, knowing he knew what she was feeling, and saw his gaze darken with echoed desire.

"You've been waiting a very long time, haven't you?" he asked.

Without waiting for her answer he leaned in and brushed his lips against her forehead before lowering his head to find her mouth with his. His mouth might look hard, but it felt like velvet against hers, as compellingly persuasive as his voice. She felt almost desperately hungry, not for food, for touch. She devoured his mouth like a starving woman, returning his kiss, trying to express the intensity of her desire in just that touch. His tongue flicked out, tasted her, retreated. She followed it, tasted him in turn, learned the sharp, hard edges of his teeth, the heat and softness of his mouth. She wound her arms around him, grinding her hips against his until she felt the response she craved in the hardening of his body.

He made a sound, a soft growl, and ran his hands down her body to her hips. She put her hands on his shoulders, felt powerful muscles flex beneath the bulky cotton of his sweater as he lifted her off her feet, moving forward. A moment later she was on her back, staring up at the stars until his shadowed silhouette above her blocked them and he began opening the buttons of her shirt. Carlie braced her feet to keep from sliding down the sloped surface and reached for him, wrestling with his sweater until her hands found sleek, warm skin beneath it, learning the texture of his flesh, wanting far more.

Finished opening her shirt, his hands closed over her breasts, fingers teasing her taut nipples, sparking pleasure through her in a circuit between breasts and belly. She slid one hand from beneath his sweater and tangled her fingers in the soft waves of his hair, pulling his mouth down to hers again, reveling in the fierceness of his kiss. Arching upward, she lifted until she could feel the firm bulk of his body against her own. He gave her his weight, pressing her down, hips moving against hers as she instinctively shifted her thighs apart to get him where she needed him. The sensation was luscious, but it left her frustrated by the clothing that hampered that contact.

He pushed himself away, his hands leaving her breasts, trailing down to the waistband of her sensible black slacks where he worked both the button and zipper, then slid his fingers between the loosened fabric and her skin, pushing both slacks and panties down. She lifted her hips to facilitate their removal, kicking the restrictive cloth from first one foot, then the other before letting herself back down, gasping as her bare skin met cold metal. He caught her behind the knees and pulled her forward as her hands went to his jeans, fumbling awkwardly with the fastening. He captured her hands in one of his and used the other to complete the task she had started, then lowered her hands to the gap.

He filled her hands, she could feel his pulse beating against her palms. She explored, curling her fingers around him, learning soft velvet skin, hard, hard muscle, silky curls, and the strange vulnerability that was a man. She learned the way her touch made him shudder, the way his breathing made the flat plane of his belly flutter like a trapped moth, learned the power of being the flame that drew him. When he put his hands against her thighs, she opened to him willingly, guided him eagerly. It wasn't too soon, not at all. She was ready, had been ready all of her life, it seemed, just waiting for the right time, or place, or man. Her head fell back as he braced his hands on either side of her and rocked forward. Catching her lower lip in her teeth she pushed herself forcefully into his thrust. Something inside her gave way, and he took its place.

Carlie tasted blood from her bitten lip as the fierce, brief pain faded to nothing, and her body adjusted to his. She was surprised that evolution had not discarded that useless bit of tissue as long as it was rearranging the rest of her insides, but perhaps it served some purpose other than to signal to a man that he was the first. He was motionless above her, inside her, and she could feel in his breathing and taut muscles what it cost him to remain so. Impatiently she wondered what he was waiting for. She looked up and despite the darkness, read surprise on his face.


He shook his head, teeth flashing in a brief smile, and moved. She moaned, catching his hips in her hands to prolong each subtle glide, holding him to her, demanding more. He gave it, gave until fire burned through her, and both his breathing and his body in hers were harsh and rapid; until the universe spun down to a pinpoint blaze in her belly and the blaze exploded into pleasure, recreating time once more. Lost in it, she drifted, listening to his breathing slow, feeling the echoing pulses of delight slowly fade. She wanted to savor the moment forever, but all too soon he tensed, his head lifting as he gazed around with the alert, sharp gaze of a hunting animal.

"Someone's coming."

For a moment it was as if he were speaking an unknown language, then meaning finally fell into place and reality reasserted itself with a rush. Not even sure where she was, she looked around and realized she was lying half-naked on the hood of her car, with a man whose name she didn't even know still occupying her body. For a few seconds appalled self-recrimination flooded her, until it dawned on her suddenly, that there really was no problem. She was, as she'd asserted to Henry earlier that evening, a 'big girl,' and if she wanted to fuck a total stranger in the middle of the parking lot, that was her privilege. Still, it was one thing to do it, and quite another to get caught at it.

"It's probably the private security firm the owner hired. They're due to make rounds any time now. Where are my keys?" she asked, looking around, trying to figure out what she'd done with them. The last she remembered having them had been some time ago.

He touched her cheek lightly, then eased back, separating from her with surprising care considering the wildness he'd displayed only moments earlier. Hauling his jeans back up, he knelt beside the car as she slid down the hood to her feet, finding her knees a little wobbly. With uncanny intuition, he flowed to a standing position and steadied her with one hand, holding her keys and her clothes in the other. She grabbed the keys and his hand, legs firming up as the sound of the approaching vehicle became louder.

She dragged him back to the building, managed to get the door open, and they both ducked inside just as the headlights of the security car swept across the parking lot. She hurriedly turned the lock from the inside and as the car turned toward the building the stranger reached out and pulled her back against him into the small alcove just inside the door that housed the pay-phone. Though the alcove was lit by a dim overhead fixture, there was enough shadow against the back wall to conceal them, and they hid there, silent, as the rent-a-cop got out to check the door and shine his flashlight in the windows. The beam flickered past their hiding place, but didn't penetrate it. After a few moments, apparently satisfied, the security guy went back to his car, and left.

Relief dissolved through her, effervescing into giggles and she collapsed into a boneless heap on the floor, laughing. As she began to calm down, she looked up to find her demon lover regarding her quizzically, clearly wondering what was so funny. For some reason that set her off again. He waited for her to regain control, looking very human and not dangerous at all with his sweater hitched up on one side, his jeans half-undone, and his hair a tousled halo of electrum curls. That illusion of harmlessness made him all the more unsafe. She sensed that there were many things about him that she would probably rather not know, but despite that, at the moment he was just a man who she suspected had enjoyed himself every bit as much as she had. Did he feel a twinge of insecurity as he wondered why she laughed? The thought nearly set her off a third time. No, definitely not.

She had him for another three hours or so, until the cleaning crew arrived. She wouldn't spoil that. She smiled, and held out a hand daringly, in wordless invitation. There was more than a hint of self-satisfaction in the sensual smile that curved his mouth then. Smug bastard, she thought without anger. Frankly, he had every right to be smug. She wondered what his name was, and then decided not to ask. That small mystery added something to the whole air of surreality the night had assumed.

He took her hand and drew her to her feet, looking past her into the deserted room with that sharp, seeking gaze. Carlie knew exactly what he was looking for, and led him toward the employee break room in the back. The insistence was growing within her, she felt barely able to wait for the relative comfort of the break-room couch. She briefly wondered why, after twenty-eight years of effortless celibacy, she was suddenly as feral and needy as an animal in heat, but she deliberately pushed that thought aside, refusing to let it interfere as she closed the door behind them, and turned on the light. She wanted to see him this time, all of him. She began tugging at his sweater, not getting very far until he came to her assistance and took it off himself. She was on him instantly, hands seeking his skin as if she were blind and touch her only means of seeing.

Warm, sleek, and smooth, his skin covered fluidly powerful muscles, contained the driving beat of his pulse, radiated the mystery of his scent. She had never felt so deliciously aware of the way a man smelled before. Not sweat, not cologne, but some indefinable essence of male. She pressed her face into his neck, breathing in deeply, letting it wash through her, increasing the fever within her. She fanned her hands across his back, absorbing the supple strength there, slid them down until the heavy fabric of his jeans prohibited further exploration.

Irritably she tugged at the waistband, and felt him move his hands between them to release the half-closed zipper. Eagerly pushing the loosened fabric out of her way, she cupped her hands over the muscular curves of his ass, running her fingers down his firm flanks, then back up to his chest once more as she took a step back so she could finally see all of him. He braced an arm against the wall and toed off his shoes, and she watched the flex of various muscles as he shifted his weight to step out of his jeans. God, he was beautifully built he seemed composed of both light and flesh, every proportion sculpturally precise, though she'd never seen a sculpture that breathed, that moved, that needed. He made her hungry, a deep, driving, aching hunger.

He waited quietly, unmoving, but watching her with those diamond- bright eyes, her own hunger reflected there, along with a submissivness that sat strangely on him. She knew instinctively that state was not natural to him, and wondered why he affected it. She had no illusions that she could control him. Whatever control she had, he gave her. Still, it reminded her of her first fantasy about him, and she advanced on him, putting her hands against his chest with just enough pressure to convey her desire. Obedient, he backed up, one step at a time, until he was only inches from the couch. Hands still against his chest, she pushed harder, and he let himself fall, lying back on the worn plaid surface.

Carlie went to her knees beside him, needing to know all of him with a desperation that almost frightened her. She trailed her lips across his throat, up to his mouth, catching him in a hot, fierce kiss before moving on to skim the velvet curve of a bare shoulder with her teeth, to taste the sweat that beaded along his ribs, to trace the hollow that ran from sternum to navel. The silver-gilt curls on his belly were soft as feathers against her lips, and strangely harsh to her tongue. His hands came up to catch her hair where it trailed across his skin, to gather it up and hold it back so he could touch her face with his fingertips as her mouth descended on him, tasting the familiar tang of her own blood along with the unfamiliar mingling of him and herself. She consumed him slowly, like a forbidden sweet, until his hands left her hair to close in fists and a rough, raw moan escaped him to break the silence of their breath.

She lifted her head, studying his face, somehow knowing how rare it was to see the harshness gone from his expression, leaving the grave, subtle curve of his mouth free of tension, and his lash-veiled gaze still brilliant, but no longer icy. His throat moved as he started to speak, and she quickly covered his mouth with hers, not wanting to lose the moment. He returned the kiss, sighing into her mouth, hands reaching for her, trying to pull her closer. As they kissed, she kicked off her shoes and unbuttoned the cuffs of her shirt, tugging it the rest of the way off before finally giving in to the urging of his hands and moving to straddle his body, reaching with newfound confidence to hold the rigid length of him as she settled over him, slowly taking him inside her.

Pain flowered briefly where torn tissues had not had time to heal, and she breathed through it until it eased, and all she felt was filled. Her eyes drifted closed, and she braced her hands on his shoulders, absorbing the moment through her other senses, feeling the slick of sweat beneath her hands and on her inner thighs where they gripped his hips; hearing the deep rush of his breathing, feeling herself sink and rise slightly with each breath he took. She leaned down and put her lips to the hollow of his throat, tasting him, salt, and something else, something as unique as his scent.

Sliding her hands down his arms, she found his hands and lifted them to her breasts. He rubbed his palms slowly over them, sending shivers through her, making it impossible to remain still. Slowly she began to move her hips, making figure-eights around the fulcrum of his cock. His hands slipped behind her back to draw her forward, but as soon as his mouth touched her skin, his hands were sliding down again, over her breasts, down to where they joined, touching her intimately, knowingly. Slick, wet fire bloomed from his fingertips, insistent, maddening. He shifted his free hand to her hip, spreading lean, strong fingers across her skin, guiding her movements, urging her faster, harder, his body lifting into hers, driving so deep, so deep. This was what she'd wanted, this, just this. Once more pleasure narrowed to a point of light and fire deep inside her, and she waited, breath held, every muscle taut until it exploded into a new sun.

Gasping, she started to relax, wanting just to let the residual heat and light pulse through her, but he wasn't ready for that. Wrapping his arms tightly around her, he slid off the couch with her still snug around him, absorbing the shock of the short drop himself, then rolling to put her beneath him. The solid strength of his body held her pinned as he began to move, driving hard into the yielding heat of her body, hands on the floor, head against her shoulder. She wrapped herself around him, absorbing the force of his passion, feeling her own rekindle in response. He gifted her with desire, impossible to refuse, impossible to resist, even had she wanted to. When it finally peaked, heat washed through her, kindling every nerve ending with aching pleasure. Finally he collapsed on top of her, panting, shuddering as his body found the release it demanded.

He felt fever-hot in her arms, and in that moment, she was overwhelmed by feelings of terrible anger, fear, loneliness, and regret. Instantly she knew those feelings were not her own. His barriers had come down as he sought comfort in her, and he probably didn't even know it. She held him, her body a crucible for his pain, tears leaking from her eyes as she soothed her hands through his hair, down his back. No wonder he never let anyone sense what he felt. What was he? What could possibly engender such a vast chasm of negativity? Not a single positive feeling, just that maelstrom of darkness. How could someone with such darkness at his core possibly fill her with such light? He had brought her fire, yet had none of his own to warm him.

The flow of foreign emotions suddenly stopped, as if he'd turned off a tap. He shuddered again, and then pushed away from her, his expression remote. He stared at her for several seconds, then he scrubbed his hands over his face and thrust them through his hair, holding his head as if he were afraid it would explode. For the first time in his presence she felt the cool breath of fear along her spine. He was close to breaking, very close. She sat up slowly, ignoring the unaccustomed soreness in her muscles and the tender ache between her thighs, and put a hand on his arm, offering wordless comfort. He turned away, wrapping his arms around his knees, and stared off at nothing for a few moments. Finally he sighed, and spoke without looking at her.

"I'll send someone to you, she can teach you what you need to know."

"Why can't you teach me?" As soon as she'd said it, she regretted it. She knew better.

His response was unexpected. He looked at her, his brilliant eyes strangely dark. "You don't want to learn what I teach. You were raised by humans, you won't understand. Besides, you'll need a female with you when it's time."

Anger flashed hot in her, making her clench her fists. She hated it whem people assumed they knew what was best for her, as if she were stupid. Apparently Homo Superior here actually thought he was superior. She grabbed his arm so hard he winced, looking startled.

"Cut the mysterious bullshit, okay? It was just a simple question. How can you possibly know what I can or can't understand? It's been a whole . . ." she glanced at her watch, ". . . six and a half hours since you walked into the bar."

He stared at her, and slowly his gaze went from startled to amused. "Perhaps you're more like us than I thought. Very well, I'll tell you, and we will see." He stood up and started to put his clothes back on, tugging on his jeans, zipping them before turning back to her. "You could call me a remover of problems, but what I really do is kill. I kill anyone who threatens our survival, and I train others to do the same. Our kind has a certain inborn instinct for violence, but I've made it into an art form."

She stared at him, shaken, but strangely unsurprised. Had she sensed this from the start? Perhaps so. Perhaps it was, in a strange way, part of his appeal. If that instinct for violence was inherent as he said and as she had personal reason to believe, it made sense that she would be attracted to someone who was a master of it. A behaviorist would define her response as a very predictable attraction to the alpha of the species. Aware that he was watching her intently, waiting for a response, she summoned one from somewhere.

"I see."

He studied her for a moment. "Do you?"



"And. . . I don't know." She shook her head, still trying to assimilate her own feelings, which were far different from what they should be. "I should be horrified, but I'm not. It's very odd, but I guess I don't see it as any different from being a soldier."

"A good analogy, as we are in a kind of war, but I'm more of an assassin. Those I kill are not always aware of the battle. Some you would probably count as . . . how do they put it on the news, 'collateral damage.'"

She managed not to flinch from the implication there, but he didn't let her hide. "So, do you still think you want to learn what I teach?"

She met his gaze evenly. "No, but at least it's my decision."

He nodded gravely. "As it should be."

Thoughtful, she watched him pull on his sweater, and sit down to put his shoes back on. Her mind jumped from question to question, but most she was sure he would not answer. One in particular kept bothering her, though.

"Tell me something?"

He looked up from tying a shoelace. "What?"

"What does it say about our supposedly superior intelligence, that in this era of AIDS we just had completely unprotected sex? Two complete strangers, knowing nothing about each other except that we find one another attractive."

He grinned. "Well, I can't say what it says about you, but for myself it says I know we're immune to all the sexually transmitted diseases to which humankind is susceptible. As for the other . . . even beings of superior intelligence are subject to the biological imperative."

Time stopped. She felt the proverbial brick hit her in the face. Biological imperative. Of course. How stupid, how incredibly stupid. She put her head in her hands. An earlier comment that had slipped past her unnoticed suddenly made sense.

"Oh God," she breathed. "That's why a woman."

He nodded. "I can't teach you what you need to know. I don't have the right equipment."

Why was this was so much harder to absorb than the fact that he was a stone-cold killer? The answer was obvious. He would be gone in a few minutes, but this affected her life, her entire life, every facet. Still, she had a choice. If it had happened, there were ways.

"I can stop it."

He shrugged. "Of course. That's always a possibility, but it's unlikely that you will. The instinct is very strong."

She stared at him, unable to comprehend his attitude. "How can you be so-- casual? Why didn't you just leave? This wasn't necessary!"

He looked at her quizzically. "You asked me to stay."

"I did not!"

He smiled. "You did. When you gave me that image, you told me what you wanted. By law, I could not refuse."

"What law?"

"Our law. The female has that right, to demand service."

"Oh." Service. How impersonal. Just one of the livestock. Anger surged in her, hot and fierce. "Just how the hell was I supposed to know that, damn it? You knew I didn't know!"

He shrugged. "Cultural conditioning is difficult to overcome."

She glared at him. "Bullshit. You wanted to get laid."

He grinned . . . well, for him it was a grin, for anyone else it would be a slight smile. "There is that. You're very attractive. I was surprised-- "

He cut himself off, and she found that odd. He could tell her he was a killer, but not whatever it was that had surprised him? Thinking back, she realized she knew what had surprised him. She'd seen it on his face. Damn it, why did it have to be so obvious? She cast around desperately for something to mitigate his knowledge, and found it in the memory of a recent news story.

"Pheromones, probably. Human men don't smell right. You were just the first male I ever met of my own kind."

She felt a hint of satisfaction as his chin lifted slightly. Score one. Finally. He stood there, oddly indecisive, then visibly shook it off, looking at his watch as if he were late for an appointment.

"I have to go."

She nodded. "I know."

"I'll send Marguerida, she'll find you."

She nodded again. His hand was on the door knob. She wanted so badly for him to turn around, to stay, even though she knew it was impossible, and not even a good idea. She couldn't let him leave yet, though. She had one more thing she had to say.

"You can't keep this up, you know," she said quietly.

He turned, puzzled. "Keep what up?"

"Pretending it doesn't bother you. You slipped, I felt you. It's killing you."

His fair skin paled further, and he closed his eyes briefly. When they opened again, they were expressionless. "You're wrong," he said quietly, "it already has." He stood there for a moment longer, then he was gone.

She stared at the closed door for a long time, then sighed, and got up to get dressed. She was hungry, had a lot to think about, and the cleaning crew would be in soon. Time to go home.

* * FINIS * *

Note from the author: For those of you who want to know all the lyrics to the song that is the "soundtrack" to this story, here they are. Sarah McLachlan's "Do What You Have To Do"

What ravages of spirit
Conjured this torturous rage
Created you a monster
Broken by the rule of love
Fate has led you through it
You do what you have to do
Fate has led you through it
You do what you have to do

I have the sense to recognize
That I don't know how to let you go
Every moment marked
With apparitions of your soul
However swiftly moving
Trying to escape this desire
The yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do.
The yearning to be near you
I do what I have to do.

And I have the sense to recognize
That I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go

Glowing ember
Burning hot and burning slow
Deep within I'm shaken
By the violence
of existing for only you
I know I can't be with you
I do what I have to do
I know I can't be with you
I do what I have to do

And I have the sense to recognize
That I don't know how to let you go
I don't know how to let you go

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