The Banshee, Chapter 27

5229 words (about 18 minutes to read)

A note to the reader: This is a particular long chapter.

*Oh, and it has explicit sex. *

The first shift bell had rung as Jo headed towards the Engineer's Office. Once upon a time, she had recognized ‘first shift' as ‘midnight', but somewhere along the way, they'd all forgotten about the time on a clock.

The hallway was quiet, the Office was still open, with the sole light being on in Erik's newly-inherited room. The Office was otherwise empty. Erik was staring at a small pile of chalkboards, flipping between them in a robotic manner.

Jo rapped on the doorframe. “Hey.” Erik jolted, dropping two of the blackboards. “Disculpame.”

“No, it's okay,” he muttered and picked them up. One of them had smudged crossing over his leg. He twisted it around to see if made any more sense. “Oh well,” he sighed, and tossed it back onto the floor, in a pile of similar boards.

“You look stressed,” said Jo.

“I always wondered how Rich did this every day,” said Erik, slumping into the chair. He motioned for Jo to come in. She plopped into one of the three utterly mismatched and threadbare chairs in front of the desk. “Today, I think I figured it out.”

“Oh? What was his secret?”

Erik shook his head in disbelief. “I'm pretty sure he just tuned people out. He picked up the key words, proselytized, and sent them on their way. It's the only way I can see him having put up with this bullshit day after day.”

“Are you going to try that tomorrow?” Jo smirked.

“I'm tempted to try it now,” Erik mock-sneered in return. “You look like you've had quite the day, too.”

“It's done,” Jo cheered half-heartedly. “Thanks to Phil, we got all the brackets in and the girders pinned. It should keep the bend in the structure steady for a while.”

Erik leaned forward. “How long, do you think?”

Jo let out a strained sigh. “I dunno. We don't have any of measuring the load, so it's hard to know how much tension everything is under. For all I know, one of those girders could snap tomorrow, and boom.”

“You put it all together, so I have faith it'll hold more than long enough. And probably a lot longer, once we get all these people out of here. That alone will remove over eight hundred tons of mass on the structure. Who knows, the ARCH could last another decade.”

“If we don't tear it to shreds, first,” she countered, “which we will. We'll gut this place for every bit of value we can.”

Erik nodded. “True. It'll be sad to see her go.”

Jo threw her hands up. “¡Finalmente! Someone who agrees with me!” She looked at Erik. “Are we too attached?” she asked.

Erik blinked at the question. “Attached to … each other?”

Jo blinked at the question. “The ARCH,” she said unsuredly

“Oh, yeah,” he stammered. “Yeah, I think we are. But you were the star student: you took everything seriously and passionately. Rich always said you were the best one he had.”

“Really?” she asked quietly. “I mean, like, really? You're not just saying that?”

Erik held up a Scout's salute. “If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'!”

“I never knew that,” she said. “He never mentioned it in any reviews.”

“You know Rich. He never said what he really felt. Sometimes I think he was so cold that he could have refrigerated this place.”

“Too bad,” Jo murmured. “Ice cubes would've been nice to have.”

Erik burst out laughing. “While you're at it, wish for some fine scotch!”

“I never liked scotch. The flavor was too strong.”

“You were a shots girl, weren't you?” Erik grinned.

“Yeah, you know that!” she exclaimed.

“I do?”

“¡Dios mío!” Jo feigned shock. “You don't remember that joint in Page?”

“Page,” Erik repeated. “Page … Page … I remember a night when we all went to Page. Some idiot suggested we do a bar crawl.”

“Me,” said Jo proudly.

“I remember the second place, some country and western roadhouse, right?”

“Tsk, tsk,” Jo tutted. “That was the first place.”

“What?!” Erik blurted. “No way!”

“I think you downed four shots of tequila in about ten minutes. I thought you were going to pass out before we left.”

“Tequila?” he asked. Erik got up from his new desk and walked out to his old desk.

“I think that's what got you up on stage for karaoke,” Jo continued. “You do a pretty decent Crocodile Rock, y'know…”

Erik dug out a key and unlocked one of the drawers. He rummaged around for a moment and Jo heard the distinct sound of a full glass bottle hitting a smaller glass object. Erik returned a moment later with a squarish bottle containing a dark amber liquid. He slapped down a shot glass in front of Jo on the desk.

Jo felt her jaw drop. “Is that … ¿¡añejo?!”

“Sí,” Erik replied in his very best Spanish accent. “I brought this with me to celebrate our last night at the ARCH before returning to class. I almost forgot I had this in the drawer.”

Jo stared at the bottle, not noticing that she had almost salivated onto the floor. “And what is this occasion?”

Erik twisted the glass cap until it popped free and poured into the glass. He plunked down a second glass in front of him and poured again. “Well, I could go with celebrating you saving our asses again, but that's getting kind of old, don't you think?” he winked. “How about … to Professor Batesworth. Without him, we'd all be dead right now.”

“I'll give you that his course took us away. But we saved ourselves.”

“Er, okay,” Erik nodded. “What, then?”

Jo popped up to standing. “A nuestros amados muertos,” she said, holding up her glass. We smiled at Erik. “To our beloved departed.”

Erik stood and matched her stance. “Our beloved departed.”

They each nodded and threw the contents back in a single motion. Erik was the first to cough, followed by Jo a moment later. Both of them steadied themselves on the desk, clearing their throats.

“Wow,” Jo said hoarsely.

“Wow,” Erik echoed.

“How old is that?” Jo asked, picking up the bottle. “¡Dios mío! This is nearly twenty years old!”

“Is that why it burns so much?” Erik gasped.

“No, cariño,” said Jo, pouring two more glasses, “that is because we haven't had a drop of booze in a decade. By the third shot, you'll see why this stuff is like gold!”

Third shot? I thought we were just having one?”

“Oh, come on, you can't put this out and not expect to have at least a couple of drinks!” Jo pleaded.

Erik grimaced. “Alright.” He poured out again and picked up his glass. “What are we drinking to this time?”

Jo held her glass aloft. She cleared her throat again, though more for drama than any biological need, and said as clearly as she could: “We are Engineers. In our profession we take deep pride. To it we owe solemn obligations. Since the Stone Age, Human Progress has been spurred by the Engineering Genius. Engineers have made usable Nature's vast resources of Materials and Energy for Humanity's Benefit. Engineers have vitalized and turned to practical use the Principles of Science and the Means of Technology. Were it not for this heritage of accumulated experiences, our efforts would be feeble. As an engineer, we pledge to practice Integrity and Fair Dealing, Tolerance, and Respect, and to uphold devotion to the standards and dignity of our profession, conscious always that our skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making best use of the Earth's precious wealth. As an engineer, we shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, our skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good. In the performance of duty, and in fidelity to our profession, we shall give the utmost.”

Erik whistled. “Impressive. I completely screwed up the Pledge. Oh, and you got the plurality wrong — it's supposed to be ‘I', not ‘we', but otherwise you nailed it.”

“I was referring to us. You and me. ‘We',” she grinned.

“I got that.”


The shots went back as quickly as the first.

“Ohhhhh,” sighed Jo, her head tilted back. “Maldito that's good,” she purred.

Erik stared at his glass, then looked at Jo. “It is?”

“Really, chico? Why did you buy that if you don't even like it?”

“Well, I… um, well, I thought that…”

“You thought the chicas would dig a guy with good hooch?” Jo smirked. Erik blushed and shrugged. “Well, I do. A lot. Thanks for the booze,” she smiled. “Hopefully that'll keep my shoulders from rebelling in the morning.”

“Long for power tools, huh?” Erik commented. Jo levelled a knowing stare. “Oh, uh, that's not… I meant drills, I mean, what I meant—“

Jo walked over to Erik, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “You're too uptight, Erik. You should drink more of that,” she said. “Sleep well. I'll see you in the morning.” She turned to the door, and bent to the side. There was an audible pop in her shoulder. “Oh, yeah, I'm definitely gonna feel that in the morning.” She rolled the shoulder as she headed to the door.

“Er, uh, Jo?”

Jo stopped and turned. “Mmm?”

“I, uh, I can rub that out for you. Y'know, if you want.” Erik blushed again.

“Really? That's awfully sweet of you,” she smiled. “But I doubt those little office fingers of yours can make a dent in this mess.”

“I dunno,” Erik said. “Rich was a regular customer. And I assure you, his back was a nightmare.”

Jo eyed Erik for a few moments. “Alright, let's see what you can do.” As she walked back into the room, Erik flipped a chair without armrests around, and motioned Jo to sit. She straddled it backwards, her chest pressing into the seat back, her arms hung loose at her sides. She felt his hands resting on her shoulders, pressing lightly at first, but then squeezing through her shirt, stretching out her trapezius.

It was a double-hit of intense pain, the muscles having been held under tension for so long, and a massive rush of endorphins as Erik's deft fingers snapped things back into places they hadn't been for a long time. Jo let out a low staccato growl.

Erik's hands stopped. “You okay? Did I hurt you?”

“Más. Por favor.” Jo tried not to beg too hard. “This hurts, but it feels soooo good.”

“You haven't had a good rub down in a long time,” said Erik, as he felt around her shoulder blades.

Jo laughed, though when combined with her body's reaction to the massage, came out more of a yelp. “I've been a bit busy…” Erik found a nexus of tightness and pressed the pad of his thumb in a tight swirl. There was almost a popping, and Jo's shoulder twitched and went slack. This time she shrieked, which quickly dropped off to a relieved and contented, almost guttural sigh, and she stretched out further in the chair. “That,” she whispered. “Do that again.”

“Those girders really did a number on you,” Erik commented as he pressed into more of Jo's upper back. He ran a thumb down both sides of Jo's spine. She shivered and hummed. “Hey, I thought of something for your tension problem.”

“I think you're doing something for my tension problem,” she said warmly.

“I meant your girders. You could put in a tension gauge.”

“Hmm,” Jo hmm'ed absently. “You're thinking too much…”

“No, really. All you need is an oil-filled cylinder with a pressure gauge, and a long rod. Attach them at opposite ends. If the gauge shows a change…”

“So, you're suggesting I insert a long rod into a cylinder to worry less?” she asked slyly. “I take that back… I'm beginning to like how you're thinking.”

“Uh…,” Erik's voice wavered. He found another knot just under the edge of Jo's scapula. He dug his fingertips in, and slowly untangled the twists.

“Ohhhhhhh,” Jo moaned softly. “Where did you learn to do this?”

“My ex, actually. She was a massage therapist.”

“I envy her,” Jo grunted as Erik twanged one of her levators. “Ow!”

“Oops, sorry,” said Erik. “Actually, she hated getting massages. Go figure. But Rich liked them. I think that's how I got to be his TA.”

“Huh, and here I thought it was sexual favors.” Erik intentionally pinched her shoulder. “OW!”

“Yeah, well, being his TA wasn't any fun, let me tell you. He was patronizing, demanding, he expected you to know his thoughts, and being his TA meant I had to know more than all his undergrads,” he muttered. “You have any idea how hard it is to know more than all of you? I was a terrible student, so I had to study all the time. I think my only saving grace was that I was better than most at keeping all you kids ordered and in line.”

“Yeah,” Jo groaned as Erik smoothed out her rhomboideus. “You were Mr. Organization. We all knew that. That's what we liked about you. And you weren't a polla about it, like Jeff.”

“You … you saw that?” he asked. “I thought I'd kept that a secret,” he lamented.

Jo giggled. “Eres adorable cuando usted actúa inocente.”

Erik rubbed her shoulders softly and leaned in behind her. His hands trembled. “Usted es bella cuando usted es condescendientes.”

Jo turned slowly and looked at Erik. Her smile curled at the edges, her lips fuller than normal. “I think we need another drink, cariño. And between us, it's ‘tu', not ‘usted'.”

Erik looked back down at Jo. He went to the bottle, poured out two more glasses, and handed one to Jo. His hand shook. “I know what ‘cariño' means,” he said with a bit of warble.

“Good,” Jo smiled demurely. “So what are drinking to?”

Erik held up his glass, opened his mouth … “Uh…” He stared at the wall. “Um…”

Jo stood and came to him. “A nosotros,” she said, and clinked his glass.

“Yeah, I … I like that,” he said softly, with a slight smile. They drank without breaking eye contact. “Another?”

Jo leaned in closely, brushing his beard with her cheek, and whispered into his ear. “Por favor.”

Erik reached around behind him, fumbling across the desk for the bottle, unwilling to look away. “You were right.”


“The, uh, tequila,” he said, wrapping his hand around the bottle's neck. He raised it to pour into Jo's glass. “It does taste pretty good.” The bottle shook so terribly that he splashed the liquor over Jo's hand and onto her sleeve. “Shit!”

“Here,” said Jo, and gently took the bottle and Erik's glass. She poured the glasses and handed his back. “It's a shame we don't have any lime or salt.”

“Yeah?” Erik's hand shook so badly he started to spill.

“Ever done body shots?” she winked. Erik gulped and nearly spilled his drink. Jo took his hand in hers. “¿Nervioso?”


“¿Porque, cariño? No te voy a morder … duro.”

Jo stepped closer to Erik. Still holding his hand, which held the glass, she tipped it up to his mouth. Even with her steadying hold, some dribbled onto his cheek, down into his beard, and down onto his neck. Jo grinned deviously, leaned in, and nuzzled the base of his neck where it met his shoulder. She felt his carotid artery pulse rapidly. She inhaled deeply. He gasped when she then extended her tongue and gently licked away the liquid.

Backing away, she studied Erik's appearance, his face caught somewhere between ecstasy and shock. “You're due for a shower,” she remarked.

“Y-yeah,” he stammered. “S-sorry. I'm n-not due until t-t-tomorrow.”

“I'm not scheduled for a few more days. I'm probably worse,” she sighed. “This tired body needs a wash.” She stretched it slowly out in front of him.

“I-it's too b-bad we d-don't let p-people shower t-together,” Erik tried to smile, only his face kept trying to spasm. “Y-y'know, save w-water?”

Jo slugged back her shot and put down the bottle and glasses. She draped her hands around Erik's shoulders and came a hand span away from him. She could feel his body vibrating. “I'd like that,” she whispered. “You'd make a great back scrubber.” She leaned in and pressed her lips against his. It was soft and simple, just enough movement to register it as more than a friendly action. After a few breaths, she pulled away. The kiss hadn't calmed Erik's excitement. He shook nearly everywhere.

“I've wanted to do that for a long time,” she said softly. She wanted to see past his hazel eyes, but they were too caught up in the mass panic of hormones.

Erik stuttered, wrestling with himself to say anything. “R-really?”

“You never noticed?” she asked. “You honestly thought I needed your help for those assignments in 382?”

“I-I was your T-TA,” he shook.

She held his hand to his face and shh'ed softly. “Ya no.” She kissed him again, drawing him in tightly, her hand behind his head. Slowly and abruptly, she could feel Erik's hands around her waist. She felt a sigh come from a place she'd worried long dead. Her jaw moved, his moved to match. It was harder, more powerful, even a little desperate. His whiskers danced across her lips, releasing tiny jolts with each tickle.

Jo could feel herself fall, that wonderful sense when you let go of your fears and worries, when you leap for the moment to sink like a stone, surrounded by all the emotions and desires you've kept locked away for so long. She longed to be lost in the flood, wanting nothing more than the moment to be eternal.

Erik broke away first. Jo tried to follow. “I don't know,” he panted. “I'm … Chair,” he continued, “we shouldn't … what will the others think?”

Jo's expression was bordering on bliss. She reached up and gently touched his lips with her fingers, brushed at his beard. His eyes had stopped their rapid jiggling. She took his hand in her other one, it had stopped shaking. Her eyes were soft. She felt younger than she had in years. “They'll be jealous.” She cupped her hand behind his head and drew them together again.

It was deep, passionate. The feeling of a decade of pondering and planning and secret promises all blooming at once was enough to send tears streaming from the corners of both of her eyes. This. Please, this.

Erik's mouth moved from her lips, slowly across her chin, and towards her neck. Jo raised her head, allowing Erik access to the once-soft and tanned front, now pale and scarred. She forgot about the hundreds of tiny sand scratches, the wounds from flying bits of whatever that had been caught in the wind. All the mattered were his lips, soft and warm, tracing down under her chin, nuzzling and pulling at her flesh. She let her head hang back, her eyes closed dreamily.

Erik had to stoop slightly, being a bit taller than Jo, and dropped his hands to her hips as he traced the outline of her larynx with his mouth. Jo released a deep sigh, and let her hands drag lightly across his shoulders. She could feel his muscles moving under his shirt. She felt like she should be purring.

Coming to Jo's clavicle, Erik began to follow it out to her shoulder. He twisted slowly behind her, kissing over the top of her shoulder, until he returned to her neck. With one hand, he gently pulled Jo's long hair over her shoulder, exposing the nape. He brushed it with his nose, and again with his beard. Jo shivered again. He placed his lips into the space just under the back of her ear, and resumed his gentle and slow movement. He could feel Jo's pulse racing, her muscles trembling. He wrapped his arms around her waist. Jo lazily positioned her head so Erik could easily move up and down her neck. She then moved her head around to the other side, Erik following suit.

She reached down and clasped her hands over his. She squeezed them gently, and rubbed her fingers between the ridges of his knuckles. Then she picked one of them up, and drew it up to her breast. Erik didn't resist, and cupped her bosom. Jo suddenly wished she hadn't been wearing her ancient sports bra. Even with the confinement, her nipple stiffened and pressed against Erik's fingers through the fabric. He squeezed gently between two fingers, she gasped. She reached for his other hand and moved it to her other breast.

She started to want to cry out, to embrace the euphoria. But she was only beginning. Tingles ran from her neck to her waist, her breasts swelled, her groin flushed, her knees wanted to wobble. Her breaths were shallowing, her urges rising. She reached behind her, finding Erik's thighs. She stroked the rough, thinning fabric, slipping her hands behind and pulling him in tighter. She felt the stiffening bulge in the cleft of her bum. She rocked her hips gently as she pulled, eliciting a soft grunt from Erik.

She took his hands, and moved them together over her chest, intertwined his fingers with hers, and undid a button on her shirt. She moved them down to the next button, and the next. Erik unbuttoned the rest without further prompting.

Jo took a couple of steps forward. As she did, Erik pulled back on the shirt. The pale blue fabric slid effortlessly over Jo's shoulders and dropped to the floor. Her black bra had lost some of its spring through years of wear, but still hugged her slim torso. She turned, sliding her feet out of her boots in the same motion, and with her hands clasped behind her back, picked up the shirt with her toes and flung it to the side. She sauntered back, her hips writhing side to side. Erik's face was a bright red, burning through his beard, and she could feel his heat as she leaned up to kiss him again. As she did, she started to undo his shirt, from the bottom up. With the top button undone, she slowly spread her hands over his muscular shoulders, and pushed the shirt off.

Underneath was a tangle of darker blond hair, sowed with a few grey ones. She ran her fingers down his chest, letting the curly strands drift over her skin. She slowly wrapped her hands over his side, and pulled herself closer again. His warm skin pressing against hers felt divine, she could feel the ripples of the taut muscles in his back easily. She felt his hands caressing the small of her back, brushing over the tops of her pants. He slow dragged his splayed fingertips up her back, drifting to her shoulders, and then down again. She thrust herself closer, wrapping a leg around his, pressing her pelvis against his. The two of them moaned softly as their tongues entangled.

Erik's fingers rose up Jo's back a second time, the tips catching on the edge of her bra. She offered no resistance as the fingers dug under, and then carefully lifted the stretchy fabric up. She pulled back, and flipped the front from her breasts, while he pulled it over her head and off of her arms. Jo posed with a coy smile, her hands above her slightly-turned head, and one of her legs outstretched.

“Ta da!” she sang.

“Gosh, you're beautiful,” Erik breathed.

“‘Gosh'? Did you just say ‘gosh'??” Jo blurted.

“N-no,” Erik blushed again. “I, uh… um…”

Jo slid forwards to him again, picked up his hands and intertwined his fingers with hers. “It's okay, cariño. I won't be upset by whatever is on your mind.”

“This is going to sound stupid,” he said sheepishly.

“Tell me,” she whispered. “Por favor.”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I've fantasized about this,” he said quickly. “Sorry if that sounds creepy.”

“So have I,” she whispered and stepped closer to him. “A lot. For a long time.” She pulled herself into him, and kissed.

Letting go of his hands, she reached down to Erik's rear, and tucked her hands under the waistband. Erik's belt didn't let her hands go in any further than her metacarpals. “Oh, this won't do,” she mumbled as she kissed him, and with her fingers still under the fabric, moved them to the front. She flicked the end of the belt from the loops, and tugged the buckle open. As she slowly drew the belt from the buckle, she rubbed the base of her thumb against the stiffness that was so eager to escape its confinement. Like most people's pants, they were old, and too large for Erik's underfed frame; the belt was the only thing keeping them in place. Jo gave them a slight tug at the side, and they slowly slipped over Erik's hips, down his thighs, to the floor.

Jo's hands danced across the outside of Erik's legs to his waist, always touching skin. Most men had given up underwear during a fabric drive. She slowly skipped across to the front, and brushed her fingers up the shaft of his erect penis. Erik gasped. “Relax, cariño. No te voy a morder … duro.”

“You said that before,” he breathed. “What does it mean?”

Jo giggled. “You'll find out.” She wrapped her arms around him, pressed her head into his chest, and inhaled deeply. Then she took as large a handful of his glutei as she could grasp. Then she backed away again, resuming her magical pose. With one hand, she pointed towards her own belt buckle. With the other hand, she deftly undid it. With a few wiggles of her hips, her pants slid heavily to the floor, aided by the various tools she kept in her pockets.

“White?” Erik raised his eyebrow in surprise. “How have… those look brand new!

“A girl's gotta take care of her things, you know,” Jo purred. “Should I make some kind of disparaging comment about you taking care of me—?”

Erik swooped in, bend down and scooped Jo up, one arm under her knees, the other under her arms. He kissed her deeply, her arms wrapping around his neck. He moved to the desk and used one of his feet to shove it clean; dozens of slates clattered to the floor. He laid her down gently.

Jo gasped. “Oh! That's cold!” she laughed. She stretched out, her arms over her head, her back arched. Erik held her legs up. “I feel like a 50s pinup girl.”

Erik parted her legs gently, just wide enough for him to slip his head between, and kissed her ankle softly. He turned his head and kissed the other. He moved down towards her calf, its definition clear through the softer skin of her leg. He moved across and kissed the other calf. Kiss by kiss, he slowly moved down the calves towards her thighs, alternating side to side. His hand brushed the outsides of her legs, from her ankle to her waist. He felt the thin, silky fabric of her panties. He tried not think about how she had managed to keep them so pristine for so long.

Jo hung her hands over the edge of the old wooden desk as Erik tickled his way along her legs. Every part of her tingled, her skin rippled with goose pimples. At her knees he tickled underneath; his hands traced around her upper thighs. As he passed, she bent her legs, dabbing her heels on his back as he descended bit by bit by bit. Jo writhed on the desk as he crept ever closer to her joy, desperately wanting to pull him in, while desperately wanting the feeling to never end.

“I love those little office fingers of yours,” she buzzed.

His nose slid along the panty's gusset, slick with excitement. Jo moaned softly and fought terribly against her urges. Erik grew small, creamy circles with the very tip of his tongue. His hands slid slowly up Jo's sides. He exhaled softly, his hot breath washing over her groin. Jo bit down on her lip, and tasted a drop of blood. He pressed his lips against the damp fabric, like a butterfly on a delicate flower. She rolled her hips towards his mouth, but he drew back, chuckling.

“Atormenta,” she hissed. She reached down to find his head, but found his hands instead, blocking her route. She grasped his hands, and tried to pull, but he refused to budge.

His lips returned, fuller and firmer, mapping the contours of the flesh below. He nibbled as he went, slowly circling between her legs. She clamped with her hands, and let out a thin, low moan. His tongue drew a slow, strong line from her perineum to just beyond her clitoris.

“Off,” Jo begged in a hoarse breath, and let go of Erik's hands.

She felt fingers slip underneath the band of her panties, and gently tug. She rolled side to side to assist, and felt the wet fabric skip across her legs to disappear she cared not where. Her anticipation was rewarded as she felt the dimpled wetness of a tongue slip between the parted folds. Jo shuddered with a shattering sigh.

Jo could barely breathe, her heart raced, her body flooded with so much stimulation that she could almost feel herself shake. She reached down with her hands, and felt the curls of Erik's hair. Daydreams from her classes raced through her thoughts, of moments they never had, of things she wished she'd done, of them on the greens in a thunderstorm, her room filled with candles and flowers, in front of a shocked class.

She wanted to cry. She wanted to wail. She wanted to release years of pent-up and forced down dreams, to be the woman she'd wanted to be, and for a few moments, not the one she had become. Deep inside, she felt the rush coming. She felt a sense of panic starting to rise, as well: as much as she wanted this, she also wanted Erik.

With her hands, she carefully scooped him from between her labia. He looked up and rose, she tugged him forward. He stroked her skin, from her thigh, over her hip, across her belly, slowly over her breast, up her neck, until his palm rested on her cheek. She pressed her head into it, and tugged on his sides. She felt his firmness slide over her, the heat radiating so powerfully that it was all she could do to not gulp. Her throat felt dry, her palms were wet, and she couldn't wait. Slowly, achingly, he slid back and forth several times. She rocked her hips as he pulled back, and suddenly years of waiting were rewarded. Again, and again, and again.

Somewhere in the ARCH, someone stirred from their slumber. They looked around, confused, certain that, for a moment, they'd heard the banshee. Except that it had come from inside the ARCH, and she sounded far too happy.