(First posted March 9, 2004)
Rating:  G
Disclaimer:  Not mine.  No profit.
Spoilers/Time Frame:  Set after Twice Shy.  Spoilers for Promises and Twice Shy.  

Beta-readers:  Scrubschick and Fouquet1656.  Thank you, ladies!  You’re the best.

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“You’re the key.  My Achilles.”

She can hear the words as clearly now as the moment he had originally spoken them.  They resonate only in
her memory this time around, just as they have repeatedly over the past several days.  His passionate
declaration returns to her several times each day, reminding her not of the gut-softening relief she had felt --
standing in the corridor with the giddy sensation that comes from knowing that there is a reason to hope -- but
of the less pleasant realization that the danger was extreme.

“You.  If he figures that out, the world and all that is in it, is nothing.”

Paranoia, fear, a break down in reason:  that’s what it had sounded like at first.  Another round of his incredibly
illogical behavior, perhaps insanity this time.  They haven’t had time to cover everything that has happened
since she went away.  There is no way of prying the details out of him.  He has to want to tell her things first.  As
always, it will take time and patience.  In the absence of knowledge, she had been forced to consider that
loneliness, drugs, and cycles of abuse might have divorced him from rational thought.  She had been
convinced that he had gone nuts at last.

Her breath steams in the cold air.  The vapor coils and twists for a microt before rising to cool and dissipate into
nothingness.  Three cycles of being together had nearly gone the same way, chilled to perpetual
misunderstanding and lack of emotion by too much heartbreak and injury.  She lifts her face toward the shadow-
obscured ceiling and puffs another misty cloud into the atmosphere of the Cold Room, using the warmth of her
own body to create the short-lived ethereal artwork.  For an instant it resembles a budong, minus the bristling
horny protuberances around its mouth, then it disappears into thin air, going the same fleeting way as every
other breath that has preceded it.

“He will use you and the baby … ”

Each and every lingering doubt, right down to the smallest insecurity, had disappeared in a single microt when
Scorpius had broken in over the comms.  Shock superceded doubt, guilt overrode anger, sorrow had drowned
hurt.  She had doubted him, and once again he had been right.  

“… and I will not be able to stop him.”

John could stop him if he had to.  He could stop Scorpius if he didn’t love so completely, if he didn’t continue to
give away his heart and soul without holding the smallest bit back to preserve himself.  If he had some portion
of himself that didn’t depend on her, he would be able to stop all of them -- all of the factions who reached out
with power-greedy hands, seeking the knowledge in one special person’s head.  John would do better if he
didn’t love her so much.

He loves her.  

It had taken no more than two microts for her to hear that he was testifying to that.  Everything else had faded
away before the single realization that it had all been a ruse in order to keep her safe.  

“He loves me,” she says into the cold air.  The words spin into vapor-nothingness.  

“What?”  Dark tousled hair appears from beneath the heavy covers.  He worms closer to her, the warmth put
out by his body more than compensating for their surroundings.  “What are you doing?” he asks.  


She is thinking about the heat flooding from his body, about muscles and the heft of a male body, and
tenderness, and light loving touches.  She’s thinking about having him next to her like this.    

“It’s cold out there.  Come back underneath.”  

No one uses the Cold Room.  Not even Scorpius with his heat-producing half-scarran physiology.  Moya’s
internal sensors don’t work well in extreme cold.  If they keep the room a scant two degrees below the Glarian
vaporization point, not even Pilot can tell when they are in here.  Only John’s pet, 1812, stationed outside the
door as a diminutive mechanized sentry, knows about the thick mattress of therma-cell padding and the layers
of heavily insulated covers that get hidden within an access shaft each time they leave.  

“There’s nothing more between us.”


He wraps an arm around her waist and tugs at her, trying to pull her under the covers.  Her shoulders and
upper arms are cold, a sharp contrast to the heat and weight of his body against hers.  Cuddling, something
she hadn’t understood until she met John, has taken on a life of its own.  It’s a time to talk, laugh quietly, find a
more comfortable position with his body wrapped securely around hers, to sleep, and to wake to more
unemphatic kisses.  It is an opportunity to relearn him, physically and emotionally.  

“Are you going to come under here and keep me warm?  If you stay like that you’re going to turn into Frosty the

“You seem pretty hot.  What’s cold?”  She expects the usual answer.  He surprises her.  

“My nose.  Come here and warm up my nose.”  He kisses her stomach, the light touch of his lips and the warm
swirl of his breath a gut-softening contrast to the growing chill spreading through her upper body.  His nose
doesn’t feel cold to her.  It’s as warm as the rest of his body.    

John tugs at her again and she lets him win.  He pulls her under the covers, leaves a small gap to let in a
swirling stream of fresh air, and they indulge in one more arn of privacy before they get dressed and return to
their lives.  

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