XXX

Jihl sighed into Lightning's lips as her lover pulled back just enough to stop them from continuing to make love to each other's mouths.

Held in Lightning's strong arms, firmly pressed against her body, she could feel the swollen girth of her erection. Despite her sickness and knowing she wasn't in a fit state for any such activity, Jihl yearned to have Lightning inside her again. She was positively wet.

"We can't," Lightning stated, sounding as strained as she felt.

"I know," Jihl whispered, her breath cold after having shared Lightning's. She gazed into her lover's stunning blue eyes, not pulling away despite the chill passing into her body. "I missed you," she confessed, her hands resting comfortably around the back of Lightning's neck. "I always miss you... " she said, her eyes drifting to Lightning's chilly, sweet lips before she shook herself, forcing her rising desires back.

"How was Angela's?" she asked, refocusing her attention. "I'm sorry I wasn't there today. Lebreau and Bethany arrived early and kept me preoccupied."

"It's okay, you were busy." Lightning easily forgave. "Besides, it smells amazing and you look… " Lightning's eyes lowered to her body and Jihl smiled when she felt Lightning's hard erection respond before she could even find the words.

Lightning's eyes raised again, the faintest hint of color in her cheeks.

"I need a hot shower," she said, her words stirring deep within Jihl, arousing her with every breath. Jihl lifted a hand to Lightning's cheek and stroked the cool skin with a thumb.

"I shouldn't follow you," she said, but didn't want to heed her own words. Not with Lightning finally home, delectable as always and making Jihl warm all over. She craved Lightning. "I'm ready to ride you already," she whispered.

Lightning cupped cold fingers over the hand on her cheek and Jihl's ache for her twisted deeply, sharp in her belly. Her extremities tingled in anticipation. She didn't even care about the chill spreading over her entire body at this prolonged proximity, she wanted Lightning so badly.

"Tell me about Angela's," she insisted, not wanting to leave Lightning's presence or let go of this powerful, arousing effect her girlfriend always had on her. "How was it?"

"Good, I think," Lightning said, lowering their linked hands to their side. Jihl's fingers accidentally twitched, her hand was so cold, but she purposefully didn't pull them free from Lightning's. "We discussed work, meditation, and you. Angela agreed to get you in for an examination, too." Lightning squeezed her cold fingers. "Thank you for agreeing to it."

"She'll have something for us," Jihl murmured, her attention slipping again, lulled by the sound of Lightning's voice.

"I hope so," Lightning confessed, loosening her fingers from Jihl's chilled ones to release them. "Jihl- "

Jihl didn't let her back away. Instead, she dragged Lightning's hand up to her breast and laid it there, and then glued their mouths together once more.

"Lightning," she whispered through gasping breaths, pressing Lightning's palm to her chest greedily. "Please," she asked.

Lightning required no further convincing. She gripped and massaged Jihl's breast through the fabric of her dress and Jihl moaned softly as her body responded to the welcome touch. Already aroused and sensitive, her muscles tightened, and then she gripped Lightning, breathless as her girlfriend ground her palm against her responsive breast. Warmth pooled between her legs and dripped from her. If she had been wearing panties, they'd have been soaked already. Reflexively, Jihl ground her sensitive center against Lightning's hard erection and groaned.

The contact seemed to stimulate Lightning, too, because unexpectedly, Lightning hoisted her up by the hand under her ass. Jihl wrapped her legs around her girlfriend's hips, desperately scraping her sensitive clit against the bulge in Lightning's pants, then Jihl's back struck the wall as Lightning pinned her between it and her hard, glorious body.

"Fuck," Jihl moaned in delight. Lightning kept her there, lips dropping to her cheek and neck while she massaged Jihl's nipple through the fabric of her dress, clutching her ass tightly as Jihl thrust against that hard, hidden cock she adored so much. Lightning growled and bit the tender skin of her neck, causing Jihl to reflexively buck again. She whimpered, rubbing herself against Lightning as much as she could, trying to get as close to her as possible in a vain attempt to get her inside.

Jihl clawed at the back of the bodysuit, enthralled in the sweet contrast between her pleasure and pain. The teeth in her neck aroused her, the chill making her gush. Lightning's bodysuit was wet, smeared with her lust as Jihl humped her through the fabric of the soft material. Where she clawed, Lightning's bodysuit ripped, and then suddenly she was thrust flat against the wall. Jihl mewled, immediately trying to close the distance between them again, and then Lightning surprised her.

The hand that had been cupping her ass just moments ago dropped to the high slit of her dress. Lightning's nimble fingers slipped inside it, brushing the thin fabric again, and skillfully thumbed Jihl's clit.

Jihl came so powerfully, she might have even blacked out. The sudden shock of cold against her wet center pushed her to such a thunderous climax, she screamed and felt nothing, nothing but waves of pleasure that possessed her, the sensation so delicious that she couldn't remember anything at all.

Jihl floated, riding the pleasure, drinking in every succulent second of bliss.

When she finally came back to herself, Jihl felt the warm drizzle of water from above, a stark contrast against the cold press of Lightning's body. Jihl dizzily opened her eyes, quickly realized that she was naked in the shower with Lightning, and shut them again contentedly.

"Wow," she breathed out quietly, limply hugging her fearsome soldier. "I love you, Light."

"I love you, too, Jihl," Lightning whispered back, lips pressing to her forehead as cold arms squeezed around her, a stark contrast to the warm shower water above. "Are you okay?"

"Okay?" Jihl weakly laughed. "You're crazy if you think we're not doing that again next time."

Lightning kissed her atop the head again and then pulled back to look at her. Jihl became aware that her legs were firmly wrapped around Lightning's hips as her girlfriend supported her against her clothed body.

Lightning had made the effort to remove and salvage her dress from the shower, but not managed her own, Jihl noted.

Although her fingers were cold, Jihl lifted a hand to Lightning's cheek once more, trying to convey all the love and warmth she held in her heart for Lightning and uttered. "Thank you."

Appearing to understand, Lightning smiled at her. Her eyes darted back to Jihl's neck again where Jihl noticed a faint throbbing where Lightning had bitten her.

"I loved it," Jihl reassured her girlfriend, knowing Lightning's thoughts without needing her girlfriend to voice them.

Lightning's eyes lifted to hers again, crystalline blues a little hesitant. "You're bleeding," she pointed out.

Jihl lifted a hand and brushed her fingers back into Lightning's wet hair. "I adore you," she reaffirmed. "And I wear your marks proudly," she punctuated the statement with another passionate kiss that left no question about it. Lightning returned it, cool fingers lifting to cradle her cheek, but was the first to pull away, a little breathless.

"They're waiting on us," she pointed out, and Jihl reluctantly pulled back. "Can you stand?"

Jihl tentatively lowered her legs to the shower stone, and then noticed the absence of something important. She glanced up at Lightning who squeezed her shoulders gently, noticing the direction of her eyes.

"It's okay. We're late," she reminded gently. Jihl pursed her lips in dissatisfaction, but Lightning chuckled softly. "Later, Jihl. I can wait."

Reluctantly, Jihl stepped back on legs that quivered momentarily. She braced herself against the wall for support and then nodded to Lightning. "Strip down," she ordered, reaching for the shower handle to turn down the temperature.

"Leave it," Lightning said, shaking her head. "You need to warm up."

Giving Lightning a last peck on the lips, Jihl helped her lover strip down and wash until they were both clean. Though she greatly appreciated the view and made sure Lightning knew it, Jihl restrained herself this time and left early so Lightning could finish in cool comfort.

Retrieving her dress where it had been discarded, she put it through their steamer before dressing again. Turning down the temperature in the room a bit lower, Jihl checked on her girlfriend. When she found Lightning still busy in the shower, she went to her dresser drawer and applied a little more Brisk to her temples just in case the migraine came back.

She returned to the bathroom to fix her hair as Lightning stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around her waist. Jihl smiled as Lightning joined her on the other side of the mirror. She looked at Jihl and a contentive look crossed her face. Lightning sniffed a couple of times, detecting the mixture Jihl had just applied.

"New perfume," Jihl supplied before she had the chance to ask. "You like it?"

"I do," Lightning said after one last sniff. "It reminds me of something. I can't place it." She thought about it for a moment, but then dismissively shook her head. "I'll be a few minutes. You should head out; they're probably hungry."

"Don't keep me waiting too long, my love."

XXX

Sam grinned when, after a significant delay, Jihl returned from their bedroom first. Her hair and beautiful dress were flawless, too flawless.

Sam had been the happy participant of enough one-nighters to recognize someone fresh out of the shower when she saw them, and Jihl was definitely that. When she came further into the room, Sam additionally noticed the imprint of two sharp eyeteeth that had pierced Jihl's neck.

Sam almost salivated, thinking about the sharp incisors those two both had that none of the rest of them possessed. How might it feel to have teeth like that on her neck, scraping, piercing her sensitive flesh in the throes of an intense orgasm…

"Sam," someone said, drawing her attention to find Sombra had moved in front of her again. Close, she leaned over and wiped the side of her lips with a thumb. "Drool," she teased, and Sam swatted her lover's hand away, sure that she wasn't.

"Get outta here," she grumbled as the last song finished and Sombra didn't refresh it with another. Turning away from the grinning smartass as Jihl came into the room, Sam paused and discreetly touched the corner of her mouth just to make sure.

Sombra laughed, letting her know the motion hadn't gone by unnoticed, and Sam glared at her. Sombra made it up to her quickly, taking her hand and tugging her close where she could kiss her sensuously.

Her upset melting away, Sam gripped her best friend and folded into the heat of her body. She savored every delectable second, and when Sombra finally pulled away, her purple eyes were intense, dark and hooded. "Tonight," she promised again, and Sam barely withheld a groan. As if reading her anguish, which she probably was, Sombra whispered. "I will treat you."

Sam hugged her tightly, enjoying the press of Sombra's full breasts to her own.

Sombra instinctively understood her reluctance to leave and held her, even dropping a hand to Sam's ass to squeeze, which Sam appreciated.

"Thanks," Sam finally said as Sombra pulled free, but kept an arm around her. She noticed the others making their way to the kitchen where Lebreau was bringing out even more food to both the bar and table. There was so much, it covered both surfaces with barely enough room to seat everyone.

Walking alongside Sombra, Sam made her way to the feast. Amidst all the compliments to the chefs, they gathered plates according to their tastes or body chemistry. Angela and Bethany both stuck to vegetarian options, while Lightning, who had joined them as they all gathered, mostly stuck to large portions of meat.

With no similar dietary restrictions, Sam, Sombra, and Lebreau all gladly took a share of everything and seated themselves around the table. Sam sat between Sombra and Bethany, directly across the table from Lightning. She started in on her meal, beginning with some steak and blue cheese bruschetta with caramelized onion and tomato bites that she dipped into creamy avocado and spinach dip. Her mouth watered instantly, her tongue demanding more.

"Damn," she swore, startled by how incredible it tasted. Lebreau's food was always exceptional, but this was straight up otherworldly. "That's almost as good as sex, Lebreau!" she complimented.

"Thanks," Lebreau chuckled while Bethany merely smiled and shook her head. A general consensus followed around the table. Lebreau spent the next few minutes fending off compliments before Sombra conversationally redirected them.

"What will you do with your promotion?" She asked Jihl, garnering Lightning's attention. Sam paused mid-bite, glancing over at her unphased best friend.

"They gave it to you?" Lightning asked, obviously taken aback hearing the news from Sombra. "When?"

"Just today," Jihl assured her, casting a calculating eye over Sombra that would have paralyzed anyone else. "You know as much as I do, I imagine," Jihl stated, all of them aware of Sombra's meddlings. Narrowed eyes scrutinized Sombra, and Sam shivered on her best friend's behalf, partly aroused and partly aware of the thin line Sombra so boldly tread upon.

"I do," Sombra confirmed easily, not even flinching under the stare. "But I'm curious. You'll command PSICOM's elite. Do you have plans?"

Sam bit her lip, glancing between them furtively. Around the table, the others seemed to have picked up on the unspoken, too. Angela blatantly inclined her head, and Lebreau and Bethany both busied themselves with taking a timely drink from their glasses.

Jihl arched one slender and perfectly smooth eyebrow Sombra's way, and then broke her gaze and the tension by moving a hand over Lightning's on the table.

"I'm to work in tandem with Dysley," she stated easily, as if the question hadn't just raised hackles. "Dysley has been borrowing Lightning for highly public cases and that's going to stop. Lightning is the best agent in PSICOM and she'll be assigned accordingly with a competent team." Jihl glanced at Lightning as she said it, giving her girlfriend a private smile.

"Will the Primarch allow that?" Bethany asked, sounding a little wary.

"He will. Soon." Jihl promised, causing Sam to shudder again. She went on, "I'll oversee all assignments eventually, and when I do, I will correct our society."

Sam's brow furrowed at the funny way in which Jihl stated that.

"You mean the overpopulation issues?" she asked.

"Among others," Jihl answered vaguely, and Sam suffered another involuntary shudder.

Sages, she's fucking sexy.

Momentarily distracted by the provocative lilt of her sultry voice, Sam's eyes dropped to the two puncture marks on Jihl's lovely throat. The Pulsian's healing factor had already begun to kick in and a faint purple and blue discoloration colored her pale skin. Jihl kept talking, and though the words didn't register, the sound of her voice was enough to lull Sam's thoughts away.

How good it would be if only Jihl were open to multiple partners…

"Sam," Sombra said loudly, summoning her back to the present moment. Sam shook off her wandering mind as Sombra repeated, "Don't you have a Skyward project coming up?"

"Oh, I do!" Sam confirmed excitedly, having wanted to mention it at some point this evening. "It's a big one, PSICOM commissioned. They want me out at Gapra Whitewood to survey and design apartments through and above the forest."

"They're building throughout Gapra?" Bethany asked in sudden concern.

"They want to," Sam confirmed.

"But it's one of the last preservations Cocoon has," Bethany said, obviously distressed to learn of it. "One of the only natural habitats for the animals left."

Sam shrugged. "They stressed that when they called me in for it. I'm to keep it as natural as possible, but find as much living space as I can. The survey will take a few days before I can design some projections. You wanna come, Beth? You're all welcome to, actually. I was thinking about making it a small vacation. "

"When are you going?" Bethany asked.

"Trip's in four days," Sam answered, "and before anyone jumps all over me, I only found out about it today." Sam defended before the accusations of short notice could arise. "But I uh, wanted to bring it up to you, Jihl… did you recommend me in?"

Jihl's dark green gaze flickered over her, scanned, and unapologetically took her measure.

"No," she said and Sam exhaled, a little crestfallen until she added, "I did not hold authority of city construction until today."

"Well, now that you do, wanna come?" Sam asked, her eyes slipping over to Lightning briefly before she hurriedly refocused them on Jihl. "Could be fun hanging out for a few days."

"Could it?" Jihl asked, and Sam had to forcibly suppress another shudder. What was it about Jihl? Every word she spoke both terrified and aroused her.

"I'll come," Bethany volunteered.

"Yeah?" Sam asked, turning her head to smile at the herbalist.

"Yes, I love the whitewood. I'd like to see your plans for it."

"Cool," Sam said and glanced at the others. "Anyone else?" Her eyes rolled over Sombra hopefully. "Babe?"

Sombra shook her head. "I'm sorry, Sam. Angela and I have too much to do."

"I couldn't possibly," Angela agreed with some rapid shaking of her head.

"Not even for a little bit?" Sam asked, pleading, and Sombra put a hand on her thigh.

"I'll make it up to you," she promised. "It's just a bad time for it. We're in the midst of some massive projects and Angela's entire security system needs upgrading. I can only do so much remotely."

"Okay," Sam reluctantly accepted. "But you'd better be around afterwards. We haven't had much time all month."

Sombra squeezed her thigh and leaned over to kiss her. Sam squeezed her legs together, trapping Sombra's hand there as the natural heat in her body amplified. Her pulse raced as Sombra parted her lips with a deft and skillful tongue, and it was all Sam could do not to outright pull Sombra into her lap.

Her lover pulled away much too soon for Sam's liking, and Sam tried to follow her for a few seconds, starstruck.

Sombra squeezed her thigh again, fingers kneading into the skin high on her inner leg, so close to her center. Sam stared at Sombra's lips, momentarily lost in the recollection of Sombra's lithe body against hers, those talented fingers manipulating her...

"Sam," someone repeated and Sam forcibly shook the memory away, struggling to focus.

"Whadguhbrh," she mumbled, then shook herself again. "What? What happened?"

Lebreau and Sombra both chuckled while Bethany, smiling mutely, shook her head. Angela watched her intently.

"Angela wants to know if you'll let me share my readings when we fuck tonight," Sombra stated and Sam's eyebrows drew together.

"You want a porno?" she asked, shaking her head. "I wish you'd ask for the right reasons, Angela. I film Sombra and I all the time. Share whatever she wants; I'll even send you the video."

"Really?" Angela asked excitedly. "Thank you, Sam! I'll be able to study so much!"

"The 'right' reasons," Bethany whispered to Lebreau incredulously, and Sam shot her a grin.

"Don't act all innocent with me, princess. You may not say it, but I know half the reason you want to go is to spend some sexy time together in that natural habitat with 'Brue, isn't it?"

"Sam, that's not true!" Bethany protested, blushing fiercely.

Sam rolled her eyes.

"Don't even try to tell me you haven't fucked in that beautiful floating garden of yours. I know how much you love nature." Bethany's blush deepened considerably and Sam chuckled, giving her kindly friend a wink.

"Scandalous, Bethany," Jihl agreed, her green eyes alight with a teasing glint. "What would your daycare say?"

"Guuys," Bethany pleaded, her cheeks crimson.

Lebreau put an arm around her friend and lover reassuringly. "At least we haven't been caught by our adoring fans in the act in a restricted ruin."

Sam laughed good-naturedly and teased, "True, but I'm also not known as the wholesome angel among us." She sat back in her seat, grinning. "It's good to have friends in law enforcement."

Jihl lifted an eyebrow at Sam. "You say that until I call in the favor you owe," she said and Sam shivered again.

"Fuck, Jihl. I swear you do it on purpose," Sam cursed and Sombra laughed openly. Jihl inclined her head, and tentatively, Sam glanced at Lightning again.

As attracted as she was to Jihl's beau physically, she and Lightning were different as night and day. Where she was outgoing and social, Lightning couldn't be more reserved and quiet. Sam had been able to let go and celebrate life whereas Lightning lived in doom and gloom. She couldn't care less about their histories whereas Lightning wrapped her entire life around the misfortune surrounding their births. Hell, even their bodies were polar opposite temperatures, something that prevented both of them from so much as a handshake or a hug. Not that Lightning hugged anyone but Jihl, but Sam reckoned it'd do her a world of good if she could let loose a little bit more.

In an attempt to bring her into the conversation, Sam asked, "What about you, Light? Been kicking ass at work as usual? What world saving has PSICOM been up to?"

Lightning looked up at her, almost seeming surprised, and then glanced at Jihl before answering.

"Work is very good," she answered, considered for a moment, and then decided to expand it a little bit. "My team shut down a major NORA base today."

"By team, she means she did mostly," Jihl interjected proudly. "I'll show you the vid later."

Sam's mouth watered a little at the thought of another rare and beautiful video of Lightning in action, but trying to encourage her friend into the conversation, she did her best not to let it show.

Lightning glanced at Jihl again, and credited them, adding. "They helped, too."

"What kind of base was it?" Sam asked, pushing the soldier to go on. "Recruitment center?"

"That was just the face of it. The facility actually held some pretty dangerous heavy equipment and radicals."

"Heavy equipment?" Bethany asked, stunned. "Like mechs?"

"Mechs, guns, Shells, even some armored vehicles."

Bethany's eyes widened. "That sounds like war equipment."

"NORA's not as peaceful as they claim," Lightning said gravely. "The one I chased down seemed fanatical."

"Yes. Fanatical," Jihl whispered, her voice low and dangerous, instantly drawing Sam's attention away from Lightning.

It might have been an odd reflection of the light, but for a slight moment after, her pupils seemed almost as slitted as a predatory cat's. Sam shuddered again, but not from arousal this time. Behind those narrowed eyes, Sam felt a rage so raw, primal and vicious she actually stopped breathing in that moment.

It passed within a millisecond and Jihl's gorgeous features smoothed to their regular beauty so quickly, Sam might have thought she had imagined the whole thing. But Sam wasn't given to fancy imaginings, and as a renowned photographer, she had an expert's eye for catching moments that others never did.

Lightning glanced at her girlfriend, too, but if she had seen the same flash that Sam had, her expression didn't reflect it.

"We'll find out more tomorrow," she said simply.

Sam glanced at Sombra, but her best friend didn't seem perturbed. None of her friends did, she realized, but the final, shaky release of Sam's unconsciously kept breath further convinced her.

There had definitely been something there. Something that had even turned her high libido off in the face of immense danger.

Not for the first time, but for a vastly different reason than usual, Sam wished she had a closer friendship with Jihl so that she could ask her about it. Jihl, however, didn't appreciate Sam's libido as much as Sam did, unfortunately. Though Sam considered them friends, she reckoned if she hadn't been one of the few Pulsians on the planet, Jihl possibly wouldn't tolerate her at all, let alone as companions.

"Will you be questioning them?" she asked Lightning, though her eyes kept darting back to Jihl, who casually continued eating. Sam would have to ask Sombra if she caught anything later, she decided. She could never really be sure what Sombra caught or was thinking with all those implants after all.

"Interrogation isn't my department," Lightning answered with a shake of her head. "Sometimes they call Jihl in for priority or difficult cases, though. She's very good at them."

The corner of Jihl's mouth curled up at the compliment.

"You have other talents, my dear," Jihl answered, subtly rubbing her hand against the back of Lightning's in front of her plate.

Lightning smiled back at her and then reached for her second serving of food.

"Can you pass the spring rolls?" she asked Angela at the end of the table, and then glanced at Bethany. "You made them?" she asked.

"Oh! I did," Bethany confirmed. "You like them?" she asked, surprised. "There isn't any meat in them."

"I do," Lightning confirmed and complimented. "It's all very good. Thank you for helping Jihl prepare today, both of you." she said, nodding to Bethany and Lebreau before heaping more food onto her plate.

Bethany seemed delighted as Lightning filled her plate a second time, including many more vegetables than she usually did, Sam noted after glancing at her plate. Though Lightning could eat and digest vegetables just fine, her unique metabolism thrived on meat. They all had faster metabolisms than the ordinary citizen, but Lightning especially needed a lot of food on a daily basis just to meet her caloric minimums even without taking her active job into account.

"It's mostly home-grown," Angela stated proudly and added, "Bethany's been cross-pollinating plants in the lab with me."

"Oh?" Lightning asked and Angela nodded, encouraged, as Lightning began to wolf down her second portion.

"Yes, we've been exploring more palatable comestibles and their effects upon Pulsian physiology," she rambled excitedly. "We've made some considerable developments. It's all very fascinating. We've even uncovered verdure that stimulates low doses of epinephrine over the span of a few hours, effectively staying the need for restorative measures over that duration. I've been piloting the discovery personally."

Sam blinked, having lost track of her meaning very early in the explanation. She glanced at Sombra, who had already begun translating for her friends.

"She's found a plant that puts off the need for sleep with low doses of adrenaline, and she's been testing it herself."

"Puts off sleep?" Lebreau asked, glancing at Angela warily. "You barely sleep as it is. Are you sure you're getting enough?"

"Quite so," Angela answered, not seeming worried in the least. "Just as your unique eugenics provide immunity to intoxicants, mine require much less sleep than average. The benefits of my restorative cycles are compressed and amplified so that I experience the same advantages."

Lebreau shook her head, marveling. "Incredible. That big brain of yours even optimizes itself when you put it to bed."

"Indeed!" Angela agreed excitedly. "Our bodies are marvelous wonders of science and mystery. You should see Lightning's anatomy. She's the most spectacular of all of us!"

Sam choked on her long drought of water and sputtered, loudly coughing as she inhaled the water down the wrong hole.

Beside her, Sombra slapped her on the back with a laugh. "Down, girl."

Across the table, Jihl arched a skeptical eyebrow at Sam.

"Having trouble, Sam?" she inquired as Sam tried to get a hold of herself and her coughing died down.

To her great surprise, Angela actually came to her defense.

"You mustn't condemn her exceedingly, Jihl. Sam is especially sensitive to impulsive proclivities, and Lightning is her only opposing companion on the planet. It's quite natural that she yearns for Lightning more than the rest of us. Biologically, Lightning is capable of impregnating her."

Sam's coughing fit redoubled.

"Are you saying Sam craves Lightning for her children?" Jihl asked in that dangerous, shiver-inducing tone she always used.

In that moment, Sam decided Jihl was the most dangerous person on the planet.

"Whoa, whoa!" Sam choked out through her coughing fit. "I don't crave anyone's babies! Angela, are you trying to get me killed?"

"It is biological," Angela said again as if that fact forgave everything. "Lightning is a fine, virile specimen- "

"Sombra, stop her," Sam begged and Sombra laughed. "Jihl, she's talking out of her ass!"

"Is she?" Jihl questioned while Angela frowned.

"I would never," she objected, sounding disturbed.

"You cannot have my children, Sam," Lightning said then, drawing Sam's incredulous eyes to the striking, stony-faced soldier among them who didn't look amused at all.

"Light, I don't- you're fucking hot, but I don't want you to impregnate me!"

It was then that Sam noticed the slightest upturn at the very corner of Jihl's luscious lips.

"Oh my fucking Sage- you're- are you fucking with me?" she asked, half hopeful, and Jihl quirked that perfectly sculpted eyebrow her way.

"Am I?" she asked.

Sam's eyes zipped back to Lightning, who's stony expression had broken just a little bit, and though she wasn't full on smiling, there was a light in her eyes that betrayed a more playful intention.

"You- you just made a joke, Light?" Sam asked, sputtering as laughter from Sombra and Lebreau joined Bethany's chuckles around the table. She held a hand to her chest where her heart raced underneath. "Fuuuck," she groaned. "I was ready to bolt out of here, are you kidding me?"

Bethany giggled. "I've never seen you blush before, Sam."

"Blush? I feared for my life!" Sam grumbled. "I can't believe it. The first time Lightning makes a joke, I'm almost sacrificed for it. Fucking abyss!"

Across the table from her, Jihl took Lightning's hand in her own and turned her face to kiss her appreciatively.

Despite the honest fear for her life, Sam eyed them until laughing, Sombra took her attention away.

"You live to lech another day," she teased, stroking Sam's cheek to keep her attention. Sam pouted and Sombra affectionately caressed her face.

At the end of the table, Angela continued to frown and finally voiced. "I would never offer unverified research unless asked to theorize an unproven solution," she said, still bothered by the notion and caused another round of laughter among the Pulsians.

"We know you wouldn't, Angela," Sombra reassured her amidst it. "Sam didn't mean that; she was just desperately trying to avoid being impaled by Jihl's cutlery."

"Oh," Angela's pretty features relaxed and then upturned. "That is amusing," she determined and Sombra chuckled.

The friendly conversation continued as the Puslians returned to their meals and ate the feast. Jihl helped Lightning to a fourth helping after her last, insisting she eat, and Lightning appreciatively clasped her hand.

Sam's pulse eventually settled back to normal after the terrifying moment and she relaxed among her friends.

XXX

Later that evening after most of the food had been devoured, most of the Pulsians lounged on the couch in front of the wall projection Jihl had used to brazenly show them Lightning in action at work that day. Lightning sat beside Angela, chatting amiably while Sam cuddled with Sombra, staring at the video of Lightning in action in wanton desire. Lebreau had gladly taken Jihl's invitation to rest in the guest bedroom after expressing her need for a couple of hours of sleep before checking back into work after hours.

After Jihl had risen to start putting away and cleaning the leftovers, Bethany left her spot on the couch to join her host in washing the dishes. Jihl smiled at her in thanks and began drying the cookware in-between boxing up the leftovers.

"Thank you for having us tonight, Jihl," Bethany spoke quietly, her voice barely a whisper, aware of both Jihl and Lightning's sensitive senses that could pick up very low volumes. "It was lovely."

"It was, wasn't it?" Jihl murmured back, her eyes raising to the back of Lightning's head to see her girlfriend deeply engaged in discussing meditation techniques with Angela. "You've done me a great favor tonight, Bethany. I won't forget it."

She said it so gravely, Bethany actually shuddered slightly. "I'm just happy I could," she answered, wiping down another plate in the suds. "Do you suppose you'll go to Gapra Whitewood with Sam?" she asked after a moment.

"I do," Jihl answered easily. "I'll assign Lightning to her guard for a few days and oversee the plans of construction."

"I hope they're not too intrusive," Bethany murmured, obviously still distressed by the probability of it. "But I'm glad to hear that. Sam will be busy during the trip some days, I imagine. It will be nice to have your company."

"Lebreau will be busy on All Sages Day, I presume?"

"Yes," Bethany confirmed. "The celebrations take over the whole weekend and they have a lot of cleanup afterwards. She's actually going to start preparing for it with the crew tonight; that's why it's so late."

"I see," Jihl said with a glance up at the couch where Sam had begun kissing Sombra again. "We shaln't leave you alone, Beth," she assured, and following her eyes, Bethany glanced over and then smiled mutely.

"Thank you, but either way, Sam behaves with me. Mostly."

A quiet moment of cleaning passed between them, and then Jihl quietly added.

"I'm seeing Angela tomorrow after work, Bethany. If you'd like to come, you may."

Bethany's eyes darted back over to Lightning for a long moment. "I'll be there," she said, and then dropping her whisper even further, added. "I hope you're okay, Jihl."

"I do as well, Bethany." Jihl murmured softly. "I do as well."