Chapter 5

Mel came awake to the sound of Cole singing softly. Sighing happily, she snuggled into his chest, not opening her eyes. "What time is it?"

"Just past midnight, my love."

"That all? I feel like I slept longer than that."

"As you grow more Cirronian, you require less rest," he reminded her. "Meditation alone becomes sufficient."

"Ah." She nodded, turning her head and kissing his chest again. "How you feeling?"

"Well," he answered, lightly running his fingers through her hair. "How are you?"

"Happy to wake up in your arms. It's been too long since we've cuddled just because we could."

"It has been." He nodded, absently playing his fingertips against the back of her neck. "Did you wish to talk more now or wait until later?"

"Now, before I lose my nerve," she answered, sighing softly. She was grateful to be in his arms, wrapped in his warmth. It was soothing, exactly when she needed it. "I... the night-terrors..."

"Yes, Mel? What about them?"

"I... do you know why I scream like that?"

"You are remembering Khaeto."

"Not exactly. It's more than that. It's not usually memories. It's waking up and... finding him in bed next to me."

The Cirronian sighed softly, tightening his gentle hold on her. No wonder she tried to fight him off. No wonder his voice soothed her so much once he made himself heard over her cries.

"Brings it all back," she continued. "On some level, knowing that he's still alive..."

"You worry he might escape containment and come back for you?"

She nodded faintly. "Silly, I know."

"It is an understandable fear, Mel. But you must understand that, even if he were to escape containment, he would be in the Vault, trapped by a stasis field, behind a locked door. Even if he could escape stasis, he almost certainly could not escape the Vault."

She smiled weakly, kissing his chest. "Thank you."

"I am always happy to ease your fears, my love." Absently, he released a few sparks through the fingertips playing against the back of her neck, smiling when she moaned. "Were there other things you wished to discuss, Mel?"

"Lots of them, actually." She shrugged. "It's not so much that I want to tell you, but I kind of feel like I have to."

He nodded. "Openness is important."

"I... I wonder if we'll be able to Join. I know how much you must want that..."

"Do not think of that, Mel. You are not strong enough to join, so it does not matter. Please do not allow yourself to feel any regret or hesitation. You must understand that I would be happy spending the rest of my life with you even if we could never make love again or join."

"I know you would. I think that's why I feel so guilty about not being able to make love."

"Mel, that does not follow," he said, shaking his head. "I am happy whenever I am near you, whenever I am in your arms. I did not come back for you because of any physical ties. I would have been as happy spending my life with you if we could not have made love."

She sighed and shook her head. "I know that, Cole. And I'm grateful, but..."

"Hush," he directed, gently catching her chin in his hand and making her look at him. She really was guilty over her inability to make love to him, which would never do. "Since I came to this planet, you have shown me how to feel so much, so strongly." He took one hand in his, resting it over his heart. "This is where I feel the most. This is where I experience the most pleasure in your company."

"You aren't like any man I've ever known," she whispered, shaking her head.

"You are not like any woman I have ever known." He shrugged. "No guilt, Mel. I'll make a deal with you."

"A deal?" she repeated, eyeing him curiously.

"Yes, Mel. I will stop feeling guilty for not keeping you from Khaeto if you will stop feeling guilty for what we can not have right now because of him."

She swallowed hard, nodding once. "I love you."

"As I love you." He smiled tenderly at her for a moment before returning one hand to the back of her neck. "You still wish to talk about something," he noted, giving an encouraging nod.

"I... I was going to tell you what Khaeto did to me."

He nodded again. "You should, Mel. You have never spoken to me of what happened to you. I only know what I was able to tell in healing your wounds. You should not have to bear this alone and if you are ready to talk about it, I am ready to listen."

Mel nodded, inhaling deeply. Closing her eyes, she quietly started speaking, relaying it all. It was dawn by the time she reached the point of Cole's timely rescue and many tears had been shed by both, but Cole continued to encourage her and Mel continued to deliver the painful narrative.

"You, uh... you know the rest," she whispered, shrugging. "I... it..."

Cole silenced her with a tender kiss. It was worse than he had imagined, but he refused to let his own pain interfere with his efforts to comfort Mel, especially not in light of the fact that he could sense that a large part of her burden had been healed simply in the telling.

"My love," he murmured, nuzzling her cheek. "You should rest now," he suggested. "We will speak again later."

"I, uh... I have another appointment with Kallissa in a few hours."

"I will make your excuses and reschedule the session. I am sure she will understand when I explain why you must sleep late."

"Thank you, Cole. For everything." She smiled adoring up at him, kissing and snuggling into his chest. "Will you stay with me until I fall asleep."

"Of course, Mel," he promised, nuzzling her cheek again and lightly kissing the top of her head. "Now close your eyes and rest."

"Will you sing me a lullaby?" she asked, feeling silly for wanting one but knowing that Cole would happily oblige.

"Any time you desire one," he promised before shifting into Cirronian and beginning to sing to his love.

(SCENE BREAK)

Having returned very late from his Track, Cole slipped into the bedroom, pleased to see that Mel's rest was undisturbed. Obviously, it had been all night, judging by the fact that the sheets and blankets were not tangled around her sleeping form as they often were after she had spent time struggling against Khaeto's dreaming avatar.

Smiling and nodded, he quickly and silently changed into his silk pajamas before crouching in front of her bed, smiling as he drank in her beautiful face, rendered the more beautiful by the complete lack of anxiety that marked her sleeping. More than a month after Mel had first gone to Kallissa for advice on how to overcome her difficulties in the bedroom, there could be no doubt that she was healing. Three appointments a week with Kallissa and nightly discussions with Cole, sometimes in person and sometimes over the phone, really had helped her start to come to terms with those awful attacks.

While it was true that they still had not made love, they were sharing many other physical expressions of their love for each other. He would touch her or she would touch him and, sometimes, they would even touch each other at the same time. 'Petting', Mel called it to help the Cirronian differentiate it from foreplay in his mind. She had explained that many unmarried human couples engaged in this petting when they were very attracted to each other but not sexually active. It was, he gathered, the sort of thing that Vic and Maria had done in the early stage of their romance, before becoming lovers. Cole enjoyed petting his Mel very much indeed, especially when he was being pet by her at the same time. He could very easily see where such behaviors could lead quite naturally to lovemaking. That made the fact that Mel could engage in it without anxiety a very promising sign indeed.

Very promising. Smiling to himself, he reached out and gave her shoulder a gentle shake, withdrawing his hand quickly. Mel may not have suffered from quite as frequent nightmares, but it was still unwise to wake her unexpectedly with physical contact. She always insisted that he wake her where he returned from Tracks or he likely would simply have climbed into bed with her. Of course, that could have caused problems, too, had she woken in the night to find someone else in her bed without knowing who it was.

"Mel, Taushi," he said. "Wake up."

She did so slowly, smiling languidly as her eyes opened to find themselves staring into his. "Hey, how'd it go?"

"I took my fugitive quickly and easily," he answered with a smile, nodding. "But not before she gave information that might aid us in finding Bellor."

Her smiled widened although her expression remained drowsy. "And he can give you Kaden."

"Yes, Mel." He nodded, caressing her throat. "And Kaden can give us the majority of Zin's chemical and pharmaceutical divisions."

"Oh, that's great," she whispered, reaching up to stroke his throat. "Coming to bed now, or did you need to make your report to Kallissa?"

"I already have," he assured her, smiling and nodding. "I did not wish to have other obligations tonight, so I made my report first and then came to you."

He smiled and caught one of her hands gently in his, kissing it tenderly before rising and moving to the other side of the bed, sliding under the covers and sidling closer to her. His smile widened as Mel immediately slid across the bed to join him, wrapping her arms around him and snuggling into his chest. As he closed his arms around her as well, he realized that she was nude under the blankets.

"I missed you," he murmured, kissing her forehead.

"I've missed you, too." She paused for a moment before admitting, "And not just with my heart, either, Cole."

"Mel?" he whispered, staring down at her in surprise. She could not possibly mean what he thought she did. Could she?

"I know you've only been gone three days, but... I miss our nights together. And... I've been dreaming."

"You have?" he asked, pleased. "Dreams like you told me of before, when I would touch your throat? When matters progressed from there?"

She shook her head faintly. "Dreams of... the things we do in here at night, of what they might lead to." She gave him a sheepish smile. "Yesterday morning, I woke up and...well, let's just say that I could have used some of that attention you're always giving me these days. I felt so..." She shrugged, smiling shyly at him, her eyes not quite meeting his. "If you had walked into the barroom at any point that day, I honestly think I might have jumped you in full view of the customers."

"Really?" he asked, amused and pleased. Curious, he rested one hand against her throat. "If you had been awake when I entered the bedroom, would you have... jumped me then?"

His eyes drifted shut as he felt her response to the question. Nothing resembling fear there. A little trepidation, yes, but no real fear.

"I feel like I could jump you right now," she answered honestly, blushing at the admission. "I mean..." She shook her head. "Kallissa says I've made a lot of progress in the past month."

"You have. I can feel it."

"So can I. Cole, am I... are you... I mean, are we..."

"I think we might be," he confessed, bending and kissing the hollow of her throat. "I would like to at least try," he added, rising and quickly shucking the pajamas. As wonderful as the silk felt against his skin, he knew that the feel of Mel's against his would be even more glorious.

Mel smiled as she regarded the nude Cirronian. As exciting as it was to see him standing naked before her, that was not her only response. Blessedly, fear figured nowhere into that medley of emotions. While she had never exactly been a connoisseur of the arts, she could not help thinking of Michelangelo's David. Except for the fact that Cole was even more beautifully sculpted that any statue ever made. Arousing though it may have been, she also felt admiration for this perfect creature before her. And, of course, love for him. She inhaled deeply as something else occurred to her: Cole was standing before her, naked and aroused, and she felt no fear, not even knowing what was about to happen. And it was about to happen, she was sure.

"Make love to me," she begged the vision before her.

He touched her throat again before smiling and nodding. "Yes, Mel," he answered, euphorically aware that she really was ready this time, not just in her soul and body, but in her heart and brain.

His smile widened as he slid under the covers, pulling her body flush with his. Yes, touching her and being touched by her had been wonderful, but there was no doubt in his mind that this would be infinitely better, for both of them. He planned on making it an encounter that Mel would never forget, the kind of memory that could warm her on the coldest nights even when he was not there to do so himself.

Savoring the idea, he slid his hands from her shoulders to the small of her back, taking his time with the action and allowing his fingertips to caress their ticklish way down her spine. Smiling at Mel's little purr of appreciation, he splayed both hands and released a burst of energy, the most intense energy he had shared with her since before Khaeto. The fact was not lost on Mel, either.

"Oh, God!" she gasped, staring up at him with wide eyes, her body tensing.

Who needed sex when Cole could make every nerve-ending in her body fire at once like that? She felt for all the world like a woman who had just experienced a particularly intense orgasm, incredibly relaxed but still tingling all over. And, for all the pleasure of it, not even slightly sated.

"More?" Cole offered with a faint smile, pleased by her very obvious reaction, more pleased by the fact that she was clinging to him even more closely than before. He shifted slightly, enjoying the feel of her soft body against his chest. Among other places enjoying the feel of her...

"Much more," she answered breathlessly. "Just don't you dare stop with the energy," she added, amazed by her own forwardness.

With every man before Cole, she had been a shy and constrained lover, uncomfortable even discussing sex, let alone making any sort of request or suggestion. But Cole approached sex with such innocent enthusiasm that it was hard for Mel to be any other way herself. The result was that she enjoyed herself more in his arms than he ever had with any other man. She would have felt guilty about enjoying herself so much if it had not been obvious that Cole enjoyed sex every bit as much himself.

She gave a low groan as Cole released more energy into her body, closing her eyes and wishing she knew how to do the same to him. She would have to ask him to teach her. Later. Much, much later...

"Right there," she breathed, nodding.

"I can think of better places," Cole answered with a smile, rolling her onto her back and propping himself up on one arm. "Maybe here," he suggested, resting his hand between her breasts.

"You'll stop my heart if you do that," she murmured languidly, shaking her head. "Admittedly, I can think of worse ways to die..."

He smirked and slid his hand lower until it rested just under her belly-button. "Here, Mel?"

"Getting warmer," she answered, feeling surprisingly playful under the circumstances.

"Patience, my love," he whispered, bending and kissing her tenderly, his fingertips caressing her stomach as he did.

"Lower, Cole," she whispered when he had turned his mouth from her mouth to her throat.

"It has been so long," he whispered, regarding her thoughtfully for a long moment.

It was wonderful that she could accept his touch again, invite even more intimate ones, but that did not change the fact that she was still profoundly affected by Khaeto's attack. That would take longer to resolve and he hated to think of her being in that much pain for that long. He would be there every step of the way, exactly as a man should be for the woman he loved. No more out-of-city Tracks, not until Mel was substantially better and no longer suffering nightmares. He should have curtailed those immediately, was sorry he had not thought to earlier. Well, that damage was done and what was past was past, but he had no intention of repeating the mistake.

"Cole?" Mel asked, frowning faintly at him.

The last time she had seen him this serious before lovemaking had been... Khaeto. Could he be thinking of that? Wondering if she was still afraid? No, there was something else entirely to his reflective state.

"Be calm, my love," he directed, resuming his interrupted caresses. "Tonight will be slow," he murmured. "I want it to be slow."

"I'm not sure I want it to," she confessed, not looking at him.

"No?" Smiling to himself, he slipped his hand lower still, not releasing energy but still allowing his fingers to stray.

To great effect, judging by Mel's soft cry. That gentle cry increased in volume as his fingertips continued to lavish attention on her. That wonderful, responsive bundle of nerve-endings between her legs seemed to respond not so much to his attention as to his enthusiasm. In that, his touch left her gasping and crying out in wonderment. Well-pleased, he persevered, his smile widened as she continued to squirm beneath him, moaning and crying out.

"Yes," he whispered, smiling and nodding as he continued stroking and caressing.

He could not help but smile at his love's reactions, nodding to himself every time she squirmed and bucked, begging him for more. He could grant her that much, and did, cheerfully fondling and petting her. His eyes widened as she began crying out, and his fingers slowed.

"God, don't," she protested, shaking her head frantically. "More..."

"My love," he answered, nodding a little frantically himself. Startled though he was, her reaction was amazing, and he gratefully pushed it, reveling in her pleasure.

"Make love to me, Cole," she pled, smiling adoringly up at him.

"Yes," he agreed, grinning down at his adoring, aroused love.

There was nothing fearful in her appearance, nothing in her manner. Nodding himself, he shifted into position above her, fixing her with a reassuring look as he slowly eased into her. The reassurance seemed unnecessary. He smiled faintly as she arched up to meet him, drawing him into herself without hesitation.

His body into hers, he breathed a silent prayer of thanks. If she disapproved, if she was frightened or resistant, there was no indication. There was nothing but her own, enthusiastic response. She loved him. She wanted him. It was a wonderful realization to the Cirronian's mind, exactly as it had been the first time. His love wanted him!

Exhaling deeply, he pushed into her again, gasping and crying out as she shifted under him, squeezing invitingly, urging him on.

Mel cried out as well, stunned by how wonderful it felt to have Cole making love to her again. There was no fear, no hesitation, only pleasure and love so profound that she could not tell where her love for him stopped and his love for her began.

"Oh, yes! My love," she breathed, nodding. "My love..."

"My love," he repeated, shifting and gasping again. It was hard not to adore the feel of her body, enveloping his. It had been so long since she had taken him into herself like that, wrapping his body in hers. "My love," he repeated again, nodding and wondering how it was that his physical pleasure could be almost as great as the emotional. He had almost forgotten that, sensation so intense as to be almost painful. "Yes, oh yes..."

"Cole!" Mel breathed, nodding and arching up to meet him.

Cole smiled adoringly down at her, cradling her body against his and rolling onto his back, pulling Mel until she lay atop him, nestled into his chest. They spent several minutes like that, perfectly still and simply enjoying their newfound ability to be so close to each other again, physically as well as spiritually. More than any sensation, this was what they had missed, the ability to be so perfectly and completely together, their souls touching as their bodies were, each wrapped together with the other. The embrace could have lasted seconds or hours. Neither was sure and neither really cared. All that mattered was that they could be together again.

Of course, as starved as their souls had been for each other, their bodies had not been without frustration over the separation, either. Need began to exert itself with increasing insistence as they continued to lay close. Cole did his best to ignore it, concentrating on his Mel, on the wonder of having her close again. Mel did not bother to ignore her own need: it had been too long since she had experienced it so honestly and completely. She pushed herself up on her arms, smiling slyly down at Cole and giving him a little squeeze as her fingertips skirted across the familiar expanse of his chest. That amazing body was almost as beautiful as the soul wrapped up inside it, and she allowed herself a moment's gratitude over the fact. Only a moment, though. Her body had more pressing concerns. She could bask in the radiance of his soul later. Right now, her body insisted on focusing on his.

The two moved in perfect accord, as they always did while making love. Cole arched up to envelope himself in Mel and Mel pushed down to embrace him, quickly and more times than either could count. That was, in Cole's mind, the best of human sexuality: the female embracing the male, the male sinking himself into his love, embraced. Exactly as in a Cirronian Joining, two moved together and became One. Cole reacted to all the eroticism inherent in both the act and the symbolism, frantically rocking upwards against Mel, whimpering her name as she gasped his. It was wonderful, a perfect expression of their love for each other, growing in intensity and urgency as time progressed, finally reaching a critical point where it refused to be denied any longer. And, when both gave in to it, the resulting explosion of sensation and emotion was beautiful beyond words.

It was over more quickly than he wanted, but he could not complain, not with his spent love lying on his chest, tracing random patterns over his heart with one finger and smiling adoringly up at him, panting. In response to him. He smiled as well, absently caressing her back as he struggled to catch his breath.

"My love," he whispered when he had. "Taushi."

Mel smiled languidly, resting her cheek against his heart. "Cole, Tausha. My love."

"My savior," he answered, kissing the top of her head. "Where would I be without you?"

"I ask myself the same thing," she admitted, shrugging. "I thought I would die when you left Earth. And, when you came back... I felt like I'd never really lived before."

"I thought I would die when I woke up to realize that Khaeto had you. And now I have remembered what it is to live again. My Mel, my love... my soul. Thank you, for everything."

She smiled at him, feeling a little shy as she always did after making love. It was surprising to realize that she had missed this almost as much as their lovemaking. That outpouring of emotion afterwards, as if they felt so strongly for each other that not even sex could adequately express the intensity of it. More was necessary.

She had missed those whispered words of devotion. Cole was never shy about expressing his love and affection for her, but this was different. Their emotions high, their hearts and souls infinitely receptive to one another, this transcended any other expression of love. Cole did not just say how he felt, he allowed her to feel it, too. It was humbling and uplifting at once to realize how deeply the Cirronian's emotions ran.

"What was it like, going back to Sar-Top?" she asked.

Cole did not speak. He did not have to. Smiling sadly, he reached up and wiped away the tears she shed as the echo of his memories of the place washed over her. Even that echo, of a memory now almost two years old, was enough to make her cry. He still cried over it himself sometimes. Returning to his 'home' had been like ripping out his own heart.

He had no doubt that he would have died if he had been forced to stay. He had not even bothered resuming his Cirronian form, knowing that Sar-Top's thin atmosphere would have quickly proven fatal to a human body. When Eijan had come to him to tell him that the wormhole was still open, he had been standing on a high cliff, staring at Cirron on the horizon. The Enixian woman had been afraid that he meant to jump. Part of him had considered the possibility.

And then that wonderful news.

"You know that saying of mine? That, as ranking officer on this satellite, even the Fates are frequently outranked by me."

"I am aware," came the pained response. He had wished that she would just go, leave him in peace.

"Did you learn much on that Earth place?"

"A great deal. It should all be in my reports." Go, Eijan, please. Just go...

"Yes, I expect it is in your reports. And tell me, boy, did you... forget much?"

"I... I don't understand."

"Basic math, perhaps? Your wormhole calculations were so sloppy that my great-granddaughter could have done better. Your stability threshold was far too low and your energy requirement estimates far too high."

"I... don't understand."

"Your... wormhole... is... still... open. And, with the extra energy I've ordered allocated to its maintenance, it will remain so for another half day. Well? Why are you still standing there? Shouldn't you be packing?"

He smiled at Mel as fresh tears filled her eyes. His filled his as well.

"I wish you could meet Eijan in person, Mel. She is... like no other woman I have ever known. The wormhole would have collapsed before I could have returned. She took one look at me and knew that I needed to come back. She saw to it that I had a way to."

Mel smiled up at him, absently catching one of his tears on the tip of her finger and licking it off. "You once told me that you were always lucky in your choice of friends." She shook her head. "You were wrong."

"What do you mean, Mel?" he asked, frowning uncertainly.

"It's not luck. You just... you're so good to everyone around you, that you inspire goodness in them, too. You make people better than they would otherwise be. You show them that it's possible." She kissed his chest before continuing. "You showed me..."

He smiled in answered, catching a blanket by the corner and drawing it over them before wrapping his arms around her. "You showed me as well. You showed me that there was more to live for than revenge or even duty. You... showed me that it was okay to feel again, even to be happy." He kissed the top of her head, burying his face in her hair and inhaling deeply. "Eijan always speaks about cheating fate, Mel, but... I think she misses the point."

"That would be a first," she said, smirking.

"Yes," he agreed placidly, shaking his head. "But it is true. Eijan thinks we must make our own luck. I prefer the Cirronian sentiment."

"What's that?"

"That the universe is a harsh place full of hard truths, but that the gods are not without compassion. Fate knew what we needed, and so gave it to us. She guided us straight into each other's arms and, then, into each other's hearts. Fate is not to be cheated, She is to be trusted to. And I thank Her again every time I lay eyes on you."

"You're something else, you know that?" she whispered, grinning at him. Still smiling, she climbed to her feet, reaching for her bathrobe.

"Where are you going?" he asked, frowning slightly at the sense of loss he always felt when Mel pulled from his arms.

"Kitchen. I'm going to make a pan of hot cocoa and warm up some cookies. And then we are going to curl up together on the couch wrapped in no fewer than three down quilts and we are going to watch the snow falling and the ice crystals forming on the window and we are going to remember how wonderful the warmth of a lover is."

He smiled and nodded, rising and shrugging on his own robe. "I like that idea, Mel."

She smiled back, offering her hands. "I thought you might..."

(SCENE BREAK)

Cole smiled at Mel as she settled down on his lap with two mugs of cocoa in hand. Accepting his own, he carefully arranged the quilts around them, reveling in the warmth from the furnace, the hot-pad, the blankets, Mel, and the cocoa. Cocoa made with love as the main ingredient, Mel always said.

Smiling at that thought, he sipped at his, cradling Mel against his chest and watching the snow swirling around outside. The living room was dark, the only light that reflecting off the snow from the streetlamps. It was very beautiful, very peaceful.

"I've been thinking," she said quietly after several minutes spent in silence, just enjoying each other's presence. "Do you think you could get some time off from Kallissa?"

"Probably. Why?"

"I was thinking... oh, I don't know. Maybe a second honeymoon would be nice." Smiling wryly, she shrugged and amended, "Or a first one. But we could rent a cabin in the woods, or go somewhere warm if you prefer, and just... focus on each other for a couple of days. We have a lot of lost time to make up for."

"We do," he agreed, nodding. "Not somewhere warm," he decided after a moment.

"No? Why not?"

"Because a flame can not be recognized as beautiful except in the cold and the dark."

She smiled faintly at his philosophical mood. He was right, though. It was hard to fully appreciate pleasure without having lived through some pain as well. Both of their lives had more than proved that supposition. Four or five months ago, she would have taken the ability to curl up on the couch with Cole after having made love to him for granted. Now, in light of everything that had happened, it seemed a precious gift.

"We can go to a state park in Wisconsin or Indiana," she said, nodding. "It'll be cold as hell, but... hey, we've always been able to keep each other warm in the past."

"We have," he agreed, nodding and kissing the top of her head. "In every important way. I love you, Mel."

"I love you, Cole." She smiled up at him, yawning. "Oh, sorry."

He smiled back, taking the cocoa from her hand and setting it on the end table. "You are still human enough to require some sleep," he reminded her.

"Should we go back to bed?"

"No. If you don't mind, I'd like to stay here with you and watch the snow."

"Okay." She smiled and nodded, shifting into a more comfortable position and snuggling into him, closing her eyes. "Night, Cole."

"Good night, my love," he answered, smiling warmly down at her until she was asleep.

Still smiling, he looked up at the snow falling outside, strangely symbolic to his mind tonight. Bitterly cold, as much of his life had been, but beautiful as well. Yes, there had been pain, but there had been happiness as well, warmth from any number of sources. It was a good life, one worth having lived. One worth continuing to live for as long as he was privileged to.

Kissing the top of Mel's head, he closed his eyes to meditate. It would come easily tonight, he knew. Warm and comfortable, pleasantly tired from having made love so recently, anticipating several days spent alone with Mel and not a care in the universe, surrounded by friends, and looking forward to Jess' return, for good this time, the Cirronian smiled. Life really could be a beautiful thing at times and this... this was one of the good nights.

The End