A/N: I know, I know- this isn't a real update, but I had to put the new scene into Ch5 since it sets up the upcoming plot, so with that in mind, please cut me some slack. Besides, it's a BGI scene (for those who know what that means, hehe) so that's got to count for something, lol.

Previously, on Code Red: CRITICAL MASS:

Now that they had two children and they were both approaching middle age - Kal was thirty-nine and she one year younger, though her actual age numbered a good many more moons than that - they had settled into a comfortable rhythm of family life and routine, with a sense of serenity. The Morphean Chamber had allowed them to age with the rest of the world; it was one of the dream parameters she had been very particular about- the ability to grow old along with someone and to experience the best of what life would offer thereafter. It was both the gift and the price of mortality.

Kal had aged well, with the physical appearance of a man ten years younger. She supposed it was in his Kryptonian genetics, augmented by Calaran's golden sun- not that he knew it; in this world, he was oblivious to his ability to physiologically process solar energy.

Galatea too had aged well. At first she had been apprehensive, she who was immortal and had never seen a silken gray hair on her pristine coif, or a wrinkle on her flawless features. But it was more pleasant than she had initially thought. There was a sense of passage and progress, an achievement of milestones.

Something more wonderful had come between them however. Her husband had begun to love her the way she wanted him to. It had happened somewhere in the middle of teaching Apollo to walk and deciding as a couple to adopt Artemis. It was a deep-seated love of respect and mutual trust, of loyalty and acceptance. It was the love that many brides come to develop for their husbands from arranged marriages, whom they have only met on the wedding day. It took time like many other good things - sometimes over several years - but it was well worth the wait.

As long as she had the love of her husband, even her inevitable mortality was a price worth paying.

It was even worth the measures she was going to take to safeguard it.

Standard disclaimers apply. Superman, Wonder Woman and any other syndicated characters are the intellectual property of DC and Warner Bros.

Thanks of course to the peerless Angelic Enchantress, my once in a lifetime best friend and life support system so to speak. Your inputs proved invaluable in the new scene and I'll say it again- you really need to write another fic yourself, especially a BGI one, lol. Besides, it'd give me a chance at payback for mothering & doting over me when I was sick, not that I'm complaining, hehe ;-)

I know this chapter seems pretty weird and twisted, but everything's not as it seems, and it'll make sense down the line as the plot unravels. More than that, I'm afraid I can't give away. Ladies and Gentlemen, do r & r as always.

Rating: Now definitely RatedM for Mature for exploration of dark and adult themes, which I can safely say shall continue in later chapters. This fic was advertised as a mature tale right from the start, and is written by an adult, for adults, and about adults, so expect more adult situations down the line. Well, enjoy!


Code Red: CRITICAL MASS

By Cael-El595

Ch 5: Children of Cocytus

Calaran, Jewel of the Aurician Galaxy:

The midday sun's golden rays filtered through the filigree curtains overhanging Kal's bed, causing him to stir. Squinting as the light hit his eyes, he turned away, causing the dancing light to form myriad patterns of ever changing shadows on his face as he rose. He cast a glance at the sleeping woman sharing the bed with him before heading for the bathroom.

Kal turned on the shower, letting the hot water wash over him as the steam hissed on contact. The heat rolling off his skin was invigorating; oddly pleasant after the years of uncertainty and confusion he'd felt. Of course, nothing compared to the way he'd felt a few hours earlier; then he'd felt alive, felt this was if not right, then definitely meant to be. For the first time since he could remember, he'd felt sure about something, felt safe, as they'd laid together, a mass of entwined limbs.

He was jolted out of his reverie by a supple chest pressing against his back. He smiled as a slender olive-skinned hand crept under his arm, snaking its way onto his chest, and then he grabbed the wrist connected to it, pulling the woman who'd left him feeling so liberated even as she had ensnared him, now face to face. Her sparkling blue eyes almost reached his, open invitation in them as she smiled at him, a dazzling, incandescent smile that never failed to light his heart up.

"You're supposed to be in bed," his tone was mildly admonishing, yet tender as he gazed into her eyes. They were so close, inches apart, that he could count each and every one of her long eyelashes.

God, she's beautiful. He found himself enchanted in a way he had not thought possible.

She pouted at him, the expression devastatingly adorable according to him, "Then why are you out of bed Kal?" her fingers were working him over, tracing circles and random patterns over his rippling chest and abdomen as she came behind him.

That's unfair! Damn it; don't let her get to you! He tried in vain to ignore what she was doing to him, "I'm not sleepy," he managed to get out in the midst of a laugh aimed at covering his unavoidable reaction to her.

It was too late. Her deft fingers had found him by then even as she pressed her full lips behind his ear, and her voice had a throatiness to it that would've brought any man to his knees, "Who said anything about sleep? Or is that what you brought us here for?" she challenged him, a fine eyebrow arched as she looked at him expectantly.

He swallowed hard as he lost himself in her deep eyes, enraptured by her haunting beauty. "Ah... that would be a… no. This," he placed his hands on her hips, bringing her closer to him, "is closer to what I had in mind."

She giggled lightly at his tone, nestling herself into him against the water spraying on them.

Kal smiled at her then, leaning forward and kissing her, softly at first, then with increasing passion. It was with pounding heart and breathless anticipation that she broke that kiss, "It wouldn't be seemly to continue this here love, shall we retire to our bed?" she whispered huskily, eyes shining with love and desire.

He found himself unable to speak, lost in the moment and her beauty, and so was led by the hand back to their bed. Consumed by their mutual passion, Kal never noticed the small cloud coalescing outside the door, increasing in density till it formed a humanoid silhouette before fading completely.

-x-x-x-x-x-

Aboard the VSX- 575C Corsair, Prince Kal's Personal Scout Craft, years ago:

She was lying in bed, a sweet luxurious comfort even if it didn't match the opulence of her citadel, the Tower of Ages– of home. She watched the stars lend their silvery fluid through the window, causing the hyperalloy walls of her chamber to transform into a pattern of alternating pale blue and the ebony of shadows. What she valued most about sleeping in her own bed in her own chamber was knowing that she would be safe – not having to think about imminent death, not having to worry about some Dystopian prophecy – knowing that she'd finally changed her fate and nothing would be able to get to her in the solitude of space.

The warmth of the blankets covering her bed was soothing and she could not help but smile as sleep lulled her down into a peaceful darkness…

In the darkness a lone figured watched. He watched her breasts rise and fall rhythmically and felt a primal stirring deep within. She looked so… innocent, so… unguarded. His soft footfalls brought him to the edge of her bed. He was careful to not let his shadow fall across her quiet face.

He cautiously slid the blanket off her sleeping form, slowly revealing her long and naked legs beneath the sleeping gown that was bunched up around her thighs. If only he could just reach out and touch the skin – it must be as soft and giving as it looked…

She sensed the presence even before she fully awoke and opened her eyes and saw him. She felt the movement of air in her chamber, and as she sat bolt upright and reached for her blade, his hand was faster and darted out, grabbing her wrist. Her eyes shot upwards following the arm, to see who could have reflexes faster than her, and was stunned to see Kal standing at her bed. He was staring down at her, his eyes unfathomable, his lips tight.

"Kal-!" was all she could manage before his other hand reached out and clamped her solidly across the mouth. She looked up at him, alarmed, and every muscle in her body tensed.

Artemiera had said something about not trusting him. Althea had warned her about him. Even her own instincts had twitched uncomfortably whenever the strange yet disturbingly appealing warrior prince from another world was too near – or too far. Now it appeared that they were right and she had been too foolish to listen…

But he just held her there, pressed against the gilded headboard of her bed. His cerulean eyes bore into hers, searching yet not moving. Like a great cat, he held her still with his eyes, the powerful muscles of his arms shifting imperceptibly. She wanted to look around the room, to see what was within reach to grab and use as a weapon but she did not dare pull her eyes from his.

Her heart was beating frantically within her chest like a caged bird and she was certain he could see it right through her sleeping gown

Without relaxing his hold on her, he leaned in and whispered in her ear half-mockingly, "You're very pretty when you sleep, Empress. Really, if I had known how easy it would be to sneak into your room at night, I would have done so earlier in your tower itself."

His eyes were glowing with a strange light. She could feel the heat of his breath on her ear as he spoke and smell the strangely intoxicating scent of leather and wind. He held his body so close to hers that as she shivered in the cool night, she could feel the studs of his armor, the hilt of the psionic claymore in the holster at his side…

His sword!

Her mind snapped from her reverie and she remembered that her other hand was still free. Without thinking, she grabbed frantically at his sword.

The warrior prince's eyes widened in surprise and it seemed as though he had forgotten as well. He let go of her mouth and went to grab at her other arm but that motion was enough to allow her to wriggle free from his grasp. She tumbled from the bed gracelessly, her sleeping gown tripping her to the floor.

There was no way she could fight him like this – no weapons, no armor, no magic, no clothes. But if she could just get to the bridge…get into an escape pod…

She had barely taken two steps when she felt his looming presence behind her. Her back stiffened, waiting for the searing heat of his claymore or the quick hot piercing of the blade's point.

Gods, after everything I endured on the island, only to die like this…

But the killing blow never came. Instead, she felt his arms wrap completely around her waist and in one fluid motion, he swung her back to the bed and threw her roughly and unceremoniously onto the thick blankets.

In the same motion, he followed suit and landed savagely on top of her, pinning her legs with his and her arms with his calloused hands.

"What were you trying to do – bring all of the ship's interior defenses down on us and have us both blown out of orbit?"

Her eyes widened as she looked at him but she could not help but whisper questioningly, "Kal?"

His face was irritated but at hearing his name uttered like that from her full lips, she saw a flicker move across his eyes and mouth like a passing breeze. He leaned in again, pressing his chest to hers and she felt the bed sink beneath them. "Sweet, pretty Empress," he said, letting the title bestowed upon her roll off his tongue almost disdainfully.

His eyes were roaming across her face almost absent-mindedly, but she had learnt in the short time she'd known him that a man like Kal did everything with a purpose. He smiled at her, his lips curling up, tauntingly, "You know what I want. And I know what you want, even if you don't know it yet or continue to deny it. We've played our little mind games with each other long enough, and there are other things I'd much rather do."

With that, he forced his lips to hers.

With this unfamiliar intimate touch she suddenly felt her whole body tightened like the strings on the harps she was so accustomed to hearing. She could feel the warmth of his skin on hers, the chiseled smoothness of his jaw-line; mixed with the scent of leather and wind was now sweat and the musky heady scent of a man. He still had her pinned to the bed as if he were afraid she'd run but now he had stretched out and had the fullness of his delicious weight pressing down the entire length of her body.

She couldn't help it – the weeks of having him on her island; seeing his silent but deadly form constantly going about his quest; the incessant verbal barbs and occasionally not-so-accidental touches as they had fought against, and then for each other, had brought her pent up frustrations to this maddening point and she felt her back arching up against her will and pressing back against his body.

This seemed to reassure him and he hungrily slipped his tongue inside her mouth.

His fingers loosened their grip on her wrists and slid up to intertwine gently with hers. Kal still held her to the soft bed but she felt a change – no longer was he afraid she'd escape – he was holding her because he wanted her desperately close, closer.

She could feel his lightweight body armor chafing against her nearly naked skin and suddenly the imposed distance between his naked skin and hers felt like a mile if it was an inch. Kal appeared to be thinking the same and his hands started tugging impatiently at her sleeping gown.

But she would do things her way. He might have had the element of surprise, but now she wanted control. She wanted him unclothed first, vulnerable to her – Kal, for all his raw masculine charm, was still Kal with his keen, unpredictable edge. She swatted his fingers away and he bristled, his liquid blue eyes flashing dangerously in the dim light.

"Don't tease me, Your Highness," he growled lowly, the words resonating in his chest.

She snapped at him, "You will indulge me, my Prince, if you know what's good for you."

Her sudden aggressive and haughty tone seemed to have taken him aback and he looked at her cautiously but arrogantly, "I think I know exactly what's good for me." He bit her sharply on her lower lip and was pleased to hear her gasp in pain and pleasure.

"I think I've been indulging you enough Milady, going off on some wild quest or the other at your behest to save both our lives. Don't you think I could experience some of your famed kindness and generosity as a bit of a reward? Or do you reserve that for your loyal assassins?"

"You know," he pretended to muse thoughtfully, "I'd probably have been much more receptive about your directives if you had given them dressed like this." His fingers yanked her sleeping gown up another inch exposing more of her skin. Only a little more to go…

Her eyes never left his face but her fingers trailed up to his sides. His hands stopped hers when he felt her going towards his belt with his sword, causing his eyebrows to rise, "I thought we were past this?"

She smiled disarmingly, "We are, Kal, so now you have to trust me if you want some of my famed kindness and generosity." Her fingers continued to his belt buckle and nimbly she undid the belt and let the claymore and its holster clatter to the stone floor.

"Besides," she whispered, "That's not the sword I'm interested in tonight."

He felt her fingers slide along the waistline of his body armor – so close, yet so achingly far – and he let a longing whimper slip from his lips, burying his face in her neck and pushing his hips into her. She grabbed his waist and pulled him to her, pushing her hips into his but she made no move to loosen his trousers.

Kal pressed his mouth hungrily to the smooth skin of her neck, nipping gently at the flesh, hoping his urgency would goad her into working faster at removing these bulky trappings of civilization – he wanted to feel his nakedness against hers, to strip both of them of the falsities of society and to have her as a real, primal woman. He could smell the scent of exotic flowers wafting up from the heat of her skin.

A warrior who wore flowers…

He inhaled deeply, recognizing the scent of the yellow orchid, and his mind drifted back to the first battle they had fought together since their paths had crossed again.

Kal had been particularly daring that one time, flying his VXSC 595 Cael Class Imperial Interceptor right into the leviathan's mouth, in this case, right through a blockade of Nerubian destroyers.

He'd lulled them in first, piloting in a damaged and evacuated frigate, dangling an offer of surrender as bait. They'd fallen for the ruse completely, and by the time they discovered it, Kal had used the frigate as a battering ram with devastating effect, sacrificing it in the process. Before the Nerubians knew what hit them, his gambit had accounted for three of their destroyers.

Kal smiled in satisfaction. The Corugian Horse was the oldest trick in the universe and it still worked like a charm. If they were so incompetent, then they definitely deserved the education he was about to give them, not that it would do them any good.

Now that he had their attention, a squadron of Vipers was scrambling into battle formation, fifteen of them heading out to flank him. Kal didn't think it was a fair match at all. For them.

He had mastered his fighter, the nimble craft now an extension of his will; the claymore he swung to enforce Krypton's will. The VXSC 595 Cael Class Imperial Interceptor was the ultimate space superiority machine, especially in skilled hands like his. Nobody stood a chance.

He flew the Cael Interceptor into them, effortlessly dodging their lasers and torpedoes, and firing short laser bursts in return. Three of the vipers fell to almost comical errors, crashing into the interwoven laser-net even as they tried to evade his aim.

Four more fell to his incisive laser bursts and he dispatched another three using a single missile.

That left five of them. Against the Cael Interceptor's total superiority, especially in a supremely skilled pilot's hands, as was presently the case, they were sitting ducks.

Kal swung his fighter around, the craft obediently diving below the drones into an impossible corkscrew loop and an alley-oop through the mesh of the laser-net trap. He was rewarded well for the extremely demanding and risky evasive-offensive maneuver- he'd ended up perfectly placed above and behind them, the vipers' tails to him.

Right where he wanted them.

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he sent his fighter down towards them, prepared to rain their doom from above, guns blazing. In less than three seconds, all his hits found their mark, the fighters reduced to space scrap.

That was just too easy, childishly simple. Now he had to neutralize their defenses on land, which were no doubt on high alert now that he had decimated their space fleet.

He didn't waste a moment. Fully expecting the 'reception committee' that'd be awaiting him on solid ground, he charged in, weapons armed and locked, strafing and picking off every tank and cannon and fighter before they could mobilize.

This was supposed to be a simple mission- dive in; cripple the fleet; breach the base and retrieve or eliminate the target, whatever it was; and get the hell out. So far, it had been going perfectly as planned. Until now.

He chanced upon the trail of broken bodies once he landed, the wake of a devastating rampage.

They'd all died horrifically, no doubt screaming in agony as they were torn apart. Kal frowned grimly. Whatever had done this; he needed to be ready.

He heard the characteristic whistling sound and immediately brought his psionic claymore up behind his back, slicing the energy snare in half.

Another three snares came spinning at him, and he acrobatically dodged them with fluid twists of his large frame, flexibly arching back and cartwheeling obliquely through the air. But he wasn't done yet.

He caught a flicker of movement amidst the trees hiding the base and promptly gave chase. His adversaries might be as fleet-footed as they came, but they hadn't counted on someone of Kal's consummate talents.

Fuelled by the rush of impending combat against someone equally dangerous, Kal leapt up and swung like a gymnast onto a thick branch high up, sprinting across the dense foliage and propelling himself from tree to tree. He abruptly dove to his right, rolling in midair to offer a smaller target, and then he struck.

Two blades clashed and crackled, and he tackled his assailant in mid-air, sending them both hurtling down and crashing through branches; and corrected their fall so that he slammed the hooded warrior hard on the ground, landing on top.

He held the tip of his sword to the throat as he pulled back the hood, and froze.

Her.

"Kal, we need to stop meeting like this," one corner of her lips turned upwards as she looked at him; her smile half mockery, half challenge; all seduction.

Just when he'd thought he was numb to the world; that nothing could get to him, he'd been proven wrong. At best, he'd just been in temporary stasis, waiting for a lightning bolt to reanimate him.

He stepped back cautiously, still holding his blade parallel to the ground, "Diane?"

She was still every bit as achingly beautiful as he remembered, and every bit as dangerous. She smiled, "You remember me. I'm touched."

He took notice of her outfit, a skintight black and red suit sequined with green, designed more for mobility than for modesty, that hugged and accentuated every seductive curve on her statuesque figure.

His mouth went dry. It was almost as if she wore it with that very intention, to distract, seduce and disorient her male opponents during combat.

Although, with her stunning looks, he figured she didn't really need to try at all.

He couldn't let her work him over, not yet. "What are you doing here?" he demanded sharply.

"Doesn't it look obvious? The same thing I always do. Saving your tight ass- again. You're way over your head this time."

He didn't have time to reply. The ground shook violently, a thunderous rumble reverberating through it.

He steadied himself, just in time to see it coming. He shoved her forcefully out of harm's way before back flipping to relative safety, narrowly avoiding the giant horror erupting out of its burrow.

Kal finally saw it- two pairs of densely muscled arms with vicious claws and a grotesque, gnarled reptilian head on the largest bipedal frame of organic origin he'd ever seen, covered in armor plating and outfitted with a lethal array of weapons to bolster its destructive arsenal. The beast stood at a good eight meters, despite being hunched over for speed, bony prominences and vertebrae protruding out like thick natural armor.

An imposing mass of metal and muscle, an abomination of science that defied sane thought. The rumored war golem. Kal hadn't thought it actually existed.

Any doubts on its existence were swiftly laid to rest as one of the clawed arms shot out at him, his reflexes being all that saved him from instant impaction under ten meters of solid bedrock.

He dodged the next swipe and brought his blade down on the joints. Sparks flew, but the blasted hyperalloy didn't even have a shallow scratch to show for his efforts.

He looked over, and saw her languidly swinging and evading with all the grace of a blade dancer, one of the many female assassins he had encountered and battled. Once more, he couldn't help but wonder about her hidden past.

Kal deflected a laser with his blade, only to be knocked back painfully by the concussive force. They needed fresh tactics.

He caught her gaze, nodded for her to follow his lead and charged in. If this was going to work, he was going to need her help.

Just as he'd always needed her right since they first fought together.

Eventually, she'd provided perfect foil for him, drawing out another swipe with the arm. This time, Kal had been ready, and pounced on his chance.

He flipped back out of the way, and then leapt onto the arm, the golem inadvertently catapulting him upwards in a vigorous attempt to throw him off.

Kal didn't waste another crucial moment, going straight for the jugular, literally. Using his blade as a fulcrum, he'd dug into the joints between the massive cyborg's cervical armor plates and swung his weight around, using the momentum to slingshot into a perch between its shoulders.

He fought to maintain his precarious hold as the golem fired another salvo at her as she languidly evaded each missile, practically toying with and taunting the colossal hybrid, and then he plunged his blade into the primitive ganglion with all his might.

The abomination seemed unharmed, still swinging its arm towards its back, attempting to claw him out like he was a flea, which he very well might've been, given their sheer disparity in size and power.

And then…

Kal swiveled on the claymore's point, twisting and lunging out of its reach, and then the claw stopped a hair's breadth from his eyes.

The gargantuan beast stood stock still, and then shuddered violently before careening forward. Kal desperately ran up the shoulders to avoid being crushed under its weight and then ran up its head as the cybernetically enhanced carnivore went almost horizontal, and then he went for a furious, make-or-break dive.

Kal propelled himself off the crown of the golem's massive skull with everything he had, tackling her out of the way seconds before impact. The resulting tremor brought him to his knees. He looked up, and that's when he actually saw her, saw it in her.

She certainly had a knack for bringing him to his knees.

He could afford to try to joke about it. After all, they'd just destroyed a new golem prototype, and lived to brag. Not many other warriors could make that claim.

Of course, with the two of them fighting together in clockwork precision the way they just had, as if sharing a collective consciousness, nobody had really stood a chance.

She had looked so powerful, standing in the mud, covered in dirt, holding her blade confidently in her hand, her chest heaving from exertion and surrounded by fallen enemies, that it was all he could do not to strip her down and have her ferociously right there and then amidst the carnage and trampled grass.

She had looked up into his eyes when she noticed him staring, her face unreadable with the flurry of emotions passing through it in the aftermath of battle.

Her lips had parted as her face suddenly softened with understanding, but then she seemed to have changed her mind and shifting her weight to her other foot, had asked simply and crisply, "Are you hurt?"

He had merely grunted and brushed his way past her towards his fighter, and that was when he had smelled that provocative perfume...

No – he was far worse than hurt…

He cupped her face roughly while he kissed her mouth, feeling her tongue plunge inside commandingly. His mouth worked against hers with an untamed, desperate desire.

Her fingers quivered slightly as she began undoing the clasps that held Kal in his light body-armor and as she struggled to pull it off of him, her eyes caught his. He was staring at her with an unmasked carnal wanting and she felt an electrical tingle move up her spine.

He was now clothed only in a simple dark blue tunic and his brown pants, yet they seemed to impossibly hug and define his sculpted muscles. She could feel his chest heaving against her with his ragged but controlled breaths. He was trembling in anticipating, waiting for her to make the next move.

Indulging her.

She pushed him up to a sitting position and practically ripped the tunic from his torso. His body was taut like a finely balanced weapon, rippling with power. His shoulders were broad and powerful and she used them to pull herself up to look at him face to face. There was a moment of stillness, of silence, as they both considered one another in the dark.

Oh Kal, she thought, though she didn't dare speak his name aloud for fear of breaking whatever silent spell held them in the night.

Kal, Kal, Kal… the voice in her head chanted, savoring the way his name sounded in her mind. He seemed to do likewise, unwilling to utter her name in anything beyond a whisper lest she disappear before his eyes.

Impulsively, even lovingly, she reached out and tousled his thick, raven hair. He seemed surprised at her gentle touch and she watched, for an instance, as the hard lines of his expression softened, the guarded weariness drained from his eyes and all the tension and harshness left the angles of his face.

She took note of how his dark lashes rimmed his eyes, emphasizing the cerulean blue of his iris. In that moment, she saw not the cool, ever vigilant warrior, hardened from years of running and fighting, but the soft boy of yesteryears and the man he could have been if the Fates had not dealt him his tragic hand.

The unfairness of it suddenly left her angry and hurt for the both of them.

It wasn't their fault that they were both trapped in these circumstances, her as the former Empress, once a prisoner in her own tower, now a traitor and a pawn; and him as the haunted, tormented Prince. In any other lifetime, things could have been normal – they could have been normal…

But there was no one for her to take her sudden anger out on except for him. She pushed him back violently onto the bed and he fell back easily, willingly. Her hands tugged off his boots, and then worked feverishly to undo the belt that held his trousers on.

She could see the hard bulge in his pants, and as the trousers came off and crumpled to the floor, she turned to him and unabashedly let her eyes and fingers trail from his feet, up his legs.

She caressed his inner thigh, making small circles but it was her own skin that prickled at the intimacy of their contact. She threw her right leg over him and straddled his midsection, acutely aware of the heat emanating from him between her legs, separated only by a thin, inadequate sleeping gown.

Kal stared up at her and licked his lips, barely keeping the snide smirk off his lips. This was turning out better than he had ever expected or planned. He could see the shape of her breasts silhouetted in the dark, the nipples pert and upturned because of the cold...or because of him.

Without asking, he pulled the gown over her head and tossed it into the pile next to her bed. Suddenly freed from the last vestige of clothing and civility, the last of her inhibition seemed to fall away into the pile of clothing and armor along with her gown.

He pulled her down on top of him and wrapped his arms around her waist once again, as his legs wove their way around hers. He squeezed his limbs so that her body was pressed tightly to his, every space becoming flesh and watched her throw her head back, eyes shut and lips parted, her hair tumbling around her shoulders.

His teeth razed the smooth, honeyed skin of her exposed throat and he squeezed her harder, grabbing at whatever piece of her he could between his fingers and pinching it mercilessly. He could feel her nails digging into his upper arms every time he pressed her harder into him and sensed the quickening of her breath.

He felt her lips kiss his collarbone and work their way down his rippling, well-muscled chest to his brownish-pink nipples. He couldn't fight back a groan as he felt her tongue slip out and caress them sensually. He felt the throbbing between his legs increase fervently…

He growled suddenly, impatiently, and rolled over in the bed, pinning her once again beneath him. This time he felt her soft body give beneath him and instinctually he used his legs to part hers. He looked down into her eyes, with its dark wide pupils, and she met his squarely, glistening in the dark, and she made no movement to stop him.

He needed no further encouragement and the predator finally took his prey.

With the first hard thrust, he felt her entire body lifting and arching against him, nearly bucking him off her lithe body with a strength that surprised him. He felt the flesh beneath him give way; and he was then surrounded by her soft warmth.

Her arms were wrapped around his shoulders and her hands gripped his thick hair, pulling his face to hers.

She kissed him hurriedly, without reserve, and he found himself responding in kind. His lips moved to her ear then down to where the delicate line of her neck met her shoulders and he took her skin between his teeth, sucking hard and tasting her sweetness. There would be a welt there tomorrow, he knew it, and relished the thought of leaving his indelible mark on her flawless skin.

"Kal…." He heard her breathe in his ear as he pushed deeper into her, impaling her.

She clung to the back of his neck, bracing herself against the onslaught of his thrusts. He seemed utterly lost in his passion, his eyes never leaving her body – all the months of tension between the two of them disappearing with each rocking motion of his hips. His skin was hot against hers and she could feel his sweat as he angrily heaved into her. He was so wild and untamed and unpredictable.

Her head was getting light as his fingers and mouth found their way across her body. She wanted to stop him, stop him before he pushed her over the edge of pleasure into the gloriously decadent bliss that would leave her more naked and open than she was now.

She could feel the burning knot of pressure building in her middle, keening towards a frenzied pitch.

She opened her mouth to say something, to tell him to slow or stop but all that came out was a shuddering moan. That seemed to renew his vigor and he plunged into her harder and deeper – and she knew she was lost to him.

She was forced let go of all thought and consideration of who or what Kal was. Warrior and pacifist, a leader and a hero, godlike and mortal – a bundle of strange contradictions but it did not matter.

It did not matter as his final thrust into her burst the bubbling tension in her and she felt the exploding heat shoot through every muscle in her body.

"Kal!" she cried aloud, to the man – the Kryptonian, the warrior, the hero, the champion; all of him – who was with her, as she trembled violently against him.

She heard him say her name between broken gasps of breath and she felt his body, every muscle that was against her, tighten as he pushed wholly into her one last time…

When she awoke, he was gone, the bed still giving off the lingering heat where he'd slept beside her. She put her hand where his body had been and noticed a yellow flower on her pillow. She smiled.

It was an orchid.

So, he had noticed and he knew.

A quiet shift in the air of the room and she realized she had been wrong – he wasn't gone, he'd never left and as she looked up, she saw him standing powerful and silent at the edge of the shadows, where he had been watching her sleep…

Guarding her…

-x-x-x-x-x-

Calaran:

"Are we lost, father?"

"Not yet, but I'll tell you if we are."

Kal had made a promise to himself to always be honest with his son, even if it meant admitting fallibility. He regretted it sometimes. He had been riding into the Eastern forests with seven-year-old Apollo and an entourage of four guards, but the two of them had become separated from the rest when Apollo stopped to examine a rare and spectacularly plumed avian species hovering around a rather large and exquisite flower.

The danger of being alone in the forest was always bandits, who preyed on travelers. He had strived for years with Bryce to rid the passageways of outlaws and thieves but no matter how hard they tried, there was never enough manpower to patrol the entire planet. Unless of course he raised the salaries of the provincial guard to attract more recruits, which meant changing the entire services pay scale and getting the revenue from either increased taxes on trade or from the citizens.

Kal sighed at the thought. No one ever said running a partial democracy was easy. It was true; uneasy sat the head that wore the crown.

Even as he thought about it, he heard the hum of his Vulcan 5 hypercycle lose pitch, as the bike suddenly began to lose altitude. Kal tried to manually override, to no avail. Something, or someone, was scrambling the cold fusion engine's powertrain as well as the bike's avionics systems. He managed to bring the bike gliding on its existing momentum and bring it into the rough brush, largely undamaged.

Four men and four androids suddenly sprung out of nowhere to surround them. Most of them were armed with melee weaponry- electro-staves and psionic blades, but two of the androids were artillery drones, outfitted with illegal de-atomizer pulse cannons trained at Apollo and himself.

"We'll take that bike, thank you." A blond man dressed in Luskanite covert ops gear who appeared to be the leader sauntered up to them and grasped the controls of Kal's silver and gold Vulcan, "And relieve you of your purse, as well as that ring." He pointed at Kal's wedding band, which was simple white gold bearing a star sapphire the cost of several backwater planets.

"Father..."

"It's all right, son, they're just possessions." He had taught Apollo the drill for such a situation. The cardinal rule was- if ever apprehended, never let on who you really are if they don't know already.

They were forced to comply. Kal was stripped of his ring and his cloak, which was a rich wool woven from a rare animal encountered only on the treacherous mountains of Terra Rubra. Apollo had to give up his golden circlet, a good luck charm given to him by his mother.

"Thank you for your generosity," said the leader, "We apologize however for having to take your son. He would do well in the pterylium mines of Amn."

Kal felt a potent fury surge through him. He had outlawed slavery in the queendom, but he couldn't do anything about the neighboring planets, unless he asked Galatea to invade them. If he managed to get Apollo out of this, he would personally hunt down every lowlife in the galaxy.

If they required him to trade in his freedom or even his life for Apollo's, he would do it in an instant. But he would have to have a strategy first. He eyed the two artillery drones. They were the wild cards in the equation, why he couldn't engage the group in immediate hand-to-hand combat.

Before anyone in the group could react, he'd grabbed the nearest artillery drone, somehow ripping off an arm fitted with a pulse cannon. Separated from the main body of the drone, the gun had enough reserve power for just one shot, so he had to make it count.

The other drone turned to target him, and Kal dropped flat on his belly to fire in unison with the drone. It worked out exactly as Kal intended, and in one fell swoop, he'd eliminated both drones, dramatically altering the equation.

Two of the men with the electro-staves were quickly taken care of, short work once they were disarmed. That left the swordsmen. Kal turned his attention to them, moving with a speed that should've been beyond a man his size as he threw his hidden knife with pinpoint precision, nailing one of them in the wrist.

The unfortunate highwayman screamed in pain, incapable of retaliating as Kal used his knee as a springboard to vault over his shoulder, relieving him of his weapon and running him through the chest from behind.

Another highwayman came at him with his sword arm raised, only to be knocked back into a tree with a roundhouse kick, his weapon sent into the air.

The others looked on in stunned silence as the larger man ran vertically up a tree and leapt over them, seemingly propelling himself in defiance of gravity to catch the second blade, and then, spun gracefully while still in mid air, plunging into a diving corkscrew to swing the blades around in a spiral through the last infantry droid. In one move, the droid fell apart into four crackling segments, the overheating reactor sending out sparks before it imploded.

Kal landed light as a feather, twirling the twin blades like they were twigs. Now armed with not one, but two of his favored weapons, and with the clear speed and strength advantage, he made a very menacing picture as he regarded the remaining bandits, all terrified out of their wits. The hunters, who had thought they'd chanced upon an easy mark, were suddenly the hunted.

It wasn't to last however. He heard the click and distinctive crackle of a gun being armed behind him, "Nice moves big man, but they won't save you. One more fancy move and the boy gets it."

Kal looked over his shoulder, his grip over the hilts of the swords tightening. Sure enough, the leader was holding a seizure pistol to Apollo's head. While the small sidearm was of little use beyond twenty yards, at point blank range it could discharge enough electricity to route a two-ton Ursa astralis, a star bear's synapses, causing the equivalent of an electromagnetic pulse within the brain.

Plainly put, fired at point blank, the gun was simply lethal. Kal knew he was defeated. He'd taken Apollo in as his own son, sworn to protect him and look out for him, and he'd failed.

It's your fault, he told himself. You allowed this to happen. You shouldn't have allowed him to stop and ask the others to go ahead. Some responsible father you are.

"Threatening children now, are we, Tomas?"

Everyone turned to the female voice that had spoken. A dark maroon-clad woman had appeared seemingly out of nowhere, with a large gauss rifle held to the leader's head. Kal felt himself stiffen when he saw her - she had long, shimmering black hair, brilliant blue eyes, a radiantly beautiful face and a no-nonsense demeanor that suggested she was every bit as deadly as she was ravishing.

A powerful wave of déjà vu swept through him, his strongest yet; as he recognized her as the mysterious woman he'd been failing to save in his dreams. And he knew with conviction he had loved this woman before with the world-hurtling, heart-wrenching passion he had described to Bryce.

Kal swallowed. It wasn't her, it couldn't be…

"Stay out of this, Diane," Tomas replied. "It's none of your business."

Diane!

In trepidation, Kal raised his eyes to meet that of the woman's.


TBC

A/N: Yes, twisted is my new middle name, lol. I hope the… exotic love scene was up to the lofty standards of our readers and I promise there'll be more down the line as part of my penitence for the wait, hehe.

Until the next chapter, take care.

Cael