She followed him. She didn't even know why. She just did.

He walked as he always did, confident strides, back straight, with intent focus on what was in front of him, or so she assumed. He didn't seem to notice her soft tread behind him. He didn't turn and look back, not even when she followed him all the way into his private quarters.

The door whished shut and only then did he turn and look at her. His back was to the door and she was trapped between him and his bed. He'd taken one of the smaller rooms, perhaps for the closeness to the control room and the Gate room. It only took him two steps to stand close to her.

For the first time, she noticed that he wasn't taller than her. There was just something about him that made him seem like he was taller than everyone else, but it wasn't true. She might even have a spare inch on him standing in her boots. That didn't alter the intensity of his presence; he filled the room.

She didn't have anything planned to say. She hadn't even thought about it. So the silence lingered as he stared at her and she stared back at him. His eyes were beautiful, she thought: the irises so large and dark, blending in color with the pupils to create fathomless pools. Chocolate, like the purest dark chocolate with a hint of light filtering through – a light that was pure intelligence.

She licked nervously at her lower lip; his eyes barely flickered to pick up the motion. Yet, she was utterly aware of him, every nerve in her body tingling, her groin clenching, heat, moisture beginning to seep between her legs. That shocked her. She dragged in a ragged breath. When had that happened? Why was that happening? She'd never thought of him, not that way, not like that. She hadn't.

Her body, her senses had other ideas. She could smell him, male sweat mixed with that odd odor they'd all picked up from the Destiny's unusual showers. She could feel just a hint of his breath on her cheek in the stillness of the room; they were standing close enough for that. She could see the silvered stubble on his angular cheeks, the darker strands of hair that framed those deep, dark eyes, every line and fold that marked the skin of his forehead, the corners of his eyes, the edges of his mouth, which was pursed in an expression she couldn't read. It wasn't a frown, it wasn't a smile, it was closed and intent. Focused – but he was always focused.

Her fingers ached to touch him. Her skin screamed for the touch of his hands. She wondered what it would be like, what he would feel like, taste like, how his grip on her might feel. Would he be rough and hard in his passion? Or gentle and thorough? He'd be thorough, yes, he never did anything halfway. She imagined being the center of his obsessive intent and she shivered with a sudden bolt of pure lust as it lanced through her.

That got his notice; she saw something shift in his mobile expression. He didn't say anything, though. How much did he know of what she was feeling? He observed everything. That he might know both terrified and excited her, especially since she didn't even know what she was feeling – no, that was a lie. She was feeling raw desire, unadulterated by anything else. Nothing else mattered in the primitive, instinctual need that was burning in her veins. Why him? She didn't know. In this moment, she forgot to care.

All that mattered was that she was a woman standing close to one of the most fascinating, challenging men she'd ever met. She was a woman who was scared and exhausted and all too cognizant of how close she'd just come to dying. He was a strong, brilliant man who had made fools of everyone; who'd taken control, taken action, had saved all of their lives. He wasn't afraid. He made the hard decisions. He spoke his mind. He showed only disdain for those who challenged him and he won, again and again. He was fundamentally a powerful man and she wanted that, wanted him – wanted to claim him for hers. She wanted...

Suddenly, without a word being spoken, without warning, his mouth was on hers and she was falling through those last couple of inches of space between them, coming up hard against his chest, her hands clutching blindly at his arms, his shoulders, as she surrendered to his kiss. She opened her lips to him in invitation and he responded with a harsh, insistent plundering of her mouth with his tongue. Her body trembled, her fingers dug into him. His arms closed around her back, encircling her in iron flesh.

One of her hands slid into the long curls at the back of his neck, through his hair to cup the back of his head, to stroke downward to curl around his cheeks, feeling the scratchy stubble on his skin, the strength of his bones, the heat radiating of his body. She held him into the kiss longer than she might have thought she could, when they parted, both of their chests were heaving and his breath fanned her face, moist and heavy.

It was his turn to curl a hand into her thick, bound hair. He seized a handful and used it to position her for another bruising kiss. He hadn't needed to do that; she met his assault with equal fervor, with rabid hunger. His teeth were uneven, she ran her tongue over their sharp edges, he tasted of the latest food concoction they'd been given and something uniquely male, uniquely him.

She gasped, both for air and in frustration, when he finally stopped those drugging kisses, leaving her lips sore, but still hungry. He buried his mouth against her throat, suckling, and her attention was drawn to every inch of skin he tasted; each touch of lips and tongue and teeth was like a burning brand, searing her.

His body was lean, more muscle in his arms and shoulders than she'd expected, stronger, but still painfully thin. She dragged his layered shirts up to give herself room to spread her hands out over the flawless smooth skin of his back. She could feel muscles play and shift, ribs bump too close to the surface as he breathed. Too thin, yet stronger than he looked.

They stayed in silence, except for ragged breaths, as she tore at his clothes and he followed her lead, shirts, her bra, tossed aside. Then he pushed her down to sit on the bed and lowered himself to the floor at her feet. Nimble fingers efficiently untied and removed her boots and socks. She shoved her pants, underwear off her hips, down her legs, for him to remove.

He paused in that instant, lifting his head to look up at her with dark, hair-framed eyes and arched cheekbones, mouth half-open over his stubborn jaw. He just looked at her, her naked body bent over him, legs spread, her hands resting on his shoulder, her shuddering intake of air making her breasts bob slightly. She didn't know what he was looking for, what that brooding expression meant, but it didn't matter.

Sliding her hand down his arm, she took hold of his hand and pressed his fingers into the hot, wet flesh between her legs. Her head fell back and her eyes closed, she moaned at the contact, almost losing herself at that alone. Perhaps that invitation, that clear evidence of just how desperately she wanted him, was what he was looking for. Perhaps not. But it won her the response she was seeking.

He stroked her almost reverently for a moment then pulled away. She reached blindly for him, protesting wordlessly. He untangled himself from her and moved up to strip off the remainder of his own clothes, toeing away his shoes, finally laying himself out full length on the bed, his obvious arousal speaking volumes for itself.

She moved swiftly to join him, covering his body with her own, moaning again when he took hold of her and flung her over onto her back. Her legs were already curling around his narrow hips as he drove down into her. Pleasure took her at his penetration, she convulsed around him, sobbing aloud as she clenched down on him and then released, allowing him to sink fully, deeply into her while she trembled in shock and aftershock.

He was nearly frantic, hard and rough in his thrusts, driving her down, lifting her up as her body fought to keep him buried within. She raked his back with her fingertips, if she'd had longer nails she would've left bloody trails. She clutched handfuls of his hair and met his mouth with an equally furious demand. They bit at each other's lips, necks, shoulders. His hands gripped her hips in a powerful, bruising grip. More, more, she needed to mark him and be marked by him.

"More!" was the only word she spoke and the only word she needed to say.

She screamed it and he gave her everything he had, climbing with her this time. She could feel him tense, feel his sweat drip on her, hear him groan senselessly, until he shoved them both over the precipice and ecstasy washed the universe away.


She came awake slowly, eyes fluttering open, to find herself still enclosed in his embrace, though it was a looser, slumbering enclosure of his arms. Her cheek was pressed to his breast, their legs tangled, her hips resting half across his. Her body ached, sore, ravished, she was going to have vivid bruises. That didn't bother her at all. It felt strangely good.

She lifted her head up to rest her chin on his sternum and look at his face, unusually relaxed in sleep. She stayed there for a while, just watching him, as she had done once before, even though it had been nothing like this. She hadn't even imagined then that it could ever be like this.

Yet all she felt now was an intense, visceral satisfaction: the kind of smug satisfaction that wanted her to shout it to the rooftops (or whatever passed for rooftops in an Ancient spaceship). He was hers now, that was the core of it. She had claimed him. He belonged to her.

He shifted slightly in his sleep, his arms tightening and then releasing. She couldn't help the feral smile that curved her lips as she laid her cheek back down his chest. Sleep was tempting her back, even from the prospect of waking him – of taking him – again. That could wait a little while longer. She was tired. They were both exhausted.

Sleep now. Tomorrow, well, tomorrow, she'd make certain of her prize while she could; while they still lived.

Perhaps that was the only explanation she needed, if she even needed one. This was survival at its most basic level, primal and pure. Still smiling, she slept in his embrace.