AN: First time Yuletide story! ACK! Request was for Defying Gravity, Claire and Av, Maddux and Zoe, first times for the former, reckoning for the latter. The timeline in the show doesn't quite line up with what I am trying to do, but I am totally going to do it anyway.

Spoilers: Entire first season

Pairing: Z/M, E/C

Rating: T+

Disclaimer: This show does not belong to me. More's the pity.

Summary: The surface of Venus is burning.

Venus is Burning

The surface of Venus is burning. The water burned away long ago, and the air that was left behind burns again and again, unable to escape from beneath clouds of sulphur dioxide. It is the greenhouse from hell, where nothing grows and the rocks crack in the heat. The heat cracked her suit and cracked her skin, and it's only through some kind of miracle that it didn't also crack the landing pod. Right at this moment, he's probably cracked enough for them both, cracked and leaking and losing equilibrium. As the pod takes off, he can feel himself begin to burn.

She is almost afraid to look at him when he pulls her into the cab. She's not afraid of him, could never be afraid of him. She saw how much the Chair Drill pained him; they all knew far more about each other's souls then they like to admit. He thinks he is hiding things from her, but she can read him like a book. He talks brashly of never remembering his patients, but she knows that each of them is burned into his soul like the scars on his back. She knows a burn when she sees one, but she is not afraid of fire.

He is suddenly, irrationally, incensed with anger at her. It's sudden because he's still on fire and everything is happening in his mind at once, and it's irrational because he isn't angry with her for the right reasons. He's angry that she never yelled at him, never used it against him, never breathed a damn word about it, and now he'll have to beat himself up over it. He desperately wants her to live so that she can hate him and he can do ridiculous things to make her like him again, because that it how it should be and if Venus burns her out, he'll be left hollow without her. He needs her recriminations, needs her anger and her fire and her scorn.

She is afraid to look at him because he promised her trouble and she wants it, and the back of a cab is not the place to start. His hand ghosts across the faux leather interior, fingers tracing designs on the face of her palm. He doesn't dare to reach for the more sensitive skin past her wrists. He knows it would mean trouble in a way he doesn't plan. Her apartment is a mess, but she doesn't care. Her toes feel like they are on fire, and the feeling is moving up through her body, doubling and redoubling with ever gentle brush of his fingertip across the back of her hand. She knows that if she did look at him, she would see the fire in his eyes too.

He can barely hear her breathing through the comm system. He can hear the others calling to her, begging her to live. The Gamma object sings to him, songs of promise and thanks and joy and peace. He has never hated anything so much in his entire life. The objects have taken enough from him, enough from all of them, and he refuses to give another piece of kindling to the flame. He tries to focus on the screens in front of him, but his eyes drift to the one that shows her vital signs, weak and thready, but there. He flies the pod from memory and has eyes only for the lines that mark out her life on the computer.

He has her pressed up against the door of her apartment almost before she has it closed. Hands crept under shirts, but when her fingers strayed across his back, he closed his hands around her wrists and held them up beside her head. His breath is hot and ragged against her neck and his face is turned away. He won't meet her eyes and she won't move until he does, so she waits him out. He comes back to her like a moth to a candle, drawn irresistibly to what she's offered him and aware now of what she will ask in return.

He thinks of a hundred things on Earth that should have made him see the truth. Blood and the way she left when she was cut from the program, Jen's protectiveness and Ajay's reticence and deep care of them both, the way she looked at him when he went off with Nadia. She heard a baby cry and he saw her pregnant belly lit up like the morning the star. His operation was botched, but hers wasn't. He botched Mars, but she wouldn't let him botch Venus, and maybe, just maybe, their burns would scar and heal.

He lets her hands fall, never breaking away from her gaze, and when he takes his shirt off, she's barely breathing. Where she expected an implacable inferno, he offers instead a slow burn, every bit as intense for all it lacks in ferocity. Where she was willing to accept a one night stand, he shows the promise of more. Where she thought she would find trouble, he found something more. And afterwards, she sleeps in his arms and he starts to realize he isn't the bad guy in her story after all. They are beginning and everything is happening for the first time.

He doesn't remember docking back to Antares. He doesn't remember getting her out of the suit, nor down to the medical bay. It is as if his mind is on fire, lit up by a baby's cry, and the sound has blotted out all thought. It isn't until he sees her lying on the bed and looks, really looks at her, that he can bring the burn until control. He never got to watch her sleep, on Earth. Both times, he woke to a muddled haze of sunlight and found her gone from the bed. It wasn't something he'd ever thought about, before Venus burned her nearly through and through, and all he could do was watch. In that moment, he realizes that he wants to watch her forever, that Venus burned him clean, and that if she will take him, he will start again at the beginning and do everything again for the first time.


Gravity_Not_Included, Yuletide 2009