Disclaimer: I don't own this, never will.


I've been a soldier for almost sixty years. And all old soldiers pick up the same habits. Like eating when there's food, instead of when you're hungry. Or sleeping whenever you can, even if you're not tired.

That's why I ate and went to bed after we got back from the desert, both of us still shaking from leftover adrenaline. We were in something almost like a state of shock. Hardly surprising really. We had just killed a god.

I slunk past the hordes of angry hotel guests, confused mages and frantic vampires, leaving the latter group to fuss over Cassie. I saw Jonas briefly, but I avoided him. I really did not want to have to answer awkward questions about that damn car just yet.

I had a meal in the kitchens, the usual chaos of Fey cooks and children amplified by the state of semi-hysteria which had gripped the hotel. I honestly couldn't say what I ate. I chewed and swallowed mechanically while my head spun.

The events of the last 24 hours were really beginning to catch up with me, but physically I felt fine, and no wonder. I'd absorbed a huge amount of energy earlier, and it was still surging wildly through my system. I tried not to think about how or, more significantly, who, I'd fed on and I managed it until the moment I got to my room, stripped and stood beneath the hot spray of the shower.

It was there, with the water sloshing soothingly around me, that the memories leaked back in. Cassie, writhing and moaning with pleasure, her arms locked around me, her mouth, so hot and wet under mine – images of those stolen moments on the floor of the security booth flooded my brain and I could think of nothing else.

I washed without really seeing what I was doing, toweled myself dry and slid into bed.

Usually when I want to fall asleep, I just do, years of practice closing my eyes. But that night, I stayed awake, staring at the ceiling, feeling utterly overwhelmed. Four weeks ago, I had tried to kill her. My cheeks reddened in the dark and my fists clenched on the blanket.

"You just called me a demon and a ho."

Cassie's voice echoed in my head. I rolled over and buried my burning face in my pillow. She'd stabbed me in the chest. If I'd been human, the injury would probably have killed me. It seemed impossible that in the space of a month, we had gone from that to sharing secrets; to risking our lives for each other; to being intimate. I thought about the times we had kissed, and it was astonishing how well I knew her mouth, how quickly I'd committed the flavour, the contours, the feel of her tongue, to memory.

How could I feel like that about someone I hadn't even really liked a fortnight ago? Or knew existed a fortnight before that? To be honest, there were still times when she drove me insane, when I wanted to shake her until her teeth fell out of her head. But in retrospect, a lot of these moments seemed to occur right after she'd almost gotten herself killed.

I tossed restlessly in the bed and curled up on my side, trying to empty my mind and drift into sleep. But instead my treacherous thoughts slipped back to Mac's tattoo parlour, the first time I'd ever seen her as a woman, and not an adversary or a pawn. I couldn't help but replay the hesitant way she'd caressed my chest, how soft her hands had been, how beautiful and tiny she'd suddenly seemed to me.

I snapped out of it and realized I was clutching my pillow to me like a small child missing a lost toy. Little snatches of the past month flitted through my head, refusing to allow me any peace.

Revealing the truth about myself to her had hurt, and so had that moment when I saw her in that stupid, fiery dress and every little flash of familiarity, all the odd moments of deja vu, had finally made sense to me. That day had been agonizing, just waiting for her to come back with the Codex and look at me with hate in her eyes. But she never did. For God's sake, I had confessed to murder, right in front of her, and she had just looked at me with those compassionate eyes.

Damn, sometimes she could be so naive and it just left me raging. That vampire was using her, had been from the start and she refused to see it. My hands began to tremble and I crushed the pillow viciously in my arms. There are times when I hate having such sharp ears. When she broke the geis, I had to stand in the hall, yelling my head off at Mircea, desperately trying to blot out the the soft cries of ecstasy coming from the bedroom. That had been so hard, so much more painful than I ever would have expected.

I shuddered and came back to the present, only to discover that I was still attempting to strangle the pillow. I sigh and forced myself to relax. No matter how frustrating she was, the fact remained that I wished that pillow was her. Whether I was throttling the life out of it or hugging it, I just wanted her there, so we could talk about this, so I could ask her if she ever looked back and wondered how the hell we'd got here.

I stretched, feeling the beginnings of fatigue sneak up on me. And that's when I noticed it. My legs rubbed together smoothly, no resistance, no friction. No hair.

"Oh, hell, no," I said aloud and sat up, flicking on the light as I thrashed free of the covers. My legs were 100% hair free. I clenched my teeth, infuriated by the invasion of my privacy. I hadn't even looked at her body! I'd showered with my eyes closed, goddammit!

As I lurched out of bed and groped for jeans, it occurred to me how close hate was to love.