"Jared," I breathed. I try to reach for his lips again. He pulls away, looking like he has something to say. What more can there be?


"But?"How can there be a but? What could possibly follow all this fire that starts with a but?

"But you're seventeen, Melanie. And I'm twenty-six."

"What's that got to do with anything?"

He doesn't answer. His hands stroke my arms slowly, painting them with fire.

"You've got to be kidding me." I lean back to search his face. "You're going to worry about conventions when we're past the end of the world?"

He swallows loudly before he speaks. "Most conventions exist for a reason, Mel. I would feel like a bad person, like I was taking advantage. You're very young."

"No one's young anymore. Anyone who's survived this long is ancient."
There's a smile pulling up one corner of his mouth. "Maybe you're right. But this isn't something we need to rush."

Jared's fingers stroked through my hair as I rested my head against his shoulder, his left arm lightly curled around me to pull me into his chest. My eyes were closed, and my body faintly hummed with energy and content, his stroking hand lulling me into relaxation. It was so easy with him to forget where we were – our little cabin, alone in the middle of nowhere, past the end of the world.

"Jared," I said dreamily, "What if they'd never come? What if the souls had picked some other planet, or decided humans didn't make good hosts?"

"Would we have ever met, you mean?" he finished.

I nodded into his chest.

He bent down to brush a kiss on the top of my head. "Mel, I can't imagine a world where I wouldn't have met you."

"But, do you think we could of? Or how would we have?" I persisted, for some reason clinging to this idea. Tears pricked my eyes, the longer I thought of it. What would our lives have been like? I imagined dates, dinners, introducing him to my parents. Would he have visited me at college? What a life we could have had…so much promise and hope in a relationship, rather than this desperate need to take every moment we had knowing it could be our last. We'd been so cheated, and felt so grateful for what little we'd managed to scrap together.

Jared chuckled. "You probably would've met some lame frat boy who'd be more entertaining than I'd ever be," he said, giving me a half-smile.

I abruptly turned around to kneel beside him on the couch, where we'd come to spend at least a few evenings a week alone. "No, Jared," I replied, tears now freely streaming down my cheeks. "No one but you. I never would have chosen anyone but you, even without knowing you."

Seeing my face, his expression changed."Oh, Mel," he said, sighing. Wordlessly, he pulled me onto his lap and into his arms, rocking me as I cried for what we'd never have.

"I can't stop thinking about it, Jared," I whispered. "How much time do we have? Will you be caught on the next raid? Will I? Will the Seekers find us? Will I turn around some day and find you staring back at me with –"

"Stop, Melanie," he said fiercely, pushing me away for a moment to look into my eyes. "Don't do this. Don't torture yourself like this." He ran his hand through my hair before pulling me tightly back into him, bringing his chin down on top of my head. "You're here right now. Be with me this second; don't wander away somewhere else into what-ifs."

My tears slowed and I focused on the slow rise and fall of his chest. He was right. I had this second, the next, the next, with him, right here, right now. Damned if I wasn't going to take every second I had.

I leaned back, and looked up at him, my eyes clearer now. We sat for a moment, just looking at each other, not saying anything. Everything narrowed to the man in front of me, and the insects and calls of night creatures outside faded to a background hum, the hot, still air in the cabin seeming to lift from between us.

Jared stroked his thumb across my cheek, and I leaned my face into his palm, eyes fluttering shut. "Mel…" he whispered.

Uncharacteristically, bold in my clear-sighted embrace of this present, this now, with the man I loved; I leaned forward and kissed him. Soft, sure, hesitating just for a moment to allow him to follow me back and reignite the kiss. Sliding my tongue against his lower lip, he answered by deepening the kiss, and I responded by gently biting his lower lip. Jared's arms encircled me, pulling me closer to him, flush against his body. Impatiently, I pulled away a moment to straddle him and get closer, before I kissed him again, not allowing him a moment to stop me as he had before.

But Jared wasn't stopping either. His mouth moved across my jaw line, down my neck, as he had only a few times before. I tilted my head to the side, gasping as he licked and sucked and bit his way down to my collarbone than back up, dizzying me. I felt drunk, or high, barely breathing. Heat seemed to rise up out of him, and I eagerly ran my hands along his chest, taking it into me, boldly sliding my fingertips under the hem of his shirt and skimming his stomach and sides.

Jared hesitated for a moment, breathing heavily onto my shoulder, and I pulled back for a moment. He looked at me, and I knew that this time, if I let him, he wouldn't stop. Maybe it'd been my tears, or maybe he was more bothered by our fears of a future than he'd let me believe, but I could see that he had stopped more out of habit than uncertainty.

"No stopping," I whispered to him. "Not this time." Nothing else needed to be said. He just leaned back in and kissed me again, more frantically, harder, insistent and unrestrained. I slid my hands further up, over his chest, and he paused long enough to rip his shirt off before I drew him back towards me. This time it was his hands that skimmed along my shirt, up my back, smoothly unhooking my bra before I'd even noticed. Kissing down his neck eagerly, reveling in the taste of salt and sweat and Jared, I realized it only as his warm palms slid around to my front and cupped my breasts. I gasped, and paused, burrowing my forehead in his shoulder at the sensation. He brushed his fingertips in circles around my breasts, slowly moving towards my nipples, before lightly brushing across them. Then it was my turn to break away, and lean back, tearing my shirt off.

He held me at arm's length for a moment, just looking at me in the lantern light. I could see his love and admiration in his eyes, and watched without breathing as he returned his hands to my body, watching my face as he stroked and teased. I grabbed his hands, pulling them hard against my chest. I wanted more – no teasing, no light touches. I wanted to feel him, his hands all over me, anchoring me to the present and his body. His touch grew rougher at this, and he pinched my nipples. I moaned, breaking the silence and sliding a hand to the small of my back he pulled me back into him and kissed me wordlessly.

The other hand slid down to my waist, skimming over my inner things before stroking between my legs through my jeans. In answer, I slid my own hand down to his waist, cupping his erection through his pants, grinding my palm against him. His own breath hitched now, and he abruptly flipped me onto my back and then climbed on top of me on the couch, his fingers making quick work of the button on my jeans. He pulled back for a moment to yank them off me, me pushing them down my hips eagerly to help, before he was back on top of me, and I arched up towards the heat of his body and the feel of his skin against mine.

Sliding his mouth down to my breast, he kissed me just as gently as he'd brushed his fingers over my chest before, before taking my nipple and sucking it hard into the heat of his mouth. My hands flew to the back of his head, and a kitten like cry escaped from my mouth. His left hand again slid up my inner thigh, but without my jeans hindering his touch, this time he brushed his fingers across the soaked gusset of my panties. I arched my hips up, wanting more touch, more contact. Sliding his hand inside my panties, his fingers touched the core of me for the first time, and I softly called out his name in bliss. I could feel him smile into my breast as he switched sides, and then slowly slid a finger inside me. I gasped, my lower stomach somersaulting and heat spreading through my body. I couldn't think. I couldn't breathe. All I knew is that I wanted more, for him to keep going.

Grazing his teeth across my nipple as I lifted my hips up against his hand, he kissed down my stomach, reaching the waistband of my panties. He kissed down over my mound, eyes looking up my body at my face, as he paused to kiss the center of me and flick his tongue slowly against the wetness that had drenched the cotton.

"Jared, oh god…" I whimpered, watching him. He kissed my inner thigh softly, smiling again, and quickly pulled my panties down, returning to move his kisses up the inside of my thigh before allowing his tongue to lightly lick along my soaked slit, parting my lower lips. I threw my head back, unable to do anything more than give myself over to the sensations. So much pleasure, so much bliss, spiraling higher and higher…gasps and moans continuously poured from my mouth as his tongue licked across my clit before he sucked it into his mouth, his hand coming up again to slide a finger inside me once more. His touch was just enough, bringing me closer and closer to completion, better than anything I'd ever felt in what now seemed like my own pathetic attempts. My hand slipped down to tangle in his hair, holding him against me, and I felt the beginning shudders of my orgasm. His mouth and fingers never left me, and I arched up against his mouth, my entire body shaking, calling out his name. When I settled, breathing heavily, he crawled back up my body, kissing me, and I tasted myself on him. I reached my hand down to encircle his cock, and he thrust against my hand roughly, just as eager for the contact as I was.

"Oh Mel," he whispered into my ear, "I love you so much." I merely stopped stroking him to pull him closer into me, his erection now prodding at my entrance. He paused momentarily, looking at me, but I only answered by wrapping a leg around his waist, opening myself further to him, and impatiently sliding my hands to his lower back to encourage him to press further into me.

He rocked gently, just sliding the tip inside for a moment before repeating the motion. When my hips began to follow his motion, he continued pressing firmly and quickly into me. I gasped, and froze as he broke through my hymen.

"Hurts?" he asked, searching my face.

"A little," I answered honestly, though it was okay without him moving for a moment. He frowned slightly, bent his head to kiss my neck again, and slid one hand down to gently rub my clit. Quickly, I was moaning against him again, and he tentatively, slowly, slid out before pressing back into me. This time, when I gasped, it was in amazement. The pain was still present, but the sensation of Jared moving inside me, with me, was incredible.

"More, Jared, more," I whimpered. He responded quickly, pulling my leg from around his waist over the crook of his arm, leaning over me as he began to thrust quickly and smoothly into me. Between my gasps and moans, I stared, mesmerized by his face, tightening in what I knew was the same pleasure he'd given me just minutes ago. Time stopped, and I went mindless, aware of only the amazing sensation of the man I loved inside me, above me, all around me, and his own gasps and half-finished sentences of pleasure.

"Mel," he burst out suddenly, "I can't wait, you feel so good, Mel, god but I never want to stop".

"Come for me, Jared", I replied softly, pulling his lips down to mine, "I want to feel you come inside me."

He kissed me frantically and soon thrust hard inside me, shuddering, and crying out my name. My heart soared and I enveloped him in my arms as he collapsed. As he recovered, our bodies tangled together, I lay in complete bliss, eyes pricking with tears of happiness as I held him close, and whispered over and over into his ear, "I love you, I love you, I love you…".