The apartment was quiet and dark when they got back, both rubbed head-to-toe in black dust and dirt. Rayne dropped her harness of equipment in the corner by the kitchen, unstrapped the dualies from her thighs and set them on the counter, then moved down the steps and leaned against the wall. Adam slipped past her, jerking his coat off and draping it over a stack of boxes. He propped his combat rifle against the couch and began removing his flak vest, idly glancing over at Rayne. She was bent over, unlacing her boots; he admired her flexibility for a second and then went back to undressing. He heard the boots thunk into a corner.

"I'm going to shower," he said. "You want to go first?"

She shook her head so he moved on, swaggering into his bathroom; he turned the light on and noticed the adjustment his eyes made for the sudden burst of brightness. Adam mashed the hot knob and waited for the water to steam as he examined his bare chest in the mirror.

All that was left of his life pre-augmentation was faint scars of wounds long-since healed. Even the scar tissue had been tended under black-sleep; after the events at Panchaea, he'd been put under for upgrades and thorough healing. Though his augmentations remained powerful in performance, they were considerably outdated cosmetically. His collarbone was still a bolted series of supports clearly visible in his skin. His arms were black cybernetic limbs; he had rejected the synthskin treatments Sarif offered when they had become available. The retinal enhancements over his eyes could have easily been installed into his cybernetic eyes and he would never have to worry about the guy-who-wears-sunglasses-at-night look again.

Adam dropped his pants and boxer-briefs until he was in the nude. The water was almost perfect. He ran his hand through his dark brown hair and watched as the spikes popped right back into place then roved over his beard. He was thirty-six years old and, since his reconstruction, he had developed into more of a loner than he had been before he'd met Megan Reed. Still, the man he was back then had been capable of forming relationships. After everything he'd been through, Adam had turned into some numb variety of workaholic. The alone-at-home routine had some semblance of normality attached to it.

Meeting Rayne had changed that. Not only were they living and working together, but she felt familiar. It took him a minute to realize it, but he discovered it was because she was a loner of a different variety. In spite of always being surrounded by people, she was almost always somehow separate from them. The burdens she'd picked up, he understood, had created a permanent barrier between her and others. And yet the two of them shared their isolation well.

Adam reached for the tape and wrapped it over his shoulder and under his arm, covering the shallow wound his cybernetic arm had taken during the mission that night. He tapped the cold knob on the shower wall to keep the spray from scalding and stepped in, soaking under the stream. He watched the water drip off his nose and run streams around the metal cords under his skin right above his chest. The water gathered in the slender nooks and crannies of his metal arms and his muscled abs, mixed with the hair traveling down his belly to his groin. Mid-thigh down, his legs were not his own, and the water collected there, too, filling and pooling until it overflowed and cascaded to the marble floor of his shower.

Using special augmentation cleansers, Adam scrubbed his cybernetic parts first and then switched soaps to concentrate on his flesh. He washed his hair last, rinsed off one final time, and cut the water off. He half-assed swept the bundled towel over his body and tossed it to the corner, flicking out the light as he left. In his still dark bedroom, he located clean boxer-briefs and snapped them on. A clean pair of dark gray cargos were draped over his bed so he stepped into them. He grabbed a shirt but didn't put it on.

Out in the living room, he idly glancing over to the kitchen where Rayne was munching some sort of snack, and draped the shirt over the back of the couch.

"All yours," he told her and she nodded.

Rayne disappeared into the bedroom. There was a click for the bathroom light and then the sound of water running. Adam moved to the window and peered through the wood blinds at the street below. Quiet. He then crossed to the couch, jerking up the rifle as he went, and sat down facing the pale light streaming in from the windows. He lit up a cigarette and began the long task of cleaning his rifle. He took it apart, piece by piece, and swiped each part thoroughly with a series of rags. Then, he oiled it up and began reassembling it.

It was a numb process—something he didn't even have to think about to complete. Instead, his mind was elsewhere—on a mission months ago when he first realized how important she had come to be to him. On the moment Rayne's signal had dropped off the radar.

Jensen stared through his scope, frozen at the empty beep of a dropped comm. call following three pops of an assault rifle. He waited for a moment in silence, taking in the sound of his breathing and the quiet of the compound he watched from his vantage point in the shipping yard.

"Rayne?" he growled into the comm. device. "Rayne!"

Perhaps she needed to go offline for a second—no, she would only be silent, not unplug entirely. So where was she? He swept the rifle over the yard, back and forth, checking all potential exits. There were security agents moving here and there, but no alarm had been triggered. What did that mean?

"Rayne!" he exclaimed. Nothing.

All in one fluid motion, he rolled onto his feet and jumped off the shipping containers until he hit the pavement running. He took the turns at full speed, racing to the agreed meeting point; he didn't even have time to think about what he would do if she wasn't there. Were the shots hers or the guards'? He refused to believe a few pops of an assault rifle were enough to take out the dreaded Rayne Tempura—the fearless leader of the freedom fighters that took out the biggest megacorp in the world. She was something of a legend—a nightmare to the corps and a hero to the dregs—so there was no way something like this could take her out, right?

But Adam knew a Rayne that was far too human to be the same woman they talked about on the streets and in the webrings. Sure, she was tough, smart, and very good at her job, but she was not invincible. He'd seen her bleed and suffer exhaustion, heard her stomach growl for a missed meal, and watched her eyes droop from lack of sleep just like everyone else.

"Shit," he cursed as he rounded the corner. He suddenly skidded to a stop when he saw the figure moving toward him. "Jesus, Rayne…"

She strolled casually forward, frowning as she eyed him. She didn't speak until she had crossed completely to him.

"…what are you doing?" she wanted to know.

"I thought something had happened to you. You went offline after those shots. What was I supposed to think?"

"I play shadow on long runs or at evac if there's extra potential for trouble. Aiko didn't tell you?"

"No," he grunted, "she never mentioned it. I thought you were dead."

All the sudden, something he had never seen before happened. Rayne smiled.

"Shit, Jensen, have a little more faith in me than that."

A few hours later, they'd met up with Aiko and had given her the requested information. Before she departed to return to Chaos, Adam had confronted her.

"Anything else you forgot to mention?" he growled. The tall, white-skinned, white-haired, and black-eyed woman stared at him and shook her head.

"No," she replied solemnly. "But you got to see her smile, right? Hope you enjoyed it. That trick won't work again." She gave him a sly smile and departed.

Adam stared at her go, feeling another jab of inferiority. Clearly, Aiko knew Rayne very well—probably better than Rayne ever realized. Not only that, but he began to understand what Rayne had meant when she said Aiko was famous for meddling. He was now party to that meddling and he wasn't sure he liked it.

But he had liked Rayne's smile.

That was the moment when he wasn't sure if he respected Aiko or hated her guts. Probably both.

Adam finished the assembly of the combat rifle and snatched a clean rag from his kit then swiped the black alloy once or twice. Then, he propped the rifle up against his chair; the water in the bathroom stopped running. He didn't wait long before Rayne emerged from the dark bedroom with a towel draped over her head. His eyes skimmed her body, noting the cotton shorts and dark gray t-shirt, then came full circle to her face. She scrubbed her hair with the towel and then tossed it into the dirty clothes pile.

He watched her go to the kitchen to fetch her guns—probably to clean them. She leaned against the counter and he admired her long legs. There was a comfortable atmosphere between them, something that felt natural. He wondered why it was okay to have someone living in his apartment with him when he was so used to being alone. Well, that wasn't entirely accurate. He hadn't been alone for several months now.

Adam crushed his spent cigarette in the ashtray on the end table, unscrewed the bottle of Jack Daniels, and took a swig. After a moment, he traded the bottle for his knife and began to pick at the tape, gently raising it away from his arm enough to create a slice. He cut it in half and carefully ripped it off, bundling it into a ball and tossing it into the corner trashcan. When he went to return his knife to the sheath, he noticed Rayne glancing at his augments.

"Sorry," he mumbled, reaching across the couch for his shirt.

"You think they bother me, but they don't," she said as-a-matter-of-fact. When he looked at her, she pointed to his chest. "Your augments. It doesn't bother me. We're all a little bit machine anyway."

He relaxed back, keeping his gaze on her. She shifted weight from one foot to the other and ran one hand back through her short, wet tangles. Even in the darkness, her red hair stood out.

"You want me to take a look at that?" she asked. "I'm no expert, but I can do a temporary fix until you can get it repaired."

He almost grinned. "You sure about that?"

She shrugged. "Not doing me any favors."

"Yeah," he agreed. "Go ahead."

He shifted, intrigued, and watched while she fished a small kit from her duffel. She crossed over to the couch and pushed him by the shoulder so his back was flush with the couch. She placed one knee between his legs, the other on the other side of his right leg, and leaned over his wound.

"Sorry if this is awkward," she mumbled but no part of her tone sounded apologetic. "I need to be facing it directly."

"Sure," he mumbled, not trying especially hard to mask his amusement. The smell of her hair was so inviting. They had been this close only once before but never this intimately. He wasn't complaining. It brought back another memory he'd found himself thinking about a lot lately.

Adam smirked as he watched her, standing on the crate and fully stretched as she reached up through the grate in the street to the panel beneath the low-riding cargo hold parked above them. Her arms lifted her chest voluptuously, abdomen and stomach elongated in the pose. Her head tilted up to focus on what she was doing, long neck exposed.

"This is a switch," she said quietly.

"How so?" he mumbled, a bit distracted.

"Normally I'm the one standing guard and my tech specialist is doing this kind of work." She glanced over at him. "I need you to hold a sprig for me."

He stepped over to her, eye-level with her standing on the box, and moved in close. He grinned and she narrowed her gaze on him.

"You look good in this position, Rayne," he murmured. "We should do this again sometime."

There was a trace of red that appeared in her cheeks—barely noticeable in the shadow.

"So you're that kind of guy, huh?" she retorted sarcastically. Adam leaned in closer and her cheeks flushed even more.

"What kind is that?" he asked. "The kind that makes the great Rayne Tempura blush?"

She grunted and looked up, so he followed her gaze and reached up through the tiny hole. She directed him to hold down a silver flap that she currently held; he replaced her hold, freeing her hand. She sought something in a pocket on her harness and her knuckles brushed his chest—one of the few places she could touch that was still flesh—and he felt an uncomfortable flutter in his gut. He watched her serious expression as she set the chip into place and secured the rest of the wires and switches.

"All done," she said as she lowered her arms. He paused, studying her face, and then stepped back with, he noticed, some reluctance.

Now, she was close again, but the circumstances had changed. They were comfortable and safely secured in the privacy of his apartment living room. She was straddling him, her face inches away and— most importantly—she wasn't armed.

"Mostly superficial," she told him. "The chipset took a few burns and a couple wires were grazed. This won't take long." Her right, cybernetic eye glittered as she worked. "I have a few techs back in Prime who could build you a whole new biochip out of paper napkins and a kitchen fork." Her eyes flashed to his for a split second then went back to the cut. "How come you rejected the synthskin and bioskin upgrades?"

So was this her idea of small talk?

"Does it make you uncomfortable that I don't have them?"

Her gaze flashed to his retinal enhancement shades in a serious and hard look.

"I'm only going to say this once more: cybernetics and augmentations don't bother me." She held up her left arm and nodded to it. He reached up and touched it, frowning as he felt the metal underneath. "We're all a bit machine," she reiterated. "Mine's just under the skin."

He followed the metal bone to her shoulder and under, noting the shoulder blade was also implanted. She nudged his arm down so he continued to finger her ribcage, her waist, and hip. Metal, metal, metal. Adam wrapped his fingers around her left thigh and realized the cybernetics kept going. He looked up.

"Down to my toes," she confirmed and then bent back over his shoulder to continue working.

"What happened?" he asked, still gripping her thigh.

"Back in Nexus, I walked into an ambush. Herded them out of the city into the waste, but I took a lot of damage. Some rastas took me in and got me on my feet enough to make it back to Prime. My left side was trashed, though, and had to be replaced."

Adam lightly caressed her leg as he withdrew his hand; if she had noticed, she didn't let on. Sucking in a deep breath, he reached over to his pack of cigarettes and lit one up. Once he'd taken a couple drags, he decided to answer her honesty with honesty.

"The bioskin won't make me feel normal," he told her. "Besides, it would render my arm blades, rotator wrists, and hand morph useless. I don't feel like patching every time I need to use them."

"Makes sense," she replied. As she glanced over at him, he retracted the shades so he could look at her unhindered. When their eyes met, she flinched. He raised his brows slightly. "Sorry, I've been looking at those enhancements since we met. I didn't expect that."

He grinned. "Sorry if I startled you." As if Rayne Tempura could be startled… until today, anyway. A knot of victory tied in his stomach. Comparing the Rayne in the rumors—the Rayne Aiko talked about—to the woman kneeling over him now was like comparing night and day. Sometimes, he knew Aiko's Rayne. But right then, he knew a different Rayne, a Rayne he liked to believe was just for him.

"My nerve endings are in my bioskin with pressure sensors on the cybernetics," she said, carrying on with her small talk. "What about you? You got any feeling in those fingers?"

He put his cigarette between his lips and took a drag as he held his hand out and examined it. Finally, he retrieved his cigarette and exhaled a long stream of gray. She finished the interior work and began fitting a vac-patch over the slice.

"Pressure sensors, temperature registers, and basic nerve sensors. I can differentiate textures—though I'm not sure if I'm feeling them or the sensors are telling my brain what to feel. They transition between strengths well, output set flawless. I can sense the differences—when I'm punching through a brick wall, shooting a rifle, holding a cigarette," he showed her the white stick between his index and middle finger, and then placed it between his lips so he could reach out and wrap his hand around her waist, "or when I'm touching a beautiful woman."

He felt her body still under his hand and then she looked at him. Adam inwardly drew back in surprise. He had noticed that Rayne had a particular talent of changing her size merely by changing the expression she wore. Most of the time, she appeared as the 5'9'' leader of Midnight Tempest; when he first saw her and Aiko together, however, he watched Rayne seemingly grow to be as tall as the 6'5'' full body conversion who challenged her decision to leave the freedom fighters in Chaos City. Of course, her size didn't physically change, but sometimes Rayne wore a look that made Adam feel like she was as tall as he. At that moment, however, with that expression she wore, she felt utterly small in his hands.

He registered a flicker of alarm in her eyes. Adam had expected that; what he hadn't expected was his sudden preparedness for the fight he knew was coming—the fight to convince her that this would be okay.

She got up from his lap and started to walk away. "That's a bad idea."

He got up to follow her. "Why is that?"

"We work together."

"And that's a problem why?" he asked. Guessing her next argument, he continued. "You can't scare me with that attachments-fuck-with-the-mission speech. Aiko already told me everything, about how you never leave a man behind. I'm the same way."

"Don't pretend you know anything about it," she snapped. "You know there's no place for romance in war. There's a reason there are regs."

Rayne moved around him and walked to another part of the room. So he had her on the run—a good sign considering the mousey hacker back at the Chaos camp had told him she'd shut Spearmann's advances down faster than he shutdown networks. He casually followed her, giving her the illusion of personal space.

"This isn't in-the-trenches; this is gangers fighting guerilla style against white collars."

"Doesn't change a damn thing! You still need focus and dedication to win. You can't be focused on the fight if you're focused on someone else, dedicated to someone else. It's a distraction—"

"Are you really going to tell me you think you'll be distracted by me?" He almost grinned at the idea of it; it'd be flattering as hell, but just as unlikely. "You've worked with me long enough to know that won't be a problem for me either. There's no way we fall into the category of people you're talking about."

"There's no reason to chance it."

"No reason?" he echoed angrily. "The fact that we're having this conversation means there's a reason."

Rayne frowned as she stared at him, letting the silence span between them for a long moment. He realized she was steeling herself, hardening those walls she raised to cut off her emotions. There was no way in hell he was going to allow her to do that, so he crossed over to invade her personal space.

"What are you afraid of?" he demanded to know.

"My sister got involved with a Corp during the Nexus run. It was nothing but hardships and trouble. If someone found out, it would make you a target twice as hard."

He reached out to touch her face. "I can handle that," he said as-a-matter-of-fact. She looked from one eye to the next; her silence seemed hesitant but her eyes were still defiant.

"What makes you think I can?" she growled and he had to pause. That was… unexpected. "Every day, I was a thread away from losing it with my sister in the crosshairs. It's hard, Jensen." He saw her muscles flexing in her arms as her hand curled into fists, clenching and unclenching in an effort to remain in control. "It's too hard. So what makes you think I even want to do again?"

He leaned down close to her face. "You don't pick who you care about, whether you want to or not. You can't make that choice."

"This fight is more important than how I feel," she said firmly, and started to walk away again. He grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

"Then we'll forget the feelings for a second," he mumbled, pulling her up into his mouth. He kissed her hard and noticed there was little resistance. He kissed her again, already feeling the build-up of something more than lust between them. When he leaned back, he saw her brows were pinned together angrily but her face was red. "You're beautiful when you're pissed off. You know that, right?"

She jerked out of his grasp. "It's impossible to forget your feelings," she told him. "You can't turn that kind of thing off."

"Exactly," he replied.

Rayne drew back a moment and considered him. Perhaps this was the first time she had ever been beaten at her own game. He traced surrender in her expression and noticed how her face was still bright red. Then, after a moment, she crossed over to the windows.

"I haven't… done this in a long time," she said, her back to him. He saw the outline of her face as her head started to turn then stopped.

"Me neither."

So the truth had finally come out somewhere between the lines. Not only had it been a long time, she wasn't confident she remembered how to let another person in. Perhaps she'd spent too long fortifying those barriers that she couldn't remember how to let them down.

Adam walked over to her and gently took hold of her arms and held her back against his chest. He nuzzled his nose in her hair and breathed in. She smelled great, just like the night they'd attended the charity ball hosted by Resurgam.

Adam was, for a split second, frozen in motion. When Rayne had agreed to meet him at the party, he hadn't really given any thought to what he should expect. Only when he showed up dressed in a tux and started noticing the evening gowns the other women were wearing did he find himself amused at the possibilities. But when she came through the crowd wearing a cheongsam the color of her hair covered in black cherry blossom brocade and a slit up each side, he stopped grinning.

This was the first time he'd ever seen her as a woman instead of a warrior. It was a… disarming change.

"Adam," she said quietly and one of her rare smiles accompanied the greeting. He was completely thrown off from her usual behavior and couldn't help but think she was tweaked. He leaned down to whisper in her ear, pretending to greet her. In the instant, he caught a whiff of her clean hair and a subtle perfume on her skin. It was surprisingly alluring.

"Are you wearing that personality enhancement?" he asked then kissed her cheek.

"No, I thought you hated it."

"I do."

"So I'm not wearing it." She flashed him a look as they leaned away from each other. "I'm flying my usual colors tonight, cold-hearted ice-queen and all, so if my winning personality blows this op, I'm blaming you."

He grinned when she used her famous nicknames. Many people had been left feeling scorned after an encounter with the iron-fisted, uncompromising leader of Midnight Tempest.

"Maybe they won't notice," he offered. "You don't exactly look the usual part. You aren't so intimidating when you're dressed in heals and not armed."

Rayne smirked, hooking her arm with his.

"Jensen," she muttered, "I'm always armed…"

"Jesus, Rayne, is it hot in here?" he joked, casually leading her through the ballroom while they scoped out the surroundings and made identity notes on all the guests; Sarif and his co-workers would be there somewhere. She made a soft chuckling noise. "You look nice, Rayne," he told her seriously.

She glanced up at him.

"Thanks." Her eyes skimmed his tuxedo. "You, too." She looked away again. "But these heels are a bit much. I've got some cee-bees stashed upstairs."

CBs—combat boots. Jensen's mental picture of Rayne in a cheongsam and combat boots was completely sexual no matter how he tried to rethink it.

"Can't wait," he muttered mostly to himself. She didn't seem to hear.

Adam reached up, wrapped his fingers around her throat, and gently tilted her head back as he dipped in to kiss her neck. He felt her nervous swallow and unsteady breathing as he tasted her flesh from her collarbone to her jaw. And as his lips hovered over her ear, he traced the shape of it with his tongue. She reached back and touched his neck, almost encouraging him.

"This isn't a bad idea," he whispered and then kissed her jaw. "It's been a long time… but doesn't need to be forever." It was his way of telling her to let him in. It had to be him. If she was going to let anyone past her barrier, he would make sure it was him.

Adam turned her in his arms and pulled her against him. He leaned down to kiss her but caught a glimpse of her face and paused. She was neither distressed nor resistant. Her eyelids were half-closed, lips parted, and the whole of her expression was soft. He captured that moment—would keep it forever. He wondered if anyone else had seen this face then decided he didn't really want to know.

Adam leaned in and kissed her, exhaling hotly through his nostrils. For a few seconds, he kissed her and she reciprocated, but when he tightened his arms around her waist, she leaned in and kissed him back. He gripped her arms and held her against him, felt intoxicated by the soft curves of her body pressing into his chest, his stomach, his groin.

Rayne's arms reached around him and her fingers curled into his skin anxiously, their tongues brushing electrically between kisses turning hot and fast. When he bent down to pick her up, her legs wrapped tight around his waist, her arms around his neck; no doubt she could have held herself there with those muscles he felt flexing in her thighs as he ran his hands over her legs and hips, but he hooked a supporting hand under her ass anyway as he walked them into the dark bedroom.

He lowered her onto his bed and crawled on top of her, continuing the kisses while his hands explored the rest of her body. He pushed up into her shirt and caressed her stomach, her breasts, nipples, and inwardly groaned as he took handfuls and squeezed. The small noise she made beneath him provoked him further. He wanted to hear her more, louder.

Suddenly Rayne reached up to touched his sides, fingers shyly exploring his abs and chest. He'd never seen her do anything so hesitantly, so unsure. He leaned back for a moment to appreciate the vulnerable expression she wore. Adam took one of her hands and held it against him, splayed her fingers across his chest, and then drew her palm across his skin encouragingly.

He bent down to kiss her again, wrapping one arm under the small of her back to draw her closer. Her chest lifted to brush against his and he felt her hard nipples beneath her shirt. He grunted. Suddenly, her hands were at his waist and traveling down, brushing against his erection through his pants. He paused as his breath caught in his throat. It had been a very long time…

She snapped the button on his cargos and unzipped them, freeing him from the tight restraint. Adam then gripped her waist and, as he rolled onto his back, brought her up to straddle him. Her hot, inner thighs pressed up against him and his hands pushed into her shorts, twisting the fabric away from her legs and gathering it high on her hips. He continued moving upward, freed himself from the net of her shorts, and pulled the t-shirt over her head then tossed it to the floor.

Her breasts swelled expectantly and her nipples perked at his every touch. The tangle of hair around her face was wild and erotic, and as she sat there atop him, her body began to writhe anxiously, hips slowly grinding against him.

"Rayne…" he groaned, reaching around her thighs to tug his pants down. Her fingers curled into his boxer briefs, persuading those off his hips as well.

He quickly switched their positions and tugged her shorts and underwear down her legs; she kicked them off her feet. Then, they were completely naked, open and vulnerable to judgments. Every augmentation, every scar, every imperfection was revealed. He ran his hand across her stomach and noted the faint marks where bullets had once broken her skin. She reached up and traced the line across his left breast and the scar through his brow and the one on his cheek.

It had been a long time since he'd been with anyone. In fact, he hadn't since he'd been augmented. Five years was a long time. Part of him was nervous just like she was. Once, he'd been confident in his ability to make love, but now he wasn't so sure. Would his body act right? Would there be any surprises halfway through? The doctor's had told him he would still be sexually capable. There was no way to test that theory for sure, though… until now.

He exhaled nervously and hoped she didn't notice. He caressed her thigh, up and down, and then lifted her leg to hook her knee over his shoulder. Then as he bent to kiss her, he pushed inside of her. He sighed hotly and groaned. Rayne's face contorted with transitory pain and then relaxed just a little. Adam understood why she'd felt it; her channel was extremely tight, as though untouched. He might've wondered but every fiber of his being was tingling from pleasure originating from his groin, and his mind went blank of everything but how beautiful she looked and how good she felt.

Adam kissed her again, slowly rocking out and back in, out and in, out and in; she winced pleasantly, giving him the proverbial green light. He created a steady rhythm, drawing out her moans in a long and sensual cadence. After the tension had built and her hips eagerly rose to meet his thrusts, he bent in closer, absent-mindedly admiring her flexibility again, and increased the rhythm to something harder and faster.

He heard a faint whisper on her lips but couldn't make out the words.

"Say it again," he urged huskily. She winced erotically. "Say it again…" Adam leaned in and sucked on the flesh of her neck and shoulder, tonguing and kissing a path to her jaw and ear.

"Adam," she mumbled, fingers curling into the hair at the nap of his neck. Her other hand clawed along his back. "Adam…"

Her calling of his name spurned him on harder, driving them straight to the peak of the tension until it snapped and both of their bodies shuddered in ecstasy. He felt her walls clenching tightly around him, felt himself pulsing inside of her. After the last of his energy was spent, he collapsed next to her and silently applauded himself for a good comeback match. So the doctor's were right; he was still very, very capable.

With his arm draped over her breasts, he felt her deep breathing with the rise and fall of her chest. He studied her face and her expression for a drawn out moment, trying to detect any hint of disappointment, regret, or fear; he couldn't find any. Good.

His hand roved down over her abdomen and stomach again, revisiting her scars. He respected this body. He appreciated it. He loved it, marveled at it. How long had it been since someone had loved her body? How long since she allowed someone to love her like this?

He reached up and drew her face to his, kissing her one more time before he got up and pulled his boxers back on. She sat up and went for her clothes, finding only the t-shirt at first. He sat back on the bed and watched her tug it over her head.

"This wasn't a mistake, Rayne," he told her. "I care about you."

Rayne fished her underwear out of the tangle of sheets but couldn't find her shorts. She gave up, settled with the panties, pulled them on, and then she looked at him.

"Me, too," she replied quietly. "As for not a mistake…" She shrugged one shoulder. "We'll see."

Adam got up and followed her out into the living room, accepting her response for the moment. It was obvious she was even less in touch with her feelings than he was and so getting this far was a miracle in and of itself. He lit up a cigarette as she moved to the only window with the blinds folded back and peered at the street below. He leaned against the side of the couch quietly for a while, content to watch her staring out the window.

Then a moment of realization hit. In the heat of the moment—and because it had been so long—he hadn't even thought about using protection. Adam sucked on his cigarette and exhaled a wispy, gray stream, trying to figure out how he was going to word his thought. When he finished his smoke, he twisted the cherry out into the ashtray as he spoke.

"You know, I was so caught up… in the moment that I… I didn't think about taking precautions." He tossed the butt of the cigarette resignedly. "I mean, technically, I don't even know if I'm still… virile… after the augmentations."

She lifted her head to look at his reflection in the window and, while he saw her face in the glass, her expression was unreadable.

"Don't worry," she said. "It's not a problem."

"What do you mean 'it's not a problem'?"

"I can't get pregnant."

At first, Jensen wasn't sure how to respond. He just sat there with undetermined words stuck between his throat and tongue. Needing a distraction, he reached for his pack of cigarettes and slipped another one between his lips. There was a tiny tink sound as he flipped the Zippo lid back and lit up. Another click to put it back into place. The deep drag filled the silence and then a long exhale through his lips and then nostrils.

She couldn't get pregnant. He mulled over the words, tried to figure out how that made him feel. No, more than that. How did it make her feel? Her tone had been the usual flat, serious one that he became accustomed to during working hours; that didn't leave much room for interpretation. Yet something in the way she'd said it—"I can't get pregnant", not "I'm barren"—it seemed hollow. He didn't think she was born this way.

"Why?" he asked without pausing to consider how he'd word the question.

"Why?" she repeated, inflection rising in agitation.

"Come on, Rayne, I think I've earned a little trust."

Her head turned to look at him and her eyes were sharp, warning him. So maybe trust wasn't the right word. The fact that she'd gone this far with him proved she trusted him; she had shown him her vulnerability and he'd verbally stomped on it with his sarcastic quip.

"I didn't mean that." He took a drag on his cigarette then spoke on gray tendrils. "I want to know more about you… what happened to you…"

The warning in her eyes was more sympathetic this time. She was trying to tell him not to go there, for his own sake. That's what he felt, anyway. He grinned around his cigarette.

"You let me worry about the consequences, all right?" he said.

She turned back to the window and there was a long pause before she lifted her arm to run her hand along her own thigh.

"The ambush I told you about," she began, "where I earned my new limbs… I was without professional medical attention for a long time. When I finally got to a medic and was put under for surgery, it was on the upstairs floor of a bar in the Undercity. I didn't get to see Charlotte until I had already started recovering."

"Charlotte?" he echoed.

"Doctor Charlotte Pertwee, CEO and head surgeon of Hourglass Limited. She told me…" Rayne paused, probably remembering the conversation. "She told me that the trauma to my body had been significant and my reproductive systems had been... damaged. Having a child would be near impossible." She turned to look at him and her cybernetic eye gleamed in the darkness. "That's fine with me. I have no business bringing a child into this world anyway. It just took the choice away."

Adam got up and crossed over to her, feeling a twitch of sadness in the pit of his stomach. She may have said it, but he didn't really believe it. Maybe she wouldn't be a suitable parent with the life she was living, but would she be a good mother? Hell, would he be a good father? Maybe he didn't have any business bringing a kid into the world either. Someday, though, before his surgery, he'd imagined it. After, he hadn't ever considered it again. So how would a Corporate HOS and the leader of a cell of freedom fighters, both augmented and jaded, fare as parents?

Adam slipped the cigarette between his lips so he could hug her from behind; he wrapped his arms across her stomach and pressed his cheek to her temple.

Guess he would never know.

Maybe she was right. Maybe it was better the choice was taken away.


A/N: The universe here is a blend of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the cyberpunk world that Rayne Tempura inhabits. Thus, a few liberties have been taken, so I'm going to quickly run over the status of the story for those interested.

In 2020, a war between nations escalated to the final world war, ending the lives of roughly 3 billion people in biological and nuclear warfare. As the world struggled to rebuild itself among the radiated wastelands, another 2 billion people perished. Finally erecting cities on the last suitable plots of land, the last 2 billion of the human race secured their survival. In the span of 100 years, they rebuilt, erecting gorgeous cities where the land allowed, and building up into the sky if the land did not. Life now sustained, times changed with the growth of cyber-technology and biomechanics; survival became possible only in part to the corporations now on the rise. Businesses grew in power until finally government and commerce clashed until it escalated into violence.

In 2143, the end of the Republic-Corporate War left the world without government. Each individual city in the world—spanned out across the scorched globe—became charges of corporations in power. Tyrell Corporation in Nexus Prime, Phobos Industries in Chaos City, Sarif Industries in New Detroit, Hamada Technology in Nu-Tokyo, et cetera. Within one year, the world is completely recovered from the war.

In 2150, the events of Deus Ex: Human Revolution unfolds (sans the role of the UN and anything related, substituted for a meeting of corporate boards), and augmentation becomes a widely accepted practice. Within a year, neuropozyne dependency is officially over and the human body's acceptance of augmentations has unchained the human potential.

In 2152, the foundations of the new world are shaken as Tyrell Corporation, the largest megacorp in the world, is kicked out of Nexus Prime—the world's number one city—by a band of freedom fighters after a long and bloody war spanning the better part of a decade. Though the company still exists, its power over Nexus Prime is replaced by Hourglass Limited. The mysterious freedom fighters are lead by a red-headed woman. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

The year is 2155.

Resurgam Technology is absorbing up-and-coming cybernetic enhancement and augmentation companies and now they're aiming to quietly take over Sarif Industries, giving them full control of New Detroit. David Sarif charges Adam to go off the grid to stop Resurgam—who, so far, is playing by the book. A mysterious stranger points Adam to the freedom fighters that retook Nexus Prime and there he meets the red-headed leader of the gang, Rayne. She agrees to help him but insists on leaving her freedom fighters behind to focus on the Chaos Liberation project. The two of them then head out to New Detroit to take down Resurgam.

For several months, they have been working intimately together and both living in Jensen's small apartment.