The only thing Hei had liked about South America was the heat. That humid sticky heat that made him feel purified when he sweated himself lighter. That tangible measure of work, of strain, of death as he completed his mission. That heat he still felt at night in the cool barracks when Amber would slide quietly in next to him.

At first it was simple. Amber wanted to understand Bai's payment, the helpless, child like state she went into when she counted the stars and was swept, without fail, up into her brother's protective arms. Later as she tucked herself neatly under his chin and felt his heart hammering through his ribs, she knew it was all wrong, this wasn't what it felt like between the siblings.

Hei struggled at first, she would tuck herself impossibly small next to him, and he would lay stiff as board, the tension from battle building again, with none of the release. None of the heat to help him mark his success by dripping, salty, off his brow. But it could, whispered a traitorous part of him. He shut his eyes tighter and thought, I'm not human anymore, those wants aren't a part of me anymore. It was a lie and everyone knew; even the contractors on his team thought he was a freak. A human pretending to be a contractor? And hiding it so poorly in the worrying circle of his arms around his sister.

Amber couldn't decide when she knew she had been lying to herself that first time she had slipped into Hei's bed. But then again, can you really lie to yourself if you simply don't understand what's happening? Curiosity, lust, wonder, admiration all became a little too real too quickly. Suddenly she started to shake next to Hei. She knew this one, it was called fear. A sob popped out of her before she even understood that the source of that pathetic noise was her. Hei simply gazed at her. Embarrassed, that one was new too, she turned quickly to hide her messy face and stifle that pathetic cry. A tentative, cautious arm slipped around her. She could feel the heat from his body even though he wasn't touching her except for where their arms entwined.

Hei looked at Amber. He tried not to when they were in bed together, as if by not looking at her he could forget she was there. But for the first time since their new sleeping arrangement had started, she wasn't looking at him. That expectant look that had begun to haunt his waking nightmares wasn't pinning him to the thin pallet. The one that screamed touch me, feel me, let me feel you, let me understand how you feel. She was going through a completely separate moment, and Hei had the curious notion that she was crying for the first time. Which was impossible, contractors were born human, they were all children once. And he couldn't help himself then, he reached for her. As her ragged breathing evened out, he gazed at the moonlight in her hair and drifted into a comfortable sleep for the first time since they'd been to South America.

Amber woke first in the morning and spent a quiet moment thanking anything, everything, hell, she'd even thank Heaven's Gate for the warmth of the arm around her. She slipped out of his rack, cold already but buoyant. She laughed warmly at breakfast and dominated in training and even felt less worn as she zipped through time. She looked in the mirror after that trip, not so much younger that someone could tell. Good. Amber would never argue that she wasn't vain. She dreaded that day when she'd have to shimmy into spandex and sparkles and snaking fur collars. Laughing at the thought of dressing like a pop-sexed teenager, she absentmindedly slipped into her own rack, doing paperwork late into the night. She awoke a few hours later to find Hei tucked lightly against her, his hair buried in her nose, his arm looped around hers, his thighs gently jigsawed between hers. Amber froze the moment, losing another couple months, just to make sure it wasn't a dream. She turned in the circle of his arms and tentatively reached out with her thumb to smooth his collarbone. Her chest exploded as she made solid contact. Joy. It was so simple, so plainly good, she wondered why she hadn't been able to grasp the concept earlier. She unfroze the moment, her hands still on his chest.

Hei's eyes fluttered awake at the new sensation. He sleepily looked at her and couldn't process anything more than her smile. It was brilliant. It was infectious. He had to try for himself. With a gesture so casual, so effortless that he could have been slitting her throat, he kissed her.

When they broke apart softly, Amber instinctively tightened her grip on him. She hesitated to break their silent code but did so anyway, "I think I'm filled with hope Hei".

Hei didn't know what to make of that. But he figured if he was allowed to be a human playing at contractor, Amber was allowed to be a contractor playing at human. He pulled her close again and let the heat build between them, the heat that he so unmercifully measured his inhumanity with, and jolted, surprised, that here, with her, the heat made him feel alive.

Paste your document here...