Author's Note: this story is M rated. It is explicit. Characters do not belong to me. This story was originally a gift for the wonderful Becky. She's given me permission to publish it.


Encaenia ('consecration'): the annual ceremony at which the University of Oxford presents honorary degrees to distinguished alumnae and personages, and commemorates its benefactors.

It is is held each year in ninth week of Trinity term.

This was only her third time waiting in the Sheldonian. Graduation was too many years ago now for her to want to remember it, and matriculation fell even further back. They both happened in another life, before the War, when she had been another person. One thing had not changed. Sam had always strongly associated the soaring classical space, ceiling daubed with fat pink cherubs chasing a fiery pillar to heaven, not with awe, but with intense nausea. During visits one and two she had been sweating alcohol and sleep-deprived. Even now - stone cold sober - she felt off-colour.

Sam was nervous. Terrified, actually.

She reassured herself that if she did swoon or throw up over the salarians in front, she could blame it on heatstroke. Sweat sprung from every pore and pooled into the hollow of her back during the short, sun-baked procession from All Souls. The theatre was airless, particularly in the amphitheatre seats Sam was jammed into. She dragged her hands through her thick jet hair, but only succeeded in slicking salty perspiration from her forehead back into her raggedy bob. It was stuck as if welded to her scalp. Cursing silently, she tried to reverse the damage with her fingertips, gave up, scowled.

The Chancellor was talking in a flat monotone. Sam couldn't concentrate on a single word. Her eyes flicked back and forth along the rows of seats facing her. Where was she? What on earth had she been thinking? This had been an incredibly rash idea. Insane.

The matron sitting to her right, wrapped like her in a crimson and cornflower blue doctoral gown, nudged her. There was false pity in her eyes.

"Can't find your guests?" she whispered.

When she had received the gold-lettered invitation, her heart had leapt at the idea of bringing her parents back to Oxford. The extortionate ticket prices for a return berth from Discovery quashed that plan. That wasn't who she was scanning for, but she shook her head anyway. She had asked only one person to be here but that person was not in the room.

"Oh. Well. I'm sure they'll be somewhere." The asari drew back into her own space. Sam was perfectly fine with that. Nevertheless, she didn't want to be the only person here by herself.

Something must have happened. This wasn't like her, or at least Sam hadn't thought so. Her gut contracted into a writhing tangle. They hadn't seen each other for more than a year. After the celebrations she had plunged into total radio silence, vanishing into a classified mission in the DMZ. Sam learned recently she was back in Sol, vid feeds proclaiming her recuperation in a 'remote, undisclosed' location. So Sam had swallowed her nerves and messaged her. But this wasn't - anything in particular. And Sam absolutely had not spent three hours preening in her old college set in the hopes it might be something. It was a rare opportunity to catch up with a good friend. That was all.

Sam rubbed her clammy face with the sleeve of her gown. Surely she wouldn't be stood up at her own ceremony. Not when she had been looking forward to seeing her friend so much. Not when it had made her feel so special. Even EDI had a medal. This was her day. Damn it.

God, the humiliation.

And then: one of the tall wooden doors at the back eased ajar; then a little further. An ear-splitting creak cracked the air. The Chancellor trailed off into surprised silence. Whoever was behind the door abruptly stopped pushing. Dozens of faces craned toward the back of the theatre, a low chorus of disapproval rippling under people's breaths.

Someone squeezed sideways through the gap. That someone swept her cap from her head and snagged long fingers in unruly copper locks.

Sam hadn't had the courage to confront her feelings over the past year but she no longer needed to. They engulfed her. Her heart felt as it it would burst right out of her chest.

She was dressed impeccably - irresistibly - in starched Alliance dress whites. As she tiptoed forward, she glanced about herself, mouthing sorry, sorry to the riled faces on either side as she proceeded up the aisle.

Sam had been expecting to see the gaunt and exhausted person she saw a year ago. But the grey pallor was gone, replaced with a deep, freckled tan. Her athletic build filled out her whites so gorgeously - they fit perfectly over her chest and the swell of her hips - Sam was breathless.

Sam corrected herself. No, that was just because it was an oven in here. Quiet down.

The asari peered over the salarian horns in front with new interest. "Is that? It is! Goddess." Her murmur was throaty and Sam didn't like it. Not remotely. "Wonder who she's here with. I'd love an introduction."

The penny had dropped for several of the quicker-witted members of the audience. Omnicams began to flash at the latecomer, who ignored them.

Seconds stretched forever.

And then sea-green eyes pierced hers.

Omni flashes popped all over the theatre but they might have been alone in the room. Sam's galaxy shrank to a single point.


Her rakish smile lit her entire face as their eyes locked. She waved, mouthed the words hey Sam!

Sam could have died happy in that moment, and the feeling looked mutual.

But then Shepard pouted her full lips slightly - right in the middle of the Chancellor's Encaenia address - and blew Sam a kiss.

Oh. Bloody. God.

The theatre inhaled a collective breath and held it. Nobody was listening to the Chancellor anymore. Several hundred people would dine out on this story for months.

Sam was painfully aware she had turned a violent shade of beetroot as the Proctor caught up with Shepard, jostled her into a seat. The turian's stern voice reminded guests of the centuries-old ban in place on flash photography. As Pompous Asari narrowed her eyes and reappraised her, Sam realised she was grinning like the village idiot. She didn't care.

So was Shepard. And Shepard's eyes were roving all over her.

A very small part of Sam dared to hope. A larger part of her started to smoulder.

She forced herself to look at the order of service in her lap and memorise the latin formula she had to recite for her presentation. Looking at Shepard had the perplexing effect of wiping her short-term memory. They couldn't help catching each others' glances occasionally. Each time suffused Sam with heat.

She was not thinking about running her hands under those whites. No.

Sam looked anywhere and everywhere but her until her name had been called, she had curtsyed to the Chancellor, and exited the theatre stage right, into the comparative cool of the early evening. Her name came late in the alphabet, so she didn't have long to wait before the guests were released. Shepard loped onto the cobbles, squinting into the sun. Anticipation streaked down Sam's spine and settled in her belly.

Shepard drawled. "If I had known you could curtsy so sweetly, I would have required you do that to superior officers instead of salute. Kaidan would have loved it."

Sam dug an elbow into her side (lithe, firm, shut up). "Oh really? I don't remember ever saluting you. Once, perhaps. For your information, I curtsy only to the Chancellor. Or royalty."

"Pity." Shepard cocked her head. "Life in the labs must be working for you. You look great."

Sam felt butterflies beating against her ribcage. "Ridiculous, more like. In this getup. But special curtsy requests may be granted. At my discretion, of course," she blurted. "Anyway, you're not looking too bad yourself." She needed to stop blabbing, immediately. Passersby were listening to her flailing around. (Not waving, drowning.)

But Shepard didn't appear to notice. She was looking at Sam, eager.

And then Shepard's arms wrapped around her like iron, squeezing Sam to her chest. She smelled of sweet sweat and mint. Sam thought (hoped) she lingered a moment too long before she was released.

"You're a sight for sore eyes, Sam. Congratulations. Sorry I was late." Shepard rubbed the back of her neck.

"Don't mention it. It's good to see you. Earth has been pretty dull in your absence."

Shepard's smirk was cheeky. "Missed me?"

She had. Living in dusty Jaipur, off the Normandy, was like living in exile. "Don't flatter yourself, Shepard. I only invited you because Tali's stuck on Rannoch."

Sam thought she detected subtle disappointment in Shepard's voice.

"Right. I'm not here to make someone jealous, then? No boffins you want to impress?"

She took Shepard's arm. "I'll have you know I'm two-time winner of the Arcturus Open Chess Tournament. I need no help in that department, thanks."

"I agree."

Something in Shepard's tone made her stomach flip.

They walked arm in arm through a passage into the Bodleian's entrance courtyard, and then out past the smashed dome of the Rad Cam, heading south to the High. Miraculously, the medieval city escaped the war almost unscathed. The university had retreated, emptying the colleges and abandoning the centre to husks and cannibals. Clearing them out after the Crucible fired ironically caused more damage than the invasion. But as a slight breeze coming from the meadows and the river wicked the moisture from Sam's brow, she was irrationally pleased that she could show Shepard the Oxford she remembered. So much had changed; but not here. She filled the silence between them by wittering about features and landmarks along the route.

"Where are we going?" Shepard asked. A navy duffel bag was slung over one shoulder.

"The faculty's organised formal hall at Christ Church," she replied. "Just a fairly stodgy three course meal. With gowns. And wine. Lots of wine."

"Sounds great. Like a mess night where I can let my hair down instead of sit on display? Has to beat MREs and galley rations, anyway."

Shepard wound her arm across Sam's shoulders and swapped their headgear, so that Sam was wearing Shepard's peaked kepi and Shepard wore her mortarboard. A prickle shot from the crown of her head to the base of her spine.

Heatstroke didn't even begin to enter the equation now.

As they walked, the evening sunlight lit the crumbling, honey-coloured limestone all around a deep gold. It was hot and still. Motes of dust and pollen hung in the air. The atmosphere was unreal; intoxicating; like a dream. But she was here and Shepard was here and the atmosphere was electric, charged with delicious possibility.

"Was Christ Church where you studied?"

"Oh - no. Mine's up - that way," Sam said, returning to her senses and pointing north. They turned the other way, strolling together down a gentle slope toward the lodge. "My college, that is. Labs are back where we came from. But the Great Hall here is absolutely gigantic. You could feed a battalion in it. You'll see."

Shepard murmured appreciatively when she entered, tipping her head back to stare up at the cavernous dark ceiling. The stone walls were thick, and the air inside refreshing and cool. Ignoring the seating plan, they settled on long benches opposite one another. Shepard peered at the portraits lining the walls. Candles were already lit, setting off the ochre tones in Shepard's hair and framing her jawline in amber glow. Sam fought to keep her eyes off her. But they were rapidly surrounded by other guests, most of which could not believe their good fortune at finding themselves next to Shepard. Age or species made no difference: all wanted to touch her, ask her questions, congratulate her, thank her. Shepard was gracious - or vain - enough to play along.

Sam seethed with frustration by the end of the first course. She couldn't get a word in edgeways. She dropped her cutlery onto her plate with a sigh and Shepard's gaze snapped to her, apologetic. She had smarts but Shepard was no genius. Sam could see the gears working between her pretty little ears.

She toyed with the rim of her glass in silence, letting conversation ebb and flow around her, until Shepard buffed her knee. Sam flicked her head up to find Shepard gazing at her - fondly? Sam cleared her throat, piqued. Shepard's feisty mouth was quirked upward.

Getting her hopes up would only lead to disappointment. Sam recalled countless false dawns aboard the Normandy. Shepard was nothing if not a master of the mixed signal.

"- how did we meet? She was - you could say she was my intelligence officer. I just point and shoot. She did the clever stuff for me. She saved Grissom Academy -" Sam squirmed and Shepard stilled her with her eyes - "she found Sanctuary. Hell, when she ship was hijacked she saved that too."

Shepard was trying to drag Sam back into conversation by any means possible. The drell next to Shepard clapped his hands over his mouth. "What happened?"

"Long story. But a little light hijacking never hurt anybody. And my ingenious friend, here, well -"

Sam warned. She reached out - "No, shush -"

Shepard, mischievous, grasped her hand - "she got us back aboard." She clasped Sam's hand with both of her own, meeting her eyes for long enough to send Sam into a tailspin. Then she turned away, refilled the empty glasses around them. Shepard brought her knees to either side of Sam's.

They held her there for the rest of the dinner, occasionally joined by Shepard's hands.

While Shepard played the gregarious simpleton above deck, she worked Sam into rapt attention below. This time Sam couldn't stop the torrent of images coursing through her mind. Or the rush of blood to her centre.

A hot ache started between her legs.

Advantage Shepard. By confirming their mutual attraction Shepard altered the rules of the game. A new situation required new moves. Sam decided she needed to knock her opponent onto the back foot. Her opportunity came after dinner, when guests were ushered towards the strains of a waltz floating on the breeze from Peckwater quad. Sam plucked a glass of sparkling wine from a passing tray - a pre-Shanxi Lusian vintage from the college reserves - and immediately almost sprayed the lot onto the head of the volus she was making small talk with.

A courtly voice. "Can I have this dance?"

She wheeled about, gown streaming, on the verge of choking. "Pardon?"

Shepard had cleaned up. Her lips glistened. She wore a self-effacing smile, held her hand out. Sam could not keep her eyes from her roguish smirk. What an impossible bastard.

"You. Me. This dance." Shepard clicked her heels together and bowed theatrically from the waist. Despite herself and the lingering resentment she felt about Shepard hogging the limelight, she snorted. Shepard raised her eyebrows. "Last chance."

She pulled Sam out into the centre of the quad, into a fast-moving current of couples.

Seconds later: "Shepard, do you even know what this dance is?" She was being whirled around in a circle, too fast. After dinner, and with her delicate constitution, that was dangerous. Sam clung to Shepard for dear life. "Or was this just an excuse to manhandle me in public?"

"Your insinuation is shocking."

The ache returned with a vengeance.

"About the -" Sam stumbled over Shepard's outstretched leg - "groping, or the dancing?"

"Definitely the dancing." She flashed the grin that made Sam weak at the knees. She wished Shepard would stop being so - dashing.

"Shepard, stop. Before we kill someone." Or they tore each others clothes off. They stood in the centre of the quad. "You won't find it hard to pick up the steps. I'll show you."

As they moved off again: "Besides, Major. You're a horrible flirt."

The unvoiced question hung, tantalising, in the air.

Before long, they were progressing haltingly around the quad. Shepard was half teetering, half staggering, but it was working. Sam pushed her through the steps.

Advantage Traynor.

"Where did a colony kid learn to - dance like this?"

"Balls." Sam deadpanned.

"Come again?"

"College balls. Cripplingly expensive, but I made it to - a few." She guided them out of a collision course with another couple. "Usually on somebody's arm."

"Chess club full of hot women, huh?"

"Well, I was president. Hilary, 2178."

"I have no idea what that means." Shepard's chest brushed up against hers, accidentally-on-purpose. Sam was on fire. Shepard knew it. She pulled them closer, purred into Sam's ear. "Was Hilary the other hot one?"

Sam felt shallow breaths on the side of her neck. If she tipped up, or Shepard reached down, they could kiss. Would kiss. The urge was overpowering. This was agony. Sam needed Shepard's lips on her more than anything in the universe. Shepard caught the soft whimper that rose from her throat. Her fingers stroked up the other side of Sam's neck.

Shepard whispered. "You know, I could get used to letting you lead."

Sam looked into her eyes, astonished. They were fevered, earnest. Her lips were parted. They had stopped. Everything stopped.

Sam closed her eyes -

"Hey. Can I cut in?" A salarian appeared at Sam's elbow, oblivious. "Will you teach me those steps?"

No, Sam thought. Before Sam could grab Shepard, she had slipped from her grip and fled towards a drinks tray at the perimeter. She wanted to scream.

"Why not?" she said between gritted teeth.

Curse salarians and their lack of sex drive.

The salarian was a quick learner. Unfortunately, he brought over a clutch of his less nimble friends, including two enthusiastic but untalented quarians. Sam was too polite to refuse. The knot of need at her centre was beyond an ache. It burned painfully. She threw herself into the moves in the hopes the tension would dissipate. Seeing as an ice-cold shower wasn't an option.

Damn Shepard.

She would have given anything to be centre of attention at dinner, and anything to melt away now, to carry on with Shepard where they left off. But she was nowhere to be seen. She frowned, concerned. Sam left the quad, dodging conversations with amused guests keen to meet Shepard's arm candy.

Sam found her around the corner, drink in hand, leaning against the wall of the college library. Pompous Asari was laughing at something she said, blue fingertips on her arm.

Damn was too nice a word. Fuck Shepard.

Throwing a filthy look at her - she caught it and blanched - Sam turned tail and marched, across Tom Quad, past the Great Hall, through the exit passage and into the no-man's land beyond. She felt her eyes fill with tears. She refused to dignify Shepard's actions by letting them fall. Instead, she paced up and down. She didn't know who was the more foolish: Shepard, for being an imbecile, or her, for getting her hopes up.

Definitely her.

This night was ruined. She was gathering herself up to leave when Shepard appeared at the mouth of the passage, jogged over. Her boots echoed.

"Hey. I've been looking for you."

Sam said nothing. She turned to examine the engraved inscriptions on the marble memorials lining the walls. So many wars. So many wasted lives. Why she wasted a year pining for Shepard she would never know.

"I thought I'd never get you alone." Sam could hear the smile in her voice. Shepard placed a hand on her shoulder, turned her around. Sam glowered.

"Thought you were chasing some azure."

Shepard's brow creased. "Hell, no. Is that - what you thought I was doing?"

She tucked a lock of Sam's hair behind her ear.

"I've pissed you off. I'm sorry. Are you okay, Sam? Are we okay?"

Sam wrapped the voluminous gown tight around her. "Being sidelined at your own party is a less than wonderful experience. Being ignored by your plus one isn't great, either. I'm sorry I asked you to take time out of your vacation. Go back to the music."

Shepard looked confused. "Vacation?"

"Your post-tour R&R?"

"I wish. I'm still on active duty. Admiral Hackett gave me clearance for this trip."

"You - what? News vids said you were in Sol."

"Nope. Still on duty in the DMZ. But when I got your message, I knew I had to come. I would have run naked through a pack of brutes if I had to."

Sam flushed at the image. The Shepard part, not the brutes.

"I'm here for you. Period."

Shepard had travelled halfway across the galaxy to share today with her. She began to feel her pulse in a half dozen different places.

"But - your tan..." Sam bit down hysteria.

"Ingrained Tuchankan dirt, I'm afraid." Shepard's teeth glowed white in the gathering dusk.

"Oh, you disgusting creature. But - way to make a girl feel guilty. And special."

Anger forgotten, Sam brushed her fingertips against the back of Shepard's hand. She saw her abdominal muscles clench beneath her uniform. Sam ached to make that happen again. The other woman was awkward.

"Yeah. That was the plan. Look - I never know how to let those people down easy. I can lay on the charm but I can't seem to set boundaries - unless it's with my fists. The best place for me is in deep space."

Sam pulled back, narrowed her eyes. "Hardly. But you know, there is a way we can give your legions of adoring fans the slip."

Shepard's grin floated in the dusk like the Cheshire Cat.

Sam collected Shepard's duffel and they stole out of college the back way, onto Christ Church meadow. Evening was slipping into night, and it was becoming more difficult to see in the lavender twilight. Shepard snaked her arm around Sam's waist, under the gown but over her jacket. Stroking her in slow circles. Sam was hyper-aware of everywhere she was being touched, as if her entire nervous system had been hotwired to Shepard's fingertips. Before long, they had walked all the way down the avenue and started along the riverbank, canopied at regular intervals by old oak trees. After a while, their progress was lit by a full moon.

They talked. Bantered. Shepard told her about her new command aboard a bigger ship, and Sam tried to explain her quantum entanglement research, with less success. Shepard's palm slid lower as they walked. Neither remarked on it. Sam was getting impossibly bothered. Shepard asked if she was seeing anyone else, but the clinch Sam half-expected to come when she said no didn't materialize. They walked to the back of the Botanical Gardens, started on the return leg of the loop. Shepard seemed afraid of changing the tempo.

Finally, as the spotlit tower of Christ Church cathedral swung back into view, she asked Shepard if she was happy. If she had any regrets. The other woman stopped short, inhaled sharply. Sam slipped both arms around her waist, looked up into her sea-green eyes. They were stormy. She could scent wine and pudding and something spicy that was just pure Shepard.

"Yes, ma'am." She had gone strangely stiff. Serious. "What I have to say is a year overdue." A pause. "Sam, I -"

She didn't let her finish. Sam pushed up from the balls of her toes and brushed her lips across hers. Shepard's lips were soft and hot and, after a few more gentle touches, they opened. She threaded her fingers into Sam's hair, pulling her closer and deepening the kiss. Sam went willingly, pressing as much of her body against her as possible, twining her arms around her neck. Her tongue was swift and insistent, and when Sam moaned into her mouth Shepard began to back her, step by step, toward the trunk of the oak tree behind them. She bucked against Shepard when she realised they were hidden under the boughs.

This was happening. It was happening now.

Once her back was pressed against the bark Sam broke the kiss, cupped Shepard's face in her hands. She was mesmerising in the moonlight, red hair aglow, eyes bright with desire.

"I want this. Us."

Shepard's lips were swollen and her eyes had acquired a feral gleam, but she still offered Sam a last out. "Are you sure?"

Sam spread her legs as wide as her pencil skirt would allow, which wasn't far, and Shepard set her weight between them. Her kisses were harder, urgent now, pressing deep into Sam's mouth. She fumbled for the clasps on Shepard's tunic, but in one quick movement the other woman grabbed her wrists and pinned them against the tree. Shepard held her wrists stretched above her head with one hand, while she forced scorching kisses down Sam's neck. The pain was sharp, exquisite. She arched into Shepard's mouth, cried out.

Shepard's voice was hoarse. "Don't touch."

Her order issued, she released Sam's wrists, wrenched her shirt out, unbuttoned it. Her hand wandered across Sam's flat stomach. She gasped, chest rising and falling rapidly as Shepard pulled one breast from her bra, then both. She planted more kisses along Sam's neck and collarbone as she kneaded her tits, feeling the heft and weight and working out what worked and what didn't. A jolt of pure arousal shot from her nipple to her groin when Shepard pinched one, hard, between thumb and forefinger. She licked her way down to the other and suckled it lazily, unhooking her bra with a practiced snap.

All Sam could do was pant; she pulled Shepard's hair, she dragged her face across her breasts. She was crazy with want. She needed more.

Sam raised her right leg and flexed her hips. It was impossible to hook her calf around Shepard's waist, but she understood what she wanted. Shepard supported her by looping one forearm under her knee, bracing against the oak. She grabbed the fabric of Sam's skirt and yanked it up. Then she pushed it up further by running her calloused palm up the outside of Sam's thigh, until the skirt was rucked around her waist and the only noises Sam could make were moans. She exhaled a breathless fuck when the other woman ground her uniformed thigh into her centre, legs now splayed open.

Shepard kissed her mouth again as she pressed her free hand to the inside of Sam's inner thighs. She gave a small grunt of surprise when she found the top of Sam's holdups, and worked out there was nothing covering her sex. Shepard pulled back, leered at the vee of Sam's legs, and ran her index finger through her wetness and across her clitoris. A starburst of pleasure tore through every nerve. Sam bit Shepard's lower lip to keep herself from screaming.

Now she was exposed Sam was almost abashed by how slick she was. But she was ready. So ready.

Shepard entered her roughly. She pushed three fingers straight up to the hilt, pumped them briefly and hard, then swirled them around. Sam gasped. She threw her head forward onto Shepard's black and gold epaulettes, bit her earlobe. Her fingers grabbed the front of Shepard's tunic; she could feel her hard nipples under layers of fabric.

And Shepard pulled out. Sam gave a disappointed groan, protesting the absence of her hand. Shepard pouted at her, then smiled.

"What did I say?"

Shepard thrust the fingers she used inside Sam into her mouth. Sam sucked desperately. Then the rest of Shepard disappeared from view. Sam closed her eyes. Shepard's mouth closed over her mound, lapping, taking all of her in. Sam fought to keep her legs from buckling as Shepard's lips and tongue flicked, teased and washed soft over her centre, hardened and pushed into her. She rocked into Shepard, who sped up in response.

Sam imagined someone was watching them from the other bank, and this time the image - being fucked by a soldier, her soldier, in the meadow - exploded into her mind, wrenching a strangled cry from her as she crashed over the edge.

Shepard caught her and held her until the tremors subsided, before helping her straighten up. They kissed again, deep and slow, and Sam could taste her come, sweet on Shepard's lips and chin. She tongued Shepard's lip gently where she had bitten it, feeling the cut. Shepard's hands adjusted each of Sam's holdups in turn, smoothed her skirt back down carefully. Sam brushed at the grass stains on Shepard's knees. Her own robe was ripped and dusted with dry bark.

Shepard finally broke the connection between their bodies, retrieving her duffel from the ground where they first kissed. Sam was glad to curl back into her when she returned. She stroked her fingertips again across Shepard's breasts, hesitant, alert to Shepard's reaction. She flinched. Sam was confused.

"So it's all right to screw me against a tree, but not for me to touch you? Serious problem with double standards there."

Sam was stung. Shepard tried to explain.

"No. I love it, Sam, I do. It's just -" she lapsed into silence for several long moments.


"I'm used to taking control. I don't normally - hell. You're so important to me - I - I sound stupid." Shepard shoved her hands into her trouser pockets, toed loose gravel with her boot.

"Keep going."

"I meant what I said. Before."

Shepard looked away, as if expecting being mocked. Or dropped. Sam wrapped her arms tighter around her, breathed. She didn't understand. Her mind skipped over their exchanges that day inconclusively until she hit -

I could get used to letting you lead.

Aha. Oh.

Excitement shot up from the base of Sam's spine.

She kissed Shepard again, spoke sotto voce. "Well, I'm a woman of many talents. Fancy a nightcap?"

As they exited the meadow, hands laced, the frisson between them built again, like a storm. Sam's college was a ten minute walk away on the edge of Jericho, past the burned out museum, behind a pock-marked wall looming over the road. She led Shepard through the night-gate, cut out from the shuttered wooden doors, and through the porter's lodge. They woke old Hugo, snoring in a chair with his nose in the spine of a book. Sam waved; he did a double take when he saw whose hand she was holding. He winked and tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially, making them both chuckle.

Though it was well past midnight, the air around them was still balmy, perfumed by the honeysuckle and wisteria clinging to the side of the building. Sam walked them around the edge of the quad to staircase four. She turned to Shepard, stroked the side of her face with her thumb. Taking both hands, smiling, Sam led her upstairs. Shepard stumbled after her, two steps behind.

The room was dark when they entered. The moonlight threw long shadows along the floor. She flitted around the room silently with a taper. Lighting candles was forbidden in college rooms, but she had found some earlier behind the loose oak panel in the next room, and this was no ordinary occasion. She looked back to see Shepard absorbing all the details. Sam allowed her a moment to do so - the book-lined walls, the simple four poster at the far end of the room, the darkened study beyond.

Shepard stepped forward, hesitant, to the centre of the space. She fell reflexively into parade rest, arms behind her back, spine ramrod straight. She was daunted and determined not to show it. Sam's heart swelled. She crossed the space between them, put her arms around Shepard's neck, kissed her tender. It was a second before Shepard responded.

Sam unclasped the purple medal riband, like a choker around Shepard's neck, and set it on the windowsill. Her hands moved, slow, to the clasps of Shepard's uniform tunic, loosing the ties with teasing movements. Once undone, Sam stroked her hands over her perfect white undershirt, starting at her navel, grazing over the swell of her breasts and up to her collarbone. She eased the tunic off her shoulders, and Shepard flexed slightly to allow it to fall to the floor.

Shepard's breath caught as Sam pushed up against her and looped her arms behind her back, pulling her undershirt from her trousers. She raised her arms to allow Sam to remove it, then brought them to rest around Sam's hips. Sam dropped small kisses from her shoulderblade to the base of her neck. She skimmed her fingertips up to the clasp of Shepard's bra, removed it, pulled it away from her body. She was beautiful: latticed with scars and bullet wounds, strong and toned and awesome. Sam became wet again just drinking her in. She was hers. She took a soft breast in one hand, murmured in approval.

Shepard cleared her throat, shifted her weight uneasily. Sam joined their mouths, pressed her lips to Shepard's cheeks, her eyelids.


Shepard exhaled. She responded by tugging the gown from Sam's shoulders. She tried to untie the black velvet bow around Sam's neck; Sam swatted the hand away, before recapturing it and planting her lips on Shepard's palm. Her fingers moved to hold Sam's face. She moved a few steps back and allowed Shepard to watch as she slid her skirt over her hips. She shrugged her jacket away. She set her foot on a chair and rolled her holdups down to her ankles and away: one, then the other.

Shepard gulped.

She padded back, wearing only her shirt. Shepard's rough hands circled to grip her ass; bolts of pleasure lanced from her fingers to Sam's centre. Her lover moaned as Sam's hands tugged at her belt buckle. As she dragged her trousers and briefs away, Sam felt Shepard's lips skimming up her throat. Her pussy throbbed so hard it made her lightheaded. She let Shepard undress her the rest of the way. Shepard took in her nakedness reverently, tracing her fingertips up Sam's sides, uncertain of what to do next.

Sam's eyes strayed to the bed.

They went together.

Sam crawled over Shepard's naked body, and lay between her open thighs. Shepard's eyes were dark, glimmering with reflected lust. Sam's skin was chocolate in the candlelight; Shepard was freckled all over her torso, and she dropped long, open-mouthed kisses on them all, making Shepard shiver and moan as the air cooled the moisture on her skin. Her nipples were small and rosy and already firm; Sam hardened her tongue and ran it across the undersides of her breasts, before taking each into her mouth in turn. Shepard pushed into Sam's mouth, seeking more, rubbing the small of her back, pressing Sam tight to her. Her hips began to grind upward, into Sam's; slightly at first, then more demanding. Sam shifted position to allow her hands easier access. Shepard was neatly trimmed, red hair darkened with the evidence of her arousal. Sam pressed her whole hand against her mound. Shepard's lips parted in a silent gasp as she pushed into her palm. Insistent.

Shepard's stroked the back of Sam's neck. Please, she mouthed.

Sam eased her hand inside. Shepard was tight and hot and wet. Possibly too tight. She began to move her fingers, in and out and around, but while Shepard seemed to like it, Sam didn't want to hurt her. She hasn't done this in quite some time, Sam realised. She pulled back, tasting the cinnamon juices on her hand before trailing her hair across Shepard's body, settling with her cheek against her thigh. She kissed Shepard's lips, licked them, then swirled and flicked around her centre, fingers teasing her opening.

She brought Shepard close. Her hips rocked and jerked in Sam's mouth; her chest pinked with glow; her hands, if they were not driving Sam's tongue further into her, were gripping the sheets until her knuckles went white. Her pussy was a swollen, heavy purple. But Shepard was not letting go. Sam knew she wanted to. She stroked Shepard's thighs as she pushed off her and stood.

"Hold that thought, love. I have an idea."

Shepard's eyes widened with a mixture of fear and want when she saw the size of the spear of silicone Sam wore back into the room. She had already buried it deep within her, and the pommel was firm against her own nub. Her muscles clenched around it in response to Shepard's wild expression, making it bob upwards. She pointed to the floor in front of her. A grin spread across Shepard's face. The sight of Shepard sinking to her knees before her was enough to stir the beginnings of another peak. Her eyes stayed locked to Sam's as she kissed and licked from the base upwards, then parted her lips and began to take the cock into her mouth. Sam had never, ever, seen anything sexier.

Shepard took the cock faster and deeper with each pass, until Sam could feel it catch and push past her throat, until her lips brushed against Sam's skin every time she surged forward. She sent molten pleasure spiking through Sam with every nudge of the cock back against her and into her. She was fervid, hungry. Sam held Shepard's head lightly between her hands. The image was too much; Sam had to shut her eyes.

She snapped them open when Shepard held still, reached behind to clutch her buttocks and began to pull Sam into her. Fucking Shepard's mouth intensified the pressure building in her so sharply that Sam could not continue for long. She drew Shepard to her feet and moved her back to the bed. She pushed her down, set Shepard's ankles wide apart, yanked her hips to the edge of the mattress. Shepard gasped, begged.

Sam set the cock against her opening and Shepard bucked involuntarily, allowing the tip to disappear inside. Sam entered her slowly. She cried out, but did not protest, although she resisted every inch until she had taken the whole length. She exhaled a deep moan as Sam pulled out, but before she could take another breath she entered her again, harder. And harder again, until Sam was thrusting into her, over and over and over, force reverberating through Sam's centre every time her hips pounded into hers.

Shepard was beyond spent. But she still couldn't let go. Sam, flashes appearing at the edges of her own vision, suddenly understood. She reached forward and turned her face roughly to look at her. Shepard's eyes were limitless dark pools.

"Come for me."

Shepard obeyed. Her entire body went rigid, shuddered, and she let out a slow scream of release, panting Sam - Sam - Sam - Sam - Sam as further waves of pleasure crashed over her. Hearing her name, seeing the adoration painted on Shepard's face, Sam followed. She grabbed Shepard's hands and crushed them in her own, before collapsing on top of her, sweat and breath and slickness mingled together.

Sam removed the shaft, blew out the candles, then slid under the sheet next to Shepard. Though they were both too hot, they nestled together. Shepard lay in the crook of Sam's arm as she stroked away strands of red hair stuck to her face. Her face was flushed, and sleep was stealing upon them both. Shepard spoke drowsily.


Sam leaned down, rubbed her nose against Shepard's.

"Yes. Love."

Shepard smiled in wonder. With the last of her energy she reached up to touch Sam's lips with her own. Sam blinked down at her.

"Love. Yeah."

Wrapped in each other, they fell asleep as the sky lightened with the dawn.