Phoenix Rising
By Janet Lynne

Part 3

See Part 1 for disclaimers

-5-

Devon's precious daily allotment of heated water was wasting, but at the moment, she could not have cared less. Her head hit the back of the shower stall and rolled from side to side deliriously as the intensely pleasurable sensations swept her body.

"Gray gods, Kara..."

"Mmm...," was the muffled response as her lover delivered the strokes which were causing the glorious sensations.

The buzz of the comm unit startled Devon just before she heard, "Devon, Jim. Are you there?"

"Shit," Devon hissed, and thrust a long arm out to angrily hit the switch.

"Yeah, Jim, what...what is it?"

"Just curious, Dev, as to whether or not you intend to emerge some time today and fly this ship? Or is it just your crew who have to keep to strict shift times?"

Jim thought he heard muffled laughter and then Devon's voice grumbled, "Yes, Jim, I do pl...shiiit..." Her voice became muffled and he heard intense whispering, and then, "Sorry...yes, smartass, I'll be reporting soon. Is there a problem?"

"Oh, no. I was just curious. You don't happen to know where the good doctor is, do you?" The humor in his voice was obvious, barely concealing a snicker.

Giggling, Kara said, "Hi, J...," before her mouth was unceremoniously muffled and more censorious whispering ensued.

"Dev, it sounds like you have your hands full there. See you two soon, I hope...the uh, crew is starting to wonder. Out."

The long arm snaked out and hit the comm switch again, then returned to its perch on Kara's shoulder. "Kara, gods, yes..." As her kneeling lover continued the loving assault, she lost control once again, and was carried away by yet another blindingly intense orgasm.

"Yes!" Reverberated around the small room and out into the Captain's quarters and was soon followed by moans and a similar scream from a softer, somewhat more feminine voice.

Shortly thereafter, Devon helped to pull Kara's sweater over her head and then pulled her close. "That was without a doubt the most wonderful, most exciting, sexiest night of my life. Thank you, Kara."

"My feelings exactly, Devon. I, um, hope we can make it a regular occurrence." She looked up expectantly into shining blue eyes and saw her answer before it was spoken.

"As often as possible, duties allowing, okay?"

"Okay." She burrowed into her tall lover's inviting shoulder and they stood together for several minutes, loathe to part.

Devon sighed deeply. "I feel such a part of you already, Kara. But I've never done anything like this before, and, well, I'm a little unsure of myself. Be patient with me?"

"Yes, absolutely, love. If I get too pushy, let me know, and I'll back off some. I want to be with you, but I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

"Kara, remarkably, I don't think you will. We both know about the past life and the bond we share, and that knowledge makes this easier to understand. And I want it...very, very much. But I need for you to understand that I have never made a commitment to anyone before, so I'm probably not good at it...but please know, Kara, that I want to spend as much time as possible with you, and only our respective duties will prevent us from being together...if that's alright with you." Please God, don't let me freak and bail on this... this is good.

"Alright?" Kara laughed. "It's wonderful, Devon. Thank you." She kissed the shoulder in front of her and felt Devon's deep devotion for her through the bond as she pulled Kara closer.

"Um, also, I would like to try to keep this under wraps for as long as possible...not because I'm embarrassed or ashamed, but just because I am a private person. Though I fully realize how quickly news of this sort spreads on this ship." She smiled wryly.

"I understand, and I agree. I don't like being the subject of gossip, either. But, honestly, Devon, I think that whenever we're together, it will be pretty obvious."

"Probably, but let's try not to advertise it, okay?"

"Okay. Can we trust Jim to keep quiet?"

"Yes."

Kara grinned. "You know this from experience?"

Devon shrugged and nodded. "Yes."

"Okay. Well, my love, I have work to do in my lab, so I should be going. And, I'm still waiting for a certain Captain to appear for her physical."

Devon smiled shyly. "Sorry, I just hate those things, Kara." Her cute smile turned devilish as she added, "Besides, you recently made an extremely intimate examination of every square millimeter of my body...isn't that good enough?"

"No, sweetheart, it's not, I'm sorry. You're going to have to endure the physical just like the rest of your crew did." She pulled back slightly and leaned in again, gently capturing the peak of a breast with her teeth and stroking it with her tongue, leaving a wet mark on Devon's flightsuit, and causing a deep moan. "But I would like to do some more exploration later."

"Sennaat, yes, Kara. Here again? Right after shift? And meet for lunch at 14:00?"

"Yes, please." She was pulled up by strong arms into an intense embrace and a long, deep kiss, and then they parted and walked together to the bridge.

As Kara left Devon at the hatch to the bridge cabin, she felt an acute sense of separation and had to struggle to push it down as she reminded herself that she and Devon would never be more than one hundred meters apart. She turned and gazed behind her, to see Devon still watching her and realized then that she was not only feeling her own sense of separation, but Devon's as well. Their emotions, when they were experiencing similar ones, were effectively magnified...doubled. Gray gods...we are going to have to learn to deal with this. She smiled at Devon and waved, receiving a wave in return and then her mate turned and entered the bridge.

"Status," Devon requested as she sat beside Mitchell.

"Nominal, Captain. I continued with the tactical sims you assigned yesterday and I have one left to complete."

"Very good. Have you had a break this morning?"

"No."

"Go ahead and grab one if you'd like, and thank you, Mitchell, for covering command this morning."

"Aye, Captain." She nodded and paused her simulation, then left the bridge.

Devon sat back in her seat and sighed, glad for the solitude. Before she dove into her routine, she allowed herself a few minutes to revel in the wonderful sensations that were still coursing through her body, not the least of which was the love she felt coming from her lover through the unique energetic bond they shared, which was literally bathing her with its warmth. Thank you for blessing me, Sennaat. Grace to you.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Kara set another seed tray into place and secured it, attaching the necessary clear, plexi piping to it. She had been working steadily for several hours and was nearly finished. All that was left to do was to set up the hydro-recycling unit and turn on the water supply. She stood back and gazed at her handiwork, satisfied. That's a good job done...now in a few weeks, I'll begin to see the fruits of this labor. She grinned. Literally.

As she continued to run through in her mind the steps of the process that would culminate in the harvest of the several dozen varieties of medicinal plants and several fruit and vegetable specimens, the comm unit buzzed and she heard her mate's low, even voice say, "Doctor, can you speak openly?"

Through a wide smile, she replied, "Yes, Devon. Go ahead."

Devon smiled as well, unable to contain her happiness. "Hi. How is your day going?"

"It's going well...yours?"

"Status quo. Are you getting hungry?"

Kara grinned devilishly and replied, "Yes, of course! I'm always hungry."

"So am I, baby," Devon drawled, and Kara thought that she detected a jolt of lust coming through the interesting link they shared.

"God, Devon, did I just feel..."

She was interrupted suddenly with a staccato, "Very well, Doctor, thank you for the update. Out."

Kara shook her head and grinned. Pesky co-pilot returned to the bridge, eh, Devon? She checked the time display and noted that it was only twenty standards until she and Devon had planned to meet for lunch, and returned to her task.

"Mitchell, how did that last sim go?"

"Fine, Captain. It was very interesting....tell me, do you design these based on actual attacks that you've been engaged in, or are they attacks that you anticipate as possible?"

"Both. That last one was based on an actual attack...the most recent and boldest one that I've encountered. My crew have successfully fought off every attack on this ship and I'm very proud of the fact that we've never lost cargo or passengers, and my crew have only ever sustained minor injuries."

"That's remarkable, Captain, though I do see how these simulations of yours would make for a very well-prepared crew."

"I think that, even more so, it attests to the quality and skill of the people that I hire." She gazed pointedly at her new co-pilot, making an inference that was easily deduced, and Mitchell smiled her appreciation. Devon returned the smile and nodded, then remarked, "I'm taking my lunch break now. Run a diagnostic, please, on the long-range scanning system."

"Aye, Captain."

Devon nodded to her as she stood, and left the bridge. She walked to Medlab and stuck her ahead around the doorway. Kara was at the back of the lab, faced away from the hatchway, elbow deep in the hydroponics bin. Devon grinned before quietly walking up behind her and wrapping long arms around her lover. She nuzzled her ear and whispered, "Time for lunch."

Kara nearly jumped out of her skin. "Jesus, Devon! You scared me." She fell back against the strong body behind her and grasped the arms that circled her waist.

"Sorry, didn't mean to. Mm, you smell good."

"I smell like lubrication fluid and plexi tubing."

"No...wildflowers." Devon breathed deeply of the scent that she could now identify as being uniquely Kara's, relishing it.

Kara turned her head so that she could do the same thing. "And you're spicy...I'm not sure what kind, but I like it."

"Good." She kissed the ear beneath her mouth and squeezed her new mate tightly. "Mmm."

They were both startled a moment later when Jim strolled into the lab and declared, "Oh, my apologies, ladies!"

Devon sighed as she dropped her chin to Kara's shoulder and turned them to look at her Engineer.

"No problem, Jim. We can, uh, trust you to keep this quiet, I presume?"

"Absolutely, Andy, but if you two want to keep this private, you may want to be a little more discreet."

"Point taken." She happily nuzzled Kara's neck and added, "But that's going to be goddamned hard, Jim...as crazy about this little lady as I am."

"I'm glad to see that you finally accepted it, Devon." He grinned widely. "Carry on!" He turned to leave.

"Jim, did you need something?" Kara called after him.

"Nothing that won't wait until later, Doctor." He smiled and waved before leaving the lab.

The two women shared a laugh, and then a hug and a loving kiss before leaving the lab together.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Kara took a bite of casserole, savoring the rich, spicy flavor, and asked, "So, you do actually have a problem with pirates?"

"Oh, yes. Kara, I'm sorry you weren't aware of that fact. It is common knowledge in the shipping trade that all ships, but most particularly the unprotected free traders like ours have been coming under increasingly bold attacks the last few solar years. The news dispatches and alerts from the military have been fairly constant."

Kara waved off her partner's concern. "It's all right, Devon. I realize that you didn't deliberately hide the information from me. I have just been out of the loop as far as that sort of news is concerned. The last three, four years, I've had my nose buried pretty deeply within my research...trying to escape the realities of my horrible marriage contract. In fact, during the last year of the relationship, I slept in my office at the lab." She shrugged.

"God, Kara, I feel terrible that you accepted a fairly dangerous position without being aware of it." She grasped her love's hand from across the table. "I don't want you hurt."

Kara turned her hand over and grasped Devon's hand gently. "Don't worry about it, Devon. I am exactly where I want to be. In fact, there is no longer any place in the known galaxy where I would rather be than here on this ship, with you, and I'm willing to face whatever confronts us."

"Kara, I love that, but I'm not sure you know how serious these situations can be."

"It doesn't matter, Devon. I'm in this now, and way beyond simply what my job responsibilities dictate. I will not run from trouble, and most importantly, I will not leave your side. Not unless..." She looked down at her food packet and Devon felt her insecurity.

"Kara, I can feel what you're thinking, and that will not happen. Ever. I'm more sure of that than of anything I've ever known...I will not tire of you or of our relationship." She caressed Kara's hand softly as she added, "This thing has grabbed hold of me like nothing I've ever experienced and I am committed...in my heart. I can't imagine a day without you in it. I just can't. The thought of doing so takes my breath away to the point of hurting." She shook her head. "I just can't imagine it."

Kara graced her with a heartfelt look of love and gratitude as a single tear slid down her cheek. "Thank you," she whispered.

"No problem. I'm in love with you, you know."

"I know."

"Okay, end of discussion. What would you like for dinner? Pasta again?"

Kara laughed as she wiped away the tear. "Yes. How are you with red sauce?"

"I am incredible with red sauce," Devon delivered rakishly.

"My God, Devon...that conjures up an intense scenario in my mind," she said fanning herself.

Devon replied in a low, sexy voice, "You'll have to tell me about it later, then."

"Oh, I'll do more than tell you about it, my love."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

As the simulation ran, Devon skillfully provided commentary as she worked the controls. "Do you see how they broke and initiated a two-pronged attack? Designed to force us too near the gravity well?"

"Yes," Cyd nodded. "Why would they do that? If we're lost in the well, so is all the cargo."

"Because they are expert at boarding and ransacking quickly. Getting in, taking what's most valuable, getting out. They took a chance on being able to get in quickly and get what they wanted, and then getting out before the ship was lost down the well." Devon outran the pursuers, as usual and paused the sim.

"Even tons of cargo?" Cyd asked incredulously.

"Yes. They have powered sleds that they can fly right into a breach in the cargo hold, load up, and fly out. They're ingenious."

"So the key defense, obviously, is to not allow them to catch us...so they can't breach and board."

"Exactly. Which is how I've managed to develop these flight maneuvers. We have been boarded a few times, but each time, they met with violent resistance and we prevailed."

"Which accounts for the fully loaded weapons lockers situated in various locations around they ship?"

"Yes. As a matter of fact, I'd like you to start working with Rusty and Chad, doing some firing practice. Do you have any experience with plasma weapons?"

"No. I've only previously worked on company ships, which, as you know, rely on military protection."

Devon nodded. "Right. Well, we have a practice range set up in cargo bay four, which we try to keep empty for that purpose. So, for the next few weeks before we reach Mars, I'd like you to spend part of your regular shift time, a few times a week, working with one of them. You can do it on your own time too, if you want, but I'll ask that Rusty certify you before you try it alone."

Cyd nodded. "Fine, Captain. I'll set something up for later today."

"Good. One or both of them are probably free several times during the shift." As she turned back to face her flight console, she added, "I'll want Dr. Murphy to take part as well. She may not be too willing, but I will require her to know how to defend herself."

Cyd nodded her agreement vigorously. "Oh, yes, I agree. And, I'll enjoy working with her." A small grin tugged at her mouth as she ran her fingers across her controls.

Devon grinned at the cabin wall, then turned toward Cyd and gave an interested, "Oh?"

Cyd grinned. "Yes. I would like to get to know her better." The Captain inclined her head, raising her expressive eyebrows with interest, so she added, "She's very nice, and obviously quite attractive. She did indicate that she isn't interested in a romantic relationship...she just ended an unhappy marriage...but I'm hoping that given some time, she'll change her mind."

"Mm," the Captain provided noncommittally. "Shift is about over, Mitchell, why don't we call it a day. You did a lot of good work today. Maybe you can talk to Rusty about setting up a practice schedule."

"I'll do that. Thank you, Captain. Have a good night."

"Thank you." Oh, babe, your doctor friend and I intend to.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Mmm, Devon...this is the best marinara I've ever tasted," Kara exclaimed happily.

"I'm enjoying it too, baby," Devon panted as Kara's tongue licked the sauce from her body. "Sennaat, Kara...oh, Jesus!" Her lover's tongue hit a particularly sensitive spot and she squirmed.

"Hold still, babe, so I can get it all."

"Oh, you're getting...shiiiit...getting it all, baby, don't worry." She gently grasped Kara's head and guided it a little closer to where she needed it. "Oh, yes, Kara. Yes!"

The appetizer continued for some time, until after Devon had partaken as well, and a while later, they sat together at the low table in Devon's living area, finishing the meal. "Mm, love, you really do have wonderful food on board," Kara declared as she took a bite of her dessert.

"Only the best for my crew. And now for my lady, too." She leaned into Kara and kissed her, receiving some chocolate in return.

She looked surprised. "That is good!"

"Especially when shared." Kara took another bite and then kissed her mate, sharing it.

"Gray gods, Kara." She sighed, shaking her head, and looked at her mate, amazed. "I didn't know it could be like this. I had no idea."

"I didn't either, really."

"Your marriage was never a happy one?"

"Oh, it was, I guess, at the beginning. But frankly, I was happier before the contract. I don't think I'd do it again." She shook her head sadly.

"You mean with her?"

"With anyone." She returned her attention to her dessert, but then realized that Devon had become very still. "Honey?"

Devon shook her head and waved her hand. "Yeah, I understand." She buried her face in her dessert again, trying to also bury the pain she suddenly felt.

"Devon, you didn't think that we would..."

"No, Kara, don't worry about it. Finish eating. I want to take you to the practice range later." She fixed a serious gaze on her lover and returned to her meal.

Kara sat back against the couch. "Devon, remember that I can feel what you're feeling. You're hurt." She reached out and caressed her cheek. "I'm so sorry."

Devon swallowed hard and waved her hand again. "I told you. It's okay."

"It's not. Devon, what I just ended was so unpleasant that even something as wonderful as what we now have didn't allow the idea of another contract to occur to me. But believe me, if I were to want to marry again, it would be you...in fact, now that it's been brought up, I don't consider it a bad idea."

Devon shook her head. "Kara, no. Don't patronize me, please. If you don't ever want to marry again, it's okay. I understand. Frankly, I can't even believe that the idea occurred to me at all. It never had before...not once. And Christ, we've only known each other for a week and a half."

"Does that matter? Really?" Kara looked up at Devon, blonde brows arched.

Devon gazed into the questioning, vibrant green eyes and finally shook her head. "No. No, it doesn't matter. What we have is pretty timeless." She looked down at her plate and then back up at Kara. "Still, Kara. If you never want to marry, it's okay...I really do understand. But, it's just that I...shit...I can't express myself. I'm not used to this!"

"It's okay, love. Take your time. I want to hear what you're feeling." She picked up the large hand that lay dejectedly in Devon's lap.

"I want you in my life, Kara. I've never wanted that with anyone else...and now, I can't imagine a life without you. I guess that I equated that with a marriage contract...eventually. Some day." She shrugged.

"Devon, that makes me so happy. Thank you. I want a life with you, too. And you know what? I think that a contract with you would be wonderful...I really, really do. What I have with you already is so much deeper than what I had with Elana, even after years together, that I really can't even compare the two relationships." She pulled the tall Captain close and cradled her head against her chest. "Why don't we table this discussion until a later date, and in the meantime enjoy what we have and the commitments we've made to each other in our hearts?" She kissed Devon's soft, black hair tenderly. "Okay?"

Devon nodded, answering quietly, "Okay, Kara." Somewhat embarrassed, she added, "I'm sorry...I. God...I can't believe I'm even having this conversation! But you mean so much to me, Kara." She continued to shake her head in disbelief. "You know, Jim said once that we are never so vulnerable as when we're in love, and I never understood that. I never had a clue what he was talking about. But now...Sennaat."

She was pulled close again, and her lips were sought out. Kara held her tough partner and kissed her so deeply as to leave no question as to the depth of her love for her. Several minutes later, breathless, they parted. Grinning, Devon remarked, "Okay, babe, message received. There are a few things that I'd like to tell you too, later."

Kara grinned widely. "I can't wait."

"But right now, let's go to the cargo bay. I need to make sure you can defend yourself."

Kara sighed. "Devon, I hate weapons...with a passion."

"Why am I not surprised to hear that?" She pulled her mate into another hug. "Don't hate what can save your life, okay? I will do everything I can to protect you, but I need to be assured that if I'm not nearby, you can take care of yourself. I love you, Kara, and I will not lose you." She stood and held her hand out to her partner. "Now come on...Captain's orders."

"Well, I can hardly refuse then, can I?"

-6-

Devon led Kara down the main corridor to the cargo bays. As they passed the mess/rec hall, they saw the other four crewmembers watching a vid together. Cyd and Chad sat together on one couch, while Jim and Rusty shared the other.

As they quietly moved on, Kara asked, "Devon, do you think they find our absence conspicuous?"

"Possibly. Maybe we should spend some time in there before going to bed each night."

"Good idea." She wrapped her arm around Devon's waist and leaned into her. "I like the idea of our going to bed together every night."

"So do I. There's no reason why we shouldn't is there?" She glanced down at her smaller mate.

"No, except for being obvious about our relationship. Sooner or later, someone besides Jim will realize that we retire to the same quarters together every night."

"Fuck 'em. Come on...magnetize your boots, or you'll float to the top of the bay."

"Ooh, could be fun." Kara winked at Devon, who groaned.

"Gods, Kara, we're here for weapons practice. Don't be putting other ideas in my mind, please. Not yet, anyway," she added with a smirk.

"Aye, Captain!" As soon as they stepped into the privacy of the bay, Kara's irreverent salute was followed by a slightly inappropriate act between a Captain and her subordinate officer. Kara ended the passionate kiss with a flurry of giggles.

"Gray gods, Captain...you do know how to sweep the ladies off their feet!"

"Kara, I told you to magnetize your boots!" Devon said as she grabbed Kara's leg and gently pulled her back down to the metal floor.

"Sorry, I got a little carried away there for a minute and forgot. Purely your fault, Captain...you just have that effect on me."

"Mm, hm. Come on." Devon led her partner to the large weapons cabinet situated on the wall next to the door, and keyed in a code, opening it. "Okay, are you at all familiar with plasma weapons?"

"Devon, I have never touched a weapon of any kind in my life," Kara provided as she glanced at the array of guns with distaste.

"Well, baby, it's time you learned, then. Your safety is primary to me." She squeezed her younger mate and kissed her temple before picking up a small, hand held weapon and showing it to her. "Okay, this is a type one pistol. These are the simplest and easiest to use, so we'll start with this one." She handed it to Kara.

Kara grasped the weapon and held it loosely in her hand. The dull gray weapon was lighter than she had expected and felt well-balanced in her hand. Devon pointed to a small, countersunk button near the trigger. "This is the safety. Have it engaged at all times...only disengage it when you are under attack. Here," she depressed the button. "Now it's disengaged...see how the button sticks up?"

Kara nodded.

"Okay, now I'll show you how to fire it. Engage the safety again." Kara depressed the button and it returned to its previous countersunk position. "Now, over here." Devon led her to the cargo bay door, which sat open, and then to the rear wall, where a panel was set into the gunmetal gray of the bulkhead. "This panel controls the practice sets. This control, 'load', loads the target image." She depressed the button and the silhouetted image of a humanoid appeared on the opposite wall, approximately thirty meters away in the immense space.

"Okay, there's your target. It's best to assume the firing position...like this." Devon took the gun and demonstrated a position with her weight evenly balanced over her slightly bent and extended right leg. She held her arms straight out in front of her, both hands on the weapon. "Here, Kara. Take the gun."

Kara gingerly grasped weapon and mimicked Devon's firing stance. "Good, honey. Now, disengage the safety." Kara did so. "Now aim at the heart region on the image. Use the double set of sights...here and here." Devon pointed to both sights on the gun, "If that helps."

Kara did, squinting as she aimed down the length of the small gun to the image beyond. "Ok, babe, now fire. Don't worry...the plasma discharge won't destroy the bulkhead. That's why they're used on board ships."

Kara smirked. "No, they only harm living beings...burned flesh is a lot less expensive to repair than breached hulls."

"And breached hulls can kill everyone on board a ship, can't they?" Devon pointedly addressed her mate. "Now, fire, Kara. Aim at his heart."

"Why can't I aim at his legs? Wouldn't that disable him"?

"No. Not if he had a weapon...which he or she will, since you would only be firing at a vicious, unconscionable pirate. Believe me, Kara, they won't give you the same consideration. You must shoot to kill, or you could be killed. Now fire."

Kara blew out a sad breath and fired, emitting a white-hot bolt of energy and hitting the image nearly squarely in the chest. A red light flashed at the top of the target panel, indicating an optimum hit.

"Great shot, baby! That would have taken him down!" Devon said excitedly.

"Oh, wonderful," Kara said sarcastically.

"It is, Kara. You just saved your own life and possibly others." She turned the doctor to face her. "Look. I wouldn't be making you do this if it weren't vitally important for your safety. After we leave Titan, if we go out of system to make the Zeta Reticuli run, we'll be heading into a sector that has become extremely dangerous...we are almost assured of being attacked. Even Saturn Sector isn't completely safe any more...especially when there are no military ships in the area... and there won't be."

She placed her hands on Kara's shoulders and looked her in the eye. "I need to know that you can defend yourself, Kara, or I won't be able to concentrate on flying this ship fast enough, and smart enough, to outrun them. Do you understand?" Her serious gaze bore into Kara, and the message was driven home. Her concern for her mate was obvious.

Kara looked to the floor and back up into serious blue eyes. "Yes, Devon. I understand. Show me more, please."

Devon hugged her tightly and proceeded to teach her as much as she thought appropriate for a first lesson. An hour later, Kara had fairly easily decimated most of the electronic targets, many of them moving, and they both felt assured of her ability. Devon replaced the weapon in the cabinet and taught Kara the command code to open it. "It's easy to remember, Kara, if you know my birth year. Two-one-three-two omega nine. If I ever feel the need to change it, it will only be the last two digits. They both will decrease by one."

Kara nodded her understanding.

"Okay, love. I think that's enough for now."

"Good. Take me to bed now, please and make love to me. I've had enough destruction for one night."

"Alright, baby."

A half hour later, under the large window in Devon's quarters, two figures writhed together on her bed. Devon wrapped long, lean legs around the lover who lay atop her as they moved as one. Mouths met and joined ardently as sweat-slicked bodies slid together. Hands and fingers caressed, tongues danced, and voices moaned in unison as deep pleasures were coaxed from ecstatic bodies. They shared their love joyously, for the moment, not worried about what the future might hold, but simply living for that moment, before attaining first ecstasy, then satiation, and finally, sleeping soundly, wrapped in each other's arms.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The Warrior stood at the ship's railing, enjoying the bracing salt air. Unlike her partner, she thoroughly enjoyed sea travel and often found herself watching the sunrise from the deck. As the leading edge of the orange disc appeared above the eastern horizon, painting the sky in brilliant hues from the full spectrum of the palette, she sighed, feeling profoundly grateful to be experiencing a new day.

As she pulled the fresh, clean air deep into her lungs, she felt a renewed sense of exhilaration and silently thanked the gods, again, responsible for her latest resurrection. Thank you Aphrodite, Ares. Eli, thank your God for me, please. She bowed her head, feeling deeply a sense of love and connection for her small mate, who lay sleeping still below decks. She never gave up. She would have found a way to bring me back if it had taken years. She would never have given up on me...as I would never have given up on her. She shook her head, amazed and thrilled at the depth of her smaller partner's devotion to her. She loves me as much as I love her.

At the thought of her partner, a slow, lopsided grin curled at her lips and she took one last look at the rising sun against the backdrop of the intense pink and orange sky, and then turned back toward the lower decks hatchway. She pulled the heavy wooden door open and stepped into the darkness, descending a steep stairway. Her sharp eyes could just make out their sleeping net against the far hull, swaying slightly with the ship's motion. While still paces away, she could detect her partner's steady, somnolent breathing. She quietly removed her boots and deftly climbed into the hammock, so skillfully in control of her body that it didn't sway in the least, nor was her mate jostled.

The tall, strong warrior nestled beside her mate, who instinctively, even in sleep, cuddled up against her and received a protective arm around her. The dark woman tenderly kissed her lover and whispered, "I love you, Gabrielle."

"Love you, too, Xena," was whispered in reply, though the warrior knew that her mate was still asleep.

The low, white light of simulated dawn illuminated the entwined, sleeping forms at the same instant that their wake-up alarm chimed softly. Devon stirred first, becoming instantly alert, and stretched, partially dislodging the blonde sprawled across her body. Her small mate was not disturbed, however, and she grinned as she gently caressed Kara's bare back.

"Hey, wake up," she whispered softly.

"Mm?"

"Time to wake up, love."

"Nope."

"Oh? Why not?" Devon asked with a grin.

"Too nice here. Go back to sleep." She settled more comfortably into her partner's firm body.

"I have a ship to fly and you have medical duties." She increased the range of her caresses, and they became more sensual as she cupped a small, soft behind, and nuzzled the blonde head tucked under her chin.

"Mm, Devon. That makes me want to stay in bed for another reason."

She was answered by being gently pulled up so that her lips could be captured. Devon savored her lover with all of her senses and was quickly overcome by the passion she felt for her. She rolled them over, never breaking the kiss, and Kara wrapped her arms and legs around her.

The kiss became ever more fervent before Devon broke it and kissed her way down, slowly, tenderly, devoting attention to a cute chin, a luscious throat, over a prominent breastbone, to each of the two lovely peaks below.

Kara gasped as a hot mouth covered an areola, and thrust her fingers into Devon's hair.

"Gods, Devon..."

"Mm, you taste so, so good, Kara. I can't get enough. Will never get enough," Devon mumbled against a taut nipple.

"I feel...feel the same way," Kara murmured as strong, pleasant sensations began to ripple through her body. She closed her eyes and let the pleasure carry her away, reaching a climax several minutes later as her mate's tongue and fingers delivered the intensely pleasurable strokes to her body.

As she felt the tremors shake her mate's body, Devon lay between her legs and rested her head on Kara's thigh, enjoying the sensations coursing through her own body, aided partially by the link they shared.

Kara let the waves of pleasure calm and settle, then sighed deeply and sat up partially, rolling over and placing herself atop Devon. She could feel her mate's cascading desire and immediately reached down to tangle her fingers in her slick curls. The action was greeted by an appreciative moan, and Kara bent her head to suckle a breast at the same time. With loving strokes, she skillfully brought her mate to a very quick climax of her own and then they lay together, again entwined, as they basked in their love. Silently, they began a new day together in what would become habit for them.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Kara sipped at her tea as she watched Devon prepare their light breakfast. She admired her mate's quick, assured movements, noting that she brought a high level of capability to everything she did. Kara also took a moment to admire her beauty. Her chiseled features were of a classic beauty, with a long, straight nose, high cheekbones, full, perfectly shaped lips, and of course, her brilliant, piercing blue eyes, all framed by shoulder-length, wavy black hair.

As her partner leaned on the counter and refilled her teacup, Kara murmured, "Devon, you are so beautiful."

Her compliment was greeted by a lopsided grin and a nonchalant wave of her hand. "No, my love, it is you who are beautiful." She picked up Kara's hand and kissed it tenderly, then looked up from under comically raised brows. "And I'm not the only one who thinks so. You've uh, made quite an impression, it seems, on my co-pilot."

"What? Why do you say that?"

"Oh, we had quite an interesting conversation yesterday. It seems that she would like to get to know you a lot better," Devon answered with a grin.

Kara hung her head. "Oh, Sennaat...I told her last week that I'm not interested in her that way."

"Mm, that's what she said. She's, um, determined, I guess. When you told her that you're not interested, had we kissed yet?"

"No. It was on the second or third day of the flight. We were having lunch and she asked me to dinner. I, er, picked up on her vibes, shall we say, and said that I would rather not become involved and told her why."

"Because you had just ended a relationship?"

"Yes, that's what I told her, but the truth was that I wasn't at all interested in her in that way. Anyway, a certain Captain had already caught my eye and I was having trouble thinking of anyone, or anything else."

"Gray gods, Kara, I was in the same lifepod." She leaned forward again and kissed her mate. "And now look at what we have."

"Yes. I feel blessed. I was steadfastly against another involvement any time in the near future, but..." She shook her head humorously.

"God, Kara, so was I. I think you should know that the extent of my past relationships generally tended to be a few hours at most...and there were many, many of them. I mean, I'm talking every port, every planet call, and I almost never stayed until morning. I'm afraid I have quite a reputation, and I'm sure you'll be hearing about it." She shrugged as she gazed seriously at Kara. "I'm sorry."

"Hey, it's not a problem. You're with me now, right?"

"In every possible sense, Kara, yes."

"So, I'm not worried." She grinned rather salaciously at Devon and added, "In fact, I won't at all mind being seen with you on my arm."

Devon grinned widely. "Is that so? Well, same here. All of the bar girls and guys where we make leave will be wondering who the gorgeous blonde with Andropoulos is. Not to mention amazed that we're together for more than a few hours." She sipped from her tea and added, "There is a very nice five-star hostel at the spaceport...are you familiar with the Olympus Inn?"

Kara shook her head. "No. I rarely left the Private Sector of Intrepid Base, and when I was at the spaceport it was only briefly."

"Oh, baby, it's so nice. It has large rooms with baths..."

"Baths? Jesus, Devon, what does it cost to stay there?"

"Don't ask me that, Kara. I can afford it, and I'm taking you there. And the food, my God...you'll be in nirvana." Her large grin and infectious enthusiasm warmed Kara.

"Ooh, that does sound nice. I'll have to be properly thankful for your hospitality, won't I?" She reached across the galley counter and pulled Devon close again, bestowing an early, properly thankful kiss on her which lasted some time and left them both breathless.

"Shit, baby. Now I have to go sit on the bridge and think about that until we meet for lunch. That's not fair."

"Maybe we can take another long lunch," Kara suggested coyly.

"Gods," Devon groaned. "Stop it, now, or we'll be late again." She downed the last of her tea and walked around to stand beside Kara. "Time to go, babe. Give me a hug that will last as long as that kiss will."

"Gladly," Kara giggled as she hopped off the tall seat. She melted into Devon's embrace and they held each other closely. "Have a good day, love. You'll be in my thoughts constantly."

"Mm, you'll be in mine, too. Not to mention right here." She tapped her heart center. "This link is amazing, Kara."

"Another blessing, Devon." She looked up into her mate's shining blue eyes. "Lunch at 12:00?"

"Barring complications, yes. And, um, babe, I think we should make an appearance in the mess hall, maybe for dinner too. I'm sorry, but I do like to keep tabs on the scuttlebutt, and need to stay personally in touch with the crew."

"Sure, I understand. I have been monopolizing your time recently."

"Of which I am thrilled, believe me, Kara."

"I know, Devon."

They shared another, quick kiss and left together to begin their shifts, departing Devon's quarters and parting at the long corridor that divided the ship, though Devon could have entered the bridge through the private door in her quarters.

The bridge was empty when Devon entered and she settled comfortably in her chair to begin her daily routine of fully checking all ship's systems. A red light on a navigational array caught her immediate attention and seeing to it occupied much of her morning as they reached the halfway point in the journey to the red and green planet.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Kara entered the mess hall at shortly before noon to find most of the rest of the crew gathered near the galley.

"Doc, how goes it?" Chad asked with a smile.

"Oh, just fine, Chad. I'm settling right in."

"Good." He nodded.

Rusty emerged carrying a tray laden with a steaming meal packet, two cookies, and two drinks, prompting Chad to grin and say, "You trying to grow into the next size of flightsuit, boss?"

"Why don't I put this tray down, Lorenzo, and me and you'll go talk about it privately in the cargo bay, huh?" The older man challenged.

"Alright, you two, give it a rest, huh?" Came the sharp, yet somewhat amused command from the Captain as she entered the room.

"We're just fooling around, Cap," Chad replied with a half grin.

"It seems to be what you're best at, Chad." She nodded toward his overloaded tray. "Why are you eating double rations?"

He grinned as he replied, "Because I'm doing firing practice with Cyd later and catching dinner late. You don't want me getting hungry and faint on duty, do you, Cap?"

"Absolutely not, crewman, carry on." She gestured for him to have a seat at the large table and proceeded into the galley, joining Kara. She smiled warmly as she greeted her, "Doctor."

Kara returned the warm smile and nodded. "Captain. What sounds good today?" Twinkling eyes and a burst of love-shrouded lust hit her heart center and she had to bite her lip to maintain her composure.

"Hm, I don't know, Kara, what would you suggest?"

"The chicken a la King is very good."

"Is it? I'll give that a try then, thank you." She nodded graciously to her secret love and reached around her to open the pantry unit.

Jim, from his seat at the nearby table, enjoyed the exchange with an inner smirk and turned to address Cyd. "How are the co-piloting duties going, Cyd?"

"I guess, like the doctor days, I'm settling in. This is a very comfortable ship to fly."

"Yes, she is remarkably maneuverable for her size, and the controls are extremely intuitive." Cyd nodded her agreement as she chewed. "How do you like Devon's sims?"

She grinned. "They're very challenging, but I feel I've learned a lot from them. As a matter of fact, I do believe that I've learned more in a week and a half on this ship than I did in three months at flight school."

"I'm glad to hear that, Mitchell," Devon said as she sat to Jim's right, across the large table from her co-pilot.

Cyd furrowed her brows, as she added, "In fact, I was remembering the other day that I thought that I remembered an Andropoulos signature on some of the flight simulations at the flight academy...were those yours, too?"

Devon nodded as Kara sat beside her. "Yes. I was in the military before going freelance, and they had adopted some of my sims. After that, the commercial academies began using them as well."

"That's very impressive, Captain," Cyd remarked.

"Not really. It's just experience. I've endured many attacks and had to develop the flight maneuvers for self-preservation. As a result, I developed the sims for training, both for myself and for my co-pilots."

Chad, sitting next to Cyd, remarked, "Cap, you are the only Captain I've ever seen who doesn't take credit for being the galaxy's best pilot, and the one who probably should make that claim." He shook his head as he dove into his second meal pack.

"Trying to score some kiss up points, eh, kid?" Rusty grumbled with a half grin.

"Fuck you, old man," Chad answered, also with a grin.

"You'd like to, boy, I can tell."

"Get rid of about thirty pounds and you might get that lucky, Rust."

Everyone laughed at the statement and Devon shook her head at the banter, feeling remarkably at ease with her crew for one of the few times in her memory. As she ate, a warm hand settled on her thigh and caressed it lovingly, accompanied by a warm jolt of love. She nonchalantly shifted her fork to her left hand and lowered her right to her thigh, covering Kara's with it and intertwining their fingers.

The crew enjoyed their lunch break together and all benefited from the friendly presence of their usually stoic and distant Captain. The Captain's friend and chief Engineer found himself marveling at both the change his new young friend had set into motion in his old friend, and in her obviously happy state, and said a prayer of thanks for Kara's appearance into their lives.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Mitchell, try it now," Devon grunted as she lay on her back under the flight console, struggling to fix the nagging problem with a sensor on the navigational array.

Cyd depressed a button, which lit red yet again. "No change, Captain."

"Shit," was the mumbled reply which floated up from under the board. She pulled herself from under the console and sat up. "I was afraid of that...it looks like the entire circuit is bad. Well, that's why God and Engineers invented backups."

Cyd grinned, agreeing with her superior officer.

"In the meantime, let's just hope, and pray, that we don't run into any pirates or anyone or anything else that would require us to plot another course in a hurry. I do not like operating without a backup in place." She shook her head and deftly lifted herself to her feet. "Okay, Cyd, you wanted to take off for firing practice, am I right?"

"Yes, Captain."

"Alright, go on, and stop at engineering please, and requisition a Cirrus type two navigational board...actually, make it two."

"Two Cirrus type two boards. Aye, Captain." She nodded professionally. "Good night, Captain."

"Good night, Commander. Good luck on the range. Don't, uh, shoot my crewman." She grinned at her surprised officer.

"Even if he asks for it, ma'am?" Cyd asked seriously before a grin betrayed her.

Devon laughed. "Not even then, Commander...he may be an ass, but he's an important member of this crew."

Cyd grinned. "I know, Captain. He, uh, actually does have his uses." Raised eyebrows punctuated her meaning.

"So I've heard. Have fun, Mitchell. Good work today."

"Thanks, Captain." She smiled warmly at the compliment, turned, and left the bridge. Jesus, she's beautiful when she smiles. She may not be the hard case that everyone makes her out to be. I wonder if she ever fraternizes with crew... As she made her way to engineering, she found herself contemplating the lovely image of the Captain in her form-fitting flightsuit, lying prone on the floor of the bridge as she attempted to repair the circuit. Whew, it's hot in here. Either that or I need to get laid.

Chad leaned roguishly against the bulkhead next to the cargo bay hatch. "Hey, lady, there you are. Ready to get fired up?"

Cyd shook her head. "Yes, Lorenzo, but I need to report to Engineering first. Captain needs a part requisitioned."

"I'll go with you," the young man offered as he turned and keyed the hatch open. He ushered the lady ahead of him and Cyd stepped into the corridor, which continued on between the two sections of the huge bay. She carefully grabbed one of the multitudes of handles on the wall to keep from floating out of control while Chad keyed the hatch closed.

He grinned widely at Cyd, and said, "Let's fly!" He grabbed her hand and pushed off from the closed door.

Cyd squealed as she let go and let herself be pulled across the space, enjoying the incredible sense of freedom the weightlessness gave her. She had only previously served on giant consortium ships, which were completely gravitational. A few even employed the new highly experimental, still cost-prohibitive, artificial-gravity systems, making the rotating sections unnecessary.

Halfway across the space, Chad looked back at Cyd and grinned charmingly, a skill he was adept at. He pulled her closer as he asked, "Ever fool around in zero gravity, Cyd?"

Cyd hung her dark head and laughed. "No, Chad, I can't say I have...are you offering?"

"Well, I do happen to be skilled at it."

"I'll bet you are. Why don't we wait until we're off-shift sometime and discuss it again?"

"You know where to find me."

They reached the other side of the section and settled to the floor before opening the hatch, then stepped into the rotating engineering section. They walked in place for a few seconds, until the section had rotated around and they were properly oriented with respect to the rest of the room. Cyd sought out Jim and made the required request, then joined Chad again and they made their way back to cargo bay four. For the short remainder of the shift, neither mentioned off-duty pleasures, but they made plans to meet privately for dinner to discuss possible future pursuits.

Kara shrugged out of her lab coat and hung it in the closet, then double-checked to make sure she had secured all implements and equipment before dimming the light. She left Medlab and keyed the door closed before heading into her quarters next door.

Just as she stepped in, she was pushed gently from behind, the door was keyed shut, and she was pulled into an embrace.

"God, I thought that shift would never end," Devon groaned against her throat. Her hands began to roam gently and Kara collapsed into the warm embrace.

"Yes, it did seem like a long day. I think we may have been feeling each other's need. This link seems to ah, um..." Her throat was being gently devoured, making coherent thought difficult, but she continued, "This link seems to magnify what we're feeling...um, when we're feeling the same thing."

"Mm, I've noticed that, too. Can we eat each other before we eat dinner...please?"

"Well, stated so charmingly, how can I resist?" Kara asked, pushing back and raising her eyebrows at her mate.

Devon looked properly apologetic. "Sorry, I don't know what's happened to me...I really don't."

"It's called, love, Devon." Kara chuckled as she pulled her tall mate close again. "And I'm suffering from it, too." She pulled Devon's flightsuit open and began nibbling at her breastbone.

Devon threw her head back as she enjoyed her partner's soft, warm lips, and the sensations they awakened. "Yes, Kara, that feels so good."

"Hold onto your helmet, Captain."


Part 4

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