They did, however, still
have to breathe. John pulled his mouth reluctantly from hers and lowered his
face to the curve of her neck, his mind contemplating all the other seductive curves within easy reach. To his own surprise
he continued to hold his actions, and hands, in check. Her words had been reassuring, but he’d let her down these last
days and he couldn’t seem to let himself off the hook. He hadn’t been there for her, hadn’t been the man
she needed him to be. He felt so damned unsettled inside, so ill at ease in his own skin.
Helena could feel his conflict, feel his tension refusing to give in and his uncertainty helped drive her own
emotions back onto solid ground. She’d wrenched him literally from death’s doorway. She could draw him out of
angst. She raised her head from his shoulder and smiled. Taking one of his hands in hers, she whispered, “Come here,”
and led him to the couch.
Curling her legs beneath her, she sat beside him, not letting go of his hand for a moment. “Talk to me.”
Her voice remained a whisper.
He smiled at her tiredly, glad of the feeling of her hand holding his. “About how I almost got us all
killed? About how I was a goddamned ass not to listen to Lee…or at least to Victor? Or about how if it weren’t
for you…and Lee…none of us would still be here?” His tone wasn’t bitter or angry. Just exhausted.
Her lips pursed in an ironic little smirk she couldn’t quite hide. She stroked his hand with both of hers.
“So what’s bothering you more? That you discovered you’re capable of making such a huge mistake, or that
you didn’t get to be the hero this time?”
He nearly laughed. She was teasing him and he deserved it. “I admit it. I would have liked to think I
wouldn’t ever screw up that much, that big. When I think what it almost cost all of us…” He shook his head.
Helena squeezed his hand in sympathy and her voice stayed gentle, but took on a more matter-of-fact tone. “Get
over yourself, John.”
He glanced at her swiftly, trying to ignore the déjà vu. The same words he’d heard so recently in a very
different setting, spoken by another woman. He seemed to induce all the women in his life to give him the same succinct advice.
“Excuse me?” He was rattled.
“Well darling, you can keep brooding about what almost happened if you want.” She shrugged. “But
I don’t think it’s productive, and I don’t think you’ll be a terribly effective leader either. Honey,
the important thing is what did happen, not what almost did.” She leaned
in and kissed his cheek. “Isolate what you did wrong, learn from it and move on.”
Sighing, he stared down and ahead at a spot on the carpet. Lately everyone he knew, even Carter, seemed better
able to put things into the proper perspective. Maybe the responsibility was getting to him.
She shifted her position beside him and he turned toward her only to have his thought processes disrupted. The
shirt she wore, his shirt, was now gaping perilously at the top. One breast was about half contained, the other hardly at
all, her nipple just oh so slightly clinging to the inside of the material. She seemed oblivious to the fact, or at least
unconcerned. He felt her kiss his hand.
“Honey,” her voice returned to its earlier whisper, “is that really all that’s been
Forcing his eyes back to the uninteresting spot on the carpet, he searched for the appropriate words, tried
to think of something other than her breasts so he could say what he needed to say. “Down there…while I was…wherever
I was…before you brought me back…I saw Jean,” he finally told her.
Helena was shocked. “She’s not dead either?”
John had to laugh. It was such an honest response.
“Oh God, I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I wasn’t trying to be funny, it’s
“It’s just such an obvious question under the circumstances,” he finished for her. “I
think she is dead, actually.” He shrugged. “Whatever that may mean.”
“So…what happened?” Helena wasn’t sure what her reaction should be. She knew he’d
been divorced from Jean at the time of her death, but she knew there were still strong feelings there; mostly guilt on his
part, but strong feelings nevertheless.
‘We fought. Not for long,” he quickly amended as he saw her wince. “Then we made up.”
His face took on a melancholy expression. “I think we really made up, really reached some sort of understanding we’d
been missing all these years.”
Helena bit her lower lip, still trying to carefully gauge her answer. “Then that’s a good thing.”
He nodded. “I talked with Lee, too.”
The awkwardness from earlier reared its unwelcome head and the artificial nonchalance of his tone made her realize
Bob had been dead on with his analysis. “You two…didn’t fight, too, did you?” Her tone was wary.
“No,” he assured her. “Not at all. I think there were a couple of times when he wanted to
hit me, but he graciously refrained.” There was a long pause. “He…really loved you I think.” John
tried to smile.
‘Okay, be honest,’
she told herself. ‘Don’t make him feel like you’re pandering or he
won’t believe you.’ Aloud she said, “I loved him, too. He was an important part of my life. And he’s
a good man. I’m sorry we had to leave him there.”
He nodded again. “I know. I know all that.” ‘Good,
Koenig; your voice sounds calm; just keep it that way. Don’t act like a jealous idiot now. There’s no reason.’
“He seemed like a good guy. I’m sorry for your sake there wasn’t any other way.” He cleared his throat.
“I mean that,” he added sincerely.
“John, I love you.”
He had to clear his throat again. “I know you do, baby. I love you, too.” He didn’t sound
very sure of himself, though; truthful in his feelings, but not confident of his situation. He was so tired.
It was her turn to take his face in both her hands and make him look at her. “John, I’m in love
with you. Truly. Completely.” She kissed him most convincingly. As she
pulled a few centimeters from his lips, she whispered, “Get comfortable.”
“I am comfortable.” He looked at her quizzically. She had something in mind all of a sudden, that
Shaking her head and playfully rolling her eyes, she snapped open his belt with one hand. She glanced down at
his boots and gave him a little nod to let him know she meant those, too.
Tossing his belt to the coffee table, he removed boots and socks then looked back at her. “Anything else?”
His vision drifted hopefully into the open v of her shirt, still somehow minimally containing her breasts.
Noting the direction of his gaze, she smiled. She leaned into him, tracing the outer curve of his ear with the
tip of her tongue, her teeth lightly biting his earlobe. “Don’t get ahead of the game.”
She got off the couch and moved away out of his sight. To dim the lights he realized a moment later, and he
smiled. He had been wrong to stay away. He had hoped to regain equilibrium after all the confusion, but found himself instead
mired in doubt and missing her so much. The self-imposed punishment of distance had deprived him of the one person who could
have rescued him from the turmoil and granted him serenity days ago. Her. Helena. His sanctuary.
Her hands on his shoulders raised him from his meanderings, and he felt days of stockpiled tension evaporate
at the contact, as though she pulled it out of his pores and dissolved it away. John felt her fingers unsnap his collar and
slide the zipper of his tunic part way down his arm so she could massage his bare skin. Whatever he’d hoped to achieve
with the time apart, he’d been a fool. He was never going to be able to stay away from her, her touch, the sensations
she caused in him…not as long as he lived.
With his eyes still closed, he allowed his head to drop onto the back of the couch, relaxing his neck. He could
smell the scent of her shampoo clinging to her hair. Just her scent gave him peace. Her long, cool fingers continued kneading
his shoulders, then moved to the sides of his head, stroking his temples, her thumbs lightly smoothing the lines in his forehead.
He exhaled a sigh of contented surrender.
Helena smiled at his sigh knowing he’d been consumed with stress for days. She hadn’t been doing
much better. Her right hand stopped its stroking of his temple and slipped to the side of his face, caressing his cheek. His
eyes opened and gazed up at her, questioning. He was answered by an expression that offered all the willingness to understand
him he could ever wish for.
He took her right hand in his own, bringing it to his lips, kissing her knuckles. Then he reached up to grasp
the back of her neck and pull her head down toward him, his mouth seeking hers.
She leaned over him, sliding her lips against his. He was near enough to one end of the couch that she could
maneuver around to the front and slip onto his lap without breaking the kiss. Straddling him, she wrapped her arms around
his neck as she felt him pull her close, his hands traveling up her back to grasp her shoulders.
Her tongue dipped into his mouth, pressing, then playfully circling his own. His mind pondered the different
moods her kisses could be, sometimes all at once. His lower body, which had been vaguely stirring before she climbed on top
of him, sprang to attention as his hands confirmed his earlier suppositions about her attire, and he had to shift his hips
beneath her to find a more comfortable position.
She pulled back from him and reached down to roll his tunic up his chest. He leaned forward to give her assistance
as she tugged it over his head, then settled back into the couch while she began to run her fingers through his chest hair
and bent her head to flick her tongue over one of his nipples.
She gave both sides of his chest her undivided attention for several moments, then sat straight again and looked
flirtatiously into his eyes as her hands moved to those three shirt buttons. He smiled, watching her. Under other circumstances
and other nights, he would have had her out of it long before now, despite the charming way she wore it. But she seemed to
have a particular plan in mind and he was perfectly content with everything she was doing, including the pace. His headache
of two days had vanished and the fire she had ignited in the rest of his body, though it would soon be much more demanding,
was moving along at a pleasant simmer.
Her fingers moved teasingly, toying with each button as she watched the glow in his eyes grow brighter with
each new bit of skin exposed. At the last button, she opened the shirt, revealing herself to his loving gaze and smiled at
his low growl of approval. He placed his hands on her thighs and let his fingers sketch a trail to her hips, then upward to
her waist where they paused to allow his vision, still enraptured by the blonde triangle between her legs, to catch up. She
shrugged the garment from her shoulders and let it slide down her back, dropping it to the floor. His hands went automatically
to cup her breasts, her nipples tight, pebbly tips against his palms. They grew more pronounced as he tenderly squeezed and
rolled them between his fingers, eliciting a soft purr from her. God, he loved it when she made that noise.
Helena leaned forward again into his arms, wanting to feel his chest against her breasts. Their lips returned
to each other; the kiss deeper now, tongues moving leisurely, but plunging nearly to tonsils as they pressed together. She
began an unhurried movement of her hips against his groin, grinding herself in downward-pressing circles, feeling his arousal
grow beneath her. Her body responded strongly to his kiss, the heat of his hands, but she ignored it as much as possible.
John’s mouth tracked from her lips, down her neck and across her shoulder, planting kisses as he went.
As he moved back up toward a ticklish little spot right under her ear, he whispered, “I hope I have a clean uniform
“You do,” she whispered back, giggling from comprehension even before he said,
“That’s good. ‘Cause you’re getting my pants wet.”
She made a loose ring with her hands around his neck, her forearms resting along his shoulders. Between kisses
of his jaw and chin she murmured, “Then you should probably lose the pants.”
She raised herself off his lap, shifting her weight onto her knees, her hands resting lightly on his shoulders
for balance. With her chest at eye level, his hands forgot they were supposed to be removing his trousers and slipped back
to her breasts instead. Her nipples were so inviting his mouth had no choice but to draw one in, his tongue painting random
patterns around it as she pressed closer, pushing more of her breast into his mouth. He pulled back, but only to let his tongue
sketch a path from the tip of that breast, across its side, into the valley between and up the side of the other, where that
nipple, too, was sucked affectionately.
She could have let his tongue continue its actions much longer, but she had other items waiting on her evening’s
agenda. She whispered into his ear, “Pants, John.”
It was a command his brain could still respond to; if she’d asked him to work his own commlock just then,
he wouldn’t have known how, much less had the inclination. But pants…pants off…that one he could do. Reaching
between them, his hands performed the action mechanically. With some wriggled maneuvering while she held herself above his
lap, he slid his trousers and briefs down together, slipping them past his knees and letting them fall around his ankles,
his feet kicking them off the rest of the way.
She lowered herself back down, trapping his hard shaft between their bodies and leaned once more into his embrace,
renewing her grinding motions from before. She began to kiss him again, her tongue performing matching circular movements
in his mouth. She knew from his breathing and the rolling actions of his hips, and certainly from the demanding firmness pressing
into her belly that she was driving him crazy…but that was the point.
He gripped her hips, pushing her harder against him with every circle she made. Warm female moisture spread
over his balls and inner thighs, but she was still very controlled despite her obvious desire. She seemed to be waiting for
something. He hoped she simply wanted him to be completely ready for her because he couldn’t delay any more. In a voice
so husky it was cracking, he whispered, “Baby, I need you. Put me inside you, honey.”
Helena smiled into his eyes. In his longing for her, they appeared a dark navy hue and what remained of his
restraint was disappearing as she watched. Rising to her knees once more, she reached for him, wrapping her fingers around
him and guiding him just inside her body. She took his hands in both of hers, twining their fingers together as she slid down
onto him, receiving him inside with one slick action.
John’s eyes closed in concentration, wanting to prolong this feeling as long as he could. No matter what
he did his climax was not going to be far away; but he knew she knew that and she’d done everything to encourage it.
She was still encouraging it, and as he opened his eyes to stare into hers, he saw such tenderness, such acceptance, such
absolute love as to awe him. He didn’t have to worry about impressing her with any sexual calisthenics tonight; he didn’t
have to be anyone for her except who he was. She was here for him. Only him.
“I love you.” His voice was scarcely a whisper. His lips lay just against hers.
“I love you, too.” Her mouth formed the words against his. Her tongue ever so tantalizingly skimmed
across his upper, then lower, lip before gliding once more into his mouth.
The grinding motions started again, with more dominance on her part and growing urgency on his. Still holding
his hands, she used their grip to give her leverage as she moved up and down. He matched her strokes with his own, thrusting
in and out of her with far more vitality than he’d thought he possessed a short time ago. He’d needed this so
much, needed her so badly.
Abruptly, his rhythm broke with hers. He was on the brink and he couldn’t stop himself from plunging over.
His throat was barely able to form words, but he did manage a choppy, “Honey, I can’t...I…,” clutching
hard at her hips as the wave hit him.
Helena covered his mouth with hers, kissing deeply, taking his breath and any other sounds he might have tried
to utter. She continued her up and down motions, pressing him into her as far as he might go, leading him through the driving
force that swept him. He pumped hard into her and she received his every drop, magically absorbing the last of the fears and
stress that had dogged his every step for days.
He shuddered, he trembled, he had to break free of her kiss just to breathe and he sucked in air with fierce
gasps. His heart pounded in his chest. The last time he’d had this much trouble breathing had been awful; cosmically
necessary somehow he was willing to believe, but awful. Tonight, as the wave retreated and his breath began to return and
his pulse normalized, he felt centered, grounded and healed. He felt restored.
As she felt him relax in her arms, her fingertips stroked through his hair and she gently kissed his temple
above his ear. “How’s your headache?” she whispered.
He smiled. “What headache?” She laughed as he cleared his throat and told her, “That was…the best headache remedy I’ve ever
She looked flirtily into his face and kissed his lips. “It’s an experimental treatment. I haven’t
tried it on any other patients.”
John chuckled. “That’s a good thing.” He placed both his hands on either side of her face
and pulled her to him, kissing her again. “I love you. Thank you.”
“I love you.” She lay peacefully against his chest
for several minutes, then sat up with a sigh, searching his eyes for guarantees that he had returned to himself. “Is
there anything else that needs a doctor’s attention?”
“Well, there is one thing you can do for me,” he told her seriously.
She raised an inquiring eyebrow. He lifted her off his lap just enough to draw free from her body then pivoted
to one side. Leaning slightly, he playfully dropped her over onto the couch so
that her head landed at the other end and her body sprawled in front of him, nearly every part of her on open view. Giggling
up at him she asked, “What are you doing?”
Smiling, he bent over her, sliding up between her legs and into her welcoming arms to place a kiss on the tip
of her nose. “I want you to lie back and let me take care of you,” he whispered.
Just his voice, the smoky look in his eyes, made her breath catch. His mouth went to the ticklish spot under
her ear, making her wriggle beneath him as his tongue flicked and his teeth nibbled at her delicate skin. He chuckled at her
movements as his mouth and hands began to drift lower.
She was already aroused. She’d been trying her best to ignore her own wants while she ministered to John.
Now as she felt his lips and tongue dancing across her throat and down to her breasts, she allowed her focus to turn toward
the sensations he was creating in her. A low moan escaped her as his lips encircled one of her nipples, sucking on it as his
tongue brushed it, making it stand up straight inside his mouth. Then he moved to the other to perform the same actions, not
stopping till this nipple was a stiff little twin of the first.
His mouth let go her breast with a deliberate popping noise, eliciting another, sultrier, giggle from her. His
lips moved in zig-zag lines down her torso, around her belly button, then lower. Assuming she knew where he was heading and
wanting him there, she tilted her hips to offer him easy admittance. Impishly, he smiled as he paused in his southerly course
and sat up.
Helena looked at him with curiosity. Still smiling and touching his fingers to her thigh, he let his hand roam
down her leg, stopping to stroke the sensitive back of her knee in a gentle caress. Continuing down, he took hold of her ankle
and planted a kiss on the top of her foot. Locking his eyes with hers, he drew a circle around her inside ankle bone with
just the tip of his tongue, then with exacting slowness, began to slide his tongue from her ankle up to her knee, watching
her responsiveness increase with each inch he covered. By the time his tongue had reached her upper thigh, she was writhing
in front of him, little uncontrolled moans escaping her lips, the surface of her skin susceptible to any move he made.
She tried to enjoy without rushing, to allow him to do things his way. He liked to tease her sometimes, but
tonight she knew he was just trying to prolong her pleasure. As his mouth reached almost between her legs and he sat up again,
she whimpered his name but forced herself not to beg.
She was struggling not to hurry him, he could tell. To give her part of what she wanted, he slid his hand between
her thighs and applied a few soft strokes to her with one finger, smiling as he watched her react to this mildest touch.
Her body quivered at the brush of his fingertip. How could he do so much with just one finger? He continued
to caress her vulnerable flesh and her hips pushed against him, increasing the effect and sending her nearer the edge.
Just a few more strokes of his finger would probably have done it, but he didn’t want to let it happen
yet. He wasn’t trying to torment her…well, yes, he was in fact, but in a good way. He moved his finger from between
her legs and down the opposite thigh. She whimpered again, louder this time, but he continued to follow an invisible path
to her ankle, repeating his previous motions, from the kiss to the top of her foot to the slow tongue glide up the entire
length of her leg.
As his tongue trailed past her knee and approached her upper thigh, the will to exercise discipline left her.
She reached for the back of his head with both hands, fingers digging into his neck, and firmly guided him where she wanted
Feeling her hands on his head, he stifled a chuckle and let her place him as she would. She’d had enough
of the prelude, and he was more than happy to gratify her. As he pushed his tongue against the throbbing little knot of nerves
between her legs, he slipped two fingers deep inside her. Her reaction was satisfying and immediate.
She bucked forward, grinding upward against his pressing tongue, driving his fingers in deeper. She cried out
his name, moaning loudly with every gasp. Her fingers pulled against his head, maintaining a constant pressure that added
to his enjoyment of her pleasure. Behind her eyelids, Helena saw flashing white stars that turned into swirling black spots,
or maybe the other way around. She came three times, long and drawn out, and with such little break between she had no time
to catch her breath.
Her inner muscles contracted without pause around his thrusting fingers from beginning to eventual end, and
from John’s perspective, it seemed like one long orgasm; unlike anything he’d ever seen from her. He was beginning
to wonder whether he should stop when she finally began to calm. He ceased tonguing her and removed his fingers, casually
wiping his mouth and chin on the back of his hand.
Moving carefully over her, he cuddled her against his chest. She was limp; panting and trembling in his arms,
a sheen of perspiration covered her skin. He worried briefly something other than sexual release had taken place. Her eyes
were closed. He kissed her forehead. “Helena?” he whispered. “Honey, look at me.” Her breathing grew
slower; the trembling subsided. “Honey,” he stroked her hair away from her face. “Look at me, baby,”
Her eyes opened lazily, not quite focusing and with such a dreamy look that, if he hadn’t known better,
he would have thought she’d ingested some kind of happy pill from her own department. A smile curled across her mouth
that would have made the Cheshire cat proud.
John started to chuckle. “Are you alright?”
She sighed. Her smile widened. Her eyes were starting to look as though she actually saw him but the dreamy
expression remained. She nodded.
Still chuckling, he confirmed, “You’re sure?”
Nodding again, she added a faint, “Hmm hmm.”
He shifted her in his arms and held her while she regained animation. “Well, that was interesting,”
he observed, kissing her hair.
Helena sighed once more in the snug comfort of his arms. “I guess I’ve been kind of stressed, too.”
He snickered. “Honey, I think you just got rid of stress you’ve had since elementary school.”
She giggled. “I do feel much better.”
“I would think you would.” He shook his head and kissed her. “You know what we really have
“Hmm?” Her voice was still vague.
“That the scotch-guarding on this couch holds up.”
She began to giggle hard against his chest.
“I’m serious,” he continued. “Who the hell thought white furniture was a good idea?”
Helena collapsed in helpless laughter. He held her close, laughing, too, thankful they were together again.
It had been a learning experience, the past days; a necessary step backward in order to move forward. They understood
they needed to communicate when troubled. He needed, and would always need, to be reminded to listen to opinions other than
his own. She needed to remember, because sometimes she would forget that, though she had become his greatest vulnerability,
she was also his greatest source of strength. Tonight, they were together again. In the grand scheme of things, neither was
sure if anything else mattered.
Later in bed and sleeping peacefully, Helena was unaware of any dreams. Just having John’s arms around
her, his heartbeat against her back was enough to get through the night and face the coming day. It was what she’d missed
As John slept, really slept for the first time in days, he was aware of an unusual stillness and tranquility.
What dreams did come, he remembered only in snippets, flashes that made no sense and made perfect sense; cool breezes and
warm sunshine, grass and sky, water splashing soothingly over rocks…and Helena at his side. Helena around him, inside
him, part of him, always.