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*  The Softer Side

By Aspire
Nice Ass
Parking in the 60's

By B.K. Bilicki
Long Goodbye
Penny's Worth

By G. Gregory
Free Falling at ...
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By J.T. Benjamin
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Wilberforce The Cunning

By Lynne den Hartog
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By Robert Buckley
Corner Booth
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Its Been Going Around
Julie's Ankles
Leah And The Eagle
The Courtyard
The Last Thing You ...
The Long Ride Home
The Love Song of...
The Nice Guy
The Night the Stars..
The Shades of Gray
Wait Along
Waking Katie... 

Long Goodbye

by B.K. Bilicki


Erotic FictionDerek thrashed restlessly as another barrage of night terrors raced unchecked through his mind. Behind his tightly closed eyes he saw flashes of the past, visions that continued to plague his every moment of slumber.

"So what's it going to be?" came a woman's plaintive cry. The voice was joined by a picture of her standing before him, her arms folded in front of her slight form and a tear rolling down her cheek. Her haunting blue eyes bored into his soul and he heard his voice say, "I hate long goodbyes." The picture faded.

The scene changed, this time to the interior of the ship. He nervously checked and rechecked his equipment, making sure that absolutely nothing could go wrong. Beside him sat mission commander Jake Holm, wearing that trademark cocky grin of his. "Jesus, you look like shit," Derek heard him say. "Rough time last night?" He was about to answer when all went black.

Chaos. The picture reappeared but now it was spiraling wildly, as if the camera recording it all was being shaken violently. "Damn it all!" he heard Jake's voice shout. "The sample is taking us down with it! Get your butts in those suits! SHIT!" A warning horn sounded as a helmet came down over Derek's head and the final interlock sequence started. The last thing he heard was Jake's half-hearted joke over the helmet intercom. "Bet they're gonna take this outta our pay!" Blinding light and pain followed for one split-second, then nothing.

From somewhere in the void, he heard his voice say again, "I hate long goodbyes." The last word repeated over and over and echoed as it faded away.

"NO!" Derek bolted upright in the bed and opened his eyes. Around him was the familiar sight of his bedroom. His face fell into his hands and he fought to stop trembling. I'm still here, he thought. Nothing's changed. Getting a hold on himself, he lowered his hands and let them fall into his lap. Several deep breaths helped to clear his head and slow his racing heart.

Wait, he thought. Something's different this time. Searching back through his dream, he started when he recalled his vision of her - smooth tanned skin, hair black as night cascading over her shoulders, snub nose that echoed the impudence of its owner. But the center of her being was her eyes. Like pale blue crystal, a mixture of diamond hardness and the softness of a clear sky, they were all-powerful and supremely vulnerable at the same time. His mind's eye stared at the image of her standing there and he sighed, rapture and regret mingled in the same breath. How could I have ever forgotten? he wondered silently.

His hands shifted, disturbing the large bulge that had sprung up beneath them. His reverie had awakened something else within him and he rubbed the back of his hand over the blanket again to see if his mind was playing another trick on him. No! It's real! Tossing back the blanket, he looked down and laughed, "Well hello, you cheeky little bastard!" His proud erection greeted him and almost seemed to wave in reply. Her visage came to mind again and he chuckled softly, "I guess she didn't keep you after all."

On the nightstand beside the bed, the alarm clock shimmered and dissolved into a small cloud of bright blue gas about six inches in diameter. The cloud sparkled and then floated upward. It drifted over to Derek and a curiously hollow sound started to issue from it. The sound rapidly became a voice which asked, "Who is here?"

"No one, Daz," Derek answered. "Just talking to my friend here," he added, motioning to his cock.

The cloud drifted over his crotch, then floated up until it was level with his face. "Friend was here before," it said. "Why not greet before?"

Derek laughed again. "It wasn't in this state yesterday."

"No, was not," the cloud agreed. "Should fix?" it asked, its colour shifting from a light bluish-green to a dirty yellow.

"No!" Derek cried, quickly lifting a hand and holding it over his mouth and nose. "I'll take care of it myself. Just go tell the others to get ready to disband."

"Will do," came its simple reply. It floated a short distance away from him and then descended to the floor. As it touched the deep blue pile of the carpeting, the fibers dissolved and became gaseous. The transformation extended to a two-foot radius of the floor and the cloud rapidly merged with the swirling section. Then, as quickly as it had changed to a gas, the floor became solid again.

Derek shook his head in wonder. As many times as he had seen that, it still astounded him. Gathering his wits, he looked down at his still-erect cock and said, "All right. Time to get you covered up before the others start in on me." He started to laugh again, but something stopped him. Grasping his shaft, his eyes went thoughtful and his hand slowly stroked over his length. He closed his eyes and sighed. So far away, he thought as he remembered her face again. His hand stopped around the base of his cock and squeezed it firmly, then with another wistful sigh he released it and got up out of the bed. Reaching down to his pile of clothes, he picked them up and dressed quickly. Running a hand back through his short brown hair upon finishing, he called out, "Yo, Daz! What time is it?"

The hollow voice returned, issuing from everywhere around him. "Nine fifty-two in the morning."

"Count off ten seconds, then disperse," he said, then he vaulted over the bed and took off like a madman through the door. He streaked down the hallway toward the stairs, his heart racing as he saw the walls around him start to shimmer faintly. Geez but I'm getting slow, he thought with a grin as he flew down the stairs three at a time. Leaping down the last five, he hit the ground and burst toward the open front door. Four seconds. Three. Two. He exploded from the house and wheeled around just in time to see the entire structure collapse upon itself. The walls and roof turned into multi-coloured swirls of gas that quickly sank back into the landscape. In less than a second, he was standing alone in a barren field of randomly changing colours. "No problem," he said with a wide smile as he caught his breath.

"Daz!" he called out and the bright blue cloud reappeared, rising up from the ground at his feet and stopping at eye level. He nodded at the ball and said, "Let's get back to work." Daz pulsed once, a streak of green coursing across its blue surface, before it floated out in front of Derek.

Derek followed the floating ball of gas, watching as the 'ground' in front of him firmed up just before he took each new step and then dissolved after he left each step behind. Simply amazing, he thought. But then, it's a bloody miracle that I'm still alive at all, he reminded himself. He looked up to the shifting patterns of orange and pink that were the 'sky' here and tried once again not to be caught up in the wonder of it all. Here I am, an unprotected human, strolling across the face of Jupiter following a living ball of gas! I should be crushed, frozen, disintegrated and God knows what else by now!

Daz's voice interrupted his daydream. "Derek?"


"Quiet today," Daz noted. "Feeling well?"

"Yeah, Daz. Feeling fine."

"Friend well?"

Derek puzzled over the question for a moment before remembering back to the bedroom. "He's fine too," he answered with a smile. "I was just thinking."

"What about?" Daz inquired. A flurry of violet sparks coursed across its blue surface, denoting curiosity.

"Just about being here. It's still kinda weird. Definitely not like home!" he laughed.

"Not like home," Daz repeated, its hollow voice quavering slightly.

Derek frowned. Why did Daz's voice always sound so sad when the subject of Derek's home came up? Putting the thought behind him, he asked, "How far are we from the ship?"

"Nine point eight miles."

"Jesus Murphy," he groaned. "Whose bright idea was it to put the house so far away this time?"

"Was yours. Sick of seeing ship, you said."

Shit, he grumbled to himself. That's what I get for being so impulsive. He sighed and asked, "How about a boost?"

"Will do," Daz replied. Its colour changed to an angry red and it floated directly in front of Derek's face. A puff of gas came from the orb which Derek inhaled deeply. In a flash, his body felt like it was on fire and his muscles strained mightily. He got down into a crouch and called out, "Race ya!" Then he was off like a shot, running across the brown-green 'land' and disappearing into the swirling clouds. Daz sparkled brightly then allowed itself to be carried by the planet's natural winds as it raced in pursuit.

Despite being stranded millions of miles from home, this was seriously cool, Derek decided as he streaked through the billowing mist. The 'boost' Daz had provided him was a combination of exotic gases and chemicals that even Derek had never heard of. The end result was a temporary metabolism change that gave him incredible strength and speed. The artificial atmosphere that the weavers created around him blew through his hair as his feet flew. A small dark speck appeared on the horizon which he recognized as his ship. Let's see. We were about ten miles away and I've covered it in about a minute. A quick mental calculation later, he laughed out loud. Six hundred miles per hour. Yes, indeed, he thought. Seriously fucking cool!

He slowed his prodigious rate as quickly as he had reached it and stopped dead directly in front of the wrecked ship. Well, not really wrecked anymore, he thought, but it sure needs a lot more work to make it space-worthy. He came closer and looked over the latest repairs. Several new metal sheets covered the areas that had been crushed during its descent to the planet's 'surface'. "Couldn't have done better back at the agency," he commented aloud.

"Damned straight!" came a cheery voice from inside the ship which startled him. Daz leaped from the open hatch and floated to him. "We did well," it said with almost a smug tone.

"Daz!" he cried in surprise. "How did you get here? I never saw you pass me!"

In reply, Daz plunged into the ground beside the ship. Derek watched it go, then he suddenly heard a whistling sound from over his shoulder. Turning around, he saw Daz floating at eye level and sparkling brightly. Of course. The sneaky little bugger zipped through the superfast currents of gas that made up the planet's surface.

"I won," Daz said happily.

"You cheated."

"You said 'race'," Daz protested. "I got here first. I won."

Derek considered arguing further, but instead relented and conceded defeat. "All right, you won. Now gather the troops. I'd like an update in ten minutes."

"Will do," Daz replied before plunging into the ground again. Derek laughed and shook his head as he started to inspect his ship. Wind weaver logic, he thought to himself. Simple, straightforward and completely maddening.

Looking around at the randomly shifting patterns of colour that were the constant backdrop of Jupiter, he chuckled again. Wind weavers. For hundreds of years, it was assumed that the winds and gas clouds of Jupiter were only that - gas. What no one realized was that they were actually living creatures, super-dense electro-organic matrices of gas and trace elements held together by a dose of living electricity. The entire planet was a congregation of trillions upon trillions of beings, living together in one enormous collective. Amazing, Derek thought as he continued to look over the repairs on his ship.

Over the two months that he had been stranded here, the gas creatures he had dubbed the 'wind weavers' had become both his friends and his own personal valets, providing for his every need. The name came from their ability to control every aspect of the environment and to produce things virtually from thin air. They provided a breathable atmosphere that surrounded Derek constantly, along with Earth-standard gravity and pressure. By altering their density, they provided him with any tools that he needed by actually becoming them. Food and water were synthesized from the elements available in the planet.

His favourite of all the weavers was Daz, which was short for Dazzle. It was the first weaver he had encountered and the only one he had named, which for some odd reason seemed to suit the others just fine. It had become his personal liaison, relaying all of his requests to the wind weaver population and acting as their representative. Derek assumed early on that it must have been their leader, so he didn't really think about it much.

As he inspected another weld, amazed at the precision with which the weavers had strengthened it, Daz emerged from the ground followed by a group of several other multi-coloured balls of gas. "Ready with report," it announced as the others jostled about in the air.

Derek turned around and smiled. "Hello, troops," he called out merrily, at which the assembled weavers shone brightly. "All right, Daz. Let's have it."

Daz launched into its report. "Welds around two bulkheads have been fortified since last report. Three bulkheads remain. Fabrication proceeding at expected rate. Fuel synthesis in progress. Tanks are seventy-three percent full. Oxygen tanks have been repaired and modified for pressure. Now at forty-eight percent of capacity. End of report."

"Wait a sec," Derek said, arching an eyebrow. "The oxygen tanks are done already?"

"Forty-eight percent of capacity," Daz repeated.

Derek's eyes widened in amazement. "You mean you've repaired them, modified the tanks for increased pressure and they're being filled now?"

"Forty-eight percent of capacity," Daz said again. "Not good?" it asked, its voice reflecting its confusion at Derek's reaction.

"It's amazing!" he cried. "I didn't think you would get to that for another week or two!" His heart leapt as he realized he was much closer to going home than he had thought. Settling himself down, he asked, "What about those bulkheads? Any problems?"

"Checking," Daz replied. It shot toward one of its fellows and merged with it. Their colours intermixed for a moment before Daz and the other weaver came apart. "No problems. Minerals from asteroid collisions now being augmented by materials pulled from Io."

Derek ran one hand over his smiling face and tried to keep from breaking into song. "You guys are great!" he exclaimed. Daz shimmered brightly and quickly the others around it lit up to match its radiance. "Whoa! Turn 'em down, lads!" Derek laughed. "We've still got a lot of work to do, so let's get back to it. Daz, you're with me."

"Will do," Daz replied. It flashed once to the others and they quickly went about their set tasks. Daz followed Derek into the ship, passing through the small hatch and floating to where he was now sitting.

I'll be home soon, Derek thought happily as he sat in what had been his seat. It was the only one remaining, since the others had been stripped out and reduced to their base elements to not only provide materials for the repair but also to lessen the weight of the craft. Since it only had to support one man for the return trip, everything deemed non-essential had been removed from the craft's interior. Looking around, he was amazed at how big the formerly-cramped ship really was. More than enough space for himself, the oxygen tanks and the one remaining computer console in front of him now.

Derek punched up the display and did a systems check. The force-beam collector had been scavenged for parts early on in the repair process, since it was the only working piece of computer hardware still on board. The matter-drive had been reduced in size and capacity as the crash had taken out most of it. Still more than enough to get me home, he thought as he punched up the next screen. Sure enough, the fuel and oxygen tanks were being filled just as Daz had reported. He watched as the bar graphs representing the tank payloads inched upward as the weavers drew the required elements from their planet.

Daz watched from over his shoulder. "Tanks are filling," it said. "Not believe Daz?"

"No, no," Derek said. "I'm just checking the systems here. Your guys are doing a fabulous job." As he watched the brightly-glowing bars of light, he asked, "Are you sure this isn't hurting the weavers at all?"

"None have been consumed by the process," Daz said. "Materials have come from reserves. This should change?"

"No!" he replied. "I don't want to hurt any of your people. That's why I asked."

"Too kind," Daz replied, its voice barely audible.

Derek turned in his seat to face Daz, whose surface was now tinged with pink. It almost looks like its blushing, he thought. "All right, Daz. What's wrong?"

"Wrong? Nothing wrong," Daz replied quickly, its colour shifting back to pure blue.

The little devil is lying to me, Derek thought incredulously. It was definitely upset about something. He was about to ask again when something caught his eye. Looking out the small window in front of his seat, he saw a large steel plate rising up out of the planet's surface. "Looks like we just got our next job," he said as he stood up and walked to the hatch. "C'mon, Daz."

Daz started back toward the hatch, but something peeking out from behind the computer console stopped its advance. Floating back to the console, Daz saw the corner of a small sheet of coloured paper wedged behind it. Gently surrounding the scrap, Daz extracted it and carried it along as it floated outside.

*    *    *

Five hours later, Derek stood shirtless outside the ship. Sweat poured down his muscular chest and he grinned at the newly-installed bulkhead. "And that's the way it's done!" he said both to himself and the assembled weavers. "Break time!" he called out happily, at which the scene started to dissolve quickly into a swirl of colours. The weavers surrounding the bulkhead's seams, which had provided the intense magnification Derek needed to properly see the welds he was making, resumed their normal colouring and density and drifted away, as did the ones acting as the many suction-grip handles that dotted the bulkhead's surface. The welding torch in Derek's hand dissolved as well, becoming the bright blue ball that was Daz.

"We did well today?" Daz asked, almost hopefully.

Derek laughed. "You guys do well every day!" he said happily. Daz sparkled at the comment and Derek stretched his arms out and yawned. "Rest stop?" he asked.

Daz pulsed once and replied, "Parameters?"

He pondered a moment before answering. "A field of green grass. The back of my house in the background, about 100 meters away. An oak tree right here." He pointed to the ground beside him. "About 20 meters tall, fully leaved. Warm and sunny spring day with a light breeze."

Daz shot down into the planet's surface and suddenly the area surrounding Derek started to change into the exact scene he had just described. His house sprang up in the distance, as did the tree beside him. Grass sprouted all around and its scent surrounded him, carried aloft on a delightfully warm breeze. The sky turned blue and small white puffs of clouds were sprinkled along its expanse as the sun's radiance shone down upon him. Derek smiled and sat down beside the tree before stretching out on the carpet of grass and sighing happily.

A portion of the tree's trunk above Derek's face dissolved and Daz floated out of it. "This is correct?" it asked.

Derek opened his eyes and saw Daz floating overhead. "Oh man, 'correct' doesn't even begin to cover it," he replied with a smile. "This is absolutely perfect! Just the way I remember it." He stopped and thought over his words. That's right. This is exactly the way it was when-

"This setting is familiar?" Daz asked suddenly, its voice a touch quieter than before.

Derek nodded. "Yeah, it is. This is exactly how it looked-" He stopped abruptly. No. No need to tell Daz about that. "This is how it looks behind my house back home," he said quickly.

Daz watched him carefully. "You miss something else?"

He looked at Daz and noticed that its colour had changed to a shimmering violet. "Yes," he replied as his mind suddenly started churning, bits of his dream flashing past his mind's eye.

"Tell Daz."

Derek's brow furrowed slightly. This is new. Daz never asked me much about home before. "There's just someone I left back there. Someone who I need to talk to." His eyes closed and he sighed. And someone I need to apologize to, his mind added.

Ripples of purple sparks flowed over Daz, causing small bursts of light to flash every time they hit one another. It sent a wispy translucent tendril of itself down until it just barely brushed Derek's temple. At the moment of contact, it whispered, "You miss a woman?"

Derek's eyes popped open. "How did you know that?" he asked, staring into the hypnotic pattern of sparks now racing over the brightly glowing blue ball. He tried to sit up, but instead felt himself held almost immobile, as if the gravity around him had increased dramatically.

Daz didn't reply. Slowly the small piece of coloured paper that it still held emerged and rested upon its surface, right above Derek's face. "This is the woman?" Daz inquired, its voice now a close reproduction of Derek's.

Derek gasped when he saw the photograph. It was a woman with long night-black hair and incredible crystal-clear blue eyes. "Suzi!" he breathed in wonder as he gazed upon his favourite picture of her, the one he thought he had lost in the crash. His hand shot forward, breaking the invisible force holding him, and he snatched the picture. "Where did you find this?"

Daz didn't answer. Its colour changed again, this time to a deep forest green. "Time to rest," it called out.

"No!" Derek cried, quickly dropping the picture and lifting his hand over his face, but he wasn't fast enough. The puff of gas Daz released seeped through his fingers and rushed into his lungs. It spread throughout his body in less than a second and with a soft grunt he fell asleep.

Daz took another look at the dropped picture, studying the woman's features intently. Slowly its gaseous body expanded and then hollowed, forming a helmet that slipped neatly over Derek's head. The sparks that had covered Daz changed to a blinding light that seeped into Derek's mind.

*    *    *

The first sensation Derek was aware of was a bright light which tried to force its way through his closed eyelids. Grumbling in protest, he squeezed his eyes shut even tighter and tried to ignore the bright red glare. His mind reluctantly bobbed up out of his slumber and he took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet smell of warm grass which surrounded him, then released it in a long sigh. Suddenly the light that had roused him disappeared and a shadow fell over his face. His curiosity piqued, he slowly opened one eye.

"Hello, sleepyhead," the woman above him said with a grin. Her black hair hung down either side of her face and cascaded over her bare shoulders. She stood there with her arms crossed in front of her. A pure white halter top and cutoff blue-jean shorts revealed much of her lithe body, but Derek's attention was caught by one feature alone.

Her eyes.

Points of clearest blue centered in almond crescents, they lit up with an intensity that easily matched the sun behind her. She looked down at his astonished face and smiled in satisfaction. "I take it you're surprised to see me?" she asked, a hint of sarcasm in her voice.

Derek shot to his feet. His head seemed to want to turn in every direction at once as he looked around himself frantically. His house was off in the distance, far across the field in which he now stood. Behind him was the mighty oak he had carved his initials into as a boy. All around was a carpet of lush green grass dotted in places by clusters of wildflowers. Before him stood his truest love, who was still looking at him expectantly though now her expression was mingled with curiosity at his strange behaviour.


He launched himself at her, kissing her face madly as his arms wrapped tightly around her. Despite her squeak of protest, he pressed his lips hard against hers and kissed her deeply for several long, sweet heartbeats. Finally pushing him away, she took a deep breath and asked, "What's with you?"

"I'm here!" he cried. "And you're here! I'm home again!" Grasping her slim waist, he lifted her small body up off the ground and laughed, "I'm back!"

"Put me down, you goof!" she shouted down at him. He placed her back on her feet and stole another passionate kiss from her. Pushing him away again, she demanded, "What the hell is wrong with you? You hit your head? Or is this some stupid trick to get your way out of this?" She pulled a piece of note paper out of the back pocket of her shorts and held it up so he could see it.

Derek stopped his celebration abruptly as he saw it. Taking it from her, he scanned the tables and equations scribbled over every square inch of it in his handwriting. Suddenly his mind clicked. These are the notes I made-! "Where did you find this?" he gasped.

"On your desk with the rest of the pile," she snapped.

He flipped the page over a few times to inspect it. "That's impossible!" he muttered to himself. "This was shredded almost a month ago!"

"That'd be a good trick, especially since it's dated Tuesday," she replied, a little off-balance due to his strange behaviour. Her resolve stiffened and she asked again, "What's wrong with you?"

Derek looked at the date written in the upper corner and gasped. 2047 May 6. "Today's Saturday?" he asked, his voice small and scared.

"Last time I checked."

Oh my God. Today's the 10th. That was the last time I saw her. His gaze shifted from the paper to her face and he stared into her eyes. Oh God, I don't want to lose you. Not again.

His fearful expression softened her glare and she moved to him. "What's wrong?" she asked, her voice now tender and concerned. "You look like you've had a nightmare or something."

Her words hit him like a splash of ice water. "A dream!" he gasped. "It was all a dream!"


He hugged her and closed his eyes tight. "I had a dream about Jupiter," he said happily. "Oh God, Suzi! I dreamed that I lost you."

"That may still come true," she replied frostily. He backed away from her and looked at her face inquisitively. "You know I don't want you to go, but you're gonna do it anyway, aren't you?"

"It's my job," he replied without thinking, then he winced, somehow already knowing what her reaction to his words would be.

"Bullshit!" she cried. "You designed the ship. Since when do they send the designer along on the mission?"

Derek's face paled. What the hell is going on here? I remember having this argument before! It's like this whole thing is happening again! Before he could stop himself, instinct took over and mission objectives starting running rampant through his head as he snapped into engineer mode. "I have to go along to work the force-beam collector," he recited as he had done so many times before. "I'll be in charge of extracting the gas sample. I also have to keep an eye on the matter-drive so that the null field around the ship doesn't rupture."

"And you'll be millions of miles away from me and my silly talk of a commitment," she said, tossing her head in disgust and folding her arms tightly in front of herself. "Isn't that convenient?"

"Suzi, I don't want to-," he started, but then he fell silent again as his Jupiter dream came back to mind. Damn me for an idiot, he thought. She's exactly right. After all, didn't I fight with the Agency just to get assigned to this flight? Didn't that happen right after we had discussed our future together? As much as he wanted to deny it, she had him dead to rights. He was running. Running from his fear of commitment. Running from the overwhelming feelings that he had for her because they scared him to death. And if his dream held true, that running would get him stranded millions of miles from home where he would spend every single moment wishing he had made a different choice.

His mind finally returned to the moment and he looked at her standing before him and trembling. Her arms were still folded tightly and now a tear was trickling down her cheek. "So what's it going to be?" she asked, her voice straining.

He knew the words that came next, if his dream was truly accurate. I hate long goodbyes. Once he said them, she would turn around and storm out of his life forever. He would get into that ship and go to Jupiter, where he would barely escape death and be stranded there for months. But did it have to happen that way? Was he locked into this madness, or could he change what he somehow knew must be? He opened his mouth and started, "I-"

No! his mind shouted. I can't do this again! I won't! He closed his mouth and he teetered on the brink of indecision, but the sudden faint glimmer of hope in her dazzling blue eyes threw him over the edge. His dream of Jupiter was discarded like a scrap of paper in the wind, no longer the pattern to which he would live his life. "I love you, Suzi," he blurted. In a flash, he pulled off the sterling class ring he wore and got down on one knee before her. Grabbing her left hand, he pried it away from her chest and blindly slipped the ring onto her finger, all the while still staring up into her eyes. "Will you marry me?" he breathed.

Suzi stared down at him, stunned at his actions. She almost turned away anyway, so sure she was of his probable reply, but this unexpected question completely destroyed her composure. Her left hand flexed in his to feel the ring he had placed there to make sure her mind wasn't playing a cruel trick on her. Her blue eyes softened and filled with tears as she looked into his eyes to see if he was truly serious. The tears running down his cheeks were proof enough and she nodded emphatically. "It's about damn time!" she said with a laugh. Raising her hand before his face, she joked, "But make sure this thing's replacement is the right size, okay?"

Derek looked at the ring, which encompassed both her tiny middle and ring fingers, and he laughed loudly with her. Just like that, the future was no longer etched in stone for him. Mission or no mission, his life was now linked to hers and he laughed at all the suddenly trivial fears that had kept him from this moment. Leaping back to his feet, he cried out in joy before taking her into his arms and kissing her madly. His hands slid beneath her halter top and massaged her bare back as they continued their kiss, their tongues now dueling lustily as she moaned into his open mouth. A thought flickered across his mind and he shivered in anticipation. In all the time they had been together, he had discovered that the only thing more physically demanding than fighting with her was making up afterwards.

Right on cue, she took the initiative and quickly undid his belt. Feeling him smile against her voracious mouth, she pulled back and grinned naughtily at him before tugging his pants down over his thighs. A playful shove was all the urging he needed to lay back on the soft grass and await his love. Stepping over his semi-nude body, she looked down at him with those dazzling blue eyes while she quickly stripped off her top and dropped it on his smiling face. With the agility of a dancer, she slipped out of her shorts and was back standing over him by the time he had uncovered his bemused grin.

The grin turned to a smile of pure lust as he watched her standing above his body. Her delicate hands ran up her thighs to her small breasts and her fingertips teased her nipples erect, running in quick circles around the darkened flesh. "God, Suzi," he breathed, watching her prepare not only herself but also him for their loving. She always knows exactly what I want, even before I do, he thought. Her body replied to his next fevered thought and she ran one finger through her cleft, tracing her wetness through the tiny patch of night-black hair dotting her mons. The fingertip dug into the soft flesh and she pulled up with a soft moan. Her excited clit emerged from its hood and a single drop of moisture fell from the distended bud, landing on his throbbing manhood and drawing a low rumbling moan from between his clenched teeth.

The moan turned to a tortured gasp as she suddenly descended upon him and stroked her wetness against his length, moving her body up his so that her velvety nether lips licked his balls and on up his shaft until the swollen head of his cock lay poised at her soaked gates. Her eyes stared directly into his as they moved together and claimed one another, his steely hardness filling her body as her fiery heat devoured him. They moved as one, their thrusts and parries gathering strength and speed as they became one body, one mind. Instead of being the end, this time had become their beginning. From this day forward they would each be a permanent part of the other. Derek, through the haze of intense pleasure clouding his mind, stared into his beloved Suzi's eyes and gave himself fully to her as she screamed out her climax. Exactly one heartbeat later, his body succumbed to her attack and his gift spilled into her, setting their hearts aflame.

Collapsing atop him, she whispered, "I love you, Derek."

"I love you, Suzi," he breathed in reply as fatigue overwhelmed him. "I will always love you and I'll never leave you again." His arms came around her and he held her tightly as they drifted off to blissful slumber.

Suddenly the tree beside them vanished, changing into a pillar of swirling gas and sinking back into the ground.

The entire scene dissolved soon after. The field, the sky, the house in the distance - all changed back into randomly shifting patterns of blue and green and brown before disappearing into the background. All that remained was Derek and Suzi, still wrapped in each others arms. This too changed, as her body started to glow with an azure light. She became ethereal and drifted away from Derek, who gave a small grunt as his arms fell empty to his chest.

Suzi looked down at him, her piercing blue eyes tinged with sadness and regret. So this is why he always appeared so distracted, so sad. Her body quickly transformed into a small blue globe of gas named Daz who sighed softly and detached the nearly invisible tendril connecting itself to Derek's head. Floating down to him, Daz noted the traces of a pleased smile playing at the corners of his mouth and it smiled to itself. "I'm glad I could help cheer you," it said quietly before picking up the photograph of Suzi laying next to him.

Daz carried the photo back to the ship and laid it atop the computer console in front of Derek's seat. Looking out the ship's small forward windows, it sighed and wondered what the others in the crew had left behind on Earth. Lovers? Friends? Good memories or bad? But Daz had learned that it did no good to wonder, since no amount of reflection would return them from what had happened, the fate that only Derek had escaped.

Daz watched as the weavers carefully carried Derek's limp body into the ship and placed him in his chair. The safety harness was secured and Daz looked at Derek's peaceful face. Why didn't I tell you? it wondered with a heavy sense of regret. Why didn't I tell you that we knew of your ship's arrival? The radio waves blanketing your planet and issuing from your ship were easily read by us. We knew why you were coming and what your intentions were. We even knew the exact location where the force-beam collector would be activated, so making sure that none of us were in that spot was an easy enough precaution.

But no one expected that one curious weaver would disobey the planetary edict. No one knew that once caught up in the force-beam, it would panic and send a surge of energy winging skyward that would cripple the ship and send it plunging toward the Jovian surface. To its credit, the weaver responsible had managed to save one of the crew, surrounding him and protecting him from the cruel death that had claimed the rest of his mates, but that weaver was now an oddity among its people. It was the first of them to meet a human. The first to kill a human.

The first to have a name.

Daz watched as another small storage tank appeared in the ship's cabin, the cloaking field around it disappearing. It had been completed very early in the ship's repair, but Derek knew nothing about it. The tank was Daz's creation, made for a very specific purpose. Daz would accompany his human friend back to Earth to explain to his people what had happened. It would tell of how it had caused the disaster which claimed the others and it would present itself to whatever form of punishment they saw fit. But first, Daz had something to do.

Floating past Derek's unconscious form, Daz instructed the weavers around him to keep him asleep until take-off. He would be told of Daz's deeds once they were on their way back to Earth and not a moment sooner. Emerging from the open hatch, Daz watched while the remaining bulkheads were attached with supernatural speed. They could've completed the repairs several days ago, but Daz wanted to find out the reason behind the aura of regret that surrounded Derek first. Floating to the upper reaches of the Jovian atmosphere, Daz looked down upon its home. Amazing, it thought as its human friend had done so many times during his stay.

The thoughts of humans were read as easily as any other electromagnetic signal and it was this that allowed Daz to send a message to a specific human back on Earth. The next time she slept, a woman named Suzi would have a dream, a dream of her beloved coming back to her. He would make her his own and the two would live forever as one. Daz smiled at thoughts of her probable reaction to the dream it had sent before descending to the planet's surface. The ship had been completed and was already in launch mode. Right before the hatch closed behind it, Daz looked around its home again for possibly the last time and said quietly in Derek's voice, "I hate long goodbyes."

Author's Note: Setting partially inspired by the song 'Alien Afternoon' by Genesis (Calling All Stations - Atlantic 83037-2)

© 2011 B.K. Bilicki. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.

Bio: After seriously ticking off fans on several continents by not doing anything worthwhile with his earlier works, B.K. Bilicki has now launched into the second phase of his writing career. His stated goal is to sufficiently upset anyone he may have missed the first time around and to write enough new material to make the remainder of his furniture sit level. Furor Scribendi can be chastised by new fans and old alike at Grr-ya.

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