Stripped by Peachykin
Summary: Stripped by Peachykin
Categories: Polar Afterhours Characters: Michael Guerin / Liz Parker
Genre: Het
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: Yes Word count: 16385 Read: 7666 Published: 12 Mar 2022 Updated: 12 Mar 2022

1. Chapter 1 by Peachykin

2. Chapter 2 by Peachykin

3. Chapter 3 by Peachykin

Chapter 1 by Peachykin
Liz stepped out of her bathroom; robe wrapped securely around her body, sealing in the warmth that her hot shower had rained down on her body. She ran her towel through her hair, gazing down at her bed, and the lump that resided in it, somewhere, amongst the fluffy blankets.

What a night, and it wasn’t even over yet. Max and Maria were off chasing Enigma and she was sitting in a room alone with an Alien. And a drunk Alien at that. Yet she was still contemplating who’d gotten the better deal.

Maria was now out searching the desert, with Max, for something that always seemed out of reach? Hadn’t she been doing that with him all summer, fall… Jesus, up until now. Wild goose chases, looking for a way to get to his son. Why the hell did that sound like a round about way of saying he was eventually going to leave her?

Max said all the right things. Made her believe them. He held such conviction in his love for her. Yet at the end of every date, what ones they had, or every phone conversation, she was left with a sense of abandonment. He would leave her.

Before she could contemplate what that meant to her, a growling noise filtered out from beneath the blankets. Liz smirked watching his tanned fingertips peek out from behind the grey of her blankets. The bear was emerging from his slumber. She wondered if she should call FOX for a television special: When Aliens Get Drunk, and the inevitable follow-up: When Aliens Get Drunk 2: The Hangover.

Shrugging away the thought she saw the glint of a ring and strands of messy hair appear as the blankets were lowered further. She stood at the foot of the bed amused as his eyes instantly squinted against the light of the room and he once again retreated underneath the covers and away from the offending light.

“Shit!” he hissed loudly, “Think you could close the blinds or something? The sun’s burning my eyes out.”

Liz chuckled, crossing the room to turn off “the sun”, a harmless lamp perched on her desk. The room was dark, but the light from the streetlamps kept the room semi-illuminated.

Michael once again pulled down the covers, rubbing his large hands over his face. Liz watched, once again by the puzzled look on his face as he took in his surroundings, “I didn’t mean to cause an eclipse. Parker,” he grumbled scanning the darkened room before locking his eyes on her.

Liz rolled her eyes and shook her head, running the towel over her hair one last time before tossing it aside onto the floor, “See now, Isabel is the one who can control the weather, but I’m fairly certain, solar eclipses are out of her power realm.”

“Speak English,” Michael groused, putting an arm over his eyes.

“It’s still dark out,” she supplied dryly, “Little phenomenon I like to call night.”

His arm lifted slightly and he peered at her from beneath the skin, confusion evident on his face, “Night? What time is it?”

“There’s a clock next to you,” she gestured at the nightstand, pointing to her old fashioned alarm clock, complete with brass bells on top.

Michael turned his body towards the nightstand, clearly put out that she wouldn’t simply read it to him, “You should be nicer to me I’m…”

“Hungover?” Liz supplied, not hiding the amusement that tingled in her voice.

“Unwell.” Michael corrected reaching for the old clock clumsily, “Why can’t you have a normal clock? Digital Age, Parker.”

Liz opened her mouth to reply, but the loud crashing of the clock striking the floor as it slipped from Michael’s, far from coordinated hand. She gasped scrambling over to the fallen time piece scooping it up off the floor to inspect it, as Michael’s hands immediately went to his ears, the sound of metal and glass meeting the floor rattling his alcohol soaked brain.

A defeated whimper left Liz’s lips and she rose from the floor seating herself next to Michael, the clock cradled in her hands. Michael took his hands down seeing the distress on her face, “Is it…?”

“Broken?” Liz asked, anger laced her voice, she held it up for him to see that the face of the old clock was completely shattered and the hands were in disarray.

“It’s just a clock.” Michael shrugged his shoulders and frowning, “And if you’d told me the damn time in the first place, I never would have… I’m not exactly coordinated at the moment.”

Liz pinned him with a glare, “It was my grandfather’s. Mom’s dad. He had no son’s and this was the only thing of value he had when he came over here from…” she paused seeing the blank look on Michael’s face, letting out a dejected sigh, “You know what, never mind, Michael. It’s an antique. Yet again something precious to me is broken by an alien. If it weren’t true it’d make a great sitcom.”

She kept staring down at the clock, tracing the lines of cracked glass with her fingers, not caring if one of the shards might pierce her skin. This New Year was starting off with a thud, rather than a bang.

The snapping of fingers drew her attention away from the clock and she saw Michael’s open palm extended out to her. Her eyes lifted to his seeing the firmly placed annoyance in the lines of face, but guilt swimming in his bloodshot eyes, “I can fix it. Alien. Remember?”

Liz bit her lip, reluctant to hand over the antique, despite its already broken state, “Are you sure? You were doing a pretty decent impression of a chandelier on my ceiling earlier. What if your powers are still… kinky?”

Michael looked at her as if she should be occupying a seat on the little yellow school bus, “Yeah and earlier every nerve in my body was standing on end, but I’m obviously over it beside this pain in my neck and a serious case of hate for Mr. Bud Weiser. Hand it over.”

Sighing, Liz reluctantly handed Michael the broken clock. The material of her robe fell off her shoulder, it having loosened, in her initial scramble to reach the clock, as she brought her hand back down to her lap. Feeling the loss of its warmth, she reached for the material intent on pulling back up. She felt Michael’s eyes on her, and she brought her eyes up quickly, catching the swipe of his tongue over his lips, just before he darted his gaze back to the broken clock.

She couldn’t help the smirk that graced her face. Michael had just checked her out. Sure most boys would falter at the sight of female skin, but Michael wasn’t most boys. Normally he was quite focused when a task was at hand and here he was getting distracted by her naked shoulder. He’d seen Maria’s…well, all of her. Some of the alcohol had to still be lingering for him to spare a glance such as that her way.

It wasn’t a lack of confidence on her part. It was consistency. Michael didn’t look at her like… like she was the Tabasco to his chocolate cake. So, logically it had to be the booze that kept him looking just one second too long. The booze, and a weeks old introduction to celibacy. It was totally normal. Meant nothing. To him.

She watched his face, a scowl of determination replacing the hung over one as he placed his hand over the broken pieces of metal, gears, glass and springs. She should have been focusing on how he could mend the pieces together as if no harm had ever befallen them, but glimpse at his naked chest had proven a distraction.

Even in the dim light she could make out the rounding of his chest muscles, the dusky nipples topping them. His skin was pale, Michael never being much for sun worship. Smooth skin, with a sparse sprinkling of hair over it. It would have been perfect if not for the faint scars she could make out on them. She stiffened a bit, realizing their edges were far too straight, to have been delivered with a fall. No, she imagined they were a product of Hank’s belt. Reminders of a violent youth.

She knew Michael wouldn’t want her pity, so she appreciated his body for what it was. Flawed. Lived in. Just like him.

A grunt loosed from Michael’s throat brought her attention back to his face and hand. He was looking at her, frown still etched on his face, “Could you…um fix that?” he asked gesturing at her shoulder, “It’s distracting.”

Liz looked down, her cheeks immediately reddening as she realized her robe had fallen off her shoulder again, only this time it had fallen lower, exposing the upper swell of her breast.

“Oh...uh… yeah. Sorry.” She said quickly pulling the material back up, and nervously tightening the ties around her waist.

“Whatever,” he shrugged. His attention returned to the clock, his brows knitted together focusing on the clock, holding his hand over its broken shell. Liz watched his hand begin to glow. No matter how many times she saw one of the aliens demonstrate their powers, it was always fascinating. They defied science with the mending of molecules that never should have been put back together.

Once again her attention was drawn away as Michael growled. She glanced up at him, finding his eyes dark, but clearly frustrated, “Dammit Parker, if I wanted a strip show I would have put on some music.”

Liz looked down at her shoulder to once again find it bared to Michael’s eyes. What the hell? She’d just fixed it. She’d barely moved. All she’d done in the last few seconds was, breathe, and blink.

“Stop staring at it and cover it already,” Michael insisted, his voice sounding strained to hold its conviction.

“Right. I’ll just re-adjust it. You fix the clock.” She rose from the bed turning her body away from Michael. She undid the ties on the robe quickly readjusting the material so that it wrapped tightly around her body.

Liz could hear him behind her, his breath shortening, coming out in pants rather than easy breaths. She looked over her shoulder as she fumbled with the ties, concerned when she saw the beads of sweat that had broken out on his forehead.

“This damn thing…” he muttered. He flicked his eyes up at her, her movement distracting him for a moment, his shoulders slumping, “Maybe I should tackle this in the morn…”

He was mid-sentence when Liz felt an invisible force tug on her robe. Before she could fight it, it was ripped off her body dropping to the floor. She let out a raspy shriek, realizing she was now completely naked in front of Michael. Sure it was dark, but not so much that he couldn’t see anything.

“Oh my God!” she whimpered in humiliation immediately kneeling to the floor retrieving her robe. She didn’t dare look Michael in the eyes, unsure of what she’d see there.

“What the hell are you doing, Parker. The idea was to keep it on, not throw it off!” she heard him say as she threw her arm in the fluffy cotton, quickly wrapping it around her naked flesh and standing, her head still bowed in embarrassment.

“I don’t know. It just fell,” she said through clenched teeth. He was never going to let her forget this.

“Are you sure you haven’t been drinking?” he asked, the amusement in his voice causing her to finally meet his eyes. Of course he had one eyebrow arched, to match the smirk on his face, “Because this whole spastic thing is a side of you I’ve never seen before.”

She bristled, tying the long cords around her waist twice for good measure, “Yeah well, for someone who just got a free nudie show, you complain a lot.”

“I’m not complaining. Just wondering,” He shrugged, “Now, if you’d stop running a burlesque show in here I could fix this clock. Think you can manage to keep your clothes on in my presence?”

“Sailors couldn’t untie this knot.” She gestured proudly at the tight double knotted cotton on her stomach, “Please continue.”

“But if watching me work gets too much for you again, try taking a cold shower instead of getting naked." He winked at her.

Winked? That smug son of a…

“I’ll do my best to control my raging hormones, Michael.” She batted her eyes, before glaring at him, “Won’t happen again.”

“We’ll see.” He challenged, returning his attention to the broken clock.

Liz crossed her arms letting out an annoyed breath. Let him have his victory. This banter was doing little to fix her precious antiquity and if she kept at him he’d likely grenade it. Patience. Isn’t that what Maria said you had to have tons of to tolerate Michael? Yeah patience.

“Guess Maria ran dry.” Liz muttered to herself with a self satisfied smirk.

“I can still hear you, Liz.” He shook his head, eyes still on the clock, “My ears aren’t quite back to normal yet. Temporary. Can’t say the same for Maxwell. Those are permanent. I weep for your future children. Bambi eyes and Dumbo ears. It’ll look like Disney barfed on them.”

Liz threw her arms in the air, loosing a frustrated growl, “While I’m fascinated with your concern over what my future spawn will look like, could you just fix the clock?” She dropped her arms to her side, in surrender, “You know I could be doing a lot better things with my night than nursing you through a date with fermented hopps!”

"Oh yeah, another wild goose chase with Maxwell. Real fun."

“That isn’t what we had planned… Maria dragged him to it.’ She countered, “Who knows what we could have done. I could still be out right now. But no, I’m stuck here with a hung over, cranky, half naked alien in my bed, fixing a clock at three-o-clock in the morning!”

"I get it. You're bitter. There's no need to yell.”

Liz felt her blood pressure rising, and her face flaming with anger. She took a deep breath ready to level Michael with a verbal tirade, but a tugging on her robe stalled her. Her eyes widened as she looked down at the ties of her robe and watched in horror as invisible hands seemed to loosen them from their knots.

“M-Michael…” she whispered, unable to find volume for her voice.

“What?” he asked clearly annoyed. He met her eyes and she saw them widen as another knot on her robe was loosened on its own.
Chapter 2 by Peachykin
“Parker,” Michael said evenly, his eyes still wide with shock as the tie on her robe loosened further, “Whatever you’re up to…Knock it off!”

“I’m not doing this!” Liz insisted as the ties came apart and she grabbed the lapels fighting to hold them together before they were thrown open. She was a small girl but by no means weak, but the force pulling at her robe was far stronger and she was losing quickly.

“Well I’m not!” He barked. Even in her battle with the robe she could make out the barely held back smirk on his face,” Maybe you have defective ties or something.”

“Ties don’t just come to life, Michael! And since ghosts don’t exist…You tell me how this is happening!”

Another shriek escaped Liz’s moth as the material in her hands flew away and her robe was quickly stripped away from her body falling to the floor in a useless heap.

“Maybe it’s just your inner exhibitionist coming out.” Michael laughed, clearly having no sympathy for her humiliation, as she threw an arm over her exposed body and knelt to the floor trying to grab at the robe.

“You know your commentary isn’t helping, Michael!” she bit out reaching for the robe. It flew away from her hands by the same invisible force and she fell to her knees, hissing, “Dammit!”

She reached out again for the robe, praying to Buddha that whatever or whoever was doing this too her would have mercy. Yes Buddha. She figured one of her best friends being on a first name basis with the chubby deity, earned her something!

It seemed clear that Buddha was on a lunch break, when the robe dashed out of her grasp settling itself under the bed, leaving her flailing naked on the floor with a snickering alien watching her every bare-assed move.

“Could you like, NOT watch!” she growled reaching an arm under the bed fruitlessly reaching for clothing.

“Naked girls writhing on the floor are not something horny teenage guys look away from, Parker,” he told her, now not bothering to hide his laughter at her predicament, “Sorry to disappoint you.”

When it was clear she wasn’t going to get her robe back Liz spotted her towel from her shower. At least that would cover her until they figure out what the hell had possessed her robe. Sighing she reached out for the towel, only to groan in frustration as it too was ripped away from her, by the unseen force, joining her robe under the bed.

The rustle of sheets as Michael sat up further on the bed, threw her into action. Sheets were tucked in. Whatever was doing this would have to battle both she AND Michael. She was sure Michael would guard his own modesty much more than hers. Scrambling quickly she bolted into the bed next Michael before he even had a chance to process what was happening.

“What the hell are you doing?” Michael hissed, his amusement clearly gone as Liz hugged the sheets tightly around her chest, scooting down into the bed for the most sheet coverage possible.

“Surviving,” she stated plainly, ignoring the fact that Michael had yet to move his leg away from hers, after they’d collided in her haste to seek the safety of the bed, “If whatever this is wants me naked, it’s going to have to get you naked too!”

Michael chuckled, lying back against the pillows, mimicking Liz’s position; clearly over his initial shock of a naked Liz Parker in bed, “Technically I’m not naked,” he lifted his sheets checking to make sure that indeed he was wearing his boxers, “What Parker? Were you afraid of seeing a real alien probe?”

She felt the sheets being tugged at, and she struggled with the jersey knit material, with a ferocity she wasn’t even sure she possessed. She glared over at him as her fight wore on, “What happened to Mr. Protector? Some… THING… is trying to have its way with me, or at the very least getting a cheap thrill out of seeing me naked, and it hasn’t once crossed your mind that I might need some protection here?!”

Michael took his gaze away from the ceiling, to meet her glare, as he scratched its eyebrow, “Now if I was really worried about your safety, Parker I’d be on it. This is harmless, and in my eyes, mutually beneficial. To stop it would suggest I don’t enjoy seeing a chick naked. I do. I encourage it.”

“Pig!” Liz spat as she pulled against the force’s grip clutching more sheet to her body and it yanked down.

“Oink. Oink.” Michael laughed, eyes locked on her struggle.

It was in that moment that Liz took stock of Michael. They were lying in the same bed together. HE should have been fighting with the sheets as well. Yet he sat there, his sheets lying lifeless on his lap. There was nothing trying to take them away or expose him, yet she was battling for all nudity to keep her side of the sheets on her body.

His powers were at best sketchy tonight. The alcohol’s effect on, not only his body, but his brain and the energy coursing through it…. Her eyes widened and she whipped them away from her sheets and over at him.

“You. Asshole!” Liz said in aloud whisper, “You’re doing this!”

Michael’s head reared back on the pillow, clearly shocked by her accusation, “What? No way! You can’t pin this on me!”

Liz narrowed her eyes at him, catching the sheets before they were yanked away from her breasts, “Lets look at the facts, shall we? You were drunk. Did some pretty funky tricks while under said drunkenness. While now you’re only feeling hung over, the alcohol is still in your body, messing with your mind, which in turn… controls your powers!”

Michael shook his head in violent protest, sitting up slightly to stare down at his accuser, “Not even, Parker! I’d know if I was doing it! I have to concentrate to do any damn thing with them sober! I’d know!”

Liz growled in frustration. Clearly Michael hadn’t studied the basics of psychology, “I supposed you had to concentrate really hard tonight to dance on my ceiling! Or to hear a…a… mouse fart in Idaho! Think about it Michael, alcohol… it makes you do things you might not otherwise.”

Seeing the disbelief on his face, she ran a weary hand over her face, forgetting for a moment, her battle with the sheet. It quickly yanked itself way from her chest leaving her exposed. She gasped, but looked at Michael as she grabbed the sheets back. His eyes had been glued firmly to her exposed skin. The look was by no by any means proof of his unconscious infringement, but it didn’t disprove it either.

“Just tell me one thing, Michael?” she asked through clenched teeth, her fingers beginning to cramp as she fought to keep the sheets on, “What were you thinking right before this happened?”

Michael scratched his eyebrow. She watched him look down at the broken clock in his hand. He quickly set it on the opposite nightstand. The answer should have been easy. He should have been thinking about the clock and focusing his energy on fixing that. But it wasn’t an easy answer for him she could see it. She remembered the look on his face, however brief, when her robe had fallen from her shoulder the first time. Hunger and desire had flickered for the briefest of moments in his eyes.

The finger at his eyebrow stopped its incessant clawing and he dropped his hand looking over at her, slack-jawed, “But… h-how…?”

She shifted to her side, looking up at him, calmly, “The subconscious mind, Michael. It’s very powerful when connected to… powers.” She explained hoping that would be enough of an explanation for him. Hoping it would be enough for him to realize it so he could try and stop it. The consistent pulling of the sheets spoke otherwise, “You said yourself, seeing a naked chick was not something you were going to look away from… Even it is… just me….”

She’d trailed off the last bit so quietly she was sure that even with Michael’s hypersensitive hearing; he wouldn’t have picked it up. So her confidence was faltering a bit, she was human, not above a little self doubt in her own, beauty. She tucked her chin against her chest, in part to keep the sheets against her, and also to hide the disappointment she’d been surprised by.

“You’re telling me that in this fucked up brain of mine, the alcohol kicked it into gear and is acting out what I want to happen subconsciously?” he asked pointing to his head, brows knitted together in thought.

“That’s my theory.” She said not looking up at him.

“That’s crazy.” He shook his head, chuckling as he lay back down on the pillow, resuming his perusal of the ceiling.

“Tell that to the sheets and knock it off.” She bit out. He found this funny? Just friggin’ great.

Michael nodded his head and closed his eyes, in an attempt to focus on something, anything other than seeing Liz Parker naked.

Moments passed and the tugging did not ease. Liz grew impatient and kicked at Michael’s shin with her foot, “Are you even trying?”

Michael looked over at her shrugging his shoulder, “What do you expect, Parker? It’s a bit difficult to try and not think about you being naked when you’re lying next to me… NAKED!”

“Well your fucked up brain won’t let me wear anything! So unless you’ve got another idea we’re stuck here, pal!”

“I could go home.” He offered, his voice actually softening. A peace offering of sorts amidst naked chaos, “At least there if I think of you naked, my powers can’t do anything about it.”

It was tempting to kick him out of her bed and send him home, but she was reminded of how they got in this predicament in the first place. How he’d ended up in her bed. How helpless, scared and out of control he’d been. And their current dilemma was proof that he wasn’t yet over his bout with the bottle.

“No.” She shook her head sparing him a sincere glance, “Not an option. With my luck you’d get on your bike and get in an accident. No, you’re in no shape to drive right now, even if you don’t feel the alcohol.”

“Nice to know you’ll put my safety above your modesty.” He said dryly.

“It’s more of a safety for the masses, thing Michael.” She sighed impatiently, “Remember what you did when Billy…was…” She’d watched his jaw clench at the name of his rival and immediately regretted saying his name, “Sorry I didn’t think…”

Michael shook his head waving his hand absently as he spoke, refusing to look at her, “Don’t worry about it. Yeah, it stings, but I’m over it.”

“But…” Liz was about to ask him why, if he was as he said ‘over it’, did he feel the need to get drunk.

“Let’s just concentrate on our current problem, Liz.” He said quickly, sparing a pleading glance her way.

Even in her battle with the still stubborn force pulling at the sheets, Liz started at Michael actually using her name. He’d only ever called her Liz when he was serious about something. She could tell by his tone and the sincere expression on his face that this… flare-up, while it had proved temporarily amusing was becoming embarrassing for both of them. She could practically see him fighting the humiliation. Was he really embarrassed that he’d thought of her naked?

She growled against the insistent pulling of the sheets, and the alarming thought that it bothered her that Michael, felt it wrong or even remotely disgusting to fantasize about her in any way. They needed to figure out something fast, but her struggle made it difficult to concentrate.

“Well Michael,” she grunted, glaring down at the sheet, “I’m all out of ideas. Your turn.”

She watched with annoyance as Michael brought his finger up to his eyebrow again, scratching at in thought. He was obviously in no rush to solve this problem.

Hope shone for a moment when he dropped his hand, his faced seemingly determined. That hope faded in an instant when his mouth curved into a smirk and he turned his body, propping himself up on one elbow, head resting comfortably in one of his large hands. She did not like the look on his face as he gazed down upon her. The leering quality of his gaze. The way he took a long moment to look her struggling body up and down. Nothing good would come out of his mouth, she just knew it.

“What?” she dared to ask, already mentally kicking herself for it.

“Well, I was thinking.” He brought his free hand up to one of her arms that were clutched against her body and the sheets. He drew a lazy line up and down her skin with a feather touch and she fought the goose bumps that appeared in their wake.

“W-Why does that scare me?” she stammered.

He ignored her, his eyes following his fingers, before meeting hers again. Black. They were black. The eyes only got that way for two reasons. To let in light. Or, because he was… No… He was not going to suggest…

“We could always follow my stubborn brain’s suggestion,” he licked his bottom lip slowly as he took he fingers away from her arm, his eyes never leaving hers, “Take the hint. Satisfy the…beast.”

Liz’s jaw dropped. The look in his eyes told her he wasn’t kidding. He was dead serious. She was indignant. She was outraged she was…

“Michael I am NOT having sex with you to stop your deviant powers!” She protested, her cheeks flushing with rage. The nerve! “That is the worst come on I have ever had!”

Michael seemed unfazed by her indignant protest, shifting closer to her, “Its either sex or your birthday suit becomes a known image in my fantasy file, Parker.”

Oh. So they were back to ‘Parker’. Nothing like a little emotional distance when things got too close, huh? Asshole. He was having entirely too much fun at her expense.

“Now there’s male logic!” She huffed, fighting the cramping her fingers as the sheets tugged even harder to loose themselves, “If I have sex with you, more than just my nakedness will be known to you.”

He arched an amused brow at her, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

He tapped a finger to his mouth as if struck by an idea. It reminded her of Kyle. This whole scenario reminded her of Kyle. They were spending far too much time together. Deviant bastards.

“You know,” he finally said, drawing her glare back to him, “Max… He’s always wanted us to be… close.”

Liz snorted her disgust, “Pretty damn sure he meant ‘close’ figuratively, Jackass. Not literally!”

Michael shrugged his free shoulder, “I’m a literal guy.”

Liz rolled her eyes. Michael certainly did not lack confidence. Nor apparently a decency filter, “This is literally not going to happen. And for more reasons than Max being my boyfriend.”

He shook his head, giving her a pitying look, “If anyone needs a good lay, Parker, it’s you.”

“Well that’s just charming. Michael.” She spat, “Undressing me with your powers and sweet talking me like a car salesman. Really not making your case here.”

“If I entered into evidence my ‘energy source’, Counsellor, you would not be objecting so much.” He smirked at her again; his confidence amidst her rejection was staggering, Was he still drunk? “I’m three times the man Maxwell is. That would be figuratively and literally.”

“Peeked have you?” she asked finally having her turn at being entertained. He’d unwittingly opened himself up to that one.

“Nope. Basic math.” He tapped his temple with his index finger, “Small hands + small feet + small nose = a really small dick.”

Liz paused in her anger for a moment to ponder Michael’s equation, unconsciously glancing at his substantial, long hands, his prominent nose, and the large feet that were tenting the sheets at the end of her bed. She couldn’t help but pass her gaze back up his body to his sheet covered waist and the answer to that equation just beneath the confines of his boxers. His knowing chuckle broke her from her perusal and her cheeks once again flamed, anger and embarrassment fighting a battle within her.

“That’s a myth and you know it.” she covered quickly glancing down at her traitorous sheets, suddenly glad she had them to contend with instead of Michael’s hungry gaze.

“Not in my case,” he returned arrogantly.

She looked back over at him, not surprised to find the smug look on his face. She narrowed her eyes at him. No way was she going to let him know he was getting to her. Piquing her curiosity. Nope, not one damn bit, “Not really a theory I wish to test, Michael.”

He nudged her knee lightly with his own, cajoling her, “Aw, come on Parker. You know you live for hard tests.”

Liz was sure she was going to puke. Was he serious? Is this how he seduced Maria? Girlfriend left this part out in her many rants and raves about this man, “Did you take a class in sexual innuendo? Because you seriously need a refresher course! ‘Fuck me, or my powers will strip you,’ just doesn’t scream romance to a girl!”

Michael brought his free hand to her sheet covered leg, letting his fingers dance up the tensed expanse of her calf, the slight bend of her knee, squeezing it for a moment as she tried to flinch away reflexively. The action caused her to meet his eyes. Those damn eyes that seemed blacker every time she looked in them. His desire deeper, drawing her in.

He was being a horny… ass. She should be repulsed. He shouldn’t be trying to seduce her. But every time she looked in his eyes, the truth, rather than words he spoke, seemed to entrance her. Seduce her.

“Sex and romance don’t always go hand in hand,” He said, the low husky voice vibrating off her skin leaned closer, his breath dancing off the skin of her neck and chest. The hand at her knee boldly left its residence, travelling up her thigh. She dared to keep a hold of his eyes, her breath quickening with each centimetre lost between them. She watched helplessly as his face, which had momentarily hovered above hers, began to lower, his full lips moving as he spoke softly “Sometimes it’s about getting off.”

And just like that, a bucket of ice water in the form of bad sexual innuendo brought her to her senses. She reared back and away from the momentary temptation his mouth had offered. What the hell was she doing? And why was she contemplating it with Michael?

“Maybe for you, Michael, but I’m not that detached.” she hissed bitterly, his crassness stinging her pride. She brought her hands up, risking the exposure of her body, to place them on his chest, shoving him away from her, “Now get off!”

“I’m trying,” he chuckled unfazed by her snub and anger, “but you keep refusing.”

She felt her head might explode, from pure frustration, as she resumed her grip on the sheets. She realized her shove had done little to move him away from her. An ant trying to move a boulder seemed the adequate analogy. He’d humoured her by keeping his body back a bit, making her feel as if she’d initially accomplished moving him, but the skin of his legs were still pressed against her and she could feel the rumble of his laughter as his chest was pressed to her arm.

Was he not acquainted with personal space? Sure it was dark, but with the small amount of light that filtered in the room from the streetlamps, she was certain he’d already gotten an eyeful of the Body Elizabeth. Why did he feel the need to be touching someone he’d appeared to merely tolerate since her initiation into their world?

And why the hell wasn’t she scrambling out the bed like she should be?

“I keep refusing,” she explained heatedly, her body stiff with her fury, “because you undressing me with your eyes and then turning it into something literal with your powers, coupled with this whole smarmy, sleazeball thing, just really isn’t working for me!”

Michael rolled his eyes, letting out an annoyed puff of air, “Okay I get it, you’re high-maintenance,” he ran a hand over his mouth in thought before meeting her exasperated gaze again, “Would foreplay help?”

“I’m high-maintenance? I had to scrape you off my ceiling tonight and am now in a serious battle with your powers to keep what dignity I have left!” Liz balked, unable to contain the righteous laughter that spilled from her lips, “Oh yeah, Michael foreplay would do wonders for me right now.”

She held a hand up when she saw his eyes sparkle with mischief, “Note the sarcasm.”

Instead of seeing him deflate before her, like most men would have, having their advances summarily rebuffed, she watched with a guilty fascination as he arched an eyebrow at her. Was he getting off on this?

“I bet you wouldn’t be so sarcastic if it was my tongue working wonders on you.” He said with far too much confidence. Where the hell did he get it?

Liz couldn’t help the blush that crept over her cheeks, as a brief mental picture of his suggestion danced across her brain. She rolled onto her back throwing a hand over her eyes to avoid his still yearning stare, and a defeated groan left her throat, “Why must my life, in this moment, resemble a bad porno flick.”

She could practically hear his eyebrow rise in intrigue. She took her arm away from her eyes, finding confirmation on his face, “Since when do you know anything about pornos, Parker? Do you watch them when Maxwell leaves you high and wet?”

“Max doesn’t leave me we…” she snapped, stopping herself far too late. The smirk on Michael face telling her the information she’d foolishly given him was already bouncing around his synapses, storing her slip for later exploitation.

She growled her disapproval, “It was a figure of speech, Michael. Pornos are so low brow, anyway,” she couldn’t help the smirk that came over her own face as she looked at him cocking her head to one side, “Huh. And yet you seem to be stealing lines from them as if they were your own personal guide to picking up women. Go figure.”

Michael didn’t flinch. Geez, was he really made of stone?

He seemed to eye her carefully, mimicking her by tipping his head at her, in study, “If I’m not getting to you, then why are you protesting so much?”

Now it was her turn to stare at him as if he’d been hatched on his head, “Gee… Maybe it’s because I don’t want to have sex with you for the sake of nudity everywhere!” She took a breath trying to calm her nerves, lower her voice, or her parents would walk in on an impossibly horrid situation, “You aren’t even trying to be remotely romantic. Some girls need that.”

He straightened his head, his smirk fading as he looked down at her, “I don’t do romance.”

She couldn’t fight her smile. She had him, “Then I… Don’t. Do. You.”

She had said each word clearly so he’d understand and mildly disturbed at the disappointment she felt that he might not heed her words. Was she really suggesting he try to romance her? That was wrong wasn’t it? Well?

She didn’t want to see him defeated, just… deflated. A little. That maybe she’d finally gained the upper hand in their mini battle for/against sex for the sake of power balance. She’d watched his face for a hint of anything.

Her only warning coming in the start of his low rumbling chuckle before the sheets she’d been fighting were yanked away, the force so strong she was unable to maintain her grip. She shrieked quickly covering her mouth, too stunned to contemplate why her first concern was waking her parents and not her completely exposed body, currently under heavy scrutiny by Michael’s heated gaze.

“Then I guess there’s no way to cover up,” He told her making a show of looking her up and down. She swore it was as if he was memorizing each curve of her body and how the light played off it. He gave a low whistle of appreciation as his eyes seemed to linger on the swell of her hip, following it up to the flat expanse of her stomach, “Tight, and firm. God, I love being right.”

“Michael!” Liz hissed doing her best to gather the protesting sheets back.

“Yeah you’re right,” he nodded, “It’s hardly fair. I mean, you did show me yours. I should show you mine.”

And before she could tell him to stop, Michael waved his hand over his boxers, causing them to disappear, leaving ALL of him for her to see.

She should have closed her eyes so tightly it would have taken surgery to reopen them, but her curiosity got the better of her and she kept them open, her gaze immediately zeroing in on the one place it shouldn’t. That little equation he’d mentioned earlier, nose, hands, feet… Damn him for being right about her need to test…


Her eyes couldn’t help, but widen, but she caught herself before her jaw dropped. Damn him for being right. Large hands + long nose + big feet = One Huge Di…

“Did you have something to say, Parker?” he asked, snapping her head back up to his face. Oh he was quite pleased with her reaction. How the hell could he be so casual about being naked…? Granted he was gifted but…Wait, that wasn’t the point.

Point. No not point Her eyes flickered a down at him again as if on instinct, before she forced herself to keep her eyes locked on his smug expression. Damn him!

She tugged the sheets violently up against her chest and threw his back over him covering up his…covering IT up.

“I-I-I,” she stammered, mentally cursing herself for letting him see how seeing all of him had affected her.

“Could you, I don’t know, pick a consonant to go with that?” he asked her, smile firmly in place as he once again rested on his elbow to peer down at her.

Liz fought the urge to bitch slap the provocative grin off of his face, but took a page from Kyle and Buddha about not bringing violence to any creature, including aliens doing their impression of a dog in heat.

“You know all I have to do is scream,” she whispered harshly, “My dad would come in here and cut off your…myth” she glanced down at his now covered waist.

Michael shook his head, clicking his tongue softly. How the hell could he call her bluff? If it could be called that. She was sorely tempted to call in her father, just to see Michael running naked down Main Street with an angry parent hot on his heels, wielding a meat cleaver.

“Parker, you’re not going to scream,” He informed her with all the confidence in the world, “If you open your mouth to do anything, it’ll be to taste my myth.”

“How many times do I have to tell you before you get it?!” she raged. Why the hell did he have to be so frickin’ crude, “My mouth will not be on any part of your body until you learn a little goddamn respect!”

“I’ll respect you,” Michael shifted closer to her, his fingertips caressing her white knuckles, and his voice practically purring, “I’ll respect you ...All. Night. Long.”

Hmmm, where had she heard that before? Oh yeah in just about every formulaic teen sex comedy film she’d ever watched. Great, she was being seduced by Stiffler!

Exhausted she let out a whimper of defeat, “Yeah. All night long. And when it’s over you’ll leave. Pretend it never happened.” She sat up on her elbows so her face was level with his and narrowed her eyes. She had to hit him where it hurt and save herself the heartache in the process, “Guess you and Max really do have something in common. The good ol’ Fuck n’ Run. Tess fell for it Michael. I. Won’t.

Michael’s brow furrowed immediately. Yes! Direct hit.

“Whoa. Slow down.” He rose up slightly so he could take her in, she felt as if he were searching for something, “I- I’m not Max, Liz. I won’t… I won’t ditch you afterwards.”

What? He’d stammered. His confusion was… genuine. His eyes told her, quite vividly, she had wounded him. He was being…sincere? Where the hell did that come from?

“Are you kidding me?” she asked him earnestly, but couldn’t help the tremor in her voice. Laughter? Tears? She wasn’t even sure. “The way you’ve been coming onto me all night speaks otherwise, Michael.”

His eyes didn’t leave hers, they only seemed to sadden, and if it was possible his brows knitted even tighter, “You seriously think I’d do that? Ditch you?”

Not more than a breath earlier she was sure she had an answer. Without a doubt she knew he would leave her. But a look altered that absolute certainty. One look left her speechless and internally grappling for answers.

Her silence must have been enough as he hung his head, unable to look at her; the grey sheets suddenly the only thing that could hold his attention. His voice was so soft, all bravado gone, as he spoke, “Guess you don’t know me as well as you think you do.”

Disappointed. He felt disappointed. God. He felt!

Her heart pinched. She’d been so eager to see him falter, to knock him down a peg. But here he was knocked down, because of what SHE thought of him.

The truth was she DID know him. Or at least she thought she had a pretty good idea. This… his demeanour, his blasť attitude about something that was so important to her, had thrown her off terribly. How could she be blamed for thinking the worst of him, when that was all he’d shone her? She didn’t know it would reduce him to this, and she knew this wasn’t a game or some play for sympathy. It was real.

He was being real. Finally.

Liz turned on her side and brought a hand to Michael’s face, her palm cupping his chin, urging him look at her. He did so reluctantly and the pain in his eyes, even hidden behind the stray locks of hair that fell in them, took her breath away. She didn’t brush away the hair, knowing he needed something between them, even something as small as hair, as a wall. She almost smiled as she extended her fingers along the smooth line of his jaw. She’d been so ready to slap the face in her hands only moment and words earlier. Now… Well, now she was scared of what she wanted.

“I do know you, Michael,” she tried to explain, but saw the earned doubt lingering in his caramel depths. She’d usually been good with words, at easing people’s fears and doubts, but he was so difficult to get through to and she found herself faltering. She pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, taxing her brain for something he could grab onto and believe in, “It’s just… t-the way you talk about…sex… It’s just so…casual. To you…I don’t know, maybe it might be that easy. That simple. I-I just don’t have that luxury.”

“Because of Max?” he asked with understanding.

She shook her head and her body tensed at the mention of her… of Max. She couldn’t blame this on him. Well not all of it. She slid her hand away from Michael’s face resting it on the mattress space between them, her confidence was slipping at exposing this much of herself, her fears, and the things she held close to her heart. Suddenly being physically naked with Michael was the last thing she had to worry about. Suddenly this had become about more than the stripping of the body, but of the soul. They were both vulnerable and on shaky ground.

“It’s because of me,” she met him with tears in her eyes. So scared, “I can’t be a casual fling. I won’t be one. I’m sorry if that disappoints you. I know you think it’s stupid and prudish, but…” she sighed in resignation, “But maybe that’s just who I am.”

Michael’s hand slipped over hers on the bed, and he held her eyes, not looking away from the tears she was so afraid of shedding, “That is not who you are, Liz. It’s who they tell you to be.”

Was it really that easy? That simple an explanation? She’d held onto the perception of herself for so long and he was telling her she could rid herself of it in one night. In one act of passion?

“So, instead of guarding my virtue, I should toss it aside to anyone who wants it?” She asked him unable to contain the ripple of sarcasm in her voice. Nothing was that simple, “Virgin to slut with the snap of the fingers?”

His eyes narrowed, pinning her with a knowing stare that shook her, “What are you guarding it for Liz? Max?” he let out a snort of disgust, “He sure as hell doesn’t deserve it.”

“And you do?” she returned without thought.

She wasn’t going to give in so easily. Yes he’d touched her heart, but it wasn’t something she was comfortable with. Her heart was the only one allowed to give permission to her body. She wasn’t going to make him jump through hoops, but she wanted him to know there was work to be done on his part.

“No,” he answered pointedly. He took his hand away from hers, scratching his eyebrow, “But I’m not pretending I do, like he does. I want what I want, Liz. I’m just letting you know.”

That was the understatement of the millennium.

She sighed, reaching her hand up and taking the one clawing at his brow in her own, resting them back on the bed, “I know you don’t pretend, Michael,” she smiled softly, “It’s one of the things I’ve always appreciated about you. But…” Her hand squeezed his, hoping for his understanding, “But it’s still not a reason for me to just… give in.”

He moved his body so slightly, she’d didn’t even register it until she felt the hand that had been covering hers, rise to her shoulder, his thumb stroking the bare skin and his breath fanning across her cheeks as he looked down at her. Her hand had risen up to his chest in an unconscious protest, stubborn doubt and fear needing to put up some sort of resistance. His eyes were so dark and smouldering, she had to look down and away from their intensity, focusing instead on the contrasting colours of their skin. His pale and pressed against hers, tanned and both so warm… and dangerously willing.

“You want a reason?” she heard him ask softly. His warm hand left its gentle caress of her shoulder and she felt his fingers tipping her chin to look at him. She found herself lost inside his eyes again. So honest. So full of desire…for her. His mouth was so close to her own, just a matter of inches and they could touch. Undo her. And she would let him, “Because you want to give in.”

Why couldn’t she own half of his confidence? Where had he procured this knowledge of her? When had she given him reason to have faith in her? To believe what he spoke of her was true?

“You’re so sure?” She said not flinching away from him. It came out as a question, but could have just as easily been a statement. He was so sure of her…of them. She needed…wanted more. She wanted that confidence in their actions, “You say you won’t ditch me, but… But what happens… after?”

“Whatever you want to happen, Liz.” His expression, eyes hadn’t changed.

Liz couldn’t stand it. She looked away, letting his hand fall away from her face, but content to let him still touch her letting it rest on her arm, as she whispered softly, “You don’t want that.”

She was sure he didn’t want… that. It was too much. He’d been hurt. He’d committed to Maria and she’d abandoned him. He wasn’t ready for that, even if she could be. It should have bothered her that she was technically in a committed relationship with Max, and here she was mulling over an even deeper one with Michael.

It should have bothered her, but it didn’t. She’d realized for a while that neither she nor Max were as committed as they should be. He’d come so close to leaving her so many times and she was giving less and less of her heart to him because of it. Michael scared her, because she knew she could trust him, despite Maria’s protests to the contrary. He was solid. Loyal. But it was too soon. He wouldn’t be ready.

His voice wavered the slightest beat as he spoke, so scared to admit what he wanted, “You’d be surprised how long I’ve wanted that.”
Chapter 3 by Peachykin
“What?” Liz’s shock was evident as she snapped her eyes back up to his, her mouth opening and closing in a struggle to get out the questions his confession bombarded her heart and mind with, “How…? W-Why didn’t you say…?”

“You know why.” He interrupted with a pointed look.

She nodded knowing that loyalty she admired so much in him, had extended to everyone he held dear, especially, “Max. But… But why now, Michael? I’m still… with him.”

“Because you’re not happy with him anymore.” he stated simply.

He was right. She wasn’t happy. Hadn’t been for a long time and that was enough for Michael, but Liz’s guarded heart wasn’t as sure. Her confusion was frustrating not only to Michael, but to herself. Her indecision wasn’t fair to him. He wanted more than that.

He shoulders slumped as she looked up at him, “And I could be with you? Michael, But I don’t know how much of my heart is left to give.”

“Pieces can be put back together,” he told her with an uncharacteristic optimism that warmed her heart, but was taken away as he sighed dejectedly, “But only if you give someone a chance.”

Someone. Him.

He’d had this battle before as well. He’d gambled and lost, yet here he was, despite his obvious fear, trying to give her a chance. The way he’d stressed the word ‘someone’, struck her. Did he think she wasn’t going to give him a chance because she thought he’d be just like Max?

Who was she kidding? That was exactly what she was doing.

She slid her arm away from his hand, linking her small, slender fingers through his long tapered ones, “I’m scared to. I know you’re not Max, Michael. But…” her voice caught with emotion. She was showing him too much, “I’m burned. Badly.”

He rubbed his thumb against her palm, his eyes boring into hers, no escape. Not that she wanted to, “I know what that’s like. Believe me, I know. What I also know is that you can’t let the person who burnt you win.”

Liz smirked softly, despite the lump in her throat, “Says the man who drank himself into oblivion earlier? Did that help your burn?”

He shrugged returning her smirk, “Got me here didn’t it?”

Liz’s eyes widened as did the smile on her face. She ripped her hand away from his and clapped hers together excitedly, startling him in the process, “See! Now that was romantic!” her face turned thoughtful though still wearing the grin, “Granted, ‘I got drunk to get in your bed,’ lacks flair, but it works. Why didn’t you start with that?”

Michael chuckled, “Patience with me is the key, Liz. I’m slow. I say the wrongs things, but if you keep trying, sooner or later I’ll surprise you.”

Liz shared his laugh, “I’m beginning to find that out.”

She shifted in the bed, when she realized the sheets were shifting with her, not against her. She took her hand away and they remained still. She hadn’t been fighting them since his revelation. The realization disappointed her, and this time she wasn’t surprised by it. Just left with a feeling of regret. Her furrowed brow, gained Michael’s attention.

“What’s wrong?”

“Huh.” She said as if making a great discovery, “Seems your subconscious doesn’t need sex after all.”

She gestured at the unmoving sheet against her body and watched as Michael brought his finger up to his eyebrow, a cat-like grin on his face, “That’s because all the blood has left my head and travelled to my…energy source.”

He shifted closer, and Liz’s eyes widened as she felt the smooth, firm skin of his erection press into her leg, swelling even more as it came into contact with the soft skin of her thigh. She closed her eyes as she felt the brush of his lips on her shoulder.

How was she supposed to stay on her best behaviour if he was doing this? How was she not supposed to think about that little… well… big equation he’d pointed out earlier when it had grown exponentially against her?

She felt his breath fanning her face again and opened her eyes. Black diminishing the once soft brown irises. She could see her reflection in them. A mirror of what stared back at her. She was just as hungry for this. For him. He wasn’t going to stop this time. And she wasn’t going to let him.

She brought her hand up to his shoulder as she felt him wrap his arm around her waist, pulling her closer. She trailed her fingers over his collarbone, up his neck, feeling him shiver against her touch. Nice to know she could move him as well.

She tangled her hand in his long locks, nearly moaning at their silky feel between her fingers. She gripped at the back of his head, urging him to finish the dance. It was okay. She wasn’t going to fight him anymore, and she was beginning to wonder why there’d been one in the first place. He hadn’t even kissed her yet and he made her forget how it had all started.


His lips slid over hers with her permission, and he wasted no time deepening it. Liz drew in a breath as she immediately parted her mouth to welcome his. There was nothing subtle about him in this kiss. The way his tongue made its way slowly around hers memorizing the recesses of her mouth. The way he drew her bottom lip between his teeth and growled when she increased the grip she had on his hair trying to gain more leverage, draw him closer, and bring him inside her soul. Body would follow soon enough.

Michael’s all-consuming kiss pushed her back against the pillows, her chest rising against his as he stole the very breath from her. Her lungs burned with the need to breathe, but her mouth refused to leave his. She’d never known she wanted to be devoured before that moment.

His kiss defined him. Deep. Passionate. Rough. Unapologetic. Michael.

Certain he wasn’t going to leave her, Liz took her hand away from his head and gripped at the muscles of his back, feeling the raw power beneath them as they tensed and relaxed under her touch. He seemed relieved she’d finally seen him and was so ready for her to let him claim her.

She felt his hand fist into her damp hair, feeding his need to be closer, part of her. He hadn’t attempted to settle his body over hers, instead content to rub his hardness against her leg. She could feel his want, but he tempered it so as not to frighten her. She was grateful. He was so much to take in all at once. A feast for her natural curiosity. His body bore an intense inquisition on her part.

His hand at her waist moved up, cupping her breast through the sheet briefly. She felt him smile against her lips as she arched into him, and she bit down slightly on his tongue, earning a warning grunt from him. She smiled back, soothing the bite with her tongue in apology, though the sharp jerk his body had given against her told her he’d otherwise enjoyed it.

The hand at her breast moved upward, and she felt more and more of his skin against her own as he pulled the sheet down and away from her body, bunching it at her waist before his hand continued it’s perusal of her skin. She couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her throat, muffling against his lips. He finally broke their kiss, looking down at her with a furrowed brow, confusion evident as to her amusement, though his hand continued its path on her body, his fingers gliding over the indentations of her ribs, just teasing the underside of one breast.

“You’re persistent,” she panted, still smiling up at him, “I’ll give you that.”

“Why don’t you give me a hand?” he winked at her, sliding his own over her breast kneading softly.

Liz contemplated following Michael’s instruction quite literally, but their positions and closeness prevented it. Besides she was having fun teasing him. This was going to be her first time. Never, how she’d pictured it, fending off the advances of overactive alien powers, but with Michael, it seemed perfect.

“First, you want my body. Now, you’re asking for a hand.” She arched an eyebrow up at him, trying to seem unaffected by his fingertips dancing over her nipples, hardening them it beneath his touch, when her first instinct was to arch into him until she became a part of him, “Settling are we?”

He bent his head shaking it, his hair tickling her collarbone as he dropped kisses on her skin, “I never settle.” He lowered his lips until they were hovering over her breast, hot breath tightening them so much more that Liz thought she might cry out with need, “Decided to give the foreplay thing another shot.”

“A-Ah…” Liz whispered trying to form a word, but Michael’s mouth finally devouring her breasts broke all synaptic function to her brain. Her eyes shut tightly, and she concentrated on the sensation of his tongue flicking the hardened peak alternately sucking the stiffened peak against the roof of his mouth.

Why the hell had she been fighting this?

Only when she felt Michael’s mouth leave her did she open her eyes, staring up at him breathless and wanting. She found the same look on his face and nearly shivered at its intensity. She thought to ask him why he’d stopped but the look on his face and the way his arms shook as he held himself above her told her what she wanted to know. What they were doing and feeling was more than just physically intense. He’d needed a break to catch his own breath.

She smiled up at him playfully, hoping to ease some of the incredible sexual tension in the air around them, let him relax a little, “And Maria told me men didn’t know the meaning of the word, foreplay”

She felt his arms stop shaking as he returned her smile. She couldn’t help but reach up and place a soothing hand against his chest, finding his heart thumping wildly against her palm.

“Easy for someone to say when they just lie on their backs the whole time.” Michael said with a rumbling chuckle and unapologetic stare back at her.

Liz cringed on her friend’s behalf, “Ouch. Harsh much?”

“Honest.” He corrected, with a shrug.

“I should be mad at you,” she said, trying her best to scowl up at him, but the corners of her mouth betrayed her with the giggle that threatened to spill over at Michael assessment of Maria’s bedroom prowess, “She is my best friend.”

“You should be.” His voice dropped to a husky murmur as he leaned down bushing his lips against hers for a soft slow kiss. She felt his hand spread out over her breast, caressing each one before it slipped lower over her tummy, “But desire is a much stronger emotion.”

“One you seem to live,” she observed, distracted by his mouth on hers, but her breath caught as she felt his fingers slide lowers, through the soft patch of dark curls, before gently brushing her damp folds. She trembled beneath his touch; the sensation it delivered, coupled with her nervousness, making it difficult to concentrate on anything, “I… I don’t know how to.”

“Don’t worry,” he whispered, moving his lips along her jaw line to just behind her ear, his fingers still teasing her slit, drawing out more moisture with every touch, “I’m a damn good teacher.”

She let out a shaky chuckle, her breathing growing more and more laboured with his skilled touch, “Teasing me with learning. Now, that’s customized seduction.”

He returned her chuckle, softly biting her neck in reprimand, his fingertips applying more pressure between her legs, “Parker, no talking while class in session.”

Liz closed her eyes reflexively, and gripped at Michael’s bicep against the pleasure as he slowly pushed a finger inside her. Her walls gripped at him tightly, feeling the unfamiliar invasion. Her breaths coming out in near gasps, “I-I …can’t believe…I’m doing this…I…shouldn’t be…”

But God did she want to. Yes, she was still with Max, but in that moment she had all but given herself completely to Michael. It was wrong. She was cheating. But it felt so good.

“No more shouldn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t,” he scolded her mildly, his rough voice a direct contrast to the gentle touch his fingers made in her core. He pressed his thumb in a light circle onto her clit, trapping her gasp with his mouth in a searing kiss, before he pulled his head away, staring back at her with the black eyes that had been the cause of her undoing, “What is your heart telling you?”

Liz could barely hear his question, let alone concentrate on an answer with the desire thrumming through her body, her pulse, his breath, and voice drowning her in a sea of sensual sound. But she did hear him, and her doubt surfaced as she cast her eyes away from him biting her lip against the cries she wanted to spill out underneath his ministrations. This was so wrong dammit. Why didn’t she stop him? Why was she feeling so weak, and yet empowered all by the same act.

“My heart isn’t trustworthy, Michael. Neither is my body,” she panted, bringing her hand down to his, stilling it’s movements in order to concentrate. Regain some sense of lucidity, “I’m supposed to be mad at you. I’m not supposed to give in this easily.”

Michael furrowed his brow, a small grin appearing despite it as he shook his head, “You analyse things too much, Liz.”

He leaned in, placing a tender kiss at her temple, speaking against her skin as his fingers began moving again, ever so slightly, sending bolts of fire straight to her womb, “Turn off your brain and go with what you feel.”

Liz moaned softly. He was killing her. Striking down every reason she had to fight this. Feeling, held absolutely no logic, but wasn’t that what she was silently begging him for earlier. To show some damn feeling. Now, all she could concentrate on was her body’s craving for more of what Michael’s hand was delivering. More of him.

Somewhere amidst the haze of her lust, Liz heard her parent’s toilet flushing, and her last act of rationality tumbled from her lips, “But my parents…I wasn’t kidding earlier. If we get caught, my dad will kill you.”

Michael’s deadly smirk returned; his mouth dropping sin filled kisses on her swollen lips, “A chance I’m willing to take.”

His playfulness was contagious, and Liz’s inhibition was being stripped with ever stroke of his finger. She grinned against his mouth, “Michael, if you’re half as good as your hand is promising, you’ll be dead when this over. And then you really will leave me.”

“Not by choice though,” he argued, applying more pressure on his clit with his thumb, sending another rush of moisture onto his fingers, and he slipped a second finger inside her, stroking her slowly, “By force. There’s a difference.”

“Ah…” She sighed, her hips beginning to fall in rhythm with his fingers and the pressure inside her womb building more rapidly, “But what if I want to do this again? You being dead creates a serious… problem. Sex with an alien is my limit. Dead guys, not only really gross, but illegal.”

“Yeah that would suck,” he breathed, dropping his mouth down to the hollow of her neck, drawing his tongue over her collarbone, “So don’t scream.”

She threw her head back, let out a throaty laugh that seemed to catch Michael off guard, his hand stilling, “I thought you wanted me to scream.”

He arched an eyebrow down at her, “I do, but you have this aversion to me being murdered. So, we have to be quiet.”

“Now, who’s being indecisive?” she teased, as he leaned down, his mouth enveloping her breast, tongue toying with her hardened nipple, making it difficult for her to speak let alone continue their banter, “You want to make me scream, but you also want me to be quiet. I can’t promise you that.”

“Then I can’t promise you I’ll be alive for this to happen again,” He laughed softly against her skin, propping his chin on her chest.

The low vibration of his voice caused her desire to spike, and she arched her hips, asking him to move again. He obliged, resuming his fingers languid strokes inside her body and the slow circles on her clit. She closed her eyes as he spoke again, his breath blowing across the wet tip of her nipple hardening it further, “But you know what?”

Again, he was asking her to think while he was doing… this? She felt him shift to rest on one elbow, hovering above her, to watch her writhe in pleasure at his touch, “You told me to turn off my brain,” she reminded him.

“Since when do you follow orders?” he snorted, before leaning down to brush his lips over hers, his tongue darting against her parted mouth.

“According to you?” Liz breathed, against his mouth, “Always.”

“Mmmmm… That could be promising.”

Liz paused lifting his face away from hers, her fingers playing in the loose curls of his hair, occasionally gripping at the roots when he added more pressure with his thumb, “I recall telling you in Las Cruces, that ‘you can’t tell me what to do,’ Michael. Still stands.”

He rolled his eyes, “Fine. Outside the bed I won’t tell you what to do,” He shifted, removing his fingers from her body, and stretched his weight over hers, settling between her legs, “Inside it, I’m the teacher.”

“For now.” She chided, belying the sudden nervousness she felt. How close they were to actually…

She gazed up at him, feeling oddly comfortable under his considerable weight, her legs had a mind of their own, wrapping around his hips, her feet gliding along his calves, the soft hair of his legs tickling her feet. A gasp loosed from her throat as he shifted, brushing the head of his erection against her damp folds.

She knew she looked as nervous as she felt. NaÔve. Inexperienced. She trembled in his arms with her fear, not of him, but of what he expected from her. But the way he looked down at her, with those eyes holding so much desire aimed at her, she felt so incredibly sexy. Wanted. Cherished.

He ran his hand along one of her legs gripping at his waist, the rough pads of his palms and fingers, adding another layer of sensation, while his other hand settled in her hair, his thumb caressing her cheekbone. His laboured breath fanned over her face, the skin of his chest pressing into hers. There was no part of him not touching her and she loved it. This kind of suffocation was to be coveted.

He glared down at her, not in anger, but in incredible sexual frustration, “Liz. Talking time is over. First lesson begins now.”

She couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her throat. It was a little bit of fun to play with him, not to mention she was nervous as hell. Surely, a little humour to ease her fears wouldn’t kill him.

“But I’m an inquisitive student.” She looked up at him through her lashes, pouting, “How will I learn if I don’t ask questions? Challenge you?”

“You know I love a challenge,” he growled, “But I need the Q&A session to end. Right now.”

Before she could tortured him more, he swooped down, fusing his mouth over hers, tongue plundering her mouth for good measure. She lost herself in the kiss, letting him consume her. She wrapped her arms around her neck, once again tangling her fingers in his long hair as he deepened the kiss further, pressing her deeper into her pillow.

His hips pressed forward and she whimpered as his erection slid against her wet entrance, creating the same maddening friction his thumb had minutes earlier. She was ready to explode and he wasn’t even inside her yet.

Wasn’t it only twenty minutes earlier, that she was fighting to keep him from seeing her naked, and now she lay stripped, beneath him, ready for him to claim her body? She had been furious with him. Frustrated. And now… She didn’t want to doubt him, but she needed to hear it. No innuendo. No jokes. No lame pick up lines. She needed him as stripped as she felt. She wanted Michael. Pure and simple.

She stopped kissing him abruptly, bringing her hands to his chest, and pushing him up and away for a moment. At his heated and confused look, she gulped for air, settling her hands on either side of his face, begging her to take this seriously, “I just have one more question. Please?”

He nodded, his chest heaving with effort to breathe, the arms that had been forced to hold his weight above her shaking with the need to collapse on her, feel her skin against his, “Make it fast. Really. Fast.”

She bit her lip, unsure of what to ask him. He was risking so much in this act; she knew it meant something to him. His loyalty to Max. His “relationship” with Maria. Why was he doing it? Being with her?

“Why are you risking death by Daddy Parker, Michael? Is it… Is it just to…” she looked away ashamed of her next words, “… ‘get off?’”

“No,” he smiled shaking his head and letting his arms give way a bit as he angled his face a bit, letting his eyes soften for a moment behind the blazing desire, she grown accustomed to, “If I get one night with you. I can die happy.”

Liz felt her throat tighten. It wasn’t the standard, “I love you.” But she felt it. Michael was never one for convention. Sometimes you had to look at his face, body, eyes… and read his words. He felt deeply for her. This risk, being with her, was worth it. No matter what.

“One night’s not enough for me,” she whispered, her voice shaking with emotion.

She meant it too. She knew it wouldn’t be easy or magical, or even conventionally romantic. But here she was about to make love with Michael, instead of Max. Seemed she’d abandoned convention as well, and she never felt freer.

Michael looked down at her, the blackness, and desire consuming his eyes again, feral and hungry grin on his face, “Then don’t scream too loud.”

Her moan was muffled by his mouth, as he effectively ended their conversation with another patented consuming kiss. Their skin against each other, bodies heating up and creating a wet friction with their sweat.

She felt the head of his erection teasing at her entrance, and she pushed her hips down to meet him, tearing her mouth away, his name ripped from her lips in a hoarse whisper. She felt herself stretch to accommodate his large size, grateful he’d tempered his passion enough to be wary of her inexperience.

Then as suddenly as he was there, he removed himself. He still lay atop her body; the fullness of having him even partly inside her was noticeably absent and left her cold. A low growl of frustration coming from behind his teeth as her eyes snapped open. Why the hell did he stop?

She watched him narrowing his eyes, looking frantically around the room, “Where the hell are my pants?”

“What?” Liz panted, beyond confused. Disappointment registered on her face, coupled with a strong bout of pity for the man above her, “Don’t tell me you’re already done.”

He immediately stopped his search, glaring down at her, “Have that much faith in my abilities, huh?”

Liz sighed, “Well… um…you were, there and then you just stopped and… now…you’re looking for your pants…” she rambled, “What am I supposed to think?”

The dumb look he’d given her much earlier in their…conversation returned, “You’re supposed to think I’m getting my wallet. Protection? Condom? Or did you skip that lesson in Sex-Ed?”

Liz’s eyes widened and a blush crept over her cheeks. God, he must have been horribly offended at the notion that she thought he could be that quick on the draw, when he’d only been concerned about their protection.

“Um…I’m s-sorry,” she stammered, “But you don’t have to get your pants.”

Michael arched an eyebrow, “You on the pill? Because even if you are, I’m not taking…”

She shook her head, twisting her body slightly beneath his to open her nightstand drawer. She stuck her hand in fumbling around its contents until she found what she was looking for. She held up a small foil package before him, sure her cheeks were glowing they were so red.

Michael chuckled, taking it from her fingers and inspecting it, “Saving it for a rainy day?”

“Health fair last week at the mall. Maria shoved a bunch in my pocket,” Liz rolled her eyes, “Said it was, ‘motivation.’”

“And are you?” he asked leaning down for another kiss, “Motivated?”

She smiled, seeing his approval of her stash, and not embarrassing her, “Very much.”

He dropped a quick kiss on her lips, pulling his body away for a moment to put the condom on. He never flinched under her gaze as she watched him roll it over his erection. She wasn’t watching out of scientific curiosity. That had been thrown out the window long ago. The reality of what was about to happen was becoming clearer and instead of the fear she’d felt she’d always hold for this moment, she found herself frustrated by the anticipation of it.

Once secure, Michael stretched his body over hers again, immediately seeking out her mouth for deep, slow kisses. Hands spread over skin, muscles. Lips and teeth meshed, and the salty taste of their sweat mingled in their mouths as they spread kisses all over the other’s body.

Their distinctive scents mingled; detergent, and soap. Aftershave and vanilla. Lavender and the desert. It was a heady perfume she knew she’d never grow sick of. Not one of them overpowering the other, but coexisting, and coming together to form something completely unique and intoxicating.

His large hand gripped at her hip, as he slid inside her, stopping at her barrier, giving her time to adjust. His other hand slid under one of her shoulders, his fingertips brushing her collarbone. She stared up at him with no fear of what was to come next. The pain would be worth it. With Michael, brief. He seemed to want to prevent her form being hurt. Saw it in his eyes, along with the hunger.

She nodded her head up at him. No words. She was so ready for this. For him. He leaned down to cover his mouth with hers, hoping to muffle out any scream the short-lived pain might elicit.

She braced herself, trying to anticipate him, gripping at hair and the base of his neck, but his movement stopped and she felt him growl against her mouth. He pulled away from their kiss his brow furrowed as he looked away from her, staring at the floor.

She let out a shaky, if not somewhat disappointed breath again, but massaged his neck soothingly, “Michael…It’s okay… really…Next time…”

His face whipped back towards hers, this time glaring, “That’s not why…Damn Liz, it has been a while, but I do have some stamina.”

Liz blushed and apologized, “But then why…”

She stopped her inquisition when she saw his hand reach for the floor, and her purse sitting by the nightstand. After a moment of digging he pulled out her cell phone, dangling it in front of her face. The familiar ring tone of Sarah MacLaughlin’s Possession , identifying the caller.

“Max.” she groaned, not even needing to see the screen.

“Ignore it,” Michael told her, giving her a predatory look as he set the phone on the nightstand, “Besides, it’s rude to call at this time of night when his girlfriend is trying to get laid.”

He ran his tongue over her parted lips, and she immediately smiled granting him access. He took one of her hands that had been massaging his neck and settled it above her head on the pillow gripping it with his own. He raised his head up, his eyes challenging her.

“You were…” Liz panted, returning his stare, and shifting her hips to draw him back inside her, once again feeling him pressing into her barrier, “…here.”

Michael closed his eyes for a moment as she squeezed him with her walls, “Ohhh… right.”

He opened his eyes when she relaxed, releasing him and he kissed her softly, gripping her hand as he pulled his hips back slightly. He held her eyes, drawing her into him, and she felt a connection spark. He was trying to make sure she focused on anything but the pain she might feel with his next movement.

The phone began it tinny melody again, and Michael stopped again, growling angrily at the small phone, and pressing his lips harder against hers, refusing to move. Liz was frustrated, but somewhat grateful. She did not want this moment to contain memories of her losing her virginity while a cellular phone version of one of Max’s favourite songs.

She tried to focus on Michael, letting his kisses, and the thrumming desire in her ears, drown out the phone, but apparently he couldn’t. The hand that had been threaded through hers on the pillow loosed itself and she whimpered as he tore his mouth away grabbing the phone and putting it to his ear. Liz’s eyes widened up at him, but he gave her a small peck on the lips before speaking.

“Hello.” He spoke evenly, belying the laboured breaths she knew he was fighting, with him still inside her body, yet to complete their act, “You’ve reached Liz Parker’s cell. She can’t come to the phone right now, because I’m currently in the middle of fucking her brains out. Please leave a message after the beep and she’ll get back to you as soon as she comes. Beep.”

Liz threw her hand over her mouth, but couldn’t stop the loud and quite unladylike laugh. Michael smirked down at her holding the phone away from his ear as they both heard Max on the other end.

“Michael…? Michael, you better be kidding! I swear to God…”

Liz took the phone from Michael’s hand, putting it up to ear, winking up at her soon-to-be lover’s baffled face, “Translation: We’re through, Max. But Michael and I are just getting started.”

“Wait! Li…!”

She pressed the power button on the cell phone tossing it back on the floor haphazardly. No more interruptions. She looked back up at Michael, completely seduced by the wide grin on his face.

“Conscience clear?” he asked, threading his fingers back through hers as she rested her hand above her head.

“Crystal. I’m a free woman.”

Michael shook his head, “Nope. Mine.”

Liz laughed, despite the pinch her heart gave at Michael’s easy claim to her, “Gotta be a record of shortest time in between relationships. All of what, a half second?”

He leaned down, kissing her lightly, “Technically I was in you when you broke up with him, so… I’d like to get back to that now.” He shifted his hips reminding her exactly where he was.

“Please…” she whispered against his mouth, tightening her legs around him.

Once again, she stared up into blackened caramel, lost in the connection he’d pulled her into. She was aware of her body, felt everything, so much clearer than she had before they had been interrupted. Focused.

Michael brought his hips back, surging forward, breaking through the thin tissue, and burying himself inside her as far as he could go. Liz shrieked in surprise, it, thankfully muffled by Michael’s mouth, and gripped his hand, digging her nails into back of his hand. The quickness of the action had caught her so much off guard that she barely even registered the burn inside.

He took his mouth away, resting his forehead against hers, waiting for her to okay his next movement. She was touched by the tenderness he’d displayed, the regret over her pain. She arched her hips, and they both groaned at the ripples of pleasure the action brought.

Michael took the cue and pulled back, pushing back in slowly, building a rhythm that suited them. She hadn’t realized how close she truly was to coming apart in pure bliss until that moment. Their argument. His seduction, His fingers. His voice. Had all served to be an incredible exercise in foreplay. She was melting beneath him, unsure if anything she was doing was right, but unable to deny the way it made her tremble beneath him.

It wasn’t at all like she’d heard the other girls talk about, or hell even Maria, and she’d been with Michael. There was nothing awkward about his movements. They were practiced, seemingly skilled to give her the most pleasure. She followed him, let him guide her body, their pace, squeezing her hip if she met his thrusts too fast, increasing his if they were too slow.

When she felt the stirring of her orgasm, her eyes fluttered and she tried to tip her head back, but the strangled whisper of her name on Michael’s lips, kept them open. She could see by the tension in his face that he couldn’t say much more than her name. He wanted her eyes to stay open, stay with him.

“Michael….” She simply whispered, and felt his hand tighten in hers and the one on her hip grip her tightly, his thrusts becoming frenetic.

She screamed her pleasure, momentarily forgetting where she was and that her parents were in the next room. Luckily Michael sensed her impending release and the vocalization of it, when she felt his large hand leaves hers and settle over her mouth, muffling her cries.

She whimpered against his hand, biting into his palm as every nerve in her body was licked with the flames of desire, and she came apart in his arms.

As she was coming down from her orgasm, Michael slammed into her body one last time, and Liz watched with fascination as he squeezed his eyes shut, a low moaning growl coming from deep with in his chest, followed by a gasp of her name. Her heart filled with pride that she’d been the one to do that to him, that they done this to each other.

It might not have started out beautiful, but it certainly ended that way.

She looked up at him, stroking his cheekbone with her fingers, when he finally opened his eyes, their exhausted bodies resting against one another. He took his hand away from her mouth, whispering an apology, fearing he’d been too rough.

She shook her head and lifted up to kiss him softly. Alleviate his fears. He thanked her before gently removing himself from her body and settling his head on her chest, eye lashes tickling her hypersensitive skin.

“Michael?” she asked, running her fingers through the sweat soaked hair on his crown, knowing her own mirrored his.

“Hmmm?” he breathed against her, his arms wrapped tightly around her body in a post coital act of possession.

“Next time you want to see me naked. You don’t have to get drunk.”

He laughed tilting his head up to look at her, “Noted. But you will have to wait to call Max back.”

Liz rolled her eyes remember Michael’s mock message earlier, “But I already…came.”

“I believe I used the plural of that particular verb, Liz.”

Her eyes widened and she laughed nervously, “Guess you weren’t kidding about that stamina thing, huh?”

Michael’s arched eyebrow answered her effectively and she sighed lifting her arms above her head, “Death by alien probe. I suppose there are worse ways to go.”


Liz woke later that morning when her father knocked softly on her door. She didn't scramble to cover up, or try to hide Michael. She heard her shower running and knew he was safely in the confines of her bathroom, and she was, albeit reluctantly wearing her pyjamas.

She'd argued rather effectively that, since her screams of delight hadn't managed to wake her father, therefore insuring Michael would live through the next few hours that it would be tempting fate to have her sleep naked, only to have her father come in and find his baby girl having been taken advantage of over and over again by a drunk and horny alien.

Having seen her logic, Michael grumbled about instituting a, "Thong only," rule in his apartment, to make it up to him.

"Morning, Dad." She said yawning as she felt her father's weight dip the mattress.

He set two mugs on her nightstand full of steaming coffee and chuckled, "Try to get Michael to share one of those with you, kiddo. He must have kept you up all night, with all the groaning he was doing."

"Yeah exhausted," Liz blushed and sat up, laughing nervously, "Um, you know, Michael…last night he…Getting drunk, he doesn't…"

Jeff nodded his head, "I know, Liz. Michael's a good kid. He's entitled to one bout with the bottle in his youth. Just glad you were around to take care of him. He sounded really sick last night."

Liz coughed involuntarily, "Yeah, he won't be doing that again... Drinking, I mean,” she amended quickly. They would most definitely be doing the other thing frequently. Her thoughts wandered to urban legends needing to be thoroughly tested, as she heard the shower turn off, and she realized there was a wet, naked Michael just feet away. Like…Could you really go blind...?

"Max was here a few minutes ago." Her father said, unknowingly wrenching his daughter away from her carnal thoughts with tedious reminders of what the morning after would bring she and Michael.

"Oh?" she asked annoyed, but hardly fazed. Her only surprise was that Max hadn't shown up earlier ready to brawl with Michael on the…

"Yeah, I was taking out the trash from the party last night and caught him trying to climb the fire escape. Apparently his car broke down in the desert last night and he and Maria had to walk all the way back into town. He said he tried to call you, but…"

"I was taking care of, Michael," Liz said quickly.

“Yeah, I told him as much,” Jeff scratched at the stubble on his chin, “He seemed pretty upset when I told him about Michael being so sick last night, that he’d kept you up.”

“I bet,” Liz mumbled, unable help the small smile that graced her mouth, but then schooled her face back up to her father, sleepy, but resolved, “Um, I sort of…broke up with Max last night.”

Jeff’s eyebrows shot up, and he was fighting the smile already turning up his lips, “Really?”

“Gee, Dad. Try to contain your glee.” She said dryly, briefly registering the sound of the bathroom door being opened the slightest bit. Michael must have heard them talking and didn’t want to interrupt, not to mention getting in a fair bit of eavesdropping.

Jeff chuckled, but it faded as he gently clasped his daughter’s hand, “Is it really over this time, Liz or did him going off with Maria last night just …”

“I can say without a doubt, it is really over with Max, Dad,’ she squeezed his hand and held his eyes, but she’d made sure to raise her voice, letting Michael know as well.

“Well, that is one resolution I hope sticks,” Jeff smiled pushing off the bed and heading towards the bed, You and Michael come down for breakfast…That is if he can stomach it.”

Liz bit her lip and nodded as her father shut her door. She fell back against the pillows, arm thrown across her forehead, watching Michael emerge from the bathroom, running a hand through his damp hair and a towel wrapped around his waist.

“Hey,” he said softly, seating himself to face her, on the bed.

She smiled at him taking her hand away from her forehead to slip it into the one he had resting next to her, “How’re you feeling?”

“Better,” he grinned, toying with her slender fingers

Liz returned his grin, sitting up to drop a kiss on his shoulder, “Quite a night you had.”

“Yeah both of us,” he whispered in her ear, sending goose bumps along her skin, “What about Maria?”

Liz shrugged her shoulders, “Who knows? I think that she and Max spent the night together.”

He laughed, bringing his free hand up to thread through her hair, “So, she probably knows I spent the night in your bed.”

“Is that what you did?” Liz teased, “My father is under the impression you were praying to the porcelain gods and I was your personal clergy.”

“I do recall you chanting a few… prayers, Liz,’ he volleyed, kissing her softly before she could speak.

Lost in the kiss, Michael only broke it when he felt a tugging at his towel and placed his hand over the one Liz was using to loosen the material around his waist, “That’s hardly a subconscious action, Parker. Not to mention your parents are in the next room.”

Liz ignored his protest, batting his had away from her goal, “They’re making breakfast down in the diner,” she pulled the towel free tossing it across the room, it landing with the one that had abandoned her the night before, “I’m just and ordinary human girl, Michael. I’ve got to do things the old fashioned way.”

He laughed, pushing her back against the pillows, “I was with you last night, Liz. Not much of what we were doing could be considered old-fashioned.”

“So…” Liz blushed at the memories, but was hardly ashamed of them, “So, I was just curious…”

“Ah, I like I when you’re curious,” he breathed, settling between her legs and rubbing himself suggestively against her cotton pyjama bottoms, “You get all bendy.”

Liz glared at him half-heartedly, “This, ‘Thong Only,’ rule at your apartment…Does that apply to you as well, because personally…”

Her words died in his mouth, and she melted into him, not noticing the faint ticking of the fixed clock Michael had broken the night before. Worn and slightly beaten, it never sounded stronger. Everything needs a little shake up now and then.




And love.
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