"So how do you like that outfit?" M'Cadarra asked.
"It's worse than the other one," R'Dam sighed. "And yours?"
"Mine isn't quite so accurate, but it does fit me." M'Cadarra's own tuxedo appeared to be two sizes too large for him, but that was mostly due to the fur underneath it. R'Dam had finally decided to go with Pendorian slippers rather than the hard shoes the Terrans had supplied him. They had the right color and he hoped they would pass. R'Dam examined himself in the mirror. He wished desperately for the freedom to go back to the ship, but the decision to restrict SDisk use on the ground to emergency purposes had been one of his ideas. He would live with it. They could get back to the ship in the blink of an eye but there was no sense letting the Terrans know that.
"What did Joshua say?" the M'Cadarra asked.
"Joshua thinks you're doing well," the AI replied from the small radio in R'Dam's pocket. "I am quite impressed by your current negotiations. I have been warned that these humans you two are dealing with are among the most devious on the planet and so far most of what they intend has been very obvious. I'm not sure what it is I'm supposed to be watching out for." He chuckled. "Should I accompany you?"
"I'll take the communicator," R'Dam replied, sliding it into his pocket. "These people are just now getting used to streaming cellular telecomm but I'm sure I can convince them it's a necessity."
"Indeed," M'Cadarra replied. "I feel naked without a weapon."
"Uncia," R'Dam sighed, giving his old friend a grin.
"Satryls," M'Cadarra chuckled, giving R'Dam's ear a briefly painful tweak. "Let us go meet our transport."
"It's called a limousine."
"Whatever," the Uncia replied. "I'm here to protect you, not learn the local language."
They made their way down to the hotel lobby. Washington denizens long jaded by the presence of kings and princes, tyrants and dictators turned to gawk at the imposing feline presence of M'Cadarra as the two strode through. The Terran at the door was efficient and they soon found themselves being whisked down the road in their car. "It's a shame, really," M'Cadarra said. "All this energy built into being impressive rather than being efficient or fun. Such a waste all their petrochemicals gone into transportation rather than manufacturing, for example.
"The humans have a saying. 'The eye that sees the past sees perfectly.' If we have a chance to change their course by showing them a working future I think we should take it."
"Perhaps," the Uncia said. "And perhaps it would be best to let the humans learn for themselves what they need to know."
"And if they don't before they drown?" R'Dam asked.
"I don't think they'll drown."
All through the conversation the human assigned to guard and escort them appeared to keep his stare fixed out the window. R'Dam turned to him. "Agent Murray?"
"Hmm?" the young man asked. Although on this detail for only two days now, already he had the practiced air of someone who had worked with aliens his entire life.
"Is my conversing in our native tongue disturbing you?"
"I figure you have something to talk about. Don't let me interrupt you. Like I said, I'm just here to make sure you don't get hurt or lost."
"I appreciate that, Agent Murray."
They arrived at yet another impressively massive structure designed to impose on its viewers the notion of authority. R'Dam had to admit he felt intimidated. There were certainly structures as large as this in a few places on Pendor and he had seen several of them in person. But in what some people already called the Hurried Century there had been little thought put towards anything other than the elegantly utilitarian. Even the Tangent Arcology, for all its massive size and outstanding engineering, stood little more than a gleaming brick over a lovely lake. It was, a friend of his had pointed out, something that typically appealed to the male aesthetic.
After being checked through a security detail (his identify was little in doubt) he was led by a hostess in an exquisitely tailored black dress through a pair of open doors. A gentleman clearly marked by the effects of geriatry raised his head and introduced them. "Dam Reinrau of Pendor and security detail."
R'Dam bowed politely to the announcer, a gesture he noticed upon standing seemed unexpected. He was not yet used to the customs of Terrans and regarded their structure of respect to be wildly out of proportion. The man had done his job. He deserved acknowledgement. The Terrans seemed to treat him as if he were a doorknob rather than a doorman.
He was relieved when he spotted Ambassador D'Gen. She walked over to him and kissed his cheek in a familiar fashion; they had been lovers on board the Main for a brief time and he still regarded her with a friendly eye. "Joshua tells me all is well," she said, touching his wrist in reassurance. "And I have faith in you, Dam."
He gave her his best smile. "Thanks, Genelina. I appreciate that."
Music began and some began to use the center of the main floor to dance. Around him shuffled a great many people; a few spoke to him, thanked for him coming. None asked him a direct question.
None, that is, until a voice behind him asked, "Aren't you terribly bored with all this?"
"How could I get bored?" he asked, turning around. "I've never seen anything like this before in my life. And how are you this evening, Rebecca?"
The junior trade representative he had met that morning smiled back at him. "I'm so glad you remember my name, R'Dam. Not too bad. I am finally bored of this. You don't have anything like this on Pendor?"
He shook his head. "We have parties, sure, but nothing to match the-- what is the phrase you used when we parted this afternoon?"
"Pomp and circumstance?"
"Yes, that. I'm astounded by the extension of detail performed here, the unnecessary steps taken to make your leaders look more important than they obviously are."
Surprised by his comments, she replied, "This is how we know they're important."
"And not by their actions?"
"Well, that too, but this is a kind of reminder."
"I guess we have better memories." He smiled to her. "If you are so bored with this, why are you still here?"
"The food is good," she replied with a grin. And then a sigh. "And I have nowhere else to go. There's home, with twenty channels of nothing on the television and a stack of paperwork a mile high, I suppose, but that's not really an option."
He looked at her. In a slinky black dress that seemed to pour itself over her body as she moved yet managed to hide every one of her suggestive charms effectively, she looked very lovely. She had been tough and effective this morning but friendly when not directly discussing matters on the table. He couldn't imagine her without companionship. "No friends? Family? Beloveds?"
"In this town?" She gave a short, brittle laugh. "There's no time for things like that and, besides, the people I could run into around here are more interested in me for how close I can get to the President, not in me."
R'Dam found the thought of her being so lonely very sad. Loneliness on Terra, he realized, was part of a terrible compromise. Competition for the scarce physical necessities turned the emotional necessities into a kind of commodity all their own. The people spinning before him on the darkened floor did not like one another; they were all, in one way or another, posturing for more. More what? he wondered. What, exactly, was Terran prosperity for? He suddenly wanted to get out of there. "Rebecca, how late will this party run?"
"Until about one in the morning, I imagine."
"After sunrise-- Oh, I forget. Your middle of the night is your first hour. We count our time from sunrise and sunset. That will be..."
"About three hours from now," she said. "I never did find out if you understood how long an hour is?"
"It is an hour long," R'Dam replied with a smile. He was grateful for her attention even if he was not convinced she liked him. "Our hours are exactly as long as yours."
"Exactly?" she asked, surprised.
"How does that work?" She seemed earnestly curious, but then stifled a yawn. "Oh, sorry."
"You are bored with this," he said, gesturing to the room. She nodded. "That's good. I'm not at all impressed by this, either. I am suddenly finding it rather... sad, in a way."
She grinned. "Listen, you've been granted temporary diplomatic visas, right?" R'Dam nodded. "Are you under any movement restrictions?"
"I don't believe so. At the moment we have many of the rights of traditional Embassy personnel. I believe agent Murray over there was assigned to us mostly for our own concern rather than to protect citizens from us."
"Wait here." She walked over to where the agent was standing and spoke to him for a moment. R'Dam saw the unmistakable expression of frustration cross his usually expressionless face but finally he seemed to relent. She walked back to R'Dam and said, "So, would you like to go somewhere a little quieter?"
"Where would that be?"
"I know this fabulous little cafe just a couple of blocks from here. I go there for breakfast once in a while and I think they're open until midnight."
"I had better check with my people, then." He pulled out the communicator from his pocket. "Joshua? I'm going out of M'Cadarra's custody. Yes, I'll keep the phone with me. Yes, Rebecca Inderson, the Associate Secretary of State for Interstellar Trade. Thanks." He smiled at her. "I am yours, Rebecca."
"Becky, please, R'Dam. And-- No, I suppose you're right. It is Interstellar Trade now, isn't it?"
Recovering their coats, they emerged from the noisy party into the wintry cold of a Washington night in January. A light snow had begun to fall, adding to the already white grounds of Kennedy Center. The chill muffled the sounds of the city and seemed to bring both of them closer to one another. "Does it snow on Pendor?" she asked.
R'Dam found the question amusing. "That depends on where you live. Snow falls in most places. It snows most on the edges and it almost never snows in the middle."
"The middle?" she asked. "You mean, like the equator?"
Realizing he had almost let that secret drop early, he recovered. "Yes, that's the word I want. The equator."
"It doesn't sound much different from Earth."
"It isn't meant to be," he said. "There are some differences. When your people come to our world the differences will become more apparent. The land is very much like Earth's. But it's not Earth in many significant respects."
They reached the cafe and she led him inside. She asked the waitress for a booth. The waitress did a double take at the sight of R'Dam's tail and curious gait but she said nothing. "I still don't understand the Pendorian concept of being rich," Becky said, continuing their conversation from that morning.
"It's actually not hard to understand. Being rich on Pendor isn't about having a lot of things, it's about having something to do every day that makes you happy and makes those around you admire what you do."
"But how do you measure that?"
"Every fen has to measure that in their own way."
The waitress approached. Becky ordered coffee for both of them before continuing. "Doesn't that mean some people abuse the system? I mean, how do you make sure that someone isn't taking more than their fair share?"
He shrugged. "There are a few who don't do anything. Very few, actually. They're looked after; we see to it that they have enough food and water, a roof over their heads and so on. Don't you look after your mentally ill here on Earth?"
"Well, yes, but we don't think of those who don't have to work as mentally ill."
"Maybe you should." Their coffees arrived. He sipped his cautiously. "It's strong. Oh, no, this doesn't have caffeine in it, does it?"
"Of course," she said. "Why? Is that bad?"
"It's poisonous to my kind." He looked up at the waitress. "Could you bring me a glass of milk? Large, please. She didn't know coffee makes me..."
"He's allergic to it," Becky offered.
"Sure. It'll still be on your tab, though."
"That's okay," Becky said. "My mistake."
"I think this is one of those places where our cultures are fundamentally at odds," R'Dam continued after the waitress had left. "You work your entire lives in order to achieve a state where you need not work. We spend our lives at a slower pace. We don't expect our children to begin serious work until they're well into their third decade. When they do we're usually very proud of them and that is payment enough." The waitress returned with his milk and he took a long draught before continuing. "You think you have to work because you all think there isn't enough for you. So you have to fight for what you need. We don't. So we struggle only for what we want."
Becky nodded as she sipped at her coffee. They were silent for a while before she said, "I suppose that makes sense. There must not be many people on your world."
"We have a little under three million people. Less than the population of this city. But we aren't worried. We doubt there will be the kind of resource pressure you on Earth have always worried about." The waitress dropped off the tab. R'Dam reached into a pocket and carefully examined the bills he held until he had found the right amount. Becky examined the amount, frowned, and put in another dollar. "Did I get the amount wrong?"
"You paid for the coffee but you didn't leave a tip. Payment for services."
"Oh. How is that calculated?"
"Ten to fifteen percent of the amount."
"Curious." He felt the expression of disapproval cross his face, and he noticed her see it. She didn't comment. Instead, she placed her hand over his on the counter. "R'Dam, can I ask you a personal question?"
"Yes," he replied quickly.
"Are you married?"
He laughed. "We don't-- marry-- on Pendor. We have contractual relationships for raising children and what organized efforts there are exist to supply the needs of families raising children, not 'marriages.' If people want to live together that is their decision. If they want that relationship publicly recognized they are welcome to involve the community in that decision and can encourage the community to help them remain together through difficulties. And no, I'm not in a monogamous relationship right now."
"Oh." Becky shook her head. "What about-- physical relations? Can you have them with humans?"
He paused. She was clearly heading in a direction he hadn't anticipated. He had been told that humans typically did not get involved with physical intimacy without a great deal of subtle and somewhat underhanded negotiating, often in conditions where neither knew what the other had to offer and apparently never about what each brought to bed. He thought about his next few words carefully. "Becky, are you asking me if I can go home with you or if I will go home with you?"
"Both," she sighed.
"I can, and I would like to, if you would invite me."
She hesitated. "Why don't you walk me home? Your people can direct you back to the hotel if you need to go back, right?"
"I believe that's within Joshua's capabilities."
Now it was her turn to look puzzled. "You were talking to him on your cell phone, weren't you? Who is Joshua?"
"The ship's computer." He pointed skyward.
"Oh. He speaks English?"
"He speaks a lot of languages, actually. Hi's very talented. Not terribly creative, but that's not an AI speciality."
"Oh." The waitress took the check and the cash. "Okay, let's go." They both rose. Making their way through the snow-bound sidewalks, both were silent as she again led the way, this time to her apartment. "This is it. Want to come inside and see?"
"I'd enjoy that." She unlocked the door and led him into the old brownstone building. The walked up a flight of stairs and turned a left, coming to apartment 2C. She unlocked that door as well and led him inside.
"Sorry about the mess," she said.
He examined her home slowly. It was small with an old center-stand table, painted yellow, dominating the center of the room. It had two stacks of files on it. A bookshelf lined one wall and a video display-- a television, he corrected himself, a read-only video device with very limited selection options-- occupied a corner. Two posters occupied the walls. A kitchen jutted out along one wall, separated from the room they had entered by a bar of sorts. There were three chairs about the table. Facing the television was a large couch in black leather. It looked well-worn but undamaged. A door led off somewhere, he guessed to the bedroom. "It has more room than my cabin on the ship," he said. "And I have to share mine with a roommate. But my cabin was not as cluttered, perhaps. That may be because books are heavy but data is light. We have many terminals."
"I can imagine," she said. "Look, this is probably going to sound really stupid but, you're like, a cat... man from the waist down, right? So, I mean, is your, um, you know, is it barbed?"
He laughed aloud for several seconds. "No, it's not. It's not on real cats, either. That's a myth. There's a ridge of cartilage there but it's not a real barb. That comes from veterinarians examining the penis after death, when there's been some drying and it looks like a barb. We anticipated that question." He glanced at her, not sure what to say next. "I guess if you want to see for yourself, I could..."
"No, that's okay. Not right now," she replied hurriedly. "I mean..." She approached him slowly. "What would it be like?"
"I don't know," he replied, his mouth suddenly dry. "I've never had a Terran lover. I might even be the first. Short of whomever Shardik has slept with."
"R'Dam, you can't make me pregnant, can you?"
"No," he said. "Nor can I have any diseases that I can pass on to you, nor you to me."
"That's good," she said. "I hadn't thought about that."
He reached down and placed his hands on her shoulders. She looked up. He watched her eyes and waited for her to say something as the distance closed between them. His lips touched hers ever so softly and she pulled him in hard, holding the two of them close as she kissed him. He heard her breath catch in her throat and felt her arms encircle his waist entirely.
"Maybe it's time we moved to the bedroom," she suggested.
"Maybe it is," he agreed. She led him through a narrow door. Her bed was queen-sized, in his experience large for one but barely large enough to hold two comfortably. He realized that he didn't know much about the clothing he wore and might have to ask her help to get out of it. He also realized that he didn't know how to proceed with her. A Pendorian fem and he would have some idea about what they wanted before they got into the bedroom. Here, he was out of the realm of the theoretical.
He could also see apprehension coloring her brown, human eyes. She was as out of her realm as he. She swallowed. "I don't normally bring home men on a first date," she said softly. "I just I guess I dared myself. Maybe it's a bad dare."
"What did you dare yourself?"
She giggled. "You were right, back at the party. I haven't had a boyfriend in a long time. I was thinking about that this afternoon for different reasons than our meeting this morning. A friend was talking about her boyfriend troubles and I was wishing I had a boyfriend to have troubles with. For some reason I thought of you and I thought it would be a hoot to be the first human to sleep with an alien. Guess you're not all that alien, are you?"
He was touched that she allowed him that kind of intimacy, even if her motives weren't entirely about her liking him. "Alien enough," he murmured with a smile. "We can if you still want, Becky. I promise to be gentle. And you've been very lovely to me so far." He placed his hands on the thin straps that held her evening gown in place. He lifted them from her shoulders and slowly allowed them to fall down her arms. The gown clung to her breasts, refusing to fall completely without his help. He gave it that help while he kissed her.
She giggled. "I can't believe you said that."
"'I promise to be gentle.' Do you know how-- cliched that sounds?" She laughed. "No, I guess you wouldn't, would you?"
"Do Terran men say it often?" he asked.
She opened her mouth to reply, then stopped. Then, "No, actually. I don't think I've heard anyone say it to me ever. Not even the creep who I lost my virginity to."
"Then how can it be a cliche?" he asked, taking her hand. She responded with a kiss. The two of them sunk down onto the bed as his lips kissed her throat. Hands wrestled with clothing as he slowly pushed her dress down the length of her body. Her hands found the buttons holding his shirt closed. Fingers worked feverishly. R'Dam was surprised by the intensity radiating off her. "Becky?" he asked.
"Hmm?" she said.
"I don't know how I got into these clothes. I'm going to need some help getting out."
He watched her try to hold back a laugh. She failed. "I know that feeling," she said. "Here, let me help." He watched as she found the clasp for the cummerbund and tossed it aside. He kicked off the shoes-- those, at least, he knew how to deal with. The tie was easy enough and he managed to get the shirt off without much difficulty. "There's looptape in the back where the tailor made room for the tail."
"I see it. We call it Velcro."
"That's a brand name. We couldn't use it."
"I thought you weren't involved directly in the trade negotiations," she said mockingly.
"I still must keep track. It's my job," he said as he finally managed to toss the shirt aside. He reached down and eased himself out of the restrictive pants he had been wearing for far too long.
Becky gasped. "I-- I didn't realize ."
R'Dam had a tiger's coloration; soft tinges of orange fur reached up his cheeks almost touching his eyes, then disappeared down the back of his neck to spread into denser patterns on his shoulders and arms, thinning again only as they reached the back of his hand and fingers. A narrow band of the same orange complimented his pale skin down his back to his waist, where it spread out to become thicker. Becky had seen the fur on his face and his hands and she had seen his tail. The sight of his legs with their very feline shape and their dense fur had given her pause. Hanging between those powerful thighs was a short sheath of fur from which emerged an average-sized manhood. It wasn't a completely human cock, however; most men had a clear delineation between the head and the shaft of it, but on R'Dam that clear line was just a slight change of coloration.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said. "Just surprised. Sorry, never saw a naked alien before." She laughed nervously.
"I've never seen a naked alien before, either. Naked humans, yes, but never a naked Terran."
She laughed and pushed the dress over her hips, revealing the rest of her body to his eyes.
He looked her over appreciatively. She had the pale skin of someone living through a long winter, but that pale skin accentuated the dark tangle of pubic hair between her thighs. It was a shade darker than the brown on her head. Her body was shapely, if a little hard around the edges. He wondered why anyone whose job kept her indoors and sessile would have such little fat. He worried if she ate well. For all that, she was very pretty, and he said so.
"Thanks," she replied, blushing.
He turned over, placing his hands on her thighs and pulling her even closer to him. "I mean that sincerely. You are very pretty, Becky."
"You're a very handsome-- man?"
"Mel," he replied. "It's generic for a male person."
"Mel, then." They rolled together on the bed until he found himself lying on top of her, between her thighs. Her warm skin pressed itself against his body. He smiled down at her but the look he saw in her eyes was less pleasure and more apprehension. He knew this wasn't going to be the easiest night of his life.
"I just-- it starts to feel weirder by the second. I'm not used to being in this position."
"Well, let me--" He started to move.
"No, that's not what I mean," she said abruptly. "What I meant was I hadn't expected it to feel so weird, you having that fur and all. I just "
"Let me do something that'll feel more normal, then," he said, sliding down between her thighs. He let out a sigh of relief to see that the construction of her sex was just like those of Satryls and other bipeds he had known on Pendor. That, at least, was reassuring.
He kissed her sex directly, lips meeting lips through a thicket of dense pubic hair that trapped a scent he found intoxicating. Inhaling deeply, he savored the perfume of her body. "Fah, you smell good," he gasped.
With a finger he parted her matted pubic hair and exposed the pale lips hidden underneath. He kissed his way across her lips and Becky rewarded his efforts with an encouraging moan. He gave her what little skill he knew he had, enjoying the taste of her sex as his tongue probed deeply between her lips. The tip encountered a liquid musk he had never tasted before, at least not the human variety. He buried his face between her thighs and pressed his mouth directly against her, his tongue sliding upwards against her clitoris. Her whole body jerked suddenly and powerfully upwards; he decided to hold off on that again until later. Instead he concentrated on the rest of her mons, kissing his way around her outer lips, tasting between them with his tongue, and caressing the hood of her clitoris with his lips. Little versions of the reaction she had had earlier shook through her as he listened to her voice climb in pitch and volume and felt the muscles in her thighs solidify with pre-orgasmic tension.
R'Dam appreciated the noises she made. He was doing good. He understood now just how little he really appreciated the Terran way of life. Such a complex people; he was so pleased that Becky had invited him into her night; it gave him a chance to get close and he hoped to make her happy.
He noticed she stopped breathing as her back arched towards the ceiling, then collapsed as she came with a great tremble, a violent but so silent climax. "Oh, Dam," she sighed as the tremors subsided. "Stop!"
"Too much?" he asked.
Her answer came in gasps. "After, after I come, yes. Come here?" she asked, holding her arms out to him. He lunged into her offered embrace and they fell, kissing and laughing. "Mmm," she moaned. "That was good."
"Oh, good. I was afraid I was losing my skills there for a second."
"Not with a mouth like that. Something in what you did-- Better than most."
"I'm pleased," he laughed.
She reached down between his thighs. "I keep getting distracted by all the fur. It seems so weird." Her hands closed around his cock. "Do you do just as well with this?"
"That depends," he asked. "On how you like your, um, lovemaking."
"I like it a lot."
"But do you like a lot of it?" he asked.
"Sometimes," she responded. She maneuvered under his shoulder and pushed him over onto his back so that now she was on top. "Let's see what it feels like." She knelt over his torso, her hand reaching back to hold his cock. She stroked him a couple of times. "Hmm, no barb."
"I told you," he said with a grin.
"Let's see if it works as advertised." He felt the warmth of her cunt surround his cock as she lowered herself onto it, pressing herself down all the way. She smiled. "I won't have to turn you in to the FTC."
"Federal Trade Commission. They investigate adverting abuses."
"Oh." He thrust his hips upwards, pushing himself deeper into her. "We'll discuss business later, yes, Undersecretary?"
"Mmm 'course, Ambassador." She rolled her hips back and forth and his cock slid inside her. She leaned forward and propped herself with her hands on his shoulders; he raised his legs to get better leverage. R'Dam worried about her but tried not to let it show even as the sensations coursing through him warmed him inside. She could lose her job over this, he knew. He hoped this experience would be worth it for both of them.
R'Dam touched her breasts and played with her nipples, pinching them gently as she whimpered. Her eyes were closed, her face was halfway between ecstasy and pain. She seemed desperate. He knew she was after something for herself and he was only now incidental to her needs, but he wanted to come and he couldn't hold himself back much longer.
The bedposts thumped against the wall and he wondered about the neighbors as her whimpers grew louder and more urgent. Becky was pounding her hips down upon his sex and he bore back with just as much energy as he could muster. He fought to keep himself from denying her what she wanted but the battle wouldn't last long. She had so much energy it coursed through the two of them. "Becky-- !" Her name fading into a shout as he came inside her. Her voice joined his in a triumphant moan that took a long time to fade from his ears.
She shook her head briefly, then fell over to one side onto the bed. "Oh, my God," she sighed. "Oh my God."
"Yes," he agreed. "Oh, you were wonderful."
"Was I?" she asked.
A buzzing noise arose in his ears, an annoying sound like that of a klaxon. It lasted for just a few seconds and then it ended. He turned over, groaning.
She looked at him, her eyebrows knit in intense puzzlement. "Who--"
"Oh, my God, what have I done?" she said suddenly as she pulled out of bed, gathering the blanket to cover her nudity. "I..."
He stayed still and watched her, curious. He hadn't anticipated this reaction out of her in the morning. She blinked a couple of times. "R'Dam. You're R'Dam." She took a deep breath, sighed, and sank back onto the mattress. "Damn I hate that. Guess I scared you, huh? I'm sorry."
"You did have me scared there for a moment. What happened?"
She grinned with embarrassment. "I have morning amnesia. It's an uncommon condition but I bet some of your people have it. When I first wake up in the morning I can't remember anything. Not who I am, not what I did last night, nothing. It, um, can be scary waking up next to someone unfamiliar."
"If you lived with someone for a long time would you always be frightened of them first thing in the morning?"
She shook her head. "My doctor says no. Eventually I get used to it enough that I remember there's supposed to be someone there even if I can't remember who it is for a few minutes. It's really bad when I move."
He nodded, reaching out to touch her face with his fingers. "You remember me now, don't you?"
"I remember everything," she purred softly as she dragged the blanket over the two of them, kissing him warmly. "I remember you being a very good introduction to sex and the proper alien."
He kissed her back, appreciative of her attention. She propped herself up on one elbow, her hair and one breast touching his chest. He stroked the offered nipple absently as he looked into her eyes. "R'Dam, I think you should call your people and assure them that you're okay."
He blinked, and then nodded. She was right. All the pleasure between the two of them could wait; he hoped they would have time to explore more. "Where's my coat?"
She handed it to him. He dug out his communicator. "Joshua? Yes, I'm still with Miss Inderson. Yes, I'm fine. Agent Murray and M'Cadarra are where?" He laughed briefly. "They'll have to wait a little longer. And could you have street clothes ready for me? Yes, and they'll still have to wait. Thanks." He stretched so violently Becky watched with alarm. "Everything's still okay."
She sighed with relief. "I can't believe I did that last night. I could lose my job over this, even if I'm not negotiating directly with you personally."
"I can't, either. It's not what we were told to expect from Terrans." He sat up and wrapped his arms around her. "Still, I'm glad that we did. You were very wonderful."
She grinned. "Yeah. So were you. So, you want breakfast?"
"At your favorite cafe again?" he asked.
"I cook, if you're willing to wait."
"I can wait then." She removed a robe from a hook on the door and walked out into the living room. "Can I use the shower?"
"Go for it," she shouted back. "Just don't be in there long. I don't get a lot of hot water."
He wondered what that meant but decided to take her word for it. He found her bathroom and was gratified to find that most of the fixtures looked commonplace enough. The toilet was too solid and uncomfortable for his liking. The shower was small as well but he decided he could live with it. He found a bottle of soap and sniffed at it. It smelled of artificial scents that were supposed to be flowers and grass, but he decided he could live with that, too. It wasn't nearly as dense as Pendorian body soaps and he ended up using nearly half the bottle to get clean.
He emerged into the kitchen a few minutes later just as Becky was taking the first of the pancakes she had made off the stove. "I don't know if you even like these or what I should give you to put on them."
"Butter and syrup, or so I'm told." He smiled.
She grinned at him, but then a look of confusion crossed her expression. "I don't get this at all," she sighed, dropping the skillet onto the stove noisily. "I would expect us to be, you know, awkward with each other. Instead, you make it seem like it's such a wonderful thing, that there's nothing to worry about."
"There isn't anything to worry about, is there?" He held her shoulders. "Trust me, making love to you isn't going to change my actions at the table. And if the Russians make us a better deal, well-- I'll be sorry, but I'll go where the negotiating is good."
"Then you'd better believe that we have the best manufacturing base on Earth, Mister Meow, because you won't get a better deal anywhere else in the galaxy."
He chuckled. "I believe you. By the way, when the ships leave in two months, I won't be going with them. I'm staying here as part of the permanent staff. Is that going to be a problem?"
"No," she said. "You are so-- refreshing, you know?"
"I believe you if you say so." He smiled.
She served breakfast, he ate heartily. She ate hardly at all. "You're not hungry?"
"Still worried about what'll happen if my boss finds out I slept with a negotiator."
He took a deep breath. "Well, according to Joshua, the Secret Service knows."
"What?" she asked, suddenly panicked.
He nodded. "He told me that Agent Murray was aware of my location."
She buried her head in her hands. "Oh, no."
"He also told me that after extensively interviewing Agent Murray that there was no way the agent was going to inform your boss. Apparently, that's why they call it the Secret Service."
She sighed. "I hope you're right."
"I hope so too. I would hate for you to lose your job."
A knock came from the front door. "Who is that?"
"I believe that is Agents Murray and M'Cadarra with a change of clothing for me." He squeezed her hand gently. "Trust us."
She took a deep breath. "Let's get on with the day."