"'Cross-breeding' he calls it? 'CROSS-BREEDING'?" Beka yelped as she allowed the breaths she'd been holding in on the Andromeda to whoosh up and out of her lungs.
She banged the back of her head against the worn command chair, eyes closed, as she tried--*really* tried--to get the emotions whirling inside her to shut off. And she welcomed the quiet of the Maru. Her ship was an old friend--family member, really--who never passed judgment. Who didn't laugh.
And it was the only place she knew where she could be alone for a few minutes.
"He's insufferable! He's...he's...xenophobic! He's...racist!"
The terms were antiquated...better left to Harper's databases...yet they seemed to fit. But they did nothing to soothe her shot nerves.
The more epithets she uttered, the more her head hurt.
So, she slumped forward, cradling her face in her hands.
She had never really *looked* at him before today. He'd been part of her crew...a self-centered Nietschean who could be trusted to look out for himself and stay out of her hair. And then they'd joined up with Dylan Hunt and his Quixotic crusade to restore the Commonwealth. And she *still* hadn't given Tyr much thought.
Today, she'd really *looked*. She'd made careful study.
He had two arms and two legs. He had two eyes. A nose. A mouth. A beating heart. All, apparently, humanoid. She wasn't wrong, right?
He had hair like a human....well, okay, not like any humans she'd met recently. It was long and full of thick black kinks. And he had a body like a human...well, okay, once again, not like any humans she'd met recently. He was built. More than built...he was like some colossal, well-oiled machine. She had felt sorely underdeveloped when they'd been working out. Underdeveloped and pale and small and helpless.
She assumed all his other parts were equally massive and humanoid.
"His *feet*, Beka. His *feet*," she told herself, weakly.
The crux of the argument, she knew, was that this whole "Nietscheans can't show interest in humans" complex he had. It was bullshit.
In every way, except for the ideology that facilitated genetic elitism, he was as human she was.
And he had human weaknesses.
"What about your eyes while we were working out, huh, Tyr? I saw you looking. And you cooked for me. What's with that?"
She groaned, rubbing her forehead with the heel of her palm. And what was with *her*? Getting up in his face...looking into those dark, dark eyes...eyes that were almost like a little kid's, so innocent and shocked, when you pinned him to explain something beyond his precious Nietschean dogma. As if he was afraid to consider anything outside of what he'd been taught.
It had taken all her moxie to blow out the candles, to dismiss the unmistakable ambiance AND his denial, and walk away after a smart quip. It had taken all her bravado to pretend, as they vented Andromeda's various systems, that nothing was wrong. Even when Dylan and Trance had looked at them strangely, she'd kept up the act...and she *knew* they'd caught the vibes. The heavy tension in the air when they'd walked onto the bridge.
Tyr was good at pretending, too. She had to give him that. Not a single muscle out of place. Not even a pulse jumping at his throat. A credit to his pride. But he couldn't shield those eyes.
Those amazing--"Stop it, Beka!"-- eyes.
Still off his axis.
As if he couldn't understand what he was feeling.
As if he couldn't understand what she'd meant.
She could identify with that.
What *had* she meant? What did she *want*?
Was it just cabin fever? Spending a day with him...listening to that husky--almost singsong--voice, to his philosophy...being *forced* to take measure of him?
Or did she want him?
Did she actually want an "office romance" with Tyr *insert a bunch of extra names here* Anasazi of the blah blah blah something something Kodiak Pride?
Was he worth the hassle? The foray into "cross breeding"? If she actually wore down his resistance, of course. And wouldn't THAT be one Hell of a struggle?
Her forehead felt warm. Her stomach was throbbing.
"He has colossal...massive...*feet*!" she moaned...not sure if that was an argument for Tyr or against. "Come on, Beka. Get a grip!"
If he tied her in knots after just one day, didn't it stand to reason that she would be a virtual wreck if she actually pressured him into a relationship? He would chew her up and spit her out. He would break her into a million pieces and never look back. Survival of the fittest. Natural selection.
"Cross-breeding!" she growled, hating the compound word all over again. "Gah!!!"
She threw her legs over one arm of the chair, leaning her head back against the faded leather, this time, without the fear of abuse. She was hitting her stride, now...finding the right words to get herself out of this ridiculous situation.
"Cross-breeding! He talks like we're animals. Ha. He probably does it like an animal. I bet he 'mates'. Or maybe he 'couples.' No 'making love.' No 'having sex.' Definitely no foreplay! He'd probably roll over and fall asleep without even waiting for me to get off. Or worse...he'd fall asleep on top of me and I wouldn't be able to breathe and I'd DIE like that...crushed beneath him! No thanks!"
She shuddered, gasping for air. And as she caught her breath, she found herself smiling. Her chest no longer felt constricted. Her temples no longer felt like they'd been stretched tight. She felt...better. She felt...sane.
She swung her legs back to the cabin floor and stood up, brushing out the creases in her leather pants. She trailed fond fingers over the buttons on the control panels. Nothing like a good rant to put things in perspective.
"Thanks for listening, Old Friend. I feel MUCH better."
"You're most welcome," he murmured, half-stunned and half-fascinated.
Tyr peered around the hold doors as the Eureka Maru was, once again, cloaked in the contemplative silence he'd been seeking when he'd fled from the bridge of the Andromeda.
And he couldn't help a bemused smile even as his mind continued to process the absurd amount of personal insight he had just received.
It was always advantageous to know what one was up against.
Beka Valentine was formidable for a human.
He knew, now, that he would not escape her easily...because she would not escape herself, the truth of her nature. Her self-deluding pep talk would not last. Not for long.
As he put away his welding tools and checked the precision of the corrected slide on each door, he found himself laughing.
And laughing more.
"What's wrong with 'mating'?"
Hard and fast and wild. Oh, there was no mistaking she would 'get off'. Over and over again. Her fair hair damp with sweat...her pale skin flushed. A mass of crackling nerve endings.
And then, suddenly, he was laughing less. Much less.
"Cross-breeding," he reminded himself, softly.
He said it again, louder, for good measure. "*Cross-breeding*."
His head hit the doors with a *thunk!*--denting the reinforced titanium-- and pushed them two inches off the track he'd just adjusted.
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