XXX

Lightning stepped out of the icy cold shower and rolled her shoulders back, feeling refreshed as the cold bite of the air conditioner sent a pleasant sting across her skin. She grabbed a towel off the hand rack, but didn't bother to towel off, enjoying the chill too much to cut the sensation short. Instead, she wrapped it around her waist and secured the knot, not even glancing in the wall-length mirror as she left the marble-tiled bathroom.

Lightning crossed the bedroom of her spacious apartment suite and made her way to the kitchen.

"Television, channel eight," she said passing the family room, causing the entire right wall to come alive with a news broadcast. "Television, volume eight," she ordered, reducing the sound to a low tone, but one that she could hear easily.

Maneuvering around the quartz bar top, Lightning opened the refrigerator and closed her eyes as a blissful blast of freezing air descended upon her frigid body. Moments of perfect comfort like this were rare and she savored the feeling.

After a long moment in front of the fridge, she reached in and grabbed out some eggs, sliced meat, and cheese to make herself an omelette, idly listening to the news station as she prepared it.

And here's Betty with an opinion piece on the growing number of childbearing restrictions. Betty?

It's ridiculous, Tom! Having to pass all these tests and being restricted to one child even after that! A mother just wants to have children...

She had just finished cracking the eggs over the stove when the front door of the suite opened.

"Thank you, Henry," the familiar voice of her girlfriend rang out. "Please send Emma to refresh our ice buckets within the next hour."

"Madam."

Lightning glanced up as Jihl stalked into the foyer and shut the door, her heels clicking against the hardwood until she caught sight of Lightning and stopped in her tracks. Through the open concept kitchen that gave her a view of the entire foyer and family room, she saw Jihl's eyes light up with mischief and glee.

"Is it my birthday?" she asked, hurrying in more quickly now. "You know I don't keep track of the silly day, but I will if you start rewarding me like this every time."

Lightning smiled faintly as Jihl rounded the bar front, dunking her hands into an inlaid pitcher of ice water in the granite, and then spun to take Lightning's face into her hands. Lightning stepped away from the uncomfortably warm stove as the cool touch of Jihl's hands sent pleasurable tickles through her body. In another moment, Jihl's warm lips pressed against her chilled ones, creating a startling contrast of temperatures that set her heart racing.

Jihl pulled back from her chilly body before the clash could get uncomfortable for either of them, but held Lightning close a moment longer. Her breath was hot on Lightning's skin, but however uncomfortable the heat was, it had a mesmerizing thrill when it came from her girlfriend.

"Lightning…" Jihl whispered, and despite herself, it sent a pleasurable chill down her spine. Her eyes dropped between them where the cool rush of blood had Lightning's towel lifting precariously.

Greedily, Jihl grabbed the edge of the towel and pulled it off, revealing Lightning's bare and swollen cock. She stared at it hungrily and began to reach for her.

Lightning stepped back out of her reach before the thrill of her affection could ruin the moment for either of them.

"Jihl," she answered, steadying her breathing as Jihl dropped her hands, gazing upon her.

"You're beautiful," Jihl murmured, her pupils dilated as she took Lightning in.

Lightning lowered her eyes, too allured by her girlfriend. It gave her an inglorious view of herself, aroused and ready for her girlfriend. Thankfully, the sight helped settle her thrumming heart.

"It's too soon," she said after taking another breath. "I don't want to hurt you any more than I already do."

When she looked up again, it was to see such a deep yearning in Jihl's eyes, it hurt.

"I can take it," Jihl said, stepping closer to Lightning, into the aura of cold that her skin constantly emanated. Jihl reached out a lukewarm hand to Lightning's bare shoulder and touched her. "I love your body, Lightning. Cold effect and everything."

Lightning shuddered. While she adored every inch of her girlfriend, half-Pulsian or not, she had never been able to give herself the same courtesy. There was just too much wrong with her: from the chill her cold body constantly exuded to the dangling extremity between her legs, she was nothing but a Pulse-blooded abomination from the world beneath theirs, one who had tragically taken after her scum of a father.

Fucking rapist, she thought darkly, and Jihl must have read something in her expression because her wanton eyes grew sad.

"Lightning," she chided. The fingers on her shoulder a little less warm now as her cold skin leached away the uncomfortable heat, she met her girlfriend's beautiful emerald eyes and again questioned why Jihl loved her.

"Give it another day," Lightning said, swallowing her dismay. She lifted a hand to the one on her shoulder and took it between her cold fingers, the warmth unsettling. "I remember the last time we rushed it," she said sorrowfully. "I really hurt you. It's bad enough I'm a freak like my father, but I'm a cold-bodied one, too. I hate that I hurt you when we're together."

Jihl gripped her fingers tightly. "You're not a freak," she said inflexibly, lifting a gentle hand to Lightning's champagne hair. She brushed a few strands back lovingly. "You're my girl, and I wouldn't rather have any other."

Jihl leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Lightning for a brief, but firm moment. She stepped back quickly so neither of them would be too negatively affected by the other's temperature.

"Get some of your Cold Clothes on," Jihl told her, indicating the specially designed Cocoon clothing that emulated a frigid effect for her body. "If you keep walking around like that, I'm going to jump you whether you think I'm ready or not. You're fucking delectible."

Lightning felt a slight cold rush to her cheeks and Jihl smiled at her. It didn't matter if she didn't believe the words, that smile lit up Lightning's whole heart.

XXX

"Sam," Eleen gasped breathily, clinging to the side of her warm body. "I've never- that was- " she panted, searching for the words. "You're incredible!" she finally blurted, at a loss to capture her feelings.

"You wanna go again?" Sam asked, slipping two warm fingers inside of her. She licked her lips, loving how filthy wet Eleen was.

Eleen closed her thighs over Sam's hand to halt her, gasping.

"Wait!" she cried, her plea husky. She closed her eyes in pleasured anguish. "I'm going. To have a heart attack. If you fuck me again. I need. A few minutes. Please."

Sam smiled wickedly and slowly removed her fingers, causing Eleen to groan and even buck a little, aching to take her back in. Sam lifted her wet fingers to her lips and tasted Eleen in front of the aching woman.

"You're trying to kill me," Eleen accused, and Sam laughed, and then held her as Eleen caught her breath. "Seriously, Sam," she eventually panted out. "I know I sound like a virgin, but you're the best I've ever had. This heat effect that your body gives off…"

"You like it?" Sam teased, biting her bottom lip affectionately.

"It's better than my vibrator," Eleen gushed and Sam chuckled again. "Are you always constantly this literally hot? I almost wish you had a dick." Eleen cut herself off, blushing furiously. "E-excuse me," she said, tripping over her words again. "I didn't mean that. I love everything about you as you are; I wouldn't want you to be like one of them…"

Sam pulled back from her a little bit, quirking her head to the side. "One of them? You mean like Lightning?"

"Lightning's different from her kind," Eleen rushed to say. "I mean. She's cold-bodied, that alone sounds unpleasant… but she's civilized. Not a savage. None of you are…" she rubbed up Sam's arm in wonton desire, though Sam was frowning now.

"I mean, fuck, if they had more like you, I'd want them here…" she stared at Sam, eyes almost entirely black with desire. "Even your eyes, Sam," she breathed, seemingly affected just by looking at her. "They scared me at first," she confessed, "but the coloring, the red…"

"Shh. It's okay, Eleen," she reassured, sounding more at ease than she felt. "Just enjoy yourself." Dropping her hand from around Eleen's ass, she slipped her fingers between Eleen's legs again and stroked her clit.

"Fuuuck," Eleen moaned, shuddering, seeming to not have even noticed the movement until her practiced fingers were on the woman again. "Oh my God," she gasped, clutching Sam tightly all of a sudden. She was still so ready and close, it didn't take very much. She massaged her with a skilled thumb, and within minutes, Eleen was panting again. "Sam," she squeaked, her nails digging into Sam's back as she climaxed a fourth time within the last hour.

Eleen clung to her tightly and Sam could feel the girl's heart racing as their bodies pressed. She let the woman shudder against her, mumbling her thanks and praise, but the thrill of the moment had escaped her now. Having been reminded of her sorrowful and maladaptive friend in relation to their abandoned homeworld, her mood had changed and she couldn't claim it back.

When Eleen passed out a few minutes later, it was a relief. Samantha crawled out of bed with her as soon as she could do so safely, and then a knock came at the door.

"I'm coming," Sam called out, mindlessly answering the door as soon as she got downstairs.

In her hallway outside, Lebreau's eyebrows went up as she glanced down Sam's naked body.

"Bad timing?"

"Oh," Sam realized, shaking her head. "Lebreau. Come in. I'll get some clothes on," she assured, exiting the doorway, leaving it open for Lebreau to enter.

Lebreau did so, and Sam grabbed up a shirt and pants out of the hallway closet and tossed them on.

"Lebreau, you want to go for a walk?" she asked, and Lebreau's fine eyebrows raised over her vibrant pink eyes.

"Don't you have company?" she asked, gesturing towards the loft.

"She'll be fine," Sam waved off, not worried about it. "Let's go for a walk."

Lebreau seemed to consider her, glancing at Sam's rough and haphazard ensemble, and then pushed open the door for her. Sam left, happy to put some distance between her and Eleen.

"Not a good date?" Lebreau asked, reading her mood as they strode purposefully down the hall.

"It was fine 'till she started talking about Lightning and our fathers," Sam grumbled, and Lebreau pursed her lips. Before she could actually say anything, though, Sam quieted her. "Yeah, yeah, I know you don't get the appeal of Cocoon relationships, but it's not like we've got a lot of options. Jihl and Lightning have practically been married since childhood, Angela's a fucking weirdo, and Sombra disappears all the time. Bethany only sleeps with you, and you're busy half the time!"

"Hmm," Lebreau simply answered, and Sam shot her a suspicious glare as they waited for the elevator.

"What?" she snapped.

Lebreau raised an eyebrow and asked, "So, Lightning's bothering you?"

"No," Sam retorted, and then grunted as she entered the elevator. "Yes, she fucking bothers me! Why does she willingly let our dads ruin her life? So, we had scumbag savage fathers. Who the fuck cares? We're not our dads and we don't live there." Sam let her forehead thunk against the wall of the elevator. "She annoys the crap out of me, Lebreau."

Lebreau entered behind her and clicked the ground floor button.

"I know she does," Lebreau said, and when she didn't say anything further, Sam turned to her suspiciously.

"That's it? You're not going to try to defend her dysfunctional behavior?"

"I don't think reason is what you need to hear right now, Sam," Lebreau answered wisely. "You're venting. It's okay."

Sam ran a hand through her messy hair.

"It pisses me off, Lebreau. She's well off, she has Jihl, we're isolated from Gran Pulse and Cocoon celebrates us. She doesn't even have to think about it, but all she dwells on is her physical similarity to her father. Having a dick doesn't make her anything like her dad. Half of Cocoon is jumpy that she's going to snap one day and become some savage rapist- and what's worse, Lightning acts like she believes it too! It's incredibly fucked up." Sam sighed, shaking her head, and then glanced at Lebreau standing there quietly, absorbing her words. "I just wish she'd learn to get over it and love herself, Lebreau. She doesn't deserve to be all fucked up over her father's sins."

Lebreau waited a moment to see if she had anything else to say, but when she didn't continue, she crossed the elevator to her and lifted a gentle hand to Sam's warm cheek. Sam leaned into it, the anger that had flashed through her eyes now diminished to mere upset and sadness. "I don't know how she and Jihl are going to make it if she doesn't pull her head out of her ass soon. It has to be infuriating for Jihl…"

Lebreau smiled softly, and brushing her fingers back into Sam's hair, she leaned in to kiss the woman softly. It lasted but a moment, and then Lebreau dropped her other hand into Sam's.

"Let's go for that walk, Sam," she said, and tugging her friend by the hand, Lebreau led them out of the elevator.

XXX

Sombra entered the lab through the inner door after having scaled the building, avoided security and the scanners, and dropped down inside the laboratory's courtyard. From there, it had been easy to pick the lock to Angela's preset room.

"You're late," the blonde-haired half-Pulsian announced in greeting from behind a microscope where she was analyzing some fauna Sombra had returned with on a previous venture into Gran Pulse.

Having been the only one to have found a way into the wild planet below Cocoon, the sample was priceless and rigorously guarded by the intelligent halfling. Such ventures were not sanctioned and would not be looked kindly upon if they were ever discovered.

"You definitely need better security in this place," Sombra quipped. "Did you know I could disable the thermal heat sensors and the turrets remotely?"

"If you hadn't been exploiting the lab's security, you'd have been punctual," Angela answered, holding out an expectant hand for the data chip, still peering through the microscope. Sombra savored the sight of the pretty scientist with her hair pinned back in that well-trimmed lab coat.

"I also uploaded all the latest footage, files, and databases to your holo-reader while I compromised your security."

"Oh," Angela said, pulling back from the microscope. "Brilliant. Why didn't you say so?"

Carefully moving the fauna sample into a container, she put the precious specimen to a special sunlight-simulating cabinet and then locked it away. She clicked a few buttons on her Intelli-watch that caused a scrolling projection of Sombra's data to appear on twelve different computer screens on the far wall, which she trotted to and began scanning.

"You couldn't have appreciated my efforts without the rest of the story."

"You mean you couldn't have sated your narcissistic desire for adulation without an immoderate exertion of your supercellious abilities," Angela corrected.

"Marry me," Sombra proposed, unapologetically turned on by this magnificent creature.

"You have a better chance of that than of us copulating, I daresay," Angela answered, not even bothering to look away from her screens of data.

"Really?"

"Only marginally," Angela explained. "By current law, marriage would grant me equal access to everything you own. As you are cybernetic-grafted, that would include half of your technology, databases, and storage banks. Such could prove… " she frowned at something on the screen. "Interesting."

"You make a woman wet, Angela."

"Your rapacious libido aside…" Angela murmured, reading something a second and third time from the screen. "Sombra, look at this."

"A woman who wants my brain and my body." Sombra said, licking her lips. "You're perfect."

Stepping in beside Angela, she glanced at the screens. "Are you noting the unusual signatures on the fifth screen, thirty eighth databank, tenth quadrant?"

"Yes. Have you analyzed them?"

In response, Sombra traced her fingers through the air, bringing up a holographic interface that she typed into and summoned up a video capture closest to the observed anomaly.

"I thought I might have been seen at first," she confessed, bringing up the feed of a tree-laden, snowy mountainous terrain. "It was unlikely, but vaguely possible that I wouldn't have been able to distinguish and detect it in time."

"You need not persuade me of your capabilities, Sombra."

Sombra smiled faintly, playing the video for them both. She gestured when a wild pack of wolves appeared on screen.

"But it was just these," she said, and Angela frowned.

"The readings do not indicate animals," she said, pursing her lips, and Sombra nodded.

"Indeed not. But I followed the pack and none of them indicated any kind of higher intelligence. They just acted as feral dogs would have."

Angela narrowed her stunning magenta eyes, her scowl only amplifying her ethereal beauty. Sombra understood; she didn't like it when the data didn't match up to the visual evidence, either.

"You sure you don't wanna fuck?"

"Sombra."

"You don't even have to do anything," Sombra offered. "Just let me touch you."

"Your interminable exigency to beg indicates a significant hardware malfunction or a masochistic personality disorder."

"I prefer to think of it as a healthy manifestation of my affection for you," Sombra corrected.

"'Healthy' is not a subjective adjective, Sombra," Angela said, watching the video of the eerily-aware wolves as they gazed back at Sombra.

"I've paired the anomalous readings with the video projection," Sombra told her, lifting a finger to drag down the data scroll as the video continued to play so Angela could watch them side-by-side. "And ordered sandwiches from Jordan's."

"I appreciate you, Sombra," Angela said, distractedly drawing up a chair to sit upon as Sombra retrieved one as well and placed it next to Angela's.

"I know," Sombra said, the corner of her lips twitching, and together, they watched the feed of Gran Pulse.

XXX

On the fifth floor of the cleverly designed floating gardens in the capital city of Eden, Bethany tended the dragonsnap berry bushes and trimmed the overgrown branches, humming quietly as she worked.

Around her legs, the striped kitty that had walked into her house fifteen years ago rubbed her head against Bethany's calves and rumbled contentedly. In another instant, the beast jumped straight up to her shoulder and latched on, sharp claws pinching through the dress before the cat found her balance and settled in.

"Slippers," Bethany greeted warmly, despite the pinch. Slippers rubbed her face against Bethany's cheek in reply and mewed softly. "We're almost done," Bethany promised the feline, understanding her expressed desire to get home before the rain started. While it was still pleasant out at the moment, the forecast had predicted a light smattering of drizzling throughout the afternoon after two today. Bethany had been sure to reassure her companion as soon as she had read about it in the paper that morning.

Unlike the regular, full-blooded Cocoon inhabitants, Bethany's half Gran Pulse heritage lent her a few unique talents. One of those happened to manifest in her care of the gardens, which uncannily seemed to respond to her administrations more than anyone else. Second to that and Bethany's most cherished ability was her understanding of the animals around her and the ability to communicate with them.

Bethany didn't fully understand it. She didn't speak as they did or know their languages, either, but when Slippers nudged her or meowed or sought her attention, she understood what was being conveyed, and even more incredible, the animals understood her when she spoke to them, too.

"Here, Slippers. To tide you over." Reaching towards a thick branch, she plucked a small dragonsnap berry free and held it up for the cat, who grabbed it with her teeth and settled snug against Bethany's neck. While the grip on her shoulder stung a little bit, it wasn't anything Bethany wasn't used to, and the shoulders of her dress absorbed the brunt of the claws.

"Let me just finish these brambles," she requested of the cat who purred in contentment against her. Bethany lowered the clippers to the last few tangles she hadn't yet cleaned up and took care of the weedy vines that tried to choke them, then moved them and the dead branches into the bin.

"Okay, Slippers," Bethany said, straightening. She plucked a few more berries free. "I need to find a bird, then we'll be off. Don't attack it, okay?"

Slippers rumbled back in her throat, but rubbed her face against Bethany's cheek again. Bethany removed her work gloves to reach back and stroke the beautiful creature under the chin.

Pocketing the dirty gloves in her apron, Bethany took a few steps over to the railing where she caught a breathtaking view of the busy city below. To her far right, aircars zipped along their designated paths, reflecting patches of sunlight off their gleaming hoods. It was quiet enough that the noise didn't overtly permeate the outdoor gardens, but was still close enough to be heard.

Bethany made her way around the left side of the long balcony that circled the entire gardens until she found an even quieter location, and then she held the berries out.

Barely half a minute passed before her offering attracted attention and a beautiful young Slikker landed upon the rail in front of her. It gave Slippers a glance, but not used to being preyed upon, showed little hesitation before hopping onto Bethany's outstretched hand to pluck at the berries.

"There you go, little Slikker," Bethany encouraged the bird, who stopped pecking the berries to look at her. It quirked its head to the side and chirped once. "Yes, I know," Bethany told the confused animal. "I understand you, too. I admit, I have a little bit of an ulterior motive in luring you here. Would you possibly carry a message to someone for me? She is like me and would understand you as I do."

Curious, the bird chirped at her a few times and Bethany smiled.

"Thank you very much. It's not far. Do you know the Grand Laboratory of Eden, next to the tallest apartment complex in the middle of the city?" When the bird expressed confirmation, Bethany asked, "Can you go to the gardens in the middle of that complex and find a woman there? She'll be blonde, my age, and dressed in a white lab coat. I need her to know that the Eskel trees have bloomed, and she'll receive the blooms tomorrow."

In response, the bird chirped some more, then squawked a couple of times and chirped one last. Bethany smiled.

"You can finish the berries first," she allowed with a chuckle.

When the Slikker had finished, Bethany thanked the creature again and watched it fly away. Slippers nuzzled her cheek again, and she pet her companion fondly. "Good girl," she bade.

"Damn, if you don't make a breathless sight doing that."

Bethany's lips twitched into a broader smile as she turned to her dear friend and fellow half-Pulsian. "Lebreau."

XXX

"It's good to see you, Beautiful," Lebreau greeted warmly.

Slippers rumbled, jumping down from her shoulder as Bethany closed the distance between them and embraced her tightly. Lebreau hugged her back and Bethany relaxed in her arms.

"It has been too long," she murmured, and after a long moment in each other's arms, she pulled back and kissed Lebreau warmly. Lebreau relished it.

When Bethany finally pulled away altogether, Lebreau held out her hand for the other woman and Bethany took it.

"What are you doing here?" Bethany asked, gesturing for Slippers to follow them as they wound their way around the circular balcony to the elevator. "Doesn't your shift start soon?"

"No tonight. It's going to be slow and Gadot volunteered to cover for it."

"And I was your first choice?" Bethany asked, her rich emerald eyes sparkling. "You flatter me, Lebreau."

"Not at all," Lebreau said, waving the notion off. "I've missed you, Beth. And I wanted to make sure you're well." They reached the elevator without running into anybody and Lebreau helped Bethany remove and discard her apron into the dirty clothes washer. "I thought maybe I could cook you something and catch up," she said, gesturing to the bushes and plants around them. "Aside from keeping our food sources healthy and thriving."

"My own personal five-star chef?" Bethany asked, licking her lip. "You spoil me, Lebreau."

"Our dreamer deserves the best."

Bethany smiled at her fondly, and beside her, Slippers meowed. Lebreau didn't understand the cat as Bethany did, but she answered the animal anyway.

"And something for Slippers, too, of course."

"She's anxious to beat the rain," Bethany informed, taking Lebreau's hand once more.

"Let's make it your place, then," Lebreau said amiably. "You can tell me about Sombra and Angela's recent discoveries. Maybe we'll stop by the zoo if you wish after lunch, too."

Bethany squeezed her hand appreciatively. "I'd like that, Lebreau."

XXX

After the most wonderful meal Bethany had had since Lebreau's last visit, the girls hadn't quite managed to escape the apartment. Instead, hours later as evening approached, Bethany lay naked atop wrinkled sheets, her head resting on Lebreau's shoulder as they lazily watched Sombra's illicit video scan of the wild world of Gran Pulse.

With her arm wrapped around Bethany's stomach comfortably, the woman nestled upon her, Lebreau's gaze lingered on her friend, rather than the fabulous sights Sombra had secretly recorded. She smiled at the awe and yearning that Bethany didn't even attempt to hide, not with her, anyway.

"Lebreau, it's magnificent," Bethany cooed. "So wild and lush and alive down there. Think of being able to live surrounded by that."

Even if the awe wasn't evident in her voice, Lebreau knew how appealing such a place would be for Bethany. Her friend spent most of her free time in the floating gardens and parks of Cocoon, claiming to feel the most at peace there when she wasn't at the daycare. Her apartment was home to all kinds of various plant life and she frequented zoos and pet stores to provide solace to the species that Cocoon still contained.

Lebreau saw Bethany lower her eyes shamefully, gazing down at herself then.

"How can something so beautiful be evil?" she asked, lifting her eyes to Lebreau searchingly. "I talk to animals, feel solace in nature... I can't even digest meat. How can those be the traits of a savage?"

Lebreau bent her head and kissed the top of Bethany's. She reached up and grazed the soft skin of Bethany's cheek with her fingers lovingly. "It's not fair," she admitted, instinctively knowing where Bethany's thoughts had gone. "You would have made a magnificent mother, Bethany."

Bethany closed her eyes and nuzzled her face into Lebreau's bare shoulder, curling her body so she lay half overtop her friend.

"I'd give anything to change it," she said, a heavy burden of sorrow in her voice, and Lebreau wasn't sure if she meant their inability to conceive children or the law that forbade any of the half-Pulsians from adopting. Or both. "I would raise them well, my little girls... I wouldn't teach them anything destructive. Not anything."

"I know you would have," Lebreau murmured softly, holding her. "I'm sorry."

Bethany stayed quiet for a long moment and Lebreau felt the rapid beating of her heart. She ached for her friend, for this was a wound no amount of comfort could fix. She felt the gentle wet splash of a single tear on her breast.

"Thank you for coming over today, Lebreau," Bethany half whispered, and Lebreau squeezed her side reassuringly. "I needed it."

XXX

Jihl closed her eyes as the cold of Lightning's aura seeped into her, leeching her warmth. She lay atop her girlfriend as Lightning thrust into her, chilly hands bracing her hips as Jihl shuddered. Lightning's hard girth buried deep inside her, Jihl gaped with every withdrawal and renewed thrust. Jihl gushed over her girlfriend and groaned, aching and nearly frigid, but Lightning skillfully took her right over the edge until all she felt was a cold explosion inside of her.

Jihl clamped onto her cold naked body and gasped, utterly unable to help it. She loved some pain with her pleasure, and there was no one she would have rather fucked with, but on this occasion, similar to the last, she squirmed and even curtailed a whimper.

Still barely able to breathe in the throes of her orgasm, she felt so incredibly cold, she might have frozen. Jihl gawked, trying to contain herself, and prayed that Lightning was still too caught up to notice. She rolled back and barely contained a second whimper as she finally extracted herself from Lightning's magnificent girth. She felt Lightning's icy fluids inside of her as she continued to gush, neither able to contain her insatiable arousal nor the absolutely frigid ice penetrating through her body.

Why am I so cold? she wondered, aching. She had fucked Lightning literally hundreds of times, but to her great dismay, Lightning's cold effect had seemed to amplify within her these past few times. It took her breath away and hurt like a bitch. Jihl had still gotten off on it, for which she was immensely grateful, especially because Lightning would have smelled it if she hadn't, but she didn't understand why the chill seemed to be getting worse.

"Jihl?" Lightning asked, and Jihl struggled to pull herself together. She felt the warm side of a dual-temperature blanket cover her as Lightning wrapped her arms around Jihl from the cold side.

As usual, Jihl felt an eerie connection with her girlfriend in this tender moment. It was almost as if she was Lightning, could feel the comfortable chill of her body, the heaviness of her taut erection between her legs, even the sensation of holding herself in Lightning's arms. Jihl couldn't explain it: both of them had attempted to on multiple occasions, quoting the same notion, but the sensation only lasted a few seconds at a time and only when they were enjoying each other or immediately after the act.

"I feel you there," Jihl said, or thought she did, and Lightning squeezed her tightly. The momentary flash of being Lightning had faded, but Jihl still felt her girlfriend's every emotion resounding through her aching body. At the forefront of all of them, her worry and incredible shame lay bare.

"You're hurt," Jihl heard it in Lightning's voice and instantly knew her girlfriend was experiencing her feelings, too.

With tremendous effort, Jihl trampled every other emotion and pain she was feeling and focused solely on her unwavering love for Lightning.

Still holding her in the blanket, Lightning paused, and then bent her head to kiss Jihl's head briefly.

"I love you, too," she murmured, and Jihl was happy she had caught the burst of it. The connection, whatever it was, faded rapidly now, leaving Jihl with her own sensations and emotions once more. Jihl felt herself lifted in the blanket and instinctively curled towards Lightning as the beginnings of a headache started behind her eyes, which she kept tightly shut.

There was no use pretending this time. Whether it was a skill of Lightning's or her own, one of them had touched the other just briefly and both knew exactly how they felt.

Jihl allowed Lightning to carry her to the grand jacuzzi tub and gently lay her inside it before pulling away the blanket. Lightning started the warm water, and Jihl reached out for her blindly, eyes still closed. Lightning took her hand and kissed the back of it affectionately, her breath cold on the back of her hand, but not uncomfortable now that she was seated in slowly rising warm water.

"Are you okay?" Lightning asked gently, and Jihl finally eased open her eyes, though the headache still pounded at her temples.

"Yes," Jihl breathed, seeing the deep and immense sadness in Lightning's eyes.

"Is the headache starting?" she asked, lifting a hand to Jihl's temple where her cool fingers eased the throbbing there. "I know it usually hits you after… that thing we sometimes do."

"You're helping it," Jihl told her earnestly, her heart still racing. It ached, too.

Lightning's beautiful blue eyes were full of sorrow as she lowered them.

"I know it's gotten worse, Jihl," she said. "We've always struggled, but it's never been this bad for you."

Jihl squeezed her held fingers immediately.

"I don't want to stop," she said, reading the words before they could spill out from Lightning's beautiful lips. "I never want to stop loving you, Light."

Lightning squeezed her hand back, but it brought Jihl little comfort with her next words.

"Maybe for a little while we shouldn't," she said, and Jihl's heart throbbed painfully.

"Light- "

"Just for a little while," Lightning said, overrunning her protest. "We can go to Angela with it. Maybe she'll know… or have a way to help us."

Jihl's eyes watered. She gripped Lightning's hand for all she was worth.

"Lightning, I love you," she said, and the words contained her whole heart and soul.

"I love you, too, Jihl," Lightning said again. She leaned over to kiss her forehead where the headache throbbed and then sat back and stayed with her, comforting Jihl's pain.