Reno helped Elena into the executive helicopter and made sure she was strapped in before he got into the pilot’s seat and took off.

Elena wondered where they were going this time. Reno seemed more secretive than usual about this particular outing, but at least it gave her time to get herself under control. Whatever had been started between them in Mideel, it was beyond her understanding. She only knew that it was pointless to resist whatever it was between them, not that her body would let her…

Reno sighed as he lifted off. He was pretty sure Elena wouldn’t be happy when they got to their destination, but that’s why they needed to go there. He hoped she wouldn’t be too mad at him for too long. This wasn’t their typical outing, this was more of a personal mission, like the one that got them together in the first place. He still didn‘t remember any of their first night at the hotel in Mideel, but he vividly remembered their time together on the flight home. Reno smiled at the memory, then suddenly realized something was wrong. He looked at all the controls, realized they were still in good order. He finally looked down at himself, and realized that was problem, his memories of Elena had gotten his body excited.

“Dammit!” Reno looked around for a place to land, and eventually found one. When the helicopter was safely on the ground, he turned on the intercom and asked Elena to come see him. He unfastened his pants while he was waiting for her, and when he heard her footsteps get closer, he activated the privacy shield and the windows darkened.

“What’s wrong?” Elena asked as she stopped next to his chair. She didn’t see anything wrong with any of the instrumentation as far as she knew. Her flesh on her left leg suddenly quivered, and she turned to see him kissing her thigh. She also noticed his pants open.

Elena sighed. “Again, Reno?” She hurriedly got undressed and let him pull her into his lap, her body warming and relaxing as soon as it felt his touch.

After they had sated themselves, Reno put his hands on her hips and looked up at her. “You ready to go now?” He teased her.

“If you think you can get us there in one piece.” Elena retorted as she got up off him and started getting dressed.

Reno swatted her butt playfully as she left the cockpit and strapped herself back into her seat. Once he assured himself she was safe, he took off again. It wasn’t just the thought of her that triggered his need for her, it was his uncertainty of how she would react to their destination. Luckily she fell asleep on the way, so once they got there, he was able to get their campsite ready without worrying her. Once that was done, he went over to her seat and caressed her cheek.

“We’re here, Elena.” Reno told her when she opened her eyes and looked at him.

“So now I can find out the great big secr….” Elena stopped short when she looked out the doors. “Why are we here?”

“You know you still have nightmares about it.“ Reno took her hand and led her resisting out of the helicopter into the Crater. “There’s nothing here to be afraid of anymore.”

Elena looked at the campfire and sleeping bags, one on each side of the fire. Separate bags?

“We can smoosh ‘em together if you want.” Reno said, noticing the expression on her face.

Elena then noticed the two picnic baskets, each with a cold weather nightwear set on it, his and hers. Elena pulled her hand out of Reno’s and grabbed the hers picnic basket. She noticed the nightwear was in her size, and upon opening the basket, found it full of her favorite snacks and drinks. She sat on the sleeping bag furthest from Reno as she changed her clothes. Even though she did still have nightmares about being tortured by the Remnants when they captured her and Tseng in the Crater, reliving that wasn’t her greatest fear anymore. It was him finding out the truth and leaving her.

As Reno changed into his nightwear, he wondered if he should tell her that this trip wasn’t just for her. The Crater haunted him too…it was his last mission here when he set things in motion that led to the deaths of Kunnia and their children.

Elena got into her sleeping bag, then realized she didn’t have enough of a pillow. She was trying to get comfortable when hands grabbed her. She stifled a scream when she realized they were Reno’s hands, pulling her sleeping bag. When it was close enough to his, he lifted the top of it and her head onto his lap.

“Go to sleep, I’ll play lookout.” Reno said as he stroked her hair.

Elena would have resented being treated like a child if she were awake enough, but her body was too relaxed by his nearness, and she fell asleep before she knew it.

Reno didn’t know how long he sat up there, watching Elena’s facial expressions change while she slept, but he suddenly realized the fire was almost out. He gently moved her so he could put more wood on it. While he was tending the fire, he suddenly heard Elena scream. Looking over at her, he saw her flailing her arms in the midst of a nightmare. He threw himself on top of her, grabbing her arms.

“Wake up, Elena. You’re safe now, I’ve got you.” Reno loudly repeated until her screams and struggling ceased.

“Reno?” Elena asked, her voice cracking.

“I’m here.”

“Don’t ever leave me!” She clung to him with a fierce need that for once wasn’t sexual.

As he did what he could to calm Elena back down, he realized that was what was between them, a need for each other that was so basic/fundamental it overrode everything else. He had never been big on all that flowery talk about soul mates and such. Philosophy was not his strong suit, he was a Turk after all. Something in Elena needed him as much as something in him needed her, that was all he needed to know. He smoothed her hair back from her face and kissed her cheek before he positioned himself so he could hold her comfortably, then he fell asleep.

Elena woke up, finding herself staring at dying embers, with Reno’s arms snug around her waist. She wasn’t used to feeling safe because of someone else, but she did. She didn’t like showing weakness either, as she remembered clinging to Reno after her nightmares. At least he wouldn’t embarrass her over it, since he wanted her to not be afraid anymore as much as she did. When she put her hands over his to move his arms so she could get up, she felt his lips on her neck, and her pulse quickened. Elena turned around to face him and he tightened his arms around her as she kissed him. When she took off her nightgown and undid her bra, she smiled in contentment as Reno obliged her unspoken need by moving his lips down to her breasts. She gasped moments later when she realized he was continuing downward. Her cries of fulfillment echoed throughout the Crater as easily as her nightmarish screams had.

Reno pulled his head back and straightened out, getting his morning stretch out of the way while Elena recovered. He caressed her cheek when he saw her reopen her eyes. She sighed at his touch, grateful that instead of being verbally demonstrative, which she had found to be unreliable during her time as a bartender, he had a special touch for her. Every time she felt his hand on her cheek, a soft warmth flooded through her. Reno went to pull away and get some breakfast, but Elena grabbed the waistband of his pants.

“Come on, Elena, I’m hungry.” It was Reno’s turn to gasp as he felt her hands caress his penis.

An impish grin spread over Elena’s face as she felt him harden and his obvious reluctance. She wasn’t going to be in an unequal relationship, he had his turn with her already this morning, now it was her turn with him.

Reno groaned as he looked down at her blonde head at his waist. He wondered why she had never done this for him before, and where she learned, then decided he didn’t want to know, anymore than she probably wanted to know that he had visited his favorite brothel a month after they got together. Of course that had been a miserable failure…even when he had been with Kunnia, he had still been able to perform with other women, he just preferred her. But since he and Elena started having sex, his body had no interest in other women. He didn’t even feel interested in experimenting much with her. They had tried a few different things, but the overwhelming intensity of their unions never changed, regardless of their experimentation. As if on cue with his thoughts, Reno’s body trembled with impending release.

Elena felt it too, and paused to smile mischievously. That was all the impetus Reno needed to pull her up and against a nearby stalagmite, the act of entering her triggering his release. A smug overtone was added to her impish grin as she held him. He slowly detached himself and looked at her.

“You ready for breakfast now?” Elena asked, still grinning. She felt she had made her point. If he got to play with her, she was gonna play with him.

Reno nodded, and Elena rummaged through both picnic baskets to get their breakfast, while he got the campfire burning again. After she was done eating, Elena frowned.

“What’s wrong?” Reno asked.

“Is the water tank for the helicopter full? I could use a shower.” Elena really wanted a bath, but a shower would do.

“There’s a hot springs pool over that way.” Reno waved his hand off to the right.

Elena grabbed liquid soap, a towel, and shampoo from the helicopter bathroom before walking off in the direction he indicated. She found it and put her towel on a rock nearby, then put her nightgown and bra next to it. She had quit wearing panties because of Reno. She wondered if the hot springs had been used by the Ancients, it looked like it could have been altered for people to use. There was a gentle smooth rock incline into the pool. She cautiously extended her leg and stuck her toe in to test the temperature. It was just fine, so she walked in far enough to have the water cover her breasts.

She dunked her head and then shampooed her hair, dunking it again until she was sure all the suds residue was gone. She walked back up the incline a few feet and rinsed out her eyes with cleaner water, then walked up a little further and sat down, opening the liquid soap and lathered up. She was rinsing herself off when she suddenly got splashed. Looking around in surprise, she saw Reno by an outcropping of rocks at the other end of the pool. As soon as she spotted him, he sent water flying at her again with an amused yet challenging expression on his face.

Elena stood up, took a deep breath, and dived into the pool, heading for the outcropping. When she surfaced there, she didn’t see any sign of Reno. She put her hands on the rock and started to lift herself up to get a better look when she felt his hands on her waist pulling her back into the water. She was about to ask what he thought he was doing, when he kissed her neck and held her tight against him. Elena barely had time to brace herself against the rocks before he started. Her memories of the last time she had sex in a pool came to mind, and she blushed. It had been a lifetime ago, when she had been a naïve high school student working as a bartender, and a bored customer close to her own age had given her a most thorough education in response to her questions.

Reno’s grip on her tightening brought her back to the present in time for the explosive finish. Elena blushed again, half in response to Reno‘s performance, half for her being distracted by thoughts of a former lover. She was grateful she was facing away from him. He kissed her neck again before swimming away. Elena waited until he was walking up the incline to go back to their campsite, then swam over hurriedly and splashed him.

Reno turned his head to look at her and took note of her expression. “You think that’s funny?”

Elena nodded quickly, then led Reno on a merry chase around the pool, letting him catch her near the top of the incline.

“You lose!” He said as he stretched out over her.

“What do I lose?” She asked teasingly as he caressed her thigh.

Reno kissed her instead of answering, and Elena’s body reveled in his renewed presence. She was glad he was going slow and gentle, the stone incline wasn’t quite as smooth as it looked. The warm water lapped around their toes as Elena cried out. He smiled and kissed her again.

“You lose anyone who can’t do that to you.” Reno caressed her cheek.

When they started back to the campsite, Elena’s backside was sorer than she thought it would be, and she had to take small steps. When Reno noticed she was having trouble, he came over and looked at her back. Then he picked her up and carried her in his arms back to the campsite, and set her down gently on her sleeping bag.

“I’ll be right back.” Reno went to the helicopter and got a tube of ointment from the first aid kit.

Elena hissed when the ointment touched her skin. Reno’s touch was gentle, but it still stung. “How bad is it?” she asked.

“Not bad, it should be fine in a day or two.” Reno said as he finished applying the ointment. “I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna get some sleep now. We have to leave before dark, don’t forget.”

Reno got in his sleeping bag, hoping he can get enough rest to get them safely home. It was going to be dark for most of the flight, but he wanted to at least take off in daylight. He had been hoping for more fun at the hot springs, but putting the ointment on Elena had reminded him that he had gotten Kunnia killed by using her just a vessel for his own relief, and he didn’t want to make that mistake again.

Elena lay frustrated in her own sleeping bag. Even though it had been for medical reasons, Reno’s caresses had stimulated her body into anticipating further activities, and now she heard him snoring. She wasn’t fragile, if she can handle torture, she can handle light skin abrasions. She’d show him when she woke up, she was a bit tired herself.

Reno woke up and looked around, momentarily confused at the cleaned up campsite. The picnic baskets and Elena’s sleeping bag were gone, and she was nowhere in sight. He got up and checked the helicopter, and found the baskets and her sleeping bag, but not her. Eventually he checked the hot springs pool. Walking to the edge of the incline, he looked for any sign of her when he was suddenly pulled into the water.

Elena plastered her naked body against Reno when he surfaced, kissing him fiercely. He was momentarily stunned, then his body responded and his arms tightened around her as she tugged at his pants. He backed her up against the stone side wall of the incline, holding onto the stones for support. Elena wrapped her legs around him, tightening them when she felt him inside her. The exquisite relief engulfed them both, and Elena smiled in triumph as Reno clung to her.

When they made it back to the campsite, Reno restarted the fire and spread his clothes out near it to dry. They couldn’t leave until then. He sighed and noticed movement in his peripheral vision, turning to see Elena on his sleeping bag looking at him. Again?! Her back must still hurt, but he reminded himself that it was her idea.

“You’re gonna be the death of me, you know that?“ Reno said as he let her pull him towards her.

After they had sated themselves again, Elena put her head on Reno’s chest, listening to his heart beat. She wasn’t looking forward to starting the work week tomorrow. Something in her wanted to stay here longer. But they could always come back when they wanted to, at least. After his clothes were dry enough, they put out the fire, got the rest of their belongings, and headed back to the helicopter. Elena fell asleep on the flight home, and Reno woke her up when they landed back in Junon.

“Wake up, Elena, we’re here.” Reno undid her harness as she opened her eyes and looked at him.

After a moment, she stood up and looked for her travel bag. Reno handed it to her, and then they left the helicopter. Once they were down on the ground, he kissed her and caressed her cheek.

“I’ll see you in the morning.”