She smiled, her eyes still closed. "But what hip clothes they are," she creaked.

She fell asleep and I watched her breathe, watched her elliptical fawn left areola gently rise and fall as it peeked out from the edge of the sheet. She really was beautiful, in that way that only human women are. I lowered the sheet to look at both her breasts -- I had a sense that she wouldn't mind. As the Areoleans recorded it all back on the ship, I thought of how she'd look the next time I came home. I pictured her as an old woman. I tried to imagine it, those full, taut breasts now low and lined, that impish pixie face wrinkled and leathery, that silky red hair brittle and white.

She awoke while I was looking at her, and she smiled, and after all that, it was the smile that did me in. I told her she was beautiful, and sexy, and funny, and that if I'd known someone like her before I'd left, I might not have left.

But I had left, and now I was leaving again, soon. My connections here were tenuous -- always had been, it was never clear to me why. Areola drew me like baby to a nipple. Something about that pink sun made me feel I was home in a way that my real home didn't. I'd assumed from the start of the mission that I would go back with them again. That was still the plan, but it was more complicated now, I realized, as I took in her sweet funny smile, as she played along with the joke that wasn't a joke.

So I told her I'd be back, and that I wanted to see her again when I returned, and unlike the well-worn standard in Earth-bar-pickup culture, I meant it. "I'll be waiting," she said, dramatically. Then, to seal the deal, we had one more long, slow fuck that was entirely for us, no alien involvement at all. I even closed my eyes, to give us some privacy.

"So I'll be in my seventies?" she asked, afterward, as we lay there letting our sweat cool.


"And you'll be -- how old?"

"I won't be forty yet."

"You don't think I'll look pretty gross to you at that point?"

"No, I don't."

"I'll be frail. You'll have to be careful with me."

"I will be."

* * *

The Areoleans are good record-keepers, I'll give them that. In the few weeks we hovered around Earth, they managed to collect pretty much every piece of data that human civilization had ever created up until that point. It's all on three shiny little disks in the ship's library -- every novel and newspaper and magazine, every movie and television show, every image on paper or film or computer pixel.

And every piece of erotica -- every 1950s stag film, every 1970s girlie magazine, every new piece of Internet porn yet created. The Areoleans have no particular use for that kind of data, of course, but I do. I've spent the past few months here in the ship's library, gathering up every example I can find of one particular genre of human erotica: Older women. Much older women. Seventy-something women.

After the initial shock of it, there is, in fact, something lovely about the translucent skin, the delicate white hair, the soft low pendulous breasts. It just takes a little getting used to, an acquired taste, like wine. I'll have a couple years to acquire it, as time moves on this ship -- or several decades, as time moves back home. When I get back, the bars will be utterly unrecognizable. My brother will have turned to dust. There will be nothing left there for me, not one remaining connection, except a seventy-something woman who, at her age, could very well drop dead of a heart attack when she sees her one-night stand from a lifetime ago, suddenly standing before her again, looking just as he looked that night. Even wearing the same blue-and-gold striped silk shirt with the light green sleeves.

I'll have to be careful with her.

I will be.


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