Warnings: Read and heed. Sex: Yes. Violence: Yes. Language: Yep. A couple of bad words. Dark, adult themes: Nope. Not really.
Setting: Post PKW
Spoilers: Through PKW
My gratitude and props to Eva for beta duty above and beyond the call and to my reviewers, Susan, kaz, and Agent Rouka, for their all their encouragement, enthusiasm, and everything else. Props also to kaz for coming up with the title, which is often the most difficult part of these things.
As always, all mistakes remain mine.
Disclaimers: Definitely not mine. They belong to Henson, et. al. No copyright infringement intended. There is definitely no money being made.
“Aeryn?” Pilot’s muted hail floated in the stillness of the sleep cycle.
She slid John’s arm gently from her, rolled easily away from his side where she’d been sleeping, head cradled on his chest, and reached unerringly in the dark for her comms.
Her voice was low and quiet, but she felt the mattress shift as he stirred beside her. He rolled over, draped an arm over her midsection and rested his head on her shoulder.
“I think you should go to command,” Pilot suggested softly. “There is something there that you should see.”
“We’re on our way, Pilot,” John said through a yawn.
He rolled to his side of the bed, swung his feet to the floor, and reached for his leathers.
“1812, stay with D’Argo.”
By the time he snagged his shirt and holster from the chair and Winona from under the pillow, she was already walking out of their quarters. He slid through the open grate a microt before it slid shut with a whisper. In three long strides he was beside her, falling into step as they made their way to command.
“Has there been any communication from the Prowler?” Aeryn asked as they watched the ship floating dead in the forward portal.
“None, Aeryn. The ship has neither hailed Moya nor acknowledged our transmissions.”
“Where did it come from?” John asked.
“We have no idea. It was simply…there.”
“No approach vector?” Aeryn tilted her head and looked at the ship through narrowed eyes. “It was just…there?”
“Moya did not register any ships on her long range sensors. It was only with visual contact that we realized what it was.”
“And it hasn’t moved since you acquired visual contact?”
“How many on board?”
“Moya’s scans show no life signs.”
“Not even a pilot?”
“The ship’s systems?”
“Are not operational.”
“Can Moya retrieve the ship with the docking web?”
“Do you think that’s a good idea, babe?” John cut his eyes over to his wife. “Sure you don’t wanna just give it a wide berth?”
“Dead Prowlers don’t just show up in space. There may be a command carrier nearby that Moya hasn’t picked up yet.
He raised a hand and let two fingers do the walking. “All the more reason to run.”
The look she tossed him dropped his hand in mid-stride.
“The navigation data would tell us if there was.” She worried her lower lip between her teeth as she stared out the portal. “And at the very least it would also give us the ship’s last vector, its origin and destination.”
“All of which is very interesting.” He cocked his head and threw up a hand. “But why would we care?”
“If there is no carrier nearby, and the Prowler is nowhere near its destination, and no one is left on the ship…” She arched an eyebrow and shrugged a shoulder. “We could just keep it.
John smirked. ”You want a new Prowler?”
Clear, wide eyes locked him in place as a small smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “We could always use another Prowler.”
Snorting, John slapped at his comms. “Pilot, does Moya think it would be safe to bring the ship on board?”
“Moya’s sensors indicate no weapons locks, no power surges, nothing to suggest that bringing the ship on board would pose any hazard.”
“Pull her in then.” John winked at his wife. “Race you to the docking bay.”
AT the door to the bay, John hit his comms. “Pilot, first sign of this going south you give Chiana a holler to go get D.”
They pulled their weapons and checked their charges in sync as they watched the sleek black ship settle on the deck of the docking bay. Standing motionless, they waited as a silent count ticked off long microts until the air lock cycled and the door whooshed open.
Aeryn slid her eyes to John for one last look, then snapped them forward and took point. She felt him take up position a step back and to the side as they crossed the open bay. Through the canopy she could see the still form of the pilot hunched in the cockpit.
She reached the ship. “Ready?”
“Do it,” he replied quietly.
She held up her left hand and raised one finger, then a second. When the third came up, she popped the canopy release and took a stance.
There was no reaction from the pilot.
She moved to the steps and felt John shift into position behind her as she began to climb. The figure in the cockpit slumped boneless against the controls as her pistol came to rest at the base of the pilot’s neck.
“Full flight suit,” Aeryn said softly.
“Inside a dead Prowler?” John’s voice floated to her in the stillness of the bay. “What the hell?”
“I don’t know.” She picked up an arm. It fell with a thud when she released it. “Help me get it out.”
John climbed the steps carefully, fit his way into the cockpit, and settled behind the pilot while Aeryn released the restraints. With a tug he wrenched the body loose, and together they wrestled it out of the cockpit and down the steps.
They laid it on its back and John again took up position as Aeryn hunkered down and popped open the face plate with her free hand. Her eyes went wide and her face suddenly bloodless as a muffled grunt escaped taut lips. She reached inside the suit to pull the ident tags and then looked at her husband.
The fine hairs on the back of his neck and arms stood up as her eyes locked on his. “Anyone we know?”
“Captain Aeryn Sun.”
He strode quickly through the dimly lit corridors of the night cycle on his way to the med bay, trying not to focus on the same slight body he had carried before, the same slight body oddly heavier and inflexible in death.
He knew Aeryn was busy going through the pilot’s logs and ship’s data, trying to find out when and how and why this Aeryn Sun had arrived here. It was his job to find out when and how she’d died.
“Pilot,” he called as he approached the bay. “A little help please.”
The door to the med bay opened just as he got there and he crossed the distance to the med-bed in three long strides. He gently placed the body on the bed and his eyes came to rest on the very familiar face.
The eyes were closed, but if they had been open he knew exactly what shade they would be as they looked at him.
His hand moved without thought, came to rest lightly on the waterfall of hair that pooled on the pillow, the same silken shade of flowing ink that his fingers knew by simple sense memory and touch.
He took her hand gently in his. A slight haze clouded his vision as he stroked the back lightly with his thumb, traced her cold fingers with his warm ones, turned it in his to trace the palm before finally folding the smaller, lightly curled fist in his larger one.
He moved his free hand, fingertips lightly brushing strands of hair behind the delicate shell of her ear. His fingers moved again to trace her brow, her cheek, the line of her neck, the curve of her collarbone.
He knew every dench of this body. Someone with the same eyes, the same hands, the same feel under his hands. The same responses to him. His stomach lurched as his world turned and something shifted sharply deep inside.
Was this what she had felt? Coming back to Moya and looking at him that lifetime ago?
He was burning up suddenly as a tidal wave of nausea rolled through him, grabbing him and dragging him under, his vision narrowing as the walls of the bay closed in on him. He gripped the sides of the bed quickly, his head dropping as his lungs strained for air and his legs buckled slightly.
When the wave passed he raised his head, breathed deeply, and reached for the scanner.
Aeryn would be here soon and he would have some answers for them.
She stepped into the bay and stood silently just inside the door watching him. Eyes unfocused and unblinking, he hadn’t heard her enter and was standing motionless next to…the body.
As she watched, she realized that he wasn’t completely inanimate. His hand drifted, fingertips ghosting over the brow, down the nose, across the cheek to trace the shell of the ear, along the jawline, down the pale length of the neck to follow the curve of the collarbone.
And then the journey began again.
She stepped lightly toward the bed, careful not to disturb him. His eyes snapped into focus suddenly, and his head turned to her as he registered her presence. A small smile pulled at his lips as he let his hand fall.
“How ya doing?”
She shrugged a shoulder slightly and reached to slide the backs of her fingers down the smooth, cool cheek. “It’s very…odd.”
His eyes flicked between her face and its mirror image on the bed, came back to rest on hers as he asked quietly, “Seeing…you?”
She smiled softly. “I guess you’d understand that better than anyone.”
“It’s pretty strange on the other side, too.” He reached over, ran a hand over her hair to wrap her neck.
He sighed and pulled lightly to bring her forehead to his. Eyes closed, breathing warm and in synch, they met in a microt of shared space and silence.
“Do you know what…happened?”
He brought his lips to her forehead before releasing her. “No,” he confessed. “No idea. There’s no evidence of open or closed head injury, no evidence of blunt or penetrating trauma. Nothing the scanner picked up.” He looked over at her. “She’s just…dead,” he finished softly.
“I thought so,” she said quietly.
“You don’t seem surprised.”
She shrugged again. “Come with me. I may have some answers.”
“Where?” He held out his hand.
She slid her hand into his. “Command.”
“I’m not gonna like this, am I?”
“Probably not,” she agreed and led him into the corridor.
“I found these in the ship’s logs.” She gestured to the vid chips on the console as she cocked a hip against it.
“And…” he prompted.
“Apparently…Captain Sun’s last mission was…unsuccessful.” She slid the chip into the reader, the air shimmered and wavered, and then suddenly there she was.
He heard Aeryn’s quick intake of breath and stiffened at the image in front of him.
She was pale and sweaty, and a fine sheen of perspiration covered features drawn and haggard. Eyes glassy and glazed, a shudder rippled through her as she struggled to breathe. Aeryn’s hand went to her chest as Captain Sun began to speak, her voice low, raw, and raspy.
This will probably be my last entry. I do not know where the rest of my team is…or if they were able to successfully escape and evade. Our mission was a complete failure. None of our objectives were met, and we suffered significant losses.
John slid his eyes to Aeryn, took in the set of her shoulders, ran them along the rigid line of her spine. Her sharp, focused stare never left the image of the woman in front of her.
What I do know is that our intel was faulty. The Hokothians are much further along in the development of their bio-chemical weapons and facilities than we were told. I believe I’ve been infected by the virus we were sent to secure. And without the antidote we were sent to recover…we still face a very direct threat.
A sudden wash of blue light bathed the cockpit in an eerie glow as the image flickered and wavered and disappeared.
“That’s all,” Aeryn said softly, removing the chip. She tilted her head and looked at it from beneath lowered lashes, holding it loosely between her fingers, running her thumb gently along the smooth surface. “That was her last entry.”
“You know what was wrong with her,” he said quietly, coming to stand in front of her. He put his hands on the console, one on each side of her, leaned forward to look in her eyes. “Don’t you?”
She looked at a point over his left shoulder, smoky eyes somewhere else.
“She looks exactly…like I did after my final mission.” Her voice, thin and brittle, cut through the space between them. “Just before…” She slid her eyes back to him. “...Scorpius…found me.”
He leaned in farther to breathe warmly in her ear. “Before you came back to Moya?”
“Yes.” She inhaled deeply. “Records indicate the ship’s environmentals were up as high as they would go.” A full body shiver ran through her as she wrapped her arms around her middle. “And she was still burning up from…the fever.”
He slid one hand on to her thigh, fingers tracing light circular patterns along the outside. “You think it’s the same virus you were infected with?”
“It explains her condition.” She exhaled slowly. “And her death.” She pulled back slightly to look into his eyes as a broken smile bled at her lips. “She wasn’t as…lucky as I was.”
“It doesn’t explain her. Being here.” He leaned forward and rested his forehead on hers. “Or is that the part I’m really not gonna like?”
“You already know the answer to that,” she said softly.
He slowly straightened and stood in front of her, fingers curled into fists at his sides. His voice was as flat and as cold as his eyes. “A wormhole dumped her here.”
“That’s what the ship’s navigation data indicates. Readings similar to yours.”
“Then its time for us to go,” he growled harsh and low. “Leave now. Run away. No questions asked.”
“We know she came out of a wormhole near here. We have the coordinates from the ship.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he hissed, vision narrowing to a black haze on his periphery as command closed in on him.
“She’s dead, John.” Her voice was suddenly sharp with anger and grief as she slid off the console and locked storm grey eyes on his. “Her team failed to assassinate the creator of a plague that kills Sebaceans.”
Her voice dropped so low he had to lean in to hear her. “Even more importantly, they failed to bring back the cure.”
She brushed past him, stalked across command, and stood staring out the forward portal.
“She was infected.” Small and low, her voice floated back to him. “Cut off from her team, sucked into a wormhole and spat out here, where she died alone in her Prowler.”
He turned and crossed the distance to stand behind her, chin resting on her shoulder as he breathed softly in her ear. “I know what this is, Aeryn.”
“I thought we both agreed. No more running off to play the hero.”
“Frelling bastard.” She spun hard on her heel. “I get this from you, the man who left his pregnant wife…” She jabbed him in the chest with a steel finger, backing him up a step. “Without a word…” She stepped forward glaring, her voice dangerously calm, backing him up another step. “While she was sleeping to go to visit Einstein?”
He took a stance. “That’s not fair, Aeryn. This is different.”
“Fair? Different?” She jabbed him again. “You left with no idea when or if you were coming back. I am at least having this conversation with you.”
“You don’t even know…”
“I know they’ll debrief and plan another mission. That will take them some time.” Her shoulders dropped and her entire body relaxed slightly, voice suddenly low and toneless, words uninflected as she wrapped long, slender arms around her middle again. “Captain Sun needs to set things right.”
He stepped forward, set his hands gently on her waist. “That does not mean you need to go do it for her.”
“This Aeryn Sun is a Ghost captain with resources. I’m familiar with the mission…”
“So? That makes it all right?”
“What about ripples?” She might have been asking about the weather.
“Let it ride,” he whispered fiercely.
“When did she die?” The question cut through the haze in his head.
“From what I can tell, just before we found her. Why?”
“The logs...she was infected and dying when she went into the wormhole. That’s why she couldn’t navigate. And when she got spat out into unfamiliar space she was so disoriented she couldn’t find her way back. She gave herself a kill shot, hoping her team would find her…in time. They didn’t.”
He threw up his hands in challenge. “This is important…why?”
“She came through the wormhole alive and infected. The kill shot is not reversible after thirty-six arns…”
“What if the contagion is still viable?”
That hit him like an axe to the head, cut right through the lingering haze to crystal clarity.
“You think it is?”
His stomach lurched as the wormhole opened, gaping maw and undulating blue waves that shifted everything in his universe.
“If it is…what about D’Argo? And everyone else should the Hokothians decide to unleash the contagion here?”
He pulled her back against him, held her more tightly and breathed harshly in her ear. “You know I’m blond again.”
“It doesn’t matter.” She slid her arms to cover his. “That technology was standard issue on the Prowler.”
She turned in his arms to face him.
“Based on what I found in that ship and in the data logs, Scorpius solved his wormhole problem. And laid waste to the Scarrans.”
He snorted harshly. “Of course he did.”
“Which is why they’ve so desperately sought an alliance with the Hokothians and the virus.”
She was so calm and it was all so reasonable, standing here discussing the possibility of her infection and death. Again. It made him want to scream.
“I can get back.”
“How long do we have? The last time you caught this cold… ”
“About a weeken. I seem to have had a longer incubation period.”
She shrugged. “Altered DNA?”
“Fine,” he spat. “We go.”
“You know you have to stay here with D.”
“No way in hell. No how. Don’t even go there.”
“I know how this works, John. They won’t like unexpected arrivals.”
“Then you come up with a plan.” He’ll go to hell and be damned if she’ll do this alone. “We both go. We both come back.”
“Stays here with Chiana.”
“Fine,” he spat again. “It’s settled then. You go talk to Chi.”
“What are you going to be doing?”
“I’ll get rid of the…body.”
His hands moved slowly, reverently, smoothing the leather taut down first one then the other long, lean leg. The rest of the bay faded into a smoky haze as gentle fingers slowly slid around her narrow waist and tucked her shirt carefully into the waistband of the leathers.
Everything as it should be; in its proper place.
His hands moved up again, softly, slowly closing fasteners along the trail of her jacket. He rested them briefly on the slim shoulders before running them gently down one arm, smoothing the sleeve. He took her hand in his, laid it across her midsection, rested his on it.
He wondered how she had ever done this.
His hands moved again, repeated their work on the other slim arm and hand. And then he stood, simply looking at her.
“Commander?” Pilot’s voice came softly from his comms.
“The pod you…requested has been prepped and is waiting for you in the docking bay.”
“Thank you, Pilot. Where’s Aeryn?”
“She’s still in Chiana’s quarters. Do you want me to contact her?”
“No thanks, I’ll do it.” He tapped his comms, eyes never leaving the body on the med-bed and asked quietly, “Hey, babe?”
“Yes?” She sounded tired and wired.
“She’s ready,” he said softly. “Wanna meet me in the docking bay?”
He waited the length of a very long heartbeat before she answered.
“I’m on my way.”
With a small grunt he slid his hands beneath her and lifted. He turned and walked slowly out of the bay and into the corridor, carrying her still form cradled tightly against his chest, her heavier weight now oddly familiar in his arms.
He moved slowly through the corridors, taking in the soothing sounds of Moya and his own breathing as he felt his heart beating against her. He wondered what Aeryn was thinking as she wound her way through the corridors, what he would say or do when he saw her again.
He entered the bay and found it empty, except for the burnished cylinder that glowed shiny and sleek in the ambient light, open and waiting for its occupant.
He laid her softly, carefully in the pod, gently smoothed her hair, arranged it to frame her face, brought her hands to her midsection, folded them one over the other. Unaware, he straightened up and stepped back and ran his hand over the sleek metal of the open top.
A jolt ran through him and his hand dropped, as if burned. He stood silent and staring, suddenly unable to move, something undefined and heavy in his chest, weighing him down.
She slid to her spot by his side without a sound, and he wrapped her in an arm, pulled her tight. He buried his nose in her hair, lips grazing her ear as he breathed her in.
She nodded once, and then her voice came whisper soft. “Are you?”
“Not sick or anything?”
She shook her head slightly.
“Doesn’t seem like much,” he murmured, tilting his head toward the pod.
“It’s the best we can do.”
He reached forward to close the pod. Ran his hand gently one last time along the burnished surface.
Holding her close, he felt her shiver. Running his palm over her shoulders slowly, he trailed his fingertips gently down her arm to lace his fingers with hers as he led her gently away from the pod.
“Go ahead, Pilot,” he called as they reached the corridor and the bay doors closed behind them with a whoosh.
“She stays.” It was a definite order in her best take-no-prisoners tone as she tossed her flight bag on their bed.
She wasn’t even looking at him and he wondered again just how good her senses were, if she really had eyes in the back of her head, or if she simply knew him so very well.
“No way in hell.” It was a knee jerk response in his best you-don’t-scare-me-missy voice as his bag joined hers on the bed.
“You agreed,” she said calmly, not bothering to look at him as she moved to snag a couple of fresh tee shirts.
“I agreed to be the good little PK tech boy who saved your life when your mission went south.” He stood sulking, unhitching his belt and tightening his grip on Winona.
“Techs don’t carry pulse pistols.” She snagged some socks to join the tee shirts.
“Fine,” he snorted. “Give me one of your knives.”
She tossed him his own shirts and socks instead. “No.”
He shoved them savagely into his bag. “I will not be the bare assed naked new guy on the block,” he growled.
“Yes, you will,” she corrected him. Moving into the fresher, she grabbed their travel bags and was back in a microt, tossing one to him. “They’ll check.”
He caught it one handed, dropped it in the bag, rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. “I don’t like this.”
“You’ve said that before. Multiple times.”
“Just so you know.” He slid narrowed eyes toward her. “It’s kinda nice being able to say that somebody else’s plan sucks for a change.”
“That’s the happy little optimist I married.” She threw him a small smile as she tossed her hair, held out her hand.
A smile played at the corners of his lips as his fingers tapped happily on Winona.
“Oh, for frell’s sake,” she grumbled as her fingers snapped her palm, demanding the pistol.
He handed her over, watched her disappear with Aeryn’s other toys as she zipped her bag.
He chewed on his lip, brought his thumb up to run over it, looked at her through hooded eyes. “We’re in. You do your thing. We’re outta there. Right?”
“That’s the plan,” she promised.
He zipped his bag, slid Winona under his pillow, turned to face her head on, eyes locked on hers. “You ready?”
“Ready.” She hefted her bag onto her shoulder.
“Let’s go say goodbye to D.”
She squeezed his hand in passing. He pulled his flight bag off the bed and followed her into the corridor.
Far flung stars, pinpricks of light on some distant horizon sparkle in the blackness surrounding them. Somewhere far behind them Moya waited while they hung motionless and still in the inky void.
He concentrated on the beating of his heart, the slow inhale and exhale of his breath, the spill of hair as black as the horizon in front of him.
There was nothing in his head. No fire bell. No buzzing.
Nothing to tell him what was going on. Nothing for him to feel.
She’d always waited better than he; and he’d never learned to appreciate the sound of silence as she did. He leaned forward in the cramped cockpit, rested his chin on her shoulder, nudged her cheek to cheek, checking on her temperature. He felt nothing but her cool, satin skin and the quiet tension seeping from her as her hands wrapped the armrests of her seat.
“He’ll be fine.”
“I know that.”
“We’ll be back before he really misses us.” His stomach knotted at the lie, at her shoulder’s sudden twitch under his chin. “We will be back.”
It was quiet and a promise to them both.
“I know that, too.” She shifted slightly and slapped open a channel. “Pilot?”
“Are you and Moya certain about the location?”
“According to the data from your ship and our calculations, we should be a safe distance from the wormhole when it opens.”
“It should be soon. Just wait for it.”
He leaned forward again. “You make sure everybody stays safe, Pilot.”
“Yes, Commander. Moya and I will be here waiting when you return.”
“It’s here,” she breathed as the gaping maw of the wormhole bloomed in the forward portal.
She was moving before he even registered the fact that it was there, hands dancing over controls as the blue waves undulated before them.
He was blind and deaf to their call now, but not immune to the twisted mix of excitement and fear that churned in his gut at the sight. His fingertips itched to be at the controls, but he wasn’t able to do anything except wait out the ride.
His hands grabbed the back of her seat and he pulled himself forward, willing himself to silence as she maneuvered closer to the swirling blue entrance.
He felt the pitch of the ship and the pull of the giant, felt her fighting the controls, correcting and recalibrating as her fingers flew and they drew closer to the horizon.
Suddenly they were in and he was back on the e-ticket ride, stomach rolling as they careened madly through rushing blue in the twisting, swirling tunnels. The ride was over almost before it had begun and they were spat back out into normal space.
Right in front of the command carrier.
Her hand moved to silence the red sensor warning as the voice came over the open comms channel.
“Unidentified Prowler, we have…”
“…locked and targeted us. Yes. I can see that, Weapons Officer.”
“Captain Aeryn Sun.”
His hand slapped his thigh, fingertips itching for the sleek, cool comfort normally found there as they waited the long heartbeats for the proper protocols to be run. He allowed himself one last luxury of distraction and thought again about just how much he hated command carriers.
“Welcome back, Captain. Proceed to docking bay three. Your team will be awaiting your arrival.”
“Thank you, Officer.” She slapped the comms channel closed.
He grabbed the back of her seat and leaned forward to whisper hotly in her ear. “I still don’t like this.”
“What’s not to like?” Her fingers danced over controls, adjusting their trajectory and speed as they approached on a vector for the docking bay doors that were opening in welcome.
“I go with my team. You play nice with the techs until I get back. And then we take all of our toys and go home.”
“How long do you think it will take for all this to go south?”
“That’s why you and Winona are here. You are the master of Plan B.”
“Have I told you lately how glad I am that you can still appreciate my sense of humor?” Her fingers flew gracefully, making final, minute adjustments.
“You know that’s not all I appreciate about you.”
The prowler settled perfectly onto the deck.
He reached over to grab their bags as she reached out and popped the hatch.
Her team was waiting for her when she jumped to the deck of the bay, weapons drawn and locked on the male that followed her from her ship.
“Welcome back, Captain.” Her lieutenant stepped forward, keeping a clean line of sight on the newcomer.
“Thank you, Lieutenant.” She nodded once at her team. “Safe your weapons.”
Three weapons snapped into their holsters. Three pairs of eyes never left the newcomer.
Her lieutenant held his ground. “We were worried.”
“I had a slight problem with the Prowler’s nav array.” She tilted her head slightly to include them all in her line of sight. “Ended up in an uncharted system. Found a backward commerce planet and this tech,” she gestured vaguely at John, “who was sufficiently familiar with Prowlers to fix it.”
“He’s not a Peacekeeper?”
“Begging the Captain’s pardon, why is he here, then?”
“He had a desire for…more. And in consideration for his services…”
“You brought him with you.”
“Yes. With the proper training, he may prove…useful. Reports on the mission and recommendations?”
“Already sent to your personal terminal.”
“Then I’ll be in my quarters.” She grabbed her flight bag from the deck and nodded again. “Take care of him.”
She pinned her lieutenant with her eyes. “He did save my life.”
She spun on her heel and her voice floated behind her as she made her way out of the bay. “I’ll see you when I’ve finished.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He spun on his heel before the door had whooshed shut behind her. As one the team drew down on the man standing square in the middle of their target windows. “Don’t move.”
She stalked the corridors of the carrier, ignoring the few on-duty personnel this late in the sleep cycle this deep in the bowels of the carrier. The echo of her boot steps synched with the pounding in her head.
Her people would be here soon with John to find him quarters with their techs, and she couldn’t afford to be found roaming the dimly lit corridors. She needed to get to the Tombs and find her quarters before anyone realized she wasn’t exactly sure where they were.
Without thought she forked left at the next junction, heading deeper into the ship. Approaching the next intersection, she picked up her pace. She needed to hurry.
Without warning, a granite hand grabbed her wrist and jerked as its mate came up flat-palmed to shove her hard up against the wall, slid down her arm to grab her other wrist as she was pinned shoulder to hips by her attacker’s greater mass.
Full, warm lips crushed hers as he released his hold on her wrists, slid his hands along her body as knowingly and intimately as…John’s. He cupped her head, lips still wrestling with hers, drove his tongue deep in a wet, open-mouth kiss.
He knew her. She knew him. And she could feel his hard, heavy want between them. He broke their kiss to growl hotly in her ear.
“Had a little trouble,” she murmured, running her hands slowly over his shoulders.
“I was worried.” He nipped at her ear, drew his tongue along her jaw line as his hips pressed deeper into hers. “Now.”
“Why hurry?” She pushed back with her hips as her fingers stroked his chest. “Give me time to wash this frelling mission off…”
“Can’t,” he breathed, nipping her neck. “We’re going out. We leave in an arn.”
“And you want to do it here in the corridor?” She pushed him off in one quick shove, her head tilted, eyes glowing, lips curved in a grin. “Take me back to my quarters. A quick shower…”
“No shower,” he growled, covering her body and lips again, kissing her hungrily.
Strong hands grabbed him from behind and yanked hard, pulling him off her.
He threw back an elbow hard into a solar plexus, felt the hands drop as the body behind him staggered back a step. He spun, free hand wrapping his attacker’s throat, drove him up against the far wall as he drew his weapon in one smooth motion. It came to rest squarely on the unarmed tech’s forehead.
“Laying hands on a superior officer is grounds for summary execution,” he said calmly.
Frell. Frell. Frell.
They all stood in the confines of the corridor, four pulse pistols pointed at John. He’d gone rigid with rage, hands curled into white knuckled fists at his sides, icy eyes burning as they locked on Larraq.
“Get the frell off me.”
“I thought you were taking care of this.” Controlled anger colored her voice as a spike of real fear slid into her chest. She took one step forward, snapping her eyes to her lieutenant. “Why isn’t he in quarters?”
“You know about this?” Larraq asked, his own voice deceptively quiet.
“He’s my tech.”
“Your tech?” His eyebrows arched as a half-smile pulled at the corners of his lips.
“I brought him back with me. He saved my life.”
“So what?” The smile turned unpleasant, eyes cold and unblinking. “He thinks that makes him special? With rank and privilege?” He tilted his head and leaned in to breathe in John’s ear. “Perhaps entitled to a quick thank you frell?”
“He’s not a Peacekeeper. He’s no threat to anyone but himself.”
“Amuse yourself with him then, if you want.” She shrugged slightly.
“And the report.”
Or amuse yourself with me.
“Because now we have less than an arn.”
His eyes slid to her as his grip on John’s throat tightened.
“Safe your weapons.” She looked at her team still standing locked on their target and gestured dismissively toward John. “And put him away.”
Larraq slid the barrel of his pistol up and off John’s forehead as he released his grip. The Lieutenant stepped forward as Larraq stepped back, spun on his heel, and nudged Aeryn with his shoulder. She turned and followed a half step behind.
He watched, frozen in place, as Aeryn disappeared down the corridor, the walls closing in on him as his vision narrowed into a black haze on his periphery. Unseeing, unable to move against the cold rage seeping through his veins, he was also unaware of the lieutenant shoving him back up against the wall.
“Know your place, tech,” he hissed, his arm hard across John’s throat, staring into frozen, furious eyes. “Did you really think that because you helped her the Captain was going to be so grateful as to recreate with the likes of you?”
With an angry growl he pushed forward, oblivious to the crushing pressure on his neck. Suddenly the two closest officers were on him, each hooking an arm and driving him back against the wall.
“You don’t listen well, do you tech?” The lieutenant was back in John’s face. “Just because the Captain seems not to want you shot doesn’t mean she’ll object if we just beat the frelling hezmana out of you.”
He pulled back and drove three quick punches to John’s face, twisting his arm to add force to the blows and driving the first two knuckles of his fist into the tech’s nose, ignoring the crush of bone and the gush of blood.
John’s head exploded in a blinding blaze of incandescent light and pain before everything went black. The officers grunted as his body went slack and dropped, weight dragging against their grip.
“Frell.” The lieutenant shook his broken hand, disgusted, ignoring the crimson flecks that flew from it as he looked at his men. “Take that to the med tech.”
He watched as they twisted and slid under the unconscious man’s arms, hoisted him between them, feet dragging, and started back up the corridor. “With the proper training,” he mumbled to himself, “he may prove…useful. Yes, ma’am.”
With a quick look at the mess on the deck, the lieutenant slapped at his comms. “Maintenance? There’s been an accident.”
She palmed the door open as he stood one step to the side, eyes fierce and hungry on her. She felt his body’s need humming through him as she slid past into the darkened quarters. His hand was on her shoulders, slipping her jacket off to be tossed carelessly into the dark as he turned her in his arms.
Lights low,” he murmured as one hand wrapped her neck and his lips crushed hers. His free hand trailed down the delicate curve of her spine and pulled her shirt from her waistband to caress the silken skin there. Strong, seeking fingers traveled lower to cup the curve of her ass, pull her tight against him, grinding against her hard and hot and heavy.
With a growl, his tongue delved deep, feeling foreign in her mouth, choking her as it mapped hidden territory. She jerked her lips away as his hands moved suddenly to her waist, rucked her shirt up and over her arms in one liquid motion. As her arms came down she shoved hard against him, followed him, backed him up against the wall.
His body thrummed with desire and he watched her with hooded eyes as she flowed to her knees in front of him. As she settled, his hands moved to cup her crown, fingers fisting in her hair as hers worked his belt loose and off, opened fasteners and slid leathers over slim hips.
Her eyes closed as she slid her hands up his thighs, one sliding smoothly down his length to the base of his rigid cock as her tongue swirled his tip. He groaned and surged forward as took him deep in her mouth gone suddenly dry. His hands cupped her head again, guiding her as she worked him, slowly gliding back then taking him again to his base, cheeks hollowed as she sucked him back deep in her throat.
His body stiffened under her hands as moaned deep and low in his throat, strong fingers twined in her hair, guiding her as lips and wet, warm tongue licked and swirled and sucked, setting up a rhythm.
Strong, slender fingers came up between his legs to cup his balls, rolling first one then the other gently in her grip, then sliding slowly back to stroke the soft skin behind them.
He fisted his hands more tightly in her hair as he drove the heels of his hands against the sides of her head and tugged. His cock slid smoothly from her lips as her hands pushed against his inner thighs and she rose in one liquid motion.
He kicked his pants to the far wall and dragged her face to his, breathing harsh and ragged as he molded his lips to hers, drove his tongue deep again, probing and demanding, wrestling with hers. His hands flowed over her shoulders, around her back to release her bra. He tossed it blindly as his free arm wrapped around her, crushing her breasts to his chest.
His hands slid down her body, met at her middle to make short work of fasteners and zippers. Her leathers slid over the swell of her hips to pool on the floor at her feet. Groping hands found their way back to the valley of her waist, slid around the silken curve of her ass to cup her, lift her as long, lean legs wrapped around him. He spun them, fused lips and shoulders to hip, his erection between them.
Her arms came up around his neck as he ground hard against her. She ripped her lips from his and flinched with a gasp as his teeth sank into the join of her neck and shoulder. “Bed,” she snarled, guttural and harsh in his ear.
He pulled her closer, off the wall, covering the distance to the bed in three long strides. She fell back and he followed, pinning her under his greater mass. His lips crushed her swollen ones again, teeth clicking as he worked her mouth, sucked her tongue into his.
She slid her fingers along his face and into his hair, pulled him roughly away as she moved to roll them over. He suddenly shifted, pinned her arms and slid down her body. He stopped to lick and nip at her nipple before clamping down hard to suck wetly. She squirmed beneath him and he pulled away, trailed his tongue across her chest to nip harder and suck longer at the other.
She bucked hard against him with a grunt, tried again to shift and roll, but his hands were steel on her wrists as he slipped lower down her body, forearms pinning her thighs wide as he laid her open slit to clit with a long sweep of his tongue.
She hissed harshly and broke his hold on one wrist. Fingers trailed across her sweat soaked belly, slipped down the slide of her inner thigh to drive their way deep inside her. With an atonal keen she jerked as though burned, blindly curved her fingers through his hair and pulled.
He crawled back up her body, lips and teeth down hard on the pale length of her neck. She tensed, threw a leg and rolled them, straddling him with feral grace. She raised herself and sheathed him in one fluid motion, driving down hard to seat him deeply. Steel fingers dug deep into her hips, his eyes fierce burned and hungry in the low light, his breathing harsh and ragged as she began to ride him.
His hands wrapped her wrists, bowed her body taut as he forced them back to settle her hands on his upper thighs. She clenched fiercely as he groaned, and his fingers curved around her hips, fierce and demanding as he guided her.
Without warning his hands found her head, fingers curling into fists buried deep in the spill of hair. He tugged hard, pulled her over and down, crushed her breasts to his sweat slicked chest as steel arms wrapped her tightly and rolled them.
He pushed up on his knees, still buried deep inside her, slid his hands down her thighs, lifted her legs to his shoulders. Heavy lidded eyes locked on hers as his hips began to piston. He drove fierce and hard balls deep into her, hips smacking her ass as she came up off the mattress and he pumped hard and fast. Tendons corded in his neck and stood in taut relief on his arms where they grabbed hers to anchor her to him.
With a growl his head turned suddenly and his teeth sank into her calf as he drove deep one last time. She clenched and he exploded.
He fell forward, suddenly boneless, pinned her beneath him. With a grunt she shoved him off.
He lay on his back next to her, breathing heavily as she jackknifed herself to a sitting position.
“You haven’t got much time.”
“I know.” He pulled himself up to sit next to her. “I have to get back to my quarters.” He swung his legs off the bed and moved to snag his leathers.
She slowly got to her feet and turned to see him already dressed. She moved slowly around the bed as he held out his hand waiting for her. Curling his fingers around hers, he led her to the door. “If I’m not back before you leave, be careful.” He kissed her gently. “Come back to me.”
Her door slid open and his fingers fell from hers as he slipped out into the corridor. She’d turned and started covering the distance to her personal terminal before it had whooshed closed.
Calling up her personnel files for the mission, she checked names and matched faces, then skimmed the failed mission report. When she finished, she opened a comms channel. “Lieutenant?”
“Ma’am?” He looked at the med-tech as he waited for her response.
“Meet me in my quarters. One arn.”
She closed the channel and walked into the fresher. She started the water and slipped a dentic into her mouth, idly fingering the angry bruises forming on the side of her throat and at the base of her neck.
Slipping the dentic out of her mouth and back into its container, she stepped into the shower. She let the water beat down on her, hotter than she liked it, leaned her head back into the stream.
A tidal wave of nausea rolled over her, her stomach heaved violently and turned inside out, dropping her to her knees. She felt the pull in her diaphragm, tearing muscle as she heaved uncontrollably. By the time the bile was gone and the dry heaves had subsided, she was curled in a tight ball under the pounding water.