DarkHorse Vendetta by Orin Drake
A completed novel, available as a paperback through Lulu and an ebook (Part One) through e-Quills.

        Chapter 17 - Promises Left Unmade

        Quietly, slowly and slightly dazed, Jack meandered her way through some of the least-used passages of the ship and back to her quarters. She didn't know what she'd have done had she met up with... well, anyone.
        Safely inside her "home", she started to laugh. It was just a silent giggle at first, something that felt inappropriate but necessary. As it continued, however, it just got funnier and funnier. Her laughter forced her to sit down on Doxy's sunken, wounded couch, holding her stomach.
        "Jack?" came the computerized voice, as quietly and sincerely as a concerned friend.
        After several breaths, she was able to sit up fully again. It took a few more to be able to respond, though. "It's just that..." The words tore into giggles again, and the more she tried to suppress them, the worse it got. Luckily Domani seemed to be a rather patient entity. She tried again, slowly. "I'm never going to get to relax in that damn library."

        She had stayed at her desk, staring at the blackness of the screen for what must have been hours. There were several false starts--and none of them actually lead to anything she could think to actually write and send to her "new friends". Seriously, if they didn't think her completely insane, they'd certainly realize and blame the lack of sleep on her part. One doesn't just write a note to say, in a "by the way" manner, that the ship they were all living on was alive and sentient.
        Domani was silent, however. The system had remained quiet the entire time Jack sat at the desk, zoning out for lack of any other ability in that moment. The abandoned ship they'd come to rename, the Tree of Life, the whole collapse of known and unknown universes... she was shocked that she hadn't gone completely off the deep end. Well, not that she was aware of, anyway. Someone who had been in her line of work so early in life had to make a habit of acting first, thinking later; and even then, shock usually ceased to be, after a while. But this... was terribly different. All dynamics seemed to have changed instantly and completely.
        "Captain?" the ship's voice interrupted gently.
        She hadn't realized she was chuckling lowly until another voice was present. She cleared her throat, banishing her thought process. "Sorry. I just can't come up with an announcement for you."
        "I could introduce myself, if you think it wise." Domani offered.
        She thought that over for a moment. "I'm not sure. I don't think Julian could take that. Pheta and Nex, though..." She just had a picture in her head that Pheta would accept it all with a terse nod, then go back to following orders. And Nex, well... he was still a kid in most senses. Kids could handle that sort of thing. Probably. What the hell did she know about kids? Jules, on the other hand, might freak. Not that she blamed him.
        Another long moment passed as her thoughts slowly rampaged away from the subject at hand. Nothing in particular, and certainly nothing important, but... it was just nice to sit there like an idiot and let your mind take off with you. It seemed as if it had been a long time since she'd been able to do just that.
        Not that it mattered. The universe, god or what have you didn't seem to like her relaxing. The wall-mounted communicator blipped, and after a couple of times, she supposed she really should answer it. In the back of her mind she made a mental note to make Julian official "go-to Captain". She was getting... tired of this stuff. "Yup." She greeted.
        A slight pause. "It's a Pordethre ship, Captain." Pheta announced quietly, directly to the point. "It sent us a blank message--I suspect to let us know it was within a few hours' reach of us at our current course. The ship itself seems to be a very large battle and transport vessel. It's an old one, but I'm not sure even the DarkHorse can hold up to it's sheer firepower for very long." She took a deep breath, then continued. "Even if we tried to run... well, the engines are up there with the weapons. I don't think we'd get away easily."
        Nevermind that. "Battle and transport?" she asked herself out loud. The combination was utterly impossible with the Pordethre. Unless... That could mean...
        "Yes, Captain." Pheta responded. "The records I found indicate that there is a symbol on the side of it that looks like--"
        "A fish." She finished hopefully.
        "Yes." The commander sounded a bit awestruck. "You know of it?"
        Jack's entire demeanor changed. Maybe the universe wasn't completely against her, after all. "Oh, I do." She replied almost pleasantly. "Keep on current course." Fuck that snide "you can run but you can't hide" blank message. She didn't plan on doing either.
        This time the pause was longer. "Yes, Captain."
        She couldn't help but notice the other side was not disconnecting. The woman was expecting something else. Anything else. So, Jack offered what she could. "I'll let you know if and when plans change."
        Not quite what she was looking for, but it would do. "Certainly, Captain." And that was that.
        With a very slow walk, she moved away from the wall console. Lost in thought, she slumped back into the chair at the desk. "I have a shot." She murmured to herself.
        "With all due respect, Captain," Domani insisted, "Not a very good one."
        Jack was a little surprised by that response. "You know what I'm planning, don't you?"
        "Of course." The ship sounded as if this were all protocol. "You're going to sneak into their vessel and lay a bomb with a ship too small for their old electronics to detect--i.e. what you refer to as the Black Albatross. With a vessel so guarded and important to them, obviously destroyed by you, they will be forced to make the next move: retreat or follow. I suspect you will conduct one of two plans accordingly."
        "All those brains do make me jealous sometimes." She commented, her "good mood" not touched by her plotting. "It's still a shot."
        "I elect not to repeat myself, Captain." A dry sense of humor crept into Domani's computerized voice. "Though I would agree. It is still possible to get away with."
        "Thank you." She smirked, sitting back with a long stretch. "Okay. Can you get me a basic map of the 'tender areas' of that ship?"
        "I have access to only the very basics, Captain." The voice responded.
        "That's all I'll need." Whether or not that was true... well, she was hoping.
        "I will ready the Black Albatross." Domani offered. "I detect two bombs on board."
        Well, that was correct. It was a little freaky that it could be picked up on that easily... but then, the Albatross was tied into the DarkHorse's power sources in sleep mode. It was probably easy for Domani to gain access to all technical information. Still, freaky. She wondered if that meant Domani's reach was even more expansive. "Will that be enough? Bombs aren't exactly all that easy to come across in trade." Neither were the proper materials to set a ship with armor like that flying.
        There was a pause as the computer made some critical estimates. "I believe so." At Domani's will, the screen atop the desk pulled up some basic line drawings of the target's lower deck interior. Two red dots, very close together, suddenly began to pulsate. "If you were to set one at each location, the ship would eventually break apart."
        "Eventually?" Jack repeated.
        "The blasts will not be powerful enough to tear the entire structure apart, of course." Domani admitted. "But it will create more than enough destruction to force the ship completely apart in under one hour. You will want to give someone time to communicate your calling card, don't you?"
        A devious grin overcame her face. "You think in very vicious ways."
        The ship was silent. Though, if push came to shove, Jack would swear there was a small but true bit of pride bulging in the room.

        They looked more like arcade game screens than blueprints, but they were enough. This was good, this was fine--she'd plan as much out as possible before leaving. That much would have to occur soon if her plan was to work. She'd be able to slip into the Sefirot, grab the Black Albatross, and leave the DarkHorse's dock before anyone knew what happened. With a little luck. If she hurried, she'd be able to keep the DarkHorse at a safe distance while the Albatross did all the work.
        Just as she'd finished outlining one of the sectors in red pen (she was still surprised that a ship as advanced as the DarkHorse had paper printers) to work out exactly how to get in and out with the least problems, there was a knock at her door. An actual, physical, fist-to-door knock. How very... old fashioned. She thought perhaps she ought to be worried--but knew damn well that she couldn't show it. Regardless of who it was, she'd have to answer quickly and act very normal. Well, maybe not that quickly. Getting up from her plans, she looked back at the mess on the table; there was another, faster set of knocks.
        Hm. Maybe it was urgent? But then why would--the knocks just kept coming, driving all thought process away.
        Growing slightly exasperated, she finally walked into the main room to answer. Who the hell could be interrupting her at that time, like that, expecting her to hurry up and--
        Julian's hand was poised to erupt in another long series of bangs as the door slid open. Instead of looking the least bit concerned, he had a natural expression on his face and full uniform. There wasn't any need to ask what he was doing there, really. He answered the unspoken question almost before she had time to think of it. "I'm not going to let you go alone." And with that, he walked past her, right into her quarters.
        She stayed looking out into the hall for just a moment, contemplating where she'd gone wrong. With a barely concealed sigh, she turned and locked the door behind her. "And how did you know?"
        "Pheta." Was all he needed to say. "She had an inkling. I spent the last... however long it's been, trying to get her to tell me what it was."
        She couldn't help but be amused by that. Getting too damn predictable these days, aren't I? Well... sort of. "And what makes you think you were invited, cowboy?"
        He flashed a half smirk, half grin at the new nickname. "I have some issues with these people, too."
        True enough, she supposed. "And Pheta?"
        He shrugged. "She seemed a little... irked that I kept asking about it. Other than that, I'm not really sure what she thinks."
        Not a surprise. Jack thought. She had a lot of trouble trying to pin down the woman's thoughts, too. But as for the situation at hand... "I guess I could use another set of hands." She relented, knowing better than to start an argument. He did have a point.
        "Yeah, but you got me instead." Whether he'd meant that as a joke was lost even to him.
        She grinned, anyway. "Alright, I'll show you what I've got." As she lead him into the far room, the door chime interrupted. Busy around here.
        Julian paid that much little attention as he spotted the printed paper. Funny how lo-tech some things still seemed.
        "Look it all over." She invited. "I'll be back."
        "Will do." He answered, sitting down at the desk.
        Well, there were options. A few of them, really. But she was pretty sure who was waiting outside. Call it instinct or common sense--she opened the door with no surprises.
        Pheta stood on the other side, professional as always. "I'd like a word with you, Captain."
        While part of her wanted to decline, a larger part had to remind her of tea only hours before. Part of friendship was communication... or something. Without a glance behind (she didn't need to to know that Julian was still looking over the plans), she invited herself into the hall, door closed after her. It was the Captain's Hall, and they were safe and secure out there. "Alright, Commander." She felt ever so strangely professional all of a sudden.
        "I'm right, aren't I?" the woman's voice was more delicate than accusing. She was no idiot--Julian had only been asking because he wanted in on the plan. As for herself...
        "Yeah." The captain admitted. "I guess it's not a surprise."
        "Not at all." The commander joked dully. "You have a... talent for retribution."
        That caused a snicker. "Thank you."
        "I don't like it, Captain." She cut to the chase.
        Jack couldn't help but commend that much. "This is ours, Pheta." She stated, firmly but in a quiet, contemplative voice. "I don't want anyone else involved." She took a breath, breaking eye contact. "And frankly, I don't even want him along, either."
        Well... that was it then, wasn't it? The chances seemed to be favorable, but... if it had to be a possible suicide mission... she very much doubted they'd turn back, no matter the stakes. This was a captain she'd come to understand relatively well, after all. The whole "mission" was composed of laying a bomb, perhaps two--but that wouldn't be so easy. Granted the ship was old and the Albatross was at the bottom of the technologically advanced (which usually equaled detectable) ladder, but... The commander sighed, mostly to herself. The chances were good, yes. But... "And if this is a failed mission?"
        "Then the DarkHorse is yours." Jack responded with little hesitation. Her voice didn't so much as falter; she was already preparing herself for the battle at hand. Long ago she'd learned there was this... mental place that she could walk into like another room, where all was separate save action and reaction. It was easier to get to when she used it for every assassination, but she was finding she could succeed in getting back.
        Pheta found herself more than just a little taken aback. Was it all just that easy? It felt almost as if the ship had just been handed over, as though it were such a simple object... She did want to say something. She really did. It was on the tip of her tongue, pressing against the inside of her lips, but.... in the end, she was silent. "I understand, Captain."
        "You forget, Pheta," she wanted to say, "That I want them to come after me. Not the DarkHorse." But that much had suddenly become a little too clear, if the almost hidden emotion on the commander's face was any indication. "But we'll party when we get back, huh?" she tried to clear the tense atmosphere.
        Somehow it just didn't work as well as it should have. "I suppose we will." With that, she took a step back. "Good luck, Captain."
        She was stricken with this... thing she'd been unconsciously shown. Not directly, but... was it concern? Regret? Some odd combination of the two and then some? Hm. No time to figure it out just then, really. "Thanks." Before she had the chance to add something more, the woman was walking to the lift. There wasn't so much as a glance before the door closed and it descended.
        Slowly, she re-enterted her quarters. Well, there were just things that would have to be figured out later. Some thoughts would simply have to be pushed aside for a while.
        "Jack?" came Julian's unsteady voice.
        That much was puzzling. "Yes?"
        A pause. "You wrote this, right?"
        Wrote... what? She walked into the far room, took a look at the screen on the desk... and started chuckling. Written across the black surface in bold red letters was, You really should consider taking over some responsibilities, Captain DeVierna. Jack is very stressed.
        Her reaction was less than reassuring. He'd been sitting there, gazing over the plans on paper, when the blank screen suddenly flashed. Having grabbed his attention, he stared at the surface as the words came into being letter by letter as if typed by a ghost.
        "Sorry, Jules." She chuckled. "If you don't mind, the explanation will just have to wait until after our little mission."
        To be honest, he didn't really appreciate that. But, given the circumstances... "Yeah. Okay." Better to focus on... just about anything else, he assumed.
        "In the meantime," she diverted, "Let's get going."

        She was more than a little surprised to have not encountered Pheta on the way to the black bird. Not that she expected the woman to try and stop them or anything of the sort, but... she had really expected something. It wasn't quite as if making it onto the Black Albatross without incident was a bad thing, though.
        The act of stepping onto the tiny deathtrap, in Julian's mind, was harrowing. He remembered it all too well. It didn't even feel safe nested inside the Sefirot, which was nested inside the DarkHorse. What a strange concept on its own. And then... a uniquely important thought crept into his head as he sat in that godforsaken passenger chair. "Do you think we can really get away with this?"
        She flashed him a grin... then closed and sealed the door. "I think there's a very good chance, myself." Some series of switches later, she noticed that he was still looking at her blankly. "There's always a chance of failure."
        "Thanks, that was reassuring." Immediately, he set about strapping himself in.
        Well, he had been expecting her to say more. "No need for that yet." She dismissed. "It'll be a smooth ride until we get inside."
        He wasn't sure whether or not to believe that... but he chose to focus on other things in that moment. Like, begging his heart not to stop in his chest, or to control his breathing so he wouldn't pass out. Though he was wondering whether unconsciousness wouldn't help the situation. This "vessel" would give him claustrophobia soon if he didn't already have it.
        "Alright." Jack breathed. "Let's go." Thankfully, Domani didn't verbally make itself known; only eased the dock doors open before she'd had the chance to do it herself. Well, one question answered. She wasn't really worried, as she knew her passenger would have his mind set on a million other things. A few more switches, and they rocked forward on the track.
        "I've never set a bomb before." He admitted suddenly.
        "It's not hard." She commented.
        The forward motion must have gotten his nerves twisted a little tighter. "What if I get it wrong?"
        "You won't." In that same dull tone, checking lights and switches.
        "How do you know?" he tried to make desperate eye contact.
        Her lips curved somewhat, giving him a glance. They stopped at the edge of the track, set to take off. "Because I have the detonator." And with that, she gave a mild engine burst to carry them outside the DarkHorse.
        Even that tiny forward thrust was enough to unnerve him--but he realized everything was fine. Just fine. Or, even if it wasn't, he'd make himself believe it was. As they passed outside the larger ship's dock, there was a much harsher engine firing. Luckily, they felt little of the change in speed. It was surprisingly smooth, given his heightened sense of things going wrong all around him. One more engine burst later, they were off and running at a damn good velocity.
        Many minutes passed by in absolute silence. Though there was something that needed to be asked. "And what happens after?" he whispered.
        That was an... interesting question. Truthfully, she didn't really want to respond. She knew by his tone of voice that he wouldn't be willing to let it rest, however. "After the bombs go off?"
        "Yeah." Still quiet, looking ahead at nothing but lights and panels he didn't understand. Nor did he want to.
        She knew what he really meant. "I don't know yet." She wasn't sure which of them she was lying to. She really didn't know. But she had an idea. If the Pordethre knew where she was... well, she'd known it was only a matter of time before she might be forced to abandon the DarkHorse. But as the time grew closer... she was getting some aches about it. Of the emotional sort. To get attached to a ship might be sentimental idiot's work. But to have gotten attached to the people... well... that was a lot harder to shake off. Then there was Domani.
        That thought caused an awful bit of pain in her. Oh, that was right. Domani. The branch of the Tree of Life. That other universe ending... So she wouldn't be able to abandon the ship and sink into obscurity again after all. She'd go down with it, no matter the circumstance. Well, that was alright. She'd just have to find a way to evacuate the crew. No sense in taking them on a ride they didn't agree to. Not that she had specifically agreed to it herself...
        Of course... maybe that gave her license to be a bit less crafty about this whole business. If she was assured of riding off into the sunset after all was said and done, why not fight as dirty as possible then take off without another word?
        Because you are attached to these people, that's why. Damn logic. If she merely disappeared after this was done, they were all as good as dead in one way or another. And she knew the Pordethre would not let anyone die easily. She'd have to destroy the government... and she couldn't do that alone. Shit. Some would get roped in even further, after all. She made it a point to try hard to make it as few people as possible.
        Julian watched her closely as her thought process exploded. It was almost audible--but in the way where you can't make out the words, only sound. She was stressed, alright. But it was more than that. And it was this mission... she was relatively certain, he knew that. But it was the uncertainty, the possibilities of what could go wrong and what might wait for her afterward...
        He felt a sudden and all-encompassing urge to reach out and touch her arm, just to feel that she was there. Yeah it was stupid. Yeah it was... far from the smartest thing to do, he was sure. But... but he needed that. He needed just to touch the solid, living flesh of another human being. Especially her flesh.
        She started slightly as his fingertips brushed her forearm, turning her full and undivided attention upon him. For once she had absolutely nothing to say.
        "I'm sorry." He whispered sincerely, pulling his hand back. "I just..." He tried to explain it to himself as much as to her. "I needed contact. Before... all of this. That's all."
        Jack continued to look at him, perfectly still and utterly unreadable. After a very long wait, she hit a couple of buttons on the instrument panel, and all of the lights dimmed. Tapping another switch, she made their very seats slide back a foot or so away from the controls themselves as if it were some kind of "conversation mode" for the pilots. Whatever mode it was, it allowed their chairs to swivel, and she turned herself to face him.
        A nervous sweat broke out over him all at once. He tried desperately to get a reading from her, to establish just what her reaction was. Anything would have put him at ease--or at least let him know how close to death he was. But he got nothing solid. And that was really making him squirm.
        "Contact." She repeated finally, very quietly.
        "Uh... yeah." Was all he could think of to respond.
        She seemed to be thinking it over as though it were a question pondered for millennia. Contact. What a simple word. A thing to be treated delicately--in some circumstances. She knew what he was asking for even before he did. And, really frightening, she wasn't exactly in disagreement. Stress reliever, indeed.
        Her stillness just made the nervousness peak. "Jack, I didn--"
        "Contact." She repeated again, just as softly as before. "Would you... like contact?"
        His heart was racing. Maybe his head didn't know what she meant in that moment--but there were other parts that did. Combined, it was just confusing. "I..."
        Answer enough, she supposed. Hey, she was up for a little contact, herself. Maybe not as sentimentally as he was looking for, but... what the hell?         Everyone was going to die someday, right? While he was still too stunned to react, she stood and transferred location--facing him, straddling his lap. "This sort of contact?"
        He was mortified. --Well, that wasn't really the word. Stunned. Shocked. Going into a catatonic state. This was... Jack, right? He wasn't hallucinating... that he was aware of...
        "Relax, Jules." She grinned slightly. Her answer to her own question was already quite apparent from her position.
        Her "special nickname" for him smacked him out of his stupor--somewhat. "I just..." He supposed "You don't have to if you don't want to" would have been utterly stupid at that point. She just plain didn't do what she didn't want to do when it came to things like that. And she had made the first move... mind blowing. "I didn't know." He uttered before realizing even what he was talking about.
        She felt his body relax a little, tentatively allowing her to stay where she was. "Yeah." She agreed, not certain where she was going with that, either. "It's not like... well, don't worry about it. No regret. Just... go slow at first, if you don't mind."
        Those words surprised him. Surely she wasn't... after all this time and all that shit... "Don't tell me you're..."
        "No." She assured easily, finding such a question almost funny. "Not a virgin. But not... practiced, either."
        Well, neither was he. He was just glad she'd said it. Already he was starting to loosen up and feel comfortable with her again. But he still couldn't put his hands on her. It was almost... sacred ground or something. "I can handle that." He heard himself say, wondering if he was about to regret something.
        She smirked at him, her hips getting just the slightest bit closer. "You know... this place is great for kink."
        In any other situation, with any other girl, he'd have blushed and changed the subject. But this was Jack. "'Not practiced', huh?"
        Glad to see him gaining momentum, she made first contact. Granted it was only her hands on his arms, but it was enough. She needed the leverage to make an ever so delicate press in just the right area. "I'm not ignorant, just unskilled."
        Oh, he responded alright. "Holy shit, Jack. You know much more than you let on."
        "That would be assassin's skill?" She raised an eyebrow suggestively.
        He didn't want to ask her if she was sure. He was kind of afraid that she'd reconsider. What a sleaze that made him, he thought--but he was starting to care less and less. Dammit, she was there. That was enough. But now... how the hell should they begin?
        She took the initiative again, quite comfortable in that role. Letting her weight settle over his lap, she put her arms behind her and tugged lightly at her sleeves until the jacket poured off, onto the floor. She watched him closely, trying to get a real feel for his response. As it was immediately obvious that he certainly didn't mind, she quickly took hold of her undershirt and pulled that right off, letting it land somewhere behind her.
        He was... quite amazed, actually. Not by her body itself--although, damn, it was nicer than he'd imagined... not that he'd been imagining--but by her absolute and complete... openness. She didn't do the normal chick things like cover herself teasingly or insist she wasn't much to look at. She'd be lying anyway, but... it was refreshing. Not that he'd had much experience with women in the first place. He'd certainly heard enough at academy, though.
        "Do you have bra skills?" she joked.
        "Not a one." He grinned, feeling... not only incredibly happy, but close to comfortable. Really and actually comfortable. He'd never been that way with a woman. Certainly not with one undressing on his lap, anyway. Alright, so that'd never happened before, but that wasn't the point.
        "Good. 'Cause this is a front-open."
        "Oh, I can do that one!" he reached for her--then abruptly stopped inches away from her chest. That might be very rude, he realized.
        She was utterly amused by his reaction. Instead of coaxing him on, she quickly slid a finger underneath the clasp and pulled at the perfect angle, then let her hand drop. She only grinned down at him, clasp open, cups only ever so slightly sliding down, waiting to see if he'd proceed for her.
        Of course, that was all the invitation he'd needed. He delicately took the straps between his fingers and slid them off her shoulders, paying no attention to the article of clothing once it fell from of her arms and onto the floor. Well well well. Well well. Well. Whoo. Never in a million fucking years did he think this would be happening--and that wasn't the time to give a damn. Carefully, he finally let his hands rest on her hips and just took a moment to look at the landscape, so to speak. She really was pretty. Very "girl next door" pretty; tone, not overly muscled, but still shapely. There were the barest hints of scars on her shoulders, and one faded and flat across her stomach. But that didn't take anything away. "Take your hair down, Jack." He suggested quietly.
        She was actually a little surprised at his request. Not that she minded, of course. Obliging, she pulled her hair down and swirled it with her fingers, letting it fall over her shoulders.
        He simply couldn't hold back anymore. "Can I?" he asked quietly. Why he'd asked--he knew he didn't have to. But he felt like he should, anyway.
        That was the most sincere question she'd ever heard. It kind of made her want to shrink away, actually... but not enough. She was curious. And still comfortable. And... hell, this may prove to be a lot of fun. "Go for the gold, Jules."
        He flashed her a predatory smile before moving in for the kill. Letting his palms roam behind her, he lightly ran his hands across the length of her back. He felt her arch into the touch just slightly, giving him the impression that she was consciously holding back. And there was no need for that. He pulled her just a touch closer, leaning his head in to run his lips over the curve between her breasts. It was something he'd never done before, but had always wanted to. Of course, he'd always felt nervous as hell in previous circumstances.
        She swallowed, a little nervous herself. She wasn't used to... well, whatever this was. Something out of a romance novel, when the fucking didn't commence right away. Not that she would be one to complain; she just... wasn't sure how to react. Her thoughts, however, were cut off, chopped in half, burned and melted when his mouth found the side of her neck. She felt teeth, but the skin wasn't broken. It was then that she decided yes, indeed this would be a nice experience.
        One hand left her back for only long enough to make an attempt at unbuttoning and unzipping her pants. It took a little longer than he'd have liked, but he would busy himself with other things in the mean time. The way her breath hitched and her body moved when he'd nipped at her neck only made him want to do it again.
        It hit her, with the sound of her own zipper, that Julian himself was still fully dressed. Well, how unfair. However, considering the fact that he was sitting down, things would be harder...
        The same thought struck him at about the same time. It was far too late to turn back now; he wrapped both arms around her and stood, quickly turning around to seat her in the chair he'd just occupied. There was a slightly puzzled look on her face as he pulled away, but she got the gist quickly enough. He was in the process of ridding himself of excess clothing, throwing the jacket off of his shoulders. He took hold of the shirt like it was something unwanted and filthy, pulling it over his head and tossing it to the floor. The boots were next to go, and those were flung in different directions with dull thuds. Then the pants--he paused for a second as the zipper came down, looking at her. It wasn't what he'd expected. In that moment when his mind was still in borderline lust, he knew there had to be something going on between them if he was going to drop his pants so eagerly. Now that was an interesting thought. What the hell; he shed the rest of his clothes without any more hesitation.
        Nice to see he had risen to the occasion, anyway. Before she had the chance to make a fatal quip, he'd seized one of her boots and was already well into the process of removing it. The other was just as easy, and she saw where he was going with that--lifting on her arms to make it easier to slip out of her pants, she found herself very quickly as naked as he was.
        Taking complete advantage of the situation, he wrapped his arms around her again and, completely oblivious to any and all shame, brought their bodies together as he lifted, then turned, seating them both as they'd been before. "Wait a minute." He'd just thought of something. "How clean is this chair, do you think?"
        "Not very, now." She joked.
        He smirked in relatively good humor, considering. "What about... I mean, I don't exactly carry protection around in case of spontaneous sex on scary little ships..."
        "Don't worry about it." She assured easily.
        He blinked. "Stupid question but, are you sure?"
        "Completely. Part of the corporate assassin requirement is to be sterilized."
        What a horrific thought. "Wow. That's pretty harsh."
        "Yeah." She agreed halfheartedly. "Makes some things a lot easier, though."
        "I'm beginning to see that." Softly, he drew his hands up and down her back. Just to feel, just to touch the flesh she no doubt didn't bare that often--and it showed. Her skin was soft and smooth, save only the tiniest hint of scars from long ago. It was just... so amazing. Mind-blowing, that she was allowing him to do this. That he wanted it that badly...
        With a devious smile, she put his mind to rest. What was the point of foreplay now? She guided herself over him slowly--and when he felt the very first touch of heat, he thought he might just end it right there. With a bang, granted, but it wouldn't have been entirely fair for her. He didn't dare piss her off. Grinning with that thought, he closed his eyes only long enough to steady himself, steady his breath, and feel her. The further she went, the more intense this heat was getting, spreading through his body. He needed to hold on to something, taking her hips in a tight hold and trying to concentrate on his breathing.
        She hissed as softly as she could manage through her teeth, not wanting him to think he'd really hurt her. She could only control so much at that angle. "Just a little slower. It's been a long time."
        "I'll be careful." He promised gently, easing up on his grip. It had been a long damn time for him, too. Maybe that much had become relatively obvious, however. He panted quietly, stroking the almost untouched flesh of her hips with his thumbs in rhythm with his breathing. It was a motion that distracted him enough from the moment to get a grasp on things.
        Fully seated, she took some time to merely breathe. It'd been so long that she wasn't used to her own internal muscle twitches, and for a moment there was nothing but a dull, burning pain. Soft, long, deep breaths relaxed her enough to be able to feel the full effect of the coupling, and she made a slight shift by which to "test things".
        He bit his lip through all of it. This had never... and he'd never... but it was so... and that last thing was... ooohhh.
        She was amused by his reaction, but reassured. Feeling better equipped to handle matters, so to speak, she carefully repositioned her legs and gave him another, much more deliberate shift of her body.
        That inspired a very audible gasp; he was unprepared for things to be moving so quickly. And that they were--almost too much so. Not that he was about to complain in the least little bit. But there was a little pressure, here. If he... before she... oh how godawful for him. She was armed, after all. The last thought brought a breathy snicker.
        And he was rewarded even more. It had been a long time. And now that the world was tainted with a touch of lust, she had to admit he was attractive. Not only that, but... well, they had history. While it would take more than torture to get her to admit it, she actually felt comfortable around him like this. Almost... safe. These weird things mixed together, they just--
        He felt it. Clearly. Much more clearly than he had before. He saw it, too; forced himself to see it, to have his eyes open when it happened. Restic Aruyn goddesses weren't that beautiful in paintings... He took a chance, wrapping his arms around her with that last, desperate shift of her body, holding her in those final moments like someone would hold a dying loved one. Only a single word make it past his lips at the end, neither shouted nor spoken exactly; "Jack..."
        When the ecstasy released into a calm, lazy shroud of good and happy things, he unconsciously moved his hands up and down her back again, taking every last detail into memory. The motion was slow, rhythmic, totally taking him by surprise when he realized he was doing it. She was still leaned against him, head on his shoulder, arms loosely holding to his shoulder blades. But it was nice. It was really nice. And maybe that's what scared him a little. "Okay. Is it just me or was it a little awkward for me to have called out a man's name at the end?"
        She chuckled uncontrollably, still holding onto him. "It worked just fine." She breathed, amazed by her own body's relaxation. So that's all it took to relax. She laughed inwardly.
        His own comfortable cloud of post-lust happiness was shattered with one, sudden, unwanted thought: What now? Was he expected to... do something? Say something? How would he know? How the hell would he ever know?!
        His worries were instantly put to rest as she took it upon herself to carefully climb off of him. Cuddling... was not her thing. Too foreign a concept to understand, let alone indulge in. Quietly, patiently, she dressed herself. Only after she was fully clothed did she turn her attention back to him. "Feeling better?" she grinned softly.
        No reason to lie, here. "Yes."
        Definitely amused by his response, she sat back in her chair and reached forward, bringing the lights back up to their usual brightness. "We'll be meeting up with the ship in about ten minutes."
        Silence. There was not one thing he could think of to say. He couldn't even wrap his mind around getting dressed again. What... the hell... had happened here? They... and then... and she... but..? He just wasn't used to that. Not as if he'd had a lot of sexual experiences, but... he'd had girlfriends. And they were always so... annoying. Well, maybe that wasn't quite the right word, but it worked. This... was... different.
        "Good idea, Jules." She prodded quietly.
        "Attacking in the nude. They'll never expect it." She quipped. "If they catch us, you distract them."
        Well. At least she did know how to break a mood and make it better. Even if he was suddenly in the act of clothing himself. "And what will you do?"
        "The actual work, of course."
        He mock-glared at her, having already buttoned his pants and thrown his shirt over his head. At least the girl was fun. Scary as hell, but fun. "For the next nine minutes, I'm not talking to you." he joked. And he didn't.

Content copyright Orin Drake 2011.
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