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Mako breathed in deep and looked for her centre in exactly the way her father had taught her. She remembered as a child, her father placing a hand on her chest, reminding her gently to breath when she'd gotten so angry that she couldn't gasp in even a little air. She remembered him telling her to find herself, how her chest had loosened until she could breathe again. Then came the lessons Stacker had taught her, alone and hurt as she had been, spilling out all over in her grief, and she remembered his calmness.

 

All those lessons that had served her so well though, had abandoned her in this moment, and she had to drag her eyes away from the long, lean body of Sasha Kaidonovsky stretched beneath her, had to stop herself from observing the slight curve of her breasts against the military issue of her shirt, the unconscious grace of a woman who knew exactly where she should be. She shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, before consciously stilling herself, and tearing her eyes away again. Sasha... was generous. It wasn't exactly a secret that Mako in restoring Gipsy Danger had had to delve into some rather illicit sources of information and help, and from the moment she'd met the Kaidonovsky's, she'd wanted the opportunity to properly look at Cherno Alpha.

 

In the spirit of international co-operation, the Russians like everybody else had chipped in everything they had, but Mako knew without a shadow of a doubt that the precise schematics of Cherno wouldn't be exactly as they were in the open to the public records, just as Striker Eureka hid half of its adjustments under the innocuous title of 'extras' when it came to accounts time. Herc had taken her on a tour himself, showed her every inch of his Jaeger, Chuck trailing them, sullen and silent the entire time, as though it were a personal insult that Herc was stripping the guts of his machine and showing them to a new tech, even one who was in charge of rebuilding an entire Jaeger. His responses to her polite questions had been snide and she had twice had to remember to bite her lip rather than disgrace herself and her father by a frank and honest exchange of views.

 

So Sasha offering with a smile and a handshake to let her see inside Cherno as the coolant repairs were going on had been like a sign. It was unfortunate, Mako admitted to herself, that Sasha was so attractive (the other woman had insisted on first name terms) since it was distracting in a way that Mako found hard to rationalise. She had not had this problem with Herc, good looking though he was, with his eyes crinkled at the corners, and she had not even considered Chuck as a sexual partner. Now, however, watching Sasha display the intimate details of her Jaeger's internal control panels, as her accented voice broke down the facts, quickly and carefully, her elegant hands displaying the insides of her and her husband's living soul, Mako realised with embarrassment that she had stopped taking notes, distracted by the sight in front of her. She hoped that her face didn't show her momentary failure in composure, and she bent her head back to the task of notemaking, careful to listen only to that precise voice and not to look at the careless arrogance of Sasha's body against the floor of the Conn-pod.

 

It was unprofessional, she told herself, not permitting herself anger at her failing but instead doing as she had been taught and redirecting those emotions into a resolve to amend the flaw. Her job was essential, and Sasha was being very kind in allowing her this opportunity to see first hand every one of the adjustments that meant Cherno Alpha, the only Mark I Jaeger still in operation, could hold its own in a fight. The more she saw the ingenuity of their repairs however, the more she began to understand that Cherno's greatest asset was its pilots, and the resolve that had filled her since childhood was strengthened by the knowledge. You had to know your machine inside and out, and who knew Gipsy better than she did?

 

The thoughts had almost chased out her inappropriate reflections on the woman who piloted Cherno, the married woman who piloted Cherno even, or at least they would have done (though she continued taking notes) if Mako hadn't happened to have guiltily glanced for one swift second at the narrow strip of exposed strip between Sasha's t-shirt and the uniform pants she was wearing, the skin white against the dark green, and then caught the other woman's amused eyes as she slid out from under the projecting control outlet. She almost took a step back and stuttered an excuse for her rudeness, and indeed the cold wash of shame had almost quenched all the excitement at being this close to Cherno and to one of the pilots Mako had looked up to for years, but instead she held herself ready and still, met Sasha's eyes as best as she could, felt the hot rush of blood to her face.

 

"Mako," Sasha said slowly, and the way she said it, is not quite like the way anyone else says her name, not just the accent, for Aleksis calls her Mako also, but the way she lingered on the second syllable, draws it out just a little, finishes with a flourish. "I have shown you all I can I think. But I believe you and I, we should have a little chat perhaps." It wasn't a request, and Mako found herself nodding and reached down a hand that Sasha grasped with characteristic firmness and swung herself up with. She was looking down at Mako now, with a half smile, and Mako knew at least there was no anger in Sasha at Mako's lack of self-control, and a little of the tension drained from her body.

 

She wasn't entirely sure how they ended up in a corner of the mess with a shot each of grain alcohol in front of them, only that Aleksis had smiled when he saw them and headed off to join the Hansen's table, but somewhere in between dinner, the little glass of alcohol and Sasha's interjections as she flicked through the notes and added points in her halting English writing, Mako had realised that she was in deeper than she thought -  the saying she'd heard before about never meeting your heroes just wasn't true.

 

The Marshal (Mako could never quite think of him as father when he was in uniform and so intently stonefaced) stopped by their table for a last moment of instruction, and Mako wanted, as desperately as she ever had, to be the one he was instructing for shipping out, squashed that terrifying want down as deep as she could from the customary respect she held for him, aware that her renewed need to be in a Jaeger, to avenge her parents in the most fitting way possible had been amplified by her proximity to the woman who had done precisely what Mako most wanted to do. He held her gaze for a long moment before he left, and she hoped even more fervently than usual that he wasn't actually able to read minds.

 

Then, when the room was almost entirely quiet, and most of the lights off to conserve as much energy as possible, Sasha tapped her fingers on the table, fast and hard, a little rat-a-tat. "Mako," she said, and once again it sounded unique coming from her mouth. "You don't need to be embarrassed about finding other women attractive," and words that could have sounded harsh coming from anyone else, brutally mortifying, instead almost made Mako laugh, as she curled her hands tighter around the tea that she had snagged from the staff before most of them went to bed, the heat comforting. There was no easy way to say that she had found most of the women and many of the men in the Shatterdome at some point or another to be attractive as a teenager, and had accepted long ago, that as she was right handed and could curl her tongue, there were certain things that were part of her, however mortifying it might have been to discover them in such a closed environment.

"It isn't that," she said, and bent her head to look at the tea she clutched. "I-I know that. But I apologise for my rudeness, it was inappropriate for me to allow those thoughts to intrude while we work together."

 

Then there were cold fingers against her skin, tilting her chin up so Sasha could meet her eyes again, and Mako couldn't prevent a shiver jolting itself down her spine at the sensation, both of the touch and the glance. "Then perhaps it is inappropriate for me to do this, I may have to apologise also." With a swift economical movement, she leaned across the table and kissed Mako, gently, briefly, a whisper of sensation, and reflexively Mako's hands tightened on her beaker, her lips parting in shock as Sasha sank back down onto the bench, a smile hovering on her mouth, the red lipstick she favoured unsmudged. Mako's mouth tingled a little and she wondered if not a bit of it has rubbed off on her.

 

"Aleksis," Mako said a little numbly, she didn't know the other Russian pilot well, but she knew as well as anyone could how things like this could tear people apart, what sort of impact it could have on the Dome.

 

Sasha's face softened at the mention of her husband. "Aleksis understands," she said, not in a dismission of Mako's concern but in acknowledgement. "Between us we are open," she hesitated for a moment as though to search for the right words, "there is not enough time left," she said finally, and Mako understood. They know what is happening, the kaiju are speeding up, the governments are determined on scrapping the programme, the world is crumbling in on itself. Not enough time for everything you want from life, so cram it all in quick.

 

Mako understood. More than she wanted to, shaky and uneven as it made her feel to see inside this rent in Sasha's armour through those words, but they resonated in her and she extended a hand out, tentatively towards Sasha, felt the other woman's cold fingers grasp hers over the table, and a surge of something leapt in her stomach, nervousness and excitement twined together, and this time it was Mako who leaned forward and kissed Sasha, before remembering to look around for anyone watching. The hall was dark and empty but that couldn't be relied upon, and they both stood, one thought shared. There was one place they could be uninterrupted, one place where nobody would come. Sasha led the way, over the walkways, deft and strong body swinging up with ease, taking the shortcuts usually only the deck rats took and Mako followed her example, relishing the chance to do this in that rare span of time when the bays were deserted, populated by only minimal staff until the next alert.

 

It was with most of her worries wiped away by their route that she kissed Sasha next, smiled against her as she leaned up to catch at her lips. Sasha obliged, steadily and thoroughly kissing Mako, with every ounce of the focus that she generally brought to  bear on destroying the kaiju, a concentrated force that found its answer and its match in Mako. When she had done this before, it had been clumsy and quick, snatched moments in between  a relentless pace of study and work, with people who knew little more than her, passion unmatched by expertise. Here they were harnessed together and Mako felt the finest of tremors start in her, a slow, building heat where she pressed up close to Sasha, tilted her head back enough to make this easy, and reciprocated with all the strength she had in her.

 

When her fingers found their way under Sasha's t-shirt, she stroked them across her spine, smoothed the skin under her hands that had so captivated her earlier, marvelled at the softness of it, stretched over the steel of her backbone, and too desperate now to be shy, to imagine what could go wrong, what might be foolish, caught in the moment and reluctant to relinquish it. It didn’t take much effort to wrestle Sasha’s t-shirt off and to discard her own, to press up close together in the cool air of the Conn-Pod, and it was only at that moment that Mako remembered the distinct downside to this location, camera free as it was and not liable to interruption, it lacked any sort of amenity.

 

She looked around for a moment, for something, anything, to shield them from the chill of the floor, even considered risking retiring to her room, but Sasha laughed at her and with one swift movement pulled Mako down on top of her, her own back to the cold metal, shielding Mako from it. "The cold doesn't bother me much," she said, eyes amused and a little wicked now, hands running restlessly over Mako's breasts, cool and experienced even through the material, and Mako bent back down and let her unclasp it, shivered when Sasha tilted her head up and mouthed at the curve of her breast first, teeth just there, tongue hot against her skin especially compared to her hands, couldn't help tilting her back a little more in an attempt for more sensation as finally, Sasha brought her mouth to her nipple for all too brief seconds, a tease in her every touch, and Mako'd never felt quite like this, spread out and touched for all that she's on top, her knees on either side of Sasha's waist, topless and bare, no shame in her for this moment. It's shocking and unreal and like nothing she'd ever done before, but that was part of the charm, she thought as much as she could think. This was nothing that could've been expected.

 

It had never been in Mako's nature to let the rules of engagement be dictated like that, and she thought hazily that Sasha rather expected her to protest, and with an unwillingness to disappoint she escalated their encounter a little, let her hips grind down helplessly, watched Sasha’s mouth fall open a little and tried not to laugh. The tiny amount of heat the shot had bestowed had worn off long ago, but she still felt as though she was drunk. Sasha hot under her, the air cool on her back and her breasts. Then Sasha deliberately raised her hips and slid down her trousers, looked at Mako with a mild challenge in her eyes that Mako was more than willing to meet. She slid down with easy accuracy, kissed at the curve of Sasha's hipbones, the tender indentation of her thighs, softer here than anywhere else, as though the iron of her will has receded for a moment. Her fingers fit neatly into the groove of where Sasha's thighs meet her hips, and she pressed deep, marked herself there for long ticking seconds, before she let herself begin. She'd done this twice before, each time on the edge of drunk and in the dark, guilty at every moment she spent away from her studies, working on the wrong Lady, precious time stolen from her objectives. This was simpler, this was what they fought for right under her hands, bucking up to get closer to her mouth, wet and ready beneath her curious fingers and needing tongue.

 

It's easy though, easy to spread Sasha a little and go down on her, head buried between her thighs, blocking out the world until there is only this, only the soft movement of Sasha beneath her, the quickening of her muscles, the slippery taste, as she employed what little skill she has and an excess of enthusiasm. She didn't know what Sasha liked but she learned as easily and swiftly as she had learnt what it took to take a Jaeger to pieces and make it live again, felt the same fierce satisfaction when Sasha yielded, first under her tongue and then under her fingers, two of them pressing against her, a tease, as Mako targeted her clit and then ignored it, sideways swipe of her tongue before she slipped her fingers in, and felt Sasha convulse around her, strong hips driving herself off the ground for a moment, and Mako let herself get lost in it, worked Sasha over as best as she could until she was coming, hot and wet and fast, vice tight around Mako’s fingers, her hands in Mako’s hair like they didn’t know where else to be, and Mako kept on going past the tremors, past the aftermath until Sasha turned her face back up again, and bent down to kiss her, loose and limber, and that Mako hadn’t done before, even felt a flicker of horror at, as though fastidiousness chose this moment to make itself known.

 

But then she was on top of Sasha again, knees cold from exposure to the floor, her camos and underwear hurriedly yanked down her legs, and Sasha warmed all the way through now, grazed her knees, warmed them with her touch, and asked Mako what she wanted. Her lipstick was smeared a little finally as though she’d bitten down on her own lips hard enough to smudge it, and her hands were strong on Mako’s thighs, and Mako wanted too much, painfully in that moment. Wanted the Jaeger they’re doing this in, wanted to sink into Sasha’s mind and body and soul the way Aleksis does, to be so close to someone that it’d be hard to untwine them. So instead of riding Sasha’s face like she thought Sasha was expecting, she got Sasha’s hand between her legs, rode that instead, slow and easy and deep so she could hear the sound of Sasha’s breathing, the way it rasped in her throat

 

When she came it shook her down to her core, until she was  shivering unstoppably, and Sasha had her arms around her, tucked her head into her shoulder where she smelt like base issued detergent and metal dust, shushed her and tugged up Mako’s camos awkwardly with one hand, fumbled her back into her t-shirt and then held her close again. Mako didn’t know what to say, wanted to tell Sasha that it wasn’t the sex, it was just everything else, that half of her wanted Sasha and half of her wanted to be Sasha, to get out there and take her revenge, to stand proud and tall in front of the world not behind the scenes. Squashed that back and let Sasha hold her until it grew no longer practicable. It didn’t take long to smooth Sasha’s hair back, but Mako’s was a lost cause, and she couldn’t wait to get back to her room and clean up.

 

Of course it was at that moment that the klaxon sounded an attack. Sasha headed to suiting up area, and Mako melted away into the crowd that appeared from nowhere and watched minutes later as Cherno Alpha took itself out to sea. Knew in her bones that one day it would be her, as deep as she knew anything.