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“So I’m broke,” Jupiter says.

“I wouldn’t say broke,” Advocate Bob says in that cheerful android voice of his. The silver disks on the sides of his head whirl. “As Seraphi Abrasax’s recurrence, you have vast wealth and estates. You just can’t access them until everything wends its way through the bureaucracy at Orous. It’s like…” His eyes turn inwards a moment, as though he’s consulting with himself. “Probate, on Earth. But perhaps a bit slower than you’re used to.”

“And in the meantime: I’m broke,” Jupiter repeats.  

Advocate Bob makes a sad chip-tune sound. “You’re broke,” he agrees.

They’re sitting in the tiny living room of the tiny apartment Jupiter did all the sums on and figured she and Caine could just afford to rent — but that was before they discovered it was going to cost them more in admin and advocate fees to transfer his Legion salary to Earth than it was worth. The bills are piled up around her, quite literally, and she gives it about three weeks before they get tossed out on their ears (both rounded and pointy). She shoves a few of the most urgent over to the other side of the scarred dining table, where at least she doesn’t have to look at them.

“So how long are we talking here?” Jupiter says.

“I’m sure it will all be resolved within a decade or so.”

“A decade!”

“Or so,” Advocate Bob says quickly. “Many things are resolved faster than that. Especially if we…” and here, he coughs, “…help them along.”

“So I’m bribing space officials with space bucks I don’t have access to, to give me access to my space bucks?”

“Your Majesty is in a bit of a pickle,” Advocate Bob acknowledges. 

“Space bureaucracy is the worst,” Jupiter says on a sigh.

Caine is standing behind her, one hand resting on the back of her chair. Jupiter leans her head against his arm, and he relaxes it slightly, cradling her. She smiles up at his lovely face and says, “If you have any brilliant ideas, now’s the time. Even non-brilliant ideas, actually. I’ll take anything.”

What she doesn’t say is that she’s more worried about Caine than she is about herself. She can always go back to her family, but Caine was spending nights on her rooftop before they moved in together. He claimed not to mind, wanting to be close in case Her Majesty needed him, but winter is fast approaching. 

Jupiter glances around the apartment. It’s furnished with things they found through Freecycle and Craigslist and Goodwill, and she hasn’t had the time or money to do all those Pinterest tricks that supposedly turn ‘worn’ into ‘homely’. Standing by the living room window, looking as out of place as a wrinkle on an Abrasax, is the brass telescope that’s worth more than everything else she owns put together. She doesn’t want to sell it — but she doesn’t want Caine sleeping in the snow, either.  

Both of them mean the world to her, but only one is irreplaceable.

Advocate Bob gathers up his space tablets and sheaves. “The ship will be passing by soon.”

“Thank you so much for hitching a ride to Earth.” Jupiter shakes Advocate Bob’s hand, forcing herself not to flinch at the rubbery texture. “It’s difficult for me to get to Orous right now.”

“Your Majesty is most welcome,” Advocate Bob says, and adds on his way to the door: “Also, a brief and regretful but necessary reminder that my retainer is due for renewal at the end of the week.”

Jupiter nods. “You’ll have it tomorrow.”

Caine’s Legion bank account is currently paying for Advocate Bob. It makes Jupiter super uncomfortable, but there seems no way around it when she can’t move her money into space and she doesn’t have any to move there anyway. She’s keeping careful record of every cent she owes him.

And then there’s everything else. Vladie keeps dragging the family into his schemes, the owner of their all-day Tuesday cleaning job died in a freak bowling accident (which was more unfortunate for him than it is for Jupiter, but still means she’s making even less than she was two months ago, when the only thing she was queen of was a toilet brush), and Aunt Nino’s had a nasty cough for three weeks but can’t even afford to see the ask-no-questions pay-in-cash doctor. And that’s not even considering the bigger picture — the house Jupiter wants to buy for her mother, the choices she wants to make available for her family.

What good is being Entitled if she can’t use it to help the people she loves?

Jupiter puts the glasses into the sink. Drops them, really, and they bounce around noisily before one of them cracks. “Fuck,” she says, slamming the heels of her hands into the edge of the counter.

Somehow those dramatic gestures never feel quite as satisfying as she hopes.

There’s warm breath on the nape of her neck, then, followed by a rumble of concern. Jupiter exhales and leans backwards, trusting Caine will be there to hold her, and he is.

Caine noses the skin behind her ear. “If there’s anything I can do to ease Your Majesty’s burdens, I hope you will say.”

“You’re doing it,” she says, closing her eyes. His arms come around her, and she weaves her fingers with his own and gives herself a few moments to breathe. He smells good, like tilled earth and hope, nothing like the stardust and ozone he picks up when they’re in space.  

He smells like home.

Jupiter turns and boosts herself up onto the counter. Kisses him softly and says, “I’m glad you’re here.”

Caine looks confused. “Where else would I be?”

Jupiter smiles and kisses him again. She runs her hands around his waist, pushing under his feathers and drawing him closer.

“If it would please Your Majesty,” Caine murmurs, turning and presenting his back to her. His wings tighten down so she can access the snaps along the spine of his shirt. Somewhere, Jupiter thinks, looking at the silver studs fondly, a space tailor is making a lot of money from Skyjackers. Caine can open the snaps himself, but he likes the gesture of asking her to do it, of Jupiter choosing to undress him or not.

Jupiter presses herself against Caine instead, her legs wrapping loosely around his hips as her chin digs into his collarbone. “Whatever happens,” she says, “it’ll be okay. We’ll make it be okay.”

“I know,” he says. His unwavering faith makes her want to be worthy of it.

Caine finds her hand on his waist and lifts it upwards, pressing a kiss to the back of her fingers. 

 Jupiter rests her head more firmly on his shoulder. Caine waits a moment, and, when she doesn’t move her hand away, flutters his tongue out to taste her skin. He runs the tip between her first two fingers, then sucks them gently into his mouth.  

Jupiter lets her eyelids fall shut. She tightens her legs around Caine, feeling the pulse in her body every time his lips close on her fingers, the answering pulse in her mind.

Caine shifts, like he’s stretching a kink out of his back, and the hem of his shirt pulls beneath Jupiter’s free hand in a manner that seems too perfect to be accidental. Her palm slips against the bare skin at his waist. Her fingers spider over his abs, those beautiful abs she started staring at in Stinger’s living room and hasn’t really stopped since, and in response, Caine sucks harder on the fingers of her other hand. He’s starting to make these sounds, these low aching sounds that are tugging inside her, and Jupiter feels the tiny spark of heat that lives beneath her ribcage flicker to life. She wants, she wants—

Jupiter pulls back in surprise. It would hardly be worth noticing in another man, but:

This is Caine Wise initiating sex.

Caine never initiates sex. He barely even initiates kissing. If Caine wants to be kissed, he ducks his head a lot and acts even more subservient than usual so Jupiter will look upon him fondly. Jupiter would revel, like she’s finally getting through to him that they’re equals and that he can ask for what he wants the way she asks for what she wants (and oh, she asks for what she wants a lot), but there’s something not quite right here.

Caine swallows around her fingers. He slides them out of his mouth and says, “Your Majesty?”

“Are you trying to make me feel better with sex?”

The back of Caine’s neck heats. “Not exactly.”

“What, then?”

“Whatever Your Majesty needs me to be, I will be,” he says placidly.

Jupiter isn’t sure she likes the sound of that. She nudges his shoulder, and Caine turns around in the circle of her legs.

“You know this isn’t a part of your job description, right?”

“Sometimes Your Majesty needs me to take a blaster hit or rescue you from a Regenex refinery…”

“You mean, crash a spaceship into a Renegex refinery and make it go boom.”

“I panicked,” Caine says with a shrug, then picks up their previous thread. “…and sometimes you need something else.”

“Copious orgasms?”

“Copious,” Caine repeats to himself, as though hearing the word for the first time. “Yes, copious orgasms.”

“I would never want you feel, um. Obligated. To do that. For me.”

“I promise that if Your Majesty ever tries to have sex with me when I don’t want to have sex with you, I will hold you back with one hand as I read a sheave with the other. It’ll be tough, but I think I can manage it.”  

Jupiter thumbs the tip of his ear. “I’m trying to be serious here.”

“I’m touched Your Majesty cares about my desires so much.”

“I care about you,” Jupiter says simply. 

Caine looks to the side, his throat working. Yeah, he’s still not ready to hear that.

Jupiter runs her finger under his chin, tipping it up so she can brush their lips together. If he can’t handle some things right now, that’s okay. She’ll give him what he can accept.

Caine drops his mouth to her throat, finding that spot where the skin is thinnest and her blood flows beneath. He passes his tongue over it, tasting her heartbeat.

“You’re always helping everyone else, Your Majesty. Let me be what you need for a couple of hours.” His eyes sweep briefly up to hers. “However you need me.”

Oh, this sweet man. Sometimes Jupiter feels guilty about how many of her fantasies involve doing decidedly unsweet things to him.

“However?” she says.

“However,” he says firmly.

“I’m just saying, that covers a lot of territory.”

“Perhaps I could — merely in the interests of helping Your Majesty decide — start taking my clothes off.”

“I’ll make a deal with you,” Jupiter says. “If you don’t ask me for sex for fifteen minutes, I will indeed have sex with you.”

Caine looks puzzled. “I can do that, Your Majesty.”

“Great!” she says. “Get undressed.”

No matter how many times Caine's taken his clothes off for her, Jupiter's brain still stutters at the sight. Caine folds his clothes roughly and drops them on the floor, then falls into something like a relaxed parade rest, shoulders squared, hands behind his back. His eyes watch her intently. Jupiter’s half-tempted to just go ahead and jump him now, but she can feel that spark flickering again, warming her from the inside out, the one that makes her feel so good when he tries so hard to obey her.

Jupiter pulls her phone out of her pocket and sets the timer. “It’s probably been about a minute so far, so I’ll give you that on credit.”

Jupiter puts her hands behind her on the counter, then leans her weight back on them. She’s about the same height as Caine when they’re like this, and as she catches his eye, she smiles.

“Thirteen and a half minutes to go,” she says pleasantly. “How are you feeling?”

Caine sounds the tiniest bit confused as he says, “Fine, Your Majesty.”

He’s aroused, but not particularly. Time to change that.

Jupiter pops the button on her jeans.

“Oh,” Caine says, with understanding.

 

 

Jupiter kneels over Caine, rubbing herself with two fingers four inches from his face.

Caine’s entire body is shaking with the effort of holding himself back. The whimpers catch in his throat like barbs.

Jupiter closes her eyes, feeling the calm go through her. This is the moment when everything inside her coalesces, when she feels so serene and powerful as he’s falling apart beneath her. This is what her compass was looking for with those other men and never found.

“Show me your tongue,” she says, and Caine opens his mouth for her.

Jupiter touches one wet finger to the tip of it.

Caine swallows. “Please, Your Majesty, please, please,” he says on a rush.

A second later, his fist thumps into the floor so hard, the glasses rattle in the sink. His body goes lax under hers. “Fuck,” he says, suddenly sounding very human.

Jupiter grins, and he looks up at her balefully. “Aww, not the sad puppy eyes,” she says.

Caine tries to look as dignified as a man can be whilst lying naked on a rug. “The what?”

“When you do that thing, with the eyes, like— yes, that exact thing you’re doing. Yes, that thing. Sad puppy eyes,” Jupiter says. “Don’t think I don’t know how you use them to get what you want.”

“Are they working?” Caine says hopefully.

“Is your tongue where you want it to be right now?”

“No,” he mutters.

“So there’s your answer.”

Jupiter sits back on his chest. She glances down at the phone beside her.

“Twelve and a half minutes,” she says. “You’re getting closer. Fourth time’s the charm?”

“I want to try again,” he says, determined. “I can do this for Your Majesty.”

Jupiter takes Caine’s chin between her thumb and forefinger. “Such a good boy,” she says, and feels his breath catching as she leans down for a kiss. He’s so pliant when he’s like this, letting her nudge open his mouth, curl her tongue around his canines. She catches his lower lip between her teeth and tugs on it gently.

“As much as I like that,” Caine says, soft and low, “it’s really not helping me here.”

Jupiter smiles and keeps right on doing it.

She starts the timer again.

 

 

Fifteen minutes and two seconds later, Caine makes a roar of triumph so loud, half the neighbours probably hear.

Jupiter’s still laughing as he rolls her over onto the rug and drags his tongue down her body.

 

 

Jupiter pads into the kitchen the next morning.

Caine is leaning over the toaster, frowning. “I think it’s broken.” 

“It’s not broken,” Jupiter says, taking the peanut butter out of the cupboard. “It’s just slow.”

“I really think it’s broken.” Caine leans closer, peering into the slots, then startles back as the toast pops up. His ears flatten against his head.

She giggles.

Caine gives her an injured look. “I swear, this thing only heats up when you’re around, Your Majesty.”

“So it’s like you,” Jupiter says absently, and almost misses the look of gentle wonderment that passes over Caine’s face. He abandons the toast and comes closer, looking at her with newly-bright eyes.

Naked Weekends are one of the best ideas she’s had for a while, and they’re also free, so. Win-win. They’ve modified them to Mostly Naked Weekends because sitting bare-assed on the furniture is kind of gross unless there’s sex involved, in which case it magically becomes not gross.

Caine tugs lightly on the sash of her robe. He’s not trying to remove it, just draw her attention to it.

“Yes?” Jupiter says sweetly.

Caine looks down at himself, at the navy boxer-briefs he’s wearing because Jupiter likes the way they cling to his ass and thighs. He looks at her robe. He looks at his boxer-briefs again.

“Go sit down?” Jupiter says, snagging the toast. She scrapes the peanut butter on as Caine settles into their lounge chair. Caine helps Jupiter onto his lap, and she hands him three pieces of toast over her shoulder and keeps the fourth for herself. The two of them munch for a while.

Caine finishes first anyway. He licks his fingers clean, then licks Jupiter’s for her.

Jupiter tips her face into the pale morning sun, her head resting on Caine’s shoulder.

Caine’s breathing slows. She can feel it, the gentle tide against her neck, the rise and fall of his chest against her back. She could stay like this forever. Or until 1pm, when she has to go to the weekend cleaning shift she picked up at a local no-tell motel. Lots of vacuuming and bed-making. Her shoulders are already twinging in anticipation.

But at least she has a few hours to relax with her boyfriend first.

Caine’s head snaps up suddenly. “Vladie,” he says, scenting the air. “And he’s not alone.”

Jupiter groans.

“If Your Majesty would prefer not to deal with him…”

“Would you mind?” Jupiter’s so tired of Vladie and his hustling bullshit, which always seems to backfire onto the rest of the family. Especially the women, she’s noticed. “I just don’t think I’m up to it today.”

“I would be happy to, Your Majesty.”

Jupiter hasn’t told her family about her space adventures. There seems no point when everything’s still up in the air. They just think she got herself a big slab o’ boyfriend, which: true that.

Caine carefully lifts Jupiter to her feet. He strides into the bedroom, his wings already folding tight against his back, as Jupiter plucks a baseball cap from the dining room table. Caine has a small collection of hats, as his ears are too noticeable to go out with in public, and though none of them look particularly good on him, the White Sox cap is the most ridiculous. Sometimes Jupiter makes him wear it just so she’ll grin every time she looks at him.

Caine comes back in jeans and a zip-front hoodie. Jupiter plonks the cap on, and Caine bends to one knee so she can gently tuck each of his ears beneath it. She looks at him a moment after she finishes, her head tipping.

Caine Wise on his knees. It really works for her.

“Not now, Your Majesty,” Caine says, but his smile is small and pleased. “Vladie’s here.”

As though to confirm his words, there’s a knock.

Jupiter ducks into the bedroom. She closes the door most of the way, looking back through the crack.

“Where’s Jupe?” Vladie says, pushing past Caine and into the apartment in a way that’s only happening, she knows, because Caine is allowing it to happen. Vladie has the impression Jupiter’s boyfriend is a big softie, which is useful most of the time but perhaps not now. His dumb friend Mihail comes in behind him.

“Her Majesty is not here,” Caine says, crossing his arms over his chest. “Come back another time.”

Vladie looks at Mihail, rolling his eyes. “My cousin and her boyfriend are cosplayers or something.”

Caine mouths the word ‘cosplayers’ to himself, like he’s trying to work out what it means and whether it’s an insult.

“No, that,” Vladie says, snapping his fingers. “What’s the thing with the dresses and the feasts and stuff?”

“Renaissance Faire?” Mihail says.

“Renaissance Faire, right, yeah,” Vladie says. “He’s all deferential and shit. Just ignore him.”

Caine raises one eyebrow.

“Look, I know she’s home,” Vladie says. “You follow her around like some lovesick puppy, so if you’re here, she’s here. Jupiter!” he calls, striding towards the bedroom. “Come on out, I need to talk to you.”

Jupiter slams the door. It doesn’t have a lock on it, but she grips the doorknob as tight as she can. She feels an opposing force a few moments later, but she’s a lot more determined than he is, and the knob doesn’t budge.

“Jupe!” Vladie yells, slapping the door. “Stop playing, I need your—“  

Vladie’s sentence ends in a gurgle.  

“Dude!“ Mihail says. “Take your—“

Another gurgle.

“It’s all right, Your Majesty,” Caine says calmly.  

Jupiter opens the door and peers around it. Caine has Vladie and Mihail by the throats, one in each hand. He’s clearly not impeding their breathing, but they both look like they’re about to wet themselves. 

Jupiter looks down so they don’t see her smile.

“It’s all right, Caine. Thank you. Please let them go now.”

“As Your Majesty wishes,” Caine says, and drops his hands.

Vladie rubs his throat. “What the fuck was that?”

Caine growls. Vladie and Mihail take a step backwards.  

“What do you want, Vladie?” Jupiter says.  

Vladie looks at her, then glances back at Caine. “Is there someplace we can talk privately?”

“No,” Jupiter says.

“Okay, if you insist…”

“No,” she repeats. “I’m not lending you any more money.”

“You don’t know that’s why I’m here,” Vladie whines. Jupiter crosses her arms over her chest, doing her best Caine impression, and Vladie manages to glare for three more seconds before he breaks and looks away. Hey, it works. “Look, this is all your fault. You never sold the eggs, and the tv… they don’t take returns where I got it, if you get my meaning.”

“You mean it fell off the back of a truck,” Jupiter says flatly. “What does Uncle Vassily say about buying stolen stuff? You get busted and they’re going to check your paperwork.” Speaking of paperwork, none of them have credit cards. “How did you buy it in the first place?”

Vladie at least has the decency to look ashamed. 

“You’re kidding me,” Jupiter says. “So who do you owe?”

“Dmitry Ilyich.” Otherwise known as the local loan shark.

“You just couldn’t wait a day.”

“You’re so mean lately. Like you don’t care about your family now you’ve got a hunky American boyfriend.”

“He never asks me for money,” Jupiter says. “Also, he fucks like a dream.”

Caine makes a sound that might be a cough, or might be a laugh. Vladie splutters.

“I’ve got real problems, Vladie. I don’t have time for this.”

“Jupe, please. Please? I’m begging you, all right? Is that what you want? Do you want me to beg? This is the last time, I swear it, if you can just help me out this one last time…”

Jupiter is done, done, done dealing with this shit. “Goodbye, Vladie.”

She nods to Caine. He takes a step towards Vladie, then another, herding him back towards the door.

“One of Dmitry’s goons came looking for me yesterday with a crowbar,” Vladie says, fast and low, his eyes wide over Caine’s shoulder. Jupiter must look sceptical, because he adds, “I swear, Jupe. Ask Aunt Nino. She ran him off, but he’s going to come back. You don’t screw Dmitry Ilyich over and get away with it. I just need a little cash, enough to get him off my back until I can get the rest together. Four hundred? Three, even.”

Jupiter laughs, but it’s bitter around the edges. “You think I have three hundred dollars? I can’t even pay next month’s rent.”

“Right,” he says.

“Right,” she says, unmoved.

“What, really?” Vladie says, with something that sounds close enough to be genuine concern that Jupiter chooses to believe that it is. “Shit, I had no idea. Dad didn’t say anything.”

“He doesn’t know,” she says. “Let’s keep it that way.”

“He’s going to notice when you and your dream fuck move back into the basement.”

Caine makes a sound of discontent, through whether it’s at the nickname or the idea of moving into Jupiter’s family’s basement is unclear. Vladie turns to him and says,

“What about you? Don’t you have a job?”

Caine draws himself up to his full height, his eyes flashing. “I’m—“

“Yes, he has a job,” Jupiter says quickly. “An important one. Go home, Vladie.”

“I’m just saying, maybe dream-fuck here should be helping out with the rent.”

“Go. Home.”

Caine carefully but firmly manhandles Vladie into the hallway. Mihail quickly follows.

“I hope you like the sex when you’re living on the street!” Vladie yells.

Jupiter locks the door, resting her forehead against the wood. She thunks it a few times.

“What if Vladie really does get beat up by that goon?”

Caine makes an oh-well sound. Jupiter gives him a look. Caine has the grace to look embarrassed, but not the acting skill to pull it off.

Jupiter frets some more, but then Caine starts taking his clothes off again, and she loses her train of thought. She’s pretty sure he’s trying to distract her, and she’s absolutely sure it’s working. He gets down to his underwear, looks at Jupiter’s robe but still doesn’t comment, and cocks his head questioningly.

“On the couch,” she decides. She lays down and he curls up beside her, resting his head on her shoulder as she hooks her knees over his thighs.

Caine nuzzles his way into the soft spot beneath her ear. “…a job,” he mumbles.

“What?” Jupiter says.

“There is one thing Vladie’s right about, Your Majesty. I could get a job.”

“You already have a job. You’re the royal guard to the Queen of Earth, and the only thing keeping her sane some days.”

There’s a pause in which she can practically hear Caine swallowing his automatic denial, and then he says, “A second job in the evenings. Things have been quiet since you came back, and I imagine if anything bad were going to happen to you…“

You know, Jupiter thinks, beyond her being kidnapped, her family being kidnapped, and the fake marriage/attempted murder double-header.

“…it won’t occur until after your fortunes are restored. With both Seraphi’s inheritance and Balem’s estate in limbo, killing you now would completely destabilise the House of Abrasax. Titus would have to be crazy to try.”

Jupiter considers that. He’s probably not wrong.

“And what is it you’re always saying when you spend your Earth money on our food, our rent?”

“I can’t remember,” Jupiter says, unconvincingly.

Caine nudges her with the tip of his nose.

“‘We’re a team’,” Jupiter says on a sigh. “You’re really not meant to use my own words back against me.”

“I’m sorry Your Majesty is so wise.”

Jupiter kisses the top of his head. “Are you thinking the Aegis? Stinger would love to have you working with him again, I’m sure.”

“That will take me away from Your Majesty for long periods. I’d rather get a job here on Earth.”

“What kind of job?”

“I have skills,” Caine says with a shrug. “Somebody must be willing to pay for them.”

God, does he ever.  

Jupiter presses her thighs together, feeling the sweet ache between them after yesterday. And last night. And later last night. Mostly Naked Weekends are the best.

She’s gone silent, and when she blinks and focuses back, Caine is frowning. “Your Majesty disagrees?”

“Sorry, what?” Jupiter says, raising herself up on her elbow so she can see him properly. Caine’s starting to look hurt, like he seriously thinks she’s disparaging his tracking skills or his bodyguarding skills or his growling-protectively skills, so she swallows her pride and admits, “I was just thinking about the kinds of skills I would pay you for, if I wasn’t broke-ass poor.”

“Oh,” Caine says, and then his expression clears as the tips of his ears pinken. “Oh! Your Majesty is too kind.”

Jupiter leans down and kisses him, and it’s slow and lazy, a Sunday morning with the fall sun streaming through the window and salsa music coming from one of the apartments downstairs and nowhere to be. For a few minutes, she forgets about everything and is just thankful for this man.

She’s less thankful about the crick her neck is developing. She tries to scooch downwards, and when Caine puts his arm around her to stop her falling off the edge of the couch, he ends up cupping the bare curve of her ass.

Caine’s hand stills. He pats around a little, then makes an inquisitive sound. “Your Majesty?”

“Oh, right,” Jupiter says. “I accidentally put all my knickers in the washing machine.”

Caine gives the most delightful startled growl. He tries to look down the front of her robe without obviously looking down the front of her robe, like he’s wanting to confirm she’s been naked under there this entire time. 

“Yes,” she says.

Caine carefully tugs Jupiter’s hem down and moves his hand to her back, but he’s gazing at her with an expression that says, Anywhere you want me, and she’s so, so tired. She rests her forehead against his and says, “I’d love to, but I think you wore me out yesterday. I have to go to work in a couple of hours, too.”

Caine’s expression would probably be smugness on any other man; on him, it’s just kind of a pleasant self-regard.

“Perhaps I could please Your Majesty another way, if you wanted me to.”

“What did you have in mind?”

Caine smiles slightly. His tongue flashes against the corner of his mouth, gone in an instant, and Jupiter feels the answering curl of heat in her stomach.

Maybe she’s not that tired.

An hour later, Jupiter hangs her head off the end of the bed and lays her forearm across her eyes and tries not to moan. Every bone in her body feels weightless, and she’s so sensitive that—

“More?” Caine whispers from between her legs, and she nearly comes just from the blush of his breath.

“No, no,” Jupiter says, and Caine eases back. Her thighs tighten around his shoulders. “Or… maybe?”

Caine grins and leans down again.

Mostly Naked Weekends are the best.

 

 

At noon on Monday, Jupiter pokes her nose out the Moskowitzes' front door.

“Caine?” she says.

Caine strolls around the corner. He’s wearing jeans and his boots and a bulky fisherman’s sweater that hides his wings, and he looks so handsome, at least until you get to the beanie perched atop his head. This particular one has a large red pom-pom on the crown and a traditional Russian pattern around the band. Aunt Nino knitted it for Caine for his birthday.

(Or at least the birthday Caine made up when she asked him for his sign and he had to admit he didn’t know. It was just bad luck (or perhaps good luck) that he picked a date three weeks from then, and they had to have a family party for Jupiter’s new beau, didn’t they? Caine ate too much cake and drank Uncle Vassily under the table, which probably did more to endear him to the men of Jupiter’s family than anything else he’s done.

Also, tipsy Caine is adorable. He kept trying to lick her neck.)

Jupiter’s grinning by the time he reaches the door. Caine regards her with a long-suffering stoicism.

“Aww, no, it looks great,” she says, hugging him. “You look great.”

“Really?” he says, looking at her through his lashes.

Jupiter fists her hands in his sweater. He lowers his head for her and she kisses him hard, working his mouth with her own until his breath does that soft, hitching thing that makes her blood sing.

Jupiter leans back with a smile. “Better?”

Caine looks pleased. “Better, Your Majesty.”

She holds up the plastic bag around her wrist. “Mama brought enough leftovers for both of us.”

They walk down to the park at the end of the block and sit on the swings, eating the excellent lasagna her mother makes from one of their neighbour's recipes. Jupiter takes Caine’s hand afterwards, playing with his fingers. She can’t quite look at his face as she says, “I need to go get some cleaning supplies from that Russian place across town.”

“Sure,” Caine says easily.

“You could just meet me at the next house.”

He’s already unzipping his sweater. “I’ll follow Your Majesty.”

Damn it. Jupiter activates her boots, and off they go.

She really does have to buy cleaning supplies. She fills Caine’s arms with what her family needs, and he carries everything up to the counter as Jupiter studies the mops. They don’t need a new one right now, but they probably will in a couple of weeks, and they’re 50% off today.

Haven’t seen you around here before,” the guy behind the counter says in Russian.

This kind of small talk used to throw Caine, but now he’s pretty good at taking it in his stride. He points in Jupiter’s direction and says, “I’m helping her out.” His accent is flawless, which always surprises Jupiter even though she knows it’s some kind of space technology, so it takes her a moment to notice the guy behind the counter is checking Caine out.  

Caine, on the other hand, seems oblivious.

She your woman?” the guy says.

Caine looks horribly conflicted.

The guy, obviously misunderstanding, lowers his voice and says, “Look, we’ve all been there, man.

Jupiter abandons the mop and comes up to the counter.

“Hey, baby,” she says, pressing up against Caine’s side. She slides her hand over his ass, not groping, exactly, but probably close enough to count in a court of law, and tucks her fingers into the back pocket of his jeans. She always thought it was weird when couples did that in public, like, go home if you want to touch each other that badly, but now she just beams up at Caine as he looks down at her happily.

So I think that’s everything,” she says to the guy. “We won’t be needing anything else.

“$47.80,” the guy says flatly.

Jupiter smiles and gives him the fifty Uncle Vassily handed her this morning.

She has to take her hand out of Caine’s pocket so they can leave the store, which is probably just as well. She has a feeling she overreacted there.

Half-way down the block, Jupiter winces and sits down in a bus shelter. “Pebble in my shoe,” she says, and then, “You know, I think I should’ve got that mop.” She shakes the fictitious dirt out of her sneaker and asks Caine if he’d mind going back for one.

“Of course, Your Majesty,” Caine says.

Jupiter watches him carefully, then ducks across the road and into the pawn shop. She shows the woman behind the counter a picture of the telescope, just to get an idea what it’s worth. Just in case.

By the time Caine comes loping back, mop over his shoulder, Jupiter’s watching cat videos on her phone.

“Look, Maru! He’s so cute.”

Caine frowns down at the screen.

“What?” Jupiter says. “I thought you liked Maru?” She stopped watching dog videos around Caine after he became embarrassed by his reactions, especially where squeaky toys were involved.

“There’s just something about them,” he would mumble, transfixed. “I think they’re Earth magic.”

“He’s not that cute,” Caine says now, as Maru tries to wedge his solid cat body into something the size of a cereal box. “He’s just standing in a box. I could stand in a box.”

“You don’t need to stand in a box to be cute to me.”

“I could stand in a box so well,” Caine mutters.

 

 

Jupiter’s phone rings the next afternoon. She keeps wiping down the Brown-Myeong kitchen counter with one hand as she reaches into her pocket with the other. No Caller ID.

“Honey, I hope you’re not Caine Wise,” a guy’s voice says when she answers.

“No, I’m not,” Jupiter says. Her heart trips a little. The number of people in America who know Caine’s full name can be counted on two hands, and most of them are her own family. The other two are Stinger and Kiza.

“So is he there or what?” the guy says. “Look, I got thirty applicants here.“

“For?”

“The bouncer job,” the guy says, like she’s stupid.

“Oh!” Jupiter says. “Can you hang on a minute?” She has no idea where Caine is, but that doesn’t mean he’s not nearby.

“Sure, why not? It’s not like I’m trying to run a business here.”

Jupiter eases the back door open and peers around. “Caine?” she says quietly, not wanting to alert her mother upstairs. Aleksa had grudgingly approved of Jupiter’s choice of boyfriend (“Is he a good boy?” she had asked, and Jupiter had coughed and said he was a very good boy indeed) but she doesn’t like Caine hanging around the houses they clean. She thinks he looks too dangerous.

Caine is a sweetheart wrapped in a marshmallow topped with a series of amusing hats, but Jupiter gets it.

Jupiter sighs and closes the door. She swings around and nearly pitches into Caine.

“Woah!” she says. “Where did you come from? No, tell me later!” She shoves her phone at him.

“This is Caine Wise,” he says, like he’s spoken into Earth phones all his life. “Yes. Yes. Yes, of course. See you then. Thank you.”

“You applied for a job?” Jupiter says. “You got a job?”

“I got a job,” Caine agrees, and grins when Jupiter throws herself at him. He catches her under the thighs, holding her easily, and she kisses his curving lips.

“Where did you come from, anyway?”

“I was in the laundry,” he says, pointing.

“Wait, you keep watch on me from inside the houses I’m cleaning?”

“…no?” Caine says. She bats at his shoulder. “Sometimes. Don’t worry, Your Majesty. I’m very good at hiding.”

Jupiter cannot see how that can possibly be true.

“They want me to go in now for an orientation.” Caine makes an unhappy sound. “I was hoping to escort Your Majesty back to the apartment first, but there won’t be time.”

“All I’m going to do is get a lift home with mom, eat some noodles, and watch Neil deGrasse Tyson videos on the wi-fi we’re stealing from the Starbucks downstairs. I should be fine, unless Titus has really excellent timing.”

Caine gently lowers Jupiter until her feet touch the floor. He unholsters his mauler, reverses it so he’s holding it by the barrel, and presents it to her. “Just in case,” he says. “Button on the side, remember?”

Jupiter looks down at the gun in her hands. It’s huge.

“What am I supposed to do with this? I can’t carry a gun through the street.” And all she’s wearing are skinny jeans and a thin sweater, both of which are super-cute but offer no useful hiding places. Clearly, she has the wrong priorities. “Can I put it in the bucket?”

Caine looks pained.

Jupiter opens a couple of drawers until she finds what she’s after. She puts the mauler in a zip-lock bag, squishes the air out and seals it, and then repeats the process twice more. Caine doesn’t protest, but he does wince when she drops it into the dirty water and fluffs the bubbles over the top.

“Go, go,” she says, making a shooing motion with her hand. “You don’t want to be late on your first day.”

Caine does his head-ducking thing, and Jupiter kisses him. A flash of his smile and he’s out the door. She watches him through the window, his wings spreading before he launches into the air, and soon he’s wheeling left and disappearing behind the neighbours’ roof.

“Jupiter!” her mother calls from upstairs. “The bathrooms?”

“Already done!” she calls back.

The bucket is heavy in her hands.

 

 

Caine comes home around midnight. He drops two folded fifties onto the box they’re using as a bedside table, and something loosens in Jupiter’s chest. A hundred dollars means they can go grocery shopping tomorrow and actually buy some fresh produce, and probably pay off the electricity before it gets disconnected, too.

“Did you have to hit anybody?” she says.

Caine shakes his head, and then he smiles slightly. It’s hard with just a hint of fang, and Jupiter supposes that would make most people fall into line, yes. She grins and Caine’s face relaxes, grinning right back at her.

“After the Legion, this job is like a—“ Caine stops. He’s been teaching himself Earth idioms in his spare time.

“A walk in the park?” Jupiter finishes with a giggle.

“It only just occurred to me what that means.”

“I don’t think it’s a reference to dogs. It’s just a relaxing stroll with trees and birds and things.”

“If Your Majesty says so,” he says doubtfully. “Anyway, the worst I ended up doing was helping some very intoxicated girls into a cab. One of them tried to, uh, cop a feel, but I think it was mostly by accident.”

Another new Earth idiom. Caine looks pleased with himself for using it correctly, and then he sees the expression on Jupiter’s face.

“Not okay,” Jupiter says.

Caine shrugs. “It was fine, Your Majesty.”

Jupiter makes a growly sound she’s pretty sure she learnt from Caine. A ghost of a smile crosses his lips.

Caine finishes undressing and pulls on the blue-and-white striped pyjama pants Jupiter bought him, back when she could spend ten dollars on her boyfriend and not feel guilty about it. He looks adorable. Also, half-naked, because she’s wearing the matching top. It falls half-way down her thighs.

He walks over to the side of the bed, and then he hesitates.

“Come on,” Jupiter says, throwing the covers back. Caine presses up next to her, lying on his side, wrapping one arm low across her belly and following it with one of his wings. It’s like being covered in the warmest, fluffiest duvet from chest to knees, and it makes her feel so safe. Jupiter runs her fingertips along the metal bone and down into the feathers.

“You did a good thing for us tonight,” Jupiter says, because she knows he likes to hear it. 

Caine rumbles warmly, and then he yawns.

“Tired?” she says. “Is this all going to be too much for you?”

“It will be fine, Your Majesty. All I do all day is lurk.” He winces a little, rolling his shoulders. “Although the Browns do have a very small laundry hamper.”

“You did not hide in the laundry hamper today.”

“I might have,” Caine says loftily. “You don’t know.”

Jupiter leans up and kisses him, because how can she not? “I’m going to put all the stinky socks in there next week,” she declares.

“Not even that could keep me from doing my duty to protect Your Majesty.”

“How about sweaty shirts?”

“Of course not.”

“Dirty jockstraps?”

Caine pauses. “That, I may have to reconsider,” he says.

 

 

On the third night, Caine comes home late.

Jupiter’s already gone to bed — 4.45am comes around way too early — but something wakes her. The way the door snaps when it closes, probably, but she likes to think her unconscious mind knows the feel of him. She listens to him moving quietly around the apartment: the run of the tap in the kitchen, the click as he puts his glass back down, the soft echo of his boots against the floorboards.

The streetlight is streaming in through the bedroom window, and it slants across his cheekbones as he enters.

Jupiter watches Caine peel out of his jacket. He hangs it neatly in the closet — the Legion made him way more tidy than Jupiter will ever be in her home life — and undoes the snaps on the back of his shirt before pulling it over his head. Every muscle in his chest moves in a way that says, Damn, Jupiter, and her stomach turns lazily.

It’s two in the morning and she has to be up in less than three hours and her body doesn’t care. He makes her feel so human and greedy sometimes.

Caine crosses his arms above his head, stretching his back into an arch. His wings ruffle quietly outwards, extending as far as they can go in their small bedroom, then relax against his back.

Jupiter bites her lip. Hard.

Caine drops a pile of cash onto the bedside table. It’s larger than the previous nights.

Much, much larger.

“Caine,” Jupiter says, and he swings around.

“Your Majesty,” Caine says, his voice hushed. His head bows towards her. “My apologies. I was hoping not to wake you.”

“You’re back late,” she says, and Caine nods. Her gaze shifts to the bedside table. “Back late and with a lot of money.”

Caine doesn’t quite seem to be able to meet her eyes, but he hands her the cash easily enough. She snaps on the lamp and spreads the bills over the bed, grouping them by denomination. There’s a lot of ones and fives and tens. “There’s like two thousand dollars here,” she says slowly. “Two thousand dollars for one night’s work?”

He still isn’t meeting her eyes.

“Caine, what did you do?”

Caine hesitates, and there’s a small, shameful part of Jupiter that doesn’t want to know. She’s seen the violence he’s capable of, and two thousand dollars.

“Whatever’s been done, we can fix it,” Jupiter says. Probably. Unless fixing it involves money. Or connections. Or… “You didn’t kill anybody, right?”

“What?” Caine says, startled enough that his gaze skitters up to hers. “No, nothing like that. A couple of employees called in sick tonight, so they asked me if I wanted to, um. Help out. It didn’t really occur to me at the time, but afterwards somebody said something and I realised that perhaps Your Majesty would not approve.”

Jupiter frowns, trying to untangle that in her head. So Caine served drinks? Surely that can’t be right.

“What exactly is this place you’re working?” she says. “It’s like a bar, right?”

“Yes,” Caine says. “It’s like a bar.”

“But not a bar?”

He makes an indeterminate noise.

Well, this is shaping up to be way less fun than what Jupiter had in mind for the next hour.

Caine’s eyes go out of focus a moment, and Jupiter knows he’s concentrating on uncoupling his neural implants from his boots. He bends over, working the clasps free, and when he turns to put his boots beside the bed, the light catches on the flimsy-looking black pants he’s wearing.

“What happened to your jeans?”

“I couldn’t find them, Your Majesty.”

It’s like the world’s worst game of Twenty Questions. “And you took off your jeans at work because?”

Caine coughs, and then he grips his borrowed pants around the waist. One tug and they pull into his hands.

Either Caine just ripped off his pants — which, hot — or he’s wearing those tear-away pants with the snaps on the side. Which, also hot. Then Caine drops them to the floor and Jupiter forgets all about pants because holy fucking hell, “Are you wearing a thong?”

Caine is already pinkening. “I believe that’s what they call it.”

“Caine,” Jupiter says firmly. “Is this bar a strip club?”

Caine nods.

“Did you make two thousand dollars taking your clothes off for horny women?”

Caine nods.

Jupiter can’t help herself. She laughs.

“Your Majesty is not mad?” Caine says, peering at her hopefully. “I know social mores are different here on Earth.”

“Come here,” Jupiter says, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “Let me see you.”

Caine moves closer, into the puddling light from the bedside lamp.

He looks like, well.

He looks like Caine Wise, legend of the Legion, her half-human, half-wolf, all-gorgeous boyfriend, in extremely skimpy underwear.

Jupiter hooks her finger under one of the straps, tugging it out from his skin and letting it snap softly back. Caine sways towards her, then goes to his knees.

That thing is ridiculous, Jupiter thinks, biting her lip again as she stares down at it. It’s so tight it leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination. He may as well be naked. She thinks about all those women watching Caine taking his clothes off and wishing they could bring him home, taste him, take him, fuck him, fuck him, putting their hands down their knickers as they fantasise about him.

Suddenly, she’s a little less amused.

Jupiter leans down and licks his brand, hard. Caine’s head goes back on a moan.

Caine thinks it’s a coincidence that his splicer’s brand looks like the Earth symbol for Jupiter, but Jupiter knows the truth. He was fated for her, just as she was fated for him. It was written in the stars.

“That’s my name on your skin,” she says, voice low. “Did all those women know that?”

“I don’t know,” Caine says. Honesty compels him to add, “Probably not.”

“But you remembered?”

“I could not forget, Your Majesty.”

“I’m not mad,” she says, because he looks like he needs to hear it.

Jupiter climbs out of bed, walking across the room in nothing but Caine’s pyjama top. He twists his head around to watch her, but stays kneeling where he is.

“Put all that on again,” she says, and goes into the living room.

By the time Caine comes out of the bedroom in his borrowed pants and a hoodie, Jupiter’s finished moving the rug and shoving the couch to one side. She takes one of their dining chairs and places it by the far wall, then sits down in it.

He hesitates in the doorway.

Jupiter holds up her phone and presses a button, and something with a slow, heavy beat begins to play. She crosses one bare thigh across the other as she looks him over.

“Show me,” she says.

 

 

Caine pads into the middle of the room.

His hands are tucked into his pockets, and his hood is up. All his clothing is black. In the shadowed light from the lamp he looks tall and broad and dangerous, the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, or maybe the kind of guy you really would want to meet in a dark alley and then have some sort of rough sex with up against a wall or something.

And then he starts to dance.

Jupiter forgets about sex in dark alleys, because this is Caine having sex with her right here.

He’s good at this.

He’s good at this.

So good, his body moving in time with the beat, his chest rolling. And then there’s his hips…

“How,” Jupiter says, and has to swallow as he does a particularly nasty grind. “Where did you learn to dance?”

She’d kind of assumed Caine took his clothes off and then just stood there as women threw their dignity at him, and also their cash. If Jupiter had been in the club, she probably would’ve done the same.

“They’re not so different, fighting and dancing. It’s about making your body do what you want it to, Your Majesty. It’s about control.” Caine works a bow smoothly into his movements, then twists his shoulders up and back, arching his spine. “I’ve been watching the dancers from the door. My job gets pretty quiet once the show starts.”

Caine strolls towards her, unzipping his hoodie and peeling back one side, and then the other. He tosses it to the side. He stands still a moment, motionless but for his head nodding to the beat, and then his wings flare outwards.

Oh, yeah. That will never stop working for her.

“How did you explain those?” Jupiter says, pleased to hear her voice sounds even. “And the ears?”

“The club has several specialised dancers. There’s firemen and army guys, apparently they’re standard, but also this guy who wears cat ears and a tail, a sparkly cowboy who rides a silver mechanical bull, and some goth twins who dance and make out with each other. They introduced me as an angel-werewolf or something,” he says with a shrug of his shoulders. “Nobody seemed to be complaining.”

Yeah, she can bet.

“The cat guy admired my wings afterwards and asked me if I was furry. I said, Well, about the normal amount for my species. He’s a bit unusual,” Caine Wise, the super-soldier splice with cybernetic wings, says. “But nice, I guess? Everyone there is pretty nice.”  

He sounds puzzled as to why people would be kind to him, and Jupiter’s heart hurts a little. 

“Maybe he could come over sometime,” she says.

“Why, Your Majesty?” Caine says. And then, “Oh.”

“No, I mean as a friend. Maybe he’d like to be your friend. It sounds like the two of you have some things in common, yeah?”

“Do you think he’d make me watch Maru videos?”

“Maybe,” Jupiter says with a laugh. 

“He wanted to know how I get my ears to twitch. I told him he must’ve been mistaken. I had to concentrate really hard so I didn’t move them for the rest of the night.”

Jupiter grins.

“It was tough!” Caine says, but he’s smiling. Smiling and still dancing, like he’s taking pleasure in moving his body in ways that aren’t a prelude to violence. Jupiter’s not sure she’s ever seen him look so carefree before. Even his wings seem more relaxed, flowing around him as he turns.

Caine faces the window, giving her a very nice view of his ass as he shakes it. Jupiter bites her lip again — it’s going to be raw tomorrow at this rate — and he glances back in time to notice. His gaze drops to her mouth, and Jupiter knows that look, knows it means Caine’s about to do those sweet, subservient things he does when he wants her to kiss him. Sometimes she pretends she doesn’t notice, just so he’ll do them more.  

Caine grabs hold of the pendant light hanging in the middle of the room. Jupiter’s about to say maybe he shouldn’t put his weight on it when she realises that’s not what he’s doing, he’s just gripping it in both hands, his wrists crossed. His hips corkscrew forwards, like he’s tied up and fucking her from behind, and Jupiter almost chokes when she tries to inhale and exhale at the same time. Did she say sweet and subservient?

Two can play at that.

Jupiter reclines in her chair, uncrossing her legs and opening them a little, just enough…

Caine’s nostrils flare, and he knocks his head back on a moan.

She smiles.

“Your Majesty,” Caine says, gasping. “Does not play fair.”

“I’m sorry,” Jupiter says. “I can’t hear you over the sound of your insanely gorgeous body.”

Caine ducks his head in the way that will never not be adorable, even when the rest of him’s moving so dirty. He grips the pendant light tighter, his knuckles going pale, and Jupiter thinks about all the things she could do to him whilst he’s holding himself like that, whispering in his ear and telling him to stay, keep your arms stretched above your head, Caine, that’s a good boy, don’t move until I tell you to.

She presses her lips together, because moaning right now would be so undignified.

Caine turns around, casually reaching behind himself at the same time. As much as Jupiter likes when Caine presents his back to her, there’s something so intimate about watching him undress himself, his wrist curving gracefully, his hand unerringly finding the snaps through years of practice. 

Caine pulls the shirt over his head. His wings spread again, curving into two semi-circles so they don’t bump into the walls.

There’s a mark low on his waist, at the side. Jupiter made it with her teeth two weeks ago, and every few days she works it over again. He always likes to keep her to his left (leaving his right hand free to draw his weapon), and if she puts her arm around his body, her mark falls perfectly under her fingertips.

Caine presses his hands to his chest, then meanders them downwards, sliding over those abs of his, the flatness of his stomach, the sharp lines of his hipbones. One thumb unerringly finds her mark. He presses against it, and his eyes fall closed on a shiver.

Jupiter’s breath catches. “Do you do that a lot?”

“Sometimes,” Caine says, pressing it again. Shivering again. “When I want to be reminded of who I— of Your Majesty.”

“So the other week, when I asked you to…“

Caine looks confused, at least until Jupiter makes a vague sort of gesture around her lap area. She doesn’t know why talking about these things is so much more embarrassing than doing them. It’s not like she doesn’t know Caine enjoyed it.

“When you instructed me to go into the bedroom and pleasure myself whilst you were talking with Advocate Bob on ‘space skype’, as you call it?”

“Yes,” Jupiter says, and coughs. “That.”

Caine looks at her.

Jupiter looks at him.

“Yes,” Caine says simply.

“Oh,” Jupiter breathes. In her head, Caine is lying on their bed, shirtless, pants open, hand working beneath them, teeth sunk into his bottom lip to keep himself quiet. His other thumb nudges the mark over and over. "You should've told me."

Caine plays with his waistband, teasing her with flashes of skin. "Maybe next time, Your Majesty would like to watch."

"I don't know where you get the idea I'd enjoying watching you do sexy things," Jupiter says, and waves her hand. "Now take off your pants."

One tug, and they fall to the floor.

The thong is still ridiculous, but also hot and a little bit trashy. Which is also hot. It’s basically a ridiculous/trashy/hot vortex that only seems to swirl upwards the longer she looks at it, especially now Caine is clearly turned on beneath it. He does a turn, lifting his wings so they aren’t obscuring anything she might want to view.

Jupiter hopes the noise she just made only sounded loud to her. Then she says, “Oh, fuck, look at you,” which kind of ruins that whole cool thing she had going.

Caine ducks his head again, but he’s grinning so hard.

Jupiter crooks her finger at him, and Caine spins down onto his spread knees. His wings flap in time with the beat, propelling him forwards, until he comes to a stop in front of her.

He’s close enough for Jupiter to cup his cheek in her palm, and Caine’s head turns into it. He slowly licks the pulse in her wrist, not breaking eye contact.

This is Caine Wise, on his knees, just waiting for her tell him what she wants.

In a thong.

(Jupiter knows what memory she’ll be getting off to for the next, oh, decade.)

“Did you do this tonight?” she says. “Those, what do they call them? Private dances?”

Caine shakes his head. “I had some offers, but I told them Your Majesty would not approve.”

“And did they ask if you were British?”

“No, I didn’t phrase that way. I said…” Caine makes a tiny throat-clearing noise. “I said my girlfriend wouldn’t like me doing that.”

It’s the first time he’s called her his girlfriend, even though he’s been laying himself at her feet for two months now. Something fizzes happily in Jupiter’s brain. She drags him upwards, biting kisses into his lips as he gasps, and demands: “Say it again.”

Caine says, low and husky, just the way she loves it, “Your Majesty.”

“No, not that. I mean, yes, say that, say that every minute of every day, but…“ 

The corner of Caine’s mouth curls. Jupiter presses her thumb to it, because she knows exactly what he’s doing.

“You’ve been my boyfriend for two months now. It’s about time I became your girlfriend, don’t you think?”

Caine looks up at her like she’s a miracle and he just wants to believe. “Your Majesty is welcome to be whatever she likes to me.”

“I want to be your girlfriend,” Jupiter says, stroking his hair as her kisses turn softer, sweeter. “I want you to choose me to be your girlfriend. Not because I’m your queen, but because you want to be with me, the tersie cleaner with the crappy apartment and the loud family and seventeen dollars in her wallet.”

“I chose you the first day, when I took you to Stinger’s instead of delivering you to Titus.”

That’s true. Something in Jupiter relaxes, something she didn’t even realise she was holding onto.

“I have served Entitleds before,” Caine says. “I didn’t offer to— I didn’t— There was no kissing,“ he finally says.

“Bad luck for them,” Jupiter says, smiling as she leans back in.

His mouth is warm and trusting as always. It makes Jupiter want to protect him, to gather up all the precious parts that managed to survive and tuck them beneath her heart so nobody can hurt him again. So anybody who tries will have to go through her first.

“So I’m in this bar,” she says, her voice hushed like they’re sharing a secret. “This bar that’s really a strip club, and there’s this dancer who’s caught my eye. He says he doesn’t do private dances, but maybe he’ll do one for me.”

"I would be honoured." Caine looks up at her through his lashes, his eyes gleaming. “I think the dancers are meant to do this without touching, but…” He bows down, pressing a kiss to the top of Jupiter’s right foot, and then her left. “Your Majesty strikes me as a rule-breaker.”

Caine’s tongue curls around her ankle. He slides it up the side of her calf in long, slow licks.

“Perhaps there’s some other rules you’d like to break, too,” he says, his hands hovering above her bare knees. He moves them upwards, so close she can feel the air shifting above her thighs, and his mouth drops open slightly in invitation.

Jupiter playfully waves her finger at him.

Caine licks her finger into his mouth. Sucks on it as he meets Jupiter’s gaze and god, that shouldn’t make everything twist inside her the way it does. Jupiter withdraws her finger, then pushes two back in between his shining lips, and Caine’s lashes flutter closed.

“Keep your eyes shut,” Jupiter says. She takes her fingers out of Caine’s mouth, ignores his whimper, opens her legs as she watches his nose twitch, ignores his louder whimper, touches herself, gliding on Caine’s saliva and her own arousal, closes her legs and pulls her hem modestly over them.

She waits.

Caine’s noises slow, and then stop. His eyes are still closed. The room is silent.

“Your Majesty?”

Jupiter puts her fingertips to the hollow of Caine’s throat and drags them downwards.

Caine arches on a shudder. When he opens his eyes, Jupiter is casually licking her fingers clean.

“More,” he whispers.

Jupiter’s tongue falters. “More of that?”

“I like wearing Your Majesty’s marks, however you choose to make them. Bite me, scratch me, rub your scent all over me, I don’t care. Just make me feel like—” The rest is lost as he swallows.

“Make you feel like?”

Caine is carefully angling his head away from her, the sinew moving beneath the skin, looking like… oh.

He’s offering his throat to her.

“Please,” he says.

She’s pretty sure that shouldn’t make her heart sing the way it does.

“Please,” he says.

Jupiter puts her palm on Caine’s bare shoulder, then slides it up into his hair, cradling his head as she drops her mouth to his neck. Her hand is trembling, just a little. Her breath is fluttering over his pulse.

“Please,” he says.

She knows from the smudge on his waist that it takes a fair amount of effort to mark him and make it last.

She doesn’t want to hurt him. (She wants to hurt him.) She doesn’t want to hurt him.

“Please,” he says.

Jupiter sinks her teeth into the side of Caine’s throat. There’s a jolt as she hits the muscle, another jolt as he quakes beneath her. Quickly, before she can think about it, she bites him again, working her teeth over it, making the shadows bloom beneath his skin. Threads of copper fill her mouth.

Caine makes a jagged sound that echoes inside her. She licks her mark, not sure if she’s trying to soothe him or make it sting all over again.

His shoulder dips downwards, and suddenly Jupiter’s staring at his collarbone, sharp and proud. She skims the pad of her thumb along it.

“More,” he says. “Please.”

Jupiter hesitates.

She wants to. She wants to so much.

Caine turns his head towards her, his pupils blown wide in his hazel eyes. It’s like he’s peering into her soul, poking around her pointy bits, blowing the dust off all her darkest secrets and holding them up to the light. It’s like he knows.

He knows.

“All those other women looking at me, watching me, getting turned on. They didn’t know any better, Your Majesty. They didn’t know I was off-limits.” Caine’s eyes dip downwards, lashes skimming his cheeks. “Don’t you want to them to know who I belong to?”

God, yes.

“Don’t you want me to know who I belong to?” Caine whispers, and something inside Jupiter breaks wide open.

There’s a minute or two where all she remembers is the taste of Caine’s skin, and the way the moans are falling out of his mouth like pebbles, and the fire flaring deep inside her, the one saying, mine, mine, mine.

He’s stopped saying “Please” over and over. Now he’s saying “Thank you”.

He looks so beautiful when she’s done.

Caine shuffles around on his knees. His wings spread outwards, then angle so he can tip his head back into her lap. It’s hard to tell, seeing as he’s upside down and all, but he looks…

Blissed out?

Jupiter leans forwards to kiss the tip of his nose. Caine scrunches it up at her.

“Thank you,” she says.

Caine gives a tiny huff of laughter, like she’s not the one who should be saying that, but she means it. She can be who she is with him, and it’s never felt more like freedom. He rolls his shoulders, like he’s trying to feel her marks from the inside, and makes a sound of bone-deep contentment.

“How did you know?” Jupiter says.

Caine’s smile is small and secret. “Your Majesty is possessive.”

“I am not,” Jupiter says, and it’s such a lie. “Okay, I am, but not in a creepy way, I hope?”

“In a nice way,” he says. “In the best way.”

He’s one long curve from neck to knees, and gloriously naked for most of it. Jupiter puts her hand on his chest and runs it downwards, feeling all that hot, smooth skin. Her fingers splay on his abs, teasing the waistband of his thong.

Caine's breath washes over her neck. “Would Your Majesty like me to dance for her now?”

“Yes,” Jupiter says. “Very much.”

Caine rolls forwards, pressing himself up into a controlled handstand, then flips smoothly to his feet. Because of course he can do that.

The music has shifted into something darker and industrial-sounding. Caine hesitates, like he’s trying to work out exactly how to do this, and then he swings one solid leg over Jupiter’s knees as his hips start doing that dirty grind again. He twists his arms above his head, crossing his wrists like he did on the lampshade, and if that’s a hint he’s dropping then it really would be rude of Jupiter not to pick it up sometime.

Jupiter’s hand lifts of its own volition, reaching for him. She folds her fingers back in her lap.

“It’s all right,” Caine says. “Your Majesty is welcome to touch what’s hers.”

And damn if that doesn’t make everything in Jupiter’s body flush warm. Warmer.

“If I might make some suggestions?”

“Sure,” Jupiter says, putting her hands in his.

Caine works himself closer, pressing one of Jupiter’s palms against his abs. The other, he places over his steadily-beating heart. His body is undulating like a wave, a really sexy wave Jupiter wants to shove down to the floor and rub all over. So maybe not a wave. She makes a mental note to come up with better analogies the next time her boyfriend is giving her a lapdance.

Because that’s basically what this is, right?

Thank god he didn’t do this with any of the women at the club, or they’d have never let him leave.

Caine grips the back of the chair, lowering himself until his thighs are on either side of hers, rocking his hips in the kind of short, sharp thrusts that’d be driving her out of her mind if he were inside her. She can feel the flex of him against her hands, the power behind every move, and she wants.

Jupiter arches, throwing her head back.

Caine licks messily across her throat. “Please,” he’s whispering, “please, please,” and she doesn’t even know what he's begging for, doesn't know how she can focus when everything’s melting down inside her. “Please let me give you what you want.”

“Yes,” Jupiter says fiercely.

Caine slides backwards off her lap, falls to his knees. “Please,” he says again, and Jupiter's fingers twist in his hair as she pulls him in.

She comes before he even has to pause for breath.

“Whoo,” Jupiter says, collapsing back onto the chair. “God, you’re good at that. Like really good. Like really, really good. Like really, really, really…” She tries to count in her head, fails. “Like good.”

Caine is nosing under her pyjama top, trailing upwards. He licks one nipple into his mouth and sucks hard. He’s making a constant growling sound, and his wings are moving restlessly behind him, and Jupiter knows her man, knows what that means.

He must’ve licked his fingers when she wasn’t paying attention, because they’re soft and wet when he runs them between her legs. Jupiter flexes against the chair, feeling herself opening to him.

“How do you want to do this?” she says.

“Now,” he mumbles against her breast, which is not really an answer. Or perhaps it is.

“Dealer’s choice.”

Caine pulls back, gets caught in her pyjama top, and shakes his head free as he surges to his feet. He picks her up like she’s weightless and sits back down. He’s straddling the chair now, and she’s straddling him, and when he reaches back with one hand to rip off the thong like it’s nothing (farewell, ridiculously hot thong, Jupiter thinks fleetingly), he’s hot and hard and there.

“Like this?”

“Oh, yeah,” Jupiter says, snaking one hand up his nape and into his hair, using it to pull herself higher. She rubs herself over him and says, “I’ve been waiting for this all night.”

You’ve been waiting,” Caine says, with feeling.

Jupiter feels the laughter bubbling up inside her.

“You just make me so happy,” she says, beaming at his sweetly confused face. “I’m so happy to have you here, in my life.”

Caine moves under her. “Here, in your life?”

“I’m serious,” she says, and there's such affection and heat in his eyes when he smiles back at her. As much as she loves it when he obeys her, she loves this part, too, when they’re both breathless and teetering on that golden edge.

“Space condom,” Jupiter says suddenly, twisting around. “What did I do with the—“

“It’s covered, Your Majesty.”

Jupiter looks down and sees the metal ring wrapped around the base of him, protecting them both with some weird invisible barrier she side-eyed the first time she saw it, but hey. If they can make a chair hover eight inches above the ground at all times, they can make energy condoms.

“When did you put that on?”

“In the bedroom. When you told me to get dressed again.”

“Presumptuous, aren’t you.”

“I prefer to think of it as…” Jupiter leans backwards, perfectly held in the cradle of Caine's arms as she nudges him where she wants him, and his voice breaks. “…planning ahead. So Your Majesty doesn’t have to wait a second longer to have me, when she so chooses.”

Jupiter rolls her hips, and then she’s taking him inside and he’s whimpering and she’s making the kind of long, breathy sound that’s probably going to embarrass her later but feels so amazing in the moment, like she’s letting all her joyousness out to settle over the room.

Flushed, glassy-eyed, and shaking with need, Caine still looks to her. Still waits for her approval.

Jupiter leans into his ear and says, “Ask me.”

Caine takes a deep, shuddering breath. He opens his mouth.

 

 

Jupiter takes a quick shower, and when she comes back into the bedroom, Caine is gone. Presumably he went to do a last perimeter check before bed, which means he has way more energy than Jupiter does right now. She flops onto the mattress and thinks about never moving again.

Caine returns soon after, the early morning chill rolling off his wings. Jupiter turns her head to watch him take his clothes off for the third time in as many hours — yeah, that’ll never be a hardship — and then he looks around for his pyjama pants.

Jupiter shrugs when he glances at her.

Caine smiles. “Does Your Majesty not realise I can smell where she hid them?”

“Her Majesty has no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Should I—“ he says, and pauses. “I guess I’ll have to go to bed naked, then?”

Jupiter crooks her finger at him.

Caine slides up next to Jupiter, resting his head on her shoulder as his wing comes over her. Their favourite way to sleep. She pulls her knees up and tucks them under his feathers.

“Do you want a blanket?” Jupiter says.

“I’m good, Your Majesty.”

He wouldn’t say he was cold if they were lying in a blizzard, as long as Jupiter was comfortable. Jupiter wiggles around, getting one of the blankets out from under her, and tries to flip it over Caine’s legs. It barely covers his knees.

“I liked the mood Your Majesty was in tonight,” Caine says. “You told me to show you what I did at the club.”

“I remember,” Jupiter says absently. She snags the blanket it with her toes and pulls it up to his waist, pleased with her dexterity. She saw a documentary about a monkey who could paint with his feet once. Or maybe it was a commercial for something.

“You told me to show you,” Caine says again, differently, and Jupiter’s attention snaps back.

“Don’t I tell you to do things all the time?”

“You ask me if I want to do things for you and I say yes. This was different. It was…” He seems to be trying to find the right word. “It was a command.”

Because she was annoyed by the thought of other women wanting him. Because she was feeling possessive.

“You like commands?” Jupiter says, thinking about it. “You like commands from me?”

Caine ducks his head against her, not meeting her eyes. He nods.

“You want me to do that more?”

Caine nods again.

“What kinds of things do you want me to command you to do?” she says carefully, because this is something she could easily take and run with in all kinds of directions. Or one kind of direction in particular.

Caine hesitates.

Jupiter strokes his nape encouragingly.

"Don’t ask if you can fuck me,” Caine says. “Tell me. Take me.”

The spark beneath her ribcage shines so bright for a moment, it’s like a flare gun. “And you would enjoy that?”

“Yes,” Caine says. "Your Majesty likes the idea?”

“If we didn’t have to be up in less than an hour, I’d show you just how much.”

“Don’t show me,” Caine says, dropping his eyes again.

“Take what I want from you?” Jupiter says, her voice going all breathy at the end there. Oh, god. She’s going to enjoy this.

Caine shivers, but all he says is, “That’s a question.”

“We could try it this weekend?”

“That’s also a question,” Caine says. “Your Majesty is worse at this than I expected.”

Jupiter gently bites the tip of his ear. “I start giving you commands at four am, and neither of us is getting to work on time today.”

“Yes, that would be bad,” Caine says. "Very, very bad."

“Get the light,” Jupiter says, deliberately not making it a request. She sees the flash of Caine’s smile before the room falls into darkness.

Jupiter closes her eyes and wills herself to sleep, but there’s little chance now. Not when her mind is spinning with possibilities.

“Maybe I could steal a couple more thongs from work,” Caine murmurs. “Just to help Your Majesty get in the mood again?”

“Maybe you could steal a whole box full,” Jupiter says, and feels Caine grinning against her shoulder.

 

 

When Caine comes home early Sunday morning, Jupiter’s sitting in the dark with her telescope, looking at the stars. He’s danced two more nights at the club, and they paid the water bill and next month’s rent and got a protesting-but-grateful Aunt Nino to the doctor, so Jupiter is considering this week a very big win.

Jupiter also agreed to lend Vladie three hundred dollars, and Caine took it to the loan shark in person. She’s not exactly sure what else happened, but it seems Vladie’s on a very reasonable payment plan now.

Caine sits down on the floor beside her, leaning his head against her thigh. Jupiter runs her fingers through his hair.

“Hi, honey,” she says. “How was work?”

“Packed,” Caine says. “Apparently Saturday night is Bachelorette Party night.”

“All those women, throwing themselves at you.”

“Throwing their money at me.”

“Even better,” she says, and Caine turns his head to kiss at her fingers.

Jupiter went to watch him last night. She’s not going to say she loved seeing other women screaming for her boyfriend — she will never be that chill, and she’s fine with it — but if it’s this or Caine sleeping in the snow, Jupiter will take this any day of the week and twice on Sundays. (Really, twice on Sundays: the club has a matinee for people who want to get back to the suburbs before nightfall.) She spent a couple of hours after they got home giving commands, and both of them went to sleep grinning afterwards, so. It’s not like the job’s all bad.

“You hungry?” she says. “There’s leftover meatballs.”

Caine ponders. “I could eat some meatballs.”

“No, stay,” she says, when he goes to rise. “I’ll get it.”

Jupiter takes the bowl out of the fridge and puts it in the microwave.

When she comes back over, Caine’s peering through the telescope. He reaches up and adjusts the focus slightly. “What am I looking at?” he says.

“See Ursa Major?” Jupiter says, and after a moment, he nods. They’ve been learning the constellations together. “South and to the east of that are some fainter stars. They’re Canes Venatici. The hunting dogs.”

“What are they hunting?”

Jupiter shrugs. “I don’t think the myths say.”

Caine considers that, then leans into the telescope again. “So they’re hunting dogs, but they’re stuck in the same place forever?”

“Maybe they’re looking for something.”

Caine smiles and says, “Maybe they found it.”

His lips are warm, when she kisses him.