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By Her Very Nature

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One (Following the Pilot)
The rim of the sun winked green as it set, an uncanny colour, only visible for the time it took to blink.

Rina had been watching for it. Someone long ago had told her it was a jinni who could grant a wish if she saw him. She had been too old even then to believe in wishes, and she didn't make one now. Instead she said, "Gotcha, you bastard," and enjoyed a small spark of satisfaction. It almost warmed her enough to ignore the sea wind that seemed to pick up as soon as the sun vanished. She rubbed her arms and huddled against the side of the dune, soaking in the sand's residual heat.

Half way down the beach, Sinbad sprawled on his stomach, boneless as the dead. He'd been soaking in the sun like a snake for the last hour, and now seemed to be absorbing the last light of the burnished clouds. Maybe he was too tired to care about the cold. He and the northman had dived through the warm shallows again and again, circling the Providence. While they'd patched rents, everyone else had taken turns pumping the holds dry. Rina had blisters on her palms, and the princess and the doctor had fallen on their bunks and refused to move, even for food. Sinbad had watched them, then abruptly said he wanted to feel ground under his feet and launched the dinghy for shore. Rina had barely had enough time to scramble in after him.

Now, she sat hugging her knees and watching him. The dusk hid the scrapes and bruises and made his skin as dark and lustrous as polished heartwood. He was a beautiful man, Rina decided, probably one she'd have chosen on her own, if she ever picked solely on looks. She held that thought in her mind as she pushed herself up and stretched until her spine popped.

The dune gave under her feet, dragging her down so she had to run to keep up. Sinbad didn't stir as she slid to a halt a few paces from his head, nor when she dropped to her haunches to study him. Beautiful, indeed, but also callow, and vain as a peacock. Still, he had been courageous enough to nearly drown himself to save her. Her stomach twisted at the thought of drowning, both herself and him. She'd never known anyone who would have risked himself like that, especially not without asking for something in return.

She was losing the light. Off shore, lantern light glowed up from the Providence's hatch way: probably the cook working, or the northman keeping watch.

Sinbad's eyes were open when she glanced back. That stupid lazy smile played across his face, and something in her heart tugged. "Time to go?" he asked sleepily, still drugged from the sun. He pushed himself up on one elbow, every movement laboured "It's cold."

Not wanting to waste another second, Rina knelt next to him and kissed the corner of his mouth. He tasted of salt, and she let her lips linger a moment. When she rose he was watching her with raised lifted, lips parted: surprised, but not displeased. When she kissed him again, he leaned into it. His tongue traced her cracked lips. Their mouths moved together unhurriedly, taking time to explore. It felt nice, Rina decided, easy. She closed her eyes and relaxed into the sensation.

She opened them again when Sinbad flopped onto his back. He tugged at her shoulder to pull her on top of him, and she followed until she sat astride his hips, hands planted in the sand either side of his head. "What's this for?" His voice sounded casual, but she could see a line of tension between his eyebrows.

"No reason. I like you."

"Okay." The line remained. "It shouldn't be because you're grateful, for this morning, I mean."

He looked so completely sincere that she almost rolled off of him. Only then he would know for sure that that was what she'd meant, and she didn't want him to think that about her. She wanted him to keep thinking she was worth saving. "I just like you, okay!" It was only one word of a lie.

"Okay." His face smoothed, and she leaned down to stop his lips again. As this kiss lasted into an eternity, his hands rubbed up her sides; he felt so warm, even though her shirt. She traced his cheekbone with her thumb, leaving a trail of sand, golden against his skin. Sinbad's hand drifted down over her ass, and as he squeezed playfully, she ground down. He was getting hard just from kissing, and she enjoyed the feel of his cock against her cunt. He tugged at the edge of her skirt, making it flutter against her thighs, then found his way under. Rina shivered and bounced in time to his fingers walking up the back of her leg. The other hand spread wide across her spine.

Her kisses grew fierce and hurried when his fingers found their way between her legs. It wasn't a great position, but the backs of his knuckles rubbed her clit, and she jerked her hips against them in reply. Ditching her pants earlier had been one of her better plans.

Each movement sent a tingle of pleasure through her, and she could feel desire building. The little contact didn't seem like nearly enough. When he pressed two fingers into her, she gasped against his mouth. She could feel his lips curling up in response, too, smug bastard. She couldn't believe how fast she'd gotten this wet. Sinbad's fingers curled and twisted inside her, while his thumb played with her clit. She'd thought his hands were too fine and smooth for a sailor, but now with the callouses pulling at her skin, she could hardly bear them. She pushed down harder, crushing his hand between them, and obliterating all finer sensations.

Rina broke the kiss and concentrated on rubbing against him. She watched his face, too close to see anything but a blur of expression: wide eyes and open mouth. His breath came in harsh pants. She matched her breathing to his, and it made her head spin and her skin burn. Heat seemed to flood over her, and each thrust and twist of her hips only made her blaze hotter. A bead of perspiration rolled to her lip, tasting of salt and grime. She licked it off anyway, and squeezed her eyes shut.

Coming brought a flash of perfect oblivion, which faded too fast, but left a gentle buzz behind it.

Sinbad gave her a pleased little smirk and pulled his hand free. Wiggling glistening fingers at her, he glanced soulfully down at his crotch, and then deliberately raised an eyebrow. She had to laugh, but she also rolled onto the sand beside him. Her light fingers made quick work of his rope belt and trouser buttons. Rina liked the solid feel of his cock in her hand, and the way every movement seemed to transmute his entire body. He writhed against her, moaning and she rubbed her palm over the head. When she cupped his balls, he cried out, voice ragged. "Oh, I think you want that," she said, and did it again. He came across his stomach, matching the jerk of his hips with a fist pounded into the sand and another cry.

His eyes had been open the whole time, and for the first time she realised he'd been watching her as much as she'd been watching him. She wiped her hand on his belly and lay next to him in the sand. The night wind felt startlingly cool against her damp skin. She shivered, wanting to go back to the ship.

Seeming to sense her thoughts, Sinbad rolled to his feet in one easy motion, and offered her a hand up. As they reached the dinghy, he kissed her cheek and threw himself into the waves. She caught a bark of laughter as he dove and twisted in the surf, letting the sea wash him clean.

His hair dripped onto his shoulders and chest the whole trip back to the Providence. Rina sat facing him, watching his muscles bunch and pull with the oars. He rowed with the same careless ease he seemed to put into everything, like it didn't matter if he got it right, but somehow it worked out anyway. When they came near the ship, he dropped speed, and caught a line thrown by the northman to come alongside.

Rina didn't say anything, but busied herself hooking the block to the aft bench. It seemed that their interlude on the beach would go unmentioned from then on, and probably unrepeated as well. That shouldn't really bother her, she'd enjoyed herself, and he had too. It tied them together a little, and maybe even chipped a little away from what she owed him for saving her.

She sat out of the way as he attached the bow, stowed the oars, checked the dingy over, and put his hand to the side of the ship to clamber up. Then he paused mid motion, and said in a voice too low for anyone on deck to hear, "Thanks, Rina. That was fun."

"Yeah," she agreed, grinning up at him. "It was."


Two (During "Old Man and the Sea")
It wasn't supposed to get this cold at sea, not in these southern waters, not becalmed. The ice in the air made Rina pull in on herself, swaddling in scarves and her own council. She found herself watching again. Everyone's nerves had started to fray, and she didn't want to be the one to cut the last thread. Nala cloistered herself with her father's dagger, same as Anwar with his books. Sinbad paced the ship like a caged jackal, pausing every now and then to rest a hand on Cook's brow and try to still his delirium. Everywhere she looked, Rina seemed to see Anicetus. He drifted around the Providence, ghost like in tattered robes. Cook was right: they shouldn't have brought him onboard. Soon, this ship would be a worm-ridden mirror of the ghost ship across the water. Rina knew cursed when she saw it.

She heard footsteps on the companionway, but didn't move or feel for a light. She crouched on the edge of her bunk and pulled the blankets more tightly around her. It was only Gunnar, anyway; he rattled through the main cabin, blindly feeling for his bunk. His knee struck the hanging table, scattering bowls and cutlery across the deck, but he didn't seem to notice. A thud and the rustle of blankets followed as he flopped into his bed. Only the dim light leaking from under Nala's door showed the harsh curve of his spine where he'd curled in on himself, back to the room. She saw his shoulders shake, and for a moment thought she was weeping, but it could have been anger too. The idea of Gunnar, with all his coiled fury and pain, starting to lose control scared her to death. Cook had already fractured and fallen apart, and Nala wasn't far behind him, but neither of them possessed that kind of violence. Rina remembered the Island of Sindh and shivered.

Gunnar shuddered again, and she wondered how long he could hang on. Sinbad was wrong: they wouldn't go one by one, they'd go until Gunnar did, then it would be the end of them. It hurt most because he could be a kind man. He'd throw himself in front of Greek fire to protect Sinbad or Nala. He wouldn't fight on his own behalf, but he'd fight for them. She remembered his hands on her face and his relieved laughter after Sinbad had rescued her. He would have sealed the hatch over her, but it would have pierced him to the heart to do it.

Inside Nala's room, the light went out. Rina heard her roll over and pull the blankets tight.

Rina rubbed her hands over her arms, and sighed. She hadn't returned south to Arabia for this kind of cold.

The deck creaked under her as she rose. She heard Gunnar's breath catch, but he didn't move until she laid a hand on his shoulder. His head turned towards her, though he couldn't possibly see anything in the inky darkness of the cabin. "Rina?" he asked, voice rough. "What are you doing?"

"I can't se–, se–" She didn't have to feign the shiver in her voice. "Seem to get warm."

"Go and sit by the fire." His words were clipped, accent thickening until it was difficult to make out the words.

"Can I come in with you?"

"Girl, no."

"I'm so cold," she pressed. "I'm so cold and tired. I just want to sleep, I promise." She knew she must sound small and pathetic: a childlike voice, helpless. She needed to give him someone to protect.

Gunnar's breath huffed out in something between a grunt and a sigh. He rolled to face her and lifted the blankets. "You're letting the cold in," he snapped when she hesitated.

It took them a little to get settled in the space they had. In the end, she pressed her back to his chest, and curled her legs around his knees. He looped an arm over her waist, and stuffed the other hand under the pillow. His elbow didn't quite stick into her ribs, though she could feel it against her. Even though they were both fully dressed, heat seemed to pour off of him like a forge. Rina snuggled in and murmured appreciatively, and he chuckled, breath ruffling her hair.

"Feel better?" he asked.


His thumb stroked over her belly, idly following a seam in her shirt, and he hummed softly to himself. Rina wondered of what, or whom, he was thinking. Whatever it was, it seemed to calm him. She could feel the beat of his heart thudding against her back, and gradually it slowed as he started to relax. He softened against her, and she leaned in a little more. Taking his large, rough hand in both of hers, she pressed it against her chest, not quite brushing the bottom of her breasts.

She hadn't considered of how good it would feel to be warm again, or that she'd fall asleep as fast as she did.

Rina woke with the first light of dawn creeping through the hatch. Sometime in the night, Gunnar's hand had drifted up to cup her breast, and his face pressed into her neck. His beard tickled her skin every time he exhaled. She could also feel something thick and hard pressing into her ass. Again, she wondered who he thought she was. She considered indulging him, but changed her mind. They'd made it through the another night. That was enough for now.

As carefully as she could, Rina disentangled herself and slid off the bunk. Gunnar muttered something in his own language, but didn't wake. Nala and Anwar's doors were still shut, but Sinbad sprawled on the bunk across the cabin. From the lines in his face, he wasn't finding much rest. His blanket had slipped to the floor, and she did her best to pull it over him before climbing to the deck to check on Cook.


Three (Following "The Siren")
"I thought you had light fingers."

Rina didn't bother looking up from her study of the cell door. "There's an iron bar on the other side, and no gap and no hinges."

"Wonderful." She heard Nala heave a sigh and didn't have to turn to know that she had her hands planted on her hips and was glaring at Rina as is this were all her fault. "We're here until morning then."

"Unless you have another clever idea." Telling the guards who Nala's father was hadn't made much of an impression, nor had Rina's attempts at bribery. Rina dropped to the floor, pressing her cheek to the stone as she peered at the gap, but that too was a hair's width.

"What about the window?" Nala was very good at ignoring implied snubs. It seemed to Rina that she simply assumed that they couldn't possibly be aimed at her.

"Do you have a hammer and chisel under your skirt? Besides there's a drop, and it's guarded." The only thing that wasn't guarded was the covered wooden pail in the corner. That had been empty when they'd come in, and the bed had a straw tick on it. "This city keeps decent cells."

When Nala didn't take the obvious opening, Rina bounced to her feet and turned to look at her. She was standing precisely in front of the high window, and moonlight scattered off her silver necklace, casting flickers of light about the cell. She didn't have her hands on her hips after all; they were folded tightly across her breasts. Her jaw set a hard line, jutting out defensively. It didn't quite keep her lip from trembling.

Rina figured the last person Nala wanted to see her fears was someone like her. "I'm going to sleep," she said. The straw tick was easy enough flip off onto the floor, and wicker base looked more or less okay to sleep on. "We have to wait for the guards to come back."

"I'm not sleeping on the floor."

"You don't want bed bugs? The straw's thick with them." Rina spread her jacket over the bed frame. She should have worn more layers. If she'd known she was going to end up in hock, she would have.

"Oh." Nala sounded lost, and somehow that shook Rina. She'd come to count on Nala to try to brazen her way through just about any trouble, no matter how little good it did her. She seemed to think that if she kept acting like the world would bend to her will, it would get the message and do exactly that. Irritatingly, it seemed to work half the time, too. Not today, however.

"Put your robe over mine; we can share the bunk."

"Maybe one of us should sit watch."

"What for?"

Nala shook her head, beads rattling in the darkness. Even when she unwrapped down to her bodice and underskirt and covered Rina's rough linen in raw silk, she hesitated. Only after Rina crawled into the bunk and lay with her back against the wall, did she pull the last scarf free and let her hair fall in a wave of perfume. Rina couldn't imagine how someone who lived at sea with the rest of them always managed to smell so good. She watched the curtain of braids swayed down to obscure the moonlight as Nala bent to perch on the edge of the bed. "I don't bite," Rina teased. "Much."

"I can't sleep on my side."

"Okay." Rina waited for Nala to settle on her back, hair swept off to the other side, then carefully lay forward rest her head on Nala's chest. She hooked a leg over Nala's and stretched out across her. "Okay?"

"Yes." Under Rina's head, Nala's breathing felt stiff and uncomfortable.

"Do you think the boys will come for us tonight?" Rina asked lightly. "Or will we have to talk our way out in the morning?"

"They'd better show up," Nala snapped. "Remember whose fault it is that we're in here at all."

Rina did not, in fact, need reminding. "They'll come for you." Like Gunnar and Sinbad had dived into the sea and fought Death for her.

She'd meant it to sound reassuring, but a sharp breath sucked in under her ear. In the hesitation that followed, she wondered what she'd said. Then Nala said softly, "You saved Sinbad from that Roisin creature, and at the gaming house. He wouldn't leave you behind either. None of us would."

Rina'd realised her fingers were digging into Nala's arm, and relaxed her hand. She didn't know what to say to that, so she didn't say anything.

Finally, Nala let out a long sigh. "This is the least comfortable place I have ever tried to sleep, and I used to hunt in the dessert with my father."

"Oh, yes? How many servants did it take to carry your feather bed?"

Nala's chest shook as she laughed. "More than you'll ever have."

"You never know." Rina ran her fingers over Nala's arm, smoothing away the marks she'd made. She had to hang on again as Nala shifted under her, trying to wiggle into a softer spot.

"I've never been in bed with my sandals on either." Another sigh. "Gods put a curse of itches on Anwar."

"What?" Rina said, giggling at the attempt at profanity. "Why Anwar?"

"Well who else's fault could this be?" Nala asked waspishly. "If he hadn't insisted on asking so many questions, sticking his nose where it didn't belong, we'd already be in Basra."

Rina didn't know what to say to that either. It was hardly Anwar's fault that she had been so slow getting them out through the alleyway, even if the guards hadn't been looking there. "He was just," she trailed off. Actually she had no idea what Anwar had been trying to do. "Next time, I'll keep him out of trouble."

"That is a very good idea." Nala's voice sounded sleepy now, and Rina let herself drift off to the steady beat of her heart. She woke an hour later when Gunnar broke down the door, Anwar's lamp shining in her eyes. She grabbed Nala's hand, and they ran.


Four (Following "Homecoming")
Another shiver racked Rina's body, and she pawed at her shawl, trying to pull it over her. The fabric slithered out of her hand and onto the deck. She didn't have the energy to reach after it. The sea wind seemed to chill her to the bone, even though it barely cut white horses on the water. Not minutes before, she'd come in out of the sun because she'd felt as though she were burning up. Even crossing the deck seemed to take her breath away, and now moving brought sharp pangs to her chest.

She snarled at the hand on her shoulder, and swore when one more came to roll her onto her back. She didn't want to move. Her head throbbed, her ribs ached, and all she wanted to do was curl up and die in peace.

"...appeared shaky last night," Anwar was saying. "I thought it she'd spent too long in the sun." Rina tried to bat him away, but he persisted in sticking his fingers in her neck and petting her forehead. Snarling still didn't make him go away. "It must be an ague, to reoccur so quickly."

"Whatever that means." Sinbad was there too, must have been him that turned her over.

"Swamp fever."


Pain spiked through Rina's head as she fought to sit up. She knew swamp fever took hundreds of Basra's poor every year. There was something at the edge of the marshes, some evil spirit maybe, or bad air, that made them ill. She'd always tried to stay up in the high areas, away from the damp. Up until now, it had worked.

Sinbad was saying something else now; it sounded like, "bleed her?"

How little strength she had; she'd been helping Cook that morning, feeling fine. Now, pushing at Anwar's hands did nothing. She shook her head, muttering, "No." She didn't want Anwar, or anyone else, sticking her with lancets. She just wanted it to stop hurting. She shuddered again, and realised that her shirt was soaked through with perspiration. "No," she said again, loud enough to hear this time.

"Better get Gunnar." Anwar sounded so calm and authoritative, like he knew what he was doing. Difficult to remember he was only a student. He'd taken her hand in both of his, and was trying to explain why bleeding would make her feel better. Something about humours, he said, but she didn't think it was that funny. "Please, Rina," he said.

She met his eyes, which were wide and serious and the kindest brown she'd ever seen. He was the clever one, the one who could read, and had studied medicine, even if he wasn't yet a doctor. He'd cast himself out of his family and off a building to save her. That it hadn't worked was beside the point.

Rina swallowed past the pain in her chest. "Okay."

Gunnar kissed her forehead as he held her arm steady. Sinbad knelt on the deck to take her other hand. She locked eyes with him, unable to look at Anwar and his gleaming tools. A stabbing pain in the crook of her elbow made her eyes water. She wanted to curl up and wish it away, but she couldn't move past Gunnar.

Rina leaned into the touch as Anwar stroked her cheek. His voice was gentle, and she couldn't make out the words, but she didn't strain to hear. They would be nonsense words, all jumbled together about how well she was doing, and she'd feel better soon. She let them lull her all the same, and it didn't seem that long really until Anwar pressed a cloth against her arm.

"There's my brave girl," Gunnar whispered, breath tickling her ear. His hold on her arm relaxed, and she squeezed his hand.

"Should die more often, if you're going to fuss like this." Her voice sounded thin and faint even to her own ears.

"You're not dying," Anwar snapped. Rina did her best to smile at him as he laid a cool rag over her forehead. It fell over her eyes, and she closed them, trying to focus on the hands holding hers. The voices of her friends played like distant music.

Large hands slid under her, and she moaned and pressed her face into Gunnar's chest as he lifted her. She remembered the last time his arms had been around her, how warm and safe they'd made her feel. He barely jarred her as her carried her below deck, but every movement still sent a lightening bolt of pain through her head. It was a relief to lie in Nala's old bed in the quiet and dark.

Anwar sat next to her until sunset, alternating cool cloths and warm blankets as she shivered through the fever. Then, all at once, he was gone.

Someone helped her sit, and a cup pressed to her lips. It tasted searingly bitter, and she tried to turn her head, but Cook said, "Drink. It's not a request." She drank, almost gagging, until the cup was empty.

"Sit up?" she asked, and Cook slid his arm under her shoulders and propped her against his chest. It was too hot, really, but the body against hers felt immensely comforting. She knew that Cook would look out for her. She was the only one he let muck about in his kitchen. He was her pack to run with, and had been since the start. Rina nestled against him, and fell asleep almost immediately.

Sometime in the night, she felt the cup at her lips again, and heard Cook's voice urging her to drink.

She woke to a soft snoring under her ear. Looking up, she saw Cook leaning awkwardly against the bulkhead, neck tilted sharply back and mouth hanging open. Rina smiled up at him, contentment filling her.

It took her a moment to realise what felt so good, but then it came all at once: the fever had broken. Her head still hurt like a demon, but she wasn't breathing in pain. She sucked in a lung full of air just to revel in the sensation, then another because it made her feel giddy.

Cook stirred when she laughed. Before she knew it, she'd downed another cup of that awful draught of his, but afterwards he let her settle back on the bed. "You'll feel better now," he said, and she did.


Five (Following "For Whom the Egg Shatters")
It didn't take much effort for Rina to hold the rudder in place as Gunnar and Sinbad towed the Providence down the canal towards Fustat. The little dinghy made decent speed with a man on each oar, though it did tend to circle slightly towards Gunnar's side. She suspected that when it was Anwar and Tiger's turn, they wouldn't do nearly so well. They could have hired a couple camels to pull from the banks, but Sinbad was being tight fisted with the Professor's money. Resupplying in Siraf had cost them enough, he'd said.

So they caught the wind when they could, and rowed otherwise, Rina held the rudder, Cook cooked, Anwar read, and Tiger circled the deck, pacing along the rails, all restless energy and boredom. From her place at the tiller, Rina could see her for about half her circuit before she disappeared under the awning. Her soft leather boots made no noise.

Rina watched as she came out of the shade for the thirtieth time that morning. The sun had only risen to a quarter of its height, and the boys would have to stop soon before the heat got to them. Tiger would probably have paced a hole in the deck by then.

Two turns later, Tiger broke patten and bounced up onto the stern deck. Rina folded her arms over the tiller and rested her chin on them, looking up on Tiger through her lashes.

"Can Cook take over?" Tiger asked. "I want to show you something I picked up in Siraf."

"Sure." It sounded better than doing nothing but baking in the Egyptian sun.

Tiger's little hidey hole in the stern had an advantage in some small amount of privacy, but not much of one when it came to space. With the doors closed, one person could sit on the bunk while the other stood, or they could both stand close enough to feel each other's breath.

Tiger's eyes stayed fixed on Rina's as she curled around the bulkhead to get to her bunk. They never moved more than touching distance apart, and Tiger's gaze never wavered, but Rina knew that assessing look. She could feel the heat of it burning through her.

She had to lick her lips before she could ask, "What is it, then?" Tiger's attention dropped to her mouth, then rose to look at her steadily. She dropped to the bunk, and patted it.

"Come sit here, I'll show you."

"That kind of thing, is it?" Rina said, grinning.

Tiger shrugged. "I'm bored. I like you."

Rina's mind brushed across all the possible meanings of those words, but in the end she crossed the room to sit on the foot of the bunk. "So tell me," she said, glancing up at Tiger. "What did you find in the markets of Siraf?"

She had to check that Tiger's teeth weren't sharpened, the way she flashed a tight little grin. No wonder Sinbad had been making cat jokes for weeks, even leaving aside the name. The smile sent another kind of heat through her. When Tiger leaned down to retrieve something from under the bunk, Rina found herself leaning forward, lips parted.

It took a moment to sort through what Tiger came up with: lots of little leather straps and buckles, like a bridle or a series of fine belt, and, in the centre, a leather phallus.

"It's fit to me," Tiger said, and Rina nodded. She knew the movement had been a little too enthusiastic, and that she was smiling too widely, but didn't care. She and Tiger wanted the same thing. She didn't see any harm in Tiger knowing how much she desired it. Tiger relaxed minutely, the lines of her body becoming softer. "Good."

The moment between deciding you were going to kiss someone and actually doing it could be the most awkward, so Rina leaned in quickly before any weight could build. Tiger moved at the same time, and their mouths met with more force than either had intended. The kiss carried Rina away. Tiger held her face in both hands, even as she pulled and turned her until she was lying flat on her back. Their mouths never broke contact, and Tiger pushed and pushed until Rina opened under her, slumping against the bunk and letting Tiger thrust her tongue past Rina's teeth.

Tiger had straddled her hips and was surrounding her, kissing her as though life were about to end, and Rina let her. Her arms came up to grip Tiger's shoulders, and she pressed her hips up to grind them together. She couldn't seem to connect properly, and flopped back, frustrated. Moaning into Tiger's mouth got her another grin and a tongue flicking along her lips. Rina snapped up, trying to bite it, and Tiger laughed.

"I thought you were showing me something new," Rina mocked.

"I'm not in a hurry. Are you?"

Rina didn't answer. She'd gotten Tiger's blouse unbuttoned and found soft breasts underneath. Her hands played over the smooth skin, unbound in the heat, swollen and sensitive already. She pressed her palm into one breast while continuing to undo buttons. Tiger let go of her face and rose up just long enough to shrug free of the shirt, flicking it to the floor. She rolled her shoulders, pushing her chest against Rina's hands, overflowing them. Rina leaned up to take a nipple between her teeth, and sucked lightly.

Tiger whimpered. The sound seemed to intensify everything Rina was already feeling. The heat building between her legs told her that she wanted more. "Come on."

Teeth nipped at her lips, then Tiger rolled off, crouching on the deck bedside the bed and unbuttoning her trousers. Rina didn't move. She lounged on her back, running her eyes over Tiger's lean muscles. She liked the solid look of Tiger's shoulders and arms, and the way they looked like a Greek sculpture next to the soft curve of her breasts and belly. It was the same as the way the fair curls over her cunt nestled between a hunter's powerful legs. Tiger hadn't known many hungry times recently, to look as sleek and luscious as that. Rina reached out to brush her fingers over the curve of a hip, barely feeling skin. Tiger crouched as still as stone, letting Rina touch until her hand slid around to slip up between her legs.

"Hold on," Tiger ordered, and Rina's fingers stilled. "You better roll over."

"I want to watch."

"Maybe." Tiger rose and stepped back from the bed, harness dangling from her fingers. It was almost done up already. She just had to step into the leg straps, drawing them up until they rested under the curve of her ass. The phallus wobbled as she fussed with the belt. Rina squirmed, pressing her legs together. Her hand drifted down toward her cunt, but stopped when Tiger shook her head. "On your knees. Roll over," she said again, but made it an order this time.

"Fine," Rina said after she'd let the hesitation last long enough to show Tiger she wasn't doing a thing she didn't want to. She flipped onto her stomach then clambered to her hands and knees. Twisting her head around to look showed Tiger spreading olive oil over the phallus. Rina spread her legs a little wider, glad that the heat had kept her from wearing trousers.

The bed dipped as Tiger knelt between her knees, but she still started when Tiger pushed her skirt up. The light cotton bunched under Tiger's hold on her hip. "Steady," Tiger soothed just as the tip touched her cunt, making her gasp and push back. Tiger's other hand came up to hold her in place. The more Rina tried to make contact, the firmer Tiger's grip became. "Steady," she repeated, and Rina let out a long breath.

She focused on the feel of hands hot against her hips and the wide press of the phallus at her entrance. She'd trade the Providence for someone's finger on her clit. "Come on!"

Tiger pushed forward a full hand span. The leather filled her, pressing her straight so she levelled her hips and dropped her stomach to make room. Her back arched down like a bow, and still Tiger filled her. She groaned and tossed her head, and Tiger's teeth found the side of her neck.

Rina almost didn't realise her ass had pressed into the jut of Tiger's hipbones. She felt too much now, but still not enough. She'd rub herself off, except her arms were bracing both their bodies.

"Ready?" Tiger asked, lips brushing her ear.

"What do you think?"

Teeth again, on her earlobe this time and hard enough for Rina wonder if they'd drawn blood. As Tiger let go, she also curved her hand around and under Rina's hips. Her fingers slid though the mix of juices and oil, one passing either side of where Rina wanted them to go. Instead, they lightly circled where leather entered flesh, pressing like they wanted to go in too, though there was no room.

Swivelling her hips didn't bring any of the right kind of pressure, but it made Tiger suck in her breath like she been hit. Rina did it again and heard Tiger laugh this time. She started to pull out at the same moment as her fingers finally brushed over Rina's clit.

With just one hand guiding them, the rhythm started slow at first: a long, sinuous pull and a strong glide back in, then another. Rina realised her breath was coming in pants, and she could feel perspiration soaking through her bodice. She pressed into the next thrust, and Tiger rewarded her by rolling her fingers back across her cunt.

Rina dropped her head and whimpered. Above her, she could hear Tiger growling, almost purring, though clenched teeth. She thrust faster now, pushing forward as Rina rode into it, making short sharp strokes. Her fingers danced over Rina's clit, and Rina felt something like a sob building inside her. Her cheeks flushed so they felt they were burning, and the little cabin filled with the sound of their breath.

"Come on," she gasped again, one last time.

Tiger's nail grazed her clit at the same moment as her other hand squeezed Rina's breast through her bodice and their hips pressed fully together. Rina screamed. Tiger rammed her bared teeth into Rina's shoulder, grunting ferociously. The ship, for a moment, went still.

"Mmmmmm..." Tiger's breath felt cool, blowing across her damp neck. Her fingers were still circling, but more lightly now. "Been too long."

Rina nodded and flopped forward onto folded arms, pulling them most of the way apart. Her elbows arched from locking that long. Her cunt ached too, but in a satisfied way. "Anytime," she said.

The deck thumped as Tiger rolled clear off the bed. "Yeah?" He voice shouldn't have had a question in it, not after all that she'd done, but it did.

Her arms protested, but Rina levered herself onto her side so she could meet Tiger's amber eyes. "What do you think?"

Tiger watched her, that uncanny stillness in every line of her naked body. It felt as though Tiger were trying to see into her soul and weigh the contents. She took a long time at it, considering. She nodded once when she was done. "I think yeah."

"Good," Rina told her. After all, Tiger was one of them now. She owed Rina everything and nothing at the same time.

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