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It's killing me when you're away

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“We need to stop meeting like this.”

His target’s back tensed, so subtle that Sven was sure no bystander would notice, but he knew the body in front of him, could find it on a moonless night, its contours etched into his mind like a portrait. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Akira said, stiffly. “I was just passing by.”

“Yeah, sure,” Sven scoffed, marching forwards. “Milord,” he added, a little louder, in case anyone was reading their lips. “May I have this dance?”

Akira spun around at the slightest touch on his waist, as though they’d practised it (oh, how Sven wished they did), somehow managing to make the twirl look graceful instead of what he was actually doing, which was checking for potential eavesdroppers.

No one should be around, even Slav agreed on the improbability of that, but they didn’t survive so long in this business on maybes.

Least of all Akira, his cheek markings glowing like miniature stars, painting his face the colours of nebulae.

☆☆☆

Sven had a sinking feeling the moment he opened their next mission brief and saw a flyer advertising the annual Galactic Freedom Day ball.

Slav made an eerily accurate impression of a noncog when the mood struck him, but this was the Vol System. Even as rash as Slav was, he was content to wait in their getaway vehicle this time. Sven only hoped he wouldn’t come back to find yet another improvement modification to their ship.

(“There’s a 26.89% that this third backup turbo octacore could save our lives one day, Sven!!”)

Being Alteanoid in both shape and size, Sven could easily pass off as a mixed-blood from a few generations back, his Altean blood just dilute enough to lose the ears and cheek markings, while giving him the build expected of a typical Altean alpha. It was a sure ticket through the door at any Empire function, but it also wouldn’t get him near any of the notables.

Sure enough, when he swiped to the next page of the briefing, he wasn’t at all surprised to find he wasn’t the main agent on the ground.

The photo was blurry, clearly ripped from a surveillance camera, but Sven would recognise Akira in any universe, even scent-blind and deafen.

☆☆☆

Akira’s palm was warm in his hand, and Sven couldn’t help but hold on just that little bit tighter, feeling Akira’s fingers curl gently in answer where it was resting on Sven’s shoulder.

It made the cold of the disk sliding surreptitiously into his palm all the more shocking, even though Sven was expecting it, was waiting for it.

This was it: the work of decapheebs and countless Guns, permanent backdoor access straight into the Altean Imperial Fleet’s mainframe. No more thieving supply schedules quintents out of date, or guessing at troop movements based on Slav’s algorithms – Gamora would now have all that data and more, live.

Akira could come home.

☆☆☆

The song came to an end far too soon, though Sven would confess, he would consider anything short of an eternity too soon.

He dipped his head politely, the picture-perfect “mixed-blood” thanking an Altean for their honour, and dropped a butterfly-light kiss onto Akira’s wrist, right over the scent gland.

Aishiteru yo, he thought as hard he could, the only word of Akira’s mother tongue he’d ever managed to learn, the closest equivalent they had to the emotion he needed to convey. Their matebond flared as he brushed his lips over skin, and he knew without looking up that Akira definitely heard him.

I love you.