"You ready for this?" Raleigh asked Mako. He held his helmet at his hip, the fingers of his left hand tapping uneasily at the visor.
"Yes," Mako said. She'd been preparing for this for years; she wasn't going to let nerves get to her now.
"Good." Raleigh attempted a smile but seemed to think better of it. He opened his mouth to say something else, but Tendo Choi's voice interrupted over the comms.
"All systems are go, my friends. We are ready when you are."
Raleigh lifted his helmet, pausing just before pulling it over his head. "You're sure you're ready, Mako?" he asked. "There are no secrets in the Drift."
"I have nothing to hide," she assured him, snapping her helmet into place.
Raleigh followed suit before calling out over the comms. "This is Raleigh Becket to LOCCENT: we are ready for drop."
"Roger that," came Tendo Choi, voice crackling a little across the line. "Stand by for drop in five... four… three… two…."
Summertime in Alaska. Mako looked out of Raleigh's eyes, squinting in the bright sun. It was endless daylight this time of year - it could have been noon or it could have been midnight. She heard a shout and turned to see Yancy Becket jumping naked into a cold creek.
He comes up for air, his grin white against blue-tinted lips. "You coming in?" he asks, sweeping his hands to splash Raleigh.
"In a minute," Raleigh says from his perch on a sun-warmed rock. He's naked, too, though he's not half as casual or comfortable as Yancy seems to be. He's thirteen and it seems like his body does things of its own volition these days. He finds himself turned on at the drop of a hat - or at the sight of anyone naked. He isn't hard now, but it doesn't take much to get him there.
"Well, I'm not gonna wait in here for you," Yancy announces, shoulders shaking, chilled from the water. He climbs out of the creek and lies down beside Raleigh, eyes shut against the sun.
Raleigh can't tear his eyes away from his brother, the rise and fall of his chest, the wiry hair of his pubes matted and damp, his flaccid cock nestled among them. It's nothing he hasn't seen before, but recently it seems to be all he can think about. He wonders what Yancy would do if he reached out and touched him. He wants to skate his hands over the planes of his chest, feel his skin pebbling beneath his fingers. Would it be cool from the icy creek or warm from the sun?
Raleigh reached for his brother's arm and the memory faded. Mako took a breath, trying to dispel the unsettling surge of Raleigh's desire. She cast her gaze downward and found herself looking at the smooth lines of Yancy's back, his muscles rippling under his skin as Raleigh fucked him in a creaking Shatterdome bunk.
The sensation is overwhelming, the burn of muscle as he pistons his hips, the sheen of sweat on both of them. Raleigh is close, his breathing heavy, and Yancy is likely not far behind. Raleigh tilts forward, resting his forehead against the back of Yancy's neck as he comes.
"Keep going," Yancy grunts, scrabbling for purchase. "I'm so--" He lets out a punched-out groan, his entire body tensing before going boneless.
Raleigh slips out of him, tying off the condom and tossing it in the incinterator bin. He lies down on top of Yancy, who elbows him in protest. "You just shoved me in the wet spot," he gripes.
"Oops," Raleigh says, completely unapologetic.
"It's a good thing I like you," Yancy says, rolling so Raleigh has to move or be thrown off the bed.
"Yeah?" Raleigh says.
He lifted a hand to cup Yancy's cheek and drew him in for a kiss. Mako closed her eyes against the moment, wanting to give them impossible privacy. When she opened them again, she stood in Gipsy Danger's pod, Yancy to her right.
It happens so fast that it barely registers. One moment, Knifehead is dead and gone and Gipsy Danger is headed back to the shore, the next, Raleigh's arm feels as if it's been wrenched from his torso.
He turns to warn Yancy that his left arm is dead, but it's too late. "Raleigh, listen to me," Yancy shouts, his voice echoing in Raleigh's head. "You need--"
He never finishes his sentence.
There's a scream of pain, sharp and high among the crash of waves and the screech of rending metal. Raleigh can't think, can't think, can't think. He clutches at his arm, still there, and forces himself to pull the plasmacaster into his right hand. Working on instinct, the hum of Yancy still caught in the back of his mind, Raleigh loads the canon and lets loose a final, deadly blow.
He limps back to shore, dragging the heavy weight of Gipsy Danger and the last memories of his brother with him.
"Remember," Raleigh told her before the drop. "There are no secrets in the Drift."
"I have nothing to hide," Mako assured him. It didn't occur to her that maybe he was the one with secrets.